Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What's in it for Me?

Meeting with residents on our transit plans
With transit talk starting to heat up around the area, have you found yourself asking "what's in it for me?"

We can help you answer that question.

If voters approve the 1% transportation tax this November, HART will start phasing in a plan that would add transit benefits for residents across Hillsborough County. From New Tampa, to Plant City, to Riverview, we've worked to build a plan that accommodates the needs of this very diverse community.

Most areas would see more service and improved connections to the entire HART system, less wait times, better access to important destinations like downtown Tampa, the airport, USF, hospitals and shopping centers, and the addition of new routes, facilities and services.

Want to see exactly what would be in store for your area? Check out our fact sheets by clicking on the links below.

South Hillsborough County
Northwest Hillsborough
Downtown Tampa
East Hillsborough County (Plant City, Thonotosassa, Seffner)
East Central Hillsborough (Brandon, Valrico, Riverview and surrounding areas)
Central Tampa
East Tampa
North Tampa
West Tampa & Westshore

Don't forget, you can read HART's entire Rapid Transit Investment Plan on our website at www.gohart.org/whytransit.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Local High-Speed Rail Meeting; Labor Day Service Schedule

Local High-Speed Rail Session Tomorrow
Last week, we reported that an informational session for contractors and other vendors interested in the high-speed rail project was set for Lakeland. This week we got word that a public meeting for citizens who would like general information on the project will take place here in Tampa. According to the Tampa Downtown Partnership, the Florida Department of Transportation is holding a public information meeting on the Tampa - Orlando high speed rail project on Tuesday, August 31st at the Tampa Convention Center at 6:30pm.

Florida Rail Enterprise officials will present an overview of the project followed by question and answer sessions. Public comment cards will be available. The public meetings are free, open to the public and require no advance registration. For details, visit the project website at http://www.floridahighspeedrail.org/.

Labor Day Service
Planning your Labor Day weekend? So are we! HART service will operate on a Saturday schedule next Monday, September 6. That means routes and other services that normally do not operate on Saturdays, such as Commuter Express routes, will not be in service on Monday. Call the HARTinfo Line at (813) 254-HART for more information.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Go Bucs! Go Bulls! Go HART!

HART's West Tampa Transfer Center
Happy Saturday! And let's give a cheer for the start of football season!

With the Buccaneers' home preseason schedule winding down tonight, and the USF Bulls' regular season starting next Saturday, we're all getting ready for some football - including your friends here at HART.

Since there are always lots of street closures and other traffic management efforts underway on gameday, you will see an impact on HART services around the stadium. Here's all you need to know to get where you're going when Raymond James Stadium is hopping.

West Tampa Transfer Center Closed
HART's hub on Himes Avenue will be closed for several hours on gameday due to traffic management measures. The following routes are impacted by the closures:

Route 7 – West Tampa/Citrus Park
Route 32 – MLK Boulevard
Route 36 – Dale Mabry/Himes Ave.
Route 41 - Sligh Ave.
Route 45 – UATC/Rome/Westshore Plaza

HART buses will serve a temporary stop at St. Isabel Street and MacDill Avenue, behind St. Joseph's Women's Hospital, during major stadium events. In addition, some streetside stops around the stadium will be inaccessible to buses and cannot be served. For details, please call the HARTinfo Line at (813) 254-HART (that's 4278).

Click here for more information, USF and Tampa Bay Buccaneers schedules, and a map of the stadium detours on HART's website.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Extra! Extra! Read All About It

Transportation is making local headlines.
Have you heard? From high-speed rail to bike trails, transportation is in the news this week.

High-Speed Rail Meeting in Lakeland
Questions about Florida's high-speed rail project? If you don't mind making the trek to Lakeland, you can attend a public information meeting scheduled for Wednesday, September 1 at 2:30 p.m. at the Lakeland Center's Lake Hunter Room (if you've lived around these parts for a while, you might know it better as the Lakeland Civic Center).

One facet of the meeting appears to be making contact with contractors and other potential vendors for the project. For more information on the meeting, click here to read the story in The Ledger.

Keep in mind, this meeting is regarding the state high-speed rail project, which is the Tampa-to-Orlando line that received federal funding last year. That project differs from Hillsborough County's proposed light rail system that would serve passengers traveling from northern Hillsborough County, through downtown Tampa, and on toward Tampa International Airport. The light rail line is part of HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan, which you can take a closer look at here.

Local News on Sharpe Victory
In Tuesday's elections, Hillsborough County Commissioner and HART Board member Mark Sharpe won the District 7 Republican primary despite a vigorous challenge based on his support for the upcoming transportation referendum. ABC Action News wonders if Commissioner Sharpe's victory might be a predictor for what could happen in November. Watch the story here.

MPO Plans Tampa Bike Trail
This week, Hillsborough County's Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) gave residents a chance to preview a proposed bike trail that would connect Ybor City, downtown Tampa and Bayshore Boulevard.

The trail would follow the path of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway, connecting to the TECO Line Streetcar System and the Marion Street Transitway, HART's transit thoroughfare in downtown Tampa.

Click here to read the full story from the St. Petersburg Times.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Web Wednesday - Let's Socialize

You tweet your way through the day. You have tons of Facebook friends. Maybe you even star in your own YouTube videos. Social media is where more and more people are finding friends and getting info - and now your networks can help you connect with HART, too.

Follow us on Twitter
HART's Twitter page has just passed the 300 follower mark, and is still growing. Our tweets run the gamut from detour alerts to sharing some of the crazy ways people get around.  So, if you follow us @GoHART, you'll get some great tidbits of information, updates on projects, service alerts, and even a touch of fun. Check out our Twitter page here: http://twitter.com/gohart

Be a Facebook Fan
On Facebook, you can join the conversation! Read more updates about service and other great info, leave your comments on the wall, upload photos and more. Plus, let us know if you like what you read. It's like walking into a room full of friends - or maybe like making a busload of new ones! Join the in-crowd at http://www.facebook.com/HillsboroughTransit.

See What's Happening on YouTube
If a picture's worth a thousand words, then video must be just about priceless. HART's YouTube channel lets us put our plans in motion, so you can see what the future of transit could look like. There are renderings of the new MetroRapid service, a peek at how the Marion Street Tansitway in downtown Tampa could function as a rail line, and a new video that explains why transit is important to our community. Plus, you can check out HART's series of TV commercials (in English and Spanish), and see how we celebrated 30 years of serving our community. Tune in to HART at http://www.youtube.com/harttransit.

Blogging In
Since you're reading this post, you already know about "In Transit," HART's new blog. We're keeping you up-to-date with the latest info straight from the folks in the know at HART. If you haven't subscribed yet, hop aboard! You don't want to miss this train as it leaves the station.

And there's lots more to come. Hang with us on all your social media sites, and keep connected to HART!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Letter from HART CEO in Local Newspapers

HART CEO David Armijo
The weekend editions of the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times each ran a special column by HART CEO David Armijo that sheds some additional light on the ongoing Alternatives Analysis. In case you missed it, here's the full text of the piece as it appeared in Saturday's Tribune.

Mapping out county's transportation future
By DAVID ARMIJO Special To The Tampa Tribune

Just over a year ago, HART launched a major study to determine how best to serve this county's transportation needs. Today, we've made much progress.

At last Monday's meeting of HART's Board of Directors, we presented cost and ridership information from the study. A lot of questions were answered during the presentation, but there is still much work to do and many voices to be heard.

Here's a look at where we are now and what's next:

The study, known as Alternatives Analysis (AA), started in July 2009 as an important first step toward securing federal dollars for transit investment. The AA is an in-depth assessment of the proposed improvement area that considers which alternatives would best meet the transit needs of that area, whether it's a rapid-transit system like rail or bus-rapid transit, regular bus service or no improvements.

It takes into account factors including travel patterns, cost and ridership estimates, and construction issues, including right of way, bridge crossings, property impacts and public preference.

The AA study includes two separate corridors, west and northeast, and initially identified 30 possible rapid-transit routes. Three review phases narrowed these possible alignments to five.

In fact, it was public preference that added a significant piece to this puzzle. After input at more than 235 community meetings, the AA study now includes direct service to Tampa International Airport and extending service under Interstate 75 as far north as Cross Creek via Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. Our customers and residents requested service that would connect more neighborhoods to employment centers and destinations.

So what happens next?

In November the HART board will choose the "locally preferred alternative" (LPA), which is essentially the final routing and type of system (rail, bus rapid transit, regular bus improvements) that we'll then take to the Federal Transit Administration for our capital funding request. The board's choice will be based on recommendations that will come from the final stage of the AA, which is underway now.

As part of that final stage, we're developing recommendations to address two central questions:

• Which of the remaining alternatives - two in the west corridor and three in the northeast - best meets needs and opportunities in each corridor?

• What is the most effective strategy to implement the locally preferred alternative in each corridor?

To select the locally preferred alternative, each of the five remaining alternatives is being reviewed against a comprehensive set of measures, including ridership, travel time, service quality, cost efficiency, land use and environmental impacts.

The five alignments under review include three in the northeast, with two using the CSX freight rail line and one that runs along I-275. Both would serve New Tampa, the USF area and medical facilities, and downtown. The two west corridor alignments being considered are Cypress Street and I-275 between the airport and downtown.

Over the next two months we will complete the modeling work and determine a final cost for each travel technology and alignment.

The HART board will then choose between light-rail transit, bus-rapid transit and enhanced bus service based on factors such as ridership, cost and redevelopment opportunities. We will present public comments, along with our study findings, to the board, which is scheduled to deliberate Nov. 15.

It's HART's goal to complete this process in as timely and transparent a manner as possible so you can make an informed decision.

But when considering such a large investment, it's important that everyone who wants to voice their opinion has a chance to do so.

That's why we've included one more round of public outreach before making the final alignment choice. It's the right thing to do.

What has not changed throughout the process is the commitment of HART to dramatically improve the quality and quantity of public transportation for Hillsborough County residents and visitors as resources become available. In these unprecedented times of uncertainty it is prudent to be careful and deliberative as we contemplate changes that will help shape our future for decades.

You can get information about the AA on our project website, www.gohartaa.org. Or join us at one of the final two public hearings on Sept. 25 and Sept. 30 or at upcoming community workshops.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Transit Vote Passes in WA; HART Leaders Nominated for National Board

Across the country, transit is pulling into the station!
A couple of news items today.

First up, the residents of Olympia, Washington went to the polls this week and voted, by an overwhelming margin, to fund transit improvements for their community with a .2% tax increase.

The measure, which passed with about 63% of the vote, is expected to provide an additional half-million dollars a year for Intercity Transit.

Olympia, Washington isn't exactly a giant transit mecca along the lines of New York or Chicago - or even nearby Portland, Oregon. But the residents there decided, even in the face of difficult economic times, that a better transportation system was important to them. And lots of communities across the country are making the same decision.

Read more about the Olympia vote here.

Hewitt, Armijo Nominated for APTA Executive Committee
The American Public Transportation Association announced the nominees for its 2010-2011 slate of officers. Included on the list are HART Board Vice-Chair Alison Hewitt and CEO David Armijo.

Both Ms. Hewitt and Mr. Armijo have active leadership roles in the public transit trade association. Ms. Hewitt is Vice-Chair of APTA's Transit Board Members Committee, and a member of the organization's ADA Subcommittee and High-Speed and Intercity Rail Committee.

Mr. Armijo is a member of the American Public Transportation Foundation Committee, along with the Bus and Paratransit CEOs Committee, the Human Resources Committee, the Legislative Committee and the Rail Transit CEOs Committee. He is also a 2001 graduate of the Leadership APTA program.

The APTA Executive Committee and members-at-large complete the full board of directors, which includes designees of 20 of APTA’s largest dues-paying transit agencies and 10 of its largest dues-paying business members, as well as the chairs of 25 committees.

The slate will be presented to the APTA membership for approval at the APTA Annual Business Meeting and Election of Officers during the 2010 APTA Annual Meeting in October.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Feeling Stressed?

If you live here in the Tampa Bay metro area, apparently you are. Forbes magazine has just released its list of the most stressful cities in the U.S. and, - you guessed it - we're on it.

Tampa came in at number 4 overall.

The magazine ranking considered factors like health, unemployment, long work hours, limited exercise and...wait for it...long commute times. Yep, sitting in traffic has an adverse effect on your general well-being, and makes you one stressed-out cookie.

Could transit help? Hard to say. But don't you think it might add to your quality of life to ride in comfort instead of white-knuckling it on the highway? Just sayin'.

Check out the Forbes report here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Web Wednesday - There's a Map for That

What could transit look like 25 years from now? New lines in new places? More choices for more people? New types of transit we don't have today?

Would you believe - "there's a map for that"?

Well, there is. HART has created a map of what Hillsborough County's transit system could look like in the year 2035 if the agency's Rapid Transit Investment Plan is implemented. It gives you a look at how we might serve some of the areas that are currently underserved or not served at all, and it shows you how new types of service could be woven into the transit fabric. 

In fact, there's so much service on this map - you almost can't see the map! It's a great way to envision what the future of transit could be.

Click here for the future map, and get and lots of other information about HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan on our website, www.goHART.org/whytransit.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Toll Lane for Transit?

HART, Expressway Authority to Study Innovative New Solution
Last week, HART and the Tampa Hillsborough County Expressway Authority announced that they had partnered up to win a federal grant to study Bus Toll Lanes for Tampa Bay.

What's that, you say? Transit and highway agencies working together? What's next, dogs and cats getting along?

Actually, this is a perfect partnership. Bus Toll Lanes (or BTLs) can offer a solution that works for drivers and riders alike to help ease congestion, promote transit ridership and make for a quicker commute.

Here's how it works. The BTL creates dedicated lanes for transit on local highways that automobile drivers can also use for a toll. Price management of the toll lanes, in which costs increase or decrease based on the amount of traffic, keeps the lanes flowing smoothly. So, if you want to hop off a heavily congested highway, you can pay a little more to get where you're going a little sooner. At times of lighter congestion, you might choose to stay on the main roadway.

Nothing really new so far, right? You've probably heard of price-managed toll lanes before. The difference with a BTL is the incorporation of public transit with a pricing strategy that puts transit first, giving customers the best service for the lowest price.

The $800,000 grant awarded by the Federal Highway Administration will allow HART and THEA to conduct a study assessing the benefits and costs of a BTL network in the Tampa Bay area. The study will identify a sample set of corridors where BTL may be implemented and also provide initial estimates of the social and economic benefits of the program.

You can read news coverage of the BTL study at the Creative Loafing website, and on TBO.com.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Tale of Two (Rail) Cities

Tampa and Orlando Get Ready for Rail
Last year, the federal government had a decision to make: which regions of the country would share in the $8 billion it had decided to put toward high-speed rail?

High-speed rail is coming to Florida, and local agencies
are making plans for it.
After reviewing plans and hearing arguments, a proposed line linking Tampa and Orlando was one of the final choices. Today, we here in Tampa Bay and our friends in Central Florida are working with the state agency developing the HSR system. And things are really moving along.

An article on the Huffington Post website (thanks to the Tampa Downtown Partnership for pointing us toward this piece) sketches the efforts of the two communities to integrate the high-speed system into local projects, and the different approaches they're taking.

How important is coordination with the high-speed line? For HART, it's very important.

As the author notes, Tampa and Hillsborough County have been keeping a close eye on the state's plans. The location of the new HSR station will be a stone's throw from HART's Marion Transit Center, a major transit hub that also figures prominently into the light rail line proposed as part of the agency's Rapid Transit Investment Plan. Ideally, passengers would be able to hop off the HSR line after the speedy and relaxing trip from Orlando and hop aboard a bus or train to hit a local destination. The transition should be convenient and as nearly seamless as possible. Much coordination still needs to be done, but rest assured the HSR project is certainly factoring into HART's plans for the future.

AA Study Findings Released at Board Meeting
HART's Board of Directors met this morning to get a first look at some of the findings from the Alternatives Analysis. For complete coverage of the results, check out these reports in the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times.

Friday, August 13, 2010

End of Summer Deals from HART

Take a bite out of the dog days of summer with HART
Ahhh...can you feel that touch of fall in the air?

OK, this is Florida, where summer feels as though it could last forever - but HART does have some deals to thank our wonderful customers for making this year a great one, and to help take the bite out of those seemingly never-ending dog days of summer.

Today, August 13 - Sunday, August 15
BOGO Your Ride during the state sales tax holiday! Everybody loves the BOGO - which, of course, means "buy-one-get-one." This weekend only, hop aboard HART buses with a friend, neighbor, relative, or whoever you want to bring along, and one of you rides free with cash fares or when you use your 1-Day Unlimited Ride fare card.

Friday, August 20
Attention Brandon and East Tampa passengers! Ride Route 37 FREE all day on August 20! If you're traveling between Netpark, the Grand Regency shopping center (across from Westfield Brandon mall), and the Brandon hospital, we've got you covered. Plus, you can enter to win a free restaurant gift card on Route 37 buses. Click here for the Route 37 schedule, and here for a PDF map.

Friday, August 27
Frequent riders - here's your chance to save. For one day only, you can buy one 10-pack at any HART sales outlet and get another 10-pack for half price!

Saturday, September 11
Leaving on a jet plane? Find out how to get there with HART! We'll take you on a travel training tour of HART's airport service on Route 30. You'll get a free fare card for a future trip, and you can visit the great shops and restaurants in and around the airport while you're there.

Monday, September 13 - Friday, September 17
Flex your transit pride in South County! If you haven't tried the brand new HART Flex service in the Ruskin, Sun City Center and Wimauma area, here's your chance to ride for FREE! Call (813) 449-4555 to make your reservations up to one week in advance. For more information about HART Flex, click here.

Monday, September 20 - Saturday, September 25
Brandon Flex-ers, it's your turn to try out the new service for free!

Free Field Trips in September
Teachers, parents, school administrators, youth group leaders, here's an assignment for you. Take note that in the month of September you can get your whole group to a local field trip destination for free! HART will be offering complimentary fare cards for groups of up to 25 to use regular HART service to get to your field trip destinations. Call HART's community relations department at (813) 449-4747 for details.

If you have any questions about the Dog Days of Summer deals, you know who to call - the HARTinfo Line, (813) 254-HART (that's 4278 if your phone doesn't have those handy letters on the dial).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Narrowing the Alternatives

HART's look at a proposed new transit plan for Hillsborough County is nearing the final stages. But while our team has been at work on the Alternatives Analysis for just over a year, this is really a story several years in the making.

In 2002, HART completed a study on transit improvements in Hillsborough County, including a new light rail system. Before that, a 1993 Commuter Rail Feasibility Study considered creating a regional system serving the Tampa Bay area's largest counties. Back then, the necessary local funding couldn't be identified and the plans had to be put on the shelf for another time.

Fast-forward to 2010. HART's team of staff and consultants will present its findings in the current AA study to the agency's Board of Directors at a special meeting to be held Monday, August 16 at 8:30 a.m. in the HART administrative offices in Ybor City. The next step in the process will be public input leading to the selection of a final "Locally Preferred Alternative."

So What's an AA, Again?
Here's a refresher. Before applying for any federal assistance in building a new transit system, the Federal Transit Adminstration requires local authorities to make an in-depth assessment of the proposed area. The study must consider which alternatives would best meet the transit needs of that area, whether it's rail, bus rapid transit, regular bus service, or no improvement at all. Hence the name "Alternatives Analysis."

Routes Still on the Drawing Board
The planners and engineers at work on the study have been looking at routing alternatives in the Northeast (Downtown Tampa to University of South Florida) and West Corridors (Downtown Tampa to Westshore). Alignments still under consideration to date are:

Northeast Corridor
• 30th Street and CSX, with option to connect to High Speed Rail Station and south into the
downtown peninsula
• Interstate 275 (east side of interstate)
• 30th Street, Busch Boulevard, 22nd Street, and CSX (with High Speed Rail and downtown connection)

West Corridor
• Cypress Street and Cass Street
• Interstate 275

At Monday's Board meeting, the study team will present detailed information on the findings of the evaluation of these alternatives, including ridership projections, travel time, impact, constructability, cost and land use considerations.

Public Comment Vital
From there, the next step is all about you. If the Board approves on Monday, HART will be scheduling a public communication and outreach program for September that will let residents of the community have their say in the study's final recommendation.

The outreach effort will entail stakeholder group meetings, including neighborhood and community associations and business groups; distribution of a project newsletter and posting updated information on the project website, http://www.gohartaa.org/; six public information sessions at locations throughout the study area; and two public hearings to provide formal opportunities for members of the public to present comments on the alternatives.

Feedback received through these various channels will be presented to the Board and used to help develop the final recommendations.

Keep checking here, and at HART's website, http://www.gohart.org/ for dates, times, locations and other information about the upcoming public outreach effort. For more information on the background and progress of the AA, you can visit the project website, http://www.gohartaa.org/.

For details on this meeting, and all upcoming HART Board meetings, click here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Web Wednesday - We've Got Plans

Last month, the American Public Transportation Association named HART its Outstanding System of the Year. As someone pointed out, in the transit industry, that's like winning the Super Bowl or the Oscar for Best Picture. In other words - a pretty big deal. Of course, bringing home an award like that takes a lot of hard work, determination, and a pretty big vision.

Turning that vision into reality is all about having a plan. And you can get a first-hand look at some of HART's plans for the future right on our website.

Rapid Transit Investment Plan
This is the big enchilada, the major plan for adding hundreds of miles of new service and introducing new types of transit systems to Hillsborough County. The Rapid Transit Investment Plan lays out exactly what you can expect if the November referendum to fund additional transit service is approved. For example:
  • More service on existing bus routes, including 10-minute frequency on our busiest routes during peak travel times
  • Longer operating hours, with selected routes operating 24 hours
  • Expanded service for people with disabilities
  • New local and express routes
  • Expanded HART Flex neighborhood transit service
  • Introduction of new rapid service like bus rapid transit and light rail
There's a whole lot more - like a frequently asked questions section, implementation timeline, financial plan, and "what's in it for me" page. You can view the plan and all the other details on the "Why Transit?" page on HART's website by clicking here.

To download an information-packed brochure on the plan in PDF version, click here.

Planning and Projects Page
There are other projects in the works at HART that you can learn about on the website. The Planning and Projects page gives you an overview of MetroRapid (HART's bus rapid transit system), a link to the TECO Line Streetcar System extension project, and the results of our bus stop evaluation study.

With all the information you can access on HART's website, you could say the future of HART is just a point and click away.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Case for Transit in 6 Minutes

Most of us understand that transit matters, and that having a viable transit system is good for our community. But do we really know why - or how to make the case for transit?

HART has a great new video you can check out that explains just how a strong transit system helps to make a community great.

Community leaders like Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe and Pastor James Favorite of Beulah Baptist Institutional Church take turns with everyday bus passengers, drivers and others to talk about what public transit means to our community and the individuals who use it - and to those will use it in the future.

HART CEO David Armijo points out that the Rapid Transit Investment Plan, HART's long-range vision of what Hillsborough County's transit system could look like, adds up to 500 miles of new bus and rail service to today's foundation.

"HART is really going through a fantastic transformation," Commissioner Sharpe tells us.

"Thirty years of success got us to this point - a lot of effort, a lot of evolution, a lot of people working together," Mr. Armijo says. "This is a great community and it is a great time to be here."

Check the new video out on HART's YouTube channel - www.youtube.com/harttransit. It's called "We're Going Your Way."

And for all you e-book fans out there, don't miss the on-board reading choice of a HART customer at about the 3:23 mark in the video.

Just another way transit adds to your quality of life!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Streetcar Extension is Making Tracks

When you hop off the TECO Line Streetcar System at its current terminus near the Tampa Convention Center, you can just about catch a glimpse of downtown. "Just a little farther," you might think, "and it would be right there!"

Well, soon it will be right there. A 1/3-mile extension of the system to the corner of Franklin and Whiting Streets has been underway since October, and is right on schedule to open by the end of this year. Let's take a look!

Here's where the current line ends on Franklin.
First, we'll get our bearings. Right now, the streetcar line ends on Franklin Street, just south of Channelside Drive - which is just about at the front door of the Tampa Convention Center, next to the Embassy Suites hotel.

The extension will take the line north on Franklin, under the Selmon Expressway overpass, through the Brorein intersection, and just past the Ft. Brooke garage. The new end of the line will be between the downtown YMCA and Hattricks, and across the street from the Poe Plaza esplanade.

Got it? If you need more visuals, click here for a map.

Double tracks near the Ft. Brooke garage let streetcars pass
Now that you know where we're going, let's see how we're going to get there. As of this writing, new tracks have been installed from the current end of the line all the way up to Whiting Street, including a section of double track between Brorein and Cumberland that will allow two streetcars traveling in opposite directions to pass each other. In addition, the system of overhead catenary wires that powers the streetcars has begun with installation of the pole foundations.

Lots of work has been done on utilities and stormwater drainage, along with demolition for the new station stop at Franklin and Whiting.

Track installation is expected to be completed this month with the finishing of a turn-out, the Cumberland Avenue crossing, and a short section of double track between Brorein Street and Cumberland.

Looking south from Whiting;
new station will soon take shape on the left
The next big step is construction of the brand new station stop, which begins this month and should be wrapped up in November.

So by Christmas, when you take the TECO Line Streetcar System toward downtown, you won't just have to glimpse those tall buildings. You'll already be there (shout out to our friend Dave Pinero over at the Tampa Rail blog for the downtown photo below).

For more information and updates on the TECO Line Streetcar System's extension to Whiting Street, click here.

Your final destination!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer Has Been a Blast!

With the dog days of summer at their sweltering peak, what's a teen without wheels to do? Increasingly, they're hopping aboard HART buses with their Summer Blast Passes.
Back in 2006, HART introduced a special pass that lets kids 17 and younger pay one low price and ride all summer long. And this summer is shaping up to be the best yet for the Summer Blast Pass. So far, HART has sold more than 1,200 passes this year - the previous high was in 2008, when just over 800 passes were spoken for.

Why the dramatic increase? A few reasons. In past years, HART promoted the Summer Blast Pass through a paid media program of print ads and billboards, but this year's campaign relied heavily on no-cost or low-cost promotions. In particular, social media played a big role in the promotion this year, with tons of Twitter "tweets" and Facebook posts starting early and often. Our hundreds of followers and fans then helped spread the word by re-tweeting and sharing our posts.

Kicking off the social media outreach even before summer began, HART promoted a "Staycation" week in the spring that "springboarded" (so to speak!) our special offers for families by getting more teens and their parents interested in HART just before sales for the Summer Blast Pass kicked off. The Staycation promotion led to 34,000 trips in April, giving us great momentum and a head start on social media heading into summer.

Also, as the first day of school draws closer and closer, HART dropped the price of the Summer Blast Pass in mid-July so kids who didn't jump in at the start of summer could still get in on the fun. And of course, we let everyone know all about it on Twitter and Facebook!

It's an axiom of business that you go where your customers are. For the 2010 Summer Blast Pass Program, HART found our young customers by diving into the social media pool.

To learn more about HART's Summer Blast Pass, click here to download our PDF flyer. And check out a news story on the Summer Blast Pass that aired on News Channel 8 here.

Transportation Expert in 2010 Leadership Tampa
HART sends congrats along to our friend Karen Kress, the Tampa Downtown Partnership's Director of Transportation and Planning, on her selection to the 40th class of Leadership Tampa. The program, put on by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, is a proving ground for future community leaders.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Web Wednesday - Google Transit & RouteShout

New feature for our new blog - Web Wednesdays! Each Wednesday, we'll highlight some of the great stuff you can do with HART's website, www.goHART.org. Today's feature: Google Transit and RouteShout!

Get There With Google Transit and RouteShout
OK, let's say you want to give HART bus service a try, but you're not really sure where to go, which route you need, how long it will take...basically, you're a newbie in need of help. Where can you turn? Just check out the Google Transit application on http://www.gohart.org/.

Google Transit is FREE, easy and will have you riding the bus like a pro in no time. At the bottom of each page on HART's website, you'll see fields where you can enter your starting address, destination address, and the date and time you want to travel. Just enter your info and click "Get Directions." That will take you to a Google map of your trip, with a listing of routes you can choose from, the exact locations of stops closest to you, how long it will take, and what your fare should be. You just choose your route and trip, show up at the bus stop, and you're on your way!

Once you get to your bus stop, you can always check for the next scheduled arrival on HART's new RouteShout service.

You just text RouteShout the stop ID number, and minutes later you'll receive information about the next buses scheduled to come your way. If you have a smartphone, you can download the RouteShout app from your service's app store. If you're rocking the web-enabled cell phone, you can go to m.routeshout.com for your virtual schedule-on-the-go.

Learn more about RouteShout by clicking here.

If you find you still need some help, or just like a more personal touch, you can always call the HARTinfo Line at (813) 254-HART (4278) for customized trip planning assistance and answers to all of your questions.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Another Million-Ride Month

Wow! Your transit agency is definitely on a roll. For the fifth consecutive month, HART's bus ridership has exceeded one million rides. It's the first time in the 30-year history of HART that we've had that kind of streak. The previous million-ride streak of at least four months was in July - October 2008. HART's bus ridership is on track for 12 million riders in fiscal 2010.

The total for July was 1,025,657 rides.

The sustained high numbers of rides suggests that many people have come to see public transportation as a viable alternative to driving their cars. It's also a positive sign that improvements HART has made to the system in recent years are working to make transit in Hillsborough County easier, more convenient and more efficient.
If you haven't hopped aboard yet, what are you waiting for? It's one way to be one in a million.

Monday, August 2, 2010

On Board

County Center was the site of today's monthly meeting of the HART Board of Directors. Let's hit the highlights:

Thank You, Councilman Dingfelder
After five years of service on the HART Board, former Tampa City Councilman John Dingfelder bid adieu today to his colleagues at the transit agency. Mr. Dingfelder, who resigned his City Council seat to pursue a spot on the Hillsborough County Commission, was an active, enthusiastic member of the HART Board. After receiving a commemorative crystal bus mounted on a wooden pedestal, Mr. Dingfelder noted the need for a diverse board to work together.

"When you serve on a Board like this, that's multijurisdictional, including city and county representatives, Temple Terrace, and the private sector, we all work together for the betterment of this community," Mr. Dingfelder said. "I'm proud of what we accomplished, and I'll be with you all the way to November and help in any way I can (for the referendum)."

Welcome, Councilman Stokes
Due to Mr. Dingfelder's departure, the HART Board welcomed its newest member, Tampa City Councilman Curtis Stokes. Councilman Stokes, former president of the Hillsborough County NAACP, was named to City Council in July to replace the departing Linda Saul-Sena.

Reviewing the Plans
Self-help gurus are always saying something like, "how do you know where you're going if you don't know how to get there?" In other words, you gotta have a plan. At HART, we spend a lot of time and effort looking ahead, planning how to get where we need to be - which is providing the absolute best service we can with the resources available.

The Board got an overview today of a couple of HART's roadmaps to the future - the Transit Development Plan and the Alternatives Analysis.

The Transit Development Plan, or TDP, is something we update every year as part of our requirement for a $3.5 million grant. This year's effort is considered a minor update, with a more in-depth update to come next year. The TDP takes a look at local needs and what would be needed to meet them, including countywide services and projects, rapid transit in corridors currently being studied, flex service, and more local and express service.

One area of need identified that the Board took interest in at the meeting was local connection to the new high-speed rail (HSR) station planned for the north end of downtown. The plan notes that HART will need to connect people to the new HSR system from areas like Brandon and the Northwest County area.

Also, a tidbit of information reported to the Board as part of the TDP presentation portends a bit of good news for HART. Farebox recovery, which represents the proportion of revenues that come from fares, has increased over the last few years, going from 19% in 2007 to a projected 22% in 2010. That increase indicates that the system's efficiency is improving.

Next Meeting August 16
The Board will next meet on August 16 at 8:30 a.m. at HART's administrative offices in Ybor City. This meeting will be a wrap of the Alternatives Analysis.

Want more details on the TDP, AA, and Rapid Transit Investment Plans? It's all on HART's website, http://www.gohart.org/. Plus, you can review the informational packet for each Board meeting, AND get a link to watch the regular monthly meetings right from your computer.

 There's a whole lot going on at HART - stay tuned and we'll help you keep up!