Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority CEO Brad Miller falsely claimed on Tampa radio today that Greenlight Pinellas would provide rail service to Tampa. Miller also misled listeners about the availability of light rail for Pinellas County tourists.
Appearing this morning on 970 WFLA, Miller claimed Greenlight Pinellas, which would raise Pinellas County sales taxes to the highest in Florida to pay for a light rail project, would enable people in Pinellas County to take light rail to Tampa. The assertion is not true, as the Greenlight Pinellas proposal provides no service across the bay to Tampa. Any future effort to connect Pinellas and Tampa via light rail would require the construction of additional Pinellas County light rail facilities – at a still higher cost – and Tampa voters to approve their own light rail system. In 2010, Tampa voters rejected a light rail proposal by a whopping 16-point margin.
Even without additional facilities that would make Greenlight Pinellas compatible with any future Tampa rail project, Greenlight Pinellas will require a full percent increase in the Pinellas County sales tax. The tax hike is necessary to raise the $2.2 billion for initial construction, and also provide additional long-term subsidies to keep light rail operational. The price tag amounts to $5,400 per Pinellas County household, plus an additional $325 per household per year.
In his WFLA interview this morning, Miller also misled listeners about Greenlight Pinellas and tourism. Miller touted the rail project as a major convenience for Pinellas County tourists. However, the lion’s share of Pinellas County tourists stay in the county’s beach communities, yet Greenlight Pinellas will not provide beach community service. The proposal entails a single rail line between downtown St. Petersburg and downtown Clearwater, largely along an unsightly stretch of I-275 and congested lower-middle class neighborhoods. No rail line would service Pinellas County beaches and tourist resorts, and few tourists staying in downtown St. Petersburg or downtown Clearwater take trips between the two Pinellas County downtown regions.
Miller’s false and misleading statements this morning merely add to ongoing unethical behavior perpetrated by Greenlight Pinellas officials. Earlier this month, Miller was forced to return $354,000 in federal Department of Homeland Security anti-terrorism funds after the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority used the funds to air commercials promoting the Greenlight Pinellas proposal. PSTA officials initially blasted reports about the misuse of anti-terrorism funds, but then returned the money after several sources confirmed the misuse.
Pinellas County voters will decide the fate of the Greenlight Pinellas tax hike proposal during the November elections.