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Public Transit: New ECAT Routes Take Effect

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Dave Dunwoody
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As of April 1, Escambia County Area Transit rolled out some changes in its more-traveled routes, along with new service areas and more buses.

Bus 0635 is at the Rosa Parks Terminal on Fairfield, getting ready for its first round of the day on route 52, which serves the area around Cordova Mall, Sacred Heart Hospital and Pensacola State College.

“This is the first phase, and we want to make sure that this is successful,” said ECAT Marketing Director Tonya Ellis. Work on the changes began a couple of years ago, with a comprehensive operational analysis of the transit system, aimed at making the routes more efficient.

“We did several public workshops and a public survey, and some of that feedback came back to split some of the routes, and to add service to other routes,” Ellis said.

Route 52 is the northern part of the old Route 42, which Ellis says at times was “standing room only.” In all, six ECAT routes are affected by the changes.

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“Route 31 and 41 go to additional service on Summit [Boulevard], on Scenic Highway; we also have additional service to Bayou Boulevard,” Ellis said. “On Routes 32 and 52, it’s basically splitting a route that adds increased frequency – every 30 minutes in the morning and every 30 minutes in the afternoon.”

On this particular day, ridership on ECAT 0635 was somewhat light. Among those riding to her destination was Evan Harris, a student at Pensacola State College.

“It’s still new to me, getting used to the number 52 instead of 42,” said Harris. “But as far as I’m concerned it’s still the same and still working for me.”

Joyce – who declined to give her last name – was on her way to a doctor’s appointment. She said she is not a regular ECAT rider.

“Only sometime,” she said. “It’s good transportation and I feel safe on it. It takes you where you want to go, and back.”

As the system looks to the future, ECAT’s Tonya Ellis says the system has recovered for the most part from losing City of Pensacola funding in 2007. And as she mentioned earlier, the new routes are just the beginning.

“We are looking at some additional changes, once these are being implemented and are successful,” said Ellis. “Maybe later in the year, or sometime at the beginning of 2017.”

And there’s more than just the rubber hitting new roads. ECAT recently introduced onboard Wi-Fi and a real-time bus locator app. The app and a look at the routes,, new and old, are available at www.goecat.com.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.