Tuesday, April 24, 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
Free rides on PSTA and HART buses to celebrate Earth Day

Free rides on PSTA and HART buses to celebrate Earth Day

Those who use mass transit across the Tampa Bay area can ride for free on Sunday.To celebrate Earth Day, both the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) will be offering free rides on Su...
Published: 04/19/18
She calmly landed the Southwest flight and broke barriers as a fighter pilot

She calmly landed the Southwest flight and broke barriers as a fighter pilot

The pilot’s voice was calm yet focused as her plane descended with 149 people on board."Southwest 1380, we’re single engine," Tammie Jo Shults, a former fighter pilot with the U.S. Navy, said. "We have part of the aircraft missing so we’re going to n...
Published: 04/18/18
Carlton: Thanks, Gov. Scott, for the dreaded trip across Interstate 4

Carlton: Thanks, Gov. Scott, for the dreaded trip across Interstate 4

The other day I had to go to Orlando from Tampa on Interstate 4, which has to be one of the most disliked highways in Florida. And I say this as someone who learned to drive on Miami’s I-95.It turned out to be the same root canal of a trip we’ve come...
Published: 04/18/18
NTSB: Blown Southwest jet engine showed ‘metal fatigue’

NTSB: Blown Southwest jet engine showed ‘metal fatigue’

PHILADELPHIA — A preliminary examination of the blown jet engine of the Southwest Airlines plane that set off a terrifying chain of events and left a businesswoman hanging half outside a shattered window showed evidence of "metal fatigue," according ...
Published: 04/18/18
Group promoting road safety out in force on 56th Street Monday

Group promoting road safety out in force on 56th Street Monday

TEMPLE TERRACE — If all goes as planned on Monday (April 23), at least 100 people will line the sides of one of the most dangerous stretches in Hillsborough County — 56th Street between Sligh Avenue and Busch Boulevard — in an effort to get motorists...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Big dig’s big cost: Pasco tunnel idea carries $550 million price tag

Big dig’s big cost: Pasco tunnel idea carries $550 million price tag

NEW PORT RICHEY — Construction costs to tunnel under U.S. 41 in central Pasco could top a half-billion dollars, four times the projected price of building elevated lanes above the highway’s intersection with State Road 54.The cost estimate, said Comm...
Published: 04/17/18
Dr. Delay: How to find out if you qualify for a speed hump; updates on the Pinellas Bayway

Dr. Delay: How to find out if you qualify for a speed hump; updates on the Pinellas Bayway

I live in St. Pete and would like to know how I could go about getting a speed hump installed on my street. Where do I start?Manuel Reyes, St. PetersburgThe place to start would be by contacting the St. Petersburg Neighborhood Transportation Manager,...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
He got fed up with Miami traffic, so now he commutes with dolphins and pelicans

He got fed up with Miami traffic, so now he commutes with dolphins and pelicans

Parker Lake got sick of the rat race. Sick of working in a cubicle. Sick of commuting on Miami’s mean streets. Sick of being overweight from sitting at a desk or in traffic jams.So Lake quit his unfulfilling job, sold his car and moved to a house on ...
Published: 04/09/18
A sixth person killed by the high-speed Brightline train in Florida

A sixth person killed by the high-speed Brightline train in Florida

The Brightline train fatally struck a man Sunday, bringing the total killed by the train to six people since it began test runs last year.The Delray Beach Police Department announced on Twitter that a pedestrian was hit Sunday by a northbound Brightl...
Published: 04/09/18
Dr. Delay: Will the lights at 87th Avenue N and Fourth Street cause extra congestion?

Dr. Delay: Will the lights at 87th Avenue N and Fourth Street cause extra congestion?

Massive new street signals were erected at the intersection of 87th Avenue N. and Fourth Street, just four blocks north from the light-controlled intersection at 83rd Avenue N. At the same time a new WaWa store/gas station is being constructed near 8...
Updated one month ago