Transit eNews of the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)

and its Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board (TDCB) 

Issue 13 | September 2014



In this Issue

Transit funding secrets
Sandra Sroka retiring
BOCC recognized
Tri County TD committee
FAIR event
TBARTA school commute
HART Streetcar entertainment
One Bus Away update
Ride sharing app
Upcoming Meetings

October 24   
9:30 am
Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board Meeting    
December 19 
9:30 am
Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board Meeting

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

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Experts share secrets to transit funding success 



On August 26th the MPO Board held a workshop to consider the advantages and disadvantages of federal transit funding. Two nationally known transit planners, David Vozzolo (HDR, Inc.) and Myrna Valdez (Gannett Fleming, Inc.), briefed the Board on the intricacies of qualifying for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding. They also shared success stories from other cities that have secured FTA grants for rail and bus rapid transit projects.


Over the past five years, 100 projects nationwide received funding under highly competitive FTA programs such as New Starts, Small Starts or Core Capacity. Despite the vagaries of the Congressional appropriations process, FTA funding for major capital investment programs has not declined. FTA appropriations have remained remarkably stable and in fact reached almost $2 billion in fiscal year 2013.


Since 2009, median funding ranged from $490 million to $745 million per project, with the feds providing up to 50 percent of a project's costs. But as with any grant, there are always strings attached. Entering the federal funding "pipeline" can complicate projects and add two to three years to a project's timeline due to environmental, public involvement and technical requirements.


To qualify for FTA funding, projects go through a rating process. The FTA evaluates projects by criteria such as mobility improvements, environmental benefits, congestion relief, cost effectiveness, economic development and land use. And 50 percent of a project's rating is determined by the local financial commitment towards capital and operating costs. FTA uses these ratings to recommend projects to Congress for annual appropriations.


Across the county, urban areas are responding in a variety of ways to the competition for scarce federal dollars. Miami Beach's modern streetcar project, for example, is a public-private partnership with entirely local funding. This is expected to save money and lead to an earlier start up. On the other hand, Ft. Lauderdale's "Wave" streetcar will be 50 percent federally funded with the city, state, local and regional transit agencies making up the difference. Likewise, Atlanta's modern streetcar involves a partnership between the city, MARTA, Downtown Improvement District and Atlanta Regional Commission. It was built with 48 percent federal funding and is expected to open this fall.


What lessons can Hillsborough County learn from these examples? To be successful in the quest for federal funding, the experts advised:


  • Present a solid business case for the project
  • Demonstrate strong public and stakeholder support
  • Secure non-Federal capital and operating funds
  • Prove your management and technical capabilities
  • Be patient (but only a little bit)
  • Partner with agencies to promote reinvestment in major activity centers as compact walkable places
  • Develop enforceable Transit Oriented Development policies
  • Build ridership on existing systems and educate the public on ALL the benefits of transit
  • For ridership expansion, target Millennials and the elderly
  • Pass a transportation referendum to fund operations and the local share of capital costs.

For more information, email Beth Alden or phone 813/273-3774 x 318.

ADA Coordinator Sandra Sroka retiring 


Hillsborough County's long-time coordinator for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be stepping down from her job at the end of September.
Sandra Sroka has served in her position since 1998, and has been the County's first and only ADA coordinator so far. She has also been acting as the County's Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance officer. Prior to coming to Hillsborough County, Sandra worked in program development, administration and marketing in the health care and rehabilitation field.

Sroka said, "I love to be in positions and situations where I can be a catalyst for change or new innovations. So creating a foundation for this position and being able to observe change occurring, both within the County as an organization and within our local community, has been what has driven me and what I found the most satisfying about my job."

Asked what she considers her biggest accomplishment, she said "building trust and respect among my colleagues and within the community to have the voice of the value of building access into all aspects of what the County does or offers our citizens." In terms of specific achievements, Sroka noted her work and collaboration achieved in getting the County ordinance and state legislation on gas pumping assistance passed.

On behalf of the MPO's Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board, as well as all of Hillsborough's citizens, we thank Ms. Sroka for her dedication and extend best wishes for a fulfilling retirement.

BOCC recognized by the Florida CTD       


The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) has been named the 2014 Elected Official of the Year by the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged (CTD). The BOCC serves as Hillsborough County's Community Transportation Coordinator and operates the Sunshine Line. Congratulations on a job well done!


Tri-County TD planning group forms      


A planning subcommittee has been formed by the Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Coordinating Boards for the Transportation Disadvantaged. On June 12th, members of the three groups convened and confirmed their shared goal of addressing issues raised by the Tri-County Area Regional Needs Assessment. These include:


  • Better transportation to employment
  • Better integration of people with disabilities to participate fully in society
  • Expanded cross-county transportation services.
  • Fund projects that benefit both seniors and individuals with disabilities
  • Frequent, late evening and weekend fixed route service
  • Additional transportation to quality of life/social activities
  • Connect activity hubs, hospitals and community centers

The group also discussed the importance of providing rides, negative connotations associated with the word "disadvantaged," focusing on people and the need to change the culture and effect a paradigm shift in the way disadvantaged citizens are treated.


Sue McPhee and Donnette Waul, from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), discussed changes that have been occurring to Medicaid programs and how they relate to transportation. Detailed information is available on AHCA's website.


The committee is composed of three members from each of the three coordinating boards.  Each MPO will take turns hosting and chairing meetings. Members agreed to meet quarterly. The next meeting is scheduled for October, with the date to be announced.


For more information, email Michele Ogilvie, or call her at 813/273-3774 x 317. 



Family Abilities Information Rally coming Saturday, Oct 4    


On Saturday, October 4th from 10am to 3pm Yes! of America United will host the 7th annual Family Abilities Information Rally at All People's Life Center at 6105 E Sligh Avenue in Tampa.

The YES! F.A.I.R. is free of charge to all and offers outreach to the community at large, helping people with disabilities learn about what resources are available to them while having fun.
Parking is free and there will be a shuttle from the bus stop on 56th Street and Sligh Avenue by McDonald's and across from King High School.

This year, the F.A.I.R will attempt to set a world record on the number of people with disabilities simultaneously dancing the Electric-Slide. View more information and sign up to dance!

For more information visit the YES! F.A.I.R. website.


TBARTA makes commuting to school a breeze!    


As part of its "right-now solutions" the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) offers a Regional School Commute Program, to make the trip to and from school easier for parents and students.


This arrangement is with participating schools around Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Hernando Counties, where students travel longer distances, such as magnet or fundamental schools. In places where busing isn't viable or provided, carpooling to school can help. It reduces traffic around schools, saves money, and helps the environment!


Parents follow the same process as other commuters - they create an online profile and receive in return a match list of other parents at their school who live in their area. All information collected by TBARTA is confidential and securely stored.  TBARTA also provides matching for those who want their students to walk or bike to school with other parents and students. Some people call this a "walking school bus" or "bike train."


Learn more about TBARTA's Regional School Commute Program. Check to see if your student's school is already participating in the School Program. If it isn't, talk to your school's principal about joining!


Visit TBARTA's School Commute Program website for more info.



Streetcar promotes "moving" entertainment    

Teco Streetcar Line Whiting Street Extension


The Streetcar Live concert series kicked off Saturday, August 2nd with alt-country band Have Fun Will Travel on board from 7-9pm. The TECO Line Streetcar System and The Gasparilla Music Festival partnered to launch the new mobile concert series which takes place the 1st Saturday of each month.

"The goal of this new concert series is to have fun, make people aware of the fantastic TECO Line Streetcar System that Tampa has, and to bring new awareness about our urban center," said Michael English, President of the Tampa Historic Streetcar, Inc. (THS) Board of Directors. 


Next up is indie-folk duo Good Graff on September 6th.  


Ready for a double feature? HART's "Ticket for One Free Ride" promotion, which is good through December 31, 2014, lets you use your ticket stub from Muvico Centro Ybor 20 as a pass for one free streetcar ride (otherwise a $2.50 fee).

To view a map and schedule of the TECO Line Streetcar System, visit

OneBusAway adds real time text messages

hart logo one bus away logo


After seeing the widespread use and success of its OneBusAway app, HART will introduce another powerful GPS-based customer service innovation on Monday, September 8. The new SMS text messaging feature is free, user friendly, and empowers HART customers by putting bus arrival times at their fingertips.

Join HART staff in a hands-on demonstrations of how the new service works from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Monday, September 8, 2014. The demos will be held at the Marion Transit Center, 1211 N Marion Street in Tampa.  


This new service is easy to use! Just text the word "HART" followed by a space and the bus stop ID number to 41411 (like this: HART 4804). Within just a few seconds you will receive a message with real-time bus arrival information. Message and data rates from phone carriers may apply.


In order to receive OneBusAway next bus arrival information via text message, your cellular phone service must not have SMS (Short Message Service) blocked. A how-to-guide flyer at provides easy instructions on how to receive bus arrival information via text message. 


A new product in ride sharing        


Ridesharing was supposed to be different. As described in an article in the journal Transport Reviews, the movement started as a way to conserve resources in the U.S. during World War II. It evolved over the decades into a green movement to get cars off the streets.


Lately the term has been used to refer to services like Uber and Lyft, which match riders and drivers using mobile phone apps, but pay the drivers to travel in a direction they wouldn't have gone otherwise. That doesn't remove any vehicles from the streets.


The same smartphone technology could be used to match riders and drivers who independently want to go the same direction. Since it isn't clear who would profit from that, it also isn't clear who would develop and promote the software.

The startup Sidecar started testing an app in May that moved in that direction. Sidecar operates like Uber and Lyft with paid drivers but includes a "Shared Rides" option that allows you to split the fare with another rider who wants to go your direction. So far, Sidecar operates in six metro areas, none in Florida.  



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