Many of the employees in Panama City Beach actually live in other parts of the county. Lamar Hobbs, the transportation program manager, emphasized the significant role that public transportation plays in the city’s economy during a recent City Council meeting. Bay County officials provided updates on the Bayway, a public transit system that serves the region, and discussed its impact on Panama City Beach.
Hobbs emphasized that by providing transportation options for these employees, the city is also facilitating the necessary services for businesses to operate successfully. He highlighted that the Bayway, established in 1983, operates two types of transportation systems. One is a fixed route system with designated routes across the region, while the other is a demand response system, allowing eligible applicants to request specific pick-up and drop-off times. The Bayway boasts seven transportation systems in total.
According to the information presented at the meeting, Bayway completed approximately 302,000 fixed route rides during fiscal year 2022, with more than 127,000 of those rides specifically occurring in Panama City Beach. Additionally, around 34,000 commuters traveled from Callaway to PCB and vice versa. PCB annually contributes over $46,000 to the Bayway, with $45,000 allocated for fixed routes and approximately $1,234 for demand response.
Hobbs further explained that there are two routes that run through Panama City Beach, with one entirely within the city limits except for the area of Hathaway. The highest number of riders are usually trying to reach Panama City Beach, primarily for work purposes. To enhance accessibility and affordability, local authorities finalized a program this month that enables vulnerable road users to pay for their rides using either Bayway or Uber. Qualified applicants will only have to pay a $1.50 co-pay per ride, with the county covering the remaining expenses. The program is funded by a grant of more than $700,000 from the Florida Transportation Vulnerable Persons Commission.
Exciting expansion plans are also on the horizon. Construction will soon begin for the Expanded Transportation Benefits on US 98 in Bay County. To be eligible for these expanded benefits, an applicant must lack any other means of transportation and meet at least one additional requirement. This could include being at least 60 years old, having an income below the current poverty guidelines, or meeting other specific criteria. To apply for transit disability status, individuals can visit the Bayway website at www.baywaytransit.org.