Improving Regional Bus Connections in Tampa Bay

Making inter-county travel via transit even better!

With the launch of an improved Purple Bus Route in Hernando County and the upcoming cross-bay connection between Pinellas and Manatee Counties, traveling from one county to another couldn’t be any easier!

An illustration showing all intercounty bus routes, as well as key local connections. Please bear in mind that the lines shown on this map may not actually reflect the true routing of the bus lines. Created by HARTride 2012 using Google Maps and Microsoft Paint.
An illustration showing all intercounty bus routes, as well as key local connections. Please bear in mind that the lines shown on this map may not actually reflect the true routing of the bus lines. Created by HARTride 2012 using Google Maps and Microsoft Paint.

As shown in the illustration above, various transit agencies have launched cross-county bus services in order to improve regional connectivity and provide better services overall to their customers. While many of these services only operate during peak weekday hours, they are no less vital to the overall transit structure and will serve as part of the broader plan for a regional fare structure that is currently in development.

Current Services

Now that I’ve outlined which services operate, let’s take a look at each inter-county route in a bit more detail.

Route 18 – Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT): This local Monday through Saturday bus route travels from the Cross Bayou K-Mart near US 19 to Tarpon Springs, where connections to Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) Route 66 are available.

Route 19 – Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT): This local Monday through Saturday bus route travels along US 19 from Tarpon Springs, where connections to PSTA Routes 19 and 66 are available, to Bayonet Point Plaza, where connections to PCPT Route 21 are available. Route 21 in-turn connects to the Scheer Commerce Center, where connections to the Hernando Bus Purple Route are available.

Route 20X – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART): This peak weekday express bus route was established back in the 1980s and allows for customers to connect to Downtown Tampa from Lutz and Lake Magdalene. In 2011, the route was extended into the southern fringe of Central Pasco County, where it begins its AM runs from the Super Target parking lot on County Line Rd and Dale Mabry Hwy. Future expansion of the route could allow for connections to Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT) Route 54.

Route 51X – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART): Introduced during the 2000s, this peak weekday express bus route provides connections between Downtown Tampa, New Tampa, and the Wesley Chapel area of Pasco. PCPT Route 54 connect to the HART service at the Victorious Life Church Park and Ride Lot during selected trips. Future modifications of the route will allow it to better serve Wesley Chapel by serving the Shoppes at Wiregrass and the Florida Hospital campus. Use of the Victorious Life Church Park and Ride Lot will eventually discontinue.

Route 99 – Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) and Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT): Launched in 2004, this Monday through Saturday local route connects Palmetto to Bradenton and Sarasota. Connections to both agencies routes are available along the way.

Route 100X – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA): Introduced in 1985 as a HART route, PSTA took over the 100X in 1993 and midday trips have since been added to what was originally a peak only weekday express route. This route currently connects Downtown Tampa to South Tampa and the Gateway region of St. Petersburg, but future plans have the route being extended towards Downtown St. Petersburg and the addition of Saturday service is not too far off either.

Route 200X – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART): Route 200X started out as a state-operated experimental shuttle in the 1970s. By the 1980s, it had become a vital connection between Downtown Tampa and eastern Clearwater. The route currently operates during peak hours, Monday through Friday, but modification could occur if a planned Clearwater Beach to Tampa International Airport express route is launched.

Route 300X – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA): Launched in 2003, this peak weekday express route provides connections between the Ulmerton Rd Park and Ride Lot on Ulmerton Rd and Starkey Rd, and Downtown Tampa. Midday trips are provided and future expansion could hold more trips for this service.

The Oldsmar/Tampa/Countryside Flex Connector – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA): Launched in 2012, the OTC Flex Connector provides Monday through Saturday cutaway van service to the Countryside/Boot Ranch area of Pinellas, as well as Oldsmar and Town-N-Country. The route’s western terminus is Countryside Mall and the eastern terminus is HART’s Northwest Transfer Center. Both transfer hubs provide connections to both agencies own routes. Customers wishing to continue from Town-N-Country from the Flex route can use HART Route 30, and those wanting to connect from Countryside Mall can use PSTA Route 19 to get to St. Petersburg’s Grand Central Station, the Pinellas Park Transit Center, or Tarpon Springs. For those wanting to travel toward Downtown Clearwater, PSTA Routes 76 and 78 can get you there.

The Longboat Key Trolley (Route 18) – Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) and Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) Not Shown on the Map Above: The Longboat Key Trolley provides a cross-county beach-side connection from Downtown Sarasota to Longboat Key. Those wishing to go northward can connect to the Anna Maria Trolley, and connections to MCAT Route 6 is also available.

The Hernando Bus Purple Route: While the Purple Route has been in service for some time now, the western terminus fell short of the Pasco/Hernando County Line. In January of 2016, this changed when the route was extended to the Scheer Commerce Center, allowing for connections to PCPT Route 21. The Purple Route operates only Monday through Friday.

The Skyway ConneXion – Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT): Launching on April 1, 2016, the Monday through Friday two-round-trip express route will allow for connections between the MCAT and PSTA systems via I-275. The route will operate as a pilot for the first few months to evaluate ridership demand.

Megabus Service to Orlando and Miami Not Shown on the Map Above: Megabus.com launched its Florida intercity bus services in 2014 and allows for connections to nearly all major Florida cities.

Redcoach and Greyhound also provide intercity bus services to many major Florida cities.

Filling in the missing links

While the above services lay the foundation for vital inter-county connections, more funding is needed to expand upon what we have and allow for even more connections to other counties in the future. PSTA and HART are both currently planning  additional connections between Pinellas and Hillsborough, specifically to connect to Tampa International Airport, which is currently only served by HART Route 30. HART also has short term plans to enhance its New Tampa and Central Pasco service, as well as longer term plans to provide even more service to Pasco, as well as create connections to Manatee and Polk Counties. Hopefully one day, one can be able to seamlessly travel throughout the entire Central Florida Region via transit; including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, Manatee, Sarasota, Polk, Osceola, Orange, Lake, Seminole, and Volusia Counties.


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MCAT Skyway ConneXion

MCAT SX Banner 1

Starting Friday, April 1, 2016, you’ll have a new way to cross Tampa Bay between Pinellas and Manatee Counties! Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) will be launching its new Skyway ConneXion express bus service between Bradenton and St. Petersburg via I-275 and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The service will start out as a pilot that will have two trips during the day, Monday through Friday. The first trip will start out in Bradenton during the late morning and make a round trip to St. Pete and back, with a second round trip crossing the bay during the afternoon.

Planning

The idea for the new Skyway ConneXion service originated from the fact that MCAT was already doing Paratransit runs between Bradenton and the Bill Young VA Hospital at Bay Pines. Recently, demand for this trip has grown to the point to where MCAT began to use a Gillig Phantom transit bus instead of a cutaway van. Since the Paratransit trips are already funded, the new service will not require additional dollars to operate as-is. If demand for the new service increases, MCAT will consider adding in trips to meet customer needs. For the long term, I’m sure that MCAT will need to embark on securing state dollars for further expansion, which include FDOT Urban Corridor Project funds, which play a role in various cross-county express bus services across the state.

Original aspirations for transit service between Bradenton/Sarasota and Tampa Bay

While the Skyway ConneXion is a new service, this isn’t the first time that cross-county service between the Bradenton/Sarasota and Tampa Bay areas have been planned. In 2011, Sarasota County Area Transit proposed two routes – one between Sarasota, Bradenton, and St. Pete, with the second going to Tampa. However, funding issues led to this proposal being abandoned. In the future, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) may launch a cross-county limited express route from southern Hillsborough into northern Manatee.

Route and Stops

The Skyway ConneXion route will only load and unload customers at designated bus stops with the orange and blue MCAT decal.
The Skyway ConneXion route will only load and unload customers at designated bus stops with the orange and aqua MCAT decal.

Since the Skyway ConneXion is an express bus service, there will be very limited stops along the route. The southern portion of the route will connect MCAT’s three major transfer hubs – the DeSoto Station by the DeSoto Mall, the Downtown Bradenton Station, and the Palmetto Station. From there, buses will travel northward along US 41 to US 19 and I-275 and cross the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Once in Pinellas, buses will exit the interstate at the US 19/Pinellas Bayway/54th Ave S interchange and travel northward on US 19 (34th St S). The first Pinellas County stop will be situated at the intersection of US 19 and 50th Ave S, adjacent to Bay Pointe Plaza, where MCAT customers can connect to Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus routes 11 and 19. The next stop is along US 19, just shy of the 1st Ave S interchange by Checkers. This stop is just a short walk away from PSTA’s Grand Central Station, where customers can connect seamlessly to numerous destinations throughout Pinellas. From there, there is one more street-side stop along Tyrone Blvd and 68th St N, next to the Tyrone Square Mall, before the route terminates at the VA hospital at Bay Pines.

Fares

A one-way cash ride on the Skyway ConneXion will be $3.00 if only traveling within Pinellas or Manatee Counties, and $5.00 if you decide to cross county lines. An all-day $10.00 pass is available and will be valid across all MCAT operated bus routes. It is currently unclear if PSTA will be providing any sort of incentives (such as a free PSTA transfer) for MCAT customers.

More Information

More information about the Skyway ConneXion service can be obtained at MCAT’s website.


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OneBusAway – PSTA

If you visited Hillsborough Area Regional Transit’s OneBusAway desktop website (http://tampa.onebusaway.org/enterprise/) this morning, you may have noticed something different.

PSTA's Route 59 on the HART OneBusAway desktop website.
PSTA’s Route 59 on the HART OneBusAway desktop website.

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus routes were indeed showing up on HART’s OBA interface, rather than HART’s own routes (though HART Routes 1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 16, 30, 31, 33, 34, 36, 37, 39, 41, 45, 46, 57, 96, and 400-MetroRapid were all showing as they normally would, as well as some HART express routes). If you were using the mobile app for OBA, the situation was a lot less confusing, as both HART and PSTA routes showed up on the interface.

Now, while I can only guess that today’s occurrence was a test run of sorts, HART and PSTA have been working together for the past several months to bring OBA functionality over to Pinellas County, as part of a broader regional connectivity plan that will soon usher in the first stages of a regional smart card-based fare structure. So therefore, I also see today’s occurrence to be the next stage in preparations for the official launch of OBA in Pinellas, which is currently slated to happen sometime later this year.

Don't worry, PSTA's current "Real Time" interface, powered by Clever Devices, is not going away.
Don’t worry, PSTA’s current “Real Time” interface, powered by Clever Devices, is not going away.

For those wondering about PSTA’s current “Real Time” bus tracking system that is powered through Clever Devices, that system is here to stay. Instead, OBA will become an additional convenience for PSTA customers – especially those who utilize smartphones. Those of us who have utilized the Clever Devices interface know that if you’re using a smartphone, the only effective avenue to track buses in real time is the mobile “text-only” site.

With the preparations continuing for PSTA to join the OBA realm – which already includes the New York City MTA, Sound Transit, and Atlanta’s MARTA, in addition to HART – expect to see more great things from both agencies as we head towards the summer months. My only question now is, will the official launch of OBA (Pinellas) happen sooner than some of us think it will? Only time will tell on that I guess…


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If you see something, say something! (Repost)

In the wake of the horrible incident in Brussels, I wanted to re-post a piece from April 16, 2013 that discusses what to look out for while using transit. No, this is not a scavenger hunt, but rather a reminder to to keep a sharp eye out for anything suspicious. You may have seen or heard about security awareness campaigns put out by your area transit district since the 9/11 incidents in 2001. In Tampa and New York City – among other transit districts, there have been posters and placards that read, If you see something, say something.

Below are some key things (noted by the NYC MTA) to look out for:

  • Be alert to unattended packages – Especially packages that may be left in an awkward or “out of the way” place, like underneath a bench.
  • Be wary of suspicious behavior – This can sometimes be difficult to notice, but if you notice that something just isn’t right about someone, don’t wait until it’s too late.
    • I especially want to point out any instances where you may see a group of people going about in an orchestrated manner. These circumstances often signal that a possible terrorist attack is about to take place.
  • Take notice of people in bulky or inappropriate clothing – For instance; it just doesn’t seem right to see someone clustered within a group of people, wearing a heavy jacket in the middle of a hot summer day.
  • Report exposed wiring or other irregularities – For instance, a security alarm panel that has numerous wires (especially cut wires) sticking out may be a sign that the device may have been tampered with.
  • Report anyone tampering with surveillance cameras or entering unauthorized areas – I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. If someone is not authorized to enter a restricted area, but deliberately tries to get into a restricted area without permission, that person may be up to something.
  • Know what to do in an event of an evacuation – It is vital to know how to evacuate a bus or train in the event that an evacuation is ordered. Your area transit district should have specific guidelines in place that facilitate an orderly evacuation from the transit system.

If you see anything of the above, or any other suspicious happenings, don’t just sit and wait! Alert a local law enforcement official or transit employee immediately! In some major cities, like New York City, special telephone numbers have been set up so that you can immediately report such activity. In New York City, the number is 888-NYC-SAFE (888-692-7233).

The day before the incidents in Brussels, the NYC MTA unveiled a new safety campaign called “New Yorkers Keep New York Safe”. Learn more about the campaign on the MTA’s website.


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UPDATE: PSTA Route 74 Detour – 1/6/16 to TBD

Service Alert 1

For the past two months, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) has been detouring Route 74 along Gandy Blvd between MLK St N and I-275 due to construction. This past weekend brought upon a change in the detour route, which now have buses in both directions utilizing MLK St N between 94th Ave N and 102nd Ave N, then traveling along 102nd Ave N to 16th St N, and finally 16th St N to Gandy Blvd. The new routing is depicted in the map below, along with approximate locations of the temporary bus stops.

Route 74 Detour Map - Revised 03-13-2016

While this detour is temporary, I have a rather strong feeling that this change could possibly wind up being permanent, depending on how much usage the stops receive. It is to note that along 16th St N between Gandy and 102nd, there are several business parks that are grossly underserved by transit and anyone working in these parks must walk quite a bit to get to any nearby bus stop. Along 102nd Ave N is the Bel Air Apartments, by which anyone residing there would normally walk to the Route 59 stops along MLK St N.

I will be keeping riders posted on any future changes with Route 74, as the changes have not been very well communicated by PSTA.


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HART Minor Schedule Changes for March 27, 2016

HART March 2016 Service Change Banner 1

Post updated on 3/26/16.

On Sunday, March 27, 2016 and Monday, March 28, 2016, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) will be enacting minor scheduling changes to Routes 24X, 25LX, 27LX, 28X, 31, 36, and 41. These changes will all comprise of running time changes to improve efficiency along each of the routes. New schedules can be viewed through the Maps and Schedules page of goHART.org by selecting the route drop down box, then scrolling down to the bottom of the list. New schedule booklets will be distributed roughly one to two weeks prior to the changes taking effect. Any questions or concerns about these changes should be brought directly to HART’s attention. You can contact HART via phone at 813-254-4278.

The final weekday northbound Route 36 trip will leave at 9:15PM instead of 9:05PM.


Update: 3/26/16

In addition to the above mentioned changes, the following changes are also being made to the following routes:

  • Route 4: The current detour that takes buses down Interbay Blvd and Dale Mabry Hwy prior to 9:00am will become permanent. Please see the route map for details.
  • Route 16: Additional weekday eastbound trip at 8:15PM.
  • Route 47LX: The 4:40 PM trip out of Marion Transit Center will continue from the South 301 Park-n-Ride to Amazon Fulfillment Center.

Service change


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Route Spotlight – HART Route 36

Route Spotlight

Today, I begin a new periodic blog series called Route Spotlight. This series will profile specific transit routes and highlight the various destinations that they serve. To kick off this series, I am going to profile Hillsborough Area Regional Transit’s Route 36, which they profiled last week as their “Route of the Week“.

Route 36 brochure from 2001, alongside brochures for Routes 7 & 14. Credit: Orion 2003.
Route 36 brochure from 2001, alongside brochures for Routes 7 & 14. Credit: Orion 2003.
Route 36 brochure from 2001, alongside brochures for Routes 7 & 14. Credit: Orion 2003.
Route 36 brochure from 2001, alongside brochures for Routes 7 & 14. Credit: Orion 2003.
Route 36 brochures from 2005 and 2006.
Route 36 brochures from 2005 and 2006.

Route Overview and History

When I first began using public transit in 2006, Route 36 was among the very first routes that I used to get to and from Hillsborough Community College. The route currently runs from almost the southern tip of South Tampa to the heart of Carrollwood, but has seen many changes over the past couple of decades. While I don’t know exactly when the route first began service, the 36 was originally known as the “WestSide Shopper”, because it previously served numerous shopping complexes along northern Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa Bay Center, and WestShore Plaza. The route operated about every 30 minutes on weekdays and hourly on weekends. Originally there was no Sunday service, but like many of HART’s routes over the years, Sunday service was eventually added.

At some point between 2003 and 2005, HART underwent a system-wide reorganization to create more of a grid system with its urban routes and better serve suburban areas of Hillsborough County. This resulted in the 36 being straightened out to operate solely along Dale Mabry Hwy and Himes Ave, with 30 to 45 minute service on weekdays and hourly service on weekends. The WestShore Plaza leg of the route were taken over by Routes 45 and 81, the latter being eliminated shortly after the reorganization and being replaced with Routes 85 and 89, which in-turn were eliminated and replaced by the South Tampa Flex Route. In 2005, weekday service was initiated to MacDill Air Force Base, replacing Route 4 along the southern end of Dale Mabry. Route 4 was then realigned to run along the southern end of MacDill Ave, which saw the elimination of Route 17. With the elimination of Route 85 in 2010, weekend service on the 36 to the base began. At about that time, weekday midday frequency was adjusted from 45 minutes to 30 minutes.

Today, Route 36 operates every 30 minutes during weekdays from about 5:30am until about 10:15pm (final departures are at 9:05pm for Northbound and 9:25pm for Southbound), with hourly service on weekends from 6:10am through 8:30pm (final departures are at 7:10pm for Southbound and 7:35pm for Northbound). Plans are in the works, based on funding levels, to introduce 30 minute frequency on Saturdays and further down the road, 30 minute frequency on Sundays. Long-term plans for the Dale Mabry Hwy corridor will include the implementation of overnight van service and MetroRapid Dale Mabry “BRT lite” service.

Gillig Phantom bus on layover by Britton Plaza. Credit: HARTride 2012.
Gillig Phantom bus #711 on layover by Britton Plaza. Credit: HARTride 2012.
#1009 arriving at the West Tampa Transfer Center.
Gillig Low Floor bus #1009 arriving at the West Tampa Transfer Center.

Key Destinations

Route 36 currently serves the following destinations

Carrollwood Area

Palms of Carrollwood Shopping Center (Fletcher Ave & Dale Mabry Hwy Transfer Point – Transfer here for Route 33 & the Northdale Flex Route)

Lowe’s at Fletcher & Dale Mabry (sits on the site of the former Mission Bell Shopping Center)

Main Street Shopping Center

Carrollwood Center (Publix)

Busch Blvd (Transfer here for Route 39)

Waters Ave (Transfer here for Route 16)

Florida Hospital Carrollwood

West Tampa Area

Hillsborough Ave (Transfer here for Route 34)

Jesuit High School

Al Lopez Park

MLK Blvd (Transfer here for Routes 7, 32, 41, & 45)

West Tampa Transfer Center (Transfer here for Routes 7, 32, 41, & 45)

Raymond James Stadium

Tampa Bay Blvd (Transfer here for Routes 7 & 41)

Columbus Dr (Transfer here for Routes 15 & 45)

Tampa Plaza Shopping Center (Winn Dixie)

Spruce St (Transfer here for Route 45)

Walter’s Crossing Shopping Center (Home Depot, Nordstrom Rack, Target, Whole Foods)

WalMart & Best Buy on Dale Mabry Hwy & I-275

Cypress St (Transfer here for Route 10)

South Tampa Area

Kennedy Blvd (Transfer here for Route 30)

Tampa Commons Office Tower

Trader Joe’s on Swann Ave

Henderson Blvd (Transfer here for Route 19)

Henderson Blvd Shopping Center (TJ Maxx, The Fresh Market)

Publix on Dale Mabry Hwy & Neptune St

Plant High School

Bay to Bay Blvd (Transfer here for Routes 4 & 19)

Britton Plaza Shopping Center (Publix, Burlington, Marshalls, Michaels, Stein Mart – Transfer here for Routes 4, 19, the South Tampa Flex Route, & PSTA Route 100X)

South Dale Plaza (being redeveloped)

Lowe’s on S. Dale Mabry Hwy

Gandy Blvd (Transfer here for PSTA Route 100X)

Publix & Target on Gandy Blvd

Sam’s Club & Home Depot on S. Dale Mabry

Twin Bays Shopping Center

South Interbay Region

Special Note

During special events at Raymond James Stadium, which is across the street from the West Tampa Transfer Center, the transfer center will be closed due to security and traffic restrictions. Buses during these times are redirected to a temporary transfer point on MacDill Ave & St. Isabel St.


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Williams Park – Post PSTA Exit

Yesterday, I decided to take a quick drive down to Williams Park to see how the park and the surrounding streets look since the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) ended its bus transfer hub operations there. While the Customer Service building remains open to customers needing to seek information about the PSTA system, you will already notice a few differences between when PSTA was there, versus now. Let’s take a quick look at the scene via a video that I put together.


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HART bus service during the 2016 Tampa Bay AirFest

HART AirFest 2016 Transportation Banner 1

It’s that time again…time for the Tampa Bay Air Fest and all of the awesomeness that it brings! This year’s event will be held on Saturday, March 19, 2016 and Sunday, March 20, 2016.

As with previous events, traffic congestion throughout South Tampa will be very heavy, so you will want to leave early and be prepared to brave the crowds…both at the event and while on the road. If you want to avoid the traffic and parking hassles, I strongly encourage you to use transit to get to and from the event. As with many previous events, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) is partnering with MacDill Air Force Base to provide bus transportation via a modified Route 4. Route 4 normally operates hourly on weekdays only, but will be operating roughly every 15 minutes on both days.

The scene from the 2014 AirFest. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.

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?

image

  • Route 4 Shuttle Service
    • The Route 4 Shuttle will operate every 15 minutes depending on traffic, 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 3:00pm, or slightly earlier depending on event capacity. Final northbound buses will begin leaving the base at 5:00pm.
    • Buses will follow the normal Route 4 weekday route on both days, but the segment south of Britton Plaza will be modified due to congestion and some normal bus stops will not be served. This is to help keep buses moving and spacing between buses consistent.
    • Please keep in mind that OneBusAway tracking may not be available for this service.
  • Normal Route 19 Service
    • Route 19 will operate on its normal weekend route and schedule. Some buses may see delays due to base traffic. Since Route 19 interlines with Route 18 on weekends, Route 18 customers should expect delays in their buses arriving as well.
  • Modified Route 36 Service
    • Because of heavy traffic, Route 36 will terminate at Britton Plaza and will only operate its normal route and schedule between Britton Plaza and the transfer point at Fletcher Ave and Dale Mabry Hwy.

For Air Fest 2014, I made a map showing the routing of all three above routes. Please keep in mind that the routing of Route 4 could change as it gets closer to the event. Please review HART’s blog post for any additional info.

Trying to figure out which bus goes where. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.
Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.

For those driving to the event.

For those of you who wish to drive to Air Fest (or are coming in from another county), there will be something different this year. The Dale Mabry, MacDill Ave, and Tanker Way (Manhattan/Interbay) Gates will all open for inbound traffic to help alleviate the heavy congestion that has plagued South Tampa streets in years past. 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 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 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).

Be sure to NOT bring anything with you that wouldn't be allowed through an airport security checkpoint.
Be sure to NOT bring anything with you that wouldn’t be allowed through an airport security checkpoint.

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.

Any further questions or concerns regarding the AirFest should be directed to MacDill AFB officials. Questions or concerns about transit services should be directed to HART Customer Service. HART can be contacted at 813-254-4278.

Official Air Fest Webpage | Official MacDill AFB Facebook Page.

Enjoy the Air Fest weekend!

HARTride 2012