Saturday, November 18, 2017
Editorials

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

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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.

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Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "Iím pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractorsí labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractorsí labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise ó for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system ó one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Krisemanís new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Krisemanís new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Krisemanís own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USFís billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USFís billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old ó barely middle age among higher education institutions ó USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputiesí rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriffís deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trumpís latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included ó along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election ó an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17