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.
Remember a few months ago when the City of Tampa announced that they were going to add buffered bike lanes to Platt St from Armenia Ave to Bayshore Blvd? Well, that process has been underway for the past few weeks, much sooner than I expected, and it appears to be nearing completion at this point. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the finished product. 🙂
Here’s a head’s up to those who drive along I-275 to get to the WestShore Business District from downtown Tampa and points east and north, as well as those who routinely use Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) Route 61LX.
On Thursday, January 8, 2015, the WestShore Blvd off-ramp from I-275 southbound (Exit 40A) was shut down, and will remain closed for approximately five months (until sometime in May, 2015) to allow the Florida Department of Transportation to completely rebuild the ramp.
This means that commuters who are used to using this exit will need to utilize the Lois Ave/Cypress St exit (temporarily combined with the Dale Mabry Hwy exit, Exit 41A/B). Because this ramp is far earlier than the WestShore Blvd exit, commuters will need to be on high alert to avoid having to travel another mile to get off at Exit 39, the State Road 60/Veterans Expressway/Airport exit, then to loop back around via the Spruce St off-ramp. If you miss that exit, you’ll have to spend another 14+ miles going over and back on the Howard Frankland Bridge.
If you manage to enter SR 60 going north towards the Veterans Expressway, and you happen to miss the ramp for Spruce St, don’t panic. I know trying to change lanes can be a daunting task in this area. Simply take the next ramp to the Post Office/Service Road/Cell Phone Waiting Lot and turn right onto the service road. You’ll come up to a light in front of the Economy Parking Garage, turn right here and follow the road all the way to the next light, which will be O’Brien St and Spruce St. From there, you can turn left onto Spruce, then right onto WestShore at the very next light.
Alternatively, you can follow the loop around Tampa International Airport and follow the signs to enter Spruce St. Either way, this will save you the agony of traveling 14+ miles back and forth over the Howard Frankland.
For HART Route 61LX customers, your trip home from downtown Tampa will remain largely unchanged. However, because buses traveling the P.M. route will be unable to use the WestShore exit, they will be detoured off the Lois/Cypress exit as depicted in the map below. Please keep in mind that this map was made by me, HARTride 2012, and not HART itself. HART has confirmed that no stops will be skipped.
For those using Route 61LX in the morning, the A.M. trip will remain unaffected by this ramp closure, as the on-ramp to I-275 northbound from WestShore Blvd will remain open during this time. I assume however that this ramp will have to close further down the road to allow for reconstruction. Routes 15 and 45 use surface streets and will remain unaffected by this closure. Please keep in mind though that both routes may experience delays due to heavier than normal traffic as commuters get used to the detour route.
Remember, HART offers OneBusAway Tampa, which allows customers to see when their bus will arrive in real-time – via web page, smartphone app, and text messaging. Another helpful resource is the third-party Laicos Bus Finder, currently only available via web page on a desktop/laptop computer (mobile web will not work properly). Simply enter your starting and ending addresses and see where your bus is traveling, and how close it is to your stop.
Hi everyone, HARTride 2012 here. I know I said that the 2014 Year-End Recap was going to be my final post for 2014. But I felt that I needed to convey something as soon as possible, while the “iron is still hot” so to speak. Anyways, we’re only hours away from kicking off the new year, and there’s going to be a lot at stake in 2015 when it comes to public transit in Florida. In particular, the SunRail Commuter Rail line in Orlando has reached a critical point in its young history. That critical point is the expansion of service that people throughout the Orlando metro area have been asking for.
The SunRail #NightTrain…why it’s so important.
Back in December, an announcement was made that a late-evening test train would begin service on the 22nd of that month, all in response to a petition that was signed by over 3,400 people, yeah…that’s a lot of signatures! So WAY TO GO! Yes, this is exactly what Orlando needs, more passenger rail service in the evening! This allows people to head out to see an Orlando Magic game, or have a nice evening out on the town with friends, all without having to worry about being stranded. Whatever the reason for staying late in downtown Orlando, now you have a way to get home that doesn’t have to involve your car.
Now, while this later evening train, which leaves DeBary at 9:05pm, arriving at Sand Lake Rd at 10:08pm, before departing northbound from Sand Lake at 10:20pm to arrive back at DeBary at 11:23pm, is great news, the momentum cannot stop here. We have to keep up the pressure on state and local leaders to not only make this trip permanent, but also usher in late night service that runs through 12-midnight, more frequency during the midday, and weekend services. The first and foremost way you can do just that, is by riding SunRail. If your destination lies within range of the SunRail corridor, you can easily leave your car at home, or park it at one of several suburban area park-n-ride lots, and use the train to reach a particular station of your choice. From there, you can easily connect to LYNX buses that will take you to most major destinations. From the DeBary station, you can connect to VoTran buses that will take you to nearby areas quickly and safely.
If you can’t ride SunRail regularly, that’s okay. Being that I’m in Tampa, I really can only use SunRail on occaision. However, I did get to use it during the fare-free week back in May of 2014, and I absolutely loved it! If I resided in Orlando, I would be using that train every chance I could…seriously…I would. But anyways, please, if you can’t ride SunRail regularly, tell your family members, friends, coworkers, and anyone else you know who could take advantage of SunRail, to use SunRail. The more regular riders we can get on board the train, especially the #NightTrain, the better! Because if the #NightTrain fails, it’s going to be so much harder to get service expanded…period.
Another way you can get involved is by attending meetings. On January 9, 2015, the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission – which oversees SunRail – will be meeting, and among the topics to be discussed are the #NightTrain, and the Ultimate I-4 project, the latter by which I will talk about in a moment. If you can attend this meeting, then please…do so! Every additional SunRail supporter that comes out to this meeting will make a huge difference in the path that the commission will take from that point onward. We have to show our elected officials that SunRail is a HUGE DEAL. I cannot stress this enough. If you want to attend the upcoming commission meeting, please take note of the information below:
Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission January Meeting
MetroPlan Orlando Office (Board Room)
315 East Robinson Street, Suite 355
Orlando, Florida 32801
Meeting runs from 10:00am until 12-noon
Information regarding special accommodations can be found through the MetroPlan Orlando website. Just select the meeting event on January 9 and a box will appear with the information needed.
Thank you to the wonderful folks at the SunRail Riders group for providing me with the venue information! This allowed me to obtain the time of the meeting from the MetroPlan Orlando website.
How SunRail impacts Tampa Bay’s transit situation.
Now, you might ask, what does SunRail have to do with transit in Tampa Bay? Well, SunRail has A LOT to do with transit in Tampa Bay. Because here in Tampa Bay, we too have been fighting to get better transit for years. And here in Tampa Bay, we have to deal with the anti-tax group No Tax For Tracks. NTFT was formed in 2010 and is run by Tea Party insiders who clearly do not want our transit systems to be expanded and improved. Instead, they want to see transit systems CUT, SLASHED, and eventually PRIVATIZED. In other words, they want the private sector to handle our bus and rail services and want NO PUBLIC DOLLARS to ever be used for transit again. NTFT will stop at nothing to make sure that West Central Florida has at least as many toll roads as the Orlando metro area has. And, NTFT’s leader even supports the building of a sprawling tolled beltway in eastern Hillsborough County that will only cause more sprawl, and that’s something that the Tampa Bay area does not need.
Now where does SunRail fit into this equation? Well, SunRail is often used as one of many targets by NTFT when it comes to “wasteful spending”, as they see it. If for instance, the #NightTrain isn’t successful, NTFT will no doubt have more reasons to argue that SunRail is nothing more than a boondoggle that has wasted taxpayer dollars and must be shut down immediately. Now do we really want these Tea Party insiders to keep whining like this? The answer is…NO, WE DON’T. We need to show these out-of-touch insiders that transit really can be a success story. And this is our chance to do just that by riding the #NightTrain and showing your support for SunRail at the upcoming Commuter Rail Commission meeting. If we can ensure that SunRail is a successful service, then that will send a message to Tampa Bay that a commuter rail line can thrive over there as well!
So here’s the bottom line on this matter, and something to keep in mind while going through your New Year’s plans. What happens in the Orlando area will have a substantial impact on other metro areas throughout Florida, including Tampa Bay and Miami. Miami’s Tri-Rail, which is considered to be SunRail’s big brother, has plans of its own for eventual expansion. If SunRail is a success, you can expect that service on TriRail will grow as well. And, as I mentioned, it could also pave the way for commuter rail lines in Tampa Bay, and even in Jacksonville. I believe Jacksonville also has passenger rail plans on the table.
The Ultimate I-4 Project…why pay more?
Okay, so I mentioned the Ultimate I-4 project a bit ago, so let me go into more detail. For those who aren’t aware, the Ultimate I-4 project is a radical reconstruction project that will revamp interchanges and add lanes to the busy and congested thoroughfare. A key reason why SunRail was built, is to provide an alternative to the congestion on I-4. The Ultimate I-4 project will begin this upcoming January February. Yes, that’s right, January February , 2015, we are only weeks away from groundbreaking. And…the project is expected to continue through 2021. That’s about six years of construction, which equates to six years of traffic headaches.
Even when the project is finished, will the congestion really end there? No, it won’t. And on top of that, the project introduces Tolled Express Lanes, which has really been gaining steam throughout the entire state, and the nation for that matter. My question to all those who support Tolled Express Lanes is this…do you really want to pay $5, $6, $7, $8, even $9 or $10, or even more…one-way…just to escape the morning gridlock? Think about it…the costs of maintaining your car, plus gas, plus tolls and parking.
Now even though the price of gas has gone down, your maintenance costs, as well as the overall costs of tolls, will likely not go down. And…it only takes one economic hiccup for gas prices to skyrocket again. Is that what you want to deal with for your daily commute? Why spend money each month on car maintenance, gas, tolls, and parking, when you can easily purchase a SunCard? A SunCard with a monthly travel plan costs far less than all of those expenses combined in a month’s time. You can also add funds to your SunCard just like you would a store gift card or a PrePaid Debit card.
For those of you who can easily take advantage of one of SunRail’s park-n-ride lots, that means less gas consumption, which in-turn means less money used on gas, and eventually vehicle maintenance. It also means money saved on tolls and parking, because SunRail’s park-n-ride lots are free of charge! Think about it? Calculate how much you spend monthly on gas, car maintenance, parking, and tolls. Then compare those costs to how much you would pay if you purchased a SunCard with a monthly travel plan. I think you will quickly see how much money you’ll save by using SunRail.
Kudos to the SunRail Riders!
With all of this said, I want to give a HUGE thank you to the SunRail Riders group. They have been leading the charge in advocating more service on the line, including the #NightTrain test. In fact, the SunRail Riders are the ones that organized the petition by which over 3,400 people signed. Without them, I really don’t know where SunRail would be right now. We all need to join the SunRail Riders in lending support for the train and making it clear that we need more service, including midday, late evening, and weekend services. We also need to make sure that we send a clear message to all those who want SunRail to fail, including the various Tea Party insiders. We need to keep telling them that SunRail will be a success story, not a huge flop like they want it to be. Expanding service on SunRail will do exactly that, and we need everyone to play their part in supporting SunRail, whether it is riding the rails, or at the very least…informing those you know to use the service, and attending meetings.
To close, it’s not just the SunRail Riders that are counting on your support for SunRail, I…HARTride 2012, am counting on your support too. Because together, we can all make a huge difference in the path that Metro Orlando takes when it comes to public transit.
Thank you, and have a safe and wonderful New Year!
Several months ago, I blogged about the Greenlight Pinellas initiative, which is aimed at dramatically changing the public transit landscape in Pinellas County, and how it’s funded. My previous post provided a summary of how the Greenlight plan will work, what successes the plan has had as of mid 2014, and what challenges the initiative faced at the time. In this update, the last before the November 4th General Election, I’m going to highlight how important Greenlight is for Pinellas County, and why voters need to say YES on the ballot.
Now I know this post comes a bit too late for many who have either submitted their ballots through the mail, or have taken part in Early Voting. However, for those Pinellas voters who haven’t made up their minds yet, there’s still a chance to get the information that you need so that you can make an informed decision. Many speculate that the final outcome of the Greenlight Pinellas vote is as too close to call as the Florida Governor’s race. And it’s true; both races are currently in a dead heat! Things are going to come down to the wire come November 4, and it’s up to the remaining Pinellas voters to get out and vote YES for Greenlight!
Now, I don’t want to portray myself as a transportation expert, because I am not. I am a passionate public transit supporter and have been gradually shifting towards an activist role as Hillsborough County prepares to put forth its second attempt at a voter referendum for transit in 2016. I therefore do not want to give you any information that isn’t accurate. So if you haven’t had a chance to read up on how Greenlight Pinellas will work, I strongly encourage you to visit the official Greenlight Pinellas informational website at http://www.greenlightpinellas.com. If you have a good idea about the plan, but just need that boost to make your final decision, you can visit the Friends of Greenlight PAC’s “Vote YES on Greenlight” website at http://www.voteyesongreenlight.com. I strongly encourage you to visit both sites if you can!
WHY THE PLAN IS IMPORTANT FOR PINELLAS
Moving onto the main point of my post, why is voting YES on Greenlight important?
Dramatic improvements to bus services will allow people to get around better using transit! Whether transit is your only mode of transport, or you want it to be your secondary mode of transport, passing Greenlight will allow the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) to immediately implement expanded bus services throughout Pinellas County. Such services will be able to get you to and from work, school, shopping, entertainment, dining, sporting events, or even just everyday errands!
One of the first huge improvements you’ll see is a shift from the current hub-spoke system, by which transfer to other routes are largely based on centralized centers, to a grid system, based on the county’s street grid. A grid system will allow for transfers to be done at key intersections, rather than transit centers, and will ultimately allow bus routes to run more uniformly in respect to direction, rather than zig zagging from one point of the county to the next.
More local, express, trolley, and Flex (Connector) services to get you where you need to go, faster, more frequently, and more earlier and later in the day/evening during all days of the week, not just Monday through Friday or Monday through Saturday. This will allow workers who work non-traditional work schedules (outside the traditional Monday through Friday, 9AM to 5PM schedule) to have commuting options available, which will in-turn increase job competition and creation throughout the county, and eventually the entire region! As many of you know, our area continues to lose out on job competition and creation due to a lack of an efficient transit system, we can’t continue to let this trend occur!
Purchasing a monthly bus pass is by far cheaper than all of the costs associated with driving and maintaining a car! Let me stress that last part…maintaining a car…because that’s the part many opponents don’t talk about, is the rising costs of maintaining a car, which adds up to your gas bills real fast! I also want to stress that the 65% increase in bus service through the passage of Greenlight, is the main thing NTFT refuses to talk about. All they want to talk about is bashing light rail.
Freedom to do what you want with savings! Instead of wasting money on gas and vehicle maintenance, purchase a monthly transit pass and use the savings on other things while still being able to get around! If you currently drive and are sick of sitting in traffic, the increased transit options mentioned earlier will allow you the freedom to get from A to B to C without hassling with merging, changing lanes, exiting, parking, and other hassles. You can also get work done while commuting (time savings)! With WIFi being gradually rolled out onto the PSTA system, you’ll be able to prepare for your meeting, get homework done, or even surf the web, all while on the bus! Or, you can even just sit back and relax while your bus operator does all the driving for you! If you reside in areas like Northern Pinellas, expanded Flex (Connector) services can easily get you from your doorstep to wherever you need to go, faster, and more efficiently than these services do today! And with buses running more frequently, you won’t have to wait too long for your next bus to arrive!
Premium transit options, like bus rapid transit (BRT) and light rail (LRT), will be constructed further down the road, as the increased funding continues to roll in. Once the core and supporting bus systems have been strengthened, then BRT corridors will be implemented along key highways (such as US 19) to get people from longer distance population centers quickly and efficiently. Then, by 2025, the planned LRT line from Clearwater to St. Pete via Carillon/Gateway is expected to open, allowing people to get to work, school, or even a Rays game, without sitting in traffic! As one Greenlight supporter has said, “More Mass Transit, Less Mass Traffic!” Hey! I’m all for that! And so should you!
Better for the environment! From the American Public Transportation Association (APTA): “Public transit produces 95% less carbon monoxide, 92% fewer volatile organic compounds, and about half as much carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions per passenger mile as private vehicles.” (Source: Conserving Energy and Preserving the Environment, American Public Transportation Association: 2002). PSTA is among many transit agencies heavily investing in clean air, hybrid electric-diesel buses, and the number of hybrid buses in the PSTA fleet continues to grow!
More buses! And speaking of buses, PSTA’s “Smartbuses” are currently being funded by a federal grant, one that won’t last forever. Once these added funds run out, PSTA will be in the same situation as Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) across the bay, they’ll be losing buses as the oldest ones come up for retirement. PSTA cannot sustain its current bus fleet with the limited resources they have, nor can they greatly expand for the future. Let’s make things right now, before PSTA runs into that dire situation later.
BUILDING THE FOUNDATION FOR A MODERN REGIONAL TRANSIT SYSTEM
Many in Pinellas know about the failure of the 2010 referendum in Hillsborough and how poorly planned out it was. Most voters didn’t know what they were getting. Pinellas has long refused to repeat Hillsborough’s mistakes, and Greenlight isn’t all about rail, as I described earlier, it’s about modernizing and expanding the bus system first. Once the bus system is strengthened, the rail lines will follow!
Currently in Hillsborough, elected officials have gradually been putting together their own plan to put their own referendum on the ballot by November of 2016 that will include a mix of bus improvements, funding for a starter light rail line from downtown Tampa to Tampa International Airport, roadway improvements, and pedestrian/bike facility improvements. If the Greenlight measure passes this November, the chances of Hillsborough pushing ahead with their plans will greatly increase, as well as the chances of their 2016 initiative passing!
The northbound Howard Frankland Bridge is now functionally obsolete and needs replacement by 2025! The passage of both referenda will increase the likelihood that the replacement bridge will have the necessary accommodations for a cross-bay light rail line to connect with both counties’ starter lines, creating a much-needed transit link. This will also allow for further bus and rail improvements to follow more easily. Passing Greenlight builds this foundation, and will allow for numerous transit links to be developed much faster than if PSTA remained on the status quo funding situation.
GREENLIGHT SUPPORT INCREASES
To date, the support for Greenlight has been overwhelming, with a vast majority of municipalities within the county supporting the initiative, additionally, many businesses, political, and community leaders, as well as all three regional sports teams (the Rays, the Bucs, and the Lightning) have all thrown their support behind Greenlight, knowing that it will not only improve Pinellas transit, but also build that needed foundation for a modern regional transit system!
NTFT RAMPS UP THEIR FEARMONGERING TACTICS
Sadly, along with the increased support, NTFT has increased their opposition tactics by instilling classic Tea Party style fear mongering tactics. The recently exposed racist video put out by one of these Tea Party insiders, along with efforts from outside conservative groups like The Cato Institute, show just how desperate NTFT is to not only shutting down Greenlight, but to privatize our region’s transit system.
THIS IS NOT A PARTISAN ISSUE!
Greenlight should NOT be a partisan issue! Greenlight has received support from both sides of the aisle! It’s only the Tea Party insiders and activists who don’t want Greenlight to pass, because they don’t want any public investment in transit…period! Why do you think the Tea Party has been so adamant at attacking transit all over the country? They clearly do not want the taxpayers investing anymore money into the system…simple! They’d rather have the private sector run our transit systems while we pour more money into toll roads. How’s the infusion of toll roads and tolled express lanes going to fix our crumbling bridges? I mean really?
WHY ONCE AGAIN, PRIVATIZING TRANSIT IS A BAD IDEA.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous Greenlight post, privatizing public transit does not always bring out the intended results. Buses continue to run very late at times, creating the environment for unstable and unpredictable schedules, various performance issues, and episodes of miscommunication between the public transit boards and the private contractors have also been ongoing issues. Out in California, a few agencies have seen infusions of privatization, including Fairfield and Suisun Transit, and the merged body today known as SolTrans. Both agencies continue to have operations contracted out, but the inefficiencies still exist according to one transit rider I’ve spoken with, who resides out in the San Francisco Bay Area.
HOW YOU CAN HELP!
Believe it or not, there’s still time for you to be able to make an impact on how Greenlight will fare at the polls! Every hour that you can spare to tell Pinellas voters who have not yet made their decision, can help bring the vote closer to passage! Below is a quick breakdown of volunteer opportunities that were outlined in an email sent from Connect Tampa Bay earlier today.
Phone Banking: Thursday, Oct 30th, 5-8pm at the Pinellas Realtor Organization, 4590 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater, 33762
The Walk to End Gridlock: Saturday Nov 1st, 10 am at Gulfport Public Library, 5501 28th Ave S, Gulfport, FL 33707
Door Knocking: Sunday, Nov 2nd, 10 am at the Pinellas Realtor Organization, 4590 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater, 33762 LAST “CALL”
MONDAY: Phone Banking on Monday, Nov 3rd, ALL DAY starting 10:00 AM and ending at 8:00 PM at the Pinellas Realtor Organization, 4590 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater, 33762
ELECTION DAY: ALL HANDS ON DECK! We need volunteers to give out information at precincts, waive and put up signs, call voters, and knock on doors.
The Pinellas Realtor Organization is coordinating all volunteering efforts and can be contacted in case you have any questions, or would like to put in an RSVP for volunteering (which is strongly advised). You can email the campaign at email@example.com or call 727-216-3029.
CONCLUSION – TRANSIT WILL REMAIN A TOP CONCERN FOR TAMPA BAY
As I mentioned earlier, the Greenlight referendum race is in a dead heat right now, and it’s up to the remaining Pinellas voters, who have not yet cast their ballot, to make a difference! Regardless of the final outcome of Greenlight, the issue of building a better transit system will not disappear. In fact, the issue will only become ever hotter as other metro areas like Charlotte, Phoenix, San Francisco, Norfolk, and now even Detroit, surpass the Tampa Bay region when it comes to having meaningful public transit systems. Hillsborough County will be trying again in 2015/16, and if Greenlight should go downhill, there’s no doubt that Pinellas will try again before 2020, even before 2018.
FINAL NOTE – WEBSITES TO AVOID
I want to end this piece by mentioning a few websites that you’ve probably at least heard about, that are full of lies and misinformation about Greenlight, and I want to point these sites out to you so that you don’t get swept into them thinking that they are providing the real stuff. These sites are operated by Tea Party insiders, the same Tea Party insiders that are vehemently opposed to the Affordable Health Care Act (or Obamacare). They are also among the same group of insiders that likely would support a government shutdown…AGAIN! Don’t get sucked into their websites. They want Greenlight to crash and burn so that they can push their underlying agenda, which is to fully privatize public transit throughout Tampa Bay. Later in this post, I’m going to re-iterate why privatizing transit is NOT A GOOD IDEA.
So onward to the misinformatonal websites in brief; first the No Tax For Tracks Pinellas (referred to in this post as NTFT) website at railtaxfacts.com. Believe me, this website, despite its URL, is not full of facts. But full of blatant lies, many of which NTFT has already been exposed for. There are also two blogs notorious for lies and misinformation; greenlightpinellasfacts.com and sunbeamtimes.com. Both of these blogs are run by staunch Tea Party insiders who are also passionate NTFT supporters/contributors. Both are also known for insulting voter intelligence when their debunked talking points get refuted. Yet Greenlight opponents continue to reference both of these websites in their social media posts. I don’t about you, but I sure don’t believe anything that is posted on any of these three sites.
Now, there are a few other websites that you should avoid. But I don’t want to take up anymore time going in-depth, as it will derail from my main points of this post. However, you need to be aware that there’s lots of misinformation being spread, and for you to be able to make an informed decision, you need to be able to decipher fact from fiction.
When Governor Rick Scott cancelled plans for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando back in April of 2011, many transit advocates throughout the state of Florida became upset, because of the economic impact that the line could have brought to the state. However, as soon as the November, 2010 elections were said and done, I knew that the high-speed rail line in the state of Florida was doomed.
As many of you know, the recent economic downturn has forced many transit districts to re-evaluate their current levels of service, as well as future plans, based on the level of funding that is available. In addition, many districts are searching for new ways to fund their transit districts, but some scenarios bring up more challenges and questions than they do answers and solutions. In the case with HART in Tampa, HART currently must rely on property taxes to fund a large chunk of its transit operations, a source that has been dwindling during the past several years. Put on top of that, the recent economic downturn and consolidation of the airline industry. Both of those factors have led Tampa International Airport to not only cancel its ambitious North Terminal expansion plan, but to also abandon plans to have an on-site transit hub for HART and PSTA buses, as well as any rail connections.
Instead, Hillsborough County officials are now exploring different options for a transit hub alongside the I-275 corridor. As many of you are well aware, the corridor is currently undergoing a massive reconstruction project that will allow for additional capacity. I mentioned in a previous posting that future plans for the interstate also include “Managed Lanes” and possibly either a light rail or commuter rail line down the median. There’s a rendering that you can view through my Facebook page of one option that is being considered along Cypress St & I-275. Regardless of where the final location may be, the transit hub would have an airport connection via a people mover system that is similar to what is already set up at the airport, as well as other airports throughout the world.
Tampa isn’t the only city looking into such an option. In fact, Miami just recently constructed an off-site transit hub that has a rail connection to Miami International Airport and their facility has become a model for others to consider. However, any intermodal center in the WestShore district is several years away and will likely hinge on any new funding avenues being opened. In my next post, I will be going more in-depth as to what Hillsborough County officials are doing to slowly revive rail talks and how the advocacy group Connect Tampa Bay is helping to make that happen.
I mentioned earlier on that I will begin a Focus Post series called Transit Staycations. This series will profile various tourist sites that you can easily get to by using public transit. For my inaugural post; I will talk briefly about Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and how you can get there using the HART bus system.
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is a non profit zoo that has been around since 1957 and was recently rated #1 on the top 10 Best Zoos for Kids list by Parents Magazine. The zoo is located on the corner of Sligh Ave and North Boulevard in the Seminole Heights area of Tampa, and is open each day from 9:30am to 5:00pm (though the zoo is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day). Over the years, I’ve had a few opportunities to visit Lowry Park Zoo and witness all of its wonderful animals! From Elephants to Owls, Manatees to Koalas; Lowry Park Zoo has eight themed exhibits on 56 acres with over 1,500 animals! At first glance, you may think that the zoo is small, but on the inside, it’s actually a very good size facility.
One of my favorite exhibits is the Florida Manatee and Aquatic Center, where you can view manatees, as well as a wide variety of fish and other aquatic life. I’ve always had a love for manatees and am always saddened when I hear that a manatee has been injured. Lowry Park Zoo’s wonderful manatee hospital is the only non profit manatee hospital in the world and has cared for nearly 300 manatees, according to the zoo’s website. Other exhibits include Wallaroo Station, an interactive family-friendly, Australian-themed area where kids can play in a water/splash area, feed goats, watch koalas and wallabies, and much, much more!
The Lowry Park Zoo website has all of the up-to-date information on exhibits, ticket prices, special events, and more. Single day admission tickets are very reasonably priced and annual passes are also available. All ticketing information can be accessed through the zoo’s website. Because Lowry Park Zoo is a non profit zoo, it relies heavily on donations. If you would like to make a donation to the zoo, click here for more information.
In addition to the zoo, Lowry Park also encompasses a city-operated park located across North Boulevard, by the Hillsborough River. The park is equipped with boat ramps, picnic tables, grills, and even a riverfront trail that is perfect for a morning jog.
Lowry Park Zoo is easily accessible from all points in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, and Manatee counties. If you use I-275, you will need to exit at Sligh Ave (Exit 48) and proceed approximately 3/4 of a mile until you reach the corner of North Boulevard and Sligh Ave. Signs will point you to the zoo entrance. Parking is free by the way!
If you’re coming from South Tampa/MacDill, you can use Route 36 (Dale Mabry Hwy) and transfer to Route 41 at the West Tampa Transfer Center. Please note that during events at Raymond James Stadium, the West Tampa Transfer Center will be closed. During these times, buses will transfer from a temporary location at Gomez Ave & St. Isabel St, a few blocks away from the transfer center.
If you’re coming from the WestShore Business District, you can use Route 45 from WestShore Plaza. Since Route 45 stops at the West Tampa Transfer Center, please be aware of detours caused by stadium events (which I noted in the last bullet).
If you’re coming from the Town-N-Country area, you can use Route 16 (Waters Ave) and transfer to Route 45 at North Boulevard. However, Route 16 does not operate on Sundays. You can also use Route 39 (Busch Blvd) and transfer to Route 45 at North Boulevard.
If you’re coming from the USF/Temple Terrace area, you can use Route 45 from the University Area Transit Center (UATC).
If you’re coming from Carrollwood/Lutz, you can use Route 33 (Fletcher Ave) and transfer to Route 45 at the UATC.
If you’re coming from East Tampa, Brandon, and other points in eastern or southern Hillsborough County, please check with HART as to which routes you’ll need to use. For instance, if you reside in around the NetPark Transfer Center (formerly Eastlake Square Mall), you can use Route 41. Brandon commuters will need to use Route 37 (Brandon/NetPark) to transfer to Route 41 at NetPark.
For the latest transit information, please visit HART’s website or call 813-254-4278.
Happy New Year everyone! With the start of 2013, I would like to let everyone know what I am working on for the month of January. Some of the posts that I am planning out include:
Ventra: An innovative common-use transit payment system that is being implemented this year throughout the Chicago transit system.
Paris Metro Line 12: From it’s beginnings as the Nord-Sud Line A, to its recent extension towards the northern Parisian suburb of Aubervillers, Line 12 is a vital north-south axis for the city’s growing subway system.
Part 3 of my fantasy subway system for Norfolk, VA: Where I focus on Line 3 of the fictional subway system, which connects the military hubs of Naval Station Norfolk and Naval Air Station Oceana near Virginia Beach. The fictional line also passes by Norfolk International Airport.
Part 1 of my fantasy rail system for Tampa Bay, FL: Since I’ve been talking quite a bit about my fantasy subway for Norfolk, I thought about reviving my fantasy rail system for Tampa. I originally sketched up a map of possible light rail and commuter rail lines prior to the defeat of the 2010 sales tax referendum.
Plus: Updates on HART MetroRapid, and MLK Holiday transit services.
In the next couple of days, I hope to have a poll question posted as well. This question will be in regards to the medians of Interstate 275 in Tampa. I won’t go too in depth, as to not spoil the surprise. However, some of you may have an idea of what I’ll be asking.
In the meantime, I invite you to check out Zac Ziegler’s latest post on Tampa’s light rail ambitions. This post comes not very long after a recent poll showed that many Tampanians now support a sales tax increase that would help fund light rail…something that seemed unclear just two years ago. If you haven’t read up on his other post regarding the 1% sales tax for transit, which he describes what could have happened if the 2010 sales tax referendum in Hillsborough County had passed, then I invite you to read that post as well, as I found it to be a very good read.
I know that I’ve been lagging behind on posting as of late. I’ve been trying to get into a regular schedule, but November and December have been much busier than I thought. Holiday event planning is definitely no easy task, and I’ve been having to help my family out with several different events that took place during the past couple months. Add to that; my computer problems during August and September, and my hiatus from earlier in the year. I know that in the end, I probably let down some of my viewers, and I sincerely apologize for that. I hope that with the new year, I can finally devote some time to make some major updates.
For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I would like to wish you, and your family a very Merry Christmas! I certainly hope that you are able to enjoy this wonderful day, no matter where you are located!
With all this said, I would like to take some time to reflect back on some of the major transit-related developments that occurred in 2012. I have grouped everything by month, and color coded each event as they pertain to the particular focus region that I cover in my blog.
BLUE: Tampa Bay (HART, PSTA, MCAT, SCAT, PCPT, Hernando THEbus, Citrus County Transportation)