Not sure what it is with Doritos and Tampa, but once again the two words collide.
First there was the infamous "Cat On a Pole Wearing a Doritos Bag" picture taken and posted to the Internets just last year.
Cat wears a Doritos bag awaiting rescue by Tampa Fire Department
Now there is this, a video entitled "Feeding Frenzy" which features a man on a dare to retrieve an Xbox from the bottom of what looks like a shark-infested tank at the Florida Aquarium (if there's any doubt rest assured the flyer's "number tag" gives the explicit address of 701 Channelside Drive which is indeed the address of the aquarium), planted there by the folks at Dorito.
Here's the commercial as it currently stands at You Tube.
'Feed the Frenzy' Doritos Commercial touting Xbox prize campaign
Notice that the commercial opens up with a scuba diver entering "Victory Coffee", an actual coffee shop that according to Google maps operates from 101 N. 12th Street at the Whiting Street intersection. I take from this and said commercial that things are going along nicely in terms of development and peopleness just blocks from the Teco Line Streetcar line. Sadly they don't appear to have used any shot of the streetcar, which I thought would have been a nice touch. But alas, even without that this is a nice compliment to how things are shaping up down there. Hope I can see it all in person soon!
Timothy Borchers who served as Tampa's inaugrual Teco Line Streetcar superindenent is thriving beyond it on the back of America's general re-ignition of streetcar and tram lines. Currently he is the executive director of Atlanta's streetcar project which is a project to loop Atlanta with a 2.7 mile modern streetcar system; a loop which happens to include a connection to MARTA.
Tim Borchers in front of Teco Line Streetcar # 434 in the car barn, Tampa, November 2002
Although the Atlanta system is of similar scale and gauge, the actual "streetcars" will not be heritage like Tampa's system. Rather, the system will feature modern looking train cars that more resemble light rail. I myself have long believed that when Tampa's system evolves its looping manifest destiny that it should step up to the modern cars as well, possibly running the heritage cars in the tourist segment of the system, or on certain days only.
Tim was an early and avid supporter of the original Tampa Rail blog so it was great to hear him give an interview on the evolution of the Atlanta system this week. Here it is! The complete NPR article with native embed is located here.
HART recently announced its participation in the One Bus Away project which in turn provides the first user-side GPS tool the riding public has actual access to. In a nutshell this implemention of the project in Tampa allows riders to, from their home or from on the curb, check the real-time arrival information for the next bus. A previous system by HART allowed riders to better look up fixed schedule information from their smartphones, but this data differs in that it is real-time.
I believe that GPS-assisted transit services are especially potent in a medium-sized city like Tampa for two reasons: One, Tampa operates an excellent, but from a budgetary viewpoint, skeleton system. It's all about buses, streetcar line aside, with 15+ minute head-ways on most routes, which is just adequate to supplement core living needs and some choice rides across the class spectrum.
As I see it, if buses averaged faster head-ways GPS-assisted transit wouldn't represent as valuable a gain because users would already understand that to merely show up at a bus stop would be to board a bus almost instantly. If buses ran too sparsely, however, there wouldn't be a rider base in the first place. So I believe the current situation is optimal for filling in the gap between a bus that is in fact on its way in the next 15 minutes or so. And since that timetable can be a little wobbly where punctuality is concerned (not for lack of effort by HART, but due to accidents and traffic conditions inherent to a bus system in general), such a system is ideal to tip you off that a bus is running a little late or that you have already missed it. You can use this information to precisely decide when to leave a house or business, or, whether to spend a few minutes more browsing for clothes, sipping coffee, or, yes, even consider making other transportation choices for that particular trip if need be. I've poked around with this and it seems you can even set a reminder for a particular bus so that you get dinged when it gets feasibly close enough for you to go meet it. It's just awesome.
The other reason is that summer weather in Tampa is volatile with its deadly lighting storms. Everything I wrote above is even more crucial when gambling how long you're going to risk standing out on the side of a road next to a bus-stop-sign-turned-into-a-lightning-rod, or taking the chance to reach it. That is if you calculate that risk at all...I never would (meaning, I never go outside during a lightning storm period) but I know that many people do.
Most of us who hear the words "GPS" and "transit" immediately conjure thoughts of a map with buses or trains that blip on and off as little icons visually detailing their exact location much like the USF Bull Tracker system does. However the new system by HART does not yet go this far, although does not need to in order to present quality real-time arrival information. The current system is most likely a precursor to a deluxe one but you won't have to wait for it to enjoy the benefits of tightning up your transit, and therefore your personal schedule, today.
I was doing a bit of random Google street viewing along the Teco Line Streetcar route (yeah it's the best I can do from up here!) and noticed that there's a construction project underway alongside the tracks on Franklin Street as you approach/depart the southern terminus. Here's a cap from the view:
Does anyone know what this is going to be? Any chance it will be a grocery store?
Congratulations to the people of Tampa, and kudos to the hard working team at HART for launching MetroRapid. When I was there this service was every bit the dream light rail is today. I've panned both articles in the major Tampa newspapers and from what I'm gathering it was a tepid warm-up to the service but everyone seemed to able to dig up positive quotes among the early birds. It seems people, for the moment anyway, woke up to "something is better about the bus system", and may have even spotted one of the new buses as they drove through a Nebraska Avenue intersection. But they didn't breathlessly hike it out to one of the Park n' Ride stations to take a gander, let alone be one of the first riders. Dammit people, I'd have.
Two burning questions I kept waiting for the writers to address: Did that awesome traffic light thing work as expected? My god, if that doesn't sell a rider nothing will. Also, how close is the service to supplementing itself with GPS tracking online or at station kiosks so that folks can take the best advantage of the headways? Bus rapid transit and GPS go together like peanut butter and jelly. This blog still has a comment section, feel free to use it if you got an inside scoop on either question.
Nothing like this is doled without tying it into the evolution of Tampa light rail. Not at this blog, and really, not even among the transit pros in Tampa where the system is billed as a way to develop transit demand and bank it all at the fed's doorstep one day in making the case for light rail. If you want light rail in Tampa, you'll try this thing out and get everyone you know to try it out as if a light rail future depended on it. It probably does.
I encountered a video this morning of a Korean man who charged an elevator's doors with his scooter and wound up pushing his way straight through them and into its shaft, to his death. In it the man is seen just as he misses an opportunity to board the elevator with another passenger. After the door closes he pulls back in his scooter, and mind you this is one of those medical scooters not a recreational one, and "charges" the elevator doors head on. The first charge clearly breaks the door at the base as the door panels are seen swinging in on impact. In the second charge the doors give way completely and the man floops to his untimely and most unfortunate doom. This Mail Online article provides some additional detail.
The video isn't new and has apparently been circulating the Internet since 2010. However, it all got me thinking of the incident at TIA where Chad Wolfe seemingly died in a similar situation - elevator doors manually broken followed by a fall into the shaft. The video sheds some light on the fragility of elevator doors and in some way fills a gap of curiosity about this perplexing incident.
A thriving Channelside is crucial to the future of the Teco Streetcar System, it's part and parcel why the line ever came to be. I haven't been there in a long time but from what I read all the way up here Channelside became a ghost town with a Hooters. The Tampa Bay Tmes reports that 2 guys, Punit Shah and Santosh Govindaraju, want to buy the existing Channelside Bay Plaza (effectively what we are talking about when we talk about "Channelside"), leading to the quote that buying up distressed properties and turning them into something these guys do. My question is, is that true? What sort of track records do these guys actually have with this scenario? What tank of a property have they turned around specifically in the past? Not that I'm questioning or opposing anything here, more power to them no matter what the answer to that question is - even if it's just traditional PR optimism; I'm just trying to gauge what the chances are for success under new talent.
Wow! This blog has really been laying dormant and parts of it, due to some back-end changes related to other projects, have been broken. The link rot is unbelievable, and just about every entry a part of the re-launch I did with a "national" perspective have archived out. Not to worry on the latter issue, it became apparent to me that a national perspective wasn't going do it for me. I love Tampa too much specifically, and in particular, it's quest, it's adventure if you will, toward rail. How can I forsake that now?
Well I'm fixing it all now so bear with me. Among the changes, the landing page for Tampa Rail will no longer be this blog but a static resource page that will branch off to equally static information in a presentation model I refer to as "Cache" or "Caching". The theory driving this is that others will provide a real-time voice, but I will provide an intermediate one, and specifically, I will provide it draped in my voice and with fresh content generated by spotters on the ground there. I am still in New York City after all. Trust me, this is going to work.
Shoot, I'll even kick things off with this stark and valid piece by Daniel Ruth, Stop Talking and Build a Rail Line. Seriously right? I remember when I started Tampa Rail back in the mid-90s. Back then, to Ruth's point, I had to dig through CD-rom-based data at the USF library to come up with enough material to talk about on the very first iteration. Search engines weren't quite rich then, and in any event, it wasn't like there was any rail talk or rail history. But the point is, we were talking then, and we're still talking now.
He's being a little cynical however. Tampa might still be "just talking", but don't forget, Tampa pushed itself to an actual vote in 2010 and that my friends, was a miracle. So it hasn't been all talk and no action - Tampa voted and it took a hit (thanks to Hillsborough outliers), so in essence Tampa isn't "starting" to talk or "talking empty", it's got its first vote under the belt and the chances get better with each that rail will pass. All the talk before then served a purpose just like it will today.
By the way, when did Ruth start writing for the Tampa Bay Times? (sigh) I miss so much down there now.