Tampa studys Denver's mass transit system
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11/15/07 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

As the Tampa Bay area begins taking baby steps toward bringing mass transit to the region, an official that has recently implemented a light-rail system addressed the Tampa City Council today.

Three years ago in Denver, voters approved a transit plan called FasTracks; it was similar to a proposal voters there had previously rejected.

Cal Marsella, director of the Regional Transit District in Denver, told the Tampa City Council some of the reasons why the measure passed in 2004, after failing in 1997.

Critics of a light-rail system in Tampa Bay have said there is insufficient density to sustain such a program. But Marsella said that’s nonsense.

The FasTracks project in metropolitan Denver features 119 miles of light-rail and commuter rail, 18 miles of bus rapid transit service from Boulder to Denver, and 21,000 new parking spaces at rail and bus stations. Cost: Over $6 billion dollars.

Marsella said his program has received lots of federal grants to help pay for the project. Taxpayer money played a part as well. Voters approved raising the sales tax 4-cents on every $10 in purchases.

Marsella praised the new regional transit authority, TBARTA. He says what others have in describing a successful transit plan – everybody in the community needs to buy into it.

Impressed by Marsella’s demonstration, City Council members said they wanted to move ahead. They expressed concern that the organization slated to make proposal for a transit system, the newly formed TBARTA, would take too long to come up with some a plan.

Councilman Thomas Scott said he worried that TBARTA doesn’t have the power to get a plan approved.

Council members then asked Tampa Transit Manager Elaine McCloud if they could alter the comprehensive plan to support transit-oriented land use. McCloud said a draft comp plan to look at the link between land-use planning and mass transit to determine where growth should go.

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