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HART CEO earns White House recognition as innovator in transit

HART CEO Katharine Eagan

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) has a slogan: Driven to Serve You.

The public transportation authority serving Hillsborough County is currently experiencing record numbers of riders, expanding the TECO streetcar line, employing innovative technology and enabling young professionals to go carless.

Now HART CEO Katharine Eagan is garnering national attention for HART with her nomination for the White House "Champion of Change" program as an innovator in transportation for the future.

Eagan is recognized in the category "Beyond Traffic: Innovators in Transportation." The U.S. Department of Transportation and the White House Office of Public Engagement will host the winning White House “Champions of Change” focused on this category at an event on October 13, 2015; selected individuals will be notified in late September.

For consideration, individuals must have shown outstanding leadership in transportation and innovation in developing and implementing strategies for enhancing transit systems for the future.  

Eagan credits “the hard work of our entire team” at HART for the recognition.

“As a team, we are incredibly proud that our efforts to be a change agent and a transportation agency of choice have been noticed on a national scale,” she says. “Personally, I’m honored to be considered, and excited to build on this momentum as we keep moving forward.”

One of the drivers behind Eagan’s nomination: technology. HART is pursuing updated fare technology for eight Tampa Bay area counties, Eagan says.

If implemented, Hillsborough, Citrus, Hernando, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties would utilize the same fare technology – including “smart cards and bus passes that you purchase from and scan on your phone,” Eagan explains. 

HART, which was founded in 1980, will also be the first transit agency in the state to be ISO 14001 certified, Eagan says, “which draws environmental stewardship and sensitivity into all aspects of how we deliver service.”

Eagan credits HART’s innovation in tech and transit to necessity: “We don’t have the time to wait! Like many public agencies, we shrank our administrative staff during the recession, but technology kept evolving and new challenges arose in transit and transportation.”

Business as usual, Eagan says, wasn’t cutting it. “So what would?”

Solutions like a low-cost semester pass for Hillsborough Community College students “made transit more affordable and didn’t require a special fee,” Eagan explains. “That’s been a very popular innovation.”

Another example of change: HART’s newly revamped website.

One of the first agencies to use real-time bus arrival tool OneBusAway, HART has also developed partnerships with MegaBus and RedCoach to bring more routes to downtown Tampa from across the state; additionally, the MegaBus Orlando-Tampa route will expand to include Burnett Park and Ride in eastern Hillsborough County.

HART routes include fixed and express bus service, as well customized services like HARTplus, which offers door-to-door paratransit in vans, and HARTflex, a neighborhood connector route. The agency is seeking partnerships with taxis to make these services even more viable, Eagan says.

A partnership with “private transit providers [including private cabs, Uber and Lyft] to provide a rideshare-style program as part of our 'first mile, last mile' solution” is being considered, Eagan says.

Eagan, who earned a BA in history at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and an MPA at Angelo State University, has been HART CEO since May 2014. Eagan has earned prior recognition for her leadership and track record in transportation: she was placed on the 2012 Mass Transit 40 under 40 List and was named the National Association of Women in Construction's Rookie of the Year in 2012. 

Concentrating efforts on the goals of increasing ridership, refining HART’s community image and setting “the transit agency bar higher as a trendsetting innovator” led to success for the agency, Eagan says.

“Thanks to the great work of our over 750 employees, we are better positioned today to provide the Tampa Bay area with quality service and choices.”

In other words, Eagan – and HART – is driven to serve you.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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