Caitlin Johnston, Times Staff Writer

Caitlin Johnston

Caitlin Johnston covers transportation, breaking news and features in eastern 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) 661-2443


Twitter: @cljohnst

  1. Battle between Uber and Hillsborough regulators goes public


    TAMPA — Both sides in the battle between local regulators and ride-share company Uber are taking their fight to the public, despite claims of an imminent compromise.

    Uber sent an email blast to its riders last Tuesday urging them to contact Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission Chairman Victor Crist telling him they "want access to safe, affordable, and reliable rides like Uber." Crist's office said it received more than 750 emails by the end of the day....

    A billboard visible from Interstate 4 in Tampa warns about unregulated transportation providers such as Uber and Lyft.
  2. Ed Narain wins District 61 state House race


    TAMPA — Ed Narain, an area manager for AT&T and former student body president at the University of South Florida, beat out three other Democratic candidates vying Tuesday to replace state Rep. Betty Reed in House District 61.

    Though he faces a write-in candidate in November, the primary results have almost certainly ushered Narain, 37, into the Legislature as the next representative from District 61. He claimed about 41 percent of the votes, while Sean Shaw, a Tallahassee-backed lawyer, came in second with 35 percent....

    Ed Narain, 37, won about 41 percent of the vote, while lawyer Sean Shaw came in second with 35 percent.
  3. Experienced skydiver from Tampa dies during jump in Zephyrhills


    ZEPHYRHILLS — An experienced skydiver performing a practice jump as part of a team died Saturday after landing in a pond at high speed, according to information from Skydive City, where the team launched.

    Keith Murray, 50, of Tampa was performing a jump with three other team members and a videographer, according to a statement released by Skydive City president and general manager David TK Hayes. ...

    Keith Murray, 50, made at least 900 jumps at Skydive City in Zephyrhills. He is being mourned by the skydiving community.
  4. Study: Hillsborough must boost bus service before getting light rail grants

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — A study commissioned by Hillsborough County government cautions that improvements are needed in public bus service before the community could compete for light rail grants under new federal criteria.

    The recent study dismayed advocates of a plan to put a tax-for-transportation referendum on an upcoming ballot, perhaps in 2016. But county staff cautioned the report is more of a checkup than an indictment, and that a more comprehensive study is needed once a specific transportation plan is developed....

    “Because of our very limited bus system and lack of an established track record in regard to extensive use of transit by all of our citizens, it would be challenging to just stand up a system tomorrow.”
Mark Sharpe,  Hillsborough County commissioner
  5. Scott talks transportation at campaign stop in Brandon


    BRANDON — Gov. Rick Scott discussed statewide transportation policies during a campaign stop Wednesday morning, but made no mention of the ongoing debates on both sides of Tampa Bay over potential sales taxes to help pay for local transportation projects including rail.

    The stop at the Brandon Chamber of Commerce was part of Scott's "Let's Keep Florida Moving" tour, which highlights transportation policies, including investments in Florida's airports, seaports, road networks and space industry....

  6. State House, District 61


    State House | District 61

    Four Democrats are vying for the District 61 state House seat opening created now that Rep. Betty Reed has reached her term limit. Candidates include a lawyer, an AT&T sales manager, a managed health care consultant and a construction project manager. They range from lifelong residents to a recent transplant. Two have previously run for office, one in this district and another in Tallahassee. Caitlin Johnston, Times staff writer...

    Tatiana Denson
  7. Hillsborough's try at Uber and Lyft compromise sets $30 minimum fare


    TAMPA — The agency that regulates cabs and limos in Hillsborough County made its first attempt Wednesday to compromise with ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber, which have been operating illegally for months as they expand here.

    The Public Transportation Commission proposed two changes in hopes of accommodating the companies. But the changes still force Lyft and Uber to charge customers at least $30 and make them order the service at least a half-hour in advance....

    Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft have been operating illegally in Hillsborough County for months.
  8. Hillsborough elected officials divided on timing of potential transit tax


    TAMPA — Expected to bring clarity to when voters will be asked to approve a sales tax for transportation projects, elected officials from throughout Hillsborough County instead made it more murky Tuesday — differing over when a referendum has the best chance of passing.

    The policy group, which includes the seven county commissioners and mayors of the three cities, listened to a proposal from County Administrator Mike Merrill to elicit feedback from the public on a list of hundreds of transportation projects including light rail that could be helped by a 1-cent sales tax....

  9. Tax for rail likely to unlock new sources of campaign cash for politicians

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — Serving on the board that oversees Hillsborough County's bus system is not the most glamorous or even most coveted assignment for local politicians.

    That could change in a most lucrative way if powerful voices persuade voters to approve a tax raising billions of dollars and put the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority in charge of it.

    The 10 politicians serving on such a board likely would be catapulted into a campaign cash raising realm not seen here before....

  10. Betty Reed endorses Ed Narain


    State Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, has endorsed Ed Narain as her successor in House District 61.

    Narain, an area manager for AT&T and former student body president at the University of South Florida, is running against three other candidates in the Democratic primary.

    “I’m supporting Ed Narain to replace me because our concerns for the community are the same,” Reed said in a press release. “Ed has the community roots, the servant heart, and the fighting spirit to carry the torch for Tampa.”...

  11. Founder of Ben's Family Restaurant remembered as taskmaster, softie


    BRANDON — Ben Crisler was one of the lucky ones.

    Unlike most people, the former owner of Ben's Family Restaurant learned what people thought of him before he died.

    Lying in his hospital bed, Mr. Crisler, 76, read through the messages his former employees had written in a private Facebook group. The account had existed for a couple of years, but his daughter, Lori Faria, had only recently discovered it....

    Ben Crisler poses with his daughter, Lori Faria, during a Seattle vacation. She said her father changed teens’ lives.
  12. HART board unsure how — or whether — to transform into super transportation agency

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — Two months have passed since a recommendation to greatly expand the role of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit to oversee all sorts of transportation initiatives beyond bus service, and it still is unclear what its new board will look like and just what it will oversee.

    At a meeting Monday, the directors of HART were unable to agree on how or even whether to change the board's composition....

  13. Two District 61 House candidates emerge as front-runners


    TAMPA — Four Democrats are vying for the state House District 61 seat open because of term limits, but two appear to be the clear front-runners.

    Sean Shaw, a Tallahassee-backed lawyer who came to Tampa four years ago, and Ed Narain, a hometown candidate keyed into many Hillsborough County organizations, have big advantages in fundraising and endorsements. The other two candidates — Sharon Carter and Tatiana Denson — lag behind considerably in those categories....

    Sean Shaw has name recognition and leads in fundraising.
  14. Tampa Police end Sunday morning standoff


    TAMPA — A seven-hour SWAT standoff that prompted police to block streets and evacuate neighbors early Sunday morning ended peacefully in the afternoon with a man's arrest.

    Alex Ray Crouse, 41, barricaded himself in a home in the 1300 block of 18th Avenue, according to Tampa police, in a standoff stemming from a domestic abuse report.

    His girlfriend left the home and ran to a neighbor's to call the police early Sunday. Officers were dispatched at 6:46 a.m. The woman was transported to an undisclosed hospital and treated for minor injuries....

    Police wait in the 1300 block of 18th Ave., Tampa, during negotiations with a man who had barricaded himself inside a house Sunday morning. Alex Ray Crouse, 41, was arrested after officers forced their way into the home.
  15. Tampa bridal show focuses on LGBT market

    Human Interest


    As the couple walked past the vendors at the wedding planning showcase at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk on Sunday, they couldn't help but envision what their special day would look like in December.

    When it comes to the style of their commitment ceremony and reception, the two women are traditional, they say.

    "I haven't seen her dress," Jessica Marquez, 32, said. "I haven't seen her in it, nor do I want to. It's traditional."...

    Sisters Stephanie, left, and Angelica Cuevas, center browse and chat with vendors at the Equal Plan Bridal Show at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel on Sunday. Angelica is planning her wedding to her fiancee, Ellie, set for next summer. The event was put on by Diana Marie Events to showcase LGBT-friendly businesses. Stephanie attended the show with her sister because, she said, “She helped me plan my wedding, which was last September.” Angelica’s wedding is scheduled to be held next Fourth of July to her fiancee, Ellie. While the sisters attended the bridal show, Angelica won two raffle prizes, which included a cupcake prize from Sweet Tweets Cakery and a free night’s stay at the Sheraton.