Thursday, July 16, 2015

Is Tampa giving up on roads?

City of Tampa is poised to dis-invest in roads, reports Chris O'Donnell of the Tribune.
With the millennial generation inching away from America’s car culture, building new homes no longer necessarily means more cars on the road.

That is especially true in revitalized urban areas favored by young professionals who seek a home within walking distance of offices, stores, bars and restaurants.

Yet Tampa regulations state that impact fees developers are charged when they build new homes and office blocks can only be spent on projects to help squeeze extra cars onto city streets.

That could end Wednesday with the city council set to consider a change allowing the fees to go toward other forms of transportation, including mass transit, sidewalks and bicycle lanes.
Where to begin?

First of all, these stories of the millennials that don't want to drive, will only live downtown, and hang out in coffee bars is a myth constantly repeated by the urbanistas, downtown developers and urban planners eager to have you fund more of their lifestyle and development.

Millennials may start downtown for some abstract cool factor, but they won't stay there. Many are already leaving for, horror of  all horrors, the suburbs, as they marry and start families.  Just like Mom and Dad. They do so for the same reasons most everyone else prefers the suburbs -- lower costs, more space, safer neighborhoods, more privacy, better schools, etc. This is otherwise known as a preferred lifestyle.  Millennials are not stupid, as they grown, they'll learn and change, and move out of the urban core.

Even then, the millennials Tampa is craving have a diversity problem.
Not every race is benefiting from the downtown renaissance alike. Young whites make up the overwhelming majority of the population shift from 2000 to 2013, followed by young Asians. Hispanics age 25 to 34 more or less stayed put. The black population dropped in downtown during this period—raising concerns that some young African Americans are being priced out of the area.
They are overwhelmingly white, college grads, and designing downtown for them will drive out the poor and diverse by driving up costs.  We're seeing more of this in Tampa with the North Boulevard Homes redevelopment, and many of the residents are concerned about the new gentrification efforts around downtown driving them out of their homes.

Not everyone who lives downtown will stay downtown.  They may not work downtown, or stay working downtown, as the new norm is people are changing jobs... and careers... frequently in their working life. To expect them live and work in the same walkable neighborhood is another myth. Not to mention downtown Tampa is not even the largest employment center in Tampa. The Westshore business district surpassed downtown Tampa years ago, and no one is claiming its very walkable.

Then there's that money sucking street car. What to do about it? Send it more money to suck up. Back to O'Donnell
The Florida Department of Transportation in April agreed to provide $1 million toward a study into extending and modernizing the TECO Streetcar line. The city contributed $250,000.

Buckhorn has proposed that the city take over operation of the streetcar and transform it from a tourist attraction into a mass transit option for residents of Tampa’s downtown. The project has taken on increased importance with plans by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik for $1 billion of redevelopment around Amalie Arena.
Perhaps Buckhorn, mayor of downtown only Tampa, should listen to this young man's wisdom from 2002.
"I think we went into this project with a severe lack of data. I don't trust the projections at all," said Buckhorn, who voted against the streetcar.

"Projections rarely come through."
He was right then, but has overdosed on the downtown kool-aid now.

Streetcars near downtown Tampa
Buckhorn was right, the projections never came through
What else? How about making it more costly to develop in Tampa outside of downtown?
For example, the developer of a 100-unit apartment tower in downtown would pay $37,300. The fees are higher away from downtown. The same development in the area around the University of South Florida and Fletcher Avenue would cost the developer $86,300.
So get this. While we want to redevelop much around the USF area, which USF President Judy Genshaft has called "horrendous and embarrassing"  Tampa is planning to make it more expensive to do so? In their own city limits? And Hillsborough County has contributed $2 million dollars to the Tampa Innovation Alliance, headed by former commissioner Mark Sharpe, to seed the redevelopment plans?

Is any of this making sense?

So much for our government planning.  Tampa's plan is based on millennial myths promoted by special interests, waste more money on a failed trolley, and while the city is planning on making the USF more expensive to develop, the county sends $2 million to a new unproven organization seeking to redevelop the same USF community.

They're wasting your money.

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