By Tamas Mondovics

Sunshine Line, Hillsborough County’s door-to-door transportation and bus service, has been serving elderly residents, low-income families and the disabled who do not have or cannot afford their own transportation, for years.

“We have come a long way,” said Sunshine Line Director, Scott Clark as he talked about the service, which began in the mid ‘70s with just a couple of cars and drivers, but has grown to 45 drivers and 60 buses with over 700 trips a day.

In fiscal year 2014, the Sunshine Line made more than a half million door-to-door trips and so far this year received nearly 100,000 calls.

“The key to numbers like this is that we truly want to help people,” Clark said, adding, “We love our clients and our clients love us; our drivers in return. All of this allows us to hope for future expansion of the service to help more people.”

Clark’s confidence in the already successful service is also based on the strong support of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), including its recent approval to help fund Sunshine Line and its Bus Pass Program. Sunshine Line received commendation from the BOCC for meeting or exceeding all minimum standards for reliability, on-time performance, and safety. To cover the operating expenses, the service receives $1.9 million in state grants, with the rest coming from the County.

“We are very grateful for the BOCC’s support of the service as well as our clients,” Clark said, adding that the service is not a duplication of HART’s (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority) flex or bus route.

To request a trip, residents can call at least two to seven days in advance. The wheelchair accessible vehicles are operated by drivers who assist passengers to and from the building. Fees are charged for some trips on a sliding scale, based on income ranging from no fee to $5 per trip, and on client eligibility and funding source rules.

Transportation is provided primarily to medical appointments and Aging Services day care and nutrition sites, but non-medical trips are also provided on a space-available basis. It is now providing transportation to Special Needs Shelters during emergency evacuations or other types of evacuations like the recent flooding events and cold weather events as directed by the Hillsborough County Office of Emergency Management.

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