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Get the latest coverage of the 2023 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

It's the end of the road for the Tampa Bay Regional Transit Authority

A wide shot of eleven people sitting on one side of a U-shaped dais. Behind them are American and Florida flags, along with a display screen showing a person at a podium.
Craig Kopp
/
WUSF Public Media
Members of the Tampa Bay Regional Transit Authority voted Friday, Jan. 20, to sunset the authority after 16 years. If the state legislature dissolves T-BARTA as expected, it will cease most of its operations by the end of the year.

The organization, which was formed in 2007 to address the area's mass transit needs, voted itself out of existence Friday.

It's the end of the road for the Tampa Bay Regional Transit Authority, also known as TBARTA.

The organization, which was formed in 2007 to address the area's mass transit needs, voted itself out of existence Friday.

TBARTA Chairman Cliff Manuel Jr. presided over the vote to sunset the regional transit authority after a frustrating 16 years.

"It's an interesting position to be in to chair your demise," Manuel said just before the board's unanimous vote.

A pair of Tampa Bay area lawmakers have introduced two bills to kill the regional transit authority in the upcoming legislative session, which starts in March.

Senate Bill 198 was introduced by Nick DiCeglie (R-St. Petersburg), while House Bill 155 was proposed by Jeff Holcomb (R-Spring Hill).

Former St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes introduced similar, unsuccessful bills in both the 2021 and 2022 sessions.

Lack of agreement among the five counties involved (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, and Manatee counties) — along with a lack of funding — contributed to TBARTA's demise.

Manuel said all the region's transportation problems can still be solved without the authority, adding that TBARTA is just a name.

"But the collaboration between the cities and the counties needs to come together on regional transit so we can present one voice to Tallahassee," explained Manuel. "That's where we got to go."

Manuel also urged the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) to look for some way to partner.

"I think HART and PSTA need to decide to collaborate," he said. "I think they should work together to create a regional transit concept and then all the member counties need to support it."

If the state legislature dissolves TBARTA as expected, it will cease most of its operations by the end of the year.

I started my journalism career delivering the Toledo Blade newspaper on my bike.
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