HARTline program extended, minor changes apply

The U-Pass program, which was set to expire in December, is en route to stay alive with some minor changes.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Board of Directors met Monday morning and authorized the extension of the program, which lets members of the USF community ride HARTline busses fare-free.

Under the new agreement, students will still be able to ride fare-free. Faculty and staff, however, will be charged 25 cents per ride. A normal adult one-way cash fare for non-USF affiliates is $1.30.

For the most part, the specifics of the contract have been settled, but some details will be finalized over the next few weeks. The new deal will take effect on Dec. 1 and will continue until June 30, 2007.

There are still a few specific things in the contract that have to be hammered out, but according to Jeff Mack, the assistant vice president of Campus Business Services, the agreement is essentially finished.

“I don’t think there is going to be any significant change,” Mack said.Counting students separately from faculty and staff should help USF get a better handle on the breakdown of HARTline riders.

“There was no clear statistic as to how many students or how many faculty and staff were necessarily riding the HARTline,” student body President Maxon Victor said.

USF Parking and Transportation Services were paying HARTline 50 cents for every free ride taken through the U-Pass program. About 30,000 rides are taken each month using the U-Pass program that makes about 360,000 rides a year. With this total, PTS pays about $180,000 a year.

Starting in December, PTS will pay 75 cents to HARTline per ride.

Part of the reason for the increase is due to HARTline raising its operational costs. The new arrangement with HARTline has a cap of $412,600 on the cost to USF over the course of the deal.

Anyone with a valid USF ID will be able to show his or her card to a bus driver and ride for free. But come December, bus operators may start looking for updated ID’s. “In order to ride, you have to have a current USF ID,” Mack said. “Before all you had to do was show a USF ID, and it could have been a USF ID from 10 years ago. So those who do not have a current USF ID would have to go get a new ID before they would be able to ride.”

According to Mack, there is a $10 replacement charge for a new ID if students do not already have one.

Victor said the University is still looking into possibly purchasing ID card-swiping technology for the busses, which would ensure U-Pass riders are actually affiliated with USF, but no cost estimates were available.