Transit riders in the Tampa Bay region will soon be able to pay bus fares with a smart card or mobile app. It’s one of the building blocks to creating a regional transit network.
If you want to ride a bus, you need to pay with exact change, or buy a ticket before you get on. With the new system, called Flamingo, bus riders can just download an app or add money to a reusable card.
It will have many benefits for transit users, says Linda Crescentini with the Hillsborough Authority for Regional Transportation.
"If their cards are lost and or stolen and they’re a registered user, they do not lose the balance that's on their card because the value is not stored on the card,” she said.
In addition to HART, transit agencies in Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, and Sarasota counties will use Flamingo. That means it will be easier for bus riders to travel across county lines.
Developers are putting the system through its final tests. It will roll out to the public by late spring.
Around the country, transit systems have given their fare cards names with a regional flair. There’s the Orca card in Seattle, Key in Philadelphia, and Boston’s CharlieCard. Crescentini says Tampa area transit agencies wanted a similar name for their new system. “The flamingo is a status symbol in Florida,” she said. “We thought it was cute, and it defines the region.”