Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Hillsborough MPO's $32 Billion Congestion Creation Plan

As we posted here and here, the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) used a push poll marketing campaign to capture flawed data they wanted as input to the MPO's 20 year 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). This long range plan is for years 2026-2045.

Not only was the data they captured in their push polls flawed, their proposed $32 BILLION 2045 LRTP is seriously flawed with inconsistent data, incomplete information, and false assumptions.

The MPO has scheduled a pubic hearing for tonight at 6pm on the 2045 LRTP. Their 2045 Public Hearing "Draft" document is a marketing brochure with few details and no back up information. We wonder if the MPO Board can decipher and understand this plan much less the general public.

In addition, it is required that the MPO provide the public with all the documentation to review 30 days prior to the public hearing. But the MPO kept making changes to their draft document without annotating the date of the change or why the change was made. The MPO also kept adding additional documentation for public review within that 30 day review period. The general public may not know about any of the new information or even what version they are commenting on at tonight's public hearing.

There is supposed to be consistency and baselines created from the MPO's previous LRTP (e.g 2035 and 2040 LRTP's) to create their latest version. However, the MPO totally changed their format this year for the 2045 LRTP and they made it impossible to determine consistency or trend lines from previous LRTP's or what, if any, baselines were used.

It appears the MPO created the 2045 LRTP as if there was never previous LRTP's. That allows the MPO to state anything they want without providing details or backup information. And they do.

The MPO added these 2026-2045 funding allocations by revenue source spread sheets about a week after their initial 2045 documentation was made available to the public on 10/4/2019. We believe the MPO added these spreadsheets after some citizens began questioning where this important information was that had always been available in previous LRTP's.

These two spreadsheets of funding allocations WITH and WITHOUT the All for Transportation transit tax are astounding. There is almost $600 million more road capacity funding WITHOUT the $16 Billion All for Transportation (AFT) transit tax than with the massive tax hike. Without the AFT tax, there is $3.635 Billion of road capacity funding for non-interstate roads. With the AFT transit tax, there is $3.058 Billion of road capacity funding.

The MPO is over allocating massive amounts of road funding dollars to "vulnerability reduction".

What is "vulnerability reduction"? According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), it is to improve the resiliency of transportation infrastructure from climate change, sea level rise and extreme weather.

In the 2045 LRTP WITH the AFT 1% transit tax, the MPO massively over allocates almost $3.8 BILLION to "vulnerability reduction" That is over 3 times what was allocated in the 2040 LRTP WITH a same 1% sales tax. Why?

In the 2045 LRTP WITH the AFT 1% transit tax, the Hillsborough MPO allocates over $700 MILLION MORE to funding the questionable impact of climate change than they allocate to funding new road capacity. The MPO uses worse case for climate change - why?

From the $10 BILLION of AFT transit tax proceeds received over 20 years, the MPO allocates:

  • $817 MILLION to Road Capacity (8.2%) The MPO states this amount is all that is available over 20 years for new roads
  • $1.7 BILLION to Rail (17%) 
  • $2.5 BILLION to Bus Service and bus rapid transit (BRT) services (25%)
  • $1.42 BILLION to "Smart Cities" (MPO defines as intersection improvements and intelligent traffic signalization but is all often referred to as solutions using technology in congested urban areas and cities) (14.2%)
  • $1.93 BILLION to "Vision Zero" (costly complete streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, rightsizing roads aka road diets and narrowing of roads, traffic calming, speed reductions) (19.3%)
  • $652 MILLION to climate change "Vulnerability Reduction" (6.5%)
  • $335 MILLION to Road Maintenance (3.3%)
  • $103 MILLION to Bridge Maintenance (1%)
  • $407 MILLION to ParaTransit (4%)
  • $190 MILLION to Trails/Side Paths (sidewalks/bike paths) (1.9%)

The Hillsborough MPO allocates 46% of AFT $10 BILLION transit tax proceeds to fund TRANSIT and RAIL while 8.2% is allocated to new road capacity. They make their transit funding allocations without providing any estimation of ridership, total capital costs or operating costs for the costly rail and fixed guideway BRT projects.

What may be one of the most absurd assumptions made in the 2045 LRTP relates to the Community Investment Tax (CIT). The CIT tax is a one-half percent infrastructure sales surtax that can be used for many infrastructure capital projects such as roads, parks, fire stations, law enforcement needs, libraries, stormwater and of course sports stadiums. It expires in 2026, the year this plan begins.

The MPO assumes the CIT will be reauthorized for another 30 years with 25% again going to schools even though the schools got their own 10 year one-half percent sales tax last year. But then the MPO assumes that 100% of the remaining CIT tax, $3.8 BILLION will ALL be used ONLY for transportation projects. That is a false assumption because no local elected official will ever agree with that.

All for Transportation told voters last year that their 30 year $16 Billion transit tax was going to improve/fix roads, reduce traffic congestion and get you home earlier for dinner each day.

But the 2045 LRTP confirms the only way to properly fund local new road capacity is to pass more tax hikes, The AFT transit tax specifically prohibits and extremely limits any funding from the AFT $16 Billion transit tax used for new roads. Thus, the MPO assumes a new infrastructure tax hike would provide $3.8 Billion dollars of new revenues, of which a BILLION dollars would be allocated to fund new road capacity.

Somehow the MPO allocates the exact same mobility fee funding, $255.5 million, WITH and WITHOUT the AFT transit tax. That cannot be. The mobility fees paid by Developers are reduced WITH the AFT transit tax paid for by taxpayers. Who knows if this is correct or not?

The MPO does not include costly Rail transit projects in "Real Choices When Not Driving". They include bus service and the 7 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects, trails and Sidepaths (sidewalks, scooter paths and paths for who knows what). The BRT projects may also run in a fixed guideway as the MPO plans to leverage federal transit grants for capital funding but the funding for the BRT'sare not included where the funding is for the Rail fixed guideways.

The MPO put the costly Rail projects in "Major Investments for Economic Growth" - which confirms rail is not about mobility but is for redevelopment that subsidizes and benefits developers.
Reusing freight rail is the CSX lines for a commuter like SunRail which is a boondoggle and fiscal failure. The Streetcar is not "high-performing" and the plan is not to just extend it. The plan is to make it a street level light rail service which have average speeds of about 18 mph. The downtown to airport is to extend the people mover or light rail from the people mover to downtown. The Water transit is a tourist amenity and used by those going to Sporting events across the Bay. It does not spur "economic growth" and will have little to no impact on commuter traffic congestion, especially after the Howard Frankland Bridge is expanded and the Selmon Connector to the Gandy Bridge is completed.

The MPO considers those expensive transit projects to be "Major Investments for Economic Growth" without providing data to support such claims. And the Appendix C page titled "Major Investment Project Costs" is a blank page. When we questioned the MPO about that important cost information, they said the Appendix information would be updated tomorrow - after the public hearing.

Here is a comparison we received of the proposed 2045 LRTP vs 2040 LRTP.

While the MPO previously needed only $16 MILLION for their planning activities over 20 years, they will now be receiving 7.5 times that amount - $117 MILLION. The MPO's bloat will be a slush fund for Consultants, special interests and a bigger bureaucracy of Central Planners.

The real kicker is that spending $10 Billion more with the AFT transit tax, the performance levels are worse or the same as the 2040 LRTP.
2045 LRTP performance metrics

This 2045 LRTP is the Hillsborough County Long Range Congestion Creation Plan. The population in Hillsborough County is expected to grow 600-800K over the next 20 years, and most will be bringing their cars. This $32 Billion plan funds a piddly 15% growth of roadway lane miles.

With this flawed plan anyone who drives will be stuck in traffic longer. After spending $32 Billion with too little funding for new road capacity, the Vehicle Hours of Delay sitting in traffic congestion increases 300%.

The MPO's 2045 LRTP confirms that the All for Transportation tax hike is to fund transit and trains in Tampa - paid for by taxpayers in unincorporated -  not add road capacity or fix traffic congestion. It is an attempt to get people out of their cars by making driving more miserable.

And apparently Hillsborough is not the only MPO planning fantasies instead of addressing realities. Randal O'Toole, CATO Institute, just posted an article about the Austin MPO "Planning for an Unattainable Fantasy. O'Toole stated:
Planners have developed two main approaches to transportation. One is to estimate how people will travel and then provide and maintain the infrastructure to allow them to do so as efficiently and safely as possible. The other is to imagine how you wish people would travel and then provide the infrastructure assuming that to happen. The latter method is likely to lead to misallocation of capital resources, increased congestion, and increased costs to travelers.
Austin needs to go back to the drawing board and develop a plan that is based on how people actually will travel in 2039 and not one based on how planners wish they would travel.
And the Hillsborough MPO needs to do the same because this plan is one big mess!

The public hearing about this flawed planning fantasy is tonight at 6pm at County Center.  You can also watch it live or later on HTV.

Any comments about this plan can be sent to silval@plancom.org or use this MPO contact form. And make sure to request your comments be sent to every MPO Board member.

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