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Creative ideas to ease traffic

We remember some creative alternatives to the increasing traffic congestion on Tampa streets. Here are a few that went somewhere — at least for a while — and others that went nowhere fast. — Amy Scherzer, Times Staff Writer

Orangecycles

Germination: In February 1997, Tampa Downtown Partnership distributed 50 bicycles on the honor system, with hope that people would use them, not abuse them. They were left unlocked at nine racks scattered throughout downtown for workers, tourists, maybe University of Tampa students, to grab for a quick, free ride. They were supposed to leave them when they reached their destination.

Some theft was anticipated, but the bikes were pretty junky — all donated from the Police Department's inventory of unclaimed stolen merchandise. YMCA volunteers painted them a garish shade of safety orange—handle bars, pedals and tires included.

What went wrong: Within a week, the Orangecycles disappeared. At the same time, the coordinator left and despite the best intentions, the Partnership was short-handed and the borrow-a-bike program ended after a few weeks.

Waiving tolls

Germination: After a jogger was killed crossing Bayshore Boulevard during a morning run in 2004, Mayor Pam Iorio appointed the Bayshore Task Force to recommend safety measures. Among the suggestions was an idea to divert traffic off Bayshore Boulevard onto the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway by waiving tolls between Gandy Boulevard and downtown. Commuters could then zoom to work, leaving more breathing room for walkers, bikers and joggers.

What went wrong: Unfortunately, it's out of the mayor's hands. Other than during times of "extreme emergency," it would take an act of the Florida Legislature to permanently lift the tolls on a state road, according to Expressway Authority spokeswoman Susan Chrzan.

Iorio did implement other task force suggestions, including sidewalks, crosswalks and digital signs to advise drivers how fast they're going and remind them to obey the 40 mph limit.

Hyde Park trolley

Germination: HARTline extended its yellow trolley into Hyde Park for locals and conventiongoers. Called a downtown circulator, the trolley's frequent forays helped people avoid having to get in the car to drive 1 mile. The idea was to further downtown as a place to live and work without relying on cars.

What went wrong: In November 2007, property tax rollbacks forced HART to cut its budget, which meant the end of the little-used Hyde Park shuttle, which carried fewer than two passengers per trip. Instead, more "parking circulators" were added to bring people from remote parking lots into downtown.

Downtown Commuter Center

Germination: The Tampa Downtown Partnership opened the Downtown Commuter Center at Marion Street and Kennedy Boulevard in a city parking lot in June 1995. The facility offered commuters a place to shower and lock up their bikes before heading to the office. HART provided bike racks; YMCA maintained the showers. Local artists painted neon bus routes on the building.

What went wrong: The city reclaimed its parking lot and tore the building down. HART built the current Marion Transit Center just south of the I-275 underpass in 2003 where commuters can still lock up their bikes. No showers, though.

Duck Tours

Germination: Two companies have offered tours of Tampa on giant amphibious vessels called Ducks designed to maneuver on land and water like the World War II trucks with the military acronym DUKW.

Duck Tours of Tampa Bay operated from 2001 to 2003, but finding a commercial driver who was also a Coast Guard-certified sea captain to steer the truck-boat proved difficult and operations ceased.

In January 2005, Tampa Duck Adventures revived tours on a 39-foot blue metal duck leaving from Newk's Cafe on Channelside Drive. Four times a day, six days a week, tourists and locals rumbled through downtown, Ybor City and the Channel District, then splashed into the waters off Davis Islands as a guide quacked out fun facts for 90 minutes.

What went wrong: Neither tour operator could be located by press time, but Times archives indicate insurance regulations brought about the demise of Duck Tours of Tampa Bay. It was unclear what happened to Tampa Duck Adventures.

Creative ideas to ease traffic 04/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 17, 2008 4:31am]

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