Sunday, April 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Eagan’s departure from HART a loss for Tampa Bay

Katharine Eaganís departure as the chief executive of Hillsborough Regional Transit to run the transit agency in Pittsburgh reflects the sorry state of transportation in Tampa Bay. While there recently has been encouraging movement on several fronts, it should be no surprise she would want to move from a region with cash-strapped bus systems and no light rail to a multi-transit provider five times bigger than HART. The region is losing a dynamic leader, and Tampa Bay has to change its perception of public transit as a last resort for poor people to one that sees it as an asset used by everyone.

Eagan will leave in January to become chief executive of the Port Authority of Allegheny, Pa., which provides public transit in the Pittsburgh area. That system includes nearly 800 buses and more than 80 light rail vehicles on a 26-mile line serving about 200,000 riders a day. Compared to Hillsborough, the Pittsburgh authority serves five times the number of riders and fields four times as many buses as HART. It spends twice as much as the bay area does on bus service alone, even though the two regions have similar populations, and its overall transit spending is four times that of Hillsborough and Pinellas combined.

Eagan understandably was attracted to the challenge and the chance to live closer to her family. But the lesson for the bay area is that a much larger market had confidence in Eaganís ability to manage what she didnít have here. Eagan previously worked at transit authorities in Baltimore and Dallas, joining HART in 2009 and rising to CEO in 2014. She is an innovator who boosted ridership and fare box proceeds and created new partnerships with private transit companies. Lately, though, she has had to consolidate bus routes to serve the busiest areas in the face of a budget crunch.

The Tampa Bay Times reported earlier this year that the bay areaís transit system is one of the nationís worst, connecting fewer people to fewer jobs than systems in similar-sized communities. This is the direct result of a poor vision for transit and a lack of adequate funding across the region. Local and state leaders are working more closely together, examining whether to expand Tampaís streetcar further north downtown, exploring new regional transit corridors and taking a fresh look at expansion plans for the interstates to include bus or rail options. But those plans will be in flux for another year or more, meaning Eaganís departure comes as a critical time.

Eagan is right; the HART post would be "very attractive for the next whiz kid in transit," given the planning in progress and the new commitment by local and state transportation authorities to work together. But there needs to be a fundamental shift in how Tampa Bay thinks about public transit, which too often still is equated with public housing ó something often grudgingly provided to those who cannot afford any other option.

Mass transit in other metro areas is a preferred option for those across the financial spectrum. It is the lifeline between downtowns and the suburbs, airports and major employment centers. Reducing the need for a car also can free up 25 percent or more in household incomes, putting money into the pockets of lower-wage earners, giving middle-class residents the chance to buy first homes and making older neighborhoods ripe for revitalization. A 2012 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that earnings of transit riders in Pittsburgh were about 80 percent of the median of all area commuters. None of the four Florida cities included in the survey (Tampa Bay was not represented) had ridership with anywhere near that mix of incomes.

HART will need a successor who can build on Eaganís work. And the region needs to think more seriously about how transit both brings people from all walks of life to work and brings more work of all types to the region.

Comments
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Airís safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administrationís reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrierís high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Womenís work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castroís handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Natureís Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Natureís Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Natureís Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. ē The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18