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Iorio seeking transit manager

Back in September, Mayor Pam Iorio called for local governments, and transit and transportation agencies to join together to bring light rail to the region.

Now, she wants to hire a special city official to coordinate Tampa's transit efforts.

The newly created transit manager position will pay $62,920 to $98,592 annually.

"We don't have anyone on staff that is designated to play a role in transit," said Darrell Smith, Iorio's chief of staff.

Until now, Smith said, Iorio has been relying on the city's transportation division, which focuses largely on roads, sidewalks and traffic management.

"They've got a full plate already, and they really don't have the background in mass transit," Smith said.

The transit manager will report to the director of public works and serve as the city's contact with federal, state and regional agencies.

Although it's a city position, a draft of the job description makes frequent mention of regional transportation planning "including existing bus/trolley system and proposed light rail." It also charges the new hire with coming up with ways to pay for transit plans.

Iorio has talked about the importance of mass transit since before her election in 2003. But it wasn't until this year that she took steps toward turning that talk into action.

Iorio is pushing for a downtown Tampa bus system to eliminate dependence on cars for people moving into condos in and around the city's urban core. At her urging, leaders of the Hillsborough and Pinellas county bus systems will meet to discuss ways the two agencies can collaborate. Iorio would like to see them explore a merger.

And Iorio's revival of old light rail plans has been met enthusiastically by most business and political leaders.

The transit manager will help take those concepts forward, according to the job description.

"We need a specialist who can deal with this issue," Smith said.

City Council members contacted Monday had mixed feelings about the new position.

John Dingfelder and Linda Saul-Sena applauded the idea.

"There's a need for better coordination between HART- line and the city and clearly between the city and other jurisdictions on these kinds of issues," said Dingfelder, a member of the bus agency's board.

But Shawn Harrison and Mary Alvarez wondered why the city needs to hire someone to do what HARTline is supposed to do.

"(HARTline executive director) Ray Miller talks to us, he talks to the city. He likes the city. I don't think we need a transit manager," Alvarez said.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

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