Currently in Hillsborough County, the big transit news is HART’s proposed service revisions for Fall, 2012. Now, HART usually makes 3 service revisions per year: March, July, and November. November however seems to be when the most significant revisions are proposed, including any changes to the fare structure.
The last time HART had to increase fares was in November 2007, a move that was largely unpopular at first. However, patrons realized that in order for HART to continue sustained service with plummeting property tax revenues, that a fare increase was necessary. Additionally, many of HART’s routes had to be revamped to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Fast forward to 2012 and we see a much dire predicament, where ridership has hit all-time highs, but local, state, and federal funding have been slashed across the board. As a result, HART and many other transit agencies across the nation have had to cut back services.
Furthermore, we have seen a drastic change in political climate, where our elected officials are less willing to allocate funds to services and projects unless the risk of taxpayer subsidies is minimized. We also see the growth of the nationwide movement known as “Taxed Enough Already” or simply the “TEA Party”. The TEA Party notion is to have government reduce spending and taxes, the size of government decrease, and revert back to the fundamentals of the US Constitution.
In the 2010 elections, Tampa saw how disastrous the changing political climate was on its public transit system. HART and other county agencies attempted to pass a 1 cent sales tax to fund transit improvements and road construction. However, the plan was not clearly defined and thus many residents of Hillsborough County had no clue what the plan meant to them. Furthermore, many Tea Party activists saw the plan as “socialist” and fought actively to kill the sales tax plan. The referendum failed by nearly 50% and later Florida Governor Rick Scott pulled the plug on Florida’s High Speed Rail corridor due to his concerns that taxpayers would be heavily liable for construction and operating costs.
HART is now faced with the dire prospect of ending up like Detroit, Michigan’s bus system (click here to read an article on just how bad Detroit’s situation is), which is being forced to privatize. HART is taking a look at cutting back under-performing routes and services and raise fares. Below is a summary of what is to come.
- Eliminate Express Route 28X, which has seen declining ridership
- Combine Express Route 50X into Route 61LX
- Revise Local Route 37 and Brandon Flex
- Eliminate Saturday service on Brandon Flex
- Revise Local Routes 30 & 34, which have seen many trips lag behind
- Revise holiday services, which tend to have decreased ridership
For a listing of the proposed fare changes, click here.
The changes may not look like much, but in the long run, it will save HART money, and avoid an even dire situation like Detroit’s. However, if funding avenues do not improve, HART may have to make even more cuts in the future, including the possible elimination of evening services.
For complete information, including upcoming public hearings & open houses, click here.
Ever been to a HART open house? Click here for an insight from another local blogger.