By Leo Coughlin
There was a time, many years ago, when Florida was not bursting at the seams with people people who came from elsewhere.
All the elsewhere crowd that came mostly after the war (and when one speaks of the war, the reference is to World War 2) was helped here by better roads (Interstate highways), by improved retirement plans (thank unions), and opportunity.
Of course, Florida is the best place in the world to live and Pinellas County ups that by a few degrees. But, out of kindness (and some truth), well expand that to the Tampa Bay area.
With people come all the attendant problems, chief of which is crowding and the need for more and more facilities to take care of more and more people.
Now roll those drums . . . tarantara! Here is the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. Or TBARTA for short.
Yes, this outfit is just creeping into your consciousness, although the reason for its being maybe has been front and center of some folks thinking for a while.
The initials I guess it is or will become an acronym T-Barta are going to be come very commonplace in the immediate future.
In short, the area has outgrown itself and remedies are needed. That is what the regional transportation authority is all about.
Folks at Belleair Bluffs got a rundown on its mass transit plan a couple of weeks ago at a City Commission meeting.
TBARTA representatives are holding a series of expository meetings in the area. One of the devices being used is telephone meetings where citizens can phone in and join the discussion. Information can be found on the web site www.tbarta.com
Also on that web site is detailed information on the mass transit plan.
The projected plan covers far more than just the Tampa Bay area it embraces counties from Citrus to Sarasota (Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, as I understand it) and would consist of a gigantic rail and bus system.
Where does the money come from? Well, from the people, as always but, right now, it is hoped that 80 percent will come from the federal government with a local sales tax to pay the rest.
Taxes ugh! That may stop everything dead in its tracks right there. The feds are up to here spending dollars we aint got in an attempt to bail us out of the Grand Canyon of economic disaster we are in.
And when we talk about adding another or adding to a local sales tax you are going to get folks with their heels dug in. So TBARTA is going to have to persuade a lot of people about the necessity and virtue of the plan being proposed.
Please note, though, this is not a project of the immediate future. It is being planned as a phased in program with completion set way out there in the future. Many of us who are of a certain age will never see it.
Once one gets over the initial shock of paying for this, one must apply some sense and out of that thinking comes the ineluctable proposition that yes, this is going to be needed.
The experts expect continued growth around here over the next half century and that means more and more congestion and the inevitable traffic tie-ups for those who have to travel to jobs on a daily basis.
Look at the growth over the past 50 years and you will get the picture. In 1959 this agent used to toddle down to this area from Pensacola to see the spring baseball camps.
We could ride around and I could show you where now stand malls and homes orange groves used to flourish and what are now four lane highways were dirt roads in places. I am not kidding just ask some old timers like Charlie Harper.
So mass transit is the obvious answer for the future.
When you are the best place in the world to live, people are going to come.
And there is a price to be paid.
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