Hillsborough County hosted its first in a series of public forums yesterday discussing mass transportation in an effort to gauge residents' perspectives.
A group of city and county leaders - including three mayors, the chief of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), and a number of county commissioners - are meeting monthly to discuss the where's, what's, and how to pay for transportation improvements that will stimulate job growth in the area.
In the meantime, they're also hosting public forums that will provide feedback from the community.
16-year-old Kevin O'Hare says the county needs a solution.
"I've lived in this community for 15 years and I've lived in Valrico. And if I want to go west, it takes me 35 plus minutes to go anywhere past State Road 60, anywhere," he said.
Director of Tampa Bay Bike Share Andrew Blikken says he'd like to see authorities spread the cost around.
"I think it is absolutely vital that we engage the private sector as much as we can to make sure that the taxpayers are not burdened with these costs," Blikken said.
Leading the forum was Herb Marlowe who is with the county's strategic planning. He says this area is in the process of a major economic restructuring.
"Those communities that prepare for and are ready for that restructuring are going to win significantly," Marlowe said. "They're going to be wealthier, they're going to be able to have the quality of life everybody wants to have, they're going to be able to have the type of community you really want to live in."
Marlowe says city and county leaders are working on a three-phase process to come up with viable transit options. In the current first phase, they are trying to understand how transportation can help the region economically and what major development patterns are in the county. The second phase will present solutions to the transit needs addressed in the first phase and finally, they'll talk funding options.
The public forums will be held monthly across Hillsborough county.