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New post in Tampa may jog light rail

In September, Mayor Pam Iorio called for local governments, 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 new position of transit manager will pay $62,920 to $98,592.

"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 relied 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. A draft of the job description makes frequent mention of regional transportation planning "including existing bus/trolley system and proposed light rail."

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 talk to action.

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

Iorio would like them to 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.

Janet Zink can be reached at or (813) 226-3401.