Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Transportation

Carlton: Enough stalling on fixing our transportation woes

When it comes to making progress on transit, we seem perpetually stuck in traffic.

Or, for a more archaic analogy: When political leaders start talking about how to pay for improving buses and roads and, yes, adding rail, sometimes it starts to feel like we're pulling on the reins of the world's most obstinate mule.

Those who believe it possible to move our transit system into, say, this century, have high hopes pinned on November's Greenlight Pinellas referendum for a new penny sales tax.

Hillsborough County, still smarting from its own failed tax-for-transit referendum four years ago, looks to try again in 2016. That's a full two years to put the finishing touches on a thoughtful, detailed and comprehensive transit package, to listen to constituents and to educate voters on what they are being asked to pay for.

Wait — did somebody say 2016?

At a recent meeting with the Times editorial board, Mike Suarez — Tampa city councilman, chairman of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit and member of the countywide group working on transportation issues — raised some eyebrows with this:

As far as getting it done for 2016, Suarez said, "I think the boat has sailed on that. There's no way we're going to put out a referendum and get the kind of synergy that Greenlight (Pinellas) has."

"I think we need more time," he said, and opined that 2018 "would be better for us."

As in, four more years, despite other leaders who are determined we can get this done. Sigh. Did I mention that mule?

Hillsborough Commissioner and transit enthusiast Mark Sharpe went with a different transportation analogy for this: "We just all need to quit posturing and row together," he texted this week. "We can most certainly be ready and have a quality public education campaign for a successful referendum in 2016."

(If you doubt Sharpe's commitment to transit, remember this: He is the guy who once made his weary family returning to Tampa International Airport after a trip take the public bus home. He wanted them to experience firsthand how badly set up we are for even that basic city need.)

Tampa's mayor, too, expressed confidence in 2016.

So is it called "backpedaling" in transportation circles? Suarez told me he made a mistake and mixed up his years with those comments. He said he meant to highlight the great job Pinellas leaders have done with their Greenlight push and to say Hillsborough should have started sooner. And he said he doesn't see any reason we can't do a referendum in 2016.

By the way, isn't it classically Tampa that plans for a high-speed commuter ferry across the water between south Hillsborough and MacDill Air Force base pushes ahead while these broader transit needs seem to hit nothing but speed bumps?

Naysaying gets us nowhere when getting nowhere is what we're trying to fix. If there are real concerns about a lack of progress — or "synergy" — in Hillsborough's effort, leaders need to hit the gas.

Taxpayers will have legitimate concerns before agreeing to this — how does the money divide up between buses, rail and roads? Will it go where they need to be?

But the goal has to be getting it done instead of red-lighting anything resembling progress. Otherwise, we're just stuck on that mule.

Comments
Petition language reveals details of Hillsborough sales tax transportation initiative

Petition language reveals details of Hillsborough sales tax transportation initiative

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections on Friday approved petition language that will let a new group of transportation advocates begin gathering the 48,000 signatures they need to get a sales tax initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot.All ...
Published: 06/15/18
Carlton: A trolley instead of a boondoggle? About time, Tampa

Carlton: A trolley instead of a boondoggle? About time, Tampa

You could rightly call the vintage streetcars that trundle between downtown Tampa and Ybor City big, beautiful boondoggles.Charming?Yes. An integral part of this city’s unique history?Absolutely.And in their current incarnation, overpriced, inefficie...
Published: 06/15/18
Federal judge halts work on Suncoast 2 toll road

Federal judge halts work on Suncoast 2 toll road

U.S. District Judge James S. Moody, Jr. granted a temporary restraining order on Thursday to halt the work that has already begun on the extension of the Suncoast Parkway — aka the controversial "Suncoast 2."The toll road now ends at U.S. 98 at the n...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Hillsborough group pushing new referendum on raising sales tax for transportation

Hillsborough group pushing new referendum on raising sales tax for transportation

TAMPA — In 2010, Hillsborough voters soundly rejected a 1 cent sales tax hike backed by their elected leaders to raise billions of dollars for roads, bus expansion and light rail. In 2016, county commissioners helped develop a new transportation plan...
Published: 06/14/18
SunPass apologizes to customers who couldn’t access accounts after website maintenance

SunPass apologizes to customers who couldn’t access accounts after website maintenance

Users were unable to access their SunPass accounts on Monday after the release of a system redesign that took the system’s web site, app and hotlines down for a week.From June 5-11, the SunPass website, hotlines and mobile app were taken down for sys...
Published: 06/14/18
Elon Musk to build 125 mph underground transit line serving Chicago O’Hare

Elon Musk to build 125 mph underground transit line serving Chicago O’Hare

Elon Musk has taken on a task perhaps more challenging than launching rockets into space: getting passengers from Chicago’s O’Hare airport to the Loop in 12 minutes, roughly three to four times as fast as the current taxi journey.The plan for the "Ch...
Published: 06/14/18
This trooper pulled over a driver - then realized the man had delivered him nearly 27 years ago

This trooper pulled over a driver - then realized the man had delivered him nearly 27 years ago

New Jersey state trooper Michael Patterson was on patrol recently when he pulled over a white BMW for a routine traffic stop.He asked the driver for his license and registration, and the two started making small talk. It turned out that the driver, M...
Published: 06/13/18
Fares eliminated on downtown Tampa trolley following FDOT grant

Fares eliminated on downtown Tampa trolley following FDOT grant

TAMPA — Fares on the TECO Line Streetcar in downtown Tampa will be eliminated for three years following a grant funded by the Florida Department of Transportation.The grant provide $2.67 million to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, allowing it to t...
Published: 06/12/18
Tampa road work forces office workers to wait up to an hour to get out of their parking garage every day

Tampa road work forces office workers to wait up to an hour to get out of their parking garage every day

TAMPA — At 42 floors tall, the largest office building on Florida’s Gulf Coast offers some spectacular views.But good luck getting out of it.Since the start of a $5.7 million street resurfacing project late last year on Kennedy Boulevard and Jackson ...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/12/18
After 43 years driving cabs, he has plenty of stories to tell

After 43 years driving cabs, he has plenty of stories to tell

A criminal on the run? Check. Two drunk elderly women seeking a threesome? Check. A repentant murderer? A possible ghost? A stabbing victim who doesn’t seem to know he’s been stabbed? Check, check and check. Come up with an outrageous scenario and Je...
Published: 06/08/18
Updated: 06/11/18