Transit eNews of the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)

and its Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board (TDCB) 

Issue 18 | December 2015


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In this Issue

Upcoming Events

December Meetings
December 11 at 9:30am
Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board

December 16 at 9am
Joint Livable Roadways & Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committees

December 16 at 1:15pm
Joint Citizens & Technical Advisory Committees

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MPO transit priorities move forward in FDOT work program   

November was a momentous month for transit in Tampa Bay. The Florida Department of Transportation's District Seven announced that it intends to fund several of the Metropolitan Planning Organization's major transit priorities. These projects have been included in the District's tentative work program for FY 2017 - 2021.

* $4 million for bus replacements in FY 2021, supporting
conversion of HART's fleet to CNG fuel - this is in addition to
$23.7 million already programmed over the next four years

* $2.5 million for a Project Development & Environmental (PD&E) study and design of HART's next MetroRapid project on Kennedy Blvd between downtown Tampa and Tampa International Airport

* A comprehensive study of premium transit feasibility throughout the region, including potential use of CSX corridors from Tampa to Pinellas and from Tampa to Hernando Counties - HART will manage the study, funding amount to be determined

Earlier this year, FDOT committed $1 million to fund a PD&E study to modernize and extend the streetcar system through downtown to the Marion Transit Center. Also last month, FDOT announced it was bidding on the site for the Westshore Regional Intermodal Center, and was hopeful that a reasonable selling price would result.

Other noteworthy transit grants in District 7's work program include $900,000 to HART for first-mile/last-mile transit demonstration project and $450,000 to the Tampa Downtown Partnership for a downtown shuttle service, to be matched by local funding.

FDOT will finalize its work program in December and hold a statewide public hearing on January 11, 2016. It then goes to the legislature as part of the Governor's budget package. Once approved by the Florida Legislature, the adopted work program takes effect on July 1, 2016.

For more information, contact Rich Clarendon at 813/273-3774 x368.

TED Policy Leadership Group recommends 
� cent sales tax  

If it's better transportation you want, the decision may soon be yours.  The Transportation for Economic Development Policy Leadership Group voted in November to recommend the proposal for a � cent sales tax increase for transportation to the County Commission. Only the County Commission can decide to put a referendum on the ballot.

The Community Transportation Plan was created from ideas expressed from the public on getting around the county in the coming years, especially with all the new residents expected to move here. The plan not only sets forward a list of important transportation projects for the next ten years, but tackles the challenge of how to pay for them.

There's practically something for everyone - fixing potholes, road widening, smart signals, trails, intersection safety, and improvements to the transit system. The additional funds for transit would amount to about $30 million and include:
  • First-mile/last mile services like MetroBee
  • Express service to Tampa International Airport from Tampa and St Pete 
  • Flex service in Brandon, Seffner, Carrollwood, Gandy, Race Track Road, in the airport industrial area 
  • New local routes along Lumsden, Fishhawk, Brandon, Bearss, and in Thonotosassa
  • A circulator between downtown Tampa and Channelside 
  • Improved the Temple Terrace flex route arrivals from one hour to every 30 minutes 
  • New MetroRapid routes from Brandon to downtown; Temple Terrace to TIA; and Kennedy Boulevard to TIA 
  • Extended hours of operations on several weekday routes, with earlier and/or later service, plus more weekend service 
  • Improved frequencies in the peak hour and non-peak hour for all services
And that just highlights the transit improvements. Read about all of the proposed transportation projects in the Community Transportation Plan, and view the development timeline of TED/GO Hillsborough. 

In the next couple of months, the Board of County Commissioners will decide if the citizens of Hillsborough County vote in November 2016 on whether to fund these transportation projects.

Then it'll be your turn to decide.

Sharing CSX Corridors with passengers 

Word is, CSX Corporation, owner of many freight rail corridors across Florida, will consider allowing some existing lines to be shared with passenger rail service. The FDOT has agreed to fund a 2017 study to explore whether and how this could work. The two CSX lines with the most potential for sharing run from Tampa to Brooksville and to Clearwater.
The existing freight lines cross several counties, making their joint-use with passenger travel a truly regional effort. The Tampa Bay Transportation Management Area (TMA) made up of elected officials from Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough. The TMA leadership group was excited to learn about CSX's willingness to negotiate and thrilled that FDOT District 7 has stepped in with funding to move the study forward.

The federal transportation legislation known as MAP-21 provides guidance on funding for premium transit projects. Before entering into the project development phase, a local sponsoring agency will need to send a letter to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) describing the project and requesting to move forward. If FTA approves the request, the Project Development phase begins and must be completed in two years. That phase includes looking at alternatives, assessing environmental impacts, developing a funding strategy, involving the public, selecting the preferred option, and adopting it into the MPO's long range transportation plan.

If all goes well and the project meets FTA's evaluation and rating requirements, the project would then move to engineering and ultimately construction. This typically can take seven to ten years, but means regional passenger rail could be part of our not-too-distant future.

Some of the best things in life are FREE!

If you're traveling in downtown Tampa, hopping on the In-Towner won't cost you a dime.  The HART Board's decision to eliminate its fee took effect October 1st.  

The In-Towner trolleys provide weekday trips every 15 minutes from 6-8:30 a.m. and from 3:30-6 p.m. If you're a resident or employee, the In-Towner can get you back and forth to work, school, and home. Even better, when it's time to relax, you can jump on and chat with downtown visitors on your way to wander the Riverwalk or museums, catch a show at the Straz, picnic in a waterfront park, or jump on the Streetcar and head to all the activities in Ybor.

"It's more convenient. It's less expensive than driving your car," says HART Chief Executive Officer Katharine Eagan. "It's one more option we're providing so people can easily travel Downtown while leaving behind their cars and congested parking lots." It shouldn't be hard to find the In-Towner; look for the new vibrant colors that distinctly brand them as contemporary HART vehicles.

For all-things HART, visit goHART and learn about OneBusAway, trip planning, schedules, maps and fares.

Downtown Transit Map

Bringing tech to transit        

One of the greatest challenge to increasing bus ridership, especially when appealing to those who have other travel choices, is to make riding the bus faster than driving a car. Most of the frustration when commuting happens when sitting at a traffic light. If a bus is stuck there with the rest of traffic, then there is no advantage to take transit. But what if the bus could minimize or avoid such delays?
Bus Priority traffic Signal

The FDOT sponsored a Transit Signal Priority and Queue Jump Forum in November, featuring guest speakers Vik Bhide - City of Tampa traffic engineer and MPO Intelligent Transportation Systems Committee Chair, and Justin Begley - HART's representative on the MPO's Livable Roadways Committee.

The forum focused on two creative strategies with proven ability to reduce intersection delays to help buses travel faster. This helps bus transit meet its goal of serving more people as transit improves reliability by staying on schedule, which ultimately leading to increased ridership. Combining these two technologies makes an even greater impact.

Transit Signal Priority - gives an approaching bus longer green lights to make it through busy intersections.

Graphic showing vehicles in que at lightQueue Jump - provides a bus-only lane at the intersection to bypass standing traffic and get to the front of the line.

Locally, signal priority is already being used on HART's MetroRapid line operating along Nebraska and Fletcher Avenues between downtown Tampa and Hidden River Parkway. HART has found that on-time performance on the MetroRapid is almost 90%, the highest in the system. This impressive performance will only grow over the next five years as the City of Tampa plans to invest $34 million to upgrade signals, install equipment, fiber optic communications and enable Transit Signal Priority at more intersections.

For more information, contact Gena Torres at
813/273-3774 x357.

Renewed hope for Westshore Transit Hub  
Rendering of Potential Westshore Commuter Center
Not until that invitation arrives to come celebrate the holidays at home, can the travel plans begin. Jumping into a car, on a plane, bus, or train without having a destination would be senseless. That's how a bigger and better Hillsborough County transit system would be without having a Westshore Multimodal Center as a destination.

Now, after months of uncertainty, a site may be emerging. If constructed, the center could be used as a hub for an extension of the Tampa International Airport people-mover, a depot for HART local and express buses, and a station for future rail and/or bus rapid transit connecting to Pinellas and Pasco counties. It could also serve as the terminus for a modern streetcar or other premium transit line from downtown Tampa.

In 2012, the MPO worked with FDOT, Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA), the City of Tampa, and the Westshore Alliance to determine four possible locations for the Center. Further study determined that the site with the most potential to accommodate future transit and connect to the airport and Howard Frankland was the site of Charley's Steakhouse and the Doubletree Hotel on Cypress Street. FDOT began moving forward with purchasing the site but negotiations ended when the landowner doubled the asking price.

But there's good news! There are now new owners who have auctioned the property. FDOT submitted a bid to secure the location for the Westshore Multimodal Center... and renewed hope that future transit will have a place to land in Westshore.

FAST Act keeps U.S. transportation moving 

On December 4, President Obama signed into law the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, or "FAST Act." It is the first law enacted in over ten years providing long-term funding certainty for surface transportation, meaning States and local governments can move forward with critical transportation projects, like new highways and transit lines, with the confidence that they will have a Federal partner over the long term.

Overall, the FAST Act largely maintains current program structures and funding shares between highways and transit. It is a down-payment for building a 21st century transportation system, increasing funding by 11 percent over five years. The law also makes changes and reforms to many Federal transportation programs, including streamlining the approval processes for new transportation projects, providing new safety tools, and establishing new programs to advance critical freight projects.

The FAST Act includes a number of positive provisions, including reinstating the popular bus discretionary grant program and strengthening the Buy America requirements that promote domestic manufacturing through vehicle and track purchases. The law also will help bolster the Department's safety oversight of transit agencies and also streamlines the Federal truck and bus safety grant programs, giving more flexibility to States to improve safety in these areas.

FAST makes Transit Oriented Development (TOD) expenses eligible for funding under highway and rail credit programs. TOD promotes dense commercial and residential development near transit hubs in an effort to shore up transit ridership and promote walkable, sustainable land use.  

Solar Bike Trail     
Solar Bike Trail
What's more 'green' than riding a bicycle? Riding one on a solar bike trail. Innovator Sten de Wit from the Netherlands asked himself, "Wouldn't it be nice if our roads act like solar panels? And if we could drive our vehicles with the solar power generated?"

The idea became a reality in November 2014 when SolaRoad was piloted on a 300 foot section of trail in Krommenie, Holland. The road surface absorbs sunlight and converts it into electricity. The generated electricity can be used for street lighting, traffic systems, households, and electric vehicles.

For three years the project will be tested to see how the solar cells hold up, how much energy is produced, and what it's like to cycle over. So far, it seems to be working. The bike trail was tested six months after opening and the energy produced exceeded expectations. In that short amount of time, over 3,000 kWh were generated, which can provide a single-person household electricity for a year or power an electric scooter to drive 2.5 times around the world!

Driver Free Rides!     
Diverless Open Air Shuttle at MOSI
At FDOT's third annual Automated Vehicles Summit, December 1 - 2 in Jacksonville, a vehicle the size and speed of a golf cart carried passengers from one end of a parking lot to the other, and back again... without a driver.
Developed by the French company Meridian, the cute open-air vehicle has also been finding its way around the Museum of Science and Industry campus since last June. By 'finding' we mean following a pre-programmed route, and stopping if obstacles (thinking wandering humans) get in the way.  

The vehicle is controlled in part with a touchscreen console inside the passenger compartment, that simply allows starting and stopping. Up to eight standing passengers can ride at a time, at speeds up to about 25 mph.

Visit MOSI's website for more information.

artLOUD! features streetcars  

artLOUD! is a program sponsored by Commercial Real Estate Women, or CREW Tampa Bay. The idea is to promote the culture and history of Tampa through art appreciation. And what better representation of Tampa's history than the streetcar?
The artLOUD! Streetcar Project promotes mass transit while beautifying our city with streetcar sculptures. These sculptures were fabricated for the artists who then had creative license to paint them as they wished. The colorful streetcars have been placed throughout downtown to enhance the urban walking experience. Visit the artLOUD! website for information on sponsorship, artists, and a map of where the streetcars are displayed.

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.
Learn more about our commitment to nondiscrimination.