Legislature OK’s study on possible dissolution of Hillsborough transit agency

HART (Medium)
The agency has faced management trouble, including the ouster of its embattled CEO.

The Legislature has now passed a bill requiring the Florida Department of Transportation “or its consultant” to study the potential dissolution of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) authority.

Gov. Ron DeSantis must next decide whether to sign the legislation.

The Senate approved the House version (HB 1397) of the bill. Sen. Danny Burgess, who sponsored the Senate version (SB 1532), celebrated the passage on Twitter.

“With HART no longer meeting the needs of residents who rely on public transit, this will allow us to gather information on how best to move forward,” Burgess wrote, tagging Rep. Lawrence McClure, the House sponsor.

The bill comes after months of turmoil at HART, including serious management problems many believe are affecting operations and transit access for residents and visitors who rely on the agency’s bus service.

That includes an investigation launched in November over former CEO Adelee Le Grand potentially double dipping and creating a hostile work environment. The investigation led to her suspension with pay in March and subsequent resignation this month.

The bill did not specifically reference that investigation or problems with the agency, but instead questioned whether a change in governance could yield greater efficiencies and provide better service for transit users.

“The Legislature finds that, given this state’s rapid population growth, effective coordination of transportation planning and service delivery, particularly regional transportation mobility, it is critical to the safe and efficient development, management, operation, and maintenance of public transit systems,” the bill reads.

“The Legislature questions whether changes to the organizational structure and governance of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) would result in operational efficiencies and improvements to transit services.”

The bill goes on to explain the intent is to “explore transformative changes to the policy management structure of HART to achieve organizational efficiencies with the goal of streamlining decision-making, improving transparency, and enhancing the effectiveness of local and regional public transit service delivery.”

The legislation calls for a study evaluating HART’s financial assets and obligations; facilities and operations; issues, advantages, disadvantages, and actions regarding the dissolution and options to continue transit service in Hillsborough County without the agency; and to evaluate pros and cons related to possibly merging with another transportation service provider, among other details. 

If the measure becomes law, a report would be due to the Governor, Senate President and Speaker of the House by Jan. 1.

A previous version of the bill mentioned the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) as a potential merger opportunity, but that reference was removed through the amendment process. While the final passed version still contemplates a potential merger, it does not specify how that would work or with whom the merger would occur.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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