Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Transportation

HART's commuter express line can save money

The route:

New Tampa park-and-ride lot to downtown Tampa

HART's route: Route 51x, an express commuter line, heads south on Interstate 75, takes Interstate 4 west and makes several stops downtown.

Miles, estimated travel time: The route travels about 20 miles and is estimated to take 35 minutes to get to the first downtown stop.

Cost: $3 for a one-way ticket or $95 for a 31-day unlimited Express pass. Discounts available.

What I found: Route 51x starts in Wesley Chapel and makes its third and final stop before downtown at the Lowes off of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard at 7:03 a.m.

Several signs pointed me to the park-and-ride area of the lot but I had a difficult time finding the bus stop. I looked around and spotted a group of people dressed in ties and business attire walking toward the side of the building so I followed. The bus route sign is hidden among sheds and pallets.

The bus arrived on time. I climbed aboard, slid $3 into the machine (exact change only) and sat down.

With fewer than a dozen people on board, the atmosphere was friendly. Many of the commuters take the bus every day and have gotten to know each other along the way. I spoke with Shirley Vereen, a senior planning and zoning technician who lives in New Tampa and works at the County Center.

She has been taking the bus for years and listed several reasons: "It saves gas, it saves time, you don't go to work with road rage. You can relax and have less stress," she said.

Traffic congestion just before the Interstate 275 junction slowed us down a bit but we still sailed into the Marion Transit Center at 7:39, just one minute behind schedule.

I took the leisurely half-mile stroll to my office in the Times building on N Ashley Street and was at my desk by 7:50 a.m.

That's 47 minutes start to finish not counting the drive to the Lowes parking lot.

Sure, the commute may have only taken about half the time in my own car, but according to Google Maps' cost calculator, it would have cost nearly four times as much.

Plus, there's that whole road rage thing.

Shelley Rossetter, Times staff writer

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