More than 90% of Downtown Tampa businesses say COVID-19 has had a “high” impact on their finances, workforce and overall operations according to a survey conducted by the Tampa Downtown Partnership. More than 40% of the business owners who responded also said they can only sustain their current level of service until the end of May. Over 40% of respondents say they have been shifting to virtual or online operations. For the full survey results, click here.
Autonomous vehicle shuttles may be zooming along the Marion Street transit corridor in downtown Tampa as the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority wants to gauge public interest for the transit option.
During a virtual meeting on Monday, HART’s operations and safety committee board unanimously approved moving forward with a one-year contract between the authority and vendor Beep Inc. The contract for one year, with an option for a second year, would not exceed roughly $915,000. The HART board is expected to give it final approval on May 4 during a board meeting.
Although the contract is fully funded by the Florida Department of Transportation, there was some hesitancy to move forward with the item as the coronavirus has depleted foot traffic and the number of passengers using public transportation, which would cause the results of ridership for the autonomous vehicle service to be low.
“We understand we are in different times right now and we would certainly make adjustments to this schedule,” HART Director of Service Development Chris Cochran said, responding to Hillsborough Commissioner Kimberly Overman‘s concerns.
Cochran said he is confident that the service, which could launch in early July, would still be successful and that there’s a collection of data from ridership demands and how people are migrating to downtown.
If implemented, Orlando-based Beep would have a person in the vehicle to operate it manually if needed; it can hold up to eight people, according to Cochran.
Beep currently has a fleet of vehicles in Orlando, and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority recently partnered with the company to use autonomous vehicles to transport Covid-19 tests collected at a drive-thru location at the Mayo Clinic there.
HART obtained the funding for the autonomous vehicle service in 2017.
“We’ve run into a couple of roadblocks,” Cochran said, explaining the delay in rolling out the vehicles was due to previous vendors’ lack of experience and other concerns.
HART Interim CEO Carolyn House Stewart said this is the agency’s third attempt to come to an agreement with a vendor for the service. She said she had conversations with FDOT in December about moving the project forward.
Beep, EZ Mile and First Transit were the vendors that responded to the request for proposals issued in January; the deadline was in February. Beep was the vendor recommended for award after an evaluation was completed.
“We at Beep are committed to safely planning, deploying and managing self-driving, multi-passenger shuttles. We welcome opportunities where we can demonstrate moving people with autonomous vehicles, highlight the safety and environmental benefits and learn about public attitudes toward automation in transportation. We are pleased with the actions taken by the HART operations and safety committee today. We look forward to the next steps in the process,” a Beep spokeswoman told the Tampa Bay Business Journal via email.
“Autonomous shuttle service in downtown Tampa moves forward” – Tampa Bay Business Journal (subscription required)
From the beautiful Downtown skyline to rowdy pirates at Gasparilla, impress your co-workers and virtual happy hour guests with a background to remind them of your favorite place!
Check it out!
The Re-Open Florida Task Force has launched a public comment submission portal open to all Floridians. The public may submit feedback on any topic related to the re-opening of Florida’s economy, including the impacts to small business, healthcare, education, tourism, agriculture, retail, recreation and sports and construction.
Monday Morning Memo –Monday Morning Memo is a weekly update of “insider downtown information” regarding developments, transportation, special opportunities and other useful information to help you make the most of downtown. Subscribe to receive this weekly newsletter.
Sign Up Now