City ponies up $26,000 to keep bus going

Matt Algarin | The Log

City leaders and community partners have banded together on a "short term" fix that would save an Okaloosa County Transit route that runs through Destin.

"We asked them if they would be willing to assist us," City Manager Maryann Ustick said. "The folks that we've worked with over the last couple of months have stepped up and offered funding in the amount of $12,000."

With a unanimous vote during a recent City Council meeting, city leaders agreed to fund a total of $26,000, which would assure that Route 33 continues to operate. This particular route runs through Destin all the way to Silver Sands Premium Outlets. See a route map at

Due to budget reductions, Okaloosa County Commissioners had asked the city of Destin to help fund the $38,000 needed to keep the route on-line. Given the city's own budgeting needs, they partnered with ResortQuest ($5,000); the Howard Group ($2,000) and, Dunavant Gulf LLC ($5,000) to secure a portion of the funds.

As part of the city's multimodal transportation standards, transit is a necessary component and will compliment pathways and bike routes.

"It's important to our overall economy as well as to our citizens and folks who need to get work and to our visitors that need some form of transportation other than vehicles," Ustick said.

Councilman Jim Wood supported the measure, telling the council that the Destin specific routes account for between 9,000-20,000 riders annually. Although the proposal is only a short-term fix, Wood said it's important.

"This is one of the ways you combat traffic congestion," he said.

But not everyone on the dais was a fan of the idea. Councilman Tuffy Dixon told his colleagues that the transit routes are in "serious jeopardy" already.

"Personally, just from what I've seen, that bus system will go away," he said. "We may be throwing away money with it, but I'm willing to give it a try."

Ustick told the council that unallocated fuel tax monies will be used to fund the $26,000 payment. City staff will continue to explore other options for funding the transportation routes in the future.

"I think everyone understands that we are going to have to come up with a long-term, sustainable funding plan for the transit system," she said.