Transit Surprise

A lot of eyebrows were arched when it was learned that former Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebacker Shelton Quarles was Gov. Charlie Crist’s choice to chair the newly formed Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority board. This is the entity entrusted with producing a 7-county mass transit strategy by July 2009. A lot — as in quality of life and future economic growth — quite literally rides on TBARTA’s success.

The Quarles selection is a surprise because he has no background in transportation — other than having commuted to One Buc Place for 10 years.

To his credit, Quarles, a Vanderbilt University grad, has always defied the dumb jock stereotype. He’s also been involved and generous with his time when it comes to the Tampa Bay community. He’s also a nice guy.

Having said that, however, Quarles couldn’t possibly be the best choice for TBARTA point man, a position that entails briefing elected officials and the public and helping forge a consensus among members. It also presupposes more than a novice’s knowledge of mass-transit issues. Monte Kiffin won’t be able to help him on this one.

And it wasn’t as if there were a dearth of candidates for Gov. Crist to appoint unless he wanted a figurehead. Among the unappointed applicants: Ed Turanchik, the long-time regional rail advocate who still wants to fight the good fight.

Put it this way, it would make no less sense if Turanchik were named Bucs’ starting middle linebacker by Jon Gruden.

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