Friday, June 22, 2018
Transportation

Hillsborough, Pinellas transportation officials agree to move on — but that's it

TAMPA — The transportation agencies for Hillsborough and Pinellas counties made nice during a joint meeting on Monday, basically agreeing to see how they can work more closely together in the future — just so long as no one mentions the "m" word: merger.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority both had a mandate from the Florida Legislature to study consolidating the two agencies and submit a joint report to the Speaker of the Florida House by Feb. 1.

Both governing boards did just that on Monday — and only that.

But there was no joint resolution asking the Legislature to fund a second, more detailed consolidation study. Both HART and PSTA voted for that in December, but then HART rebelled and later voted against it. HART feared it would signal to Tallahassee that the agency is open to merging with PSTA — and it's not.

Both sides, though, chose to bury their differences during Monday's public meeting.

"If you look at what the press has written over the past two months, it looks like we're two cowboys in the old saloon and we're ready to take the gunfight outside," said Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman, who sits on HART's board. "But that isn't the case."

Despite their disagreements, the chairs of both boards agreed to move on.

"I think this has been a good exercise," said St. Petersburg City Council member Jeff Danner, the PSTA chair. "We've learned a lot about each other."

"I think we have a really good opportunity to move forward," said HART chair Fran Davin.

Beneath the niceties, however, remains a serious schism about merging their operations, finances and resources. Which is why both boards voted to send the same report sent to lawmakers with two different resolutions:

HART's brief resolution calls for both boards to keep meeting, identify projects both agencies can examine together and start setting benchmarks and policies toward "continued collaboration." But HART's resolution doesn't mention consolidation at all.

"We are way away from a merger," Davin said afterward.

PSTA's longer resolution calls for improving regional "connectivity." It would support the Legislature funding more consolidation studies and calls for a "proactive regional coordination role" for the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority.

But there was still disagreement over what to send to Tallahassee. TBARTA drafted a letter to the Legislature saying the regional agency wants a bigger role in future discussions. PSTA wanted the TBARTA letter included in the report. HART balked.

The issue was resolved when TBARTA chairman Ronnie Duncan offered to mail it to Tallahassee himself.

But the concept of consolidation is hardly finished.

The Florida Legislature could order the additional study that HART resisted. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, sponsored the original legislation that brought HART and PSTA together to discuss the idea. The first consultant's report said merging would save both agencies $2.4 million. Latvala believes a more detailed analysis will reveal more savings.

Duncan said that it's pivotal for HART and PSTA to work more closely together. There's no system of public transportation that consistently and easily bridges the two counties, he said, and Pasco County is looking to see what both counties do next.

"The entire region is watching to see how this plays out," Duncan said.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3404.

Comments
SunPass charges will soon be showing up again on customer accounts — without late fees

SunPass charges will soon be showing up again on customer accounts — without late fees

It has been more than two weeks since SunPass customers have been able to access their accounts after the Florida toll service took down its website for system maintenance.While SunPass continues to accumulate toll charges since the maintenance perio...
Published: 06/22/18
Petition language reveals details of Hillsborough sales tax transportation initiative

Petition language reveals details of Hillsborough sales tax transportation initiative

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections on Friday approved petition language that will let a new group of transportation advocates begin gathering the 48,000 signatures they need to get a sales tax initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot.All ...
Published: 06/15/18
Carlton: A trolley instead of a boondoggle? About time, Tampa

Carlton: A trolley instead of a boondoggle? About time, Tampa

You could rightly call the vintage streetcars that trundle between downtown Tampa and Ybor City big, beautiful boondoggles.Charming?Yes. An integral part of this city’s unique history?Absolutely.And in their current incarnation, overpriced, inefficie...
Published: 06/15/18
Federal judge halts work on Suncoast 2 toll road

Federal judge halts work on Suncoast 2 toll road

U.S. District Judge James S. Moody, Jr. granted a temporary restraining order on Thursday to halt the work that has already begun on the extension of the Suncoast Parkway — aka the controversial "Suncoast 2."The toll road now ends at U.S. 98 at the n...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Hillsborough group pushing new referendum on raising sales tax for transportation

Hillsborough group pushing new referendum on raising sales tax for transportation

TAMPA — In 2010, Hillsborough voters soundly rejected a 1 cent sales tax hike backed by their elected leaders to raise billions of dollars for roads, bus expansion and light rail. In 2016, county commissioners helped develop a new transportation plan...
Published: 06/14/18
SunPass apologizes to customers who couldn’t access accounts after website maintenance

SunPass apologizes to customers who couldn’t access accounts after website maintenance

Users were unable to access their SunPass accounts on Monday after the release of a system redesign that took the system’s web site, app and hotlines down for a week.From June 5-11, the SunPass website, hotlines and mobile app were taken down for sys...
Published: 06/14/18
Elon Musk to build 125 mph underground transit line serving Chicago O’Hare

Elon Musk to build 125 mph underground transit line serving Chicago O’Hare

Elon Musk has taken on a task perhaps more challenging than launching rockets into space: getting passengers from Chicago’s O’Hare airport to the Loop in 12 minutes, roughly three to four times as fast as the current taxi journey.The plan for the "Ch...
Published: 06/14/18
This trooper pulled over a driver - then realized the man had delivered him nearly 27 years ago

This trooper pulled over a driver - then realized the man had delivered him nearly 27 years ago

New Jersey state trooper Michael Patterson was on patrol recently when he pulled over a white BMW for a routine traffic stop.He asked the driver for his license and registration, and the two started making small talk. It turned out that the driver, M...
Published: 06/13/18
Fares eliminated on downtown Tampa trolley following FDOT grant

Fares eliminated on downtown Tampa trolley following FDOT grant

TAMPA — Fares on the TECO Line Streetcar in downtown Tampa will be eliminated for three years following a grant funded by the Florida Department of Transportation.The grant provide $2.67 million to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, allowing it to t...
Published: 06/12/18
Tampa road work forces office workers to wait up to an hour to get out of their parking garage every day

Tampa road work forces office workers to wait up to an hour to get out of their parking garage every day

TAMPA — At 42 floors tall, the largest office building on Florida’s Gulf Coast offers some spectacular views.But good luck getting out of it.Since the start of a $5.7 million street resurfacing project late last year on Kennedy Boulevard and Jackson ...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/12/18