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Citizens Organized for Sound Transportation (COST) letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott

May 9, 2013

Transportation

Below is a letter the Tampa Bay area group Citizens Organized for Sound Transportation (COST) sent to Florida Governor Rick Scott, regarding the budget request for allocation of $200,000 to fund a study of a merger between the Pinellas County and Hillsborough County transit authorities.  When will our trusted servants realize they cannot keep appropriating taxpayer money to use for campaigns for programs that are against the express will of the people?

Dear Governor Scott:

[We are] requesting that you veto the $200,000 appropriation in line 1830A on page 256 of the budget which funds a study on consolidating the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (“HART”).  A  consolidation study costing over $100,000 was mandated by the legislature last year and neither agency wished to pursue consolidation after the study findings were published.

This is about the state taking away local control of HART which has been hugely successful in meeting budget while accommodating increased ridership demands with less revenue from the down economy.  This is about forcing the agency to alter their ten year Transit Development Plan (FDOT approved) that includes six cost-effective bus rapid transit routes throughout the county to instead support TBARTA’s master plan that has 250 miles of costly rail.  This is about dissolving HART whose board is made up of folks from all ends of the political spectrum and are united against the merger.

This appropriation was inserted at the last hour, without a single Hillsborough delegation member supporting it, without going through any committee, and with strong opposition of HART.

The agencies currently collaborate on an informal basis.  HART and PSTA currently partner jointly in fuel/fluid purchases to realize quantity discounts which make up a significant chunk of their respective budgets.  PSTA and HART are already collaborating together and regionally on fare media on a pilot project that includes surrounding transit agencies so one day one fare card can take someone from Citrus County all the way down to Sarasota County.  They cooperate with other transit agencies statewide to realize group savings on vehicle purchases.

HART and PSTA have different geographical service areas separated by a 400 square mile bay.  Despite transit service across all three bay bridges, ridership on these routes is scant going in either direction.

HART has a 5 year balanced budget that routinely shores up its reserves and current budget projections indicate that they will have enough revenue to expand weekend and night service.  On the other hand PSTA taxes property owners at a 40% higher rate and they project they will tap out their reserves and go in the red in two years.  Folks in Hillsborough should not be forced to raise their property tax rates to subsidize Pinellas transit.

This study is a waste of limited state revenues and has no support except from the State Senator who championed it alone.  Please veto this line item 1830A.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Citizens Organized for Sound Transportation

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About laura997

Ordinary citizen concerned with the direction our country is headed.

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