SCAT and MCAT one step closer to privatization

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Posted: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 6:31 pm | Updated: 1:12 pm, Wed Sep 25, 2013.

SARASOTA FL, --- A merger between Sarasota and Manatee county bus transit systems is one step closer to being a reality. Both counties are considering an inter-local agreement to operator the public bus systems as one.  A move that has some Sarasota county residents like Mathew Hightower on edge.            

"Welcome to sweet tomatoes it's always good to have you folks here," said Hightower as I walking into restaurant.

Hightower is a greeter at Sweet Tomatoes in The Landing and despite being wheelchair bound and having Cerebral palsy, he's managed to maintain his employment. Hightower says Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) plays a major role in him keeping his job.

"I live with my mom she's battling bone cancer and she can't drive any more so without SCAT and the other venders I wouldn't be able to get to work," Hightower added.

Tuesday Sarasota County officials discussed the future of SCAT service. Hightower and many other residents say they're worried they could lose their only reliable means of transportation.

"They'll raise the rate, and $10 is a lot of money and they need to think about it before they sell SCAT to a company," said Hightower.

Sarasota County Commissioners discussing the possibility of merging their transportation system with Manatee County's.  The two would contract out the county run bus system to a  private company.  That company would run the public bus system as a for profit entity and manage the day to day operations. But riders aren't the only one concerned about the change many SCAT employees say they are worried about their jobs.

"The different company's have a bad track record of detailing unions and we are a unionized organization and they don't have a very good track record of keeping a valid pay and they have a high turn over rate," current bus driver Teresa Turner.

In addition to the possibility of losing their jobs many worry about how the system will impact their pensions.

"I'm currently in the Florida State Retirement System and I would lose that status and it would be privatized. I feel like I will lose some of my independence if I lose my Florida pension," added Turner.

The inter-local agreement is currently with Manatee County.  If they agree to the current terms the next step would be several public hearings.

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1 comment:

  • bill135 posted at 6:40 pm on Mon, Sep 2, 2013.

    bill135 Posts: 1

    Well, this says it all; this article has been out there for almost a week now and I'm the first one to post something about it. I can understand why the Sarasota County commissioners want to get out of the bus (mass transit) business. WE love our cars, and Sarasota county commissioners know that. The fine transit system they first envisioned and have put in place does not service (for the most part) the people who put the commissioners in office, and the commissioners know that. The commissioners know that the vast majority of SCAT customers are not the people who can affect them by voting them out of office because most of these people don't, or can't vote.

    The county commissioners all have THEIR OWN CARS. SO IF A PRIVATE, FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION took over SCAT operations and chose to raise rates and eliminate routes and other services in order to make a profit, it would not affect them or most of the voters who put them in office. That's how politics---and politicians---work. Their concern is self-serving and I understand that.

    You can easily see how shallow the county commissioners' concern is for SCAT just by taking a look at the filthy dirty facilities that SCAT customers must use. The main SCAT Downtown terminal is a relatively new and impressive structure, just across the street from Whole Foods and a block north of Main Street. It's a lovely design, but if you take a closer look at it, you can see how dirty it is and no one but those who must, would want to linger there. The same goes for the terminal at The Pavilion, just off Stickney Point and Gateway. The newest terminal at Cattlemen Road looks like it has NEVER been cleaned on the outside since it was first built; there is dust on all the outside windows and ants cover you if you try to sit on a outside bench to wait for a bus. The landscaping has not been touched and looks like it. No other county facility suffers for the lack of attention that these SCAT facilities do. Why is that? (BTW, the terminal at the Pavilion is still adorned by the OLD SCAT logo that was changed years ago. Why?)

    Running a transit system like SCAT is a messy job, and the Sarasota County Commissioners are tired of dealing with it. They know their jobs don't depend on keeping SCAT like it is because the people riding the buses didn't put them in office. So, it's just going to be too bad for SCAT riders when the system is privatized and the rates go up and the services go down.

    This will happen because the only way to make a transit system profitable s to decrease costs and increase revenues. It's a simple formula.

    Besides, the county commissioners and the voters of Sarasota all have their cars...so who cares?

     

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