Monday, April 23, 2018
Editorials

Hillsborough in dire need of transit upgrades

Hillsborough County has a choice to make: It can continue to cut service and pretend that mass transit plays no role in the region's future. Or it can invest in the very sort of transportation system that communities across the country are building to make themselves more competitive. The voters' rejection of a broad transportation plan two years ago clearly was a setback. But the county should learn from the loss, not wallow in it.

The 2010 referendum on the transit tax was far from perfect. County commissioners dragged their feet in putting a plan on the table; the rail component had no route; and cost estimates were all over the map. Still, the measure would have created a broader and more stable funding base for a broad range of options — from new rail and bus service to more and better roads — and it would have created opportunities to rebuild older parts of the city.

The consequences of having no new money was underscored again this month when Hillsborough's transit agency, HART, offered some straight talk about the implications of continuing to operate on a shoestring budget. Despite scrubbing expenses to deal with declining property tax revenues, HART has been forced to cut service and spend its cash reserves to keep skeletal service on the roads. HART operates 180 buses; the Hillsborough school fleet is eight times that size. Yet the county still manages to break ridership records. Its traffic this year is up 6 percent and on track to break last year's record of nearly 14 million passengers.

The county's property revenue base provides HART about $30 million annually, which is not enough to maintain adequate bus service, much less build a modern public transit system. As communities across the country have shown, only a broader mix of revenue — from sales and property taxes to grants and fare collections — can sustain these systems and turn public transit into an economic driver for private investment. Having the ability to do without a car in the Tampa Bay area can save a household one-fourth of its earnings. Public transit is also key to breathing new life into Tampa's urban neighborhoods, the university area and the West Shore business district. County leaders need to work with the city on reviving a transit plan; the status quo will not enable this region to compete.

Comments
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
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: 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: 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
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
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18