Tampa Bay on the move: Changing transportation landscape takes focus at Wednesday forum

A panel of transportation leaders is getting ready to meet Wednesday afternoon in Madeira Beach to publicly lay out the future of travel to Tampa Bay.

Members of the public will hear from officials at Tampa International Airport, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, and Cross Bay Ferry.

We'll also hear from leaders with Brightline, the high-speed, inter-city rail operator planning to have a station in Ybor City by the year 2028. It would connect Tampa to Orlando, turning the drive into an-hour long passenger ride.

Beyond those details, there are many details regarding Brightline that remain unknown, including where in Ybor the station would be built and what the impact would be on surrounding neighborhoods.

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Christine Kefauver, senior vice president of corporate development at Brightline promised Hillsborough County transportation officials in early March that the new station would blend in once complete, saying Brightline leadership was aware of the district's historic nature.

"The city has been great," Kefauver said. "They’ve given us tremendous guidance from height limitations to making sure that we take that very modern station…and figuring out ways that it is incorporating the flavor of the Ybor City aesthetic.

That's just one of the topics likely to come up Wednesday afternoon. When trying to measure the ​growth Tampa Bay is experiencing as a travel destination, transportation is the area to watch.

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In March, Tampa International Airport reported passenger counts exceeding 2019 numbers for the same days – some by as much as 29%. Over at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, officials reported the busiest March ever with a 45% increase.

As for the PSTA, in March, they announced a nearly $20 million federal grant to fund about 14 new electric buses and 14 new depot chargers. In early April, the Cross-Bay Ferry announced it had broken its record for single-season ridership with nearly 54,000 passengers.

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During Wednesday's forum on the future of transportation, the public will hear insights on how traveling to, from, and within Tampa Bay is changing. Speakers will give their predictions, along with the impacts on tourism with a key focus on economic impacts. The forum is hosted by Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce and starts at 3 p.m. at Madeira Beach City Hall. It is free and open to the public.

More information can be found here