Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: More road money not the answer

Advocates for mass transit were justly disappointed last week by Hillsborough County's decision to pledge virtually all of its new transportation package to roads at the expense of buses, ferries and downtown rail. This decision was as predictable as it was backward, and it shows the heavy lift that transit supporters and realists within the business community still face in getting county commissioners and the electorate behind a modern, effective transportation system.

Newly elected Commissioner Pat Kemp did her best to bring some balance to this proposal. Of the $812 million in new money the county will spend over the next 10 years, only $1 million goes to transit, and even that is for planning and pilot projects. The rest goes for road widening and traffic signals ($379 million), road maintenance ($276 million) safety projects ($127 million) and other incidentals. This is another lavish outlay for uncontrolled growth in the suburbs.

Still, Wednesday's decision is hardly the last word on transit. The board had largely agreed on this package last fall, before Kemp won election. Her lone vote against it masked a broader interest among commissioners to move ahead on transit in several areas, both through expanding bus service and exploring water taxis. The discussion also helped by highlighting the huge public costs of sprawl in Hillsborough's suburbs, which should become an election issue of managing growth. And it singled out one bloated plan in particular — the $97 million widening of Lithia Pinecrest Road — which typifies the losing game of subsidizing the region's car culture.

This plan does bring some much-need maintenance money to the table, but the problem remains that regional transit still needs a new revenue stream. The bus systems in Hillsborough and Pinellas are nearly tapped out, even as more commuters are crossing the area bridges to work, play and live. The county and the region need to get serious about the chronic weakness of an underfunded bus system, the cost that traffic congestion poses to families, employers and the region's quality of life, and the risks of falling further behind as other metropolitan areas invest and grow.

Sen. Tom Lee, who has represented conservative east Hillsborough for years, told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board last week that while the business community has stepped up in support of transit initiatives in recent years, business leaders have not followed through from writing checks for these campaigns to winning over the electorate. Last year's Go Hillsborough effort never reached the ballot, but at least officials made a stronger economic case why an improved transit system serves urban and suburban areas alike. Indeed, congestion hurts the suburbs more than urban areas. And an efficient transportation system is key to protecting agriculture and rural lifestyles.

If the county is looking for a quick and meaningful way to contribute, it could help the city of Tampa expand the streetcar, which runs from Ybor City to downtown. On Tuesday, the city will host one of several meetings this spring on expanding service. The streetcar needs to continue north from downtown, loop into Tampa Heights and continue back to its Ybor base. That would give residents and tourists alike a new and more convenient option for navigating the city center.

The streetcar is fine. But the county and the region need a much broader vision for expanding mass transit and the money to make it a reality. Roads are important, but they need to be just one part of a broader network — one that works for residents and businesses across the bay area. A region that has studied this for decades cannot wait another 10 years.

Comments
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/19/18
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...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

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