By Kyle LoJacono
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) was recently honored as one of 17 agencies nationwide as having the highest possible security methods.
“For HART, it means our plans and procedures are up to par with best practices, and we will continue fine-tuning our collaboration with law enforcement and emergency responders,” said Michael Stephens, who oversees HART’s safety and security. “HART is a valuable resource for law enforcement investigations and during an emergency, and we are ready to respond when needed.”
HART received Gold Standard designation from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Transit authorities volunteer for a comprehensive review of its systems to identify vulnerabilities and assess progress in areas like planning, training, background checks and public outreach.
Stephens said HART has been able to enhance its security and emergency management by “building strong partnerships with local law enforcement and emergency response agencies.” He added they have boosted training for drivers, transportation supervisors and maintenance employees to increase their awareness to suspicious activities.
HART’s increase in security started in earnest during 2002 when it used federal money to create an extensive surveillance system. It now has cameras on all of its buses and streetcars along with its buildings. Stephens said the cameras help enforce ridership rules while increasing the chance crimes are recorded to help law enforcement catch lawbreakers.
The recognition comes at a time when HART’s ridership is at an all-time high.
HART saw an increase of 10 percent in the number of people using its buses in 2011, up to 13.7 million. Just fewer than 50 million have boarded the authority’s buses, vans and streetcars since 2008.
HART was one of only two transit authorities based in Florida to earn the honor along with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit District.
“I commend these organizations for their commitment and hard work that this level of achievement requires,” said TSA administrator John Pistole. “TSA recognizes the continued dedication individual transit agencies demonstrate every day to ensure the safety of travelers nationwide.”
For more information on HART, visit www.gohart.org.
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