The Suwannee Valley Transit Authority’s Live Oak bus route will begin operating on Monday, July 20, running continuously from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. throughout every direction of the city, Monday through Friday. The route’s unofficial stops include apartment complexes and other residential neighborhoods, public schools, grocery stores, parks, government offices, nursing homes, the library and the hospital.
The route starts at the intersection of Walker Avenue and US 90 West and loops back again roughly every two hours. Passengers can ride west as far as Shands Live Oak Regional Medical Center, south to the Live Oak Public Library, east to Suwannee Health Care Center and north to Walmart. See the map above for a list of bus stops; the list is not exhaustive as there are many other stops that can be made depending on rider needs.
This new mode of public transportation is part of SVTA’s efforts to expand its services beyond non-emergency medical transport, which it has come to be known for due to the high volume of Medicaid riders in the past.
“The bus route is one of those things where, until we put our foot in the water, we’re not going to know how cold or how hot it is,” SVTA Administrator Larry Sessions said. “It’s something that’s needed in the community. We have a lot of locals that we pick up and do things locally that we dispatch a whole vehicle for. A lot of these people may just get on and ride the bus instead, and that’ll free up some of our resources to do other things and to go out in the community a little bit farther. So this could take care of a lot of things right here in Live Oak.”
Sessions said if someone qualifies with an ambulatory need in the city, the bus route can pick them up or drop them off at a more convenient or accessible stop for them.
“We’re not going to go to everybody’s house, but if someone qualifies with a need and we can meet it with a bus, we will,” Sessions added.
You can wave down the iconic green and gold trolley-style bus at one of the listed locations or whenever you see the bus heading your way. The bus is wheelchair-accessible and is equipped with a bike rack to accommodate a variety of passengers. Once inside, pull the signal cord or verbally inform the driver of an upcoming stop you’d like to get off at.
Rides are $1 each time you board the trolley and fares can be paid in cash or coin. The bus driver carries no change, so make sure to have exact fare. There is also a bus pass available for $27.50 per month. The monthly pass allows for an unlimited amount of rides, per month, - just present your pass to the driver.
The bus route is primarily a community service provided by SVTA, although it has the potential to become a small revenue source for the agency. Sessions anticipates breaking even in the bus route’s fledgling stage; if that doesn’t happen in three months, Sessions said he will cut the program.
“No riders, no route,” he remarked. “It should have enough exposure in three months time that we’ll know if it’s going to work or not.”
In order to break even, the bus will need 11 riders per hour or 132 riders per day. Additional revenue can be made by selling advertisements on the side of the bus or its interior, Sessions said.
Bus stops will not be made official until the route proves itself as a successful form of public transport. If it does, Sessions said the Department of Transportation could help install official bus stops within two years.
Until then, the SVTA will monitor the bus stops’ popularity and consider public feedback on the route and bus stops. If you have any questions, suggestions, or would like to get a monthly bus pass, contact SVTA at 386-362-5332 or stop by their office at 1907 Voyles St. SW in Live Oak.