Find a way to keep the Downtowner
The ending of Tampa’s Downtowner ride service is sad news, a step backwards for downtown residents and visitors and counter to continued revitalization and growth of this area, especially when it comes to transportation. It seems the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County and the Florida Department of Transportation say all the right things regarding mass transit and alternate transportation methods, but ultimately always end up doing the opposite. Cutting a service like the Downtowner is the opposite of what needs to be happening in this area.
Tampa is woefully behind compared to comparable cities when it comes to transportation and it doesn’t seem anyone is interested in progressing. However, FDOT seems to always have plenty of money available to widen another road or highway and continue to spread the sprawl and gridlock that, unfortunately, defines this area. I understand funding is no longer available for the Downtowner. However, was eliminating it really the only solution?
The Downtowner offered a safe, comfortable and affordable method to move around. HART busses are inefficient and absurdly infrequent and unreliable. The streetcar is great, but limits where you can go. Scooters are also worthwhile, but often not feasible (Florida’s heat and thunderstorms always get a vote). Lastly, ride sharing services are expensive and the types of vehicles, drivers and service are often questionable. The Downtowner fills a unique gap that the other methods of transportation do not.
Certainly, there are smart people in the offices responsible for this decision who can come up with a better solution that not only keeps this service, but looks to expand it. In the absence of rail service, dedicated bus lanes, circulator routes, and various other forms of mass transit, Tampa needs this.
Greg Subero, Tampa
Coming battery overload
I am concerned that there is little oversight by state and federal government about the processing of lead batteries in Florida and I assume elsewhere. The state and federal governments should update procedures and processing regulations before the replacement of gas vehicles by electric vehicles is implemented. The problem could become potentially one of the biggest polluting issues of the immediate future. When most vehicles are electric there will be more used batteries than can be processed. For once lets solve the problem before it becomes a problem. There should be a fee on every electric vehicle to pay for a study on how the vehicles and batteries should be scrapped. There is a major problem coming that we could avoid it we plan ahead.
Tim Keffalas, Tarpon Springs
What’s rich, congressman?
I have a question for members of Congress, including my congressman, Charlie Crist. It concerns the statement we hear a lot about the “rich paying their fair share.” To me, the definition of rich depends on where you live. Rich in New York City is different than rich in Biloxi, Mississippi, which is different than rich in Los Angeles which is different than rich in St Petersburg.
With that in mind, I want to know Rep. Crist’s definition of rich and what would be the fair share for the rich?
Harry G. Bombardi, St. Petersburg
Tourism needs help
Tourist development taxes were established for one singular purpose: to ensure communities had dedicated funds for tourism promotion which will bring visitors to the area who generate revenue and jobs. It was never intended to be a source of funds for other budget items.
The Florida Legislature is currently hearing bills that would sweep Tourist Development Tax funds, allowing them to be diverted away from tourism promotion efforts. We, like many communities around the state, use this tax to strengthen the local economy and increase employment through the ongoing promotion and development of tourism.
Florida’s tourism industry is actively recovering from a global pandemic that wreaked havoc on the many communities that rely on travel and visitation, and our area in no exception. In 2019, the St. Pete/Clearwater area drew more than 6.8 million overnight visitors. Our industry has been doing all they can to help. The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce last year launched a campaign that advocates for safe visitation and small but impactful changes that our businesses can make in order to welcome visitors in a safe manner. VISIT FLORIDA has shared resources and to-the-minute updates that we have all needed to make informed business decisions.
Year-over-year, there are more reasons found to sweep funds that are earmarked for tourism promotion. Now, more than ever, we need Florida leaders to back our efforts. I urge Florida leaders to vote against HB 1429/SB 2008 because these bills could leave us with little to no funds for tourism marketing, which is essential to economic recovery and long term tourism sustainability.
Robin Miller, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce