Transportation – Just Trust Them
After a big break, there was action on the Hillsborough transportation front.
Setting aside that we thought the transportation for economic development group was supposed to come up with a plan, it seems like a high price, but that is how Hillsborough functions.
Parsons Brinckerhoff was hired at the insistence of county commissioners, who wanted a consultant with transportation experience to lead the county’s outreach effort. The firm has worked on transportation referendums in Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver and statewide in South Carolina and Louisiana.
Ok, we understand the outreach part, but why outsource the plan? Because it is all confused:
County Administrator Mike Merrill has already been meeting with business groups and community service organizations to discuss the policy group’s preliminary plans. These include road, bridge and trail projects; a doubling of the HART bus system; and a light rail line from Westshore to downtown Tampa.
Nothing wrong with that. A completely reasonable step. But:
If Hillsborough County voters are asked in 2016 to approve an extra sales tax for transportation, the ballot question might not mention the words “light rail” — or any other specific mode of mass transit.
In a move that sharply differs from the Greenlight Pinellas referendum, a Hillsborough plan that could be the backbone for a referendum here would refer only to “fixed guideways” — a term that includes bus rapid transit and all types of rail, including heavy, light or commuter.
The transportation plan, which an engineering and design consulting firm is being paid nearly $900,000 to complete by March 2015, would not speak to route alignments, station locations or modes of transit.
“In terms of transit projects, it would be focusing on corridors rather than specific modes of transit,” Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said Tuesday. “I don’t think the referendum is going to refer to any specific mode.”
Wait a minute. If you thought the 2010 referendum was confusing and that people do not get the distinction between light rail, intercity rail, high speed rail, etc., what makes you think they get, or even care to get, “fixed guideways?” (and why discuss light rail if it is not part of the plan?) And you are going to ask people to vote to tax themselves so that the HART board – either the present structure or a new one – can spend billions of dollars on who knows what? No route alignments, no station locations, no technology? Are they to just have faith that the same organizations that have created the problem will solve them if they just get more money?
Greenlight Pinellas looked at the 2010 Hillsborough Referendum and decided that being very specific and open about the plan was the way to go. Hillsborough County has now gone the other way – success through vagueness. And, even if Hillsborough’s strategy works, then what? The same arguments replayed forever with no idea when anything will happen. The referendum should answer the questions not multiply them.
After all this time and all those meetings, the best that the TED group could come up with is outsource and be vague? In other words, punt.
USF Med School – The Editorial
This week, the Tribune editorial page did what was expected and endorsed the idea of a downtown medical school. That is totally understandable. We get the idea of the downtown school. In fact, it was so expected, we were not going to even mention it. But then we read the whole thing and thought a few things were noteworthy.
First, because the strength of an argument rests on the facts:
As members of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce learned on trips over the past few years to Pittsburgh (University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University), Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania) and Baltimore (John Hopkins Medical School), academic institutions, particularly medical schools, bring vitality and investment to the urban core.
A downtown complex would help the medical school compete for the best and brightest students and researchers. As Buckhorn stresses, young people like a dynamic urban environment. There is a good reason the University of Central Florida medical school is considering a downtown Orlando location.
As we asked before:
Is that the case?
1) Carnegie Mellon is about four miles from downtown Pittsburgh – basically the distance from downtown Tampa to Dale Mabry. (Not to mention the much bigger Pitt is between Carnegie Mellon and downtown, and Duquesne University is downtown. ) So the effect of Carnegie Mellon on downtown is tangential at best.
2) Johns Hopkins is close to, but not in, downtown Baltimore. (Though Hopkins medical school is closer to downtown Baltimore than the main campus). However, if you have been to Baltimore, you know that neither really drives the downtown.
3) Penn is arguably in Center City Philadelphia but is not even close to the main driver of the quite developed Center City area. And Thomas Jefferson Medical School is in Center City proper, anyway Yes, there are two medical schools in relatively close proximity, though we are not sure you would want to walk – and you don’t have to because there is decent transit.
(See “Of Downtown, Rays, Med Schools, and Money”) You can see more detail, including medical schools that are actually going in downtowns in “USF Med School – The Push Begins.” And just to add a little more detail, Carnegie Mellon’s program is coordinated with Pitt, which is not downtown. And that does not even deal with the failure to develop vitality around UT in Tampa.
And then there is UCF’s downtown proposal. We do not know why the Tribune said that the proposal had to do with UCF’s medical school, because, as far as we can tell, it doesn’t. See “USF Med School – The Push Begins,” plus articles here, here, and here. (Not to mention UCF’s downtown campus will have dorms.)
The location of the UCF med school, just like the Pitt, Penn, and Hopkins med schools, is not that important, except that, as we said, arguments should be based on facts. If properly built (which is an open question), the USF med school downtown would bring people and activity to the area. (How much and what effect that would have depends on how it is built and what is built around it.) That has always been clear – and not the question.
But setting that all aside, the crux of the matter comes up more in this part of the editorial:
Relocating some USF medical programs would not undermine its commitment to the North Tampa campus, which would surely retain parts of USF Health operations. The move would allow more growth at the main campus.
With no known plan to make sure it doesn’t, it is hard to say that putting it downtown would not undermine USF Health on the main campus. If you take all those people who are supposed to revitalize downtown Tampa away from the main campus, you are clearly hurting that campus and that area. What will replace it? And what of the word that does not appear anywhere in the editorial: Moffitt? And the other related institutions? That is the question – what is the plan?
We have no problem supporting the idea if there is a real plan. The problem is that there is an idea, but there is not a plan. As we showed last week, based on local history, it is not enough to say: “It is a cool idea. Just do it on faith.” And note, this is what the Tribune editorial said about CAMLS when it opened:
It’s a “game changer for downtown,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and he’s right. The University of South Florida Health’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation will bring the city, in the mayor’s words, “exactly the kind of jobs we want.”
It should attract makers of medical devices and other health-care-related businesses to the area. Dr. Stephen Klasko, CEO of USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, says CAMLS already has gotten the attention of CEOs around the country.
But, as nice as CAMLS is, it did not change the game downtown. And the same editorial lists all the institutions around the present USF med school about which we have heard nothing of a plan if the med school moves:
The Pepin Heart Center at Florida Hospital-Tampa specializes in heart disease. The state Legislature recently allocated $6.9 million to USF’s medical school to help establish a heart institute in partnership with Pepin and other hospitals. This venture will need more public and private support but promises to make the region a national leader in heart disease research.
But the heart Institute, for which ground was already broken on the main campus, is part of the downtown proposal – very far from the Pepin facility. So what about all that? (or the other things in this map) How will it be handled?
And then this, about downtown:
And what is the plan with this?
Of course, they are entitled to their opinion, but we wish the Tribune had said something to this effect: “It sounds like a great idea, but it needs a fleshed out plan.”
Because, while moving the med school is an intriguing idea with a good amount of possible upside, it is incumbent to make sure that before anything happens USF makes sure to follow this simple idea: Do no harm.
The move can happen and be a success if it is the best thing for USF med school, but, because the entire campaign for it is based on the standard rhetoric used for every project (see last week) and precious few details, no one knows.
That is not enough. There are a large number of expensive and valuable moving parts here. For success, there needs to be a plan for the potential new campus as well as the old one. Make the case. Tell us the plan.
Economic Development – Show Us Your Supercilious Pomposity
There was a column in the Times about an economic development pep rally.
Such was the can-do theme at Tuesday evening’s fifth annual meeting of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. A pro-expansion group with a too-long name, the EDC in short order emerged quickly as the region’s high-energy leader in pushing forward bolder economic ambitions.
Gathering at Channelside’s Amalie Arena before hundreds of business and political leaders, the EDC briefly saluted such big successes as recruiting Amazon’s immense distribution center with more than 1,000 jobs. And there was applause aplenty for the potential looming behind Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s massive Channelside redevelopment plan. That transformative city project recently won financial backing from billionaire Bill Gates.
Vinik even appeared on the arena’s huge screen in a promotional video in which he told why Tampa was his top choice after he had searched for the right community and right NHL team to acquire. Tampa’s slogan should be “The Welcoming City,” Vinik states in the video.
Setting aside that the Amazon warehouse is not a “big success” nor is it taking us to the “next level,” there is nothing wrong with getting excited for economic development or supporting the outline of the Lightning owner’s (as yet not revealed) plans – and note that at least the reporting has the Lightning owner being quite reasonable in tone, as opposed to swagger.
In that sense, the column was not particularly interesting. However, there were two notable items:
USF College of Public Health dean Donna Petersen floated the growing possibility of the Morsani medical school and other USF health assets relocating downtown from the Tampa campus as yet another catalyst for growth.
Yup. Doesn’t sound like a done deal.
It is fine rhetoric, though we are not sure who he means. But it is always worth remembering that capacity is not the same as achievement. It is the settling, lack of proper planning of all sorts, and people selling “ok” as “excellent” (and other such diminished expectations, like a warehouse being a “big success”) over the decades (and not just in government, but generally) that has held us back more than anything else. This area has always had the ability to much better than it does.
As for swagger, we discussed it last year. See “Insecurity Watch – Welcome to Swagger City” We’ll just quote from that:
But let us go back to “swagger.” Merriam-Webster defines it as such:
(A good example of swagger would be the Mayor of Toronto, which is undergoing quite a boom, whose excuse for smoking crack was that he was hammered. What could be more swagger-ful than a Mayor smoking crack while trashed, yet having an economic boom?)
On the other hand, “confidence” is defined like this:
In other words, “swagger” and “confidence” are not the same thing. Confidence is belief you can get the job done – and belief in what you are selling. Swagger is arrogance. In reality, swagger is often a misplaced confidence or a cover for insecurity. It is an affectation. And swagger is usually off-putting. Confidence is has substance; swagger is puffery. (Houston and Dallas do not have swagger, they have confidence and we doubt their elected officials think a Bass Pro Shop is “economic development at its best.”)
Our point is that confidence in the economic development mission is fine, necessary even. It instills confidence in others and helps move things along. Confidence is quietly understood and effective. Moreover, real success instills confidence in you and those with whom you speak because they know that you can get it done without you telling them. Swagger is hype without substance.
For illustrative purposes:
(Setting aside [ ] who “they” are.) Telling yourself that for three decades while people still do not do it is swagger. (See this article from January 1986.) Methodically doing all the things you need to do so that those people actually say it on their own without prompting is confidence. (And, as much as we like getting the new jobs, great cities do not have to subsidize back office operations to get them to relocate.)
We’ll just assume the economic development officials were just having fun and really meant “confidence,” but, unfortunately, we cannot really be sure.
Though if people keep saying “swagger,” we’ll have to assume they really mean it. Aside from that (and substituting “Amazon warehouse” for “Bass Pro Shop”) and nothing has changed.
PTC – More of the Same
Sadly, there was more of the same from the PTC this week.
Several intractable points have created a bitter stalemate in negotiations, at least in the eyes of local taxi regulators, in contrast to the optimism that once flowered earlier this summer that ride-sharing start-ups Lyft Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. might soon operate here legitimately.
“We’ve bent over backwards, many times, to try and accommodate them,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist who chairs the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission. “They have done nothing, nothing, to accommodate us, and the bottom line is that we’re now asking them to do one simple thing. Abide by the rules like everyone else.”
Sure. Go on.
Wilson with Lyft said the company simply cannot work with rules that create minimum fare charges, and minimum wait times, as is required for limousine rides. And she contends Lyft more than adequately screens potential driver backgrounds, and more than complies with insurance requirements. PTC officials counter the opposite is true, and have offered to subsidize fingerprint scans for Lyft and Uber drivers.
Again with the price fixing and minimum wait times. You can’t complain about good faith/bad faith if you insist on rigging the game. Just drop it and see what happens. But, no:
“They don’t want to be legal,” he said. “Their business model is to come in, cheat the system, and undercut taxi prices, and claim they don’t have to play by the rules. And once they get a sizeable market share, then they say ‘Ok, now maybe we’ll play by the rules.’”
Ok, we’ll say it again: the minimum pricing is stupid, as are minimum wait times. (And why should anyone pay for a medallion? We get paying the cost – the actual cost – of a background check, but why pay an additional tax just to operate?) There has been no justification given for them other than to protect the cab companies from competition – which is no justification. So what if ridesharing undercuts taxi prices – that is competition and the market. (As for insurance, it seems that the rideshare companies are closer to having their insurance okayed. And in further news, the PTC’s attempts to enforce their rules have run into some issues.)
Once again, the PTC is telling us how they view their role – to protect taxi companies. And, once again, until thy drop those protectionist rules, the PTC lacks credibility.
And this all makes one wonder: Uber and Lyft have money and media attention behind them to keep the issue going. What other ideas and innovations have been smothered or never launched because they are stifled by protectionist regulation before they ever get off the ground?
Economic Development – A Look at the Home Market
There was news this week about home sales.
Good, though not as good as the state as a whole. Previous increases in sales and prices were driven by investors. What is happening now?
More than a third of the single-family home sales in Tampa Bay were in cash, reflecting continued activity by investors hunting for properties to rent out or flip. But don’t read too much into that, one Realtor says.
“Right now, most investors would tell you that they’re priced out of the market,” said Irwin Wilensky of St. Petersburg-based SunRaye Realty. “I would contend that most cash sales are second-home buyers or trade-down buyers” such as empty-nesters who are downsizing.
Wilensky’s firm specializes in bank-owned properties, which accounted for 874 of bay area single-family home sales in September, or almost 50 percent more than at the same time last year. In Pinellas County, the median sale price of foreclosures jumped by nearly 9 percent to $95,180.
So, maybe it is driven by investors or maybe not. In any event, on the down side, foreclosure sales are up, especially on more expensive houses.
It seems the market is getting better, but previous news makes it clear that there are going to be ups and downs. It is also not completely clear how strong the improvement is. Nonetheless, despite some blips, overall the latest news is good.
Economic Development – Whither the VC?
Once again, venture capital numbers came out and Florida did not do well.
Venture capitalists invested $9.9 billion in 1,023 deals nationwide in the third quarter of 2014. Although that’s a 27 percent drop from the second quarter of the year, 2014 totals thus far have eclipsed those for all of 2013.
In Florida, VC investing dropped to $36.8 million among just six deals in the third quarter. That’s down 67 percent from the second quarter’s investing of nearly $114 million in 13 deals in the state. The numbers come from MoneyTree data compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association based on data from Thomson Reuters.
Or as the Miami Herald explained: “Florida reaped just a tiny sliver — about a third of 1 percent — of the U.S. venture capital pie in the third quarter, according to statistics released Friday.” And most of that is not in the Tampa Bay area, which is the most important thing for our purposes.
Just note this about the next batch of numbers:
Next quarter’s Florida numbers are likely to look off the charts with reports that Google Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz are involved in a $500 million round for Broward-based Magic Leap, the cinematic reality company founded by Rony Abovitz, cofounder of Mako Surgical. Magic Leap closed a $50 million Series A round in February.
So the state’s numbers will be better. We are not sure about Tampa Bay.
Downtown – Have Drink (From Preapproved Locations)
There was news of an interesting idea for the Riverwalk:
The Tampa City Council is developing a “specialty center” and open-container area encompassing the full Riverwalk that will allow patrons to carry beer, wine and cocktails as they take in the downtown Hillsborough River view.
Ok. There is some sense in allowing people to stroll with their drinks. How is it going to work?
Patrons at eight licensed alcoholic beverage providers included in the specialty center will be able to get their drinks in a special plastic cup that bears the Riverwalk logo and has been approved by the city. They can then leave the site and walk up or down the Riverwalk from its southern end, near the Tampa Bay History Center along the Garrison Channel, west to the Hillsborough River and north along its east bank to Water Works Park.
The ordinance covers the Riverwalk itself, not the parks that line the trail, unless they hold a special-event permit. And there’s no bringing beverages purchased outside the specialty area onto the Riverwalk.
We understand the idea of limiting the alcohol that can be brought in – though that is not going to stop people from being drunk, just certain people. On the other hand, it is a bit odd to force people to have to go to specific places to buy their drinks in what is essentially a public park.
And it raises some questions: who exactly will be allowed to sell approved alcohol? Will it only be businesses located on public-ish property, like the museums and convention center? Or will waterfront establishments get special privileges? Will they have to pay more for their licenses? What about bars and restaurants a block away from the Riverwalk – are they excluded? Will that hurt their business? What about two blocks? Three blocks? Across the street from a park? The Marriott but not the Embassy Suites? If so, why is the City deciding to hurt some local businesses and favor others? How do you stop people from going into parks that appear to be part of the Riverwalk? (It is not like there are no events with drinking in City parks right now.) Where exactly does the Riverwalk end and the park start here and here?
The reporting does not say. Like we said, we get the idea and it makes a certain amount of sense. But, if it is going to be restrictive, there are a lot of issues to work out – especially if it is to be fair.
Meanwhile in the Rest of Florida
— Seeing Clearly
We found this interesting nugget about the Orlando area:
Osceola County and the University of Central Florida broke ground Thursday on a new high-tech manufacturing facility near Kissimmee. Originally aimed at producing smart sensors, the facility may also include a broader focus on photonics.
The Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, originally announced in June, is expected create a new hub for manufacturing, attracting thousands of jobs and eventually growing into a $200 million project. The sensors would be used in appliances, cars, surgical devices, mobile phones and other technology – known as smart sensors.
Good for them. Both high tech and manufacturing – both targets of our local economic development officials. What was also interesting was this:
The center is a partnership among Osceola County government, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission. Enterprise Florida, the University of Florida and the University of South Florida also are partners.
USF is a partner (which we understand since there is no facility like that here, though that brings up the question of why). So what is UCF collaborating on to build the Tampa Bay economy (aside from UCF building their own med school and large biomed complex, including a VA simulation training center, in Lake Nona to compete with USF)?
— Pretty, Pretty Bridge
Miami is getting their signature bridge downtown.
Major improvements to I-395, including a new signature bridge, are funded for 2018 and preliminary design work continues with an eye toward a January 2015 design completion date, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.
“The design has not yet been chosen,” said Tasha Cunningham, spokesperson for the transportation department. “The department is working with the Aesthetic Steering Committee. At this time, both the Wishbone and Lotus designs are being considered.”
Twenty years in the making, Miami city leaders had to fight to get the I-395 project back on track. City commissioners in July announced an agreement with the state for reconstruction of Interstate 395 that calls for a new “signature” bridge near the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
That’s nice. The much longer Howard Frankland northbound replacement is budgeted for $ 425 million (and FDOT is making one of the four existing free lanes a toll lane). Kind of odd.
List of the Week
This week’s list is actually a number of lists from a report on where educated Millennials are moving. The report has received a decent amount of local coverage like this:
Think tank City Observatory released a report this week with data on how the nation’s 51 largest metros are faring in terms of attracting a young, educated workforce. Between 2000 and 2012, the population of 25- to 34-year-olds with a college degree in Tampa Bay grew nearly 41 percent, from 74,341 to 104,532.
Charlotte — the Southeastern finance hub Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn often cites as a top competitor for young people and the companies that follow them — grew its population of that demographic by about 30 percent, from 76,718 to  100,073.
But Texas — which just outranked Florida for best business climate— appears to be doing a better job at winning Millennials. Houston and San Antonio saw 50 percent increases in that demographic, and Austin saw a jump of 44 percent.
How do we compare in this megatrend to other large metro areas? Yes, Tampa Bay is adding better-educated young adults at a robust clip. But the region is building from such a small base of the general population that it still lags behind other areas perceived as cooler places to live.
Why do we care about this particular study? It was done by Joe Cortright, the same regional economist who a decade ago authored a “Young and the Restless” study on this area’s educated young. That study found that Tampa Bay was perceived as a place where you spend the last part of your life.
Both those are generally correct. The Tampa Bay area has shown decent growth in percentage terms in educated Millennials, but the lower the basis, the easier to get higher growth. Moreover, an area like Charlotte is much smaller than the Tampa Bay area so it should have fewer educated Millennials in general, though it is very close. Consequently, another measure of how we are doing is the percentage of the population that is educated Millennials. The report goes into both, so we will provide detailed info.
First, the increase in the number of educated Millennials. While the Tampa Bay area’s percentage increase is high, the list is ranked by the actual number of educated Millennials in 2012. We list the top 40 and note with an asterisk the areas with a smaller overall population than ours. (Florida cities in italics.) It is notable how many metro areas smaller than ours (a top 20 metro) are listed above us. (Of course, if the difference in growth continues, we will pass a number, but we are ranked 27th).
|25 to 34 Year Olds with a BA Degree. Change, 2000 to 2012||2000||2012||Pct. Chg.||Number|
|12||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL Metro Area||179,077||223,287||24.7%||44,210|
|19||San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA*||134,357||141,942||5.6%||7,585|
|27||Tampa Bay area||74,341||104,532||40.6%||30,191|
|38||Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News*||54,252||69,034||27.2%||14,782|
From pdf, pg 14. (**Note the Denver CSA is larger than the Denver metropolitan area and is slightly larger than the Tampa Bay area. The Denver metropolitan statistiacal area is smaller in population than the Tampa Bay area.)
It is also notable that some locations with a higher base Millennial population, like Portland, OR, have a smaller percentage increase but much higher actual increase. So the growth numbers are interesting and good, but they are not the last word.
The second list gives us the percentages of educated Millennials in the population. It is ranked by the percentage of the overall population. The Tampa Bay area is 47th out of 51, so we provide the whole list.
|Metro areas, ranked by percentage of population 25/34 with a BA||25 to 34 Year Olds with a BA Degree as a Percent of 25/34||25 to 34 Year Olds with a BA Degree as a Percent of Population|
|4||San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||43.9%||50.0%||7.7%||7.5%|
|21||Salt Lake City||26.4%||31.6%||4.2%||5.3%|
|29||Saint Louis, MO-IL||30.5%||36.3%||4.0%||4.9%|
|40||Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News||23.7%||27.6%||3.4%||4.1%|
|44||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL Metro Area||25.8%||29.6%||3.6%||3.9%|
|47||Tampa Bay Area||24.5%||29.7%||3.1%||3.7%|
From pdf, pg 16.
That gives a good view of where we really area.