Sunday, August 19, 2018

What They Say, What They Do

Pending some unforeseen disaster with the required OPPAGA audit, All for Transportation's County Charter Amendment in Hillsborough County raising the sales tax to 8 percent for 30 years, raising an estimated $15 billion, will be on the November ballot. They are starting their campaign to misinform voters. The Tampa Bay Times is right there with them in the campaign of deceit.
"It provides the people of Hillsborough County an historic opportunity to begin the long overdue work of funding a transportation system that save people's time, people's money, people's lives" Hudson said. "Whether you live in Carrollwood, Sun City Center or right here in East Tampa, there is something in the All for Transportation plan for you."
Well, not really.

It's easy to spout these platitudes.There is something for everyone! Just trust us.


Many people reported to us they were approached by "volunteers" to sign the petitions stating it will fix our roads.

What they said:

We were told by All for Transportation's leader Tyler Hudson it was a grass roots initiative.
All for Transportation leader Tyler Hudson said his group will have hundreds of volunteers out with petitions. He did not rule out hiring a petition-gathering firm. 
"It’s going to be a grass-roots, volunteer driven effort," Hudson said. "We believe this is such an acute crisis that the response will be positive in all corners of the county."
What they did:

After raising $750,000 from 5 donors well connected to downtown development efforts, the grass roots effort was inoperative.
The group paid at least $525,000 to Revolution Field Strategies, a professional petition gathering firm to meet that target.
What they said:
"Whether you live in Carrollwood, Sun City Center or right here in East Tampa, there is something in the All for Transportation plan for you."
What is actually in the Amendent? Don't you want to find out whats in it for you?

First of all, there is no plan or defined projects that will fix roads or transit. And certainly no mention of Carrollwood, Sun City Center, or East Tampa.

It does specify the percentage breakdown of the tax revenue to be spent and micromanaged in several road and transit categories. There have been some media reports that All for Transportation is based on the Hillsborough MPO 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), but there is no mention of that in the Amendment.

Lets break it down.

What they said:
If approved by voters, the tax would raise an estimated $280 million per year.
The truth is, starting with $280 million raised in year one, accounting for inflation and growth over the 30 year lifespan of the tax, the tax will raise an estimated $15 billion dollars using the Hillsborough MPO's LRTP inflation and population growth factors.

You might ask why that $15 billion is never reported.

What they said:
Forty-five percent [of the tax revenue] would go to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority to improve bus service and pay for other mass transit. The remainder would go to Hillsborough County, Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City for road and bridge improvements, pothole repair, sidewalks, bike lanes and projects to ease congestion.
What they do:

They make no mention about increasing road capacity.

Why would they avoid increasing road capacity? After all, All for Transportations states clearly on their web site:
With an additional 700,000 people expected to move to our County over the next 30 years, we need transportation solutions.
We agree with these growth projections. This means Hillsborough County population can be expected to grow from 1.4 million to 2.1 million people in the next 30 years. That is a 50% increase in population. The vast majority of those people will continue drive. This does not take into consideration the similar, if not greater growth in surrounding counties, whose new residents will  continue to contribute to Hillborough traffic woes.

But with all this growth, why are they not touting any new road capacity?

What does the actual proposed County Charter Amendment state?

For starters, in the detailed wording in the actual Amendment, they constrain new lane capacity funding. Specifically, Section 11.07(8) states:
(8) Limits on New Automobile Lane Capacity. Agencies are prohibited from expending any funds from the categories mandated by Section 11.07(1), (2) and (3) above on New Automobile Lane Capacity. For purposes of this Section 11.07(8), “New Automobile Lane Capacity” means projects that consist of (i) adding additional lanes for automobile traffic to existing roads or streets that are not related to intersection capacity improvement, or (ii) constructing new roads or streets.
Section 11.07(1), (2) and (3) refer to categories of (1) road maintenance, (2) congestion reduction (capacity improvements restricted to technology adoption, roundabouts and turn lanes), and (3) safety.

Those 3 categories, and 11.07(4) "network" -- bike and pedestrian improvements -- total up to about $7.2 billion over 30 years, and as stated in 11.07(8), cannot be used for new lane capacity.

Section 11.07(8) could not be more clear in its title of "Limits of New Automobile Lane Capacity".

What they said:

But.... Section 11.07(5) could be used for road capacity:
(5) Remaining Funds. Any remaining portions of the General Purpose Portion shall be expended on any project to improve transportation in the applicable Agency’s jurisdiction to the extent permitted by F.S § 212.055(1) and this Article.
Set aside the allocation estimate of this category of funds over 30 years is about $1.2 billion, or around 8% of the total revenue raised. Also set aside the fact this is totally inadequate for new road capacity for a county that will grow by 50% during the lifespan of this tax. The wording of Section 11.07(5) does not appear to place any restrictions on "remaining funds".

Will that amount ever be spent on new road capacity?

This is unlikely, as the authors of the Amendment hedged their language, and their bets, to spend as little money on road capacity beyond the limits specified in Section 11.07(8) referenced above.

What they did:

Sections 11.07(1), (2), (3), and (4) are all prefixed with "At least... (xx%)...", which specifies the minimum that must be spent in each of the "General Purpose Portion" of the Amendment.

With the "At least..." prefix in 11.07, each of the (1) - (4) categories percentages specified are the minimums. They cannot be reduced, and will likely grow. They can only tap the money as specified in 11.07(5) Remaining Funds.

This is the same allocation they say can be used for new road capacity. However, this category will fund spending in the Sections 11.07(1) - (4) above their required minimums, which reduces the funds that will be available for new road capacity.

But wait, there's more!

In section 11.08, the Transit Restricted Portion, Sections 11.08(1) Enhanced Bus Services and (2) Expanding Public Transit Options (ed: specifies exclusive right of way -- means fixed guideways or rail) all prefixed with "No less than...(xx%) that must be spent.

With the "No less than..." prefix in 11.08(1)-(2) means more can -- and will -- be spent on buses and fixed guideway transit.

There is also 11.08(3)

(3) Remaining Funds. Any remaining portions of the Transit Restricted Portion shall be spent on any project to improve public transportation permitted by F.S. § 212.055(1) or this Charter.
What does this mean?

Similarly 11.08(3), estimated to be $1.4 billion over 30 years, can be used to shore up the budgets for Transit Restricted sections11.08(1) and (2), which are the two largest spending categories in the entire Amendment. How much do you want to bet it will mostly go to 11.08(2), for "exclusive right of way", AKA fixed guideway or rail?

But wait! There's even more!

Again, through some more deftly written lawyerly language, notice that 11.07(5) General Purpose Remaining Funds, states "any project to improve transportation", while the 11.08(3) Transit Portion Remaining funds, the clause states "any project to improve public transportation".

As "public transportation" is a specific subset of "transportation", this means the $1.2 billion in funds remaining in 11.07(8) can also be applied to 11.08 transit! But the estimated remaining funds of $1.4 billion in 11.08(3) must only be used for transit!

The authors of this ballot Amendment are hedging their language to restrict new road capacity and massively over fund transit.

That estimated ridiculously low amount of $1.2 billion that could be used for roads? They wrote the language to ensure even that measly amount -- about 8% of the total tax revenue -- will not be spent on new road capacity.

Keep that in mind on who you trust. Deception about who's behind this effort. Deception about what's actually spelled out in the Amendment.

This plan as written is not All for Transportation. It should be called All for Transit.


  1. Look at the Tampa Bay Times bravely posting that article without a comment section. I guess they learned their lesson from having open comments back in 2010. Their pro-light rail articles always got crushed by the community.

    For those who oppose light rail and have a Facebook, please post on these articles when they slip up and allow comments. (Also they changed to Facebook commenting to further restrict community feedback)

  2. Well, good on not providing more money for more traffic lanes. We cannot pave our way out of this mess. My only disappointment is that more of the funds don't go to mass transit initiatives. Additionally, this is not designed to be the sole source of funding for transportation, but to supplement funding we should continue to receive for road construction. Don't worry, you'll still get more roads to drive around on and continue to pollute.