"The autonomous transit vehicles have no driver and they run on a fixed route,” said alternate transit advocate Ed Turanchik.
The future of mass transit for Tampa Bay may look like this:
"They can come to your app,” said Turanchik.
Driverless shuttles that are a cross between a bus and Uber but run on electric or solar power are much cheaper than light rail.
"One light rail vehicle will cost $6 million dollars. One of these autonomous buses can cost $200 thousand,” said Turanchik.
Turanchik, who brought the idea of the Cross Bay Ferry to fruition, was a guest speaker at a new transportation solutions meetup group founded by local consultant Kate Connolly.
"I think we may be a generation that is ready to break the bond with our cars,” said Kate Connolly, Owner ‘KCPRO.’
The Millennial, Brooklyn transplant and USF graduate just started the group 'Transit Now Tampa Bay'.
"I think we need to do something now. There are a lot of talks about a 10 year plan, a 30 year plan, different ways we can formulate a solution which is great but we need to do something now,” said Connolly.
'Transit Now' holds workshops on Sunday evenings at CoWork Ybor inviting visionaries to meet and put ideas on the table. The next meeting is at 6 PM Sunday April 9th featuring guest speaker Caesar Hernandez, HART Government Relations.
Folks like Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp also sees AV's as the next generation of mass transit.
"They probably need, from all I can tell, their own 'right of way' to operate as safely as possible but even that may not be that far off,” said Commissioner Kemp.
Kemp and Turanchik agree Tampa has likely missed the opportunity for light rail but could be ahead of the curve on this new technology.
"With autonomous transit vehicles on the horizon, we might be able to widely deploy transit in ways that were unforeseeable just two years ago,” said Turanchik.