Published: Jan 11, 2013 4:35 PM EST
Updated: Jan 11, 2013 6:49 PM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- A two-year study of future public transportation needs says Lee County should set up an Independent Transit Authority, with power to levy taxes. That authority would then seek to expand Lee Tran bus service the next decade.

"We need more frequent service, later service, more routes. We have too long a period of time between some stops, an hour or 90 minutes. That is not convenient for people," says Joanne Haley of Lee Tran. She attended many of the task force meetings.

"We can't just keep building roads and widening roads. We need more and better public transportation," she told WINK News.

The authority would have power to tax. The study group recommends a half-cent increase in the sales tax. That would raise about $46.7 million a year in Lee. That would make Lee Tran self-sufficient, and save the county 11-million a year in bus subsidy. Another optiion would be for the authority to impose extra property taxes that could amount to as much as 300 dollars a year on a house valued at $100,000.

Some taxpayers are not thrilled, especially when told that Lee Tran has only about 12,000 riders on an average weekday.  

"I am not in favor of new taxes, and we have all the government we need right now," says Benita Williams.

"There is not going to be enough pay-back from just expanding bus service. I say no to more taxes for that purpose," says Roland Hand. "We need to expand the economy."

One commissioner agrees. John Manning says this is not the time for new taxes. He also doubts that his colleagues will want to give up their control of public transit.  He recommends an advisory committee to help commissioners with transit issues. But he wants the final say on budgets and taxes to remain with the county board. 

Commissioners will get a briefing on the recommendations on Monday.