Florida Transit Program Offers Relief for Federal Employees

Workers affected by the now 36-day government shutdown are finding some relief in the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority program that gives them access to free monthly transit passes.

by / January 25, 2018
A commercial flight departing Tampa International Airport.

Federal workers at Tampa International Airport in Florida have been given access to free transit passes during the more than month-long government shutdown.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) has partnered with Tampa International to provide up to 500 monthly transit passes to affected workers with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to help ease transportation costs during the shutdown. The federal budget impasse is affecting some 800,000 federal employees, who are not being paid during what is now the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

Many workers, such as screeners with the TSA or air traffic controllers with the FAA, are still required to show up for work to ensure the safe and orderly operation of the nation’s air transportation system.

Some 800 federal employees work at Tampa International Airport, said Sandra Morrison, public information officer for HART.

The monthly passes are valued at $65 each and reflect a $32,500 contribution by the local transit agency, Morrison added.

"We are grateful to all of our partners in the Bay area who are pulling together to assist the federal workers who are such an important part of the airport family," Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano said in a statement. "Their commitment to safety and customer service is what helps make Tampa International one of the best airports in the world."

In some airports, like Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International, staffing shortages resulting from TSA employees calling in sick have created to long lines and prompted officials to advise passengers to arrive at least two hours before their flights.

Airport officials in Tampa have not reported similar delays, said Danny Valentine, an airport spokesman.

Other transit agencies like the San Mateo County Transit District in California and Caltrain, which operates regional rail service in the Bay Area, have also announced that federal workers can ride free by showing their ID cards to train conductors during the shutdown. 

“We sympathize with the financial burdens that federal employees are faced with due to this unprecedented situation,” said Transit District General Manager and CEO Jim Hartnett, in a statement. “These individuals provide a great public service to our region and our country, and we want to do what we can to make sure they have access to convenient public transportation options during this challenging time.”

Skip Descant Staff Writer

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.