6 Years and Counting!

6th Anniversary 1

6 years ago today, I launched the Tampa Transit Utopia Blog with the hope that one day, I could showcase my love of public transit to the entire world! Although my site remains a work in progress, much has been done during the course of these past six years. I’ve been able to travel to Brussels and Paris – and use their bus and rail systems (including a high speed rail line), ride the New York City Subway system, and use the Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) bus system and light rail line in Norfolk, Virginia. Here in the Tampa Bay area (Florida), I’ve been able to use the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT), and Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) bus systems.

A rocky year, but progress is made.

When it comes to my website, things haven’t been as smooth this past year as I would have liked them to be. I’ve been encountering numerous delays with posting topics, as well as some personal matters during the summer of 2013. You can see why I have a disclaimer in some form reading; “Please note that this is a hobby website that is dedicated to public transit…” Additionally, I have a day job by which I am working at least 40 hours a week. All of which make it pretty difficult at times for me to keep up with planning and publishing blog posts. Despite these setbacks, I’m determined to continue blogging about transit, and building my website!

Meeting new people along the way!

One thing that I’ve been able to enjoy during the past 6 years, is being able to meet with others who are also passionate about public transit; whether it be face-to-face, or through social media. Although this has been largely thanks to my presence on Twitter and Facebook, I’ve also been communicating with people through the SkyScraperCity forums, where I was heavily inspired to begin this very website that you are now reading!

Those I’ve been able to meet with face-to-face include Zac Ziegler, who runs the Transit 509 blog (@transit509 on Twitter) and Jason Eames, who runs the Yo Bus Driver blog (@yobusdriver3507 on Twitter). Both are transit nerds, as well as advocates for transit. Both also use means other than a personal vehicle to get around. Zac uses his area transit systems, and Jason can often be seen riding his bike. I’ve also been able to meet with Kevin Thurman, who is the Executive Director of the transit advocacy group Connect Tampa Bay. CTB has been working hard to engage public discussion about transit in the Tampa Bay area, as well as help push Hillsborough County leaders into putting a sales tax referendum on the ballot by 2016. Without CTB’s involvement, county leaders would likely still be taking a back seat approach to transit improvements.

Through Twitter, I’ve been able to communicate with Amberly and Jimmy, the voices behind the FixHRT blog (@FixHRT on Twitter), as well as a few others who reside in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Most of these individuals that I’ve spoken with rely on transit to get them around. Whenever the budget ax falls on a route they use, they get vocal about their route(s) being eliminated or reduced. Many of them are not afraid to attend public hearings and tell transit and municipal leaders how they feel when a route they rely on is on the chopping block.

I’ve also been able to chat with the many staff members at the non-profit Bus Information Hotline in Pittsburgh, PA (@PGHTransitHelp on Twitter), all of whom have given me a unique insight into the Port Authority bus system there, as well as other various transit-related issues. And speaking of Pittsburgh, PA, I cannot thank one person enough, Shawn Bennear, who asked me to take over his old Tampa transit website several years ago. I’m not sure where my website would be without his inspiration. Today, Shawn continues to run the Pittsburgh Transit History website, and is a bus operator for the New Castle Area Transit Authority, located just outside of the downtown Pittsburgh area.

To everyone who has given me inspiration to build and continue my website and blog, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I truly appreciate getting to know all of you, and for being able to discuss various transit matters with you! I also appreciate being able to get some fresh ideas, as well as feedback for the various blog posts that I’ve written! I also want to thank all those on the SkyScraperCity Forums for giving me inspiration to launch my original Tampa Transit Utopia Blog! I’m not sure my passion for transit would be without all of you!

How I feel about transit so far.

Overall, I’ve been pretty pleased with the way that public transit has evolved over the years. We’re using modern and more energy efficient vehicles (like Compressed Natural Gas, or CNG), constructing residential and commercial properties along transit corridors, and becoming more creative in the way we get from point A to point B (and I mean by that is the development of different transit modes like Bus Rapid Transit, modernized streetcars, and light rail). However, with the economic crises of 2008 and 2009, many governments have become more restrictive on how they fund transit, and political leaders have become much more weary on how money should be spent. Here in the US, the ongoing political battles in Washington, D.C. have gotten worse and worse. This and the recent recession have forced all levels of government to substantially reduce transit funding and have killed off any hopes of a nationwide high speed rail network.

Despite these setbacks, I strongly believe that public transit will be able to continue making advances in order to make life just a bit easier. By that I mean providing commuting options; walking, using the bus and/or train, biking, carpooling, and vanpooling. There are even services like Lyft and Uber that are trying to change the way we view taxi services. In the distant future, we will be presented with driverless vehicles that will forever revolutionize transportation. With these changes occurring, many laws will need to be rewritten so that these new modes of transportation will be allowed to legally operate, and also so that we will be able to be protected  while using them. That rewriting process is going to take a very long time to do, so it is imperative that lawmakers begin this process now, rather than later.

What’s to come next?

Moving forth, I hope to be able to complete my three existing sections (Tampa Bay, Hampton Roads, and Europe) by year’s end and add some new photos along the way. Some of which I’ve already posted to my Twitter Feed. Afterward, I plan on building up my New York City metro area section, and perhaps my Asia transports section, if time permits. I also plan to have a section up for LYNX transit and SunRail in Orlando later this year, and perhaps smaller sections on other transit systems, like Cleveland, OH, in the distant future.

As of this post, I have over 20,800 website/blog views, 15 blog followers, 69 Facebook followers, and roughly 700 Twitter followers. I hope that these numbers will continue to grow as my website continues to grow! I want to thank all of my followers for following my website/blog, as well as my social media outlets! I’m hoping that the next few years and beyond will be a great time for my website/blog, as well as public transit as a whole!

Enjoy your day everyone!

HARTride 2012