Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, January 30, 2021

Anyone who relies on the public buses in the Tampa Bay area knows how much wasted time is built into the system. Today’s St. Petersburg Times devotes not one, but two stories about this:

- On the Pinellas side, a look at the Route 19 bus, which takes about 2 hours to navigate 35 miles. If you have to transfer between buses, good luck.

When [Karen] Fernandez, 40, moved her family from the Chicago area to Clearwater, she was happy about all the sunshine but none too glad about taking the bus.

“It’s nothing like Chicago,” Fernandez says with a frustrated wave of the hand. “It seems like everywhere you need to go you have to take two buses. You almost have to have a car here.”

You can forget about that “almost” part — in order to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time, you need a car. Despite being an urban zone, Pinellas and Hillsborough are car-centric infrastructures more akin to suburbs. Even residential neighborhoods aren’t designed for much pedestrian movement.

- Meanwhile, in Hillsborough, the transit authority pays Mark Sheppard to be a “travel trainer” — someone who provides free assistance for people inexperienced with riding public buses.

While this is a nice idea — especially since most of the recipients of this help tend to be mentally or physically challenged — it strikes me as telling. HARTline’s bus routes are so complicated and spotty that there’s a need for someone to draw maps and give instructions. Shouldn’t it be a bit more effortless to use something as fundamental as a bus?

I can hear the guffawing in New York and Chicago now. Can you imagine NYC employing “subway trainers” to show people how to get on a train, or “taxi trainers” to show people how to flag down a cab? Tampa looks rube-ish by comparison.

In both cases, you’re seeing the results of a half-assed approach to public transport. The Catch-22 is clear: It’s hard to pour more money into a service if more people don’t use it, yet more people won’t use it in the shape it’s in. As bad as traffic is getting around here (and it’s getting perceptibly terrible), it’s going to have to get tons worse before any serious efforts are made to encourage people to bus it to work (or anywhere else).

Light rail, forever a proposal for more efficient state-wide people-shifting, might be something to look at on a metro level. Phoenix is embarking upon a rail project, and since the metrics for that city match up with Tampa Bay quite closely — spread-out infrastructure, congestion, etc. — it will bear watching as a possible future model. It’s obvious the current solution isn’t working.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/30/2005 08:36:57 PM
Category: Florida Livin', Society | Permalink |

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