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Light rail – dead but apparently not forgotten

Portland Oregon Trimet MAX light rail

Portland Oregon Trimet MAX light rail/Jim Karlock

You may think all is quiet here in Tampa, that the idea of an outrageous light rail boondoggle project had been decided by the voters and residents of Hillsborough County last year with a resounding NO to a referendum for an increased sales tax. But across the bay in St. Petersburg, the Pinellas on Track Project Advisory Committee has been discussing the future of buses and light rail service in Pinellas County.  The Alternatives Analysis has been prepared and there is a really pretty power point presentation you can view here.  There will be formal presentations in January to the City of St. Petersburg, City of Clearwater and Pinellas Park, along with the Hillsborough County MPO Board.

When the light rail project was being discussed in Hillsborough County, I attended many of the planning meetings and researched and wrote several articles on the existing light rail lines across the country. Below are links to articles on light rail in Portland, Oregon, Charlotte, North Carolina and Phoenix, Arizona.

In addition to the proposal for an increased sales tax, which is anticipated to be on the Pinellas ballot in 2013, several issues must be considered, that the “experts” failed to address competently during the hearings and presentations prior to the Hillsborough County 2010 vote.

  • First and foremost, can we truly afford to take so much money out of an already struggling economy? The projections for the increased sales tax revenue in Hillsborough County were between $150 million and $200 million dollars annually.
  • Can our local businesses be expected to pay higher rent, as commercial leases are subject to sales tax, without passing that cost on to the consumer?
  • If a light rail line was in operation, at what point would it have to be shut down in the event of high winds, tropical or lightening storm, or hurricane and leave riders stranded?
  • The aesthetics of a light rail, with the overhead cable lines and tracks, are questionable.
  • How many private property owners will be forced to lose their homes or businesses to this project?

They do plan on connecting this to Hillsborough County as can be seen in the Pinellas Alternatives Analysis .  Light rail is a failure in every city in this country. Statistics show that it takes very few automobiles off of the roads, it cannibalizes the general tax revenue at the expense of vital expenditures, and draws crime into the areas that it services. It fails to bring the jobs or revenue that they project in their pretty presentations.

Better alternatives would be bus rapid transit, HOV and toll lanes, which will most certainly be included in the initial plans until the rail line can be completed. At present they are studying which public transportation will best serve the needs of the communities. Trust me – the conclusion will be light rail!

Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority TBARTA insists that they also be involved in the project going forward, particularly with the Republican National Convention coming to Tampa in 2012 bringing the necessity to move people across the bridge and around the Tampa Bay Area. They also expressed an interest in a possible merger of the several transit authorities in the area as a “means of saving taxpayer dollars.”

Don’t be fooled. These entities are in the business of thinking about how they can spend our taxpayer dollars and justifying their own existence.

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About laura997

Ordinary citizen concerned with the direction our country is headed.

View all posts by laura997

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