Page Updated on 12/7/15.
New schedule is now in effect. For more information; please visit www.goHART.org, select the menu on the upper-right hand corner of the homepage, then select “Maps and Schedules”, then “System Map and Schedules”. From there, select MetroRapid North-South from the route drop-down box to view the new schedule.
MetroRapid is HART’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service, which launched on May 28, 2013. The system currently comprises of one line that runs from downtown Tampa to Hidden River Corporate Park via the University Area Transit Center. MetroRapid features limited stops (compared to local routes, but not as limited as express routes), modern shelters, and traffic signal priority (TSP).
Between May 28 and June 7, HART provided customers a chance to use MetroRapid for free. This allowed customers to get a feel for the new service, while allowing HART staff to work out any last-minute problems before the start of revenue service. MetroRapid officially began revenue service on June 10, 2013, with a formal ribbon cutting held at the Hidden River Corporate Park grounds in Tampa Palms.
History and Planning
HART began preliminary planning for MetroRapid in 2004. In 2005, discussion about Bus Rapid Transit began to gain steam, along with prospects of possibly bringing light rail or commuter rail to the area and renewed interest in high speed rail. Preliminary plans were to create dedicated lanes along existing interstate and expressway corridors to allow BRT routes to flow efficiently. Also in 2005, HART began to conduct detailed studies as to how BRT would be funded and where the first routes would be laid out. As time progressed, the prospect of having a dedicated lane type BRT system, which many consider as being “true” BRT, faded away. Although it is still envisioned that we could indeed have “true” BRT in Tampa, our existing roadways do not have the capacity to support such a system at this time. Ongoing and future widening projects along Interstates 4, 75, and 275, as well as plans for a bus lane system along the Selmon Expressway, may one day bring forth “true” BRT.
Instead, HART shifted its focus from the interstates to the Nebraska Ave corridor, which HART considers as its busiest bus corridor. During rush hour, buses are often filled to capacity, forcing some riders to have to wait for the next bus to arrive. Onboard, it’s standing room only, with customers having to squeeze their way through just to get off. In fact, from my own observations from riding HART’s Local Route 2 during the course of 2010, buses along this route can get very crowded, very fast. The result of this focus on Nebraska Ave brought forth what some call “BRT Lite”, which operates like BRT, but mixes in with regular traffic. In August 2006, the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners voted to invest $40 million into the BRT project.
By 2008, the first MetroRapid line was set, connecting downtown Tampa to the USF area and Hidden River Corporate Park via Nebraska Ave and Fletcher Ave. This first phase became known as the North-South Line, though a more catchy name is yet to be brought up. I did hear some things during 2010 about the North-South Line being called the “Green Line”, but I’m not too sure what happened to that proposal, or whether it was even on the books to begin with.
During the summer of 2009, HART unveiled additional details about MetroRapid, including a rendering of a bus in the green/white livery, The agency also began to showcase the project at a series of public meetings throughout the county. The design phase was completed in 2010, and groundbreaking for the construction phase took place on August 6, 2012.
On November 16, 2012, the first MetroRapid bus was delivered to HART’s Operations Facility, and in April of 2013, HART announced that it would hold a two-week fare-free period for customers wanting to try out the new line. This two-week period also gave HART staff a chance to smooth out any rough spots before revenue service begins. HART officially launched revenue service of the MetroRapid North-South Line on June 10, 2013, with a formal ribbon cutting held at the Hidden River Corporate Park grounds in Tampa Palms.
Hillsborough County’s Community Investment Tax has largely funded the planning and construction phases of North-South corridor, and HART was very fortunate that costs for the project came in under budget by $5.7 million (the original project estimate was at $31 million). Those extra funds were put back into the county’s money pot to be used on other much-needed infrastructure projects.
A second route is planned to connect East Tampa to Tampa International Airport via Hillsborough Ave and MLK Blvd. The East-West route however, remains largely unfunded. HART is seeking federal funding for the East-West Line.
Subsequent lines (please see list below) are being planned based on the success of the North/South Line, as well as future funding levels. So far, ridership on the North/South Line has been higher than expected. But I’m not sure if that is primarily due to new riders on the line. We must consider the fact that many Local Route 2 customers have been using MetroRapid as well, so there has probably been somewhat of an outpouring of customers from Local Route 2 to the MetroRapid North/South Line.
- New Tampa/USF Line via Bruce B. Downs Blvd.
- Brandon/Downtown Line via the Selmon Expressway (if the HART/THEA bus lane plan goes through).
- Downtown/Airport Line via Kennedy Blvd (may not be needed if a planned light rail line is constructed between downtown and the airport instead).
- Northwest County/Temple Terrace Line via Busch Blvd/Gunn Hwy.
- Lutz/MacDill Line via Dale Mabry Hwy.
Currently, the Busch/Gunn and Dale Mabry lines are of lesser priority due to funding constraints, but they do remain in longer term plans to be constructed.
HART MetroRapid uses 12 Gillig Low Floor vehicles (#s 1201 through 1212) that are very similar to that of the 2009 and 2010-series buses. These buses have a white, gray, and lime green livery to match the MetroRapid logo. The interiors consist of an off-white tone with green and gray seating cushions. The rear of the buses have the same BRT styling of the 2005-series fleet, but HART opted not to go for the sleek BRT front due to several reasons, including cost-savings realized by ordering standard parts and having a uniform bus fleet. I also understand that the LED headsign on BRT styled buses can also cause visibility issues, especially during bad weather. Also, it is to my understanding that Gillig has made the BRT styled front optional nowadays, so some transit districts choose not to go with the sleek design.
North-South Line – Route and Stops
The MetroRapid North-South Line begins at the Marion Street Transit Center in downtown Tampa and progresses down Morgan St, with no stops until Kennedy Blvd/Jackson St. The original route was along the Marion St Transitway, but because of heavy congestion caused by local buses, HART quickly deviated MetroRapid’s route to Morgan St instead. The closest stops for central downtown commuters are located along Kennedy Blvd (going northbound towards the UATC) and Jackson St (going southbound towards the Marion Transit Center).
Buses then travel along Nebraska Ave from downtown Tampa to Fletcher Ave. From there, buses continue along Fletcher Ave until they reach 22nd St, where they deviate to serve the UATC. Selected trips will continue from the UATC onto Bruce B. Downs Blvd and back onto Fletcher Ave towards Hidden River Corporate Park.
Many MetroRapid stops (particularly the largest shelters) are equipped with ticket vending machines (or TVMs) to speed the boarding process. However, many are left to wonder if TVMs will eventually be equipped at all MetroRapid stops. Otherwise, the purpose of having a speedier bus service will be defeated. HART staff have told me that the lack of TVMs are due to limited funding.
Service Frequency and Schedule
MetroRapid North-South operates Monday through Friday between the hours of 5am and 8pm. The first and last departure times of the day can be viewed via the link below. Frequency for the line is every 15 minutes between the Marion Transit Center and the UATC. Frequency between the UATC and Hidden River Corporate Park is every 30 minutes.
For convenience, I’ve listed departure times from the line’s termini below.
- Northbound/Eastbound – Marion Transit Center to the UATC: Buses depart from the MTC at :00, :15, :30, and :45 past the hour from 5:00am until 6:45pm.
- Northbound/Eastbound – Marion Transit Center to Hidden River via the UATC: Trips to Hidden River depart from the MTC at :00 and :30 past the hour from 5:00am until 6:30pm.
- Southbound/Westbound – Hidden River to Downtown/Marion Transit Center via the UATC: Trips depart from Hidden River at about :04 and :34 past the hour from 6:04pm until 7:34pm.
- Note: The 7:04 and 7:34pm trips from Hidden River terminate at the UATC at 7:18 and 7:48pm respectively. Customers will be required to transfer to Route 2 to complete their journey to downtown via Nebraska Ave. These trips leave the UATC at 7:25 and 7:55pm respectively.
- Southbound/Westbound – UATC to Downtown/Marion Transit Center: Trips depart from the UATC at :00, :15, :30, and :45 past the hour from 5:15am to 7:15pm.
A full schedule can be viewed on the HART website by selecting the menu on the upper-right hand corner of the homepage, then selecting “Maps and Schedules”, then “System Map and Schedules”. From there, select MetroRapid North-South from the route drop-down box to view the schedule.
The MetroRapid North-South Line is labeled as Route 400 on Google Maps and on the OneBusAwayTampa Application.
Fares for MetroRapid are the same as a local bus fare. One-way cash fares are $2.00, and all HARTride passes are accepted. For USF students, the U-Pass Program also extends to MetroRapid (meaning that USF students can ride MetroRapid at no additional cost with their valid USF ID).
Maps shown on this page are from publicly accessible records (such as board meeting packets) and cannot be claimed as copyrighted or proprietary.
More to come soon, including photos!