Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa expands free Downtowner electric shuttle service

TAMPA

Supply could soon catch up with demand for Tampa's free Downtowner shuttle service thanks to the addition of two new all-electric Chevrolet Bolts Wednesday.

The on-demand pickup service will now have eight vehicles on the road at all times instead of six to respond to pickup requests that riders place via an app.

"It's been overwhelmingly popular," said Karen Kress, director of transportation and planning for the Tampa Downtown Partnership. She led the initiative to launch the free electric shuttles.

The Downtowner hit the 100,000-rider mark less than seven months after launching last October, and currently about 500 people a day use the service.

Wait times average 26 minutes, with the heaviest demand coming during morning and evening rush hours and at lunch. One of the program's most popular pickup and drop-off locations is the Marion Transit Center, and a good portion of the demand is driven by commuters looking to cover the first and last miles of their trips between home and work.

Including the lease, the drivers, insurance, maintenance and other expenses, each Bolt will cost about $100,000 a year to put on the road. The $1 million-per-year program is paid for with city redevelopment property tax revenue, plus state and federal funds and contributions from the nonprofit Partnership and downtown hotels, office towers and developers.

The addition of the Bolts is expected to reduce wait times, support the growth in demand and — blissfully — provide some air-conditioned rides. The Downtowner's original vehicles, a five-passenger mini-shuttle known as a GEM, have their own charm, but their lack of air conditioning means that they often roll through downtown with windows open.

Another key difference between the Bolts and GEMs is the Bolts can go more than 200 miles on a single charge, allowing them to stay on the road all day.

In contrast, the 12 GEMs in the Downtowner's fleet are limited to around 60 miles per charge, meaning that half of them are on the road and half are on a power cord at any one time.

"The Chevy Bolt's range allows us to move more people with less resources," Downtowner chief operating officer Travis Gleason said.

Still, riders won't be able to request a Bolt versus a GEM. The app used to hail rides dispatches them based on what will provide the shortest wait time. There's no way to ask for a specific vehicle or driver.

The Downtowner runs 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekends in the central business district, the area around the University of Tampa, the Channel District and the Tampa River Arts District, which includes Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, the Tampa Museum of Art and the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, plus the nongated northern end of Harbour Island.

"We would like to expand the program further because the demand is so high," Kress said. But the program would need to get local companies to advertise on vehicles, something made possible now that the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which had rules blocking such branding, is being dissolved.

"We think that there's demand enough for two more Bolts,'' Kress said, "but that will be dependent on raising the funds to support them."

Tampa expands free Downtowner electric shuttle service 08/02/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 2, 2017 10:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Woman dead in St. Petersburg shooting

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Woman fatally shot Saturday night

    A 31-year-old woman was shot and killed Saturday night, police said.

  2. Jones: Rather than criticizing anthem protests, we should be asking about the reasons for them

    Bucs

    MINNEAPOLIS — They are football players. They are teammates. They are Tampa Bay Bucs.

    Bucs wide receivers Mike Evans (13) and DeSean Jackson (11) kneel during the national anthem. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Here kitty, kitty ...

    Blogs

    In a toned down version of the annual rookie dress-up day based on MLB's new anti-hazing policy, Rays rookie players and staff - plus second-year LHP Blake Snell - donned DJ Kitty onesies for the trip to New York.

    Rays rookie players and staff - joined here by Alex Colome - sporting their DJ Kitty onesies before the flight to New York.
  4. Pasco residents affected by Irma invited to town hall meeting

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Representatives from Pasco County Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will play host to a town hall-style meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in the first-floor boardroom of the West Pasco Government Center, 8731 Citizens Drive, New Port Richey

    Sandra Cunningham assesses the damage a water oak did to her Church Avenue home when it crashed into her bedroom roof during Hurricane Irma.
  5. Lightning's Nikita Kucherov has a lot to say — about moving on to a much better season

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Nikita Kucherov sits back in his stall and smiles.

    Laughs a little, too.

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) prepares for a faceoff during the first period of Friday's  (9/22/17) preseason game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators at Amalie Arena in Tampa.