The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority will dissolve next year, and its Pinellas counterpart may absorb the organization’s vanpool service and funding appropriations.
Supported by federal funding, TBARTA’s vanpool service serves groups of five to 15 riders commuting from and to Hernando, Hillsborough, Citrus, Pasco, Pinellas and Manatee counties.
“The options are to either to get rid of the vanpool program as TBARTA is going away or, as FDOT has asked us, to administer a completely funded program that pays for itself,” PSTA CEO Brad Miller said during a legislative committee meeting Wednesday. “It generates additional funds on top of operating expenses of the contract for the vans.”
TBARTA pays $450 per month for the service that’s provided by vendor Enterprise, which covers the insurance and vehicle maintenance. The contract with Enterprise will terminate by the end of the year.
“PSTA is jumping at this opportunity not only because it’s a regional opportunity, but because PSTA will be able to save funds for our region … without us doing this, we’d lose this money to the region,” PSTA CFO Debbie Leous said. She’s worked with the TBARTA board for the past five years.
The estimated untouched TBARTA federal funds total just over $7.5 million. Roughly $4.4 million of the funds are associated with a continuation of the region-wide service. Although PSTA is expected to take over the service, the funding would be divided among the three transit authorities:
- PSTA: 45.8% or $2.035 million
- Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART): 44.6% or $1.98 million
- GoPasco: 9.6% or $426,561
The funding amounts were determined by data from the Federal Transit Administration and the miles of service. The vanpoolers average between 24 and 54 miles each way to and from destinations, according to TBARTA’s website. The riders pay a fee based on the distance to work as well as gasoline, tolls and how many people with whom they share a ride.
“Not only does this cover the costs of the program, but it’s also giving us extra funding we can use towards capital projects,” Leous said. “What we need to do is have an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with FDOT.”
The MOU would be the first step towards a finalized agreement. Additionally, PSTA would have to procure a vanpool provider.
TBARTA’s goal is to have 220 vanpoolers this year. Leous said that number could reach 250 in the following years under PSTA’s administration.
TBARTA also runs a carpool program that “isn’t wildly successful,” Leous said. The service connects carpoolers with commuters needing a ride. TBARTA was spending $48,000 a year on software primary used for the program.