After months of planning and work, the first BRT line in the history of the Tampa Bay area is set to launch on May 28th.
When the Hillsborough light rail referendum failed at the polls in 2010, HART changed their plans and started moving forward with plans for a BRT (bus rapid transit) system to be overlaid over the existing bus network, which included expanding service into new parts of Hillsborough County. While more of a consolation prize for the light rail network that advocates had been hoping for, it was hoped that a BRT network would be the start of the future HCT (high capacity transit) network that would span the entire Tampa Bay area.
With funding extremely limited due to current budget constraints, HART is currently rolling out the network in pieces, starting with the “North-South” line, which is largely an overlay of the currently existing Route 2 running between Marion TC and University Area TC along Nebraska Ave and Fletcher Ave. Unlike Route 2, the North-South line will continue east on Fletcher Ave past UATC to serve the Hidden River area, a part of Hillsborough County that has never had fixed route service before. In early planning, HART was anticipating that the North-South line would run every 10 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes during off-peak hours, but that was later rolled back to every 15 minutes all day. Though it’s not clear if HART ever had plans for service every day of the week in the initial stages of planning, the final schedules only have the North-South line running on weekdays between 5AM-8PM. As part of the realignment in service along the Nebraska Ave corridor, incumbent Route 2 is having weekday frequency rolled back from the current every 15 minutes peak/every 20 minutes off-peak to every 30 minutes all day, with late night service frequencies unchanged. It is worth noting however that HART has indicated that the old Route 2 schedule will remain in effect until June 10th, 2 weeks after the North-South line begins service (The summer markup goes into effect May 26th.)
Below, I have the schedules for the North-South line.
MTC = Marion Transit Center
NEB/COL = Nebraska Ave and Columbus Drive
NEB/MLK = Nebraska Ave and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
NEB/HILL = Nebraska Ave and Hillsborough Ave
NEB/BUS = Nebraska Ave and Busch Blvd
NEB/FLET = Nebraska Ave and Fletcher Ave
UATC = University Area Transit Center
HDRV = Hidden River Park-and-Ride
A few quick facts about the schedule:
- Northbound service will see 56 trips, while southbound service will see 57 trips.
- With the exception of the 10:55AM NB trip, the North-South line has been scheduled to keep buses spaced at 15 minute intervals throughout the day.
- Though it takes a bit of a closer look, the schedules show that 9 MetroRapid buses will be in service each day (12 were purchased, so 3 will remain as operational spares.)
One immediate issue that can be noticed is the 30 minute headways between UATC and Hidden River Park-and-Ride. While I can’t say that HART never disclosed this fact (though its not exactly easy to find any mentions of it), I’m fairly certain that many if not most of the potential riders on the North-South line are going to be unaware of this. Apart from the various employment centers in Telecom Park, the main draw in this area will be the park-and-ride, which has 320 spaces. Officials at HART have indicated that the hope for this park-and-ride is to draw people currently commuting from the northern suburbs along I-75 to transit. Currently, there is a park-and-ride operating about 3 miles to the north using the parking lot at Lowe’s. There are also two other park-and-ride lots further north, both which use the parking lots of churches in neighboring Pasco County. With only two AM trips and two PM trips in the peak direction on Route 51X, there isn’t much demand for service in this area currently. As of February, Route 51X is only average 16.2 passengers per trip, so it’s a bit of a “hail mary” to hope that commuters will be drawn to this new park-and-ride facility with the all-day transit service.
Another issue that the North-South line will be facing is one that many other recently instituted BRT operations in the US face: mixed-traffic operations. Along most of the North-South line, there is no separation of buses and other traffic on the road. On Nebraska Ave between Cass Street and Hillsborough Ave, there are intermittent bus lanes that were put into place as a result of the Nebraska Avenue road diet project. However, few bus operators make use of them and its not clear if there is an official HART policy regarding them. With no form of separation from traffic, the potential time savings on the North-South line is not much when compared to the Route 2 schedule. Below is a comparison of the scheduled time between each shared time point on the North-South line and Route 2. (Note that the time between UATC and Hidden River is not shown since no other routes run there currently.)
|Route 2||North-South||Time Saved|
|Route 2||North-South||Time Saved|
*(Note that the additional time on the North-South line between MTC and Nebraska/Columbus is because it runs down the Marion Street Transitway and through downtown, and Route 2 does not.)
Arguably, the time savings isn’t that great, even though the North-South line only has 23 stops northbound and 24 stops southbound between MTC and UATC (compared with Route 2′s 74 stops northbound and 73 stops southbound). However, it does fit in with the 10-15% time savings that officials have been advertising. To help improve the North-South line’s performance, TSP (transit signal priority) will be used on selected segments. The first TSP segment is on Nebraska Avenue between Cass Street and Floribraska Avenue, and the second TSP segment is on Fletcher Avenue between Nebraska Avenue and 42nd Street/Palm Avenue. On the Nebraska segment, there are 7 stoplights with TSP: Cass, Scott, Henderson, 7th, Palm, Columbus, and Floribraska. On the Fletcher segment, there are 8 stoplights with TSP: Nebraska, 15th, 22nd, Livingston, Bruce B. Downs, Magnolia, 42nd, and Palm. It has been indicated that there are plans to install TSP on the other 36 stoplights along the North-South line.
Along the North-South line, riders will see three different styles of stations: “A,” “B,” and “C.” All three station types feature similar features, with MetroRapid-branded shelter along with a wayfinding totem. The”A” station is the most basic design, with just a shelter awning and a information board. The “B” station features a larger shelter and seating as well. Also important is that the “B” station is designed to have a TVM (ticket vending machine) installed, though only one pair of “B” stations will have them at the opening of the North-South line (Magnolia). For most of the stops, a “B” station has been installed, partly because they can be later upgraded to a “C” station in the future. With a larger shelter than the “B” station and TVM’s located at every one of them, the stops with a “C” station are those that are anticipated to produce the highest ridership. Along with MTC, Jackson/Pierce in downtown, UATC, and Hidden River Park-and-Ride, there are just four “C” station pairs: Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Hillsborough Ave, Waters Ave, and Fowler Ave.
With just 14 TVM’s currently in place along the North-South line, any sort of off-board payment system is going to be largely unattainable. As of this writing, there has been no announcement from HART regarding fare payment policies for MetroRapid, so one is left to assume it will be the same as the current policy for regular fixed-route service: Boarding through the front doors only, where riders can pay with cash or swipe their farecards. HART is anticipating that a large majority of the current riders on Route 2 will start using the North-South line. However, without a major change to fare payment policy, the North-South line is likely destined to become bogged down by cash fare payments just as Route 2 does currently. It is important to note that HART recently announced a plan for a major farebox upgrade that will support the use of smart cards (along with the possibility of inter-agency cooperation with PSTA and other neighboring agencies), so there may be hope for the future.
With all the potential issues it faces, I find myself cautiously optimistic about the beginning of the North-South line. It does have a heavy ridership base to build upon (as Route 2 is HART’s busiest route, averaging ~4,300 passengers per day), and with continued growth along the Nebraska Avenue corridor that number can only go higher. As an actual BRT route, it has a long way to go, but as mentioned earlier there are budgetary constraints and so this is about all that can be done at this point. I do fear that regardless of failure or success, the MetroRapid system may end up plotting the destiny for the future of transit in Tampa Bay. If it were to fail, naysayers could point to it and say that it proves there’s not a need to expand transit in the area. If it did succeed past expectations, then it would be harder for advocates to press for more.
At this point, all we can do is wait and see.
*All the information shown in this post is an aggregation of publicly available data and cannot be claimed as copyrighted or proprietary.
In response to two separate requests for service, Route 47 will be seeing some temporary changes during this summer, along with the introduction of a brand new route.
The change to Route 47 will begin on Monday, May 20, while the new Route 810 will start service on June 10.
As requested by the Kennewick Parks & Recreation department, Route 47 will be making a deviation south to the Southridge area. Currently, Route 47 stays on 27th Avenue east of Union Street. With the deviation, this will be changed so that the bus continues south from the 27th/Creekstone/Union/Southridge roundabout onto Southridge Blvd. From Southridge Blvd, the bus will head east on Hildebrand Blvd, and then north on Highway 395 before heading east onto 27th Avenue and continuing with the existing route. With this route change, there will be 3 stops that will have service temporarily discontinued. 2 of them are located approximately at 4300 West 27th Avenue (in between Union Street and Highway 395). The third is located on 28th Avenue, just east of Wal-Mart, and is only served by the eastbound 47 currently on a “loop-back.” The discontinuation of this stop is likely to ruffle a few feathers, as I’ve already heard several passengers complain about this. On a personal level, I think it’s a stop that should have never been put in place, but I can certainly sympathize with those impacted. However, noting that there is a stop already at 27th Avenue and Quillan Street (next to Burger King), I don’t think it’s a big impact.
Last night, the City of Richland held a public hearing during the city council meeting to address a proposal from Kadlec Regional Medical Center.
As part of their campus master plan, Kadlec has proposed that part of the Goethals Drive ROW be vacated. The ROW would be used to expand the hospital’s campus by adding 14 acres east of Goethals Drive to the current 11 acres, though nothing would be built over it as the city would still retain the utility easement. Below is a map of Kadlec’s proposal for the future campus. (Note that this is a screen capture I took with my iPhone during the live broadcast of the meeting, so clarity is a bit of a issue.)
One thing that’s important to note is that Kadlec would mitigate the closure of Goethals Drive with a new connector road running between Jadwin Ave and Gilmore Ave. In the original proposal, Kadlec was requesting the ROW of Goethals Drive from 535ft north of Swift Blvd to the intersection of Carondelet Drive. However, that was revised to only go to approximately the southern edge of an acupuncturist located at the corner of Goethals Drive and Gribble Ave after multiple citizens submitted comments addressing impacted access to the office.
Over the course of the last month, I embarked on a challenge to keep my own personal “Transit Journal.”
In this “Transit Journal,” I kept record of a multitude of things. The primary focus of this was to keep a record of my bus rides so I could determine the exact value of what my transit pass was actually worth to me personally. Along with tracking my origin/destination points, I also kept track of:
- Fare Value
Since Ben Franklin Transit doesn’t operate transit service on Sundays here in the Tri-Cities, I was left with 26 days over the course of the 30-day month to keep track of all this data. After going over all the data I compiled, a lot of the results came as no shock, but there were a few surprises in it.
You’ve heard of “rail to trail” before. What if we did the same thing with an irrigation canal?
In the years before WWII and the Manhattan Project, the three cities that make up the Tri-Cities – Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland – were small towns with heavy agricultural roots. In Kennewick, there were many orchards strewn all across the area, (some of which can still be found in scattered pockets through the city today), largely thanks to the higher quality soil that was deposited as a result of the historic Lake Missoula floods. However, that soil was useless to growers unless they could water their plants. Though the Columbia River was literally right there, there was no mechanism to get that water away from the river and up to the orchards and crop fields. That’s where the canals came in. With the first one built in 1893 by the predecessors of the Columbia Irrigation District (the Kennewick Irrigation District started building their network in 1917), water was brought to the growers and profits flourished.
After WWII was ended (partly thanks to the efforts undertaken at Hanford, which produced the plutonium for the Fat Man bomb dropped on Nagasaki), the population of Kennewick and the rest of the Tri-Cities started to grow rapidly. Land once used as orchards and crop land were dug up and bulldozed over to make room for multiple subdivisions. All the while, the canals remained, and even today continue to remain in use. However, the demographics of the irrigation canal customers have changed in the modern age, as nearly the entirety of the land in both districts is residential in nature. They still remain in business, as most residences in the districts use the irrigation water to keep their yards as green as possible, while city water is used for everything else.
In order to keep the network operating at an efficient level, officials at Spokane Transit have several different route and schedule changes they propose to make in September this year, when the Fall “Mark-Up” begins. For the most part, the major changes are focused on routes serving Spokane Valley. Below is a route by route list of the changes that are proposed.
(Back in March 2012, I took a trip to Pittsburgh for a weekend getaway. While I was there I got to check out the local transit system, Port Authority of Allegheny County, as well as meet some fellow transit nerds. Though the trip to Pittsburgh itself was quite eventful, I’m going to begin this story after I found my bag at baggage claim. Fair warning, this is a long post.)
With my bag in hand, I was ready to leave the airport and get to my hotel for the night. While I was walking through Door 6 and headed towards the stop for Route 28X, I saw a bunch of people standing by the bus like they were waiting for something. As I got closer to the bus, I saw the driver close the door and pull away. A bit confused at that point, I wasn’t sure what had just happened. I overheard another passenger telling someone else that the driver was just pulling around. Looking at the schedule posted on the stop flag, this added up, so I figured I didn’t have much to worry about. A few minutes later, the bus pulled in to the stop again, and everyone started to board.
Before I’d even got to Pittsburgh, I’d taken a crash course on PAT’s fare structure. (Note that Port Authority of Allegheny County is often referred to as “PAT,” and that’s the name I’ll be using throughout this post.) Since I was at the airport, located in the far western edge of Allegheny County, I had to pay a 2-Zone fare of $3.25. With about $5 worth of quarters weighing me down, I figured it would be a good idea to pay my fare with them. I soon found myself regretting that decision when I stepped on to the bus and came face to face with the “VARE-point” farebox. A recent acquisition by PAT as part of the transition to the ConnectCard system (more on that later), the farebox is built by a German company called Scheidt & Bachmann. Before 2002, S&B had never built a farebox that could be used on buses and LRV’s. That changed when they won a contract with Boston’s MBTA to build their new fareboxes. A lot of the design was based on specifications S&B got from MBTA, and was later tweaked after several weeks of testing. Perhaps the most noticeable feature (or mistake, depending on who you ask) of the design is the bill/coin collector. Reminiscent of something you would see on a vending machine, the coin collector requires one to feed in coins individually, slowing down the already slow process of cash payments immensely. As I stood on that bus feeding 13 quarters in one by one, I could tell the driver was getting impatient fast, and the grumbles from behind me told me that the other passengers were doing the same. By my count, it took about 20 seconds from the moment I first stepped up to the farebox to the moment my last quarter was accepted by the farebox. On an individual basis, this may not seem like a big deal, but those 20 seconds add up fast when there is more than one passenger paying with cash at the same stop. At the airport stop, there were about 15 people boarding, with about 6 or 7 paying in cash. For this reason and many more, it became obvious fast that PAT needed to find a way to get passengers away from paying by cash.