A new study finds, buses - not rail - would be the most workable option for mass transit in Tampa Bay, because of its lower cost and ability to change along with the city.
The bus rapid transit system is projected to attract 4,500 new riders along 41 miles from St. Petersburg to Tampa and Wesley Chapel, in Pasco County. It would be estimated to cost about half as much as a light rail system.
The project was determined to be the area's best chance to create regional transit option in a study conducted by Jacobs Engineering.
On Friday, the public, community and business leaders got a first look at what the transportation makeover in the region would look like.
“We think it’s a great start,” said Scott Pringle, project manager. “We know there is some merit to some other real projects, those don’t go away as part of the future plan. But we really want to just find that catalyst to get us going.”
A passenger rail system connecting downtown Tampa to the University of South Florida using nine miles of existing CSX tracks was also outlined.
The transit system would use dedicated lanes to bypass traffic, and passengers would board at train-like stations.
“It looks like a train, but it’s not your grandfather’s train,” Pringle said. “It also doesn’t look like your everyday bus.”
It would cost less than a train and local leaders are hoping to attract federal dollars to help pay for it.
“Because we’re able to reduce those overall project costs, we have a lot more options on the table, rather than only a referendum on as an option to get a project built like this,” Pringle said.
The lower cost is considered critical because previous referendums to increase taxes for mass transit have failed in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
Representatives of the project will conduct outreach around Tampa Bay to discuss with residents, and information-gathering tools will also be developed for the project’s website.