However, HART (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Agency) does not, which is why acting CEO Sylvia Castillo presented a new policy to the agency's board this morning that would establish the minimum age for kids to ride a county bus solo at 12 years old.
No problem, right?
One of the agencies newest members, Bryan Crino, said he didn't like the idea at all, adding that it sounded like the policy would cut off a kid's ability to survive or "do what they need to do."
Crino also said he thought it would be unproductive for bus drivers to start asking potential passengers to verify their age, though Castillo pointed out that drivers do that now to see if young riders qualify for the under-17 discount.
Another relatively new board member, John Melendez, said he had mixed feelings about the policy because it shifts the burden of responsibility for a young rider from their parents to HART.
Board member and County Commissioner Sandy Murman said she wanted Castillo to consult the Department of Children and Families, and said if the policy became known, "our bus ridership would go up because sexual predators would start taking the bus" — a dubious statement to be sure.
But many kids are currently riding the bus, and HART doesn't have a policy of any sort regarding a rider's age — a real difference from most local transit agencies. Castillo posted a chart showing which agencies in the region set an age limit, with the limits ranging from 18 all the way down to 10 years of age.
County Commissioner Kevin Beckner wondered what would happen if a HART driver stopped a youth from boarding a bus because of his or her age, and something deleterious then happened to that youth.
"Is there a moral responsibility?" he mused aloud, saying that the agency could have both a legal and moral liability issues if the policy being proposed was approved.
Castillo said she would work on the plan and come back before the board next month.