In 2010, I was involved in a campaign to bring light rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) to Tampa and Hillsborough County, Florida. The measure did not pass, and every day I see a portion of land that was purchased for the light rail line from my office. Seeing that every day, combined with my 45-minute drive, for a 7-mile commute, is a sobering reminder of how Tampa, Florida can benefit from more sustainable transportation, such as light rail.
Tampa suffers from extreme sprawl. Driving from one end of Tampa to the other can easily take an hour without traffic. The city also has only a handful of main roads that run through the city. Those roads face massive congestion each and every day. Light rail and BRT would help alleviate some of that congestion and allow for drivers to do more than just sit in that traffic.
Light rail and BRT would also connect the many different nightlife areas of Tampa. The biggest university is located in the northern part of Tampa, and many of us who have gone there have spent many nights down in south Tampa because that is where all of nightlife is. Tampa does not have a true central business district, but has many spread throughout the city. These forms of transportation would connect these as well, while making business easier to conduct in the area.
The 2010 campaign was not the first time Tampa has faced a light rail debate. Urban planners have been trying to push through sustainable forms of transportation to curb the urban sprawl problem since the 1980s. Tampa has continued to grow and is projected to add upwards of 8% to its population within the next five years. Urban planners see the need to find ways to help with the transportation and urban sprawl problems, but the population has not yet.
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