The Never-Ending Debate on Tampa Bay Light Rail

A proposed rapid-transit line running between Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Photo Credit: (St. Petersburg Times)
A proposed rapid-transit line running between Clearwater and St. Petersburg.
Photo Credit: Ricardo Ferro (St. Petersburg Times)

As the debate on the future of mass transit in the Tampa Bay area continues to intensify as the vote on Greenlight Pinellas looms closer, I thought it would be interesting to look back a bit on the history of this topic. Multiple times, politicians and community advocates in the region have tried to push for a rapid transit system linking the area, but each time those plans have failed.

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Greenlight Pinellas – Successes and Challenges

The Greenlight Pinellas Logo. Credit: Greenlight Pinellas/PSTA.
The Greenlight Pinellas Logo. Credit: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

For the past several months, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) has been engaged in educating the public about Greenlight Pinellas, a comprehensive public transit expansion plan that encompasses improved and expanded bus services, a redesigned bus network, and eventual implementation of passenger rail services. The plan is aimed at providing a dedicated funding source for PSTA, while reducing traffic congestion along Pinellas’ many clogged highways. This initiative is also the backbone of a voter referendum that has been placed on the November, 2014 ballot.

Currently, Pinellas County devotes a portion of property taxes to fund public transit services within the county. Since 2007, property tax revenue has dropped, causing PSTA to encounter a deficit. This in-turn, forced PSTA to slash service, even on some popular routes, in order to keep the agency stable during the recession. PSTA has also had to use its reserve funds to help maintain existing services, something that PSTA officials say they can’t do much longer. The aim of Greenlight Pinellas (which I’ll also refer to in this post as just Greenlight) is to move away from the property tax and instead use a sales tax to help fund transit improvements.

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Transit Tourism – Orlando, FL via SunRail – Part 1

In my 2nd installment of Transit Tourism, I’m going to share my experience using the SunRail Commuter Rail line in Orlando, FL. I was originally not planning to hop aboard SunRail until much later in the year (likely as part of a transit trip utilizing the HART bus system in Tampa, Megabus going from Tampa to Orlando, and using SunRail and the LYNX bus system while in the Orlando area), but decided last-minute to do so after visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom last week (Wednesday, May 14 to be exact).

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March, 2014 Transit Ridership Report

RidershipReportTitle-2014-03

Your first reaction to this post may very well be…”You’re late”. However, I am late in posting the March, 2014 transit ridership report for a good reason; Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) did not publish blog posts during the month of April to highlight their ridership stats for the past month. For those of you who pay close attention to either HART and/or PSTA’s monthly ridership, you’re probably used to seeing them publish a blog post about bus ridership each month. Because the numbers weren’t available via blog post, I had to read the ridership reports and figure out which numbers were which.

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HART On Franklin Ticket Office – Part 1

For many years, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) has had a small ticketing and customer service office along a storefront on Franklin St in downtown Tampa, near the Tampa Police Department building. Officially called HART on Franklin this office primarily caters to downtown workers who utilize transit to get to and from work. The office sells passes and has staff on hand to answer questions and concerns. The office also offers Bikes on Buses training for first-time riders who want to bring their bikes along.

Because HART did not publish a blog post for their March, 2014 ridership numbers, I had to resort to their board meeting packet for their May 5, 2014 meeting. I noticed on Page 142 of the document that HART is looking to relocate the existing Franklin St ticketing office to the first floor of the Tampa Municipal Office building. This is mainly due to the more centralized location of the municipal office building, compared to ticket office’s current location. If you to look at a map, it may not seem very much in distance. However, I’ve personally have walked by the current office and believe me, it can be difficult to spot the office.

The meeting packet also mentioned that further details will be provided at the upcoming HART Finance, Governance, and Administration Committee meeting (which will be later this month). So at that point, I’ll have more details to report on this possible move. Stay tuned!

Summer 2014 Transit News You Can Use

Summer is just around the corner! Which means if you live along the coast, it’s time to prep those beach supplies! In Virginia Beach and Tampa Bay, you can easily take public transit to the beach and relax! Want to let the kids hang out with friends without sacrificing time and gas? You can do that too! I’ll be discussing summer-related happenings in both Virginia Beach and Tampa Bay in just a few moments. If you reside in or plan to visit Paris very soon, I’ll also have an update to a subway station closure that I discussed a few months ago.

The Virginia Beach WAVE rolls into service for Summer 2014!

The Virginia Beach Oceanfront is always hopping! Especially during summer! Photo taken by HARTride 2012 in April, 2013.
The Virginia Beach Oceanfront is always hopping! Especially during summer! Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.

On May 1, Route 30 of the Virginia Beach WAVE (or VB WAVE) began limited services along the Virginia Beach, VA Oceanfront for Summer 2014. The shuttle currently is operating from 8:00am until 2:00am the next morning, with buses running roughly every 20 minutes. Route 30 runs along the entire expanse of Atlantic Ave and allows residents and visitors to easily access the many Oceanfront shops, eateries, museums, and other sights. On Sunday, May 18, full VB WAVE services will begin, which will include Route 30 operating roughly every 15 minutes, as well as the operation of Routes 31 and 32.

Route 31 connects the southern end of Atlantic Ave to the various tourist venues along General Booth Blvd, including the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Museum and the Ocean Breeze Water Park. The route then continues south towards the Holiday Trav-L-Park and the Virginia Beach KOA Campground. This route runs 7 days a week from the beginning of May until Labor Day between 9:30am and 11:10pm. Shuttle frequency is roughly every 20 minutes. Please note that the Aquarium and Ocean Breeze stops are only serviced during venue operating hours.

Route 32 allows riders to ride between the Oceanfront and the Hilltop shopping area for an awesome shopping and dining experience. Service is also provided to the Lynnhaven Mall, which is touted as Virginia Beach’s premier shopping destination. This route runs 7 days a week from the beginning of May until Labor Day between 10:00am and 10:00pm. Shuttle frequency is roughly every 60 minutes.

All three routes will run through September, with Routes 31 and 32 running through the Labor Day weekend, and Route 30 running through the end of September. An updated system map is available.

VB Wave fares, which are listed below, are slightly different than the rest of the Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) bus system. As HRT’s new fare structure is gradually implemented, VB WAVE fares will eventually level out with the rest of the system.

  • Adults/Youth: $1.00
  • Seniors and persons with disabilities: $0.50
  • Children under 38”: Free
  • GO 1-Day Shuttle Pass: $2.00
  • GO 1-Day Shuttle Pass (Seniors, Disabled, Youth): $1.00
  • GO 3-Day Shuttle Pass: $5.00
  • GO 3-Day Shuttle Pass (Seniors, Disabled, Youth): $2.50

GoPasses can be purchased from participating retailers or from any Ticket Vending Machine (TVM).

For updates on the VB WAVE, please visit HRT’s website. You can also view my web page dedicated to the VB WAVE. Don’t forget that you can easily connect to other HRT bus routes from the Oceanfront, and even connect to The Tide Light Rail Line at Newtown Rd! Why hassle with parking and traffic hassles when you can let HRT do the driving for you!

Summer Youth Passes are BLAST with Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties!

#2601, fresh from the paint shop, pulls into Britton Plaza. Photo taken by HARTride 2012. October, 2011.
Let HART and PSTA do the driving for you! Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.

For several years now, both Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) in Hillsborough County, FL, and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) in Pinellas County, FL have offered special youth passes during the period between May and September as a way to encourage middle and high school students to use public transit (and in-turn, give their parents a break from driving the kids around and having to spend more money on gas, all while helping the environment). With these special summer youth passes, one can easily travel to family-oriented hotspots like beaches and theme parks, as well as hanging out with friends at the movies! High school students can also take advantage of these passes to commute to work, and thus sparing the parents stress and gas!

Students can begin using HART and PSTA summer passes later this month (HART has announced May 12, and PSTA has announced May 15). However, you can begin making your purchases NOW by visiting a HART or PSTA transit center! PSTA also allows you to purchase Summer Haul Passes online through PSTA’s online ticket store, and at selected ticketing vendors. The HART Summer Blast Pass is only $30.00, while the PSTA Summer Haul Pass is $35.00! That’s less than $2.40 a week! Proper photo ID (government or school-issued) is required to be able to use these passes. Both HART and PSTA also issue youth discount permits, which are available at their respective transit centers.

Please note that both HART and PSTA summer passes are NOT VALID on express routes or Paratransit services. HART summer passes are also NOT VALID on the TECOline Streetcar Line.

New to the system? Both HART and PSTA provide travel training programs at NO COST to you! Just call the HART InfoLine at (813)-254-4278, or the PSTA InfoLine at (727)-540-1900 for further information.

2nd phase of work/closure at Paris Subway station Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre begins

If you plan on heading to Paris in the next few weeks, you’ll want to be aware of a station closure along the Paris Metro (subway) that will be in place for the next few months. As I reported a few months ago, station Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre along Lines 1 and 7 of the Paris Subway has been undergoing renovation work. Complete closure of the Line 1 platforms wrapped up in March, and now the Line 7 platforms are closed until approximately July 24, 2014.

Palais Royal Closure 2
Diagram created by HARTride 2012. Diagram is not to scale.

What this means for those heading to the Louvre and surrounding areas is that one will have to exit at either Pont Neuf to the east or Pyramides to the north. Additionally, those wishing to make connections between Lines 1 and 7 will need to use station Chatelet-les-Halles.

Later this summer, Line 6 service will be suspended between stations Pasteur and Passy. The elevated section of Line 6 in this area is known for its breathtaking views of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower. I’ll have a blog post up on this upcoming closure when more information becomes available.

Megabus to start Tampa-Orlando-Miami intercity bus service!

Did you hear that? Megabus is coming to Tampa!

megabus

What is Megabus?

Megabus is an intercity bus service that provides daily trips to many destinations at a low cost. Many trips in fact are offered at $1.00 (there is a reservation fee though)! Megabus began in the United Kingdom in 2003, expanding to France, Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands thereafter. North American services began in 2006 and have gradually expanded across the United States and Canada. Megabus is owned by Stagecoach and is operated here in the US by Coach USA. Megabus is often known for their luxury double-decker buses, although they also run single-decker buses too. Each bus is equipped with Wi-Fi and plug-in ports at each seat, adding to the plush, comfortable seating and wonderful staff!

Expanding to Tampa

The Marion Street Transit Center in northern Downtown Tampa
Megabus services will utilize the newly completed north platform at HART’s Marion Transit Center.

Since 2011, Megabus has been serving Orlando, via Jacksonville and Gainesville, from its Atlanta, GA hub. On April 30, 2014, Megabus announced that they will expand Florida services to include Tallahassee, Tampa, and Miami. Additionally, a direct route will run from Orlando to New Orleans. Buses will utilize the newly completed Marion St Transit Center northern platforms (partially assigned to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit’s MetroRapid and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s 100X and 300X).

As you can imagine, HART staff are excited about the new service! In fact, HART has recently been exploring ways to strengthen relationships with other Florida transit markets amid terminal expansion. Transit hubs in Orlando and Miami for instance, have made such accommodations already. Under an agreement between Megabus and HART, Megabus will pay HART $15,000 for a five year period to utilize the platforms at the Marion Transit Center.

Megabus services to/from Tampa will begin May 15th! Visit us.megabus.com for further information and to order tickets!

Military Appreciation Month

May is National Military Appreciation Month here in the United States!

Military Appreciation Month

Being that I know a lot of people who are either serving in the military, or have served in the past, it’s only fitting to write up another post that is dedicated to the hardworking men and women who defend our country’s freedom each and every day! Honestly, I didn’t know that National Military Appreciation Month existed until just last year, when I learned about the many ways that my employer supports our military!

What is National Military Appreciation Month?

Military members can always be seen at major sporting events, especially during the playing of our National Anthem. Photo Credit: US Army.
Military members can always be seen at major sporting events, especially during the playing of our National Anthem. Photo Credit: US Army.

National Military Appreciation Month began in 1999 via Congressional designation as a way to not only to recognize and celebrate the achievements of our hardworking military personnel, but to also educate American citizens on the historical impact of our military through community involvement. There’s even an official website that you can visit to learn more about National Military Appreciation Month, all of the events that encompass the month of May, and how you and your community can get involved! Of course, one of the most simplest ways to show your appreciation for our military, is to tell a military service member “Thank You for Your Service!”

Video Credit: US Department of Defense. Posted on the official NMAM website homepage.

What does the month of May encompass in respect to military appreciation?

The month of may encompasses several different days that are dedicated to the US military, including Military Spouse Appreciation Day on May 9, Armed Forces Day on May 17, and of course…Memorial Day on May 26. In addition, VE Day (which marked the end of World War II in Europe) is May 8; and this year…President Obama proclaimed May 1 as Loyalty Day.

The USS Ramage returns home!

The USS Ramage (DDG-61) at sunrise (or sunset, not sure which). Photo Credit: US Navy.
The USS Ramage (DDG-61) at sunrise (or sunset, not sure which). Photo Credit: US Navy.

This post could not have come at a better time! One of my favorite US Navy ships, the USS Ramage (DDG-61) returned to its homeport at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, VA this past weekend after embarking on a nine-month deployment in the Mediterranean region with a focus on Ballistic Missile Defense.

The Ramage is a US Navy Guided Missile Destroyer that was commissioned in 1995, and was named after Vice Admiral Lawson Paterson Ramage (USN), who served during World War II. Now this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned the Ramage in my posts, as I have mentioned the ship in my Veterans Day posts in 2012 and 2013.

LTJG Jamison R. Fiebrandt, whom I know personally. Photo Credit: US Navy.
LTJG Jamison R. Fiebrandt, whom I know personally. Photo Credit: US Navy.

I personally know two officers onboard the Ramage, one of whom is Lieutenant Junior Grade Jamison R. Fiebrandt, pictured above. I thank him and the entire Ramage crew for doing all that they do to help protect our country’s freedom! ROCK ON RAMAGE CREW!

HARTride 2012