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Economy / Business

Can You Commute By Bus in Tampa Bay? Report Ranks Region 8th Worst

Patron boarding bus
HART
Riders board a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit bus.

The school where Angela DeMarco works is about 5 miles from her house.

To get to there, DeMarco walks 15 minutes from her St. Petersburg home to a bus stop at Tyrone Square Mall. Then it's a 15-minute bus ride to the school in Pinellas Park -- not counting the time DeMarco waits for the bus to actually show up.

"Sometimes it's an hour wait. Sometimes it's 15 minutes," said DeMarco, a special education teacher. "It all depends on traffic."

Many other bus riders in the Tampa Bay region have an even worse commute, according to this Brookings Institution report on public transportation in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater:

  • 81 percent of Tampa Bay's jobs are in neighborhoods with public transit service. BUT...
  • Only 13 percent of Tampa Bay residents live within a 90-minute bus ride of these jobs.
  • This puts Tampa Bay 93rd out of the country's 100 largest metro areas on the Brookings survey Where the Jobs Are: Employer Access to Labor by Transit. The region ranked just below Orlando (No. 91) and Lakeland (No. 92), as this map demonstrates.

"We need some sort of system that connects all the buses together, I think," DeMarco said.
A HART official told the Tampa Tribune, "It's challenging retrofitting transit into a community not properly developed for it."

As for DeMarco, to pass the time on her daily commute, she always leaves home with her Bible, iPod and plenty of patience.

"It saves money to take the bus places," DeMarco said, "but when you could be there in 15 minutes, as opposed to waiting an hour, that's when I wish I drove."