Free shuttle service: lessons (NOT) learned

Michael Gold, Editor
HISTORIC CITY NEWS

Last week the City of St Augustine distributed a press release announcing “free” shuttle service and parking for the public on the first three Saturdays in April. Historic City News readers know that there is no “free lunch” — especially under the current administration at City Hall. And, as a taxpayer, let me tell you that $21,840.60 is certainly not “free”.

We knew we were in for some “fake news” from the Public Affairs Department when we read, “The service was well received its first weekend in spite of a slow start because of the late arrival of the shuttle buses …”

Well received? That’s stretching it. The chairman of the Lions Club Seafood Festival wrote that the local non-profit organization was given no option but to use Elite Transportation, the City’s contractor, and to pay the City or forfeit their permits to use Francis Field. Inundated with criticism, he wrote a Letter to the Editor apologizing for the poor service and directing all further complaints to City Hall.

Local Videographer Jeffrey Marcus Gray contacted out-of-town and out-of-state visitors at two non-city-owned parking lots that morning. Some guests had been waiting for over an hour for a shuttle that is supposed to run every 20-25 minutes.

But, before the busses finally arrived, there were tourists departing in frustration — one vowing never to spend a penny in the City of St. Augustine, another couple claiming that the City doesn’t care much about it’s visitors. We published the video and comments on our website, historiccity.com

Historic City News requested and received a copy of the proposal from the Jacksonville transportation contractor, Elite Transportation. We also received the work order from the City authorizing the services to be provided.

We’ve asked for clarification of exactly who is paying for the future shuttles hired from Elite, including those listed in the press release. There was no specific answer forthcoming, so we will report what the contract says — the City of St Augustine is the responsible party for payment, not the festivals.

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