ARCADIA — Changes are on the way for the Desoto-Arcadia Regional Transit (DART) bus services in DeSoto County.

As of Feb. 17, the DART program − operating since 2012 − is adding a new route and schedule to its travels around the county, as well as a fresh new look.

The route will provide DART bus service to new locations, including CareerSource Heartland (2160 N.E. Roan St.) and South Florida State College DeSoto Campus (2251 N.E. Turner Ave.).

It will maintain its current service to many popular sites around the county such as Walmart, the Goodwill Plaza, the Health Department, the hospital, the library and more, according to a Feb. 7 press release from Central Florida Regional Planning Council, an organization that oversees DART operations.

“We worked closely with DeSoto County before assuming operations of the DART (in mid-September 2019),” said Marybeth Soderstrom, CFRPC transportation director. “Our number one goal at that time was to get a bus on the road that would be reliable for riders.”

The DART bus has a set route but riders can get picked up anywhere along the published route just by being in a safe and visible area on the correct side of the street and waving at the driver.

Starting Feb. 17, the DART will operate 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The bus fare will remain 50 cents per ride. The stops will repeat every 60 minutes, so riders will know the DART bus comes at the same time each hour.

“We had to make changes to the hours of service to stay on budget for this year,” Soderstrom told the Sun in a Feb. 9 email. “It was a good time to also evaluate how the bus was performing. Drivers keep track of when riders get on the bus, and so that information helped evaluate the current stops and service hours. We also spent time on the bus talking to our riders to learn how we could improve service for them.”

Other changes will be coming for the DART program, according to Soderstrom.

“A big goal of the changes was to create a 60 minute schedule, so riders will know the DART bus comes at the same time each hour, and we were able to accomplish that, Soderstrom said. “Based on all the feedback the DART now provides service to South Florida State College and CareerSource Heartland. There are less ‘stops’ on the schedule now, but the DART is a ‘Flag Stop Service’ which means the drivers can stop anywhere along the route and this will help the bus stay on schedule.”

Soderstrom said the DART bus will also be getting a “much-needed makeover” come March, thanks to sponsorship from the Florida Department of Health, providing a “fresh new look”.

“These changes make the DART more reliable, user friendly, and provide new educational and workforce training opportunities for the community,” Soderstrom said.

For more information about the DART bus and other transportation services, as well as for comments, concerns, and suggestions, call MV Transportation at 800-694-6566 or visit the DART website at desotobus.com.

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