PSTA moves forward with transit referendum plans

Great news to everyone residing in the Tampa Bay area (particularly Pinellas County)! The PSTA board decided unanimously to move forward with plans to place a penny sales tax increase to help fund transit improvements. The current plan is to have the question on the November, 2014 ballot, however this could change if more time is needed to hash out all the details.

Although I’m very excited that the measure is moving forward, I must stress that the one thing that Pinellas County cannot do is make the same mistakes that Hillsborough County made in 2010. Specifically, I speak of the fact that not enough time was put in to really present a comprehensive plan that would benefit residents throughout the county. For instance, the plan was heavily marketing light rail, when the plan also included expanded local and express bus services, bus rapid transit, and roadway improvements. I also feel that the plan was “rushed” so to speak, because not everyone had a chance to really provide their opinions on the plan prior to the election season. Perhaps if more time was provided (let’s say putting the measure to 2011 instead of 2010), there would have been more time to convince those who typically do not use public transit that the plan would benefit them. On top of that, opposition groups quickly mobilized to associate Hillsborough’s penny tax plan with President Obama’s high speed rail plan, calling the whole issue a nightmare for taxpayers. Unless Pinellas spends the time and resources analyzing all the options available for their transit expansion plan, voters may end up feeling more confused about the Pinellas effort than Hillsborough residents felt about their’s in 2010.

In the coming months there are going to be lots of meetings and discussions on the matter so that residents can have their say.  I am also confident that the with the help of Connect Tampa Bay, the public will be better informed about the Pinellas plan than Hillsborough residents were in 2010. However, I feel that county leaders, PSTA, and others involved with the plan need to use extra caution in respects to economic conditions in the region and throughout the world. 2010 was clearly a bad time to bring up a transit referendum, as the economy was still in very bad shape from the 2008 financial crisis. Although the economy is slowly recovering now, things are still very fragile. Should economic conditions deteriorate again within the next few months, it is possible that the referendum could get called off completely.

If you have any feedback to provide, please feel free to comment!

Warmest Regards,

HARTride 2012.

Air Base Mayhem FanFiction Story – Part 1

Hi everyone!

As I’ve mentioned through my Projects page, I am working on a few fanfiction stories in the FanFiction.Net website. One of those stories revolves around one of my favorite Nintendo 64 video games, Perfect Dark. This story, titled Air Base Mayhem, describes the lives of several staff members who work in the air base facility that is depicted in the game as one of Joanna Dark’s missions. The first part of the story is like a soap opera, depicting the everyday lives of each of the staff members. I hope to be able to complete the first part sometime towards the end of 2013, and then begin the second part, which will go through what happens to each of the staff members when Joanna shuts down the base’s security system (which is an objective in the actual mission). Some characters will eventually be killed off, but I will not say right now which ones will remain through the end of the series.

For now, I have rewritten Chapter 1 and am currently working on Chapter 2. I do appreciate any and all comments in regards to this story, but please…no flaming. Any comments that I see as inappropriate will be flagged for removal immediately.

Warmest Regards;

HARTride 2012

 

Please attend PSTA’s upcoming board meeting on January 23, 2013.

Sorry if I’m a bit late in posting this; on Wednesday, January 23, 2013, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) will be holding a board meeting in regards to whether or not the agency should move forward with a sales tax referendum (similar to what Hillsborough County attempted in 2010) to help fund road construction and public transit projects throughout the county. If this measure were to pass; we will be able to see improved roadway corridors, bike lanes and improved pedestrian facilities (such as sidewalks and crosswalks), bus rapid transit services, improved local and express bus services, and eventually a light rail corridor.

The meeting will be held at PSTA’s headquarters, located at 3201 Scherer Drive in St. Petersburg (zip code is 33716) and will begin at 9:00am. A continental breakfast is being offered at 8:00am for those who attend. I strongly encourage you to attend if you possibly can. I know that many of you have busy working schedules and may not be able to attend, especially if you live in neighboring counties. However, we need as many supporters to be present so that the PSTA board can become convinced that moving forward with the referendum is the right thing to do for Pinellas County. Many opponents (such as No Tax for Tracks) will be present as well, so the voice of support must clearly be louder than the voice of the opposition.

For more information about the upcoming meeting, or to get directions, please visit PSTA’s website, or call their InfoLine at (727)-540-1800. To view a PDF of the meeting agenda, click here. If you’re on Facebook, please click here to confirm your attendance. Please note that the Facebook event page is not hosted by PSTA, but rather Connect Tampa Bay.

Please make a difference in Pinellas County’s transit future by attending this meeting.

Warmest Regards,

HARTride 2012

MLK Day Transit Services

Just a reminder; for the upcoming MLK Holiday, which is Monday, January 21, 2012, the following districts will operate on a normal weekday schedule:

  • Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA – Pinellas County, FL)
    • Central Ave Trolley
    • Suncoast Beach Trolley
    • Clearwater Jolley Trolley
    • FLEX (Connector) Services
  • Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT – Sarasota County, FL)
  • Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT – Manatee County, FL)
    • Longboat Key Trolley
    • Anna Maria Island Trolley
    • Beach Express Trolley
  • TECOline Streetcar (Tampa, FL)
  • The Tide Light Rail (Norfolk, VA)

The following districts will operate on a Saturday-level schedule:

  • Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART – Hillsborough County, FL)
    • Northdale FLEX Service
  • Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) Bus Services (Hampton Roads, VA)

The following districts will NOT operate:

  • St. Pete Downtown Looper Trolley (St. Petersburg, FL)
  • Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT – Pasco County, FL)
  • Hernando THEbus (Hernando County, FL)

Fantasy Metro/Subway for Norfolk, VA – Part 3

In my third installment of my fantasy subway for the Hampton Roads, VA area, I focus on Line 3. Line 3 connects the two busy military hubs of Naval Station Norfolk and Naval Air Station Oceana via the Lynnhaven area and Norfolk International Airport. This particular line has 18 stations and is one of a few that have express service. To view the Google map of this route, click here.

Because Line 3 has express service, it is one of the few subway lines that follow a four track configuration (similar to some of the lines of the New York City subway) for most of its route (I’ll go through the exceptions in a later posting). Most stations encompass two island platforms, with the outer tracks facilitating local service and the inner tracks facilitating express service. Stations that are “skipped” during express service have barrier walls facing the express tracks. The line is also completely underground and connections are available to subway lines 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

The rolling stock used for Line 3 is similar to that of the MP 89 from the Paris Metro, as Line 3 is one of the few rubber-tyred subway lines in the system. The other rubber-tyred lines in the fantasy Norfolk system include Lines 1, 4, 6, 7, 7A, and 10. The other lines utilize traditional steel wheel trains similar to those used on the New York City Subway. I will go over the rolling stock of the fantasy Norfolk system in a later posting.

Like my Line 7A map, I’ve listed all of the Line 3 stations on my Google Map.

Tampa Bay Fantasy Rail System – Part 2

As I mentioned in my last posting, I will be going over the Red Line of my fantasy light rail system for Tampa Bay. This is one of the key lines to this fantasy rail system, as it links the community of Wesley Chapel to the USF area, downtown Tampa, and MacDill Air Force Base. This fantasy corridor mostly utilizes existing CSX rail lines, while the northernmost and southernmost portions are along roadway medians. To view a route map that I’ve created via Google Maps, click here.

In reality, a corridor like this is very much possible, being that it would mostly run along existing freight rail lines. The southern terminus is near the main gate of MacDill AFB, where it would easily be able to pick up military personnel working at the base. The route would then run along the median of Dale Mabry Hwy until it reaches the CSX freight rail line that runs alongside the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. There would be a stop at Gandy Blvd before the Red Line transfers onto the freight rail line.

From there, the line would travel towards downtown Tampa, making stops at Bay to Bay Blvd (Palma Ceia Station), Hyde Park/Swann Ave, and Kennedy Blvd (to serve the University of Tampa). Once in downtown, the Red Line would connect to the Navy Line loop, which acts at the eastern terminus of the Navy Line LRT. There would be two stations in downtown Tampa: one at Ashley Dr, and one at Nebraska Ave (by Tampa’s Union Station).

Next, the Red Line would enter Ybor City, making a stop in the heart of the historic district near the TECOline Streetcar Line and 6th Ave. The line would then switch over to the freight rail line that runs northward towards Florida Ave and I-275.  There would be subsequent stops at Columbus Dr, MLK Blvd, Hillsborough Ave, Sligh Ave, and Busch Blvd.

Any light rail link into the USF area is vital, which is why I’ve made the Red Line utilize the freight rail line that lies just south of Fowler Ave. The line would then shift northward once reaching Bruce B. Downs Blvd; making 2 stops by the USF Tampa Campus. The next couple of stops include Bearss Ave and Cypress Preserve Dr (Tampa Palms Station).

The final, and northernmost section of the Red Line crosses underneath I-75, running through the median of Bruce B. Downs Blvd, and enters into New Tampa and Wesley Chapel. The final stops here include Cross Creek Blvd, a provisional station at County Line Rd, State Rd 56 (next to Wiregrass), and State Rd 54. At State Rd 54, there would be a commuter rail link that would allow connection from eastern Pasco County into Pinellas County.

Although the stations that I mentioned above would serve most of the population centers surrounding the line, things could change. Originally, I had more stations put in on the map, but then realized that there were just too many to be able to run efficient service in real life. After all, that’s why we have local bus service, to provide feeder service to the rail stops. As for express service…yes, this line does operate express service by which a few stations are skipped during the height of rush hour. For instance; express service between downtown Tampa and MacDill would involve the Kennedy Blvd station being skipped. Express service between downtown and Wesley Chapel would involve the Columbus Dr, Hillsborough Ave, Sligh Ave, and Bearss Ave stations being skipped. The skipped stations would have a provision of a third track to allow express trains to easily bypass these stations.

In my next post, I will go over Line 3 of the Norfolk, VA fantasy subway. Please feel free to comment if you have anything to share!

 

Warmest Regards,

HARTride 2012

Tampa Bay Fantasy Rail System – Part 1

Hi everyone,

As I mentioned earlier this month, I will be posting some things about a fantasy rail system that I started working on for the Tampa area during the course of 2010.

At the time that I began working on this fantasy system, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit was promoting a one cent sales tax increase for Hillsborough County to help fund road construction and transit improvements. The plan was very ambitious and included several light rail and bus rapid transit lines. However, the plan left many questions to be answered, thus confusing a lot of voters. On top of that, the economy was still in a very bad state and many anti-tax conservatives were lumping the sales tax hike with President Obama’s high speed rail plan. All of the massive confusion led to a massive defeat of the sales tax. After the defeat of the sales tax referendum, Governor Rick Scott pulled the plug on Florida’s high speed rail plan. With much of Tampa’s transit ambitions dashed, I halted all work on my fantasy rail system until a later time.

Fast forward to 2013: Pinellas County is gearing up for their own transit expansion plan and the chatter about rail has restarted, being led this time by the grassroots efforts of Connect Tampa Bay. Therefore, I have decided to go ahead and restart my fantasy rail system project for the Tampa area.

To read more about this project, click “Continue Reading”.

Read more

Will we ever see any type of rail in the interstate medians?

As the title reads, this is a question that I ask myself from time to time. If you reside in the Tampa area, then you likely already know what exactly I am referring to. I am speaking of the wide open median that encompasses much of Interstate 4 from Ybor City going towards the Orlando area. In the next few years, Interstate 275 from downtown Tampa to the Howard Frankland Bridge will also have a much wider median upon completion of the ongoing reconstruction project.

For many years, it was envisioned that some form of rail would eventually fill the these wide medians; whether it be light rail, commuter rail, or even high speed rail. Since the early 2000s at least, high speed rail was planned to eventually run from Tampa to Orlando via the I-4 median, with a possible extension later to St. Pete on the west end, and towards Jacksonville and Miami on the eastern end, eventually being extended up the eastern seaboard.

However; a couple plans for high speed rail in Florida were rejected, most recently in 2010 by Governor Rick Scott, who was heavily concerned that the costs of construction and maintenance would supersede any financial benefit to the state. Although I have always questioned the ridership potential for a high speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa, I knew that such a line would be beneficial to the state. We must now wait another 2 years at least before we know if we will have another chance at high speed rail.

Commuter rail presents another possibility for these wide open interstate medians. Although it would be practical to utilize existing freight rail lines that run alongside I-4, I can certainly envision a two or three-tracked commuter rail line running the entire length of the I-4 median from Daytona Beach to Tampa and St. Pete. Light rail has also been talked about in recent years, but I strongly believe that light rail in the interstate median is not a good choice. I believe that light rail should remain on surface streets unless it is absolutely necessary to have it run through an interstate median.

Unfortunately, ever since Rick Scott was elected as Florida’s Governor, there has been increased talk about “Managed Lanes” which are basically tolled HOV lanes that would run through the median of various freeways to alleviate congestion during rush hour. These lanes would allow carpooled vehicles and buses to flow freely past gridlocked traffic for a fee. With the state cash-strapped due to the recent recession, the possibility of managed lanes is gradually increasing. In fact, managed lanes already exist in the Miami area along a portion of I-95. And so far, its been a success.

To read up on what exactly managed lanes are, and how they’re already in use in Miami, click here. Although this news article is somewhat dated, it was published in the Tampa Tribune in December of 2011.

So what to you think about all this? Do you think we will ever see rail in the median of I-4 and I-275? Or will these managed lanes eventually take over the state? I invite you to answer my corresponding poll question and comment on this post. I definitely want to hear what you have to say on this matter.

Please know that the poll question will be open for 30 days. After that period has passed, the poll will close.

Have a great week!

HARTride 2012

Transit Tip for January, 2013 – Be careful of the fog.

Hi everyone!

 

Today, I am going to restart my monthly transit tips, which give helpful advice to public transit travelers everywhere! Now, whether you use public transit or not, I strongly feel that it is vital to inform people of various things that could be of help. I’m sure you have heard the term “news you can use”? I like to think of these tips as exactly that, “news you can use”. However, these helpful tips cover a variety of topics, as you will see when I make a post that has some of the tips that I’ve previously posted on my Tampa Bay Transit as told by HARTride 2012 site.

So for this month’s helpful tip. I would like to make everyone aware that foggy mornings and evenings can be real dangerous, especially if you are walking from A to B. Whenever there is fog, the level of visibility is often greatly reduced, meaning that it is very difficult for others to see you – especially those who are driving vehicles. It is also difficult for you to see others, like bicyclists and other drivers. You often hear people saying “make sure you use your low beams when driving”, which is definitely true. Because if you use your high beams while driving, you risk blinding other drivers and it is very hard to see pedestrians who may be trying to cross the road, thus increasing the likelihood of a serious accident.

For public transit customers, fog can present a very precarious situation in of itself because it is very difficult for the bus operator to see customers who are waiting at the next stop. Even if you wait right next to the bus stop sign, the bus operator can often miss you simply because he or she cannot see you. Now, although you can carry a flashlight with you – which I personally would recommend – please be careful where you point it, as you may accidentally blind the bus operator. An alternative that I’ve seen many people talk about recently (including Jason – aka Yo Bus Driver) is using the light from your cell phone to make yourself visible to the bus operator. As the bus approaches, activate the light on your phone screen and point the screen towards the direction of the bus. It will allow the operator to spot you as he or she approaches your stop, allowing you to board so that you can get from A to B.

With this said, please be sure to use extra caution during periods of fog. Not just because of the reasons above, but also because the limited visibility makes it easier for criminals to ambush you. As always, if you notice anything suspicious, contact law enforcement immediately.

 

Have a great day!

HARTride 2012

2013 Holiday Transit Services

Since MLK Day is just a little more than 2 weeks away, I wanted to go ahead and post the holiday transit service schedule for all of the transit districts in Tampa Bay. However, since the new year has begun, I’ve also decided to use this post to talk about holiday transit service in general.

On some holidays, like Columbus Day, some districts may operate on a normal weekday service schedule. However, most districts operate on some sort of modified schedule; whether it be a Saturday or Sunday level of service, or a special abbreviated schedule. From what I understand, the level of transit service during holidays is mainly dictated by demand, as well as funding. Most transit districts are able to provide some level of service during most holidays. However, in smaller districts (like Pasco County for instance), transit services will not operate during holidays. This may be due to a lack of demand on holidays, or perhaps a lack of funding. In some cases, it may be both, or perhaps other reasons.

Depending on your transit district, holiday schedules for the entire year may be posted on your transit district’s website. Other districts may only post holiday schedules on a “case by case” basis, so please be sure to check with your respective transit district for the latest information. As always, such information is subject to change.

For the MLK Holiday, which is Monday, January 21, 2012, the following districts will operate on a normal weekday schedule:

  • Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA – Pinellas County, FL)
    • Central Ave Trolley
    • Suncoast Beach Trolley
    • Clearwater Jolley Trolley
    • FLEX (Connector) Services
  • Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT – Sarasota County, FL)
  • Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT – Manatee County, FL)
    • Longboat Key Trolley
    • Anna Maria Island Trolley
    • Beach Express Trolley
  • TECOline Streetcar (Tampa, FL)
  • The Tide Light Rail (Norfolk, VA)

The following districts will operate on a Saturday-level schedule:

  • Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART – Hillsborough County, FL)
    • Northdale FLEX Service
  • Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) Bus Services (Hampton Roads, VA)

The following districts will NOT operate:

  • St. Pete Downtown Looper Trolley (St. Petersburg, FL)
  • Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT – Pasco County, FL)
  • Hernando THEbus (Hernando County, FL)

For holiday schedules for the remainder of 2013, I invite you to check out the links below. Please note that not all of the transit districts listed above have complete holiday schedules available on their websites. I’ve only listed the districts that have 2013 holiday schedules posted to their websites.

MCAT and PCPT generally post their holiday schedules online also, but 2013 schedules are not yet available. I will update this post when they become available.

Also, the St. Pete Downtown Looper Trolley does not operate on MLK Day, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, as mentioned on their website.

I will stress again that all of the information regarding holiday transit schedules is subject to change, so please double check with your transit district for up-to-date information. If I hear of any changes, I will update this post as soon as possible. However, please feel free to contact me via the Contact page if you see something here that is incorrect.

Have a wonderful 2013! 😀

Warmest Regards,

HARTride 2012