NewsRegion South Hillsborough


Fired because you can't get to work: Nonprofit working to offer bus service solution

High turnover after employees can't get to work
Posted at 6:18 PM, Feb 26, 2018

WIMAUMA, Fla. — Fired because you can't get to work. This is a growing problem for people living in South Hillsborough County.

However, a new partnership is aiming to change that.

Right now there's one big problem with public transportation. There's just one HART Flex Line and it only makes a mile loop off the Walmart on U.S. 301 and back.

This means that the hundreds of people without a car in Wimauma are left with no reliable way to get to work. 

"If you can't leave the community because there's no public transportation because you can't afford to own your own wheels, then you are basically out of luck," said Elizabeth Gutierrez, the founder of Enterprising Latinas.

Some residents walk miles to work. Others pay for an expensive Uber, Lyft or taxi. But they can't keep any of those up for long.

Sun Towers Retirement Community employs more than 400 people. But Debbie Caneen, director of admissions, tells ABC Action News they have a high turnover problem.

Employees often call out by saying they can't make it to work because they have no way to get there.

"Probably three or four times a week. At least," she said.

Transportation can make it or break it when it comes to keeping a job.

"Caring and loving and dedicated to their work but if they have a bad vehicle because they're not dependable. What a shame, what a shame," said Caneen.

This retirement community isn't the only one. Last week, more than 200 people and several employers showed up to a community meeting hosted by the non-profit. They discussed the deep impacts this lack of transportation was having on their ability to keep employees.

But Enterprising Latinas has a solution: Arriba Transportation. They're 80% of the way to launching the service that would include four mini-buses to service all of Wimauma and even Ruskin at just a $1.75 a ride.

Caneen can't wait.

"Decrease the turnover!" she said."Turnover is expensive."

Then a more than welcome curveball as an unlikely ally offers to help. HART.

"Really? They would be interested? They understand the connection?" Gutierrez described her first thoughts when they reached out.

HART has even designed routes for Arriba. The intention is to finally reach the isolated portions of the farm community.

"And so they are very excited. Why?" asked Gutierrez. "Because we would actually be connecting our riders to theirs."

The goal now is raising money. This week, the non-profit will present plans to county commissioners for just that. They plan to have their Arriba Transportation buses out on the roads by Fall.