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HART Announces Regional Transit Study Starting Oct. 1

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority Facebook livestream.
Katharine Eagen, HART CEO, speaks about a new regional transit study. The announcement was livestreamed on Facebook.

During it's "State of Transit" meeting, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority announced plans for a regional transit study starting Oct. 1.

The organization said its looking "beyond the bus" to improve transportation for commuters.

Katharine Eagen, HART CEO, said it's time to combine local transportation studies from counties around Tampa Bay.

"My life doesn't just live in one county, does yours? So it's time to take our smaller studies, knit them together, and come up with a regional view of premium transit,” Eagen said.

Eagen said the study will take up to two years to complete. Then HART will hold public meetings to present the findings and get feedback.

Eagen also gave an update on the pre-loaded smartcards that bus riders will soon be able to use to pay for fare. 

Credit http://www.beyondthebus.org/

The "Flamingo Fare" program begins Sept. 5 when the app goes live in the Apple App Store and Android Marketplace. 

Eagen said the a multi-county collaboration.

"Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota, Manatee and Citrus will all be on the same fare, with Hernando and Polk coming in after we get all of the hard work done," Eagen said. "We're happy to have them join though because it's more important to be regional than to go out the gate first."

HART officials say the $12 million program will take two years to fully roll out.

It is being funded by HART and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, in addition to a $2 million grant from the state.  

At the end of the project, boxes will be installed on all buses that riders will tap with their preloaded card. Riders will also be able to use regular debit and credit cards, even an Apple watch.

Once the payment boxes are implemented, other counties may be asked to pay for maintaining the system, said Jeffrey Seward, chief financial officer of HART, told WUSF last March. 

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