During the month of February, two Tampa Bay area counties saw the introduction of two pilot transit routes that are designed to provide both residents and visitors an alternative to driving. In Hampton Roads, VA, toll collection began on both the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels between Norfolk and Portsmouth. And in New York City, much needed post-Sandy rebuilding chugged on even as the metro area was doused in snow. These stories and more on your February, 2014 Public Transit Roundup!
For this Roundup post, I’m trying out a different format, posting news by transit district. I’m also going to be publishing most roundup posts monthly, since my schedule has been too busy to allow me to continue a weekly to bi-weekly posting schedule. I may change back to bi-weekly if time allows.
Top Stories for February, 2014
Here’s the top transit news making headlines in my website’s coverage areas.
Clearwater Jolley Trolley
On February 1, 2014, the Clearwater Jolley Trolley began a test route in Safety Harbor. This new service is aimed at getting the municipality of Safety Harbor connected to transit services. The trolley already operates in Clearwater (hence the name), Clearwater Beach, Sand Key, Tarpon Springs, and Dunedin, although service hours vary by route (the four routes comprise of Clearwater Beach, Clearwater Coastal, Tarpon Springs, and now Safety Harbor).
For now, the Safety Harbor route will run during the following times:
- Fridays: 6pm to 12 Midnight.
- Saturdays: 11am to 12 Midnight.
- Sundays: 12 Noon to 6pm.
If the new route is successful, an expansion of service is very much possible! The best part about the Jolley Trolley, is that you can use you use your Jolley Trolley pass onboard Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) buses!
For further information, please visit the Jolley Trolley website. There, you can also track each trolleybus in real-time and even download their tracker app to your smartphone!
Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT)
Safety Harbor isn’t the only municipality testing out new transit routes, SCAT Transit in Sarasota is also testing out its Route 33 Limited Stop service, which also began on February 1. This route connects the popular Siesta Key Beach to Pinecraft Village and the Cattlemen Blvd Transfer Center. Services run during the midday hours Monday through Saturday, and will continue to operate until May 2, 2014 (hint, hint, this makes a great Spring Break alternative to driving). If service becomes popular enough, further expansion on the route is possible!
Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART)
During its Feburary 3th Board Meeting, HART unveiled its new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) powered Paratransit van! This new van is a part of an order of 28 CNG-fueled vans that will be arriving to Tampa later this year, and will replace aging diesel-fueled vans that are currently in service. Of the 28 vans being ordered, 8 will be distributed for HART FLEX services, while the remaining vans will be used for HART Plus Paratransit services. All of these vans will adorn the two-toned blue and white livery that HART’s buses already possess.
Hampton Roads Transit (HRT)
On February 2, 2014, automated toll collection began on the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels connecting Norfolk to Portsmouth. This move was made to help fund an expansion of the Midtown Tunnel from 2 lanes to 4, as well as fund other needed road projects in the Portsmouth area. The introduction of tolls to the two tunnels has been controversial, with many business owners fearing that the tolls will have a negative impact on their business. However, it seems that the tolls are here to stay.
As part of an agreement between HRT and Elizabeth River Tunnels, HRT began running ferry services at 5:30am on weekdays, and beginning in July, HRT will expand services on Portsmouth-bound bus routes. Both will undoubtedly provide commuters with transit options instead of having to pay tolls each way.
Meanwhile, HRT approved its proposed fare increase on February 27 (the agency’s first such increase since its inception in 1999), raising its base (one-way cash) fare from $1.50 to $2.00 (which is the same amount that HART charges for its base fare). However, the increase will be implemented in two phases, with the first to be implemented in July of this year, and the second taking effect in July of 2016. This gradual increase is designed to allow customers to adjust their budgets to the new fares. It will also reduce the risk of riders abandoning the system due to abruptly high fare hikes.
Among other changes being made to its fare structure, HRT will be eliminating the one-day LRT only pass, along with their 2-ride card. A bundle of 5 one-day Go Passes will still be available for purchase. The seasonal Virginia Beach WAVE shuttle fares will eventually be absorbed into the regular bus fares, with the exception of the 3-day Shuttle Pass, which will rise from its current $5.00 to $8.00 later this year, and then to $13.00 in July, 2016 (the reduced-fare 3-day Shuttle Pass will increase from $2.50 to $4.00 later this year, and then to $6.50 in July, 2016).
Finally, HRT held several public hearings during the month of February on studies to extend The Tide Light Rail Line to Virginia Beach and Naval Station Norfolk. Both studies are moving ahead, but face uncertainty down the road (especially the Virginia Beach extension). You can read my recent blog post about both studies here. HRT also made changes to its Paratransit eligibility process, which can be viewed here.
New York City MTA
Restoration work on the Montague subway tunnel continues and much has been achieved thus far, despite all of the snow that has fallen in the northeast. As of the end of February, major restoration work – which is needed due to the damage caused by SuperStorm Sandy in October, 2012 – has comprised of demolishing concrete walls that were damaged during the storm, as well as removing other damaged tunnel components. It’s pretty clear that not even polar vortexes can stop the MTA from doing the work it needs to do to shore up its infrastructure due to the damage that Sandy caused.
One interesting matter that has come up is…how on earth does the concrete get poured in a subway tunnel in this type of situation? The answer lies within this article from the MTA. You’d be surprised what they did! As one can imagine, the restoration of the Montague tunnel is a very complex one that requires round-the-clock work and tons of manpower. Pouring concrete to make up the new subway tunnel walls is just one intricate piece of the puzzle. The MTA cannot afford even the slightest interruption to stall the project.
Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP)
I’ve heard from several sources that the MP 05 railcars will begin to roll onto Line 14 of the Paris subway in March. These trains are being deployed onto Line 14 to help improve frequencies and to eventually prepare the line for the northward extension project towards the municipality of Saint Ouen. Initially, only a handful of these trains will roll into service, but a total of 18 trains have been ordered for the operation of the extension to Saint Ouen (originally, only 4 trains were ordered).
Now, keep in mind that the operation of the MP 05 on Line 14 will be rather short-lived. Upon completion of a simultaneous 2nd phase extension from Saint Ouen to Pleyel and a southern extension towards Orly Airport, the MP 05 (along with their predecessor railcars, the MP 89CA) will be distributed to other lines in favor of the planned MP 14 railcars. The MP 14 will comprise of 8-car trains being deployed to Line 14, 6-car trains being deployed to Line 4, and 5-car trains being deployed to Line 6*.
It’s very likely that both the MP 89CA and the MP 05 from Line 14 will either land on Line 1 or Line 4. Line 4 is slated for an automation conversion beginning later this year and is projected for completion by 2020. The Line 14 extension to Saint Ouen is also slated for completion by 2020, with the second extensions to be done by 2025. At that point, Line 14 will become fully immersed into the planned Grand Paris Express regional subway system, which comprises of four new subway lines.
*Railcar assignments are nowhere near final. The RATP is working with the regional STIF to determine what is the best course for the subway rolling stock.
Other Transit-Related Stories
- New trolley route in St. Pete will shuttle Beach Drive visitors – Tampa Bay Times – 2/23/14.
- HRT shares maps of Norfolk light-rail extension options – Virginian Pilot – 2/21/14.
- Large chunks of concrete shatter Tampa bus windows – ABC Action News/WFTS – 2/19/14.
- Proposed ferry provider eyes future business in Tampa – TBO.com – 2/17/14.
- Downtown St. Petersburg Waterfront Master Plan Report: New St. Pete plan eyes trolleys, new bridge, and USF focus – 10 News/WTSP – 2/17/14.
- 4 Ways to Flirt on Public Transportation – Cosmopolitan Magazine – 2/11/14.
- Orlando SunRail station to get apartment complex – News 13 – 2/7/14.
A CLOSER LOOK AT: MANAGED LANES
Ever wondered how far those managed toll lanes are really going for you? Here’s two views on the matter.
- ‘Lexus lanes’ and the price of saving time – Marketplace – 3/4/14.
- Robert Poole: Express lanes benefit all South Florida drivers – Sun Sentinel – 2/21/14.
Other Finds for the Month
- SEGA Launches New Franchise Strategy for Sonic the Hedgehog with Sonic Boom – SEGA Blog – 2/6/14.