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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

E-mail: cjohnston@tampabay.com

Twitter: @cljohnst

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  1. Even transit leaders don't rely on their own buses

    Mass Transit

    The debate over if and how to expand Tampa Bay's transit system has dominated civic discussions for decades.

    The region's bus system lags behind almost every other major city when it comes to frequency, spending and access to jobs.

    PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Tampa Bay has one of the worst public transit systems in America. Here's why....

    Buses are seen at the Marion Transit Center located at 1211 N Marion Street Thursday, July 13, 2017 in Tampa. The transit center is part of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority system. [Alessandra Da Pra |   Times]

  2. HART takes no action, but continues debate on raising taxes for bus service

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — After dozens of studies, public meetings, forums, plans and votes, Hillsborough's transit leaders still don't know how they'll raise money for the county's struggling bus system.

    PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Jeff Vinik: Politicians are holding back Tampa Bay's transit future...

    Bus riders wait for a bus to arrive recently at the Brandon Town Center Mall, Brandon, a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority transfer stop location. [Scott Keeler | Times]
  3. Jeff Vinik: Politicians are holding back Tampa Bay's transit future

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik said Friday that it's local politicians, not the business community, who are holding Tampa Bay back when it comes to transit.

    "Our business community is behind it," said Vinik, a driving force in developing Tampa's downtown, during a Friday meeting recapping a recent Charlotte visit to learn about transit. "The political community is mixed and not there yet."

    It's up to the business community and the public to help politicians understand how critical an issue transit is for Tampa Bay, Vinik said....

    Tampa businessman Jeff Vinik listens to a presentation on transit in Charlotte. Vinik was one of about 20 Tampa Bay business leaders to visit the peer city earlier this week to learn about light rail, buses and development. [Tampa Bay Partnership]
  4. Tampa Bay business leaders tour Charlotte (again) for transit tips

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — About 20 local business leaders, including Jeff Vinik, Richard Gonzmart and Judy Genshaft, spent two days in Charlotte this week to see what Tampa Bay could learn from its peer city when it comes to transit and development.

    Several from that group will meet at the Tampa Bay Partnership's office at 10 a.m. today to discuss what they saw, whom they met with and how those lessons might be applied here. ...

    (09/01/2010, CHARLOTTE, NC)  A bus pulls into the I-485 South Boulevard station as a light rail train waits for morning passengers to board. [Times (2010)]
  5. New Zealand will make you swoon, even if you only visit for a week

    Travel

    AUCKLAND

    New Zealand is at the top of many travel lovers' bucket lists. Scenic vistas, famous hikes and adventure sports beckon anyone who craves time outdoors and loves a good adrenaline rush. Not to mention Lord of the Rings obsessors like myself who dream of visiting the movie versions of the magical places J.R.R. Tolkien created.

    But because of its remote location, there's a prevailing sense that people need to carve out a good chunk of time to make the trip "worth it." Many wait to travel to the land of the long white cloud until they can squirrel away several weeks. ...

    The middle span of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing provides hikers with dramatic volcanic views on their way to the Red Crater. The crossing is known as New Zealand’s best day hike and strings together a variety of scenic landscapes, from volcanic craters to rushing waterfalls in the native bush.
  6. Behold the future of the Howard Frankland Bridge (w/ video)

    Transportation

    Tampa Bay's most traveled bridge needs to be replaced.

    The original Howard Frankland Bridge opened in 1960 and a new southbound span was finished in 1991. Now the original span has reached the end of its lifespan and a new bridge must be built in the next decade.

    Here's how the Florida Department of Transportation plans to do that. (Spoiler alert: it involves toll lanes.)

    ...

    Viewed from the southbound lanes, traffic in the northbound lanes of I-275 in Tampa slow to a crawl on Jan. 20, 2016. [Times files]
  7. TBX Next: How the $6 billion plan has changed in the last year

    Transportation

    In 2014, the state announced an ambitious road project called Tampa Bay Express. Known as TBX, the Florida Department of Transportation planned to add toll lanes to 90 miles of interstates.

     

    ...

  8. Father and stepson both severely injured in Tampa Electric Co. accident

    Accidents

    TAMPA — Frank Lee Jones, 55, only worked with his son for a month before he made Frankie Atkins get a new job.

    The work at Gaffin Industrial Services was too dangerous, Atkins said his father told him.

    So after working at a few plants in Lake City and Clewiston, Atkins left the job and his father carried on. But Atkins' concern never eased.

    "I always worried my Daddy was going to get hurt," Atkins told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday....

    Two people were killed and four people were seriously injured Thursday in industrial accident at the Tampa Electric Company power plant in Apollo Beach, FL, Thursday, June 29, 2017. Among those seriously injured were Frank Jones and his stepson Gary Marine, Jr., both of Tampa.
  9. DOT's plan to build toll lanes in Tampa is on hold. So why is it still buying land?

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The state has spent six months telling people it's re-evaluating a $6 billion expansion of Tampa Bay's interstates, including controversial toll lanes.

    Transportation officials scrapped their original plan, held a series of public workshops and even renamed the project.

    PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Goodbye Tampa Bay Express, hello Tampa Bay Next; but toll lanes aren't going anywhere...

    The Florida Department of Transportation bought this former apartment building at 1902 N Lamar Ave. for interstate expansion. It is dilapidated and blighted. Residents who oppose the state's toll road expansion plans are upset that the state is still buying land, even though the project is supposed to be on hold. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  10. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes

    Transportation

    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    The Florida Department of Transportation met with about 20 community members, politicians and planners Wednesday for an update on Tampa Bay Next, a $6 billion expansion of the region's interstates that includes adding express toll lanes to Interstates 275, 75 and 4. ...

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at the DOT’s Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Avenue.
  11. HART bus service will improve for most riders, but some Hillsborough areas will lose routes altogether

    Mass Transit

    RUSKIN — The first public meeting seeking input on Hillsborough County's proposed new bus system made one thing clear: while most riders will see improved service, some pockets of the county will be dropped entirely.

    Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority officials explained during a workshop Monday at Hillsborough Community College's Ruskin campus that those who live by popular routes can expect more frequent service following more direct paths....

    Justin Willits of Tindale Oliver uses an interactive map at a workshop Monday in Ruskin to show how the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority's new bus route system will affect riders. Users can click a spot on the county map and see how far they can get within a 15-minute ride versus and hour-long ride. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  12. Hillsborough transit agency seeks feedback on bus route cuts

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — Hillsborough's transit authority is seeking feedback from bus riders as it looks at redesigning its system this fall and cutting nearly 20 percent of its routes.

    The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority will hold the first of 18 public meetings on the new routes at 10 a.m. Monday at the Hillsborough Community College Southshore Campus. The month-long outreach process will culminate at a July 26 public hearing. ...

    A screenshot from a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority presentation shows two bus networks: the one on the left is the current network, with 41 routes; the one on the right is the proposed new network, with 34 routes.
  13. Florida's worst spies: Espionage comes to the Sunshine State

    Public Safety

    American culture is fascinated with spies, and Florida has links to some of the most intricate espionage cases the country has seen. Here are a few high-profile cases from recent years.

    George Trofimoff

    It took 25 years for authorities to capture George Trofimoff. Decades of providing highly classified documents to the Soviet Union finally caught up with him when he was arrested at Tampa hotel in 2000. ...

    George Trofimoff was arrested by the FBI in 2000.
  14. Hillsborough leaders vote to go forward with TBX's toll lane successor, Tampa Bay Next

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County leaders voted Tuesday to move forward with a plan to add 90 miles of toll lanes to Tampa Bay's interstates despite continued opposition from the people whose neighborhoods would be impacted the most by the project.

    The Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization — a 16-person board which approves transportation projects — listened to more than 3½- hours of public comment on its Transportation Improvement Program, which lists the county's priorities for the next five years....

    More than a hundred people attend the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization's public hearing Tuesday on its five-year transportation plan. Several attendees held green signs calling for more transit, and a majority of speakers opposed the controversial plan to add toll lanes to the area's interstates.
  15. Cheeto the sea horse almost became a snack. Now read about Funyun

    Wildlife

    CLEARWATER — A sea horse called Funyun was released into the wild Monday after tourists found her washed up in the sands of Indian Rocks Beach.

    But first, there was Cheeto.

    Last month, a mom and daughter spied a seagull with a small, orange item in its mouth. When the bird dropped its unappetizing catch, the pair realized it was a sea horse....

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s Don Stansell wades to a grass flat to release “Funyun” on Monday.