Tag Archives: Hillsborough Area Regional Transit

HART Route 51X Park-N-Ride Change

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) will be enacting a service change on Monday, July 17, 2017 for Route 51X, which serves Downtown Tampa, New Tampa, and southeastern Pasco County during weekday rush hours. The change being made is regarding the Park-N-Ride lots that the route currently serves.

In an effort to better serve the southeastern Pasco communities, and to better position HART and Pasco County Transit for future system growth; a new Park-N-Ride lot is nearing completion in the Wiregrass district of Wesley Chapel, on Bruce B. Downs Blvd just south of the Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel campus.

The opening of the new Park-N-Ride will replace two existing Park-N-Ride facilities, one at the Victorious Life Church on Old Pasco Rd, and the other at the Tampa Korean United Methodist Church on County Line Rd. The last day of operation for the two latter Park-N-Ride lots will be on Friday, July 14, 2017.

To view the new routing and schedule for HART Route 51X, please see the flyer below. Please also check for further updates on www.goHART.org.

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Transit Tourism – New York City Transit Excursion 2017 – Part 2

In Part 2 of Transit Tourism – New York City Transit Excursion 2017, I am going to document my departure out of Tampa. Now, usually, my trips to Tampa International Airport aren’t much to write about – mainly because of the fact that Tampa Bay’s transit system is so inadequate. It’s even more pitiful when a world class airport like Tampa’s, is only served by one bus route – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Route 30. Now, It’s been envisioned for a while to have a small transit hub on Tampa International Airport property, but previous plans fell through due to budgetary constraints and changing climates in the airport’s expansion plans. Fast forward to the present, and the airport is undergoing the largest expansion project ever to date. In the coming months, I’ll be making another update to my Tampa International Airport page – which will include photos of the terminal as of May/June 2017. Phase 2 of the airport expansion will include accommodations for HART buses to layover by the Consolidated Rental Car Facility – which would end the practice of buses going through the terminal loop roadway. Customers would instead get off the bus at the rental car center and take a SkyConnect train to the main terminal.

Whether you reside in Town-N-Country or South Tampa, HART Route 30 gets you to Tampa International Airport with 30-minute service seven days a week!

Now, to get back to the purpose of this post; instead of having my mom drop me off at the airport, or taking a taxi (the latter which costs a lot more than what I wanted to spend on transportation), I decided to take HART from my mom’s house in South Tampa to the airport via Routes 19, 36, & 30. Route 19 currently operates every 30 minutes on weekdays and every hour on weekends between Port Tampa City in South Tampa and Downtown Tampa’s Marion Transit Center. The 19 also serves Britton Plaza, Memorial Hospital, the Hyde Park district, and Tampa General Hospital. Buses south of Britton Plaza currently split into two segments, running roughly every hour; Manhattan Ave and WestShore Blvd. Route 36 currently traverses Dale Mabry Hwy and Himes Ave between South Tampa via Britton Plaza and Carrollwood by Fletcher Ave. The 36 runs every 30 minutes on weekdays and every hour on weekends. Finally, Route 30, which serves the airport, runs along Kennedy Blvd from Marion Transit Center to WestShore Blvd, passing by WestShore Plaza and International Plaza malls before arriving at the terminal. Buses continue onward to the Northwest Transfer Center in Town-N-Country, and operate every 30 minutes all day, all week. Under HART’s system reorganization plan, all three routes are slated for major revisions.

While it’s not necessarily easy to get to the airport via transit given the fact that Tampa Bay’s transit system is so inadequate, it is not necessarily impossible either if everything falls into place just right. While planning out my trip to New York, I heavily took transit accessibility into consideration and chose a flight out of Tampa that would not be so early in the morning by which I wouldn’t be able to use the bus to get to the terminal, but also not so late in the day by which I would not be able to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Big Apple during the same day. I also wanted to ensure that I would be able to connect between the airport in New York and wherever I was staying. The itinerary that I ultimately chose for my flight to New York was one by which the flight out of Tampa would depart at 8:30am and arrive in Washington D.C. (Reagan National Airport) by around 10:45am. My connecting flight out of D.C. would then depart at 12-noon and arrive at New York’s LaGuardia Airport by 1:30pm. This allowed me to plan my bus rides from South Tampa to TPA Airport in a manner by which I would enjoy seamless connections and relatively light traffic on the roads. Even though I had to get up early the morning of May 9, I was more than ready to head out that morning to catch my bus and flight. Best of all, I didn’t have to worry about parking fees or taxi fares, or having a family member drop me off. I left my car at my mom’s house, purchased a 3-day Flamingo Fare via the Flamingo Fares Tampa Bay App, and was able to relax and post on Facebook while on the bus. Below is an illustration showing the HART buses I took.

An illustration showing the HART bus routes that I rode to Tampa International Airport on May 9, 2017. Click on the image for a closer look.

Now before I go into each route, I will go ahead and clear something up that I know some of you will ask me. I purchased a 3-Day Flamingo Fare because I used HART on May 7 and May 8, in addition to May 9. I did this for two reasons; first, so that I would not have to hassle with locating parking in Ybor City or Downtown Tampa, and second, so I wouldn’t have to pay for each bus ride or purchase three separate day passes. May 7 happened to fall during the 2017 RiverFest, which was held along the Downtown Tampa RiverWalk. This family-friendly event featured food, entertainment, and all sorts of activities for everyone to enjoy! As with many Downtown Tampa events, parking is always a challenge, so I parked my car at Britton Plaza and took the 19 to Downtown to check out the festivities. On May 8, I parked in Downtown near the Marion Transit Center and took Route 8 to the HART Ybor City offices for a sit-down discussion with Sandra Morrison – HART’s Public Information Officer, and Marco Sandusky – HART’s Senior Manager of EEO and Community Programs. During our meeting, we discussed HART’s planned restructuring and what suggestions that I had in regards to various routes that are slated to be changed. We definitely had a wonderful discussion and I look forward to future transit conversations with them.


Route 19 – Manhattan Ave Branch to Britton Plaza

My journey to New York kicked off at around 4:00am. My duffel bag and backpack were ready to go the night before, and all I really had to do was get ready for the day ahead. Once I was all set to go (about 5:05am), I double checked my backpack for my boarding passes and then walked over to the bus stop. I managed to arrive at the bus stop just shy of 5:20am, which was the time that the first Route 19 bus to Downtown would depart from Port Tampa City. HART bus #1602 (a 2016 40-foot Gillig Low Floor CNG) arrived on time, and I was able to board without any issues with my Flamingo pass. I took my seat near the front of the bus and enjoyed the fifteen-minute ride to Britton Plaza. The bus actually arrived at the plaza a couple of minutes early, so I was able to have a little extra time at the plaza to eat my egg sandwiches that I prepared the day before. During my wait for Route 36, I saw Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus #2309 pull in, the last 2003 Motor Coach Industries (MCI) coach that was still in service for Route 100X. PSTA has slowly been phasing out its ten 2003 coaches since 2015 due to their age and rising cost to maintain them. Until funding avenues can be found for replacement coaches, standard Gillig Low Floor buses are being used as fill-ins for the 100X and 300X. My feeling is that PSTA may eventually purchase a fleet of 40-foot Gillig Low Floor suburban style buses that offer high-back reclining seats and luggage racks. Such buses are currently used at Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) for their Route 100X service. #2309 was pulled from service after May 19, 2017, and is awaiting official retirement.


Route 36 – Dale Mabry Hwy to Kennedy Blvd

HART bus #1004 (a 2010 40-foot Gillig Low Floor Diesel) arrived at Britton Plaza at approximately 5:50am. I quickly boarded and took a seat towards the middle of the bus. My ride was quite enjoyable, just like my ride on Route 19, with little traffic on the roads to delay the bus. While I was concerned that at least one trip would go haywire somehow, that fortunately did not happen. The ride on the 36 in fact, only took about nine minutes and the bus arrived at the stop on Dale Mabry Hwy at Kennedy Blvd on time. The clock had just struck 6:00am as I got off to cross the intersection and proceed to the Route 30 westbound stop.


Route 30 – Kennedy Blvd to TPA Airport

The walk to the Route 30 westbound stop along Kennedy Blvd by Church St took me about ten minutes. Once at the stop, I had until about 6:25am before the Route 30 bus arrived. During my wait, I saw the South Tampa Flex van (#4505) pull up and pick up a passenger. She was the only person to board the van and was the only passenger on board the van when it left. Both the Route 19 and 36 buses had only a handful of passengers on board, which was typical for an early morning trip. Buses typically don’t begin to crowd up midway through the route until around 6:30am, though the Route 36 bus did have a few more passengers on board than the 19 bus did. When #1215 (a 2012 Gillig Low Floor Diesel, which replaced 2000 Gillig Low Floor Diesel #2005) arrived, the bus was pretty crowded, so I was only able to take a seat after a standing passenger at the front of the bus got off a few stops down Kennedy. The bus continued to fill up with passengers until it was almost standing room only. During the fifteen-minute bus ride to the airport, I browsed the web and also posted a few things to Facebook. Like many transit agencies, HART buses are equipped with complimentary WiFi access to allow passengers to browse the web and social media without eating up their data plans. When I got off at the TPA Airport stop, which is located on the north (or Red) side of the Baggage Claim area, the clock read 6:38am, another on time arrival for HART!


Traversing TPA Airport

It took me only a few minutes to walk from the Baggage Claim level to the Shuttle level. For those unfamiliar with TPA Airport’s unique layout (only Orlando International Airport possess a similar layout to Tampa’s), level 1 of the main terminal (also known as the Landside Terminal) is for Baggage Claim. Level 2 is Ticketing and Check-In (of course I checked in online since I was not checking any bags in), and level 3 is where the shops, restaurants, and airside shuttles are located. Boarding and deboarding of planes take place at the airsides, by which passengers will take a people mover shuttle between the main terminal and the airside. SkyConnect will be a people mover line as well – connecting the main terminal to the southeast parking garage and the rental car center. To learn more about TPA Airport, you can visit their website. Also be sure to check out Orlando International’s website if you plan on flying into City Beautiful soon.

Once I arrived at the shuttle station to go to the airside (about 6:45am), I noticed that only one shuttle per airside was in service. During the construction process at the terminal complex, each airside is operating one shuttle instead of two. This is to allow modifications to be made to each of the shuttle bays. In the case with Airside E, both shuttle bays will be relocated so that more space can be made for shops and restaurants. Once the work wraps up next year or so, both shuttles will return to service at each airside. And by the way, the shuttle trip only takes about a minute to complete, which is very convenient versus airport terminals that follow a more traditional layout with long concourses. Security screening wasn’t too bad either and the lines weren’t terribly long. Every time I enter an airport to catch a flight, I’m always concerned that security screening will take a long time. However, on my last fight to New York in 2011, the lines weren’t very long either. At most, it was only about fifteen minutes. By the time I arrived at my gate, it was 7:00am – an hour of relaxation before boarding call!


I will continue my journey to LaGuardia in Part 3 of the series. However, I am going to also talk about the transit system in Washington D.C. and why I’m wary of ever using it. I will also talk about the shuttle buses at Reagan National Airport, so please stay tuned!

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HART Network Restructuring – Part 1

You may have heard during the past few months about Hillsborough Area Regional Transit. I’m not talking about the Premium Transit Feasibility Study or OneBusAway; but rather, I’m referring to the planned network restructuring that the agency is currently planning. The massive changes are a part of the normal Transit Development Plan update that HART, and every transit agency throughout the country, is required to perform periodically. Transit Development Plans are put into place to show the public and other government entities throughout the local, state, and federal levels, as to where transit services are now and where they should be in the future. Many factors are taken into consideration when a transit agency performs a TDP update – including demographical changes, funding levels, and vehicle fleet.

HART is currently conducting a system-wide analysis for the first time since the early 2000s and is seeking public feedback on it. The planned changes are aimed at reducing system inefficiencies while improving core service in the more populated sections of Hillsborough County. The re-evaluation comes at a crucial time – when many in the region are still undecided on where our overall transportation network should head towards, overall transit ridership is dropping across the nation due to economic changes and added transportation and work options, a possible reduction in property taxes in 2019, and an uncertain future over federal transit funding due to vastly different priorities between the previous Obama Administration and the current Trump Administration.


What changes are being made?

Much of the HART bus system as it exists today will be radically different. Many low ridership routes will be eliminated in favor of increasing frequency on higher ridership areas. HART Flex services will be reorganized, as will express bus service. HyperLINK services will ultimately get a boost in service, and overall duplication of stops and routes will be reduced. HART is also looking to serve a couple of areas where demand for transit service is high but aren’t being served yet.

You can view all of the planned changes on the HART Website, but I will highlight a few of the most significant changes.

  • Closure of the West Tampa Transfer Center
  • Elimination of Route 2, being replaced by optimized MetroRapid service that will operate on weekends as well.
  • Reorganization of Routes 7 & 30 (including removing Route 30 from the airport loop. Route 30 would eventually serve the new TPA Airport CONRAC facility).
  • Reorganization of Express services.
  • Expansion/Reorganization of HART Flex services.
  • Expansion of HyperLINK services.
  • Implementation of Uber/Lyft Discount Vouchers for late evening and overnight hours (where it is no longer feasible to run regular buses during the late nights with few riders on board).

How can I voice my concerns & questions?

I will be providing my own insight into these changes in Part 2 of this post. However, I want to help get the word out regarding some upcoming public workshops and hearings so that you’ll be in the know.

Public Workshops

Monday, June 19, 2017 (TODAY!!!)
HCC Southshore Campus
551 24th St NE
Ruskin, FL 33570
10:00 am – 12:00 pm
(10:30 presentation)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017
CDC of Tampa
1907 E. Hillsborough Ave #100
Tampa, FL 33610
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
(6:30 presentation)

Thursday, July 6, 2017
Kate Jackson Community Center
821 S. Rome Ave
Tampa, FL 33606
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
(6:30 presentation)

Monday, July 10, 2017
University Area CDC
14013 North 22nd St
Tampa, FL 33613
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
(6:30 presentation)

Additional Outreach Events

Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Marion Transit Center
1211 N. Marion St
Tampa, FL 33602
6:30 am – 8:30 am and 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Wednesday, June 21, 2017
University Area Transit Center
13110 N. 27th St
Tampa, FL 33612
6:30 am – 8:30 am and 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Thursday, June 22, 2017
Northwest Transfer Center
9325 W. Waters Ave
Tampa, FL 33615
6:30 am – 8:30 am and 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Sunday, June 25, 2017
Tampa Outdoor Market – Al Barnes Jr. Park
2902 N 32nd St
Tampa, FL 33605
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Sunday, June 25, 2017
Multicultural Family Day
Water Works Park
1710 N Highland Ave
Tampa, FL 33602
11:00 am – 7:00 pm

Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Marion Transit Center
1211 N. Marion St
Tampa, FL 33602
6:30 am – 8:30 am and 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Wednesday, June 28, 2017
University Area Transit Center
13110 N. 27th St
Tampa, FL 33612
6:30 am – 8:30 am and 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Town ‘N Country Public Library
7606 Paula Drive #120
Tampa, FL 33615
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

Thursday, June 29, 2017
West Tampa Transfer Center
4201 N Himes Ave
Tampa, FL 33607
6:30 am – 8:30 am and 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Thursday, July 6, 2017
Westfield- Brandon Transfer Center
459 Brandon Town Center Mall
Brandon, FL 33511
6:30 am – 8:30 am and 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Friday, July 7, 2017
netp@rk Transfer Center
5003 N. 56th St
Tampa, FL 33610
6:30 am – 8:30 am and 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Saturday, July 15, 2017
Hillsborough County Neighborhoods Conference
Sheraton Tampa East
10221 Princess Palm Ave
Tampa, FL 33610
8:00 am – 2:30 pm

Saturday, July 15, 2017
Brandon Mall – Back to School Bash
459 Brandon Town Center Mall
Brandon, FL 33511
10:00 am – 3:00 pm

Formal Public Hearing
Final Opportunity for the public to voice their concerns before the HART Board votes on the changes!!!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017
HART Ybor, 1201 E. 7th Ave
Tampa, FL 33605
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm


Any questions concerning these community meetings and the public hearing may be directed to HART Service Development, 1201 East 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605, or by email at servdev@goHART.org / HARTinfo Line: (813) 254-4278 / TDD: (813) 626-9158

Special Accommodations:
Any person requiring special accommodations to attend or participate, pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act,
should contact HART within at least three (3) business days prior to the meeting at (813) 384-6553.


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HART Service Changes – Effective 3/26/17

On Sunday, March 26, 2017, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) will enact minor scheduling and running time changes to Routes 5, 7, 12, and 32. On Monday, March 27, changes will be effective on Routes 31, 36, 46, 47LX, 53LX, 57, and 200X.

The most significant changes are that Routes 36 and 46 get a weeknight service boost. Instead of the routes cutting off after 9:00pm, both routes will have trips running as late as 11:00pm. Schedules can be obtained at gohart.org, and printed schedules will be available after March 19, 2017.


Overview of Service Changes


Route 00400 MetroRapid – Minor running time changes.

Route 00005 Route 5 – Minor running time changes on weekends.

Route 00007ARoute 00007B Route 7 – Minor running time changes on all service days.

Route 00012 Route 12 – Minor running time changes on all service days.

Route 00031 Route 31 – Minor running time changes.

Route 00032 Route 32 – Minor running time changes on weekends.

Route 00036 Route 36 – Weekday service between Carrollwood and Britton Plaza extended to 11:00pm in both directions. Running times changed.

Route 00046 Route 46 – Weekday service extended to 10:00pm for eastbound and 11:00pm for westbound. Running times changed.

Route 00047LX Route 47LX – Minor running time changes.

Route 00053LX Route 53LX – Minor running time changes.

Route 00057 Route 57 – Minor running time changes on all service days.

Route 00200X Route 200X – Minor running time changes.

Picture670 TECOline Streetcar – Morning Service Pilot Project ends on 3/24/17, so schedules will revert back to the prior scheme with some running time changes. Read more about the outcome of the pilot project on HART’s Blog.


What about New Tampa Flex?

For those of you wondering about if and when the planned New Tampa Flex route will launch, unfortunately, the plans are on hold for now. Due to falling ridership across the nation, and possible funding reductions at the state and federal levels, plus a possible shakeup of TBARA and the ongoing controversy around Tampa Bay Express – HART is currently preparing for the grim possibility of enacting across-the-board service cuts come 2019. It’s something that I’ve been fearing for a long time and I hope that key routes will not be cut. However, some lower ridership routes may be re-aligned, merged, or eliminated, and much of the entire HART network as it stands today will radically change over the next few years. Also expect to see some services converted into Flex routes and others into HyperLINK zones.


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HART achieves ISO 14001 Certification for Environmental Sustainability and Management

Environmental Sustainability 1

On Monday, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit announced that it has earned the prestigious ISO 14001 Certification for its Environmental Sustainability and Management System (ESMS). Why is this important? Because only 13 transit agencies in the US have met the standards needed to earn this certification, and HART has become the first and only transit agency in the state of Florida to be able to do so.

Read more about this news at HART’s “In-Transit” Blog (hosted by Blogger/Google)

OneBusAway – PSTA

If you visited Hillsborough Area Regional Transit’s OneBusAway desktop website (http://tampa.onebusaway.org/enterprise/) this morning, you may have noticed something different.

PSTA's Route 59 on the HART OneBusAway desktop website.
PSTA’s Route 59 on the HART OneBusAway desktop website.

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus routes were indeed showing up on HART’s OBA interface, rather than HART’s own routes (though HART Routes 1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 16, 30, 31, 33, 34, 36, 37, 39, 41, 45, 46, 57, 96, and 400-MetroRapid were all showing as they normally would, as well as some HART express routes). If you were using the mobile app for OBA, the situation was a lot less confusing, as both HART and PSTA routes showed up on the interface.

Now, while I can only guess that today’s occurrence was a test run of sorts, HART and PSTA have been working together for the past several months to bring OBA functionality over to Pinellas County, as part of a broader regional connectivity plan that will soon usher in the first stages of a regional smart card-based fare structure. So therefore, I also see today’s occurrence to be the next stage in preparations for the official launch of OBA in Pinellas, which is currently slated to happen sometime later this year.

Don't worry, PSTA's current "Real Time" interface, powered by Clever Devices, is not going away.
Don’t worry, PSTA’s current “Real Time” interface, powered by Clever Devices, is not going away.

For those wondering about PSTA’s current “Real Time” bus tracking system that is powered through Clever Devices, that system is here to stay. Instead, OBA will become an additional convenience for PSTA customers – especially those who utilize smartphones. Those of us who have utilized the Clever Devices interface know that if you’re using a smartphone, the only effective avenue to track buses in real time is the mobile “text-only” site.

With the preparations continuing for PSTA to join the OBA realm – which already includes the New York City MTA, Sound Transit, and Atlanta’s MARTA, in addition to HART – expect to see more great things from both agencies as we head towards the summer months. My only question now is, will the official launch of OBA (Pinellas) happen sooner than some of us think it will? Only time will tell on that I guess…


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The Travel Log by HARTride 2012 Facebook Group is now open!

Why Privatizing Public Transit is BAD NEWS

The debate has sprung up at least a couple of times in the past five years here in Tampa Bay, but now it seems that the debate on whether to contract out public transit agencies to a private operator is gaining some steam. Right smack dab in the middle of this debate are at least three public transit agencies in Central Florida; Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT), Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT), and most recently…the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (also known as LYNX).

The argument to privatize transit

Many fiscal conservatives, including those who associate themselves with the Tea Party, have argued that publicly run transit agencies are financially bloated and inefficient. They chastise local governments for not having their “ducks in a row” when it comes to operating reliable transit services without breaking the bank, and for being far too dependent on state and federal funding sources – namely the latter. In turn, they also argue that private companies such as MV Transportation and TransDev can run these agencies with greater efficiency and financial solvency than the municipalities that currently operate and fund them. It almost sounds like logical sense in the minds of fiscal conservatives…right? Why have governments operate inefficient transit when private enterprise can manage transit like a business?

With the economic downturn of 2008/09, many transit agencies were forced to slash services as federal and state funding for transit declined. Many agencies have turned to contracting out at least some of their services to the private sector in an effort to save money.

What privatized transit generally looks like

There are two major forms of privatization that pertain to public transit: 1) Contract out transit services to the private operator, but allow the public entity to plan out and finance those services, 2) Allow the private operator to handle both operations and planning.

In the first scenario – seen in parts of the US; the private operator would be contracted to provide their workforce to operate the transit routes and would be given the necessary resources (route assignments, schedules, etc.) for the contracted employees to do their jobs. Meanwhile, the transit agency would retain responsibility for planning and financing services and their board of directors and executive staff would likely be retained to oversee day-to-day operations.

In the second scenario – seen in many parts of Europe and in Australia; the private entity does virtually all the work…from operating the routes, to paying the employees, to planning out and financing services. The role of the government in the scenario is reduced and the public element of the transit agency may be limited to just the board of directors and a few key executive members. In this case, the transit agencies operate similar to what the airlines would, bringing forth a business-like competition to the service area.

The pros and cons to privatization

While I’m not going to spend a ton of time going through each of the pros and cons of privatizing transit in detail, it is important to know what some of them are.

Pros

  • Generally less burden on public entities and governments.
  • Competitive environment – like the airlines (in the case of the second scenario described above).
  • Greater flexibility of routes and services.
  • Greater economic flexibility.
  • Generally lower employee wages.
  • Lower overall cost of doing business.

Cons

  • Focus is on making profits, not providing excellent service – Massive cuts to the agency’s services and routes could be made at the expense of meeting profit margins.
  • Less accountability – difficult to hold the private operator accountable for its actions.
  • Greater risk of late buses and trains, as well as “no shows”.
  • Less public input on service changes, except public hearings that are required to be held by law.
  • Lower customer satisfaction and employee morale.
  • Government subsidies needed to shore up unproductive services and meet government regulations – such as Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act here in the US.

Problems with privatized transit in Fairfield, CA

Fairfield and Suisun Transit (FAST) in Fairfield, CA has experienced problems since it was outsourced to MV Transportation. Buses have been consistently late – or not shown up at all, customer complaints have increased, and employee morale has decreased. Despite these troubles, FAST decided to renew its contract with MV in 2014. As recent as May, 2015, dismay has been expressed over how FAST transit workers are compensated. These problems definitely bring to the forefront that contracting out transit services to the private sector isn’t the best way to go about saving money and rebuilding public trust.

Agencies in New Orleans, LA, Long Island (Nassau County), NY, and even Austin, TX have all outsourced their transit operations to private companies. While I’m not sure about how Austin is doing, both Nassau County, NY and New Orleans have experienced problems since privatizing their transit services.

The situation with MCAT/SCAT

Discussions about privatizing MCAT and/or SCAT have arisen in recent years, but were never pursued further. Additionally, a 2013 survey showed that almost 60% of customers were against even merging the two agencies. However, things took an interesting turn when private transit operator TransDev jumped into the foray with an unsolicited proposal to merge the two entities and simultaneously making the united entity a privatized one. While Manatee County seems to be on board, Sarasota County needs more time to examine the repercussions should the proposal be approved. Some have pointed that MCAT and SCAT would do better as one body – but not under private hands, and many customers have voiced time and time again that they don’t want their transit agencies to be run by a private company – fearing many of the same repercussions that are already being felt in Fairfield, CA with FAST.

The situation with LYNX

Some in Orlando, including Congressman John Mica, have expressed dismay at LYNX’s lack of ability to create a better transit network – including efficient connections to SunRail. These parties believe that contracting out LYNX services to the private sector would force the agency to make better decisions in order to better serve customers. There is even talk of legislation that would basically impose strict guidelines on LYNX and force the agency to bid out its system to private transit operators like TransDev and MV. I’m not sure how far the legislation would go, or if it would only apply to LYNX, or stretch out to be a statewide mandate – eventually opening the door for agencies like Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) to have to do the same thing. One thing is clear though, the SunRail advocacy group – The SunRail Riders – have expressed heavy dismay towards the proposal, citing that it will turn LYNX into an entity that beefs up SunRail connections at the expense of routes that are dearly needed by riders in other areas of Osceola, Orange, and Seminole Counties.

Why privatizing MCAT/SCAT could lead to the privatization of PSTA

If the privatization plan goes through with MCAT and SCAT, there is no doubt in my mind that Tea Party activists, like Barbara Haselden of Pinellas County, will see even more reason to lobby county and state officials into contracting out the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) out to the private sector. These activists have long argued that PSTA is mismanaged and cannot think outside the box. They also believe that privatization is the only way to “protect the taxpayers from further waste”. PSTA has already contracted out paratransit services, only to see disastrous results (although issues supposedly have been addressed and resolved), and the agency is now having to look at possibly contracting out its express routes due to budgetary constraints, and the failure of the Greenlight Pinellas referendum.

Why privatizing LYNX could lead to the privatization of SunRail

Tea Party activists have also argued that both LYNX and SunRail are grossly inefficient and that SunRail has no long term funding source, or long term management plan by the various municipalities that would have to begin operating it when the state relinquishes control in 2021. If LYNX becomes privatized, there is no doubt in my mind that these activists will call on the state to also bid out SunRail to a private operator. Why? Because I’m very sure that their argument will be “if you privatize LYNX, then you also have to privatize SunRail”, and I’m willing to bet that this is exactly what winds up happening. In addition, privatizing LYNX could also open the door for – as I mentioned, PSTA to also be bidded out to the private sector. It’s like a game of dominoes…once one agency is privatized, others will start looking into privatization as well. And then fiscal conservatives, along with the Tea Party, will advocate our elected officials to force privatization upon our transit agencies.

All three agencies could stand to lose a lot

If MCAT, SCAT, and LYNX are all privatized, you can likely expect that customer satisfaction will plummet, customer complaints will rise, buses will be late – or not even show up, needed routes will be cut in order to shore up ones that the private operator sees as “profitable”, employee morale will decline, and the list goes on and on. In short, expect far worse service from these agencies if they are privatized. It has already happened to FAST and several other agencies throughout the US. We simply cannot allow this to happen here in Florida.

Tampa Dreams of SunRail

Metro Orlando is very grateful to have SunRail! Because here in Tampa Bay, it’s hard to build a better transportation network without a meaningful passenger rail system.

In collaboration with the SunRail Riders group – which advocates for better service on the SunRail Commuter Rail system in Orlando – I’m going to talk about SunRail and the challenges that Tampa Bay faces being without a passenger rail system. This post highlights the 7-day-a-week congestion along I-275, challenges with keeping the TECOline Streetcar Line running, and the ongoing battle between transit advocates and supporters, and the rail haters.

I invite you to read the full post at sunrailriders.com and tell us what you think. I want to take a few moments to thank the SunRail Riders for giving me this opportunity, and for everything that they do to help make SunRail even better! I hope to be able to write other pieces for the SunRail Riders in the future.

NOTE: Corresponding media in the post (except this photo) is not mine. Credit goes to their respective authors.

HART Service Changes for Spring, 2015

Markup 1

It’s that time of year again to report on service changes for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART). For this round of service changes, effective Sunday, April 26, 2015, several routes will see scheduling and/or time point changes to help improve efficiency throughout the system. Routes 8, 9, 31, 36, and 53LX will see scheduling changes and Routes 24X and 25LX will see deletion of a time point.

Summary of Service Changes

Please see the graphic below for a quick summary:

Markup 2

Scheduling Changes

Now, let’s go into greater detail about the changes for each route:

Route 8

The following weekday northbound departures from the Marion Transit Center will change:

4:30AM departure changes to 4:45AM
5:00AM departure changes to 5:15AM
5:30AM departure changes to 5:40AM

Plus various running time changes throughout the day

The following weekday southbound departures from Westfield Brandon Mall will change:

5:00AM departure changes to 5:10AM
5:30AM departure changes to 5:40AM

Plus various running time changes throughout the day

On Saturdays; all trips will depart the Marion Transit Center at :20 after the hour instead of :30 past. Trips from Brandon will remain the same, but running times will change.

On Sundays; all trips will depart the Marion Transit Center at :20 after the hour instead of :15 past. Departures from Westfield Brandon will adjust from :30 past the hour to :40 past.

Click here for the full schedule (Opens in a new window)

Route 9

On Saturdays; departure times from the Marion Transit Center will change from :50 after the hour to :00 past. Trips leaving the University Area Transit Center will change from :15 past the hour to :10 past. Layovers at the Yukon Transfer Center will also be adjusted, along with running times.

On Sundays; departure times from the Marion Transit Center will change from :50 after the hour to :00 past. Trips leaving the University Area Transit Center will change from :05 past the hour to :10 past. Layovers at the Yukon Transfer Center will also be adjusted, along with running times.

Weekday schedules will remain unchanged

Click here for the full schedule (Opens in a new window)

Route 31

Route 31 will see the following changes in the northbound direction:

5:10AM departure remains as-is, but running times will be adjusted
6:15AM departure changes to 6:20AM
7:30AM departure remains as-is, but running times will be adjusted
8:45AM departure changes to 8:50AM
10:00AM departure changes to 10:05AM
11:15AM departure changes to 11:20AM
12:30PM departure changes to 12:35PM
1:45PM departure changes to 1:50PM
3:00PM departure changes to 3:05PM
4:20PM departure changes to 4:25PM
5:30PM departure changes to 5:40PM
6:15PM departure changes to 6:20PM
6:45PM departure changes to 7:05PM

The following changes will be made in the southbound direction:

All morning and midday departures from Westfield Brandon will remain the same, but running times will change. The following departures will see adjustments:

4:20PM departure changes to 4:25PM
5:35PM departure changes to 5:45PM
6:45PM departure changes to 6:55PM

Click here for the full schedule (Opens in a new window)

Route 36

HART Flex customers will need to pay close attention to these changes, as they will impact their transfers to and from Route 36.

Weekday northbound departures will change from :00 and :30 past the hour to :05 and :35 past. Please note that the two early departures from the West Tampa Transfer Center will change from 5:20AM and 5:50AM respectively to 5:25AM and 5:55AM respectively.

Most weekday southbound departures will change from :00 and :30 past the hour to :25 and :55 past. There are a few exceptions however, please pay close attention to the following:

4:30PM, 5:00PM, and 5:30PM departures remain as-is, but running times will change
6:00PM trip changes to 6:10PM
6:30PM trip changes to 6:35PM
7:00PM trip remains as-as, but running times will change
7:30PM and 8:00PM trips change to 7:25PM and 7:55PM respectively
8:25PM and 9:25PM trips will remain as-is, but running times will change

On Saturdays; southbound departures will change from :40 after the hour to :35 past. Northbound departures will remain the same.

On Sundays; southbound departures will change from :40 after the hour to :35 past. Northbound departures will remain the same.

Please note that running times will change on ALL trips.

Click here for the full schedule (Opens in a new window)

Route 53LX

In order to accommodate the new bus stop at St. Joseph’s Hospital South, all running times have changed.

Click here for the full schedule (Opens in a new window)

Time Point Changes

Routes 24X and 25LX

The timepoint at S. Dale Mabry Hwy and Pinewood St will be eliminated from schedules and maps. The southbound stop will continue to be served on inbound trips (morning) and the northbound stop will continue to be served on outbound trips (afternoon).

Travel Tips

Please plan your day accordingly, as arriving too late WILL result in you missing your bus.

You can always download the OneBusAway app to your smartphone and check when your bus is predicted to arrive. The app is available through the iTunes Store (for Apple devices) and the Google Play Store (for Android devices). Don’t have access to an Apple or Android smartphone? No problem! View instructions for other supported devices, desktop/laptop computer, and text messaging on the HART website.

Did you know that OneBusAway Tampa now supports touch tone telephone lookup? Just call 813-452-4622 and follow the easy-to-use instructions.

If you’re on a desktop or laptop PC, you can also track where your bus is located before you go! Just visit the third-party Laicos Bus Finder and input the addresses of where you’re coming from, and where you’re going to. The interface will then show in real-time where your bus is traveling (very helpful when a bus is on detour and your nearby stop might not be serviced). Smartphone apps are in the works from what I understand.

Need further info? Discover a discrepancy with the schedules? Please contact HART at 813-254-4278. Please keep in mind that all scheduling info posted here, I have pulled directly from the HART website. If you happen to see anything that I’ve posted incorrectly, please let me know.

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.