Transit eNews of the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)

and its Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board (TDCB) 

Issue 15 | March 2015


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In this Issue

Upcoming Meetings
April 23
6:00 pm
Annual Public Hearing
& Meeting of the
Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board

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MPO supports City of Tampa's quest for New Starts funding for Streetcar     

Replica Streetcar - Modern Streetcar


At its March 2nd Board meeting, the MPO agreed to make its top priority for federal and state grants that support fixed guideway transit -- known as New Starts -- a project to upgrade and extend the streetcar.


Tampa's Historic Streetcar (THS) has been the subject of many discussions about how to get the most use out the short downtown-area route.  Today it connects Ybor City with the Aquarium, Amalie Arena, and Convention Center.  HART recently studied the feasibility of extending the streetcar through the downtown office core to the transit center on the north side. Besides improving access to downtown jobs, the extension would connect the line to HART's express and local bus routes, FDOT's Tampa Bay Express lanes (TBX) project, and a corridor set aside for future intercity rail to Orlando.


HART operates the streetcar in partnership with the City of Tampa, which owns the rail.  The City is currently working with a consultant to provide more context, refine costs, and identify possible challenges for the potential expansion. 


In a letter to FDOT District Seven Secretary Paul Steinman, P.E., Commissioner Les Miller, MPO Chair, stated, "We strongly support any future request from the City of Tampa for funding and partnership under the Florida New Starts program... Tampa is actively working with local partners - together known as the Policy Leadership Group - on a coordinated communitywide effort to address Hillsborough's transportation challenges. (See the GO Hillsborough article below.) As the broader effort continues to move forward, the time to advance this grant opportunity for the central city is now, when Tampa's urban core is seeing an unprecedented amount of private sector development." 



Sunshine Line gets an A+ from riders  

Sunshine Line


Hillsborough County's Sunshine Line received high marks from its riders again this year! In FY 2014, the Sunshine Line made more than a half million door-to-door trips for those who do not have the means or ability to transport themselves, and are dependent on others to obtain health care, employment, education, shopping, and other life sustaining activities. The Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board (TDCB) is tasked with conducting an annual evaluation, which considers Reliability, Service Effectiveness, Service Efficiency, Service Availability, and Safety.  


This year the Sunshine Line met 9 of the 10 performance standards in these five areas. In the area of Reliability, the standard was not met, with a higher than normal number of vehicle breakdowns. To address this problem, the County is replacing its aging fleet. 


The evaluation also included two client surveys. A survey of 3,217 Sunshine Line riders reported a 98 percent approval rating for those receiving door to door service. The second

survey, which focused on HART riders, also showed improvement in rider satisfaction. For more information, contact Michele Ogilvie at or 813.273.3774 x317. 

TDCB and CAC choose leaders for 2015 

Last month, MPO Chair Commissioner Les Miller tapped Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen to chair the MPO's Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board (TDCB). This is the Councilman's second year as TDCB Chair.  


The TDCB elected Gloria Mills as its Vice Chair, and Becki Forsell as its Officer at Large. Ms. Mills, in her fourth year as a member, holds the seat representing HART, and Ms. Forsell holds the seat representing seniors. Both of these tireless volunteers refuse to let disability slow them down. "You have to look at a limitation as a challenge rather than a limitation," said Ms. Mills.   

MPO CAC Chairman
Also in January, the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) re-elected Ed Austin
as Chairman. Appointed by Commissioner Sandra Murman, Mr. Austin has served on the CAC since September 2005, guiding the drafting of two long-range transportation plans with major investments in multimodal transportation. An assistant vice president with St. Leo University, he was born in Glasgow, Scotland and had a major league soccer career playing forward on the championship Tampa Bay Rowdies. "Citizens of Hillsborough County have a big stake in our transportation system," said Mr. Austin. "They use it every day, pay for it at the pump and sometimes live in the path of future projects ... It's our job to make sure that members of the Metropolitan Planning Organization engage with the citizens before adopting plans. Serving the transportation needs for this and future generations is vital to the continued growth and quality of life for our great community."

The CAC also elected Connect Tampa Bay's Brian Willis as Vice Chair and Carver City/Lincoln Gardens neighborhood's Maurice Harvey as Officer at Large.

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit logo
HART News Round Up

HART debuts new clean-fuel buses  


At its March 2nd Board of Directors meeting, HART debuted nine brand new clean-burning, energy efficient Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) powered buses. Thirteen additional CNG buses are being built and will be delivered in the next couple of weeks. The nine new buses are part of an order of 22 new compressed natural gas (CNG) heavy-duty, low floor buses. HART will begin placing the new buses into service over the next week, replacing aging diesel buses that are ready to be retired. The full fleet conversion from diesel to CNG is scheduled for completion in 2025, and is supported by federal grants for metropolitan transportation, prioritized by the MPO. 
CNG buses are a timely investment, thanks to historically low fuel prices and unprecedented domestic production of natural gas. The new additions to the fleet will immediately start to maximize savings. In fact, it is expected that the cost of their purchase will be fully recovered within the first few years of operation.


HART adding free Wi-Fi to buses 

HART passengers will soon be able to get on board and get connected to the internet at no additional charge. At its March 2nd meeting, the HART Board authorized nearly $500,000 to retrofit all of its fixed-routed buses with Wi-Fi. This will be part of the preparation for a new regional fare box and smart card system.

HART is leading a regional revenue collection and inter-jurisdictional mobility project across Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, and Sarasota counties. When complete, patrons will travel across the Tampa Bay region seamlessly using one fare media, available on smart cards and downloaded to mobile devices. "There will be enough bandwidth left over to provide customers with free Wi-Fi service during rides," said HART CEO Katharine Eagan.

Read more in the Tampa Tribune.  


HART earns top security honors 



HART has earned top honors from the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for its outstanding security program. The prestigious "Gold Standard" designation is bestowed on those agencies that show outstanding dedication and accomplishment by building robust security as measured by the stringent Baseline Assessments for Security Enhancement (BASE). "It is an honor to be included in this prestigious list," said HART CEO Katharine Eagan. "It's a real testament not only to the hard work of our safety staff, but also to the 650 professional operators, maintainers, servicers, technicians, supervisors, and dispatchers who make safety and security their priority every day."  


Conducted every three years, the BASE review examines written processes as well as security procedures that agencies have put into practice to help keep employees, customers, and facilities safe from terrorist attacks. HART was honored with the Gold Standard Award in 2011, scoring 98%. During the most recent evaluation in 2014 HART raised that score to 99%. The HART Safety and Security Department work closely with Hillsborough County Emergency Management in case of a hurricane or other local emergencies, and they coordinate drills and activities with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Tampa Police Department, Tampa Fire and Rescue, and other agencies.


FREE rides in March for middle & high school students 


Throughout the month of March, middle and high school students with student ID ride FREE all on all HART Local, Limited Express, In-Town Trolley, and HARTFlex routes. Parents, you can relax and let HART do the driving! View the flyer.


For further information on any HART news, contact Sandra Morrison, HART Public Information Officer, 813.384.6610.

GO Hillsborough wants to hear from you 


GO Hillsborough is currently presenting multiple opportunities to participate in creating a Community Transportation Plan. Whether through online or telephonic town hall meetings and social channels or through more than 36 interactive workshops, including discussions with elected officials, local government and transportation staff, everyone can have their voices and choices heard.

What is Go Hillsborough
What is Go Hillsborough?

GO Hillsborough is an initiative of the Transportation for Economic Development Policy Leadership Group, which includes all seven Hillsborough County Commissioners, the mayors of Plant City, Tampa and Temple Terrace, as well as the chairman of the HART board. These elected leaders have come together to study,  develop and create consensus around a comprehensive community mobility plan that ensures continued quality of life and economic prosperity now and well into the future.


RSVP to an upcoming Go Hillsborough meeting online, use the I-Neighborhood Project App, call in to an upcoming town hall meeting, or leave your comments at 813.274.6922.

Find your ride with one call or click 


Finding transportation options can be difficult, especially when you have specialized needs or requirements. Do you know where to get that information? With TBARTA's myRIDE service, you can explore over 250 local and regional providers of transportation services -- from on-demand medical transport to wheelchair-accessible vans -- with just one call or one click. Listings also include local bus systems, and options for statewide travel.


TBARTA covers a seven-county region, including Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sarasota Counties. The myRIDE service is made possible by a federal grant from the Veterans Administration (VA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The goal is to ease information access for veterans and military families, but myRIDE is available to everyone, free.


In partnership with The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, myRIDE is available on the phone at 1-844-9-MYRIDE Monday through Friday, from 7am to 7pm. Online, it is available 24/7. The Crisis Center provides social service and crisis help, which can also be accessed via myRIDE. A live chat feature, with a direct connection to a myRIDE specialist, is anticipated for Fall 2015.


Additional features elsewhere on include park and ride lot information for Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, route planning by car, bus, biking, or walking, and complete information about TBARTA's transportation studies ongoing and complete. Eventually, an online tie-in with HART's OneBusAway real-time app is anticipated.


For more information about myRIDE or if you think any resources or functions are missing from myRIDE,, or any other questions, contact Alex English at TBARTA at 813.282.8200. You can also request brochures or magnets for myRIDE.




Streetcar meets cruise ship, ridership jumps 300% 


For the third time in two months, Tampa's TECO Line Streetcar System began service three hours earlier to serve the more than 1,200 tourists voyaging aboard the German cruise ship AIDAVITA. The TECO Line Streetcar was ready with service to downtown shopping, restaurants, and other tourist venues. In partnership with the business community, the special service was made as part of the organization's ongoing commitment to creating dynamic partnerships with the communities it serves.

"The TECO Line Streetcar System is pleased to offer this special service to benefit our tourists, customers, and the entire city," said HART Chief Executive Officer Katharine Eagan. "We are proud to see that the Tampa Bay area appreciates that we listen and respond to what our customers and partners tell us they need in order to get to work, to play, or wherever they need to go."  


Preliminary numbers compiled by HART, for example, showed that ridership on the TECO Line Streetcar System surged nearly 300 percent to more than 1,065 by noon, before adding more passengers in the afternoon for an all-day total of 1,774. Wednesdays have averaged 575 passenger trips so far in FY15. The event marked the ship's third visit to Tampa, and each time approximately 1,200 German passengers from this ship came to Ybor City, arriving early morning and staying until mid to late afternoon. Many Ybor City businesses opened early and the TECO Line Streetcar System offered special early service so that both visitors and local merchants could take full advantage of the unique opportunity.      

The AIDAVITA is scheduled to make two more stops in Tampa this spring, on March 11 and April 1, and HART is already preparing to greet those new waves of seafaring tourists.
For more information, contact the TECO Line Streetcar at 813.254.4278.

Ray Chiaramonte becomes TBARTA's new executive director 


After an extensive half-year search for qualified candidates, the TBARTA Board has named Ramond Chiaramonte, AICP, as its next Executive Director. Chiaramonte recently served as the Executive Director at both the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission.

The TBARTA Board was guided by a selection committee and an executive search firm in its decision process. Chiaramonte and Jim Ley, former County Administrator in Sarasota County, were the final two candidates, both of whom spoke and answered the questions at the board's February 27 meeting.

"We were indeed fortunate to have two highly qualified professionals interested in serving the Tampa Bay Region as Executive Director of this organization. The board carefully and deliberately thought through the choice of Mr. Chiaramonte," said Board Chairman Ronnie Duncan. "Ray will bring a tremendous depth of experience and practical planning vision to the organization and will work tirelessly to achieve its mission."

Streetcar regales riders with live music  


Saturday, March 7, passengers on the TECO Line Streetcar System will be treated to another great streetcar live concert. The artists handpicked by the Gasparilla Music Festival will provide the entertainment. The bands usually board streetcar #434 at 6:40 p.m. and then perform aboard the historic streetcar from 7:00-9:00 p.m. as it clangs along between Centennial Park Station (Station #1) and Whiting Station (Station #11). The rolling concert series is for all ages, and is included in the streetcar fare, which is only $2.50 for a 1-way round or $5 for an all-day pass.   

The music series began as a new and dynamic partnership between HART and the Gasparilla Music Festival. The goal of the series is to showcase the diverse talent of Tampa's amazing music scene, while also highlighting the iconic TECO Line Streetcar System and bringing new awareness about our Urban Center. Since then, hundreds of locals and visitors alike have enjoyed the unique experience of hearing live music, up close and personal, while clanging along the historic TECO line.


For more information, contact the TECO Line Streetcar at 813.254.4278.

In accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other nondiscrimination laws, public participation is
solicited without regard to race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, disability or family status.