Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Times: Transit talks must ignore the facts

Rail cheerleaders Tampa Bay Times recycled yet another pro-rail editorial.
Three years have passed since voters rejected a transit referendum in Hillsborough County, and since then rail advocates have all but apologized and promised not to bring back another package anytime soon. That was the wrong reaction, but the elected leadership from the county and its cities are taking a positive step by reviving transportation talks. Now those talks need direction and a sense of urgency. Mass transit, including rail, must be part of the discussion if Hillsborough hopes to compete for business and improve its quality of life.
Emphasis mine.  They conveniently overlook costs associated with rail.  In fact, they never deal with the costs, and who pays issues.
This history matters, because some officials are drawing the wrong lessons from 2010 as an excuse to dial back the extent that mass transit and new revenue need to play. That completely misreads the message from voters, who suggested they wanted another crack at an improved transit package down the road.
Who's misreading... misrepresenting... the message from the voters, who rejected the Hillsborough County referendum by a 60% - 40% margin?  What they are likely referring to is a MPO survey, that was touted for some 58% may consider some light rail projects (but no costs were mentioned as part of the survey).  And what they don't tell you, is that light rail was #12 on the list... way behind priorities roads, bridges, road improvements... favored by 96% of the survey respondents.
MPO Survey
And that timidity is drawing new fire from young professionals and entrepreneurs — the very talent the county and city are spending public money to attract — who see the stalling as a larger problem of weak and uninspired leadership.
Granted, there is an emerging activist thread in the younger, professional community this days to have the taxpayers subsidized their preferred mode of transportation. But its also true that these same "younger, professional community" are burdened by high college debt, a poor job market, and if they want to live downtown, high rents.  Perhaps when the economy improves, or settle down and raise a family, move to the suburbs, they can afford a car, and they'll drive more.  That's the history.  But I really don't understand why we need to dramatically subsidize their transportation now, and you weren't for subsidizing my transportation.
However unpopular a discussion over taxes might be, the reality is that Hillsborough doesn't have enough revenue to address even the backlog in road projects. And while the transit system has deteriorated since 2010, the political climate for fixing it has improved. These talks need to seize the moment.
Emphasis mine.  So help me understand...  We don't have enough money to address the current backlog in road, bridges, and safety improvements that 96% of us want fixed, yet they want us to spend more and commit much more future tax revenues on a rail system that will not be operational for a decade or more, and will do nothing to relieve congestion?   We understand the roads backlog issue, and it needs to be resolved, and it may indeed  require additional tax revenues to address.  But lets not add more big spending we don't need in these uncertain economic times.

The younger, professional community is depending on an improving economy.  Taking more money out of their pockets is not a good start.


  1. New roads is actually at 42% in that poll. Only road maintenence not widening. Which quite frankly is a multi-billion backlog.

    Instead, people are positive about transit (all Over 50%) he real issue is only 42% of people want ferries -- too bad for choo choo turanchik

    1. The main problem with the poll is that it never specified any costs associated with any of the questions. If everything is free, everybody wants it all.

      We also have reason to believe the the road backlog runs into the billions, which we will have trouble paying for, and rail will only make it more difficult to pay for.

  2. Well said, No one is going to ride their stupid rail.
    If it's so great, pay for it with corporate funds.
    If you can fins a company who actually believes that light rail will turn a profit in their lifetimes.

  3. A Westshore Choo-Choo will not do the things supports say it will; just what they don't say: it will make property owners near the stops rich(er).

    1. The Westshore route is among the shortest commutes in the entire Tampa Bay area. Don't trust me, that's from the census. It's not about improved mobility. It's about development.

  4. "Transit" Might Not Be Essential to Transit-Oriented Development