HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla, – Nicole McClary, Senior Project Planner, HART, introduced the Planning Commission to its newest pilot program aimed at managing growth and making public transit accessible, specifically for those within a half-mile walking or biking distance to key areas in the study for successful, safe commutes.
The pilot program, in coordination with the TOD, focuses on communities planned along the routes for HART’s BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) and the City of Tampa’s Streetcar Extension. The areas included in the initial study (based on the .5 mile range) focus on Tampa’s downtown, Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights, Florida and Nebraska Avenue areas, and the Fowler, USF area.
HART is the project sponsor working with partners including the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, Hillsborough MPO, and the Planning Commission. A “working group” collaborates as a sounding board and includes neighborhood associations, property owners and developers, businesses, and institutions within the area. A consulting arm is involved and the project is funded from a grant from FTA (Federal Transit Authority) for transit-orientated development.
McClary said the goals are to encourage a mix-use of transit in the area, focus on needs, and include community safety, character, and ensure contact-sensitivity and improve access to those with limited vehicle accessibility and financial feasibility.
There is a wide diversity of characteristics in each area making the project details, policies, and decisions very specific to each area. For example, downtown (office, lodging, retail) has more infrastructure and growth versus what is needed in Seminole Heights which is more property-owned, and in the USF area which is more auto-oriented. Space, parking, planning, and policies will all play a big role in the mixed-use potential for making an impact.
Noting that the public K-12 schools are not necessarily included in the study group and should be, Commissioner Dickerson said they will join the study team. She noted that “…housing and transportation policies influence the school system and that Hillsborough County has a larger school bus fleet than HART,” and that the routes and bus stops should be examined, shared – not duplicated, and encouraged for the youth in particular.
“I am a firm believer that we have to change the busing-behaviors at the student level. If you get them young to start doing those positive behaviors early, then they are more likely to do it as adults,” Dickerson said. She added that a feeling of safety needs to be a factor in the policies and decisions.
McClary said that soon the pilot project will hold workshops for public feedback as well as affordable housing workshops (most likely virtual meetings). Information and details available online at www.goHARTTOD.org
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