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Commissioner pushes to eliminate ECAT

Commissioner pushes to eliminate ECAT

Escambia County's bus system is coming under fire on Wednesday.

One county commissioner believes the Escambia County Area Transit buses aren't being used efficiently.

District 2 commissioner and chairman of the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) Doug Underhill calls it a waste of taxpayer money.

He wants county residents to decide ECAT's future.

Underhill is proposing a voter referendum on next year's ballot.

He wants voters to decide on whether they want to continue funding public transportation.

For instance, ECAT buses are always rolling in and out of the Rosa Parks Transit Center in Pensacola.

However, Underhill believes many of these buses go empty on a daily basis.

He said residents shouldn't have to pay for a service no one is using.

"It's ridiculous of us to try to continue to push a service that the citizens are telling us everyday that they don't want," Underhill said.

Underhill argues 12 of ECAT's 22 routes have fewer than 10 riders per hour.

With an annual price tag of $13 million, only of which $1 million comes from ridership, Underhill said it's time to do away from the service.

"So we've got citizens well outside of this service that are paying for it," Underhill said. "Now you can say it's a collection value but it's just not a huge county priority."

Technology plays a big factor in the commissioner's push to reevaluate the county's bus system.

He said public transportation has become on demand in the form of Uber and Lyft.

"You're seeing radical changes to the way people get around," Underhill said. "It used to be thought that a progressive city would have a bus system. I would submit to you that the truly progressive cities in America today are moving away from the archaic transportation systems that we've had for the last 60 to 80 years."

Some people depend on buses to get around, but Underhill said that cost shouldn't be passed on to county taxpayers.

"No matter what happens the future ECAT needs to be about half the size of what we've got right now at the very maximum," he said.

Commissioners did make changes to other aspects of ECAT during a special meeting on Tuesday.

The county will notify the state that they will no longer provide Escambia County Community Transportation (ECCT) to people with medical problems who can't drive.

The state will take over that service.

There's also plans in the works for the county to takeover ECAT services by Oct. 1.

At the moment, First Transit is contracted to run ECAT but the county is not satisfied with their service.

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