Both the Gulfport Extended Mini Bus Service (GEMS) and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) TD Tampa Bay ride3DE service have one mission in mind: Helping people get to where they want to go.
Where are they going?
Gulfport seniors and residents with disabilities have been getting around locally with GEMS from as far back as 1974, according to Phillip Ford, GEMS Coordinator.
“It’s a reward to get to speak to a lot of different people, and gratifying to help out seniors in a time where they need it most,” Ford said.
While GEMS operates mainly within Gulfport, TD Tampa Bay crosses over five counties – Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernand0 and Manatee.
TD Tampa Bay’s ride service began in December 2020, but the three-month-old program is already steadily increasing ridership in the Bay area.
According to Chris Jadick, TBARTA Communications Director, 74% of all TD trips crossed county lines.
“It’s mainly doctors’ appointments, but I had a woman Sunday who I dropped off at the Strawberry Festival in Plant City,” TD Tampa Bay Driver Warren Saunderson said. “I was raised by my grandmother, so I’ve always cared for the elderly, and now I’m making an income from it.”
Who is eligible?
GEMS drives for residents 55 years and older and people with disabilities within the Gulfport area; TD Tampa covers seniors, people with disabilities and low-income users.
“TD was designed to help those most in need, whoever that may be,” Jadick said. “There is a registration process to determine those needs.”
Aside from distance, pricing is one of the biggest factors that sets the programs apart.
An annual GEMS membership costs $70, and $2 per trip after registration. TD Tampa Bay costs a flat $6 per trip.