The Tampa Bay region is making progress toward integrating plans for high-speed rail, commuter rail, air travel and bus service. But first it needed to improve its bus and streetcar system and the agency that coordinates all of it recently won an award from the state for those efforts.

Efficiency, effectiveness, customer service, financial management are just some of the areas of achievement that have earned Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, known as HART, the title of Outstanding Transit System by the Florida Public Transportation Association.

The Association awarded HART with this honor at its recent annual conference in Jacksonville. The Outstanding Transit System award emphasizes achievement in efficiency and effectiveness. As part of the award process, HART submitted ridership and productivity numbers for the past three years, showing consistent growth.

HART demonstrated effective financial control by monitoring all related financial activities to ensure revenues, costs and cash flow are in compliance with stated objectives. In the last year, the implementation of efficiencies in various services and processes led to a savings of more than $1 million, which HART has been able to direct back into its transit service.

In addition, achievements in safety, operations, customer service, staff development, policy administration and marketing and community relations were considered.

The award recipients are chosen by the Association's Organizational Awards Committee, which is comprised of the Association's executive director, a representative from the Florida Department of Transportation and a representative from the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida.

HART's Travel Training program provides personalized, one-on-one training to anyone in Hillsborough County who needs guidance before hopping onboard a bus. Travel Trainer Mark Sheppard received an honor from the Center for Urban Transportation Research, when he was presented with the Center's Research Champion Award.

Sheppard received the award in appreciation of his assistance and support of transportation research on the Travel Assistance Device project, a cell-phone enabled device that helps people with disabilities ride easier by alerting them when their stop is approaching.

Dave Szymanski, a Tampa-based journalist, likes running 5ks, other sports and writing poetry. Comments?
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