The future of Tampa’s mass transit may lie in the Obama Administration

HART posted a press release today stating that the Obama administration may give new hope to future HART projects, including the proposed light rail system. Here’s the full text…

New Administration Could Fuel Tampa Bay Transit

HART Projects in Line for Federal Funding

November 5, 2008 – Tampa, Florida – As President-elect Barack Obama was swept into office last night, so too were new priorities for the federal government. Sustainable energy, infrastructure investments and transportation improvements are sure to be high on the new President’s list of things to do, and that means increased possibilities for transit in Tampa Bay.

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit is already working on several projects that could be in line for federal funding.

APTA Coordinating Federal Projects
The American Public Transportation Association is preparing information on transit projects and activities that could be funded in a future legislative package. HART has submitted a list of upcoming projects for consideration, including:

  • New Buses for Bus Rapid Transit Lines – Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, is a new express bus service that will feature modern station stops, advanced technology and new vehicles. The North-South line is in final design stages and should be in operation sometime in 2011, with an East-West line to follow.
  • Tampa International Airport Transfer Center – Improving service to the airport will include a proposed bus transfer center on airport property. The transfer center would be served by the new East-West BRT.
  • Additional Paratransit Vehicles – HART’s service for people with disabilities has experienced exponential growth in the last few years. More vehicles would help HART adequately serve these people who need it most.
  • Upgrades to the 21st Avenue Facility – With demand for transit service increasing, HART has outgrown its existing operations and maintenance facility. Upgrades and modernization would help HART continue to grow and maintain its fleet of buses.
  • Double-Tracking the Streetcar Extension – The extension of the TECO Line Streetcar System to Whiting Street will connect Ybor City and the Channel District directly with downtown Tampa. A double-tracking option would allow for increased efficiency and more capacity than the current planned single track.

Hillsborough County Rail Project
One of the most talked-about issues in Tampa Bay is the possibility of a rail system that would connect people to employment, shopping and entertainment destinations across the region. HART has a head start on these plans with the Tampa Rail Project, a 20.1-mile light rail system operating on three corridors in Hillsborough County. The project received federal planning and environmental approvals in 2003.

Now, HART is reviving hopes for a future rail system in Tampa Bay by pursuing re-entry into the federal New Starts funding process for a potential light rail investment.

The mission of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) is to provide public transportation services which are safe, dependable and cost effective, thereby enhancing the quality of life in our community.

Are you kidding me TBARTA?

The latest master plan out for TBARTA looks like a total joke. It seems like more buses will be in the picture than rail. Buses are good in a sense, but not for the heavily demanded areas, where rail lines are crucial. Along some highways, like US 19, Bus Rapid Transit will do no good. We need rail lines along these corridors, not some lousy limited stop bus routes. Even with the current economy in distress, TBARTA could really do better than that.