The Plant City area will not lose express bus service to Tampa under proposed changes to the county's bus service.
HART (Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit) had proposed eliminating the 28X East County Express as part of a cost-cutting strategy.
The 28X runs twice in the morning — 6:20 a.m. and 6.50 a.m. — from a park-and-ride at Mount Zion Assembly of God on Thonotosassa Road. The bus runs along Interstate 4, making a stop at the Burnett Park park-and-ride and a street stop on Mango Road before connecting to downtown Tampa via Interstate 75. It makes the return trip at 4:40 and 5:15 p.m.
The HART staff is now proposing the 28X run once in the early morning and once in the afternoon. Bus times will be based on a readership survey. The route currently serves about 30 passengers a day.
East Hillsborough commuters, who gathered some 50 signatures for a petition drive to save the 28X, and local leaders had appealed to HART to maintain the express bus.
"They understood the budget constraints we are under but they did request that we keep at least one 28X bus," said HART spokesman Marcia Mejia.
Reducing service from two buses to one will save HART about $70,000 a year.
"HART made the right decision," said Plant City Mayor Mike Sparkman, who had lobbied to save the express bus. "Those citizens who use the bus deserve it."
HART is also recommending eliminating Saturday service on the Brandon Flex route due to low ridership with savings invested in a weekday Brandon Flex service.
The proposed changes are part of HART's wide-ranging drive to reduce low-ridership service and reinvest in more productive routes.
Fares also will increase slightly under the planned changes with $2 local and limited express rides and $3 fares for express buses, a quarter increase in both cases. One-day unlimited ride passes for local and limited express service would rise to $4, a 25 cent increase.
The popular 31-day unlimited ride pass would from rise from $60 to $65 for local and limited express and from $90 to $95 for 31-day express passes. The adult-student fare for the same bus pass, sold through local colleges and universities, would increase from $45 to $48.75.
The fare and route changes were approved by HART's Finance, Governance, and Administration Committee July 16. Final approval rests with HART's board of directors, which meets Aug. 6. If approved, changes will take effect Nov. 11.
Kevin Brady can be reached at email@example.com.