Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just the Facts

Get the facts on Hillsborough County's
transit future!
A popular TV cop show from the 1950s and '60s asked for "Just the facts, ma'am."

Borrowing that line of thinking, let's take a look at some of the facts and figures from HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan. We'll call it the "who, what, when, where and why" of Hillsborough County's transit future.

The Rapid Transit Investment Plan, or RTIP, was developed by HART to benefit people who live, work and play in Hillsborough County. It focuses on providing more transportation choices to more people, allowing them the freedom to get where they're going faster and more efficiently than ever before.

The RTIP includes benefits for lots of different people:
A vastly improved transportation system in Hillsborough County is the RTIP's stated goal. To get there, HART would implement 449 miles of new and enhanced services:
  • Local Bus
    10 new routes - 134 miles of new service in areas not currently served
  • Express Bus
    11 new routes proposed - 225 miles of new service
  • Bus Rapid Transit
    6 new routes proposed - 90 miles of new service
  • Flex and employment circulators
    Serving an approximately 150-square-mile area
  • Paratransit
    Expanded service area coverage in county and increased hours of operation
  • Light Rail Transit
    46 miles and 15 miles of regional connections
For starters, bus service would see increases in frequency and hours of service almost immediately. The dates are all estimates right now, but according to the RTIP, in the first 12 months there will be 22 improvements to local route service, three FLEX services launched, the first bus rapid transit service begun and improvements to paratransit service.

Four new express routes, two new local routes, three improvements to current express service, two more improvements to local service, two more FLEX routes and more paratransit improvements will be implemented in the second year. The start date of light rail service is still to be determined.

Well, just about everywhere in Hillsborough County, from Lutz to Ruskin and from Town 'n' Country to Plant City. The RTIP re-draws the transit map in our community to make it more accessible for almost everyone.

See for yourself. Click here to check out the map before and after the improvements.

Click on one of the links below to find out what your area has in store.
Here's one excellent reason to improve our transportation picture.

Tampa Bay traffic is among the worst in the country.
Last March, Forbes magazine ranked Tampa dead last for commuters among 60 U.S. cities. Plus, a recent study by the Texas Transportation Institute found that the typical commuter spends 47 hours per year in traffic, and that Hillsborough County is tenth worst in the nation for commute-time delay.

Some other benefits:
The last two items are courtesy of the American Public Transportation Association.

So, those are the facts. At least some of them, anyway. If you'd like to peruse even more of the details on HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan, you can find a lot more information on our website, at

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Making the Connection

Yesterday's big news in the transportation world came out of China. A new link in that country's high-speed rail line launched with service between Shanghai and Hangzhou that zips passengers along the 125-mile trip in only 45 minutes.

The top speed? 245 miles per hour.

Check out this report on the line courtesy of Reuters:

On Monday, we also learned that Florida's own high-speed rail effort is getting another $800 million boost from the federal government. Read more on the new federal grant here.

While it may not be exactly on par with the 245-mph behemoth in China, high-speed rail is certainly coming to Tampa Bay. Will we be ready?

Laying the Groundwork for Regional Connections
In case you're still sketchy on the difference between the state's high-speed rail project and Hillsborough County's own proposed light rail system, here's a quick overview.

High-speed rail is, well, rail transit that travels at a high rate of speed. The official definition is a rail line that travels more than 110 mph. Florida's high-speed rail system has received funding from the federal government and is being planned and built by the Florida High-Speed Rail Enterprise, an agency of the State of Florida. No local funding will go into the high-speed rail effort.

The light rail project HART has recommended as part of the Alternatives Analysis study will travel much shorter distances and at more moderate speeds. Although HART is seeking federal funding for the project, a local funding source is also necessary.

Still not quite clear? Get more details on the difference between high-speed and light rail from HART's website, here.

Part of HART's recent work on the Alternatives Analysis and the Rapid Transit Investment Plan has focused on future regional connections, including the high-speed rail line.

One factor in the plans is the fact that the new high-speed rail station is planned for the north end of downtown Tampa, adjacent to HART's Marion Transit Center. If Hillsborough County goes forward with a light rail project, it will also feed into what would become a hub for transportation in the downtown area.

Here's more information on the downtown station as presented at a recent HART open house:

High Speed Rail Station / Intermodal Hub
  • Tampa High Speed Rail Station will be a major intermodal hub
  • Downtown alignment is affected by HSR track alignment and station
  • Station level (1st floor or 2nd floor) for HART project
  • Primary access options into the HSR Station from I-275 are Florida Avenue and
    Nebraska Avenue
  • Coordination with FDOT continues as they update alternatives for the Downtown Access and I-4/I-275 Interchanges
HART continues to work with the Florida Department of Transportation, the Florida High-Speed Rail Enterprise, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and other agencies on coordinating the many transit choices coming our way.

In the meantime, can you imagine what it would be like to travel at 245 miles per hour? For now, it seems only commuters in China and race car drivers know for sure.

For more on HART's Alternatives Analysis, click here.

To learn more about the Rapid Transit Investment Plan, click here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Transit Gets the Economy Moving

Our tour of HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan continues with a look at how a transit investment can translate into economic opportunity for our community.

Investing in transit can help us build a stronger economy
for Hillsborough County, now and into the future.
Topic number one in just about any discussion on the economy these days comes down to jobs. Just a few days ago, the state's Agency for Workforce Innovation put out the latest unemployment figures for Florida.

The news for Hillsborough County: 12.2% of us are out of work, considerably more than the national total of about 9.5%.

How can investing in transit help put our economy back on track? The answer is two-fold. One, putting people to work on construction, infrastructure and increased service today; and two, providing opportunities for the businesses of tomorrow.

Building the Future
Expanding Hillsborough County's transit system would mean an almost instant increase in available jobs. As noted in a previous post, HART's first order of business should voters approve a new transit investment would be to start beefing up bus service during "off-peak" time periods. More buses on the roads means a need for more people to drive them, and more people to keep them in perfect working order.

In addition, the task of building light rail and bus rapid transit infrastructure would require engineering and construction workers. There would be significant opportunities for local businesses and disadvantaged business enterprise firms as such major projects move forward.

Some hard numbers from the HART Rapid Transit Investment Plan:
  • Local businesses and disadvantaged businesses (DBEs) will have enhanced opportunities to partner with HART. For the 20 year period between 2015-2035, Hillsborough County’s gross domestic product (GDP) would increase by $3.5 billion, with $1.12 billion arising as a result of travel cost savings to users and the remaining $2.38 billion arising from construction activity.
  • For the same time period, over 9,000 job years (one year of full-time employment is a job year) will be created as a result of reduced travel costs for both highway and transit users.
  • Construction activity associated with the capital plan will support an additional 25,000 job years from 2011-2035, for a total of more than 34,000 job years.
Driving Businesses of Tomorrow
Once transit improvements are up and running, economic opportunity turns to the private sector, with benefits for businesses large and small. The corporation looking for locations for a new headquarters or other large hub will find a workforce that can easily get to work on a convenient, reliable transit system. Small businesses can capitalize on the new developments that will grow around transit stations.

More information from the RTIP:
  • Currently, 12% of the county population and employment opportunities are located near areas that offer frequent transit service. The number grows to over 50% under the proposed plan.
  • Approximately 148,000 more jobs will be accessible by transit (20% more) with the bus service improvements, which expands opportunity for employers and employees alike.
In addition, other communities across the country that have made transit improvements have seen a significant return in the form of property values, jobs and tax revenues due to private investment:

  • Phoenix
    $5.9 billion in development
    Property value increases range from 129% to 429%
  • Salt Lake City
    $2.8 billion in development
    Support 30,000 jobs at completion of development plans
  • Charlotte
    $3.1 billion in development
    Generated over $5.7 million in local taxes
  • Dallas
    $1 billion in development at recently added stations
    Property values at stations 39% higher for residential and 53% higher for office buildings
So while there's no single solution to our economic issues, transit is an important tool in our toolbox because it can help provide jobs, give people better access to jobs, and create opportunities for businesses.

Information of benefits of expanded transit comes from a Cambridge Systematics report on the economic impacts of transit in Hillsborough County, and the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization. For a presentation on the Cambridge Systematics report, click here.

For a printable version of the economic benefits of transit from HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan, click here.

For an overview of the Rapid Transit Investment Plan, click here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

S.O.S. (Serving Our Seniors)

HART's transit plan is designed for
today's active seniors.
Today, we continue our trip around HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan with a closer look at what it would mean for Hillsborough County's vital senior population.

If you're of a "certain age" (and we promise we'll never tell!), you might have found that getting around isn't quite as easy as it used to be. Fighting traffic is less than appealing - what is it with these road-raging drivers, anyway? - and you don't want to keep asking others for help.

Wouldn't it be great if there were a safe, reliable way you could get around on your own, and regain your independence?

Well, HART has a plan to improve transit in Hillsborough County, and services for our seniors play a very important part in it.

A Strong Foundation
OK, you're probably thinking. You've heard a little about this rail thing, and while it may sound great, it's years away. What good is a plan that doesn't get you where you need to go now?

What you may not realize is that there's a lot more to the plan than rail.

HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan represents the largest expansion of public transit service in Hillsborough County in decades, including investments in bus service, neighborhood flex routes, and a new light rail system.

You might notice that in the description of the plan in that last sentence, the first item on the list is bus service. That's because buses are, and will continue to be, the foundation of HART. Because we'll start building on bus service first, you'll see an almost immediate impact once the plan is launched.

Some of the improvements that will impact seniors, according to the plan:

More Buses More Often
More Paratransit service for people with disabilities
  • More and improved access to entire HART system
  • Less wait time and improved transfers to and from Tampa International Airport, malls, and retail centers, plus more service to grocery stores, post offices, and other destinations
  • More direct and faster service to USF area facilities like the VA Hospital, Moffitt Cancer Center, and MOSI
  • More frequent service to Downtown Tampa and destinations such as the Tampa Art Museum, Straz Center for the Performing Arts, the St. Pete Times Forum, and city and county government centers
  • Increased frequency of buses on existing routes, meaning more midday service to get you back and forth to appointments, shopping, and visits with friends
  • New local routes, providing better access around your neighborhood
  • New Express routes serving USF, MacDill AFB, Downtown Tampa, Brandon, and Westshore, which means you can get around the county faster
  • New bus transfer centers in Brandon and Ruskin
  • New Flex service, providing curb-to-curb local service in selected areas across the county
  • Light rail service (Long-Term)
  • Express bus connections to rail
    - High-speed rail (Short-Term)
    - Light rail (Long-Term)
What all this means is that with an improved transit system, your time can be your own again. Imagine the freedom of going to doctors' appointments, running errands and visiting friends whenever you like. Getting to the airport and catching a flight to see the grandkids. Going to museums, shows, shopping - whatever you want to do. More frequent service would mean less time between buses, more efficient transfers, and more flexible, direct service to spots within your neighborhood.

For a generation of seniors who aren't showing any signs of slowing down, mobility matters. That's why improvements in public transportation can help make these "golden years" truly productive, independent and - dare we say? - even fun!

For a printable PDF version of benefits of the Rapid Transit Investment Plan for seniors, click here.

To learn more about the overall Rapid Transit Investment Plan, click here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Service Alert - Bucs Home Game Sunday

Your Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the St. Louis Rams tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.

Bus travel around the stadium will be affected by traffic management measures in the hours before and after the game. Click here for detour information from HART's website, and call (813) 254-HART for details on stops that may not be accessible during the game.

Go Bucs!

Friday, October 22, 2010

November Brings Harvest of Events

While you're buying Halloween candy and getting the kids' costumes ready (and maybe even your own costume?), HART is busy getting ready for some important events and special salutes coming up in November.

From voters to veterans, HART recognizes America's best.
Your Vote, Your Ride
Election Day is Tuesday, November 2. When you head out to exercise your right to vote, don't forget your voter registration card. You may not need it at the polls, but it will earn you a free ride on HART!

On Election Day, passengers with a valid voter registration card can present the card when boarding any of HART's fixed-route bus services for a free ride. Be sure to find out where your polling place is in advance, and determine which route will take you there.

If you need help, call the HARTinfo Line at (813) 254-HART.

Thank You for Your Service
The men and women who serve our country in the U.S. military receive special honors in November with free rides on Veterans Day, Thursday, November 11. All active duty and retired military personnel, along with their dependents, can ride HART fixed-routes free by presenting a valid military ID card.

It's our way of saying thank you for your service to all of us.

For a printable PDF flyer about the free-ride days, click here.
Please note, the free-ride days do not apply to HARTplus paratransit service.

Holiday Service Expands
This year, HART started a new tradition of offering holiday service with a schedule on New Year's Day. Next month, we have something new for our customers to be thankful for - service on Thanksgiving Day!

Based on the popularity of our New Year's Day trial, we're expanding holiday service to include a Sunday schedule on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 25.

Plus, the holiday spirit continues through December with Sunday service schedules on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Streetcar Fest November 13
The annual fall celebration of the TECO Line Streetcar System is scheduled for Saturday, November 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with 25-cent rides, family fun and special offers by merchants, restaurants and attractions along the line. Stay tuned for more details in future posts!

Ride with the fun people to Guavaween!
Ride in Style to Guavaween
Before we leave October behind, we can't forget Mama Guava's pride and joy, the annual Guavaween celebration in Ybor City, next Saturday, October 30.

And of course, the best way to get there is onboard the TECO Line Streetcar System.

You can park in one of several garages served by the streetcar, then take a fun ride over to Ybor, where we'll drop you off right near the entrance to the Guavaween festivities. When you've partied the night away, your streetcar will be waiting to take you back to your car until 2 a.m.

Bringing the kids for the daytime activities? The TECO Line Streetcar System starts running at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

So no matter what your Guavaween plans might be, the TECO Line Streetcar System will get you there the fun and hassle-free way. And trust us, it's a whole lot easier than figuring out what you're going to wear!

For more information on the TECO Line Streetcar System, click here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Here's Looking at You, Plant City

Still have questions about HART's future plans? In the next few days, we'll highlight some elements of the plan to help answer those questions.

Today, we're headed east to visit our friends in the Plant City area.

Live in the strawberry capital? We've got plans for you!
Plan for Plant City
You'll remember that HART recently hosted a Town Call meeting, answering questions from members of the community about transit and the improvements that could be expected from the proposed 1-cent sales tax.

During the event, Jesse from Plant City called in to say there didn't seem to be much in the plan to benefit eastern Hillsborough County.

Jesse, this post is for you.

Take a look at today's maps and you can't help but notice that Plant City doesn't have any bus service at all. The closest you get is an express route that reaches as far as Dover. Some of our Plant City customers take advantage of a park-n-ride location served by the Dover express route, but that's a far cry from having reliable local routes that serve Plant City proper.

But we've got a plan for that. HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan would ensure that residents of Plant City have the public transportation service they need.

Here's a little background on just how things got this way.

Although it's one of the four jurisdictions in HART's general service area, (unincorporated Hillsborough County and the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City), Plant City is not a member of HART and doesn't pay into the agency's operations, as the others do.

Several years ago, Plant City contracted with HART to provide some local service to the city. HART created the Strawberry Connector, consisting of four bus routes that served the Plant City area. A few years later, the city discontinued the contract with HART to start up and run its own bus line.

Unfortunately, budget constraints forced Plant City to give up its service in June of 2008. You can read about the end of Plant City's self-operated service here.

Hillsborough County's Sunshine Line continues to provide medical transportation for some Plant City area residents who need it, but otherwise public transportation in Plant City has been non-existent for more than two years.

Future in Motion
Should the proposed 1-cent transportation sales tax be approved by voters on November 2, Plant City will once again be a city in motion.

According to HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan, Plant City and eastern Hillsborough County would see the following transit service introduced over the next few years:
  • New local bus routes
    - Plant City to Netpark
    - Thonotosassa
  • New Flex service
    - Seffner
    - Plant City
    - East Hillsborough/Gibsonton
  • New Express bus service
    - Plant City to Downtown
  • Increased frequency of buses on existing routes
    - Routes 15, 32, 34, 39, 57, 28X
  • Expanded service hours
    - 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays on all local routes (till midnight on selected routes)
    - 24 hours on some routes
    - Additional weekend hours
So the end result is that an area with no public transportation at all would finally see its service return. That's a big change for the better. And with all that new service and expansion of existing service for the Plant City area, you can definitely say there's something in it for you!

Click here for a printable version of transit benefits for Plant City and eastern Hillsborough County.

For more details on HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan, click here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More Honors for HART, And Pics from the Party!

The good news just keeps coming for HART.

At this week's annual conference of the Florida Public Transportation Association, HART was recognized for excellence in marketing among the state's public transit agencies.

HART received three marketing awards at the FPTA event, including:

Award of Merit for Print: Instructional Information
Award of Honor for Electronic Meida/Audio Visual: Television
Award of Merit for Online Communications: Social Media

All awards were in the Class 2 designation, which includes the larger transit agencies in Florida.

In 2009, HART was named the FPTA's Outstanding System in the state of Florida.

Next year's event is set to take place here in Tampa. As the host agency for the 2011 conference, HART CEO David Armijo concluded the closing banquet ceremony with an invitation to FPTA members and guests to join HART next October in Tampa. A video was featured to showcase HART, and the beauty and fun destinations of Tampa and Hillsborough County.

An Outstanding Celebration
On Friday, HART staff, Board members, guests, friends and members of the media gathered to celebrate winning the American Public Transportation Association's Outstanding System of the Year award.

And of course you've been wanting to see pictures. Get a sampling below, and check out our Facebook page for even more! 

County Commissioner and HART Board member
Mark Sharpe addressed the attendees

Veteran HART driver Pat McKeon talked about
the employees' commitment to excellence

Mr. McKeon introduced employees from several HART departments

APTA President Bill Millar presented the Outstanding System of the Year award
to HART CEO David Armijo

Mr. Armijo thanked the staff, customers
and members of the community for the award.

Mingling after the presentations

Tampa City Council Chair,
Rev. Thomas Scott, enjoyed the festivities

Cutting the cake

Former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, Darrell Smith from the City of Tampa,
and David Armijo chat at the celebration.

This was the place to be!

The prize

Monday, October 18, 2010

Breaking News - Board Votes for Light Rail

Light rail could be coming to the streets of Hillsborough County.
In a unanimous decision, the HART Board of Directors voted this morning for light rail as the preferred mode for the proposed rapid transit improvement in Hillsborough County.

The vote came after HART staff presented the findings of the Alternatives Analysis study, which recommended light rail as the best solution for transportation issues in the study area's Northeast and West corridors.

The Board chose light rail over bus rapid transit service, in agreement with the study conclusions.

The Board is expected to make a decision on the final alignments of the system for submission to the FTA by the end of the year.

For more on HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan, click here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bus Service on Bucs Gameday

HART's West Tampa Transfer Center is closed during
Bucs and Bulls home games. HART buses serve a temporary
stop near St. Joseph's hospital on gamedays.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are back in action this weekend, as they host the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints today at 1 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.

Remember, HART customers should expect bus travel around the stadium to be affected by traffic management measures in the hours before and after the game. Click here for detour information from HART's website, and call (813) 254-HART for details on stops that may not be accessible during the game.

Let's send those Saints marching out with a loss to our Buccaneers!

Friday, October 15, 2010

HART's Annual Ridership Best in Agency's History

More people in Hillsborough County boarded
HART buses in FY 2010 than ever before.
Happy New Year!

Make that Happy (Fiscal) New Year!

HART's fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30 - which means fiscal year 2010 is now but a memory, and the year-end ridership reports are in.

For the year ending September 30, 2010, HART's total ridership exceeded 12.8 million for the first time in the agency's 30-year history.

The final numbers were announced Friday morning at a ceremony honoring HART as the American Public Transportation Association's Outstanding System of the Year.

Local Bus Leads the Way
The backbone of HART's service are the 30 local routes that serve passengers across Hillsborough County every day. In FY2010, local routes made up the bulk of the system's growth.

An exceptionally strong September, with an increase of almost 12%, bolstered the year-end local bus ridership numbers.

Local Bus Ridership Comparison
Sept. 2009: 984,565
Sept. 2010: 1,101,466
Percent Change: +11.9%

FY 2009: 11,361,362
FY 2010: 12,004,775
Percent Change: +5.7%

Adding Commuter Express service, the totals look like this:

Total Ridership - Local and Express Bus Service
Sept. 2009: 1,008,005
Sept. 2010: 1,122,969
Percent Change: +11.4%

FY 2009: 11,638,548
FY 2010: 12,264,357
Percent Change: +5.4%

Factor in 407,000 rides on the TECO Line Streetcar System, another 104,000 on HART Plus paratransit service for people with disabilities, nearly 3,000 on the new HART Flex, and about 66,000 in vanpool vehicles furnished by HART, and the total for all public transportation modes in fiscal 2010 is more than 12.8 million rides.

An interesting trend behind the numbers is the fact that FY 2010 ended with seven straight months of 1-million-plus rides each, indicating that a million rides is now the agency's monthly norm.

At the ceremony on Friday, HART CEO David Armijo announced the news to the staff, guests, media and members of the community.

"Today as I thank our passengers for their patronage and our community for their support, I also want to honor all HART staff for exceeding expectations, time and time again, as they helped drive HART through some pretty gray days. HART staff truly motivate me by their ability to achieve goals and surmount all challenges thrust upon them," Mr. Armijo said.

The APTA award was presented by the organization's president, William Millar. It recognizes HART as the best in North America among mid-size transit agencies, which includes those carrying between 4 million and 20 million annual passenger trips.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

You Have Questions, We Have Answers

Talkin' transit in Tampa Bay.
Last week, we invited you to participate in a transportation-themed Town Call meeting hosted by HART and the Hillsborough County MPO.

And boy did you participate!

The final numbers are in, and total attendees for the evening reached 6,267. To help put that figure in perspective, HART holds a lot of meetings during the year with community organizations, homeowners associations, listening tours and other groups. On average, we'll get together with about 30 to 50 people at these meetings, so it would take about 126 average-sized community group meetings to equal the number we reached at the Town Call event.

HART's CEO, David Armijo, was impressed by the turnout.

"It was invigorating to see that so many people were interested in the subject and wanted to participate, either by listening in or calling in with their questions," Mr. Armijo said. "The input we received was also helpful to us, and the perspective of the public is very energizing."

Panel Talks Transit
The Town Call event, which was moderated by Tampa Bay area radio and TV personality Jack Harris, featured a panel of transportation experts and community leadership that answered callers' questions. Panel memebers were Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner (also a member of the HART and MPO Boards), HART CEO David Armijo and MPO Executive Director Ray Chiaramonte.

During the hourlong meeting, the panel took 20 questions from attendees on the transit tax initiative and the plans to improve transportation in Hillsborough County. Questions ranged from which areas would be served by transit improvements, to local and regional connectivity, to how the citizens' oversight committee would operate.

Callers represented areas across Hillsborough County, with questions coming in from Tampa, Riverview, Plant City and Lutz.

Here's a sampling of some questions that were asked, along with the answers.

Ed in Tampa said that transit improves our general quality of life, but wondered how the plan would integrate parking, buses and rail service for those who might have to drive to a station.

HART's David Armijo reassured Ed that the system will encourage people to walk to the rail stations, and that park-and-ride facilities would be readily available. Mr. Armijo also noted that while it's too soon to talk about specific fares, parking will likely be free (as it is today at HART's current park-and-ride lots), and that a monthly pass will be available for people who ride the bus and rail systems regularly.

Denise in Riverview wanted to know the closest rail point for people in Riverview and Brandon.

Ray Chiaramonte from the MPO let Denise know that there is a future rail line planned that extends to the east part of Brandon, probably along SR 60 although the exact route has not been decided, and that increased express and local bus routes would be coming to Riverview and Brandon.

Jesse in the Dover/Plant City area thought the eastern portion of the county doesn't appear to get any benefit from the tax.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner explained to Jesse that this is a comprehensive plan that includes much more than just the train in Tampa. Commissioner Beckner pointed out that 25% of the revenues will actually go to road projects, including road widening in Plant City, and increased bus service and flex service.

Loretta in Tampa and David in Tampa both asked questions about the high-speed rail system - what's the difference, and how will we connect to it?

Mr. Chiaramonte explained that the November 2 referendum pertains only to Hillsborough County projects - the bus system expansion, roadway projects and light rail system, while the high-speed rail system that will connect Tampa and Orlando is a separate project with separate funding from the federal government. The Hillsborough County tax will not go toward that effort.

Commissioner Beckner also noted that passengers of the high-speed rail system will need a transportation network to get them around while they're here, and that HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan and the MPO 2035 Plan do just that. The plan calls for 46 miles of light rail, more bus routes and service, bike routes and other road projects to connect people to their final destinations. Commissioner Beckner also explained that our goal is to work with all of the counties in the region to create a system that serves the whole region.

Those are a few of the questions and answers to come out of the Town Call meeting. All in all, it was a great discussion, and a perfect way to talk to our community about this important issue. Thanks to all who participated, and we hope to do it again soon!

To see HART's Rapid Transit Investment plan, click here.

For the MPO's 2035 Plan, click here.

More Transit Q&A
If those questions and answers whet your appetite for more, Creative Loafing's Mitch Perry has a great 20-question Q&A over on their News &Politics blog. Check it out here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Light Rail Video is Worth a Thousand Words

We've been talking a lot about light rail in Hillsborough County lately. But have you found yourself wondering exactly what this "light rail" thing is, anyway?

Wonder no more. Over on HART's YouTube channel, we've posted an 11-minute video chock-full of light rail vehicles on the move. It's a great way to see light rail in action and visualize just how it might work here in Hillsborough County.

Click here or on the player above to see the video.

For a definition of transit modes, including light rail transit, from the American Public Transportation Association, click here.

AA Recommendations Presented Oct. 18

HART's Alternatives Analysis study team will present its findings to the Board of Directors at its next regular meeting on Monday, October 18, at 8:30 a.m. in the Planning Commission Boardroom at the County Center.

The Alternatives Analysis is an important first step toward securing federal funding for a major transit investment. Before submitting a project for evaluation by the Federal Transit Administration, local authorities are required to evaluate technical aspects like ridership and travel forecasting, cost effectiveness, benefits and impacts, and land use issues.

In addition, one of the most vital parts of the AA process is public opinion. That's why HART and our colleagues at PB Americas held numerous public events over the past year to hear residents' thoughts on our plans.

With the final two public hearings wrapping up last week, the study team is putting all of the comments and suggestions together with the technical assessments to make a recommendation for what's known as the Locally Preferred Alternative, or LPA, which will detail which routes a new transit project would take, as well as whether the new system would be light rail, bus rapid transit, enhanced bus, or some other type of service.

Once the study team makes its recommendation on Monday, the HART Board will make the final decision on the LPA.

More AA Info on Website
Throughout the process, HART has maintained a website dedicated to the AA. If you'd like to get some background on the AA, view presentations, see maps of the study area, view light-rail videos, and learn a whole lot more, you can check it out at

And of course, check back here for an update after Monday's Board meeting.

Monday, October 11, 2010

And the Winner Is...

Members of HART's senior leadership team just returned from the American Public Transportation Association's annual meeting in Texas - and their luggage was a little heavier on the way back to Tampa, because they were bringing home APTA's prestigious Outstanding System of the Year award.

But this national recognition is more than just a new bauble for our trophy case. It's an important award because it reflects our commitment to provide quality service for the thousands of people who ride our buses, vans, trolleys and streetcars every day.

Excellence in Service
When HART's CEO David Armijo arrived in Tampa in 2007, he brought with him a goal that, at the time, seemed out of reach.

To be the best. To serve with excellence. To be named tops in the nation. Nothing less would do.

Little by little, it started to come together. There were signs of change everywhere. Management was restructured. Service was improved. Procedures were streamlined. New ideas were embraced.

And then, something truly amazing happened. In the face of an economic downturn that some financial experts have called "the Great Recession," HART's ridership grew. Even while news from other public transit systems across the country focused on declining ridership, increasing fares and severe cutbacks, HART's new approach to service efficiency and productivity was working.

It was clear that while we were making changes, the people who really matter, our passengers and members of the community, were taking notice. And they were getting onboard in larger numbers than ever.

Setting that lofty goal helped us do much more than win an award. It made HART better, because it made us reach higher and work harder to provide our customers with the best service we can give them. In the process, we put better bus service on the street, made our fleet of vehicles newer and more comfortable, and improved our relationships within the community.

So even though our agency name is on the award, everyone in Hillsborough County - our customers, our neighbors and our friends - are the real winners.

Celebration Friday!
We'd like to invite you to stop by on Friday, October 15, at 10:30 a.m. to help us celebrate the APTA honor. Join us for a short ceremony to take place at HART's Ybor Station administrative offices, 1201 E. 7th Avenue. We couldn't have done it without you, so we want you to come to the party!

For details on the Friday celebration, click here.

To learn more about the APTA Outstanding System of the Year award, click here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Jewel on the Water, Served by the Streetcar

Take the TECO Line Streetcar System to
the Florida Aquarium!
Looking for something to do today? Well, a ride on the TECO Line Streetcar System always fills the bill! While you're onboard, you'll see the is-it-a-seashell-or-is-it-a-diamond form of the beautiful Florida Aquarium right outside your window.

But don't just let it pass you by - hop off at Channelside and pop in for a visit! Tonight is the annual Brews by the Bay celebration, a night of Oktoberfest fun, food and beverages with a German accent. There's a special admission for this event, and the Aquarium will be closing to regular customers at 4:30 p.m. to get ready for it. If you're headed to Brews by the Bay, arrive in style on a streetcar!

Guppyween October 24
Halloween comes early at the Florida Aquarium! If your little guys and gals are already itching to show off those new costumes, pay a visit to Guppyween, the Aquarium's children's Halloween party on Sunday, October 24 from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. It's also a safe alternative to trick-or-treating. And be sure to include a streetcar ride on your list of things to do. Trust us, your little gremlins will love it!

For more information on upcoming events at the Florida Aquarium, visit their website here.

To learn more about the TECO Line Streetcar System, click here.

History of Train Travel
Also this weekend, the Tampa Bay History Center opened a new exhibit that explores the history of trains and rail travel called "From the Orange Blossom Special to High Speed Rail: Train Travel in Tampa Bay."

As HART's Facebook page notes, "How cool would it be to take the TECO Line Streetcar to the newly opened 'Train Travel in Tampa Bay' exhibit at the Tampa History Museum?"

Riding a piece of history to learn about history. Yep, that's pretty cool.

USF Bulls Take the Field Today
The USF Bulls clash with Big East Conference rival Syracuse today at 12 noon. HART customers should expect bus travel around Raymond James Stadium to be affected by traffic management measures in the hours before and after the game. Click here for detour information from HART's website, and call (813) 254-HART for details on stops that may not be accessible during the game.

Go Bulls and Go HART!

UPDATE: Game time was originally scheduled for 7:05 p.m., but changed to noon.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

National Report Finds Transportation Trouble

Look familiar? A new national report says our
transportation system is failing.
Last year, a group of about 80 transportation experts got together at the University of Virginia for the David R. Goode National Transportation Policy Conference to talk about the state of our nation's transportation system.

It may come as no surprise to hear that, according to a report released Monday with results of the meeting, those experts found the system wanting.

The final report lists 10 recommendations "to fix our nation's ailing transportation system." Funding was identified as a major issue - again, no surprise - along with streamlining the planning process, dealing with congestion, and advocating intermodal solutions.

One other interesting idea mentioned in the report is the possibility of giving some of the decision making responsibility currently under federal control back to state and local authorities.

The Washington Post has a story about the report's release here.

Transportation trade publication Metro magazine has a great outline of the report's recommendations, and a video link that lets you watch the press conference with former Transportation Secretaries Norman Mineta and Sam Skinner, and Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, director of the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs.

Read Metro's summary here, and watch the press conference here.

Metro also has a link to the complete report here.

Who Ya Gonna Call?
Don't forget, tonight at 7:10 p.m. is the live Town Call event on Hillsborough County's transportation future, hosted by HART and the Hillsborough County MPO. The jocular, cracker-jack jock Jack Harris is the moderator, so be sure to dial in and give it a listen! Click here for details on how to join us tonight. We look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Public Transportation Works for Everyone

HART buses are accessible for everyone
Stop and think for a minute, "What if..."

What if you couldn't walk? What if you couldn't see? Or hear? What would change in your life? Would you be able to work? How would you get there?

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and HART is proud to recognize the important role people with disabilities play in our community, in our businesses, and in our economy.

Onboard our buses and vans, we meet people with disabilities every day. We've designed our services to meet the needs of people with disabilities, which makes access for everyone a little easier.

Buses Built for Access
All HART buses are designed for easier access. Each bus can carry up to two wheelchairs at a time, with secure tie-downs and other features to increase the safety of riders. Boarding the bus is also easier, with ramps that extend to the sidewalk and a "kneeling" function that lowers the front of the bus so anyone with limited mobility can board without having to step up.

People who are visually impaired rely on audio cues to tell them where they are and when their stop is approaching. HART has recently installed automated onboard audio announcements that alert passengers to major intersections and approaching stops.

At the street level, HART has been working to upgrade its bus stops to improve accessibility. In 2007, we launched a system-wide evaluation of the nearly 4,500 bus stops, transfer centers and transit centers we serve to find out what kind of accessibility improvements need to be made.

In the last two years, we've installed 223 new shelters, plus bus landing pads, ramps, and railings at many of the stops most in need of improvement. To see HART's 2007 Bus Stop & Facility Accessibility Study Draft Summary Report, click here.

Personal Training
For some people, using the bus for the first time can be intimidating, especially with mobility issues. But HART helps them move past those fears with our Travel Training program, giving them a personal "bus buddy" who takes them through that first trip on the bus. The Travel Training program provides one-on-one instruction on reading the timetables, knowing which stops to use, how long the trip will take, when to change buses, and much, much more. The Travel Trainer creates an itinerary for the customer, and accompanies him or her on the first trip for free.

HART's award-winning Travel Training program has been an enormous success, giving people confidence to ride the bus and gain independence.

HARTplus Takes You There
For people who are unable to use regularly scheduled bus service, HART provides HARTplus, a specialized service for people with disabilities. After an application and interview process, HARTplus customers are certified to use the service as needed. HARTplus customers make advance reservations for trips to and from any location that's within 3/4-mile of a HART local bus route. For many people, HARTplus is a vital link to medical appointments, shopping and employment destinations.

Equal Opportunity Employer
In addition to providing transportation for people to get to their jobs, HART also proudly employs a diverse workforce including people of all abilities.

To learn more about National Disability Employment Month, click here.

For a listing of current job openings at HART, click here.

For more on HART's services for people with disabilities, click on the links below.


Travel Training

Discount Fare Cards

Monday, October 4, 2010

On Call

Have questions? Give us a call on Thursday!
Light rail, high-speed rail, rapid transit, flex service...does all this transit talk around town leave you with lots of questions?

We're here to help - just give us a call. A "town call," that is!

As part of our commitment to help Hillsborough County residents understand the solutions that are being proposed for our area's transportation issues, HART and the Metropolitan Planning Organization are hosting a "Town Call" event this Thursday, October 7, from 7:10 p.m. until 8:10 p.m.

If you'd like to join in the discussion on Thursday night, just call 1-877-229-8493 and enter 15177 when prompted.

Legendary Tampa Bay radio and TV host Jack Harris will moderate the event, and HART CEO David Armijo, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner and MPO Executive Director Ray Chiaramonte will be on hand to answer your questions.

To read the news release announcing the Town Call event, click here.

HART Leaders Confirmed for National Committee
Recently, we told you that HART Board Vice-Chair Alison Hewitt and CEO David Armijo were nominated to serve on the American Public Transportation Association's Executive Committee (APTA). Today APTA announced that its membership has voted to approve the slate of officers and committee members, confirming that Ms. Hewitt and Mr. Armijo will serve on the committee.

Ms. Hewitt and Mr. Armijo, along with other key members of HART's leadership team, are attending the APTA annual meeting in San Antonio, TX this week to accept the national Outstanding Public Transportation System honor, awarded to HART earlier this year.

Tampa Bay & Co. Tops in Our Book, Too
Congratulations to our friends at Tampa Bay & Company for receiving a Gold Service Award from Meetings and Conventions magazine. The folks at TB&C do yeoman's work in bringing events, conventions, meetings and vacationers to our area, and are great supporters of public transportation. Great work, team!

To read more about the award, click here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Behind the Headlines

Here's a Friday round-up of a few news stories this week that covered HART or public transportation in the Tampa Bay area.

Public Voices Opinions
Over the past year, HART held 366 public meetings to give Hillsborough County residents a chance to get information and voice their opinions on transit's present and future. This week, HART continued listening to public input on the Rapid Transit Investment Plan, as these two St. Petersburg Times stories report.

HART hears from the public about alternative transportation
By Kim Wilmath, Times Staff Writer
Sunday, September 26

Tampa's proposed light rail routes up for more discussion
By Janet Zink, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, September 30

Learning by Example
ABC Action News anchor Brendan McLaughlin recently did a story he called "What Hillsborough Can Learn from a Train in the Desert," based on the success of the new Valley Metro light rail line in Phoenix. What he found in the Valley of the Sun was that "working mothers, students and business commuters are finding the trains useful and reliable."

What Hillsborough can learn from a train in the desert
By Brendan McLaughlin
Tuesday, September 28
ABC Action News (Channel 28)

HART Leaders Meet the Press
On Wednesday, HART Board member Wallace Bowers and CEO David Armijo sat down with the editorial board of the Florida Sentinel Bulletin. The large African-American readership of this local paper is an important HART constituent, so addressing their concerns about service and future plans is vital. Since the story is not available online, we've included the entire text of the article below.

"Sentinel Editorial Board Meets with HART CEO, Board Member"
September 28, 2010
Florida Sentinel Bulletin

The Sentinel Editorial Board met for more than two hours last Wednesday with David J. Armijo, Chief Executive Officer for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), and (Rev.) Wallace Bowers, a member of the HART Board. They were joined by Mayor Pam Iorio and former Congressman, Jim Davis.

The meeting was to discuss the Transit System’s expansion and its effect on the African American community from the ground level.

Much of the discussion centered on the proposed 1-cent sales tax that will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot. If passed, revenue from the tax is slated to improve local transit service right away, and begin the process of light rail for the Tampa community.

Members of the Sentinel Editorial Board still have concerns about the African American community being burdened with the tax, more than other communities.

Armijo indicated that the improved bus service would double the bus fleet and employees, and provide shorter waiting times. HART is expected to manage the light rail.

Board member Randolph Kinsey told the HART group that there is concern for the Black community because nine out of 10 times when dollars are levied, the African American community is omitted.

Board member Kay Andrews’ concern is that there is no policy in place that will guarantee any African American participation in anything.

Board member Warren H. Dawson said his concern is that there is no business plan as to how HART will proceed.

HART has been holding open houses throughout the community to share its plans.

HART Board member Bowers said his board is considering several avenues to make sure the African American community is included. They are about to begin a federally mandated disparity study.

Kinsey also inquired about creating a level playing field for small African American businesses. Armijo said everyone has to be made aware. He said it’s important to find ways for smaller firms to partner with larger firms.

Sentinel Editorial board member Wilbert Malphus had concerns about the goals that are included in construction jobs, but are not actually carried through. Rubin Padgett had the same concerns. Bowers said his board is putting together a mandate that will work this out. Malphus also inquired about the professionals who are involved now in this process.

Lots of news in HART's monthly community newsletter
More News from HART - October Community Newsletter Available
Each month, HART puts out an e-newsletter called "A Community with HART," with great content like a message from a HART Board member, updates on projects and plans, and a profile of a HART customer. This month's edition is chock-full of info like that, plus a lot more.

Check it out on our website here, and be sure to sign up to have it delivered right to your in-box!