HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa bus routes are looking different this morning and that has some riders stressed out.
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority is rolling out a major overhaul to the bus schedule. The new system is called Mission Max.
This morning is the first rush hour test for thousands of riders who will be walking farther to their bus stops and adjusting to different schedules.
Mission Max is a 10-year plan to redesign the Hillsborough County bus system to make it more modern and efficient.
“The way that transit operates in the US has shifted. There’s not one of us out there that hasn’t taken UBER or LYFT or RIDESHARE or now that gas is really inexpensive we’ve given a friend some gas money to help us get somewhere. That’s impacted our ridership,” HART CEO Katharine Eagan explained to WFLA Traffic Reporter Leslee Lacey.
To keep up with the changing face of travel, HART is removing 900 bus stops. Eagan says it mainly eliminates zigzagging and longer bus rides. With straighter routes and fewer stops, Eagan said riders can now catch buses more frequently on main roadways.
For example, “34 and Hillsborough Ave, it’s a major thoroughfare for our county. Today, it’s every half hour with the schedule improvement, it will go to every 20 minutes,” said Eagan.
But as HART moves forward, many riders feel left behind. They say their commute will be longer, due to transfers and there will be more traveling on foot.
Traffic reporter Leslee Lacey visited bus stops that are affected by the changes and found riders that are concerned about the changes. Carlos is a Westshore Boulevard Rider. “Your bus stop is going away. How does that make you feel?” asked Leslee. “I don’t know how I’m gonna get to work on time. I’m gonna have to get up earlier in the morning, ” replied Carlos.
Craig, is another South Tampa commuter. Leslee asked him, “You know they are taking away your route?”
“Yes I do,” replied Craig.”I’m not happy about it at all… Right now I have to catch three busses and I’m gong to have to catch four, and I’m gonna be late to work every day,” he said.
“Maybe five percent of our folks are negatively impacted. Clearly we wish we could have it for everybody but we are an overall community asset and our responsibility is to serve the entire community,” said Eagan.
HART is adding 75 bus stops and Eagan promises they will continue to assess areas that lost stops as the changes continue.
To implement Mission Max, Eagan said HART spent an additional $300,000 above what is normally spent for schedule changes, and they expect to save about six million annually in operating costs. They also added two new routes along the Selmon Expressway for Brandon commuters.
HART said it will recycle, auction or destroy the out of service bus stops depending on their condition. In an effort to help people with the transition, all HART bus rides and the street car fares are free today.
HART also has representatives out at the main centers today to aid with questions.Eagan is encouraging any riders who have questions or concerns to call the HART customer service line at (813) 254-4278 (HART).
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