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.