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Economy / Business

Bus Ridership Up Across Tampa Bay

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HART Bus ridership went up almost 6 percent last month compared to July last year and they had almost 61 thousand more bus trips this July than July 2011.

Its counterpart in Pinellas, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) , set a record. They had a 14 percent increase in ridership this past July and the highest ridership than the same month in any other year since the agency's existence.

HART spokeswoman Marcia Mejia said this increase in ridership has been going on for awhile.

"Our bus ridership has been up every month for the past two years," she said, "It did go down slightly in June because of some of the impacts from Tropical Storm Debby but other than that it's been up."

Steve Polzin sits on the board of directors for HART Transit Authority. He said higher gas prices aren't  the only reason more people are taking the bus. Polzin said it's due to improvements on the transportation system and the economy.

"Perhaps more important than that is there's a whole bunch of folks that can't afford cars, major car repairs, insurance, and those kinds of things, and more and more of them have started to use public transportation," he said.

Polzin said it's hard to tell how the changes to the system during the RNC will affect bus ridership in August.

"August is always a vacation month for a lot of folks in Florida... so it tends to be a softer month in general," he said.

"But we'll also have a lot of folks in town and hopefully some of th[em] will use the circulator services and the street car and take advantage of some of those other things. So we hope it isn't too much of an impact either on our existing customers or on the bottom line."