Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Johns Bus Project to Expand Grant to Provide 2 Vehicles by April 1 for Needy Riders

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Johns Bus Project to Expand Grant to Provide 2 Vehicles by April 1 for Needy Riders

Article excerpt

ST. AUGUSTINE -- Gloria Rivera takes the bus to work, but knows others could use a ride.

"We see a lot of people walking," the nursing home aide said. "I feel sorry for them."

Since November, Rivera has benefited from a St. Johns County Council on Aging pilot program aimed at getting workers -- and especially those with low incomes -- to their jobs.

For now, the service has one bus running one route twice daily.

"I take it every day," said Rivera, who makes $6 an hour and does not drive. "We were waiting for this for years."

Beginning April 1, more workers like Rivera will get the service thanks to a $245,791 grant that will buy two small buses and pay two years of costs for a service connecting outlying areas of St. Augustine with the city.

The money became available when Gov. Jeb Bush killed plans to build a high-speed rail system in the state. Statewide, $8 million was freed for transportation projects, including helping people get to destinations like jobs, doctors and medical treatments.

"In rural counties, these are life-sustaining services," said Shirley Conroy, a public transportation specialist with the state Department of Transportation.

In St. Johns County, the Council on Aging hopes to build a broader public transit service from its own program that serves the poor.

The routes will include stops along major roads leading to the city.

"They are going to be providing more fixed-route service than any other county in my district," said Conroy, who works with transportation programs for the poor in 18 North Florida counties.

The two new buses provided by the state grant will run on two-hour intervals.

Routes will stretch from just west and northwest of the city to as far north as the St. Augustine Airport, south to the St. Augustine Shores area and east to St. Augustine Beach.

Brown's agency is seeking a central terminal in town, possibly at the Greyhound Bus Line station.

Rivera said she used to spend $25 a week on taxi fares to and from work. The bus costs her $15 a week.

She said she knows others in her neighborhood northwest of the city who must use taxis to get to work, buy groceries and get prescriptions. …

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