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HART Breaks Ground On First Public Bus Rapid Transit, Hillsborough

MetroRapid North-South, the first public transit system of its kind in Hillbsborough County, aims to speed up travel between  downtown Tampa and the University of South Florida.

Local business and community leaders gathered with HART staff on Monday, August 6th, to celebrate the historic groundbreaking, which marks the beginning construction phase of the project. About $31 million from the Hillsborough County Community Investment Tax (CIT) will pay for the design and construction phases of the project. As of June 2012, costs of the MetroRapid N-S project are estimated to be under budget by $5.7 million.

"Ridership continues (to increase) for HART, and has been for the past several years, and with this form of rapid transit being introduced, we're on track to meet transportation needs for residents of the county," says HART Public Information Officer Marcia Mejia. "Several studies were done before MetroRapid was planned and we found that the North-South corridor is one of the busiest with ridership activity."

Featuring elements of bus rapid transit, MetroRapid N-S will run 17.5 miles along Nebraska and Fletcher Avenues in Tampa, from the HART Marion Transit Center in downtown Tampa to Telecom Park/Hidden River Corporate Park, west of Interstate 75. The new system is expected to improve travel-time savings by approximately 15 percent, using GPS-based Transit Signal Priority (TSP) technology at selected intersections to shorten red lights and lengthen green lights.

“MetroRapid N-S will connect downtown Tampa to USF -- two major employment centers,” Mejia says. “In addition, the corridor overlays what are currently the busiest routes, allowing a large portion of our ridership to benefit from faster, more frequent service.”

According to Mejia, several routes feed into the MetroRapid N-S corridor. Fewer stops along the corridor supply added convenience; local bus routes have bus stops every 750 to 1,250 feet while MetroRapid's 59 stops are spaced out about every 2,600 to 4,000 feet.

"Added features like the ticket vending machines will provide additional travel time savings because you don't have to wait for folks to pay on board," Mejia says.

A new park and ride facility is planned in Hidden River Corporate Park, serving the northeast end of the line. MetroRapid N-S construction is slated to be complete and open to Tampa Bay area residents and visitors by 2013.

In July, HART ridership was up by six percent with 60,998 more bus trips taken compared to July 2011. HART is expected to operate extra bus and streetcar service during August's Republican National Convention, providing public transportation options between Ybor City and Channelside.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia, HART
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