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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. Tampa Bay is a graveyard for transportation ballot measures


    In this era of popular sentiment for small government, the local sales tax is something of a phenomenon.

    Since 2000, voters have approved a total of 105 sales tax hikes in cities and counties across the nation to pay for new roads, buses and rail projects. Only 70 have failed, giving the tax hikes a 60 percent success rate.

    But Florida is a different story. During the same period, transportation ballot measures have succeeded only 22 percent of the time....

    A rendering from Greenlight Pinellas shows a commuter rail line running down the median of Roosevelt Boulevard where the road crosses U.S. 19 and becomes East Bay Drive. Pinellas County voters defeated the transit plan in 2014.
  2. The draw of eating raw — at least for a week


    I am not restrictive about my diet in any way. I love all kinds of cheese, including the processed kind in jars. I eat Oreos. For breakfast. In the shower.

    So embarking on a raw food cleanse where I subsisted on fruits, veggies, nuts and legumes for seven days was not a typical life choice for me.

    But I recognize that my mental and nutritional health are linked, and now more than ever that connection is important to me....

    CAITLIN JOHNSTON   |   Times
  3. Rick Scott's transportation budget: Roads, not transit


    Gov. Rick Scott will dedicate a majority of the Florida Department of Transportation's budget to roads, leaving little for transit projects and pedestrian improvements. 

    Scott announced Monday that FDOT will receive $9.9 billion in the "Florida First” 2016-2017 budget -- $84.87 million less than this year. The bulk of that will go to road projects. A third will be devoted to constructing highway projects. ...

  4. Greater Tampa Chamber kind of sort of weighs in on Hillsborough transportation plan


    TAMPA — The business community has weighed in on Hillsborough County's transportation funding debate — sort of.

    The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce board of directors on Thursday released a statement regarding transportation that is vague in its wording and somewhat cryptic. But chamber president Bob Rohrlack said Friday the board's intent was to support putting a sales tax transportation referendum on the 2016 ballot....

    Community members attend a Go Hillsborough meeting in Town ’N Country on Monday. The meeting was one of the last in a series aimed at developing a countywide transportation plan to fix overcrowded roads and improve limited transit offerings. [Photo courtesy of Parsons Brinckerhoff]
  5. Cities struggle with preventing pedestrian deaths


    The people of Columbus, Ohio, are quarreling over what has led to the nine pedestrian deaths the city has seen this year.

    Police sgt. Brooke Wilson told the local NPR station that every one of those deaths, to some extent, is preventable.

    "It’s not just enough to be legally correct in your actions as a pedestrian. You need to give yourself every advantage which includes wearing bright, reflective clothing, paying attention to your surroundings, looking for other vehicles, being aware of cars that might not be seeing you," Wilson said....

  6. Uber to deliver flu shots around Tampa Bay Thursday


    Need a flu shot this season? Uber wants to deliver one to you tomorrow as part of its UberHEALTH campaign.

    The rideshare company is making house calls Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Users just have to open their apps, choose UberHealth, select a suitable indoor location, and wait for Uber to arrive with a registered nurse from Passport Health....

  7. Breakdown lanes may help Pinellas buses give cold shoulder to traffic


    Pinellas County buses might soon bypass congestion by driving along the shoulder of Interstate 275, a time-saving maneuver not available to every other motorist stuck in traffic.

    Though it seems like an off-beat concept, it's a real thing that has been used in Minneapolis, Chicago, Miami and other cities across the country.

    The Florida Department of Transportation is considering a similar system here, said Debbie Hunt, director of transportation development. FDOT is conducting a study to evaluate whether the roadways would be a good fit. ...

    A Chicago bus bypasses traffic by using the shoulder. FDOT is considering a similar measure in Pinellas County that would allow buses to travel along the shoulder when traffic is below 35 mph.
  8. Plans for Westshore transit center back on the table


    TAMPA — Transit advocates received unexpected good news Friday: The possibility of a transportation hub for rail and buses near the West Shore area is back on the table.

    The Florida Department of Transportation plans to submit a bid for the land Tuesday, district director of transportation development Debbie Hunt told a gathering of transportation leaders Friday. The agency did not disclose its bid price....

  9. Tampa Bay transportation leaders excited at prospects of turning CSX train tracks into commuter rail system


    TAMPA — The potential of converting CSX freight lines into commuter rail — a far-off idea that has no time line or price tag yet — was enough to draw an eager crowd to a usually sparsely attended meeting of local transportation officials.

    The desire in the room was palpable.

    Organizers beckoned for more chairs as attendees jockeyed for space — city council members next to transportation experts next to engaged citizens. Representatives of Tampa International Airport and the Westshore Alliance were there, as were former-county-commissioners-turned-transit-advocates Mark Sharpe and Ed Turanchik....

    “There was a huge energy there,” transit advocate Ed Turanchik said of the meeting. 
  10. Hillsborough's half-cent transportation sales tax passes key vote, but its future is still uncertain


    TAMPA — A plan to ask voters to approve a half-cent sales tax that would bring relief to Hillsborough County's beleaguered transportation system survived a critical vote Thursday.

    Yet the future of the initiative remains uncertain as some politicians continue to question its merits.

    The Policy Leadership Group — a gathering of elected county and city officials that have spent two years addressing the county's ever-growing transportation concerns — voted Thursday to endorse a half-cent sales tax referendum that would go on the 2016 ballot....

    Traffic backs up on Gandy Blvd. in Tampa between the Selmon Expressway and Gandy Bridge during the evening rush hour, February 2015.
  11. Breaking down where Hillsborough leaders stand on a sales tax for transportation


    Hillsborough leaders voted today to move forward with plans for a half-cent sales tax for transportation — but not everyone was on board. Here's the breakdown from today's Hillsborough Policy Leadership Group meeting, a gathering of elected county and city officials.


    County Commissioner Ken Hagan: "Only one source has the most flexibility," Hagan said."That's a sales tax, like it or not." Hagan seconded Mayor Bob Buckhorn's motion that the policy leadership support County Administrator Mike Merrill's recommendation to move forward with the half-cent sales tax....

  12. Rich McClain appointed to HART board


    Gov. Rick Scott appointed Richard McClain Wednesday as the newest member of the 13-person Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority Board of Directors 

    McClain will replace Josh Burgin, who served on the HART Board since February 2012 until his decision to step down on July 1. McClain's term spans through Oct. 31, 2018....

  13. Hillsborough's maze of transportation proposals gets airing


    TAMPA — Local leaders will weigh in Thursday afternoon on a compilation of transportation solutions gathered in hopes of solving the county's connectivity woes.

    Hillsborough County staff and consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff have spent $1.35 million and dedicated more than a year of efforts to reach this point. However, the information presented at the 1:30 p.m. meeting will be a variety of options instead of one specific plan....

  14. On the eve of Hillsborough's big transportation summit, Sandy Murman drops her own plan


    TAMPA — A 2016 transportation referendum lost a key vote Wednesday night when Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman said she would not support putting a sales tax on next year's ballot.

    Instead, Murman released her own transportation plan on the eve of the long-awaited presentation of the county's Go Hillsborough initiative — a transportation plan more than a year in the making....

  15. Breaking down the Go Hillsborough transportation plans


    Hillsborough County released its long-awaited transportation plan Monday night -- or should we say plans?

    The 153-page document, which can be found here, maps out three different approaches the county can take: one which focuses mostly on roads and resurfacing, another which includes substantial transit projects such as light rail and bus rapid transit (BRT), and a third that is a balance of the two....