Hillsborough Area Regional Transit members gathered with elected officials and other leaders outside of USF's Marshall Center on Monday for the official the agency's expansion of the HyperLINK program into the University area, which includes five new Tesla vehicles that will operate in the neighborhood.
HyperLink is a ride sharing-like service that HART intends to use in conjunction with its current bus service. Via an app similar to Uber or Lyft, users will be able to hire a vehicle to get them from their bus stop to their final location. The service was launched in Brandon, North Tampa and Carrollwood last year before today's expansion into what HART refers to as the “Innovation Alliance” area of Tampa, due to institutions such as USF, Florida Hospital and Moffitt Cancer Center being in the area.
“We are going to create right here on this ground a special place which is going to spring forward all the innovation, all the creativity and all the things that make people who come into this area go 'wow, I like being here',” said Mark Sharpe, a former County Commissioner and the current Executive Director of the Tampa Innovation Alliance, who has been a strong advocate for alternative forms of transportation. “What we're going to have are special vehicles that will get you from point to point, because one thing you learn when you're relying on the bus, is that when you get off the bus, how are you going to get to that final point? Whether using at some point in the future a fixed guideway transportation system or the bus system, how do you get from this university campus to the mall? From this university campus to student housing? You can walk, you can hope it doesn't rain on you, but you want that short trip … and HyperLINK is going to do it.”
Sharpe recently embarked on an effort to try to get around without using a car, which he wrote about in this week's print edition of CL.
A who's-who of elected officials attended at the unveiling, including U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa), Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and City Council members Mike Suarez and Luis Viera.
“Let's take this milestone today, this great HyperLINK initiative, as a challenge, to really come together and fight for the transit-oriented future of this community that will lift us,” said Castor. “It's going to take all of us. It's going to take more than these great motivating speeches, it's going to take all of us committed financially and with our hearts and souls to say not only is this a great place to live but we are on the edge of becoming one of the greatest communities in the country if not the world if we continue to tap these innovations.”
Plans include for regular expansion of the HyperLINK service throughout the county along with an eventual shift towards autonomous vehicles once the technology becomes more widely available.