ST. PETERSBURG — A neighborhood forum on the Greenlight Pinellas initiative Tuesday — organized to offer information to the undecided — was packed with advocates for the transit plan as well as opponents of the $2.2 billion proposal.
Still, although relatively few in the crowd of about four dozen at the Childs Park Recreation Center appeared uninformed about Greenlight's broad contours, many wanted to know details of how the plan would benefit the city's southern neighborhoods.
A 24-mile light-rail line between St. Petersburg and Clearwater is intended to shuttle workers to and from jobs in the northern part of the city and county. But $300 million to build more frequent bus service and better-designed routes will help Childs Park and surrounding neighborhoods, said Jeff Danner, a former City Council member and former board chairman for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.
"The big benefit is the increase in the bus network," said Danner, who was representing the pro-Greenlight position.
Barb Haselden, campaign manager and spokeswoman for No Tax for Tracks — which opposes the proposed 1-cent sales tax increase that would pay for the plan — said voting against the transit plan would force PSTA to improve its existing bus service.
Haselden said swapping the current property tax levy for public transit for sales tax hike would hurt poor people, who pay sales taxes but often don't directly pay property taxes.
"Developers and big business will be the big recipient of this funding," she said.
The expanded bus service and light rail would cost $130 million annually to operate.
Brother John Muhammad, president of the Childs Park Neighborhood Association, said many residents just don't know enough about the transit plan.
"They want to know: What is it? What does it mean for us?" he said.
Talmadge Andrews, 63, a Wildwood neighborhood resident, wants better bus service that runs later at night and doesn't force workers to walk long distances in the dark.
"That's much more important than light rail," he said.
Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4159. Follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago