The people in charge of the public buses in Hillsborough County have sent a clear message that there’s one segment of the local population to skip over as the system tries to lure more riders: them.
It is sad and hypocritical that members of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit board of directors admit they seldom if ever ride the bus.
Sadder still, the answers they gave when questioned by Caitlin Johnston and Taylor Telford of the Tampa Bay Times reflect that the bus system holds little appeal for the broader segment of people like them — busy, successful professionals.
Perhaps they’re to be forgiven.
As transportation writer Johnston has revealed in her reporting, mass transit in the Tampa Bay area is, by most measures, the worst among the nation’s top 20 metro areas. We have far fewer buses here, 360 compared to 600 or more elsewhere, and we invest far less money in it. San Diego and Minneapolis/St. Paul, roughly the same size as Tampa Bay, each had at least three times the ridership in 2015.
And in general, it’s not the HART board or its counterpart in Pinellas County that have stood in the way of efforts to pay for much-needed transit improvements.
But among all those working to improve transit in Hillsborough County, these 13 individuals — six of them elected representatives from local governments — should be the ones setting the example.
Plenty of people do take the bus. Ridership in the Tampa Bay area is estimated at 31 million a year. And every one of them has had to make adjustments in their work and personal lives in order to catch the bus when it comes by. They know that new routines can be established.
It’s not too much to ask that those who run the system do the same. The signal HART board members send when they don’t is that riding the bus is for someone else.