Hillsborough activists organize to advocate for mass transit

01/29/13 Ella Wind
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Pinellas County transit leaders recently sent a referendum for the 2014 ballot to county commissioners for a sales tax to fund light rail. Community leaders and activists from Hillsborough County met in downtown Tampa yesterday to plan a movement for mass transit in their county.

Thirty local activists and representatives from unions, environmental groups, city administration and others met to begin a plan for a political movement to demand that Hillsborough move forward with planning a more effective mass transit system. Phil Compton from the Sierra Club said the group hoped to build momentum based on Pinellas' referendum.

“This is a great first step, springboarding off the victory that we had in Pinellas County last week, where they're moving forward with their transit referendum. It would be really great if Hillsborough County could also put this on the ballot and let voters choose to have the kind of choices that Pinellas County looks like they're going to have.”

Previous movements for mass transit haven’t been very successful. City Council member Mary Mulhern Club was optimistic that this time would be different than before.

“We had our disappointments in 2010, but there's this great, young, grassroots movement to revisit and bring transit to Tampa.”

Attendees cited the importance of building a highly inclusive coalition to advocate for mass transit. Compton believes the cause will draw a wide range of supporters.

“I think there's a lot of momentum. I think there’s a real consensus that's developed in the community that no matter where you live, no matter how you get around now, there's something in it for you. It’s not just democrats. It’s Republicans, it’s business, it’s labor groups, it's everyone.”

The meeting drew several young people and college students from around the Tampa Bay area. Laila Abdelaziz is a student at the University of South Florida. She said that building mass transit through Temple Terrace would provide benefits to the university.

"It's a really easy solution for many problems that I think USF is dealing with, in terms of parking garages and there's always a lots of chaos on campus with traffic.”

The next planning meeting will be February 25 at 6 p.m. at the John Germany library.

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