Tampa wants better roads more than mass transit, poll says

The city surveyed 1,301 residents this summer about an array of quality of life issues.
Tampa's skyline as seen on Jan. 7, 2019.
Tampa's skyline as seen on Jan. 7, 2019. [ Tampa Bay Times (2019) ]
Published Dec. 18, 2020|Updated Dec. 18, 2020

TAMPA — The results are in: Tampa residents want safer, better and less traffic-clogged roads and they’re ambivalent about getting there through public transit.

In July and August, the city hired a market research strategy company to survey 1,301 residents that were evenly spread throughout the city and reflected the city’s racial diversity (nearly 50 percent of the respondents were Black or Latino).

Respondents ranked public transit last of five transportation categories. They cared most about smooth traffic flow, followed by bicycle and pedestrian safety and parking availability.

HCP Associates, a Tampa firm that conducted the survey, recommended that the city pursue a mobility-centered development strategy that develops more roadways that don’t force bicyclists and pedestrians to share the road with cars —think sidewalks and protected bike lanes.

As for buses, trolleys and other forms of mass transit like light-rail or trains, the city has more persuading to do.

“The city should not expect immediate, widespread adoption of increased public transportation options by the public. Marketing and messaging will be needed to change perceptions about their safety and efficacy,” the firm concluded.

City officials pointed to other results that portrayed a city largely content and trusting of its government and proud to live where they do.

  • Nearly nine in ten residents have trust and confidence in their local government.
  • Seven in ten residents believe that the city has handled municipal issues well.
  • Nine in ten residents would recommend Tampa as a place to live, to vacation, to retire, to raise children, and to work.

One area that city government didn’t fare as well as its response to the coronavirus pandemic. While 73 percent of respondents said the city handles things well in general, 55 percent thought it had done a good job dealing with the pandemic. And 24 percent thought Tampa had handled in poorly, up from 10 percent who reported generally viewing the city falling short.

Other topics covered by the poll — which had a margin of error of 2.7 percent — included housing, affordability, workforce development and the environment.

Perhaps surprisingly in a city that has been notorious for flooded streets during summer storms, most residents ranked Tampa highly in flood prevention. That may have to do with the tens of millions spent in recent years on reducing flooding after the City Council approved a $251 million assessment in 2016.

But residents are worried about the effects of a changing climate: 61 percent worry about rising seas being a problem in 10 years while 50 percent are concerned about drinking water shortages.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor issued a statement Friday saying the survey showed the city’s employees are delivering “stellar services.”

“Making data-driven decisions is a core tenet of this administration. We look forward to using this as one of the many tools in our tool belt as we transform Tampa’s tomorrow.”

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The city requested the survey, paying $72,300 for it.