Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Transportation

Hillsborough transit board okays smaller budget for smaller system

TAMPA — Hillsborough's transit board is closer to launching its revamped bus network after approving a 2018 budget and tax rate earlier this week.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority voted Monday to keep the property tax rate the same at 50 cents per $1,000, a total of $100 for the owner of a home valued for tax purposes at $200,000.

The board has not raised property taxes, a major source of income for the transit authority, since 2012. HART chairman and County Commissioner Les Miller proposed raising the rate earlier this year but got little support from fellow board members.

HART's budget will decrease by 3 percent for the next fiscal year, to $99.9 million.

The authority's operating budget — the money spent running buses and providing service throughout the county — will be nearly $71 million, $2.1 million less than the current budget.

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HART's chief financial officer Jeff Seward estimates the new bus routes and schedules, branded MissionMax, will help the agency save about $6 million.

"This budget shows that we're moving ahead with our plans to transform HART for the future," Seward said. "Our customers, taxpayers and the general public should be confident that HART is making the best use of the financial resources entrusted to us as we move forward."

When MissionMax launches Oct. 8, about 20 percent of routes will be eliminated and others will be reshaped extensively. Some stops will be dropped, too. Buses on other routes will run more often and along straighter paths.

HART also is launching a new HyperLink zone in Temple Terrace, which allows people to catch a ride to a nearby transit center for $1 — a third of the normal $3 fare — and catch different bus routes.

HART officials estimate the new system will improve travel times and provide smoother connections for about 80 percent of riders. But board members heard from two people at Monday night's meeting representing the other 20 percent of riders for whom life will be more difficult once their routes are dropped in two weeks.

"It seems that there's a big notch out where I live in Temple Terrace where there's no buses going through," Christopher Gleason told the board. "There's no safe way for me without a vehicle to get anywhere."

MissionMax eliminates two routes in Temple Terrace, leaving residents there with limited options, Gleason said.

The goal of MissionMax is to reshape the system and increase service and frequency on core routes while staying within the existing budget.

In order to run buses more often without raising the budget, HART officials said, they had to cut some routes in regions such as Town 'N Country and southern Hillsborough County, which are farther from central urban areas.

Contact Caitlin Johnston at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.

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