February 2020 –
The MPO is collaborating with Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) and the City of Plant City to create a Transit Master Plan for the City of Plant City. This is a short term study that will be completed by mid-summer of 2020 and will explore the feasibility of re-initiating a transit service within Plant City and from Tampa to Plant City, including a travel market analysis.
Plant City is one of the fastest-growing areas in Hillsborough County with over 40,000 residents and is strategically located between Tampa and Lakeland. Currently, there is no bus service in Plant City, as Plant City residents have not voted to join the HART system through levying a citywide property tax for bus service. In 2018, voters countywide approved a 1% sales tax for transportation, with nearly half the revenues dedicated to improving bus and rapid transit service. Plant City is included in that sales tax levy. This study will help HART and the Plant City community together explore the most beneficial next steps for expanding transit service to the city.
In the mid-2000s and initially using a federal grant, HART and Plant City operated the Strawberry Connector service to provide circulator trips within Plant City. The Strawberry Connector ceased operation during the great recession in 2008. Starting in 2012, HART operated a commuter express service (Route 28X – East County Express) from Tampa to the west edge of Plant City. Route 28x was dropped in 2017 due to relatively low ridership when HART adjusted its service to match its budget.
The first Stakeholder Focus Group meeting, which is open to the public, is being held on Wednesday, February 19 from 2–4 p.m. at Sadye Gibbs Martin Auditorium of City Hall, 302 W. Reynolds Street in Plant City. The purpose of this meeting is to refine the study area and to identify major corridors and areas to serve. Anyone is welcome to attend. The study team hopes to have the participation of HART and City officials including the Planning and Zoning Department, Polk County transit, local colleges and hospitals, business owners, the Chamber of Commerce, the Sunshine Line, and other local groups that could benefit from this service.
The second public meeting will take place toward the end of the study and will be conducted open-house style, which will give an opportunity to look at the options for bus service on display boards and express preferences. After making adjustments to the options, they will be presented to the MPO Board, the HART Board, and the Plant City Commission.