Maybe it's the marketing or the tweaks to the routes. Maybe it's because gas keeps nearing $4 a gallon.
Whatever the reason, bus ridership in Hillsborough County keeps going up.
HART set an annual bus ridership record for the third consecutive year, with passenger trips increasing 4.3 percent to more than 14 million.
"Although we may not yet have light rail to serve commuters and visitors, record ridership for the third straight year in a row shows that this community has noticed HART's transformation from the bus system of an earlier time," said Fran Davin, chair of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board.
According to the agency's figures, express ridership rose 11.4 percent; Saturday ridership increased 4.7 percent and Sunday ridership gained 2.2 percent. The figures cover the last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.
The authority has been trying in recent years to deal with rising ridership at the same time one of the main sources of funding – property taxes – have been dwindling. HART has responded by reducing or eliminating some routes, installing more shelters, improving stops and adding smaller, more fuel-efficient HARTPlus vans to the fleet.
HART also plans to build a compressed natural gas fueling station as it phases in buses that runs on that fuel. If all goes according to plan, buses that run on compressed natural gas will comprise 70 percent of HART's fleet within six years.