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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. 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....

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, who also sits on the policy leadership group overseeing the Go Hillsborough initiative
  2. HOPE activists try to press Tampa mayor to expand 'ban the box' policy

    Local

    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.
  3. 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....

  4. Take Back the Night empowers survivors in Tampa

    News

    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)
  5. Leaders in Hillsborough fret over public attendance in transportation push

    Transportation

    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....

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

    Fire

    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....

  7. Transit 'town hall' draws plenty of comments

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — As the bus rumbled down Nebraska Avenue on Thursday, Kelvin Allen told U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor that he switches buses three times to get home from school most days.

    Castor, D-Tampa, asked Allen, 25, to detail just how long and complicated the routes could get.

    "He said it was a two- or three-hour trip to MacDill each day," Castor told Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority chief executive Katharine Eagan....

    Passenger Delwin Cole, left, talks with Tampa City Council member Mike Suarez as U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor chats with Kelvin Allen on Thursday. They were on HART’s MetroRapid route from downtown to the University of South Florida.
  8. Mayor says Tampa Fire gender issues not systemic, but changes in the works

    Fire

    TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn does not believe there are systemic gender issues within his city's fire department, but he said Tuesday he has instructed the fire chief to look into changes that would give female firefighters more privacy.

    Meanwhile, Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Tom Forward has issued a memo saying firefighters need to wear gym shorts and proper undergarments when in the department's open dorms, where both male and female firefighters sleep during their 24-hour shifts....

    An open dormitory at Tampa Fire Rescue Station 1 in Tampa is used by both men and women. The mayor wants to know the costs of having privacy curtains installed at all stations.
  9. HART board discusses transportation priorities, goals and budgets

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The county's transit agency began a three-month process Monday of reshaping its goals and budget for the upcoming fiscal year, including placing more emphasis on collaboration with other agencies.

    Board members for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority discussed its vision and core values as part of crafting a new strategic plan. While CEO Katharine Eagan presented a comprehensive view of the organization's current objectives — continuing to be an employer of choice, transportation agency of choice, and change agent for the area — board members chimed in with other objectives they'd like to see highlighted....

  10. Women face multiple hurdles within Tampa Fire Rescue

    Fire

    TAMPA — Nearly 40 years after the first female firefighter began working at Tampa Fire Rescue, a majority of the city's fire stations still lack designated women's bathrooms and private changing areas.

    Many male firefighters wear boxers when they sleep in the open dorms at firehouses. But some female firefighters who sleep in T-shirts and underwear have become targets for vulgar and sexist insults....

    The dorm bathroom available for men and women to use at Tampa Fire Rescue Station 1 in downtown Tampa. Female firefighters are able to use a separate bathroom, previously designated for officers.
  11. Women's Final Four draws enthusiastic crowd in Tampa

    News

    TAMPA — As thousands gathered on the Amalie Arena plaza on Sunday, Jamie Shonk dribbled past cut-out guards and sank two lay-ups in a simulated game.

    "We were surprised to see all of this activity and all of the people out here already," said Shonk, 40, of St. Petersburg, a former Division III college basketball player. "It's very cool to see women's basketball getting so much attention. It's come a long, long way."...

    Thousands of fans flocked to Tampa for the Women’s Final Four and its festivities, including Tourney Town, all at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  12. Tampa Fire Rescue personnel chief retires amid sexual harassment investigation

    Fire

    TAMPA — A Tampa Fire Rescue personnel chief retired with full benefits this month amid a sexual harassment investigation, and the woman who made the allegations is now facing a backlash on social media.

    The fire department opened a formal investigation of David Solorzano, 55, when sworn firefighter Hannah Gray, now also retired with an on-the-job disability, told a lieutenant about the chief's actions. The lieutenant then filed a complaint. ...

    Personnel chief David Solorzano retired last week amid a sexual harassment investigation. [Tampa Fire Rescue]
  13. Ceremony notes 50th anniversary of start of Vietnam War

    Veterans

    TAMPA — People will have the chance to say "thank you" on Saturday to Vietnam veterans who never got a proper welcome home reception, unlike troops today who return to fanfare and gracious communities.

    The Veterans Council of Hills­borough County in partnership with local leaders will honor these veterans, and the more than 58,000 troops killed during the conflict, on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park. The ceremony is in conjunction with the Department of Defense's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War....

    Rolling Thunder members, from left, Dave Braun, spokesman; Jimmy Linesberry, president; and Larry Caldwell participated in the 2014 Veterans Day event at Serenity Meadows.
  14. New southbound Interstate 275 lanes to open Saturday

    Roads

    TAMPA — The nightmarish commute between downtown Tampa and the Westshore area should finally improve this weekend as three spanking new lanes open on southbound Interstate 275.

    Motorists on the 4.2-mile stretch will navigate fewer construction cones and have better sight lines. Two exits that were moved to the left will be shifted back to the right. The result, officials say, should be a less stressful drive....

    Southbound traffic will be shifted to three straighter, flatter lanes when the section of I-275 from downtown to West Shore Boulevard reopens Saturday morning. [LARA CERRI | Times]
  15. Public input helps shape Hillsborough transportation plan

    Transportation

    TAMPA — If it wasn't clear before that people in different parts of Hillsborough County have different transportation needs, it is now.

    Ruskin and Sun City Center residents bemoan the state of their intersections. Those in Lutz say better multiuse trails are good for families and allow more options for bicyclists and pedestrians. And over in West Tampa, attendees clamor for light rail....

    The second phase of “Go Hillsborough” meetings started Tuesday. While previous sessions produced a broad wish list, this round asks participants to narrow the list and rank them.