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Bus route changes now will take effect July 1
Move aligns Gainesville Connection with fiscal year
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Hall Area Transit plans to push off Gainesville Connection route and fare changes until July 1, mainly to line up with the start of its fiscal year.

“There are state and federal agencies that we must report our ridership and lots of other data to,” and it’s easier having those numbers fall in line with the fiscal year, said Phillippa Lewis Moss, Gainesville-Hall Community Service Center director.

But the delay also will help “will give us sufficient time to provide rider education and deliver new marketing materials,” she said.

Moss hopes to kick off the marketing campaign, “Connecting You,” by the end of May.

“It’s going to be incredibly nice,” she said. “I’m very proud of it and can’t wait to roll it out.”

Plus, “it takes time for staff to learn new routes and things of that nature,” Moss said.

City officials agreed in October to set the Gainesville Connection base fare for adults at $1 and for seniors (riders 60 and older) at 50 cents. The transit system also will feature a daily pass of $2 and a monthly pass of $30.

Also changing are number designations for each route.

“The major change that may be confusing for some of our passengers is we’ve done away with Route 2, but it has been incorporated in another route,” Moss said.

“It essentially still exists. We simply have eliminated the number and made another route longer and more encompassing. That will be confusing initially, until after they realize another bus will capture most of those original stops.”

Otherwise, “most of the routes (got) minor tweaks — left turns here, right turns there, an addition of some bus stops and an elimination of others,” Moss said.

“This route change is not as significant as ones we’ve had in the past, but we’re hoping these minor tweaks will make a difference in ridership and productivity.”

The transit service held public input hearings last year and got a wide range of opinions on the changes from residents.

“Once the word spreads that (buses are) going to Dollar Tree, I think we’re just going to have Christmas in July,”

Gabriele Jackson said of the discount store on John W. Morrow Jr. Parkway.

On the other hand, Doreen Thomas of Gainesville questioned buses not traveling Beverly Road. “I have doctors over there that I go to,” she said.

Gainesville Connection has been the name of the area’s fixed-route bus system since February 2014, when Hall Area Transit dropped the Red Rabbit name and logos in a rebranding move.

The Red Rabbit brand had operated since January 2000, with officials saying the new buses and redesign were needed to enhance customer experience and increase ridership and revenues.

The transition has gone smoothly, Moss said.

“We were worried the Red Rabbit brand would just stick, but people were very open to the ... rebranding and have embraced it,” she said. “Everybody likes the design of the new buses. We’ve been very pleased with the reception.”

Ridership numbers also have improved, and “we hope that when we start these new routes ... we’re going to have pretty much a breakout year,” Moss said.