Friday Rewind – HART’s original route list

Friday Rewind New 1

In this edition of Friday Rewind, I will very briefly highlight the evolution of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) bus system, which was up until 2006, called HARTline. Below is a listing of HART’s original routes, and corresponding headways (how frequent buses ran). Now keep in mind that back in the 1980s, many bus routes only ran Monday through Friday. Weekend services would be added as the agency evolved.

1 Florida Ave (every 20 minutes)
2 Nebraska Ave (every 30 minutes)
3 Davis Island (every 30 minutes)
4 Palma Ceia (30 mins during peak, 60 minutes offpeak)
5 Jackson Heights (every 30 minutes)
6 Gary (every 30 minutes)
7 West Tampa (every 30 minutes)
8 Progress Village – Riverview (30 mins during peak, 60 minutes offpeak)
9 North 15th St (30 mins during peak, 60 minutes offpeak)
10 Beach Park (every 30 minutes)
11 St Joseph (every 30 minutes)
12 Belmont Heights (every 20 minutes)
13 Drew Park (30 mins during peak, 65 minutes offpeak)
14 Carrollwood (30 mins during peak, 65 minutes offpeak)
15 Columbus Dr (every 40 minutes)
16 North Tampa Shuttle (every 60 minutes)
17 MacDill AFB (every 60 minutes)
18 University of South Florida/Busch Gardens (every 60 minutes)
19 Port Tampa (the same 60/30 split service as we have now)
20 Lutz/Bearss Express (peak service)
21 Town ‘N Country Local (every 60 minutes)
21X Town ‘N Country Express (peak service)
22 Brandon Express (peak service)
23 East Lake Mall Express (peak service)
24 University Mall Express (peak service)
25 Downtown “Free Bee” (every 20 minutes)
26 Sun City Center (6 trips daily)
27 Buffalo (every 60 minutes)

Prior to the late 1980s, Temple Terrace was not a part of the county’s public transit system, and Plant City services did not exist either. Compare the above list to what HART operates today. Though many routes still run as they were back then, many routes have seen modifications, while others have been merged with other routes, or have been completely eliminated.

Kudos to Mike S. for the route information!

PSTA Launches “Alerts” Twitter Feed

In order to better provide transit service status updates to customers, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) recently launched a dedicated Twitter Feed called @PSTAalerts! This feed provides real time information regarding bus service interruptions, including incidents that could delay buses, route detours, even a bus that has broken down, so that customers aren’t left stranded. PSTA isn’t the only public transit agency with its own dedicated Twitter feed for service alerts, the New York City MTA, the Washington (DC) Metro Area Transit Authority, and MARTA (Atlanta) all have feeds that transmit tweets regarding service interruptions.

A smartphone snapshot of the new @PSTAalerts Twitter Feed by HARTride 2012.
A smartphone snapshot of the new @PSTAalerts Twitter Feed by HARTride 2012.

Please note that like many such Twitter feeds, this one is only monitored during certain hours, which may not include weekends/holidays.

YES! I voted, have you?

I took part in early voting last week! Your voice matters…A LOT! So, if you’re eligible to vote, but haven’t done so yet, get out and VOTE!

GREENLIGHT Pinellas; Where we are, and where we’re headed

YES on Greenlight Post Final Logo

GREENLIGHT Pinellas

Where we are, and where we’re headed

INTRODUCTION

Several months ago, I blogged about the Greenlight Pinellas initiative, which is aimed at dramatically changing the public transit landscape in Pinellas County, and how it’s funded. My previous post provided a summary of how the Greenlight plan will work, what successes the plan has had as of mid 2014, and what challenges the initiative faced at the time. In this update, the last before the November 4th General Election, I’m going to highlight how important Greenlight is for Pinellas County, and why voters need to say YES on the ballot.

Now I know this post comes a bit too late for many who have either submitted their ballots through the mail, or have taken part in Early Voting. However, for those Pinellas voters who haven’t made up their minds yet, there’s still a chance to get the information that you need so that you can make an informed decision. Many speculate that the final outcome of the Greenlight Pinellas vote is as too close to call as the Florida Governor’s race. And it’s true; both races are currently in a dead heat! Things are going to come down to the wire come November 4, and it’s up to the remaining Pinellas voters to get out and vote YES for Greenlight!

INFORMATIONAL WEBSITES

Now, I don’t want to portray myself as a transportation expert, because I am not. I am a passionate public transit supporter and have been gradually shifting towards an activist role as Hillsborough County prepares to put forth its second attempt at a voter referendum for transit in 2016. I therefore do not want to give you any information that isn’t accurate. So if you haven’t had a chance to read up on how Greenlight Pinellas will work, I strongly encourage you to visit the official Greenlight Pinellas informational website at http://www.greenlightpinellas.com. If you have a good idea about the plan, but just need that boost to make your final decision, you can visit the Friends of Greenlight PAC’s “Vote YES on Greenlight” website at http://www.voteyesongreenlight.com. I strongly encourage you to visit both sites if you can!

WHY THE PLAN IS IMPORTANT FOR PINELLAS

Moving onto the main point of my post, why is voting YES on Greenlight important?

  • Dramatic improvements to bus services will allow people to get around better using transit! Whether transit is your only mode of transport, or you want it to be your secondary mode of transport, passing Greenlight will allow the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) to immediately implement expanded bus services throughout Pinellas County. Such services will be able to get you to and from work, school, shopping, entertainment, dining, sporting events, or even just everyday errands!
  • One of the first huge improvements you’ll see is a shift from the current hub-spoke system, by which transfer to other routes are largely based on centralized centers, to a grid system, based on the county’s street grid. A grid system will allow for transfers to be done at key intersections, rather than transit centers, and will ultimately allow bus routes to run more uniformly in respect to direction, rather than zig zagging from one point of the county to the next.
  • More local, express, trolley, and Flex (Connector) services to get you where you need to go, faster, more frequently, and more earlier and later in the day/evening during all days of the week, not just Monday through Friday or Monday through Saturday. This will allow workers who work non-traditional work schedules (outside the traditional Monday through Friday, 9AM to 5PM schedule) to have commuting options available, which will in-turn increase job competition and creation throughout the county, and eventually the entire region! As many of you know, our area continues to lose out on job competition and creation due to a lack of an efficient transit system, we can’t continue to let this trend occur!
  • Purchasing a monthly bus pass is by far cheaper than all of the costs associated with driving and maintaining a car! Let me stress that last part…maintaining a car…because that’s the part many opponents don’t talk about, is the rising costs of maintaining a car, which adds up to your gas bills real fast! I also want to stress that the 65% increase in bus service through the passage of Greenlight, is the main thing NTFT refuses to talk about. All they want to talk about is bashing light rail.
  • Freedom to do what you want with savings! Instead of wasting money on gas and vehicle maintenance, purchase a monthly transit pass and use the savings on other things while still being able to get around! If you currently drive and are sick of sitting in traffic, the increased transit options mentioned earlier will allow you the freedom to get from A to B to C without hassling with merging, changing lanes, exiting, parking, and other hassles. You can also get work done while commuting (time savings)! With WIFi being gradually rolled out onto the PSTA system, you’ll be able to prepare for your meeting, get homework done, or even surf the web, all while on the bus! Or, you can even just sit back and relax while your bus operator does all the driving for you! If you reside in areas like Northern Pinellas, expanded Flex (Connector) services can easily get you from your doorstep to wherever you need to go, faster, and more efficiently than these services do today! And with buses running more frequently, you won’t have to wait too long for your next bus to arrive!
  • Premium transit options, like bus rapid transit (BRT) and light rail (LRT), will be constructed further down the road, as the increased funding continues to roll in. Once the core and supporting bus systems have been strengthened, then BRT corridors will be implemented along key highways (such as US 19) to get people from longer distance population centers quickly and efficiently. Then, by 2025, the planned LRT line from Clearwater to St. Pete via Carillon/Gateway is expected to open, allowing people to get to work, school, or even a Rays game, without sitting in traffic! As one Greenlight supporter has said, “More Mass Transit, Less Mass Traffic!” Hey! I’m all for that! And so should you!
  • Better for the environment! From the American Public Transportation Association (APTA): “Public transit produces 95% less carbon monoxide, 92% fewer volatile organic compounds, and about half as much carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions per passenger mile as private vehicles.” (Source: Conserving Energy and Preserving the Environment, American Public Transportation Association: 2002). PSTA is among many transit agencies heavily investing in clean air, hybrid electric-diesel buses, and the number of hybrid buses in the PSTA fleet continues to grow!
  • More buses! And speaking of buses, PSTA’s “Smartbuses” are currently being funded by a federal grant, one that won’t last forever. Once these added funds run out, PSTA will be in the same situation as Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) across the bay, they’ll be losing buses as the oldest ones come up for retirement. PSTA cannot sustain its current bus fleet with the limited resources they have, nor can they greatly expand for the future. Let’s make things right now, before PSTA runs into that dire situation later.

BUILDING THE FOUNDATION FOR A MODERN REGIONAL TRANSIT SYSTEM

Many in Pinellas know about the failure of the 2010 referendum in Hillsborough and how poorly planned out it was. Most voters didn’t know what they were getting. Pinellas has long refused to repeat Hillsborough’s mistakes, and Greenlight isn’t all about rail, as I described earlier, it’s about modernizing and expanding the bus system first. Once the bus system is strengthened, the rail lines will follow!

Currently in Hillsborough, elected officials have gradually been putting together their own plan to put their own referendum on the ballot by November of 2016 that will include a mix of bus improvements, funding for a starter light rail line from downtown Tampa to Tampa International Airport, roadway improvements, and pedestrian/bike facility improvements. If the Greenlight measure passes this November, the chances of Hillsborough pushing ahead with their plans will greatly increase, as well as the chances of their 2016 initiative passing!

The northbound Howard Frankland Bridge is now functionally obsolete and needs replacement by 2025! The passage of both referenda will increase the likelihood that the replacement bridge will have the necessary accommodations for a cross-bay light rail line to connect with both counties’ starter lines, creating a much-needed transit link. This will also allow for further bus and rail improvements to follow more easily. Passing Greenlight builds this foundation, and will allow for numerous transit links to be developed much faster than if PSTA remained on the status quo funding situation.

GREENLIGHT SUPPORT INCREASES

To date, the support for Greenlight has been overwhelming, with a vast majority of municipalities within the county supporting the initiative, additionally, many businesses, political, and community leaders, as well as all three regional sports teams (the Rays, the Bucs, and the Lightning) have all thrown their support behind Greenlight, knowing that it will not only improve Pinellas transit, but also build that needed foundation for a modern regional transit system!

NTFT RAMPS UP THEIR FEARMONGERING TACTICS

Sadly, along with the increased support, NTFT has increased their opposition tactics by instilling classic Tea Party style fear mongering tactics. The recently exposed racist video put out by one of these Tea Party insiders, along with efforts from outside conservative groups like The Cato Institute, show just how desperate NTFT is to not only shutting down Greenlight, but to privatize our region’s transit system.

THIS IS NOT A PARTISAN ISSUE!

Greenlight should NOT be a partisan issue! Greenlight has received support from both sides of the aisle! It’s only the Tea Party insiders and activists who don’t want Greenlight to pass, because they don’t want any public investment in transit…period! Why do you think the Tea Party has been so adamant at attacking transit all over the country? They clearly do not want the taxpayers investing anymore money into the system…simple! They’d rather have the private sector run our transit systems while we pour more money into toll roads. How’s the infusion of toll roads and tolled express lanes going to fix our crumbling bridges? I mean really?

WHY ONCE AGAIN, PRIVATIZING TRANSIT IS A BAD IDEA.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous Greenlight post, privatizing public transit does not always bring out the intended results. Buses continue to run very late at times, creating the environment for unstable and unpredictable schedules, various performance issues, and episodes of miscommunication between the public transit boards and the private contractors have also been ongoing issues. Out in California, a few agencies have seen infusions of privatization, including Fairfield and Suisun Transit, and the merged body today known as SolTrans. Both agencies continue to have operations contracted out, but the inefficiencies still exist according to one transit rider I’ve spoken with, who resides out in the San Francisco Bay Area.

HOW YOU CAN HELP!

Believe it or not, there’s still time for you to be able to make an impact on how Greenlight will fare at the polls! Every hour that you can spare to tell Pinellas voters who have not yet made their decision, can help bring the vote closer to passage! Below is a quick breakdown of volunteer opportunities that were outlined in an email sent from Connect Tampa Bay earlier today.

  • Phone Banking: Thursday, Oct 30th, 5-8pm at the Pinellas Realtor Organization, 4590 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater, 33762
  • The Walk to End Gridlock: Saturday Nov 1st, 10 am at Gulfport Public Library, 5501 28th Ave S, Gulfport, FL 33707
  • Door Knocking: Sunday, Nov 2nd, 10 am at the Pinellas Realtor Organization, 4590 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater, 33762 LAST “CALL”
  • MONDAY: Phone Banking on Monday, Nov 3rd, ALL DAY starting 10:00 AM and ending at 8:00 PM at the Pinellas Realtor Organization, 4590 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater, 33762
  • ELECTION DAY: ALL HANDS ON DECK! We need volunteers to give out information at precincts, waive and put up signs, call voters, and knock on doors.

View the full email from Connect Tampa Bay.

The Pinellas Realtor Organization is coordinating all volunteering efforts and can be contacted in case you have any questions, or would like to put in an RSVP for volunteering (which is strongly advised). You can email the campaign at jfarrell@tampabayrealtor.com or call 727-216-3029.

CONCLUSION – TRANSIT WILL REMAIN A TOP CONCERN FOR TAMPA BAY

As I mentioned earlier, the Greenlight referendum race is in a dead heat right now, and it’s up to the remaining Pinellas voters, who have not yet cast their ballot, to make a difference! Regardless of the final outcome of Greenlight, the issue of building a better transit system will not disappear. In fact, the issue will only become ever hotter as other metro areas like Charlotte, Phoenix, San Francisco, Norfolk, and now even Detroit, surpass the Tampa Bay region when it comes to having meaningful public transit systems. Hillsborough County will be trying again in 2015/16, and if Greenlight should go downhill, there’s no doubt that Pinellas will try again before 2020, even before 2018.

FINAL NOTE – WEBSITES TO AVOID

I want to end this piece by mentioning a few websites that you’ve probably at least heard about, that are full of lies and misinformation about Greenlight, and I want to point these sites out to you so that you don’t get swept into them thinking that they are providing the real stuff. These sites are operated by Tea Party insiders, the same Tea Party insiders that are vehemently opposed to the Affordable Health Care Act (or Obamacare). They are also among the same group of insiders that likely would support a government shutdown…AGAIN! Don’t get sucked into their websites. They want Greenlight to crash and burn so that they can push their underlying agenda, which is to fully privatize public transit throughout Tampa Bay. Later in this post, I’m going to re-iterate why privatizing transit is NOT A GOOD IDEA.

So onward to the misinformatonal websites in brief; first the No Tax For Tracks Pinellas (referred to in this post as NTFT) website at railtaxfacts.com. Believe me, this website, despite its URL, is not full of facts. But full of blatant lies, many of which NTFT has already been exposed for. There are also two blogs notorious for lies and misinformation; greenlightpinellasfacts.com and sunbeamtimes.com. Both of these blogs are run by staunch Tea Party insiders who are also passionate NTFT supporters/contributors. Both are also known for insulting voter intelligence when their debunked talking points get refuted. Yet Greenlight opponents continue to reference both of these websites in their social media posts. I don’t about you, but I sure don’t believe anything that is posted on any of these three sites.

Now, there are a few other websites that you should avoid. But I don’t want to take up anymore time going in-depth, as it will derail from my main points of this post. However, you need to be aware that there’s lots of misinformation being spread, and for you to be able to make an informed decision, you need to be able to decipher fact from fiction.

 Good Luck Pinellas Voters!

HARTride 2012

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MetroRapid stop confusion continues, why HART needs to fix this ASAP?

Several months ago, I published a post that outlined concerns about HART’s MetroRapid system. Among those concerns, was the fact that MetroRapid stops are physically separated from local stops, which created a lot of rider confusion.

Unfortunately, to this day, HART still has not resolved this issue, and riders are still confused. In a hot Florida day, most people want to board a bus…ANY BUS! Some don’t care what bus they get on, as long as it is A BUS. If it is raining and storming outside, people are going to flag down the first bus they see. Unfortunately, instead of HART taking this matter seriously, they simply dismissed rider complains about the issue as an “Invalid Complaint” – See page 7 of HART Operations Division Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) presentation, which was presented to the HART Board during its September 8, 2014 meeting.

I’m very sorry HART, but this matter regarding bus stop confusion between local and MetroRapid needs to be taken very seriously. If people are voicing their dismay about this, they need to be listened to! Not thrown off to the side! Hillsborough County is gearing up for a second attempt at a sales tax referendum to improve county transit, which includes YOUR system, OUR system…I should say, because many of us Hillsborough residents use HART daily. Having to differentiate between a local stop and a MetroRapid stop should not be a responsibility that a transit customer has to take. That should be something that HART is able to resolve rather quickly and efficiently, without having to bust the bank. After all, HART boasted about the “time savings” of MetroRapid over Local Route 2 when the service first rolled out last May. If HART wants to keep the “time  savings” up to par, or even improve the flow of MetroRapid, I strongly suggest that HART look into merging local stops with MetroRapid stops.

Let me ask this, to put things into a different perspective? What about the out of town visitors, who don’t have more than a very basic idea of the HART system? Let’s say that I was coming from a city, where bus stops are able to serve all types of bus service provided by my local transit agency? Stops that can not only be utilized for local and express routes, but also circulator, Flex, shuttle, and even BRT. I know that there are at least several agencies out there that do this. Do you all expect these riders to be left to their own device when a MetroRapid bus passes them by on a local stop because local stops are for local buses only? And MetroRapid stops for MetroRapid buses only? Get it together HART! Seriously! If you all expect Hillsborough’s referendum to be placed onto the 2016 ballot…AND PASS…things like this have to be fixed! And soon, rather than later.

I can imagine that Sharon Calvert and the other transit critics have already taken note of this unresolved issue concerning bus stop confusion. Remember that your board member, Karen Jaroch, has a good relationship with Sharon. I have no doubt in my mind that she must be dismayed at how customer complaints like this just get dismissed for not being valid complaints. Unless HART wants to be the laughing stock of 2016, just as they were in 2010, and watch another referendum crash and burn, because people find out about these issues essentially being thrown into the trash bin, and then feel that Hillsborough doesn’t need an expanded bus system, or light rail, I strongly suggest that HART take another look at the issue regarding bus stop confusion along the MetroRapid corridor, and this time…please take it seriously.

HART staff members, if you are reading this post and have any questions about my concerns, please email me at hartride2012tampa@gmail.com

Thank you.

HARTride 2012

Transit Ridership Summary for May – August, 2014

After a few months hiatus, I’ve decided to compile transit ridership figures through a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet, which I can easily update each month, rather putting up detailed blog posts each month.

This file can be accessed and downloaded through Dropbox. Don’t have a Dropbox account? Not a problem! Anyone can access and download this file. Even then, Dropbox provides a free “basic” service for you to upload and share files to.

From this point onward, I will publish a post as to when the ridership summary table has been updated. Please note that since I am publishing figures for three transit agencies, HART, PSTA, and HRT, that there may be a delay in posting, since each agency releases ridership figures at different times.

As always, these ridership figures are obtained from publicly accessible sources, such as board meeting packets, and cannot be considered as copyrighted or proprietary.

Access the May – August Transit Ridership Summary