No New Funding Equals; Transit in Crisis Mode

Not having funds is not fun.

With the upcoming service changes, one would think that the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (which does business under the banner of LYNX) wouldn’t be under any sort of financial distress. However, it became clear this month that the situation is otherwise.

Note: I originally planned to only talk about LYNX’s situation in this post. However, because the ongoing federal government shutdown is affecting virtually every transit agency in the US, I decided to combine topics into one post. The first section will discuss LYNX’s situation in specific, but then broaden out to the government shutdown is affecting transit nationwide.

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Winter 2019 Service Changes

It’s that time again…

It’s that time again, time to roll out the next batch of transit system service changes. Effective dates and scope of changes will vary greatly by transit agency. For this post, I’m going to divide each of the changes by transit agency and arrange by effective date.

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HART December, 2018 Service Changes

HART Routes 45, 60LX, 360LX, & the TECOline Streetcar

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) will be enacting a few route changes on Sunday, December 2, 2018. Changes include routing/scheduling changes to Routes 45, 60LX, & 360LX, as well as minor scheduling changes for the TECOline Streetcar Line.

Note: These changes were already in the works prior to the passage of the All For Transportation referendum & would have been enacted regardless of the election results on November 6, 2018.

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Fall 2018 Service Changes

It’s that time again…

It’s that time again, time to roll out the next batch of transit system service changes. Effective dates and scope of changes will vary greatly by transit agency. For this post, I’m going to divide each of the changes by transit agency and arrange by effective date.

Read more

Summer Service Changes – PSTA, HART, LYNX, SunRail, Votran

This post was last updated on 06/19/2018
More information has been released regarding the upcoming service changes for LYNX, SunRail, & Votran

It’s that time again…service changes, service changes, service changes!

In this post, I will outline some of the key changes that are coming to the following transit agencies: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (d.b.a. LYNX), SunRail Commuter Rail, & Volusia County Transit (Votran).

Please note that with some of the agencies, further detailed information may not be available immediately as of this posting. Updates will be made when that information becomes available. This post is meant to present a general level overview of some of the key changes that will be enacted during the course of the next two months.

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)

PSTA is enacting several map/scheduling/time point changes on Sunday, June 17, 2018, which can be viewed on the PSTA website. The most significant changes however will take place the following day, Monday, June 18, 2018 – when Routes 100X & 300X will be officially re-launched as extended versions of their current selves. This will allow both routes to each serve a key area in the Tampa Bay region that wasn’t previously served by a PSTA express bus route.

  • Route 100X – St. Petersburg/Gateway/Tampa Express: Thanks to additional Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Urban Corridor Project funding, the 100X will be extended southward to serve Downtown St. Petersburg via Interstate 275. All existing points (Gateway Mall, Britton Plaza in South Tampa, and Downtown Tampa) will continue to be served as they are today, with the limited trips to the Fidelity National (FIS) complex on Roosevelt Blvd & 16th Ct N being kept. The overall span of service within the existing route will largely remain the same, but adjustments to the schedule have been made to account for the Downtown St. Petersburg leg, thus creating an expansion to the overall span of service when the extension is accounted for.
    • The redesigned Route 100X will continue to operate Monday through Friday only, but will have a peak-hour frequency of roughly every 45 to 50 minutes, instead of the current 30 to 60 minute frequency. The midday trips have also been re-timed.
    • Buses will originate in Downtown St. Pete, at The Pier District (2nd Ave N, just east of the Sundial Shoppes where the Central Ave Trolley terminates), with the first trip of the morning departing at 4:42am.
    • From The Pier District, buses will circulate through the downtown area – serving all designated bus stops along the way – before entering the interstate system via I-375. Buses will then exit I-375 and enter I-275 north, then exiting at 54th Ave N.
    • From 54th Ave N, southbound/westbound buses travel along MLK St N while northbound/eastbound buses use 4th St N to enter/exit Gateway Mall.
    • From Gateway Mall eastward, the existing routing is used. The last trip from downtown St. Pete will be at 5:42pm.
  • Route 300X – Gateway/TPA Airport/Tampa Express (re-branded as the “Airport Express”): With the opening of the bus transfer hub at Tampa International Airport’s Rental Car Center, PSTA began formulating plans to alter Route 300X service while longer term plans for a direct express route from Clearwater Beach to Tampa continue to materialize. FDOT Urban Corridor funding will allow for the 300X to serve the TPA Airport Bus Hub on most trips while maintaining hourly peak service & the limited midday trips. Two trips (one AM eastbound & one PM westbound) will be kept as direct trips between the Ulmerton Rd Park-N-Ride Lot & Downtown Tampa via I-275. The overall span of service will remain largely the same – with a slightly earlier start time & somewhat later end time.
    • The redesigned Route 300X will continue to operate Monday through Friday only, with peak frequency changing to operate hourly versus the existing schedule. The midday trips have also been re-timed.
    • Buses will continue to originate at the Ulmerton Rd Park-N-Ride Lot on Ulmerton Rd, just east of Starkey Rd. The only major routing change is that most trips will now serve the TPA Airport Bus Hub, where customers from Pinellas can easily transfer to HART Routes 30, 32, 35, 60LX, & 275LX. Future plans also include Pasco Transit launching its own express route from central Pasco County to the bus hub.
    • The first eastbound trip of the morning will be at 6:10am, with the last trip being 6:20pm.
    • Only the 7:00AM Eastbound trip from the Ulmerton Rd Park-N-Ride Lot & the 4:55PM Westbound trip from HART’s Marion Transit Center will skip the airport. These trips will travel between Downtown Tampa and the Gateway area directly. These trips are being retained as direct trips to/from Downtown Tampa due to concerns from customers who use the existing 300X during the height of rush hour to get to/from work.
  • Other Changes: Minor map/scheduling/time point changes will be made to Routes 5, 7, 14, 15, 16, 20, 68, & the Dunedin/Palm Harbor Flex Connector (Route 813).

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART)

HART will be enacting similar changes to some of its bus routes on Sunday, July 1, 2018, which can be viewed on the HART website (Select the Routes drop-down menu and scroll to the “HART Service Changes – Effective 71/18” section to view maps and schedules). The most significant changes will include the replacement of Route 51LX with Route 275LX, the addition of Route 48 – which restores service to key areas of northeastern Hillsborough that was lost when Route 57 was eliminated in October, 2017, and the elimination of the Downtown Tampa In-Towner Trolley Services due to ultra-low ridership.

  • Route 14 – Armenia Ave: Weekday service will be completely re-timed to reflect traffic patterns during the day. Buses will now depart roughly every 30 to 35 minutes. Weekend frequency will remain unchanged.
  • Route 48 – Temple Terrace: One of the biggest complaints by far that I’ve seen since the Mission MAX system restructuring was implemented back in October of 2017 was the elimination of Route 57 through Temple Terrace. The 57 was eliminated due to lower ridership & high upkeep costs, but many residents complained that they were left with no avenue to get to work or other destinations in Hillsborough without the route in place. While these residents clamored for HART to revive the 57, the route in its previous form was not going to return due to certain areas having ultra-low ridership levels. However, talks for a replacement service to serve key areas where residents were left with no service begin gaining traction during the late winter of 2017, when Hillsborough County officials began discussing the possibility of additional funding for the transit system. While a recurring funding arrangement failed to be reached, a one-time infusion was agreed upon to provide additional funds for service maintenance and expansion through FY 2018.
    • The routing for the 48 will be similar to how the 57 operated, with buses originating at the NetPark Transfer Center on 56th St & Harney Rd. Buses will leave the transfer center going south on 56th to Harney Rd, then 78th St, Temple Terrace Hwy, Davis Rd, Morris Bridge Rd, and then Fowler Ave. The previous segment of the 57 along 56th St and Fletcher Ave will not be served by the 48 due to the 6 already serving those areas. 42nd St & Skipper Rd just north of the USF Tampa campus will also not be served by the 48. Buses will instead continue down Fowler Ave to 30th St, where they will connect to the University Area Transit Center.
    • Service will run hourly, with weekday service starting at 5:30AM & running through 9:30PM. Weekend service will pretty much mirror the weekday schedule.
  • Routes 51LX/275LX: Due to the continuing decline in ridership of Route 51LX, which runs from Pasco County to Downtown Tampa via Temple Terrace, HART will be eliminating the route entirely & replacing East Pasco to Downtown Tampa Limited Express service with Route 275LX. The 275LX will operate all week long instead of just during weekday peak hours with hourly frequency, plus service to Tampa International Airport. The agency is re-allocating its funds through the FDOT Urban Corridor Project to fund the 275LX service.
    • With the 275LX, buses will originate at the Wiregrass Park-N-Ride Lot in Wesley Chapel, then travel down Bruce B. Downs Blvd to the Lowe’s Park-N-Ride Lot near I-75 in Tampa Palms. From there, buses will make a stop at the University Area Transit Center via Bruce B. Downs Blvd, then to Downtown Tampa & the Marion Transit Center via Fowler Ave & I-275. The segment along Bruce B. Downs Blvd & Fowler Ave will essentially restore basic service to areas along these corridors that were lost when Route 45 was re-aligned & Route 57 was eliminated back in October, 2017.
    • From the Marion Transit Center, buses will re-enter I-275 and terminate at the Tampa International Airport Bus Hub at the Rental Car Center, with departures synchronizing with Route 60LX so that customers traveling between the airport & downtown can enjoy a roughly 30 minute headway. Service on the 275LX itself will be hourly, with service starting up at approximately 5:10AM & running through about 10:00PM. Two trips will originate at the Marion Transit Center going to Tampa International Airport & the other two will originate at the University Area Transit Center going to Wiregrass. In the evening, trips will stagger to end at either transit center between 9:50PM & 11:00PM. Weekend schedules will basically mirror the weekday schedule.
  • In-Towner Services: Due to the continuing decline in ridership, Routes 96 & 97 will be eliminated. Customers wishing to traverse through Downtown Tampa can utilize Routes 1, 8, or 19, with Routes 1 & 19 serving western Downtown & the Riverfront, & Route 8 serving eastern Downtown & the Channelside District. Customers can also use the Downtowner free shuttle service provided by the Tampa-Downtown Partnership. Talks are currently underway as to the possibility of the partnership transferring operation of the shuttle service to HART.
  • HyperLINK Service: Despite the initial success of the HyperLINK ride-share type program, various factors – including whether there would be future commitments to run the service by private sector vendors – have prompted HART to end the service. Service in all zones will wind down on July 31, 2018.
  • Other Changes: Minor map/scheduling/time point changes will be made to Routes 1, 25LX, 31, 42, & 45.

Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (d.b.a. LYNX) & SunRail Commuter Rail

In anticipation of the opening of Phase II of SunRail from Sand Lake Rd in southern Orlando to Poinciana, LYNX is making key changes to the bus network in Osceola County, along with changes to other routes in the overall network to improve system efficiency.

Xpress Route 208, which currently runs from the SunRail Sand Lake Rd Station to the Kissimmee Intermodal Station, will end services on Friday, July 27, 2018. SunRail trains begin operating between the Sand Lake Rd & Poinciana Stations the following Monday, July 30, 2018.

Also in anticipation for the SunRail extension, a new route will be created in Osceola County – Route 155 – which will serve The Loop, Osceola Parkway, Tupperware SunRail Station and Buena Ventura Lakes.

You may view all of the upcoming changes – most of which will become effective on Sunday, July 15, 2018 – on the LYNX website. Further updates will be made when schedules for each individual route become available.

The new SunRail schedule is now available on the SunRail website by selecting the banner on the homepage. A PDF file will then open with the new schedule.

Volusia County Transit (Votran)

Votran has an odd tendency to not post service changes in a very timely manner. However this time, they’ve posted a week ahead regarding the launch of Route 44 in the New Smyrna Beach area. This route will connect the Julia St & Sams Ave transfer point in downtown NSB to the WalMart supercenter & Shoppes at Coronado complexes on the northwest corner of SR 44 & I-95. Buses will then travel eastward to the beachside, to Indian River Village, before heading back to the downtown NSB transfer point. Service begins on Monday, June 25, 2018 and will operate on a flag-stop system until permanent stops are constructed.

Further updates will be made when the new schedule & map are posted.


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HART BUS SERVICE DURING THE 2018 TAMPA BAY AIRFEST

Post was updated on 5/10/18 at approx. 8:45pm ET
A link to HART’s flyer has been added to the post.

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, May 12, 2018 and Sunday, May 13, 2018.

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. However, with last year’s Mission MAX system restructuring taking place – Route 4 no longer exists, so HART is instead modifying Route 360LX to operate more frequently during AirFest Weekend.

Scene from one of the previous AirFests. Credit: HARTride 2012

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?


Modified Route 360LX Service.

While the normal Route 360LX operates hourly – with Brandon to South Tampa service operating Monday through Saturday & South Tampa only service on Sundays, the modified service will operate every 15 minutes between the Britton Plaza Shopping Center and MacDill via Downtown Tampa’s Marion Transit Center, with 30 minute service between Britton Plaza and Downtown Tampa. This will provide a convenient and frequent one-seat ride to and from the festivities. Service east of Downtown will operate on an hourly basis, following the normal Saturday schedule. All normal Route 360LX stops north of Britton Plaza will be served, while the stops along Dale Mabry Hwy south of Britton will not. Buses will instead detour via Euclid Ave, MacDill Ave, Shelton Ave, and Bayshore Blvd – entering the Bayshore Gate. Buses will then drop off passengers at a loading/unloading area near Hangar 1.

Please note that the map above is based on the current Route 360LX routing, along with detours enacted during past events. Routing is subject to change due to traffic and security limitations. Map was created by HARTride 2012.

Scheduled Departures.

Saturday services between Westfield Brandon and the Marion Transit Center in Downtown Tampa will mirror the normal Saturday schedule with hourly departures. The Downtown to Britton Plaza leg will operate based off of the normal Saturday schedule, but will have the additional runs added in to create a 30-minute headway between the two stops. Because of traffic limitations, HART will do its best to maintain 15-minute frequency south of Britton Plaza and will have extra buses staged for use if needed.

Sunday services will be similar to that of Saturday, but with no service between South Tampa and Brandon outside of event shuttle hours. Event shuttle service will commence at 8:00am on both days, with buses traveling inbound (from Brandon to South Tampa) until roughly 4:00pm. After 4:00pm, service in South Tampa will shift to an outbound mode – meaning that buses will begin travelling northbound/eastbound only towards Downtown and Brandon (with limited southbound trips). Trips may alternate amongst the two destinations and guests should carefully examine the LED signs on the bus to make sure they’re boarding the correct bus to their final destination. The outbound pattern will continue from South Tampa until about 6:00pm. After that time, the additional trips will begin winding down and normal evening services will commence.

View the full schedule from HART

All other HART routes (17, 30, 36, & 60LX included) will operate their normal weekend schedules.


Fares

Normal HART fares apply for the Route 360LX shuttle, as well as all other HART bus routes. Because of the many constraints involved with AirFest; if you’re considering hopping on the bus, you should purchase your HARTride Farecard or Flamingo App/Card fare in advance. If you choose to pay for your fare on board the bus, you will be asked to pay with cash (exact change please), as there won’t be enough 1-Day Farecards available for issuance on board the bus.


Park-N-Ride? Be Careful!

For those wishing to park their cars in order to catch a HART bus to AirFest, you will need to keep in mind that regular parking fees apply to all Downtown Tampa parking garages and lots that typically charge a fee.  Please leave metered street-side parking spaces open and available for those who need to do business in Downtown, and do not park in permit-only lots – as your vehicle will be subjected to towing. Please also do not park your vehicle along residential streets – as once again, your vehicle will be subjected to towing. Residential streets need to be as open as possible to allow First Responders to safely pass through and to allow local residents and their guests room to park.

If you’re parking your vehicle at Britton Plaza or Westfield Brandon Mall, please keep in mind that these are NOT official HART Park-N-Ride lots and are owned by their respective private mall/shopping center owners. While arrangements are in place for AirFest, you should return to your vehicle no later that 9:00pm to prevent your vehicle from being towed. As businesses begin closing down for the night at 9:00pm, any vehicles remaining in either parking lot (aside from employees who are wrapping up their work at the on-site businesses) will be subjected to towing.


Using Ride Share? Take it to the Lot…not the Base…

Many will be enticed to use Uber or Lyft to get from A to B due to the traffic constraints in South Tampa, and while such ride share services can be convenient, they can also get very expensive if one does not know for sure the full extent of the circumstances that AirFest brings to South Tampa traffic. Because of security limitations, all vehicles entering the base to attend AirFest (except HART buses of course) will be required to park in the assigned spaces along the tarmac. Once parked, you will not be able to just whisk your vehicle out of the base to drop someone off – the vehicle will have to stay parked for a few hours. Therefore, you should consider being dropped off either at a location near the intersection of Dale Mabry Hwy and Interbay Blvd and walk to the base from there, or being dropped off at Britton Plaza, Marion Transit Center, or Westfield Brandon to catch a HART bus.


What Not to Bring.

Because MacDill AFB is an active military installation, certain items are prohibited and all guests are subject to airport-style security screening at the event entrance. A full list of prohibited items is available on the AirFest website.


For further information regarding AirFest, please visit the AirFest website. For further information regarding HART bus services, please visit the HART website.

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Gasparilla & NHL All-Star 2018 Events – 1/27/2018

Side angle of #1506.
Beat the parking and traffic hassles this Gasparilla parade by using HART!

Post was last updated on: 1/23/18.
Route detour info has been updated.


Pirates, and Beads, and Transit…oh my!

Yep, it’s that time again, for the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival! The Parade of the Pirates brings in hundreds of revelers each year, and 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 27, starting at 2:00pm.

Roadway Closures and Parking Info

On Friday, January 26, the day before the parade, many area roadways will begin to shut down. A complete list of closures has been provided through local media outlets (for this post, I’ve used the News Channel 8 article) and I strongly suggest that you go through this list so that you’re not caught in unnecessary traffic congestion. Because of the parade route and disbursement of the floats at the end of the parade, the Platt, Brorein, and Kennedy bridges will all be closed. That means your only points of egress into downtown Tampa will be the Cass St bridge, the Selmon Expressway, and I-275. If you don’t need to be in downtown Tampa, please do not enter the area! I cannot stress this enough.

For what may be a once-in-a-lifetime event, the usual Gasparilla festivities are clashing together with the National Hockey League’s All-Star game, which is happening at Amalie Arena. This means that traffic and parking will face additional constraints. Here’s a listing of events (from WFTS) that surround the game during the weekend.

For those traveling to Davis Island and Tampa General Hospital, access will be maintained to the island, but the on/off-ramps to/from Bayshore will all be closed. Please be sure to plan ahead for this, as shuttle service may not be available during the parade.

If you plan to park in one of the parking garages in either Downtown Tampa, Channelside, Hyde Park, or Ybor City, please make sure you remember where you parked. Also, keep in mind that many streets will be closed throughout the area. Please also be sure to bring cash, because some lots may only accept cash as payment. Additionally, please be aware that the City of Tampa prohibits parking on some streets.

Escape the parking and traffic hassles, use transit!

Select HART bus routes and the TECOline Streetcar Line will operate on a modified schedule on Saturday, and some bus routes will be detoured due to road closures. I’ll go through a brief rundown of what to expect if you’re using transit to get to and from the parade. For detailed information – including routes that serve the Downtown Tampa area – please visit the HART website, as information can change between now and the day of the parade.

Before boarding the bus or streetcar, please have your fare ready. Regular fares will apply on all HART fixed routes and the TECOline Streetcar. The only exception is the In-Towner Trolley, which is fare free. For even easier convenience, download the Flamingo Fares App on your smartphone and purchase your fare there!

Credit: HART. Please click on the image for a larger view.

Routes 1, 7, 8, 19, 30, & 360LX will be detoured! Please plan your trip accordingly! Below is a listing of how buses will be detoured, along with respective route maps. OneBusAway WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE FOR THE ROUTES AFFECTED, SO PLEASE REFER TO POSTED SCHEDULES FOR DEPARTURE TIMES!!!

For those needing to see the above graphics in a larger format, please view the PDF file from the HART website.

  • The TECOline Streetcar will run a modified schedule from 8:00am through 1:30am Sunday morning, and will only serve selected stations during selected times of the day. However, the Dick Greco Plaza, Centro Ybor, and Centennial Park stations will be served all day. The Whiting station will be CLOSED all day. Please read carefully through HART’s blog post for a complete listing of stations that will be closed throughout the day.
  • Feeder bus shuttles will pick up passengers at the Tampa Port Authority Garage, Dick Greco Plaza, Cumberland Ave, Cadrecha Plaza, and Streetcar Society stations to help get customers between various parking venues and the parade route. Service will commence at 9:30am and run through 7:00pm.
  • The In-Towner Saturday Route (Route 97) will operate along its normal route, but will provide frequent service throughout the day. Service will commence at 11:00am and run roughly every 15 to 20 minutes through 9:00pm. Customers may disembark the trolley at stops along Jackson St (inbound to Channelside) or Whiting St (Outbound to Marion Transit Center). OneBusAway tracking will be unavailable.

And remember, please party responsibly. Don’t drink and drive, and don’t text and drive.


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HART Mission MAX, what does it really mean?

Today is a big day for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) as they enact their Mission MAX system restructuring. While many of the changes that will be enacted this upcoming week are good for many customers, many others are left frustrated and worried because the bus routes that they once relied on are no longer available.

In this post, I am going to provide my personal views on the restructuring and voice my opinion in regards to the overall transit situation in Hillsborough County. Please keep in mind that I am not affiliated with any transit agency or government entity. Also before I begin, I want to thank the hardworking staff at HART for doing their best to educate everyone about the system restructuring and why it needs to be done. The HART staff is truly terrific and I applaud many members for what they do each day – even in the face of uncertain times. To any HART staff member who may be reading this post, my frustration is not on you all. It’s on the elected officials who refuse to further fund our transportation system and those who don’t think improving transit in Hillsborough matters to them.

When I began riding HART in 2006, I was like many customers in Hillsborough – without a car and without any other avenue to get to and from work or school. Unbeknownst to me at the time, HART underwent a system restructuring between 2003 and 2005 to straighten out several key routes and begin the transformation of the heavily hub-spoke system into more of a gridded network – the latter by which provides transfers at key intersections and highways instead of traditional transit hubs. When I read up on this restructuring, I found that many customers were upset because several routes were eliminated and others were realigned – causing them to worry about whether they would be able to get to their destination.

In 2007, Florida’s property tax revenues declined sharply due to state mandated budget cuts. Because HART’s primary source of revenue is property taxes, the agency was forced to make cuts in the system to close what would have otherwise been a budgetary deficit. Routes 7 & 41 were among several routes that were changed during this time. Route 7’s Citrus Park/Egypt Lake segment was reduced from 30-minute frequency to hourly service on weekdays and an unproductive section of Route 41 west of Himes Ave was eliminated. These reductions impacted me because the Route 7 trips going to the Hillsborough Community College Dale Mabry Campus became irregular – with buses serving the campus on a 20/40-minute headway instead of a 30-minute headway. Often times, I would just walk along Tampa Bay Blvd from the campus and catch a Route 36 bus from Himes Ave, because I no longer wanted to wait for a Route 7 bus.

TBO.com Archive: HART Proposes Cutting 3 Routes, Adjusting Service. 

TBO.com Archive: HART To Scale Back Service.

TBO.com Archive: HART Proposes Ending 2 Routes, Changing 16 Others. 

TBO.com Archive: HART OKs Bus Route Changes, Eliminates 2 Runs

For the next roughly 10 years, HART did all it could to maintain existing levels of service while gradually expanding higher demand routes. This was by no means an easy task, but they did okay with the limited budget that they had for several years. While I was happy to see that HART was working as hard as it could to make its system better, I was also upset at the various elected officials who did not show that they really cared about bringing more robust transit options to Tampa Bay. In 2009, a sales tax referendum effort – called Moving Hillsborough Forward – was placed onto the November, 2010 ballot. This plan aimed to greatly expand HART bus service and bring light rail corridors to the county. However, many voters weren’t well educated about what the initiative would bring to them – especially those in outlying areas of the county. To make matters more complicated, we saw the rise of the so-called “Tea Party Movement”, where many fiscal conservatives felt that they were being taxed too much and demanded limited government involvement. These two factors, along with the usual political messes, effectively derailed the Moving Hillsborough Forward initiative, and the ballot measure thus failed on Election Day.

In 2015, a second attempt was made to bring a sales tax initiative to Hillsborough voters – called Go Hillsborough. This plan was similar to that of the 2010 initiative, but included a broader range of improvements to the transportation network – including roadway repairs. Many voters were unfortunately still unconvinced that the referendum would do anything for them, and Tea Party activists were quick to pounce on every and any opportunity to derail the measure. Ultimately, the Hillsborough County Commission decided not to place Go Hillsborough onto the November, 2016 ballot and instead opted for a roads-only “money pot” that would place a certain portion of the county’s budget into fixing deteriorating roadways. This plan was very controversial because many believe the money set aside would be blown off on constructing new thoroughfares instead of improving and repairing the ones we have. Furthermore, many transportation advocates like myself – are extremely concerned the such funds would be automatically directed to match local funding needed to allow the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to construct controversial variable toll lanes along the region’s interstate highways.

Tampa Bay Times Opinion: They play politics while transportation goes nowhere.

Tampa Bay Times Article: New 2024 Howard Frankland plan: 8-lane bridge with bike path.

In 2016, HART realized that it was coming to a crossroads. It’s budget was continuing to shrink and its network could no longer sustain itself in the same manner that it has been for the past decade. Tough choices would need to be made over the next decade to position the agency for a balanced budget and future expansion on scarce resources. As overall transit ridership across the nation began to drop and fears were raised that the Trump Administration would slash federal transit funding, HART began to re-evaluate its entire network to see where ridership patterns and demand were, and examine which routes could be kept and which ones would have to be eliminated. I always feared that this day would come because of the failed efforts to better fund transit in Hillsborough, as well as all of the “politics as usual” happening on the local, state, and federal levels. However, how such cuts would be enacted was what really worried me. Would HART enact cuts across the board, keeping most of its routes but reducing frequency? Would the agency have to enact another fare hike (last one was in 2012)? How will people get to where the need to go? These were all questions that I was asking myself as HART began to unveil Mission MAX.

Tampa Bay Times Article: Tampa Bay has one of the worst public transit systems in America. Here’s why.

When the initial plans for Mission MAX were unveiled to the public, I became deeply concerned about how the new HART bus system would be shaped. I provided much feedback to HART staff, as did many others who relied on the system. Even though I no longer reside in Hillsborough, I still use HART at times when I do visit the county and enjoy being able to get from A to B without consuming tons of gas and adding further wear and tear on my vehicle. As the final plans for Mission MAX were taking shape, I felt compelled to attend the public hearing on July 26, 2017 and voicing my opinion on the system restructuring. I addressed the HART board by mentioning how hard it will be for many customers to get around Hillsborough if they no longer have a bus route that they can catch. I also took aim at the elected officials who sit on the board who have refused to better fund transit, without being overly harsh (I kept my comments to an assertive level). To close out my speaking time, I stated that it was basically discrimination to allow FDOT to blast away $6+ billion on the controversial toll lanes – thinking that’s the “only” way to dramatically improve transit in Hillsborough – because the lanes will greatly cater to those who are wealthy and Hillsborough has a huge middle and low income population who would never use those lanes.

Tampa Bay Times Article: HART bus service will improve for most riders, but some Hillsborough areas will lose routes altogether. 

Despite massive outcry from the riding public and even civic leaders who were concerned that the outreach didn’t go far enough, HART approved the Mission MAX restructuring and made some final modifications to the plan before its implementation. While those who reside in the urban core of Hillsborough will be able to enjoy a faster and more direct bus ride, many others are now wondering what options they even have left to get to and from. I’m also very concerned that this is not the end of the restructuring process, and that further changes will have to be made due to the push by many electeds to allow the DOT to build the toll lanes. My biggest concern now is that HART may one day soon, have to follow Miami-Dade County’s decision to contract out lower ridership routes that weren’t eliminated, to a private operator. Many transit riders in Miami are furious at their elected officials for “bait and switch” after having a referendum pass in 2002 that would bring more funds for transit improvements, only to see transit services now being reduced. Among the changes recently made in Miami-Dade, several bus routes were contracted out to Limousine of South Florida, which now operates these routes with cutaway vans. I truly believe that while contracting out one or two routes may not be so bad, anything really beyond five routes begins to pose problems for the long term because the private operator may not be held to the same standards as the transit agency itself. I’ve also heard many complaints from transit customers out in California that when their transit services were contracted out – service got worse and customer satisfaction declined.

Tampa Bay Times Article: Depend on a HART bus to get around? Life could get harder.

It will be interesting to see where HART goes from here. It’s the first day of Mission MAX…will everything go smoothly? Or will we see fierce backlash? I guess it really depends who you talk to – someone who will enjoy that faster and more direct bus ride, versus someone who can no longer access the bus system.

My experience using the MCAT Skyway ConneXion bus line

Travelling between Pinellas and Manatee Counties has always been a challenge. Being that there has been no public transit services, outside of any intercity bus lines (i.e. Greyhound), everyone is pretty much left to drive from A to B. That picture changed on April 1, 2016 with the introduction of Manatee County Area Transit’s Skyway ConneXion express bus line (Route 203).

The route operates Monday through Friday between MCAT’s DeSoto transfer station and the Bay Pines VA Hospital near St. Pete. Stops in between include MCAT’s Palmetto and Bradenton hubs, Tyrone Square Mall (street-side stop), and a stop near the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)’s Grand Central Station. While there are only two round trips along the route (one AM and one PM), there are longer term plans for expansion should funding and ridership dictate. From what I’ve heard, many Manatee County area residents like the route and PSTA has been working with MCAT to try and spread the word about the route in Pinellas. If you are a PSTA rider, you probably have noticed links to MCAT’s website on the recently revamped PSTA.net, along with a link on the Schedules/Maps page to the MCAT route. On MCAT’s website, references to PSTA.net are up as well.

In April of 2017, roughly a year after the route’s launch, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council awarded MCAT and Manatee County Government a first place award as part of the 25th annual Future of the Region Awards. This award recognized MCAT’s efforts to plan and launch an innovative regional service at a time where regional transit connectivity is becoming more important to Tampa Bay but few avenues are available to establish new regional services.


MCAT bus #50746 making its northbound AM trek to the Bay Pines VA Hospital.

Travel Log

With the above all said, I’d like to now take a few moments to share my own experience using the Skyway ConneXion service. Now to be very honest, when the service was first announced in March of 2016, I thought it was an April Fools scheme, and it took me a while to realize that it indeed wasn’t. Once I did realize that this service was becoming a reality, I began planning a day where I could hop aboard the bus and take a trip to one of my favorite Manatee County destinations.

Every now and then, I like to stop by the Red Barn Flea Market on US Hwy 301 in Bradenton to see what kinds of items I can find. Usually, I would make the drive down I-275 and the Sunshine Skyway, and then park my car at the market’s parking lot. However, on May 20, 2016, I decided not to make that drive. I instead left my car at my apartment and walked down to the bus stop off MLK St N and 94th Ave N. I then connected to PSTA Route 59 (this was prior to Route 59 being truncated to Ulmerton Rd only) to Downtown St. Pete and the Central Ave Trolley to Grand Central Station. I then walked over to the stop on US Hwy 19 near 1st Ave S to wait for the MCAT bus to arrive.

I made sure to time my departures correctly so that I could catch the MCAT bus on time, given the limited schedule. I also made sure to have $10.00 cash on hand for the day pass. $10.00 may seem pricey for some, but when you compare riding the bus to driving and having to pay tolls, $10.00 can go a long way. The day pass issued on board the Route 203 bus is also valid for all local routes in the MCAT system.

Catching the bus to Bradenton was a breeze!

When the bus pulled up, I was greeted by a very friendly operator and I immediately informed her that I was getting a day pass. I inserted my $10.00 bill into the farebox and obtained my pass. Turning around to take a seat, I quickly realized that I was the only customer on board the bus – and it would remain that way for the entire duration of the trip.

The bus made a quick stop at the Palmetto Station in Palmetto before stopping at the Downtown Bradenton Station, where I got off and transferred over to Route 3. I then took Route 3 to US Hwy 301 and 9th Ave and walked the rest of the way to the Red Barn. All in all, the journey from Pinellas to the Red Barn took roughly an hour and the same was said for the journey back. I decided to spend about an hour at the flea market before having to return to the Downtown Bradenton Station for the return trip back to Pinellas. While I did not find the items that I was looking for at the market, I was able to allot enough time to grab a bite to eat at the food court. The Red Barn has over 500 vendors, including the farmer’s market outside.

To return to the Downtown Bradenton Station, I decided to walk along US Hwy 301, 9th Ave, and 13th St W, as the Route 2 already passed by when I was still eating my lunch. However, the weather was not bad considering it was still a cooler time of year. Once I returned to the terminal, I only waited about ten minutes before the bus pulled into the station with the same operator behind the wheel as that morning. I quickly boarded the bus, swiped my pass, and relaxed for the trip back to Pinellas.

It’s great when you’re not having to do the driving over the Sunshine Skyway!

While the Skyway ConneXion is definitely a good start for Manatee/Pinellas bus service, more needs to be done to improve the regional transit connectivity in Tampa Bay. One step to achieve that be adding limited express routes from Hillsborough into Manatee as well as Hillsborough into Polk – both of which are on Hillsborough Area Regional Transit’s long-term radar. Of course, we have no clue if or when the funds will come around.


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HART & HRT Service Changes – Effective 10/08/17

Sunday, October 8, 2017 is just around the corner, and there is much to talk about in this post. In addition to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit’s systemwide restructuring – called Mission MAX – Hampton Roads Transit is also enacting its own changes on the same day. HRT is also undergoing its own Transit Development Plan update and is considering undergoing a similar system restructuring to that of HART. I’ll delve more into HRT in a few moments, but first – let’s do one final rundown of the changes that we’re expecting to see on the HART system.


HART System Changes (Mission MAX)

HART has created a side-by-side comparison on which routes are changing, so that you’ll be able to easily see how each route operates now, versus after the restructuring takes effect. You can also view the summary list of the changes, an interactive system map – powered by Remix, and the new static system map. If you go to the Maps & Schedules Page on the HART website, you’ll be able to scroll all the way to the bottom of the routes drop-down menu to see the new schedules. Additionally, you can begin planning out how your new commute will shape up by going to Google Maps and using their transit trip planner. I have step-by-step instructions on how to use Google Maps’ transit trip planner, but you will want to do a couple of things before you begin mapping out your trip.

Does everything that I just wrote sound confusing? If so, let me break things down a bit:

  • A summary list of the changes is available on the HART website. This list goes through how each route is changing.
  • To view the new schedules for each individual HART route, simply go to the Maps & Schedules Page on the HART website, and select the routes drop-down menu on the left. Once you’ve opened up the drop-down menu, scroll all the way down to where you see “HART Service Changes, Effective: 10/8/17 – Coming Soon”. Beneath that divider, you will be able to view the new schedules.
  • You can view a side-by-side comparison of how each HART route looks like today, versus how they will look like after the restructuring takes effect. This tool is very helpful in determining how your commute will be impacted.
  • The new static system map will show how the entire HART system will look once the changes are in place.
  • You can also view an interactive system map that shows where each route travels to and from, as well as stop placement. The map is powered by Remix, which is a very powerful tool for transit agencies to use for planning – whether it be a large scale restructuring like what HART is doing, or a routine round of service changes. I’ve actually used the interactive mapping features when they were in demo mode (and open for general public use), and I can definitely see why many transit agencies like to use Remix as a tool for their transit system planning needs.
  • Lastly, you can go over to Google Maps and use their transit planning feature to view how your commute will shape up once the restructuring takes effect.
    • Simply click the blue diamond “directions” button on the upper left-hand corner of the page. Then, type the address of where you’re coming from and the address of where you’re going to.
    • Once your itinerary is mapped out, select the “train” icon at the top to launch the transit option.
    • Under the transit option, select the drop-down menu that reads “Leave Now”, and change it to “Depart at” or “Arrive by”, then change the date field to 10/8/17 or a date thereafter, and your desired arrival or departure time.
    • Now you can see which route options are available to you once the restructuring takes effect. You customize your commute further by using the “Schedule Explorer” tool on the bottom left if you wish.

If you have further questions about HART’s Mission MAX restructuring, please do not hesitate to reach out to them by calling (813)-254-4278, visiting the HART website, or reaching out to them via Social Media.


HRT System Changes

Now, let’s take a look at what HRT has in store for October 8, 2017. These changes are not as radical as Mission MAX, but as I mentioned earlier, HRT is working on its own TDP update, which calls for a systemwide examination of its services.


Changes taking effect in the Southside (Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, & Virginia Beach)

  • Route 2: The current detour on Route 2 will become permanent. No service will be provided to Naval Station Norfolk. The route will terminate at the NEX Mall. Schedule adjustments will be made.
  • Route 3: Minor schedule adjustments to improve adherence.
  • Route 21: The current detour on Route 21 will become permanent. No service will be provided to Naval Station Norfolk after 6:30 pm Monday through Friday. No service will be provided on weekends. The route will terminate at the NEX Mall. Schedule adjustments will be made.
  • Route 25: The route will be modified to provide service to Sentara Princess Anne Medical Complex. Service will be discontinued to the Municipal Center via Route 25. Service to the Municipal Center will be provided by Route 33.

  • Route 33: Minor schedule adjustments to improve adherence.

Changes taking effect in the Northside (Newport News & Hampton)

  • No changes are planned for this service change cycle.

Changes taking effect on the Express Routes

  • Route 919: All evening trips revised due to closure of Bainbridge Avenue and Franklin Street.
  • Route 922: The following morning trips will be discontinued due to low ridership:
    • 5:15 AM
    • 6:45 AM
    • All evening trips revised due to closure of Bainbridge Avenue and Franklin Street.

  • Route 960: The route will be revised to service Newtown Station. Service will be discontinued to Silverleaf Commuter Station. Route 960 will operate between Downtown Norfolk Transit Center and Arctic Avenue/19th Street with a stop at Newtown Station.

  • Route 965: All evening trips revised due to closure of Bainbridge Avenue and Franklin Street.


HRT Fare Changes

In 2014, HRT approved a two-phased systemwide fare increase, with the first phase taking effect October, 2014. With this second phase, the one-way base fare for local routes will be brought from $1.75 to $2.00, which is the same level that HART charges for a one-way local & limited express fare. The fare increase was conducted as a two-phased approach so that customers would not be negatively impacted by a single slew of fare increases all at once.

The new fares will take effect on Sunday, October 1, 2017

For a rundown of the new fares and frequently asked questions, please visit the HRT website.


HRT Transit Development Plan (TDP)

HRT is currently working on completing its TDP and is asking for public input. Two meetings will be held., one tonight and the other on Saturday, September 23, 2017. This TDP update calls for a systemwide examination of current services and recommends eliminating lower ridership routes and segments to pave the way for new services to higher demand areas. To view the recommendations and to provide comment, please visit the HRT website.


Please be sure to bookmark my website: hartride2012tampa.wordpress.com | Contact Me.

You can also find me on Social Media: Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | YouTube

Legalese | Disclosures