Will Crist OK $2M TBARTA budget?
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05/16/08 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:

This session the Florida Legislature provided the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) $2 million. But Gov. Charlie Crist could still veto that funding, like he did to the $1 million in startup funds the Legislature attempted to give TBARTA last year.

Pinellas County Commissioner Ronnie Duncan serves as the vice chair of the TBARTA Board. Duncan said TBARTA needs the one-time funding from the Legislature to secure private and government transit money and to finally hire a staff person who can coordinate the transit master plan.

Last year Crist vetoed start-up funding for TBARTA, so the organization depended on the state’s Department of Transportation (FDOT) for technical assistance in moving toward a regional master plan. Because it had no funding, TBARTA could not hire lawyers until it received $50,000 from the private sector and $10,000 each from the five local transit planning organizations in the region.

WMNF asked Stuart Rogel, who is president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership, what would happen if TBARTA doesn’t receive funding this year?

“I’m not sure,” Rogel said.

Crist is from St. Petersburg and he appointed the TBARTA Chair, Shelton Quarles so Crist may have some stake in maintaining financial support for TBARTA. But Ronnie Duncan said that there are no guarantees that Crist won’t veto the funding.

Duncan said TBARTA hopes to complete the regional transit master plan by the end of the year. It will likely include multiple modes of transportation such as commuter rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, bus routes, and high occupancy vehicle lanes.

Steve Polzin, director of mobility policy at USF’s Center for Urban Transportation Research, said the Tampa Bay region might not yet be ready for rail until more people start to use the bus system.

But Rogel said rail and busses could be developed together because the Tampa Bay area needs “both a good robust bus system and … a key regional transit system that connects areas.” He said it’s not enough to just want better transportation options -- people need to decide that they will fund transit.

Polzin agrees that there needs to be a local commitment to funding transit. He pointed out that among areas its size, the Tampa Bay region spends less that most on transportation.

The cost of rail could be as high as $50 million to $100 million dollars per mile, so the transition to rail transit could be slow, Polzin said.

Rogel said that his group and TBARTA will meet with Crist’s staff on Monday to lobby for the TBARTA funding and he encourages others to contact the governor as well.

TBARTA will hold a workshop next Friday on how land use and transit are related.

Learn more:

TBARTA - Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority

TBARTA’s regional transit master plan initial options

Tampa Bay Partnership

Center for Urban Transportation Research at USF

Ronnie Duncan

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