Tampa’s urban core, made up of downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods, is the hub of commerce, culture and government for the Tampa Bay region. A lot of people work here, but more and more people are choosing to live and play Downtown too. It’s the center of our existing transit network and is crisscrossed by bus and . Future plans call for new transit technologies and intermodal hubs. What is the best way to use and tie all these assets and opportunities together? That’s the question the Downtown Transit & Opportunities Study seeks to answer.
The study is exploring Downtown’s development patterns to identify emerging or untapped markets. It also focuses on how to best expand or extend the existing transit assets, including rail and rubber-wheeled systems. This includes existing freight rail corridors, bus and trolley routes, and the streetcar system. The study will consider new rail technologies like Diesel Multiple Unit vehicles.
Downtown residents and business have met twice. The Florida Aquarium hosted a kick-off meeting in December, attracting more than 30 individuals who were an excellent cross-section of interests. Participants identified existing and future developments and shared their ideal transit connections. Several speakers noted that transit should run later in the evening to serve Downtown attractions.
The Straz Center for the Performing Arts hosted the second meeting in January, which focused on a transit needs assessment. A consultant presented transit travel “contours” showing how far a rider can go in a 15, 30, or 45 minute transit trip from downtown. These were overlaid with maps depicting concentrations of Downtown residents, workers, and shopping opportunities. Different forms of high capacity premium transit that could connect Tampa’s urban core to the rest of the region were highlighted. Stakeholders expressed the need for clarity and simplicity in designing ways to get transit passengers to and through Downtown Tampa.
The MPO will convene at least one more stakeholder meeting and a public open house before completing this study. Recommendations are anticipated by April 2014 and will feed into the MPO’s long range plan and HART’s Transit Development Plan. The MPO and the Tampa Downtown Partnership are co-sponsors of the study, with guidance from the City of Tampa, HART, FDOT and the Historic Streetcar Board.