"Parents don't want to be driving their kids to school with gasoline at $4 a gallon," Duran said.
Contrary to the image public transit might have in Tampa and elsewhere, the riders were extremely polite to Duran and one another, even when things got crowded.
"People look down on others much more these days than 30 or 40 years ago," said Duran, who is 56 and expects to drive another six years. "But the people who ride the bus are those who do a lot of jobs everyone needs, like a mechanic who might fix the brakes on your daughter's car."
But sometimes things can go badly. When that happens, schedules can be affected.
"These fare boxes weren't designed for handling $1.75 in pennies," Duran said, but some passengers occasionally jam the fare boxes, sometimes intentionally to try to get a gratuitous discount from a driver trying to meet a schedule.
Those in wheelchairs must have their chairs strapped in, which takes time. And those accommodations are limited, so sometimes passengers must be turned away at the door. So, too, must passengers who race up to a bus and bang on the door, only to get a motion from the driver indicating the would-be rider cannot be picked up anywhere than a designated bus stop.
"You can recognize people who might be recent immigrants," said Duran, who is from Puerto Rico. "They get right out on the road and in front of the bus to wave it down like they were accustomed to doing where they used to live."
Then there's the ever-present issue with broken or overflowing shopping bags, carried by passengers who rely on the bus to get to the market, with the cantaloupe that gets loose and rolls along the floor of the bus and a passenger who has called for a stop in pursuit.
Rolling melons are not among the factors that Katharine Eagan, HART's chief operating officer, encountered in her undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and in obtaining a master of public administration from Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas.
Eagan came to HART in 2009 as chief of service development and was named chief operating officer in July after holding executive transit positions in San Angelo, Dallas and Baltimore.
She directs a team of planners and schedulers long on experience and HART tenure. They often show up to work in casual clothes to be able to get away from their gritty offices and into the field on the buses and at the stations to add a human element to the data they crunch.
Computer programs go only so far with the tasks they need to balance the schedules of drivers, mechanics and passengers.
"People wouldn't believe the experience and diversity of background of those who work for HART," Eagan said.
Transit supervisor Joel Thomas, for example, was a school teacher in Jamaica before working 28 years for HART, where the company's tuition reimbursement program helped him obtain bachelor's and master's degrees.
Scheduler John Creaton served 22 years in the U.S. Air Force and has worked with HART for 19 years.
Transit supervisor Rob Roy was in the restaurant business before joining HART 11 years ago.
Director of bus operations Keith Sanders is the newcomer, joining HART in March after working as a part-time driver for the Chicago Transit Authority and working his way up to direct all of the bus dispatch functions for Houston's Metro's 3,000-square-mile service area.
At least once a month they get together as a group to review HART's performance and look ahead to the next schedule refinements.
"It can be frustrating," Eagan said of facing the challenges of a growing ridership and declining budget. "People think, 'How hard can it be to just get a bus there on time?'