Sunday, June 24, 2018
Editorials

Merging mass transit can't be a rush job

Done right, merging the mass transit systems in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties could make it easier and cheaper for commuters to travel throughout Tampa Bay. It only make sense with rising gas prices and more people driving to work across county lines for the region to have regular, convenient service between both sides of the bay. But state lawmakers pushing a bill that prods the counties in this direction should provide local leaders time to put a solid plan on the table.

The two counties already run buses into each other's territory and collaborate on purchasing and other operational matters. A bill by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who represents both Pinellas and Hillsborough, calls for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit to explore whether they should consolidate operations, including a merger. Declining property values have forced both agencies to cut back on spending and routes — even as they carry record ridership, about 13 million annually each. Latvala believes a consolidation could save the agencies millions of dollars a year.

Only a full-blown study can confirm whether the agencies would be better off as a single entity. Given that drivers and mechanics comprise the largest chunk of employees for any bus system, the real savings come from cutting routes — not from flattening the administrative ranks. Densely populated Pinellas and sprawling Hillsborough also serve distinct bus populations. Any consolidation would have to work for both sides and provide parity in service going forward.

Given the implications to tax fairness, and to bus service on both sides of the bay, it was good to see the local delegation back off an amendment that would have fast-tracked the talks and laid a course for a merger as early as 2013. A more responsible course would be for both counties to explore consolidation without political interference from the Legislature. Any merger should come about on its merits and not by political force. That approach is completely in keeping with the tone Latvala set when he floated the idea last year, calling on both counties to "carefully consider" a merger. "I am not so committed to this that I'm going to ram this through," Latvala told the HART board. "If I don't get consensus … then we're not going to do it."

A regional approach is the ideal model, and it builds on the progress Pinellas, Hillsborough and other west coast counties have made in recent years in integrating their transit systems. The Legislature can boost local support for the effort by giving the counties the time to get it right.

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
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