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jchipgcs

Tampa Light Rail

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I'm wanting to get some forum member opinions on this.....

There's a private RE development company hoping to include a light rail component to their 5000 home project. This train would POTENTIALLY run from Westchase through Tampa, following south through Bradenton and end at Sarasota. The trains might start with shorter trips based on demand say from the development into downtown Tampa.

There are huge hurdles to get past for this to happen. Knowing Tampa might not be ready for a mass transit train, they would even consider having a "fun train" taking people on trips 2x a day where it's more of a novelty to go shopping, out to eat, etc....then train back home. They will build train depots at the appropriate locations.

This could develop into a commuter train if the demand dictates down the road.

Their goal is to at least get SOME kind of passenger rail in the Tampa area and let it develop naturally.

I think this might be the best shot we have at seeing it in our lifetime since it's a private developer willing to foot a huge portion of the costs instead of asking the county/state to pay for it all. They will need some Gov't assistance though and most importantly, "community support".

(ps....I'm loosely involved with this endeavour)

What do y'all think?

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That sounds fascinating! I have not heard about this before right now. Where have you read/heard this? That sounds like a plan that could work in the long run. It would almost certainly be a money looser at first, but if they could hang on, or it the county/counties could pony up some cash it could really turn into a viable rail solution starter line for our communities. Any more information you can find would be great!

It is always comforting for me to remember that our trolly line is light rail compatible. :) Rail will be a great thing for our cities. If anyone goes down to down town Tampa and drives around or walks around it is just amazing how much development is happening. I was down there last night and took a drive and it is just great to see everything happening. Now if we could just get some mass transit we could start on the road no pun intended) to a real city.

Steve

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I know about it because.....my father is retired from CSX where he was the director of land acquisitions. When I heard about the developers idea, I put them together w/pops. I sat in on the first meeting, so that's why I know about it. My father is working on some studies and brainstorming on how to put the thing together. You can't just call up the RR and say "hey we wanna use your tracks". Lots of things to consider like schedules for their cargo trains, etc... Another BIG issue is the liability insurance. CSX wants policies in the ....... brace yourself......billion dollar range for accidents. You kind of have to grease the wheel from the bottom up to get the RR to go along with this kind of thing and my dad has the connections to get the right people on board, at least at the RR level. The idea will be presented to the city council in the coming months and having citizens show up and support it would be a big help.

It will totally lose money from the get go but once people know about it.....it will grow quickly. Trick is providing a "fun" service at first then once it's established.....to become a viable, reliable, pleasant way to commute.

If you have any more detailed questions on aspects of the idea, let me know......I'll tell you whatever I know.

We're also VERY open to feedback and ideas.

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In Orlando, CSX either agreed to, or was made by the state, (I don't know which) to stop using the tracks in question for freight during 5 am to 10 am, and 3 pm to 10 pm. CSX has exclusive use of the tracks for freight from midnight to 5 am.

The freight rail companies have shown mixed interest in the country for sharing their lines with commuter rail. In Raleigh, their demands brought that system down and its not likely to be built. In Charlotte, NS wants the deal to happen because the local transit authority will pay to upgrade their tracks.

Maybe one of these approaches would work in Tampa.

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The idea will be presented to the city council in the coming months and having citizens show up and support it would be a big help.

Keep us/me updated on when the council will be meeting aobut this. I would make every effort to be there to support this cause.

Do you know if the plan is to use an actual light rail like in Portland and other cities, or more of a commuter rail? If it is light rail are they concidering the Siemens train like was here as the "Regio Sprinter" a few years back or something different entirely? Also, this may be too early to know, but would it be overhead electric powered like most light rail or diesel like most commuter rail? This is all VERY exciting news to hear!

Steve

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At this point it would NOT be overhead electric. The thinking now is for it to be an actual locomotive engine. Plans may change but that's the concept at the moment.

I'll keep you up to date on the developments. In fact, I'm about to call my father and see where things stand on his prelim work.

Keep the conversation going. The comments have been helpful thus far.

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So at this point we are really talking about more of a commuter rail line than a light rail line. Well, whatever the type of service I think that it would be great. Is there a preliminanry route that it would take? Any idea of where stations could be? I am sure that some of those answers are a bit to early to answer, but I was just curious if it has been thought of yet! :)

Is there a line that is operational (or nearly so) that they are looking at for inspiration? They just opened a line in New Mexico (RailRunner) and one in Tennesse is about to open (Music city star) not to mention our very own TriRail in Miami, and of course the new lines being built in Orlando. They could be good lines to look at. Especially the line in Tennesse as it was done as inexpensivly as is about possible from what I understand.

Steve

Links to Commuter Rail lines:

RailRunner

Music City Star

Tri-Rail

Central Florida Commuter Rail

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Ok those were perfect models for what this project would be like.

It is too prelim to say where the stations would be other than.....It would eventually link the Westchase area to Apollo Beach. This is because the developer has 10,000 + homes in those areas and they also own land that fronts existing CSX track that they can build depots on. So, there would naturally be a couple stops between those 2 geographic areas.....mainly one near the AMTRAK station by Ybor City which could tie into existing downtown trolley service. They would also like to see it go from Apollo Beach into Bradenton and downtown Sarasota.

They don't want to have to build new track and all the associated acquisition of land/right of way. The hope is to get CSX to lease track time to them.

Does this answer your questions so far?

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that sure answers all the questions that I can come up with at this very moment. If and when you get more information and details please do keep us updated! I would advise everyone that reads this to write the mayor and city/county officials to express your support for rail service. I did and got a personal response from both the Mayor and the MPO (metro planning organization). It really does make a difference to let our leaders know how we feel.

Steve

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This is excellent!!! It will definantly free up traffic on the major roads

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This is excellent!!! It will definantly free up traffic on the major roads

Excellent it is indeed. However, the notion that rail frees up interstates and major roads from current traffic is rather a falacy. Now, what it will do is give people another option and some people will use that option; however, at the rate that this city is growing people will still be added to the roads, what a rail solution does is make it so several people that would have been on the road will now be on the train. So, while 10 new people would have been driving now only maybe 8 out of those 10 will be driving. Also, current drivers may choose rail, so while you may have 100 people driving to a business down town with rail maybe 15 out of those will choose to not drive.....but the new people that are moving into Tampa will take their place on the road. What a rail solution does is give another option to people, rarely has it actually decreased current numbers of cars on any given street in the USA. A rail solution helps to slow the addition of new drivers on the road, so, in a way it does decrease traffic, but it will not truly free up a roadway.

If a rail solution is to become a reality, and I believe it will in the next few years, people need to have a realistic view of what it is going to accomplish. Haveing a system built on the premise that it will decrease traffic at noticable levels is only going to lead people to champion the idea that the system should not be expanded.

Now, a truely comprehensive system can take many people off of the road, but that is very far off in the Tampa Bay area. If and when the starter line is built then we will still be 30 years from a truely comprehensive rail solution in our great city.

Steve

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Just wanted to keep you guys in the loop. I've been gone from here a bit but we're steadily working on things behind the scenes. I should have some updates for you in a couple of weeks.

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Hey! I was wondering what was happening with this. Has the Mayor's re-surgence in rail had any effect on it? Also, is there any talk how it could/would integrate with a wider commuter rail plan that the mayor is talking about? Thanks for updating us! :)

Steve

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Does anyone know if there have been any more developments on this lately or what happened?

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Perhaps this is an indication of interest on their part. I have no doubt that a light rail system would be good for the area. If one were to be built, where should it go?

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I also think this is a great idea on the part of the developer. I'd like to see how patient everyone is with all of the hurdles that lie in the way. Has the developer acquired parcels from this project location to the downtown area for the rail tracks? If this is successful, this developer becomes an instant hero and sets a new standard.

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If there is interest, there is a very extensive set of topics on this rail line in the Charlotte section of UrbanPlanet. Look for the pinned topics on the matter.

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