Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bill to re-shape TBARTA to focus on Tampa Bay transit heads to Gov. Rick Scott

The Florida House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that will reshape the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. The agency known as TBARTA will become the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority and focus on transit solutions for a smaller number of member counties. The Florida Senate passed its version last week, and the bill awaits Gov. Rick Scott's signature. [
ZACK WITTMAN  |  Times]

The Florida House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that will reshape the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. The agency known as TBARTA will become the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority and focus on transit solutions for a smaller number of member counties. The Florida Senate passed its version last week, and the bill awaits Gov. Rick Scott's signature. [ ZACK WITTMAN | Times]

Tampa Bay's regional transportation agency is set to get a new name — and a new focus.

The Florida House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that will reshape the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. The Florida Senate passed its version last week, and the bill awaits Gov. Rick Scott's signature.

The legislation will do three things:

• Change the second "T" in TBARTA from Transportation to Transit. This highlights the agency's new mission: to bring a regionwide transit system to the area, whether its express buses, rail or some other mode of transit.

• Narrows the scope of member counties from seven to five. (Citrus and Sarasota didn't make the cut.) Proponents are hoping cutting down the size will help re-focus the agency.

• Restructures the governance of the board so that it includes representation from the business community, not just elected officials.

The Tampa Bay Partnership, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft all lobbied for the bill, which is the first of several steps the local business community has planned to address regional transit issues.

"This just scratches the surface," said Tampa Bay Partnership president Rick Homans. "There's a lot more to be done."

What that regional transit system might look like, how much it could cost and how the bay area would pay for it are all still up in the air. The bill simply creates a more focused group to help answer those questions, Homans said.

There is already talk of putting together legislation for next year that would address how to fund TBARTA, which currently does not have a budget or taxing authority that would allow it to build or operate any future transit projects.

Until then, TBARTA's existing staff will focus on implementing the bill, such as changing logos and contracts to reflect the new name, said TBARTA executive director Ray Chiaramonte.

New board members are supposed to be appointed within 45 days of the bill's signing. The agency will also be required to create a regional transit development plan, a document that would prioritize projects across multiple counties.

TBARTA would not interfere with any transit projects contained within a single county and operated by the existing local transit agencies, Homans said, such as the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority or the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.

The repurposing of TBARTA over the next year or two coincides with an ongoing regional transit study that the Florida Department of Transportation paid for to identify whether rail, express bus or other types of transit will work in Tampa Bay. That study is expected to wrap-up next year, by which time Homans and others are hoping the reshaped TBARTA will be in place to oversee the development of any resulting regional projects.

That could be rail, but it doesn't have to be, Chairamonte said. The bill requires that an independent feasibility study be completed before proceeding with a rail project. If a state-funded rail projected was selected, it would require approval from the legislature and the transportation planning groups in the counties where it would run.

Even if rail were selected, Chiaramonte said, it would likely be done in conjunction with other projects, like rapid bus and van pools.

"We need to be realistic, incremental, thoughtful and really not just saying, "This technology's the silver bullet," he said. "I don't believe in silver bullets. We need all kinds of things in the right proportion."

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.

Bill to re-shape TBARTA to focus on Tampa Bay transit heads to Gov. Rick Scott 05/04/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 3, 2017 7:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rowdies shut out at Pittsburgh

    Soccer

    PITTSBURGH — The Rowdies lost their first USL game in nearly a month, 1-0 to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

  2. Trump reveals that he didn't record Comey after all

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Thursday he never made and doesn't have recordings of his private conversations with ousted former FBI director James Comey, ending a monthlong guessing game that he started with a cryptic tweet and that ensnared his administration in yet more controversy.

    President Donald Trump said Thursday that he didn’t record his conversations with James Comey.
  3. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick tonight in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Investigation Discovery TV show profiles 2011 Landy Martinez murder case

    Crime

    The murder of a St. Petersburg man will be featured this week on a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery.

    Jose Adame sits in a Pinellas County courtroom during his 2016 trial and conviction for first-degree murder. Adame was convicted of first-degree murder last year for torturing and then executing his boyfriend as he pleaded for his life in 2011. Now it will be featured in a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery. The episode will air on June 26 at 9 p.m. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  5. Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel protests exclusion from debate

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.

    Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.