TAMPA, Fla. — There is a new effort underway to help improve safety on public transportation for people with disabilities in one of Tampa Bay's busiest transit centers.
Sandra Siedel has been riding HART's public transit buses for the past 39 years and has been a longtime advocate for those with disabilities. However, she still faces challenges getting on and off the bus.
"If you've got a steep ramp, and at the bottom, your wheels are getting caught, that's not good," Siedel said.
Riders like Sandra are the reason HART is working to make major changes to the University Area Transit Center.
First, project managers are replacing the sidewalks along 27th Street, right near the University of South Florida and the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital. There are several places where the sidewalk is uneven due to tree roots and constant wear and tear.
Then, they are taking it one step further by reducing the gap between the sidewalk and bus ramp.
"We're literally going to raise the sidewalk up to a better level so that when you get on and off the bus, it's an easier transition to get off," said Dan Rodriguez, who serves as the project manager for HART.
HART is also adding several bus shelters along 27th Street. They're going from two to six in order to cope with how busy this station is.
"Especially when you have the VA to the south, the college, USF to the east, everybody meets here to take their buses to get where they need to go," Rodriguez said.
It means everything to riders like Sandra, who say it provides more equity and opportunity.
"The more HART can do, or any other organization can do to help us, it makes our lives so much richer," she said.
Construction is set to start as soon as 60 days from now and be completed before the end of the year.