TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Regional transportation continues to be an issue in the Tampa Bay area, a new study shows.
Tampa and St. Petersburg were ranked as cities with the third and second-worst transportation in the country by WalletHub on Tuesday.
However, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) is moving forward with a plan aimed at improvement. The plan, called “Envision 2030” was launched Tuesday.
Florida Legislature installed TBARTA as Tampa Bay’s regional transit facilitator in 2017, making the organization the main transit entity for the five Tampa Bay counties – Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas.
In an effort to provide a lasting solution to Tampa Bay’s transit woes, TBARTA is now developing a 10-year transit strategy.
TBARTA Executive Director David Green says “Envision 2030” will culminate with a Regional Transit Development Plan starting in 2021. The plan will be delivered to the Florida Department of Transportation by Sept. 1, 2020.
“All transit authorities are required to do RTDs, but this is the first kind in the Bay area where we want to find what a regional plan would look like in which all five counties work together for the improvement across the entire region,” said Green.
In collaboration with the Florida Department of Transportation and individual county transit operators such as HART and PSTA, TBARTA is starting the “Envision 2030” campaign by hearing what commuters think of the current infrastructure. Commuters can voice their opinions in a survey on TBARTA’s website.
“We want to hear from the people of Tampa Bay,” Green said. “There are important decisions to be made that will shape our economic development and quality of life for decades to come. Public involvement is the foundation for identifying transit needs and building consensus on goals and priorities.”
On TBARTA’s lengthy list of options to explore is a proposed 41-mile bus rapid transit route connecting Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties along Interstate 275.
Three other cities – Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Albuquerque – have existing BRT, although they’re significantly shorter than TBARTA’s proposed BRT system.
“Regional BRT will be a component of Envision 2030,” Green said. “It will illustrate the role that BRT will play in the regional transit along with express bus routes and the work that will be done to update the Howard Frankland bridge.”
U.S. Census Bureau data released last year shows a 28.3-minute average commute for people in Hillsborough County in 2017. That’s almost ten percent, and nearly double the national average.
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to accomplish anything easily across the five counties,” Green said. “But I feel like everybody has ideas of what they would like to see in place. The priorities aren’t always aligned, but it’s a process and starting with Envision 2030, we’re working to improve things across the board.