Sunday, August 19, 2018
Transportation

With new app, Hillsborough bus riders can track their ride

TAMPA — Waiting for a public bus in Florida can mean braving heat and summer deluges without knowing whether your ride is five minutes away or 30.

That changes today, when Hillsborough Area Regional Transit unveils a new website and smartphone app that will allow public transit riders to track their bus in real time.

The free OneBusAway app will use the phone's Global Positioning System to place the user on a map that shows all the nearest transit routes and how far away the next bus on each is, then estimate an arrival time to the minute. It will also let you know if you've just missed the No. 7 bus so that you can grab a cup of java from the air-conditioned comfort of the nearest coffee house until the next bus arrives.

"They'll know if their bus is on the way without just standing out there in the heat or the rain," HART spokeswoman Sandra Morrison said. "So they can plan accordingly."

OneBusAway has been nearly a year in the planning. It began as a research project at the University of Washington, where a professor and some students with an interest in transit teamed with volunteers to create a bus tracking system for transit systems in the Puget Sound area. It has since been adapted for use in New York City.

The University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research secured $150,000 from the National Center for Transit Research to make the apps available in other cities, including Tampa. Atlanta is also launching its own system.

Using free, open-source software available to anyone with the know-how to use it, the system uses global positioning information from the buses to place them on a map. Click the corresponding bus icon and color-coded travel time estimates pop up, with blue meaning the bus is behind schedule and red indicating it may arrive early. A minus sign before the numbers explains that you missed the bus by that much.

Working with a team from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the group at USF conducted a pilot project with 400 participants, half of whom got to use the app or website. They haven't finished crunching the numbers yet, but so far the reviews appear favorable.

In Washington, riders said they felt they were waiting less time for buses to arrive, and they actually were, said Sean Barbeau, a researcher at CUTR who has spearheaded the local effort. So the service has the potential to improve how the public perceives transit as a viable mode of travel.

"This has definitely been a rewarding project," Barbeau said, "because it has had a real-world impact and will definitely make people's lives easier in terms of accessing transit."

From a computer, transit riders can track buses from the website tampa.onebusaway.org. On a smartphone, search for the OneBusAway app. It's available for Android, Windows Phone and iPhone users. (The iPhone app is still in beta testing and defaults to the greater Puget Sound transit systems. Directions for adjusting settings to make it work in Hillsborough are available at the website.)

County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, a board member of HART, said the app is overdue. He has been pushing for modernization of the county's bus system, including offering Wi-Fi for passengers.

"I have been very impatient to move our bus system into the tech world," Sharpe said. "This is just the beginning."

Comments
Have you made up your mind on a transportation sales tax? Many candidates havenít

Have you made up your mind on a transportation sales tax? Many candidates havenít

TAMPA ó Some 77,000 people signed a petition to place a sales-tax hike for transportation on the Nov. 6 ballot, but many of the 17 people seeking seats on the Hillsborough County Commission say theyíre still making up their minds.Some candidates aren...
Published: 08/17/18
Transportation activists hope to pave over past referendum defeats

Transportation activists hope to pave over past referendum defeats

TAMPA ó The group behind a sales tax transportation initiative used hundreds of volunteers and spent at least $550,000 on a petition-gathering firm in a frantic six-week dash to qualify for the Nov. 6 General Election ballot.That may have been the ea...
Published: 08/11/18
Troubled SunPass vendor could have to pay $1.7 million, but Florida isnít asking for it

Troubled SunPass vendor could have to pay $1.7 million, but Florida isnít asking for it

The vendor responsible for recent problems with the SunPass tolling system could be on the hook to pay the state at least $1.7 million based on a review of documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.But the Florida Department of Transportation hasnít ...
Published: 08/08/18
Updated: 08/09/18
Petition succeeds, Hillsborough voters set to decide on sales tax hike for transportation

Petition succeeds, Hillsborough voters set to decide on sales tax hike for transportation

TAMPA ó As if there wasnít enough riding on the mid-term elections, a plan to raise the sales tax to pay for transportation projects is now set to go before Hillsborough voters.The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections confirmed Wednesday that ...
Published: 08/08/18

Flooding closes WPA Road in Brooksville; Rackley, other roads still closed

BROOKSVILLE ó Flooding on Wednesday led the Hernando County Department of Public Works to close WPA Road just south of its intersection with Mondon Hill Road.More than a foot of water is covering part of the road, east of downtown Brooksville, accord...
Published: 08/08/18
Ferry project waves goodbye to $4.7 million federal grant

Ferry project waves goodbye to $4.7 million federal grant

TAMPA — If the long-awaited commuter ferry service between south Hillsborough County and MacDill Air Force Base ever happens, it will likely be without federal money. Leaders of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority acknowledged Mon...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/07/18
High-speed rail firm scouting land for station and development around proposed Rays ballpark site

High-speed rail firm scouting land for station and development around proposed Rays ballpark site

TAMPA ó Brightline, the firm behind the passenger rail system between Miami and West Palm Beach, doesnít yet know if it will win a state bid to build a high-speed rail link between Tampa and Orlando.But the company is already scouting sites for a ter...
Updated one month ago
Southbound I-275 ramp to northbound 75 in Manatee County to close for 10 months

Southbound I-275 ramp to northbound 75 in Manatee County to close for 10 months

People who travel from Pinellas County to southern Hillsborough using the interstates may want to build in some extra time.The Florida Department of Transportation has shut down the ramp that shuttles motorists from southbound Interstate 275 in Manat...
Updated one month ago
Waterborne transportation a fact of life in other cities; why not Tampa Bay?

Waterborne transportation a fact of life in other cities; why not Tampa Bay?

Mark Hubbard, the owner of Hubbard’s Marina on John’s Pass, has watched two decades of uncertainty over the future of waterborne transportation play out in Tampa Bay. Just when it seems that Tampa and St. Petersburg have figured out how ...
Updated one month ago
One Florida agency rejected the troubled SunPass vendor three years ago. Hereís why.

One Florida agency rejected the troubled SunPass vendor three years ago. Hereís why.

When Florida wanted to consolidate its tolling systems into what drivers now know as SunPass, regional expressway agencies in Tampa, Orlando, and Miami were ready to work together. But when Xerox spinoff Conduent State & Local Solutions was chosen as...
Updated one month ago