The county's transit agency is proposing across-the-board bus fare increases to offset higher operating costs next year.
Among other changes, one-way fares and day passes would each go up 25 cents, to $2 and $4, respectively, if approved by the agency's governing board in September. About 1 million bus passengers a month would be affected, including paratransit, express and discount riders.
The boost is among several strategies outlined in the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority's proposed 2012 fiscal operating budget to offset expected increases in health care and diesel fuel next year.
Also under the spending plan, the property tax rate would climb to 50 cents per $1,000 of taxable value from about 47 cents two years ago. The average homeowner in Hillsborough with a house valued at $93,748 would pay just over $2 more in property taxes, said Katharine Eagan, HART's chief of service development.
The proposed budget, unveiled Monday at a meeting of the board's Finance, Governance, and Administration Committee, next goes to the full HART board, which will review the plan over the next four months before taking a final vote.
If approved, the increase would bring HART's fares in line with those of Pinellas County's transit agency.
It would come as more people turn to buses for transportation. HART's April ridership grew 11 percent to nearly 1.2 million passengers compared with the same month a year ago.
But the fare hike could slow at least some of that growth. Although revenue is expected to jump by an estimated $500,000 from the fare increases, HART ridership would fall by about 2 percent, Eagan said.
Gloria Mills, president of Hillsborough Advocates for Improved Transit, notes that many bus riders are already struggling.
"Understand that a lot of people are on fixed incomes and nobody else's paychecks are going up, so unfortunately, the people using the bus have no other means to pay for transportation and they're not going to like the fare increase," Mills said.
"People will have to tighten their belts. That's the reality."