For this Roundup, I’ve included headlines from the Thanksgiving holiday through December 14. Some of the highlights include Greenlight Pinellas and a proposed revision to the transportation funding formula in the state of Virginia. So let’s get to the news!
Service Change Alerts
The Hernando Express Bus [(a.k.a. THEbus or Hernando THEbus) Hernando County, FL]: Due to roadway construction along State Road 50, west of the Suncoast Parkway, the Grove Road and Barclay Avenue stops will NOT BE SERVED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE! Buses will instead pull into Brookridge Blvd, and then into the parking lot adjacent to SR 50 at Pinebrook. Click here for the press release (posted on THEbus homepage).
Christmas/New Year’s Holiday Transit Schedules
Many transit districts will have limited to no service on Christmas Day (Wednesday, December 25) and on New Year’s Day (Wednesday, January 1, 2014). Additionally, some districts may have limited service on Christmas Eve (Tuesday, December 24) and modified service on New Year’s Eve (Tuesday, December 31). Please visit my blog post for information pertaining to HART, PSTA, MCAT, SCAT, PCPT, LYNX, HRT, and several other districts throughout Central Florida and beyond.
Top Stories for late November/early December, 2013
Greenlight Pinellas makes it to the November, 2014 ballot!
The Greenlight Pinellas initiative reached a major milestone on Tuesday, December 10, 2013, when the Pinellas County Commission voted 6 to 1 to put the Greenlight Pinellas referendum question on the November, 2014 ballot! This move paves the way for Greenlight Pinellas to focus on rounding up additional support for the November, 2014 vote, as well as keeping existing support strong.
Greenlight Pinellas is a comprehensive transportation expansion plan that would eliminate the property tax as the main source of funding for public transit in Pinellas County and replace it with a one percent sales tax. The plan also includes various bus service improvements, lays out the groundwork for future passenger rail services, and will also assist in roadway and pedestrian facility improvements.
During the next several months, you can expect to see more people come out in support of the Greenlight Pinellas initiative, as well as those who are opposed to it. We need to make sure that those in support of Greenlight Pinellas are able to keep the voice of the opposition from drowning out voter sentiment. As many here in the Tampa Bay area very well know, a similar effort by Hillsborough County failed in 2010 as a result of a combination of poor planning and various political battles. Additionally, funding for Florida’s High Speed Rail plan were declined in 2011, effectively killing the project. We simply cannot afford a repeat of 2010! We must continue to push for better transit options!
Without dedicated funding avenues via the passage of such referendums, both the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) stand to lose a lot in 2015. In fact, I strongly predict that both districts will be forced to drastically slash service and substantially raise fares across the board within two to three years. That will eventually lead to ridership levels plummeting because there won’t be enough service to get customers to and from, and fares will be far too high for customers to be able to afford. Imagine if a one-way bus ride costed $5.00? Imagine if most bus routes only ran hourly service from 6am until 6pm with no weekend or holiday services? Imagine dozens of routes being eliminated all in one swath? These could very well play out to be the ultimate “doomsday” scenario if things really go south with transit funding.
Later this month, I will have a blog post up that highlights the successes of the Greenlight Pinellas plan thus far and what challenges remain ahead for the new year.
HART moves along with its new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station!
Substantial progress is being made on the construction of HART’s new CNG fueling station at its 21st Ave HQ! In late November, the CNG fueling units were installed at HART’s HQ and plans for an initial fleet of CNG-powered Paratransit vans are slated to arrive sometime in early 2014! HART’s 1st goal is to transition its Paratransit van fleet to CNG-powered vehicles. Once this is achieved, HART will then move to transition its bus fleet to CNG.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) “Holiday Train” rolls again!
For the 21st year in a row, the CTA has rolled out its decorated “Holiday Train” to help spread holiday cheer throughout the Chicago elevated rail system! This six-car train is adorned with Christmas lights both inside and outside of the train, as well as Christmas themed seating cushions, candy cane styled pole wrappers, and even a special flatbed car for Santa and his sleigh!
To see where the holiday train will be heading to next, click here. To view photos of the train, click here. The final “Holiday Train” appearance for 2013 will be on Monday, December 23, along the CTA Yellow Line.
Source: Chicago CTA.
New transportation funding formula in Virginia aims to improve a dire situation for Hampton Roads Transit (HRT).
Plans for a revised transportation funding formula in the state of Virginia may benefit HRT in the sense that it would have more funds available to keep its bus fleet up to date. Without any dedicated funding source, HRT faces the same problem that HART and PSTA face, which is aging buses. The average age of HRT’s bus fleet is currently nine years, which is relatively poor for any transit district. However, current funding constraints don’t allow HRT to purchase very many new buses, let alone maintain its current fleet.
If the new formula is approved, it would divide transit funding into three tiers, making it easier for transit districts to receive funding for maintaining and expanding bus fleets.
Source: Hampton Roads Daily Press.
A CALL TO ACTION! Transit tax benefits to be significantly reduced in 2014 unless Congress acts!
In the news quite a bit during the course of late November/early December is a call to Congress in Washington to extend current transit tax benefits, which is set at $245 per month. A provisional change in this benefit set up in 2009 will expire at midnight on January 1, 2014 unless Congress acts to extend current levels. An expiration would mean that the transit tax benefit will plummet to to $130 per month. Furthermore, there are fears that as part of a broader tax reform deal still to come, that the transit tax benefit could be eliminated altogether. At that latter rate, Congress may as well wage an all out war against transit because many in Washington want to plow through the Vehicle Miles Traveled (or VMT) tax to replace the faltering gas tax.
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE! Contact your legislator in Washington, D.C. and tell him or her to extend transit tax benefits!
Other Transit-Related Headlines
- Hillsborough hopes improved transportation system will bring jobs – TBO.com/Tampa Tribune – 12/11/13.
- MTA Creates First Regional Transit Diagram for Super Bowl XLVIII – MTA.info – 12/10/13.
- MTA Announces Availability of Six Sites for ‘Pop-Up Stores’ – MTA.info – 12/9/13.
- Transit winning fans, survey says – TBO.com/Tampa Tribune – 12/8/13.
- Floridians are driving less, relying more on mass transit, study finds – Tampa Bay Times – 12/4/13.
- CRUMBLING INFRASTRUCTURE: Closure of the Bonner Bridge in Hatteras Island, NC – WAVY 10 News – 12/3/13.
- Pinellas Park Transit Center breaks ground – PSTA Blog – 12/2/13.
- Survey shows more Americans looking for transit options – Tampa Bay Business Journal – 11/27/13.
- Military Circle Transfer Center opens in Norfolk – goHRT.com – 11/26/13.
STUFF A BUS 2013!
HART and 93.3 FM teamed up again this year for the station’s annual “Stuff A Bus” event to help out the US Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program. The toy drive ran during the week of December 9, and from what I heard on the radio Saturday afternoon, eight…YES…EIGHT HART buses were filled up with toys to help children in need of that special gift for Christmas! It’s always an awesome thing for HART to lend some of its buses for this wonderful event each year!
YEAR-END PUBLIC TRANSIT ROUNDUP!
2013 In Review
For my final Roundup posts for 2013, I will be presenting to you, the 2013 Year-End Public Transit Roundup! Not only am I going to be posting this year’s edition here on my Roundup Blog, but I’m also going to split this post into two episodes. The first episode will be dedicated to all transit happenings throughout the Tampa Bay Area, as well as Hampton Roads, Chicago, IL, and Paris, France. The second episode will be solely dedicated to New York City; from SuperStorm Sandy Recovery, to the debut of the R-188 railcars, I will go over what New York’s transit system has done during the past year.
I plan on publishing this, as well as my year-end blog stats by December 31!
As always, if you’d like to leave feedback about my transit roundups, please do so via the Contact Page.
Have a great week!