The issue seems to be as sprawling as the roads that crisscross the area, as fast-changing as the lane-shifting drivers during weekday rush hours over any given stretch of local highway: Tampa Bay's mass transit future.
In an effort to keep local governments up-to-date on the latest mass transit news — which is rolling fast now that high-speed rail construction is beginning — Pinellas County's Transportation Task Force is holding briefings.
Task force representative Robert Pergolizzi gave a presentation to city commissioners Tuesday night to bring them up to speed.
He mentioned the challenges: the legacy of sprawl in the county, scarce funding, high unemployment.
And he discussed the stakes: protecting the environment, making getting around safer for pedestrians, and making getting around more pleasant — Tampa Bay commuters have one of the worst experiences in the country, according to surveys.
"We sometimes have a harrowing trip to work," said Pergolizzi, a consultant with Gulf Coast Consulting.
He also reminded commissioners of something they already knew — that density is important.
"In order to sustain transit, we've got to have more density. Pinellas County is spread out. It may be built out, but it's not built up," Pergolizzi said.
Commissioners have been at work accomplishing just that, redeveloping the city's East Bay Drive corridor and downtown to better fit into an urban future with fewer cars.
One element of the plan for Pinellas that Pergolizzi mentioned includes rapid transit bus routes — buses that are faster than ordinary city buses and run along dedicated routes. A major corridor could run through Largo, and Pergolizzi mentioned popular locations in the city such as the Largo Mall as possible transit stops.
"We just can't keep building roads forever," he said. "We've just begun our mission: make the county more livable and economically diverse."
Dominick Tao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 580-2951.