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HART bus system expects to grow by 500,000 riders in 2014

TAMPA — HART expects a 500,000 increase in ridership to more than 15.5 million passengers in fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1, based on increasing popularity of bus service, the transit company’s staff reported Monday.

But revenue may not show major gains because most bus passengers use passes lower than the standard $2 fare, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Seward told the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority’s Finance, Governance and Administration committee.

So HART staff will prepare a report to the HART board after further analyzing the fare structure looking into maximizing revenue while ensuring riders have an economical alternative to full fares.

“We were asked (by HART board member and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman) does fare revenue grow in equal proportion to ridership?” Seward said. “It does not equate.”

HART charges $2 for local and limited express bus fare. Its one-day pass for local and limited express rides is $4 and its 31-day unlimited local and limited express fare is $65.

In fiscal 2013, 17 percent of HART riders paid the full fare, while 52 percent bought one-day passes and 28 percent 31-day passes. The remaining 3 percent were special fare programs.

In fiscal 2013, full-fare revenue was $3 million, compared with $11.5 million from passengers using passes.

Based on the number of passes sold in fiscal 2013 along with a calculation of single-day rides not purchased, HART lost $8 million of revenue opportunity, the staff reported.

However, there’s another side to the story, because the availability of discount fares with passes both enables and entices more people to use the buses.

The good news for HART: Thanks to more riders and ongoing cost trims, HART’s fare box recovery — the proportion of operational expenses covered by passengers — has steadily increased from 19.8 percent in fiscal 2007 to 25 percent in unaudited fiscal 2013 reports.

In other news, HART staff will set up two public meetings and a public hearing in mid-November to obtain feedback on a proposal effective March 2014 to revise Route 46 between Davis Islands and the Westfield Brandon Mall.

That plan would eliminate the Davis Islands portion of the trip that carries only two or three passengers and extend the eastern terminus to the Dover Park-N-Ride station, along with providing all day — rather than just rush hour-service.

Davis Islands and Tampa General Hospital would continue to be served by HART Route 19.

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