Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) held a special State of Transit event with the theme “Beyond the Bus” on Tuesday, August 16, 2016. A wide cross section of the traveling public, including representatives of local and state elected offices, business leaders, university and government partners, and community activists attended. The venue was standing room only as featured speakers highlighted HART’s accomplishments and spoke about the future of transportation for the Tampa Bay Region.
Mike Suarez, Chair of the HART Board of Directors and Chair of the Tampa City Council, emphasized the importance of satisfying the region’s “first mile/last mile” needs. People who utilize multi-modal transportation, such as biking and walking, in order to gain access to public transit have critical investments in the first and last miles of their trips. “It’s not about one solution; it’s about partnering,” said Councilman Suarez, naming HART’s successful partnerships with the mobile app OneBusAway, the Coast Bike Share program, Red Coach, MegaBus, MetroRapid, and HART’s pilot on-demand shared-ride van service to provide door-to-door connections to public transit. Katharine Eagan, HART CEO, cast the spotlight on HART’s delivery of cost effective bus service on a constrained budget. She highlighted the many other kinds of transit service “beyond the bus” either currently offered or in the planning stages.
If the region is to continue to extend its multi-modal connectivity, it is necessary to address budgetary concerns. Florida Senator Jeff Bridges made it clear that funding transportation is vital to its evolution. “Think of transportation and transit not as a system but as an organism,” he said. The strength of our transportation system depends on the decisions the community makes today, said Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Community Leader. All transportation options and financing alternatives should be discussed, Vinik said, emphasizing the importance of our ability to reach across the table and collaborate to support transportation alternatives. “I am advocating for the process of moving the conversation along,” says Vinik.