Thursday, March 21, 2013

First play in a long game

The much anticipated Hillsborough County BOCC had their transportation meeting on March 20 to a full house, and we were there.  

Lets be honest. Surely this meeting would not have occurred without re-opening the fixed rail mode of transit for consideration.  If we were talking about more buses for HART, there would be little interest. Yes, there were discussions about "no preconceived ideas" and all that.  But no one be there about more buses.

Commission has transit discussion back on track
Providing support for the commission's action was a crowd of 30 to 40 pro-transit activists, who outnumbered conservative, anti-rail speakers by 10 to 1. The pro-transit group applauded after the unanimous vote.
No doubt.  Clearly the Connect Tampa Bay and their allies were extremely well organize.  We on the fixed rail skeptic side of the argument were vastly outnumbered.  We don't have any skin in the game.  We work real jobs.  We don't have any sponsorships, funding, or alliances.  We're just citizens.  And Taxpayers.
Many of the pro-transit group were in their 30s or younger. They told commissioners young, educated professionals have a host of choices when they decide where to live. One of the deciding points, they argued, is a well-oiled transit system that gives residents choices on how they get around.
I noticed that as well.  In fact, there was no speaker that appeared to be blue collar, working class, elderly, current bus dependent  speakers, at least when I was there, which was for the entire transportation topic most of the morning.  Definitely dominated by Gen Y and most seemed to be from downtown Tampa or nearby.

Fixed-rail in Phoenix
Fixed rail in Phoenix construction cost was over $1.4B.  It is capturing less than 1/4 of the operating costs from passenger fares.  Will fixed rail proponents in Tampa be willing to pay their fair (fare?) share, or will we end up like Phoenix, a metro area of 4M people, about 20,000 daily take the fixed rail.

We also heard many stories from the speakers and audience how bad traffic is in Tampa, how bad it was this weekend, and so on.  There was little mention of the mess that is currently underway on I-275 which no doubt is making traffic worse before it gets better.  Nor was their any mention that traffic is a symptom to some extent of a vibrant economy.  The more traffic, the more jobs, the more things to do, the better the economy.  And its an indicator of poor traffic planning.

Well, traffic is like the weather.  Everyone talks about, it's never perfect, and it can be bad elsewhere as well.  My commute into the meeting was no joy for sure, as I hit rain, backed up traffic, and CSX freight train that blocked traffic for about 15 minutes.  Consider that when we have more fixed rail intersections in Tampa.

As someone who travels to several cities regularly, I can attest that Tampa's traffic certainly is not worse the Miami, Atlanta, or D.C.  It is similar to Jacksonville.

Yes, let's work to reduce congestion.  Yes, lets understand the best options for transit, and seek to improve transit.

But this discussion would not be happening without renewed interests behind re-incarnating fixed rail transit in Tampa.


Local ABC News report, with resident skeptic interviewed towards the end.

Another underlying theme was economic development, as if it can only occur from fixed rail developments.  Sure, if you have bad traffic, that cuts into quality of life and all that, but all the discussions from the speakers and the Commissioners on economic development was based on the unstated assumption that more fixed rail development is required to drive this development.

What is this development?  It will undoubtedly be mixed use development at select transit stops.  Retail, restaurants, tiki bars, high density apartments (and high cost), and of course, parking lots.  Don't we have all this already?

These developments they are counting on will likely get some type of favorable tax benefits as commonly occurs in transit oriented development.  These often add more risk to the taxpayers as more long term debt burden is a typical funding model.

Downtown Tampa has independent plans to build over 2,000 new high-rise apartments, with rents up to $2,500 per month.  They're not waiting for transit.

It does beg the question about the 30 somethings, living downtown, paying $2,500 a month.  Perhaps they can't afford a car.

At least some of fixed rail skeptics did turn out, and try to add some dimension of reality and costs into the discussion, which was otherwise missing from the "pro-transit" speakers, and the Commissioners discussions.  To be sure, we are not anti-transit, we are cost effective and flexible solutions, which rarely includes fixed rail if costs are properly accounted for.
Several tea party activists who spoke during the meeting said they agreed the county's transportation system is deficient but said voters proved in the 2010 referendum that most residents don't want to raise taxes to fund a costly light-rail system. They said the county should concentrate money and time on fixing failed roads.

"We don't believe light rail is the answer to any of our issues," said Mark Calvert. "We have to prioritize on preserving and sustaining our existing infrastructure. We should improve and extend HART bus services … rather than more building and digging."
Well, that's part of what I said.  I did get quoted pretty accurately(!).   I also quickly mentioned several other ideas that can improve transportation and new options at much lower costs than fixed rail, so we are trying to be constructive, not just critics.

Of course, its hard to make any compelling argument based on reality and costs and accounting in a 2 minute speech to the BOCC.

It is much easier to make an emotional appeal in 2 minutes.

The Commissioners voted 7-0 to proceed with more studies.  It seemed rather scripted.  Commissioner Murman read her proposal, and everyone only had positive comments.

Here we go again.  The economics of fixed rail have not changed since 2010.

This was just the first play of a long game.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Won't get fooled again!


Here we go again: Rail Round 2.  Did “they” hear us in 2010? Apparently Not. They are playing the same game as other cities that were forced to go through multiple ballot referendums before they got the rail agenda passed. The Tribune is leading the rally for rail again.

“On March 20, Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe will lead fellow commissioners in a discussion of transportation realities, including how to attract the best employers, how to make the Tampa area a more appealing place to live, and perhaps even how to afford to catch up to longstanding shortfalls in local transportation funding.”
The Tribune starts with the mobility issue: 
“If you support better mobility in this urban area, and if you understand the importance of the distinctive and rewarding development that modern transportation options can attract, now would be a useful time to speak up.”
Once again, we have some questions.

Where is “this urban area” they are asking for better mobility? Is it the entire city of Tampa? Is it the urban core downtown? Is it the Westshore business district? Are the suburbs like Carrollwood, Brandon, Lutz, Apollo Beach, Plant City, Town and Country, Westchase, and others included? What about “better mobility” in the rest of the County where the majority of residents live? Are they also included in this “private conversation”?   So far, this appears to be a rather one sided conversation.

How much time will we save?  How much congestion will be relieved?  How many cars will be removed from the roads?

How much money will we save?

What will be the true ridership numbers?

What are the risks to the taxpayers of Hillsborough County?  Will bus routes be negatively impacted by rail options?

In addition, is there an assumption here that “better mobility” translates to “transit”? From the Trib:
“Serious private conversations are resuming in Tampa over the possibility of an additional sales tax for bus, rail, road and possibly trail improvements. Transit advocates hope this talk will inspire elected leaders to also have a serious discussion about giving the public a sales tax referendum in 2014 to talk about.”
There's no discussion by the Trib on the COSTs of the various transportation options, except of course, costs of roads (which we'll deal with in a bit). So we will. Let's look at the costs and subsidies per passenger mile of transportation options. From the Cato Institution:

Transit costs and subsidies
CR = Commuter Rail
HR = Heavy Rail
LR - Light Rail

This is based on data from 2008. These costs and subsidies data have not changed much in the latest numbers from 2010. But certainly our federal debt is much worse, which is of concern since significant funding for these transit project is expected from the federal government (with inconvenient strings attached). That spigot of money is likely to end well before these grandiose projects are near completion.

"Personal cost" is the cost paid by the user -- in the case of transit it is the transit fare. In the case of driving it is the sum of all auto costs -- purchasing, operating, maintaining, repairing, insuring -- in 2008 divided by the auto passenger miles in 2008.

Subsidies for autos include the sum of general funds (property, sales, income taxes) spent on roads minus the sum of gas taxes, tolls, and other user fees that were diverted to transit or other non-highway purposes.

Subsidies for rail transit include amortized capital costs plus annual operating costs minus fares. Subsidies to bus transit include total operating and capital costs minus fares.

It's pretty obvious on the cost effectiveness of the various options.
The Trib goes on:
The investment, as rail advocates have long said, is not about the train. It's about the intense, highly desirable development passengers see out the windows of the train around the station stops. It's about improving incomes, raising property values and attracting the young, productive people who can live wherever they please. It's about building cities we're proud of.
So, the cat's out of the bag. The Trib and the rail proponents are about development, not mobility. That would be "desirable development", in case you didn't notice.  Desirable according to whom?  Rail advocates!

We've previously addressed mobility vs. development topics here and here.

We are all about improving economic prosperity in the Tampa Bay area. If we want to improve our prosperity, we should have that discussion in spades. Let's not assume there is some economic pot of gold at the end of the rail rainbow.
More:
The elevated road that will soon connect the Tampa port to I-4 costs $400 million. The next phase of the reconstruction of I-275 between Westshore and downtown Tampa costs $278.7 million.

Widening I-75 from four lanes to at least six lanes from Fowler Avenue to State Road 56 in Pasco County costs $95 million, with another $22.8 million to be spent on widening the busy interstate farther north in Pasco.

Highway improvements are essential, but alone they are not enough to keep Tampa and its suburbs competitive with many other cities that are investing heavily in transit.
Yes, highway and road improvements are essential, and that is not going away. How convenient they left out any cost numbers associated with the other modes of transportation, as if they are free. They perform an accounting sleight of hand by talking absolute costs, vs. per passenger mile, which is the only way to measure the true costs of the different transportation modes.

The centerpiece of the MPO's idea is a "hybrid" light-rail project to showcase what light rail could achieve.
The initial project would run only between downtown and the University of South Florida campus. That would be a dramatically shorter route than the one called for in 2010, which would have created a light rail system running from the northeast suburbs to downtown Tampa to Tampa International Airport.
The smaller scale of the project also would carry a smaller price tag – in this case, a half-cent increase in the sales tax instead of a full penny.
...
The 12-mile rail line could cost between $240 million and $475 million, or $20 million to $40 million a mile. The 2010 light rail project turned down by voters was estimated to cost upwards of $800 million, or more than $60 million per mile.
The cost to operate the trains and maintain the equipment, tracks, and stations would range from $8 million to $20 million per year. 
We remind the reader from the 2010 light-rail referendum the actual  cost estimates referendum was $1.2 billion not $800 million.  So its not free either. 

Also missing in this editorial is any reference to the Community Investment Tax (CIT). By 2007 the County Commission blew out our CIT taxes. That money is totally spent and we are now receiving zero dollars from CIT for roads, despite the fact the CIT included road improvement and safety projects through 2026. We are still paying the CIT, and getting no transportation benefits from it.

Hillsborough County currently has a huge list of unfunded transportation road and bridge projects. Some decisions must be made. Will we preserve and rehabilitate the existing roads that 98% of us use everyday? Is now a good time to incur additional debts on the “hope” that transit and the promised development will improve Tampa's prosperity? Is that “hope” on your dime a bet you would place with our County Commissioners?

Now those same people want more? Their last plans failed. And you can bet they want rail and transit oriented development. Just trust us, they say. Or is it likely they'll prop up rail at the expense of the roads and bus service, which has repeatedly happened in other municipalities that have gone down this path. Will they guarantee no cut backs in bus service and roads, and no further tax increases to cover the rail cost overruns, maintenance and operating expenses, which are the typical remedies to rail plans gone bad?

Can we be honest here? This discussion would not be re-opened again if we only wanted to improve the bus service, and open up some low cost private modes of transportation such as shared shuttle services, which we favor. It's only being opened up so the large developers in the Tampa Bay area can build around light-rail.

If there is anything we should have learned around here, it is that development is not long term economic prosperity. Tampa Bay needs diversification in its economy besides the developers. Development won't go away, but we should broaden that discussion around realistic growth and prosperity options that are best for Tampa Bay, not more of the same.   Where is small business in this discussion?

Tampa does need improved transit. Lets have that discussion.

But lets not confuse mobility with development with prosperity. Those are three different things. They are not totally independent of course, but lets understand the optimum solutions for each rather than letting developers and other special interests drive to their preferred answer.

Here at The Eye we've already started the conversation on transportation to ensure all sides are being heard. You can start reading our posts related to transportation. Just keep scrolling. 

Need more info?  Check out https://www.facebook.com/TBCOST.

Be aware Connect Tampa Bay and the Sierra Club are actively organizing to get 100 or more supporters to the March 20th meeting.

If you want your voice heard, show up, and sign up to speak. The earlier, the better.
Wednesday, March 20th
8:30am – sign up to speak, only 45 minutes for public comment, 3 minutes each!
9:00am – BOCC meeting starts
at
Hillsborough County Center
2nd Floor
601 E Kennedy Blvd.
If you can't make it, because, you work, or have other commitments, email your county commissioners, or call them 813-272-5660 and leave them a message.
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
Don't get fooled again!
Mark and Sharon.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Good news on the job front

It's been a good week in Tampa on the jobs front.  Two companies announced moves into Tampa.

Terminix call center looking for 200 workers in Tampa
TAMPA -- Pest control giant Terminix is looking to fill a new customer service center in Tampa quickly, hoping to hire 200 workers within weeks.

The jobs, added without government hiring incentives, should be welcome news to the Tampa Bay region. The region has been adding jobs at a faster pace than the state's other large metropolitan areas lately, but still suffers from an 8.1 percent unemployment rate. 
Memphis, Tenn.-based Terminix is opening a call center at the NetPark business park in Tampa to centralize and support its customer service operations, said Alison Boyle, a spokeswoman for Terminix parent ServiceMaster Co.
Photo
Netpark Tampa Bay

Morgan Stanley to hire 110, move office to Temple Terrace
TAMPA -- Investment banking giant Morgan Stanley will hire up to 110 people and open a new office in Temple Terrace, marking the second significant hiring announcement by a major company in two days.
On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott's office announced that Morgan Stanley plans to move into about 25,000 square feet inside the Intellicenter at Telecom Park office complex. There, it will house 70 existing local employees, who currently work in the Sabal Park area east of Tampa, and up to 110 new employees.
The new positions will come with an average wage of $55,000 per year and will include investment advisers and financial transaction processors. To entice the company, Florida, Hillsborough County and Temple Terrace offered Morgan Stanley an incentive package worth $550,000.
The company will receive a tax refund of $5,000 for each new job, payable over six years and after the jobs have been created. Florida is picking up $440,000 of the incentives, while the county and Temple Terrace are each picking up $55,000.
Telecom Park
 No mention of tax incentives for Terminix.  They'll be moving into Netpark, on East Hillsborough Ave.

Morgan Stanley got some tax incentives, which we'd rather not do, but in today's fight for job growth with other municipalities and states that are offering all kinds of incentives, if you want to play, you have to be in the game.  Morgan Stanley's pay is better than Terminix, but not wildly so.

Neither of these mention other incentives or rationale for moving to Tampa.  Perhaps its our great quality of life!

Perhaps its not the Medifuture or high tech jobs  many wish for.  But it is 310 more jobs than last week. We'll take them.

Welcome Terminix and Morgan Stanley!

House call on the Tampa Tribune

The Trib's editorial today, House call on local economy,  highlighted "disruptive innovation", with a focus on medical care, leveraging the medical resources and investments in Hillsborough County.
It may seem just another business conference, but with commitment and enterprise "MediFuture 2023" could end up being the pivotal step toward the Tampa Bay area becoming, as Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe puts it, the "Silicon Valley of personalized medicine."
The May 13 event, organized by the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., aims to position the region as the epicenter of "disruptive innovation" that will reshape the health care industry.
It's an effort that merits citizens' attention and support.
Does it merit our attention and support?  Before we commit, let's ask a few questions.

Tampa does have some good, and in some cases, unique medical capabilities to consider building something around.

  • USF Medical School
  • H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center
  • USF Byrd Alzheimer's Institute
  • Tampa General Hospital 
We're glad to have these assets in the community, and there are others as well in the greater Tampa Bay, such as All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

USF Health facilities
However, this rings of a "Tampa come lately" economic development strategy.  

Anyone on the Trib editorial board or our vaunted County Commission heard of Obamacare?  It's supposed to be about reducing the costs of healthcare, while increasing access for more patients.  It's side effects, however, will reduce medical innovation and research.  Obamacare will also drive more doctors into formalized employment relationships with Accountable Healthcare Organizations, which will pack more patients into already crowded medical system, while doing nothing to increase the supply of doctors.
We now need to leverage these resources to make the region the focal point of a health-care revolution.
Thus, after Christensen's keynote speech and an examination of the medical advancements being made in the region, participants will concentrate on what should be done to attract more companies, entrepreneurs and high-paying jobs here.
We hope this is the rare conference whose blue-sky ambitions can be tied to pragmatic actions.
...
The goal is to make Tampa the place to come to keep pace with what's new in health care. It is an ambitious one, but one that would energize our economy.
Byrd Alzheimer Institute 
Perhaps, but we may be at the end of the medical economic growth bubble.
In the last few decades, as suburbanization and deindustrialization devastated so many cities, they turned to two sectors that seemed not only immune to decline, but were actually growing: universities and hospitals. The so-called “eds and meds” sectors, often related through university affiliated hospitals, became a great stabilizer for many places. For example, the fabled Cleveland Clinic cushioned the blow of manufacturing decline in that city. Apr├Ęs steel, a city like Pittsburgh practically saw themselves as defined by an eds and meds economy, with the new economic pillars being the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Carnegie-Mellon University.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, these sectors have come to dominate so many cites' economic development strategies. It’s harder to find a major city that isn't touting some variation of a life sciences “cluster” as a strategic industry than one who is, and local medical schools and hospital complexes feature prominently in this. Similarly, technology transfer from schools is supposed to power startups, while in many cities growth in the number of students itself is supposed to be an engine of growth.
Many, if not most of these medical facilities, and those cited above in Tampa, are non-profit, non-taxpaying institutions.  While the employment may grow, its not clear that this will offset the lack of revenue from these rather large, and as proposed, more and larger tax subsidized and tax-exempt institutions.

Again, if we are the end of this medical economic and therefore employment growth bubble, what can we really expect?

We all know medical and higher education costs have been exploding.  Unsustainably so.  More from Aaron Renn at newgeography.com:
Clearly, such a trend cannot go on indefinitely. As the US starts to groan under the weight of spending on health care and higher education, it's clear that, as a society, we need to be spend less, not more on these items as a share of national output. Some cities with unique strengths, like Boston, with its many specialized biotech firms, or Houston, with the world’s largest medical center, may thrive in this environment, but the vast majority of cities are likely to be very disappointed in where eds and meds growth will take them.
...
Regardless of how it plays out, when you look at spending in aggregate in America, it's clear increases in health care and higher education spending cannot keep increasing at current rates. This means that it just isn't possible for all the cities out there dreaming of eds and meds glory to realize their dream. America simply can't afford it.

Whether the end of the great growth phase in eds and meds comes 1, 5, or 10 years from now can't be predicted. But come in the reasonably near future it will, and that's when the bulk of the cities that put all their chips in those baskets will receive a very rude awakening.
But he's not the only skeptic.  Here's Richard Florida, from theatlanticcities.com, who is not exactly Mr. Conservative on urban and social issues.
If Renn warns of a bubble that is yet to burst, from where I sit, the problem is already apparent. The data, including detailed analyses I've conducted with my Martin Prosperity Institute colleagues Charlotta Mellander and Kevin Stolarick, shows that eds and meds contribute little, if anything, to levels of regional economic development.
In our paper, [...] we looked at the specific occupations that are associated with regional growth and development, measured in terms of income and wage levels. We found no statistical association between either eds or meds occupations across U.S. metros.
...
[Mellander's] findings: meds and eds was not associated with regional wages, levels of high-tech industry, or levels of innovation (measured as patents per capita), and was negatively associated with economic output per capita (-.29). In contrast, the other three groups of occupations — business and management professionals, science and technology, and arts, design, media, and entertainment — were substantially positively associated with all three economic development measures, with correlations consistently in the range of .4 to .7.
...
The larger the sector's share of local jobs, the lower average regional wages are.
Mr. Florida concludes:
It’s past time for city and regional leaders to wake up to this fact. Eds and meds may constitute a large part of the urban workforce and provide a substantial job base for many cities and regions, but they are not by themselves a source of economic development.
Emphasis mine.

Again, from the Trib:
It's an effort that merits citizens' attention and support.
Really?  It's about time our local leaders wised up. There's substantial evidence this "MediFuture" will not result in significant economic development.  Can our politicians and media not ask a few questions or use the Google?  Apparently not... so we have to.  Please read the whole thing here and here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

More free healthcare?

Florida Senator Bill Nelson penned an op-ed today that was in the Tampa Tribune, weighing in on the debate between Governor Scott and the legislature regarding further expansion of Medicaid in Florida.
On Feb. 20, Gov. Rick Scott announced he was going to take the federal government up on its offer to cover the cost of Medicaid expansion in Florida. His decision would give health coverage to as many as 1.2 million additional low-income Floridians.
Here's how it would work. Starting in 2014, people who make less than 138 percent of poverty, or about $15,000 a year, will have the ability to receive health insurance through Medicaid — coverage that they currently do not have access to in our state.
For the first three years, the federal government will cover the cost of care for these new enrollees.
Gov. Scott has come out for the expansion, the legislature against it.

More Nelson:
It's clear the Legislature has left the door open for an alternative that would privatize Medicaid. But by some estimates that would be way more expensive than simply expanding Medicaid. More specifically, the independent Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of private insurance as 50 percent more than Medicaid.
Um, OK.  I guess that might be right.  That seems to beg the question about the real cost of healthcare, and therefore how much to really pay.

He never mentions anything about costs, or how to pay for it.  Free healthcare!  Free money!

He goes on about the imbalances of the current healthcare system, which is a mess, largely due to government interference (but we have some issues with insurance too), and if we don't chase the "free" Medicaid money from the Feds, other states will get it.
The Legislature should not miss this opportunity to take advantage of a health-care investment that will reap benefits for all Floridians.
Investment?  How so?  Can we see that ROI?  Only for so long.  3 years.  Then what?  Looked at the federal fisc lately?  At some point, that money will run out.  Then what?

NONE of the news about the government involvement in healthcare lately, especially from Obamacare, has been good.  Well, perhaps the spending growth is slowing down.  Happy Days!

We get 20,000 pages of new medical regulations.

Obamacare on the right, new regulations on the left.
I can't wait for the sequel.

Employers are bracing for a little-noticed fee in the federal health-care law that will charge them $63 for each person they insure next year, one of the clearest cost increases companies face when the law takes full effect.

Companies and other plan providers will together pay $25 billion over three years to create a fund for insurance companies to offset the cost of covering people with high medical bills.

The fees will hit most large U.S. employers, and several have been lobbying to change the program, contending the levy is unfair because it subsidizes individually purchased plans that won't cover their workers. Boeing Co. and a union health plan covering retirees of General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler, among other groups, have asked federal regulators to exclude or shield their insurance recipients from the fee.
Closer to home The Eye's daughter works in management at a higher end retail establishment.  They've just been told they need to reduce the hours of their sales associates to 25 hours a week.  Why is that?  So they don't have to pay for healthcare of the sales associates.  Now they cannot work full time if they want.  They need two part time jobs instead.  Is this a good idea?  Side effects of "you'll have to pass it to find out what's in it".

More investment?  Not looking so good.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

St. Pete politics and healthcare

If you're a doctor, interested in local politics, and running for local office, should you be banned from provided healthcare to municipal workers?  Apparently, the answer is yes, but only if you're critical of the existing political powers.
ST. PETERSBURG — At City Council meetings and on a website, blogger and tea party activist Dr. David McKalip often lambastes city officials about costly employee pensions, benefits and salaries.

But at his medical office, the neurosurgeon treats city employees injured on the job.

St. Petersburg has paid McKalip, who is running for the City Council, nearly $31,000 to treat four injured workers since 2009.
That practice will soon end.
$31,000 since 2009.  It's 2013 now.  So we're talking about less than $8,000 a year.
"It does seem like a conflict of interest," said council Chairman Karl Nurse.
A conflict of interest, from someone who advocates for cost effective solutions for the city of St. Petersburg, and its taxpayers?  Or is Dr. McKalip conflicting with the interests of the current political class?
McKalip stressed that he does not mix medicine with politics. "If the city is deciding to not send me patients because I am running for office, that is their choice," he said. "I look forward to serving the citizens in political office and to serve patients as a doctor."
Dr. David McKalip

There's a bit of story around a patient care situation that ended up in a lawsuit, and some question of McKalip's medical judgement, of course.
On Wednesday, Westphal said he picked McKalip, who took over the practice from Westphal's former doctor. He said he is satisfied with McKalip's care.
So it really is not about the quality care, is it?

Dr. McKalip respectfully cannot comment further on that case, citing doctor - patient privacy.

Advantage, demagogues.

You can read Dr. McKalip's response, in more detail on his blog, Sunbeamtimes.com.

Its about politics in St. Pete, and the conflict of interest of the current political class.

Disclosure:  We have met Dr. McKalip a couple of times.  We link to his blog, Sunbeamtimes.com, on our right navigation.  It's a good source on what's happening in St. Pete.

Oracle of Tampa - another view

We mentioned in Oracle of Tampa is a rare breed, some good news about Tampa on the national stage as reported in the WSJ earlier this week, a story about how a non-traditional investment firm had beaten the big guys for years with the City of Tampa Fireman's and Police pension fund investments.

Well, with the power of the internet, and some comments posted here at The Eye to that earlier article, perhaps additional scrutiny is warranted.  We tend to be skeptical of reporters, and the WSJ may have overlooked some interesting, and relevant information, especially to those in the pension plan.

File:Tampa seal.svg
City of Tampa Seal

From Forbes: Red Flags Abound at $1.6 Billion City of Tampa Firefighters and Police Pension.  Note that this article is dated January 16, 2013, well before the WSJ article published this week.  A good reporter would have noted this information.  Some snippets:
I have two words of advice for firefighters and cops who participate in the City of Tampa Firefighters and Police Pension: Watch Out. While I cannot say for certain that your pension’s assets are being mishandled without further investigation, there are ample “red flags” present and I believe an independent forensic review should be undertaken of the fund.
...
Based upon the documents that I have reviewed, in my opinion, it is impossible for participants in the fund to assess the integrity of the plan’s investments or the plan’s ability to pay benefits.
...
If you’re looking for audited financials for the fund, you’re out of luck. In the financial statements the accountants state, “We have not audited or reviewed the accompanying financial statements and, accordingly, do not express an opinion or provide any assurance about whether the financial statements are in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.”
...
There are more red flags here. 100% of the assets of the $1.6 billion pension are now and have for the past 39 years been managed by a single investment advisor, Bowen, Hanes & Company, based in Atlanta, Georgia. According to the firm’s SEC registration, Bowen, Hanes & Company manages a total of approximately $2 billion. That is, a single client, the Tampa pension, represents approximately 80% of the money management firm’s assets under advisory. So much for diversification of manager risk.
More at the link.

We have two stories, respected publications, with vastly different perspectives.  Where does the truth lie?

Whatever is going on with the pension fund, its not traditional, its not best practice, and it adds risk to the pensioners.  How much risk?

I don't know.  But if my retirement was locked up in that pension plan, I'd be asking some questions.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Downtown and the media

I thought today's coordinated articles in Trib and the Times on the downtown apartment building boom was quite interesting on a couple of levels.

I guess there was news of another apartment building going up in downtown Tampa, in the Channelside area.  From the Trib:

towers
Trib's photo rendering of new apartments at Channelside
The tower boom is definitely back in Tampa.
After years with almost no new residential construction, developers on Monday filed plans with the city of Tampa for yet another new downtown tower, this one called SkyHouse Channelside.

Added together, various projects in Tampa could bring more than 2,100 units to the market in the next couple of years, almost all of them rental apartments geared to the Generation Y demographic, which developers say wants to remain as mobile as possible.
And the Times:

The Times photo.. is different than the Trib's photo.
The building boom du jour is apartments, and developers are unveiling them at breakneck speed, with more than 3,500 rentals in the works for Tampa and St. Petersburg's downtowns.

From a 36-story riverfront skyscraper to a newly announced luxury high-rise, more than a dozen planned projects could within months add new lights to local skylines.

"There's an electricity about downtown that hasn't existed in decades," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "It's everything we've worked for over the last few years, to create the momentum, to create the demand, to create the environment where people want to live downtown."
Independent reporting?  Media as a PR outlet?  Coincidence?  I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Sounds like progress, of course, and we at The Eye are pro economic growth, driven by the private sector.  We've not done enough analysis to understand the business case, or if there are incentives (tax breaks?!) at work here.  But if there's demand from the crowd Gen Y (formerly known as "yuppies" in my day), then they can pay for the rent.  Good.

Well, some of the rent they stated was definitely much higher than in my day, up to $1600/mo quoted in the times.  That's more than a mortgage these days on $200,000, 2000 square foot home out in the unworthy suburbs.  And I have easy access to Publix and other nearby shopping.  By car.  To each his own.  Maybe Publix will come downtown when there are enough residence.  That's a good thing, business going where the demand is.

The long term driver needs to be real economic growth.  Building a bunch of apartments and condos -- more of the Florida big industry around real estate development -- is not a long term economic growth plan.  Without other innovative, new businesses starting or moving into the areas, we won't have the growth these developers are hoping for, enough tenants to fill out the buildings or attract new business, nor will we be able to afford the "livability" the downtown crowd pines for.  So what's the real plan?  Is there a big idea? Or are we planning on more development again?

The future challenge with some of these developments is the further densificiation of downtown.  I know a lot of urban planners believe in densification, and more shared parks and greenways.  Densification has the side effect of making things more dense... or congested.  So, of course, they want transit.  They don't want cars.  It's had to park.  And it's not free.  So they want the rest us to cover at least some more of the cost of them getting around.

But they forget the rest of us.  It's not just about downtown.  There is "livability" and convenience outside of downtown, and real business too.  And opportunities for investment and economic growth.  We need to be thinking about the entire Tampa Bay area, not just the Gen Y downtowners.

 Life is not bad out in the suburbs either.  It may be cheaper too.  But to each their own.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Trouble with TIFs in Hillsborough?

If you live in Brandon, the money you pay in property taxes each year can go to fill potholes in Westchase or toward part of the salary of a firefighter based in Apollo Beach.
Those tax dollars flow into a general pot and county commissioners decide where they're needed most.

But in more than a half-dozen places in the city of Tampa, a portion of residents' tax payments stays in their neighborhood. City officials decided at some point that those area, including Ybor City and Drew Park, deserved special attention to fight blight.
Hillsborough County commissioners are now considering a similar approach of retaining tax dollars in specific, struggling neighborhoods in the name of promoting economic development. The money could go toward widening or repaving roads, fixing flooding problems and making the selected places more attractive for people looking to build a home or business.
The option they are considering for funding this?  Tax Increment Financing.
Hillsborough commissioners voted unanimously two weeks ago to consider creating the so-called tax increment finance districts in three areas: near the University of South Florida, near the Florida State Fairgrounds and in the neighborhoods of Progress Village, Clair-Mel and Palm River along Causeway Boulevard. 
Perhaps these areas do need improvements.  Not everywhere is above average.

http://bushwickbk.com/images/culture/putting-lot.jpg
Yes, this is urban blight.
More from Varian:
Here's how tax increment finance districts generally work: Elected officials identify a specific geographic area as blighted or in need of special attention. They then develop a plan for how to address the blight and, hopefully, make it a more inviting place to live or work.
They would then establish a base year, after which the area's growth in county property taxes would have to be spent there.
Emphasis mine.  Sounds like free money, doesn't it?  Why hopefully then?  TIFs are not without risks.  From Wikipedia:
Tax Increment Financing dedicates tax increments within a certain defined district to finance the debt that is issued to pay for the project. TIF was designed to channel funding toward improvements in distressed, underdeveloped, or underutilized parts of a jurisdiction where development might otherwise not occur. TIF creates funding for public or private projects by borrowing against the future increase in these property-tax revenues.
So in other words, TIFs channel the hoped increase in revenues to benefit the targeted area, financed by debt issued against the hope (that word again) that the increasing tax revenues will pay it back.

What happens if the hope does not work out as planned? The rest of Hillsborough County gets the bill with increased taxes or reduced services.  The redevelopment areas get the benefits, the rest if the county assumes the risks.

Some other concerns:

  • Development may occur in these areas anyways.
  • If they are successful, they may put additional strain on public services such as fire, police, water,  sewer and roads, which may not be paid for by TIF
  • Opens up for abuse of eminent domain laws.  The awful SCOTUS Kelo decision was based on a eminent domain to fund a private development based on TIF.
  • Can lead to political cronyism for the big development crown - real estate developers, land use attorneys, urban planners, etc.
  • Sets up different rules and priorities for other development needs throughout the county.
  • Reduces flexibility to adjust to the changing needs of the county.
Perhaps they can consider other incentive programs.  There are 20 programs listed by the City of Tampa alone.  

OK, perhaps 20 is a bit much, and needs consolidating.  But you get the point, right?

Jan Platt, long time Democratic politician in these parts, understands.
Critics, such as former County Commissioner Jan Platt, say such districts restrict elected officials from making spending decisions that are in the best interest of the entire community. They limit flexibility.

"That's just as true today as it was then," Platt said of Crist's previous push for a special taxing district near USF. "It's just completely opposite what needs to be happening in this day and time."
Chicago was an early an ardent user of TIFs.  Need I say more? Don't end up like California.  They invented TIFs, but they are now discontinued   But they'll be paying back over $28B in debt for a long time.

Hopefully.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Oracle of Tampa is a Rare Breed

From the WSJ this morning (behind the paywall):
Jay Bowen's stock picking has made the Tampa Firefighters and Police Officers Pension Fund one of the best-performing public pensions in the U.S. Some retired cops and firefighters attend pension board meetings to catch a glimpse of the money manager they consider their own Warren Buffett.
But in the hypercompetitive industry of pension fund investing, Mr. Bowen is an anomaly. The 51-year-old is the fund's lone money manager, an unusual arrangement for a retirement system with $1.6 billion in assets.
"There is really nothing like this arrangement in the country,'' says Mr. Bowen of the Tampa, Fla., fund, which is by far his largest client.
...
The Tampa pension's chairman, Richard Griner, says pension managers he meets at industry conferences are shocked when he tells them that his fund is betting the house on Mr. Bowen.
"But when I show them my results they pretty much shut up,'' says Mr. Griner, a Tampa Police detective. "The numbers don't lie."
He's beating most of the big players. The retirement fund is funded at about 90%, according the article. This is well above the 80% range generally considered healthy.

[image]

There are some risks given the fund is managed by such a small firm, and their luck could turn.  Of course, a guy from the SEC suggested the fund needs further oversight by regulators.  But let's acknowledge some good numbers... and some good news for Tampa!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Afternoon on the Trolley and Riverwalk

It was a beautiful Spring day in Tampa, so we headed down to Ybor City for some lunch at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company.  Ran into an old friend, Andy, and caught it a bit. Then we went for a ride on the Teco Trolley to see what it's all about.

We picked up the trolley at the Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union station, outside Centro Ybor.  We could see the trolley off in the distance, but it was not moving.  We waited about 10 minutes, then if finally came, right on time.  I guess they don't want to get ahead of schedule.  We bought a $5 day pass for each of us.


Here comes the trolley!


There were a total of 6 of us that got on at Centro Ybor.


More trolleys!... This is the HART maintenance station for the trolleys.


Some scenery from the Port of Tampa.
 

3 cruise ships were in port, getting ready to sail.


Some space for lease, in case you want to open a business.


The Florida Aquarium is located conveniently off the trolley.  Wow, a great success for Transit Oriented Development?  No.  The Aquarium was built before the trolley.


The Cruise Terminal is also located conveniently off the trolley route.  We did not see any cruisers on the trolley.


More trolley riders!


We got off at Channelside at the Tampa Tribune station, and we walked.  To the Riverwalk.  

We took some pictures of Harbor Island.


We took some pictures of of the river.


The Columbia Restaurant at the Tampa History Museum.  We stopped by later for some dessert and a beverage.  It was good, as we've enjoyed it in the past, but good thing we were not in a rush.


A shot of the Harbor Island bridge.


A picture of Cotanchobee Park taken from the dock outside the history center.


Contanchobee Park.  Lots of folks had their doggies out.


Fallen heroes memorial for firefighters and law enforcement killed in the line of duty.


Cotanchobee Park from the East side.


You can rent bikes on the Riverwalk.  We walked on the Riverwalk.


From the Kennedy Bridge, University of Tampa, and a boat with more people than we saw on the trolley today.


Platt Street bridge.


Tampa's famous Beer Can building!


Another view of University of Tampa.


We have cool, modern technology in the trolleys... or is quaint back in style?


Here comes the trolley.  Right on time.  Then we sat for 5 minutes.  Don't want to get ahead of schedule.




At another stop, a couple was having some trouble with the ticket machine.  The trolley driver told them to push some button, waited another 15 seconds or so, then took off without them.  I guess they waited another 20 minutes.

If you're early you wait, if you're late, they leave.

Don't want to get behind schedule.


Some call it "art", on Curtis Hixon Park.  We saw U2 at Curtis Hixon Hall in 1984.


We wanted to catch the trolley heading back to Ybor at Channelside, but we missed it by a couple of minutes.  So rather than wait another 18 minutes, we walked up to the next Aquarium stop... and we waited their for the trolley about 8 minutes.

Lots of cars went by.


Coming back into Ybor City on the trolley.


All in all, it was a very nice day, with beautiful weather.  We enjoyed our walk along the Riverwalk.

Just don't be in a rush.  And that was OK today.

Tribune rail propaganda March 10 edition


More one sided, pro-rail propaganda from the Trib's rail fanboy Ted Jackovics today:

The people want more and better ways to get around town, but in 2010 they soundly rejected a plan to make that happen with light rail, bus and road improvements.

Still smarting from that loss, leaders are slowly coming back to the drawing board, pushed by business interests that see transportation improvements in Tampa Bay as the key to economic growth.

And pushed, too, by recent surveys showing it may be time to try again.

For nearly three of four voters, traffic and transportation are top concerns, according to surveys the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization conducted in three phases during the past year.

Two in three voters ranked as "somewhat to very high" the need for road and bridge improvements to improve traffic flow, bus service expansion and the beginnings of a passenger rail line.

Actually, those recent surveys from the MPO show that 96% of Hillsborough County wants improvements in roads, a much higher than want rail. See below, from the MPO.

Why does Jackovics not state what's really in the survey? Well if you read through the survey narrative, it spins and spins on the rail issue, yet light-rail is the 12th rated issue on the survey! Priorities anyone?

Why did they need to confuse the topic of “traffic and transportation” with rail?


"Everyone wants transportation improvements, but there is no money for it," said Kevin Thurman, executive director of Connect Tampa Bay, which aims to link grass-roots efforts with business and elected officials. "We have to have serious conversations about what improvements the public wants and how to pay for them."

Who is Kevin Thurman? What makes him the go to guy for rail and transportation? He just moved into the Tampa Bay area last year after being a Democratic operative/consultant. His current job according to Linkedin is Executive Director of Connect Tampa Bay. Is he getting paid? Why would anyone pay him to be an expert on transportation issues in a community he just moved to?

"We want to find something all of our citizens are comfortable with, what our objectives are, what we hope to accomplish," said County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, who has made transportation improvements a priority. "From my perspective, we are engaged in an economic battle, and delay is not good."

Sharpe has been a Hillsborough County Commissioner for what, 10 years? What has he been doing over those years? Apparently not focusing on economic growth. Why are we conflating transportation with economic growth? And here he goes again, wasting his and our time and our money on light-rail as a stimulus for growth, which was soundly defeated in 2010. He apparently does not listen and has not learned anything.


Sharpe is an active member of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, Metropolitan Planning Organization and served three years on Hillsborough County’s Transportation Task Force. He was selected chairman of the Metropolitan Planning Organization for 2013 and will serve as its representative to the West Central Florida Metropolitan Planning Organizations Chairs Coordinating Committee. In that capacity, Sharpe also will serve on the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority board of directors.

Economic growth and workforce development comprise his top priorities in office. He is on the board of directors for Tampa Bay Partnership for Regional Economic Development

Sharpe has succeeded in implanting himself in all the transportation related government agencies (why are there so many?) in the region to further drive his agenda around light-rail and transportation oriented development (TOD) as the answer to all known and unknown problems. He is also on the board of Tampa Bay Partnership, the big money behind the lost rail efforts of 2010.

Don't ask Sharpe why TOD will work where the Economic Development Council, Economic Prosperity Commissions, Chambers of Commerce, etc., have apparently failed.

What's in these plans for small local businesses? How will they prosper? Or will they just pay for it?

Here's a warning shot from Ted:

Some other metropolitan areas found you have to try again and again. The Phoenix area, for example, saw two transportation referendums fail before voters finally found tax packages they liked.

The city's light-rail system is now credited with creating business development downtown, providing transportation from outlying areas to professional sports arenas and reinvigorating a blighted north-south artery.

Denver, Seattle and St. Louis had similar experiences.

They won a war of attrition, during a stronger national economy. The business developments are almost all universally around various tax incentives to encourage development, not from the light-rail itself. More money out of your paycheck. Less money for roads.

"A lot of people are scared to try to get things ready for 2014," said Thurman, with Connect Tampa.

"But if we don't reach it, be honest with public — there is no magical solution."

We agree. There is no magic with light-rail.

Next is a session planned for March 20 involving a host of players: County Administrator Mike Merrill, the Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace governments, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization.

We'll be there. Will you? Time to get engaged. We have to stay persistent, and live in the real world. They have big money special interests and are waging a war of attrition.

We at The Eye have started with some real world solutions that don't abuse the taxpayers. Take a look here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Watch out for Mega Mosquitos!


A Mega mosquito could invade Florida this summer!

Mosquitoes 20 times the size of normal mosquitoes could invade Florida this summer, experts say.
The female galinipper (Psorophora ciliata), a very large mosquito with hairy legs, feeds day and night and are common in Florida.
But major tropical events such as Tropical Storm Debby awakened the dormant galinipper eggs, and scientists are expecting a boom in the next few months.
The galinipper can penetrate through layers of clothing. It will bite pets -- even fish -- out in the wild.
"It's about the size of a quarter. ... It's about 20 times bigger than the sort of typical, Florida mosquito that you find," says Anthony Pelaez of the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. "And it's mean, and it goes after people, and it bites, and it hurts."
Said Pinellas County extension agent Jane Morse: "It's huge. And it hurts.
At least they don't carry the West Nile virus. Other than that, hide the women and children!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Transportation plans and alternatives


We have the right to move about as we please. Mobility is right implied in our Constitution. Paying for it is a different question. We have other rights explicitly stated in the Constitution, including the right to bear arms. Why not subsidize firearm purchases? No, I didn't think so. And no, I'm not proposing that firearm purchases be subsidized.
The first question to understand some underlying principles around sound transportation policy is,
Why should we subsidize other citizens transportation?
If for some reason we continue to subsidize transportation, does our government not owe the taxpayer the most cost effective option? The roads we drive on are paid and should be paid for by our gas taxes (minus what goes to support transit, which is another issue). All roads are in effect toll roads. Those who drive on them pay for them, and should pay for them. So first principle is, if you want it, you pay for it. If your preferred mode of transportation is a nice new shiny light rail, you should pay for it, not the taxpayer. My preferred mode of transportation is a Ferarri. But I can't afford it. Should the government subsidize me? But if that's not feasible, I'll take a Trek Madone (that's a nice shiny bicycle). We at The Eye are for multi-modal transportation. So please subsidize me. NOT.

In the year 2035, if we are still alive, and woman can survive, the MPO says we will have 46+ miles of light rail (actually in their Long Range Transportation Plan). That's about 2 miles of rail per year. Now compare that to the thousands of road miles in Hillsborough County. Light rail will have nearly ZERO improvement in mobility. We will have spent billions! They say we can't pave our way to transportation Nirvana, but we for sure cannot lay rail to Nirvana with 2 miles of rail per year, digging up and cannibalizing many roadways as light rail tends to run along or on existing roadways.

In both the Trib and Times articles this week covering Hillsborough County Commission meeting on transportation, there was ZERO mention about improved mobility, reduced commutes, etc. There was no statement on our commute times, which are about the national average. It was all about development, and pairing transportation with development. This is more proof these plans are not about mobility, but more development. I thought the developer heavy Economic Prosperity Council (or whatever it was called) they appointed a couple of years ago was supposed to work on economic development. Why this meeting this week? If we want to talk development, talk development. If we want to talk transit, talk transit. Don't conflate the two topics. Developers want us to, since they will gain from subsidized transit development. Urban planners want us to, since they want us all to live in big boxes downtown when the power goes out in a hurricane for days and we have to walk down 30 flights of stairs. If it were such a good idea, there would be a great demand for it, and they would do it without our help.
Where will the money come from? Well, they'll raise some local taxes, of course. There will be some unrealistic ridership estimates and fare calculations. They will also go after federal transit grants to fill the gaps. Last I check, the Feds have a bit of budget and fiscal mess on their (our) hands. $17T in debt and growing, > $100T in unfunded liabilities and growing. What can't go on forever, won't go on forever. Those federal grants will disappear at some point, probably way before the MPO 30 year plan is implemented. Then we'll be left holding the bag.

Now for some options,

In the year 2035, if we are still alive, and woman can survive, we are more likely to be driving Google driverless cars, or something similar from other automotive manufacturers who have similar projects in R&D. Google’s claims for the car, as described by Sebastian Thrun, its lead developer, are:
  1. We can reduce traffic accidents by 90%.
  2. We can reduce wasted commute time and energy by 90%.
  3. We can reduce the number of cars by 90%.
Even if he's off by a factor of 10, the impact is tremendous compared to other proposed modes of transportation. The key point is these driverless cars will be are a better driver than you or me, and they will open up new and creative ideas about mobility. Driverless Zipcar everywhere? Think about that.
Yes. technology is rapidly improving, even in cars! This is tracking well and Google has logged > 300K miles without an accident (well one, but the guy was actually driving). This will greatly improve safety, and improve utilization of the EXISTING roads with denser traffic, yet the intelligence of the cars will allow them to travel in packs faster and more fuel efficiently. It may also promote car sharing, thus reducing the number of cars on the road. This is well known by technology and automotive analysts tracking this. Many cars now have adaptive cruise control, and driverlesscars are expected to be in the market within 10 years (that would be 2023 for the math challenged) by most analysts. It will take a while for the fleet to turn over, but these cars should be a big deal. This will be done without hardly any infrastructure investment in new roads, so the cost to the taxpayer is very little, and it will have a sooner and bigger impact that rail. This is much more likely to help than rail, and the government has to do exactly NOTHING. Well, they need to get out of the way (legal and insurance will be interesting, but that's workable). No shiny new rail cars or holes to dig, which of course, is part of the problem.

In the mean time, there are several more smart tactical solutions that are available NOW that can improve mobility without tremendous infrastructure costs:
  • Apply analytics for traffic prediction, and sequence lights and adjust tolls based on forecasted traffic patterns
  • Use traffic signal coordination technology with emergency vehicles and transit buses
  • Improve and apply technology on transit operations and assets to improve maintenance, reduce wear and tear and extend the life of the assets
  • Route optimization for existing transit
  • Bus arrival prediction apps (actually in the Trib this week)
  • Road use charging (yes, we will eventually likely have to go there as gas taxes decrease with new more efficient modes of transportation)
  • Improved asset (buses) management and fleet optimization
  • Pair business promotional offers or coupons with HART transit to encourage more ridership to business (restaurants, bars, shops, malls...) locations, such as a project in Miami is doing, with a smart phone app, paid by business, at no cost to taxpayers. Increases ridership, and increases business.
These are applying IT, mobile apps, and analytics, and require practically ZERO new infrastructure.

Here are some more:
  • Look to good old buses and extend and adjust routes were needed.  Utilize BRT where it makes sense.  Quickly adjust add optimize routes quickly based on changing demographics, economics, and ridership.  Don't wait years for a rail line for a new route.  Perhaps a driverless bus is in our future.  But if there are driverless Zipcars...
  • Toll lanes, or "Lexus lanes". They now have this in Miami on I-95, and it has relieved the non-toll I-95 traffic. Note Miami, Atlanta, DC, Boston, etc. all have variants of rail and their traffic is much worse than ours. We have one of the greatest successes with the Selmon Expressway switchable elevated road. More like that please.
  • Encourage new transportation adoption models such as Zipcar. I'd like a Ziptruck as well for weekend errands.
  • Consider adding HART and PSTA bus routes to TIA, if there is the ridership. The big city airports do it.
  • Reduce regulations and get rid of the PTC. Why can't we have shared shuttle services or jitneys? Only the airport shuttles are allowed. Why is that?
  • Leverage the sprawl. Its not going away. There is no true city center in the Tampa Bay area. Encourage job development in the suburbs, not just preferred downtown or "corridors". There is now plenty of retail and commercial space due to business downturn.
  • Encourage development of bike and golf cart paths (think The Villages or Sun City Center), since the majority of most car trips are within a few miles of the residence.
Yes some of these are in the MPO's plan. Some are not.  But that's it for now.  Of course, there is much more to say on this topic, perhaps we will elaborate more over time.

What are your ideas? We are always looking for better ideas here at The Eye On Tampa Bay. We don't expect perfection, just good sound cost effective transportation, and open discussion.