Under a "status quo" plan offered by HART CFO Jeff Seward to the group's Finance, Governance and Administrative Committee meeting on Monday, the transit agency will add a million riders to its service in the next decade, without any additional buses being added to their fleet.
"How do we accommodate that?" asked Hillsborough County Commissioner and HART board member Kevin Beckner.
HART CEO Philip Hale told Beckner that the agency will expand in the off-peak hours, which means nights and weekends.
That brief exchange occurred when the the committee had its first opportunity to hear about the agency's 10-year Transit Development Plan (TDP), a multi-year financial and operating plan that the agency is required to submit to the Florida Department of Transportation in order to be eligible for State Block Grant funding, of which HART is hoping to receive more than $4 million in the next fiscal year.
The TDP was last submitted just two years ago, but Seward said that the agency "refreshed" it due to the public conversations regarding transit in the region. He offered two scenarios: one a status quo report which would use current service levels as a baseline, the other an ambitious vision plan that would require hundreds of millions more dollars in revenue than the agency is budgeted not to receive.
But the TPD says nothing about light-rail or improving Tampa's streetcar system.
It does, however, consider adding six new MetroRapid lines to the current North/South route that opened earlier this year.
The lack of an adequate bus fleet came up later in the conversation, with Dr. Stephen Polzin asking Hale when the situation might become problematic for an agency that continues to add riders every year. Hale said "2016," prompting Polzin to say that unless revenues increase, "something's going to have to give" by that point, be it fare hikes or service cuts.
"I do believe the numbers you see today indicate a shortfall for replacement buses in 2016," Hale acknowledged, but he said that that there is no immediate danger. He added that while there are some peak routes that have buses filled to capacity currently, the majority of routes are not.
Michael Stephens from the board's human resources department discussed a proposal to ratify a labor contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1593 that would give HART bus drivers and others in the union a 2.5 percent raise in the FY2014 budget. Stephens said the rate hike is comparable to what other local governments offered their employees this year, as rising property values have allowed for local governments in Florida to receive additional revenue for the first time in five years.
That raise would be equivalent to the amount being offered to City of St.Petersburg employees, slightly more than city of Tampa workers (2 percent), and less than what is being offered this year to Hillsborough County employees (3.5 percent) and Clerk of the Circuit Court (five percent).
The average salaried employee with the ATU working for HART makes $32,800.
The $85.4 million FY 2014 budget for HART is actually 19 percent less than the current budget, which expires at the end of next month. The big decrease is due to the lack of dollars in it to spend on capital projects.