Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Janet Long's Scandalous SANDAG

Commissioner Janet Long


Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long proposed the Regional Council of Governments Cronies last year and is one of the biggest advocates for regionalism and taking away local control in Tampa Bay. Long used a late midnight rule by the Obama Admin mandating regionalizing MPO's as her excuse for such proposal. However, we posted here her excuse went away with the November election. The mandate rule was eliminated overwhelmingly on a bipartisan basis by Congress in early May.
Long's proposed Regional Council of Governments
Regionalism is all about money and higher taxes. Regional entities are the structural mechanism used to ram all the tax hikes thru for costly rail boondoggles. Voila! Long's regional vision for transportation includes regional taxing for transportation in addition to local jurisdiction funding. 
Long's regional vision includes regional taxing
Long's proposed Regional Council of Cronies was modeled after SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments). SANDAG put a 40 year half-cent sales tax hike on the ballot last year that failed.

However, Long thought so highly of SANDAG that she used her position as Vice-Chair of another bureaucracy, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC), to stage an event in February erroneously titled Innovations In Regional Transportation

The Eye was at the event and there was very little presented about real transportation innovation. Transportation innovation is occurring in the private sector but almost all the speakers at this event were the same recycled taxpayer funded bureaucrats we've all heard before who have nothing new to say. Long needed to stage an event so she could invite SANDAG's Executive Director Gary Gallegos to be the events featured speaker at lunch. 

But SANDAG's tax hike referendum not only failed last year, they were caught in a scandal. SANDAG tried to deceive voters by using flawed economic forecasts. They misled voters by overstating the projected revenues and understating the costs of the projects promised. SANDAG then tried to cover up what they had done by skirting California's public records law. (Hmmm sound familiar?) 

Last September it was reported that SANDAG was using taxpayer money advocating for the tax hike:
“The San Diego Association of Governments’ repeated use of public funds to promote Measure A is a blatant violation of the law, which clearly prohibits the use of public funds to promote the passage of ballot measures…..Because its communications violate civil and criminal laws prohibiting the use of public funds to support a ballot measure, we demand SANDAG immediately remove all materials from its website and social media, and cease and desist using any public resources that promote passage of Measure A – including the use of publicly paid staff and consultants to do so on the agency’s behalf.
An investigation was launched after the scandal was revealed and KPBS News recently reported:
An investigation has found the San Diego Association of Governments has "forfeited the public's trust" in its response to a scandal surrounding last year's Measure A tax proposal. Executives pressured staff to delete documents and shield them from public records requests.
Voice of San Diego investigative reporting led the way reporting on the scandal and the ensuing investigation. Apparently SANDAG has a history of deceiving voters as Voice of San Diego reported last month SANDAG Misled Voters on 2004 Tax Measure, Showing Pattern of Deception Goes Back at Least 13 Years
SANDAG knew a year before the 2004 election that TransNet wouldn’t collect $14 billion, but it didn’t tell voters. This is now the third instance in which SANDAG either knowingly overstated how much money it could collect to pay for transportation projects, or understated how much projects would cost to complete.
It was reported last week that Long's role model, SANDAG's Gary Gallegos, decided to resign amidst all the mess created on his watch. Of course Gallegos resignation occurs after SANDAG's Board gave him a 4% bonus last December boosting his salary to $310K - even though the sales tax hike failed, lawsuits were filed against the tax hike ballot initiative, SANDAG illegally and unethically used public money on advocacy and the scandal was brewing. 

Long is misguided, misinformed, has bad judgment or cannot Google because scandalous SANDAG is no model to follow. 

And as WFLA reported last month, Long is a globe-trotting county commissioner who likes to spend other people's money traveling the world. 

So what does PSTA, already known for its own scandals, bad judgment and mismanagement, do? 

Reward Long by appointing her to the new highly politicized TBARTA regional transit agency already stacked and packed with too many politicos.

But Long is just a piece of the puzzle being put together and orchestrated for what's ahead.

Another tax hike referendum(s) in 2020….Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Downtown to Ghost Town

The Hillsborough MPO and TB Next charade continued today, as MPO Chairman Les Miller invited yet another urbanist proponent, USF masters student in architecture Joshua Frank, to present his demolish I-275 plan. From downtown Tampa to Bearss Ave., the proposal would replace the interstate with a street level 6 lane boulevard with bike paths, sidewalks, a transit/train corridor and an urban canopy park like setting on each side.

Sounds nice doesn't it?

Well, Mr. Frank, who is not an engineer or a transportation expert, apparently has not yet calculated the costs to demolish I-275, nor the economic impacts of removing a major commerce and transportation corridor for the Tampa Bay region.

As we demonstrated here, this will not be a 6 lane boulevard, but is more likely to be 30 lanes.

Unless of course, the intention is to create a congested road so intolerable that no one will drive on it. This will result in traffic finding a way down neighboring streets, just relocating traffic from one managed highway to multiple jammed up surface streets.

SaintPetersBlog also reported on Frank's presentation.
Although supporters of TBX said it was needed to bring commuters from Pasco County into downtown Tampa, Frank says that only 35 percent of those who drive on I-275 come from Pasco, with the other 65 percent traveling from the USF area at Fletcher Avenue to the Floribraska exit around Columbus Drive.
Mr. Frank seems to have a problem with math as well. 35 percent drive from Pasco, and the rest of the drivers on I-275 only use it from Fletcher to Floribraska?

Hogwash.

That section of I-275 supports upwards of 200,000 vehicles a day, and forecasted up to 300,000 per day by 2040.

It is an major thoroughfare supporting the business, sporting events, arts and museums, weekend activities and residences of downtown Tampa.

If I-275 is demolished and replaced with a 6 lane boulevard, downtown Tampa will take a severe nose-dive.

Employees will not put up with the congestion to get in and out of downtown. Businesses will be forced to relocate.

Similarly, patrons for the arts, museums, and sporting events won't put up with the hassle of getting in and out of downtown for big events. Parking around downtown, particularly near the Straz Performing Arts Center, is already a problem. A problem manufactured by urban planners increasing density and not developing enough parking.

All those urbanist dreams of skyscraper canyons will fade away if people cannot easily get in and out of downtown.

Oh, but what about transit? That'll solve our problems!

Not quite. Pop quiz. Name one city that has reduced congestion as a result of transit investment.

Answer: None.

Transit ridership is decreasing nationwide. After a brief uptick in ridership after the financial crisis and recession, once the economy picked up after the recession, more people choose to leave transit and buy a car or use ride share services, as vehicle miles traveled nationwide is up near record levels and transit ridership is down. Even in metro areas with heavy investment in fixed guideways to attract the unicorn "choice" riders, transit ridership is down. Like our local politicians, people have made their choice, and it is not transit.

Tear down the interstate. Create a corridor of congestion so vast FDOT might as well build a wall around downtown Tampa.

Yeah, that's the ticket… to turn downtown Tampa into a ghost town.
Downtown Ghost Town
Then watch Vinikville...move to Wesley Chapel.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Get Real FDOT! Acknowledge Reality or TampaBayNext will Fail

Considering extremism while ignoring the will of voters and the consent of the governed reflects tone-deafness and not acceptable.  

But that is what FDOT's TampaBayNext is doing.

Tearing down our interstates that 200K vehicles and almost a half million people use everyday is extremism and is not an option for reducing congestion or addressing our transportation issue in Tampa Bay. 

FDOT made a unique outreach to transit advocates that the rest of us were not afforded. They are not representing the rest of us.

How did that special outreach to extremists turnout? Not well. 

What did FDOT gain from spending your tax dollars on one monolithic group of people? Nothing.

Because after the StopTBXers returned from their taxpayer funded St. Louis trip, they still want to demolish our interstates

Now the StopTBX extremists posted recently on Facebook they are targeting the newly named FDOT District 7 Secretary David Gwynn and plan to "unleash" on him. 
StopTBX extremists to "unleash" on FDOT
The extremists do not represent a majority of the citizenry in Tampa Bay. No matter how vocal they are or how many meetings they show up at or what the Tampa Bay Times falsely reports or ignores, we are not San Francisco Bay.  

TampaBayNext is creating another big mess - confirmed by the urbanists Facebook post above. 

TampaBayNext, which is costing taxpayers millions, is setting unrealistic expectations that can never be met. They are using misleading and inaccurate information and ignoring relevant information. Sound familiar? Moving Hillsborough Forward in 2010, Greenlight Pinellas in 2014 and the recent Go Hillsborough debacle used the same tactics. And they all have basic 3rd grade math problems.

These tactics are used time and time again to ram tax hikes thru for costly transit boondoggles. Has FDOT joined in?

Click the Transit link and what pops up?
FDOT knows Tampa Bay wants transit options, and we’re committed to transit investment. 
FDOT provides no annotation or footnote for any details behind that statement. Did FDOT conduct a survey or a poll or what? When we asked FDOT how they "knew" this. The only answer provided was it is what people (we don't know who they are) have told them.

Voters in Tampa Bay (Hillsborough, Pinellas and twice in Polk) overwhelmingly defeated all transit tax hike referendums - FOUR TIMES since 2010. And transit ridership is declining in Tampa Bay. FDOT needs to reword that statement. 

FDOT ignores declining transit ridership while vehicle miles travelled is set to be a record this year. Is that intentional?

Rhetorical statements can be made but they insinuate false narratives. Even in South Florida, the densest part of the state where the Central Planners were forcing stack and pack densities (that creates more congestion), people are rejecting transit and choosing to drive or use ride-share and the sharing economy: Traffic's bad but South Florida commuters find bus, trains worse.
"Planners may be pushing for more buses and trains, but South Florida’s commuters are no longer on board. 
The numbers reflect a national trend, but the results mean current efforts to narrow roads and focus more attention on pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders may have to be rethought. Planners had expected that the worsening traffic situation would encourage commuters to leave their cars at home. 
Greg Stuart, executive director of the organization that coordinates transportation projects in Broward, said planners need to find other creative ways to solve gridlock instead of focusing only on alternatives to cars. 
"We’re going to have to work on roadway capacity improvements," he said.
This is abject failure again by the central planners - taxpayers wasting billions on transit failures. No matter what the central planners say in Tampa Bay, South Florida is no model to follow.

SunRail in Central Florida is such a fiscal disaster and its dismal ridership so low that fare box revenues do not even cover the cost of its own ticketing system. Farebox revenue covers only 5% of its annual operating costs forcing axpayers to pick up 95% of the operating cost of this boondoggle.

And Jacksonville made it's 2.5 mile elevated monorail Skyway free to riders (nothing is really free) years ago and still its ridership is dismal.

After Jacksonville, Central Florida and South Florida unwisely spent billions on costly failed transit projects, they have wised up. They are now ALL expanding their interstate capacity with managed toll lanes which actually help relieve congestion. 

Taxpayers in Tampa Bay should not be forced to pay for more costly transit failures.

Yet FDOT includes this:
In major metro areas, transit services typically attract between 5-10% of total travelers.
That is a misleading and disingenuous statement.

The metro areas where transit commuter ridership is greater than 5% are few including NYC, Chicago, LA, Boston, San Francisco. It is unfair and very disingenuous to compare Tampa Bay to any of those very large metropolitan areas.

Transit ridership in the four largest metro areas of Florida is well BELOW 5% and transit ridership is down across the country.

As we posted previously, FDOT's false assumptions have a basic math problem:
HART serves about 1.5% of the daily workforce (American Community Survey), or about 11,000 riders per day. Over 600,000 commuters get to work by automobile. Pretty simple math.
ACS 2015 Commuting Data, Hillsborough County
(click to enlarge)
Today almost 200K vehicles are using our interstates and will increase to about 300K vehicles by 2040. If magic suddenly occurred and transit in Tampa Bay magically took 5 - 10% of vehicles off the road, the number of new vehicles would dwarf the very overly optimistic number taken off the roads. In other words spending billions on costly fixed guideways will not reduce congestion in Tampa Bay.

While FDOT uses data from the biggest transit LOBBYIST in the country American Public Transportation Association (APTA), where is data from our own transportation think tank at USF - Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) who provides objective expertise? FDOT is shamefully ignoring CUTR's data.

We posted previously this article and honest assessment from Steve Polzin, a transportation expert, Director of Mobility Policy Research at CUTR and former HART Board member. Here is a Webcast by Polzin about overall transit on March 30, 2017 and his accompanying presentation. FDOT should take note of Polzin's honest assessment.

FDOT ignores that even analyzing the annual data published by lobbyist APTA, ridership on the New York City Subway accounts for all of the transit increase since 2005. On services outside the New York City subway, there was a loss of nearly 200 million riders between 2005 and 2015. And last year even New York City subway ridership FELL .8%.

After voters in Tampa Bay consistently reject higher taxes for costly transit projects and trains, FDOT ignores them and created this presentation: Making Tracks - a Primer for Implementing Transit Fixed Guideway Projects. The data used is very misleading. 

Slide 10 of the presentation states some average costs per trip and costs per mile (not including right of way which can be huge) which are also misleading. This article Outrageously Expensive Transit reflects actual costs. FDOT fails to mention huge cost overruns and totally ignores future long term major rehab and replacement costs taxpayers get stuck paying for.

While Slide 12 states costs run from $40 million per mile for light rail to over $250 million per mile for heavy rail, reality is very different. This is reality:
  • Latest light rail boondoggle from Seattle's regional Sound Transit is $54 BILLION for 62 miles of light rail - almost $900 MILLION per mile 
  • Honolulu's 20 mile elevated rail has doubled in cost to $8.6 Billion and may escalate further to $10.8 Billion, over $500 MILLION per mile. 
  • Durham's proposed $3.3 Billion 17.7 mile light rail is almost $200 MILLION per mile
  • Minnesota's proposed $1.858 BILLION 14.5 mile light rail is over $128 MILLION per mile.
Light rail projects today more likely cost $80 to $100 MILLION per mile or more yet carry a very small percentage of commuters and overall travelers. Estimated capital costs for any fixed guideways in Hillsborough County in the AEComm report are all over $40 million per mile. No wonder Hillsborough County refused to publicly present this report…..

Slides 12 and 13 indicate rail projects "can" get 50-80% of the capital costs from the Feds. However, federal (or state) funding requires a local match for capital costs and a long term committed funding source for operations and maintenance into perpetuity. What state legislator is going to force another CSX/SunRail boondoggle on us?

Taking federal transit dollars has all kinds of strings attached which raises the cost. When the project goes financially south or bankrupt like the Tampa Streetcar, it's impossible to shut the fiscal disaster down. Taking federal transit money is like Hotel California - you can check in but can never check out.

Costly rail is not about mobility, it's about land use to benefit special interests.

All these initiatives are about fleecing taxpayers for more money. 

More taxpayer money - that's why FDOT funded the $1.5 million Regional Premium Transit campaign before they ever launched TampaBayNext. The transit propaganda machine is in full force again because the rail cartel thinks we are stupid.
Jacobs Engineering, the new consultant same as the old consultant,
trying to sell costly transit again
Others must think we are stupid too. According to this recent Times article, some of the electeds who want more taxpayer funded transit (even as ridership tanks) tell us their schedules are too busy to take the bus.  
Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp said taking the bus isn't possible with all the meetings she attends. "I would like to ride transit more if I wasn't so busy working on the transit issue. ... It's not very amenable to my kind of schedule. I'm not an 8-to-5 in one place type of person."
Hillsborough County Commissioner and HART chair Les Miller said his busy schedule makes it "awfully difficult to jump on the bus."
Transit for thee but not me…and how out of touch with reality. 

The reality is the rest of us have very busy schedules and that's why we prefer to drive too. During the course of a day we meet clients, drop kids off at school or daycare, go to work, run errands during lunch, go to doctor appointments, pick up kids, take them to after school or evening activities, check in on elderly parents, other responsibilities to attend to as well as civic, social or recreational activities. Who has a simple 8 to 5 schedule these days? Probably very few do and becoming fewer.

Note that Commissioner Miller, also Chair of the Hillsborough MPO, selected all six of the transit advocates and extremists from Hillsborough who participated in FDOT's unique outreach no one else was afforded. Miller voted for the unnecessary proposed Go Hillsborough sales tax hike to fund transit boondoggles and as MPO Chair voted against TBX managed lanes. 

A Times article reported (emphasis mine):
DOT officials presented seven alternatives to the downtown Tampa interchange and I-275 north to Bearss Ave. during Wednesday's meeting. None of them included toll lanes on that span of I-275 and they all had some sort of transit, such as light rail or express bus. 
Those concepts are versions of just one of the alternatives being considered. DOT consultant George Walton said the department also is looking at a beltway, turning I-275 north of downtown into a street-level boulevard or using reversible, elevated or sunken lanes.
Light rail is toxic in Tampa Bay. Why is FDOT considering toxic solutions and extremists solutions while ignoring common sense? Because taxpayers keep enriching the same consultants who keep pushing the same failed solutions over and over and over. George Walton was previously with Parsons Brinkerhoff who gave us the Hillsborough 2010 rail tax and the crony Go Hillsborough debacle - both failures. 

The largest commuter population into Hillsborough is from Pasco County, a county that is growing leaps and bounds. Eliminating the interstate north of downtown is absurd and ridiculous and would cause our local streets to become more congested and more dangerous. Does FDOT want to create more safety issues? 

TampaBayNext is costing taxpayers millions and millions of dollars and is heading down the very same path as Greenlight Pinellas and crony Go Hillsborough. Both of those efforts were rife with dishonesty, misinformation and flat out lies.

If FDOT wants to restore their credibility, the new District 7 Secretary needs to reset TampaBayNext asap by being honest and acknowledging reality.

The public is fatigued of the transportation charades in Tampa Bay and tired of hokey meetings facilitated by the same people who gave us the 2010 and 2014 failed rail tax referendums.

FDOT must acknowledge reality. Innovation and technology is disrupting traditional transit. 

FDOT must acknowledge that voters in Tampa Bay have consistently rejected higher taxes for costly transit. 

FDOT must acknowledge the public has spoken numerous times that roads are the highest priority. 

FDOT must stop being tone-deaf to reality.

Get real FDOT. Get a reality check.

Or TampaBayNext will fail and we all lose.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Tear Down this Interstate!

Tearing down the interstate, or "urban freeway removal", as it's proponents call it, is a rallying cry from the Stop TBXers. 

Removing parts of I-275 is regularly raised at the FDOT Tampa Bay Next and other outreach meetings.

From the Tampa Bay Times:
If some Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights residents had their druthers, the state would simply demolish Interstate 275, which now severs their neighborhoods. 
Loud, sustained applause and shouts of "Yeah," from nearly 100 people greeted just such a proposal Tuesday. 
"Tear it down!" said Joshua Frank, an urban planner who wrote his Master's degree thesis on an alternative to the controversial highway expansion program called TBX (short for Tampa Bay Expressway).
... 
His presentation, "Bifurcation to Boulevard", showed how transforming the Interstate into a wide, landscaped boulevard, featuring bike and pedestrian paths and even light commuter rail, would transform the area north of Tampa's downtown core.
Similarly, WTSP reported on it:
The highway has wreaked havoc on neighborhoods, Frank said. He pointed to air pollution, noise levels and lower property values, the Times reports. He called for “reintegrating” six neighborhoods split by 275. That would improve residents’ quality of life and promote economic activity, he argued.
...

A neighborhood group held a meeting Tuesday and asked FDOT to consider Frank’s proposal, the Times reports. "They had at least 10 people here," said Kimberly Overman, president of the Heights Urban Core Chamber. "They are very interested. What boulevards do is open up opportunities."
Likewise, tearing down the interstate was highlighted in the May 24 Tampa Bay Next working group [PDF], where it was met with loud applause:

Screen capture from TB Next Community Working Group, May 24, page 18
When we spoke to FDOT about the possibility of the interstate removal, while skeptical, they stated they would have to study it, as if it is something "the community" wants to consider. Especially given FDOT's new kinder, gentler community outreach program.

Just how feasible is removing I-275? It is a rather highly utilized stretch of road in Hillsborough county.

Let's look at some data, and apply some 4th Grade Math.

Start with some 2015 (most recent) traffic counts:

Hillsborough County Traffic Counts Map

Road Segment AADT
I-275: FLORIBRASKA AVE - to - M L KING BLVD 143,500
I-275: ASHLEY ST - to - JEFFERSON ST NB 189,500
I-275: ARMENIA AVE - to - ASHLEY ST 203,000

Over 200,000 vehicles per day drive in some segments of I-275 today. FDOT expects substantial increase in traffic on I-275 by 2040, to nearly 300,000 vehicles per day:

FDOT Forecasted I-275 Traffic Increases
Which begs the question, How many lanes of a tree-lined boulevard will be needed to handle 300,000 vehicles per day?

For that, again, we can use traffic counts and the 2014 (latest) Level of Service [PDF] report, which also identifies the number of lanes and the the Level of Service, where A is good, and F is a failed road. We can check against some other Hillsborough County's busy roads.


Road Segment Lanes AADT LOS
DALE MABRY HWY: (LINEBAUGH AVE -to-EHRLICH RD)
6 69,227 F
HILLSBOROUGH AVE: (VETERAN'S EXPWY -to-DALE MABRY  
6 64,515 F
SR 60 / BRANDON BLVD: (FALKENBURG RD -to-PAULS DR)
8 82,403 F
FLETCHER AVE: (NEBRASKA AVE -to-30TH ST)
4 37,626 C
WATERS AVE: (VETERANS EXPY -to-DALE MABRY HWY) 
6 49,000 C
Total 30 302,771

Taking a look at some of our busier road segments in Hillsborough County, and maintaining some semblance of the lanes required to maintain the current Level of Service, which is poor at best for the roads selected above, we can conclude that replacing I-275 with a tree lined boulevard will require 30 lanes of traffic.

That's right. 30 lanes of traffic.

Why is that? These "tree lined boulevards" also have traffic lights. Vehicles will stop. And wait. Stop. And wait. The vehicles will need lots of room to stop and maintain some decent traffic flow.

Replacing 12 - 14 lanes of the interstate with 30 lanes of of surface street traffic hardly seems like a neighborhood improvement program.

Destroying neighborhoods? Check.

Bulldozing more neighborhoods than Tampa Bay Next? Check.

Noisier surface streets? Check.

Cars mixing with pedestrians and children? Check.

Views blocked by semis and trucks? Check.

Massive congestion? Check.

Consuming more gas, cars and trucks idling away?

Spewing more pollution into nearby homes? Check.

When the traffic jams up, on the tree line boulevard, what will happen?

Drivers will find a way. They will use Google Maps or Waze and divert around the traffic. Into the neighborhood streets. Not just Florida Ave or Nebraska Ave, but onto the residential streets. Google Maps often navigates off the interstate during rush hour today.

That will not be a safety improvement for those neighborhoods where drivers are cutting through. Trust me, I know, as drivers used to regularly cut through our neighborhood when traffic backed up nearby. When our neighborhood approached the county, they were not moved. They had no reported incidents. I guess one of our kids needed to get hit or something. Our neighborhood was able to resolve the situation. We took control and closed off one end of the road cutting through our neighborhood. We paid for it, and it took 15 years.

Recall that FDOT stated they have to study removing the interstate in all the glory that it requires. That will include alternative analysis, environmental impacts, initial designs, feasibility assessments, surveys, etc.

Recall, as we reported, FDOT has made a unique outreach to those transit advocates that the rest of us were not afforded. They are not representing the rest of us.

In other words, a big waste of money. Your money.

When the urban extremists, a vocal minority enamored with all things urban, are trying to dominate the discussion around Tampa Bay Next. Shouting "tear down the interstate", they can't be taken seriously. They don't represent the nearly half a million of us in Tampa Bay that regularly use the interstates nearly every day.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Bigger Mess with Tampa Bay Next?

Tampa Bay taxpayers keep funding more transportation initiatives. The consultants love us… 

FDOT has recently launched another two year transportation initiative Tampa Bay Next. This is a FOUR County (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk) TBX replacement initiative on steroids - complete with new graphics! We know they're really serious this time! 

It's another taxpayer funded public outreach free for all AGAIN.

This latest transportation public relations endeavor is underway at the same time as the $1.6 million Streetcar study, the $1.5 million Regional Premium Transit Campaign, HART's TDP update and an effort to regionalize our MPO's. They all have taxpayer funded public outreach creating confusion, chaos and public fatigue on the transportation issue. Maybe all that is intentional…

But logic defies how FDOT would dole out $1.5 million for a THREE county (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco) regional transit campaign BEFORE this latest FOUR county initiative - cart before the horse. 


Governor Scott just signed Latvala's egregious TBARTA bill creating an unnecessary new FIVE county (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Manatee) transit agency. But Scott also veto'd all of TBARTA's funding that got appropriated this session. 

What a mess! 

But here we are…


FDOT states the obvious on their new web site: "Tampa Bay has a traffic problem".


We agree. Probably everyone agrees.


But Tampa Bay has wasted too much time, too much taxpayer money and too much energy on FAILED proposals at the detriment of getting other things done to actually help relieve congestion. 

This new initiative is not just an update to the 1997 Environmental Impact Study (EIS) done the Federal Highway Administration requires for interstate expansion projects. FDOT says TampaBayNext initiative is a new program to modernize Tampa Bay's infrastructure and prepare for the future but leaves out Interstate expansion that must be done if we don't want gridlock in our future.

  • Interstate Modernization
  • Transit
  • Bicycle/Pedestrian Facilities
  • Complete Streets (most expensive street built)
  • Transportation Innovation
  • Freight Mobility
This is what our federally mandated/funded MPO's do. MPO's already do extensive public outreach for long range planning paid for by taxpayers. We have an MPO Board who approves the MPO's five year Transportation Improvement Plan. Why is FDOT stepping way outside its normal jurisdiction and duplicating what we already pay our MPO's to do? 

In addition, TBARTA has an updated regional Master Plan consistent with each county's MPO Long Range Transportation Plan. They also did extensive outreach. 

Our local transit agencies do outreach to update their 10 year Transportation Development Plans. 

And our local MPO's in coordination with our counties and Planning Commission develop our highway level of service (LOS) reports.

TampaBayNext.com sets no realistic boundaries or expectations and is another free for all like Go Hillsborough.  

The kickoff meeting for FDOT's TampaBayNext Community Working Group meetings was held on May 24th. The Eye was there. 

Instead of putting dots on a board or writing on a map like what was done with Go Hillsborough, FDOT is using professional "facilitators" from the Collaborative Labs of St. Petersburg College. That's the same collaboration group that gave us the 2010 Hillsborough rail tax referendum and the 2014 Greenlight Pinellas rail tax referendum - both overwhelmingly defeated. That is not a successful record of gaining so-called "consensus' on the transportation issue in Tampa Bay.

The kick off meeting was over represented by StopTXers. They posted talking points to show up and were there to push their agenda that transit is our greatest need, we need to demolish our interstates and demand that TBX be removed from our MPO's five year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

To digress - Some sanity still exists, at least for now. The Hillsborough MPO voted 12-3 this week to keep the interstate improvement and expansion project in the TIP. Good - because:
  • Expansion of our interstates have been in FDOT's plans for decades. TBX, or whatever name it is called, is funded by state/federal gas taxes we already pay - no tax hike needed. Those dollars are earmarked for highways, bridges and interstates and cannot be diverted to transit. 
  • If the project is removed from the MPO's TIP, the state can and will hand the $6 Billion of Tampa Bay interstate improvement and expansion funding to other parts of the state. Jax, Central Florida and South Florida are all currently expanding their own interstates with managed toll lanes and probably drooling over any possibility of getting Tampa Bay's interstate funding. They are not stupid.
  • If Tampa Bay rejects the FDOT funds, say goodbye to getting any more anytime soon and hello to gridlock. It would be decades before the state would consider handing such funds to Tampa Bay again. And with over a million people moving here by 2040, most bringing their cars, the result would be total gridlock and our surface streets becoming much more dangerous.
The "official" recording by FDOT of the May 24th meeting can be found here. Read through it. The basics for a kick off meeting were totally missing. No specific problem was defined, no goals were established and no timeline was provided. 

How can congestion relief not be a top priority of any ideal transportation system in the Tampa Bay region? But removal of urban highways aka demolish I-275 that 200K vehicles and a half million people use everyday is?  How can any ideal future transportation system include removing I-275 north of Tampa? That is extreme! Why would FDOT be considering such extremism?


This is what happens at free for alls that set no boundaries. StopTBXers are a vocal group but they represent a very small percentage of the millions who live in the four counties and use our interstates. 

The same artist is used at all these transportation gatherings to sketch a drawing during the meeting. Here is the picture of the drawing that was made from the 5/24 kickoff meeting. The picture confirms FDOT's latest transportation initiative is Go Hillsborough over four counties. And yes they are at it again - Costly light rail that voters consistently reject.
Drawing from 5/24 FDOT kickoff meeting
How much does all this cost and who and how would all this be paid for? Those silly little questions

Since over 98% of us drive in Tampa Bay, where's congestion relief for vehicles? MIA in that picture.There is not one car/truck/vehicle in this picture except for a car with a caption "Car Optional". That is absurd! The urbanists want to demolish our interstates that a half million people use everyday and move Mayberry RFD to the urban core and have you pay for it. 

And stop using the term "choices" which is rhetorical and over used. Perhaps my choice is for Scotty to beam me up - can we include that too? The private sector is rapidly innovating to provide new services and the "choices" that people actually want and are willing to pay for. 

The millions who use our interstates in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco everyday know we need to fix our interstates FIRST. Most, if not all, of the 1.2 million people expected to move here by 2040 will bring their cars.

Be realistic. Billions spent on costly transit could never begin to relieve congestion. And we all will count the noses of which electeds willing to hand Tampa Bays funded TBX interstate expansion and improvement money (state/federal gas taxes we already pay) to another part of the state for them to wisely improve their interstates.

The amount of taxpayer money spent in Tampa Bay on transportation/transit studies, public outreach, reports, plans, public relations campaigns, tax hike referendums, meetings and rhetoric seems endless. 

Why? 

Because special interests, our local media, taxpayer funded agencies, unelected bureaucrats wanting to grow bureaucracies and some politicos, especially those eyeing a new big pot of money to dole out, keep trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. 


The same people keep pushing costly transit projects and tax hikes on voters who consistently reject them. So little or nothing gets done except enriching the same consultants over and over and over.

Unfortunately, FDOT District 7 has decided to join their games launching another taxpayer funded two year transportation charade.

FDOT District 7 will be getting a new Secretary since Paul Steinman recently resigned.

Whoever takes over that position needs to reset this free for all. It is not the responsibility of FDOT to duplicate what our MPO's already do. FDOT should exercise realistic boundaries so that expectations can actually be achieved.

Otherwise, Tampa Bay Next just creates a bigger mess.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Where should Bay Area Business spend its campaign contributions? Not on light rail proponents?

Light rail will not work in the Bay area; it will be a publicly subsidized disaster as it has been almost everywhere it has been built.


St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog

The subject of transportation was on the agenda this past week as Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn St. Pete Council member Darden Rice and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos met with business leaders to get them involved in the ever growing bay area transportation crisis.

You can get some detail from Caitlin Johnston, Tampa Bay Times; Government Governmentleaders urge businesses to become transportation leaders.

It is completely understandable that political leaders are frustrated by the in ability to make progress on transportation solutions. What is much more difficult to understand is why they have such a hard time figuring out why the public will not support their plans?

Here are some quotes from the CREW Tampa Bay's ninth annual Economic Summit:

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn called transportation the area's Achilles' heel and singled out rail as a much-needed option.

Buckhorn’s comments are representative of the major problem in developing a Bay area transportation solution. Twice light rail has been a centerpiece of a transit referendum, and twice the public has sent it down in a flaming defeat. Obviously, Mayor Buckhorn has not gotten the message.


Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said it's an embarrassment Tampa Bay hasn't moved yet on a transit plan.

Mayor Cretekos’s frustration is the direct result of the politicians camping out on ideas the public does not believe will work. Light rail, water ferries, regional transit authorities, and TBARTA are examples of issues the public does not want and will not support.

St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice said local leaders need to be willing to work together for the good of the region, even if it doesn't directly benefit their own jurisdiction.

Darden Rice, lives is a world somewhat detached from reality. The concept of a regional transit authority that operates independently from the local jurisdictions that it supports is just a fantasy. All politics is local, and there is not one jurisdiction in the Bay area that will be willing give up its autonomy or revenue on transit issues.

Then there was this from Bob Buckhorn.
"We can't be silenced by a very small minority of agitators and dissenters and Internet trolls that continue to say that we don't need rail and we don't need mobility options and that, instead, we can build more roads to get out of this problem," Buckhorn said. "We absolutely cannot."

As one of those trolls, I would like to thank the mayor for his support.

Business people at this conference should take away the fact that these politicians are living in the past, and they are trying to implement solutions that have a record of failure.

I agree that as a business person or business owner in the Bay area when you are asked for a campaign contribution you carefully consider who is asking. If their solution is light rail, transportation redevelopment and solutions that have a history of failure in construction and implementation you should probably contribute elsewhere.

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