Tampa’s failing transit system

By Breanne Williams, COLUMNIST
On February 19, 2017

Tampa’s public transit system is severely lacking in both available vehicles and funds, according to an analysis by the Tampa Bay Times. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Tampa takes pride in the fact that it is a prospering and metro city. It boasts about its hip locally owned business and its diverse art scene. 

Yet it refuses to provide its residents with a basic right necessary for a city of its size: Efficient transportation.

An analysis by the Tampa Bay Times found the city is greatly lacking in its transit opportunities, directly hurting those of lower income who live within its borders.

“Tampa Bay spends far less on transit each year than any other major metro area,” the Times reported. “It is the only top-20 metro region to spend less than $213 million annually. Its $141 million operating budget is on par with Bridgeport, Conn., and Buffalo, N.Y., each of which have 1.5 million fewer people.”

In a city as large as Tampa, it is crucial that transportation is highlighted as a priority. 

Students, families and workers in general utilize buses to hop around the Bay as they traverse from home to work and school. 

The economy is improving, as is the still fragile job market, however jobs are still difficult to get. So if you get a job near MacDill Avenue but live off Bearss Avenue, you can’t exactly turn it down due to not having a car, you need the wage. 

Instead, you find yourself dedicating over three hours to making the transit from bus to bus as you slowly make your way toward your next paycheck.

Waiting for the Bull Runner can be frustrating, but waiting for the HART bus or streetcar for over an hour is excruciating. 

Tampa has approximately 360 buses and nearly every other top-20 metro area has a minimum of 600, according to the Times.

The lack of available shuttles is frankly ridiculous. 

Major cities are home to the upper class as well as the poor. To refuse to ensure there are an adequate number of transportation vehicles essentially refuses to give those who cannot afford their own cars a fighting chance. 

It deprives them of the ability to care for themselves and their families.

And Hillsborough’s leaders know this. They know it is a major issue for the city. They know it is hurting thousands who rely on the systems for work and school. They refuse to act.

It would be naive to believe those leaders are simply apathetic to the plight of their residents, even if their lack of action sometimes implies their interests lie elsewhere. 

The issue, inarguably, is not hinging on whether they care, but rather on the cost of improving the current, heavily flawed system.

Over the last 25 years, more than a dozen plans centered on improving transportation were voted down or ignored, many of which suffered due to the proposed cost for the changes.

While the city’s budget is always tight, lawmakers need to begin to treat transportation with the same level of urgency they dedicate toward development downtown and drawing in tourists. 

Tampa will be able to survive with a few less vacationers in fanny packs and Hawaiian shirts. However, it needs its residents to be able to work and study without delays and wasted hours. That will only come with an improved and advanced transportation system.

Whether that means the city decides to build a railway connecting the airport to downtown or added a few hundred more buses to its ranks, remaining content with a failing system will no longer be acceptable. 

It’s time for a change. 

 

Breanne Williams is senior majoring in mass communications.

 

Breanne Williams is a senior majoring in mass communications. 

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