The two agencies responsible for bus service in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties already collaborate, but in the future, they plan to have a tighter working partnership.
On Wednesday, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s legislative committee got its first look at a proposed agreement that could result in the merger of some departments.
The general goal is to streamline services to save money and provide better service for transit riders, PSTA CEO Brad Miller said.
The agreement sets out areas in which the two agencies already collaborate, such as a regional fare collection that uses one informational app that applies whether the customer is in Pinellas or Hillsborough. The regional fare collection app includes not only PSTA and HART, the Hillsborough transit authority, but Sarasota, Pasco and Hernando counties as well.
PSTA and HART are also partnering on such items as the purchase of some equipment and on goal-setting and legislative priorities.
The two would continue collaborating on those items and would research areas that could benefit from joint ventures. That could eventually mean the merger of some departments, Miller said.
The proposed agreement, which still has to be approved by both the PSTA and HART boards, comes at a time when the state Legislature and federal government are urging local transportation agencies to merge or otherwise create regional transportation priorities.
It also comes at a time when Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long has proposed consolidation of many of the Tampa Bay area’s transportation agencies into one regional group.
Long’s “regional council of governments” would be responsible for finding regional answers to transportation, affordable housing, economic development, and land use and redevelopment issues that face Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.