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!


  1. I find it amazing that you would publish such a piece when some of you claim that Dr. Randall O'Toole is a "Transportation Expert". He too is far from a "Transportation Expert". In fact, his background is Forestry. Yet your darlings at Cato hold him in high regard. How hypocritical is that Sharon? REALLY? TRY AGAIN.

    1. Tough talk from a guy that does not allow commenting through Google+ or any other social media account on his website.

    2. Yeah, and he also harrasses Navy officers. Go figure that too. ~ The Evil Buses.