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Downtown businesses reject shuttle subsidy…What now?

Downtown Boca businesses surveyed don’t want to pay for shuttles. Now the city will explore subsidizing or promoting a ride share like Lyft or Uber.

At issue were four shuttles and two routes to bring people downtown without driving.

A survey asked seven property owners and businesses if they would agree to a special assessment, explained downtown manager Ruby Childers.

Letters were sent to 140 owners. Five workshops described as poorly or not attended were held to elicit opinions. “Most were in favor of a shuttle, but not willing to pay for it,”  Childers told city council. Members sit as the CRA to oversee downtown.

“They don’t want to fund a shuttle or an old-style trolley?” Scott Singer asked about more upscale transit.

“More Mizner modern, like the mini-buses the Resort uses,” said Peg Anderson, Business Improvement District committee chair.

“My personal opinion as an urban economist: They’re making money. Owners don’t see how a shuttle will increase revenue,” said city consultant Marie York.

“With Brightline possibly coming, how do we get people from one side of the tracks to the downtown?” said CRA chair Andrea Levine O’Rourke.

Other towns and sports teams like the Dolphins have ride-sharing partnerships, said assistant city manager Mike Woika. “Most are not subsidies. They just promote special pickups and drop-offs.”

Some vouchers are only offered for special events, or to reduce impaired drivers for New Years Eve. “Wilton Manors will pay $5 for Friday and Saturday nights to come in..not out,” he said.

Altamonte Springs spent $330,000 on two pilot programs that didn’t work out, he added. The transit authority pays for the Pinellas County program, he said.

Ride-share companies do rebates by code and vouchers, Woika said. “A flat rate works better than a percentage,” he said, adding Boca rides average $8 to $12.

“That’s a lot less than the other option,” Jeremy Rodgers said about buying and maintaining shuttles.

Woika presented a shuttle service’s proposal the CRA rejected at an earlier meeting.

“I’d like to see us extend this to taxi services,” said Monica Mayotte.

“Some apps do both,” Woika said.

By Marci Shatzman

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