With a swift and unanimous vote, Hillsborough County Commissioners pledged to dig for answers about how to give residents more and better options to get around town.
Commissioner Mark Sharpe pointed out a July, 2012, study by GPS maker TomTom. It revealed Tampa had the fifth-worst traffic in North America.
"I have to get up at 3:30 a.m. to get to HART on time," said Hillsborough Area Regional Transit bus driver Jason Eames. He commutes each day from Brandon to Tampa to begin his shift as a HART bus driver. "I know this sounds crazy, but I want to ride the bus. I want to have that option, and I don't have that option now." He said Brandon to Tampa bus routes are scarce during overnight hours. Eames presented his concerns to commissioners Wednesday.
Approximately 20 other Tampa Bay area residents showed up for public comment on transportation issues.
Tampa Bay Young Republicans and Young Democrats of Hillsborough County co-drafted a letter to commissioners demanding change. "I'd love to see more bike racks on busses," said Anibal Cabaera with Tampa Bay Young Republicans.
"If we are going to drive up the economy and create jobs, we have to be number one in transportation," said Commissioner Sharpe. He anticipates that today's unanimous commission vote to dedicate county time and resources to studying bay area transportation problems will also reignite talks about light rail. "Let's put light rail where it belongs, and if we can show the numbers work, we can make a strong case," he said.
"Here we go again," said Mark Calvert with Citizens Organized for Sound Transportation, or COST. "We do have immediate traffic congestion relief needs, and the timeframe for any type of relief from light rail is years if not decades out," he said.
Commissioner Sharpe said within six weeks, the Commission will host a summit open to the public to further talks on transportation issues. He expects mayors from many Tampa Bay area cities to be in attendance.