Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Tampa on lonely ground without airport link to downtown

What might we call this sad story of urban public transit myopia? A Tale of Two Pities?

As the New York Times recently reported, for decades this locale has found itself mired in numerous fits and starts to finally develop a commuter rail line from the city to its bustling international airport.

The effort has become bogged down in political in-fighting, jurisdictional feuds, broken promises, inflated projections, delays, cost overruns and Rube Goldberg-like design planning.

Sound familiar? But the piece about unfulfilled potential, lost time and parochial hissy fits wasn't about Tampa, although it could be. It was about Los Angeles and the long-running inability to connect the city's commuter rail system to Los Angeles International Airport.

Or, put another way, with the exception of Tampa and L.A., the other major metro areas — Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, New York, Boston, Atlanta, Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle, Newark, Phoenix, Miami and San Francisco — all have rail connections between their airports and the city center.

And now it seems, in relatively short order, that Tampa is about to lose its Sad Sack sister city of transit stumblebums. We're Number Last! Now there's a chamber of commerce point of pride for you.

At least L.A. got a little bit ahead of the game years ago when it created a complex of metro rail lines to serve the area. The final piece was an LAX connection that fell victim to years of competing agendas, including a decision to end the commuter rail line to the terminal, some 2 1/2 miles from the third-largest airport in the nation. That's so, so, very Tampa-like.

Given the numerous municipalities the L.A. area's rail line traverses to get to LAX, the political gyrations would seem to be all the more daunting. But the powers that be managed to navigate the multitude of egos, agendas and local, state and federal agencies to set a path toward connecting L.A.'s Greenline to the airport.

But not here, where it would seem since Tampa International Airport lies within Tampa's city limits, the challenge to at last drag the community into the 21st century of transit would be marginally less fractious.

Much like LAX, TIA already has the infrastructure in place to accommodate a rail connection. Think of it as the urban planner's answer to Stonehenge.

What's lacking, of course, is consensus, leadership and, yes, a coherent sense of vision to convince the public that an airport rail connection would be a really good idea.

Perhaps nothing captures the shortsightedness of the Tampa Bay region to get much beyond 1971 when TIA first opened is the ongoing I-275 construction, otherwise known as the Dante's Inferno of gridlock.

Dirt, dirt, dirt everywhere. Shifting lanes. Lane closures. Seas of red rear lights. Bulldozers. Cones. Signs blinking "Time to I-4 — 12 Days." Amazed gawking imbeciles who apparently have never seen a car with a flat tire before. And, of course, legions of guys leaning on their shovels. This is progress?

Since we've already turned I-275 into the Panama Canal, wouldn't it have made sense to simply create a rail pathway to TIA in anticipation of the day when Tampa might finally create a choo-choo system linking the airport to the rest of civilization?

Ah, but when you're Number Last, progress is the last thing on your mind.

Comments
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18