FRIDAY REWIND: HART’s 2001-series Gillig buses.

Friday Rewind New 1

In this edition of Friday Rewind, I’m going to profile the 2001-series Gillig Low Floor transit bus that Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) has in service. In the coming months, these buses will be all but history from the HART fleet, as new Compressed Natural Gas-powered 2015-series Gillig Low Floor transit buses replace them.

#2123, also at Britton Plaza, in the new colors. Photo taken by HARTride 2012. November, 2009.
#2123 at Britton Plaza, in the current white/two toned blue livery. Photo taken by HARTride 2012. November, 2009.

HART ordered 23 of these buses back in 2000/01 and have been in operation since. During the early 2000s, older GMC RTS and Flxible Metro buses were being phased out in favor of Gillig models. Although HART had ordered 37 Gillig Phantom high floor transit buses in 1996 and 1997, the focus began to shift in 1999 towards Gillig Low Floor (Advantage) models, which are more friendly to customers with disabilities, as well as customers who use a wheelchair.

The operator's area of the bus. Photo credit: Shawn B.
The operator’s area of the bus. Photo credit: Shawn B.

Like many Gillig transit buses that were manufactured between 2001 and 2007, these buses are equipped with Cummins ISL engines and Voith transmissions. I particularly love the Voith transmissions because of the “whistling” noise it makes as the bus decelerates to a stop. So if you ever hear that whistle from a transit bus, chances are, that bus has a Voith transmission. 🙂

The interior of #2122. Notice the sideways-facing seats towards the front and rear of the bus? The 2001 and 2002 series 40-foot buses have this type of interior configuration. In fact, many of PSTA, SCAT, and HRT's buses also possess this same type of layout. Photo Credit: Shawn B.
The interior of #2122. Notice the sideways-facing seats towards the front and rear of the bus? The 2001 and 2002 series 40-foot buses have this type of interior configuration. In fact, many of PSTA, SCAT, and HRT’s buses also possess this same type of layout. Photo Credit: Shawn B.

The interiors of the 2001-series buses mimic that of all of the Gillig Low Floor buses that were manufactured between 1999 and 2004. The seating cloths are adorned with the minarets from the University of Tampa (Originally known as the Plant Hotel), and the balustrade railing of Bayshore Blvd. The 1999, 2001, and 2002 buses have the first and last row of seats facing sideways, or parallel to each other. Many buses that HRT, PSTA, and SCAT have in their fleets have the same seating layout.

While I could go on for hours talking about the features of these buses, I would probably bore you to death, lol. So let’s continue on.

Now while these buses have had a pretty good run with HART, as I mentioned earlier, these buses are reaching the ends of their working lives. In fact, the buses in the worst condition were already retired in 2014, when the 2013-series buses came into the fleet. The new 2015-series buses are slated to replace the remaining 2001-series buses, as well as a few 2002-series buses that have reached the ends of their lives. #1522 was ordered to specifically replace #2416, which caught fire in 2014 while heading back to the garage from an express run.

When all of the 2001-series buses have been retired, all of the content revolving around these buses will be moved from my Current fleet page to my Retired fleet page in the HART section. Once these buses are retired, the ones that are still in decent operating condition are sent off to an auction lot or transferred to other agencies like Pasco County Public Transportation or Hernando THEbus.

Changes to SB I-275 through WestShore

This upcoming Friday evening, a huge traffic alignment shift is scheduled to occur, weather permitting. All southbound lanes of I-275 between the I-4 junction and State Road 60 will be closed beginning at 11:30pm Friday night. Those lanes should begin to reopen, along the new alignment, around 5:30am.

During this time, all traffic will be detoured off I-275 SB and I-4 WB at the downtown exit ramps. Commuters will be directed to Kennedy Blvd, where they can reconnect to I-275 past WestShore Plaza, or any of the cross roads that intersect with the highway (Lois, Dale Mabry, or Howard/Armenia).

Alternatively, commuters from the north can use the Hillsborough Ave or MLK exits from SB I-275 to connect to Armenia or Dale Mabry. For those connecting to Lois, commuters can alternatively use the Floribraska exit, then connect to Columbus Dr via Tampa St. For those coming from I-4, commuters can either use Hillsborough Ave or connect to the Selmon toll road.

When the new alignment of SB I-275 opens up on Saturday, weather permitting, the new WestShore Blvd exit ramp will open, allowing HART Route 61LX outbound from downtown to resume routing.

For a unique perspective on the I-275 construction, I invite you to visit the I-275 Florida Blog.

Transit Driver Appreciation Day

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Photo Credit: HART

Whether you’re an occasional or frequent user of public transit, there’s always that one thing that is the driving force of the bus or train that you ride on (well, unless you’re on a automated subway line, cause that’s a computer system controlled by a centralized command center).

If you haven’t guessed already, it’s your transit operator! These operators spend countless hours behind the controls of a bus or train, transporting thousands if not millions of passengers each year. Unlike those of you, like me, who have driven a personal vehicle, operating a transit bus or passenger railcar is much harder than it seems.

First, these operators have to have the necessary licenses, certifications, and training to operate these vehicles. Obtaining a commercial driver’s license alone is no easy task from what I hear. Then you have other certifications that might be required, not to mention weeks of training. Many transit agencies require new hires to undergo eight weeks of training, if not more, before being able to operate the vehicle on their own.

Then there’s the tasks of dealing with tight spaces and turns (for a bus), filling out inspection reports, keeping on schedule, and following safety procedures. Bus operators also have to deal with seeing customers face to face and validate fares. Rail operators tend to not have as much face to face contact with customers, but they’re still here to help!

To make a long story short, these operators sometimes don’t receive as much appreciation as they should. When you board a bus or train today, please tell your operator “Thank You”. Even a simple smile and wave will show the operator that you care! Because these operators do a lot for us, we should be be appreciative for all they do.

Thank you, and enjoy your day!

HARTride 2012.

No relief in sight for clogged Gandy Blvd in Tampa

Let’s face it, Gandy Blvd in Tampa is just too clogged. Traffic routinely backs up for miles during rush hour, and despite plans for either a bypass expressway or an elevated structure being planned for the last two decades at least, nothing has materialized.

There is currently no funding available for construction, nor will there be funding available for at least another decade, unless Governor Scott throws in a Hail Mary at the last minute. Even then, studies would have to be updated, which alone could take up to five years. Then you have the ongoing rash of “Not in my backyard) opposition from area residents and business owners, who fear any expressway or elevated structure would cause excessive noise, plummeting property values, and dire loss of business traffic. YET, a WalMart SuperCenter was allowed to be built along the very same stretch of road in 2010 with very little community opposition. Now that’s just messed up.

So what can be done about this problem? Well, unless we have money, there really isn’t a lot that can be done. The past proposals for a bypass expressway are dead due to the need to acquire land that today has either been built up or has been otherwise purchased by private developers. And the elevated structure plan faces continual community opposition, as I just mentioned. Light rail would be nice, but that too costs money, and you’d have double the opposition…not just from area residents and business owners, but also from No Tax For Tracks and the rest if the Tea Party anti-transit folks.

Unless as I mentioned, Governor Scott throws in a last minute Hail Mary, don’t expect anything significant to happen with the Tampa stretch of Gandy for at least another 10 years…

January, 2015 Transit Ridership Summary

The Transit Ridership Summary table has been updated with January, 2015 figures! If you’re new to my site, this table 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.

For those of you who may have missed my original post, I am now listing ridership figures on an Excel spreadsheet, as opposed to creating a detailed blog post every month with figures. 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.

When opening the document, if you see the 2014 figures, you will need to select the 2015 tab on the spreadsheet to view the 2015 figures. For Dropbox Mobile App users, you will need to have the Microsoft Office App installed. Select the Ridership Summary document in Dropbox and then select the “folder” icon at the top to select the 2015 sheet. Please note that both smartphone apps are free of charge for Android. I don’t have an iPhone, so I don’t know the availability of either app for the Apple Store.

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 2014-2015 Transit Ridership Summary

PSTA Sets New Ridership Record – In Surprising Fashion

When gas prices plummet, typically a lot of people who use transit primarily due to higher gas prices will return to their own vehicles in droves. At least, that’s been the trend for a while now. However, this past January has not been the case for PSTA, where they saw another record ridership month even as gas prices temporarily reached the $2.00 mark in some areas of Florida.

Please read PSTA’s post for more on this exciting news!

Ride PSTA

ridershipWho: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority

What: Carried more riders in January, 2015 than any previous January in agency history

When: January, 2015

Where: Throughout Pinellas County and to Tampa

How: By providing a record-setting 1,258,631 rides to area transit users

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority set its second consecutive all-time monthly ridership record last month, making for seven new records in the past eight months.  January’s record, however, was a bit of a surprise for PSTA leaders, because it happened during a period when gasoline prices dramatically dropped. Typically transit ridership will also drop during periods of low fuel prices, but PSTA’s ridership not only bucked that trend, but it did so in astonishing fashion – by posting a 7.8% increase over January, 2014.

“It’s one of the biggest jumps in ridership that I’ve seen in my 14 years of service with this agency,” says PSTA Board Chair and…

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