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Roundup 6-3-2016

June 3, 2016

Transportation – Really, Enough

There will not be a full-blown roundup this week.  However, we did have something that needed to be said because of the timing.

The Hillsborough County Commissioners will vote on putting a 15-year-half-cent sales tax proposal on the November ballot next Thursday, June 9. 

And the Mayor had something to say about it in Saintpetersblog::

“Well, something is better than nothing,” he said at a press conference at City Hall. “My defense of thirty years was based on three years worth of work and the recommendations of pretty much everyone in the process, including some of the very commissioners who voted against it. I think that everyone recognizes that rail is out of the question without a 30-year window. I can’t issue debt and be able to pay it back with the revenues that we generate in anything less than 30. In 20 years, the debt becomes so much higher that it becomes basically not feasible for us to do, so if it’s less than 30 there will be no rail. Could there be an extension of the streetcar with something less than 30? Probably. I don’t think you would see a rail project emerging out of this with anything less than 30 years.”

“If that’s the course that they choose, then absolutely I’m going to be in support of it.”

* * *

“Is it the preferred option? No,” he reiterated. Is it an option? Yes. Something’s better than nothing.”

With all due respect, no, it isn’t.

First, it is a waste of time because the time spent dealing with the referendum could be spent on coming up with a better, comprehensive, coordinated plan with a vision for the future – not half of half of a band-aid to enable officials to push a real solution off for a decade or more without fixing anything.  It is also a waste of time because for the duration of the tax or the work program many will argue we do not need more because we already have the tax. Yet, anyone who really knows what is going on here, what economic development officials really say, what demographic trends are, and what our competition is doing will know that we need real transit.

It is waste of money precisely because it does not really deal with the real problems – it kicks them down the road – where they will be even more expensive to fix.  And the continuing failure to deal with our real issues and have real solutions by supporting a 15 year road plan hurts our competitiveness and shows our government to not be serious about becoming a real metropolitan area that really provides the amenities being sought by those creating and providing the best jobs.

The 30 year plan was not very good in the first place.  The 15 year plan is just a way to hide from the real issues and give officials a chance to not really fix the problem and still claim they did something. (And, as noted last week, the streetcar is not a reason to support the plan because it can be extended without any increase in taxes).

It is not a matter of just doing something (which seems to be the Chamber of Commerce’s position.)  It is a matter of doing the right thing.  If that takes a couple of more years, so be it.  We have already waited decades for real transit.  We waited years for the TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough circus to give us the mess we now have.  We can wait a couple more years to get it right.  And waiting a couple of years is better than waiting (at least) 15 more years with people (especially officials) saying that they already passed a tax and don’t need to do anything else.

This area needs to stop acting like some little town that celebrates getting a traffic light and start acting like a major metropolitan area – or drop the pretense of being one.  The 15/20 year idea is a waste.  What we need is a real plan with a real vision for the future and real changes in planning.

It is time to grow up.

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