HART is going to be millions of dollars short of being able to replace its aging fleet in the next few years, agency officials say.
Depending on how much money might be available from federal funding sources, HART's fleet-replacement plans could fall short from between $8.3 million and $24.7 million for each of the years between 2014 and 2018, the transit board projects committee learned Monday.
The finances could affect plans to replace 91 aging buses and 76 other transport vehicles between 2014 and 2018. One option is to wait longer to replace older vehicles, but that increases maintenance and repair costs.
"We will try to find funds for bus replacement, but we have to let people know where we stand," HART chief financial officer Jeff Seward said.
A combination of factors has contributed to the projected shortfall, officials said.
About three years ago, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit was forced to begin shifting funds from its capital budget to its operational budget to compensate for shortfalls in running the system.
That was because the transit system's share of property taxes declined as property values fell and other tax sources began to dry up, including the elimination of congressional earmarks for special funding.
HART's plans to replace 11 buses and 13 minivans this year for $5.9 million are funded and another $5.4 million in available funds will be carried forward to 2014.
But plans to replace 31 buses, eight flex service vehicles and 20 other vehicles for $17.4 million next year will fall $12 million short. Shortfalls of varying amounts will carry through each year through 2018.
HART will operate 187 buses when the 12 new vehicles to serve its first MetroRapid route begin service June 10. HART plans to offer free rides from around Memorial Day for two weeks on the route between the northeast suburbs and downtown.
A $1.1 million expansion of the Marion Transit Center is funded and expected to be completed this summer, while the $1.75 million Fletcher Park and ride to support the northeast terminus of the MetroRapid north-south route will be completed by June.
Copyright 2013 - Tampa Tribune, Fla.