Thursday, September 25, 2014

Greenlight Pinellas Supporters: Preaching To the Choir AGAIN

Yesterday pro rail advocate Tampa Bay Partnership hosted a Transportation Forum that the Tribune disingenuously called a "regional transit forum". It apparently was more of a "rah rah" event for the pro Greenlight Pinellas echo chamber than anything else. According to the Tampa Tribune  today:
The conference room at the north St. Petersburg hotel appeared to be filled mostly with supporters of the Greenlight Pinellas plan and included speakers from city and county governments around the region, business owners and officials from Florida’s Department of Transportation.
But much of the energy at Wednesday’s conference focused on Pinellas County’s much-debated transit expansion plan, which would drive the county’s sales tax to the highest rate in the state — 8 percent (emphasis mine).
Mayor Buckhorn apparently realized he was "singing to the pro Greenlight Pinellas choir" because he said:
“I’m reminded all the time that when you’re preaching to the choir, you turn your back on the congregation. We need to talk to the congregation, not to each other."
And this is quite comical from St. Pete Mayor Kriseman:
Kriseman illustrated the problem with the region’s existing transit options by recounting a recent experience: Asking his mobile phone for directions from St. Petersburg to downtown Tampa, the device told him the trip would take nearly three hours.
Can someone inform St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman that at other airports such as DC and elsewhere, as soon as one lands, one can call up on their smartphone App a ride share with Uber or Lyft and the car will be there when you're ready to depart the airport. Does public transportation buses include space for your luggage, especially if there's more than one traveling? 

Shouldn't our elected officials be embracing the private sector transportation solutions people actually want? Hasn't Kriseman heard that these new innovative services are taking ridership AWAY from public transportation?  Who is stuck in the past?

At least some are embracing these services as reported by the Tampa Bay Times:
Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe and state Sen. Jeff Brandes said it is not a matter of whether companies such as Uber and Lyft will be able to operate here with support from local governments, but when.
"We need to offer what most business leaders and tourists want, which are these types of options," said Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who faces re-election this November. "We'll work through all these other issues, both the insurance issues and the background check issues. …I'm 100 percent confident that we can find a reasonable solution to those issues."
Mayor Kriseman must have missed that panel discussion. He must've missed the discussion also about autonomous vehicles which Congressional House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster recently stated Driverless cars are ‘the future of transportation’.

It was interesting that Commissioner Sharpe, who has been one of the biggest cheerleaders for rail, was the only Hillsborough County commissioner to attend and he participated on the ride-sharing panel not one about transit and rail.

The problem the pro rail echo chamber has with Greenlight Pinellas is simple.  It's a bad plan! 

It's becoming more apparent that voters and taxpayers in Pinellas do NOT see the value of paying more taxes, including having the highest sales tax in the state, for something that does nothing for them.  

The Greenlight Pinellas "rah rah" supporters, preaching to their choir again at this event, could only provide anecdotal evidence in support of the Greenlight plan. Why? Because there is no real data to support it. Anecdotes can't sell a bad product. 

Why is Greenlight Pinellas a bad plan?  Here's are a few reasons (there are more):

  • Greenlight Pinellas train does NOT go over the Howard Frankland bridge no matter how many times the pro rail echo chamber claims it will.  To do that will take another huge bucket of tax dollars from "somewhere".
  • Pinellas County will have the highest sales tax in the state to pay for a multi-billion dollar train few will ride.  Most of the money goes to the train, not to buses, and that's why PSTA needs the $100 million a year tax increase.
  • Greenlight Pinellas financials do not include the interest that must be paid back on the huge debt Pinellas taxpayers will be incurring to build and operate the train nor the replacement/major rehab costs that all rail systems require 25 years down the road.  Where is the money coming from to pay the interest on the loans and where is the money to pay for the replacement costs down the road? How come Ernst and Young who reviewed the financials did not catch that these costs were missing?  Makes one wonder what else they may have missed....
  • PSTA's ridership is so low they do not qualify for federal dollars.  Greenlight Pinellas requires over 36% of the train's capital costs to come from the feds and those federal dollars are dwindling. Who will pay when PSTA can't get federal dollars to build the train? There's a good chance that PSTA will be collecting hundreds of millions of tax dollars for a rail system that will NEVER be built. Those tax dollars will have come directly out of the Pinellas County economy and Pinellas County taxpayers pockets that could have been spent on something else.
  • PSTA can fix their bus service at a fraction of the cost of building a train from downtown St. Pete to downtown Clearwater few will ride. The train will do nothing to actually reduce congestion as PSTA CEO Brad Miller admitted last year when asked why the train was included in Greenlight - he said it was included for "economic development". So the truth is - Greenlight Pinellas high cost train is NOT about mobility.  
  • The bottom line, as we previously posted here, is that Greenlight Pinellas has a 4th grade math problem. The numbers simply don't add up.
Websters Dictionary defines Boondoggle as an
expensive and wasteful project usually paid
for with public money.
Boondoggles don't do math and neither do the special interests and elected officials who are the boondoggle supporters.

Is it beginning to look like "2010 ALL OVER AGAIN"?

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