Lake County residents battle to save bus stops

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LEESBURG, Fla. —

Some Lake County residents showed up at the Leesburg Library Wednesday afternoon to fight possible changes to their bus service.

County transportation officials are looking at plans to shorten routes and make fewer stops for LakeXpress in the city, one the systems busiest locations.

Many of those who use LakeXpress are protective of some of the bus stops in Leesburg.

"That's going to hurt a lot of us, including me," said bus rider Mae Jones.

Jones said she does not like a proposal to eliminate a few of the local stops. One of those stops is near the local Walmart and a string of other stores. The other stop is a few blocks away, near the job center.

"I rely on it because that's the only transportation I've got at this point," said Jones.

County leaders said they're not trying to cut service. They said they just want to make the system more efficient. But city officials said any changes to the Leesburg stops would be a mistake.

"I think the numbers stand for themselves. If you look at Lake County's transportation study, it shows the large number of riders in this area of Leesburg that use the buses. In their own studies, it shows the Leesburg area is the busiest area for busing," said Leesburg city spokesman Robert Sargent.

Federal money pays for LakeXpress.

The county's public transportation department and the Lake-Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization held the public meeting Wednesday to learn what riders thought about any possible changes. 

Jones said she wants to spread the word.

"I've been trying to tell people about it on the bus, because I don't want them to wait until after the fact," said Jones.

County leaders said if any stops are eliminated others are close by. 

There will be a string of meetings before any decision is made. The county commission will still have their say.

The federal government gives the county $1.4 million a year to run the buses.