Sunday, January 31, 2016

TBBJ Falsely Portrays TBX Basher as a "National Transportation Expert"

Friday the Tampa Bay Business Journal (TBBJ) published an article titled National transportation expert blasts TBX as 'boondoggle'. This article is about a recent event 2016 Trends Conference, hosted by the Urban Land Institute (ULI), where a Gabe Klein made such a claim.

Two issues with this TBBJ article: Who is Gabe Klein that TBBJ cites as a "national transportation expert"? Where is any evidence to backup his claims?

First of all ULI pitched Klein as an Author and Entrepreneur on their event website, no mention of being a "national transportation expert".
Gave Klein speaks at ULI event 2016 Trends
According to his Wikipedia, Klein has a degree in marketing management and began his career in retail bike sales. Most of his career was spent in marketing and business development. He worked for Zipcar and later as an entrepreneur wrote a couple of business plans for car sharing that was shelved and a mobile food truck that resulted in a company he founded "On the Fly" which eventually shuttered.

Klein turned On the Fly over to his partners when one term DC Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed Klein to lead the District of Columbia Department of Transportation in 2008. Ironically, it was the DC government stymying On the Fly and specifically the DC DOT who kept On The Fly from flourishing by disallowing free-flowing access to the curbside. Klein served as Director of the DC DOT until Fenty's term expired December 31, 2010 when he lost his re-election bid. We'd like to know what Klein's role was in this DC light rail failure that is only 8 miles long, 3 years late and still not open:  DC Streetcar Still Not Open for Business
DDOT stands for District Department of Transportation, not District Department of Economic Development. Yet instead of providing transit systems that will cost-effectively transport large numbers of people, DDOT and other cities and transit agencies across the country are building urban monuments that will supposedly promote economic development. 
The economic development argument is itself a hoax and merely a way to justify spending more money moving fewer people. DC’s H Street has already gentrified, and the businesses on the street would be perfectly happy if there were no streetcar bashing their customer’s automobiles.
Subsequently, in May 2011, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel appointed Klein to be Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT).

DC and Chicago are not model cities for good governance.

According to this interview right after Klein was appointed to the CDOT, he was asked
Are you interested in reducing the number of cars in Chicago and, if so, how? 
I absolutely support reducing the zoning requirements for parking at new construction. I think we should have a maximum and no minimum. But to reduce the number of cars, the best thing we can do is give people other transportation options. Driving a car is not inherently bad. Driving a car by yourself, for everything you do, is.
Klein is certainly a political appointee with a background of being appointed to the Chicago and DC DOT's. However, prior to his political appointments, his career was mainly in marketing and business development. He's adept at using social media to advance his agenda. His own website provides his own bio, blog and more.

Klein's recent book Start-Up City coins the term "public entrepreneurship"
In Start-Up City, Klein, with David Vega-Barachowitz, demonstrates how to affect big, directional change in cities—and how to do it fast. Klein's objective is to inspire what he calls “public entrepreneurship,” a start-up-pace energy within the public sector, brought about by leveraging the immense resources at its disposal. 
Does "public entrepreneurship" mean the government should use public money like Venture Capital does on perhaps risky investments? Especially as we keep witnessing government not doing the basics - their primary responsibilities so well.

At least Klein admits the government has become so vast and burdensome that it does have "immense resources at its disposal".  Yes - we have witnessed the use of some of those immense resources spent on wasteful projects, crony projects, pork barrel projects and used to subsidize the wealthy.

Klein was Commissioner of the CDOT for less than two years until December 2013 when Emmanuel appointed Rebekah Schenfield, who has a BA in Urban Studies and an MBA, to replace Klein. Klein then worked for the Urban Land Institute for 6 months as a Senior Visiting Fellow traveling the country speaking at ULI events like the one in Tampa - where he is now touting his new book.

Klein now works for Fontinalis Partners, a Venture Capital company that invests in technology companies with an ability to significantly improve mobility.

Klein recently spoke in Miami on January 13 about his new book at an event hosted by the Knight Foundation. According to this report Klein stated in Miami
Every street should be built as a complete street.” 
The lesser use of cars, especially single-use, offers “this incredible possibility of getting rid of 80 percent of all our parking spaces,” he said. “The new Whole Foods with a giant garage on top could be a Whole Foods store with 10 levels of housing and offices instead. Developers in cities that have high-value real estate are already realizing this.”
Complete streets are the most expensive streets that can be built. No wonder Klein did not put a price tag to that statement.

Is getting rid of 80% of all parking spaces realistic? Perhaps Klein actually should talk to real people who are negatively impacted by such an agenda….like right here on Harbour Island, as the Tribune recently reported, where residents filed a lawsuit over an apartment tower being built with no parking spaces creating a huge parking space shortage.

Back to the TBBJ article where Klein makes this blanket statement about FDOT's TBX project being the "worst project" he's seen traveling around the country.
Klein said the expanded interstate will do nothing to relieve congestion or increase the density that business and political leaders have been working to build in Tampa's urban core.
If you build lanes, you will fill it. And if you build light rail, you'll fill light rail. And if you build bike lanes, you'll fill them," he said. It takes time, particularly in a car culture, but if you never make the change, you'll be stuck holding the bag, and people aren't going to want to live here."
It's obvious from such statements that Klein knows little about Florida or the Tampa Bay area. While Hillsborough County population may grow by 600K by 2040, most are not going to move here to live in small, costly apartment towers in downtown Tampa with no parking. The fastest growing part of Hillsborough is not in the Mayor of downtown only Buckhorn's urban core. The booming growth is in South County while South Pasco and even further north continues it's growth as well. How many of those commuters and tourists will individually decide (no coercion required) to pay the TBX toll that will benefit others, including those in Hillsborough County, who individually decide not to?

What high cost light rail systems have relieved congestion? Taxpayers pick up 80% of the operating costs for light rail used by 2-5% of the population. For someone who is entrepreneurial, why doesn't Klein support user pays, which is the fairest to everyone? Why does he support highly subsidized light rail that benefits the affluent at the expense of the low income who depend on the bus service?

Perhaps Klein missed these recent articles from the LA Times and Bloomberg. Maybe his talking points need updating.
Billions spent, but fewer people are using public transportation in Southern California
Cars Are Still Beating Public Transit

As far as building light rail, you will fill light rail. Where is the data to support such a claim? We rode light rail in Denver and Austin mid morning during the week and the trains were almost totally empty while the nearby interstate was packed. Guess Klein hasn't seen the bankrupted Tampa streetcar. How often is that filled?

If you build bike lanes, you'll fill them. Florida, Hillsborough County and Tampa is striping bike lanes everywhere and virtually no one rides on them. So much for the Urbanists "induced demand" theory….they use selectively against TBX, of course.

We previously posted about Complete Streets and the reality of all the bike paths that stand empty: Nearly Complete Streets tour.

Did Klein miss that Tampa Bay has already soundly rejected higher sales taxes for high cost light rail twice?

Klein tells the ULI audience, "Places like Tampa can be successful, but you've gotta spend your money on something other than a freeway". What a false narrative - Tampa is only going to be successful when they spend billions on a light rail system that would benefit so few, mostly the affluent or more bike lanes that no one uses.

The Veterans Expressway and Suncoast Parkway are so successful they are currently being expanded. Does he think those additional toll lanes are boondoggles too? What about the 100 plus miles of toll lanes in Central Florida that are so successful some have proposed robbing their toll monies to pay for the hemorrhaging SunRail. Even the I-4 Ultimate toll lane construction in Orlando is not enticing people to use SunRail.

Certainly TBBJ would have reported if Klein had provided any clear evidence or data analysis to support his claims…. No one in the audience asked any questions? Apparently, there was no evidence to report making the TBBJ article look more like a propaganda piece with a provocative title but no substance. Why didn't TBBJ ask Klein any questions? There are certainly plenty that could have been asked. Hit pieces like this article is why our local media has little or perhaps no credibility regarding our transportation issue.

We do not know Gabe Klein and have nothing against him personally but let's get real -  "transportation experts" do not throw out rhetorical claims and provide no evidence to back them up. Maybe he was simply singing to the usual Urban Land Institute Progressive choir or maybe that's how things are done in DC and Chicago - just say something and it must be true - no questions asked.

Here at the Eye we call such blanket rhetorical claims nonsense.

Klein is an entrepreneur, an author, a venture capitalist, a marketeer, was a political appointee for less than 4 years and he wants to sell his book.

But a national transportation expert? Not!

PSTA Board thumbs their nose at Sunshine Law Violation

Darden Rice should have PSTA's reputation and credibility at the forefront of her decision-making.

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
At Wednesday's PSTA Board meeting the Board had the opportunity to clear up any possible hint of wrongdoing by electing a new Board Chairperson.

Simple answer: YES

Following a bit of convoluted logic by the PSTA legal counsel, the PSTA Board first voted unanimously to rescind the original vote removing Darden Rice from the Chairperson's position and then by and 8 to 7 vote the Board voted Rice back in as PSTA Chair.


Me too.

I am not sure how admitting there was a violation of the Government in the Sunshine Act by Ms. Rice and Ms. Johnson, then voting to rescind the vote that elected Ms. Rice, effectively removing her from the Chair role resolves the Sunshine Law violation question.

Even more perplexing was why the PSTA Nominating Committee put Darden Rice up for the Chairperson role the second time. Apparently, they have no view of or respect for Government in the Sunshine.

Then following a rambling discussion where Ms. Bujalski, Mayor of Dunedin and long time PSTA Board member, and current PSTA Vice Chair was nominated for the Chair from the dais the Board in a split vote elected Ms. Rice back into the chair position.

Here is how the PSTA Board Members voted.

For Rice
Samantha Fenger
Patricia Johnson
Ken Welch
Darden Rice
Janet Long
Mark Deighton
Ben Diamond
Lisa Wheeler-Brown

For Bujalski
Pat Gerard
Doug Bevis
Joseph Barkley
Bill Jonson
Julie Bujalski
Brian Scott
Dave Eggers

Darden Rice could have avoided all of this. The person who brought the Legal action regarding the Sunshine Law violation spoke before the Board and indicated twice he would not challenge Darden Rice serving as the vice chair.

All Rice had to do was remove herself from consideration as Chairperson and wait one year to become PSTA Chairperson.

Darden is a lot more about Darden than her flowing eloquence would leave one to believe.

Rice continues to enhance her reputation as a political opportunist since the issue of where she actually lived arose in the St. Pete City Council election, followed by a strong hint of running for the US House shortly after election to St. Pete City Council.

Now the PSTA has a split Board led by a Chairperson who still at the best sits under a cloud of an ethics violation and a CEO with a very checkered past. See my Post: PSTA CEO Continues to Hang on to His Job.

If Darden Rice is really all about public transportation in Pinellas County, then she should have PSTA's reputation and credibility at the forefront of her decision-making. That is obviously not the case.

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Contributor: Carly Fiorina for President, Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff

Friday, January 29, 2016

Hillsborough County Gives Away Millions to Billionaires

Our spend thrift county commissioners are increasingly adept at giving millions to billionaires.
Hillsborough County has committed up to $50 million toward construction and design costs connected to the downtown redevelopment project planned by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

County commissioners on Wednesday, with no discussion, approved a redevelopment agreement with the city of Tampa outlining how much the county will pay toward the $2 billion project. The agreement calls for the two local governments to contribute matching amounts toward design, permitting and development of public infrastructure, such as streets, drainage and utilities.
No discussion? Are you serious?

Jeff Vinik needs your money
Is Vinik all of a sudden hurting for money? He's only worth about $515 million.

But he does have a buddy with Bill Gates backing his efforts around downtown Tampa.
Bill Gates' riches will help fuel Jeff Vinik's vision.
An investment fund controlled by Microsoft's billionaire founder will help finance the Tampa Bay Lightning owner's ambitious plan to build a massive entertainment, office, residential and retail district around the Amalie Arena.
Bill Gates needs your money
So let me get this straight.

Hillsborough County Commissioners gave $50 million of our tax dollars away to support Bill Gates, worth an estimated $79.2 BILLLION dollars, and his sidekick Vinik, a mere pauper at $515 million?

Without discussion?

Well, it's just par for the course. After all, it appears we just can't be satisfied without giving a handout to your itinerant broken down billionaires. Last month, it was the Glazers that needed our money.
Hillsborough County commissioners approved a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday that will finance at least $87 million in upgrades to Raymond James Stadium while giving taxpayers a larger share of money from non-Buc events.

Commissioners voted 6-1 for the agreement, which was approved by the Tampa Sports Authority on Tuesday. Commissioner Stacy White was the only no vote.
The Glazer family is only worth about $4.5 billion, so they need our help.

They're all such good business men we have to bail them out.
Hillsborough County has committed up to $50 million toward construction and design costs connected to the downtown redevelopment project planned by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

County commissioners on Wednesday, with no discussion, approved a redevelopment agreement with the city of Tampa outlining how much the county will pay toward the $2 billion project. The agreement calls for the two local governments to contribute matching amounts toward design, permitting and development of public infrastructure, such as streets, drainage and utilities.
- See more at:
Hillsborough County has committed up to $50 million toward construction and design costs connected to the downtown redevelopment project planned by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

County commissioners on Wednesday, with no discussion, approved a redevelopment agreement with the city of Tampa outlining how much the county will pay toward the $2 billion project. The agreement calls for the two local governments to contribute matching amounts toward design, permitting and development of public infrastructure, such as streets, drainage and utilities.
- See more at:
Hillsborough County has committed up to $50 million toward construction and design costs connected to the downtown redevelopment project planned by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

County commissioners on Wednesday, with no discussion, approved a redevelopment agreement with the city of Tampa outlining how much the county will pay toward the $2 billion project. The agreement calls for the two local governments to contribute matching amounts toward design, permitting and development of public infrastructure, such as streets, drainage and utilities.
- See more at: County has committed up to $50 million toward construction and design costs connected to the downtown redevelopment project planned by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

County commissioners on Wednesday, with no discussion, approved a redevelopment agreement with the city of Tampa outlining how much the county will pay toward the $2 billion project. The agreement calls for the two local governments to contribute matching amounts toward design, permitting and development of public infrastructure, such as streets, drainage and utilities.
- See more at:
Hillsborough County has committed up to $50 million toward construction and design costs connected to the downtown redevelopment project planned by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

County commissioners on Wednesday, with no discussion, approved a redevelopment agreement with the city of Tampa outlining how much the county will pay toward the $2 billion project. The agreement calls for the two local governments to contribute matching amounts toward design, permitting and development of public infrastructure, such as streets, drainage and utilities.
- See more at: County has committed up to $50 million toward construction and design costs connected to the downtown redevelopment project planned by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

County commissioners on Wednesday, with no discussion, approved a redevelopment agreement with the city of Tampa outlining how much the county will pay toward the $2 billion project. The agreement calls for the two local governments to contribute matching amounts toward design, permitting and development of public infrastructure, such as streets, drainage and utilities.
- See more at:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ethics Complaints Accepted

The Eye has received information from George Neimann that the Florida Ethics Commission has accepted the Ethics Complaints filed last year by him against Mayor Buckhorn, Commissioner Hagan and Commissioner Murman. According to Neimann
On January 20, 2016, the Florida Commission accepted the cases that I filed against City of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioners Sandra Murman and Ken Hagan. The Ethics Commission is now fully investigating the charges. I filed charges against these politicians for misusing the power of their office to gain personal benefits for themselves while, at the same time, giving special benefits to the "connected lobbyist", Beth Leytham. As the press has reported, these elected officials took free consulting services from Ms. Leytham and then, in return, helped her get lucrative contracts from both the city and the county. In addition, Hagan and Murman discussed setting up these contracts with Leytham out of the public's view, which violates sunshine laws. Now they will have to face the full scrutiny of the Ethics Commission.
George Niemann
We also received information from Shirley Wood that her Ethics Complaints against Buckhorn, Hagan and Murman were also accepted on January 20, 2016.

Update: We have received information from Charlotte Greenbarg that her Ethics Complaints against Buckhorn, Hagan and Murman were also accepted by the Ethics Commission.

We understand a complaint filed by Charlotte Greenbarg against County Administrator Mike Merrill alleging violation of Florida Statute Section 112.311(3) and (6) for failing to properly track lobbyists was rejected by the Ethics Commission. We obtained a copy of the rejection letter Greenbarg received from the Ethics Commission, which can be found here, The reasons stated for the rejection was that Section 112.311 only expresses guiding principles but does not enact a standard of conduct which one would be capable of violating. In Chapters 11 and 112 of the Florida Statues, the Legislature has adopted requirements for registration of persons lobbying the Legislature, Executive branch and water management districts, but has not done so for other local entities. The rejection letter also stated that the only Statute within the Ethics Commission's jurisdiction which could possibly be implicated by the complaint allegations, Section 112.313(6) - the misuse of office provision, the allegations must show that the official corruptly used or attempted to use his or her position for personal benefit or to benefit someone else. The rejection letter stated, "An official's failure to do his job properly does not itself constitute a violation of the Code of Ethics."

The Ethics complaints and the Go Hillsborough law enforcement investigation are totally separate investigations. 

We await any day now the completion of the law enforcement investigation investigating any possible criminal activity related to the $1.3 million contract awarded to Parsons Brinckerhoff/Beth Leytham using the CCNA process governed by Florida Statute 287.055 for hiring "professional engineering services".

The Ethics complaints will now move forward regardless of the outcome of the law enforcement investigation.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Will the PSTA Board Continue its wayward Path?

Wednesday the reconsideration of the vote to elect Darden Rice as PSTA is the first item on the PSTA Board Agenda.

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin

The reconsideration vote resulted from a violation of the Florida Sunshine laws as Ms Rice and Ms. Johnson discussed the election prior to the actual vote.

For some detail see:
See Janelle Irwin saintpetersblog; Darden Rice nominated 2016 PSTA board chair
Then from Mike Ferrier and Mike Deeson at 10 News:10 Investigates Sunshine Law violation at PSTA.
And from Janelle Irwin at saintpetersblog, Darden Rice sets right PSTA Sunshine Law violation.
Bay Post Internet, Gene Webb Something smells out at the PSTA

The PSTA Board and the CEO Brad Miller have a very checkered past and electing a Board Chairperson under the cloud of a Sunshine law violation would be a big mistake. Every decision the Board Makes will come under question and could be subject to a legal challenge based on the Rice's appropriateness to serve as Board Chairperson.

This whole issue is not about Darden Rice's ability to do a good job or provide leadership; it is all about restoring trust in the PSTA Board.

Rice has been involved with Bay area transportation and the PSTA for many years and often expresses the need for confidence in the PSTA Board. The real question on the table is: is Darden Rice serious about the need for effective leadership at PSTA or is she more concerned about adding another high profile listing on her political resume?

There are already those making noises about legal action if the Board confirms Rice as Chairperson.

Darden should spare the PSTA Board the angst of not confirming her election as Chairperson. She should simply withdraw and let the PSTA Board elect someone else as chair. If she chooses not to withdraw her name from consideration, the PSTA Board should protect the taxpayer's interest and the PSTA Board's integrity and not confirm her nomination.

This is a real test of character vs ego.

From the Board's perspective, this is not about getting their backs up and showing us they can do what they please. It is all about making sure the PSTA governing body can function free of controversy and challenge.

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Goings On At County Center in August 2014: Leytham, Merrill and Sharpe

We await the completion of the Go Hillsborough law enforcement investigation expected by the end of this month. Much of the focus of electeds has been on Mayor Buckhorn and County Commissioners Murman and Hagan. However, it was former County Commissioner Mark Sharpe who made the motion at a March 2013 BOCC meeting to start the transportation initiative that created the Transportation Policy Leadership Group (PLG) and morphed into the crony Go Hillsborough campaign.

Sharpe was also a member of the HART Board when County Administrator Mike Merrill proposed, with zero public input, a hostile takeover of HART by all electeds in May 2014. As we posted about that proposed hostile takeover here in June 2014
County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, who has been advocating for transit change for years, called the plan a "HART transplant" on Twitter. The changes will create a far more robust HART capable of running more buses, taking on larger projects and increasing opportunities for transit-oriented development, he said.
Sharpe was a commissioner when the PLG voted on August 12, 2014 to hire a transportation expert to do public outreach and when Parsons Brinckherhoff was handed the million dollar no bid contract on September 5, 2014.

Something changed with the direction of the PLG between May 28, 2014 and August 12, 2014 and it was done all behind the scenes. As we posted here, Merrill stated at the May 28, 2014 PLG meeting that transit projects would be the focus at the next [June] PLG meeting and both he and Mayor Buckhorn specifically stated that rail was included.
A business plan with projects, funding and governance was going to be presented at the June PLG meeting for a decision to start public engagement. None of that ever happened. Instead Merrill cancelled the June and July 2014 PLG meetings and suddenly in August was asking the PLG to vote to hire a consultant to do public outreach.

There was never any discussion or a vote by the PLG in the Sunshine for this total direction change. There was no transparency for what Merrill was doing behind the scenes between the May and August PLG meetings. It appears he orchestrated outside of Sunshine his plan for the Go Hillsborough campaign. Who was directing Merrill to make this total direction change the summer of 2014 - Beth Leytham, county commissioner(s), special interests? The only assumption one can make is Merrill orchestrated this direction change, with no transparency and behind the scenes, with the county commissioners because no county commissioner asked any questions why they were being asked to vote on hiring a consultant for public outreach. No one questioned what it would cost either.

The goings on down at County Center in August 2014 appears to be key.

Noah Pransky's first article about PR lobbyist Beth Leytham on September 14, 2015 titled The Gatekeeper included the text messages below of August 8 and August 13, 2014 between Merrill and Leytham. Note the August 13th text was one day AFTER the August 12th Transportation Policy Leadership Group meeting but before Parsons was handed the no bid contract.
Text Messages from Leytham to Merrill August 8 & 13, 2014
 (click to enlarge)
From a Public Records Request, Sharpe and some other county commissioners received an email from a constituent on August 13, 2014 at 12:02 who said NO to rail. Lo and behold that email had a link to our Eye blog post Inconvenient Truths on Local Transit Conveniently Avoided that disclosed the AEComm transit assessment. The AEComm report stated that Hillsborough County does not have the ridership to qualify for federal funds for rail and fixed guideways and recommended "Hillsborough County should approach making transit investments cautiously and prudently" (emphasis mine).

Sharpe felt compelled almost immediately to forward that email to Merrill at 12:13 from his phone. Sharpe told Merrill the county needs a "media/messaging strategy" to respond to inaccuracies and introduce transportation facts.
Sharpe email to Merrill on Aug. 13, 2014
 (click to enlarge)
How can Sharpe insinuate my blog post was inaccurate? I quoted directly from the AEComm assessment. Sharpe knew about the assessment that the county paid for but Merrill refused to present publicly to the PLG or hand directly to the media as Merrill did other more less relevant documents and information. The County initially tried to hide the assessment by burying it within another document posted on the PLG website - until the County was at least shamed into posting it directly on the PLG website with an obscure file name that no one would recognize or understand.

As our blog post previously reported, we directly asked Sharpe for a copy of the AEComm transit assessment report on May 22nd. He refused to provide it at that time using the excuse that it was still a draft. That excuse does not hold water with our Florida Statute 119 Sunshine Laws regarding public records requests and we know Merrill has provided draft documents and information not yet complete requested by others via public records request. Merrill refused to even mention this assessment at his media briefing on July 29, 2014 so no media attention was brought to bear on it because it would totally blow their rail agenda.

We had to submit a Public Records Request to get the AEComm document.

Why is Sharpe, in his Aug. 13, 2014 email the day after the PLG voted to hire a transportation expert, and supposedly not a PR firm, worried about information that can sink campaigns? Was it because he knew the Go Hillsborough public engagement that was being orchestrated behind the scenes was really a campaign for another huge sales tax hike?

In Sharpe's email to Merrill, he stated he wanted a messaging strategy to introduce transportation facts. From what we now know about Go Hillsborough, that request is almost comical.

We have numerous posts regarding how flawed the Go Hillsborough campaign was. They introduced half-truths, ignored important information, made false claims, made claims with no facts to back up their claim, used misleading information and displayed misleading pictures at their meetings of traffic on I-5 in LA insinuating it was I-275 in Hillsborough County. Go Hillsborough was selective about the information they provided the public to advance their agenda that the only funding solution was another huge sales tax increase - that's why they proposed the tax before any plan. These tactics are not trivial, they are devastating - especially when the county has money to fund our roads and transportation needs but simply refuses to. These campaign tactics used by a crony PR firm, that cost taxpayers $1.3 million for the Go Hillsborough effort with little oversight, is what sinks campaigns and damages credibility.

Merrill responds to Sharpe's email the evening of August 13, 2014, conveniently after his text message exchange with Beth Leytham (see above) that afternoon.
Merrill email to Sharpe on Aug. 13, 2014
(Click to enlarge)
Leytham had told Merrill on Aug. 13 2014 to contact the local media editorial board writers and Merrill follows her direction and tells Sharpe he is doing that the very next day. Merrill also tells Sharpe that is he working on "communication outreach consulting assistance" and he will know more tomorrow.  Hmmm…more collusion with the media regarding a policy issue…Is that the role of a County Administrator?

The Merrill/Sharpe email thread can be found here.

How long has Leytham been directing Merrill what to do? Who's really running County Center? In what role was she directing him  -  as a PR lobbyist, a friend, a political consultant, a conduit for the media or special interests?  Merrill works for the county commissioners, not Beth Leytham. Was a county commissioner instructing Leytham to tell Merrill what to do? Were there any violations of our Sunshine laws?

Disingenuously, Merrill told Pransky he did not know Leytham. The tone of the text messages between them prove otherwise.

Beth Leytham is best buds and has a very cozy relationship with Guidry of the Tribune and Hill of TBT. Was Leytham roping Merrill in with the media to collude and collaborate to push the sales tax hike campaign they both knew was about to start with Parsons Brinckerhoff?

Because next thing we know, as Pransky reported, Leytham sends Merrill her August 19 text message below telling him the transportation expert will come in with their own communication team in tow. Again, what role is Leytham playing directing Mike Merill what to do? Was she directing Merrill as a conduit from some county commissioners or from some special interests? Was Merrill acting like a lap dog for whatever Leytham wanted him to do?

Pransky also reported:
Leytham told 10Investigates she wasn’t looking out for her client or herself; she was merely looking out for the community.
“That (text) is exactly what it is on its face,” she said. “It is a communications strategy and it is a recommendation and information.”
Leytham was "looking out for the community" with her expensive proposition? We don't think so. Public engagement was originally estimated to be about $200K but Leytham quotes over a million and, of course, she wanted a piece of those tax dollars.

And Voila! Merrill and the county hands Parsons Brinckerhoff, who happens to also be Leytham's client, a million dollar blank check no bid contract on September 5, 2014. It was never publicly disclosed by Parsons or the County that Parsons was bringing in their communication team in tow because the PLG had specifically stated they did not want a PR firm doing the public engagement.  We now know who the "communications outreach consulting assistance" is that Merrill was pulling together - a communication consultant team of one - Beth Leytham.

Leytham immediately started directing the Go Hillsborough show and colluding with the local media propaganda from the get go. Pransky's investigative report included this September 19, 2014 text message thread between Leytham and Merrill
Leytham/Merrill text message exchange of Sept. 19, 2014
Remember at this very same time Leytham was Mayor Buckhorn's campaign consultant.  What county perspective on September 19, 2014 is Leytham referring to that she knows Buckhorn agrees with? Leytham is behind the scenes directing the local media editorial propaganda on this issue.

Isn't it disturbing that no county commissioner ever raised any concerns about the direct violation of their request to not hire a PR firm to do the public engagement? Isn't it disturbing that no county commissioner raised any concern about using the CCNA procurement process, a procurement process governed by state statute to procure professional engineering services, was used to hire the politically well connected PR lobbyist Leytham through the back door and was never publicly disclosed?


  • August 12, 2014: PLG votes to hire transportation expert on August 12, 2014
  • August 13, 2014:  
    • Leytham texts Merrill and directs him to contact the media 
    • Sharpe contacts Merrill about needing a communications strategy and his concern about what sinks a "campaign"
    • Merrill responds to Sharpe that he is meeting with media (as directed by Leytham) and working on a solution for communications outreach consultant assistance
  • August 19, 2014:  Leytham texts Merrill that transportation expert brings their communication team in tow and quotes a cost of $1.2 million
  • September 5, 2014: County hands Parsons a million dollar no bid contract with their communication team of one in tow - the politically well connected PR lobbyist Beth Leytham 
  • October 2015: County hands Sharpe $2 million for his Tampa Innovation Alliance in the FY2016 budget
We asked for text messages between Mark Sharpe and Beth Leytham during this time period. The county stated since Sharpe no longer has his county issued phone they cannot access any of his text messages that were county business related. The county was not archiving them previously as they say they are now. The cell phone provider would have the archived text messages.

We hope the law enforcement investigation includes Sharpe since he was the commissioner who started what turned into such a debacle. Sharpe got rewarded in the 2016 county budget with $2 million for his non-profit Tampa Innovation Alliance that has held some events and recruits members but has no record of successfully doing anything.

The sequence of events associated with Go Hillsborough were not coincidental. They were deliberate and orchestrated. Too much of the entire transportation initiative was orchestrated behind the scenes with no transparency which has resulted in more lack of trust and credibility.

Whatever all the goings on were behind the scenes down at County Center between May and August 2014, it appears they directly resulted in the Go Hillsborough crony mess.

Mike Merrill was smack in the middle of the Go Hillsborough debacle and it all happened on his watch. Regardless of what comes out of the law enforcement investigation, the county commissioners must remove Merrill from the transportation issue.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Buckhorn Lies Along with Clinton

It should come as no surprise that Tampa downtown only Mayor Bob Buckhorn is endorsing Hillary Clinton, although we are a bit surprised he came out so soon in the Tribune.

Tampa downtown only Mayor Buckhorn evidently learned well from his heroine Hillary, as his op-ed is filled with lies and half-truths.
In cities across America, we mayors lie awake at night worrying about one thing more than any other: our deteriorating infrastructure. It’s a problem we face daily, and yet one we’re often powerless to solve on our own.

Like many other coastal cities, Tampa has a history of experiencing damaging floods. On average, we see eight water pipelines break every day. And in a state containing four of the nation’s biggest traffic bottlenecks, it’s no surprise that Tampa drivers with a 30-minute commute spend an average of 73 hours of their lives sitting in gridlock every year.
Tampa downtown only Mayor Buckhorn would help himself and the entire city of Tampa besides downtown if he would spend more time on maintaining aging infrastructure and less time on glories of new stadiums, building parks, and rebuilding downtown while displacing lower income residents. But infrastructure maintenance is not where the glory is.

Tampa downtown only Mayor Buckhorn uses a statistical slight of hand as well to make Tampa traffic sound worse than it is with his statement "Tampa drivers with a 30-minute commute spend an average of 73 hours of their lives sitting in gridlock every year," while he's done little to improve the commute of Tampa drivers, preferring to tout pie in the sky transit that will do little to relieve Tampa congestion. We've debunked this type of selective and intentionally misleading use of traffic congestion stats many times.

In any real study, Tampa is not listed amongst the worse in traffic congestion, commute times, time in traffic etc.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn commuting to work
Tampa downtown only Mayor Buckhorn still dreams of the bullet train.
Over the years, Floridians have seen their priorities all too clearly. We watched in stunned disbelief as Gov. Rick Scott sent more than $2 billion in infrastructure funding back to Washington just to make an ideological point. This funding could have created good-paying jobs and spurred economic growth all across the state.
Ignoring the fact Tampa downtown only Mayor Buckhorn can't mention he's referring to the bullet train, ignoring the fact the bullet train amendment was REPEALED by the voters by 64% super-majority in 2004 under Governor Bush, and ignoring the fact the bullet train would have resulted in about 500 mostly low paying permanent jobs, and ignoring the fact the Governor Scott has focused on bringing over 1,000,000 jobs since he's been governor, who's making an ideological point?
In fact, leading GOP presidential candidates like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have already stated they support slashing federal infrastructure funding by as much as 80 percent.
Bullsh*t. Many GOP candidates have stated support for various programs for states to KEEP most of their infrastructure related taxes, primarily gas taxes, rather than send them to DC and beg for our money back. This would help support states priorities on infrastructure, not DC politicians, and would ensure that Florida would no longer be a donor state on those related taxes.
Hillary has laid out a five-year, $275 billion plan to save families time and money by putting more Americans to work revitalizing our roads, railways, ports and waterways. It would connect all American families to high-speed Internet and expand investment in the new high-tech sectors and smart grids that will power a 21st-century economy.
Anyone remember Obama's $830 billion America Recovery and Reinvestment Act? While Tampa did benefit by accelerating the Selmon Connector, as it was one of the few real "shovel ready" projects, ARRA was seen a massive failure, as it did little nationwide to rebuild infrastructure, increase employment, and stimulate the economy, as it missed all projections.

Obama Stimulus missed all projections
A five-year, $275 billion plan will do little, especially as its divvied up in the DC graft factories, then split across roads, railways, ports, waterways, Internet, high tech, and smart grids. I think he left out street cars.
To build the Tampa we all deserve, we simply can’t afford to leave any more money on the sidelines. We need all the help we can get.
No, Mayor of downtown only Tampa, you need to do the basics. Re-prioritize budgets, focus on whats broken, keep up with the maintenance, and show you can execute the office of Mayor. Blocking and tackling is not glorious, but that's what we need now, now more than ever.

Tampa downtown only Mayor Buckhorn apparently has hooked his political future to Hillary Clinton. He's evidently learned from the master serial liar.

Buckhorn on the Rays crazy or sly like a fox?

Buckhorn's first pitch in the baseball stadium saga is low and inside.

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin

Just a day or so after the St. Pete City Council approved a deal to let the Tampa Bay Rays look for a new stadium site Tampa Mayor affectively  pours some gasoline on a newly smoldering fire.

Buckhorn is indicating an apartment complex housing 327 low-income families that are mostly African American currently is his favorite location for the new baseball stadium.

Here are a couple of articles:
Christopher O'Donnell Tampa Bay Tribune: Buckhorn wants Rays ballpark near downtown parking garages

Baseball - some history:
Los Angeles Times; May 28, 1985  Battle Rages On for Baseball in Tampa, St. Pete

Steven Kaylor, Jon East, St. Petersburg Independent August 1984: St. Petersburg Stadium will be a sure Winner supporters say

United States District Court, MD Florida, Tampa Division , March 8, 1990,  Locascio v. City of St. Petersburg, 731 F. Supp. 1522 (M.D. Fla. 1990) from the findings of fact:

From the (City of St. Petersburg) 1979-80 Block Grant application, the Project Summary section, covering the Project, reads:

The Gas Plant area has long been recognized as one of the worst areas of housing in St. Petersburg. Based on surveys showing that over 80% of the structures in the area were deteriorated or dilapidated, the City Council declared Gas Plant an area of slum and blight suitable for redevelopment in September of 1978 and mandated the preparation of a redevelopment plan

A draft of the plan has now been completed and was adopted in September, 1979. The plan seeks to rid the area of slum and blight as well as to "expand the employment and economic base of the City" (City Council Goal No. 4) and "encourage and reinforce downtown development" (City Council Goal No. 7) in conformance with the City's adopted Comprehensive Land Use Plan-Intown Sector

Towards accomplishing these objectives, the plan proposes the acquisition of 182 properties, the relocation of 25 businesses and 45 owner-occupant and 281 tenant households, the demolition of 262 structures, and extensive sight improvements, including street and sidewalk improvements, landscaping, the construction of detention basins and some municipal parking, and rerouting of utilities to provide redevelopment parcels unencumbered by utility and access easements.

Buckhorn said, "I don't hide my optimism for that particular site," following a City Hall news conference Friday.

Buckhorn's suggestion and optimism for the Tampa Apartments location brought up some interesting questions.

1. Does Tampa want to go through the agonizing relocation of 327 low-income families and all the negative publicity that might result?
2. Does Major League Baseball want to be a party to another political nightmare about displacing poor people for a palace for the boys of summer to play in?
3. Does Buckhorn really want to run for Governor while he is kicking 327 poor African American people out of their homes for a baseball stadium?

The property that the Tampa Apartments is on is privately owned and the owners have expressed an interest, so there would be little if any taking of property by eminent domain, but there will be gut wrenching stories of elderly African-American people being forced to leave their homes.

The real question may be is this Mayor Buckhorn's first choice or is just a simple way to not so quietly nudge the whole baseball question out to Hillsborough County?

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Rays deal done – now what?

Cost is already a concern of Tampa Mayor Buckhorn who said, “I can’t tell you how we’re going to pay for this.”

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
January 3, 2016 I posted It is time to get the Rays deal done. Thursday January 14, 2016 the St. Petersburg City Council voted to let the Rays look for a new stadium site in Pinellas and Hillsborough County.

The memorandum of understanding is filled with caveats, and nuances so here are a few articles and Posts that may help you sort through it all.

Saintpetersblog, Janelle Irwin: St. Pete City Council approves Rays deal

Getting this part of the Rays saga behind us is good for everyone. Now maybe the Kriseman administration can focus on some of the more pressing issues in St. Pete.

The Rays deal did come with a bit of a cost as an "arranged" positive vote was virtually assured by Kriseman's support of Lisa Wheeler Brown's election along with a great deal of help from the Tampa Bay Times.

The spotlight now moves to the Rays as they begin to prepare a site selection process and look forward to navigating the Hillsborough County and Tampa political waters.

It will become clear as time goes forward a move to Tampa/Hillsborough County is going to be costly. Stadium costs are one factor but infrastructure costs, roads, interstate access ramps, water, sewer and electricity will represent a huge cost. Some think those costs could almost equal the cost of the stadium in some proposed Hillsborough County locations.

Cost is already a concern of Tampa Mayor Buckhorn who said, “I can’t tell you how we’re going to pay for this.”

Those facts are what led Mayor Rick Kriseman to the conclusion that The Trop site will end up being the best deal.

During all of these discussions, do not overlook the fact that no matter what they say publicly MLB does not like St. Petersburg. They never have and probably never will. A lot of it has to do with the market and attendance, but the deal that was just modified by City Council has stuck in the MLB craw since it was signed.

The City has now put a number on the Rays leaving, $24 million, and if the franchise is really worth $600 million, Sternberg could likely put the team up for $624 million and get a deal. MLB would not be unhappy to see that happen.

For now, the Rays get to move from one cranky set of politicians to another as they poke around in Tampa and Hillsborough County. Bob Buckhorn has been a bit less baseball excited than he once was since Jeff Vinik decided he was not particularly interested in baseball.

Mayor Buckhorn would probably like to avoid a stadium referendum if he is really going to pursue the Governor's office.

With all the trafficking in sports franchises who knows what might come up. Kriseman's procured vote to get this deal moving just may come back and bite him. $24 million will hardly get you a good outfielder these days, and the development rights while enticing is long-range money in the wind.

Hang on this could be a wild ride.

E-mail Doc at mail to: or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mayor Kriseman stepping up on South St. Pete

Kudos goes to Mayor Kriseman for stepping up and taking action on a serious St. Pete issue.

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb, PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
Sunday Mayor Rick Kriseman did the right thing and pledged 1 million dollars in immediate aid to St. Pete’s south side.

Here are a couple of links with details:

Kudos go to Mayor Kriseman for stepping up and taking some immediate action on a serious St. Pete issue.

Kriseman plans to focus his latest spending on creating opportunities, including improving education, skills training and job placement.

Kriseman also wants to focus efforts on what he calls a “catalyst for commerce” by increasing job recruitment and business retention. He wants to increase efforts to boost cultural, arts and improve neighborhoods.

There are some questions and some serious concerns.

First, was City Council aware of the Mayor’s plan before the announcement or was this another Kriseman “surprise." Given the serious nature of the problems the Mayor is trying to address the whole chicken and egg question should not be a big issue, but some,  ala Jim Kennedy may be a bit miffed.

A second and much more serious issue is how all this money will be managed. I can imagine even as I am writing this the line is forming outside City Hall with all the usual suspects who like to get their hands in a City pie. With Kriseman throwing in arts and culture, he just made the line longer.

There is a real opportunity to do some good with the Mayor’s initiative if it is well managed and focused.

Giving money to the same organizations that have been running programs that feather their nest and do not work would be a big mistake. The last thing we need is this money being used to buy cars, office space, trips and consultants.

City council should hold this one close to the vest; maybe even manage these programs in house through the Deputy Mayor’s office. It would be better to add a little internal administrative overhead than have this thing blow up in a scandal.

It might be better if the task force were more advisory than managerial.

I believe everyone in St. Pete would be in favor of spending the Million and probably a lot more in south St. Pete if we could get a structure that could actually deliver results.
Which brings me to my final point.

This is not a onetime effort. Even if it is applied absolutely perfectly, one million dollars will barely scratch the surface. This effort needs to be a City budget line item that should increase by at least 25% for the next five years. Even that may not be enough.

If you think I am going overboard, I encourage you to get in your car and drive through south St. Pete.

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Friday, January 8, 2016

The St. Pete-Tampa Ferry - A real fairy tale

If the Ferry brings three full loads to a Rays game that's 300 people or about 2.2% of the average attendance.

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
While south St. Pete struggles with just about every conceivable problem a community could have the Kriseman administration is in a head long rush to get a pilot project for a ferry from downtown Tampa to downtown St. Pete.

Part of the hype from the Mayor's office is what a boon the Ferry will be for attendance at the Rays Games.

The numbers just don't play out. Look at our Post from Eye on Tampa Bay by Sharon Calvert: The Ferry and the Numbers

If the Ferry brings three full loads to a Rays game that's 300 people.

Assuming an average attendance of 13,500, that is a total impact of about 2.2% per game.

Why not ask the Rays for a couple of hundred thousand dollars to test the effort, so we can get an idea of how they feel about the concept.

The trip from Tampa to St. Pete is just over 20 miles. Estimates the Ferry trip would take a little over an hour is probably low. If you add boarding and unloading, it is more like 1.5 hours.

Let's look at an estimate of total commute time to and from Tampa for a Ray's game:

To the Rays game from Tampa
Drive time to Ferry landing and parking 35 minutes
Ferry boarding 20 minutes
Ferry Trip to St. Pete 1 hour 30 minutes
Unload Ferry 20 minutes
Commute from St. Pete Ferry Port to Tropicana Field 20 minutes
One way time to game 3 Hours 5 minutes

Return to Tampa
Return from the Trop to St. Pete Ferry Port 30 minutes
Ferry boarding and departure 30 minutes (Assumes departure delay due to multiple trips from Trop to the terminal to get all riders to the Ferry)
Ferry Trip to Tampa 1 hour 30 minutes
Unload Ferry and get to car 20 minutes
Drive Home 35 Minutes
Return Trip 3 hours 25 minutes

Round Trip for first group of 100 would be about 6 hours and 30 minutes.

If you are in the second group of 100, you have to wait for 2 plus hours for the Ferry to return from Tampa for your trip, and if you are in the third group 2 or more hours more for your ride to Tampa.

Assuming the game is over at 9:30PM the total commute and wait time of the third group could be over 10 hours.

Most practical would be an inter modal approach with a Ferry ride to the game and busses to take everyone  back to their cars in Tampa when the game is over.

Throw in the fact that Tampa Bay can get rough in a hurry, sea fog, foul weather and night time commercial traffic in the ship channel and the Ferry is interesting to say the least.

Similar scenarios can be developed for casual daytime tourist Ferry riders and people who would use the Ferry to commute to work.

Keeping the Ferry full of paying customers will be a challenge. The City must be careful to avoid a per seat subsidy or some other costly financial arrangement. The Ferry operator should bear the risk.

The Kriseman administration is more interested in the hype and PR potential than they are providing transportation services. It's one thing to have 66 passenger buses running around the County with three people on them. It is a totally different thing to be supporting a 100 passenger Ferry and associated costs with few passengers, so we can have some pretty brochures for the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development people to hand out.

Buckhorn is right. Everyone should take a serious look at the numbers and let's make sure that the taxpayers are not subsidizing the Ferry operator to store his boat in a nice warm place.

E-mail Doc at mail to: or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

NYU Study: Faster Commuting Improves Productivity

We became aware a week or so ago of a couple of related studies released recently by NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management. Some new and unexpected insights on the relationship between commuting and productivity of cities. Please take some time to read COMMUTING AND THE PRODUCTIVITY OF AMERICAN CITIES: How self-adjusting commuting patterns sustain the productive advantage of larger metropolitan labor markets by Shlomo Angel and Alejandro M. Blei. It is some rather academic reading, but worth gaining some new perspectives. They also released a companion study, COMMUTING AND THE SPATIALSTRUCTURE OF AMERICAN CITIES:The dispersal of the great majority of workplaces away from CBDs, employment sub-centers, and live-work communities. which we'll review another time. It also provides some new perspectives on the urban form.

The net of the "Commuting and Productivity" publication is that as cities double in size the expected commute times do not increase nearly as much as expected. The authors seek to find out why that is by analyzing commuting times across 40 cities in the US.

This was reported in Citylab on January 4th as Why Commutes Aren't Twice as Long in Cities With Twice the Population. We'll start with Citylab's take on the research.
A productivity analysis of 40 U.S. metros of varying populations, conducted by Shlomo Angel and Alejandro Blei of
 the Urbanization Project at New York University, found that cities with twice the number of jobs sustained a labor market nearly double in size within a “tolerable” commute of 30 (87 percent), 45 (94 percent), or 60 minutes (97 percent).
An important concept in Angel's and Blei's work is the actual jobs available within a "tolerable" commute, which is really the key driver behind the greater productivity, known locally as "economic development", of larger cities.

Angel and Blei found that increased density, residential and business relocation, and improved mobility were the factors in reducing expected commutes as the cities grew. From Citylab:
All told, density, relocation, and mobility reduced expected commute times in a large metro area by a factor of six, relative to one half its population size. For those keeping close score at home: density contributed to 25 percent of the reduction, relocation 41 percent, and mobility 34 percent. Angel and Blei conclude with some broad policy suggestions for urban planners: help people find affordable homes near work, help businesses relocate near workers, and help commuters get from home to office.
Another way to look at it, only 25 percent of the reduction is attributed to increased density as cities grew, the other 75 percent reduction is due to where people choose to live, where the jobs are, or move to, and improvements in the broader transportation infrastructure resulting in higher speeds.

Faster commuting to jobs
(Courtesy AHeneen, WikiMedia Commons)
Citylab goes on concerned the study did not separate transit components, nor does it seek to quantify if one form of metro areas such as Atlanta is bettor or worse than more dense New York. (emphasis mine)
The work also offers some mixed planning messages. On one hand, the benefits of density and mobility suggest a need for compact development near transit lines; on the other hand, the benefits of freeway speed would seem to endorse a transportation status quo that centers on car travel. Angel prefers to focus on the bigger picture: local initiatives that make commuting less tolerable might reduce overall productivity—and right now, for better or worse, commuting in American metros mostly means driving.
“The only realistic future, as far as I see, is replacing the car with driverless cars that are less polluting, require less road space and less parking space, and offer services for the car-less,” he emails. “Compact development along transport corridors is fine and I have nothing against it, but it is certainly not a comprehensive solution for cities that now have three out of four jobs outside these corridors.”
Bingo! There it is, urbanists lamenting their rhetoric does not match reality.

If the vast majority of jobs are not along transit corridors, the vast majority of job growth and businesses will not emerge along transit corridors.

Citylab does not want to admit it, but as the study shows, as the cities grow, they also grow their interstate system to improve the speed over what they would expect on growth alone. This, along with people making decisions on where to live and work, and employers deciding where to locate, closer to available employees, in the suburban ring, along with increased density, make it all work better than otherwise expected.

No planners required.

Cities such as Tampa now have vast majority of jobs outside transit corridors and the central business district. The suburban form is well entrenched and growing around here, therefore improving speed for suburban to suburban commutes in the metro area becomes increasingly important.

Some quotes from Angel's and Blei's conclusion: (emphasis mine)
Given the productivity advantages of large, integrated metropolitan labor markets, the policy implications of these findings are clear. Urban transportation and land use planners and policy makers who are committed to fostering and maintaining the productivity of large metropolitan areas need to focus on facilitating commuting travel in the metropolitan area as a whole. Not just on commuting to the central city, and not just on short commutes within the small self]governing cities and neighborhoods that make up the metropolitan area, but on commuting in the metropolitan area as a whole. Why? Because one of the most important economic advantages of a metropolitan area— if not its most important one—is the size of its labor market or, more precisely, the overall access of its labor to the jobs it offers: the access of firms to the largest possible pool of workers and the access of workers to the largest possible pool of jobs. Not its overall mobility necessarily, but the overall mobility of its labor to its jobs. Commuting may take up slightly more than one]quarter of all personal vehicle miles travelled (data for 2009, AASHTO 2013, table 2.1, 9), but it is that quarter which drives the metropolitan economy....
A simple transportation policy goal that will maintain and increase the productivity of American cities is a renewed emphasis on maintaining and increasing the mobility of workers throughout the metropolitan area: developing and maintaining fast and efficient regional transportation systems that can connect all locations within a metropolitan area to all other locations. This necessarily requires a renewed emphasis on longer, rather than on shorter commutes, and on suburb to suburb commutes—journeys to work that now comprise the great majority of commuter travel— rather than commutes to the city center. And since, as we noted earlier, larger metropolitan areas may require, on average, longer commuting distances between residences and workplaces, they can only maintain that goal by ensuring that commuting takes place at higher average speeds. In other words, other things being equal, larger metropolitan areas require better metro wide transportation infrastructure and better metro]wide traffic management than smaller ones, allowing commuters to travel longer distances at higher average speeds so as to maintain comparable overall access to their labor markets. As it turns out, cities in general and large cities in particular are self organizing.

The efficiency with which metropolitan labor markets arrange and rearrange themselves so that jobs remain within workers’ tolerable commute range and so that workers can continue to reach their workplaces quickly as cities grow larger and larger is not the result of planning. It comes about through the many location and travel decisions of workers seeking to improve their economic well being and firms seeking to improve their profitability, given the range of locations and travel possibilities that the city offers or denies them. Transportation and land use policies can and do make possible the efficient and equitable operation of metropolitan labor markets, but they can also hinder and damage it.
It is about jobs. Expanding the access to jobs, expanding the access to collaboration, expanding the access to each other that ultimately drives economic productivity. Therefore, transportation policy should promote

  • Faster commuting across the metro area
  • Longer commuting distances
  • More rather than less commuting
Lesson learned for Tampa Bay? We hope so. The Angel and Blei study implicitly supports FDOT's Tampa Bay Express plans, as we'll need increased capacity on the highways for the anticipated growth in Tampa Bay, and most of the new arrivals will be commuters across the metro area. They'll be driving the growth in productivity in Tampa Bay, and will need improved transportation speed to support them.

Time, after all, is money.