TAMPA — The county’s bus system plans to develop a new regional fare card that will be available in 2015, paid for in part with $500,000 in federal funding.
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority will begin installing smart card readers on all of its buses beginning in spring 2015 to use with the new fare cards, according to Jeff Seward, HART chief financial.
The cards could be used in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Manatee, Citrus and Hernando counties.
The system will be developed using federal, state and local funds, Seward said. The state has contributed $1.9 million toward the card system’s development.
“The more people we try to get on buses, the more we need to ease the time it takes for them to get on,” said Seward, who came up with the idea for a regional fare card. The smart cards will not only make the line move faster, it will also cut back on the number of man hours now spent counting coins and bills coming out of the bus fare boxes, he said.
Before the Great Recession, HART would typically put all of its federal grant money toward capital projects. But with a serious drop in property tax revenue, the agency began using a portion of the federal funds for operating expenses like engine and transmission replacement and tire leasing, Seward said. It will also pay the salaries of the employees doing that work.
The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area will receive $28 million in grant money as part of the federal transit urbanized area formula. Of that, HART receives about $12 million, Seward said.
One of HART’s budget goals is to divert all of the federal money back to capital projects over the next five to 10 years.