The Greenlight Pinellas referendum has failed but its supporters weren’t crying in their coffee this morning. While I’m sure private words were exchanged between friends and families who looked forward to watching plans for passenger rail and bus rapid transit unfold throughout the city, publicly those leaders have been eloquent and optimistic.
In an email from the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Chris Steinocher, he reminds supporters that the conversation will continue.
“Great markets throughout this country have all worked through many election cycles to succeed with transformational change efforts like Greenlight Pinellas,” the email begins.
The Greenlight Pinellas plan would have replaced the portion of property taxes currently used to fund the county’s public transportation. It would have driven revenue for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority from $30 million to $130 to increase bus service and fund bus rapid transit and a sole passenger rail line from downtown St. Pete to Downtown Clearwater.
Despite historically favoring conservative ideals, the chamber endorsed Greenlight early on in support of its economic development promise.
“Transportation has been a discussion in this Chamber for over 100 years and will continue to be pursued as a fundamental for economic growth and community vitality,” Steinocher’s email continued.
A statement from PSTA CEO Ken Welch after Greenlight was defeated 62 percent to 38 percent echoed Steinocher’s email calling for continued conversation and immediate steps forward.
“We have learned valuable lessons for moving forward and we have a lot of work to do. We cannot delay planning for our future, the challenges will only become more difficult to resolve,” Steinocher’s email surmised.
His words ring true. Under its current funding structure, PSTA is expected to become insolvent by 2017 forcing drastic cuts to service.