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Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Bollywood to test Tampa's transit system

TAMPA — City transportation could be tested with up to 30,000 people expected in town for Bollywood, the International Indian Film Academy Awards events from Wednesday through Saturday.

But local officials say transportation issues will be more on the scale of a major convention or concert rather than large events Tampa has hosted, including Super Bowls and the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Some bus routes will be modified. Street and highway congestion and road closures are expected at certain times near areas hosting Bollywood events downtown, at Raymond James Stadium and the Florida State Fairgrounds.

The impact on taxi and bus service remains to be determined because Bollywood, with a mix of celebrities and fans, and a blend of international and domestic visitors, will be the first of its genre of special events that Tampa has hosted.

Tampa's new alternatives to taxi service, Lyft and Uber, don't have permits to pick up passengers at the airport but can drop them off, airport spokeswoman Janet Zink said.

More than 150 limousines have been booked for the celebrities and their entourages, in what might have been a larger boon for business if Bollywood took place in June as envisioned a year ago rather than late April, a customary peak period for limousine rentals.

No one is really sure just how many people will show up, interviews with local transportation officials indicate.

“We are flying by the seat of our pants,” said David Shaw, operations manager at Olympus Limousines in New Port Richey and a member of the board of directors of the National Limousine Association.

“Availability and rates have all been last-minute stuff, not like the Super Bowls and RNC that two months out were booked solid.”

April has always been a busy month for limousine service with conventions, concerts, Tampa Bay Lightning ice hockey and Tampa Bay Rays baseball events, Shaw said.

“It's not adding a lot to our business because there are only so many cars and they are booked across the state,” he said.

At one point the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) was seeking 50 S Class Mercedes-Benzs, but only about 10 were licensed, insured and available locally, so the supply will be met in part by SUVs and other vehicles, Shaw said.

Public transportation should not be affected to a large extent although the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority has taken great measures to educate and inform all employees who may serve in a customer service capacity during the awards week, HART Public Information Officer Sandra Morrison said.

Detours have been created for bus routes in the vicinity of the three major event areas:

♦* Raymond James Stadium. Detours will include eastbound Tampa Bay Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at Hime Avanues, April 24-April 27 – 6 a.m.-6 p.m. and Himes between MLK and Columbus, April 26-27 – 4 p.m.-6 a.m. Buses affected include Routes 7, 15, 32, 36, 41, and 45.

♦* West Tampa Transfer Center near the stadium will be closed Thursday-Saturday, April 24-26, Routes 7, 15, 36, and 45. Route 41 does not operate on the weekends.

♦ * Tampa Convention Center and Forum area. Franklin Street closed between Channelside Drive and Meridian Avenue and other spontaneous street closings/detours as directed by law enforcement.

“To prepare for the IIFA Awards, HART has offered information and tips to all employees on cultural sensitivity to help extend our welcome to all international visitors, patrons and citizens of Hillsborough County and our surrounding Tampa Bay area,” Morrison said.

“We have also added a welcome message attached to routes connecting Tampa International Airport, west Tampa, and the downtown area.”

Tampa police in an advisory expected congestion downtown each day from 8:30 a.m. into the early evening because of the Global Business Forum and the IIFA Expo at the Tampa Convention Center with Bollywood celebrities at the official awards hotel, the Hilton Downtown Tampa, 211 N. Tampa St.

 Traffic delays are expected the afternoon and evening of Saturday, April 26, near Raymond James Stadium for the grand finale of the weekend — the Bollywood Oscars. The green carpet entrances will start at 4:30 p.m. and the show runs 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.

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