Bus express service links Wesley Chapel and Tampa

A new express bus service running from Wesley Chapel to downtown Tampa could potentially carry about 200,000 passengers annually, according to calculations by officials at the Hillsborough Area Transit Authority, also known as HART.

The 275LX bus route, which launched July 1, was among the topics discussed at the monthly economic development briefing luncheon sponsored by the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce.

About 20 people attended the luncheon at Hunter’s Green Golf & Country Club on July 26.

Ruthie Reyes Burckard

Ruthie Reyes Burckard, HART’s chief operations officer, was guest speaker.

She gave an overview of the 275LX, as well as other upcoming bus services from HART, and efforts to increase regional connections into Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota counties.

Burckard said estimates on annual ridership aboard the 275LX are based on factors, such as community density and employment centers.

The 275LX route includes a bus stop at the Wiregrass park-n-ride, at 28222 Willet Way. The lot is near Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel and The Shops at Wiregrass. There also is a stop at the Lowe’s park-n-ride in New Tampa, at 16907 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. Passengers are picked up hourly, seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The new 275LX route replaces the 51LX, which had limited pickups from the Wiregrass park-in-ride traveling to Marion Transit Center in downtown Tampa. There were two trips up n the morning and two trips back in the afternoon to Wesley Chapel.

“It wasn’t very productive,” Burckard said, adding that people didn’t seem to like the lack of options.

HART routinely does third-quarter reviews of its bus services, said Burckard. “We’ve been continuously looking at our services, and tweaking.”

The 275LX express route includes stops at Wiregrass park-in-ride, Tampa International Airport and the James A. Haley Veteran’s Hospital. (File)

That will happen in coming months, with the new express route. “If there are adjustments to be made, we’ll be looking very closely at that,” Burckard said.

On the 275LX, buses ride along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, and Interstate 275 toward Tampa, with stops at Tampa International Airport, James A. Haley Veteran’s Hospital, the University area by University of South Florida, and the Marion Transit Center in downtown Tampa.

A one-way ride takes about an hour and 45 minutes. The cost is $2 each way.

The park-in-rides are free to use. However, Burckard said the lots aren’t available for overnight or multiple days of parking. So, for people taking the bus to catch a flight at Tampa’s airport, they should have someone drop them off at the park-in-ride, she said.

The 275LX is useful in making tri-county connections, or to other bus routes in Tampa.

For instance, the University area bus stop allows transfers to Temple Terrace. At Marion Transit, passengers can connect with Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

Funding for the 275LX is from the Florida Department of Transportation. The state transportation department also gave HART a $1 million grant for a pilot project to test a low-speed, self-driving bus between the Marion Transit Center and the southern end of downtown Tampa.

That is expected to launch in fiscal year 2019.

In October, the TECO Line Streetcar System will begin providing free rides for the next three years. Funding is about $200,000 from Tampa Electric Company, or TECO, and about $2.7 million from FDOT.

One-way fares between the Channelside District and Ybor City currently cost $2.50.

A study is planned to consider extending the existing 2.7 miles of streetcar track.

HART also is launching the Flamingo Fares mobile application, which provides regional bus fare passes. Hillsborough County, Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota will partner in this.

One bus pass can be used for rides on all systems.

“You don’t have to buy fare passes for each and every connection,” Burckard said.

Published August 1, 2018

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