Friday, November 7, 2014

212,249 Voted No on GreenLight but We Can't Just Say NO to Public Transportation

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD

There were few more strongly opposed to the GreenLight sales tax referendum than me. There is no reason to rehash my opposition in this Post because you can read all that on my Blog Bay Post Internet.

What is important is what happens next.

Those who voted no cannot simply take their ball and go home.

And those who were in support of the GreenLight effort cannot ignore the results of the election.

There are certainly lessons to be learned from this election. There are some hurt feelings and wounded pride in the losing camp, but there should also be some new found wisdom when it comes to selling public transportation funding to the public that will pay for it.

Stubborn positioning on either side of the issue is just not productive.

For any Pinellas County public transportation initiative rail is out. Any component for rail is out. Any funding for rail is out.

Light rail needs to be totally separate initiative, regionally based with its own unique funding mechanism.

There are some glimmers of hope as Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman are already sending signals they are willing to talk about a regional plan for rail. Let's bring in the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority and the Pinellas County Aviation Authority and create a powerhouse regional transit consortium.

Pinellas County needs a, grid based bus system that serves the entire County.

Funding it with a sales tax is not a bad idea. PSTA already has a plan. We don't need to spend millions on consultants, bring in TBARTA and start the whole hijacking the process all over again.

Update the PSTA plan, put together a five or seven year budget, involve some citizens along with the politicians, develop a sales tax proposal that is incremental and tied to the projected PSTA budget.

No train, no transit oriented redevelopment, no grand scheme, right sized buses, honest and trustworthy leadership and solid public transportation.

All points of view need to be at the table.

PSTA can be the Pinellas County gateway to regional light rail. A healthy, well funded and efficient PSTA in Pinellas County and HART in Hillsborough County could become the inter-modal feeder system that would make regional light rail succeed.

We have been here before. Disagreeing on direction and resolving our differences at the Ballot Box and moving forward.

We're doing that right now in St. Pete with the Pier and there is no reason we cannot take the same approach County wide with public transportation.

Almost everyone involved on both sides of this issue knows what needs to be done. The only thing left is have the courage to put pride, stubbornness and self interest aside and get to work.

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