Friday, August 1, 2014

A Study in Irrelevance

According to this Tribune article yesterday, County Administrator Mike "Merrill gave reporters a report based on a study by the consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton that laid out reasons why HART should be responsible for all new transportation projects, including roads and light rail."

Booz Allen Hamilton study with APTA
No it didn't. 

Did the reporters actually read the Booz Allen Hamilton study? Or a better question, did our county commissioners actually read the study or did they simply rely on Merrill's words?

The study was performed in partnership with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the primary transit lobbyist in DC.  Think they want more transit and more transit dollars?

The study actually states 
Because governance changes often require legislative changes, pursuing a change in the governance model for public transportation is uncommon. (emphasis mine)
In other words, transit agency governance changes are very difficult to successfully implement and do not occur very often.

The rest of the study talks about expanding service boundaries, merging, consolidating, creating regional authorities and different ways of trying to do these things either through legislation or local agreements.

The study says nothing about reasons for restructuring the makeup of a transit agency to be all elected officials, or reasons for expanding a transit agencies mission to be a super agency of one stop transportation shopping of roads, sidewalks, trails, "streetscaping", economic development, bus, rail and everything in between. 

Everywhere in this study is the use of the term "public transportation" and the pictures on the front page of the study include trains, buses and a ferry.  No highways, no roads, no bridges are discussed in the study.

Look up in Wikipedia "public transportation"
public transportation or public transit) is a shared passenger transport service which is available for use by the general public, as distinct from modes such as taxicab, car pooling or hired buses which are not shared by strangers without private arrangement. 
Public transport modes include buses, trolleybuses, trams and trains, rapid transit(metro/subways/undergrounds etc) and ferries. Public transport between cities is dominated by airlines, coaches, and intercity rail. High-speed rail networks are being developed in many parts of the world.
The point is public transportation are "shared" passenger transport services available to the general public, and almost all are highly subsidized by taxpayers.

This study is only about transit and public transportation. The only time roads are mentioned is at the end under "Recommendations for Further Research" about "mobility managers"
...working with (not taking over) user and/or operators of toll facilities and highway agencies to manage congestion and daily road operations, and other functions.
But the study then states this is an area that requires more attention.  They do not city ANY proven model for this that should be followed.

What the study does provide are some high level strategies for making a governance change that includes: 
  • Governance choice should fit the region
  • Capitalize on a window of opportunity for change
  • Governance and financing are inter-related and must be addressed together (but nowhere does this study state or suggest that the transit agency must be or should be all elected officials)
  • Must have a champion
  • Must include advocacy groups to help support
  • Have good working relationships with other agencies
Who paid for this "fluff document"? Those are common sense high level guidelines.

But this study does not lay out specific reasons for a hostile takeover of a transit agency by politicians, or reasons why a transit agency, like HART, should be responsible for all transportation projects when HART does not have the experience, the resources or the legal authority to currently or perhaps ever do so.

This study is a study in irrelevance for Hillsborough County.

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