TAMPA — A new intercity bus service starting here on Thursday to haul riders to Miami and Orlando is creating a new — if small — revenue source for the county’s transit system.
The space-leasing fee Megabus.com will pay to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, or HART, is earmarked for maintenance and security at the Marion Transit Center (MTC) downtown. HART spokeswoman Sandra Morrison said. Megabus.com will pay the transit authority $15,000 annually for five years.
The introduction of Megabus routes is yet another expansion of the area transit system and HART officials hope it will encourage even more Hillsborough County residents to ride the bus.
The addition of Megabus intercity service coincides with the recent completion of renovations and expansion at the MTC, a bus transfer station near Morgan and Scott streets, where riders can also purchase monthly bus passes.
And the new intercity service coincides with the opening of the Metro510 residential complex nearby. Metro510, which opened last year, is south of the MTC. Another residential high rise is under construction nearby.
“MTC has become a busy intermodal hub for Bus Rapid Transit in Tampa,” said HART Chief Financial Officer Jeff Seward. In addition to regular HART customer transfers, the center also handles buses coming in from St. Petersburg and will now include Megabus customer traffic, he said.
Morrison said adding Megabus to the mix of offerings is part of what HART is doing to focus on new ridership, new revenues and enhanced services. This intermodal approach, she said, is HART’s way of connecting various modes of transportation from bike riders to TECO Streetcar System customers and park-and-ride lot users.
There will still be very limited parking at the MTC, so Megabus riders are encouraged to take a HART bus to the transfer station to catch the new express bus, she said.
Megabus will be the third long-distance bus company to serve Tampa. It begins service Thursday with a promotional fare of $2.50, including a reservation charge.
Megabus is part of a new type of discount city-to-city bus lines emerging in the past decade to compete with conventional bus services like Greyhound.