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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I wanted to create this thread to start a specific discussion on the implementation of light rail in the city of Tampa and the greater Tampa Bay area.

The objective would be to get input from everyone on what they believe would be most viable and beneficial for residents or visitors to the area. This is not intended to be a debate on whether rail should or should not be implemented but solely a discussion on how best to apply rail regardless of position on the idea.

As a conservative and rail enthusiast, I have questions on how and where rail would connect. This does not mean I oppose the rail in Tampa Bay, only that there needs to be some clear understanding of how rail would function before 'jumping on board'.


There are often some great ideas found in this forum and it would be of interest to hear from others on this specific topic.
 

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The objective would be to get input from everyone on what they believe would be most viable and beneficial for residents or visitors to the area.
The best option for anyone seeking a lifestyle which can take advantage of mass transit, and who is already beyond their 20s, would be to move.

That's important to remember with all of the local plans out there. Even if transit is somehow approved by this region's voters, all plans call for purposeful foot dragging, to let the built environment begin transforming before a full blown transit system offering proper BRT or LRT even begins to be developed. (and just think of all of the endless property lawsuits and lawsuits over "traffic" that will be brought by the NIMBYs living in the area) And even once that's started, it will take another decade or longer before there are multiple lines in operation, enabling residents in significant swaths of the city to actually prosper without a car.

People already in their 30s and 40s will be nearing retirement by the time transit has a meaningful impact. Better off moving, and getting better pay to boot.

As America's last remaining large metro not named Detroit that has never bothered to invest in transportation options beyond a car, Tampa is a truly great place to live for people who think that spending 300+ hours of every year of their lives stuck rotting in traffic with no alternative is a desirable lifestyle.
 

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Brian, you did the right thing in starting this thread. In fact, it prompted me to restructure this sub-forum so as to no longer have to use a singular thread for transit talk.

Personally, I would like to see the following. I'll start in Hillsborough.

*Commuter Rail: The CSX corridor from Brooksville into Channelside, with accomodations for a spur line along I-4/I-275 across the Howard Frankland into St. Pete.

*Light Rail or Modern Streetcar: Downtown to TIA should be first priority, since I can see bigger ridership potential than any other corridor throughout Hillsborough. I used to be vehimently against the usage of Cypress, but now realize it may be our best bet. Otherwise, you're left with disrupting traffic on Kennedy, or using I-275. I still remain against the usage of I-275 for light rail. The median should be used for commuter rail.
 

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The best option for anyone seeking a lifestyle which can take advantage of mass transit, and who is already beyond their 20s, would be to move.

That's important to remember with all of the local plans out there. Even if transit is somehow approved by this region's voters, all plans call for purposeful foot dragging, to let the built environment begin transforming before a full blown transit system offering proper BRT or LRT even begins to be developed. (and just think of all of the endless property lawsuits and lawsuits over "traffic" that will be brought by the NIMBYs living in the area) And even once that's started, it will take another decade or longer before there are multiple lines in operation, enabling residents in significant swaths of the city to actually prosper without a car.

People already in their 30s and 40s will be nearing retirement by the time transit has a meaningful impact. Better off moving, and getting better pay to boot.

As America's last remaining large metro not named Detroit that has never bothered to invest in transportation options beyond a car, Tampa is a truly great place to live for people who think that spending 300+ hours of every year of their lives stuck rotting in traffic with no alternative is a desirable lifestyle.
Jason, you do have good points, and I wish I was in financial straits to move right now. Unfortunately, I'm not, and thus I'll probably be here for at least another 4 to 7 years. What I'm hoping for is that our elected officials and transit agencies will put forth meaningful plans for Hillsborough so that if Greenlight passes in Pinellas, we will be on a good footing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The best option for anyone seeking a lifestyle which can take advantage of mass transit, and who is already beyond their 20s, would be to move.

That's important to remember with all of the local plans out there. Even if transit is somehow approved by this region's voters, all plans call for purposeful foot dragging, to let the built environment begin transforming before a full blown transit system offering proper BRT or LRT even begins to be developed. (and just think of all of the endless property lawsuits and lawsuits over "traffic" that will be brought by the NIMBYs living in the area) And even once that's started, it will take another decade or longer before there are multiple lines in operation, enabling residents in significant swaths of the city to actually prosper without a car.

People already in their 30s and 40s will be nearing retirement by the time transit has a meaningful impact. Better off moving, and getting better pay to boot.

As America's last remaining large metro not named Detroit that has never bothered to invest in transportation options beyond a car, Tampa is a truly great place to live for people who think that spending 300+ hours of every year of their lives stuck rotting in traffic with no alternative is a desirable lifestyle.
All great points for another thread.

I was hoping to keep this thread limited to ideas about where and how to put in rail rather than have more discussion about whether or not its viable.
 

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If money and politics were not an issue, I could imagine several light rail lines in the area.

1. downtown Clearwater, along Gulf-to-Bay, across Courtney Campbell, TPA, Westshsore, Downtown Tampa, Nebbraska corridor, USF

2. St. Pete Beach, Downtown St. Pete, up to Gandy, across Gandy Bridge, up to Hyde Park, downtown Tampa, Ybor City, Brandon

3. Apollo Beach, Gibsonton, Ybor City, Downtown Tampa, Tampa Heights, Drew Park, Town'n'Country, Oldsma, Safety Harbor, Dunedin

4. Downtown St.Pete, Gateway, Pinellas Park, Largo, Clearwater
 

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My vision is for a multi-modal approach. Buses will be discussed on the bus thread. Of course, setting aside monetary constraints and political issues.

For rail:

Intercity Rail
*Tampa to Lakeland/Orlando/Miami/Jax (AAF or HSR, preferably HSR)

Commuter Rail
*St. Pete to Tampa via HF, then Tampa to Brandon/Valrico, lines to Brooksville and Sarasota. Also, a spur to USF to allow for connectivity between USF and DT Tampa.

Light Rail/Streetcar
*St. Pete to Clearwater (via GP)
*St. Pete to Gulfport via Midtown
*Clearwater to Tarpon Springs/Safety Harbor

*TIA to Downtown Tampa
*DT Tampa to North Tampa via Central Ave/Florida Ave
*DT Tampa to South Tampa via Selmon
*Town N Country to Drew Park and East Tampa via Hillsborough
*Fowler Line from Florida Ave to USF
*Brandon/Valrico/Lithia
*SouthShore via College Ave
*New Tampa to USF via BBD

Monorail
*Clearwater to Oldsmar/Town N Country/Carrollwood/USF
*Lutz to South Tampa via DM (north end of line would continue up 41 to Brooksvile)
*Intercoastal Pinellas/Pasco

People Mover
*Planned People Mover link in WestShore/TIA
 

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Reminder: Due to current federal funding rules, any rail corridor is going to have to be along a route with established ridership to get substantial federal funding contributions. Downtown to USF is an easy target, as the bus routes between those two destinations (1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 12, 18, 400) already pull well over 20k/day ridership during weekdays (21,713/day during July '14). If referendum funding in concert with state and federal funding can be immediately applied toward the acquisition of part/all of the CSX Clearwater and Brooksville Subdivisions, (preferably) DMU or LRT can be fast-tracked along that corridor, as it already qualifies for funding and rails already exist. SunRail-style DMU will be the quicker build and will have better compatibly with westward/northward commuter extensions. Two new transit centers will need to be built to have full effect: a new version of Yukon, on a redeveloped Yukon St corridor between Nebraska and 30th, next to the tracks; and a new version of UATC along Fowler at either 30th St (USF/University Mall/Hospitals), McKinley Dr (USF/Busch Gardens/New Moffitt) or 46th St (USF/MOSI/Temple Terrace). CSX right of way extends all the way to 46th St, just shy of county property at what is currently the Renaissance Festival grounds.

Despite how much people like saying it, it's my opinion that DMU up to Lutz/Land 'o' Lakes/Connerton or Carrollwood/Westchase has a better shot for federal funding than LRT/DMU to Wesley Chapel if it isn't done as part of the initial line. Ridership to Wesley Chapel is *nonexistent*. An average of 62 people a day riding around on the 51X does not equal any kind of rail line. That's why HART has to get 51LX and other services running ASAP, or the corridor has no hope for matching funds.

Ridership intensification via other modes (i.e., Kennedy/Cypress/Selmon BRT or LRT on the Pinellas side) will need to happen before DMU/LRT between Downtown and Westshore/Brandon become viable projects. Anything else is a very long shot for federal new starts contributions, making it very difficult and a waste of scarce taxpayer resources to go forward with a rail solution. South County is most likely going to remain a ferry service/BRT destination for many decades. East County may be viable as an extension of a Brandon DMU line that eventually makes it out to Lakeland.
 
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^^
We were talking about having routes without the real-world constraints in place. ;)

Of course, with the constraints in place, there's only so much that can be done. The two priorities right now is the GP line in Pinellas and a DT Tampa to TIA line in Hillsborough. Those two are the best bets we have right now in establishing light rail. But of course, we won't see the construction of light rail until we hit about 2020.

I also believe that if everything can be worked out between FDOT and CSX, like it was done in Orlando, Commuter Rail between Brooksville and Tampa can become a reality by the time the two light rail lines are built, given that the referenda passes. I have high hopes that something can be worked out, especially since Orlando is seeing increasing demand for night and weekend service for SunRail.

There is no doubt that existing bus service improvements will be first, then local/express expansion, then BRT implementation/expansion, then passenger rail.
 

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^^
We were talking about having routes without the real-world constraints in place. ;)

Of course, with the constraints in place, there's only so much that can be done. The two priorities right now is the GP line in Pinellas and a DT Tampa to TIA line in Hillsborough. Those two are the best bets we have right now in establishing light rail. But of course, we won't see the construction of light rail until we hit about 2020.

I also believe that if everything can be worked out between FDOT and CSX, like it was done in Orlando, Commuter Rail between Brooksville and Tampa can become a reality by the time the two light rail lines are built, given that the referenda passes. I have high hopes that something can be worked out, especially since Orlando is seeing increasing demand for night and weekend service for SunRail.

There is no doubt that existing bus service improvements will be first, then local/express expansion, then BRT implementation/expansion, then passenger rail.
I think Commuter rail would work and could be done quickly and relatively cheaply. CSX does not want the line anymore and it could be significantly cheaper than the Orlando line. We could do it in phases (especially if it is just local funds) with the line to USF/Busch Gardens being first which is a 9 or 10 mile stretch. The second line would be take you to Land O'Lakes (where you could see real TOD if done right) for extending service 20 miles. One day we could look at an extension to Brooksville/Hernando.

What about the CSX line running west on Busch? That literally takes you all the way to the airport. There would also be a ton of area to redevelop for TOD just north of TPA in those old industrial areas. That would be an additional 7 miles.

Dream Beginning:

Streetcar Extension up Marion St. for full circulator with Transit Hub.

Rail:

Red Line Commuter - Zoo/Airport
Green Line Commuter - USF/Busch Gardens
Orange Line Commuter - Land O'Lakes (Future Extension Brooksville)
Blue Line LRT - Westshore/St. Pete/Clearwater
Yellow Line LRT - UT/Hyde Park/Soho (Future Little Stub along Selmon)
 

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^^
We were talking about having routes without the real-world constraints in place. ;)
I know. I just wanted to point the conversation in the right direction.

DMU commuter service between Tampa and Bradenton/Sarasota is always a possibility, with stops in Ruskin, Apollo Beach, Gibsonton and whatnot, but it will take further intensification and some savvy planning on the part of the county to make it happen. CSX won't let that line go as easily, so long as there's fertilizer and orange juice to be shipped along those rails. An alternate corridor is also possible, but county planners need to be quick in reserving the land as a multi-use trail wide enough to accommodate a future rail line before Southshore land costs get too high.
 
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I know. I just wanted to point the conversation in the right direction.

DMU commuter service between Tampa and Bradenton/Sarasota is always a possibility, with stops in Ruskin, Apollo Beach, Gibsonton and whatnot, but it will take further intensification and some savvy planning on the part of the county to make it happen. CSX won't let that line go as easily, so long as there's fertilizer and orange juice to be shipped along those rails. An alternate corridor is also possible, but county planners need to be quick in reserving the land as a multi-use trail wide enough to accommodate a future rail line before Southshore land costs get too high.
Right, there will probably be some ultra-commuter bus service implemented first. It's been on the books for some time now (SCAT-operated buses going to St. Pete and Tampa), but I think the recession has largely postponed this from happening (plus, its unclear if SCAT will be joining the inter-regional fare system). Service was originally projected to begin between 2011 and 2013 if memory serves me well.

If the intercity commuter bus proves to be viable in the long-term, then commuter rail may be considered as a "down the road" prospect.
 

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I think Commuter rail would work and could be done quickly and relatively cheaply. CSX does not want the line anymore and it could be significantly cheaper than the Orlando line.
Can you provide a source for this assertion please? That is huge news if true.


We could do it in phases (especially if it is just local funds) with the line to USF/Busch Gardens being first which is a 9 or 10 mile stretch.
Busch Gardens opposes being connected to transit.


What about the CSX line running west on Busch? That literally takes you all the way to the airport. There would also be a ton of area to redevelop for TOD just north of TPA in those old industrial areas. That would be an additional 7 miles.
TIA already owns the rail line from the airport/Drew park to Linebaugh.
 

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Busch Gardens likes their parking lot revenue, which is a sizeable chunk of their gross profit. While improved transit on Routes 5, 18 and 39 and the introduction of MetroRapid Busch-Gunn would benefit the hundreds of front line team members at BGT (availability based on bus route schedules is a scheduling challenge during Summer Nights/HOS/Christmas Town and on weekends), they'd rather see guests arriving by car.

Here's the Busch Gardens front gate pedestrian entrance. Real welcoming, no? Alternately, you could walk all the way up here, cut through the employee lot and use the stairs down to the pet kennel to catch the tram. Completely unmarked.

This is a thing, even at Walt Disney World Resort. Disney makes damn sure you can't take Disney Transport directly to the parks from the free parking at Downtown Disney. You have to ride to a resort hotel and transfer from there.

A rail stop along Fowler at 30th or McKinley would actually work pretty well for them, as they usually operate an employee shuttle for the international exchange student employees and could set up their own private shuttle service going straight to the Bougainvillea employee entrance, which is where the internal employee shuttle picks up to ferry workers deeper into the park.
 
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I have heard one of the huge hold ups has been over them wanting to sell the whole line at once up to Brooksville (which is in their interest). Hillsborough has not wanted to take on the full costs of that and our politicians don't work the magic that Mica and C.Fla politicians do. This is going to have to be a regional solution.
 

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^^
Right, and I believe Jason has mentioned previously how CSX won't sell just one portion, but the entire swath at sky high prices.

No, we don't have the bargaining power that Mica and others have. Unless all the counties work together on a regional solution, all this is at risk of falling through.
 

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Why would CSX ever want to isolate themselves on their own network?

The main benefit of CSX selling off their corridors is that they're sold off with the understanding that CSX still gets to use them. Whoever bought them picks up the tab for maintenance of way, doubletracking, etc. while CSX reaps additional profits. If the operational understanding ever failed, CSX would be left with a remote chunk of track that they wouldn't be able to use or make a profit off of anymore, so it's all or nothing.

Of course, the SunRail purchase elevated the cost of what we'll have to pay, as CSX re-invested a majority of that money into MOW of the rail network including rebuilding the Brooksville, Clearwater, Yeoman, etc. Subs. That trackage is in really good shape now, so CSX is definitely not going to sell it for a discount.
 
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