Leave your car at home, see cost-saving and health benefits, community leaders say

Bay Area's Commuter Challenge is Feb. 19-23

TAMPA, Fla. — Leave your car at home, and try another mode of transportation for a trip, a day, or the week, and see benefits of avoiding traffic, burning calories and saving money, Plan Hillsborough and the Tampa Downtown Partnership said.

Plan Hillsborough and the Tampa Downtown Partnership are hosting The Bay Area's Commuter Challenge Week, running February 19 – 23.

This comes as Bay Area residents are seeing an extra 24 percent added to their travel times due to congestion, according to the TomTom Traffic Index Study.

The evening commute can also be a nightmare, with congestion adding as much as 60 percent more travel time to a resident's commute, according to the TomTom Traffic Index Study.

Sara Grossbarth, a producer with ABC Action News, opted to take the Commuter Challenge, taking public transportation from her neighborhood in Hyde Park to work at the news station, located across from Raymond James Stadium.

The normally 10-minute drive would now take about 45 minutes by bus, according to GoogleMaps.

Grossbarth started the challenge by walking 15 minutes to the nearest bus stop. After getting on the #7 bus, it took her to the Marion HART Transit Center, where she and reporter Lauren Rozyla realized they had gotten on at the wrong side of the street, adding an extra 30 minutes to their commute to work.

After a 20-minute bus ride, Grossbarth got off the bus and walked another 10 minutes to work. She ended up walking an extra two miles more than she normally would.

Leaving at 7:45 am, Grossbarth and Rozyla ended up back at the news station at 9:30 am.

While they were definitely later than expected, Grossbarth said she still does see the benefits of using public transportation. She lived in New York and Chicago for many years and is used to using buses and trains to get around.

"Certainly if you are commuting every day it give you time on the bus to get something done, get some work done, take a little time to yourself," Grossbarth said.

However, people opting to take public transportation in the City of Tampa may face big challenges getting from place to place.

Former Chief Executive Officer Katharine Eagan told ABC Action News that she felt the bus system didn't serve enough people in the Hillsborough County Area because the system didn't have the money to better flood the area with public transportation options like buses.

"It's not that transit is not attractive, it's that an underfunded bus system has a hard time being competitive," Eagan told ABC Action News on November 2. "That's just the reality of it."

Recently she was forced to overhaul the area's bus routes in order to maximize efficiencies, which meant cutting some routes that riders relied on.

However, the Tampa Downtown Partnership maintains there are still a lot of benefits to leaving the car at home, whether it's to take the bus, walk or bike to work.
 
“The Downtown Partnership wanted to partner with Plan Hillsborough on this commuter challenge because many people don’t realize how well-served downtown Tampa is as a regional employment center," said Karen Kress, Tampa Downtown Partnership Director of Transportation & Planning.

"We’ve worked hard to create multiple ways to move around downtown once they get here," Kress said. "Our region does need better transportation choices, but getting people to think outside of their car and explore their options is the best way to inspire change. We also love a challenge and wanted to be a part of the fun!”

People are invited to share their experiences on social media using the hashtag #CommuterChallenge18.
 

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