Transit eNews of the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)

and its Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board (TDCB) 

Issue 14 | December 2014


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In this Issue

HART ridership records
TD update
Sunshine Line
Streetcar extension
OneBusAway surges
MetroBee solution
Ballot measures
Helsinki's plan
Upcoming Meetings
December 16 
4:00 pm 
FDOT Public Hearing on 5-Year Tentative Work Program
MPO offices,
601 E. Kennedy Blvd.,
18th fl

December 19 
9:30 am
Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board Meeting

January 29
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Tri-County Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board
FDOT District 7
11201 N. McKinley Drive, Tampa, Florida 33612.

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

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HART sets all-time ridership records  


Even with declining gas prices, October 2014 marked the highest month for bus ridership in HART history! The numbers are in, and for the first time HART provided 1,438,947 passenger trips in one month, which is roughly a 5.8 percent increase over October 2013. HART recorded 60,711 trips on October 6 - the highest single day ridership in HART's history


"Our weekday ridership continues to grow. We're a different HART today, and the community has taken notice," said HART Chief Executive Officer Katharine Eagan. "While this is encouraging news, we have to continue the work to improve HART efficiencies, while simultaneously planning for its future growth."


Fast facts: 

  • October 2014 ridership marked 79,183 more trips than the same month last year
  • October 2014 topped the previous monthly record set October 2013 as the highest month for bus ridership in HART history
  • MetroRapid set an all-time monthly high with 57,513 riders
  • October 2014 is the first time HART monthly bus ridership has topped more than 1.4 million trips
  • 22 weekdays in October were over 50,000 daily trips
  • October 2014 streetcar ridership totaled 23,893 for an increase of 8.2 percent compared to the same month last year

For the month of October, bicycle boardings in Hillsborough County saw a 7.4 percent increase over September's numbers. HART logged 21,430 boardings compared to 19,961 last month. In fact, the HART bikes on buses program saw a 4 percent increase in FY2014 or 233,475 boardings compared to 224,466 in FY2013.


In addition, almost 192,000 trips from University of South Florida students, faculty and staff have been taken on HART services since July. In October the use of the HART U-Pass service for USF students, faculty and staff increased 9.5 percent or 4,737 trips compared to last year. The U-Pass program is a partnership with the university that allows students to ride any HART local bus for free with a valid student ID; faculty and staff ride for 25¢. 

Meanwhile, more than 2.7 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation in the second quarter of 2014, according to a report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

For all things HART, including OneBusAway, Real-time Arrival Information via Text Message, trip planning, schedules, maps and fares, just visit

Counties join forces to better serve the disabled, elderly, and low income          


The Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Boards (TDCBs) of Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas met in October in a continuing quest for better regional service. The boards seek to improve the quality of life and provide social activity trips for those unable to provide their own transportation due to a disability, age, or income. In their second meeting, the Tri-County TDCB agreed to pursue: 

  • Solutions for needs identified in the Tri-County Area Regional Needs Assessment by incorporating them into funding applications under the FTA Section 5310 program
  • Regular updates of the Tri-County Needs Assessment priorities
  • Regional transportation initiatives serving the transportation disadvantaged, including funding opportunities and reaching out to community organizations locally, statewide and nationally
  • Sharing information about individual transportation disadvantaged service plans, annual operating reports and related issues with emphasis on identifying common issues
  • Educating elected officials and community leaders on the challenges and needs of the transportation disadvantaged in the Tri-County area
  • Coordinating on regional needs with bodies such as the Tampa Bay Transportation Management Area Leadership Group, TBARTA, and the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged
  • Working with transportation providers to support the transportation disadvantaged
  • Raising awareness of the negative connotation of the terminology "transportation disadvantaged"
The Tri-County Access Plan, adopted earlier this year, identified more regional transit, expanding fixed-route transit coverage and hours of operation, investment in rail and bus transit and more connections to Hillsborough County as the top regional needs for the transportation disadvantaged.

The next meeting of the Tri-County Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board will be on January 29, 2015 from 1 pm to 3 pm at the Florida Department of Transportation District 7 offices, 11201 N McKinley Drive in Tampa.

For more information contact Michele Ogilvie at or 813.272.3774  x317.

Hillsborough County's Sunshine Line helps people without cars to get around 


Article courtesy of Rod Carter, WFLA 


In Hillsborough County there's a service called the Sunshine Line that helps people get where they need to be if they don't have a car. The Sunshine Line, funded by the Hillsborough County Commission, provides door-to-door transportation and bus passes for elderly, low-income, and disabled people who do not have or cannot afford their own transportation.


Ola Mae Smith in Tampa depends on the service.

"I love it. I couldn't do with out it," Smith said. "It's really important to me, because I don't have any other way to get around because I don't drive."


Sunshine Line takes people mostly to medical appointments and aging services day care and nutrition sites. Vehicles used for door-to-door service are wheelchair accessible.


Sunshine Line director Scott Clark believes it's vital help to people in need. "Hillsborough County is a large county. The public transportation doesn't cover the entire county," Clark said. "There are people that aren't able to ride public transportation or there's areas not covered by that service. So we're start of like the stop gap."


The service ranges from free to $5 per trip. Reservations can be made a week in advance, and must be made no less than two days in advance. Bus passes must be requested at least five days in advance to allow time for the pass to be mailed. There are 60 Sunshine line vans on the road, making upwards of a 180,000 trips per year.


Clark said they get letters daily from passengers or their family members telling them how vital the service is to their lives. "Put yourself in this situation. If you have a car, you go to the doctor's office," Clark said. "A day later the doctor calls you and tells you hey, your test results came back I need to see you immediately. Well that's not a problem for people with cars, you hop in your car, 10 minutes later you're at the doctors office. For someone without transportation, it becomes a big issue."


For more information on the Sunshine Line, call 813.272.7272.

Streetcar extension for downtown Tampa studied

Teco Streetcar Line Whiting Street Extension


HART is exploring the feasibility of constructing a streetcar extension through the heart of downtown Tampa to the Marion Transit Center. The purpose is to identify the constraints and improvements needed to upgrade the existing system to accommodate modern streetcar or light rail transit vehicles. Consultants from HDR Inc., with assistance from LTK Engineering, are conducting the study.


The study focuses on the physical feasibility and conceptual costs of extending streetcar service from the existing terminus at Franklin and Whiting Streets north along Ashley Drive, Tampa Street/Florida Avenue, Franklin Street, and the Marion Transitway. HDR prepared scenarios, held discussions with key stakeholders, and identified benefits, costs, and physical constraints of each scenario. Although stakeholders discussed the potential for the system to serve destinations beyond the central business district, the study is limited to the feasibility of extending the streetcar line to the Marion Transit Center.


This study also identifies improvements required to upgrade the system to accommodate modern trams or light rail vehicles. This would require improvements to support higher capacity transit vehicles, including the reconstruction of several horizontal curves, reconfiguration of stations, upgrading power sources and overhead power systems, and reconstruction or replacement of the existing maintenance and storage facility.


No funding has been identified for an extension but the study lays the groundwork for designing a project as well as future grant applications. For more information, contact Sandra Morrison at HART.



"OneBusAway" surges in popularity 

hart logo one bus away logo


Since HART launched its groundbreaking OneBusAway Tampa app just 15 months ago, riders are using the app in record numbers. And they are showing overwhelming support for the convenient scheduling app, which puts real-time bus arrival information right in the palm of the user's hand.


HART first rolled out the app in August 2013 for Web-enabled devices such as computers, tablets, and smart phones. This past September, the agency added the SMS texting feature that enables anyone with any kind of cell phone - not just a smartphone - to use the app.  

The number of hits on OneBusAway Tampa has skyrocketed. HART now averages about 250 hits per minute on the OneBusAway Tampa system during rush hour, and more than 162,000 hits per weekday. That robust level of user activity shattered first-year expectations.


"We're excited to offer tools that our riders and the community can benefit from and this is just another example of our great tech focus," said HART Chief Executive Officer Katharine Eagan. "That level of use demonstrates that our customers actively support our ongoing initiatives to make riding the HART system easier, more user-friendly, and more convenient."


Most recently, results from the OneBusAway Tampa study conducted last spring were published in the journal "Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice", also revealed high levels of customer use and satisfaction:

  • 68 percent feel more relaxed when waiting for buses
  • 64 percent report that using the OneBusAway Tampa app has reduced their waiting time
  • The majority of users find that OneBusAway Tampa bus arrival time information is accurate

Not only did wait times decrease for those who took part in the study, but so did their levels of anxiety and frustration. Nolasco Mercado has used HART to commute back and forth to work and to run errands since 2011 and says that now he does all of his planning with the OneBusAway Tampa app. "I confirm with the app every time I use HART," Mercado explains. "I feel more confident about arriving to my destination on time, with no hassle of missing the bus or waiting for a long time at my stop."  

Dr. Candace Brakewood, an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at City College of New York, led the team that conducted the survey. "We are very pleased by the positive response that OneBusAway has received by HART bus riders," says Brakewood, "and we hope that riders will continue to use this free tool whenever they ride transit in Tampa."  

The research was a partnership between the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida and Georgia Tech, and was funded by the National Center for Transit Research (NCTR), the National Center for Transportation Systems Productivity and Management (NCTSPM), and a US DOT Eisenhower Graduate Fellowship.


For all things HART, including OneBusAway, Real-time Arrival Information via Text Message, trip planning,schedules, maps and fares, visit



MetroBee's first mile/last mile solutions


While HART's continued record-breaking ridership shows the increasing popularity of bus service in Hillsborough county, the agency is committed to delivering innovative and non-traditional solutions for passengers whose trip times or service areas go beyond the current bus service.

To this end, HART invited Metro Bee, a unique community-based service, to share its vision with the HART Board of Directors and staff. Metro Bee bridges the first mile-last mile from a transit stop to a patron's origin or destination, using cellphone dispatched shuttles that connect into the broader transit network. Next steps toward a pilot program include significant data analysis and review, and HART is looking toward a possible 2015 demonstration of Metro Bee service in various locations throughout the county.

For more information, contact Sandra Morrison at HART.


Mixed results for transportation ballot measures         


Transportation funding propositions around the U.S. faced tough sledding in the November 4th elections. A review of election outcomes nationwide shows that of 32 referenda on the ballot, half passed. In past elections, the passage rate for transportation referenda has been upwards of 70 percent.  


Historically, funding referenda have faced tougher odds in non-presidential elections, and this was especially true in 2014. In our region, Greenlight Pinellas, which would have funded an expanded bus and rail system with a penny sales tax, was turned down by voters by 38 to 62 percent margin. Likewise in Polk County, My Ride/ My Road, which would have funded expanded bus service and road projects with a penny sales tax, was rejected by a margin of 28 to 72 percent. Citizens in Alachua County and Gainesville also voted against a penny sales tax for road, bus, bike and pedestrian projects by a 40 to 60 percent margin.


Looking at the 2014 results in more detail, propositions for increased sales taxes were a particularly tough sell: only three out of eleven passed. Proposed increases ranged from 1/8 to a full penny, but the amount did not seem to make a difference to the outcome. Proposals to raise or renew property taxes for transit fared better, with four out of six ballot measures passing (and all were in Michigan).


Clayton County, Georgia was one of the sales tax measures that passed, with voters approving a penny sales tax to join the MARTA transit system by a vote of 74 to 26 percent. Also in the Atlanta metro area, voters in Cobb County approved renewing their penny sales tax for transportation projects by a margin of 53 to 47 percent.


More information is available at the Center for Transportation Excellence.



Helsinki has a plan for "Mobility on Demand" from the palm of your hand 


By Randy Rieland, - September 30, 2014

Cars overcrowd the world's cities, locking people into a commuting model that pretty much guarantees gridlock. To handle all of those vehicles, almost half of the space in cities is taken up by roads and what's known in the urban planning business as "transportation storage" - what the rest of us call garages and parking lots. Considering that by mid-century, more than two out of every three people on Earth will live in metropolitan areas, all that space will be badly needed.

So what's a city to do?

Helsinki, Finland, is thinking boldly: if its plans come to fruition, by 2025 no one in the city will need to own a car. While it may seem inconceivable, planners there believe that by combining one of the pillars of 20th century urban mobility-mass transit-with two of today's more potent trends-the sharing economy and all-purpose smartphones-they can make car ownership a quaint concept.

Why drive?

The Finnish city has committed to a concept called "mobility on demand," in which a wide range of transportation options from buses to driverless cars to bikes would be meshed together into one system that a person could use to order any trip on a smartphone. The passenger would need to enter just an origin and a destination, and the mobile app at the heart of the program would do the rest, selecting the most appropriate modes of transportation and mapping the best route based on real-time traffic data.

Everything would be covered through one payment plan, either through a monthly charge, like the taxi service Uber, or a pay-as-you-go option. Users would be able to monitor their costs and adjust how they use different means of getting around.

The plan offers door-to-door service that would eliminate the first-mile and last-mile complications of getting to and from public transit. And trips would be customized based on their purpose. For instance, since you wouldn't need an empty car to get to the grocery store, a bike through a sharing program might be arranged, but a driverless car would be recommended to get you and all your food home. If the weather's expected to change, you'd get an alert so you'd be able to switch your ride.

If the concept evolves as imagined by its inventor, a traffic engineer named Sonja Heikkilä, the multi-modal transit system wouldn't be run by the government, but would be built around multiple apps created by different private companies. They would compete by packaging transit options for people who could subscribe to a plan, with the option of switching to a different one, much as people can with cell phone service today.

The bus stops here

To have such a complex program functioning in a decade or so clearly is an ambitious goal, but Helsinki already has one piece in place. Last year it rolled out an on-demand minibus service called Kutsuplus (Finnish for "call plus"), and so far it's living up to expectations.

Once people sign up for the service, they use their smartphones to order rides on the nine-passenger vehicle. They can also request a private trip at a higher fee. Then the system's proprietary software kicks in, determining which of its 15 minibuses is in the best location to pick up and deliver a passenger to his or her destination. Adjustments are made throughout the day as buses are routed and rerouted around the city to provide the most direct routes for those who make requests. Since it works on the fly, the Kutsuplus system may have to do millions of calculations on a busy day to dynamically move buses around to service its customers. More than 13,000 people have now signed up.

Fees are more expensive than bus fares, but about half the price of taxis. Helsinki officials say they don't want to put cabs out of business, but instead are trying to entice more people to switch to public transportation, particularly those who currently opt to drive themselves rather than make multiple bus changes for their commute. There's even free Wi-Fi.

Where people drive when

Now the Finns have taken another step in the reinvention of their travel ecosystem. Since planners will need to know as much as possible about their citizens' travel habits and patterns, the government has launched a partnership with private companies to collect anonymous data from the cars of their employees.

Through the program, called Traffic Lab, Finland's Ministry of Transport will pay companies for driving data from people who opt into the research. Information will be collected from traffic apps or in-car navigation systems; not only will that allow officials to stay on top of problems in real time, but it will also build a deep cache of driving data that ultimately could be made available to entrepreneurs creating "mobility packages" of the future.

Will the experiment be successful?

On a very small scale, mobility on demand has already proven popular with customers in Sweden. As part of a trial last year in the town of Gothenburg, 70 households agreed to pay for a mixed mobility program called UbiGo. They were able to use their UbiGo accounts to arrange and pay for public transit, car sharing, rental cars, taxis and bike sharing.

None of the households stopped using the service during the six-month trial and most wanted to continue as customers. And while those participating initially did so out of curiosity, they wanted to keep using UbiGo for its convenience. Half of the users said they've changed their modes of travel as a result of using the service and 4 out of 10 say they now plan their trips differently. An upgraded version of UbiGo will launch next year in Gothenburg and two more as yet unannounced Swedish cities.
Researchers at MIT may have the solution for city traffic jams.

Ryan Chin, managing director of the City Science Initiative at the MIT Media Lab, has been talking about the need for mobility on demand for years. He's particularly interested in the development of on-demand "city cars"-electric vehicles that would actually be foldable so they could fit into a very small space.

But how likely is it for most of the people in a cosmopolitan city like Helsinki to give up their own cars? Even Sonja Heikkilä, the woman behind the mobility on demand plan, acknowledges that it could take some time, particularly for the city's older residents.

Heikkilä sees much more promise, however, in the attitudes of the world's young people. "A car is no longer a status symbol for young people," she told the Helsinki Times. "On the other hand, they are more adamant in demanding simple, flexible and inexpensive transportation."

She believes that this is a generation whose members feel better defined by their mobile devices than by a car. A vehicle for them, she says, has become more a means to an end. So it may not be farfetched to believe that cars may one day be viewed as just one of many mobility solutions.

Ordered up on a cell phone, of course.

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