Alternative transportation — electric shuttles, ferry, rental bikes — rolling up mileage on both sides of Tampa Bay
One month in, Tampa's new Downtowner free electric shuttles have covered 7,840 miles, carried 13,000 riders and made a lot of trips to Publix.
That's clear by this heat map of Downtowner destinations. The University of Tampa, Skyhouse Channelside Apartments, Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina and the Publix just across from downtown on Platt Street all are hot destinations.
Organized by the nonprofit Tampa Downtown Partnership and supported by community development property taxes from the city of Tampa, the Downtowner is run by a contractor that already provided similar shuttle service to four other cities. But Downtowner chief operating officer Travis Gleason said the company's launch in Tampa has been its biggest and busiest yet.
Users hail the electric shuttles using an app available at ridedowntowner.com. Commuters covering the first or last mile of their trip to and from work account for a little more than half the rides, according to the downtown partnership. More than 60 percent of the shuttles' passengers are repeat riders. The service is popular enough that organizers suggest planning ahead and checking wait times, especially around lunch and dinner.
The Downtowner isn't the bay area's only experiment in alternative transportation. The Cross-Bay Ferry launches weekday service on Monday with ferries leaving from St. Petersburg at 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., and from Tampa at 9:30 a.m. and 5:15 p.m.
And Coast Bike Share said it hit the 100,000-trip mark last Friday when someone used one of its sky-blue rental bikes to go from Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to MacDill Park in downtown Tampa. Bike usage in the past month has averaged 500 miles a day, putting the program on a pace to reach the 300,000-mile mark by the end of 2016. The program has rented bikes to more than 28,600 unique riders.
Coast's busiest Tampa hubs are at Curtis Hixon park, the Sail Pavilion at the Tampa Convention Center and Water Works Park.
In St. Petersburg, a Coast demonstration project launched early this month with 100 bikes. A 300-bike program (the same as Tampa's) is scheduled to begin in St. Petersburg after New Year's.
In its first three weeks, Coast St. Pete's bikes were used for nearly 1,000 trips covering more than 2,000 miles. So far, the busiest St. Petersburg rental locations include the Vinoy hub on Bayshore Drive, the EDGE District hub at the roundabout on Central Avenue and 11th Street, and a hub next to Avenue Eat/Drink on First Avenue S and Third Street.