TBARTA board meeting listen05/23/08 Seán Kinane
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The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority, or TBARTA, held their monthly board meeting this morning in Tampa. They heard presentations about how changing demographics will change transit needs in the future and saw results of a survey of residents in the seven counties in the region.
John Fregonese is a planning consultant based in Portland Oregon who briefed the TBARTA board on how the region’s future transit needs could be affected by a population that is getting older and has smaller family sizes. This will pressure governments to increase the efficient use of land, Fregonese said.
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, a TBARTA board member, said that the way Hillsborough County’s bus system is currently underfunded doesn’t take into account these types of scenarios of how the future could be, and that there is a better way to plan for the region’s transportation future.
David Kenney is the president of Kenney Group, a public opinion research firm. In March, it conducted a survey of five hundred people in each of the seven counties in the TBARTA region. Kenney said the respondents think there should be a comprehensive, holistic approach to transportation.
Kenney said that the survey respondents favor holding off on increased taxes until TBARTA has a chance to present a regional transportation plan to voters, and that 65 percent of people are “not familiar at all” with TBARTA. Despite that, there is strong support for an organization like TBARTA in every county in the region. In the survey, residents were asked what their biggest concern was and the most common response was ‘taxes.’ Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio disagreed about how to interpret that finding.
During the public comment portion several people asked if there could be more citizen input in TBARTA’s planning process. Denise Layne, who is running for County Commission District 6, the seat currently held by Brian Blair, said that perception about participation from the public is improving.
The Florida Legislature allocated two million dollars for TBARTA this year, but it is unknown whether Governor Charlie Crist will veto that funding. TBARTA vice Chair, Pinellas County Commissioner Ronnie Duncan said he met with staff from Governor Charlie Crist’s office on Monday. TBARTA Chair Shelton Quarles said he met directly with Crist.
Manatee County has taken the first step in making commuter rail a reality in the region. Ralf Heseler is the manager of Manatee Area Transit. Heseler said the Manatee County Commission approved an application to the Florida Department of Transportation to ask for seed money to plan for commuter rail lines between Manatee County and both Hillsborough and Pinellas.
The next TBARTA board meeting is June 27th in Pasco County.
Photo by Seán Kinane / WMNF