July is here! Meaning that we’re halfway through 2018, and Summer is well underway. As many of us prepare for the July 4th holiday here in the US, some may not be aware that Hillsborough Area Regional Transit enacts its summer, 2018 service changes today. Among those changes are new Routes 48 and 275LX, but also the discontinuation of Route 51LX and the In-Towner Trolley services.
The selection of July’s Photo of the Month could not be anymore perfect when it comes to paying homage to a trolleybus service that has been in existence in Downtown Tampa since its people mover line was dismantled in the early 2000s. The line was supposed to have been part of a larger system – like Miami’s MetroMover – but failed to gain any traction. Thus what was originally known as the Uptown-Downtown Connector was launched as a replacement service.
Over the years, HART has made various changes to how the trolleybus lines operate – from routing and scheduling, to fares and vehicles, to gauging who’s riding each day. Over time though, ridership was somewhat limited and by 2007, began to really falter. An evening and weekend segment through Hyde Park (Route 98) was axed, and then the Downtown Tampa loop (Route 96) was reduced to weekday peak-hour service only. Through it all, two iterations of a riverside service (Route 97) came and went.
As the overall transportation landscape in the urban Tampa core changes to host more on-demand services such as Uber and the Tampa Downtown Partnership-operated Downtowner shuttle, it remains to be seen as to whether the area will get a true, frequent circulator service. Some like myself argue that such a service is needed to quickly get people from Hyde Park and West Tampa into Downtown and Channelside, and thus supplement the future TECOline Streetcar extension towards Tampa Heights. Questions also remain as to whether HART will take over the Downtowner shuttle, which is currently being discussed.