Regional Transit Feasibility Plan: Your Input Needed!
Yes we have had more than 50 regional transportation studies and plans in the last 30 years. And, yes a lot of the effort has gone to ground or gotten buried in regional politics. And, yes Governor Bush formed the Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) to corral the politics. But, alas, TBARTA was not provide the real authority to corral the various plans and develop a community supported vision and plan.
However, there is a new planning process underway that is focusing on true tri-county consensus to develop a supportable plan that can be funded. Forward Pinellas is leading the contingent for Pinellas County in this effort. Other key members include both the Pasco and Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Offices as well as other key players including the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), TBARTA, PSTA, HART and others. A key component of this current planning process is to look at the past efforts but to develop a consensus based new regional vision according to Whit Blanton, the Executive Director of Forward Pinellas. The plan is looking at a 25 year vision with components being planned and implemented on a flexible and prioritized basis that can be prioritized and developed incrementally.
Public awareness and input is critically needed. In Pinellas, Blanton notes that our northern communities have often been underrepresented in the regional transit plans especially as it relates to public transit options. To learn more about the study click here. To take their survey click here.
Gaining true consensus is the difficult part as that often means that some visible projects in a county or city may not fit the regional mold. So this group will determine which initiatives that fit the plan vision require regional support to fight for state and federal funding and which are best accomplished on a county or municipality basis. This is a very practical method of avoiding ‘sacred cow’ issues that can sometimes derail the best efforts.
I think we all agree that a “real” transportation plan is critical to the sustainment and continued economic health of the Tampa Bay region. In many ways we are several decades behind other major metropolitan areas. However, this is not all bad as we now may be able to set a better vision based on the changes in technology and business models (Uber, Lyft, etc.). A key point is that housing and transportation costs are considered affordable at 45% of personal income. The rates in all three counties exceeds that. So we have work to do on efficiency and cost effectiveness.
Forward Pinellas may have a distinct advantage in the planning process as its responsibilities include both transportation and land use while the Pasco and Hillsborough MPO’s focus on transportation and land use is addressed by another agency. Economic development is the most efficient use of land, labor, capital and technology. Transportation planning involves all four of these pillars.
Make your voice heard on this one!