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Hillsborough, Pinellas transit merger doesn’t appear close

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Published:   |   Updated: January 17, 2014 at 05:54 PM

Despite $300,000 worth of legislatively mandated consultants’ reports addressing how the Hillsborough and Pinellas transit systems could further collaborate or consolidate functions to save money, HART and PSTA appear no closer to a major consolidation than they were two years ago.

“This is what we expected all along,” Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authoritty board member Fran Davin said after a public review Friday of the latest consultant’s report.

It offered no recommendations but the data analysis indicated few easy paths to saving money that aren’t already used.

HART board member and Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe agreed the study was what most on the HART board anticipated.

But Sharpe said he remains focused on pursuing more regional transportation initiatives, including intercounty service such as linking Tampa international Airport with the Pinellas beaches.

HART’s board voted to forward the KPMG report to the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority and on to Tallahassee.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s staff recommended the study be used as a launch point for further collaborative efforts, PSTA Chief Development Officer Cassandra Borchers said Friday before an afternoon workshop on the study.

It is expected the PSTA board at its Wednesday meeting will agree to send the report forward.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, a Pinellas Republican, raised the collaboration-merger issue in 2011 and pushed through bills requesting consultant reviews in 2012 and 2013.

Latvala and the state Legislature will review the latest consultant’s report, which TBARTA will send to Tallahassee by Feb. 1 with possible minor revisions.

A 2012 report by McCollom Management Consultant, which cost the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and HART and PSTA $50,000 each, suggested a single management staff operating under separate HART and PSTA boards would save $2.4 million annually.

The $200,000 state-funded 2013 KPMG report found the transit agencies potentially could save $339,500 to $585,300 annually through changes affecting 44 duplicative senior administrative and management positions.

After reviewing the draft KPMG report this week, the consultant and transit staffs determined it would cost as much as $15 million in infrastructure purchases — not $5 million as the initial draft version indicated — to achieve $1.1 million in annual savings if the two agencies operated the same type of fleets.

A major obstacle to consolidation is that HART and PSTA fleet modernizations are headed toward different types of buses — HART powered by compressed natural gas and PSTA by hybrid-electric — and funds for replacements and infrastructure to service them have begun to be spent.

tjackovics@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7817

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