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:
The Spring Break 2020 & AirFest 2020 blog posts have been taken down.
All Transport sections, have been taken offline & will no longer show on the menus.
Website updates will still occur, but only behind the scenes. My intent is for the next major update to go online once the pandemic has passed.
The Global Transit GuidebookForum Facebook Group has been archived until the pandemic has passed, thus the links have been removed from the menus. A replacement group is being worked on, but a link will not be available until a later date.
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.
Reporting a lost item
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.
Date of your transit ride, as well as the approximate time that you exited the bus or train.
Vehicle number if possible.
Location where you exited the vehicle at (station name, intersection, or stop ID number).
For those of us who are a tad more savvy in using transit than others, additional information – such as the run/block number can also help. Some transit agencies will have a special sign behind the windshield that will display the bus or train’s run/block number for dispatch purposes.
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.
Checking the status
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.
Retrieving your item
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.
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.
Transferring at a major transfer point
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.
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.
It’s almost that time again – time to gather with family and friends for Christmas and New Year’s. As with many holidays, many transit agencies operate reduced schedules on both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, with some smaller transit agencies not operating at all.
Note: A generalized overview has been provided for the initial post, as opposed to specific transit agency listings. Specific transit agency listings will be added into this post beginning on Saturday, 12/14/2019.
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Most transit agencies will operate normal weekday-level service on Christmas Eve. However, some agencies may have announced exceptions – such as early end of service. Please check with your respective transit agency for the latest information.
Wednesday, December 25, 2019
Most transit agencies will either operate on a Sunday-level schedule or not operate at all on Christmas Day. Some agencies will operate special holiday schedules. Please check with your respective transit agency for the latest information.
New Year’s Eve
Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Most transit agencies will operate normal weekday-level service on Christmas Eve. To accommodate NYE festivities, some agencies will operate modified/extended services. Other agencies may opt to end service early. Please visit the respective agency’s website for schedules.
New Year’s Day
Wednesday, January 1, 2020
Most transit agencies will either operate on a Sunday-level schedule or not operate at all on New Year’s Day. Some agencies will operate special holiday schedules. Please check with your respective transit agency for the latest information.
Thanksgiving is almost here, meaning that you can spend some quality time with family and enjoy a hearty meal. It also means that the shopping hubbub that Black Friday often brings to our various retail establishments. And on top of that, the Thanksgiving weekend is often jammed packed full of specials and savings at local attractions.
But what does this all mean for you, the transit rider? It means that you’ll need to plan accordingly to get from A to B, because many transit agencies will operate limited to no service on Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 28, 2018. Thus, you’ll want to pay close attention to the listing below to see if your area’s transit agency will be operating that day.
This year, I’ve been able to gather information on a wider array o transit agencies within the US. Please keep in mind that this list is NOT INCLUSIVE of all transit agencies within the US, so if you do not see your respective agency here, please contact them directly.
Monday, November 11 is Veterans Day, with Friday, November 10, 2019 being observed by government offices. While most transit agencies that I cover will operate a normal weekday schedule on November 11, some agencies may have exceptions as to which routes will run. Other agencies (specifically some smaller agencies) will not operate at all on Saturday or both days. Please see the following list to see if your respective transit agency will operate on Veterans Day.
As always, I want to thank all those who are currently serving in our nation’s military, or have served in the past. Thank you!
Holiday Transit Schedules
Normal weekday schedules will be in effect for many transit agencies. Below are the agencies that I cover by which will either have exceptions in service or will not operate at all. If you are unsure of whether your transit agency will operate on Veterans Day, please contact them directly.
Polk Citrus Connection (Lakeland/Winter Haven, FL): No Service.
StarMetro (Tallahassee, FL): Saturday schedule w/Night Service operating.
Hampton Roads Transit (Hampton/Norfolk, VA): Regular weekday service across all modes. However, Routes 919 & 922 will not operate.
Transit agencies that are operating normal weekday schedules will very likely have their customer service centers operating on normal weekday hours as well. For those agencies that are operating with service exceptions, please contact them directly for hours of operation.
Veterans Ride FREE!
Some transit agencies are running special Ride FREE promotions on Veterans Day to all those (active or retired) who have served in the military & supply valid ID when boarding. To see if your transit agency is taking part, please contact them directly.
As always, I try to make sure that all information in this post is correct. Schedule information is obtained from the transit agencies themselves, so they are ultimately responsible for what goes out to customers. However, if you spot something that I’ve typed that is incorrect, please let me know as soon as possible so that I may make corrections.
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) is enacting its fall, 2019 service changes on Sunday, October 20, 2019. While most of the changes comprise of minor scheduling adjustments, some big changes are coming to Routes 18, 73, the Central Ave Trolley, & the North County Connector network. In this post, I’ll first highlight these four significant changes & what they mean for riders, then briefly highlight which routes will see the minor changes. Such minor changes include running time &/or time point changes.
For many years, Route 18 has made several trip deviations off Seminole Blvd in the northern Seminole/south Largo area to serve the Heritage Presbyterian Apartments complex – a low income senior living apartment complex on 122nd Ave. These trip deviations are currently made 6 times a day Monday through Saturday & 5 times a day on Sundays. While these trips allow apartment residents to catch the 18 during these selected trips, the deviations often cause buses to run well behind schedule – especially during weekday rush hours. On top of this, overall boardings/de-boardings along the deviation have been rather low. I’ve witnessed this for myself while riding the 18 through one of these deviated trips & noticed that no one had gotten on or off the bus at the Heritage stop. Because of the overall low usage of this deviation, along with the need to keep buses running on time, PSTA has proposed eliminating the deviation several times over the past decade, but ran into opposition from apartment residents.
Since the Direct Connect partnership between PSTA, Uber, United Taxi, & Wheelchair Transport went countywide a couple years ago, many customers like myself have been able to enjoy a seamless first-mile/last-mile link that we previously did not have. In order to compensate for the removal of the Route 18 deviation, PSTA has been working very closely with residents & staff at Heritage, as well as with United Taxi, to come up with a solution. That solution is a new Direct Connect stop located near the intersection of Seminole Blvd & Walsingham Rd, which would allow residents to summon a United Taxi cab & traverse to or from the stop at little to no out-of-pocket cost to them. To me, this is definitely a huge win-win for both PSTA & the residents at Heritage.
In addition to this major change, many bus stops along the Route 18 corridor will be balanced out as part of a systemwide effort to consolidate & balance out bus stops. As a result of this, some closely spaced stops may be combined & others with very low usage may be removed entirely. This will in-turn allow for faster travel along the already very long route. In conjunction with the overall bus stop balancing, the three stops currently in place at the Largo Mall complex will be consolidated. Stop #’s 3634 (Dollar Tree) & 3667 (Bealls/Rue 21) will be eliminated, while Stop # 3651 (Target) will remain active. Routing within the mall’s parking lot will also change as a result. Finally, as a result to both of these changes, scheduling changes will be enacted with more uniform frequencies throughout the day.
While on the subject of bus stop balancing, Route 73 will be seeing faster travel times & a scheduling adjustment due to these changes.
Central Ave Trolley
The Central Ave Trolley (CAT) will also undergo some bus stop balancing, but the biggest change will take place in St. Pete Beach.
If you reside in Pinellas County, then chances are, you’re already aware of the discord between PSTA & the community of St. Pete Beach. I won’t go into details as to what it’s all about, but to give a brief synopsis for those who aren’t familiar with the situation; St. Pete Beach is NOT a member city of the PSTA network. They’ve simply paid PSTA an “a-la-carte” fee every year to have CAT service provided to Pass-A-Grille beach. This agreement remained intact with few (if any) changes for many years until the Central Ave Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project came to light.
With the BRT project, there have been some miscommunication between PSTA & St. Pete Beach leaders by which have resulted in not only these leaders not supporting the BRT project wholeheartedly, but also effectively ending the prospect of CAT service serving Pass-A-Grille for at least the foreseeable future. Instead, city leaders have signed an agreement with a microtransit provider that will be running electric golf cart-like vehicles (you may have seen these in Downtown Tampa & Downtown St. Pete previously) through the community.
With these changes come the loss of what was a very convenient one-seat ride for those who wanted to visit Pass-A-Grille, which is often times far less congested than Clearwater Beach. In my personal opinion however, if St. Pete Beach is unwilling to work with PSTA & would rather play blame games & spew misinformation about the BRT, then I’d say, let these leaders do what they wish & see who suffers later. Because it won’t be these elected leaders who feel negative repercussions later on, it’s the countless number of residents & workers who rely on the CAT each day to get to & from work, school, & other necessary places.
Commentary aside, here’s what to expect over the next couple of months.
Sunday, October 20, 2019:
CAT service will begin to be phased out of the Pass-A-Grille area of St. Pete Beach. New schedules & maps reflect this change.
An 8-week transition period will take place between CAT service ending & the start of the new St. Pete Beach microtransit service.
Sometime in December, 2019:
The St. Pete Beach microtransit service, provided by BeeFree, will begin. An exact date is yet to be determined.
Sometime in February, 2020:
Very likely during the February, 2020 service change cycle – depending on when modifications to the Pinellas County beach access at 4600 Gulf Blvd can be completed, CAT service will begin truncating here & will no longer proceed south of 46th Ave on Gulf Blvd.
Changes to Route 90 may also be enacted during this time. Right now, it’s business as usual for the 90 (no changes will be enacted on 10/20/19).
Due to current ridership patterns, PSTA has decided to convert all three North County Connector flex routes into standard fixed routes. Few people were making flex reservations & when such reservations were made, vans were often thrown behind schedule – despite several efforts to try & build such time into account. The new routes will go by the current internal numbering for the flex routes – which are 812 (Tampa/Oldsmar), 813 (Dunedin/Palm Harbor), & 814 (Safety Harbor). Additionally, the 812 & 813 will see a shift back to their pre-2018 routings in the Countryside & Dunedin areas respectively. During the past year, the 812 was removed from Countryside Blvd in favor of Belcher Rd & the 813 was shifted off Alderman Rd in favor of Nebraska Ave.
A lot of questions have been raised as far as how much longer these routes would remain in operation due to the overall low usage. In my opinion, I can see the 813 & 814 being combined into one fixed route in the next couple of years that would run limited Monday through Saturday trips. For the 812, once the All For Transportation money in Hillsborough is available & transit system improvements are able to kick into high gear, that route will be eventually replaced by a HART-operated limited express service. Both changes would allow for the current line of vans to be used elsewhere in the PSTA network – for maybe circulator shuttles or special events.
Minor scheduling changes will be made to Routes 9, 14, 20, 52, 52LX, 59 (Largo Mall routing/stop consolidation), 62, & 300X.
This post was originally going to be a part of my overall Transit 101 series. However, I thought it would be best to make it a completely separate post so that I can emphasize how important it is to not only have a peaceful bus or train ride, but to also ensure that others on board have that same level of peace as well.
While some transit agencies may have specific rules & regulations regarding fare collection, pets & bicycles on transit vehicles, & other matters, the following is a relatively universal list of do’s & don’ts while using public transit.
Have your fare media ready for immediate use & inspection before boarding a transit vehicle or entering a station turnstile. If you are qualified to pay reduced fares, please have appropriate accompanying ID ready as well.
Dress appropriately. While this doesn’t necessarily mean dress up in your Sunday’s best each time you use transit, please be thoughtful in what you wear because you are in a public place. Virtually all transit agencies require you to wear a shirt, appropriate bottoms, & shoes at all times.
Remain seated at all times. If standing due to capacity issues, please do not stand in prohibited areas of the transit vehicle – which are clearly marked.
If bringing a folding cart, please make sure that the cart is folded & not blocking aisles.
You are welcome to listen to music or otherwise use your portable media device or smartphone while on board transit vehicles. However, you are asked to use headphones when playing any sort of media.
If taking a cell phone call while on board, please keep conversations as quiet as possible & to a minimum.
Always dispose of trash & recyclables into their respective receptacles.
Do not talk to the transit operator while he or she is driving the transit vehicle.
Do not eat or drink while on board the transit vehicle (note that bottled water & baby formula are typically considered exceptions – assuming that the container can be easily sealed closed.
Do not bring alcoholic beverages on board the transit vehicle – these are strictly prohibited in most jurisdictions.
Do not smoke while on board the transit vehicle (this includes electronic cigarettes & the like – transit agencies are taking notice & are banning such devices accordingly)
Do not bring other unsafe electronic/mobility devices on board the transit vehicle (things like hoverboards & motorized gas bikes).
Do not bring flammable or otherwise hazardous chemicals & such on board the transit vehicle.
Do not lean against, hold open, or block exit doors.
Do not travel in between moving train cars – unless a provision exists to do so – such as articulated gangways.
Do not solicit products or services while on board the transit vehicle. Many transit agencies prohibit solicitation while on board a transit vehicle or at a transit facility.
Some additional don’ts…
Do not commit any act of violence against anyone on board the transit vehicle – including transit employees.
Do not commit any act of vandalism to a transit vehicle or other piece of transit agency property.
Do not engage in any other disruptive, aggressive, disturbing, or otherwise discourteous behavior towards others – including transit employees.
Do not litter – especially at rail stations, where trash can easily fall onto the tracks & result in track fires.
Roller skating, roller, blading, and skate boarding are not allowed.
Below are some additional, but specific things to keep in mind while on board a transit bus.
Yellow Safety Line
When the bus becomes standing room only, it’s important not to step forward of the yellow safety line that is located just behind the operator’s seat. This is so you’re not encroaching upon the operator’s field of vision – especially if he or she needs to look towards the right for any reason. Additionally, you risk violating the operator’s personal space if you do. Also, you don’t want to be in the way of the wheelchair ramp if it needs to be activated.
Some buses have opening windows in the passenger area. Unless instructed by the operator, you should not open the windows.
When boarding the bus, if at all possible, allow the customer using the mobility device to board first. Or, if that individual is boarding after the fact, board and remain clear of the “Priority Seating” area towards the front of the bus so that the individual can board & be secured. When exiting, please use the rear door if one is present, or allow the individual using the mobility device to exit first.
Never inhibit the operator’s duties to ensure that the mobility device is properly secured!!!
Below are some additional, but specific things to keep in mind while on board a passenger rail train.
Yellow Safety Line
While I’ve discussed the subject of the yellow safety line on board the transit bus, it takes on a slightly different context when relating to passenger rail networks. Here, the safety line is to indicate the edge of the elevated platform so that you don’t accidentally fall onto the tracks. While many systems indicate the platform edge via a yellow line, some may indicate this via a blue, orange, or red line. In order to comply with accessibility laws, these platform edge markers are often comprised of ribbed surfaces so that those with visual impairments can be alerted.
Too often, I hear of situations where a passenger rail train – especially a subway train – being stopped suddenly because someone has pulled the emergency brake handles. This is not only heavily inconvenient for those on board the train, but it’s also a major safety implication for the entire rail network because transit agency staff have to reset all of the necessary mechanisms to get the train moving again, which also in-turn, leads to system-wide delays. Thus, pulling the emergency brakes should only be done in an actual emergency.
Dangers of walking between trains
Another thing I hear of too often, especially in the realm of the subways, is people traveling in between railcars. Unless a provision exists – such as an interconnecting gangway that allows for safe passage between train cars, you should never try to travel between train cars unless instructed to by transit agency staff. Doing so can lead to serious injury or even death if you wind up getting thrown off the train.
Other things to keep in mind
The seats closest to the operator on board buses & select areas on board (subway/metro & commuter rail) trains are often marked as “Priority Seating”, meaning that you should always offer these seats to those who need them – including the elderly, persons with disabilities, & expectant mothers. But also, these are the areas that are often designated for those who use mobility devices – such as wheelchairs. If a customer boards using a mobility device, you will need to immediately vacate your seat & allow space for the customer’s mobility device to be secured.
Pets on Transit
Some transit agencies allow small pets to travel on board vehicles, but only if they are in a carrier & is not blocking any aisles. Please check with your respective transit agency for details.
Allow arriving customers to exit the vehicle first before boarding
As a courtesy, you should always allow arriving customers to exit the bus or train first before boarding.
Treating the transit operator with respect
Whether you’re riding a bus or a train, it’s important to treat the operator & other transit agency staff members with the utmost respect. They have a very tough job to do & the pay & benefits may not be as good as you may think they are, so please…be kind, courteous, & respectful to them.
With all of the above said, please have a safe & wonderful transit journey!