Glades public transit service being improved

Palm Tran service for the Glades areas of western Palm Beach County is undergoing changes intended to make the public bus transportation service more flexible, timely and convenient for residents.

Earlier this fall, according to Palm Tran Public Relations Manager Joe Harrington, the Belle Glade/Pahokee bus route No. 47 was merged with Route 48, serving Canal Point and South Bay. Service hours were extended and stops increased to every half-hour on weekdays. The service changes were the result of months’ worth of study, planning and public input gathering, he said, and part of the transit line’s Route Performance Maximization Project instituted by Clinton Forbes, who became director three years ago this month.

Palm Tran officials have been giving presentations at public meetings in the Glades in recent months, and more improvements are to be put in place in coming weeks along with continuing public outreach, Mr. Harrington said.

 

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
A bus travels south on Bacom Point Road in Pahokee, an area that no longer is served with the merger of Palm Tran’s Routes 47 and 48 in the Glades. The entry period just closed in a contest that will give the more localized, flexible transit service that’s planned to start here by 2019 a unique new name.

A pilot program temporarily called Palm Tran Connection Flex is planned for Belle Glade, South Bay, Pahokee and Canal Point, in part as a replacement for the Florida Department of Transportation’s Belle Glade Express service, which will end. Riders could access the flex service at the bus stop or could call and request to be picked up or dropped off. The smaller vehicles to be used would be able to get into areas hard to reach with buses. The FDOT is pitching in money for the service, which is expected to start by the end of December, he said.

A chance to win three 31-day bus passes was the enticement offered by Palm Tran in the competition to name the new service, which will allow community members to call for a ride on a small vehicle, and to request that a circular-route vehicle make a slight detour from the regular route to pick them up. The contest was open through Oct. 28 to Glades residents only, and Mr. Harrington said the winner and name choice will be announced soon.
Newer buses now also have free phone-charging stations and Wi-Fi.

“The service will make getting around the Glades even easier,” he said. “We’ve already received some great ideas such as ‘the Pink Flamingo,’ ‘Go Glades’ and ‘Out West Meadows Transit’,” Mr. Harrington said.

The merging of the two Glades routes began Sept. 30 and resulted in more direct service and improved frequency of buses. The new transit service will help supplement the existing bus service. Fares for the new service will be announced in the future.

Palm Tran CEO Forbes gave a PowerPoint presentation to Pahokee’s City Commission on Oct. 9, and officials had several questions for him but overall were satisfied with the information given. He said that when he came to Palm Beach County, he was struck by “one glaring thing — that we haven’t changed our transit system in over 20 years!” The last time, Mr. Forbes said, had been in 1996, when a gallon of gas cost 97 cents and “we had 400,000 fewer people.”

“We worked in earnest for nearly two and a half years to update our transit system,” he explained, “and I’m proud to announce that we introduced a … new bus network system and it is a success after one week.”

The improvements weren’t done, though, he said, as other ideas were still to be presented, including the reduced-rate replacement for the Belle Glade Express system that’s operated by that city with the FDOT’s aid. Details about that will be made public soon.
For more information or to learn about the service’s online “iGo” planner or the MyStop Mobile app available free in iTunes or the Google Store, go to palmtran.org.

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