Miramar offers $8 monthly bus passes to Everglades high students

  MIRAMAR--A few dozen high school students use Miramar's bus services, and the city is offering monthly passes in an effort to keep them.

The city's Social Services Department managers made the suggestion for monthly passes after they discovered that a group of Everglades High School students ride almost daily.

A pass costs $8 a month. Usually, the bus costs 25 cents per trip.

"We thought it would be more appealing to students than having to reach into their pockets for a quarter each time," said Marva Graham, the city's social services program manager. The offer started this month.

Thirty to 40 students at year-old Everglades High hop on to the city's bus, Principal Paul A. Fetscher said. One of the city's four routes, the Blue route, stops about 100 yards east of the school on Bass Creek Road.

"They asked if we wanted to have a stop, and we said, `Yeah, sure, anything that helps our kids,'" Fetscher said.

School buses pick up students who live more than two miles from school, but these children live inside that limit. Some are just three blocks from school, Fetscher said.

"Knowing the big push for this generation is to be healthier and have the good stuff in the soda machines, it's amazing to me they'd rather wait for the bus than walk the three blocks," he said.

Meanwhile, rider ship has increased since Miramar added two routes Sept. 1, and changed the hub of one route from the Venetian Street Senior Center in eastern Miramar to Miramar Town Center. All of the city's four routes stop at the Town Center.

With a change in routes has come a change in perception. Fewer people think the buses are for seniors only, and new and younger residents are calling city agencies to inquire about the service, Graham said.

"It's become tougher on our staff because they've had to learn the routes inside and out," Graham said, smiling.

Future sites for more bus service include the neighborhoods east of Interstate 75 and south of Miramar Parkway. The area north of Miramar Parkway and west of State Road 7 also will be studied as a potential addition, said Gary Bannister, the city's social services program coordinator/transportation.

"We have received calls from people in those areas interested in taking the buses," Bannister said.

Graham said the additional bus service might be more than a year away, "but those two places are our next targets."

In the past year, bus use has ranged from 4,454 in July to 8,388 in November. In January, the most recent month that statistics are available, there were 6,719 riders. The Red route drew 1,753 riders and the Green route attracted 2,761. The Yellow drew 1,222 and the Blue 983. (The Everglades students rode the bus less than usual because school was on winter break until Jan. 11.)

Miramar provides transportation throughout the city and connects to Broward County Transit Routes 2, 5, 7, 18, 23 and 28. It runs from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, and there are free transfers within the city system.

(source) Sun Sentinel (Nick Sortal) 3-18-05