County lacks champ for rail story, June 21
A half-dozen reasons rail loses
Your article regarding rail in Pinellas County doesn't explain why no public official here is a "champion" for a rail system.
1. Pinellas County is not like Hillsborough County. It has no major business centers or a major university, which attract large numbers of commuters, and the demographics of Pinellas County have no similarities to Tampa, Dallas, Denver or Charlotte.
2. There is no accurate ridership data for any rail system proposed by the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, or any other proposals, which would seem to be the first priority in planning a transportation system costing the taxpayers billions. Who is going to ride it? Where are they coming from? Exactly where do they want to go?
3. Any transit tax should first be directed toward improving our roads and bus system to speed up commutes, i.e., bus rapid transit, contra-lanes, high-speed commuter lanes. We don't have one of these improvements in the county. You have to entice people out of their cars with good bus service before you build a dedicated rail, which can't be easily modified if your estimates are faulty.
4. It's generally agreed that any rail planning requires major changes in land use to attract people to live near transportation hubs. Making this change in the most densely populated county in the state will require many years and may be politically impossible.
5. The Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization did a commuter study to determine commute times between home and work, which found that the average commute time in Pinellas is about 20 minutes. It will take that long just to get to a station!
6. It would seem that the Florida Department of Transportation would be the focal point for mass transit, however, they have no expertise in mass transit and only build roads and bridges. If, in fact, mass transit will reduce traffic congestion, then the state DOT and the county won't need as much money for roads and should be supplying funds for mass transit. That means making a commitment to the taxpayers! Nobody will touch this idea because they really don't have any answers.
6. It takes years to secure federal dollars for transportation, and Pinellas is not even in the queue.
Jim Harpham, Palm Harbor
DEP, seek greater threats than dog
Yes, it's official and I have the $75 fine and citation to prove it: Neemers, my 10-year-old yellow Labrador, and I are a threat to the environment of Florida. We were busted on Father's Day at the pet beach at Honeymoon Island State Park by an officer with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for playing fetch in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Seems I was not holding on to Neemers' leash while he was fetching his toy while we were in water 2 feet deep and up.
I was called out of the water and required to provide my ID. I then had to follow the DEP officer to his truck, parked just off the beach and running (waste of gas, I am thinking, and polluting the environment) and be subjected to 30 questions plus a full criminal background check via his computer.
I was then issued a citation and fine of $75 and told by this officer, "Sir, don't let this spoil your day." Yeah, right. Thanks for the pep talk.
He told me that I could not play fetch with my dog without holding his leash unless we were 400 feet from the shoreline. First, how can you play fetch while holding onto a 6-foot leash, and secondly, I think going 400 feet out might be somewhat of a problem.
He could have just told me that I needed to have him under my direct control with the leash at all times and given me a warning, but no, that would not have served his agenda, whatever that was. Remember that he is an officer with the DEP. This guy has a gun, billy club, handcuffs, Taser, mace, etc., on his belt. Seems a little like overkill to me, but then what do I know about protecting the environment? I have just worked in industry for many years dealing with the EPA and state environmental agencies on limiting emission from industrial manufacturing facilities. Also, I am a veteran of the U.S. Navy, where I served for over 10 years.
It may just be me, but doesn't a DEP officer have something more important to do than to harass people on the beach playing with their dogs on Father's Day? I am sure that due to reductions in their budget there is a need to write more tickets, but why not try to issue tickets for offenses that are causing some harm to the environment?
Ken Mayeaux, Palm Harbor
Fishing trip nearly nets sub story, June 19
Right to tell Coast Guard about sub
Quite a once-in-a-lifetime fishing tale; it was very interesting to read.
I am so glad that David Schermerhorn acted in a responsible way by reporting the matter to the U.S. Coast Guard and other authorities. He had no real idea what country or group could be in those international waters with a sub. In this age of global terrorism, we can't be too careful.
Ron Miller, Clearwater