By Kyle LoJacono
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) set a new bus ridership record this year.
HART spokeswoman Marcia Mejia said 12.5 million passengers have ridden on the agency’s buses during the current fiscal year, already besting the previous record of 12.3 million set in 2010. HART’s fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
“This year, more people are recognizing the value of public transit,” Mejia said. “We appreciate the trust our new and long-time customers have demonstrated by getting onboard in such record numbers.”
Ridership in August rose 11 percent compared to the same month last year despite HART cutting back some routes because of budget reductions. Despite those small cuts, Mejia said the agency has made several large capital improvements, as well as subtle changes to produce a better product.
“For instance, about every four months HART updates its route schedule to ensure transit service matches current and projected ridership demands,” Mejia said.
Mejia then added, “There is now one shelter for every seven bus stops, compared to one in 15 just a few years ago. Moreover, in August 2011 the HART board approved a contract for 41 new shelters throughout Hillsborough County over the next two years. With inclement weather conditions endured by this area, shelters are extremely important to protecting customers from the elements, and makes public transit easier and more convenient to use.”
HART also has changed its farecard program, where people buy passes good for a month of bus fare. Previously, the cards expired at the end of a month regardless of when it was bought, but now they are good for 31 days.
Mejia said the agency has several plans to improve service during the next few years to account for the record number of riders. One is MetroRapid North-South, which is designed to quickly take large numbers of people from areas around Nebraska and Fletcher avenues in northern Hillsborough into downtown Tampa.
“MetroRapid North-South will feature transit signal priority technology, which will hold green lights longer and shorten red lights for HART MetroRapid buses at signalized intersections,” Mejia said. “This will provide for more frequency of service, travel-time savings and better reliability. In addition, MetroRapid includes passenger amenities, such as enhanced passenger shelters with real-time schedule information and ticket vending machines at major stops.”
MetroRapid is scheduled for completion in early 2013.
Mejia said while millions use HART’s services every year, many people may be “overwhelmed” trying to find the right routes and times. Those who want more information about HART can visit www.gohart.org. People can also read testimonials from others who use public transportation at http://www.gohart.org/ihearthart/.
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