Gasparilla 2020

Pirates, & Beads, & Transit…oh my!

Post was updated on 01/24/2020

Yep, it’s that time again, for the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival! The Parade of the Pirates brings in hundreds of revelers each year, & along with that…tons and tons of roadway closures. So here’s what you need to know if you plan on attending the parade on Saturday, January 25, starting at 2:00pm.

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Winter 2019 Holiday Transit Schedules

It’s the holidays!

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.


Christmas Eve

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.


Christmas Day

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.


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Thanksgiving Weekend 2019 Holiday Transit Schedules

Family, Shopping, and Attractions

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.

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Veterans Day 2019 Holiday Service Schedules

Honoring those who served


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.

Customer Service

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.


Disclaimer

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.


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PSTA Fall, 2019 Service Changes

It’s that time again…


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.


Route 18

# 2629 at the Park St Terminal in Clearwater.

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.

A Direct Connect sign at the Pinellas Park Transit Center. A new Direct Connect stop will be added as part of the Route 18 changes.

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.


Route 73

# 2655 leaving the Park St Terminal.

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

# 922 approaching Grand Central Station.

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).
  • View my Google Map showing these changes.

North County Connector

You may still see these vans around the Countryside & Dunedin areas, but for how much longer remains a question. # 1805 is pictured here.

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.


Other Changes

# 17101 on the 100X. The 100X will not change this time around, but the 300X will see some minor scheduling adjustments.

Minor scheduling changes will be made to Routes 9, 14, 20, 52, 52LX, 59 (Largo Mall routing/stop consolidation), 62, & 300X.


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Transit Etiquette (Ride with Respect)

Be Kind, Be Courteous


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.


The basics

My fictional character Nick is a police officer. He boards transit buses & trains often to help make sure that things are as peaceful & orderly as possible. Nick knows what he should & should not do while using public transit & does his best to make sure that the rules of the road & rail are enforced at all times. Keep in mind though, just because there may not be an authority figure like a police officer on board your transit vehicle – doesn’t mean you can go about making your transit ride miserable for yourself & others.

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.

Do’s

Don’ts

  • 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.

Bus specifics

Below are some additional, but specific things to keep in mind while on board a transit bus.

If standing while inside the bus, your feet should not be in front of the yellow safety line, as depicted here.
  • 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.
  • Windows
    • Some buses have opening windows in the passenger area. Unless instructed by the operator, you should not open the windows.
  • Wheelchair boarding
    • 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!!!
Credit: Palm Tran.

Rail Specifics

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.
  • Emergency Brakes
    • 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

  • Priority Seating
    • 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!


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2020 Art on HART

Art is Important

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.

“Soundwaves” by Michael O’Connell. Credit: HART.

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.

# 1018 was selected as the first bus to don the artistic wrapping.

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.


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Labor Day 2019 Holiday Transit Schedule

Be aware of limited transit service.

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.


Florida

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.

  • Weekday-Level Service
    • TECOline Streetcar (Tampa)
  • Saturday-Level Service
    • SCAT (Space Coast/Brevard County)
  • Sunday-Level Service
    • HART (Tampa)
    • PSTA (St. Pete/Clearwater)
    • LYNX (Orlando)
      • Routes 416 & 427 will not operate, as they are funded by Citrus Connection (Polk County)
    • BCT (Broward County)
    • DTPW (Miami-Dade County)
    • Tri-Rail
    • Key West
    • JTA (Jacksonville)
    • StarMetro (Tallahassee)
  • Special Schedule
  • No Service
    • SunRail (Orlando)
    • Citrus Connection (Lakeland/Winter Haven)
    • SCAT (Sarasota)
    • MCAT (Bradenton)
      • Beach Express & Anna Maria Trolley routes will operate.
    • PCPT (Pasco County)
    • Hernando THEbus (Hernando County)
    • Citrus County Transit
    • MARTY (Martin County)
    • Palm Tran (Palm Beach County)
    • CAT (Collier County)
    • ECAT (Escambia County)

Mid-Atlantic US, The Carolinas, & Georgia

  • CAT (Savannah, GA): Special Holiday, visit website for details.
  • MARTA (Atlanta, GA): Sunday
  • Augusta, GA: No Service
  • CARTA (Charleston, SC): Sunday
  • PDRTA (Florence, SC): No Service, except routes going to Myrtle Beach
  • Coast RTA (Myrtle Beach, SC): Contact Agency
  • CATS (Charlotte, NC): Contact Agency
  • Go Raleigh (Raleigh, NC): Sunday
  • Go Durham (Durham, NC): Sunday
  • HRT (Norfolk/Hampton, VA): Saturday
  • WATA (Williamsburg, VA): Saturday
  • GRTC (Richmond, VA): Sunday
  • WMATA (Washington, DC): Weekday

Northeastern US

  • MTA New York (Bus & Subway): Sunday
  • PATH (NY/NJ): Weekend
  • Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (NJ): Weekend
  • Newark Light Rail (NJ): Sunday
  • 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

Illinois

  • Chicago CTA: Sunday
  • Pace Bus: Sunday
  • Metra: Varies

Other

  • 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.


Disclaimer

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.


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The Back To School 2019 Post

Always be aware of the school buses!


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.

Quick note, it delights me to announce that Shawn B.’s School Bus Driver site is back up & running! So please check it out, including – & especially, the page dedicated to informing you & I about when you are required to stop when the school bus is stopped (in the manner by which I mentioned a moment ago). He also has a couple of videos posted that clearly depict the dangers presented when other motorists fail to stop for the stopped school bus.

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!


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Transit 101 – Episode 6 – Riding the train

Learn how to ride the train…

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is transit-101-cover-3.png

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Just like a bus system, Google Maps can help you pinpoint the location of your nearest rail station.

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.

  • Bringing your bike with you? Check out Episode 3.
  • Need to use the bus to connect to your train? Check out Episode 4.

Just like a bus stop, rail stations take on many forms, so identifying your respective station may be a challenge.

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.


Be sure to locate the correct track…

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.

Many subway/metro systems, as well as many commuter rail systems, have countdown clocks to inform customers of when the next train will arrive.

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, please step away from the platform edge.

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.


A very crowded subway train in New York City.

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 rail & intercity rail systems are much different than urban systems like subways/metros, streetcars, & light rail.

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).


Once you’ve exited the train, step back from the platform edge & allow others to exit & enter.

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.


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