TBARTA Talks transit-oriented development, rail on Bruce B. Downs

04/30/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Imagine going days without getting into your car – having a bus or rail line within steps of your door to get you to work, and being able to walk to nearby restaurants. Many cities already have this type of layout, something planners call transit-oriented development. Today the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority Board heard from Bob Hunter, head of the Hillsborough City-County Planning Commission, on the concept.

Hunter said that the commission is trying to amend Hillsborough’s comprehensive land use plan to include it. He said making the region transit-friendly would help make Tampa Bay competitive at the global level.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, who is a strong supporter of beefing up the area’s mass transit offerings, said she liked the idea.

Iorio asked Hunter how likely it was that state and local authorities would sign off on such a change.

The Board also heard from Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) Director David Armijo, on the proposed transit system around which such development would be built. He updated them on HART’s alternatives analysis, which studies the area’s transit needs. He said that the addition of high speed rail was among the factors delaying the completion of the study.

The update hit a snag when Armijo brought up Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, a thoroughfare notorious for its gridlock.

Hillsborough County is currently seeking public input on the question of whether to widen that road to six or eight lanes. Armijo’s presentation to the TBARTA Board included a slide portraying Bruce B. Downs with a rail line running down the road’s median. Iorio said if the road gets widened to eight lanes, there would be no room in the median for rail, and that having rail along the roadside could cause headaches.

The question of whether rail will parallel pavement at Bruce B. Downs relies on Hillsborough voter approval of a penny transit tax. Meanwhile, a nearby county may get a head start in funding its mass transit. Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson:

The TBARTA Board unanimously supported Sarasota County Transportation Authority’s application for a Federal Transit Administration Small Starts grant to help fund its proposed Bus Rapid Transit system.

The Board also approved a merger between TBARTA and Bay Area Commuter Services, a formerly state-run commuter assistance program.

The next TBARTA meeting is a work session on May 21.

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