“The AirPorter,” a dedicated bus service line that would connect downtown Tampa, downtown St. Petersburg, and the Carillon area of St. Petersburg to Tampa International Airport, is the top priority for federal and state funding in 2017 for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority. That’s according to Cesar Hernandez, HART’s government relations specialist, who briefed the transit agency’s legislative and strategic planning committee meeting on Monday.
As outlined by HART officials, the service would use a “premium vehicle” that would run every 15 minutes during rush hour (6 a.m. to 9 a.m., and 4 to 7 p.m.), and every half hour at other times, up until 9 p.m. on weeknights and 9:30 p.m. on weekend nights.
“The AirPorter is obviously gaining a lot of traction, especially in the Legislature,” noted committee chair Sandy Murman.
Other priority items on HART’s list next year will be a possible expansion of their HyperLINK program, which covers a three-mile radius surrounding four HART-designated transit stops in areas where passengers will benefit from improved access to the transit system. Passengers book the on-demand rides through the HART HyperLINK smartphone app or through a call center.
The agency also wants to continue to advocate for the CNG rebate program. The agency continues to transform its fleet to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), which is American-sourced, less expensive, clean and safer than diesel fueled vehicles.
Hernandez also boasted that the agency is in the vanguard of support for autonomous vehicles. In October, HART officials announced that the Florida Dept. of Transportation had “indicated” that up to $1 million in funding would be available to spend on an Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Circulator Service connection between Marion Transit Center (MTC) to Downtown Tampa along the low speed, controlled access Marion Street Transitway.
Al Burns, the director of procurement and contract administration, also announced that three lobbyists firms hoping to represent HART in Washington had recently submitted the bids for their work. The subcommittee reviewing the bids listed their choices as 1) Holland & Knight, 2) Potomac Partners out of Maryland, and 3) D.C. based McAllister & Quinn. Holland & Knight’s bid for service was the lowest of the three bids.