Saturday, June 15, 2019 / by Tyler Anderson
The Tampa Bay area does many things well, but transportation is not one of them. According to a Regional Competitiveness Report, Tampa Bay ranks last in transit ridership per capita, and last in transit vehicle revenue miles per capita. Tampa has made adjustments to make the city less congested and more walkable, but it hasn’t been enough. In 2018, the citizen-led initiative passed the vote with more than 57% in favor of a one percent tax increase to go towards the redevelopment of our roads and transit systems.
This one percent increase in sales tax is projected to be in place for 30 years, or until a maximum amount of $16 billion is hit. It is estimated to raise $276 million annually, and $552 million in the first two calendar years. Of the billions of dollars to be generated over the 30-year lifetime of the tax, 54% is slated for investments in roads and safety, while 45% will be allocated to expanding transit options (one percent is reserved for expenses related to oversight).
However, at the beginning of 2019, County Commissioner Stacy White challenged the new law. He argues that it violates state law because it transfers the authority to spend the revenue away from elected commissioners, to an “independent oversight committee” of non-elected citizens created by the amendment. In spite of this lawsuit, the county has pressed on, but admits that it faces legal hurdles. They are confident they will overcome them.
In the meantime, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) has created a grand plan to connect Pinellas County with Hillsborough County in the near future. This plan calls for the creation of a $455 million, 41-mile bus rapid transit system with 17 general stations to be placed along the route. The proposed transit option would connect Wesley Chapel to St. Petersburg (See below).
According to reports, some of the planned stops include the Westshore area, Downtown Tampa and the University of South Florida. The project may have a dedicated lane on I-275. Hillsborough and Pinellas have identified the need for a more elaborate rapid transit system. Local residents should expect to see more localized focus on reducing traffic flow in-and-out of Downtown Tampa.
Tampa has an up-hill battle to fix many of our traffic issues, but everything is on the table as the city and county make efforts towards trying to resolve the growing problems.