If there's a barometer for gauging just how well public transportation is doing in the Tampa Bay area, its got to be the ridership rate for the area's main bus and streetcar agency, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, or HART.

Judging by HART's recently released statistics for the year of 2011, public transportation is very much alive and booming in Tampa Bay.  The Tampa transportation agency had its highest yearly ridership rate ever, 13,940,921 to be exact, in 2011.  This figure is up 11% from 2010.

The HART-owned TECO Line Streetcar System also saw some growth in ridership in 2011.  Streetcar ridership for the month of December was 30,382, up 2.9% from the December figures of the previous year.  These are both increasingly smart options for getting around Tampa.

What does it all mean exactly?  Hopefully a push toward more sustainable transportation options in Tampa Bay.  Mass transit like busses and streetcars boast a number of societal and environmental benefits.  First and foremost, they save fuel; an increasingly expensive and polluting commodity these days.  Busses also decrease traffic congestion.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, the The average American household spends 18 cents of every dollar on transportation with 94% of this going towards to buying, maintaining, and operating cars, the largest average expenditure after housing.

Households that are likely to use public transportation save more than $10,000 every year.

Judging by the numbers, many in Tampa are starting to realize these benefits of public transportation with an agency like HART.  Hopefully this upward trend keeps going.  For more information on public transportation in Tampa visit www.GoHART.org.