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No big-time mass transit in Tampa? Not an issue, RNC host committee president says



For fans of public transportation, Tampa Bay’s lack of big-time mass transit – a couple of county bus agencies, yes, but no rail, less-than-abundant connections between counties and a downtown Tampa streetcar on a short track – is a source of embarrassment.

But for the organizers of the Republican National Convention, it’s not a big factor.

“We don’t move a lot of people through mass transit,” Tampa Bay Host Committee president Ken Jones told a lunch meeting of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association.

During the lunch, held at the University Club, Jones was asked how planning for the convention has been affected by the lack of a large mass transit system in Tampa Bay .

It hasn’t, he said, adding that the convention has hired SP Plus Gameday of Orlando to run a fleet of charter buses needed to carry 5,000 delegates, alternates and guests around Tampa Bay .

“This is a very bus-driven event, so we’ll have 300-plus charter buses to move all these delegates from their hotels to the Tampa Bay Times Forum to the art museum for an event, then back to the hotel,” Jones said.

“Outside the delegates, you have the media, and the media drive cars,” he said. “They rent cars. Media guys aren’t going to hop on a bus with 60 pounds of camera equipment. So they’re going to have their own vans, their own trucks. It presents a parking issue, frankly, more than it does a transportation issue.

“If you’re asking if we had had light rail, would that have been better or more attractive, I don’t really think so from my perspective,” Jones said.

Tampa City Hall’s liaison to the convention said city officials will work with the transportation system they’ve got to make the convention successful.

“If we had those (mass transit) tools in place, would it be a better convention? I don’t know, I couldn’t tell you that,” said Santiago Corrada, Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s chief of staff.

Once road closures around the convention are set and announced, Corrada said there would be a robust effort to let residents, commuters, visitors and others know what areas to avoid.

“We’re preparing to make sure those delegates can get in, get out and that the downtown workers are not inconvenienced to the point that we can control that,” he said.

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 5:11pm]


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