1. News
  2. /
  3. Transportation

Plans unveiled for dedicated bus lanes from downtown Tampa to USF

The project, using All For Transportation sales tax revenue, would run along Florida Avenue, Fowler and Bruce B. Downs.
Cleveland, Ohio, has one of the highest rated bus rapid transit lines in the country, with features including a dedicated traffic lane. Hillsborough transit officials are making plans for bus rapid transit line between downtown Tampa and the University of South Florida. [Greater Cleveland Regional Transit]
Cleveland, Ohio, has one of the highest rated bus rapid transit lines in the country, with features including a dedicated traffic lane. Hillsborough transit officials are making plans for bus rapid transit line between downtown Tampa and the University of South Florida. [Greater Cleveland Regional Transit]
Published Dec. 12, 2019

TAMPA — Hillsborough’s transit agency is refining plans for dedicated bus lanes that would allow riders to travel from downtown Tampa to the University of South Florida area without getting backed up in traffic.

The lanes, which would separate buses from other traffic, are a major component of bus rapid transit — a transit option that usually comes with other amenities like special stations and street-level level boarding.

This is the third bus rapid transit project planned for the region. St. Petersburg is pursuing federal grant money for lanes connecting downtown with the beaches and a regional transportation group is studying a 41-mile route that would link Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties using the interstates.

RELATED: Learn how bus rapid transit (and light rail) could work in Tampa Bay

The bus rapid transit line in Tampa would provide connections with the regional route and with a planned extension of the Tampa streetcar that would reach north to Palm Avenue.

Planners with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority said the goal is to have these premium transit options connect with existing bus routes, bike shares and scooters to build a larger network. Premium transit is service that moves a higher number of riders quicker and farther than other forms of transit.

Transit officials do not know yet how much the Tampa project would cost, where it would stop and how many people it might carry. They are expected to refine some details before presenting the project to the transit authority board for approval this spring. If board members vote to advance the project, planners will select stops and pursue state and federal grant dollars.

RELATED: Lost lanes, ‘monster buses’ and more: Fact-checking St. Pete’s bus rapid transit project

Some details, such as the number of stops and layout of the route, were shared at a community workshop earlier this week in Seminole Heights.

The Tampa line would run north on Florida Avenue from downtown to Linebaugh Avenue. It would travel east on Linebaugh for a block to Nebraska Avenue then north on Nebraska to Fowler Avenue. An exclusive bus lane would run down the median of Fowler east to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, where the route would turn north before ending near USF.

The bus would make 20 stops along the way, each about half a mile apart, senior planner Justin Willits said.

Eight of the route’s 12 miles would use exclusive transit lanes, enabling the buses to bypass traffic.

RELATED: Five things Tampa Bay needs to know about bus rapid transit

Riders would pay the same fare as they do on other county buses — $2 one-way or $4 unlimited rides for the day.

“On sections where we have completely dedicated guideways, we assume there will likely be more transit operating additional routes in there over time,” Willits said. That could include other bus routes and a further extension of the Tampa Streetcar.

The new route would run close by Route 1, which takes about 45 to 50 minutes to connect downtown and USF. The goal is to shave about 30 percent off the existing time, bringing the ride closer to 30 minutes end to end, Willits said.

But he expects most trips will consist of people starting somewhere in between, not riding the entire route. This line is designed to serve local jobs, errands and homes and as a compliment to existing or future regional routes.

“The important part is that it shortens those trips from the middle point up to USF or down toward Tampa,” Willits said. “It’s more appealing for the local trips.”

RELATED: Tampa Bay has one of the worst public transit systems in America. Here’s why.

People looking to connect between downtown and USF are likely to ride the existing 275 LX, which takes 20-30 minutes, or use the proposed regional bus rapid transit line, Willits said. Both of those will run on the interstate, as opposed to the Tampa line, which will use local streets.

“I’m excited that HART is pursuing more projects that represent real (bus rapid transit) on our urban corridors and arterials,” said Michelle Cookson who is part of the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association. “Projects like this are going to move more people and have really important connections to where people are able to work and able to live.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp has criticized running regional bus rapid transit along the interstate, but showed interest in the local option that officials discussed for Florida Avenue.

“I’m excited about street level bus rapid transit,” Kemp said. “That’s the thing that I think enhances communities and creates ridership.”

However, she said she would not support the project if it means less service along Nebraska Avenue, one of the transit agency’s highest ridership corridors.

Willits said it’s too early to know how much it would cost to buy vehicles, build the dedicated transit guideway, and purchase right of way and construct stations. Those costs would potentially be split among the transit agency, city of Tampa, Florida Department of Transportation and federal grants. It’s up to the transit authority’s board to decide whether they want to pursue federal dollars for the project.

Once the route is up and running — as early as 2024 — it would cost $5 million to $8 million to operate each year, Willits estimated. This includes service at least every 15 minutes, if not more often, running earlier in the day and later in the evening.

By comparison, it costs $3 million to $4 million to operate the existing Route 1, which runs every 15 to 20 minutes and is one of the bus agency’s most popular routes.

Officials are hoping to use revenue from Hillsborough’s one-cent transportation sales tax, approved by voters in November 2018, to help build and operate the project. Nearly half of the tax money is designated for transit use.

But lawsuits filed by Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White and resident Bob Emerson have challenged the validity of the tax. Its future will be decided by the Florida Supreme Court next year.


  1. A scooter rider navigates Platt Street on Friday morning during the calm before the storm — successive weekends of downtown Gasparilla parades. Scooter companies like Jump warn users it’s a violation of their rental agreement to operate one while under the influence. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    One company decided to pull its scooters Jan. 25 ‘out of an abundance of caution for riders and those participating in Gasparilla.’
  2. Delta Air Lines said Friday it will launch five new round-trip routes a day between Tampa and Miami starting May 4. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) [MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP]
    Delta says the daily nonstop Miami service will create new connections for Tampa travelers to fly to Latin America and other international destinations.
  3. Tampa International Airport is building a new bike and pedestrian path that will loop around its under-construction SkyCenter office and hotel development and cell phone waiting lot. Eventually, that path is planned to connect to a network of regional biking and pedestrian trails. [Tampa International Airport]
    Tampa’s airport is the nation’s first to receive the designation from the nonprofit League of American Bicyclists. It was also the first to apply.
  4. In this photo from video, Delta Air Lines Flight 89 to Shanghai, China, dumps fuel over Los Angeles before returning to Los Angeles International Airport for an emergency landing Tuesday. Fuel dumped by the airliner making an emergency return Tuesday to the airport due to an engine problem fell onto three schools, causing minor irritation to 40 children and adults, officials said. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman) [MATT HARTMAN  |  AP]
    The fuel, described by fire officials as a vapor, caused minor skin and lung irritation to 56 children and adults but nobody was taken to the hospital.
  5. Draped against the St. Petersburg skyline on Tuesday evening on January 14, 2020, the Bella Vita is visible as it docks in Port St. Pete. The yacht is nearly 250 feet long and costs about $650,000 to charter for a week in the winter, according to broker Moran Yacht and Ship. It can accommodate 12 passengers between its six staterooms and six decks, and a staff of 22. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
    Meet the Bella Vita, a yacht almost too luxurious to believe.
  6. Ridge Road in Pasco County currently ends at Moon Lake Road. [Tampa Bay Times]
    At a ground-breaking ceremony, officials laud a road more than 30 years in the making.
  7. Readers question who determines how long a traffic light will remain either red or green and what factors go into that decision in the latest Dr. Delay. [Tampa Bay Times]
    Who controls the timing of the lights in Tampa Bay? Dr. Delay gets some answers.
  8. Pinellas bus drivers carry tips on spotting signs of human trafficking under a new program called, "We are the Eyes Of The City." Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority buses also carry the anti-trafficking message, "See something, say something." [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    ‘Eyes on the city’ now include nearly 400 operators with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.
  9. This rendering from the Florida Department of Transportation shows the eight foot tall steel netting that will be added to the Sunshine Skyway later this year to deter suicidal people from jumping from the iconic span. [Florida Department of Transportation]
    The 8-foot-tall steel netting will run along about a mile and a half of the iconic span that for decades has been a magnet for people seeking to take their own lives.
  10. A 33-year-old Brandon woman died on Jan. 7, 2020 after crashing this 2001 Chevy pickup into the back of a box truck on Interstate south of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. [Florida Highway Patrol]
    A woman was killed in a crash after her speeding Chevy pickup ran into the back of a box truck.