As a strong supporter of regional mass transit, I watched the Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting earlier this month to see the presentation of the Pinellas transit study. I was disappointed that this multimillion-dollar study had such a narrow focus.
The study concentrated on the Gateway area of mid Pinellas, and there seemed to be some concern about just how large a community of interest there is for this location. The study looked at workplace commuting and made no mention of the major sports and entertainment venues in the region or how comprehensive transit could successfully benefit those locations, particularly with the question of the Rays baseball stadium up in the air.
Commissioner Karen Seel has mentioned that there are over 220,000 trips daily over the bridges and the causeway connecting Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, yet the proposed $1.5-$1.6 billion proposal would do little to alleviate this congestion. Cross-bay traffic is a major transportation issue and should be the centerpiece of any regional transit plan.
When are we going to stop spending millions of dollars on parochial studies and start concentrating on a regional approach to transportation planning? I certainly will not support any tax increases to support proposals that are so limited in their scope.
Joe Wareham, Tierra Verde
For light rail, a soft sell | Jan. 17
Use Fourth Street route
I strongly support Pinellas light rail, but putting it on I-275 in St. Petersburg is a bad decision. The Fourth Street corridor, which received high marks in an early phase of the study, should be used instead.
Fourth Street is home to one of PSTA's most-ridden buses, and surrounded by walkable neighborhoods. Derelict strip malls further from downtown could be replaced with new mixed-used development. If the line proves successful, it would be easy to extend to the south and west sides of the city, too.
On I-275, none of this is possible. There is little room for development at either proposed station on the corridor, and the tricky downtown alignment would be a dead end. Perhaps worst of all, it would permanently crush our dreams of bringing a high-speed rail station to downtown.
Bill Williams, St. Petersburg
Feeling left out
I am surprised that the people proposing this light rail plan are hoping for any kind of a positive outcome. Unless it serves the needs of the whole county better, it merely gilds the futures of Clearwater and St. Petersburg.
As a resident of Tarpon Springs who had hopes that Florida would take advantage of high-speed trains, you can imagine my disillusionment when that was scrapped.
I moved here from Collingswood, N.J., where two transportation authorities provide a massive network and choices for residents. The Trenton-Camden light rail line cost a fortune and was criticized by everyone. Today its ridership, however small, has been key in the redevelopment of the communities along the corridor, bringing new riders and jobs to that region.
Living in Tarpon Springs, at the end of the county in a rich and cultural area, I find it hard to believe that officials could be so blase about not including us in their scheme.
I recommend that PSTA reconsider something more democratic as a north-south rail spine to service its customers.
Rene Torres, Tarpon Springs
Elevate the discussion
How does today's light rail differ from horse-drawn trollies of the 1800s? Not by much. Why do we look back at old technology to solve 21st century problems?
Disney has a long history of moving thousands of people over congested areas safely and quickly with monorail. Elevated transports of any kind are far superior to rail that competes with pedestrians and vehicles. Light rail will not contribute to regional, multicounty mobility. Let's move people on smooth, modern transportation with a wow factor, not with slow, hazardous, boring light rail.
Terry Hammonds, Dunedin
Marines' act rebuked | Jan. 13
We're better than this
I read with interest recent letters to the editor concerning the Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.
The trauma of war is severe, especially for men so young. But these men did not appear traumatized. In fact, they were laughing and joking, asking whoever was taking the video if they got it all. I suspect this type of thing goes on far more often than we hear about.
Taking the stance that the enemy has done far worse doesn't cut as it an excuse. We are supposed to behave better than these enemies, not like them. The act demeans the entire military. I feel sorry for the thousands of soldiers who know better.
Robert J. Emery, Apollo Beach
Casting artful glows | Jan. 18
The public art project to illuminate downtown bridges sounds lovely and will bring attention and beauty to Tampa's long-neglected riverfront.
However, the title is a disaster. "Water Lights" does not translate as "Agua Luces." In fact, "Agua Luces" is not a phrase that means anything in Spanish because it is grammatically incorrect. At best it is Spanglish, and at worst pidgin Spanish. "Luces de Agua" would be a much more correct and would not make us appear to be illiterate and culturally insensitive.
It's not like there is no one here to advise on correct Spanish! Tampa, with its long Hispanic and Latino history and large population of Spanish speakers, deserves better than this. I hope that the artist and the city of Tampa can, at this early stage, make it right.
Noel Smith, Tampa
Romney estimates he pays 15 percent tax rate | Jan. 18
Romney's real tax scandal
The media is having a field day talking about how Mitt Romney is paying tax at about half the expected rate for such a rich man. Since his income is mostly from investments, I can understand why he pays the rate he does.
What concerns me more is the paltry amount he would have paid in Social Security tax on the $370,000 in speaker's fees he says he earned. Most Americans pay Social Security tax on all of their earned income, but Romney would have paid the tax on less than a third of his earned income. This is due to the cap on the amount of earned income subject to the tax, a cap that blatantly favors the rich and causes the Social Security tax to be the most regressive in America.
So far, I have not heard even one of the rich presidential candidates propose eliminating the cap to make the tax fairer and to dramatically strengthen Social Security. To me, this is the real shame in the story about Romney's tax rate.
Jerry Stephens, Riverview
Playing the race card
Newt Gingrich's performance in South Carolina illustrates how the Republicans are trying to divide us by playing the race card. They want to split us along race lines so that we don't unite as the backbone of the country that we are. And they have been successful so far. The issues of race, abortion, "welfare cheats," and, yes, religion, are manipulative tools of the right, playing on our emotions.
Fern Williams, Zephyrhills
Insulting and misleading
It is sad, yet not surprising, that racial overtones have emerged in the Republican debates. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have verbally called out black people in a patronizing and, yes, insulting way, to the exclusion of other groups of people.
To call our president the "food stamp president" is insulting and misleading. The inference is that President Barack Obama is giving food stamps to undeserving people, totally disregarding the number of people who are unemployed due to the recession that began under a Republican administration.
What is disappointing is the reaction by Republican audiences, some of whom cheered these statements by the candidates, and the general indifference by much of the media. We have accomplished much in the area of race relations but, obviously, we have far to go.
Carole Gallotta, Bradenton