January Letter of the Month
The winning letter addressed mass transit in the Tampa Bay area.
County bus service is a disgrace
I hope a serious discussion resulting in meaningful action toward a transit solution starts in 2018.
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit system is a disgrace. If it hasn’t already, it will certainly keep Tampa from being considered for a headquarters or major office from the type of A-list companies we would like to recruit.
Mission MAX, the budget-slashing makeover for the bus system, not only deprives hundreds of the most vulnerable from being able to get to work and doctors, but was a disaster in its implementation.
I own a small business. Two of my six employees ride the bus to work. Before MAX, these two would regularly notify me they were going to be late because of late buses and missed connections. Since the implementation, the problems have increased exponentially.
My employees not only arrive late, but are mad and frustrated because of problems, including:
• Drivers who don’t know the route they are driving. They are asking passengers where they should be turning.
• The "next bus" app that allows them to see when the next bus is coming is totally unreliable.
• One day a driver told my employee that his bus was an express and that he needed to catch the next bus. The next bus told him that bus was an express and that he should have gotten the previous bus.
• Recently a driver was notified while on route that his bus was an supposed to be an express — to the surprise of his passengers. When the driver told them he would not be making any stops before a very distant stop, they had to get off and walk a half-mile to the next stop to catch a different bus.
As am employer, I am bothered that my staff have such a hard time getting to work. But I am also bothered that by the time they come in the door they are frustrated and angry at all the problems they regularly encounter just trying to get to work.
A couple of years ago I took the bus to work one day when my car was in the shop. The bus took almost the same exact route I drove, and there is a bus stop right across the street from my office. The trip that takes 13 minutes to drive took over an hour to get to work on the bus.
For decades our leaders have turned a blind eye and refused to recognize the dilemma we are facing. Our community is headed recklessly toward unmanageable traffic congestion that will choke economic growth and negate some of the exciting plans being dreamed for our downtown area.
I grew up in Atlanta when they were building the MARTA rail line. It takes decades to plan. I shudder to think about how bad the traffic will get in the next decade or two.
Bradley Krantz, Tampa
Black History Month
Floridians did their part
In February, Americans remember the rich and diverse history of African-Americans as we celebrate Black History Month. The achievements of African-Americans touch every community and are found in every field of study, including science and technology.
Floridians should reflect on agents of change in our own state. The appointments of Justices Peggy Ann Quince, the first African-American woman appointed to the Florida Supreme Court, and the late Leander Shaw Jr., the first African-American to become chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, helped to pave the way for young black lawyers who might not have had the chance to practice law and reach all levels of the state’s judiciary.
For the last six years, the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame has honored Floridians who made great sacrifices and helped foster equality for all in our state. These heroes, including last year’s inductees — Patricia Stephens Due, Dr. Arnett Elyus Girardeau Sr. and Willie H. Williams — were recognized for their unyielding commitment to equality, diversity and human dignity.
Latanya Peterson, vice chair, Florida Commission on Human Relations, Tallahassee
House Bill 33
Toughen penalty on texting
More than five crashes occur every hour because of someone texting behind the wheel. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were more than 500,000 distracted driving crashes in Florida, resulting in more than 200 fatalities in 2016.
As a mother of five, these numbers are as frightening as they are compelling. As an engineer, the data is crystal clear. And as a legislator, my goal is safer streets and the rule of law.
That is why I am sponsoring House Bill 33 along with Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, and more than 60 co-sponsors. HB 33 would make the use of wireless communications devices while driving a primary offense.
HB 33 is ready for a floor vote by the full House, and I remain hopeful it will swiftly pass. I look forward to the day Gov. Rick Scott signs this important policy into law and texting while driving becomes a thing of the past.
Until then, remember: It can wait.
State Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, District 60
There’s a middle ground
The immigration debate seems to have been distilled into two words: "Dreamers" and "amnesty." Most Americans support Dreamers being able to remain. However, they appear to be ambivalent about amnesty. How about a compromise?
Anyone not convicted of a felony who entered the country illegally or overstayed their visa before 2017 may be granted a "blue card" that allows them to stay and work here as long as they remain law-abiding. Only those who were under age 16 when they entered the country may apply for citizenship. Government benefits and services for "blue card" holders would be limited. And any undocumented resident without a "blue card" could be immediately deported.
Robert More, Riverview