Friday, November 17, 2017
Editorials

Editorials: Transit needs less talk, more action

RECOMMENDED READING


Hillsborough County's decision to convene a summit on transportation this spring holds some promise if it aims high. The idea is for county commissioners and the mayors of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City to embrace a priority list of transportation projects and a strategy to pay for them. After 15 years of talks that have gone nowhere and a flawed transit referendum that failed in 2010, the last thing the county needs is another conversation on transportation that wastes time and fails to address the major challenges. Officials should bring a transit package back to the voters that seriously addresses the county's needs and improves the region's ability to compete.

The summit, expected in the next six weeks, would include Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, the county's transit agency, in what could be the most comprehensive set of talks since voters rejected the penny transit tax referendum. Officials have been fuzzy about their goals other than to bring the major players to the table and to underscore the importance of a quality transportation system to the regional economy. That's fine, but the summit must lead to a clear plan to create a multimodal transit system and a timetable to pay for it.

The commissioners inspire little public confidence that they intend to meet either of those challenges. They joke about their lack of interest in tax increases and other hard choices, especially in an election year. Commissioners also are changing their approach to transportation, looking to pay for projects that attract new industry rather than ease congestion. This is a misguided strategy in the wrong hands, and it has the potential to morph into developer pork at the expense of commuters stuck in traffic.

Tying road money to jobs cannot become a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from the county's failure to tackle its backlog of unfunded transportation needs. It cannot become a back-door way to fund the next retail development at the taxpayers' expense. And the quest for jobs should not be used to justify investing in disconnected transportation projects, such as Hillsborough's $6 million in road work for a Bass Pro Shops near Brandon, that do not serve a broad public interest.

Five studies over the past 15 years have concluded the same thing: Hillsborough needs a three-pronged approach — road, mass transit and pedestrian improvements — to improve mobility and make the region more competitive. But that is not going to happen without higher taxes, a fundamental budget shift toward transportation and new, cost-sharing partnerships between the public and private sectors. There is no other way for Hillsborough to start catching up on its $15 billion in long-term roadway needs, much less invest in a more modern transit system.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn stands to play a key role in this discussion. He understands the value that a robust mass transit system would bring to downtown, the West Shore business district and the growing medical arts hub at the University of South Florida. He should urge the commission to look broadly at the county's transportation problems and explain the economic edge that bus, rail and other transit options would bring to the region.

Comments

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. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s 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...
Updated: 11 hours ago
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...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ 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 — 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 — one for men, another for wo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s 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 Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s 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 — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Updated: 7 hours ago
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: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s 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...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — 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