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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. PTC calls for legal cease-fire with Uber, Lyft


    TAMPA — There may be a temporary cease-fire in the ongoing legal battle between local regulators and rideshare companies.

    Public Transportation Commission Chairman Victor Crist said the board's lawyers contacted Uber and Lyft to see if they're interested in a temporary postponement of all legal action until the end of next year's legislative session.

    "If we move forward with litigation and the Legislature goes in a different direction, we would have spent and wasted a lot of money and time," Crist said Thursday. "The reasonable, commonsense thing to do is wait a little while longer, see what direction the Legislature chooses to go, and then regroup and go from there."...

    The ongoing legal battle between Hillsborough County regulators and rideshare companies Uber and Lyft may temporarily pause until the end of next year’s legislative session.
  2. Hillsborough commissioners back measure regulating rideshare companies


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners voted Wednesday to support legislation that would allow rideshare companies to operate legally, ignoring a competing bill filed by a local senator.

    The legislation — authored by Public Transportation Commission chair and county Commissioner Victor Crist and sponsored by Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City — has four requirements for rideshares: Level II background checks that include fingerprinting, proper insurance, ADA compliance and annual vehicle inspections....

  3. Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway gets $2.4 million federal contract award for connected vehicle program


    TAMPA — Imagine driving downtown without hitting a red light, thanks to traffic-light synchronization. Or the brakes in a car activating when a pedestrian unexpectedly steps into the road. Or never having to worry about merging into a car hiding in the blind spot because the two vehicles were "talking to each other" and recognized the hazard before the drivers did.

    These are the type of advances that could be on the horizon, thanks to $2.4 million in federal funding that the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority landed for a connected-vehicle program....

    U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Tampa has a central role in the program.
  4. Hillsborough residents split on transportation sales tax

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — Hillsborough residents who have attended a series of public transportation meetings are split in their support for a full-cent sales tax.

    Two months after presenting a plan to county and city officials built around a half-cent 30-year sales tax, county staff and national consulting firm Parsons Brinckeroff are now asking residents to reconsider a full penny-on-the-dollar sales tax to fund Hillsborough's long list of transportation needs....

  5. USF conference addresses campus rape, heightened risks as school starts


    TAMPA — He talked as if he was the hunter and they were the prey.

    "You had to know your moment," the unidentified college male said in a documentary clip. "You had to have an instinct for it."

    He explained how he scoped out "targets:" freshmen women, often inexperienced with drinking. Anxious. New to campus. He plied them with alcohol and led them to an empty room.

    One woman was "so plastered" she didn't know what was going on. When she started to squirm, he pinned her down, his arm across her chest....

  6. USF conference on Title IX addresses campus rape, gender equity


    TAMPA — Experts from across the country will speak Thursday about campus rape and gender equity during a conference about Title IX at the University of South Florida.

    The conference — titled Title IX: Moving Toward Diversity & Equity — is aimed at educating professionals and community members about Title IX, the 1972 federal law that prohibits federally funded education programs from discriminating on the basis of sex. It will start at 8:30 a.m. and run through 5:30 p.m....

  7. Hillsborough regulators will stop ticketing Uber, Lyft drivers until October hearing


    TAMPA — Local regulators extended an open hand to rideshare companies Uber and Lyft on Wednesday — and then balled up the other one, ready to keep fighting.

    The Public Transportation Commission's board voted to stop ticketing rideshare drivers through October while its ongoing legal battle with the companies makes its way through the courts.

    But in a second vote, the PTC also decided to ask state lawmakers to help it circumvent that legal fight by proposing a bill that would allow the agency to finally start regulating Uber and Lyft — just like it does other for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough County....

    Uber drivers and supporters fill the room at Wednesday morning's Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission meeting. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON   |   Times]
  8. Is Uber following Florida law, or breaking it? State agencies still won't say


    TAMPA — It's been almost a year and a half and state leaders still can't say whether Uber's insurance adheres to Florida law.

    In 2014, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation said the rideshare company's policy provides legally binding coverage. But the FOIR then left it up to another state agency to determine whether Uber's insurance meets all of the state requirements.

    That agency, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, had to decide whether the policy, when combined with a personal auto policy held by an Uber driver, would provide the coverage necessary under the Florida Financial Responsibility Law....

    Uber, a rideshare company, remains in a gray zone in Florida over whether its insurance policy adheres to state law.
  9. USF coach Willie Taggart's ban on Ybor City reversed by USF's athletic director


    TAMPA — A day after former University of South Florida defensive lineman Elkino Watson was killed outside a club in Ybor City, school officials gave contradictory directives to its players about visiting the historic entertainment district.

    During a Monday teleconference, USF football coach Willie Taggart said he was making Ybor City "off-limits" to his players. Five hours later, however, USF athletic director Mark Harlan overruled him....

    Desmond Horne, 22, was injured in the fight near the Orpheum. 
  10. HART, PSTA will work together to sell Tallahassee on regional bus fare system

    Mass Transit

    ST. PETERSBURG — The bay area's leading transit agencies are taking a second swing at scoring state dollars to help fund a regional bus ticket system — and they hope teaming up will bolster their chances.

    The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority held a joint meeting Monday to discuss their funding priorities for the 2016 legislative session. Both agencies agreed they needed to present a united front and make the regional fare box their top priority if they hope to win over state lawmakers....

    HART’s Mike Suarez said a fare box system is the top priority.
  11. Uber finds partners in Tampa Bay area


    TAMPA — A government agency is still trying to shut down Uber. But that hasn't prevented the rideshare company from extending its tentacles into the community and forging partnerships with hotels and bars — and, potentially, another government agency.

    Uber has clashed with the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which regulates for-hire vehicles, since launching in Tampa Bay in April 2014. But while the PTC maintains Uber is unresponsive, uncooperative and a "bully," other local businesses and community events have ignored the regulatory battle....

    “The forging of these partnerships makes our life harder,” says Victor Crist, chairman of the PTC.
  12. Hillsborough commissioner rails against ridesharing nemesis Uber


    TAMPA — Earlier this month, a judge pressed local regulators and Uber to work together and find a way for the rideshare company to operate legally in Hillsborough County.

    That's not happening any time soon.

    County Commissioner Victor Crist, who also serves as the chairman of Hillsborough's taxi-regulating Public Transportation Commission, railed against the company during Wednesday's commission meeting....

  13. Hillsborough puts 1-cent transportation sales tax back in play


    TAMPA — A 1-cent sales tax for transportation is back on the table in Hillsborough County.

    Two months after Go Hillsborough officials unveiled a transportation plan built around a half-cent sales tax, the county's transportation leadership group said Monday that it wants residents to also consider a full penny-on-the-dollar sales tax as another round of community meetings begin.

    The idea is to show the community the stark differences in what the two plans could fund, specifically when looking at a project list for the first 10 years that the sales tax would be in effect....

    Community members attend a Go Hillsborough meeting in Town 'N County. The meeting was one in a series aimed at developing a countywide transportation plan to fix overcrowded roads and improve limited transit offerings.
  14. Despite legal setback, Hillsborough regulators will keep ticketing Uber drivers


    TAMPA — The standoff between rideshare company Uber and local regulators isn't going away any time soon.

    The Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission voted Wednesday to continue ticketing Uber drivers — despite a circuit judge's recent refusal to shut down the company.

    The PTC has already conducted dozens of sting operations to ensnare the company and its more than 2,000 drivers operating around the Tampa Bay area....

    The Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission voted Wednesday to continue ticketing Uber drivers — despite a circuit judge’s recent refusal to shut down the company. [Getty Images (2014)]
  15. Hillsborough judge rejects injunction to stop Uber's rideshare service


    TAMPA — Uber will continue to operate in Hillsborough County after surviving its latest bout in the legal ring with local regulators.

    A circuit judge on Friday denied a motion from regulators asking for an injunction that could have forced the rideshare company to stop serving the county.

    Hillsborough Circuit Judge Paul Huey sided with Uber against the Public Transportation Commission, the regulatory agency that argued the rideshare company lacks appropriate background checks, insurance, safety and vehicle inspections required of taxis....

    PTC Chairman Victor Crist says he is shocked by the ruling.