Transit eNews of the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)

and its Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board (TDCB) 

Issue 19 | June 2016


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June 22, 2016
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June 22 - MPO Board to consider an annual update of the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) 
MPO Public Hearing Notice
Broward MPO Director shares express-lane experience 

On June 3, board members of the Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco MPOs met as the Tampa Bay Transportation Management Area (TMA) Leadership Group with special guest speaker Greg Stuart, Executive Director of the Broward MPO in Fort Lauderdale.

Greg Stuart Broward MPO Director
Stuart described the evolution of express toll lanes in Southeast Florida - which also has three large counties whose MPOs work together - from his perspective.  "I like to look at Broward as the middle child, between Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. Together, our TMA has about 6 million people, and we're moving back and forth across the whole region. The busiest Tri Rail station is actually in Boca Raton."

Express toll lanes were first created on I-95, north from Downtown Miami. Then reversible lanes were built in Broward County's east-west I-595, and the I-95 express lanes were extended north to connect to them. The Sawgrass Expressway was the next piece of the puzzle.
There was some public concern about adding tolls, Stuart said - i.e., "You're about to put tolled lanes on a highway we already paid for."  On the other hand, the toll revenue allowed the I-595 express lanes to be built 15 years earlier than would have otherwise been possible, and capacity has increased in the main (non-tolled) lanes. Stuart also observed, "Plumbers, electricians, other local business people are using the express lanes to get to their appointments on time. Our business community says these are wonderful."

What about public transit?  According to Stuart, the several bus routes in the express lanes are packed. The FDOT traffic management center helps re-route the buses when incidents occur, and the express lane operation helps pay for the bus capital and service costs. Early on, there were fears that the I-95 express bus routes would take passengers away from the Tri Rail commuter rail service. What has actually happened is that offering more options has attracted greater ridership to the transit system as a whole. Together, the commuter rail, buses, Miami MetroMover and other transit services in the region carried more than 12 million rides in March 2016.
It will take six to eight months after opening an express lane for the public really to understand how to use it, Stuart noted-so in South Florida, the lanes were free for the first few months, until people got used to the location of the exits and the toll-rate message boards. There have also been some recent improvements for safety, such as placing cones closer together, and adding access for emergency vehicles.

"I was very happy to use the I-95 managed lane at Christmas," responded Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel. Clearwater Councilwoman Doreen Caudell commented that express lanes would be a boon to her business' fleet of trucks, and asked how to spread the word about the benefits of public-private partnerships for transportation. Stuart's suggestion? The TMA should host a multi-county seminar. "It's a regional lift to make this happen."

More about the Tampa Bay TMA Leadership Group is posted under Board & Committees on our webpage.

School Transportation Working Group 1st meeting 
First Meeting of the School Transportation Working Group
On Wednesday, April 27, the MPO held its first School Transportation Committee Working Group meeting. The new group is the brainchild of School Board Member Cindy Stuart, who joined the Hillsborough MPO just last year in a newly created seat for the District. With almost 90,000 students taking school buses to and from school every day, an inter-agency team to troubleshoot and strategize makes perfect sense. Inter-agency partnerships will be vital for problem-solving the issues of traffic circulation, walking and bicycling safety, promoting transit, and forming various school-pools.

Lorraine Duffy Suarez, General Manager of Growth Management & Planning for Hillsborough County Public Schools, was pleased with the new collaboration. "All the departments and agencies involved are focused on improving the quality of the transportation experience in our communities, from the students who walk to school to the commuters who are stopped by a long queue of parents dropping off students. We know we can do better for all of them if we work together."    

Early successes include:
  • MPO and Planning Commission to help in the needs assessment for a Community School at Mort Elementary School
  • Plant City city engineer coordinating with a local school principal on adjacent roadway work
  • The MPO created a new website where map data is shared among agencies
  • National interest from the Association of MPOs, which is researching policy guidance for transportation for students, especially as school choice increasingly affects attendance patterns, and traffic congestion affects efficiency
Lisa Silva, MPO staff liaison to this new committee, can provide additional information. View upcoming meetings

A new look at a USF circulator shuttle   

What do USF students, Florida Hospital staffers, and Walgreens shoppers have in common? They'd prefer not to have to get in their cars when they have to cross Bruce B Downs Boulevard.

In March 2016, the MPO in cooperation with Hillsborough County Economic Development Department, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, and Tampa Innovation Alliance, met to explore options for transit service within the University Area's Innovation District. The proposed USF Area Circulator Shuttle would be the first of its kind to serve the University Area and, if completed, could seamlessly connect riders to USF, Busch Gardens, Moffitt Cancer Center, and the VA Hospital.

At the meeting, the MPO and its partners sought to assess demand for ridership in the area and determine the next steps.
Study recommendations will be completed in July 2016.

Contact Allison Yeh for more information.
Transit coming to the Northwest  
Bus Stop
In March of this year, the MPO and HART kicked off a new study to evaluate transit service options in northwestern Hillsborough County. The Northwest Hillsborough Transit Study will identify the feasibility of transit options in the area that will make accessing all of the great restaurants, parks, and shopping in that part of the county possible for more people. 

An existing plan proposes to expand local, express, MetroRapid, and flex services in the area. The study will also explore potential sites for regional park'n'ride lots and assess demand for paratransit services. The study area will include the areas of Westchase, Citrus Park, Northdale, Keystone, and Odessa. 

Contact Sarah McKinley for more information.

Social service providers voice their clients' challenges     
As part of the 2016 Transportation Disadvantaged Service Plan development, an online survey was recently sent out to social service providers in Hillsborough County to assess the needs of their clients. Referred to as the transportation disadvantaged, their clients include the elderly, those with disabilities, and low-income individuals who may lack access to transportation. The service providers were then invited to participate in a conversation and address the needs of their clients and discuss potential solutions.

The results of the survey revealed that the transportation disadvantaged in Hillsborough County find it difficult to:
  • Travel across county lines
  • Access employment and vocational training
  • Access healthcare
  • Navigate incomplete sidewalks and other pedestrian facilities
  • Travel to more rural areas in the county, including Plant City and New Tampa
  • Manage the cost of using existing services
  • Access social service offices
  • Find safe and affordable housing with access to public transportation
  • Utilize the limited number of existing, safe bicycle facilities
  • Access adult daycare centers, schools, and group meal sites, such as soup kitchens
Some of the solutions proposed during the conversation include:
  • Providing efficient and reliable cross-county trips
  • Completing or repairing sidewalks
  • Providing pedestrian facilities compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Providing better street lighting
  • Expanding bus service hours and coverage areas
  • Informing clients of funding options to help pay for transportation
  • Providing rideshare and taxi programs specifically for transportation disadvantaged individuals
  • Offering premium transit service
The information collected will be used to modify the Goals and Objectives, as well as the Needs sections of the Service Plan update. Contact Michele Ogilvie for more information.

Dealing with hurricane season's not a breeze 

In Hillsborough County, residents with special needs, the elderly, and those without transportation may require extra attention in order to stay safe during a tropical storm or hurricane. Hillsborough County has programs in place to help these residents prepare and find safe shelter. 

Shelters. A special needs shelter is a temporary emergency facility capable of providing care to residents whose medical condition may require the use of electrical equipment, oxygen, dialysis, or individuals with physical, cognitive, or medical conditions who may require assistance from medical professionals. Although special needs shelters provide more care than a general shelter, they do not provide the level of care found in a medical facility. 

If you apply for a special needs shelter, you will be asked about your transportation plans. If you need a ride to a shelter, arrangements will be made with Sunshine Line to pick you up and take you to your assigned shelter. 

In order to be admitted to a special needs shelter you will need to complete an evaluation form prior to an emergency and meet certain eligibility requirements. Once you have completed the evaluation form, you will be contacted for more information and your medical needs and eligibility will be assessed. If you are eligible to be admitted to a special needs shelter you will be assigned to one of three shelters. If you do not qualify for a special needs shelter, other options will be discussed with you. 

. To ensure availability and reserve evacuation assistance to a special needs shelter, residents should register prior to June 1, the beginning of the hurricane season. But if you need to register, and have not yet done so, you can still register for a special needs shelter and/or transportation by selecting one of the following options:
  • Call the Hillsborough County Health Department at 813/307-8063
  • Call your home health care provider
  • Complete an evaluation form and mail or fax to:
    Hillsborough County Health Department
    P.O. Box 5135
    Tampa, FL 33675-5135

The Hillsborough County Office of Emergency Management provides links to active storm info, the annual hurricane guide, the hurricane evacuation assessment tool, hurricane shelters, preparation & information, special needs, and transportation.

HART buses run special evacuation routes for people who need transportation to shelter. Emergency routes are designed to simply move people from low ground to higher ground.

HART Summer Blast Pass is back!  

The Summer Blast Pass is the perfect way for to get to summer jobs, the movies, the mall and all of your child's favorite places.
Students rejoice! It's time to blast into summer with the HART Summer Blast Pass! For just $25, ages 5-18 receive almost 3 months of unlimited rides on HART services. That's less than $1.90 a week! Read more.

Report disabled parking abuse with new app    
Working in combination, the MPO and Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board are always looking for ways to assist the community with challenges faced by commuters with disabilities. Well, you guessed it, there's a new app for that.

Welcome to Parking Mobility: the #1 app to report disabled parking abuse! Report disabled parking abuse to your city in less than two minutes. When you see a vehicle parked illegally, simply launch Parking Mobility, take 3 photos and submit. You can get the full story and
download the app here.
Shared mobility transforming public transit
Smart Phone Ridesharing App
The traditional ways we commute are changing as technology changes. The American Public Transportation Association released a new study this spring: Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit. Results of the study indicate that ride-share services, like Uber and Lyft, actually complement bus and rail systems by making connections after hours or to outlying areas. Here are some key findings and a summary of recommendations: 

KEY FINDING 1 - Supersharers - people who routinely use several shared modes, such as bike sharing, car sharing (e.g. car2go or Zipcar), and ride sourcing (e.g. Lyft or Uber) - save the most money and own half as many household cars as people who use public transit alone.

KEY FINDING 2 - Shared modes complement public transit, enhancing urban mobility. Ride sourcing services are most frequently used for social trips between 10pm and 4am, times when public transit runs infrequently or is not available. As a result, Shared modes substitute more for automobile trips than public transit trips.

KEY FINDING 3 - Shared modes will continue to grow in significance, and public entities should engage with them to ensure that benefits are widely and equitably shared. Public transit agencies should seize opportunities to improve urban mobility for all users through collaboration and public-private partnerships, including greater integration of service, information and payment methods.

KEY FINDING 4 - The public sector and private mobility operators are eager to collaborate to improve paratransit using emerging approaches and technology. While a number of regulatory and institutional hurdles complicate partnerships in this area, technology and business models from the shared mobility industry can help drive down costs, increase service availability and improve rider experience.

RECOMMENDATIONS  This report concludes by presenting recommended actions that public entities-public transit agencies, transportation departments, and other local and regional agencies-can take to promote useful cooperation between public and private mobility providers. It also suggests regulatory enhancements, institutional realignments, and forms of public-private engagement that would allow innovation to flourish while still providing mobility as safely, broadly, and equitably as possible.

Millennials spurn driver's licenses, study finds  
The push for higher density developments in many American cities has generated new interest and calls for alternative modes of transportation. Transit, bicycling, and walking are seen as healthier, cleaner, and cheaper alternatives to driving. For many young adults, these are preferable options, which help avoid problems of traffic congestion, limited parking availability, and high costs of vehicle ownership.

On the other hand, ride-sharing options like Lyft and Uber create new and convenient ways of moving through a city that actually make the car more preferable to these alternative transportation modes. With ride-sharing options being both affordable and convenient, the need for individual car ownership is significantly diminished in the 21st century. 
With apps making it easy to be picked up and dropped off wherever you want without experiencing the hassle of searching for parking or filling up the tank, ride-sharing options are becoming increasingly popular among younger adults. Their popularity is even greater in dense areas, like downtown Tampa and Ybor City, where ridership may spike in the evening hours.

New MPO staff members Johnny Wong, Tim Horst, and Julian Marcos, along with other millennials, are part of an emerging trend of young adults opting out of car usage. Johnny, who lives in St. Petersburg, uses bikes on buses at least one day a week for his commute to Tampa. Tim also enjoys biking to local parks and often chooses ride share options like Uber and Lyft as a connection from home to local bus routes. Julian uses a combination of biking, walking, and driving for work and recreation.

These are just a few examples of the way commuting is changing with a new generation. A related article and video by Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY discusses this new trend: Young adults are ditching driver's licenses at a quickening pace, according to a new study, raising a red flag for automakers as they grapple with the emergence of ride-sharing services and an indifferent attitude about cars.

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