A passionate Ronnie Duncan says transportation choices should be as varied as toilet seats in Tampa Bay

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Duncan said the new master plan does include such options, and not just for transit or bus, but also with integrating roads, as well as seaport and airport connectivity.

And the TBARTA chair railed against the tea partiers and others who say that TBARTA and other local transit agencies have appropriately been brought down to size in the aftermath of last year's devastating rejection in Hillsborough county of a penny sales tax to fund construction for a light rail system.

"Now is not the time to sit back and do nothing," he averred. "Now is the time to take some bold steps forward." He said the TBARTA board had a responsibility to provide a variety of transportation options for the entire Bay area (the agency represents areas as far north as Citrus County to the bottom of Sarasota county). He went further and said if TBARTA didn't go bold, they might as well as pack up and turn the lights off and end their mission, which is to help coordinate a vision for transportation in the Bay area for the decades ahead.

With government financing on both a state and federal level for transportation projects looking to be scarce in the immediate years to come, Duncan said it was incumbent that the private sector needs to step up to help pay for such solutions.

Before Duncan spoke, North Port Commissioner David Garafalo commented about the level of negativity from e-mails sent to the board, some who apparently believed that voting for the Master Plan meant approving light rail. "That's not true," he maintained.

Among the items that TBARTA officials said they heard from the public in the town halls telephone meetings held this past year included:

-A need for better connections to the area's airports
-Working with CSX to use existing rail lines for passenger transportation
-Improving and expanding local bus service
-Improve safety and service for bicyclists, pedestrians and senior citizens
-Regional transportation needs to come sooner rather than later
-Cost is important - not convinced rail as a solution


This Friday morning the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, or TBARTA, voted to adopt its Regional Transportation Master Plan for 2050. It came after two board members defended the agency's work against some negative commentary from the public about the plan.

As mandated by state statute, the agency must update its master plan every two years, but this year's plan comes after Governor Rick Scott vetoed the approximately 25 percent remaining of TBARTA's $2 million in funding the state provided in 2008.

The presentation of the updated plan was relatively perfunctory, but it ended somewhat hilariously with chairman Ronnie Duncan talking about options in transportation with the vast variety of toilet seats that are available for purchase at Home Depot, which he said dawned on him after a recent trip to retail giant.

"There are wood toilet seats, there are plastic toilet seats, they're pink, they're blue, they're green, they're white, they're beige, there are some that talk to you, some that sing to you....I thought to myself, one of the basic things in life, you actually have options. And then it dawned on me. Perhaps one of the most basic elements in life - that is, getting around to our jobs and our work and our schools, we have few options in transportation."

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