Bay area transit
ready to take off

Published Monday, February 22, 2010

Bay area commute named the worst | Feb. 18, story

Bay area transit is ready to take off

It is no surprise to see the Tampa Bay area ranked so low for commuting in the recent report. Most of us deal with roadway congestion issues on a regular basis, or we're simply frustrated by the lack of alternatives to daily driving. That's why it's so exciting that on both sides of the bay efforts are moving forward to give our commuters more varied and efficient travel options.

PSTA, HART, and TBARTA are coordinating plans that will vastly transform the way we move about our region, whether by road, rail or bike path. For too long our transportation system has lagged behind those of other major metropolitan areas, and our citizens deserve the commuting options that those living elsewhere now take for granted.

In the last several years there has been more energy and cooperation among local political and business leaders directed toward improving our transportation system than I have seen in my lifetime. This is momentum we cannot afford to waste.

Providing a variety of commuting options like rail, high- occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, and extensive and frequent bus service does come with a price tag. The funding source with the greatest overall potential may be an addition to the sales tax, and Hillsborough County is looking toward a referendum this fall that would ask voters to approve a one-cent increase for a combination of rail, bus, roadway and bike path improvements.

In Pinellas County we are considering a similar referendum in 2011 or 2012.

The next major step for Pinellas County will be a Transit Summit scheduled for the morning of March 22 at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park. Here business leaders and other stakeholders will be informed about our planning process and then participate in a discussion about the importance of public transit as an engine of future economic development.

We are poised as never before to move our region into a truly competitive position with other major metropolitan areas, and I encourage as many as possible to actively participate in this visionary endeavor.

R.B. Johnson, chairman, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) board of directors

Gulf oil drilling

Don't put economy and ecology at risk

Drilling for oil off the coast of Florida makes no sense, and it makes no cents.

More than 950,000 Floridians make their living from jobs relating to tourism and our coastal waters. In 2008, visitors spent $65.2 billion and Florida collected $3.9 billion in total tourism tax revenues.

Don't believe big oil when they tell you that their "new drilling technology" is completely safe. It is the very same type of drilling rig that leaked more than a million gallons of oil off the coast of Australia in 2009 from August to November.

A similar spill off the west coast of Florida would damage our coastline and inland waters for hundreds of miles. It could easily impact Tampa Bay and the desalination plant that we are now using to obtain 25 million gallons of drinking water for people in Tampa. Has anyone thought about that yet?

One spill would jeopardize our major source of jobs and tax revenue. And for what — the hope or "promise" of lower gas prices? No way. Big oil will sell their oil for the highest price to the highest bidder. It is a global market, and if the Chinese want to pay more than people in Tampa, you know where it will be sold.

When oil spills into the gulf it turns into tar balls, ranging in size from a dime to a dinner plate. A solvent (such as mineral spirits) will be required to remove the tar from your feet or your bathing suit when tar balls invade our beaches.

Just think of scrubbing your young children with mineral spirits after a fun day at the beach. Are you ever going to go back to the beach after that? Of course not, and neither are the tourists.

We simply cannot afford the environmental damage, the clean-up costs, the loss of jobs, the loss of tax revenue, and the reduced land prices that oil drilling will bring to Florida.

Gary Gibbons, Tampa

Global weirding | Feb. 18, Thomas Friedman column

Sound assessment

This column should be required reading for all those who debate global warming. As usual Thomas Friedman has delivered a coherent analysis with ideas and action steps that make sense.

America needs to embrace clean tech and sustainable clean water sourcing now. If you don't understand the tie-in, read the article. OPEC and China are waiting for us to debate this to our demise as a world power.

Ken Marlow, Clearwater

Will that be paper, or plastic? Feb. 17

Emphasize recycling

The problem of waste in Florida is much more critical and complicated than just paper or plastic.

Florida legislators and citizens and visitors need to wake up to the need for comprehensive recycling of paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, metal, aluminum.

More recycling should be encouraged by requiring deposits on bottles and cans.

We need to do all we can to preserve a healthy environment and the beauty of Florida.

David and Connie Cylkowski, St. Petersburg

Tampa's bid for the Rays

Leave the team here

Let's be perfectly clear: If Tampa wants the Rays, Tampa will get the Rays. Lest we forget, Tampa wanted the Lightning and they got 'em. Tampa wanted the Storm and they got 'em. We aren't all riddled with short-term memory loss.

And will someone at the Times help me understand what's wrong with the Trop? It's accessible, there's plenty of parking and its just an overall great venue.

I am eagerly waiting for spring training and the start of a new Rays season. Heck, St. Petersburg was built on spring training and baseball. I can't help but think: Will the thought of fighting the Tampa traffic cause some of us to balk when buying tickets in the future?

Tampa, you took the Lightning and the Storm. Leave the Rays in St. Pete.

Here's wishing our Tampa Bay Rays a great 2010 season and many more right here in St. Pete.

Mark Campbell, St. Petersburg

Train to the stadium

There is only one place a new stadium for the Rays will be successful: Tampa. Why? The new high-speed rail, which now looks like it will be a reality, will bring a lot of people in from the surrounding areas, including Brandon, Plant City and all along the I-4 corridor, as well as Orlando, which will be less than an hour away by high-speed rail.

The new rail line must be brought directly to the stadium (no shuttle buses, please), and I guarantee you that the stadium will be filled. There is one other small requirement: The Rays must be a winning team, but that is their problem, not the fault of the stadium.

Getting off the train and entering the stadium without ever going outside would be an enjoyable experience, indeed. Yes, build the stadium in Tampa and they will come — on the train. Sorry, folks in Pinellas. It will be a little less convenient for you, unless a connector high-speed train can be brought in from Pinellas, but this appears to be in the too-distant future.

Of course, this scenario can change and a new stadium in the Gateway area of Pinellas will work if the high-speed rail line from the east crosses the bay and stops directly at the stadium.

John Pringle, Tarpon Springs

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