Improving Regional Bus Connections in Tampa Bay

Making inter-county travel via transit even better!

With the launch of an improved Purple Bus Route in Hernando County and the upcoming cross-bay connection between Pinellas and Manatee Counties, traveling from one county to another couldn’t be any easier!

An illustration showing all intercounty bus routes, as well as key local connections. Please bear in mind that the lines shown on this map may not actually reflect the true routing of the bus lines. Created by HARTride 2012 using Google Maps and Microsoft Paint.
An illustration showing all intercounty bus routes, as well as key local connections. Please bear in mind that the lines shown on this map may not actually reflect the true routing of the bus lines. Created by HARTride 2012 using Google Maps and Microsoft Paint.

As shown in the illustration above, various transit agencies have launched cross-county bus services in order to improve regional connectivity and provide better services overall to their customers. While many of these services only operate during peak weekday hours, they are no less vital to the overall transit structure and will serve as part of the broader plan for a regional fare structure that is currently in development.

Current Services

Now that I’ve outlined which services operate, let’s take a look at each inter-county route in a bit more detail.

Route 18 – Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT): This local Monday through Saturday bus route travels from the Cross Bayou K-Mart near US 19 to Tarpon Springs, where connections to Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) Route 66 are available.

Route 19 – Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT): This local Monday through Saturday bus route travels along US 19 from Tarpon Springs, where connections to PSTA Routes 19 and 66 are available, to Bayonet Point Plaza, where connections to PCPT Route 21 are available. Route 21 in-turn connects to the Scheer Commerce Center, where connections to the Hernando Bus Purple Route are available.

Route 20X – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART): This peak weekday express bus route was established back in the 1980s and allows for customers to connect to Downtown Tampa from Lutz and Lake Magdalene. In 2011, the route was extended into the southern fringe of Central Pasco County, where it begins its AM runs from the Super Target parking lot on County Line Rd and Dale Mabry Hwy. Future expansion of the route could allow for connections to Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT) Route 54.

Route 51X – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART): Introduced during the 2000s, this peak weekday express bus route provides connections between Downtown Tampa, New Tampa, and the Wesley Chapel area of Pasco. PCPT Route 54 connect to the HART service at the Victorious Life Church Park and Ride Lot during selected trips. Future modifications of the route will allow it to better serve Wesley Chapel by serving the Shoppes at Wiregrass and the Florida Hospital campus. Use of the Victorious Life Church Park and Ride Lot will eventually discontinue.

Route 99 – Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) and Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT): Launched in 2004, this Monday through Saturday local route connects Palmetto to Bradenton and Sarasota. Connections to both agencies routes are available along the way.

Route 100X – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA): Introduced in 1985 as a HART route, PSTA took over the 100X in 1993 and midday trips have since been added to what was originally a peak only weekday express route. This route currently connects Downtown Tampa to South Tampa and the Gateway region of St. Petersburg, but future plans have the route being extended towards Downtown St. Petersburg and the addition of Saturday service is not too far off either.

Route 200X – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART): Route 200X started out as a state-operated experimental shuttle in the 1970s. By the 1980s, it had become a vital connection between Downtown Tampa and eastern Clearwater. The route currently operates during peak hours, Monday through Friday, but modification could occur if a planned Clearwater Beach to Tampa International Airport express route is launched.

Route 300X – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA): Launched in 2003, this peak weekday express route provides connections between the Ulmerton Rd Park and Ride Lot on Ulmerton Rd and Starkey Rd, and Downtown Tampa. Midday trips are provided and future expansion could hold more trips for this service.

The Oldsmar/Tampa/Countryside Flex Connector – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA): Launched in 2012, the OTC Flex Connector provides Monday through Saturday cutaway van service to the Countryside/Boot Ranch area of Pinellas, as well as Oldsmar and Town-N-Country. The route’s western terminus is Countryside Mall and the eastern terminus is HART’s Northwest Transfer Center. Both transfer hubs provide connections to both agencies own routes. Customers wishing to continue from Town-N-Country from the Flex route can use HART Route 30, and those wanting to connect from Countryside Mall can use PSTA Route 19 to get to St. Petersburg’s Grand Central Station, the Pinellas Park Transit Center, or Tarpon Springs. For those wanting to travel toward Downtown Clearwater, PSTA Routes 76 and 78 can get you there.

The Longboat Key Trolley (Route 18) – Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) and Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) Not Shown on the Map Above: The Longboat Key Trolley provides a cross-county beach-side connection from Downtown Sarasota to Longboat Key. Those wishing to go northward can connect to the Anna Maria Trolley, and connections to MCAT Route 6 is also available.

The Hernando Bus Purple Route: While the Purple Route has been in service for some time now, the western terminus fell short of the Pasco/Hernando County Line. In January of 2016, this changed when the route was extended to the Scheer Commerce Center, allowing for connections to PCPT Route 21. The Purple Route operates only Monday through Friday.

The Skyway ConneXion – Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT): Launching on April 1, 2016, the Monday through Friday two-round-trip express route will allow for connections between the MCAT and PSTA systems via I-275. The route will operate as a pilot for the first few months to evaluate ridership demand.

Megabus Service to Orlando and Miami Not Shown on the Map Above: Megabus.com launched its Florida intercity bus services in 2014 and allows for connections to nearly all major Florida cities.

Redcoach and Greyhound also provide intercity bus services to many major Florida cities.

Filling in the missing links

While the above services lay the foundation for vital inter-county connections, more funding is needed to expand upon what we have and allow for even more connections to other counties in the future. PSTA and HART are both currently planning  additional connections between Pinellas and Hillsborough, specifically to connect to Tampa International Airport, which is currently only served by HART Route 30. HART also has short term plans to enhance its New Tampa and Central Pasco service, as well as longer term plans to provide even more service to Pasco, as well as create connections to Manatee and Polk Counties. Hopefully one day, one can be able to seamlessly travel throughout the entire Central Florida Region via transit; including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, Manatee, Sarasota, Polk, Osceola, Orange, Lake, Seminole, and Volusia Counties.


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Legalese | Disclosures

The Travel Log by HARTride 2012 Facebook Group is now open!

MCAT Skyway ConneXion

MCAT SX Banner 1

Starting Friday, April 1, 2016, you’ll have a new way to cross Tampa Bay between Pinellas and Manatee Counties! Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) will be launching its new Skyway ConneXion express bus service between Bradenton and St. Petersburg via I-275 and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The service will start out as a pilot that will have two trips during the day, Monday through Friday. The first trip will start out in Bradenton during the late morning and make a round trip to St. Pete and back, with a second round trip crossing the bay during the afternoon.

Planning

The idea for the new Skyway ConneXion service originated from the fact that MCAT was already doing Paratransit runs between Bradenton and the Bill Young VA Hospital at Bay Pines. Recently, demand for this trip has grown to the point to where MCAT began to use a Gillig Phantom transit bus instead of a cutaway van. Since the Paratransit trips are already funded, the new service will not require additional dollars to operate as-is. If demand for the new service increases, MCAT will consider adding in trips to meet customer needs. For the long term, I’m sure that MCAT will need to embark on securing state dollars for further expansion, which include FDOT Urban Corridor Project funds, which play a role in various cross-county express bus services across the state.

Original aspirations for transit service between Bradenton/Sarasota and Tampa Bay

While the Skyway ConneXion is a new service, this isn’t the first time that cross-county service between the Bradenton/Sarasota and Tampa Bay areas have been planned. In 2011, Sarasota County Area Transit proposed two routes – one between Sarasota, Bradenton, and St. Pete, with the second going to Tampa. However, funding issues led to this proposal being abandoned. In the future, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) may launch a cross-county limited express route from southern Hillsborough into northern Manatee.

Route and Stops

The Skyway ConneXion route will only load and unload customers at designated bus stops with the orange and blue MCAT decal.
The Skyway ConneXion route will only load and unload customers at designated bus stops with the orange and aqua MCAT decal.

Since the Skyway ConneXion is an express bus service, there will be very limited stops along the route. The southern portion of the route will connect MCAT’s three major transfer hubs – the DeSoto Station by the DeSoto Mall, the Downtown Bradenton Station, and the Palmetto Station. From there, buses will travel northward along US 41 to US 19 and I-275 and cross the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Once in Pinellas, buses will exit the interstate at the US 19/Pinellas Bayway/54th Ave S interchange and travel northward on US 19 (34th St S). The first Pinellas County stop will be situated at the intersection of US 19 and 50th Ave S, adjacent to Bay Pointe Plaza, where MCAT customers can connect to Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus routes 11 and 19. The next stop is along US 19, just shy of the 1st Ave S interchange by Checkers. This stop is just a short walk away from PSTA’s Grand Central Station, where customers can connect seamlessly to numerous destinations throughout Pinellas. From there, there is one more street-side stop along Tyrone Blvd and 68th St N, next to the Tyrone Square Mall, before the route terminates at the VA hospital at Bay Pines.

Fares

A one-way cash ride on the Skyway ConneXion will be $3.00 if only traveling within Pinellas or Manatee Counties, and $5.00 if you decide to cross county lines. An all-day $10.00 pass is available and will be valid across all MCAT operated bus routes. It is currently unclear if PSTA will be providing any sort of incentives (such as a free PSTA transfer) for MCAT customers.

More Information

More information about the Skyway ConneXion service can be obtained at MCAT’s website.


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Legalese | Disclosures

The Travel Log by HARTride 2012 Facebook Group is now open!

Columbus Day Holiday 2015 Transit Schedule

Columbus Day 2015 Banner 2

Monday, October 12, 2015 is Columbus Day. Unlike most Federal holidays, where transit services are typically limited to weekend-level services, most transit districts tend to operate on a typical weekday schedule on Columbus Day, with some districts operating weekday services with modifications.

In the Tampa Bay Area, all area transit districts (HART, PSTA, MCAT, SCAT, PCPT, and Hernando THEbus) will operate on a normal weekday schedule. This includes the TECOline Streetcar, HART MetroRapid, HART and PSTA flex bus services, and various trolleybus routes throughout the metro area.

In the Hampton Roads Area, all HRT services (bus, LRT, and ferry) will also operate on a normal weekday schedule. However, MAX (Express) routes 918, 919, 922, and 965 will NOT operate.

If you have any questions regarding holiday transit services, please contact your respective transit district for details. Customer service centers will be open normal hours (unless otherwise specified by the transit district).


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Legalese | Disclosures

Local Transit News Roundup – May, 2015 Edition

Local Roundup - 2015-05-30

In today’s blog post, I present to you a new way of getting several pieces of transit news across to my readers. I will be publishing periodic newsletters called the Local Transit News Roundup. Unlike my paper.li virtual papers that cover transit news from across the globe, these newsletters will only show transit-related headlines from across Tampa Bay and Hampton Roads. In this inaugural edition, I will cover several topics including; the planned revamp of the HART In-Town Trolley and the result of the recent city council vote in Virginia Beach on light rail.

If you happen to have any story ideas for future editions, or want to comment on the newsletter in general, you can drop me a line via the Contact page. Alternatively, my email address is printed in the left sidebar of the second page.

Accessing the Document

If you’re new to my site, the Microsoft Word file can be accessed and downloaded through Dropbox. Don’t have a Dropbox account? Not a problem! Anyone can access and download this file. Even then, Dropbox provides a free “basic” service for you to upload and share files to.

For Dropbox Mobile App users, you will need to have the Microsoft Office App installed. Select the Local Transit News Roundup document in Dropbox and it should open up for you.

Access the May, 2015 Edition of the Local Transit News Roundup.

No new funding = Bare-Bones service

As you may have heard; HART and PSTA posted news last week of record ridership during the month of April, which continues to be an amazing trend despite the current state of the economy throughout the Bay Area.

However, I really have to make things clear about the reality of the current transit funding situation, because some people don’t seem to realize that you can’t have expanded transit service without money to fund those services. When I was reading comments on HART and PSTA’s Facebook pages, some people were asking why can’t we get more routes or buses? Again, if there is no funding available, then there is simply no way to get new buses or routes…it’s as simple as that.

Continue reading

Memorial Day Holiday Transit Schedules

Memorial Day will be on May 27, 2013, and as with many holidays, transit services will be limited. Please see the listing below to see what level of service that each transit district will operate.

Normal Weekday-Level Service:

  • TECOline Streetcar Line

Saturday-Level Service:

  • Hampton Roads Transit – All Modes

Sunday-Level Service:

  • HART Local Bus Routes
  • PSTA Local Bus Routes
  • PSTA Trolleybus Routes*
  • MCAT Beach Express and Anna Maria Trolley*

No Services:

  • HART and PSTA Express Bus Routes
  • MCAT and SCAT Bus Services (except the MCAT Beach Express and Anna Maria Trolley)
  • Any bus route that normally does not operate on a Sunday

*Some trolleybus routes may operate on a schedule other than a Sunday schedule. Please check the transit district’s website for details.

Normal transit services will resume on Tuesday, May 28, 2013. Remember that HART MetroRapid service will begin on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 and rides will be FREE for two weeks. Please stay tuned for further information.

As always, if you see something here that is incorrect, please let me know.