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Tampa, a city on the move?

With the transportation tax in legal limbo, maybe not so much. But public officials give some hope.
Tampa traffic backs up at a familiar spot: near the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts before a show. Where's that transportation tax we voted in to soothe our traffic woes? [URSO, CHRIS  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Tampa traffic backs up at a familiar spot: near the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts before a show. Where's that transportation tax we voted in to soothe our traffic woes? [URSO, CHRIS | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 5, 2019

Back when Tampa was a sleepier sort of town, with downtown streets that went silent after 5 p.m., it was easy to mock the municipal motto of the moment:

Tampa: America’s Next Great City!

Now fast forward a few dozen years to a possible new slogan, one you can actually say with a straight face:

Tampa, A Legit City After All!

Look around and you can’t miss it: Old neighborhoods revived and reviving, a respectable and growing skyline, a bustling downtown where people actually live. A Riverwalk winds prettily around a body of water that, when I got here, you might not have known existed. A fledgling ferry crosses the bay between Tampa and sister city St. Petersburg.

And for that traffic gridlock and other getting-around worries that come with a city’s success, well, forward-thinking residents voted in a transportation tax plan last year to take us into the future.

Oh, wait.

Hillsborough voters did the unthinkable last November when they agreed to tax themselves an extra penny sales tax on the dollar. This would pay for mounting transportation needs from sidewalks to bus service to roads — improvements on which we are way behind.

But Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White — who opposed the tax — promptly sued, as has a resident named Bob Emerson.

So here we are, a year later, still stuck in traffic with the whole thing in the hands of the Florida Supreme Court.

The good news: Some public officials who grasp that our transit troubles will only get worse are making plans anyway.

As the Times’ Caitlin Johnston reported, staff from the county and Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City recently laid out extensive wish lists for the first year of the tax — including 32 streets countywide made safer for cars, bikes and pedestrians, roads resurfaced, bus routes restored and bridges rehabilitated.

If the tax doesn’t get, to use the legal parlance, scrapped.

Another elected official who gets it: Tampa’s new mayor Jane Castor, who last week called our transit problems the “single most important, over-arching issue facing our community today.”

The city has plans for interlinked bus, rail, streetcars and bike and pedestrian paths, courtesy of a transportation board Castor appointed a few months ago. The city would get more than $30 million a year if the tax beats the legal challenge.

If it doesn’t?

Castor talked about finding other sources to pay for what we need. A potential (and, she said, “obvious”) alternate route would be another vote in 2020.

For something people who live, drive, walk and bike here have already made clear they want.

Truth is, Tampa is a scrappy town used to roadblocks, pot holes and speed bumps on the ride to its potential.

So it’s good to know that even in legal limbo, not everyone thinks the answer to fixing our mounting transportation troubles is to just stand still.


  1. The area will be closed to drivers headed north and south from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. through Friday.
  2. A scooter rider navigates Platt Street on Friday morning during the calm before the storm — successive weekends of downtown Gasparilla parades. Scooter companies like Jump warn users it’s a violation of their rental agreement to operate one while under the influence. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    One company decided to pull its scooters Jan. 25 ‘out of an abundance of caution for riders and those participating in Gasparilla.’
  3. Delta Air Lines said Friday it will launch five new round-trip routes a day between Tampa and Miami starting May 4. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) [MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP]
    Delta says the daily nonstop Miami service will create new connections for Tampa travelers to fly to Latin America and other international destinations.
  4. Tampa International Airport is building a new bike and pedestrian path that will loop around its under-construction SkyCenter office and hotel development and cell phone waiting lot. Eventually, that path is planned to connect to a network of regional biking and pedestrian trails. [Tampa International Airport]
    Tampa’s airport is the nation’s first to receive the designation from the nonprofit League of American Bicyclists. It was also the first to apply.
  5. In this photo from video, Delta Air Lines Flight 89 to Shanghai, China, dumps fuel over Los Angeles before returning to Los Angeles International Airport for an emergency landing Tuesday. Fuel dumped by the airliner making an emergency return Tuesday to the airport due to an engine problem fell onto three schools, causing minor irritation to 40 children and adults, officials said. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman) [MATT HARTMAN  |  AP]
    The fuel, described by fire officials as a vapor, caused minor skin and lung irritation to 56 children and adults but nobody was taken to the hospital.
  6. Draped against the St. Petersburg skyline on Tuesday evening on January 14, 2020, the Bella Vita is visible as it docks in Port St. Pete. The yacht is nearly 250 feet long and costs about $650,000 to charter for a week in the winter, according to broker Moran Yacht and Ship. It can accommodate 12 passengers between its six staterooms and six decks, and a staff of 22. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
    Meet the Bella Vita, a yacht almost too luxurious to believe.
  7. Ridge Road in Pasco County currently ends at Moon Lake Road. [Tampa Bay Times]
    At a ground-breaking ceremony, officials laud a road more than 30 years in the making.
  8. Readers question who determines how long a traffic light will remain either red or green and what factors go into that decision in the latest Dr. Delay. [Tampa Bay Times]
    Who controls the timing of the lights in Tampa Bay? Dr. Delay gets some answers.
  9. Pinellas bus drivers carry tips on spotting signs of human trafficking under a new program called, "We are the Eyes Of The City." Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority buses also carry the anti-trafficking message, "See something, say something." [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    ‘Eyes on the city’ now include nearly 400 operators with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.
  10. This rendering from the Florida Department of Transportation shows the eight foot tall steel netting that will be added to the Sunshine Skyway later this year to deter suicidal people from jumping from the iconic span. [Florida Department of Transportation]
    The 8-foot-tall steel netting will run along about a mile and a half of the iconic span that for decades has been a magnet for people seeking to take their own lives.