Thursday, April 26, 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: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 27 minutes ago

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

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

Editorial: Women’s 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: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

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
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s 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