HART asks Scott to veto merger bill
TAMPA - The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority wants Gov. Rick Scott to veto a state transportation bill that includes a requirement that HART and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority boards identify opportunities to merge. HART board members voted Monday to adopt a resolution that stated their opposition to House Bill 599, which was passed in the final hours of the legislative session last month. Board members said a veto might be a long shot since Scott would have to veto the entire bill that contains statewide measures involving other transportation and mitigation issues. Still, the board wants to make known its opposition to merger planning launched by state Sen. Jack Latvala, a St. Petersburg Republican, and a requirement to pay the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority up to $100,000 to participate in a consolidation study."We want to throw this under the bus, so to speak," said Sandy Murman, HART board member and Hillsborough County commissioner. Neither transit board is interested in combining operations or decision-making at the top, although the two systems share routes and participate in equipment and fuel purchasing pools. On a separate topic, HART chief operating officer Katharine Eagan said bus ridership increased 7 percent in February compared with a year ago to 1.2 million passengers. The increase is overcrowding buses and forcing some riders to stand while traveling at least seven routes beyond rush-hour runs, she said. "We are becoming victims of our own success," Eagan said. The latest route to fill buses and require standing is Route 18 on 30th Street. Eagan said the agency doesn't have the money to buy additional buses for Routes 1, 2, 6, 12, 32 and 34.
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