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Tampa, Florida/Tampa Bay Regional Rail System

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Tampa Bay Regional Rail System

Tampa, Florida

(November 1998)


The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), in cooperation with the Hillsborough and Polk Counties metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) and the cities of Lakeland and Tampa, are proposing to implement the Tampa Bay Regional Rail System. The first stage of the project is a 28.5-mile minimum operable segment (MOS), and is one component of a multimodal "Early Action Plan" to implement the locally preferred strategy. The MOS would provide rail service along an 18.5-mile, 19-station Northeast/Southwest Corridor and a 10-mile, 6-station West Corridor. Capital cost estimates for the 28.5-mile segment total $575 million (in 1997 dollars). HART has estimated total project costs in year of expenditure (YOE) at $726.3 million; a corresponding YOE Section 5309 share is $363.15 million. Annual operating costs are estimated at $15.3 million (in 1997 dollars). HART estimates 22,000 daily boardings in 2015 on the proposed 28.5-mile segment.

The complete proposed project is a 39-station, 71-mile system and is part of a $4 billion locally preferred strategy for implementing a regionwide package of multimodal transportation investments. The Regional Rail System would utilize both Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) rail technology commuter rail service (25 miles) throughout Hillsborough County and a portion of Polk County, including the cities of Tampa, Lakeland, and Plant City. HART estimates 44,000 total daily boardings for the complete 71-mile Regional Rail System in 2015. Current capital cost estimates for the system total $1.09 billion, while annual operating and maintenance costs are estimated at $40.0 million (both in 1997 dollars). HART is planning for completion of the full 71-mile Regional Rail System by 2015.

Tampa Bay Regional Rail Summary Description

Proposed Project Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) Rail;
28.5 miles, 25 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $726.3 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $363.15 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1997) $15.3 million
Ridership Forecast (2015) 22,000 daily boardings
FY 2000 Financial Rating: Low-Medium
FY 2000 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2000 Overall Project Rating: Not Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


A Major Investment Study (MIS) to address alternatives for enhancing mobility throughout Tampa, Hillsborough County, Lakeland, and Polk County was completed in April 1998, with the selection by local stakeholders of the multimodal Locally Preferred Strategy, including the 71-mile Regional Rail System. The MIS also identified 28.5 miles of rail investment in the Northeast/Southwest and West Corridors to be included in the regional Early Action Plan. The Year 2020 Long-Range Transportation Plan, which incorporates both the Early Action Plan and Locally Preferred Strategy, was formally adopted by the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization Board in November 1998. FTA has approved (in January 1999) initiation of the Preliminary Engineering/Environmental Impact Statement phase for the two corridors in the Early Action Plan.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(89) authorized the Tampa Regional Rail System for final design and construction. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $4.97 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for this project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA's Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Criteria are reported for the 28.5 MOS contained in the Early Action Plan. This includes a significant expansion of bus service (a projected doubling of the existing fleet) included in the Transportation Systems Management (TSM) alternative.


Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium-High

HART estimates the following annual travel time savings for the Early Action Plan compared with the No-Build and Transportation System Management (TSM) alternatives.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings decrease of 2.4 million hours increase of 2.0 million hours

Based on the 1990 census data, there are estimated 5,479 low-income households within ½ mile radius of the proposed 25 stations, or 9.3 percent of the total households within ½ mile of proposed stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: High

The Tampa area is currently classified as an attainment area for ozone, and is in attainment for carbon monoxide. HART estimates the following changes in annual regional emissions for the Early Action Plan.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) decrease of 176 annual tons decrease of 188 annual tons
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) decrease of 28 annual tons decrease of 42 annual tons
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) N/A N/A
Hydrocarbons decrease of 22 annual tons decrease of 25 annual tons
Particulate Matter (PM10) N/A N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) decrease of 45,027 annual tons decrease of 68,460 annual tons

HART estimates the following changes in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units-BTU) for the Early Action Plan.

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) decrease of 117,791 million annual BTU decrease of 191,749 million annual BTU

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

HART estimates an increase in systemwide operating costs per passenger mile for the Early Action Plan compared to the No-Build and a decrease compared to the TSM alternatives.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (1997) $0.62 $0.65 $0.64

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium

HART estimates the following cost effectiveness indices for the Early Action Plan in the year 2015.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $13.64 $12.90

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium land use rating reflects existing low to moderate densities along the corridor, with some credit given for emerging local efforts to address future land use patterns. The MOS will serve a number of major regional activity centers, including Downtown Tampa, the University of South Florida, the Westshore District, the Tampa Bay Center/Stadium area, and the Tampa International Airport. The Southwest and West Corridors include some dense residential uses and extensive commercial development. The Northeast Corridor is primarily medium density with some commercial development, and the Southwest is largely residential in character. HART is currently working towards facilitating the implementation of transit-supportive land use policies and urban design strategies, including developing transit-oriented planning and design guidelines and other materials. Implementation of such strategies has not yet occurred; however, transit-supportive parking policies are encouraged in the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council's Strategic Regional Policy Plan.

Other Factors

Regional Mobility Vision: The MIS involved the general public in a broad examination of alternative land use scenarios and strategies as a means of reaching consensus on desired regional transportation and land use improvements. HART believes this participatory visioning process has led to an increased awareness of the desirability of land use planning and managed development among both the public and their elected decisionmakers.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 50%

HART estimates a total cost for the 28.5-mile rail component of the Early Action Plan of $575 million (1997 dollars), and proposes to fund it with $287.5 million (50 percent) in Section 5309 New Starts funding and $287.5 million (50 percent) in local funds.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium capital plan rating reflects the lack of committed local funding to the project at this time. The preliminary financial plan for the 71-mile, $1.09 billion Locally Preferred Strategy, completed for the MIS, identifies capital and annual operating/maintenance financial requirements and a range of funding options for highway, bus and rail transit, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, TDM/TSM, and ITS elements. The plan identifies total unmet capital needs for all multimodal elements of the Locally Preferred Strategy from FY 1996 to FY 2015 (after accounting for all Federal, State and local existing and committed sources) equal to $1.5 billion (1997 dollars).

The preliminary financial plan also outlines--but does not demonstrate commitment of---a range of funding options for the 28.5-mile, $575 million Early Action Plan including both existing and new sources. To meet the capital needs of the Early Action Plan, a public referendum to establish a new dedicated funding source is being pursued for November 2000. Financial information to cover unanticipated costs overruns and/or unavailability of proposed funding was unavailable.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Low

The Low operating plan rating reflects the lack of committed operating revenues for the project at this time. HART utilizes its designation as an independent special district to support its current operating needs. This title allows HART to levy an ad valorem tax on personal property within the jurisdiction. O & M costs for the MOS have been estimated at $15 million in a preliminary financial plan. The preliminary financial plan outlines a range of new operating revenue funding options which could be used to support for the MOS, assuming a 35 percent farebox recovery. HART indicates that a public referendum to establish an additional local funding source to support operations of the Early Action Plan is being pursued for November 2000. No information was submitted for the FY 2000 New Starts report regarding contingencies for unanticipated operating costs or funding shortfalls.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $1997)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Federal: Section 5309 New Start $287.5 $4.97 million appropriated through FY 1999
State: $143.7


Local: $143.7


Total: $575.0

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

[Tampa Bay Regional Rail System Map (PDF)]

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