March 5, 2013

What is the Future for Transportation in Pinellas County?

Mary Campbell,
Extension Director

One of the top issues for residents in Pinellas County is traffic. It clogs our roadways and we have an endless amount of road construction and delays. On February 26, 2013 Pinellas County Commissioners approved putting a question on the Nov. 4, 2014, ballot that will ask residents whether they will pay a higher sales tax to support a major overhaul of the transportation system.

In many large, urban communities, mass transportation options are an important component for the quality of life in that community. Development in Florida favored automobiles and only in the past few decades has it become increasingly apparent that new options will need to be part of future planning in our communities. As the population in Florida continues to grow, providing easier, faster and more economical ways to travel not only supports a thriving community but reduces the impacts on the environment. Exhaust emissions from vehicles is a major contributor to poor air quality. Fossil fuel combustion in motor vehicles has been identified as the largest contributor to air pollution in the world.

Mass transit refers to municipal or regional public shared transportation, such as buses, streetcars, and ferries, open to everyone and it does not require reservations. Mass transit can be divided into fixed route systems (often involving rails), such as streetcars and subway trains, and non-fixed route transit (along streets or water), such as buses and ferries.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has become a popular method of mass transit. It is a flexible, high performance transit system that combines speed, reliability and amenities of rail-based rapid transit systems with the flexibility of buses. An increasing number of BRT systems are being implemented across the U.S. and the world. Many communities utilize a combination of BRT and light rail transit (LRT). Light rail transit (LRT) is an electric rail-borne form of transport which can be developed in stages from a tramway to a rapid transit system operated partially on its own right-of-way.

The Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA ) developed a Regional Transportation Master Plan for Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sarasota Counties. The plan outlines a long-term vision for the region and was created in cooperation with the Florida Department of Transportation, the region's Metropolitan Planning Organizations, transit agencies and the public.

On the TBARTA website you can view specific routes and the plan proposed. TBARTA provides some interesting data such as: In a breakdown of all household expenditures for the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, it was shown that more money is spent on transportation than any other category including shelter, food or health care. Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, 2007.

Public transportation use saves 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline every year, and can reduce household expenses by $6,200 - more than the average household pays for food in a year.
American Public Transit Association, January 2007


Pinellas Transportation Plan

Pinellas County Alternatives Analysis

Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)

Bus Rapid Transit

Light Rail

City of Vancouver, Canada

Transit Oriented Development

American Planning Association and Transit Oriented Development

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