By Kyle LoJacono
The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority’s (TBARTA) carpooling program is expanding to Pasco County.
The program, which started in 2003 and currently serves residents in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, matches parents and their children from the same school together to form carpools. Today 1,200 families participate.
“The School Pool program is one of our most successful initiatives and it is absolutely free to schools and parents who want to participate,’’ said TBARTA executive director Bob Clifford. “We have agreements with schools in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties but would like to expand the program to schools in all seven TBARTA counties.’’
Walker Middle Magnet in Odessa has 36 families that use the program.
Cassie Schroeder, who helps organize the carpools for Walker, said they began offering the program when the school became a magnet school this school year.
“We have kids zoned for our school, but because we’re a magnet program kids from outside the school boundary can come here too,” Schroeder said. “There’s transportation offered with buses for those kids, but sometimes it’s just easier to have a carpool.”
TBARTA spokeswoman Amy Ellis said the program was created as part of the authority’s overall goal of reducing traffic congestion in its seven-county region. She added parents who participate in the program save money on gas, as well as wear and tear on their vehicles. Fewer cars around schools also improves air quality.
Ellis said TBARTA has applied for a grant to eventually offer online registration for the carpooling program while also finding groups for children who bicycle or walk to school.
More information on the School Pool program, as well as other TBARTA services, is available at www.tampabayrideshare.org. Principals or parent-teacher organizations that are interested in starting a carpool should call (800) 998-7433.