SARASOTA — For the last month, Kendra Keiderling has jumped from one new task to the next.
The Lakewood Ranch resident not only has been learning her new role as the public outreach and marketing coordinator for Sarasota County Area Transit, but she’s also been laying the groundwork to reshape how people think about public transportation.
“I don’t have a normal day yet, and I love it,” Keiderling said. “I want to be known as the SCAT girl.”
Keiderling may still be learning the ins and outs of public transit, but she’s already well on her way to reeducating the public about its benefits — benefits she expects to experience firsthand when traveling to the airport, the beach or downtown Sarasota.
She, like many people in her target audience, will use public transit by choice, not out of need.
“We’re going after the new generation of transit riders — the choice riders, the youth and the students at universities. This is how we change the image,” Keiderling said. “We target the new generation.”
On July 12, SCAT rolls out 19 new buses, a new ridership guide, 340 new smartphone-friendly bus stop signs and a new SCAT mobile application. A barcode on bus stop signs will allow riders to scan the sign with their smartphones to learn where their bus is compared with the schedule.
“It’s all real-time information with GPSs on our buses,” SCAT Department Director Glama Carter said.
SCAT’s new smartphone app also allows patrons to view SCAT news and bus schedules and to provide feedback on services, among other options.
Next week, SCAT also will begin its new route along University Parkway. A $1.06 million three-year grant from the Federal Transit Administration will fund the new Route 30, which connects the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport in the west to Lakewood Ranch in the east. Buses have WiFi, electrical outlets and overhead compartments for patrons’ convenience.
The eastbound route, which takes about one hour to complete, includes stops at University Parkway and Lockwood Ridge Road, University Town Center, State College of Florida in the Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park, Everglades and Keiser universities on Lake Osprey Drive and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.
The westbound route includes stops at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, University Town Center and Walmart.
Buses run from the airport to the hospital from 6:10 a.m. to 7:40 p.m., while buses run from the hospital to the airport from 7:18 a.m. to 8:46 p.m.
“It’s going to be a great route,” Keiderling said.
A special Sunday-only Route 215 travels to and from Lakewood Ranch Medical Center to downtown Sarasota.
At the end of three years, SCAT will analyze ridership to determine whether to continue the University Parkway route. Sarasota County would have to start funding the route at that time, Carter said.
Using Facebook, Twitter, community meetings and other forums, Keiderling now will raise awareness about SCAT changes and routes. She plans to talk with homeowners associations, chambers of commerce and other organizations to promote the use of public transportation.
The University Parkway route, for example, is great for individuals or business professionals traveling to and from the airport. By using transit, riders could park their car free of charge and shuttle to the airport from the Mall at University Town Center area or take the bus from the airport and avoid renting a vehicle, she said.
“It’s convenient,” Keiderling said. “You can listen to your music. You can do work on the bus. The price of gas — it’s huge. The wear and tear on your vehicle. It’s a social group. You are going to meet people on the bus.”
East County residents also could utilize the bus to frequent Sarasota’s beaches and avoid battling for parking spaces in their own vehicles, she said.
“My goal is to reach out to all the colleges and hotels,” Keiderling said. “I think we have to tap into the tourists, especially Europeans who are use to (using public transit).”
“This is not going to end,” Keiderling said. “I’ll never stop beating the streets.”
The bus route guide only lists scheduled time points. Additional bus stops are located between each time
point, but riders must notify drivers to stop at those locations.
Bus fares range by route, but generally cost $1.25 per ride (one route) or $4 for a day pass.
Rules of conduct include regulations such as: no littering, no bare feet, no open containers of food or drink and no loud talking or profanity.
Items allowed include fishing poles (without a hook attached), backpacks, computers, folded and secured strollers and pets in carriers.
+ In the plans
Planning for the new route has been underway for about 10 years. SCAT officials maintain a long-range transportation plan based on projected ridership, population shifts and travel patterns.
SCAT Director Glama Carter said officials pushed for funding for it last year.
SCAT will start construction on a bus transfer station on North Cattlemen Road, near its intersection with DeSoto Road, in the fall.
By the numbers
3 - The number of years grant funding is available for the University Parkway route
19 - Number of new buses
90 - Total number of buses in SCAT’s fleet
$1,058,042 - The grant amount SCAT received from the Federal Transit Administration for the University Parkway route
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected]