Airport says nonstop shuttle to Downtown is a no-brainer

Tampa, Florida -- Other cities have them. It seems so obvious! But there's still no shuttle that'll take you right from Tampa International Airport to Downtown Tampa.

Airport managers are fired up. They say an express route would be great for business and make life easier for all of us who use the airport.

Now there's a breakthrough that may finally get this new airport ride rolling.

When the bigwigs from Bollywood landed in Tampa for the IIFA Awards, they were whisked into Downtown in limousines. For regular folks like you and me, the options are less glitzy... but still expensive: pay for parking, take a taxi, or rent a car. Soon, we may get a new option.

A fundraising 5K run down one of the airport's runways Saturday was a break for the bosses at TIA. They've been in their own race to get support for a nonstop shuttle bus. It would connect the airport to Downtown Tampa's hotels and businesses.

The airport's leaders want a modern shuttle with space for luggage, wireless Internet access, and more. It would be a better option for just about everyone than the current HART bus route that takes around 40 minutes to make the nine-mile trip.

"You can use your iPhone to figure out when the bus is coming. You just get on the bus, go Downtown. You can do work on the bus. You can check your emails. Next stop is Downtown Tampa," airport CEO Joe Lopano said.

An airport survey found that each year, a 108,000 people would ride the shuttle. But operating the shuttle would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. So leaders like Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe have been working to get a combination of money to pay for it, coming from the airport, taxpayers, and the businesses who'd benefit directly from the speedy service.

"We've got an OK setup, but we can do so much better," Sharpe said. "Going from good to great is always a challenge, but the opportunity is tremendous."

The airport hopes to have a plan for the shuttle in place by next month. They're also looking at running nonstop buses to St. Petersburg and Brandon.


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