‘We need transit’ OCT routes in jeopardy after Monday night vote

Matt Algarin
This map shows route 33 that runs through the city of Destin into Walton County.

As much as city leaders in Destin want transit to run through the city, they are not willing to pay the $86,040 it would cost to continue the current level of service.

“I believe truly in my heart that we need transit in this town,” Councilman Jim Wood said.

In June, Okaloosa County Administrator Ernie Padgett had submitted the $80,000-plus funding request to the city, which would help maintain the routes currently run by Okaloosa County Transit. Earlier this year, Destin and Crestview were both told by county commissioners that their routes could be cut if a funding source wasn’t secured.

City leaders had approved, earlier this year, $38,000 in funding, which included $12,000 from private sector donations, to keep route 33, which runs through Destin to Silver Sands Premium Outlets, operational through the end of the year.

City Manager Maryann Ustick told councilors during Monday night’s Destin City Council meeting that it essentially doesn’t make sense for the city to fund the money without having a “seat at the table,” with some type of transit cooperative or group that would have representation from each municipality.

Leigh Moore, who represents the Howard Group, told city leaders that part of the problem with the current transit system is its lack of marketing. She said people don’t know what the buses look like or where the routes run.

“There are a lot of people here in Destin who don’t know we have transit,” she said.

A public meeting will be held in Fort Walton Beach July 15 at 8:30 a.m. to discuss the status of the transit system in Okaloosa County. The meeting will be at the Water and Sewer building on Lewis Turner Boulevard.

As the city’s transportation “guy,” Councilman Wood said Monday’s motion “pains me very much,” but he understood the reasons behind it.

“I really hope we can find some solution,” he said.