Transit eNews of the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)

and its Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board (TDCB) 

Issue 11 | March 2014 




In this Issue

SouthShore Transit Study
TriCounty Mobility Needs
Downtown Transit Options
TIA People Mover
TBARTA regional priorities
2014 CTC Evaluation
Polk transit referendum
HART CEO retiring
Arizona Jenkins

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Video Highlights

Enrique Peņalosa: Why buses represent democracy in action

Upcoming Events

Thursday, Mar 13   
Transportation Disadvantaged Legislative Day 

Friday, Mar 14 
Imagine 2040 Town Hall Panel @ Florida's Largest Home Show 

Thursday, Apr 24    
Annual Public Hearing
 & Meeting of the Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board

Saturday, May 10
10am - 5pm
National Train Day @ Tampa Union Station

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

MPO circulates options for SouthShore circulator bus  


In November, the Hillsborough MPO and HART kicked off the SouthShore Transit Circulator Study. The purpose of this study is to reevaluate the transit needs of this rapidly growing community south of the Alafia River.

At three public meetings, residents and business people identified priorities and key destinations such as major retail centers, SouthShore Service Center, and Hillsborough Community College, as well as emerging destinations such as the Amazon distribution center, St Joseph's Hospital, and the regional mall planned at Big Bend Rd and I-75.

This input was used to draft four route options: 
  1. Enhancements to existing routes, what's included in HART's Transit Development Plan, plus  a connection to Fishhawk
  2. A 'figure 8' configuration with routes on Gibsonton Dr, US 41, Big Bend Rd, US 301, and SR 674 HARTFlex circulator bus
  3. One-way loops operating in the northern and southern parts of SouthShore, connecting with local routes to Brandon Mall and Fishhawk
  4. Two-way loops operating in the northern and southern parts of SouthShore

There's time for you to weigh in on these options! Take our survey to give your input. The survey closes March 18th. The findings will be presented to the community on March 18th at a public meeting at the SouthShore Regional Library at 4:30 p.m. - 5:45 p.m. The final report will be presented to the MPO and HART Boards for final adoption.

For more information on the transit circulator study, you can visit the project website or contact Sarah McKinley at 813.273.2774 x382 or




Cross-County connections wanted! 


The Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas County MPOs have been working together to address the longer-distance mobility needs of the transportation disadvantaged in our large metropolitan area. Three workshops were held in each county, where a survey was distributed. The survey was also made available on multiple websites and via email distribution.


On January 16, the Transportation Disadvantaged (TD) Boards of the three counties came together to discuss the next steps. Local non-profit groups that provide transportation services using federal grants also participated, making for a fairly packed meeting room! 


Top needs of the transportation disadvantaged community were discussed as:

  • Access to social activities and other destination to improve quality of life 
  • More regional transit crossing county lines 
  • Expanding fixed route services to new areas and times of day
  • Focus investment on rail and bus transit
  • Connections to Hillsborough County's major destinations 

For more information, contact Michele Ogilvie by email or phone at 813.273.3774 x317. 





Downtown mulls transit assets & opportunities  


Tampa's urban core, made up of downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods, is the hub of commerce, culture and government for the Tampa Bay region. A lot of people work here, but more and more people are choosing to live and play Downtown too. It's the center of our existing transit network and is crisscrossed by bus and freight rail lines. Future plans call for new transit technologies and intermodal hubs. What is the best way to use and tie all these assets and opportunities together? That's the question the Downtown Transit & Opportunities Study seeks to answer.


The study is exploring Downtown's development patterns to identify emerging or untapped markets.  It also focuses on how to best expand or extend the existing transit assets, including rail and rubber-wheeled systems. This includes existing freight rail corridors, bus and trolley routes, and the streetcar system. The study will consider new rail technologies like Diesel Multiple Unit vehicles. 


Downtown residents and business have met twice. The Florida Aquarium hosted a kick-off meeting in December, attracting more than 30 individuals who were an excellent cross-section of interests. Participants identified existing and future developments and shared their ideal transit connections. Several speakers noted that transit should run later in the evening to serve Downtown attractions.


The Straz Center for the Performing Arts hosted the second meeting in January, which focused on a transit needs assessment. A consultant presented transit travel "contours" showing how far a rider can go in a 15, 30, or 45 minute transit trip from downtown. These were overlaid with maps depicting concentrations of Downtown residents, workers, and shopping opportunities. Different forms of high capacity premium transit that could connect Tampa's urban core to the rest of the region were highlighted. Stakeholders expressed the need for clarity and simplicity in designing ways to get transit passengers to and through Downtown Tampa.


The MPO will convene at least one more stakeholder meeting and a public open house before completing this study. Recommendations are anticipated by April 2014 and will feed into the MPO's long range plan and HART's Transit Development Plan. The MPO and the Tampa Downtown Partnership are co-sponsors of the study, with guidance from the City of Tampa, HART, FDOT and the Historic Streetcar Board. 


For more information, visit the project webpage, email Rich Clarendon, or phone 813.273.3774 x368.

TIA approves $417M for people mover  


The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Board approved a 2014 capital budget amendment to spend $928 million on projects implementing the first phase of the airport's master plan, including the first phase of an automated people mover.


"This is a significant step toward making our 20-year vision for Tampa International Airport a reality, as well as putting thousands of people to work and contributing to the Tampa Bay region's economy," Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano said. "These initial projects will help us decongest roadways and curbsides, allow rental car companies to grow, and begin to set the stage for the doubling of passenger capacity projected over the next couple of decades."


The first phase projects include a $417.5 million automated people mover leading from the main terminal to a $318.7 million consolidated rental car center, a $122.5 million main terminal expansion and other roadway and facility improvements at Tampa International Airport.


Design and construction of the first phase of the master plan is expected to create or save more than 9,000 jobs valued at $370 million over the next four years, according to analysis by airport consultant Ricondo and Associates. The first phase is also expected to boost tourism spending in the region by $620 million over the next 20 years.


The master plan, approved by the Board last April, after more than a year of analysis and public meetings, will be funded through bonds, grant funding and public/private partnerships.

For more information contact




TBARTA sees Westshore & Gateway as "critical core"  


The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) sees Westshore and Gateway as the core needed to achieve a world-class network. TBARTA is pursuing funding for high priority projects regarded as stepping stones to a stronger regional transportation network. Three of these "critical core" projects are in the Westshore business district:


  • Replace the northbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge with a new 4-lane bridge, including a future light rail transit link between Hillsborough and Pinellas, accelerating the span as a design/build project
  • TIA's automated people mover (described in the article above), including a future extension to a new intermodal center near I-275 in the Westshore district
  • I-275 express lanes from the Gateway Area in Pinellas, across the Howard Frankland Bridge to Westshore and downtown Tampa with variable tolling - the Hillsborough and Pinellas MPOs are working with FDOT to incorporate Bus Rapid Transit into the express lanes - TBARTA is seeking funding for advanced right of way acquisition   

TBARTA selected these projects, because they are regionally significant, offer immediate solutions, and can be implemented incrementally.
View all of TBARTA's 2014 priorities.



Sunshine Line gets glowing review


The Community Transportation Coordinator (CTC) Annual Evaluation was approved by the MPO board in January based on a recommendation from its Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board (TDCB). Doing business as the Sunshine Line, Hillsborough County provides limited transportation services to those who do not have the means or ability to transport themselves, and are dependent on others to obtain access to health care, employment, education, shopping, and other life sustaining activities.


The TDCB looks at five major criteria in the annual performance evaluation: Reliability, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Availability, and Safety. In this evaluation period from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, the CTC met all performance standards. Client surveys were distributed to all of the 2,872 Sunshine Line clients, who responded with a 99% approval rating.


The TDCB would like to see more service provided for trips to employment/work, education, shopping, and recreation. "This is a very important service for the community and we need to make sure we maintain and advocate for more rides," said TDCB Member-at-Large Becki Forsell.


For more information, contact Michele Ogilvie by email or phone at 813-273-3774 x317.





HARTPlus is going CNG   


Starting this April, Hillsborough County residents can climb aboard and experience the newest HARTPlus paratransit van which is engineered with cleaner-burning and quieter Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) technology.


According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CNG-powered vans can produce approximately 25% fewer carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) than similar gasoline and diesel-powered vans. Also, Made-in-America CNG reduces the nation's dependence on foreign sources of energy. 


"CNG technology is important to HART because it helps us reduce our fleet-based carbon emissions," explains HART Chief Executive Officer Philip Hale. "Our continued investment in a clean fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles and proven green technologies has made us a leader in our industry in the state of Florida."  CNG has additional benefits of significantly greater fuel economy and lower maintenance costs.


The delivery of the new, more environmentally friendly paratransit vans represents the first step in transitioning the agency's aging fleet of diesel-powered vehicles.  By the end of March, HART plans to take delivery of 20 CNG HARTPlus paratransit vans and eight CNG HARTFlex vans, all of which will be operational during April 2014.  


For more information, contact Sandra Morrison at 813.384.6610 or



Transit referendum slated for Polk voters 


In February, the Polk County Board of County Commissioners approved an ordinance authorizing a referendum to be voted on by Polk County voters in November 2014.

If passed, the referendum would enable a one percent sales surtax to fund the MyRide/MyRoad initiative. The revenues from the tax would go into a dedicated trust fund, with half of the proceeds to go to the Polk Transit Authority (PTA). PTA has created a plan to improve transit service throughout the county and create new bus routes to adjacent counties (like us!) connecting to major airports, tourist attractions and the James A Haley Veteran's Hospital. The other half of the new tax revenues would go towards roadway maintenance and improvements throughout the county.

If the sales tax is approved, the County and the Citrus Connection would not levy the property taxes currently collected for roads and transit, respectively. Polk County voters will vote on the referendum as part of the November general election. For more information, contact Tom Phillips, Polk Transit Authority Executive Director, at 863.327.1315.




HART CEO Philip Hale announces retirement 

(photo courtesy of  


After 42 years in the transit industry, HART CEO Philip Hale is retiring effective May 2, 2014. Philip Hale leaves the agency with a number of accomplishments during his tenure as HART CEO including:

  • Record ridership - an almost 7% increase during his tenure
  • The launch of MetroRapid - the first of its kind in Florida
  • Built up reserves, $2.5 million in annual savings, and expanded service
  • OneBusAway Tampa, a real-time arrival and departure information application for HART service
  • The agency's transition to Compressed Natural Gas - first transit agency in Florida

CEO Hale believes he's "built an excellent team," and that he's "comfortable stepping away now." The MPO bids a fond farewell to an excellent team player with good sense! We'll miss you, Phil! 





Tampa man pushes independence for disabled people 

The first thing you notice about Arizona Jenkins is the wheelchair. He has used one since childhood because of the cerebral palsy that paralyzes the left side of his body.

The next thing you notice is the grin - so earnest, so toothy, so ever-present it seems to lift him out of the chair so he can get about his business of helping other people.


Jenkins is a champion for people with disabilities: He's a member of a committee that helps the bus system serve them better, head of his own small support and lobbying group, tireless in his work to mentor people one-on-one or before whole school classrooms by showing them what he can do with his own life. "Independence," explains Jenkins, whose paralysis often requires him to repeat a sentence half a dozen times before he is understood. "I can hang out with the so-called normal people because I am independent."


The rewards of helping other people explain some of the joy behind his smile. But there's another source, somewhere in the playful, wicked banter around the table they keep for him at his favorite haunt: the dark and spacious King Corona Cigars cafe and bar in the heart of Ybor City. He can be found here late most mornings, trading wisdom with the boys - an eclectic mix of political operatives, academics, professionals and retirees. They argue sports, politics and religion, insulting one another all the while. No one is safe, not even Jenkins. They poke fun at his disheveled shirt collar, a shot they know gets under the skin of a man whose nicknames include "The Don Juan of Ybor" for his always-dapper attire. They mock him as "The King of Ybor," a title he earned for knowing nearly everyone in the historic district where he's lived his whole life and where he rules from a wheeled throne.


"His real throne is in the back!" quips one of the boys, pointing to the bathroom. "Don't let him fool you with that kind smile," advises Don Barco, King Corona Cigars owner and Jenkins' longtime friend. "He dishes the insults out as much as he takes them." With a visitor present, Jenkins sheepishly shakes his head no. But the grin betrays him.


To say the least, it isn't pandering Jenkins expects at King Corona - none of the well-meaning, exaggerated consideration people extend to those with disabilities. He has special needs - help with grooming, for example, and he knows he'll never play football with the guys. But for Jenkins, true independence means he doesn't let the cerebral palsy define him. He doesn't let it prevent him from doing the things he can do.


He can attend Tampa Bay Buccaneers games because he knows how to work the bus system. He can eat out at restaurants because he checks which ones are most convenient for wheelchairs. He can go to movies because he calls ahead to let the theater know where he and his group need to sit. He can go on a cruise because he gets hold of a map and plans his onboard moves.


Most important to him, he never lets his disability make him a burden on his friends. He will not have them look at him differently. "I'm not different," he says. "All that is wrong with me is my left side of my body doesn't work right." His friends say that's not exactly true. The heart is on the left side of the body.


Barco spoke of a customer who lost both his legs to a medical condition. Jenkins barely knew the man but helped him through the tough times. Friend Tony Alfonso, a retired pilot, has an uncle who had to give up driving because of his age and feared it would be the end of his social life. No one asked Jenkins to step in but he did, recording the uncle's favorite activities and plotting out bus routes to get him there.


And his friend Al Fox, an outspoken advocate for normalization of relations with Cuba, said it was Jenkins who persuaded him to give his own special-needs daughter more freedom. "He told me to stop telling her what she can't do," Fox said. "He told me to let her live. I don't admit to being wrong often, but Arizona was right and I was wrong. I had to let her live."


Jenkins delivers the same help and advice he gives his friends to people and audiences across Hillsborough County: Live, and do so confidently. He is limited in the words he can speak to them, but when they learn he takes cruises and attends Bucs games, his inspiration speaks loudly. "We try to teach our kids to be independent," said Carmine Alfano, principal of Lavoy Exceptional Center, 4410 W. Main St., where Jenkins mentors disabled children. "Through Arizona, they see anything is possible. Arizona is a great role model for our kids."


Jenkins is a member of the Americans With Disabilities Committee of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, providing recommendations to HART on behalf of those with disabilities. His nonprofit group, New Horizons, acts as a cross between a support group for people with disabilities and a lobbying organization.  


Jenkins credits his drive for independence to his mother, Evelyn Williams. His father, also named Arizona like his father before him, died in a car accident before he was born. Williams was left to raise five children. "She's a whip," Barco said. "As tough as they come. If you want to know why her son is so successful, look no further than her. She refused to fail and she refused to allow Arizona to fail." When Jenkins was struck with cerebral palsy as an infant, the doctor told Williams he would only live a few days. He survived, and she was told he'd never be more than a vegetable. But she taught her son to speak the best he could despite a mouth that's half paralyzed. She taught him to write, to type, even to take a few steps.


When Williams was told her son could never attend regular schools, she pushed back. "My baby is smart," she said. "There is nothing wrong with his brain!" Jenkins proved her correct. He earned straight A's at Sligh Junior High School and Chamberlain High School and graduated from Hillsborough Community College with an associate degree in computer science. "My mom told me that I was going to be someone special," Jenkins said. "She said no one can stop you but you."


A certified nurse, Williams provided him the care he needed, and his siblings helped when they could. But they refused to baby him. "They would tell me that they're not better than me and that I'm not better than them," Jenkins said. "We're all equals." If someone stood in the way of his wheelchair when he was out in public, it was up to him to ask the person to move.


"He has to be strong," Williams said. "Or this world will eat him up." She tried to drive him where he needed to go growing up, she said, but her long work hours and four other children made it difficult. So she handed him a bus route map. "He zips all around town now," she said. "He's off to USF football games in the dark and to restaurants I've never heard of on the other side of town. But he's a grown man. I have to trust him. Sure I worry. He has no fear. "


Jenkins travels outside Tampa from time to time to learn how other cities make themselves more accessible to disabled people. Expenses for him and his caretaker are paid by the nonprofit Florida Developmental Disability Council, which receives federal money to help plan and provide support for people with disabilities.


During his time on the HART committee, Jenkins has seen the bus system add lighting, put in more shelters at its stops and improve its van service for disabled people. Jenkins said these improvements make more people more independent.

Still, he said, there is more to be done in transportation.

The buses run later to more places than they used to, but people with disabilities feel the affects more than most when they're cut off from places not served at the times they need them.


Jenkins wastes a lot of time when he has to take a bus much earlier than necessary to get somewhere on time. And when it stops running, his night is over. He understands HART's limitations. But he isn't sitting still about it. He is raising money so his nonprofit can buy a van and hire a driver to take disabled people where and when they want to go. "More freedom," he said. "That gives more independence. That makes me happy."



Note: Arizona Jenkins has been a long-time member of and inspiration to the MPO's Livable Roadways Committee.

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