Public transportation keeps the economy moving
At the City of Ocala, we feel as though it’s time to approach a very serious topic. Many people may be unaware of a very important service hiding in plain sight and, frankly, it is time to take this matter public. As in public transportation.
Public transportation is not just a critical part of a city’s infrastructure, it is critical to the people who rely on this service to travel back and forth to work, participate in medical appointments, conduct shopping, and visit family and friends. It becomes a cornerstone in their lives. Pardon the pun, but public transportation keeps the economy moving.
Our community’s public transportation system, known as SunTran, has proudly served the residents and visitors in Ocala/Marion County since 1998. Currently, the bus system operates under an interlocal partnership between the City of Ocala and Marion County, with the city overseeing service standards, rules and regulations and bus fares. SunTran’s mission statement says it all, “To provide safe, comfortable, and accessible transit services to the citizens and visitors of Ocala/Marion County.”
The use of public transportation has a multitude of benefits for both the rider and the environment. As fuel prices continue to increase, SunTran provides a cost-effective alternative to owning or maintaining a car. In addition, public transit saves on fuel costs, reduces emissions caused by vehicles and decreases automobile congestion on the roads. Bus amenities also include free Wi-Fi, allowing for riders to multitask on their daily commute (something you can’t always do when driving in your car).
SunTran currently operates on a scheduled fixed-route system six days per week, with seven individual routes in Marion County, mostly centered within Ocala, and one route operating from Ocala to Silver Springs Shores. Regular service hours are Monday through Saturday, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. The service is marketed to riders of all age groups, with a price point that makes it affordable. A full cash fare is $1.50; however, discounts are offered to youth, students, seniors, individuals with disabilities and veterans. In addition, a monthly pass is offered at a rate of $45 per month, with reduced monthly rates for the individuals listed above.
This year, SunTran is undergoing its Transit Development Plan (TDP) to reflect its 10-year vision for the future of transit in Ocala/Marion County, along with the City of Belleview, to expand the service territory within Marion County. The TDP evaluates the existing transit system, identifies current and future service improvements and develops a financial plan based on available funding. SunTran will be soliciting input throughout a three-phase approach, and the final plan is due in September 2022. The goal is to implement rider feedback gathered during the development to help better serve the community’s transit needs.
Next year SunTran will celebrate 25 years of serving the Ocala community. While many people depend on this service to help them in their daily lives, we challenge citizens who may not be familiar with public transit to try it out. Many may be surprised by the ease and convenience it provides while moving around town for their daily and weekly errands. With stops located throughout the city and designed to take people to many shopping spots, health care locations and government service offices, chances are there is a stop near a location that a person travels frequently. SunTran is looking forward to the future as it continues to grow this evolving public need within our community. For more information about routes or to view the live bus tracker, visit www.suntran.org.