Friday, March 30, 2012

Answering Your Questions

Thank you to our HART customers who attended the public hearing on Wednesday, which is required as part of the application HART filed for federal funding.

We received some comments during the hearing that we would like to address.

Bikes on Buses
For instance, a comment was made about bicycle racks on the bus. The front of each bus comes equipped with racks for two bicycles, and if the rack is full, customers must be prepared to wait for the next bus or choose a safe location to lock up their bicycle. This is not new, but the increased use of these bicycle racks means more customers may be waiting for the next bus.

HART has previously tested racks that have room for three bicycles. However, this was considered a safety hazard because it increased the length of the bus and limited its turn radius. HART drivers already manage some tight turns throughout Hillsborough County’s 1,100 square miles, and bus routes are carefully planned to make sure all turns on a route allow for a safe turning radius.

But, there is a silver lining! In November 2011, bicycle racks were installed on all HARTFlex vans and folding bicycles are now permitted on all buses and HARTFlex vans. Lastly, MetroRapid North-South will open to the public in early 2013, and medium and large MetroRapid stations will feature bicycle racks so customers have a safe and convenient place to lock up their bicycles.

Route 15
Some other questions were asked about Route 15, a popular route that saw 16 percent growth in 2011 compared to the previous year. Some customers present at the meeting suggested removing the International Plaza stop on Route 15 to add more time to the route. However, keep in mind that ridership numbers indicate that this stop is among our top 5 percent in bus stop activity (pick-ups and drop-offs).

Bus Stops
Other residents had questions about what factors are considered to remove, relocate or add bus stops. HART has a program in place to make a route-by-route assessment of all bus stops to make sure they meet, most importantly, ADA standards, as well as spacing standards to help maximize the efficiency of bus schedules. HART also considers the unique circumstances of each site, including convenience of passenger transfers to other routes, open and visible spaces for personal security and passenger visibility, protected crossings at signalized or stop-controlled intersections, among others. Bus stops are usually spaced about 750-1,250 feet apart.

Because of this bus stop improvement program, in FY2010, 113 shelters were installed and 79 bus stops were upgraded; in FY2011, 50 shelters were installed and 218 bus stops were upgraded. More shelters are planned for installation over the next year, including for Routes 6, 34 and 39. This is good news for HART customers who seek protection from the sometimes harsh weather elements of this area.

Have any questions that you want answered? Leave them in the comments section below and we'll get on them. If it's a common question, we'll probably address in a blog post like this!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Free Fun this Spring Break!

Middle/High School students ride HART FREE in March!
Staying in town for Spring Break this year? Can't afford much to do? Have no fear, we've put together a list of FREE (mostly) things to do for your Spring Break! What's even better is pairing it with FREE rides on HART! If you haven't heard about the HART STAY-cation promotion, read about it here. The gist is FREE rides for Hillsborough County middle and high school students throughout March on HART Local, Limited Express, In-Town Trolley and HARTFlex services!
The museum itself is a work of art
Art on the House
Tampa Museum of Art, Fridays from 4 pm - 8 pm
120 Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, 33602

Looking to treat your inner artist to a thought provoking and aesthetically appealing Spring Break? Tour 66,000 sq. ft of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities, alongside 20th-century fine art, all for FREE! The Tampa Museum of Art, through a gift from Hill Ward Henderson, provides FREE admission to the museum's galleries on Friday evenings. Donations however are appreciated.

The Tampa Museum of Art is served by HART local routes 7, 10 and the In-Town Trolley.

120 Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, 33602

River O' Green Fest
Photo credit: Tampa Bay Times
Curtis Hixon Park, March 17, 10 am - 4 pm
600 N Ashley Drive, Tampa FL 33602

On March 17, the Hillsborough River will be turning green. But don't worry, it's just dye! Mayor Bob Buckhorn has decided to dye the Hillsborough River kelly green in honor of St. Patrick's Day. The river will be dyed between the Cass Street Bridge and Kennedy Bridge.

Local Irish bands and dancers along with six food trucks will be on hand for the event. A number of kid's activities including, a kid's craft area, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fun Zone, the Tampa Bay Lightning Street Team, a jig contest, sack races, potato toss and a strength competition. The event is free and open to the public.

Curtis Hixon Park is served by HART local routes 7, 10, 14, 30, 46 and the In-Town Trolley.

Spring Break Beach Party
The Florida Aquarium, March 11, 11 am - 6 pm
701 Channelside Drive, Tampa, FL 32602

Are you a member of the Aquarium? Enjoy this members only night! From hula hoop contests to limbo competitions and exciting games for the kids, there is something for everyone.  A live DJ will keep the party going!

Florida Aquarium members are free, each additional guest is only $5!

The Florida Aquarium is served by HART local route 8 and the TECO Line Streetcar.

There a number of events for those looking toward the skies this Spring Break.

SPoT X Etnies benefiting Boards for Bros
Skatepark of Tampa, March 17, noon - 5 pm
4215 E Columbus Drive, Tampa FL 33605

What better than the wind whipping through your hair as you ripped through the air, defying gravity on a wooden deck with no safety net? If "Ollies," "kickflips" and "fakies" are in your vocabulary, you might want to check out the Skatepark of Tampa (SPoT) during your Spring Break. On Saturday, March 17, SPoT provides the opportunity to skateboard with professional skateboarders Andrew Brophy, Cairo Foster and Tyler Bledsoe (among others). It's all for a good cause too, as the event will be raising money for Boards for Bros, a SPoT initiative aimed at collecting and refurbishing skateboards so that they can be provided to kids in the community that can't afford their own.

Free food and drinks will be provided with a donation. For more information, visit the event page on the SPoT Facebook.

SPoT is served by HART local route 15.

Those looking for a more subdued aerial event might consider this next one at the Museum of Science and Industry...

Gaze at the stars!
Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), sundown
4801 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, FL 33617

See the universe up close as you gaze at the stars with astronomy experts. See various star clusters, craters on the moon, other planet's moons and more! If you've always been fascinated with the sky, this is the perfect event for you.

MOSI is served by HART local route 6.

Even if you can't get away for spring break, there's plenty to do right here at home! Get there, with HART!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Marion Transit Parkway Temporary Detour

Downtown express commuters and HART customers who board the bus along Marion Transit Parkway should be advised of a temporary detour that avoids the area of Marion Transit Parkway and Morgan Street at the Polk Railroad Crossing, which will be restricted due to work by CSX. This restriction will go into effect at any time starting today or within the next few days, and is expected to last about 3 - 4 weeks. The bus detour will begin when the restriction for this area begins.

The detour will mean buses will instead use the following streets:
  • Buses headed southbound will follow their regular routes on Morgan Street, left on Cass Street, right on Pierce Street, right on Twiggs Street, left on Marion Transit Parkway and continue on their regular routes.
  • Buses headed northbound will follow their regular routes on Marion Transit Parkway, left on Zack Street, right on Florida Avenue, right on Cass Street, left on Marion Transit Parkway and continue on their regular routes.
  • The following bus stops will not be served: Cass Street Station and Federal Station. Riders that normally use Cass Street Station should use the temporary "flag" stop on Morgan between Tyler and Cass. Riders that normally use Federal Station should use the stop at Zack and Florida stop.

For more information about HART, visit or call Customer Service at 813-254-4278 (HART).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

HART Security Standards Earn National Recognition!

HART partners with law enforcement for regular security/safety drills
HART is one of 17 rail and mass transit agencies from throughout the country to receive the Transportation Security Administration's "Gold Standard," the highest rating an agency can earn for its Baseline Assessment for Security Enhancement (BASE). Transit agencies volunteer for this comprehensive review, which analyzes systems, identifies vulnerabilities, and assesses progress in areas such as security plans, security training, drills/exercise programs, public outreach efforts and background check programs. 

Transit systems were reviewed in 2011, and TSA announced those who received the "Gold Standard" earlier this month.  

"For HART, it means our plans and procedures are up to par with best practices, and we will continue fine-tuning our collaboration with law enforcement and emergency responders," said Michael Stephens, who oversees HART safety/security as Director of Human Resources, Risk, and Legal Services. "HART is a valuable resource for law enforcement investigations and during an emergency, and we are ready to respond when needed."

HART has enhanced security operations and emergency management by building strong partnerships with local law enforcement and emergency response agencies. HART has also boosted training among drivers, transportation supervisors, as well as maintenance employees, to increase their awareness about suspicious activities.

Projects such as enhanced lighting have helped increase safety on HART
In addition, since 2002, HART has used federal funding to build an extensive surveillance system and security cameras are now on all buses and streetcars, as well as several HART facilities. These cameras have not only enforced rider regulations and served as a crime deterrent for enhanced safety of HART customers, recordings from these cameras have provided local law enforcement with valuable evidence to help solve outside criminal investigations.  

"I commend these organizations for their commitment and hard work that this level of achievement requires," said TSA Administrator John S. Pistole. "TSA recognizes the continued dedication individual transit agencies demonstrate every day to ensure the safety of travelers nationwide."

The BASE program was developed to increase enhance prevention and protection capabilities, and further response preparedness of transit systems nationwide. BASE is aimed at meeting the requirements in the 9/11 Commission Act's security assessment section, which directs TSA to identify critical assets, infrastructure and systems and their vulnerabilities, and assist bus and public transportation authorities to address their security programs

Friday, March 2, 2012

Streetcar Extension = Urban Excellence!

Communities are only as great as the transit that serves them.

There is a special relationship between mass transit and the community it serves. Mass transit connects communities, mobilizes residents and fosters growth and civic pride within the community.

Investments made in transportation are investments made in the community. 

Rendering of CAMLS facility showing streetcar connectivity
The TECO Line Streetcar has been credited with spurring $1.2 billion in development along the streetcar line since 2005.  Development such as the $30 million University of South Florida's Center for Advanced Learning and Simulation (CAMLS), which recently opened just south of the new Whiting Station.

CAMLS' proximity to the streetcar will provide mobility along the line to doctors in town for the facility's research and training innovations. The TECO Line Streetcar has spawned patterned growth and foot traffic (with money to spend) to businesses along the line.

In addition to CAMLS, the extension also provides improved connectivity to a larger number of hotels, restaurants, residents, retail, office and government buildings.

This investment in expanded downtown connectivity was rewarded on Feb. 29., when the TECO Line Streetcar extension to Whiting street was awarded with an "Urban Excellence Award" from the Tampa Downtown Partnership. The Tampa Downtown Partnership is a not-for-profit downtown Tampa business advocacy group.

"Your efforts encourage a more vibrant and connected environment between the cultural, residential and business destinations in Downtown Tampa and Ybor City," remarked the Partnership.

HART officials posing with Urban Excellence Award
About the Urban Excellence Awards

The Downtown Tampa Urban Excellence Awards celebrate businesses, organizations, individuals, events and projects that have made significant contributions toward creating a unique, vibrant and diverse downtown environment – and have made a lasting, positive impact on downtown Tampa. Each year an awards jury representing a cross-section of downtown constituencies selects six (6) award winners honoring the leadership, innovation, hard work, talent and community spirit.

Phase IIa

The original 2.4-mile system opened in 2002 and was built to allow for phased expansion. Phase IIa Streetcar Expansion Project extended service an additional .3 miles into the core downtown Tampa district. Click here to view a map of Phase I and IIa of the TECO Line Streetcar System. 

On Track for the Future

The Urban Land Institute Panel, a non-profit organization of land use experts, lauded the streetcar expansion and encouraged future extensions during their presentation of the September 2011, Tampa Central City Conceptual Development Plan. In keeping with the original visionary approach of the streetcar system, the Phase IIa extension was built to allow for future system expansion.