The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) is reinstalling Tampa's Metro Rapid bus seats this week, after Creative Loafing Loafing Tampa Bay published an article about the missing seats last week.
Both HART and Hillsborough County Commissioner Mariella Smith said that in February 2020, Tampa Police Department (TPD) requested that the seats be removed.
Nikki Frenney, Director of Communications and Marketing for HART, says she believes TPD citied what it called general crimes that had occurred at the stops such as loitering, vandalism and drug dealing as reasoning for their removal. She told CL that seats should be reinstalled by the end of the week.
While the concern of crime from TPD was enough to have HART remove seats initially, Frenney said HART's dedication to the county's riders is paramount.
"We wanted to make sure that we were responding to a request from TPD where they say they saw and increase in crime at the stops," Frenny told CL. "But we also want to make sure that we're doing right in public, providing as much convenience as possible when they ride the bus. And so it's a delicate dance."
Frenny said that some of the bus seats were being installed as soon as today.
She said that HART hopes that the community will look out for each other to make sure that there is no danger of crime at the stops when the seats are returned.
CL submitted a public records request to both TPD and HART for more details about the seating removal, but Frenny told CL she thinks that the request from TPD was verbal, as opposed to written.
"HART's mission is to take people to the places they need to go and provide the best customer service we can, and that includes making our bus stops as comfortable as can be," Smith told CL. She added that HART is currently in the process of making stops safer and more compatible for people of all abilities and ages.
The Metro Rapid route was launched in 2013, with seating for 8-12 people originally included in the construction of the shelters. The route is marketed as a quick and easy way for people to transit between the University Area and Downtown Tampa, with an advertised 15-minute wait on weekdays and 30 minutes on the weekend. But after the seats were removed, those with trouble standing for extended periods of time found themselves in a tough spot.
In CL's article about the missing seats, transit activists decried the removal, and HART has responded to the community in less than a week by moving to re-install the seats.
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