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Caitlin Johnston, Times Staff Writer

Caitlin Johnston

Caitlin Johnston covers transportation, breaking news and features in Hillsborough County. She is a graduate of Indiana University, with her master's from the University of Maryland.

She's always looking for story ideas.

Phone: (813) 226-3401


Twitter: @cljohnst

  1. Proposed Hillsborough transportation plan expected June 11

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — Three months of public meetings aimed at developing a plan to fix jam-packed roads and improve limited transit offerings have come to an end, and now consultants have to reconcile transportation priorities that often vary with where commuters live.

    Hillsborough County paid Parsons Brinckerhoff about $1 million to organize outreach and put together a detailed transportation plan, which it will present to local leaders on June 11 at the policy leadership group meeting. County commissioners will then have to decide whether they want to put a referendum on the 2016 ballot and, if so, what sort of tax they would ask voters to approve....

    Community members attended a Go Hillsborough meeting on Monday in Town ’N County, where they were asked what the ideal transportation plan should be. There was disagreement.
  2. Road project bulldozer aims for new Tampa Heights community center


    TAMPA — Sometimes it's possible to imagine the interstate isn't there.

    Standing between the ferns and cabbage, when traffic isn't backed up from downtown, the Tampa Heights Community Garden is an oasis.

    But the Florida Department of Transportation recently told residents that the garden, along with a neighboring park and new community center, could be torn down in the next few years to make way for road improvements....

    A rehabbed Tampa Heights church is set to open next month as a community center. Residents say it cost $1 million to renovate.
  3. Tampa Bay a hot market for nonprofit CEOs


    TAMPA — Tampa Bay is a new hot spot for aspiring nonprofit leaders.

    More than a half-dozen nonprofits in the area, ranging from museums to zoos to economic development centers, are searching for chief executive officers.

    That could become a challenge, experts say, depending on the depth of the candidate pool here and across the United States.

    Some say each of the organizations has different missions, and thus will attract different types of applicants. But the possibility that some of these organizations will be trying to snag the same people is very real....

    Tampa Bay Partnership chair Brian Lamb says nationwide searches help promote Tampa Bay.
  4. On trek to Machu Picchu, journey proves better than the destination (w/video)



    I shouldered my pack and looked out at the path that would lead me to Machu Picchu.

    The Urubamba River snaked through the Andes Mountains, showing us the way. Multicolored birds called out from the trees and snow-capped peaks winked through dense clouds. We surveyed it all, eyes squinting into the sun and hands grasping eagerly at the straps of our packs. We were ready to depart on our grand adventure....

    Residents of an Andean village pick potatoes along a hillside. Hikers who book with Wayki Trek can spend a night before the trek in a local village, helping with chores and learning about the culture.
  5. Renovated Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa renamed for Bucs' Bryan Glazer

    Human Interest


    The Tampa Jewish Community Center on Monday celebrated the launch of its $26 million project to transform the historic Fort Homer Hesterly Armory into a new community center.

    The organization also unveiled a new name for the facility: the Bryan Glazer Family JCC, in honor of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman who has pledged $4 million to the project.

    When work is completed next year, the armory at 522 N Howard Ave. should have more than 100,000 square feet of community space. The center is expected to open in September 2016....

    In 2013, the long-vacant Fort Homer Hesterly Armory was added to the National Register of Historic Places. 
  6. 150 march with Tampa mayor, other leaders to protest violence


    TAMPA — About 150 people joined with Mayor Bob Buckhorn and former Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy in a march Saturday through East Tampa in efforts to take back their streets and restore safety to their community.

    This was the second march against violent crime to take place this past month in light of an increase in homicides this year.

    "We're going to go send a message that this violence has got to stop," Buckhorn told the crowd gathered at the Tampa Police Department District III station. "Evil will not win."...

    Eric Ward is Tampa’s new police chief.
  7. Final community meetings on Go Hillsborough transportation initiative start Monday


    TAMPA — A select group of residents has answered the county's toughest question regarding transportation in Hillsborough County: Are you willing to pay higher taxes to fund roads and transit?

    Yes, more than half said, if it were a gas or sales tax.

    Nearly 500 people filled out surveys at the county's last round of Go Hillsborough meetings, which aim to gather public ideas and opinions for a countywide transportation plan. More than 50 percent of respondents at all 12 locations, from New Tampa to Thonotosassa, said they are willing to consider an increase in gas or sales taxes. They were less receptive to paying higher property taxes....

    Will Hillsborough County residents be willing to pay more at the pump to fund transportation improvements?
  8. Tampa City Hall looking for ways to reduce its carbon footprint

    Global Warming

    TAMPA — City Hall is looking at ways it can quickly and cheaply reduce its carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.

    A recently formed committee will evaluate what changes the city can make in the next six to eight months that are of little to no cost.

    The suggestions of the Energy Efficiency Conservation Plan Committee will be sorted into recommendations for specific departments such as water or sewer, according to Thomas Snelling, the city's green officer and director of planning and development....

    Council member Harry Cohen says the city is getting rave reviews for Riverwalk events.
  9. Amazon to expand Ruskin operation, creating hundreds of jobs

    Economic Development

    RUSKIN — Whether it comes to selling books or video games or tortilla chips, Amazon always has a plan.

    Now the world's biggest online store is ready to execute the next phase of its plan in southern Hillsborough County: Amazon announced Tuesday that it will double the operational capacity of its massive Ruskin warehouse and add hundreds of full-time jobs.

    "This was always the plan," said Amazon spokeswoman Nina Lindsey. "But now the timing is right."...

    Amazon finished construction on the 1.1 million-square-foot fulfillment center last year and hired more than 1,000 workers to run it. The company left room inside for expansion.
  10. Hillsborough officials seek one voice on changes to speed up bus service

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — Hillsborough's transit agency discussed plans Monday to expand the MetroRapid bus program, which provides expedited service in more congested parts of the county.

    There's one problem: Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board members worry the plan is at odds with the county's Go Hillsborough initiative, which seeks to build a transportation plan that could be the backbone for a 2016 referendum....

    Passenger Delwin Cole, left, talks with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor on April 9 on a MetroRapid bus as part of a Transit Town Hall sponsored by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.
  11. HOPE activists try to press Tampa mayor to expand 'ban the box' policy


    TAMPA — About 25 clergy members and activists showed up at Mayor Bob Buckhorn's office Thursday to try to force a discussion about their "ban the box" proposal to help those with criminal records apply for jobs.

    It didn't happen.

    The representatives of the nonprofit Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality, or HOPE, said they have tried for a year to persuade City Hall to ban companies selling goods or services to the city from using a question, or box, on their job applications asking whether applicants have a criminal record. ...

    Father John Tapp of Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon leads prayers outside Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s office Thursday.
  12. Some aren't happy with Skipper's Smokehouse's free crab legs offer

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Social media commenters are attacking Skipper's Smokehouse for the seafood restaurant's plan to give Jameis Winston unlimited free crab legs if he's selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneer's in Thursday's NFL draft.

    The former Florida State University quarterback was cited last year for stealing crab legs from a Tallahassee Publix, though he said last week it was a misunderstanding and he was "hooked up" with crab legs for free....

  13. Take Back the Night empowers survivors in Tampa



    As survivors of sexual assault led a march in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to empower victims on Sunday evening, thoughts turned to what might happen in four days:

    Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Jameis Winston — the Florida State University quarterback who was accused of rape in 2012, but never arrested or charged with a crime — with the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's NFL Draft?...

    4/26/15,TAMPA,FL.,FOR CATILIN JOHNSTON STORY—Police Chief Jane Castor speaks in Curtis Hixon Park Sunday night during an event in support of sexual assault victims. Take Back The Night events brings people together to speak out against violence and show support who are victims. (photo/Jay Nolan)
  14. Leaders in Hillsborough fret over public attendance in transportation push


    TAMPA — Some local leaders expressed concerns Wednesday that consultants haven't reached enough people after two months of meetings to build the consensus needed for a countywide transportation plan.

    About 1,400 people attended 26 meetings since February to weigh in on the future of transportation in Hillsborough County, Bob Clifford of consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff told a group of county and city leaders who have been discussing transportation for the past two years. The consulting firm will conduct 10 more meetings before composing a draft of a community transportation plan by May 26....

  15. Tampa firefighters reminded not to talk to media in wake of harassment allegations


    TAMPA — Tampa firefighters are being reminded of a city policy prohibiting them from talking to the media after several female firefighters went public about privacy issues, outdated facilities, harassment and retaliation in the department.

    Fire Chief Tom Forward issued three memos last week after Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced changes "to accommodate all" at Tampa Fire Rescue, prompted largely by a series of recent reports in the Tampa Bay Times....