Offering increased efficiency and expedited travel, the new HART MetroRapid is slated to begin operations by early 2013, connecting downtown Tampa to northern parts of Hillsborough County.
The first rapid transit system in the area, the North-South MetroRapid will run north along Nebraska Avenue from the downtown area and east on Fletcher Avenue to Telecom Park, west of Interstate 75; the area totals a 17.5 mile corridor.
"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 Marcia Mejia, HART's public information officer. "Several studies were done before MetroRapid was planned and we found that the North-South corridor is one of the busiest with ridership activity."
Focusing on frequent service, faster travel time and an overall better reliability of services, the new MetroRapid will feature fewer stops; improved travel time, including 10-minute frequencies; GPS-enabled signal prioritization which will hold green lights longer and shorten red lights for the sleek new HART vehicles; ticket vending machines at major station stops to facilitate passenger boarding; and real-time display boards, allowing travelers to know when buses will be arriving.
"Added features like the ticket vending machines will provide travel time savings because you don't have to wait for folks to pay on board," says Mejia, who expects construction on the project to begin by early 2012. "Riders will buy their tickets at the machines and just board directly."
HART's May ridership was up 16 percent from last year while bus ridership is up 14 percent year to date. The total cost of the North-South MetroRapid project is $31 million while the traffic signal priority project is expected to cost an estimated $2 million. Both projects will be paid for by the Hillsborough County Community Investment Tax (CIT).
Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia, HART