Trolley to stop on Howard for now

"People won't touch a bus" but will gladly hop on the trolley, a Bayshore resident says. Meanwhile, HARTline is forming a 10-year plan.

Published December 9, 2005

South Tampa residents are getting one of their top transportation wishes, at least temporarily: yellow trolley bus stops along Howard Avenue.

Starting next week, HARTline is adding trolley stops on Howard from Swann to Bristol avenues as part of its route from downtown to Old Hyde Park Village.

Officials plan to enact the temporary route because bus drivers were having a difficult time turning around in the village's circle, HARTline officials said.

"It's a temporary detour, but it's really a step in the right direction," said Toni Short, HARTline special projects and business development liaison.

Short did not know how long the detour would be in place. To make it permanent, the agency needs more funding, she said.

HARTline officials made the announcement at a public meeting at the Kate Jackson Recreation Center on Monday. Many in the audience of about 25 people said HARTline would increase ridership if it expanded trolley service to South Tampa's most traveled routes.

"People won't touch a bus," said Susan Meade, a retired commodities trader who lives on Bayshore Boulevard and frequently uses public transportation. "There's such a stigma against riding a bus in this area. But people will ride a little yellow trolley."

HARTline plans to hold 20 public meetings throughout Hillsborough County to discuss residents' public transportation needs. After gathering community opinions, HARTline officials will cull their findings for Vision 2016, a transit plan for the next 10 years. The agency's findings could affect things like new or enhanced transit services countywide.

South Tampa residents made a bevy of requests that ranged from installing more bus shelters to creating a light rail system. Residents also asked transportation officials to impose an area-specific tax on developers that would help fund public transportation projects.

Neil Cosentino charged the agency with employing innovative solutions to solve the city's transportation needs.

"I don't really think they're looking as hard at new solutions that other people have proved work," he said. "There are many communities across the United States that are similar to us and they've solved their problems. The question is, why not us?"

Ray Miller, HARTline's executive director, said the agency would continue its community surveys through mid January. HARTline expects to produce a final draft plan by June, he said.

Residents should not necessarily expect to see changes right away, Miller said. After HARTline completes its study and analysis, it must determine the cost of improvements and make a plan for tackling each one that is selected.

So far, the suggestions are expensive and could take time to implement. Permanently extending trolley service along Howard Avenue, for example, would cost an additional $50,000 to $150,000 a year.

- Sherri Day can be reached at sday@sptimes.com or 813 226-3405.