Category Archives: Misc.

Anything that doesn’t fit into any other category gets filed here.

The Back To School 2017 Post

It’s time for students to return to school – and 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! And 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. And 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 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 lights are flashing and 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.

In the past, I’ve been able to provide a link to Shawn’s “School Bus Driver” website, which had a page dedicated to this matter in particular. However, he has closed the website as of a few months ago. In place of that link, I am going to share a diagram that has been seen on various sites across the web. The diagram clearly shows when vehicles must stop for a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading students.

passingbuses

With that said, I wish everyone that is headed back to the classroom a safe and wonderful school year!

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The Back To School 2016 Post

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It’s time for students to return to school – and 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! And 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. And 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 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 lights are flashing and 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.

In the past, I’ve been able to provide a link to Shawn’s “School Bus Driver” website, which had a page dedicated to this matter in particular. However, he has closed the website as of a few months ago. In place of that link, I am going to share a diagram that has been seen on various sites across the web. The diagram clearly shows when vehicles must stop for a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading students.

passingbuses

With that said, I wish everyone that is headed back to the classroom a safe and wonderful school year!

The 2015 Back to School Post

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Well folks! It’s that time again! Time for many people to head back to school! And 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. And yes, that includes those big yellow school buses!

As always with school buses, it is imperative that drivers pay close attention out on the roads…especially when those buses come to a stop to pick up or drop off passengers. If you’re not aware already; all 50 states 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 lights are flashing and 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.

If you don’t think I’m serious about this matter, then please take a moment to jog on over to Shawn’s School Bus Driver website, where he has a page dedicated to this matter in particular. There are also neat diagrams on the page that illustrate which situations where all traffic must stop while a school bus is loading or unloading passengers, and a couple of videos that show just what can happen when other drivers fail to follow the law. I applaud Shawn for putting his time and effort into making such an informative page!

With that said, I wish everyone that is headed back to the classroom a safe and wonderful school year!

ALWAYS BE AWARE OF THE BIG YELLOW SCHOOL BUS! Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.
ALWAYS BE AWARE OF THE BIG YELLOW SCHOOL BUS! Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.

The European Union Photography Law Debate

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Tension and confusion are building within the European Union…and it has nothing to do with the economic crisis in Greece. The debacle that I am going to be talking about today, has to do with a proposed union-wide law that would essentially ban commercial photography of landmarks like the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the London Eye in London, without first seeking approval from the respective copyright holder. However, there is much confusion and opposition against the proposed law due to concerns that private individuals, like myself, won’t be able to take personal photographs of these landmarks and upload them to social media for our friends and family members to view, without fearing repercussions from the E.U.

Now, I can understand the E.U. wanting to make some sort of unified law, as right now, different countries have different policies. Like in the U.K., there is what is called “Freedom of Panorama” by which photos can be taken of copyrighted works in public spaces for both private and profit-generating uses. However, in countries like France and Belgium, laws currently exist by which you can’t do so without first being granted permission from the copyright holder. So for example, if I were to ever post a photo I took back in 2009 of the famous Atomium complex in Brussels or the Eiffel Tower in Paris at night – here on my blog – I could get into trouble even though the photo would never be used for profit-generating purposes. After all, this is a non-profit blog.

So you can see why there is some discord between each country’s policies when it comes to taking photos of copyrighted works and why a unified law should be crafted. However, unless major clarification are made to where the ordinary citizen isn’t penalized for doing a leisurely task during a vacation, then I am by all means against the current proposal.

Until the law can be clarified, I am suspending the expansion of my European Transports section.

Gandy Freeway St. Pete Update

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The damaged retaining wall along the future westbound through lanes of Gandy Blvd is now being dismantled. Credit: HARTride 2012.

Back in January of this year, a fiery tanker accident damaged a section of retaining wall (pictured above) that was being constructed in St. Petersburg, FL, placing its structural integrity into question. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is constructing the retaining wall as part of a decades-delayed freeway project along the median of Gandy Blvd. Because traffic will soon travel along the elevated roadway, the damaged section of wall must be replaced and the soil behind the wall strengthened, otherwise the wall could one day collapse…causing an even bigger mess.

Some commuters may wonder why its taken this long for the repair work to begin. Well, the reason is quite simple really…while work on other parts of the freeway has been allowed to continue, the insurance companies of the involved parties have had to determine who was at fault for the accident, which sometimes can take weeks to determine. Once the at-fault party was determined, that party’s insurance company had to communicate with FDOT as far as the severity of the damage to the roadway and how much the repairs could cost. After all the of the pieces of the puzzle fall into place so to speak, and the claim is resolved, then the funds are paid out so that the repairs can begin. The entire process of settling an insurance claim can often times be very time consuming (believe me…I know a few people who are auto insurance adjusters…it’s not fun at all).

Because of the damage, the entire freeway project has likely been set back somewhat. Hopefully though, the new roadway can still open sometime in 2017. Once it does open, several Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus routes will be able to flow more smoothly…along with the rest of the traffic in the area.

Two-way conversion project on Cass/Tyler could impact downtown Tampa HART bus routes

You may have heard it through the local media outlets, a project to convert Cass and Tyler streets in northern downtown Tampa from their current one-way configurations to a two-way layout is getting underway, and this undertaking could result in numerous Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) bus routes being impacted by the construction, especially at night – when lane and road closures are more likely.

The project to convert these two streets into a two-way layout is part of the broader InVision Tampa plan, which aims at creating a livable urban space within downtown Tampa and surrounding areas. A buffered bicycle trail will also be included in this project, and will run the entire length of Cass from Nebraska Ave to at least the eastern merge point of Cass and Tyler. There is also a separate project at the western merge point of Cass and Tyler, by the Straz Center, that will radically transform the two streets. That project is the planned Arts and Entertainment Residences tower, slated to begin in the not-so-distant future.

During the time of construction, HART customers should pay close attention to their commutes. Although daytime trips may not be heavily impacted, evening trips will likely be detoured at times when roads need to closed, and will thus add on to travel times. Since the project crosses the Marion St Transitway, night time routes like the 2, 19, and 30 may temporarily be detoured. Any route detour or other such interruption will be announced by HART as early as possible. However, I strongly suggest that you sign up for HyperAlert email/text services if you ride any of the affected routes, as there will be notifications sent out when buses are on detour.

To make things easier in viewing which HART routes could be impacted by the Cass/Tyler project, I’ve created a Google Map that outlines the major transit corridors through the affected area of downtown Tampa. If you spot any inaccuracies, please let me know right away.

Changes to SB I-275 through WestShore

This upcoming Friday evening, a huge traffic alignment shift is scheduled to occur, weather permitting. All southbound lanes of I-275 between the I-4 junction and State Road 60 will be closed beginning at 11:30pm Friday night. Those lanes should begin to reopen, along the new alignment, around 5:30am.

During this time, all traffic will be detoured off I-275 SB and I-4 WB at the downtown exit ramps. Commuters will be directed to Kennedy Blvd, where they can reconnect to I-275 past WestShore Plaza, or any of the cross roads that intersect with the highway (Lois, Dale Mabry, or Howard/Armenia).

Alternatively, commuters from the north can use the Hillsborough Ave or MLK exits from SB I-275 to connect to Armenia or Dale Mabry. For those connecting to Lois, commuters can alternatively use the Floribraska exit, then connect to Columbus Dr via Tampa St. For those coming from I-4, commuters can either use Hillsborough Ave or connect to the Selmon toll road.

When the new alignment of SB I-275 opens up on Saturday, weather permitting, the new WestShore Blvd exit ramp will open, allowing HART Route 61LX outbound from downtown to resume routing.

For a unique perspective on the I-275 construction, I invite you to visit the I-275 Florida Blog.

No relief in sight for clogged Gandy Blvd in Tampa

Let’s face it, Gandy Blvd in Tampa is just too clogged. Traffic routinely backs up for miles during rush hour, and despite plans for either a bypass expressway or an elevated structure being planned for the last two decades at least, nothing has materialized.

There is currently no funding available for construction, nor will there be funding available for at least another decade, unless Governor Scott throws in a Hail Mary at the last minute. Even then, studies would have to be updated, which alone could take up to five years. Then you have the ongoing rash of “Not in my backyard) opposition from area residents and business owners, who fear any expressway or elevated structure would cause excessive noise, plummeting property values, and dire loss of business traffic. YET, a WalMart SuperCenter was allowed to be built along the very same stretch of road in 2010 with very little community opposition. Now that’s just messed up.

So what can be done about this problem? Well, unless we have money, there really isn’t a lot that can be done. The past proposals for a bypass expressway are dead due to the need to acquire land that today has either been built up or has been otherwise purchased by private developers. And the elevated structure plan faces continual community opposition, as I just mentioned. Light rail would be nice, but that too costs money, and you’d have double the opposition…not just from area residents and business owners, but also from No Tax For Tracks and the rest if the Tea Party anti-transit folks.

Unless as I mentioned, Governor Scott throws in a last minute Hail Mary, don’t expect anything significant to happen with the Tampa stretch of Gandy for at least another 10 years…

Ultimate I-4 in Orlando begins

In the back passenger seat looking back as my family traveled down I-4 near downtown Orlando in 2008. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012. August, 2008.
In the back passenger seat looking back as my family traveled down I-4 near downtown Orlando in 2008. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012. August, 2008.

It’s the 1st of February, and what is to be one of the largest infrastructure projects in Central Florida to date…is officially kicking off. That’s right, the construction phase of the Ultimate I-4 project is officially underway according to various news outlets throughout the state. The project will bring forth roughly six years of construction headaches as the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) completely rebuilds interchanges throughout the thoroughfare from Kirkman Rd to State Road 434. In addition to rebuilding key interchanges, lanes will be added to the highway, including two Tolled Express Lanes in each direction.

Project Information

FDOT has the latest project information on the I-4 Ultimate web site. You will want to check into this site periodically for updates throughout the project’s duration. As of right now, you shouldn’t expect too much to change in your daily commute, but as February comes to a close, you will likely begin seeing some major lane shifts and closures, as well as tons of overnight and weekend work. If you have not yet planned out alternative routes in the event things get real bad on I-4, NOW is the time to do so.

Escape the construction mess! Use Transit!

For those of you who ARE ABLE TO USE SunRail, but haven’t started; NOW is the time to purchase your SunCard and make sure that there is enough balance. SunRail provides fast and easy connections with the LYNX bus system, which will allow you to not only save time and hassle versus driving on I-4, but also save on gas. Even though gas prices are at its lowest levels in years, many analysts are predicting that we’ve hit rock bottom, and that those prices are going to climb right back up in the next few months. Making these preparations now will save you tons of headaches down the road. If you’re not able to use SunRail or Lynx, that’s okay, there are other options such as carpooling, vanpooling, and even telecommuting (if your employer allows for it). If you aren’t sure where to start, in terms of planning out your commute, FDOT’s Re-Think service may be able to help!

Safety is top priority

If you choose to traverse I-4 during construction, you’ll want to keep a close eye out on lane shifts, closures, and reduced speed limits, as well as any ramp closures and associated detours. You can bet that the Florida Highway Patrol will have an increased presence during the construction phase as well, so don’t risk yourself getting a ticket, it’s not fun or cheap. Even worse, is getting into an accident because you didn’t pay attention to the roadway ahead of you.

Conclusion

So I will repeat, prepare NOW for the next six years of headaches along I-4 as the Ultimate reconstruction project rolls along. If you can use SunRail, then please do. If you can’t, then please spread the word to all those you know who can use SunRail. SunRail is currently at a pivotal moment by which we need to fight even harder for more evening, midday, and weekend service. Right now, SunRail does not run on the weekends, and the I-4 construction will continue around the clock, so if you hate having to drive I-4 on the weekends, then I hope that you will consider supporting the SunRail Riders in their mission to bring weekend rail service so that commuters have an alternative transit option seven days a week.

Tolled Express Lanes – Do they really relieve congestion? – Part 1

The buzz is growing on Tolled Express Lanes, also known as Managed Lanes. Many states throughout the US have already adopted them, with several others planning to join in during the next decade. Here in Florida, Express Lanes are already in use along former HOV lanes on I-95, as well as a reversible structure along I-595. Both thoroughfares are located in the Miami metropolitan area. In Tampa, Express Lanes will soon go under construction along the Veterans Expressway, and Orlando’s Ultimate I-4 Project will be kicking off within the next few weeks.

Also in Tampa, a massive Express Lanes project is being planned, called the Tampa Bay Express Lanes – or simply TBX. TBX would allow Express Lanes to run along I-275 from just north of Gandy Blvd all the way up to Bearss Ave, as well as I-4 from downtown Tampa to eventually the Polk Parkway toll road, and I-75 from Bruce B. Downs to almost the Hillsborough/Manatee County Line. This project is expected to be executed during the course of the next 30 or so years and will bring a lot of construction along with it. While this project may be good for the economy in terms of construction jobs, the question remains…will it really ease congestion on our highways?

Later this week, I’m going to address several questions regarding Express Lanes, including the one I just asked. First though, I want to provide some information to my readers. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will be holding two public workshops to allow for public input this week. These workshops will be held during the following dates at the following locations:

Pinellas County: Tues, 1/27 from 5PM to 7PM @ Minnreg Hall, 6340 126th Ave. N., Largo.

Hillsborough County: Thurs, 1/29 from 5PM to 7PM @ TPepin Hospitality Centre, 4121 N 50th St., Tampa.

Additionally, there will be another event, Florida’s Transportation Visioning Regional Forums, to be held on Monday, 2/3 at 1pm @ the Tampa International Airport Marriott Hotel, 4100 George J Bean Parkway Tampa, Florida 33607.

Will concerns be addressed?

This is the main sticking point that myself and other transportation advocates have with FDOT. How will public concerns be addressed? And furthermore, how long of a period will there be for public input? Connect Tampa Bay Executive Director Kevin Thurman is equally as concerned as I am about the TBX project and how it could adversely impact our communities. We both share the concern that FDOT should follow up these workshops with more public meetings so that there is sufficient time available for public comment. Furthermore, TBX should be a foundation for building a more extensive transportation network that includes Bus Rapid Transit and even Light Rail.

In short…why did FDOT just announce these workshops and provide few details? Our transit plans are consistently grilled by Tea Party insiders and transit advocates alike, so numerous meetings are arranged for those issues. But when it comes to building roadways, there’s almost no public input whatsoever in some cases. And more so, FDOT has not announced just how much this project will cost in the end for us. Until that is revealed, I’m not so sure about if these lanes are really going to reduce congestion.

As Kevin stated in an email, “The number one thing we’ve learned in two years at Connect Tampa bay is if you stand up at a meeting — your voice will be heard. Pinellas is already looking for new funding options for transportation and in Hillsborough, local leaders will start a series of more than 30 meetings in mid-February to get input from everyone before finishing their countywide plan.” I truly believe this, and I hope that you will be able to attend one of the above meetings.

Enjoy your day, and let’s make a difference in shaping Tampa Bay’s transportation network!

HARTride 2012