SouthShore Transit Circulator Study

Currently the most under served area in the HART system, the SouthShore may be seeing some new transit options in the future. The SouthShore Transit Circulator Study, which began back on November 19, is looking for ways to improve the mobility of residents in the area, as well as improve access to key employment centers such as the new Amazon distribution warehouse under construction in Ruskin.

A map showing how local and HART FLEX service looks like in SouthShore today. From GoHART.org.
A map showing how local and HART FLEX service looks like in SouthShore today. From GoHART.org. Click on the image for a larger view.
A map showing how existing Limited Express service looks like in SouthShore today. From GoHART.org.
A map showing how existing Limited Express service looks like in SouthShore today. From GoHART.org. Click on the image for a larger view.

Currently, transit service in the SouthShore area is pretty limited, with just four  routes running: Route 31, 47LX, 53LX, and the HARTflex South County service. All these routes only provide service on weekdays, with no service available on weekends or holidays. Route 31 operates with two buses running between Westfield Brandon and the HCC SouthShore Campus on a 75-minute headway. Route 47LX is a peak-only service, with two buses leaving Hwy 301 Park-and-Ride at 5:45 and 6:30AM, and two other buses returning at 5:57 and 6:27PM. Route 53LX doesn’t fare much better, with one bus running between Westfield Brandon and Kings Point via Hwy 301 Park-and-Ride on a 120-minute headway between 8AM – 8PM. The HARTflex South County service does a bit better, with a 60 minute headway all day (with the van leaving HCC SouthShore at :05 past the hour and leaving La Estancia Apartments in Wimauma at :35 past the hour).

Between 2000 and 2010, the SouthShore area saw its population increase by 46.7% (in comparison to the 22.7% growth seen in Hillsborough County overall). In the past, residents would have to venture into Tampa or Brandon to access most basic needs such as education, employment, shopping, and so on. With all the population growth in the SouthShore, the area has become largely self-sufficient in meeting those needs for residents. However, transit service in the area has largely remained the same in that time period (apart from the introduction of the 35LX and 47LX in 2006, the 35LX which was later replaced with the 53LX in 2011). That’s why the SouthShore Transit Circulator Study hopes to find a way to improve mobility for residents within the area, while still maintaining an efficient connection to the rest of Hillsborough County.

For the study, Hillsborough MPO and HART have come up with 4 possible alternatives about possible routes to run through the area. In every alternative, the proposal services would replace the current services on Route 31, 53LX, and the South County Flex, with Route 47LX remaining unchanged. (The maps are viewable by clicking on the links; .pdf files.) Note that all four alternatives include a shuttle between the intersection of Big Bend Rd and Tamiami Trail (Hwy 41) and the proposed stop for the Tampa Bay high-speed ferry service, which is independent of the proposed routes. (Potential ridership numbers cited below are for 2025.)

Alternative One – HART Planned Service with Fish Hawk Connection
Perhaps the simplest of the four alternatives, this encompasses the plans that HART has already had for the SouthShore area. All the corridors that already have service would keep it, but frequencies would be increased on all routes. This alternative also shows an extension of the current South County Flex to include more of Ruskin to the west, as well as two brand new Flex routes in Gibsonton and along Big Bend Road. There would also be an extension of fixed-route service east from Gibsonton to Fish Hawk. However, this alternative is also the smallest increase in service among the four, and thus has the lowest potential ridership at only 848 passengers per weekday, with 423 on Saturdays.

Alternative Two – Figure 8 Configuration with Flex
This alternative retains all the extensions and new Flex services seen in Alternative One, but makes significant changes to fixed-route service in the area. Route 1 would run in a Figure-8 running counter-clockwise at the top and clockwise at the bottom, with Route 2 running in a Figure-8 in the opposite direction. Route 1 would still retain the extension to Fish Hawk, with Route 2 continuing service north to Brandon. Unfortunately, the nature of the route structure would lead to longer rides for many passengers, and thus wouldn’t increase ridership much more than Alternative One. Weekday ridership would see 931 passengers, and 466 passengers on Saturdays.

Alternative Three – 2 One-Way Loops with Local Service to Brandon Mall and Fish Hawk
In Alternative Three, we see the new fixed-route service that was first shown in Alternative One along with the extended/new Flex services. This also has two new circulator routes proposed, which will stick to their routes and not see any demand-response service. The inclusion of these circulator routes doesn’t do much to increase ridership compared to Alternative One or Two, with just 944 passengers on weekdays and 472 passengers on Saturdays.

Alternative Four – 2 One-Way Loops, Extended Flex to Riverview High School, No Fish Hawk Extension
Like all the previous alternatives, we see the proposed extension/new Flex services, though the Gibsonton Flex service is extended a bit to the east to serve Riverview HS. Fixed-route service plays a smaller part in this alternative, as there is only one route that leaves the SouthShore area, with the service on Tamiami Trail (Hwy 41) and the proposed extension to Fish Hawk removed. The circulator routes seen in Alternative Three are also seen here, but the routes run in alternating directions every other trip rather than on a continuous one-way loop. There is no way to discern from the map if there is an interline point between the two circulator routes along the shared corridor on Big Bend Route, but it is possible that they could interline there to form two Figure-8 routes through the SouthShore area like Alternative Two. Out of the four alternatives, this one has the highest ridership with 1070 passengers on weekdays and 535 passengers on Saturdays.

While I’m personally preferential to Alternative One for its simplicity and the maintained connections to other destinations out of the area, I think that just as the ridership numbers show, Alternative Four may be the best choice. In studying the possible options for transit in the SouthShore area, it was found that a lot of travel is within the region, and that will only increase as the population continues to grow. Realistically, any increase in transit service would be a boon for the area, but it’s also important to do so in a manner that is effective for both residents and people employed in the area.

The Hillsborough MPO will be presenting the draft report on this study on March 18th at the SouthShore Regional Library (15816 Beth Shields Way, Ruskin FL 33573). The meeting will run from 6-8PM. Keep an eye out here for an update from that meeting later this week.

New bus route & transit center coming to Citrus County

It is not common right now for me to report on a transit happening in our northern counties (Pasco, Hernando, or Citrus). However, there was a story on Bay News 9 today that prompted me to make this post.

Now despite the three counties mentioned above being much more rural than Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, all three of them have their own public transit systems. Pasco County operates PCPT or Pasco County Public Transportation, Hernando County runs the Hernando Express Bus or THEbus, and in Citrus County, they operate Citrus County Transportation Services.

Going into Citrus County, the public transit district is very small because the county is largely rural and only encompasses a few small municipalities. However, getting those who may not have their own transportation from point A to point B is crucial. So the county operates a flex van service, similar to HARTflex in Tampa, and one fixed-route bus service called the “Orange Line”.

Today’s news story discusses about plans to add a second fixed bus route by October, as well as construction of a new transit center that should be finished by year’s end. Both of these improvements will provide Citrus County residents with more transit options, even though funding is becoming more and more scarce.

To view the full article, click here.

Fall service changes for HART

Currently in Hillsborough County, the big transit news is HART’s proposed service revisions for Fall, 2012. Now, HART usually makes 3 service revisions per year: March, July, and November. November however seems to be when the most significant revisions are proposed, including any changes to the fare structure.

The last time HART had to increase fares was in November 2007, a move that was largely unpopular at first. However, patrons realized that in order for HART to continue sustained service with plummeting property tax revenues, that a fare increase was necessary. Additionally, many of HART’s routes had to be revamped to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Fast forward to 2012 and we see a much dire predicament, where ridership has hit all-time highs, but local, state, and federal funding have been slashed across the board. As a result, HART and many other transit agencies across the nation have had to cut back services.

Read more

PSTA’s Flex Service Plan Gains Steam

Following on HART’s success of utilizing flex bus routes, PSTA will be hosting three public workshops to gain public input on three proposed northern Pinellas flex bus routes.

For those of you who may not be familiar with flex bus service; routes operate within a “zone” usually comprising of a cluster of neighborhoods. A fleet of minibuses transport passengers from their doorstep to various destinations within their “zone”. These places include schools, supermarkets, post offices, businesses, and more. Since flex routes utilize minibuses, they can easily pick up and drop off passengers who may live within gated communities and other hard-to-reach areas that are otherwise inaccessible by the traditional 30, 35, 40, 45, and 60 foot public transit bus.

To use flex bus services, passengers call a special telephone number to place a reservation. Reservations can be placed within a time frame that is set forth by the public transit authority (usually 2 to 3 hours minimum advance notice is required). Some services may offer what is called “walk-up service”, which means that passengers can walk to a designated bus stop and catch a minibus. However, with the “walk-up service”, destinations are limited and seating is not guaranteed.

PSTA hopes to launch its three flex bus routes later this year, but they want to know what the needs of the communities impacted by the services are before they launch the service. At this time, the exact flex zones are not known, however there will be connections to the PCPT (Pasco) and HART (Hillsborough) systems.

To learn more about PSTA’s proposed flex bus service and the upcoming public workshops, click here.

HART gears up for FLEX expansion

Hi everyone, I would like to devote this posting to HARTflex. I know I have mentioned HARTflex in several previous posts, but this post is specifically dedicated to the upcoming expansion of the service.

Believe it or not, HARTflex, which currently operates in SouthShore and Brandon, has become a popular service for many patrons. The service allows a fleet of minibuses to navigate through designated zones and take patrons from their homes to various destinations within the zone. Whether you’re going to school, work, doctor visits, park/recreation centers, or even to the mall, HARTflex helps you get from A to B more easily than ever!

Beginning on July 10, 2011, HARTflex service will expand to Northdale, between St. Joseph’s Hospital North and Fletcher Ave, along Dale Mabry Hwy. Service will operate Monday through Friday from 5am until roughly 8:45pm and Saturdays from 6:45am until 6:30pm. There is no Sunday or Holiday service.

Also joining in on HARTflex are the Town-N-Country and South Tampa areas. For years, we’ve seen very low ridership on Connector Routes 88 and 89, which serve Town-N-Country and South Tampa respectively. The replacement of these routes with HARTflex service will improve efficiency and save money in the long run, according to HART officials. Below are the operating hours for these two new flex zones.

*Town-N-Country: 5:15am through 7pm, Monday through Friday
*South Tampa: 6am through 8:30pm, Monday through Friday

Neither route has weekend/holiday service.

To learn more about HARTflex, click here.

HARTflex to begin April 12!

Photo by HART

HARTflex is almost here at last! After three years of delay, HARTflex will finally be rolling out in SouthShore and Brandon on April 12.
How does it work?
Patrons in SouthShore and Brandon, the first two areas to recieve service, can call a special reservation line (to be announced) and place a reservation. Minibuses then transfer passengers from their homes to their place of business or other points of interest within the service area. HARTflex buses will follow a designated fixed route, but will be able to deviate up to 3/4 of a mile outside of that desginated route. HARTflex service will also connect to HART Local or Commuter Express bus routes to allow for connectivity outside the designated neighborhood zones.
Hours of Operation
Both areas will be served on Weekdays from 6am until 8pm, with Brandon being served on Saturdays from 7:40am until 5:30pm. There will be no Sunday or Holiday service with either route.
Fares
A one-way trip will cost 85 cents, with a day pass costing $1.85

Contact

For reservations, please call: 813-449-4555

Click here to view the full article from the HART Website, including maps of both service areas and how you could ride for FREE!

HARTflex to begin in April

After three years of delays, HARTflex is finally set to begin service in April! This will mark the begining of reservation-based, flex-route minibus service in the Tampa Bay Area.

How does it work?

Patrons in SouthShore and Brandon, the first two areas to recieve service, can call a special reservation line (to be announced) and place a reservation. Minibuses then transfer passengers from their homes to their place of business or other points of interest within the service area. HARTflex buses will follow a designated fixed route, but will be able to deviate up to 3/4 of a mile outside of that desginated route. HARTflex service will also connect to HART Local or Commuter Express bus routes to allow for connectivity outside the designated neighborhood zones.

See this article for more details, including the proposed fares.

MCAT’s Palmetto Station Opens!

On January 30, 2010, MCAT officially opened its new Palmetto Station Terminal on 8th Ave. W. and 19th St. W. in Palmetto. This change resulted in minor changes to SCAT Route 99 and MCAT Routes 11 & 13. More…