Tired of sitting in traffic on the Veterans Expressway or idling on State Road 52 as you wait to turn north and head home via Shady Hills Road? Longing for the day you can hop a train for the commute to Tampa and other spots to the south? Now is the time to speak up.
On Thursday, Hernando residents can take advantage of an opportunity to do some brainstorming about future mass transit projects with the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. TBARTA is an agency with an important mission: to create a transportation master plan for Hernando and six other counties of the Tampa Bay region. At the top of the list is whether and how those counties could be tied together with an effective mass transit system.
TBARTA is holding its second series of workshops in each of the counties to hear and share ideas. The workshop for Hernando County is scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Holiday Inn Express on Commercial Way, Spring Hill. This is a drop-in workshop, so you can go by after you get off work.
Previously, TBARTA asked for ideas on rail corridors, park-and-ride lots, new highway lanes and express bus routes. This time, the focus is on evaluating transit options that include bus rapid transit, commuter rail, light rail, managed lanes, and waterborne transits.
The Florida Legislature created TBARTA last year to address the Tampa Bay region's acknowledged transportation challenges. The region is growing, and more cars are added each year to the already congested roadways. Yet governments are less able to afford the high cost of building more roads, and the cost of driving is an increasing burden on Tampa Bay area families.
Some people believe the only real solution is a rail system, but that idea also has its detractors. TBARTA plans to take two years to study the problems, hear from the public and then develop its master plan. Then, unlike some previous transportation study groups, TBARTA can take the next step. The Legislature gave the agency the authority to issue bonds and build a system as well as manage it.
Part of TBARTA's mission is also to find out what residents of each county think is needed, and where improvements, such as new roads, express bus lines or rail lines, should go. For more information on TBARTA, its work and the officials involved, check out its Web site, www.tbarta.com.
Now is your chance to be a part of the long-term transportation plan for Hernando and the region.
The future can look better than the river of red taillights you see at rush hour.