Tampa Explores New Technology for Future Public Transportation

By Re’nesia Mills

The Tampa Bay area currently has several forms of operational transportation including taxis, streetcars, bus services, and more. But, new technologies that may advance Tampa’s transit are being considered for the future.

The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) recently received a $1 million grant from the state legislature that will allow for them to study new transit technologies.

“We are looking at a lot of different things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are going to undertake them,” said Chris Jadick, director of communications at TBARTA.

TBARTA put together a new transit development plan called Envision 2030. The plan serves as a long-term vision that TBARTA will use to determine which types of transit will best serve the most amount of people.

Envision 2030 suggests that the consideration of aerial taxis, aerial gondolas, and hyperloops may be worth looking into for the improvement of Tampa’s transit.

The hyperloop is a mode of transportation operated by pressure systems that would consist of pods that carry passengers from one destination to the next at a speed of 700 mph through metal tubes.

“We don’t know which, if any of these, will be part of Tampa Bay’s future,” said Jadick. “If anything, they are just part of the consideration that we need to make because transit and transportation solutions take many years to unfold.”

Some are unsure if the pros of these transportation systems will outweigh the cons.

“I could see them improving Tampa transit in terms of providing more choices,” said Javan Sterling, junior general finance major at The University of Tampa. “It could also be a con because the initial cost of partaking in these services could be high, so there won’t be as much demand.”

Sterling said he would utilize the new transportation services once they were first implemented, but he would not utilize them regularly unless they significantly cut his transportation time.

“I think these additions could be cool in Tampa as long as they are energy cautious and don’t disrupt wildlife and the environment, that would concern me,” said Amanda Hamilton, junior advertising and public relations major at UT. “I think I would use these modes of transportation, but it would depend on how much they cost and how safe they would be.”

TBARTA’s goal is to research and develop new forms of transportation that would more efficiently connect Manatee, Pasco, Hillsborough, Hernando, and Pinellas counties.

“I think aerial gondolas and aerial taxis are closer to implementation than hyperloop,” said Jadick. “Hyperloop is probably the most futuristic and the furthest out of those three technologies. Air taxis have been demonstrated, still experimental, but are certainly possible within the next decade.”

According to Jadick, there are some companies that are developing test tracks for hyperloop, but no one has successfully demonstrated the hyperloop model, so the next step is undetermined at the moment.

While it is believed that aerial taxis, gondolas, and hyperloop would advance and improve Tampa Bay’s transit, there are still concerns to be considered before the transit systems can be produced and implemented.

“There are regulatory, feasibility, financial, and operational challenges that need to be answered first,” said Jadick.

Before deciding whether or not to move forward with the production of new transportation models, TBARTA takes into consideration how the operations would be funded and whether or not the city would benefit from the implementation of new transit technologies.

“We want to ensure that we make the right choices to serve the most people in the best ways across Florida,” said Jadick.

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