TAMPA — The HART board of directors on Monday approved an $86.4 million tentative operating and capital budget for fiscal 2014 that includes cost-saving measures allowing the agency to expand service on eight bus routes.
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board will hold a second public budget hearing Sept. 23 to approve the budget, which is 18 percent lower than the current one.
HART’s fiscal 2014 budget is based on projected revenue that would provide $63.6 million for operations, $2.1 million higher than the current budget. The savings come from the capital budget; the $22.7 million called for in next year’s capital budget is more than $21 million less than year.
The steep decline in the capital budget stems from a county grant that was available in the current fiscal year to fund buses and equipment for HART’s inaugural MetroRapid route between downtown and the northeast suburbs. “We receive additional requests for additional service,” HART CEO Philip Hale said. “I hate to say no,” he said, but noted that HART had no additional resources.
HART is continuing to add passengers - it is expecting a record 15 million-plus riders this year - but the additional revenue it gets from passenger fares does not cover the additional expenses for maintenance and more drivers required by expanding service. Passenger fares traditionally account for about 25 percent of expenses.
But reinvesting $1.3 million in savings from reducing expenses such as consulting fees and travel and realigning and eliminating some staff positions will enable HART to increase non-peak hour service, which does not require more buses.
Those gains are planned for Route 2 on Nebraska Avenue, which will be operated until midnight on Saturdays and Sundays; Route 5 on 40th Street, which will operate until midnight on weekdays and be extended by two hours on Saturdays and Sundays; and Route 6 on 56th Street, which will run until midnight on Saturdays and Sundays and increase frequency from 30 minutes to 20 minutes on weekday mid-day runs.
Expanded service also will be coming to Route 14 on Armenia Avenue, which adds Saturday service; Route 30 between Town ’N Country, Tampa International Airport and downtown, which will run until midnight on Saturdays and Sundays; Route 37 in Brandon/NetPark, which adds Sunday service; Route 46 between Davis Islands and West Brandon, which restores one-hour midday service; and Route 57 between the University Area Transit Center and NetPark, which adds Saturday service.