Friday, June 21st
New HART CEO, Benjamin Limmer, was the keynote speaker at the Circle of Influence event on Friday the 21st. Mr. Limmer addressed a group of about 150 top-tier chamber members giving his background and his plans for HART. Here's what we learned.
Ben Limmer came to HART from MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority), but the bulk of his career thus far was in Phoenix with the Valley Metro RPTA. Upon becoming HART's new CEO his three main priorities are as follows:
- Operational Excellence
- Increased presence of HART in the community
- Becoming an employer of choice
Bus & Streetcar Service
HART is looking to double the number of buses and streetcars that they currently have available. The grant they received from the FDOT for the streetcars helped to increase the services they were able to offer as well as offering free rides. They are also extending the streetcar service further north into the Heights. They are planning a rapid expansion of the current bus service and looking into Bus Rapid Transit or possibly a Rail Service, truly dependent on what the community would want. They are also looking at the opportunity to service the airport with the continuing transformation that is happening there.
Again this fall, they are launching the direct connection to the Bucs stadium during football season and hoping to do the same for Amalie Arena during hockey season. Future plans include a flexible transit service in Downtown, Uptown and the Westshore district with the ability to go off route if necessary to pick up passengers. Adding express bus services in South County is also on the horizon.
HART as an Organization
HART is a 40 year old organization and serves all of Hillsborough county. Currently HART has a 100 million dollar per year budget, but with the All for Transportation tax that will increase to about 250 million dollars overnight. Mr. Limmer's plans for HART are to be customer-oriented and customer-driven, and to ensure that they are transparent about where the All for Transportation tax money is going and what it's being used for.
When addressing HART becoming an employer of choice, Mr. Limmer explained their plans for the organization. They are looking at an organizational redesign effort and through that effort are planning on elevating and expanding the Human Resources department to take care of the HART employees. Adding programs like an extensive EAP program, mental health support services, etc.
Safety & Experience
Mr. Limmer addressed the tragedy that occurred on May 18th when one of the bus operators was killed by a passenger. In response to this he has signed an order to install plexiglass partitions in all of the HART buses by the end of 2019. They are also launching what they're referring to as a rider awareness/respect campaign, to make the community aware of the expectations and standards of riding the bus to ensure it's a positive experience for all.
Mr. Limmer stated that the key to acquire what he called the "choice rider" (someone who chooses to use the bus as transportation and not just as a secondary option when all else fails), is to provide frequent and on time service as well as easy access to the schedule.
From June 1st through the end of August, children ages 5 through 18 are able to receive a free bus pass, in hopes of accommodating teens that have summer jobs and families with small children traveling on the buses. Currently, 1/3 of the buses in HART's fleet use compressed natural gas and that number continues to increase. In addition, they are purchasing 10 electric vehicles to continue moving towards being environmentally friendly.
HART has a new app called Flamingo, which allows for virtual ticketing and as transportation and the community continue to grow, will allow for different services to be linked, like ride sharing. Flamingo also will allow for flash partnership passes when large events come into town like the Superbowl; people will be able to pre-purchase bus passes and have them sent directly to their phone for use while in town.
Overall, Mr. Limmer summed up his experience thus far and plans for the future with one word, Transformation. He seems passionate about his opportunity to plan and change the transportation landscape in Tampa and looks forward to working with our community. Check out HART's website here.