TAMPA — Hillsborough County transit leaders will vote Monday on whether to approve a new bus system which cuts nearly 20 percent of its routes but increases the frequency of stops on the remaining ones.
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority August board meeting will start at 9 a.m. at the Hillsborough County Center at 601 E Kennedy Blvd. to account for the large crowd expected.
The 13 board members will decide whether or not to move forward with the new system, which HART staff announced a couple of months ago and recently branded as Mission Max. Dozens of public meetings were held this summer to solicit community feedback, culminating in a July 26 public hearing which packed the house at HART's Ybor office.
Pending board approval, HART will roll out 34 routes in October, down from the existing 41. Some of the routes will be new, some will stay the same and others will be truncated, altered or combined.
While the number of routes is shrinking, agency CEO Katharine Eagan said overall service should improve. The agency is increasing the frequency along many routes and also is straightening out some of the paths, so they're less winding and circuitous. The changes should reduce travel time for most riders and make the system more reliable, Eagan said.
"This network overhaul is supporting these goals of being efficient for our taxpayers and passengers, and getting the best service out there," Eagan said. "If there's a HART service available to you, it's excellent, it's frequent, it's reliable."
But HART bus routes won't be available to everyone. Entire swaths of the county are cut under the new plan. A quick scan of the two systems side by side shows gaps along the periphery of the county, such as in Town 'N Country, Carrollwood and southern Hillsborough.
If the board approves Mission Max, HART staff will then take the next two months to complete all of the necessary schedule changes. The new system will start operating on October 8.
Contact Caitlin Johnston at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.