Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas transit chief resigns in 'huge blow' to rail efforts

ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority executive director Tim Garling resigned Wednesday, creating an unexpected void in efforts to bring light rail to Pinellas County.

Garling is leaving to become director of Broward County Transit, the second-largest transit system in the state.

Garling, who leaves Oct. 18, called it a better career opportunity. He said he will earn about $3,000 more than his $153,500 annual salary in Pinellas.

The larger system will offer "significant challenges and opportunities for me professionally," Garling wrote in his resignation letter. Broward handles about 38 rides an hour compared to PSTA's 22, Garling said.

Garling, 52, was hired here in 2007 because he helped oversee the development of rail in Portland, Ore. Advocates for rail and expanded bus service in Pinellas — where transit funding lags behind other large areas — hoped Garling could help orchestrate a local referendum in 2011 or 2012.

Even if a successful referendum was held, more buses and a rail system would still be a decade away, according to PSTA estimates.

County Commissioner Ken Welch called Garling's departure a huge blow to rail efforts.

St. Petersburg City Council member Jeff Danner said Garling's exit leaves the county flat-footed as it embarks on a new push for passenger rail.

"It's horrible timing," Danner said. "Tim was the only one in the county who had built a rail system. It's disappointing to lose someone who had done more than run a bus system and knew how to apply for grants that could pay for rail. It's going to be difficult to fill those shoes."

Garling had support from most board members, but faced some rocky times. Last year, board member Julie Bujalski questioned his actions when he broke a PSTA rule by paying invoices that exceeded board-approved prices to a company hired to transport disabled residents.

"We didn't think he was doing a bad job. We just thought we should have been informed about this," said County Commissioner Neil Brickfield, a board member.

Dismissing any serious disagreements with the board, Garling said he understood the fears about how his departure would affect rail. But the county has put itself in a good position to move forward, he said, given the start of an 18-month study with state and regional transit agencies on corridors for trains.

"Fantastic progress has been made the past three years," Garling said.

Broward recruited Garling after an unsuccessful national search to fill its top post. Given Broward's difficulty, Danner worried it may be hard to replace Garling.

"If we do a national search, we might find the same thing," Danner said. "There's just no one out there."

Times staff writer Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report. David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

Pinellas transit chief resigns in 'huge blow' to rail efforts 09/15/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 5:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. FHP: 55-year-old pedestrian struck, killed by car in Largo

    Accidents

    LARGO — A 55-year-old St. Petersburg man died late Saturday after he walked into the path of a car on Ulmerton Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  3. Study offers warning for Florida strawberry farmers from global warming

    Agriculture

    LAKELAND — Florida strawberry growers already have experienced a dress rehearsal for the impacts of climate change during the past two seasons.

     Carl Grooms shows off some of his strawberries at Fancy Farms near Plant City Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015.  Grooms, President of Fancy Farms. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times]
  4. Two Interstate 275 tractor-trailer crashes cause delays in Tampa

    Accidents

    TAMPA — Two tractor-trailers driving in opposite directions on Interstate 275 crashed Sunday within a mile of each other, causing lane closures on both sides for much of the morning.

    Two tractor-trailers going opposite directions on Interstate 275 in Tampa crashed Sunday morning, closing lanes on each side, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  5. Read Anthony Scaramucci's old tweets. You'll understand why he deleted them

    National

    New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci hasn't always shared the political views of the administration he now serves.

    Anthony Scaramucci, incoming White House communications director, takes questions as he speaks in the briefing room at the White House on Friday. [ Washington Post photo by by Jabin Botsford]