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Hey bus riders: Need a car ride home from USF and Carrollwood bus stations? There's an app for that

TAMPA — HART and an international transportation company are launching a new ridesharing, app-based service to complement the bus system on Monday.

Like Uber or Lyft, bus riders will be able to use a free smartphone app to summon a driver who will take them up to three miles to or from major bus stations at USF or in Carrollwood. Unlike the online-only services, though, customers can pay cash and request a ride by making a phone call. The service, called HyperLINK, will cost passengers $3 per ride.

"We want to make public transit a go-to option for people instead of a last resort," said Sean Quigley, the project manager for the contractor, Transdev North America.

Even for those who opt out of using it every day, the service will help people who want to avoid walking in the rain or in Florida's heat, he said.

Transdev also provides shuttle service at Tampa International Airport and operates YellowCab in Clearwater.

The company, which developed HyperLINK's app and is operating the service, has been growing within the new mobile-based, on-demand transportation market. It is experimenting with autonomous public transportation options in Europe and has launched a separate app-based ride-hailing service available in cities like Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Denver.

For the local HyperLINK service, HART will pay Transdev $7 per ride in addition to the $3 fare. It is using a two-year Florida Department of Transportation grant worth $200,000 to cover that cost. Eagan estimated that HyperLINK will provide about 100 rides on a typical weekday once it expands to the transit center at Brandon Town Center Mall some time in mid-2017.

Transdev's drivers will go through the same background check as the company's cab drivers and will be paid per ride as a contractor, Quigley said. They will not accept tips.

"This is really the direction we see transportation going," he said. "This is the first program of its kind in the country. Nobody really knows how it's going to go."

The majority of the vehicles will be Dodge Caravans and Ford Transit vans and MV-1s, which can accommodate disabled passengers, Quigley said. Those vehicles will be owned and maintained by Transdev, but HART is considering a switch at a later point to the all-electric Tesla's Model X SUVs, which would be maintained by the manufacturer, said Katharine Eagan, HART's chief executive officer.

"If we don't spread out from what we're already doing we're not going to be meeting the needs for the county," she said.

Contact Alli Knothe at Follow @KnotheA.

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Hey bus riders: Need a car ride home from USF and Carrollwood bus stations? There's an app for that 11/11/16 [Last modified: Friday, November 11, 2016 11:39am]
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