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HART officials discuss proposed ‘AirPorter’ dedicated bus service to Tampa International from downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

At Monday’s joint HART-PSTA meeting, HART CEO Katherine Eagan introduced a proposed dedicated bus service that would connect downtown Tampa, downtown St. Petersburg, and the Carillon area of St. Petersburg to Tampa International Airport on Monday.

Called “The AirPorter,” the service would use a “premium vehicle” that would run every 15 minutes during rush hour (6 a.m. to 9 a.m., and 4 to 7 p.m.), and every half hour at other times, up until 9 p.m. on weeknights and 9:30 p.m. on weekend nights.

“I think this is a great start for us,” enthused Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman at a joint meeting of members of HART and PSTA in Ybor City. “We can really partner in advocating with the Legislature.”

Eagan said the plan emanated from a desire by Tampa International Airport head Joe Lopano’s desire for such a direct bus service to go to TIA. She said the first stop for the bus coming off of I-275 would be to the Marion Street transit way in downtown Tampa, “but then you could do a pretty precise link through town in front of featured hotels in downtown Tampa.” Board members said they could see plenty of potential private interests in downtown Tampa wanting to contribute financially to the project.

Eagan says ideally the bus would then park at the airport’s consolidated rental car facility (or ConRac) that is currently under construction. It would then travel to Pinellas County, going first to the Carillon/Gateway area of St. Petersburg to pick up or discharge passengers, then on to downtown St. Petersburg, before traveling across I-275 to Tampa again.

The item is expected to be one of the top “asks” of HART to the Legislature for funding in 2017. The estimated cost of the service is $3 million.

“I’m intrigued by this idea,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, who was part of a delegation of PSTA members who came across the bay to Tampa for a rare joint meeting between the Hillsborough and Pinellas County transit agencies. Long said she hoped that PSTA would be able to partner with HART to team up to lobby for funding for the project. “I do see this … as a great opportunity to define clearly our financial partners,” Long said.

Eagan says ideally she’d like to get the AirPorter up and running by the end of 2017 or early 2018.

 

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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