Welcome to my transit blog, where you can read up on transit-related topics ranging from fare evasion to service adjustments. Feel free to start a discussion if you please, just make sure that you keep things clean. All comments are moderated, meaning that I must approve all comments before they can show up on blog posts and web pages. So any comments that I find to be inappropriate or offensive will not be posted on the website. Periodically, I will have ”Focus Posts” and poll questions that deal with specific transit-related topics.
Enjoy the big game safely & responsibly
Currently, Routes 19, 34, & 52 are operating additional Covid Relief trips during the midday/early PM rush periods due to the continuation of capacity limits on board buses.
Before I discuss the various transportation options available (besides obviously renting a car), let’s go over how to get from A to B, safely, during these times.
It’s 2021, let’s hit the ground running!
Happy New Year everyone! I hope that your winter holiday was as safe & peaceful as possible. 2020 was very rough for many reasons, & the start of this year wasn’t all that well either. However, with hopefully the worst behind us, we can move ahead with the healing & rebuilding process across the globe.
With the Coronavirus pandemic continuing, I decided to take another hiatus to focus on more pressing obligations – including focusing on a move to another part of St. Petersburg, FL. While I love the Burg, it was time for me to experience different parts of the city that I haven’t experienced in the past. And if you’re wondering, yes, I finally had the opportunity to check out the new Pier! More on that in a future post.
Anyhow, to keep this post short, as you can see – The Guidebook is back, though still in limited form. I’ve been able to implement a new theme, update the About section, add a few new photos to my PSTA subsection, & streamline each page to appear more uniform. As of the publishing of this post, I am slowly rebuilding my HART subsection, which will look similar to the PSTA subsection. The HART main info page is back up at this point, with various subpages to follow.
Once the HART subsection is back up, I will then shift my focus on revamping the Sarasota & Manatee County subsections, followed by Northern Tampa Bay. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I hope to complete this revamp by the end of March so that I can then focus on expansion sections.
Until next time, please be safe.
If needing to use transit during the holiday, please be safe.
Labor Day will be on Monday, September 7, 2020. As always with many major holidays, transit agencies will be operating reduced schedules or may suspend service until the day after. With the Coronavirus pandemic still affecting all of us, it’s important to continue to only use transit avenues for essential trips. Additionally, most agencies are requiring customers to wear masks when on board & staggered seating & other capacity limits may be in effect.
Please Note: I only list selected transit agencies in this post. If your respective area’s transit agency does not appear here, please contact them directly.
As with many holidays, Customer Service centers may be closed or operate reduced hours on Labor Day. Please check with your respective transit agency for hours.
Regular transit services will resume on Tuesday, September 8, 2020. Please keep in mind that Covid-19 related service modifications will remain in place until further notice.
This post was last updated on 05/09/2020.
While the world has prevailed through past massive health crises such as chickenpox, swine flu, & SARS, the current epidemic with the Coronavirus has been taking hold in a way that prior crises have not. Throughout many parts of the globe; venues are closing, events are being cancelled or postponed, & yes – parts of the global transportation sector have been forced to either significantly alter the way things are done – or shut down entirely.
At this time, all blog posts & social media activities have been suspended until further notice. Additionally, the following changes to the site have been enacted:
In the meantime, please be cautious of the abundance of misinformation out in the media – including on social media outlets. Follow only reliable sources & advice. But above all – please, wash your hands! That’s one of the most simplest things we can do to help slow the spread of communicable illnesses such as this.
In my final installment of Transit 101, I will discuss what to do if you happen to leave an item on board a bus or train. I personally know how frustrating it is to realize that you’ve left something on board the bus or train during your journey – as I’ve left my bike on a HART bus & a PSTA bus, each on separate occasions.
If ever that you leave an item on board the bus or train, immediately contact the transit agency’s customer service line & press the option to speak with a live representative. If it is after business hours, call the agency at your first opportunity on the next business day. Please be mindful that while most transit agencies have weekend hours for telephone customer service, not all do.
When speaking to the customer service representative, please provide as much information as possible about the item that you left, as well as the specific trip that you were on. It is very helpful to the representative if you’ve noted the following about your trip so that customer service can communicate the information to the lost & found department in checking if something was turned in or not.
In some cases – depending on the agency – you can also report your lost item in person to a station agent, transit ambassador, or transit supervisor. Some agencies also have an online reporting form that you can use.
While most transit agencies have one, unified location for lost & found operations, it may take a few days for the item to be transferred over to the lost & found department – especially if you’re using a larger system like the New York MTA. You can periodically check back in with customer service via phone or physically visit the lost & found department location to see if your item was turned in or not. In some cases, the agency may contact you directly if they find that the item turned in matches your initial description.
When it has been confirmed that your item has been turned into the lost & found department, be sure that you take down any specific instructions as to where you can retrieve your item. From there, proceed to the lost & found department location provided. Once there, you will be asked to present your government-issued ID & confirm the item’s description to ensure that it is indeed your item. Once everything has been confirmed, the staff member will hand you back the item.
Keep in mind that each transit agency may have different procedures in respects to how long they can hold items in lost & found. Many agencies tend to have a 60 to 90 day policy, but you should contact the agency directly or check their website for details. Once the holding window has passed, the agency will typically auction or donate the items off. Items in poor condition may be disposed of.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my Transit 101 series & have been able to get some helpful tips out of it. For those of you who may still be intimidated about riding public transit, some transit agencies offer complementary travel training programs to help assist first time transit riders.
Such programs will allow the rider to schedule an appointment with the transit agency & have a special transit agency staff member meet with the rider. The rider will then have a chance to learn how the system works, how to read a transit schedule, pay fares, make transfers, & ask the staff member any other questions that he or she may have about the system. Such programs are provided at no added cost to the rider & the transit agency offering the program will generally provide the first ride completely free.
When making your appointment with the transit agency, you will want to have a specific destination in mind – such a place of employment, school/university, or major point of interest (i.e. museums, zoos, etc.).
The following transit agencies that I am aware of, provide complementary travel training programs. If you’re unsure as to whether yours does, please contact them directly.
Can I make my transfer on time?
In this episode of Transit 101, I will be briefly discussing how to make transfers. Making transfers from one bus or rail route to another can sometimes be intimidating. However, it’s very important that you know what to do in order to make vital connections possible.
The first type of transfer is a parallel transfer. These are the easiest transfers to make because they do not always involve you having to cross a street – especially if multiple routes (regardless of direction) all serve the same stop at once.
The above photo is of one of several regular Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus stops by which you can easily make a parallel transfer to a variety of routes. This particular stop is #5281 along FL State Road 580 by Summerdale Dr (along the northern perimeter of Westfield Countryside Mall). All of the bus stops that surround the mall allow customers to make a parallel transfer to at least three other bus routes because buses are required to travel in a clockwise pattern in this area.
To make a parallel transfer, simply exit the bus or train at the stop or station, then wait for the next vehicle of your choice to arrive. Please always keep your distance away from the edge of the boarding platform & allow arriving customers to exit the vehicle first before boarding.
In cases where you may need to cross a street or platform to make your parallel transfer, please use extra caution. Follow applicable signage & if needing to cross a street – use a crosswalk if possible.
The second type of transfer is a perpendicular transfer. This is where you would transfer from one service that intersects another. This type of transfer can be challenging because it requires customers to pay closer attention to where they’re going in order to make that transfer happen. In some cases, bus stops & rail platforms might not necessarily line up with each other, so it’s very important to follow applicable signage or use a map to help locate your particular transfer stop.
In the above graphic, I illustrate a fictional city that has many bus lines, as well as a few light rail & subway lines. In this type of scenario, it can be tricky to make a transfer – let’s say between bus route 7 & bus route 9 because the stops don’t necessarily line up as opposed to the transfer between bus route 7 & bus route 36. The reason why some bus stops may not line up as well as others at certain intersections is due to situations by which placing a bus stop could create a very unsafe environment – such as turn lanes, rail lines, trees, & other unmovable obstructions. So in some situations, you may need to walk a bit farther to connect to your next route.
Major transfer points, like a transit center – serving multiple bus &/or rail lines – can bring forth a lot of convenience, but also a lot of confusion for first-time riders. It is very important here to examine station maps & signage to ensure that you are traveling to the correct route. Additionally, construction & other happenings may cause normal boarding locations to change or be skipped by some services. So in the event of such, you will need to be prepared to alter your commute if necessary.
One such example is the construction project at the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) Marion Transit Center in Tampa. Each of the bus bays are being reconstructed due to the bricks and concrete being worn out after many years. This construction has prompted the agency to re-assign bus staging throughout the complex.
When making transfers, please bear in mind that some transit agencies charge a separate “Transfer Fee” to make transfers. You will want to check with your respective transit agency before embarking on your trip. In many cases, transfer fees will not apply if you are using an all-day pass, weekly pass, or monthly pass.
Happy 2020! Our February Showcase photo is here!
For this month’s photo, I held a quarterly contest in the Global Transit Guidebook Forum Facebook Group. Despite there being a few member submissions, my own contribution won out.
So with that being said, we return back to the Tampa Bay region & profile Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) # 1104, which was one of eight buses that the agency acquired from Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT). # 1104 entered revenue service on 10/07/2019 & has been on normal assignment on Routes 60LX or 275LX since. On occasion, it will be assigned to Routes 17, 20X, 24LX, 25LX, or 360LX.
If you’d like to see your transit-related photo featured in the future, please select the Contact link below, or join The Global Transit Guidebook Forum Facebook Group.
Pirates, & Beads, & Transit…oh my!
Post was updated on 01/24/2020
Yep, it’s that time again, for the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival! The Parade of the Pirates brings in hundreds of revelers each year, & along with that…tons and tons of roadway closures. So here’s what you need to know if you plan on attending the parade on Saturday, January 25, starting at 2:00pm.Read More
Can’t believe it’s the end of 2019 already!
In what will be my final post for 2019, I’m going to take a few minutes to reflect back on what happened during the course of the year – both personal happenings in the sense of my transit adventures, as well as some local happenings here in the Tampa Bay Region.
You may have noticed that I haven’t really talked about the All for Transportation referendum measure that was passed by Hillsborough County voters back in November of 2018. This is because shortly after the elections, two parties filed legal challenges against respective parties – including the county. The filing parties have basically alleged that the measure was passed illegally because how specific elements are structured within the measure violate state law. I’m not a legal expert, so I can’t go into the nitty-gritty details, however many news articles have been published about the saga, so you can search those up and get up to speed that way if you wish.
In short though, the legal cases against the measure are awaiting to be heard by the Florida Supreme Court & will be decided (at last check) February, 2020. I’m really hoping for an outcome that upholds the measure because Hillsborough County needs better transportation – and like…right now!
While the usage & expansion of public transportation isn’t necessarily a silver bullet in combating climate change, it certainly does help when coupled with other changes – such as the overall reduction in use of fossil fuels. During the past year or so, a group called Extinction Rebellion has been advocating for all levels of government across the globe to get their act together on combating climate change – or else, we as a the human race will one day (sooner than later) face mass extinction. It’s truly a scary thought when you think about the impacts that climate change is already having on our planet. However, it’s even more scary to think about how some people out there – including some of our elected leaders in Washington, D.C., don’t even believe that climate change is actually a thing.
During the course of April & May of 2019, both Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) & the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) introduced new buses to their fleets – a combined 19 units (10 for HART & 9 for PSTA). PSTA continues to largely order diesel-electric hybrid Gillig buses (either 35′ or 40′), while HART continues to order CNG Gilligs (40′). While PSTA has already been testing a small fleet of battery electric buses (2 in service, with 4 more on order for late 2020/early 2021), HART hasn’t necessarily made that leap just yet – though there is a push for the agency to begin a pilot project by 2021.
Regardless of propulsion though, the new buses are able to replace aging diesel buses that span as old as 2001 & 2002. PSTA’s oldest fleet is now from 2005, while HART’s oldest fleet dates back to 2006. In the coming years, the hope is for HART to completely replenish its fleet by 2025 so that the oldest bus running is not exceeding 10 years in age. PSTA on the other hand will have a tougher time with any such aim due to its limited resources & the fact that its 2006 bus order was the largest ever for the mid 2000s – totaling 48 buses (though 2 have been retired previously).
For 2019, I had three different opportunities to travel out of town (one of which was out of state). The first trip was to Jacksonville, FL for primarily a family gathering/event, though I also spent some time exploring the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) bus system. This visit actually marked my third visit to River City since August of 2018 & my seventh overall visit to the region (though my first four visits weren’t focused on public transit at all & took place prior to 2005).
During my travels along the JTA system, I was able to experience both the First Coast Flyer Blue & Red Lines (Routes 107 & 109 respectively). The First Coast Flyer is a lightened version of Bus Rapid Transit (similar to HART’s MetroRapid, but with less stops) which first opened up in late 2015 with the Green Line (Route 102). The Blue Line followed in late 2016, then the Red Line in late 2019. The final currently planned corridor – the Orange Line (route number is not known at this time), is slated to open in late 2020.
2019 unfortunately brought upon several incidents across the nation by which transit agency employees were physically assaulted. In the Tampa area alone, one HART bus operator was stabbed & killed while on the job, while another – several months later – was also stabbed, but survived. These such incidents have echoed numerous calls from transit operators & their respective unions to force upon critical changes to their respective transit agencies – such as the installation of plexiglass shields within the operator’s area on board transit buses. These incidents also spurred HART, PSTA, & several other agencies to inform customers about the importance of using their transit systems while exercising due respect to each other & agency staff.
Every year for the past few years now, PSTA has partnered with the St. Pete Pride organization as their official public transportation partner – providing special shuttle service to & from the St. Pete Pride Parade, & even having a specially wrapped bus roll down the parade route! It’s always great to see public transit agencies take part in such great events – especially those that support our wide & diverse communities.
Earlier this year, Tampa International Airport introduced its All Access program, which allows non-ticketed patrons to experience the revamped lineup of shops & eateries at the airside concourses. The airport has been undergoing a massive transformation over the past decade, but especially during the course of the past five years, & what better way to allow everyone to experience the full array of what the airport now has to offer than to provide this wonderful program! I’ve been able to execute two such trips to the airport just to have lunch there (my first visit was to Airside C in July, followed by Airside E in December). To learn more about All Access & to book a Saturday reservation, please visit the airport’s website.
Speaking of revamps, Walt Disney World in Orlando has been undergoing its own transportation revamp – from introducing new buses (pictured above), to overhauling the appearance of their monorail trains, to opening a new gondola system (the Skyliner). These changes will make it easier & more appealing for park guests to get around the various on-site properties. Additionally, there’s been a lot of speculation that the current aging fleet of monorail trains will be replaced in 2020. Let’s see if that holds true…
And jumping off from Disney now, one change that occurred sometime back in 2017 was Walt Disney World not renewing its contract with TranStar, one of the many charter bus companies that have done business in the metro Orlando region. While it is likely that the loss of the contract heavily contributed to the company’s demise, it also opened the door to HART being able to acquire a few of their 2014-series buses for use in their system. So far, five out of six 40′ Gillig low floor diesel buses have gone into revenue service.
One last thing to note that involves Disney – there’s been a lot of developments regarding the semi-high speed intercity rail line that is gradually materializing here in Florida. Brightline – which is now known as Virgin Rail USA since Virgin head honco Sir Richard Branson announced back in late 2018 that the company would have a large stake in the rail line’s future – is gradually making its way to Orlando International Airport. Stops are already in operation in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, & West Palm Beach – with additional stops planned in South Florida, as well as along the WPB to Orlando leg.
During the course of 2019, it was announced that Tampa could see an extension sooner than later. However, nothing concrete has come out of this, other than the revelation that state interests in previously planned toll lane projects are conflicting with any possibility of an extension towards Tampa. What is concrete though is that Virgin is seriously discussing with Disney in regards to a stop on or near their property to get guests arriving in from Miami an additional option to get to the park. In my personal opinion, I think the Disney stop will most certainly happen, while any segment between Disney & Tampa will be pushed back in favor of bringing trains to Jacksonville & eventually Atlanta, GA & Charlotte, NC. Virgin has also taken over the former XpressWest project that will link Las Vegas to Los Angeles by 2030.
In another example of public transit making a difference in our diverse communities, PSTA partnered with Feeding Tampa Bay to deploy a mobile food pantry at the agency’s facility in northern St. Pete. Since many of PSTA’s riders live at or below the poverty line, having access to food pantries often mean the difference between having a meal during the day & not. For the first event in July, riders lined up as early as 6am to get one complimentary box of food – which includes fresh bread, fruits, & veggies. The second event in December was equally a success, & there are plans for another in around March or April of 2020 as a result.
While on the subject of partnerships, PSTA partnered with Greyhound earlier this fall to allow them to use one of their transfer hubs to board & de-board buses. The facility chosen was the Pinellas Park Transit Center, which serves PSTA routes 11, 34, 52, 52LX, 74, & 75. The facility also serves as a Direct Connect stop for participating taxis & ride share companies to fill in the first mile, last mile gap between a customer’s origin & destination points.
In addition to being able to use the facility to load & unload customers, Greyhound is also able to use one of the two customer service windows to serve its customers. Greyhound began staffing the window in December & I’ve seen it busy during the morning just prior to the first couple of AM buses pulling in. Such partnerships allow Greyhound to trim down its inventory of aging facilities that it no longer sees fit to operate, while providing opportunities for its customers to easily interconnect with localized transit options to get them to their final destination.
My second out-of-town trip was by far THE highlight of 2019, being able to visit the San Francisco Bay Area & experience their wide array of transit services! I was able to utilize the BART rail network, as well as the Caltrain Commuter Rail line, the MUNI bus & rail systems, & the AC Transit & SamTrans bus systems. Additionally, I photographed buses in a few other jurisdictions, including Sausalito & San Jose.
Of course, my visit wasn’t entirely about transit. I was also able to spend time with my transit enthusiast friends, as well as family that resided throughout the NorCal region. In the midst of it all, I was reminded of the impact of the devastating wildfires that have been plaguing parts of the state during the past few years. In fact, a few friends & relatives have been directly impacted by the sporadic power shutoffs that were enacted to supposedly help prevent fires from starting due to debris coming in contact with live power lines during high wind events.
Throughout 2019, I was able to take several leisurely adventures along the HART & PSTA systems – from the gulf coast beaches to the Shoppes of Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel, being able to use transit to get to a variety of destinations allows me to cut down on my car dependence & experience places that I would otherwise miss during a car drive. I think my most memorable leisurely bus ride was taking the Suncoast Beach Trolley to visit my friend & his family in Reddington Beach in November (Black Friday). I really loved that!
Last, but certainly not least, was my trip to Orlando for a family event, followed by spending the remainder of the weekend in Daytona Beach & surrounding areas. This third & final out-of-town trip for 2019 actually marked the fourth time that I made a stop to Daytona to experience the Votran bus system (my previous visits involving the Votran system comprised of two visits in 2015, followed by a visit in 2017), & marked by seventh stop to the area overall (my first visit was with family in 1995. To my knowledge, Votran didn’t even run late night service Monday through Saturday during that time).
What will 2020 bring?
It’s hard to say at the moment what 2020 will bring. One thing is for sure though, the Florida Supreme Court’s decision on whether the All for Transportation measure is valid will no doubt determine where public transit in Hillsborough County will go. There’s also a ton of unknowns regarding the Brightline/Virgin rail line that is being expanded into Orlando. We should both matters further unfold during the first quarter of 2020, & once the determinations are made, I will certainly do my best to break down what’s next for the Tampa Bay region & beyond.
Moving away from this uncertainty though, I do have several large plans for 2020 – including the possibility of another out-of-town trip. I’m not going to divulge any details at this time – & for good reason. However, wherever I do embark on next, it’s definitely going to involve riding a train.
In conclusion, 2019 was a pretty good year for me, even though it wasn’t necessarily a great year for transit in the Tampa Bay region. There’s still a lot to accomplish & we shall see where everything goes from here. Until next time, have a safe & prosperous 2020!