Pinellas County Commission will likely forgo its application to this year’s federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery [TIGER] grant program. The move’s being made to better support the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority’s joint application for the same grant money.
County commissioners are scheduled to approve a letter of support for the move at their March 29 regular meeting.
“For several years, Pinellas County has submitted our own application for TIGER funding,” reads the letter written by Commission Chairman Charlie Justice and addressed to the U.S. Department of Transportation. “But this year we are withholding our application in order to put our full support behind this regional priority.”
Should the county’s move toward a unified front pay off, the TIGER dollars would go toward a regional fare box system aimed at providing a consistent bus payment plan for Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Manatee, Citrus and Hernando counties.
“The implementation of the regional fare box system will allow riders to use the latest technology in order to seamlessly move throughout the entire Tampa Bay region to access educational, cultural and employment opportunities,” reads Justice’s letter.
Ideally, smart cards will expedite the entire public bus riding experience, as well as save money for the transit agencies.
“The regional fare box system will save money for each of the transit agencies due to reduced overhead costs,” continues Justice’s letter. “[It] will also save time on the road, as the bus will not have to sit idle while riders purchase passes onboard. Most importantly, it will dramatically improve rider experience and convenience.”
Under the plan, riders would be able to buy a card in one county and use it on public transit in any of the other six participating counties.
The federal TIGER grant program is in its eighth funding cycle. It’s also highly competitive. Last year $10.1 billion of requests were received by the U.S. DOT, over 20 times the program’s available $500 million budget.