TAMPA — Kimberly Overman might not see this story.
Since she moved from Washington, D.C., to Tampa — a place without a light-rail system — Overman said she rarely finds time to read the newspaper.
She wouldn't dare read during her commute now, locked in traffic with other frustrated drivers on choked roads. She thinks about those not fortunate enough to have cars, who spend hours on the bus, hitch rides or stay home. She wishes it were different.
Overman was one of about a dozen people Saturday who offered thoughts on a yearlong study of future transit systems along two corridors that meet in downtown Tampa. The study is being done by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.
"It's going to be important for us," Overman said. "When the system works, your life is different."
The goal is to find the best mode of transportation and the best path for it to follow based on cost, expected ridership and environmental impact.
For now, HART is considering light rail, bus rapid transit and enhanced bus service. They've narrowed down to three potential routes in the northeast corridor and two in the west.
With public advice, they next need to narrow those five potential routes to one preferred route in each corridor.
"My challenge to you is, what have we missed?" asked HART's chief executive officer, David Armijo.
At Saturday's hearing, people asked how the project would be paid for, when construction would begin and how it factored into existing plans to improve transportation.
HART officials said they're seeking funding from several sources, including the federal New Starts grant, the state of Florida and a 1-cent local sales tax to be considered on the November ballot.
There is no set schedule for the project, but Armijo said if funding sources can be secured and the project is approved, it's possible construction could begin within five years.
This project is separate from the plan to build high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando, but HART officials say the systems go together in a comprehensive vision to improve Tampa's public transportation.
"We feel we have to give a combination, said HART board member Steve Polzin, "We're looking 20, 30, 40 years beyond. … It's a changing world."
There will be another opportunity for public opinions at a hearing Thursday, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Hillsborough County Commission boardroom, 601 E Kennedy Blvd. After that, HART's board will consider the plan at its Oct. 18 meeting.