Saturday, June 16, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: On transit, keep pace and merge

The opponents of merging the two transit agencies in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties may sneer at saving a half-million bucks a year, but a new report shows that consolidating still makes financial and operational sense. While the savings might not be as great as earlier predicted, at least initially, the money is still substantial and could amount to millions over time. Combining the operation also has a larger value: A regional transit agency could better serve the area's 2 million people and more effectively compete for federal transportation money. The question is not whether to merge but how and when.

Merging the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit into a single operation would save taxpayers about $339,000 a year. Those savings could reach more than $585,000 annually after a unified agency paid severance for redundant workers and other start-up costs. Consolidating the bus fleets and administrative operations could cost $5 million or more, the report found. But streamlining the fleet and business functions could save millions more in the outlying years through avoided maintenance, inventory costs and other efficiencies.

Opponents of consolidation, particularly at HART, are using the findings to blow holes in an earlier report that estimated the initial savings of a merger could reach $2.4 million per year. That is a misguided, self-serving way to read the numbers. Apart from saving millions in salaries and benefits, the agencies could save by automating their business practices, sharing warehousing space, consolidating purchases and other measures. Given that neither bus system is going away, the only honest approach is to look at the savings over the long term.

The benefits go beyond money. More than ever, political, business and civic leaders are embracing the reality that Tampa Bay needs to act as a region to compete nationally and globally. That transition is already taking place in job development, tourism and environmental efforts. Uniting the two counties under a single umbrella provides a framework for designing a seamless transportation system. It makes the region more competitive for discretionary grants by offering more bang for the transportation buck. And consolidation builds on the state's offer to accommodate rail on a new Howard Frankland Bridge.

This region is growing, and the architecture for preserving the area's quality of life needs to keep pace. A single agency would still meet the needs for local service while acting on a higher plane to bring a modern transportation system to Florida's west coast. It's time to think not about next week but next year and the year after that, when the county lines will become even more artificial than they are now. Saving money is a plus, but it's only one aspect of creating a better transit system.

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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
Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

The Trump administration just can’t stop sabotaging Americans’ access to health care. Instead of giving up after it failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it continues to quietly undermine the law in ways that would reduce acc...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Parkland students set example for advocacy

Music is healing. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High School put that theory on display Sunday night in New York with their stirring performance at the Tony Awards — beautifully.The students, all from the school’s drama department, bro...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18