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!
Within many transit agencies, you’re often times going to find some sort of artistic display catching your eye – whether it be a mural at a transit station, a neatly decorated bus stop, or a special vehicle wrap. In the case at Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, it’s the vehicle wrap that catches the eye.
Thanks to a partnership between HART & the Tampa Bay Foundation for Architecture & Design (TBFAD), the Art on HART program was launched, allowing one of the transit agency’s buses to be transformed into a moving artistic canvas for a year. For the inaugural 2019 selection, bus #1018 featured a wrapping called Soundwaves, which depicted a variety of individuals playing various musical instruments in front of a festive background that included the downtown Tampa skyline. It was truly a beautiful wrap & I had hoped to be able to catch the bus myself – & almost did too.
As of Tuesday, September 17, 2019, HART & TBFAD officially opened up the process to allow interested artists to convey their desire to participate in the 2020 selection. HART’s In Transit blog has more information on how to do just that. Entries will be accepted up until Friday, November 15, 2019 @ 5:00pm ET.
Quick Note (Off-Route)
Some of my readers may have heard of the horrific events that unfolded on May 18, 2019 & understand that seeing the various photography of bus # 1018 may revive unpleasant memories of what happened that day. I was actually en-route to Hillsborough from Pinellas when the incident that claimed the life of HART bus operator Thomas Dunn occurred. As I rode HART Route 35 from the Northwest Transfer Center to the Tampa International Airport bus hub, I noticed that the two 2012-series buses that HART acquired from Sarasota County Area Transit (#’s 1217 & 1218 – both operating on Route 275LX) were swapped out for 2013-series buses.
My original plan was to take either 1217 or 1218 to Marion Transit Center & catch 1018 on the MetroRapid route from there. When the bus swap out occurred, something told me to abandon my plans to hop on MetroRapid & instead head to Britton Plaza. Thus, I did just that, catching a Route 30 bus to the intersection of Dale Mabry Hwy & Kennedy Blvd, where I then caught a Route 36 bus to Britton, then a Route 17 bus to my final destination. It was not until that evening that I had heard about the incident on the MetroRapid route.
Mr. Dunn was assigned # 1018 for his final run down the MetroRapid route on Nebraska Ave when the incident happened. Based on what I’ve understood from several HART staff members, # 1018 was not put out to service anymore following the incident. The bus was completely stripped of its electronics (radio, surveillance cameras, farebox, etc.) & the Soundwaves wrapping. The bus was then repainted & eventually put up for auction.
In reading HART’s blog post about the 2020 Art on HART selection process, I noticed that they laid out a specific theme.
This year’s theme touches on how music influences the world around us while encouraging respect for others. Artists are encouraged to incorporate Tampa Bay’s wide diversity of design, architecture, and musical culture into their submission.
HART In Transit blog.
Seeing this theme noted in the post really stuck out because it conveys to everyone that the horrible incident has not been forgotten & that we all need to continue what we can do to be respectful to others while using public transportation. At the same time, the theme allows for the continuation to express the utmost artistic & musical talent, as well as the wide variety of architecture & design elements that exists in our region. In my eyes, this theme is bound to produce something visually stunning while bringing the main messages home.
Monday, September 2, 2018 is Labor Day and many transit agencies will be running limited service, with some agencies not operating at all. As always, please see the listing below to see what level of service that each transit district will operate.
Below are the normal Labor Day service levels for Florida. Please keep in mind that Dorian may affect service this weekend, especially on the east coast. Please monitor local news reports for the latest. You can also read my blog post on Dorian, as updates will be made in respects to transit service suspensions & restorations.
TECOline Streetcar (Tampa)
SCAT (Space Coast/Brevard County)
PSTA (St. Pete/Clearwater)
Routes 416 & 427 will not operate, as they are funded by Citrus Connection (Polk County)
BCT (Broward County)
DTPW (Miami-Dade County)
Votran (Daytona Beach)
Routes 1, 3, 4, 10, 15, & 17 will operate a Sunday schedule.
MTA Commuter Rail, NJT Bus & Rail Services: Varies
MBTA (Boston, MA): Sunday (Ferry line F1 will not run)
PVTA (Pioneer Valley, MA): Sunday
FRTA (Franklin County, MA): No Service
MVRTA (Merrimack Valley, MA): No Service
LRTA (Lowell, MA): No Service
CCRTA (Cape Cod, MA): Normal service, except flex & hospital trips – which will not operate.
Portland, ME Metro: No Service
South Portland, ME: No Service
Bangor, ME Community Connector: No Service
CityLink (Lewiston, ME): No Service
Chicago CTA: Sunday
Pace Bus: Sunday
Corpus Christi RTA (Corpus Christi, TX): Sunday
Capital Metro Austin (Austin, TX): Sunday, No MetroRail, UT Service, Night Owl, E-Bus or MetroExpress services.
Normal Transit Service Resumption
With the exception of those transit agencies that will be directly impacted by Hurricane Dorian, normal transit services will resume on Tuesday, September 3, 2019. For impacted agencies, please follow local media outlets.
While I’ve done my best to ensure accuracy, the listed information ultimately comes from the transit agencies themselves. If you spot an error, please let me know as soon as possible so that I can correct it.
It’s time for students to return to school – & the school buses to hit the roads once again.
Well folks! It’s that time again! Time for many people to head back to school! & whether you’re a college student attending one of the local colleges or universities, or a parent trying to get some last minute school supply shopping done for your children, it is always important to know that with the school year starting back up, you can expect increased traffic on the roads. & yes, that includes those big yellow school buses!
In this Back to School Edition blog post, I will be highlighting the importance of school bus safety, because often times, we see accidents that involve a school bus. All 50 states in the US have laws that revolve around school buses, specifically laws that make it illegal to pass a school bus when it is stopped (and its red lights are flashing & signs are extended out). Sadly, there are too many incidents by which vehicles pass a stopped school bus as it is loading or unloading passengers, and some of those incidents have involved fatalities or serious injury.
Below, is a classic example of motorists not doing what they’re required to do. FOX 13 (WTVT) reported on this matter, along with several other local media outlets, in Port Richey, FL in 2018. Things got so bad along this portion of US Hwy 19 (which is already a massively busy highway to begin with) that the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has to step in & hand out citations to the violators.
As always, I wish everyone that is headed back to the classroom a safe and wonderful school year!
In this episode of Transit 101, I will explain how to get from A to B via rail. If you’re riding a passenger rail system for the first time, you may be intimidated. Don’t worry though, it’s not as hard as you may think. However, there’s a few key things you’ll want to follow before heading out to the rail station.
Have your origin & destination stops in mind. Or at least the closest landmarks or other points of interest that will help you get to where you need to go. Need to plan out your trip? Check out Episode 1.
Allow enough time for departure & arrival. Ideally, you’ll want to get to your origin rail station no later than 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure. If your transit agency has a real-time transit tracker application, this can certainly help with knowing approximately what time your train will arrive. Need help with understanding a transit schedule? Check out Episode 2.
Have your fare ready. Unlike bus systems, rail systems will require that you have some form of purchased fare media ready – whether it be a pre-purchased mag-swipe card, tap-and-go card, or mobile fare payment application. Need to know more about transit fares? Check out Episode 3.
Heading to the origin rail station
Once you’ve been able to locate your starting train route & where the nearest station for that route & direction are located, you’ll want to leave promptly when it is time to do so in order to allow enough time to catch the train. If you’re having to use a bus route or two to reach your respective rail station, you will need to account for the time needed to get to the origin bus stop, travel time, & any transfers you’ll need to make, as well as weather conditions.
Also be mindful that not all rail systems will allow you to bring your bike with you – especially during peak times, so be sure to check with your respective transit agency as to what their policy is regarding bringing your bike with you on the train. Just like getting to a bus stop, weather conditions & other unforseen circumstances may make your journey more difficult.
Need to use the bus to connect to your train? Check out Episode 4.
Arriving at the rail station
Because many rail stations are uniquely constructed, identifying them can sometimes be more of a challenge than locating a bus stop. Even more confusing sometimes, is locating where the exact entrance is. Light rail, streetcar, commuter/suburban rail, intercity rail, & elevated subway/metro stations often have easily identifiable station entrances. With underground subway/metro stations though, some entrances can be obscured within existing buildings.
Once you’ve identified where the station entrance is, be sure to have your fare media ready to validate at the turnstile or validator machine. Virtually all subway/metro systems & some commuter/suburban rail systems have controlled access, where you must pass through traditional turnstiles with valid fare media before you can access the train platform. Other commuter/suburban rail systems, intercity rail systems, & streetcar/light rail systems typically have more of an open access protocol, where you are basically freely able to walk onto the train platform without encountering a turnstile or other gated access. However, you must still have valid fare media with you at all times – as transit agencies typically employ staff members who are required to check that your fare media is indeed valid.
While many rail stations have the option of purchasing fare media from a staffed booth on-site, many also have ticket vending machines where fare media can be purchased. Many transit agencies allow you to purchase transit passes/cards online & are also adopting mobile fare payment apps. Additionally, contactless bank cards are being adopted as an additional avenue to pay transit fares without having to have separate media in hand.
Once you’ve ensured that your valid fare media is ready, it’s time to proceed to the train platform. Just like riding the bus system, riding the train system can be challenging if you don’t know which platform your train will arrive on. Virtually all rail stations have signage of some sort to help lead you in the right direction – including which track & platform you’ll need to proceed to. If you’re traversing through a complex rail station with multiple lines & services, it’s extremely important that you follow the signs to the correct concourse by which your particular rail line will board at.
Waiting for the train to arrive
Once you’ve located the correct platform and track by which your train is set to arrive at, be sure to stand clear of the platform edge, as failing to do so can result in serious injury or even death (that’s not a joke folks). The platform edge is typically indicated by some form of special surface that is brightly colored (either white or yellow). Most subway/metro stations will have some form of limited basic seating available, but you should be courteous & offer such seats to those with disabilities, the elderly, expectant mothers, & young children. If you must stand, please stand a reasonable distance away from the platform edge, while not brushing up against other commuters.
While many light rail, streetcar, commuter, & intercity rail lines are powered either by overhead electrical wiring (also known as catenary wire) – with some commuter & intercity rail lines using diesel-powered trains, many subway/metro systems are powered by what is known as a third rail. This special beam (indicated in the second photo above) carries the electrical current that is needed to power the subway/metro train & can carry deadly results should a person make contact with it in any way while it’s live.
As you’re waiting for the train, you may notice some form of a countdown clock nearby to inform you of when the next train will arrive. Such clocks can come in the form of an LED display or LCD TV screen.
As the train approaches the station, you may hear an automated intercom announcement stating to step away from the platform edge & prepare to board the train. Please be sure to keep a reasonable distance from the train as it arrives, & wait until it has made a complete stop before attempting to board. Additionally, as a courtesy, you want to allow departing customers to exit the train first before attempting to board.
Once on board the train…
…find a seat & enjoy the ride! Keep in mind that there may be times where you will be standing – especially during peak hours. While many trains have ample seating, please always be mindful of any “Priority Seating” areas that are specifically designated for those with disabilities, the elderly, & expectant mothers. You’ll want want to offer these seats to such individuals if they board the train. Also, many subway/metro systems do not have special provisions – especially on older trains – so please be mindful to offer your seat to these individuals as trains become crowded.
Please be mindful of when your next stop will be. Unlike buses, there are no push buttons or cords to notify the operator as to when you wish to exit. You’ll want to have either a print or digital copy of the rail system map as reference for where to exit. Many newer trains have automated stop announcements & (in many cases as well) digital displays that show what the next stops are. Older trains should have static maps available. These tools will also help aid you in getting off at the right stop.
Handrails; when you’re able to reach onto one, hold tight, cause the train may travel fast.
Commuter/suburban & intercity rail trains are configured differently than subway/metro & light rail/streetcar trains. Many commuter & intercity rail cars have plush seating – with some seats having pull-down trays (like on commercial aircraft) or static tables (such as the ones pictured above). Many such trains also feature bar and/or dining cars available to add onto the customer experience. Again though, there are no special buttons or pull cords to indicate to the operator that you wish to exit, so it’s always helpful to have a map handy so that you know which stop to exit at. Also, be sure to have your valid fare media ready to show to on-board staff members in the event that they commence with a fare inspection (the latter also applies to many light rail/streetcar systems).
Exiting the train
When you’ve reached your destination station, be sure to stand close to the nearest exit door so that you can exit as quickly as possible. For your own safety, as well as the safety of others, refrain from pushing your way out of the train, as such can risk injury to yourself & others. On some commuter rail & many intercity rail lines, the boarding/de-boarding process may be a bit more similar to commercial aviation, so please be extra patient in these situations because different rules may apply.
Once off the train, step a reasonable distance away from the platform edge & allow others to exit & board. If you need to make a transfer, please be sure to locate signage that will lead you to the correct concourse, platform, & track. If exiting the station, follow the respective signs to exit the station.
In this episode of Transit 101, I will explain how to get from A to B via bus. If you’re riding a public bus system for the first time, you may be intimidated. Don’t worry though, it’s not as hard as you may think. However, there’s a few key things you’ll want to follow before heading out to the bus stop.
Have your origin & destination stops in mind. Or at least the closest landmarks or other points of interest that will help you get to where you need to go. Need to plan out your trip? Check out Episode 1.
Allow enough time for departure & arrival. Ideally, you’ll want to get to your origin bus stop no later than 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure. If your transit agency has a real-time transit tracker application, this can certainly help with knowing approximately what time your bus will arrive. Need help with understanding a transit schedule? Check out Episode 2.
Have your fare ready – whether it be exact change (cash), a pre-purchased mag-swipe card, tap-and-go card, or mobile fare payment application. Having your fare ready prior to the bus arriving at your stop allows for faster boarding & reduces the chance of the bus operator running behind schedule. Need to know more about transit fares? Check out Episode 3.
Heading to the origin bus stop
Once you’ve been able to locate your starting bus route & where the nearest bus stop for that route & direction are located, you’ll want to leave promptly when it is time to do so in order to allow enough time to catch the bus. While everyone has a different way of getting to & from their respective bus stops – including by bike, weather conditions & other unforseen circumstances may make your journey more difficult.
For example, let’s say you’re catching Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) Route 52 northbound from the stop at 62nd Ave N & 49th St N in Pinellas Park, FL, but your residence is about a 20 minute walk from the west. You want to catch the bus that is predicted to arrive at about 10:24am. This means you’ll want to be at the respective bus stop no later than about 10:14am. So try to leave your residence no later than 9:45am in this case so that you have enough time to get to your stop. For me, I tend to walk faster than others, but if you’re not a generally fast walker, or have mobility issues, then you’ll want to allow additional time as it pertains to your normal pace of travel.
Locating the bus stop
Locating your respective origin bus stop can sometimes be challenging, because not all stops look the same. Some stops can be distinguished by a simple concrete pad or a sidewalk with a designated bus stop sign (like the one above), while others will have the designated sign – along with a bench or even a covered shelter. It is very important though that you see the designated sign, as in most cases, the bus operator will only serve a bus stop with the designated sign posted at the location.
You sometimes may see stray benches on the side of the road with no bus stop sign to be found. Often times, this is the case because a bus route no longer travels through the area or stops have been moved or consolidated. The benches themselves may not belong to the transit agency, but rather a third party, and thus you should not solely rely on looking for the bench. Always look for the designated bus stop sign first.
Once you’ve found the bus stop sign, carefully look at which route it serves. You always want to make sure that you’re catching the correct route. Once you’ve confirmed that this is your stop, simply wait for the bus to arrive.
Note: If your transit agency has a real-time tracking application, you may have the ability to type in the designated bus stop ID number located on the bus stop sign. This will pinpoint your location in relation to the bus route & vehicle that you wish to catch.
Preparing to board
As the bus approaches your stop, you’ll want to step close to the curb, next to the bus stop sign and be prepared to board (please have your fare ready at this point for payment). To ensure that you’re boarding the correct bus, pay close attention to the headsign above the windshield. Many transit agencies have electronic (LED) headsigns that digitally display the route number (typically on the left side of the sign) and the destination. Some smaller agencies may rely on placards to show this information & such may be displayed in the windshield or along the side of the vehicle.
If you see that this is the bus that you want, simply motion to the bus operator (I typically hold my right arm and hand up to signal to the operator) to stop.
Now of course, if the bus that is approaching isn’t the one you need to board, step away from the curb and signal to the bus operator to continue along the route (I typically use my left arm to motion left-to-right repeatedly to indicate to the operate that “you’re not the bus I want to catch, keep going please). See the video below for an example.
During early morning or late evening hours – when it is dark outside, it’s helpful to wear bright clothing, as well as to carry a flash light or use the screen lighting from your cell phone to signal to the operator that you wish to board. If you’re using a flash light, please be careful not to shine the light directly towards the operator.
Once you’ve flagged down the bus that you need, just hop aboard…
Once on board the bus…
…you’ll first want to pay for your fare as instructed. For those using cash to pay for a one-way fare or purchase a day pass (mag-swipe card) on board the bus, simply insert your cash into the designated slots on the farebox. There will be a slot for dollar bills & a separate slot for coins. You’ll want to insert the bills first before inserting coins. If you’re purchasing a day pass, you’ll want to tell the bus operator that you’re doing so before inserting money so that he or she can enter the proper code on the farebox.
If you’re using a tap-and-go card (i.e. Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s STAR Card in Jacksonville, FL, or the Flamingo Fares Card in the Tampa Bay, FL Area), simply proceed to the on-board validator and tap your activated card against it. Once you see the screen acknowledge that your card is valid and the fare was deducted, then you’re good to go! For mobile fare payment apps, simply follow the on screen instructions. Some apps will work with a corresponding on-board validator for validating your fare, while other apps will require that you show the bus operator your activated ticket on screen.
Once you’ve paid your fare, find a seat, and relax. If you brought your bike on board the bus (see Episode 4), you’ll want to sit relatively close to the front of the bus so that you can see your bike on the bike rack. Please keep in mind that the seats closest to the bus operator may be designated as “Priority Seating”, meaning that those using mobility aids (including wheelchairs), the elderly, & expectant mothers will have seating priority. You’ll want to offer these seats to the elderly & expectant mothers. If someone using a mobility aid boards, you may be asked by the bus operator to vacate your seat if you are seated in the “Priority Seating” area.
State & Federal guidelines require that all individuals using mobility devices – such as a wheelchair or an electric scooter chair/power chair – be properly secured via a four-point harness system. This system uses special harnesses to secure the mobility device so that it does not shift while the bus is in motion.
Once you’re properly seated, simply enjoy the ride! Some transit agencies now provide amenities on board buses – such as USB charging ports & complimentary WiFi. If you decide to use your mobile device to listen to music or watch a video, please use headphones, as loud volume can disturb others on board. Below is a listing of other general rules to follow while on board.
Virtually all transit agencies forbid eating, drinking, & smoking on board the bus. Bottled water & infant formula are generally exceptions, but bottles must be closed when not in use.
Solicitation of any kind is also forbidden on board all transit vehicles.
Be courteous to your fellow riders & the bus operator by keeping conversations with other riders at a low volume. Please keep cell phone conversations at a low volume & to a minimum, & do not engage in unnecessary conversation with the bus operator – especially when the bus is in motion.
Weapons of any kind are not allowed – unless your particular country, state, or province has a law passed allowing for such.
Designated service animals are allowed on board to assist their respective owner. Some transit agencies may also allow small pets on board – given that they are properly secured in a carrier & not blocking aisles.
Strollers & carts should be folded & secured so as to not block aisles.
All customers should be properly dressed. Shirts, bottoms, & shoes are required.
Standees should hold firmly onto the handrails or overhead straps located on the bus.
Approaching your stop
Since transit buses cannot stop as fast as most personal vehicles, it is very important to signal to the bus operator when you need to get off. Most transit vehicles will be equipped with a stop request system that involves either pulling a cord or pressing a button to signal to the operator that you need to get off at the next stop.
Exiting the bus
If you’re able to, please try to exit the bus via the rear door – if there is one. If you need to retrieve your bike from the bike rack, please inform the operator & exit out the front door.
Never try to step in front of the bus unless you’re retrieving your bike, and never cross the street in front of or behind the bus. As much as possible, use designated crosswalks instead. If no crosswalk is available, wait for all traffic to clear before crossing – BUT BEWARE, some municipalities have strict jaywalking laws that by which you’ll be issued a hefty fine by law enforcement if they catch you, so once again…as much as possible, use designated crosswalks.
If exiting at a transit center or other transfer point by which buses pull up right behind another, parallel to the walkway/sidewalk, do not attempt to walk between buses, as the operator might not be able to see you. This is extremely dangerous!
Plus holiday schedules for other selected transit agencies
This combined post will cover special holiday service that Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) will be launching for the July 4th holiday, holiday schedules for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) & a few others, plus go over approved service changes for HART that will take place on Sunday, July 14, 2019.
So what exactly is HART doing for July 4?
Generally, HART has provided some form of extra transit service for the July 4th evening festivities – including extended streetcar service. However this year, they will be running two special complimentary shuttles in the downtown Tampa area to help shuttle people between points in downtown & the Marion Transit Center. This will make it convenient for those who don’t want to hassle with parking in downtown.
In addition to the above services, HART will operate its entire system FARE FREE that day. Just keep in mind that all routes will operate on a Sunday schedule & not all routes operate through 12-midnight. Below is a quick rundown of what times the last buses depart the Marion Transit Center.
Many transit agencies across the nation will operate limited to no service due to the holiday. Please be sure to plan accordingly if using transit.
Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), StarMetro, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX), & Miami-Dade Transit will also operate a Sunday schedule.
Votran will operate on a special holiday schedule. Please view the website for details.
Many other agencies – such as Pasco County Public Transportation & Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) will not operate. SunRail in Orlando will also not operate.
HART July Service Changes
Finally, I’d like to quickly highlight some of the system changes that HART will be rolling out on Sunday, July 14, 2019. These changes will mostly comprise of minor scheduling/time point changes, but three routes will be changed to help restore service lost during the Mission MAX system restructuring in 2017.
Schedules can be viewed on the HART website by selecting the menu button on the upper-right-hand corner, then selecting “Maps & Schedules”, then selecting “System Map & Schedules”, then selecting the routes drop-down box, & then scrolling down to the bottom listing within the drop-down that reads “HART Service Changes, Effective 7/14/19 – Coming Soon”.
Route 16 – Waters Ave: Will continue to serve the Rowlett Park loop on eastbound trips. However, buses will travel to the Yukon Transfer Center via Florida Ave after completing the loop & layover at the transfer facility. Buses will then travel straight to Northwest Transfer Center going westbound.
Route 30 – Kennedy Blvd/TPA Airport: Service in the WestShore Business District will be altered to restore fixed transit service to Cypress Point Park & the Social Security Administration offices off Cypress St. This area used to be served by Route 10 prior to its elimination during Mission MAX.
Route 39 – Busch Blvd: After completing the southbound/eastbound jog on Puritan Rd, 50th St, & Sligh Ave, buses will terminate at the NetPark Transfer Center. Westbound buses will not service 50th St & will continue directly to Northwest Transfer Center. Service to Yukon Transfer Center will NOT be restored at this time. It is unclear what HART may do in the future.
Routes 7, 8, 35, 37, and 38 will see minor scheduling changes during the weekdays, with Routes 14, 16, 30, 39, 45, and 46 seeing minor scheduling changes during the entire week.
I will begin updating my HART section here on the Global Transit Guidebook website soon. This will include a brand new route listing, an expanded transit vehicle photo gallery, & updated customer information.
In this month’s Friday Rewind, I take a look back at when Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) began repainting their bus fleet. When I began riding HART in 2006, most of their buses still donned the late 90’s era “HARTline” white with red/blue/green ribbons scheme. The only exception was the 2005 & 2006-series buses which had the same scheme that is used today, but in a purple/gray tone. The latter buses signified the overall transition from the “HARTline” days to the modern era, but that transition – little known to me at the time – was not yet complete.
Here’s what I wrote in my original post back on August 13, 2008.
Some of you may have noticed in recent weeks that many of HART’s buses look like they’re literally going to the dogs. Especially in respects to the exterior paint being scratched away in some areas.
Rest assured; the entire fleet is in good hands. In fact, a couple buses rolled out this week with a fresh coat of paint. The blue, navy, and white livery matches the style of the purple, violet, and white livery that is already seen on Commuter Express buses. However, I assume that HART chose the color scheme to better match the buses to the agency’s logo, which is also navy and blue.
The new livery is only a part of the many changes that HART’s fleet of buses are going through at the present time. You may have read the post regarding the installation of GPS and automated annunciation systems, as well as security cameras, on all buses. Well those systems seem to be fully functional since my last ride on the Route 19 in late July. I don’t know how extensive the GPS system operates, but I’m sure we will be seeing real-time message boards at some transfer centers in the not too distant future, so that patrons will be able to know exactly when the next bus departs.
As mentioned above, other changes were occurring with HART’s fleet at the time, including installation of GPS, surveillance, and automated announcement systems – all of which are still in use but are slated for upgrades in the coming months. There was also a short-lived trial of having LCD screens at the Marion Transit Center that displayed real-time departure information. This project eventually went to the wayside in favor of the OneBusAway app.
Wondering how HART’s livery has evolved over the years? Simply view the gallery below: