PTC – Newspeak for Old Policy
The PTC/Ridesharing silliness goes on and on.
Uber sent an email blast to its riders last Tuesday urging them to contact Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission Chairman Victor Crist telling him they “want access to safe, affordable, and reliable rides like Uber.” Crist’s office said it received more than 750 emails by the end of the day.
That salvo came one day after the PTC put up the first in a series of billboards warning people to “be cautious of illegal transportation providers.” The billboard along Interstate 4 near 50th Street cost $4,000 — paid for by revenue from regulatory fees and fines — and will be up for 30 days, executive director Kyle Cockream said.
That is a good use of resources? The issue is why the PTC is making ridesharing illegal in the first place.
In any event, where do we stand on a potential agreement?
These public campaigns started a week after the PTC made an attempt to compromise with the ride-share companies by suggesting they charge customers at least $30 and make them order a ride at least a half-hour in advance.
“Frankly, it’s anticompetitive and it’s anticonsumer,” Bennett said. “Really what it does is restrict the competition, protect an industry that does nothing for consumers, and make it harder for folks to get an affordable ride and move around the city easily.”
Bingo. The minimum pricing does nothing for consumers. It just protects the cab companies. Period. As long as that remains (in any form – for limos, too) the PTC is not really making an attempt to come to any agreement or represent the interest of consumers.
“I would like to believe that, but I will believe it when they sign on the dotted line,” Crist said. “Because I’ve heard it before, and every time we hand them the pen, it’s something else that we’ve got to change.”
Maybe they don’t sign because the PTC is not acting in good faith or with the interest of the consumers in mind.
Crist, who called the technology “innovative, forward-thinking and ingenious,” said he is supportive of Uber providing consumers with another transportation option, but it must find a way to do so within the regulatory framework that governs for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough.
“And at this point, I’m going to come right out and say it: I don’t think they want to operate legally,” Crist said. “By operating illegally, they don’t have to meet our high standards. They can cut the prices, steal the fares and make more money.”
So he knows that ridesharing is a good technology – he just wants to stifle it with the same protectionist, cartel supporting rules that the PTC has promulgated for years. The Commissioner would be much more believable if the PTC dropped the minimum pricing which has no logical benefit to the public and is hardly a “high standard.” (and note this article about how, at least in areas where it is more prevalent, Uber customers have far lower wait times than cab customers)
Until it drops its unjustifiable requirements, especially minimum pricing, (as far as we can tell, the only justification ever given for minimum pricing is to protect the cab companies See “PTC – Crony Capitalism Hillsborough Style” ), it is clear the PTC is more interested in protecting vested business interests than protecting the public, all rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding.
Port – More on the Cruise Conundrum
There was another Times article on the issue of growing cruise ships not fitting under the Skyway. The basic crux of the article was that there is a need to balance between trying to save the cruise industry in this area and protecting the environment – specifically the Bay and Gulf waters for both environmental and economic reasons.
The corps issued a report in February that said there could be a “national economic development” benefit to streamlining shipping traffic through the bay. That’s because when cruise ships enter the bay’s channels, no other ships are allowed in.
For safety reasons, the Coast Guard decided that the channels are too narrow to allow cargo ships to pass, overtake or meet cruise ships. Depending on the weather, ships could spend four to 12 hours at sea waiting for cruise ships to enter or exit the bay.
The corps estimated how much a cruise port west of the Skyway would have saved in the past decade if it kept cruise ships out of the bay: $90.6 million. Going forward, the report said a cruise port could save $10.1 million annually in fuel and other costs.
So that sounds a little promising . . . maybe. Is there a catch?
Tampa Bay Sierra Club chair Kent Bailey said dredging a channel and building an artificial island on top of the marine ecosystem there, right next to the island beaches of Fort De Soto Park, would hurt the bay and the economic activity that depends on the bay.
Planning director Avera Wynne said the study wasn’t meant to address the cruise ship issue. But its conclusion — that the clean, or “healthy,” waters of the bay annually produce $22 billion of GDP for a six-county region — is now part of the conversation.
Well, that is a catch. What does the Port have to say?
Nothing in mind? That is a bit odd.
Anderson said options that the state did not consider include ideas like floating cruise ship docks. Such a project has been pitched in Grand Cayman as a way of avoiding having to dredge 22.1 million cubic feet of sea floor to build a new cruise port.
That sounds like an option. . . though we have no idea how viable. A tunnel is also an option, though we do not know the cost, and there is the question of whether to incorporate it in the Skyway or just remove the Skyway.
In all honesty, we are not sure what the solution is. It is all quite a mess – and a constant lesson that when we plan and build, we need to plan and build for future, as well a present, needs. If the Skyway had just been built a little higher, none of this would have been an issue. And the longer you wait, the more expensive and/or harmful the lack of forward planning and action will be.
That should be remembered when planning for transportation and transit (and anything really.)
TIA – Proactive
Part of proper planning ahead is being proactive. Once again, the airport is showing how. It has a plan for dealing with the future needs and a plan for its execution, including this:
Al Illustrato, vice president of facilities and administration for the airport, told the Hillsborough Aviation Authority Board Thursday that he’d rather audit every step of the way than discover when it’s all complete that something went awry, financially.
An in-house audit team, including a new employee the airport plans to hire, will oversee the auditing process, said Laura Tatem, director of internal auditing for the airport. “This is a significantly large project with large monthly expenditures.” This auditing process will “deter mismanagement and improper billing,” she said.
Is it perfect? No. Nothing is, but it is an attempt to catch problems quickly and fix them. (Unlike the Hillsborough County homeless housing program. See “Hillsborough County – Watching the Money”). Just another way the airport is showing how to do major projects responsibly. (Maybe they should give a seminar to the TED group)
— And One More Thing
It also gives us the opportunity to bring this up (and, yes, we know there is work to get express buses to downtown, but what other choices are there right now?):
Costs related to the master plan in 2015 are associated with design work and road work that will be done in preparation for larger projects like the planned People Mover. The new train will transport passengers from the airport to the Westshore business district where it will connect with a new consolidated rental car facility planned for that area and with an intermodal transit station the state plans to construct alongside of Interstate 275.
Everyone knows that the People Mover is so popular with the vast majority of people of all stripes in dealing with the airport. And that system went in before the airport was anywhere near as busy as it is now and has only been expanded. And, when the airport expanded, it probably would have been cheaper to go to moving sidewalks (like with the long-term garage) or some other technology, but the airport stuck with the plan (except with the budget garage, which is now, properly, going to replace buses with the People Mover). And everyone (including FDOT) is behind the further expansion of the People Mover (which is nothing but a slightly modified version of the “19th Century” rail technology and, at best, is a mid 20th Century technology) – even when connecting to the intermodal station quite a distance away and even when it could all be done with buses.
That should tell you something.
Economy – Looking at Exports
This week, there were reports about new figures from the Federal government regarding exports. First, the headline of the Times article: “Florida trails smaller states as an exporter of goods.” Then the headline of the Business Journal web post: “Tampa metro scores big on national export report.” So which is it?
Florida, which is on the brink of becoming the third-most-populous state in the country, ranked seventh overall nationwide, the data showed. It was far behind leaders Texas (where exports supported 1.1 million jobs) and California (800,000 jobs) and also trailed Washington, Illinois, New York, Michigan and Louisiana.
Ok, not proportional to our size, but not so bad, maybe. Anything more detailed about the Tampa Bay area?
More than one-third of that total, or $2.4 billion in exports, went to Mexico. Other top export markets for the Tampa metro were Canada, with 8.8 percent of the total exports; Brazil, 5.4 percent; China, 4.4 percent; and the United Kingdom, 2.3 percent.
Computer and electronic products were the top export sector, comprising 38.2 percent of the Tampa metro exports in 2013. Chemicals made up 21.7 percent of the local exports, followed by transportation equipment (5.2 percent), machinery except electrical (5.2 percent), and food and kindred products (4.2 percent).
That sounds good, but the Tampa Bay area is a top 20 metro area, so still punching below our weight, as it were. Who had more exports than us? Well, here is the Top 50:
- Houston; 2. New York; 3. Los Angeles; 4. Seattle; 5. Detroit; 6. Chicago; 7. Miami-Fort Lauderdale; 8. New Orleans; 9. Dallas-Fort Worth; 10. San Francisco-Oakland; 11. Philadelphia; 12. Minneapolis-St. Paul; 13. San Jose; 14. Boston; 15. Cincinnati; 16. San Antonio; 17. San Juan, PR; 18. Atlanta; 19. San Diego; 20. Portland, OR; 21. Washington, DC; 22. El Paso; 23. St. Louis; 24. Greenville, SC; 25. Peoria, IL; 26. Salt Lake City; 27. Phoenix; 28. Memphis; 29. Cleveland; 30. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT; 31. Charlotte; 32. Pittsburgh; 33. Hartford; 34. Indianapolis; 35. Riverside-San Bernardino; 36. Louisville; 37. Milwaukee; 38. Austin; 39. Nashville; 40. Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX; 41. Kansas City; 42. Davenport; 43. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater; 44. Providence; 45. Baton Rouge; 46. Baltimore; 47. Sacramento; 48. Columbus, OH; 49. Lake Charles, LA; and 50. Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA
At least Denver and Orlando were not ahead of us, though pretty much every other usual suspect, plus a large number of other places were. Of course, there is the small matter of a number of inland and much smaller metro areas being ahead or near us.
So is that lagging or scoring high? You can decide for yourself.
Westshore – Keeping an HQ
Soon there should be a new building in the Westshore area.
Laser Spine signed a long-term lease with Highwoods for a 176,000 square foot headquarters and ambulatory surgery center on four Highwood-owned acres in Avion Park, in Tampa’s Westshore district. Laser Spine will occupy the entirety of the property.
The $56 million project is expected to break ground this fall and be completed in the first quarter of 2016. Once it’s complete, Laser Spine will vacate 60,000 square feet in Harborview Plaza, also in Westshore. Laser Spine said Wednesday it expects to create 100 jobs and increase patient capacity by 25 percent.
That’s fine. It is good to have expanding HQ’s retained in the area. The only downside is that Avion Park is entirely unwalkable, but that is Westshore.
West River – Deals Being Done
This week, it was announced that land near Riverfront Park was changing hands.
A company controlled by Tampa’s SOHO Capital this week purchased the Oakhurst I and Oakhurst II projects that stretch for 7 acres along North Boulevard Street, just north of the University of Tampa, from West Cass Street on the south to West Arch Street on the north, and from Boulevard on the east to one block west. The sale price for the two parcels totaled $7.2 million.
“It is going to be managed in a stable way and will be business as usual for current residents at this point,” said Adam Harden, a development executive with Tampa-based SOHO Capital. “This property is a key gateway to downtown, and probably will be important to the future, potential east/west corridor … And this is an important site as you look at University of Tampa as a stabilizing factor on that side of the river. So we’re committed to do what it takes to make this a success.”
SOHO Capital is a growing player in the downtown and wider Tampa development scene. The company has housing, restaurant and office projects of various sorts from south Tampa towards Pasco County. The company also owns a large parcel almost directly across the Hillsborough River from Oakhurst called The Heights that includes the large “Trolley Barn” brick warehouse structure.
That parcel is directly north of the newly opened Ulele restaurant that opened to huge fanfare, and next door to the new Waterworks Park that the city just opened after a multi-million-dollar investment.
Harden of SOHO said he expects a minimum of three or four years before any real changes come to site, though over time, he envisions a dramatic overhaul, particularly in conjunction with the city’s plans. The area would still be a neighborhood, but it would also have apartments, student housing for UT, perhaps some restaurants, plus some “light commercial” uses, such as services for residents.
In other words, nothing is going to happen for a while, which is logical since the developer has the Heights property to redevelop first. It will be interesting to see what actually happens there – whether it is truly urban and well designed and built or whether it becomes another example of Tampa settling. That will tell us a lot about the future of this new property.
Hopefully, something will happen on this land eventually and before another of the usual cyclical downturns comes and delays things more. And when something finally is built, it should be quite dense (since, if the river is the center of downtown, this land is now considered to be part of downtown). There should be no settling.
Rays – Rumblings
There was a column in the Times that says a deal for the Rays to look around Hillsborough and Pinellas may be coming.
Of course, nothing happened because that blue ribbon committee determined that the majority of the best locations for the Rays stadium, financing aside, were in Hillsborough County and St. Pete was not going to have that. (The other was Gateway).
That was then. So what now?
Unlike a deal talked about under former Mayor Bill Foster, the latest agreement may not spell out the financial implications if the Rays leave Tropicana Field before its stadium use agreement ends in 2027. Instead, the team might be allowed to look at potential sites in Hillsborough County with further discussions in St. Pete to follow.
Clarity is nice, and the column lays out some of the issues:
Likewise, there is potential for redevelopment of the land where Tropicana sits. If it is inevitable that baseball will eventually leave St. Pete, it makes sense to line up a replacement ahead of time.
Jabil Circuit is in the market for a new headquarters, and landing a major high-tech firm on the Tropicana site could transform the western edge of downtown. But Jabil, or any corporation for that matter, can’t wait indefinitely for a decision on the Rays.
West Shore, along with downtown Tampa, were the two Hillsborough sites identified by that blue-ribbon committee as having the corporate base necessary for a stadium location. If Hillsborough officials decide that land is in play, it creates another potential stadium site that would have to be explored quickly before it is earmarked for something else.
In other words, things are coming to a head (including in possible financing, which is not covered here). Of course, we have heard a lot of this before. The bottom line is that, until something happens, nothing has happened.
It seems that work on fixing up 21st and 22nd Streets in Ybor is about to begin.
Plans to refurbish 21st and 22nd streets will transform them from part of the state’s rumbling truck route into scenic throughways that could actually reunite the long-divided Ybor City historic district.
For the better part of 18 months, traffic on both roads between Adamo Drive and Hillsborough Avenue will be slow-going, Florida Department of Transportation officials say. Work is slated to begin in early October and for much of the time, traffic on one road or the other will be down to one lane.
It is a good idea, and we are glad it is getting done, though 18 months sure seems like a long time.
That reunion, said Vince Pardo, manager of the Ybor City Development Corp., could make the area more appealing to businesses considering relocating there, including developers seeking to build residential units.
Fine. We are not sure this change will be an engine for development, but hope it helps. And how about offices? (You know – live, work, play) Any more details?
A big part of that plan was to create a shady, pedestrian-friendly zone, he said. The sidewalks will be shaded with 63 Washingtonia palms, 15 Medjool date palms, 70 lavender crape myrtles and six royal poinciana trees.
Ok. Stop right there. Palm trees are nice. They are iconic for sunny, warm places. They are pretty. One thing they are definitely not, though, is good for providing shade. We understand that their roots may not mess with sidewalks like actual shade trees, but putting palm trees is not creating a shady zone. (And crape myrtles, while also pretty and providing some shade, will drop flowers everywhere, including on the pedestrians.) Of course, the City’s issues with real shade trees and palm obsession in Ybor is not new.
So, overall, the plan is not bad, but drop the palms in favor of real shade trees, please.
List of the Week, Plus
This week we have a combination item/list(s). First, the plus . . .
An article in the Tribune featured a Wallethub.com list of the best places to retire.
You can find the full list and methodology here. As the article notes:
At a July conference in Los Angeles on how cities are reinventing themselves, Buckhorn hold a national audience he’s trying to shift the city’s “economic DNA” away from one driven by housing construction toward one driven by innovation and tech-savvy young people.
So, is there progress on that front? Coincidentally, this week citylab.com had an article in which they crunched the numbers on the 20 best job markets for new college grads.
With the help of the economic and labor market data firm EMSI, we ranked America’s 100 largest metros based on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures on full-time regular employment for some 320 occupations that require post-secondary education, including bachelors’, masters’ and doctoral degrees, as well as more specialized training. These jobs, in fields like nursing, engineering, business, media, and education, pay an average of $34.28 an hour, or $71,300 a year. Across the United States as a whole, 2.2 million such jobs were created from 2010 and 2014, of which the 100 largest metros accounted for 1.7 million, roughly eight in 10.
So what did they find?
Coming in first was San Francisco, followed by San Jose, Austin, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Boston, Houston, Raleigh, LA, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Portland (OR), Phoenix, Des Moines, San Diego, Atlanta, Detroit, Charlotte, and Columbus (OH). Nary a Florida locale.
(The article provides more detailed information for those who are interested.)
Sadly, the list is so predictable, it is almost boring, as is our exclusion from it. (Though, every now and then we show up on lists.)
At some point it should be clear to all those involved (and that includes far more people than the Mayor – unlike many elected officials, at least he is out there consistently identifying the issue) that the incremental, sputtering approach this area has taken and, for the most part, is taking to our issues is not sufficient.