Friday, February 28, 2014

Who is TBARTA?

Much attention has been brought to the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) and it's chairman Ronnie Duncan, who recently resigned from the private advocacy campaign "Yes for Greenlight" due to public pressure. 

The Eye decided it is time to take a closer look at TBARTA and recently interviewed local citizens activist Ken Roberts to discuss who TBARTA is and what do they do.

TBARTA's website describes it's creation in 2007
The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) was created by the Florida State Legislature in 2007 to develop and implement a Regional Transportation Master Plan for the seven-county West Central Florida region consisting of Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota Counties. 
The TBARTA Board is made up of representatives from the seven counties, four largest cities, the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Business Community, and Florida Department of Transportation. The Board meets regularly to discuss implementing a Regional Transportation Master Plan.
TBARTA's 2050 Master Plan
It is interesting that TBARTA was setup to cover the same geographic area that the Tampa Bay Partnership covered at the time.  Tampa Bay Partnership has since added Polk County and now it is anticipated that Polk County will soon be joining TBARTA and become the 8th county under TBARTA.  Apparently this was not coincidental because according to this Creative Loafing article Tampa Bay Partnership was "instrumental" in creating TBARTA.
Tampa Bay Partnership was instrumental in creating the seven-county regional transportation authority TBARTA, which gives the region its best hope at a working mass (and rail) transit system.
Ken Roberts attended Friday's TBARTA workshop and apparently it was a TBARTA-Tampa Bay Partnership hug fest:
"The TBARTA Board Workshop at the USF Embassy Suites was two and a half hour tag-team testimonial during which TBARTA Directors plus their Executive Director, Bob Clifford; and members of the Tampa Bay Partners alternately sang each others praises: no steak - no sizzle. (These two organizations were the only parties at the table.) 
The only substance came when TBARTA Chairman Ronnie Duncan broached the subject of funding. Bob Clifford recalled the last board meeting on local funding as being "the shortest meeting on record. No one wanted to talk about it." To which Chairman Duncan replied, "schedule another one, and soon." 
Ken Roberts was the only person to offer public comment at the end. Roberts told them they had a public trust problem and the root of it is in the structure of their board. The 15 member board seats only one representative for Hillsborough County which comprises 34% of the population in its jurisdiction. The agenda, on the other hand, assured attendees "The Board has determined that TBARTA is on the right track."
TBARTA is a state funded agency and Governor Scott cut about $950,000 from TBARTA's budget in 2011. The state does not want to fund TBARTA and the counties do not want to fund TBARTA. Since TBARTA appears to have been established to advance Tampa Bay Partnership's agenda and they are such "good buddies", how about Tampa Bay Partnership dig into their own deep pockets and they can fund TBARTA?  

As stated in the interview, we already have the MPO's, FDOT, local transit agencies, Planning Commission and Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.  So better yet, lets simply eliminate TBARTA and that will also resolve the issues surrounding its chairman, Ronnie Duncan.

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