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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. Hillsborough's transportation plan goes down in defeat; so, what now?

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The day after Wednesday's failed transportation vote, one question loomed over Hillsborough County:

    What now?

    Sitting in his downtown office overlooking Kennedy Boulevard, County Commissioner Les Miller leaned back in his chair, shrugged and offered this simple and sobering reply:

    "I don't know."

    Commissioners, activists and residents all agree: Something needs to be done about the county's overburdened transportation network. Roads need to be fixed, transit options are limited and a study has found that gridlock consumes 40 hours of drivers' lives each year....

    Hillsborough County commissioners listen to residents concerns during a public hearing before the commission's vote on the Go Hillsborough community transportation plan, on Wednesday evening, April 27, 2016 at the All People's Life Center in Tampa.Their 4-3 vote against putting the measure on the ballot is a third strike for local mass transit. 
[ZACK WITTMAN  |  Times]
  2. Hillsborough commission rejects transportation sales tax 4-3


    TAMPA — After three years of planning, debate and controversy, Hillsborough County is right back where it started: with no idea how to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of transportation needs.

    The county commission voted 4-3 on Wednesday night to reject the proposed 30-year, half-cent sales tax, refusing to put it on the November ballot and letting voters decide.

    Commissioner Victor Crist, long considered the swing vote, swung against the plan around 10:15 p.m. after residents and commissioners spent four hours debating the measure....

    Tim Curtis of Plant City says the plan "is just another way to take more money from us." [
  3. Victor Crist, taxi companies get into it at Public Transportation Commission meeting


    TAMPA — Victor Crist is over it.

    The chair of the Public Transportation Commission, which regulates for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough county such as taxis and limos, wants out....

    Hillsborough County Comissioner Victor Crist, who is also the chairman of the Public Transportation Commission, got into a heated exchange with taxi company owners during Tuesday's meeting. Crist even called for the dismantling of the PTC, which regulates for-hire vehicles like taxis and limos in Hillsborough. [DANIEL WALLACE, Times]
  4. Hillsborough commission approves mobility fees, but next vote will be harder


    GIBSONTON — The first vote was the easy one. The Hillsborough County Commission on Tuesday night unanimously approved charging developers more to help pay for the county's mounting transportation costs.

    The second vote, though, will be the hard one.

    The will take place Wednesday night, when the seven commissioners will wrestle with a much harder decision: whether to put a half-cent sales tax to fund decades of transportation improvements on the November ballot....

    Jim Duffy, Kevin O'Hare, and Edward Briggs line up to give remarks during a Hillsborough County Commission public hearing at East Bay High School on Tuesday April 26, 2016.

Commissioners listened to public comments about a plan to raise mobility fees, paid by developers. The board voted unanimously to pass the new mobility fee and impact fee schedule.

  5. FDOT says TBX still on track, despite drop in land acquisitions


    The Florida Department of Transportation is putting the brakes on buying up land around the Tampa downtown interchange, but the state said its plan to expand the highway is still going forward.

    FDOT reduced the money budgeted for voluntary property acquisition downtown in fiscal year 2017 from nearly $25 million to about $500,000,  Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization executive director Beth Alden told an MPO committee Tuesday morning....

  6. Hillsborough County starts deciding its transportation future tonight


    TAMPA — It's an important week for transportation in Tampa Bay, and it took a long time to get here.

    After years of political campaigns, public outreach, an investigation and seemingly worsening traffic, the Hillsborough County Commission is finally poised to vote on two separate funding sources which together could bring in more than $130 million annually for roads, buses, sidewalks and other improvements....

    Cars sit locked in evening rush hour traffic on Dale Mabry near Raymond James Stadium on Monday evening, April 25, 2016 in Tampa.
  7. Uber raises prices to 80 cents a mile


    Uber users will see an increase in their fares after the rideshare company announced Thursday it’s raising its rates an average of 11 percent.

    The company enraged drivers in January when it slashed its fares to 65 cents a mile. Because Uber takes 20 to 25 percent of all fares, that meant drivers were making between 49 and 52 cents a mile, compared with the 54 cent mileage deduction rate set by the government....

  8. Tampa Chamber releases transportation poll -- kinda


    TAMPA — The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce teased to the results from a recent transportation poll in a news release Thursday, but was unable to provide specifics.

    Hillsborough County Commissioners are poised this month to vote on whether to put a half-cent sales tax for transportation on the November ballot....

  9. Hillsborough com­mis­sion told to act on transportation: 'Land this plan in April'


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners say this is the month when they will finally decide how to fund the county's transportation needs — including whether to let voters have their say in November.

    After 2½ years of meetings, postponed votes, countless delays and a sheriff's investigation, commissioners on Wednesday settled on a decision-making timeline — and they say this time they mean it....

    Drivers on southbound Interstate 275 can see the back-ups afflicting drivers headed north through Tampa earlier this year, when interstate construction created a bottleneck for northbound drivers. The Hillsborough County Commission on Wednesday said this is the month when it will finally decide on two transportation funding options: the Go Hillsborough half-cent sales tax referendum and mobility fees for developers. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  10. Go Hillsborough investigation necessary, officials say — but also expensive


    TAMPA — Records show the controversial investigation into the Go Hillsborough transportation initiative cost taxpayers nearly $100,000, a tally that doesn't include many hours of work by county employees and prosecutors.

    And while officials say the investigation was needed to put allegations to rest, the report seems to have resulted in little but frustration....

  11. Three friends, killed when car plunged into pond, remembered at vigil in St. Petersburg

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The girls shared memories of their friends as the wind threatened to blow out the candles and the too-fitting song played from the car's speakers.

    "It's been a long day without you, my friend, and I'll tell you all about it when I see you again."

    The Wiz Khalifa lyrics hung heavily in the air as nearly 150 people gathered Saturday night at Campbell Park to remember the three teen girls who drowned in a stolen Honda Accord that plunged into a weed-choked pond Thursday at Royal Palm North Cemetery....

    Passion Moore, 16, holds a candle and remembers her friends — Ashaunti Butler, 15; Laniya D. Miller, 15; and Dominique Battle, 16 — at a vigil in St. Petersburg’s Campbell Park on Saturday.
  12. NTSB issues preliminary report on fatal plane crash at Peter O. Knight Airport in March


    TAMPA — Two planes sat at the end of their respective runways, the only two at Peter O. Knight Airport, preparing to take off shortly before 11:30 a.m. on March 18.

    One, a twin-engine Cessna 340, idled on runway number 4-22. The other, a single-engine Cessna 172, waited just to the west. ...

    The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a preliminary report in this March 18 plane crash at Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands in which two men were killed. SKIP O'ROURKE  |   Times
  13. Victor Crist pitches latest compromise with Uber and Lyft


    Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist, who chairs the local group which regulates for-hire vehicles, revealed Thursday his latest attempt to regulate ridesharing companies.

    One problem: it’s not a plan Uber has much interest in.

    “Once again, the Hillsborough PTC has demonstrated its complete unwillingness to understand the ridesharing industry it seeks to regulate,” spokesman BIll GIbbons said. “Financed by fees from the taxi and limo industries, the PTC has turned around and used those public funds to harass and intimidate hard-working Uber driver partners under rules the PTC admits, and a state court agreed, do not fit the Uber ridesharing model.”...

  14. Critics sound off on FDOT's TBX campaign


    Residents of Seminole and Tampa Heights voiced their frustrations Tuesday night, arguing that community outreach for the Tampa Bay Express interstate expansion only seeks to build consensus for the project, not listen to critics' objections.

    The Florida Department of Transportation partnered with the University of South Florida's Florida Center for Community Design and Research for its latest charette --  detailed planning sessions. They're part of a series of community outreach meetings organized after members of the Metropolitan Planning Organization called for more public engagement on the controversial TBX project....

    Hey, look, it's the TBX mascot!
  15. Nelson says NOAA's hurricane hunters at MacDill will stay in Tampa Bay



    Sen. Bill Nelson came to MacDill Air Force Base on Monday to pledge that the hurricane hunter aircraft that will have to give up their longtime home at the base next year will not leave the Tampa Bay area.

    But the senator couldn't say how the squadron will be able to stay in the bay area, or where, or who will even pay for it.

    "I want you to understand that this important NOAA mission is not going to leave the Tampa Bay, west-central Florida area," Nelson said Monday. "You can nail that down … to uproot this operation, to take it to a different part of the country, would be highly disruptive of an exceptionally important mission."...

    A NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft tracks its missions using decals of named storms and the flags of nations.