Transit eNews of the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)

and its Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board (TDCB) 

Issue 8 | June 2013



In this Issue

USF Area Circulator
First Ride on MetroRapid
TBARTA Master Plan
HART MV-1 Paratransit
HART looks at BRT and TOD
COST Advocates
Sunshine Line Comendation
Five counties, One farecard
All Aboard Florida
TomTom Congestion Index
10.5 Billion Rides in 2012


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Upcoming Meetings

Tuesday, June 4

9:00 a.m
Transportation Improvement Program Public Hearing  & MPO Board Meeting
Wednesday, June 12 

1:15 p.m.

MPO Citizens Advisory Committee Meeting & 
Airport Tour

5:30 p.m. 
MPO Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee

Monday, June 17 

1:30 p.m. 
MPO Technical Advisory Committee Meeting

Wednesday, June 19

9:00 a.m.
MPO Livable
Roadways Committee

Tuesday, June 25

3:00 p.m.
MPO Chairs
Coordinating Committee Joint Citizens Advisory Committee Meeting

Thursday, June 27

9:15 a.m. 
Coordinating Board

For more details
and agenda packets
(available one week prior
to each meeting), visit:

MPO proposes USF Area circulator options  

view full-sized PDF map


After a year-long study, the MPO has proposed five options for traveling around the USF Area by small circulator buses.  The University Area Transit Circulator Study looked at travel patterns and identified needed circulation improvements and opportunities for public/private collaboration.


The University Area is a focal point for redevelopment. New circulator service would improve mobility for employees, customers, students, visitors and guests. Currently, most transit services make connections from the University Area to other areas in the County. The new circulator service is designed to serve just the University Area, eliminating the need for several transfers.


Option D, shown on the map above in green, was chosen as the preferred circulator route because of expectated higher performance and lower cost to operate and maintain.  This option will complement HART's bus service and USF's Bull Runner campus shuttle to better serve the University Area. It would run every 30 minutes or less at a cost of approximately $670,000 per year.


Funding will need to come from a mix of sources, including local, state, federal and private.The MPO is working with stakeholders in the University Area, including the New North Transportation Alliance, to wrap up the study and work towards implementation.The circulator study is slated be presented at the MPO's next regular monthly meeting on June 4th following the Transportation Improvement Plan Public Hearing at 9 a.m.



First ride on MetroRapid 
by Brandon Henry, USF student / planning intern


MetroRapid, Hillsborough County's first foray into a Bus Rapid Transit service, had its official public debut May 28. From a passenger's viewpoint, MetroRapid has a lot of promise for your average commuter. From 15-minute frequency to quick service, it covers a 17.5 mile route in about an hour, currently running between downtown Tampa and the Hidden River Regional Park-n-Ride via Nebraska and Fletcher Avenues. New technology, such as traffic signal priority, are introduced, using GPS to give buses priority at traffic signals by extending green lights or shortening red lights as needed.


Judging by its first day in service, MetroRapid offered a very good first impression. The buses are brand new, and the stop shelters themselves a work of art, simple pavilions oozing in a modern sleekness. The service itself was amazingly convenient, especially the 15-minute frequency, lessening the need to plan commutes far in advance or even look at schedules. Other features includes ticket vending machines at the MetroRapid stops, so passengers can purchase their tickets prior to boarding and real-time display boards telling passengers exactly when the next bus will arrive.   


Riders were openly delighted at the speed of their trip. It's also worth mentioning that the trip was completely free, and will be for the first two weeks of service (through June 7), with regular local fares applying afterward. However, some passengers were unaware of MetroRapid's selectivity in stops, limited to only the signature green-and-gray MetroRapid shelters, necessary in order to offer such quicker service. A couple passengers were insistent on having a schedule on hand, despite the 15-minute frequency. But overall, reception by the public was excellent. As one passenger exclaimed as he exited a MetroRapid bus at the Marion Transit Center, "I love MetroRapid!"




TBARTA Master Plan 2013 Update  



TBARTA (Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority) updates its Master Plan every other year. This ensures the vision continues to reflect the needs and desires for a balanced transportation system that will improve mobility of passengers and freight throughout the region.  The 2013 Master Plan Update is a minor update to refine the transit, freight, and roadway networks, and incorporate the progress made locally and regionally towards implementation of our regional vision.


The Update includes the results of transit corridor studies and other regional projects identified through coordination with TBARTA's local planning partners. In addition, future regional intermodal center locations, the TECO Line Streetcar loop, and MetroRapid premium bus services have been added. And, a Tampa International Airport People Mover study area has replaced the previous rail connection through the airport.


A few updates have been made to the Regional Freight Network. Because the Tampa Bay Regional Goods Movement Study was recently updated, supporting roadways in Manatee and Sarasota Counties were added to provide better connections to freight activity centers. In Hillsborough County, the future State Road 39 and I- 4/Selmon Expressway Connector have been added.


The Regional Roadway Network consists of all Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) roadways as well as all roadways included in TBARTA's Regional Transit Network and Regional Freight Network.  Managed lanes, seaports, and future regional intermodal center locations have been added. Updates made to the Transit and Freight Networks are also reflected.


As part of this update, TBARTA has adopted the following regional priority projects:

  • Roosevelt Connector (Pinellas County)
  • Suncoast Parkway 2 (Citrus & Hernando Counties)
  • SR 54/56 Managed Lanes (Pasco County)
  • I-275 Managed Lanes (Howard Frankland Bridge/SR 60/Memorial Interchange connecting Hillsborough & Pinellas Counties)
  • Port Manatee Connector (Manatee County)

The draft Master Plan Update is currently under public review, and is scheduled for adoption by the TBARTA Board on June 14, 2013.



New MV-1 paratransit vehicle


HART is investing in the future with distinctive looking MV-1 vehicles, which look like a cross between a boxy hybrid SUV and a minivan. There are a number of smart, budget-conscious, customer-centric reasons to transition to the MV-1:

  • Savings and comfort! The MV-1 costs less, has better fuel economy, and is more comfortable
  • A pioneer, the MV-1 is the first minivan designed from the ground up as an Americans with Disability Act (ADA) compliant vehicle, as opposed to retrofitting a family minivan as in the past 
  • Roomy yet compact, the MV-1 seats up to three adults or one adult and one patron in a full-size wheelchair and features a large side-door opening and a heavy-duty factory-equipped access ramp that stows under the vehicle floor   
  • Designed with flexibility in mind, the interior comfortably accommodates a variety of assisted mobility devices, including large electric wheelchairs
  • Safety! The MV-1 has been engineered to maintain its crash test ratings in use, unlike most retrofitted minivans
  • Better service! HART plans to roll out a fleet of 13 new MV-1 paratransit minivans this month - Nine are replacements for the larger heavy duty diesel vans and four expansion minivans to meet the increased demand for paratransit services
  • Cutting costs! HART saved $1 million dollars in capital costs by purchasing the smaller vans over the larger vans and will continue to save annual operating costs from the improved gas mileage
  • Meeting future needs - U.S. Census data indicates that 14 million Americans are currently dealing with serious mobility issues with more than four million relying on a wheelchair every day - this trend will continue to grow exponentially as the baby boomer generation began to turn 65 in 2011  



TOD Committee focuses on Bus Rapid Transit and Development

Earlier this year, HART established a committee to explore the potential for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines to stimulate transit oriented development (TOD). The committee comprises the public and private sector, including realtors, builders, economic development experts, community redevelopment managers, and staff from the Planning Commission and MPO. Chaired by Tampa City Councilman and HART board member Mike Suarez, the Committee has looked at cities across the country with BRT systems to analyze their success, or lack of success of BRT to catalyze TOD. In April, the committee reviewed stops along HART's MetroRapid route for potential economic development opportunities. In May, the committee heard from Mr. Joe Calebrese, the Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's CEO and Caryn Champine, from Denver's TOD office.

So far, the Committee's focus has been on public/private partnerships, road types, streetscape designs, alternate modes of transportation and how they could potentially link, developer incentives, land use compatibility, funding, political implications, and neighborhood opposition/support. All of these factors will help HART and local government determine what BRT routes have the greatest potential for TOD.

For more information, contact HART at 813/623-5835.

COST advocates effective transportation & transparency


In March, Hillsborough Rides profiled Connect Tampa Bay, a grassroots transit advocacy organization.  This issue, we highlight another group with a distinctly different take on transit, adding its voice to the ongoing dialogue about our transportation alternatives.  The MPO welcomes constructive suggestions from all individuals or groups.


Citizens Organized for Sound Transportation (COST) has emerged as a grassroots organization advocating cost-effective, fiscally sound long term transportation solutions for the Tampa Bay region.  Founded by a staunch rail transit critic, Sharon Calvert, COST believes in innovative private transportation and flexible rubber-tired modes such as Bus Rapid Transit. Recognizing that the debate about transportation alternatives is heating up, Calvert says, "COST just wants to be in the conversation.  We want to get people engaged, and make sure they have all the information."  


COST advocates ways to make transportation function more efficiently, like coordinated traffic signals, "Next Bus Arrival" passenger information, Zipcars, telecommuting, and even technological innovations enabling cars to drive themselves. The group points to managed lanes operating today in Southeast Florida and wants to see such specially designated managed lanes for buses, carpools and individual drivers willing to pay a toll implemented here. COST believes the ultimate measure of success of a new transportation system is if it takes cars off the road, easing congestion and benefitting a large number of people.


Expressing skepticism about rail transit, COST questions ridership forecasts, cost estimates, long lead times required to develop rail, and the risk to taxpayers. In Calvert's view, costly rail systems have depleted resources that could have been used for less expensive bus systems.  "We are concerned about the transit-dependent," she says. Even transit-oriented development raises questions. Regarding development around station areas, Calvert asks, "Is it mobility or economic development that we're after?" In her view, "Dispersed development patterns aren't all bad," pointing out that many people prefer suburban living. In terms of paying for transportation, Calvert acknowledges, "We don't have all the answers," but says that COST leans towards user and mobility fees. She adds, "The funding has to come from somewhere" to address deficient roads and safety problems.


Regardless of the funding source, COST expects transparent decision-making and accountability. This is one point on which we can all agree. 


Sunshine Line earns Commendation


The Board of County Commissioners recognized the Sunshine Line for consistently high standards over the past five years, meeting or exceeding all minimum industry standards for reliability, being on time, and safety. 


Annually, the Sunshine Line provides 200,000 door-to-door trips for clients to get to medical facilities, aging services, daycare, and senior nutrition sites. Non-medical trips or other life-sustaining trips, such as group shopping are also provided. The Sunshine Line supports full participation in our local economy by providing over 17,000 trips for job training and employment for persons with disabilities.


Calling the award "a recognition of some special employees," Commissioner Sandra Murman thanked Sunshine Line Manager Ed Wisniewski and his staff for their dedicated service they provide that makes Hillsborough County a great place to work, live and play.



Five counties, One farecard

A working group consisting of HART technical, operations,  and marketing staff as well and regional representatives from Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), Polk County Transit Services, and the Lakeland Area Mass Transit District (Citrus Connection) has been formed with the goals of:


  1. Understanding the current market for both the fare box technology and the technological abilities of our ridership demographic
  2. Crafting a requirements document 
  3. Crafting a scope of work understanding that it could be used in a future procurement and solicitation


The focus of this working group will be to review the opportunities, technology and funding options for fare box replacement throughout the respective fleets. The majority of HART's current fare boxes are over 26 years old and only accept cash, coin and HART fare card with no ability to expand that capability to any other type of fare medium such as smartcards, credit or debit cards, or other agency passes. 

The regional approach lends itself to the new focus of federal funding approvals for initiatives that take into consideration the regional nature of transit. Aside from funding, the other aspect of this approach would be the ability for all of our patrons to seamlessly ride from one transit system to another using the same fare medium, improving connectivity within the region.

For more information, call HART at 813/623-5831.

Former Disney Exec to run statewide rail project


All Aboard Florida, a privately funded $1 billion passenger railroad project that would connect Orlando to Miami, and possibly Tampa, named onetime Disney executive Donald Robinson co-president and chief operating officer.


A wholly owned indirect subsidiary of Coral Gables-based Florida East Coast Industries, All Aboard Florida also promoted executive P. Michael Reininger to president and chief development officer, according to a release. Reininger joined All Aboard Florida in 2012.


Robinson will focus on developing the operational functions for the project, the release states, while, Reininger will work on rail infrastructure, stations, and transit-oriented real estate development. The executives, the company says, will jointly define All Aboard Florida's brand and customer experience.


Robinson previously ran hotel operations for Walt Disney World, which encompassed 16 hotels and more than 400 retail and dining facilities. He also led the openings and development of Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland, according to the release. Reininger also worked for the Disney Co., in addition to senior management roles with MGM Resorts International and The St. Joe Co.


The All Aboard Florida project, according to Florida East Coast executives, has no plans to seek public funding for any phase of the project, from construction to future maintenance. The past few large-scale rail service projects in the state have failed to get traction, in part because the proposals included taxpayer-funded elements.


The service will initially use 200 miles of track between Cocoa and Miami that Florida East Coast already owns. The company says it will build 40 miles of new track to connect Cocoa to Orlando. The firm hopes to eventually extend the Orlando tracks northeast, to Jacksonville, and west, to Tampa. Florida East Coast officials say the project could create 6,000 construction jobs, and another 1,000 jobs to operate the system.


Article courtesy of Business Observer.




TomTom beats about congestion


How bad our traffic was on Friday, February 17, 2012?  According to TomTom, it was worst day last year in the Tampa Bay metropolitan area.


How do they know? TomTom is a major maker of Global Positioning System (GPS) devices.  Over the past six years, they have captured over six trillion anonymous speed measurements from customers all over the world. From these measurements, TomTom developed a congestion index or traffic "barometer" for cities around the world.  The index compares travel times during non-congested "free flow" periods with travel times during peak hours.  The difference is expressed as a percentage increase in travel time.


So how does Tampa Bay stack up?  According to TomTom:

  • Our congestion index is 22%, ranking us 12th out of 59 North American cities
  • The average is 18% for North America, ranging from 33% (LA) to 10% (Kansas City)
  • Internationally, Moscow has the dubious honor of earning TomTom's highest congestion index at 66%!
  • Our congestion index rose from 20% to 22% between 2011 and 2012, putting us in the top 3 cities for fastest increasing congestion, behind Houston and Seattle
  • At 28%, our congestion index is worse on "non-highway" major, secondary and connecting roads; and for highways, our congestion index is 11%
  • Our worst time of the week for commuting is Thursday PM; the best time is Friday AM
  • Our worst time of day, by far, is the PM peak, when our congestion index soars to 54%

Other researchers produce similar reports. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute, for example, published the 2012 Urban Mobility Report, which calculated our Travel Time Index at 1.20, or 27th out of 101 U.S. cities.


The MPO continues to tackle traffic congestion with plans that include Intelligent Transportation Systems to smooth traffic flow and reduce delays due to crashes, diversifying modes of travel, and adding capacity where necessary.


For more information, visit the  TomTom Congestion Index and the  Texas A&M Annual Urban Mobility Report.



Public Transportation reached new heights in 2012 with 10.5 Billion Rides
HART Ridership


Ridership on buses, subways and other modes of public transportation in the USA rose 1.5% to 10.5 billion trips last year, the highest annual total since 2008, according to a new report. Although Superstorm Sandy and its aftermath slowed ridership on some of the nation's largest transit systems, at least 16 systems reported record ridership numbers in 2012, says the American Public Transportation Association.


"When Sandy hit, and the snowstorm that followed it, an estimated 74 million (transit) trips were lost, and yet we still had the second-highest ridership since 1957," said APTA president and CEO Michael Melaniphy. "The increase in transit ridership was driven, at least partly, by high gas prices, the volatility of those prices and the nation's changing demographics."


"In the last 18 months or so, we've seen prices be very volatile," Melaniphy says. "When you think about the impact of that on your budget, when you can't count on your transportation costs being consistent day over day, week over week, that's really hard on the budget. We're seeing record transit ridership on systems all over the country, in the Midwest, the East, the South, the North and the West," he says.


A 2012 report by the National Conference of State Legislatures said that "affordability likely plays a role" in the growth of transit, noting "estimates are that an individual can save more than $10,000 a year by riding public transit instead of driving." That report also noted the growing popularity of public transportation, especially among Baby Boomers, empty-nesters and Millennials, who total about 150 million people.


Melaniphy notes that in 2012, there were 62 local tax elections on transportation funding proposals that had at least a significant transit component; 49 of them passed.


Article courtesy of USATODAY.



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