Downtown: Where the Living and Commuting Are Easy

May 23, 2017

Choosing to live in downtown Tampa was never on our radar until the opportunity was presented to us. From Day One my husband and I embraced urban living like ducks to water: trolleying to Ybor City, walking to restaurants, attending events at Curtis Hixon Park, exhibits at the art museum, and hockey games and concerts at Amalie Arena.

We were always fans of walking but living at The Channel District fueled it even further. Every day we’d cross the street to Riverwalk and do the four miles to the Straz Center and back, with Elvis our dog setting the pace. We felt rejuvenated from the exercise and new friendships we made, and liberated from the chores that come with single-family homes. Three months into downtown living, we downsized to one car. It was official: we were urbanites.

A different way to commute

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A different way to commuteAs the crow flies, we live about 1.7 miles from MIC. By car, it can take anywhere from six to nine minutes, depending on time of day and the traffic lights. Some days I drive to MIC and my husband walks to pick up the car. Other days, he chauffeurs me back and forth.

We all know about the health benefits of walking and working at MIC meant adjusting my daily routine. Until one morning it hit me: why not walk to work? And, just like that, I did.

Working out on the way to work

Working out on the way to workThe 2.7-mile walk to MIC took 50 minutes and was an invigorating workout on the way to work. I had so much energy I felt like I had downed three cups of coffee. With a couple of short cuts, I can make it in 45 but I try not to hurry. Because here’s the thing: walking literally and figuratively opens my mind, especially when it’s on a scenic path like Riverwalk. I think about things I’m grateful for, people I miss or look forward to seeing, and all the things I still want to do in life.

I also see the world differently when I’m walking. I notice the sky and the horizon. I hear the birds and watch the scullers row down the Hillsborough River. I pass some of the same people with their dogs – and we nod to each other. I know there will be people running up and down the convention center steps, which we’ve dubbed the “Rocky Stairs.” I know Dylan will be setting up his breakfast cart at 7:00 at MacDill Park, and if I’m lucky, I will see a pod of dolphins romping happily by the performing arts center. I will also see plenty of homeless people, especially by the public restrooms at Ft. Brooke Park, Curtis Hixon Park, and Waterworks Park.

More ways to skin a cat

More ways to skin a catLast October the city introduced a new initiative called The Downtowner, which are electric golf carts that transport people to certain points downtown. The service is free, app-based, and is such a great success that the wait can sometimes be challenging. The positives: it’s free and it drops me off two blocks away at the Marion Street bus station. The negatives: I can’t reserve one ahead of time; if I request a ride at about 7:30 I’ll probably be at work by 7:45. At 8:00 the wait jumps to anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. It’s a great service if you’re not in a time-sensitive situation.

Coast Bike Share is another commuting option that I’ve used – and perfect for those of us who don’t own a bicycle. I pick it up outside my condo and drop it off at Ulele Restaurant, which is about three blocks from MIC. The 30-minute ride/walk is a fun, breezy way to get to work. I’ve also taken the Pirate Water Taxi home from Ulele when I’ve dined there. Since it’s so close to MIC, I plan to walk there after work one day soon, buy an adult beverage to go, and enjoy the 40-minute boat ride to the History Center stop, which is where I’ll hop off.

Of course, all bets are off on these commuting options when summer’s heat arrives – and that’s okay. Because for about seven months I get to immerse myself in all the terrific benefits that come with being a downtown resident.

That includes sleeping ‘til 7:30 a.m., knowing I can still get to work on time.