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HARTline adds USF to list of stops

By EMILY NIPPS
Published March 26, 2006


NEW TAMPA - Two months after introducing bus service to New Tampa commuters, HARTline is answering the requests of some of the riders.

They'll now receive more stops, more convenience and direct access to the University of South Florida area.

The New Tampa Express 51X will remain unchanged, traveling directly from stops in Pasco County and the Lowe's Park-n-Ride on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard to downtown Tampa, and back. The 52X, however, is now called 52LX (Limited Express) and includes service to USF and the University Area Transit Center before traveling downtown. The previous 52X route stopped only at the UATC on the way to downtown.

"What we found is that the (USF area) hospital hub is really a key destination for people," HARTline spokeswoman Jill Cappadoro said. "That was one impetus for the change. We also heard a lot of people ask for additional stops."

The new 52XL, which began service March 13, will include a stop at the Muvico lot at Preserve Walk Lanes and Highwoods Preserve Parkway, then enter the USF campus from Fletcher Avenue at Magnolia Drive. The bus will stop on Magnolia and Holly drives, which are close to Moffitt Cancer Center, University Community Hospital and the James A. Haley VA Medical Center.

New Tampa commuters will also have cheaper rides on the 52XL, paying $1.50 local route fares instead of the previous $2.50 express fares. And the 52XL will originate downtown, serving riders who commute from South Tampa to the New Tampa and University areas.

Since its buses first rolled through New Tampa on Jan. 23, HARTline recorded 540 rides on the 51X and 465 on the 52X by the end of February, before the changes. Those numbers are considerably less than the ones HARTline sees on its more established express routes, such as the 27X Fishhawk/S Brandon Express (3,440 rides in January and February) and the 50X Citrus Park/Carrollwood Express (1,281).

Cappadoro said she expects New Tampa ridership to grow as time goes on, as is typical for new bus routes.

"It's hard to gauge by comparing (the 51X and 52X) to other routes," she said. "It's not unusual for a new transit system to take a year or two to evolve. I think some people are watching it, and it'll be weeks or months before they say, 'I'm actually going to try this.' "

It also hasn't helped that two days after the new bus routes began, Pasco County's Park-n-Ride at Sam's Club was pulled because of a disagreement over terms between HARTline and Sam's Club. There is still a bus stop on State Road 56 near Bruce B. Downs, but commuters cannot park there.

HARTline is negotiating another potential Park-n-Ride, Cappadoro said, and an announcement could come as early as this week.

"We've been fully committed to finding a Park-n-Ride lot in south Pasco," she said. "We see a lot of potential for ridership there, with a lot of people commuting to either the USF area or downtown. This time, we won't announce (the new Park-n-Ride) until we have a signed agreement."

Emily Nipps can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or nipps@sptimes.com.

[Last modified March 26, 2006, 08:46:40]


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