Today, at HART's Major Projects and Legislative Committee meeting, the discussion centered around the agency working with the state legislature in the coming year.
Listed priorities included looking for funding to replace some of the agency's aging buses, completing the MetroRapid East West Project Development and Environmental Study, and remaining vigilant over the latest attempt to study the merging of Hillsborough County's transit agency with its Pinellas County counterpart, PSTA.
But the Public Transportation Commission (PTC) unexpectedly came up when board member Karen Jaroch said the agency continues to block innovative private transportation options for citizens. [jump]
This prompted Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman to reveal that there will be a bill introduced before the 2014 session that will look at trying to kill the county's PTC, which regulates taxis, ambulances, tow trucks and other vehicles in the county — and is the only agency of its type in the state of Florida. (The agency has been under fire for years for various ethics lapses, none bigger than a situation involving former County Commissioner Kevin White, who was convicted on bribery charges related to his position on PTC.)
In Pinellas and Sarasota counties, entrepreneurs who want to offer private car services simply need to complete some forms and get background checks. Jaroch said there are far too many regulations in Hillsborough that are adding more burdens to HART because of excessive regulations.
"I think HART could easily talk to the legislative delegation. We need to look at those regulations," Jaroch said.
Murman then said that she knew there was going to be an effort to abolish the PTC.
"I've talked to two legislators that I know of who will be pursuing that," she said.
Murman added that HART is all about offering different options to commuters, and "maybe that's what the argument about the PTC is about, and that's what'll come out, as it develops and moves along down the line, we'll see what happens."
Murman told CL after the meeting that she isn't prepared to name the legislators, but at a public forum held earlier this year in downtown Tampa, state Rep. Jamie Grant spoke disparagingly of the organization
, and said he would like to work with local lawmakers in getting legislation passed that would eliminate the agency.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn blasted the PTC at that same forum, calling it "an archaic, antiquated body."
Former GOP state Sen. Ronda Storm brought the issue up at the annual Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation meeting in December of 2010 at USF. It provoked considerable discussion but no bill was ever presented in Tallahassee.
Also at today's meeting, HART CEO Philip Hale said that it might be possible to go into the agency's reserve funds to finish funding HART's MetroRapid East West Project Development and Environmental Study. Hale said that that route "as it stands now" would run from Temple Terrace in the East to Tampa International Airport.
HART introduced its MetroRapid North/South route earlier this year to much fanfare, and recently Hale said
it "exceeded our early expectations."