Major changes are on the way to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority bus routes. In less than a week the majority of riders will see their routes get shorter, but for others their routes will disappear all together.
It's a significant schedule change branded as Mission Max and it's the first major shake up of the busing network since 2003.
These changes come from an August Hillsborough Transit Board vote to eliminate nearly 20 percent of the bus routes. This means those riders can no longer depend on a bus. Meanwhile, the transit will be able to save $6 million.
However, the majority of riders will see improvements to their service. The new system means shorter trip times, better connections, and added shifts to the most popular parts of town such as Hillsborough Avenue.
There's two new routes HART employees point as examples of improved service. Route 60LX includes new all-day, hourly service to the Northwest Transfer Center, Tampa International Airport, Downtown Tampa and Brandon Mall. Route 360LX also includes new all-day, hourly service that will connect Brandon Mall, Downtown Tampa, Britton Plaza and MacDill Air Force Base.
According to HART, the number of routes with a frequency of 15 minutes or less doubles to two, or 12 percent of service, and about one-third of service will run every 30 minutes or less. Also, HARTFlex, the transit's door-to-door service, will be expanded to West Cypress Street to provide service to the MacDonald Training Center, Tampa Housing Authority and the Social Security Office. Plus, nearly every route will operate seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
To the riders, however, whose route will disappear, HART's COO wants to share a message.
"They can still contact us and let us know what their needs are," said Ruthie Reyes Burckard, "We are continually planning and adjusting and tweaking the services that we provide. So while we have a 10-year plan, that doesn't imply that we can't make adjustments to that 10-year plan and bring things to this community."
Reyes Burckard continues to say that a big part of their financial woes comes from the fact that HART operates on a way lower budget than others cities of similar sizes such as Cincinnati and Denver.
The new bus routes kick off Sunday, October 8. HART will offer free rides on that Sunday and Monday on every bus route except for HART Plus.
Mission Max Route Information (Click HERE for downloadable PDF):