Monday, January 31, 2011

A Truly Grand Opening

HART CEO David Armijo, US Rep. Kathy Castor,
FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff and Mayor Pam Iorio
unveil the newest section of the streetcar system.
When Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio took the microphone this morning to help officially open the new section of the TECO Line Streetcar System, she couldn't help but find the humor in her surroundings.

"The city was taken over by pirates on Saturday, and here we all are, back to work on Monday morning," she said. "Only in Tampa."

We're unique, all right, in lots of ways. And with today's grand opening, a Tampa original has taken the next step into the future.

The TECO Line Streetcar System, the modern version of the historic streetcars that were the only mode of public transportation many years ago, now stretches from Ybor City, through the Channel District, and into downtown. That 1/3-mile extension from the Tampa Convention Center to the doorstep of the central business district provides a vital link between the city's hotspots, and makes the streetcar system an even more attractive amenity for the city.

"When the people who plan events like the Republican National Convention, the Super Bowl, the Frozen Four and all the rest come to visit, they look at transportation," Mayor Iorio said. "It matters - big time."

Mayor Iorio stressed the important role transit plays in
our community.
And it isn't just drawing big events to Tampa Bay that makes the streetcar so important. As the speakers said at Monday's ceremony, public transportation in Hillsborough County is an economic engine that will help drive us into better days.

Administrator Peter Rogoff from the Federal Transit Administration, who gave the keynote address at the grand opening ceremony, said that transit is a good-news story in this area.

"Tampa and Hillsborough County are unique because you're still growing," Mr. Rogoff said. "Even during the economic downturn, transit ridership in Hillsborough County is still growing. It's an example of how we can work together to meet the needs of people who are going to work, school and entertainment in this area."

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor also noted the economic boost the project has provided.

"Every morning as I was taking my husband to work on Harbour Island," Congresswoman Castor commented, "I would see the men and women working hard to build this extension."

And the investement will continue to bear fruit, said FTA Administrator Rogoff, in the form of new jobs along the line.

All aboard!
"There's been an estimated $1.2 billion in investment along the line to date, which means jobs not only on the line itself, but in every hotel, restaurant and business along the way."

Businesses that now have a whole new group of customers coming their way: all the hungry folks who were partying like pirates on Saturday, and are now hard at work in those gleaming downtown towers on Monday.

Only in Tampa.

UPDATE 2/1: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood gives a shout out to the TECO Line Streetcar System, and Tampa transit in general, on his blog.

UPDATE #2: And check out all the photos on our Facebook page here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shelter Me

After a record-setting year in 2010,
HART has plans for even more shelters like this one in 2011
One of the most-asked questions we hear from our customers goes something like this:

"Are you going to put up a shelter at my stop?"

In 2010, that question was answered with a resounding "yes" at 113 stops in the HART system, setting a record for the number of shelters placed in one fiscal year.

This year HART is building on our success with plans for even more shelters, along with other projects that will make using transit service easier, more convenient and safer for everyone.

So far in FY2011, which actually started on October 1, 2010, five new shelters have been completed. Of those, four were placed by Signal Outdoor Advertising, which has partnered with HART to build and maintain a number of new shelters in exchange for the right to sell advertising panels on them. This partnership allows HART to increase the number of shelters in our system at no additional cost, and provides an extra revenue stream for HART.

Projects in progress include 11 shelters scheduled to be finished this month, and another 14 shelter locations undergoing the permitting process with the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County.

In addition to putting in new shelters, our engineering folks are making it easier and safer to get to your bus stop. HART is working on improvements that include 154 landing pads - concrete areas surrounding a bus stop that make it easier to step on and off the bus - on routes 6, 7 and 8, and a new bus bay for buses to pull out of traffic in front of Temple Terrace City Hall.

We're also working closely with the City of Tampa to expand sidewalk projects to help increase connectivity. Two projects that have been tasked to HART’s general engineering consultant are the Broadway corridor from 50th Street to 66th Street on Route 15, and another on Lois Avenue in the Drew Park section of Tampa, from Tampa Bay Blvd to Hillsborough Avenue along Route 7. These projects will not only add connectivity to these corridors but will also improve all of the bus stops in these segments as well.

HART is also involved in a sidewalk project on north Dale Mabry Highway, the road widening effort on US 301 in Riverview, construction on 22nd Street and 40th Street, and the Manhattan Avenue trail project near Interbay Boulevard.

As you can see, the HART engineers are hard at work to make your experience with us the best it can be. Keep an eye out for even more projects in the coming year!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ahoy, Mateys! Gasparilla Season Steps Off Saturday

Heading for the Gasparilla Children's Parade? Hop on the
streetcar and make a day of it!
If you're new in town, you might have noticed some strange sights around here lately. Maybe you've wondered why the stately houses in South Tampa are suddenly decked out with the Jolly Roger. Perhaps you've seen pirate costumes in the stores, or heard rumblings about an invasion.

No worries, you've just stumbled into Gasparilla, Tampa's annual pirate-themed celebration!

A regular event since 1904, Gasparilla has grown to a month-long festival that includes a children's parade, night (or is it Knight?) parade, film festival, sidewalk arts festival, half-marathon and other road races, "Piratechnic" fireworks display, and the granddaddy of them all - the Gasparilla Parade and Pirate Fest.

Children's Parade Starts the Show
Tomorrow marks the start of the season as the little ones get their day in the sun with the Gasparilla Children's Extravaganza, featuring the Preschoolers' Stroll, Air Invasion, Children's Gasparilla Parade and "Piratechnic" Extravaganza.

The Preschoolers' Stroll starts at 1:30, with the main parade kicking off at 3 p.m. The parade route runs on Bayshore between Bay-to-Bay and Orleans. Parking restrictions in the neighborhoods around the route are strictly enforced (in other words, don't try it!). Event organizers have planned shuttle service that will take you from the Ft. Brooke parking garage at Franklin and Whiting Streets to the parade route.

And you know what else you can check out at Franklin and Whiting? The brand-spankin' new extension of the TECO Line Streetcar System! With the streetcar dropping you off right at the shuttle pick-up site, you have a whole new set of options for your day. You can park in Ybor City and enjoy some lunch, then hop aboard your shiny yellow streetcar to meet up with the shuttle. Or, make the Channel District your starting point and take the kids to see all the sea creatures inhabiting the Florida Aquarium. From there, you just have a quick streetcar ride to the shuttle stop.

The TECO Line Streetcar System begins operating at 11 a.m. on Saturdays, so you can get an early start on the fun.

It's a whole new world of pirate adventure for you and the family with the TECO Line Streetcar System. Hop aboard and let your little ones enjoy riding the rails as part of your Gasparilla activities.

Click here for more on the TECO Line Streetcar System, including maps, schedules and fares.

For more information on the Gasparilla Children's Extravaganza, click here.

Next week, Gasparilla is in full force with the Gasparilla Pirate Fest. Check back with us for all the details on how to plan your party the smart, fun and hassle-free way with HART and the TECO Line Streetcar System.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Transit Saves Tampa Over a Million Hours of Congestion Delay

A new report says HART helped us avoid over
a million hours of this in 2010.
Think you're pressed for time now? A new report says that without public transit, Tampa residents would have experienced more than a million additional hours of traffic delays in 2010.

That would definitely make you late for work!

Actually, the exact number is 1,041,343 hours, and it comes from the Texas Transportation Institute, which has just released its 2010 Urban Mobility Report. The annual report looks at road congestion in 439 U.S. urban areas. Tampa came in at #36 on the list of delay hours saved due to public transportation. Of course, New York City was number one, with more than 368 million hours saved.

The report also estimates that Tampa saved 676,800 gallons of fuel that would otherwise have been burned on our congested roadways.

So while we'll likely never see the kind of numbers they do in New York City (let's be glad for that!), this report shows that HART services play a vital role in our community, whether you ride or drive.

Check out the news release on the TTI report on the American Public Transportation Association's website here.

We're Saving Some Coin, Too reports that Tampa is the second most "frugal city" in the U.S., based on the average amount of savings garnered by printing out coupons from the website. Shoppers in Tampa reportedly printed coupons worth an average savings of $863. Top spot on this list went to Atlanta, with over $1,000 worth of coupons printed.

Here's the official news release on

Know what else helps you save money? Come on, you know what's coming: public transit!

Leaving the car at home and taking the bus to work, even a couple of days a week, can mean significant savings on things like gas, tolls and parking. And if HART's recent ridership numbers are any indication, lots of people in the Tampa Bay area are finding the benefits of riding instead of driving.

So get onboard with us, and see how HART can help you save time and money!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

City Channel Puts Spotlight on HART

Look for this month's "Next Stop with HART" featuring
HARTplus service on CTTV 
From Twitter and Facebook, to Blogger and YouTube, technology has given us lots of different ways to help you keep up with the happenings at HART.

Now we can add another item to that list - TV!

HART is featured in a regular segment called "Next Stop with HART" as part of "Spotlight Tampa," a television magazine show airing each month on the City of Tampa's CTTV channel.

"Next Stop with HART" takes you inside HART for a look at service, events and news. You'll hear from customers who use our services, and get the scoop from HART employees on what's new, what's current, and what's to come in Tampa Bay transit.

January's edition features HARTplus paratransit service for people with disabilities, revealing how important it is in the lives of people who rely on it.

And in February, look for a special tribute to the role buses played in the fight for civil rights.

"Spotlight Tampa" airs on CTTV on on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7am, Sundays at 4:30pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4pm, Saturdays at 8pm and Monday through Friday at 10pm.

You can find City of Tampa Television on Channel 15 on the Verizon FiOS system and Channel 615 on Bright House Networks, or watch it streaming live on your computer.

Click here to see this month's "Next Stop with HART" on YouTube. You can see all of HART's videos on our YouTube channel here.

For more information on "Spotlight Tampa," click here. Find out how to view CTTV live on your computer here.