Pinellas County Sen. Jeff Brandes has refiled a bill seeking to put an end to the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority — an agency Brandes has vocally criticized as “doing nothing.”
The proposal, SB 426, would dissolve TBARTA, which oversees regional transit planning in the Tampa Bay area. Brandes filed an identical bill for the 2021 Session (SB 1130), but it never saw a committee hearing.
Brandes’ grievance with TBARTA came to a head in the Senate last Session, when the chamber was hearing a transportation package by Sen. Ed Hooper. While the bill appeared unobjectionable, the floor got heated when discussing several amendments related to TBARTA.
Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, presented one amendment that mirrored legislation he filed previously (SB 422). That measure would give mayors more flexibility as members of TBARTA by allowing them to send a designated alternate to serve as a member of the governing board, with the ability to act as a voting member.
The measure was adopted by the Senate, but not without a word from Brandes.
“TBARTA is one of the most duplicative entities that we have in Tampa Bay,” Brandes said on the Senate floor. “It is essentially the appendix of the transportation planning process, we could cut it out, and nobody would miss it. We should sunset TBARTA.”
“Further messing with this appendix isn’t going to make it better,” Brandes continued. “While I’ll support the amendment, I just think, ultimately, TBARTA should go away. It really adds no value.”
On top of the legislative disputes, Gov. Ron DeSantis slashed TBARTA’s $1.5 million appropriation as part of his $1.5 billion veto list released in June. DeSantis vetoed a similar appropriation for the agency last year, too.
The $1.5 million appropriation request (HB 2037, SF 2127), filed by Tampa Bay Republicans Sen. Jim Boyd and Rep. Jackie Toledo, was approved in the final legislative budget proposal. The appropriation would have provided additional funds to the agency.
The Legislature created TBARTA in 2007 to develop a transportation master plan for a seven-county region of West-Central Florida. The agency covers Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties. Its original name was the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, and while its mission was broad, it served limited purposes, including operating a regional vanpool.
The Florida Legislature voted to change the transportation in its name to transit and restructured its purpose to serve as a regional transit planning agency to coordinate intercounty plans.
Florida Politics reached out to Brandes for comment but has not heard back by the time of publishing.