Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Greenlight buses tote opportunity

A recent Greenlight Pinellas forum in south St. Petersburg demonstrated why critics of the 30-year transit plan are wrong when they say only wealthy corporations and developers would benefit from the plan. Better mass transit has the potential to improve the lives and economic opportunities of people in all walks of life, but especially those who can't afford a car.

One of the attendees at the Childs Park Recreation Center forum earlier this month was 63-year-old Talmadge Andrews, who told officials the most important part of the Greenlight plan is expanded bus service. Buses need to run later at night, he said, so workers don't have to walk long distances in the dark. "That's much more important than light rail," he said.

Andrews' comment put a realistic point on the debate about Greenlight: Many residents of low-income neighborhoods in St. Petersburg and throughout Pinellas don't have cars and must depend on buses to get around. But the current bus system doesn't always take people where they need to go for work, and the hours it operates often don't mesh with job hours, especially for weekend or shift workers. Limited bus service also reduces the geographic area where bus-dependent residents can look for jobs.

The Greenlight Pinellas plan promises a 65 percent increase in bus service, an 80 percent increase in weekend service, and rapid bus routes connecting major employment centers. Those improvements could bring life-changing opportunities within reach for people who can't afford cars but are eager to work or get a better job.

Safety is not regularly mentioned as a reason to support Greenlight, but if the plan would bring buses running more often, later at night and closer to homes, saving people from long walks in the dark, then safer travel is a given. The plan calls for bus and trolley service until 11 p.m. or midnight most nights, giving those who work second shift a reliable and safe way to get home at night. The same would hold true for college students taking late classes.

Bus travel would become more efficient, too. Bus riders who must transfer from one bus or route to another to reach their destination currently travel miles out of their way to a bus hub to make that transfer. Greenlight would switch to a grid system, where transfers would occur at bus stops on the street.

The bus system improvements would start soon after collection of a 1 percent sales tax begins in January 2016, if voters approve the tax in November.

Greenlight critics have focused most of their fire on another plan component: a 24-mile light rail line that would run from downtown St. Petersburg to the Gateway/Carillon employment center and then on to downtown Clearwater. They call light rail a boondoggle and say the only beneficiaries will be developers who will build projects around the 16 rail stations.

But the critics overlook the potential benefits to low-income workers who don't own cars. For example, Pinellas service workers — vital to the tourist industry — could use a combination of bus and rail to get to Clearwater Beach's thriving hotels and restaurants, the south county beaches or bustling downtown St. Petersburg. Crisscrossing the county to get a job or a better job would be decidedly less difficult.

Critics argue that the 1 percent sales tax that would be implemented to pay for Greenlight would hit the poor in the pocketbook. All residents of Pinellas who purchase taxable items would pay the tax. But fully a third of the revenue would be paid by tourists and other Pinellas visitors.

The Greenlight plan has benefits for all Pinellas residents, but it holds out the promise of a better life to residents now tethered to their neighborhoods by a lack of transit options.

Comments
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18