Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn started trumpeting InVision Tampa this week, an effort to create what he calls a 25-year blueprint for the development of downtown and its adjacent communities.
One of the best aspects of this laudable effort is a revitalization of the transit discussion that will include, yes, the possibility of light rail.
Somebody just smiled. Somebody just shuddered.
A countywide referendum that would have implemented a 1-cent sales tax to fund light rail and other transportation projects failed in 2010 but, not surprisingly, passed in the city of Tampa.
Many residents outside of Tampa never embraced the referendum's vision even though it would have helped fund roads. Naturally, those in the city found it easier to see the long-term benefits and direct impact a light-rail system would have on their neighborhoods.
Now, Buckhorn smartly floats the idea of a city-only referendum that could help create a funding source for light rail with help from the federal government.
However, talk about light rail and its funding puts the cart before the horse.
The officials behind the InVision Tampa plan want to focus first and foremost on the needs of the people.
"That's very important, to understand the needs and the connections to the overall land use plan," said George Walton, vice president of Parsons Brinckerhoff, one of the consulting firms working with the InVision effort.
"You have to ask, 'Where do people live? Where do people work? Where do people play? How do they want to connect with those different areas?' You try to link all of those components together."
Walton stressed that the transportation component of InVision Tampa will involve looking at all aspects of public transit and all types of transportation, including pedestrians and cyclists. Though light rail creates buzz, local and rapid transit buses and commuter rail will be in the mix.
"It does take all types of modes because different people have different needs," Walton said. "They have different wants and desires on how to travel from point A to point B."
How the community connects with other areas — west to St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, north to Pasco County or east to the suburbs and Orlando — needs strong consideration.
The complexities can make the transportation aspect seem a little overwhelming, but it's a challenge the community must address. Even as we need to determine what will work best for the city, we know the status quo will only set us back as we continue to compete with other cities in Florida and the Southeast.
Most important, we have to allow interested residents to weigh in not only on the transportation issue, but the entire InVision blueprint.
That's why InVision will seek input from all sources. It started with a town hall meeting Wednesday evening, but as the effort moves forward, organizers will reach out through Twitter, Facebook and even walking tours.
"All the stakeholders need to have a voice: neighborhoods, elected officials, the city, the county and the (public transit and transportation) agencies," Walton said. "As a community, we have to ask, 'How do we work together to create a singular voice and a message that is clear and understood?' "
It's the people who need to drive this bus. Don't let someone else steer the conversation while you sit back and relax. Everyone needs to be a guide.
That's all I'm saying.