Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Be Prepared this Hurricane Season!

HART provides Emergency Evacuation Service
With the Atlantic hurricane season officially beginning on June 1st, it's a great reminder of the importance of having a severe weather plan BEFORE a storm hits. Unlike earthquakes or tornadoes, which can happen in an instant, hurricanes tend to provide a lot of warning.

HART buses run special evacuation routes for people who need transportation to shelters. HART and the Hillsborough County Office of Emergency Management urge you to make arrangements now for the safety of your family, should a storm force you from your home.

HART Emergency Evacuation service is not limited to hurricane evacuation, however. The Office of Emergency Management can call on HART as an official evacuation partner of Hillsborough County to implement service in an emergency evacuation situation in which it is safe to carry out service. 

Know your plan

Map of Hillsborough County Evacuation Routes
For the safety of our riders and employees, regular HART service will cease if sustained winds reach 39 mph. HART was forced to cease service following Hurricane Irma last year.

HART service will also cease if the Office of Emergency Management instructs HART to begin operation of Emergency Evacuation service, after shelters have opened.

Our emergency routes are designed to transport people from low-lying areas to higher ground.

Because of this, if a major storm threatens our area, you should plan for the possibility of service interruptions.

To minimize inconvenience to our customers, we will announce the need to interrupt service as early in the day as possible, and will work to restore service just as soon as it is safe to do so.

The primary goal for you is to be prepared and have a plan. Don't wait until the last minute to make arrangements or you may find yourself stranded.

For more detailed information on the service and service plans in case of emergency, please click here.

For information on Hillsborough County shelters, weather alerts, etc. please visit Hillsborough County Emergency Management page.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Unfunded Needs Show Importance of Infrastructure Investment


HART requires a new, fully functional, state of the art maintenance facility.

It feels as if Americans are collectively holding our breath when it comes to our infrastructure: Slamming into a pothole, or driving over a deficient bridge, or the sheer number of automobiles on our roads causing traffic congestion are all infrastructure repair issues. The majority of our citizens are in suspense, pondering if another infrastructure tragedy might happen or if we will be unscathed one more day.

None of this is new. Our nation's infrastructure has been in a slow-motion decline, right before our eyes, for decades. 

HART shares similar infrastructure stumbling blocks as other transit systems across the country, which can create tremendous obstacles for the Authority as we plan for future growth. Some of these challenges include maintaining our maintenance facility, busways, streetcar system, and updating our bus fleet to name a few.

The high cost of maintaining our infrastructure comes at the expense of expansion to meet the real demand for public transportation in Hillsborough County. How to strike a balance between high capital costs for infrastructure repair and the need for service expansion remains a primary concern. The answer is an investment in safety measures and modernization, as well as,
identifying long-term sustainable and reliable funding sources.

Our transit system needs a viable and reliable long-term capital funding source. What could increased capital investment in our county fund? According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), every billion dollars invested in public transportation supports and creates more than 50,000 jobs. Another excellent example of the impact public transportation has on our economy is for every $1 spent on public transit, $4 is pumped back into the economy. Returns like that are priceless.

For HART employees and customers in Hillsborough County, these dollars could fund:
  • Heavy Maintenance Facility - HART is requesting $10 million to construct a new maintenance facility to replace the existing maintenance building. The project would consist of a service area with bus lifts and other heavy maintenance equipment, storm-water treatment, canopied fuel island, wash facility, restrooms, break rooms, electronic shop, classrooms, maintenance offices and support area. This new facility would support HART's approach to modern, efficient transit maintenance service.
  • HART MetroRapid BRT Study - HART's Bus Rapid Transit design/engineering study of the Nebraska Avenue MetroRapid corridor, the Fowler Avenue corridor, and the Florida Avenue corridor. FDOT has dedicated $2.5 million in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to work with HART and local stakeholders to fund a design/engineering study of these important corridors. Enhancing MetroRapid to adopt many of the attributes of BRT service will expand the potential market and increase the chances for a Small Starts/grant for the East-West line. This project could potentially qualify for the FTA Small Starts funding.
  • TECO Line Streetcar System Extension - The proposed extension would extend the existing 2.7-mile streetcar line. The two preferred routes would travel an additional 1.3 miles from E Whiting Street north to E Palm Avenue.This project would open up the possibilities for further economic development and Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) along the proposed line.
      
HART requires a new, fully functional, state of the art maintenance facility.

The demand for transit growth in Hillsborough County is evident - we see it monthly at our Board of Directors meetings as countless numbers of residents and organizations approach us with requests for new and expanded service. Customers want to experience shorter trip times, higher frequency, fewer hassles while commuting; which are improvements HART recently implemented during our Mission MAX system redesign. 

If we want a modern, safe, reliable transit system, we need to act now. The Tampa region deserves world-class infrastructure, and our stakeholders deserve nothing less. Let's use our collective voice to send a message to our elected leaders to close the infrastructure investment gap and demand that sustainable, long-term funding for transit is a priority.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Bus Stops as Building Blocks: HART's Basic Transit Infrastructure Program

The HART BTI Program is HART's most visible infrastructure!
A bus stop is just a bus stop, right? Just a pole in the ground. Some stops have a shelter, others don't, some are green, and some are black. What’s the big deal?

At HART, we recognize that a bus stop isn't just a bus stop. It is a place where valued customers board and alight vehicles transporting them to important destinations such as work, school, medical appointments, child care and more. Which means, most patrons begin their commute at one of our stops. People depend on us!  Consequently, it is our responsibility to ensure the infrastructure of HART bus stops improve the customer experience, as much as possible.    

Which leads us to the HART Basic Transit Infrastructure (BTI) program.

With roughly 3,200 HART stops throughout Hillsborough County, the BTI program is HART's most "visible" infrastructure. The BTI program consists not only of stops and shelters, but also bus bays, crosswalks, landing pads, and more.

Of the 2,150 stops, 639 (30% coverage) of those have shelters.

Let's compare that with our regional peers:
  • Charlotte Area Transit Authority (CATS) - 3,300 stops; 310 shelters (10% coverage)
  • Fort Worth Transit Authority (The T) - 1,794 stops; 76 shelters (4% coverage)
  • Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) - 4,822 bus stops; 650 shelters (14% coverage)
HART is outpacing our regional peers, and we plan to continue to pursue funding for additional infrastructure.

How did we get here? Let's take a look at how the BTI program is funded.

HART works in collaboration with local jurisdictions, developers and private property owners to engage in cost sharing opportunities or establish right-of-way easements for placement of transit infrastructure. An example of this is when residential or entertainment venues are built, HART receives "impact fees" to help mitigate the traffic that arises from the new development. This funding must be spent in the location it was received. The BTI program also receives 1% of HART's discretionary grant funding.

In addition to developer fees and grants, HART partners with Signal Outdoor Advertising to build and maintain shelters, in exchange for ad placements at the stops. It is through this revolutionary (at the time) public-private partnership, that HART has been able to build out so many shelters.

Bus Stop Audit

While we are proud of our shelter coverage, we can always improve.
In 2008, HART conducted a "Bus Stop Study," essentially auditing all stops within the HART system. From this study, forged the effort to bring our grandfathered-in stops to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Roughly 10 years later, HART is looking to conduct another audit of our stops. This time around, the study will focus on reviewing the conditions of our shelters (including ADA-accessibility, possibly moving stops, and improving stop GPS location accuracy for Google Maps, OneBusAway, etc.
Think your HART stop warrants a shelter? Fill out this online form to have your stop evaluated.

Mission MAX

Following the robust redesign of the HART network, a number of non-service stops and shelters are still in place. HART and Signal are aware of these stops and are working towards finding new homes for current shelters and scrapping ones that have passed their useful life (10 years).

Maintenance

Continued maintenance (pressure washing shelters, removing trash and debris, and more) is an important part of the rider experience, especially with hundreds of patrons visiting shelters daily. However, with a service area the size of Rhode Island, and a team of less than 10, stop maintenance is a challenge and HART is working with its partners to implement service improvements.

We are working industriously to improve!

Signal Outdoor, HART’s partner in shelter maintenance, is hiring another full-time employee to improve the visual appeal of MetroRapid stations. HART is also increasing supervisor patrols to identify shelters requiring immediate support. 

Despite our efforts, we need the help of our community partners!  If you see a stop or shelter in need of a little TLC, please don't hesitate to tweet us, send us a message on Facebook, or email CustomerService@goHART.org. We need your eyes on the ground!

National Infrastructure Week

The week of May 14th is National Infrastructure Week. Throughout the week, agencies, from airports and seaports, to transit agencies and utility organizations, are highlighting the importance of supporting our nation's infrastructure.

Without crucial state and federal funding, HART would face an even greater challenge to keep our riders protected from the elements and ultimately, to keep our community moving.

Something to think about the next time you visit a HART bus stop!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Interested in Regional Transit? Take the New Survey!


The team creating the Regional Transit Feasibility Plan is rolling out an online survey this week to obtain additional public input on the draft plan while hearing more about how residents would use transit.

The survey includes questions about respondents’ transit preferences. It also asks for feedback on the team’s technical recommendations, released earlier this year, regarding a proposed “catalyst project” and the regional vision.

The draft catalyst project is a 41-mile rubber tire transit concept that would run from Wesley Chapel in Pasco County, to downtown St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, while connecting the University of South Florida area, downtown Tampa, Westshore, and the Greater Gateway/Carillon area along Interstate 275. Urban passenger rail is also a high performing recommendation, using an existing CSX rail line that runs between downtown Tampa and USF. Feedback is being sought on both projects in the online survey.

Identifying the “catalyst project” is not an all-or-nothing proposition - it’s the first of many steps in building the regional transit vision for Tampa Bay. The online survey is available now through the end of summer. The draft plan will be modified after incorporating feedback from the public with the final expected in the fall, allowing the region to move towards engineering, design, and implementation.

For more information on the Regional Transit Feasibility Plan, visit www.TBRegionalTransit.com