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Transit would boost area economy

Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 00:11

Sometimes chances don’t come around twice.

When they don’t, you make them.

While it was a huge folly of Gov. Rick Scott to reject $2.4 billion in federal stimulus funds to create a high speed rail system in 2011, it isn’t too late for the people of Tampa to gain access to a better system of public transportation — a much-needed service that could stimulate the Bay area economy.

As Mayor Bob Buckhorn released a new plan on Tuesday to revitalize downtown, the need for efficient public transit becomes glaringly clear as a necessity for the city to develop and reach the heights of an efficient metropolitan area.

The efforts for mass transit — including via rail — started long before the stimulus package. In 2007, former Mayor Pam Iorio started hosting regional mass transit meetings.

According to a TBO.com article, the absence of high-speed rail is costing Tampa in terms of income.

In the city of Tampa, the average income is about $55,000 per year, according to the article. Atlanta, a city with only a slightly higher population, but a far better developed transit infrastructure, has an average income of about $68,000. Raleigh, N.C., has an average income of $78,800.

Tampa’s layout is so diverse in its positioning that a more efficient form of transportation becomes essential to ensure equal development and that citizens living on Armenia Avenue have as equal of an opportunity to prosper
economically as citizens who live on Bayshore Boulevard.

Tampa runs the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) bus service in partnership with Pinellas County, which offers the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. But with infrequent stops, poor city planning and odd stopping times, it could take a rider up to 12 hours to get from Tampa to St. Petersburg.

According to a Tampa Bay Times article, Hillsborough County's property revenue base provides HART with $30 million per year — more than enough for the service to efficiently sustain itself. Though ridership for HART and PTSA increased abundantly this year, public transit cannot be efficient until the citizens of Tampa demand it.

But the mayor’s new plan tells citizens not to give up.

The only way for citizens to achieve better public transit is to request it. Waiting for Gov. Scott’s change of heart — as witnessed with his stance on Obamacare last week — is unlikely to happen, even if the state were to be offered a second chance. The people of Tampa instead must make their voices heard as Tampa continues to develop.

Divya Kumar is a junior majoring in mass communications and economics.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column previously stated that according to an article in the Tampa Bay Times, HART receives $30 million from Hillsborough County. That is incorrect. HART receives $30 million from Hillsborough County’s property revenue base. The story has been updated to reflect the correct fact.

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