TAMPA — Hillsborough Area Regional Transit board members are planning a bus fare hike while they dropped the cost for the In-Town Trolley by a quarter.
A bus rate increase would offset rising fuel prices and ridership demand while backfilling lost property tax revenue from Amendment 1.
Crude oil set another all-time high at more than $126 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange last week, according to AAA, while gasoline prices in Florida averaged $3.72, up from nearly $3.25 on March 1.
HART ridership, meanwhile, grows, projected to approach 12-million this fiscal year.
Regular bus fare would rise from $1.50 to $1.75. HART also expects to increase the costs of fare cards, express fares and paratransit fares. Overall, the changes would generate about $736,000 more annually.
The regular fare jump would match the Orlando increase by the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority this year. The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority sells regular fares for $1.50.
HART board members didn't speak Tuesday before they authorized their staff to prepare for public hearings in early June through July. A final decision could be made in August.
"I'm not worried about the fare increase," said Gloria Mills, a rider and advocate for the blind. She told board members she knew the increase was needed. But she told board members to improve paratransit services because it takes too long for rides to come when disabled people call.
HART also lowered the cost to ride the In-Town Trolley to 25 cents. Trolley routes connect parking, hotels and the Tampa Convention Center with the downtown core. The decrease will have a minimal effect on the agency's budget, and HART wants more people to ride the trolley. HART expects demand to increase with thousands of downtown lofts and condominiums built or under construction, and because of the coming Super Bowl.
"We believe it will make it much more convenient to spontaneously board the route," Jill Cappadoro, a HART spokeswoman, told the board.
The purple trolley line, which runs during the week, gets about 2,500 riders a month. The green line, which runs weekend nights, gets about 125 riders, Cappadoro said.
HART stands to lose about $2,364 from the purple line annually and $1,270 from the green line with the rate cuts.
For the rest of the year, both lines will lose about $612.
Board members said they hope the trolley would eventually be able to operate for free.
Justin George can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3368.