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

E-mail: cjohnston@tampabay.com

Twitter: @cljohnst

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  1. Deputies arrest suspect in death of Riverview man missing for two weeks

    Crime

    RUSKIN — Deputies on Sunday arrested a suspect in the murder of Octavio Reyes, a Riverview man whose body was discovered over the weekend, two weeks after he disappeared.

    Reyes, 36, was reported missing Aug. 31. Earlier that day, Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies found his 2000 Ford F-150 burned on Shell Point Road in Ruskin.

    On Sunday afternoon, investigators identified his body, which was found Saturday in a shallow grave along a wooded area near the Little Manatee River and U.S. 41....

    Javier L. Bermudez Jr., 20, is charged with the murder.
  2. Ride-share supporters pack Hillsborough transportation meeting

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Supporters of the ride-share company Lyft wore pink mustaches and matching T-shirts Wednesday as they packed a boardroom to urge county regulators to let its drivers operate here legally.

    Lyft users, identifiable by the company's logo of a pink mustache, joined fans of competing ride-share company Uber at a Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission meeting, sitting alongside members of the taxi and limousine industry who want the companies regulated. ...

    Lyft drivers Angela Lang, left, Lisa Roberts and Cate Colgan listen to comments at Wednesday’s meeting in Tampa.
  3. Uber challenges Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission tickets

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The debate over whether ride-share outfit Uber is a transportation or technology company continued here Monday as Uber's attorney appealed nine tickets issued to the company since July.

    The hearing was the latest installment in a battle over the legality of the ride-share service and the first in a three-step appellate process that could end before the 2nd District Court of Appeal. Hearing officer Susan More said she expects to issue her ruling to the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission within the next week or two....

  4. Audio of 911 call released in fourth fatal wrong-way crash in Tampa

    Accidents

    TAMPA — Crashes involving wrong-way driving, like the one that left three people dead Sunday, are occurring in the Tampa Bay area at twice the national rate.

    Though Sunday morning's crash may have seemed a horrifying aberration, it is the fourth such accident this year on the same stretch of Interstate 275. Federal and state experts say they are at a loss to explain the spate of wrong-way driving crashes, which fits into a broader and disconcerting picture of the region's traffic problems....

    Sunday’s crash on Interstate 275 killed two sisters and a male passenger when their car went the wrong way and hit a truck.
  5. Three dead in wrong-way crash on I-275

    Accidents

    TAMPA — Two sisters and a male passenger died Sunday morning in the fourth wrong-way crash along the same stretch of Interstate 275 this year, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

    Sunday's accident raised to 10 the number of fatalities in the four crashes, including all of the wrong-way drivers.

    "Statistically, sometimes there are clusters like this that aren't really explainable," said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit group that seeks to use scientific research and education to reduce deaths, injuries and damage from roadway crashes....

    Two sisters and a male passenger died Sunday morning in the fourth wrong-way crash this year along the same stretch of Interstate 275, the Florida Highway Patrol said. The driver of a semitrailer truck was uninjured in the collision with a four-door Honda that was going south in a northbound lane.
  6. Battle between Uber and Hillsborough regulators goes public

    Transportation

    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.
  7. Ed Narain wins District 61 state House race

    Local

    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.
  8. Experienced skydiver from Tampa dies during jump in Zephyrhills

    Accidents

    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.
  9. 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
  10. Scott talks transportation at campaign stop in Brandon

    Gubernatorial

    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....

  11. State House, District 61

    Politics

    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...

    Sharon Carter
  12. Hillsborough's try at Uber and Lyft compromise sets $30 minimum fare

    Transportation

    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.
  13. Hillsborough elected officials divided on timing of potential transit tax

    Transportation

    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....

  14. 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....

  15. Betty Reed endorses Ed Narain

    Blog

    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.”...