Nassau County commuters who need to get to Jacksonville now have an option other than their car.
Beginning Thursday, Nassau County’s Council on Aging will offer morning and afternoon commuter bus service from Callahan, Hilliard, Yulee and Fernandina Beach to the JTA’s Rosa Parks Transit station at 201 W. Union St. The 14-seat Jax Downtown DIRECT service costs $1 each direction or $2 for a round trip.
The agency has scheduled buses for elderly Nassau County clients going to medical appointments in Jacksonville for medical appointments as well as for military veterans going to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Gainesville.
“What sets this apart is that we are having dedicated buses with a dedicated route,” Council on Aging spokesman Jeff McDowell said. “Anybody who wants to go can go. There is no setting of appointments. If you are there when the doors open, you can give the driver $1 and go to downtown Jacksonville.”
Nassau County’s bus system will link to JTA service across Jacksonville at the Rosa Parks Station as well as Skyway Express service. It also becomes one of several inter-county bus services that connect Jacksonville to its neighbors.
St. Johns County’s Council on Aging operates The Sunshine Bus Co., which connects its six St. Augustine routes with JTA’s Purple Line at The Avenues mall. The JTA does provide connections between the Rosa Parks Station downtown to the Orange Park Mall and Argyle Village. And there are bus services between Palatka and Clay County.
The latest service between Nassau and Duval counties is the kind of mass transit people have asked for when Northeast Florida’s future transportation needs are discussed, North Florida Transportation Planning Organization spokeswoman Marci Larson said.
“Any time you can enhance the transit network in a region by adding bus service to give people a choice, it is always a good thing,” Larson said.
The Council on Aging of Nassau has a fleet of 22 vehicles, so it has two 14-seat vehicles ready for inter-county service with air conditioning and handicapped lifts. Two buses will handle the routes initially, eventually getting Jax Downtown DIRECT decals.
One bus will leave at 6:30 a.m. weekdays from the Walmart at 1757 South 14th St. in Fernandina Beach, then travel down Florida A1A and depart at 6:45 a.m. from the Publix parking lot at 463855 Florida 200 in Yulee. The westside bus leaves at 6:30 a.m. from the Winn-Dixie at 550969 U.S. 1 in Hilliard, then travels to Callahan for a 6:45 a.m. departure from the Winn-Dixie at 450078 Florida 200. Arrival time at Jacksonville’s transit station is at 7:15 a.m.
The homeward-bound buses leave at 5:15 p.m. from Jacksonville for both eastern and western Nassau County sites.
A $50,000 U.S. Department of Transportation commuter assistance grant pays for gas, drivers, bus graphics, promotion and advertising.
For more information go to coanassau.org.
Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549