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Manatee County Area Transit Offers Free Fare

Passengers board a Manatee County Area Transit bus.

Manatee County Area Transit began offering complimentary transit and Handy Bus service on Monday.

Manatee County Transit Division Manager William Steele said the decision to suspend fares was made to help those who may be impacted financially by the spread of COVID-19.

“We thought with people being out of work or having greatly reduced work hours, it would make sense to support that community better by having free fare,” Steele said.

Steele said MCAT saw a dramatic decrease in ridership over the last week since the announcement made by Gov. Ron DeSantis closing bars and night clubs and limiting restaurant operations to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

As service industry workers transition into other jobs, Steele said he sees an opportunity for MCAT to provide reliable transportation for those who need it.

“We just see a glimmer of hope there for some folks in the service sector combined with free fare that might really benefit some folks in the community.” Steele said.    

MCAT’s fare suspension also applies to bus routes that travel into Sarasota County.

Steele said because passengers won’t be paying fares, they will be able to board and exit trolleys or buses using the rear door, which will promote social distancing for riders and transit operators.  

Steele also said hand sanitizer is available onboard MCAT’s entire fleet and workers are wiping buses down with an industrial-grade disinfectant during layovers at transit stations, to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Andrea Perdomo is a reporter for WGCU News. She started her career in public radio as an intern for the Miami-based NPR station, WLRN. Andrea graduated from Florida International University, where she was a contributing writer for the student-run newspaper, The Panther Press, and was also a member of the university's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.