Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sue Carlton: Tampa's ready for an express bus from the airport

iStockphoto.com

Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, an advocate for improving how we get around around here, recently flew in to Tampa International Airport with his family after a trip to Chicago.

Sharpe said they would take the bus home. No cab at the curb. No neighborly pickup. Public transportation or bust!

To which his wife said: We're what?

And his two teenagers promptly judged him insane.

The bus, when it came, had no place for luggage — despite stopping at the airport, where people tend to have, you know, luggage. Other riders stared. (Who were these nomadic creatures?) The bus stopped and stopped again and more people got on and stared. When the family finally got out, they dragged their luggage from the bus stop home.

So: We are not a public-transportation-to-the-airport, express-shuttle sort of town.

Despite all the buzz about Tampa turning a corner, about a bustling city center and Ybor City entertainment district, despite our ability to attract Bollywood and Super Bowls and a Republican National Convention, we remain, on some matters, transportation troglodytes.

Case in point: Tampa does not even have a public express shuttle between downtown and the airport, which, along with rail, is a no-brainer in other places. Yes, I dared to say "rail."

Despite growing conversation about the future of transit in both Pinellas and Hillsborough, "rail" still says "boondoggle" to those unwilling to look for alternatives to building more and more roads in order to sit in more and more traffic.

The last time I flew to Atlanta, I walked out of the airport and hopped on a train to the suburbs, sparing my hosts rush hour and myself a pricey cab ride. It was fast. It was easy. It wasn't here.

But a fix isn't just rail, it's as basic as buses.

In November, Pinellas voters will consider approving a sales tax increase not only to connect Clearwater and St. Petersburg by light rail, but also to vastly improve the bus system.

In Tampa, we're talking about a basic express bus to and from the airport for tourists, business visitors and residents — a great amenity for a city.

"Totally insane" that we do not have this, says airport CEO Joe Lopano. "Absolutely nuts," says Sharpe. "But we're going to fix that."

So when transit and government types talked about such a shuttle at a recent meeting, people sounded receptive — positive, even.

With suitcase space! With Wi-Fi so riders can make good use of the time! With even the possibility of a similar shuttle to the Brandon suburbs! As Lopano put it, why spend $50 million on another parking garage when we can use tried-and-true transportation?

Katharine Eagan, chief operating officer at the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority — as in, buses — says, "I'm optimistic."

Some important fine print here: To work, this should include partnerships with private businesses like hotels and attractions, local companies and government agencies. Officials hope to have a plan, with actual routes and price tags, in May.

"Take no prisoners," says Sharpe, words you don't often hear in public transportation. And maybe one day catching the bus from the airport — in Tampa, even! — won't sound so crazy after all.

Sue Carlton: Tampa's ready for an express bus from the airport 04/01/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 8:34am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021

    Bucs

    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals in 2009. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also …

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, holds the AFC Championship trophy? as he celebrates with head coach Bill Belichick after the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots defeated the the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to advance to the Super Bowl.? (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) FBO247
  2. Sputtering Rays keep falling one run short

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Even going into play against the Angels on Tuesday just a game under .500 at 23-24, the Rays have some issues they have to resolve.

    Rays starter Alex Cobb waits for Mike Trout to finish his trot after homering to give the Angels a 2-0 lead.
  3. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared

    World

    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.

  4. Dade City man dies after crashing into county bus, troopers say

    Public Safety

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 38-year-old man died Tuesday after colliding into the rear of a county bus on U.S. 301, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  5. Suspicious device at Pinellas Park home was a spent artillery round, police say

    Public Safety

    PINELLAS PARK — Bomb squad investigators determined that a "suspicious device" found at a Pinellas Park home Tuesday afternoon was a spent artillery round, police said.