Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Not Shovel Ready

Right on cue, the Tampa Bay Times editorial commissars are at it again.
Hillsborough County voters spoke loudly in November by approving their first-ever local tax for transportation improvements. Now it’s time for the county commission to begin carrying out those wishes by approving a measure Wednesday that puts the tax money to its anticipated use.
Our self appointed transportation experts order the Hillsborough County Commission to "commit at least 45 percent of the tax proceeds to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit... And the board should embrace the formula that voters agreed to for road, bridge, intersection and safety improvements, which address a number of critical needs countywide and which were instrumental in attracting votes in both urban and suburban precincts."

Have they really thought this through?

Odd that this editorial coincides with All For Transportation's recent Call To Action to rally their troops for the upcoming BOCC meeting where this topic is on the agenda.

AFT Call to Action recently posted on Facebook

We've documented the lies and deception in this blog over the last year from the All For Transportation campaign, as well as many other misleading statements from proponents, politicians and Tampa's elites.

The Times concludes:
Voters want to see shovels in the ground, potholes filled, safer sidewalks and more buses more frequently — and faster connections to the airport, the University of South Florida and other major destinations. The commission can take a first, important step Wednesday by getting a spending plan in place.
There is just one little detail the Times overlooked.

There are no shovel ready plans.

The AFT plan and the funding allocations were developed in secret by a few transit activists, then sold to the public with massive publicity and advertising campaign. It was not developed in the sunshine, and had no public input and review. AFT never cited any transportation experts or professional planners or engineers involved in the amendment's development. Specific needs of the municipalities and communities were not considered. There are no timelines, priorities, budgets, congestion relief metrics, safety metrics, environmental impacts, etc, cited by AFT. Nothing.  Nada. Zilch.

Yet we are to take AFT's funding allocations at face value?

HART has a ten year Transit Development Plan. But it is aspirational, not a fully vetted plan. Definitely not shovel ready.

The Hillsborough MPO has the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). But it is a loose framework of mostly bad ideas, inconsistencies and doublespeak. Most definitely not a shovel ready plan.

The closest to shovel ready plans is FDOT's TBNext interstate improvement project, which would help with "faster connections to the airport". However, recall that Hillsborough County Commissioners on the Hillsborough MPO board Les Miller, Kimberly Overman, Pat Kemp, and Mariella Smith recently voted against the Transportation Improvement Plan to improve I-275, which most assuredly would result in a "much slower connection to the airport". They clearly do not have the majority of Hillsborough County residents interests in mind.

Despite many problems with their plans, at least the MPO LRTP has some interesting data. For example, in their planning for the 2045 LRTP they summarized for the Hillsborough County Commissioners on May 7, they outline 3 scenarios:

  1. Trend Scenario - continuation of existing approach
  2. Belt and Boulevard Scenario - tear down parts of I-275
  3. Transit Oriented Development Scenario - significant transit investment
There is a little surprise buried in these scenarios. They each have over 2000 miles of new streets. Even the Transit Oriented Scenario estimates 2320 miles of new streets!
Hillsborough MPO Transit Oriented Development Scenario

Yet the funding allocation for the AFT plan explicitly restricts new road capacity when it is the most heavily utilized infrastructure for Hillsborough transportation. From City-Data:

Mode of Transportation to work in Hillsborough

For the Times, and especially the commissioners, to blindly recommend funding allocations that will continue to restrict future investment in Hillsborough's most popular mode of transportation that even the MPO forecasts further expansion is irresponsible. Buses and bikes need to use the roads as well, but new road capacity is practically prohibited in the AFT amendment funding allocations.

The Times yet again publicly confirms their own ignorance on the issue of Transportation.

Why is it so difficult for them to recommend the BOCC perform their duties? Identify and prioritize needs, seek the public feedback, develop the budgets, perform economic and environmental studies as required, schedule out projects, then adjust for changes in economy, project issues, and new priorities? Despite its many flaws, at least the ill-fated Go Hillsborough effort sought semblance of public outreach to identify candidate projects.

The BOCC now has the opportunity to do the right thing, and do it in the sunshine as it is intended to be. Develop some real plans that seek to improve the mobility of all the constituencies and municipalities across Hillsborough in a balanced and responsible manner. Especially given, again from the MPO's own data, Hillsborough County will continue to grow at more than double the rate of Tampa. The MPO forecasts unincorporated Hillsborough will have 1.3 million residents by 2045 compared to 560,000 for Tampa.

The Times, AFT, and the Tampa elites are not doing themselves or anyone else any favors by blindly following the poorly concocted AFT allocations. We need a process and realistic planning in the sunshine, not a wild shot in the dark.

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