On Monday, April 24, Hillborough Area Regional Transit (HART) launched its HyperLINK program to accommodate travelers near the University of South Florida, Carrollwood and Brandon areas. HyperLINK transports riders to and from bus stops to cut travel time and solve the first mile/last mile predicament many people find themselves in. According to public transit consultant Jarrett Walker, most people are comfortable walking less than a quarter mile to and from a transit stop, but for some, transit stops are miles away from where they live and work. Closing the first mile/last mile gaps can encourage more transit use, which also encourages more walking and bicycling, and takes cars off the road, easing congestion and traffic for other people who might walk and/or bike.
To help address the first mile/last mile problem, four new Tesla Model X vehicles were deployed from the Marshall Student Center on the USF Tampa campus Monday morning. The Tesla Model X vehicles are futuristic with a modern, sleek design and Falcon Wing doors that give the impression that the car might fly. But the doors are as practical as they are stylish, and make it easy for people to get in and out of the vehicles in tight spaces with only a foot of clearance necessary on either side. The Tesla Model X comfortably seats seven passengers, features full self-driving hardware, and the HyperLINK service will become driverless as soon as local policy allows for it. The Tesla Model X vehicles will service the USF area while other vehicles will serve Brandon and Carrollwood.
Florida Department of Transportation District 7 Secretary Paul Steinman spoke at the event. “The future of Transportation is automated, connected, and shared.” City of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn added that “Transportation is important, and multimodal transportation is even more important”.
HyperLINK is a shared-ride service, and each ride is $3.00, payable by cash or credit. The ride can be hailed via the HyperLINK smartphone app, or just by calling 813-298-0455. It protects riders from unpredictable weather, is wheelchair accessible, and eliminates the need to find parking, a common difficulty among USF students who commute by motor vehicle. Moreover, the service encourages people to get where they are going on foot and by public transit, reducing the impact on the environment.
Austin Gibble, a Graduate Research Assistant at USF’s Center for Urban Transportation Research, attended the launch event on Monday. “It was so cool,” he said, “and it’s a great alternative to Uber.” The HyperLINK service picks Austin up from his apartment and takes him to HART’s University Area Transit Center. “It’s much faster than waiting for a bus at my apartment and then having to transfer again,” says Gibble.