CRESTVIEW — Residents who rely on Okaloosa County Transit bus service to reach services and facilities like the Crestview Public Library, the post office, North Okaloosa Medical Center, City Hall and area grocery stores have one more chance to fight to keep the bus routes they need.
Speaking at the Sept. 10 city council meeting, Lani Birchett, Okaloosa County Transit’s transit coordinator, said the Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners had recommended eliminating the three bus routes that serve the Crestview area. The commissioners’ final public hearing for the 2012-13 budget is Tuesday.
“That is the last opportunity to speak on the fiscal year budget,” Birchett said.
Since a Sept. 6 budget hearing, route 14, the “Wave Express,” which runs between Fort Walton Beach and the county seat, has been restored. However, route 11, which primarily serves Crestview north of U.S. Highway 90, and route 12, which mainly serves the south part of the city, are still considered for removal, Birchett said.
That didn’t sit well with council members, who noted Crestview is the lone community in the county growing and expanding, with more than 40,000 residents in the city and immediate area.
“The thing is, Crestview is the county seat of this county,” Councilman Charles Baugh Jr. said. “It seems the county seat gets a disproportionate smaller share of the services. The statistical data shows Crestview growing much faster than the rest of Okaloosa cities.”
Baugh cited ridership that includes students attending Northwest Florida State College and Collegiate High School. Local riders also use the Wave Express to get to jobs and doctors’ appointments at the county’s south end, he said. Bus lines proposed for elimination serve a large population of underprivileged people who rely on public transportation, he said.
The potential loss of public transportation also doesn’t sit well with riders.
See the rest of this report in the Crestview News Bulletin's Sept. 15 edition.