Pinellas Greenlight Plan will go before voters - WFLA News Channel 8

Pinellas Greenlight Plan will go before voters

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Pinellas County Commission voted Tuesday to approve a referendum for a one-cent transit tax Pinellas County Commission voted Tuesday to approve a referendum for a one-cent transit tax
HERNANDO COUNTY, FL (WFLA) - Pinellas voters will have a chance to decide what mass transportation will look like in that county for the next 40 years.

On Tuesday night the Pinellas County Commission voted to put the Greenlight Plan on a referendum on next November's ballot.

To pay for it voters, must approve an additional penny sales tax. To help alleviate the sales tax burden, homeowners would no longer have to pay the PSTA portion of their property taxes.

Related content:  Pinellas commission OKs transit tax referendum

"The service we have right now is rather efficient but it's very very limited. We have bus service in most areas but it only comes every hour and doesn't go to Tampa and we don't have any service to the airport. Under this plan, suddenly that becomes a choice," said Brad Miller, PSTA Chief Executive Officer.

The Greenlight Plan is a complicated network of buses, trolleys and light rail connecting the entire county. The cost for building the rail, adding vehicles, and operating the network is $20 billion (YOE) through 2059.

Related content:  St. Petersburg city leaders approve transportation project

The money would greatly expand the current bus system, with new equipment, routes, and hours of operation.  Later, a light rail system will be put in place to take riders from downtown Clearwater to downtown St. Petersburg.  There will also be a light rail connection to downtown Tampa.

One big selling point is that the light rail fare would be the same as the bus fare, which is only two dollars.

Related content:  Greenlight Pinellas plan gets on track

The plan is still causing controversy.  On Tuesday, as commissioners debated, a capacity crowd jammed into the chambers.  Dozens of people sporting "try transit" stickers spoke in support of the plan. 

"We're going to move our tourists around," said Suzanne Zeller.  "We want to move people safely.  We need to get some of the cars off the road for our environment's sake."

Opponents, some from a group called No Tax For Tracks, told commissioners the Greenlight Plan will give Pinellas County the highest sales tax in the state.  Opponents also say spending money on buses and rail is a waste.

"Why do we have a bus system that is so broken, with a budget that is so large?" asked Dr. David Mckalip.  "And you want us to quadruple their budget?" 

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