Celebrating my 300th Blog Post!

300th blog post on WP

It was not very long ago when I published my 250th blog post about the arrival of the MF 2001 railcars to the Paris subway Line 9. It was something that I was not expecting to have as my 250th post, but I could not come up with any good ideas to celebrate that particular milestone. So I left the post at that.

Fast forward to almost the end of March, 2014 and I’m celebrating quite a few milestones. First off, this 300th blog post (well, if you add in what I’ve posted on my Roundup blog, this post would technically be #305). Second, I’ve been blogging on WordPress.com since February 24, 2012 (I’ve surpassed the two year mark here on WordPress and LOVE IT!). Third, I’m wrapping up the 5th Anniversary year of this very blog you’re reading. Back on April 13, 2008, I began writing this blog with the aspiration that perhaps one day, I’ll be able to showcase my love of public transit to the entire world!

So for this 300th blog post, I’ve decided to create a slideshow featuring various photos I’ve taken of transit in action, since beginning my transit adventures in 2006, as well as a few website milestones. I hope you’ll enjoy the video slideshow and will continue to visit my site for many years to come! Enjoy!

HARTride 2012

Another train incident on the CTA Blue Line

Back in October of 2013, two Chicago Transit Authority Blue Line trains collided after an out of service train struck the end of another train that was stopped to load/unload passengers.

This morning, an inbound Blue Line train entering the O’Hare Airport station (which serves as the southern terminus for the Blue Line) overshot the bumper blocks at the end of the track, causing the front-most train to travel up the escalator that leads from the mezzanine level onto the platform level. The incident resulted in 32 injuries, and the cause is still under investigation.

Like the October, 2013 incident, safety protocols that would have stopped the train from overshooting the tracks did not seem to engage. Investigators will be figuring out why this was the case.

At this time, the Blue Line is CLOSED between O’Hare and Rosemont stations. Please visit the CTA website for updates.

February, 2014 Ridership Report

RidershipReportTitle-2014-02

The numbers are out once again! And the month of February brought forth strong transit ridership along Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), and Hampton Roads Transit (HRT). Let’s take a quick glance at the numbers! For the report, I’ve been able to get clarification as to what modes of bus transport are included in the calculations. Please note that Rail and Ferry services are not included in these numbers.

RidershipReportScreen-2014-02

For HART, February, 2014’s bus ridership numbers could not be anymore stronger! Bus ridership on the HART system grew by 3.5% over February, 2012, with MetroRapid taking in 50,587 riders! February 4th saw the highest single-day ridership for the month, with 59,000 boardings, and 15 out of 20 weekdays saw ridership surpass the 50,000 mark!

About the only sore spot for HART is the In-Town Trolley, which has seen ridership continue to diminish. There is currently a study underway to re-evaluate downtown Tampa transit services, including possible improvements to the TECOline Streetcar Line (which has also immensely suffered from low ridership and service cuts), a revamp of the downtown bus circulator system, and the possibility of re-opening Marion St to general traffic. I’ll have more on this in an upcoming post.

PSTA suffered a relatively small decline of less than 1% in February, 2014 vs February, 2013. While this could be for a variety of reasons, bus ridership remains strong along the PSTA system, with 1,093,069 riders using the agency’s fixed-route bus and trolleybus routes, and flex-route connector services. Ridership on the St. Pete Downtown Looper Trolleybus and the Clearwater Jolley Trolley, which are partially funded by PSTA, saw passenger numbers reach 5,048 and 41,537 respectively. Let’s hope that the Safety Harbor Jolley Trolley trial phase is a huge success!

HRT suffered a bus ridership decline of 6.9%, likely due to the episodes of inclement weather that has struck Hampton Roads during the month of February (winter just does not want to let go of the north it seems). Average bus ridership during all days of the week took a hit, with average weekday ridership decreasing by 7.2%, Saturday by 2.4%, and Sunday by about 1.1%. Comparing February, 2014 ridership against the same month in 2013 and 2012, bus ridership declined by 6.5%.

One huge sore spot for HRT is the GoPass 365 program. This program allows participating employers and education institutions to hand out a specific number of passes to employees and students. These passes allow participants to use the HRT bus, light rail, and ferry systems without having to pay the normal fares. The program began in mid 2011 with ridership from participating organizations growing since then. Originally, the program was structured in a way that one only had to show their employer or institutional ID card to board the bus, train, or ferry.

Unfortunately, overall system ridership has not seen a dramatic increase as HRT had hoped for, which in-turn has hurt farebox revenues and budget/revenue projections. This has forced HRT to make changes in the way that the GoPass 365 program operates, as well as resulted in several organizations pulling out of the program for next fiscal year (which will be FY 2014/2015). One of the participating institutions that saw the largest overall GoPass 365 ridership during FY 2013/2014 was Tidewater Community College. They are among the several organizations that have decided to not renew their contract with HRT due to the changes that are planned for FY 2014/2015. I suspect that if further changes are not made to stifle these negative trends, the GoPass 365 program will end up being eliminated altogether.

SOURCES

HART bus services during MacDill Air Fest 2014

A scene from the 2010 MacDill AirFest. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.
A scene from the 2010 MacDill AirFest. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.

Updated on 3/19/14.

After a year and a half hiatus, the Air Fest (now known as the Tampa Bay AirFest) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa is returning! The event will be held during the weekend of March 22 and 23, 2014. As many here in the Bay Area will recall, the 2013 event was cancelled due to federal sequestration cuts that wiped out a vast majority of US military community outreach events that were planned nationwide.

This year allowed for many outreach events to be held throughout the US, but on a different scale than in previous years. Since Washington is now only willing to fund so much for these outreach events, local communities have had to step up to the plate in more ways than ever before to make sure that the show goes on. In MacDill’s case, this meant a brand new focus that points more towards civilian displays and demonstrations.

As with past year events, the Air Fest will bring tons and tons of traffic headaches and bus route detours to the South Tampa area. Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) has been working closely with MacDill to make sure that buses aren’t getting stuck and delayed with the influx of personal vehicles, while staying within their allowed budget.

Escape the traffic hassles! Use HART!

Gates will open at 8:00am, but as in years past, you can expect to see cars lining up as early as 7:00am or earlier. Why sit in traffic and worry about if you’ll even get a parking space when you can leave the driving to HART?

  • Route 4 Shuttle Service
    • Back by popular demand is the Route 4 Shuttle Service. This shuttle will operate every 15 minutes, with buses running southbound beginning at 8:00am from the Marion Transit Center in downtown Tampa. Northbound buses will begin running at 9:00am from MacDill AFB. Southbound service will end at 4:00pm, with the last northbound bus leaving the base at 6:00pm.
    • Different this year, buses will be allowed to enter the base throughout the day. Buses will travel their normal weekday routing from the Marion Transit Center in downtown Tampa to MacDill Ave and Gandy Blvd via Britton Plaza. The deviation in the route then begins with buses traversing Gandy Blvd to Bayshore Blvd and into the base via the Bayshore Gate. Once on base, buses will travel west along South Boundary Blvd, then south on Hangar Loop Dr, then east on Florida Keys Ave, north on Hillsborough Loop Dr/Gull Pl, then east on Centcom Dr, and north on Bayshore towards Britton Plaza and downtown Tampa.
  • Normal Route 19 Service
    • Route 19 will operate on its normal weekend route and schedule. Some buses may see delays due to base traffic.
  • Modified Route 36 Service
    • Because of heavy traffic, Route 36 will terminate at Britton Plaza and will only operate its normal route between Britton Plaza and Fletcher/Dale Mabry. The route will operate every hour from 6:00am until 7:00pm. Route 36 will follow the regular weekend schedule (per HART).

Click here for a map I made of all three above routes. Click here for a flyer summarizing Route 4 and 36 services from HART.

For those driving to the event.

For those of you who wish to drive to Air Fest (or are coming in from another county), please keep in mind that the main and only point of egress is the Dale Mabry Hwy gate! The MacDill Ave gate, which serves as a secondary gate to the base, may only be open to allow traffic to exit the base. The Bayshore Blvd gate, as in past years, will only be open to military personnel with a valid ID. There is no cost for parking at the event.

With that said, here’s the main arterial highways that will get you to the AirFest.

  • From Central and South Pinellas County via Gandy Blvd.
    • If you’re coming from the southern Gulf Beaches, south and central St. Pete, and Gulfport, you can use I-275 north to Exit 28 – Gandy Blvd. Travel Gandy Blvd eastbound across the Gandy Bridge until you reach Dale Mabry Hwy (intersection immediately after the Selmon Exwy). Turn right onto Dale Mabry and proceed to the MacDill AFB gate.
    • If you’re coming from Seminole, Largo, and other points within central Pinellas, just follow Gandy Blvd eastbound to Dale Mabry Hwy (intersection immediately after the Selmon Exwy). Turn right onto Dale Mabry and proceed to the MacDill AFB gate.
  • From Northern Pinellas County and Western Pasco/Hernando/Citrus Counties.
    • Those coming from Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, the northern Gulf Beaches and other points north can use either the Courtney Campbell Causeway (SR 60 east) and follow the signs to Kennedy Blvd (SR 60 east). Continue along Kennedy until you reach Dale Mabry Hwy (US 92 west). Turn right onto Dale Mabry and proceed to the MacDill AFB gate.
    • Alternatively, you can use Gandy Blvd eastbound to Dale Mabry Hwy southbound.
  • From Northwest Hillsborough County, Central Pasco/Hernando Counties, and Eastern Citrus County via Dale Mabry Hwy.
    • If coming from West Tampa, Drew Park, Carrollwood, Town-N-Country, Citrus Park, and Lutz, you can simply use Dale Mabry Hwy southbound until you reach the MacDill AFB gate.
    • If coming from central Pasco County and northward, proceed on US 41 south until you reach Dale Mabry Hwy (SR 597) southbound. Fork right onto Dale Mabry and proceed southbound until you reach the MacDill AFB gate.
    • An alternate to the northern portion of Dale Mabry is the Veterans Exwy/Suncoast Pkwy. Use the highway to reach Kennedy Blvd (SR 60) east. Then proceed on Kennedy until you reach Dale Mabry Hwy (US 92 west). Turn right onto Dale Mabry and proceed to the MacDill AFB gate. PLEASE KEEP IN MIND that the Veterans Exwy/Suncoast Pkwy are TOLL ROADS!
  • From Northeast Hillsborough County and Eastern Pasco/Hernando Counties.
    • If coming from the New Tampa and USF areas, you can use I-275 south towards downtown Tampa. Be sure to follow the signs towards St. Petersburg when approaching the I-4 junction. From there, use Exit 41A/B – Dale Mabry Hwy southbound (US 92 west). Turn left onto Dale Mabry and proceed south to the MacDill AFB gate.
    • If coming from eastern Pasco and Hernando counties, use I-75 south to I-275 (Exit 274) south and follow the directions above. After merging onto I-275 south, travel to Exit 41A/B – Dale Mabry Hwy southbound (US 92 west). Turn left onto Dale Mabry and proceed south to the MacDill AFB gate.
    • Alternatively, you can use the newly opened I-4/Selmon Connector (I-4 Exit 2) to connect to the Selmon westbound and exit off Gandy Blvd east (Exit 1A). From there, turn right at Dale Mabry Hwy south (very first light as soon as you get off the expressway) and proceed to the MacDill AFB gate. PLEASE KEEP IN MIND that the Selmon Exwy (including the Connector from I-4) are TOLL ROADS.
  • From Eastern Hillsborough County, Polk County, and the Orlando Area via I-4.
    • If travelling along I-4 towards Tampa from East Hillsborough and beyond, simply follow the signs to I-275 south to St. Petersburg. Once on I-275, After merging onto I-275 south, travel to Exit 41A/B – Dale Mabry Hwy southbound (US 92 west). Turn left onto Dale Mabry and proceed south to the MacDill AFB gate.
    • Alternatively, you can use the newly opened I-4/Selmon Connector (I-4 Exit 2) to connect to the Selmon westbound and exit off Gandy Blvd east (Exit 1A). From there, turn right at Dale Mabry Hwy south (very first light as soon as you get off the expressway) and proceed to the MacDill AFB gate. PLEASE KEEP IN MIND that the Selmon Exwy (including the Connector from I-4) are TOLL ROADS.
  • From Southern Hillsborough County and Manatee/Sarasota Counties via I-75 and the Selmon Exwy.
    • If coming from South Hillsborough County and points southward, use I-75 north to the Selmon Exwy (Exit 256) and proceed through downtown Tampa to Exit 1A (Gandy Blvd East). From there, turn right at Dale Mabry Hwy south (very first light as soon as you get off the expressway) and proceed to the MacDill AFB gate. PLEASE KEEP IN MIND that the Selmon Exwy is a TOLL ROAD.
    • If you do not wish to use the Selmon, you can use SR 60 (Exit 257 from I-75 north) and proceed through the Channelside District and downtown Tampa to Bayshore Blvd via Channelside Dr and Brorien St. Turn right from Bayshore Blvd to Bay to Bay Blvd, and then left on Dale Mabry Hwy. Proceed south on Dale Mabry until you reach the MacDill AFB gate.
  • From Manatee/Sarasota Counties via I-275 and Gandy Blvd.
    • If you use I-275/Sunshine Skyway from Manatee County, proceed northbound on I-275 to Exit 28 – Gandy Blvd. Travel Gandy Blvd eastbound across the Gandy Bridge until you reach Dale Mabry Hwy (intersection immediately after the Selmon Exwy). Turn right onto Dale Mabry and proceed to the MacDill AFB gate.

For those using bicycles, roller blades, etc.

Although bicycles, roller blades, etc. are acceptable modes of transport to the base, they are not allowed on the flight line (the zone within the gated event area). Bike racks will be provided near the event gates so that you can lock up your bike securely. Those using roller blades, etc. should have a backpack to stow them away in (large tote bags are not allowed at the event).

Other tips to keep in mind.

  • ARRIVE EARLY! Gates open at 8:00am on both Saturday and Sunday. However, lines of cars will start forming even before 7:00am. If you’re driving from another county, or using the HART bus system, please plan your trip accordingly. For HART Customers, you can use the OneBusAway app for real-time bus arrival times.
  • LIMITED PARKING. While parking is free at the event, there are only so many spaces available. Once all of the designated parking lots are full, base officials will close the Dale Mabry gate to all arriving traffic. This is why it’s strongly encouraged to use the HART bus system and its convenient Route 4 Shuttle Service.
  • PACK ITEMS CAREFULLY. While you definitely want to make sure you have water with you, please be considerate of what you take with you to the event. The event gates, as in years past, will have a tented airport-style security checkpoint. Basically anything that prohibited at the airport will be prohibited at the event (including firearms). Coolers, glass containers, pets (except service dogs), and fireworks are also prohibited.

Click here to go to the official AirFest webpage. Also, don’t forget to follow the official MacDill AFB Facebook Page.

Enjoy the AirFest weekend!

HARTride 2012

No New Funding (equals) Cutting existing service to accommodate new service

A SCAT bus awaits departure from the downtown Sarasota transfer center. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.
A SCAT bus awaits departure from the downtown Sarasota transfer center. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.

Over the past several years, Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) has seen a steady increase in ridership. Some areas in fact, are warranting the need to new bus service, and SCAT would like to be able to service new areas where the demand for transit is needed. However, in this day and age where keeping a sound budget is more important than ever before, and external funding sources are very limited, bringing in new transit service now often means sacrificing existing services in order to balance out an agency’s budget.

Although pulling back under-performing services and routes is nothing new, it is something that must be faced even more often than ever before due to the recent recession. SCAT’s late-night service, which has some routes running past 10:00pm has not seen the ridership levels that it had hoped for when such services were first introduced a few years ago. At the same time, demand along the University Pkwy corridor has grown, especially the area towards Lakewood Ranch. SCAT would like to bring forth new services to the northeastern side of Sarasota County, but has had no funds to be able to do so.

Now, SCAT has been granted with federal grant of $529,021 dollars to help start the new University Loop service, to be given the route number of 30. This new route is aimed at relieving congestion along University Pkwy, while providing a direct connection between Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. Route 30 would operate from 6:00am until 10:00pm, Monday through Saturday, with 60-minute headways.

Here’s the catch, like most federal grants, a local match amount is required. With SCAT not wanting to dip into reserve funds, it instead examined eliminating under-performing routes and trips. With the cuts; four bus routes that currently run until 12-midnight will have their end-times rolled back to roughly 10:00pm. Additionally, five under-utilized trips along Route 90X, and one under-utilized trip along Route 100X will be eliminated. Both Routes 90X and 100X connect North Port to downtown Sarasota, with Route 90X making a deviation to Venice, while Route 100X does not.

All of the above changes will take effect in July of 2014.

HARTride 2012

An additional note about the SouthShore Transit Circulator Study

If a sales tax referendum were to pass in Hillsborough County by 2016, we could ultimately see a MetroRapid corridor between Brandon and SouthShore, among other massive improvements by 2040! Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.
If a sales tax referendum were to pass in Hillsborough County by 2016, we could ultimately see a MetroRapid corridor between Brandon and SouthShore, among other massive transit improvements by 2040! Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.

As Zac wrote out in his post from Monday (3/10), the SouthShore Transit Circulator Study is aimed at improving mobility for residents in the SouthShore area, while maintaining an efficient connection to the rest of Hillsborough County.

I would like to take a few moments to point out one thing that this study encompasses. Whichever proposal outlined in the SouthShore Transit Circulator Study, that is chosen for service would be operated using whatever funds that HART has at its disposal. HART has stressed in this recent TBO.com article that implementation of any changes to the existing SouthShore network will have to wait a few years because a lack of funding does not currently allow HART to purchase very many new buses. In fact, the agency has been having trouble trying to keep pace with just replacing obsolete buses and, has actually been slowly losing buses since 2010 (for example; the 1999 fleet of buses that were retired back in 2011 still have not been replaced due to a lack of funds).

For any substantial improvements to be made to the current SouthShore system, beyond the scope of what the Circulator Study provides, a transit referendum, similar to the Greenlight Pinellas initiative, will have to be passed by Hillsborough County voters. Many will recall the many mistakes that were made with the 2010 Hillsborough referendum, and many county leaders are still reluctant to push forth for a possible 2015 or 2016 ballot measure. If a referendum was passed by 2016, and the added funds started flowing in afterward, HART would be able to add in the buses that it desperately needs to substantially improve services throughout Hillsborough. Whichever of the four proposals that are selected from the ongoing ShouthShore Circulator Study would be able to act as a starting point for further expansion that would be able to occur beyond 2025.

That further expansion, with the passage of a transit referendum, would undoubtedly bring further enhancements along the existing services/routes, as well as those implemented by whichever proposal that is selected from the Circulator Study. Now keep in mind that the study only projects weekday and Saturday ridership. This leads me to believe that Sunday service will not be included in the initial setup. If a transit referendum were to pass on the other hand, Sunday services could be added to the mix, which is something that I feel that the SouthShore area will need sooner than later. For example, Sunday routes could start running with 60-minute headways from 6:30am until 8:30pm, with room for further expansion thereafter if need be. In addition, several more local routes to SouthShore, as well as communities northward (like Riverview, Gibsonton, Brandon, and Valrico) would be introduced.

The passage of a transit referendum could also bring forth a dedicated MetroRapid (BRT) route from SouthShore to Brandon, and better express services to Downtown Tampa and even the USF area. Then somewhere between 2030 and 2035, light rail could be introduced along the SR 674 corridor, as well as portions of the US 41 and US 301 corridors. Light rail would then be able to connect SouthShore residents and visitors to a commuter rail line along I-75. The commuter rail line would be able to quickly shuttle customers from SouthShore to not only Brandon, Tampa, and the USF area, but also Bradenton and Sarasota to the south. All this could happen regardless of what develops with the High Speed Ferry plan.

With that said, regardless of what proposal/alignment is chosen from the SouthShore Circulator Study, HART is going to need the passage of a transit referendum to be able to further enhance existing services, expand its network, and purchase new buses. From what I’ve been hearing recently, if HART doesn’t receive new funds by the time its 2004-series buses reach retirement (which is 2016/2017), they will be faced with a massive dilemma of having to possibly slash services and hike fares in order to further maintain what they have. If a doomsday scenario was put out onto the table, it would possibly mean that late-night and weekend services would all be on the chopping block, and base fares would have to increase from the current level of $2.00 to possibly $2.50 or higher. It doesn’t have to be this way!

In closing, I wanted to make sure that all of our readers understand that while the SouthShore Circulator Study is great for the SouthShore area in terms of revitalizing a faltering neighborhood transit system, it is only a starting point. All of these enhancements and expansions can be done, but only if the funds are available for them. Without a dedicated funding source, like a sales tax, in place, SouthShore transit service will likely not be getting substantially better during the next 10 to 15 years.

SouthShore Transit Circulator Study

Currently the most under served area in the HART system, the SouthShore may be seeing some new transit options in the future. The SouthShore Transit Circulator Study, which began back on November 19, is looking for ways to improve the mobility of residents in the area, as well as improve access to key employment centers such as the new Amazon distribution warehouse under construction in Ruskin.

A map showing how local and HART FLEX service looks like in SouthShore today. From GoHART.org.
A map showing how local and HART FLEX service looks like in SouthShore today. From GoHART.org. Click on the image for a larger view.
A map showing how existing Limited Express service looks like in SouthShore today. From GoHART.org.
A map showing how existing Limited Express service looks like in SouthShore today. From GoHART.org. Click on the image for a larger view.

Currently, transit service in the SouthShore area is pretty limited, with just four  routes running: Route 31, 47LX, 53LX, and the HARTflex South County service. All these routes only provide service on weekdays, with no service available on weekends or holidays. Route 31 operates with two buses running between Westfield Brandon and the HCC SouthShore Campus on a 75-minute headway. Route 47LX is a peak-only service, with two buses leaving Hwy 301 Park-and-Ride at 5:45 and 6:30AM, and two other buses returning at 5:57 and 6:27PM. Route 53LX doesn’t fare much better, with one bus running between Westfield Brandon and Kings Point via Hwy 301 Park-and-Ride on a 120-minute headway between 8AM – 8PM. The HARTflex South County service does a bit better, with a 60 minute headway all day (with the van leaving HCC SouthShore at :05 past the hour and leaving La Estancia Apartments in Wimauma at :35 past the hour).

Between 2000 and 2010, the SouthShore area saw its population increase by 46.7% (in comparison to the 22.7% growth seen in Hillsborough County overall). In the past, residents would have to venture into Tampa or Brandon to access most basic needs such as education, employment, shopping, and so on. With all the population growth in the SouthShore, the area has become largely self-sufficient in meeting those needs for residents. However, transit service in the area has largely remained the same in that time period (apart from the introduction of the 35LX and 47LX in 2006, the 35LX which was later replaced with the 53LX in 2011). That’s why the SouthShore Transit Circulator Study hopes to find a way to improve mobility for residents within the area, while still maintaining an efficient connection to the rest of Hillsborough County.

For the study, Hillsborough MPO and HART have come up with 4 possible alternatives about possible routes to run through the area. In every alternative, the proposal services would replace the current services on Route 31, 53LX, and the South County Flex, with Route 47LX remaining unchanged. (The maps are viewable by clicking on the links; .pdf files.) Note that all four alternatives include a shuttle between the intersection of Big Bend Rd and Tamiami Trail (Hwy 41) and the proposed stop for the Tampa Bay high-speed ferry service, which is independent of the proposed routes. (Potential ridership numbers cited below are for 2025.)

Alternative One – HART Planned Service with Fish Hawk Connection
Perhaps the simplest of the four alternatives, this encompasses the plans that HART has already had for the SouthShore area. All the corridors that already have service would keep it, but frequencies would be increased on all routes. This alternative also shows an extension of the current South County Flex to include more of Ruskin to the west, as well as two brand new Flex routes in Gibsonton and along Big Bend Road. There would also be an extension of fixed-route service east from Gibsonton to Fish Hawk. However, this alternative is also the smallest increase in service among the four, and thus has the lowest potential ridership at only 848 passengers per weekday, with 423 on Saturdays.

Alternative Two – Figure 8 Configuration with Flex
This alternative retains all the extensions and new Flex services seen in Alternative One, but makes significant changes to fixed-route service in the area. Route 1 would run in a Figure-8 running counter-clockwise at the top and clockwise at the bottom, with Route 2 running in a Figure-8 in the opposite direction. Route 1 would still retain the extension to Fish Hawk, with Route 2 continuing service north to Brandon. Unfortunately, the nature of the route structure would lead to longer rides for many passengers, and thus wouldn’t increase ridership much more than Alternative One. Weekday ridership would see 931 passengers, and 466 passengers on Saturdays.

Alternative Three – 2 One-Way Loops with Local Service to Brandon Mall and Fish Hawk
In Alternative Three, we see the new fixed-route service that was first shown in Alternative One along with the extended/new Flex services. This also has two new circulator routes proposed, which will stick to their routes and not see any demand-response service. The inclusion of these circulator routes doesn’t do much to increase ridership compared to Alternative One or Two, with just 944 passengers on weekdays and 472 passengers on Saturdays.

Alternative Four – 2 One-Way Loops, Extended Flex to Riverview High School, No Fish Hawk Extension
Like all the previous alternatives, we see the proposed extension/new Flex services, though the Gibsonton Flex service is extended a bit to the east to serve Riverview HS. Fixed-route service plays a smaller part in this alternative, as there is only one route that leaves the SouthShore area, with the service on Tamiami Trail (Hwy 41) and the proposed extension to Fish Hawk removed. The circulator routes seen in Alternative Three are also seen here, but the routes run in alternating directions every other trip rather than on a continuous one-way loop. There is no way to discern from the map if there is an interline point between the two circulator routes along the shared corridor on Big Bend Route, but it is possible that they could interline there to form two Figure-8 routes through the SouthShore area like Alternative Two. Out of the four alternatives, this one has the highest ridership with 1070 passengers on weekdays and 535 passengers on Saturdays.

While I’m personally preferential to Alternative One for its simplicity and the maintained connections to other destinations out of the area, I think that just as the ridership numbers show, Alternative Four may be the best choice. In studying the possible options for transit in the SouthShore area, it was found that a lot of travel is within the region, and that will only increase as the population continues to grow. Realistically, any increase in transit service would be a boon for the area, but it’s also important to do so in a manner that is effective for both residents and people employed in the area.

The Hillsborough MPO will be presenting the draft report on this study on March 18th at the SouthShore Regional Library (15816 Beth Shields Way, Ruskin FL 33573). The meeting will run from 6-8PM. Keep an eye out here for an update from that meeting later this week.

Introducing Our New Guest Author

Why Tampa?

It’s a question I’ve been asked quite a few times over the last couple years. Out of all the cities to go to, why did I go to Tampa? To better answer that, let’s start at the beginning.

My name is Zac, and I am a “Transit Nerd.” Just as it sounds, I’m very interested in all aspects of public transportation. Strangely enough, one of the tools I use to learn more about public transportation is the social media website Twitter. Much like an online forum, it gives me the opportunity to engage with other “transit nerds” that live across the US. It was on Twitter where I first started learning about transit in the Tampa Bay area courtesy of HART bus operator Jason Eames (the voice behind @yobusdriver3507 and Yo Bus Driver!). I got curious enough about HART that when I left town on a vacation in March 2012, I ended up taking a flight down to Tampa.

While I only intended to stay in Tampa for a couple of weeks at most, my vacation quickly became an impromptu move, as I ended up staying in Tampa for a “few” more weeks. 20 in fact. In that time, I got quite a bit of firsthand experience in Tampa transit as I rode on HART every day. It was also a bit of a culture shock for me, as it seemed that everything about transit in general was completely different from what I was used to. While in Tampa, I also got to take in some rides on USF’s Bull Runner system, as well as PSTA on the other side of Tampa Bay.

During my time in Tampa, I had a few posts on my blog as I recapped my journey to/from an open house in Brandon for a fare increase and service change, along with a ride-along report from Route 41 and a day trip to Pinellas County via PSTA. After moving back to the Pacific Northwest, I continued to include coverage of transit in Tampa Bay on my blog, posting about what could have been if the 2010 Hillsborough transit tax had passed and introducing my own proposal for a Tampa Bay light rail system. Among my most recent Tampa Bay transit posts, arguably the most popular of them, was my coverage of the new HART MetroRapid North-South line, which among other things was the only source for a full route schedule at the launch of service.

Recently, I’ve undergone a relaunch on my blog, changing the name from “TransitZac” to “Transit 509.” With that relaunch, I’ve refocused my blog to only cover transit in my neck of the woods, Area Code 509 (Eastern Washington State). Not wanting to give up blogging on transit in Tampa Bay, but also not wanting to spend the time maintaining a second full-time blog, I had to find a different option. That’s why I’m happy to say that I will be joining Hartride2012 here on Public Transit As Told By Hartride2012 as a new guest author.

Among the usual topics covered here, I hope to also feature coverage on transit history in the Tampa Bay area (such as the old streetcar systems and National City Lines), as well as the plans for expansion of the modern systems. I’m sure that I’ll find more topics to cover along the way, but I always take requests/suggestions as well. Lastly, I want to thank Hartride2012 for giving me the opportunity to continue my blogging on Tampa Bay transit here, as well as my readers from Transit 509 who are reading this blog now too.

PS: You can find me on Twitter under the handle @transit509.

Don’t sit around and do nothing! TAKE ACTION ON BETTER TRANSIT!

In recent months, we’ve seen the efforts of Greenlight Pinellas bringing forth more and more supporters who want better transit for Pinellas County. However, we’re also seeing that other municipalities have been reluctant to move forward with transit expansion plans, fearing that past attempts may come back to haunt them, or that fiscal conservatives may greatly sway public opinion in going against more transit options, because they would cost taxpayers too much and put them on the hook should plans for transit expansion go down the tubes.

The situation in Hillsborough County, FL

Here in Tampa Bay, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners have been taking a back seat when it comes to whether or not they’ll push to get another transit referendum on the ballot in 2015 or 2016. Many members have been very reluctant to move forward, citing that the 2010 defeat is still too fresh in voters minds to make another attempt right away. They would rather play “wait and see” with how Greenlight Pinellas will fare in the November, 2014 elections before making a firm decision as to whether or not to put something on the ballot.

Furthermore, the transit activist group Connect Tampa Bay recently learned that the county commission has not yet provided funds to the regional transportation authority TBARTA, to be able to continue working to improve Tampa Bay’s transportation network. But wait…it doesn’t stop there. The money that the commission is holding back from TBARTA was already approved. So what’s the holdup? Why is the county commision doing this? If they don’t want to lead the way in getting Hillsborough County a better transit system, then why do things to hold the region back? Please help get the message to the Hillsborough County Commission that we won’t settle for this!

Meanwhile, anti-tax group No Tax for Tracks is working hard to derail Pinellas’ transit expansion plans, arguing that the county doesn’t need expanded transit, but rather that its transit agency, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, is mismanaged and needs to “clean house”. The group also argues that only a handful of bus routes gain enough riders to be able to justify such a system expansion. In my view, seeing an adjacent municipality to just sit there and do nothing about transit expansion gives groups like NTFT even more ammunition to shoot down efforts going on in Pinellas. Remember, what happens in Pinellas is going to impact all of us here in Tampa Bay, whether you’re a Pinellas resident or not.

The situation in Virginia Beach, VA

In the municipality of Virginia Beach, voters overwhelmingly decided to pass a resolution in the fall of 2012 that would allow for an ultimate expansion of Norfolk’s light rail line to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Until now however, the city has not yet made a move as to whether they’ll firmly push forward with plans put forth by the region’s transit agency, Hampton Roads Transit, or go with one of a couple privately-backed proposals that tout an earlier completion date of the rail extension at a lower cost than the transit agency’s estimates.

By the Virginia Beach city council lingering on the issue longer and longer without a decision will hurt the city’s chances of getting improved transit to their neck of the woods. In fact, it would be a terrible mistake for Virginia Beach not to bring light rail to the Oceanfront, because the economic and political situation now may get even worse down the road, even if technology gets better. There would be no sense in trying to implement better rail technology if the government has no funding to be able to implement it.

In Conclusion

Both Hillsborough County and Virginia Beach have a lot riding on the rails right now. Both governments are clearly very reluctant to push forth transit improvements, yet transit supporters can’t let these municipalities just skirt on by like this. We have to get the message to our elected officials that we will not settle for the status quo, and that we won’t let them just play “wait and see”! We have to move ahead with providing additional options for people who no longer want to be confined to just driving from A to B and being stuck in gridlock in the process!

HARTride 2012