Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Guide Pinellas, Hillsborough bus service talks along productive route

The bus systems in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties serve distinct populations, and it is too early to make an informed decision on whether merging them is the smartest thing to do. But neither side should fear the bill by Sen. Jack Latvala that calls for exploring the idea. The Clearwater Republican, whose district includes parts of both sides of the bay, should adjust the bill to avoid micromanaging this discussion — and to ease local concerns about his intentions. But his concept is sound and the results could benefit both sides, regardless of whether the two agencies merge or not.

Latvala included the merger language on the last two pages of SB 1866, a wide-ranging seaport and transportation bill. It calls on the two agencies — the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit — to meet over the coming year to discuss ways to improve "connectivity" across the region. But the bill stops short of forcing consolidation. It merely asks for recommendations on the idea and on a lesser proposal to share operations. That latitude of that language is significant coming from a legislator not known for his subtlety.

The two agencies share some outward similarities. Both are cash-strapped and lack the revenue base to meaningfully improve service to their 13 million riders. But the challenges are different between serving Pinellas' dense urban population and those in Hillsborough's far-flung suburbs. And the savings from reducing staff is questionable. Most bus system employees are drivers and mechanics — not high-priced administrators. Major cuts in overhead requires major cuts to routes. Then there is the issue of parity. Will Clearwater residents be as well served as those in Sun City Center or Tampa?

Latvala is smartly pushing the discussion of transit toward a regional framework. Done right, that's the ideal approach. And a serious exploration of the strengths and weaknesses of PSTA and HART could as easily make the argument against — and not for — consolidation. That's the whole purpose of the talks over the next year.

Latvala's bill should guide this process, not micromanage it. He should remove the requirement that the two agencies' governing boards meet every 45 days. The boards have schedules of their own; what matters is that they come up with recommendations on a merger by the deadline of 2013. It also is unfair to force the counties to pay the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority up to $100,000 to ride herd on this discussion. If the Legislature wants an overseer at the table, the Legislature can pay for it. The issue is not only money; the two counties will be more open to a merger if they feel the decision is still locally controlled. Latvala is moving the agencies in the right direction. They deserve an opportunity to take it from here.

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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: 04/24/18

Correction

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Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

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Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

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Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

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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

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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
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18