Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Key to bay area transit is cooperation

Transportation is a regional issue that requires regional solutions. Although many projects serve local needs, thousands of us who live and work in Tampa Bay cross geographic boundaries regularly, and we need a transportation system that does too.

With this in mind, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transportation Authority (HART) and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) recently studied the possibility of merging or consolidating their organizations, and this has created tension on the part of board members and apparent concern about whether and how the two agencies should join forces. This is threatening progress on important work these agencies can and must accomplish with or without a merger. We should not get bogged down debating whose jobs might be eliminated or who should end up in charge if the agencies merge. Whatever comes of these studies, HART and PSTA should address what the two agencies can undertake to do together right now to begin to build a more robust regional transportation system.

HART and PSTA currently cooperate in many ways as two separate agencies. For example, PSTA and HART save money by combining their buying power to purchase diesel fuel. They also share fuel market analysis information and collaborate on the best timing to buy fuel contracts. They participate in a statewide consortium of transit systems to purchase new buses. They work together to bid for bulk purchases of servicing for back-up generators, maintenance fluids and other maintenance items. HART staff members familiar with "flex route" operations in Hillsborough County trained and advised PSTA staff charged with implementing new flex routes in Pinellas County. PSTA and HART jointly offer the "Passport" bus pass that allows unlimited rides on either system. PSTA has joined HART, Pasco County and Lakeland transit systems to explore advanced technologies and methods for future transit fare payment in the region, including the use of smartphones or smart-card technology. Finally, a HART Board member participated on the oversight committee for the now-completed Pinellas Alternatives Analysis. But they can do more.

The agencies should make lists of projects of regional significance they want to tackle, compare lists, identify areas of overlap, and work together to complete projects they agree must be addressed. They already have ample tools to do this, including the availability of binding interlocal agreements. In this way, they can get some easy "wins" under their belts and then build on this success to tackle bigger projects.

This would send the right message to all of us in Tampa Bay who want to know that our public officials are working collaboratively to meet our needs, not defending their turf. This would also communicate to our elected representatives when we need their help that we can speak with one voice in asking for that help. Last but not least, this would tell businesses we are trying to recruit or retain that we can get things done in Tampa Bay and that we are working together to build a great future.

Pretty soon, nobody will be quite so concerned whether we need to be consolidating functions and eliminating jobs in either agency.

Gary L. Sasso is president and CEO of Carlton Fields and chair of the Tampa Bay Partnership's Transportation Task Force. Barry Alpert is managing director, investment banking with Raymond James Financial Inc. and serves as vice chair of the Partnership's Transportation Task Force.

Key to bay area transit is cooperation 12/30/12 [Last modified: Friday, December 28, 2012 3:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Memorial for Snooty the manatee, postponed because of Irma, to be held Sunday


    A public memorial to celebrate the life of 69-year-old Snooty the manatee will be held at the South Florida Museum on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

    Snooty , the world's most celebrated manatee, begs for another slice of apple in his pool in the Parker Manatee Aquarium at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton in 2008. Snooty was 60 then. [Times 2008]
  2. Residents wade through a flooded road after the passing of Hurricane Maria, in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Friday, September 22, 2017. Because of the heavy rains brought by Maria, thousands of people were evacuated from Toa Baja after the municipal government opened the gates of the Rio La Plata Dam. [Associated Press]
  3. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem


    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]
  4. New earthquake, magnitude 6.1, shakes jittery Mexico


    MEXICO CITY — A strong new earthquake shook Mexico on Saturday, causing new alarm in a country reeling from two still-more-powerful quakes this month that have killed nearly 400 people.

    Locals play pool at a venue in Mexico City's La Condesa neighborhood, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, four days after the 7.1 earthquake. The upscale Mexico City neighborhood was one of the hardest hit, with more than a half-dozen collapsed buildings in the immediate vicinity. The few Condesa residents who ventured out Friday night said they were anxious for relief from an anguishing week. [Associated Press]
  5. Tests show North Korea earthquake not caused by nuclear test


    SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea's weather agency said a magnitude 3.2 earthquake was detected in North Korea on Saturday close to where the country recently conducted a nuclear test, but it assessed the quake as natural.

    People watch a TV news program reporting North Korea's earthquake, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. South Korea's weather agency said an earthquake was detected in North Korea on Saturday around where the country recently conducted a nuclear test, but it assessed the quake as natural. The signs read " The weather agency said a magnitude 3.0 earthquake was detected in North Korea." [Associated Press]