JTA gradually restoring bus services to Clay County

By Nick Blank
Posted 5/8/19

CLAY COUNTY – State and local officials believe selecting the Jacksonville Transportation Authority as the county’s provider was the best decision as the Duval-based service gradually restores …

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JTA gradually restoring bus services to Clay County

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – State and local officials believe selecting the Jacksonville Transportation Authority as the county’s provider was the best decision as the Duval-based service gradually restores the county’s flex route service.

ElderSource, the state’s senior agency in the area, pulled its senior services contracts from the Clay Council on Aging in early December citing fears the COA wouldn’t make payroll. The COA was also the state transportation provider for Clay. The organization, losing between $150,000-$200,000 a year, cancelled its flex lines to save money.

The Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged gave the COA’s TD contracts to JTA on an emergency basis, set to expire June, 2020. JTA assumed the TD services Jan. 2.

The county which has no oversight of Clay’s transportation except funding. In the 2018/2019 fiscal year, the county budgeted $541,370 for the COA. The remaining funds were split between JTA and AgingTrue, the new Duval County-based senior services provider for Clay.

Most criticism toward agencies involved the loss of flex routes, which ran throughout the county. Flex routes and TD services are not the same thing. The disadvantaged services are for the disabled, life-sustaining trips or other medical appointments. Flex routes cover less urgent trips to hospitals, the Clay County Courthouse, grocery stores, the Orange Park Mall or working customers students at local colleges.

In March, service was returned to two flex lines, Red and Blue. The revised lines cover Orange Park, Fleming Island, Green Cove Springs and Middleburg. JTA Vice-President of Operations Lisa Darnall said the goal was to limit any break in TD or flex route service, which would always be difficult on a tight turnaround.

“With the flex routes there was a bit of an overlap. What we did was redesign those. We’re still covering most of the routes the flex routes provided,” Darnall said. “We had three and a half weeks to start a TD service. It took a lot or people and a lot of hours to make sure that service wasn’t affected at all.”

The new flex routes have about 80 customers on average a day and the TD services average 110. The county, JTA and AgingTrue reached an agreement for an additional 25 senior daycare trips a day, with county providing $88,000 until the next fiscal year.

The county’s only obligation is subsidizing 10-percent of TD cost, about $65,000. The county had provided more than eight times that amount as well as fuel reimbursements and vehicle maintenance costs to offset COA issues, County Auditor Mike Price wrote via email.

The Teal and Magenta flex lines, which took customers to distant locations such as Keystone Heights and Gainesville, were a major financial headache for the COA. The lines still haven’t been reinstated.

“We’re in the process of putting together a comprehensive cost-analysis plan for (the county) to look at what other services we could pick up as well,” Darnall said.

In a grant separate from the Clay County flex routes, USDOT announced in April that JTA received a $16.6 million grant for a new line. The state Department of Transportation would contribute $8.3 million and JTA officials said they would match the state’s figure. While mostly in Duval, the line will have a stop at the Orange Park Mall according to JTA.

The “Orange Line,” expected to launch service by the end of 2020, includes construction of 22 platforms at 13 stations, 15 buses and 24 Transit Signal Priority devices.

More information about JTA’s routes and fares is available at jtafla.com under “Schedules” and “Regional Services.”

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