The board for TBARTA — which stands for the Tampa Bay Regional Transit Authority — has disbanded.
The board voted unanimously at its Jan. 20 meeting to dissolve itself.
The action followed state legislation that has been filed calling for TBARTA to be abolished.
Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey and then-Commissioner Mike Moore predicted the transit authority was on its way out back in September, when they recommended the county not pay its dues to TBARTA until it found out more about the organization’s future.
TBARTA is expected to cease operations after winding down current federal contracts and addressing issues, such as its vanpool program, according to Starkey, who was serving on the transit authority’s board at the time of its dissolution.
The regional transit authority, created by the Florida Legislature in 2007, was intended to find a regional transit solution for its five-county region, including Hernando, Pasco, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties.
The TBARTA board included elected county and city leaders, representatives of local transit authorities and gubernatorial appointees.
The transit authority had been pursuing a Bus Rapid Transit system that would create a 41-mile route, between Wesley Chapel and St. Petersburg.
The idea was to create a system in which riders could travel from Wesley Chapel to St. Petersburg, with stops at State Road 54, State Road 56, the University of South Florida, downtown Tampa, Westshore, Tampa International Airport, the Gateway area of St. Petersburg, downtown St. Petersburg and the Tropicana Field area.
The plan faced opposition in Hillsborough County, where a debate arose over whether the portion of the route between the University of South Florida and downtown Tampa would operate on dedicated lanes, or in mixed traffic.
Commissioner Starkey informed her county board colleagues, during the Jan. 24 meeting, about the decision to dissolve the TBARTA board.
She added: “Just because TBARTA is disbanding doesn’t mean that we don’t have responsibility to come up with a transit solution for one of the largest metropolitan service areas in the country — the largest one without a transit solution.
“So, we plan to continue working as a group to find a way forward.
“I did have a meeting with Tampa Bay Partnership yesterday, who’s going to help move this conversation forward.
“And, a small group of us will be meeting to discuss some first steps, and then it will start to be shared with all of the counties and city officials and municipalities involved.
“We have a good route, I think, from Wesley Chapel — a route that goes from Wesley Chapel to St. Pete, and District 7 (of the Florida Department of Transportation) is doing what they can to build that, within the parameters that they have right now.
“They’re a little hindered by some things in Hillsborough County.
“That environmental permit, which you know the state gave us the money to go act upon, will be good for three years. We don’t want to have to spend that money all over again,” Starkey said.
“We just can’t sit back and find another generation to solve this. We have to take some action.
“So hopefully, we’ll be having more of this dialogue in the near future.
“We’ve just got to see what responsible group is going to take the reins, since it was not TBARTA,” Starkey said.
Published February 08, 2023