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Okaloosa transit system may be discontinued next year

Hopping a bus to work might not be an option for people in Okaloosa County next year. Commissioners are being asked to discontinue all the regular routes on the Okaloosa Transit System because of a budget shortfall.

Laura Hussey "We're on an Okaloosa County Transit bus, around here they call them "The Wave". The buses operate on a combination of state and federal grants, and county money."

Riders pay too, of course. A full adult fare on the wave is a buck-fifty. Cleo Peazant uses the bus to get to two jobs, and says he isn't the only one.

Cleo Peazant "The express bus is full every morning, that bus leaes here at 7:33 and goes out to Destin"

The program manager of Okaloosa County Transit says without the bus, taxi fares would eat up half of what many riders make. Peazant says without the bus, they simply wouldn't be able to work.

Cleo "If they didn't have the bus, there would be a lot of unemployed people here in Fort Walton Beach that usually take the bus for the Destin jobs"

Okaloosa County Transit is a non-profit that runs bus service for the county. The county has been contributing around 315-thousand dollars annually for the last several years, enabling them to get hundreds of thousands more in grants.

Samaria Lopez/FWB "I don't drive. I don't got a car. This is my transportation"   

The county's Growth Management director says this year, the county would have to give an extra 329-thousand to keep the buses running. They've asked for local cities to kick in, but none have responded. He says without the help, the only option is to discontinue the fixed routes. Paratransit service for the disabled would continue, but the Wave's program manager says the level and amount of service would be seriously affected.

Laura Hussey "There will be a public hearing July 15 about the future of the transit system. It will be at 8:30 a.m. at the Water and Sewer Building in Fort Walton Beach."