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Roundup 8-19-2016

August 19, 2016


Transportation – Persistently Accomplishing Nothing I, Cont

— Editorial

— Talk

— Attitudes

— Conclusion

Transportation – Persistently Accomplishing Nothing II, Cont

Economic Development – What Is It?

Economic Development/History Lesson – Blown Lead

Port – Cuba Calling?

Downtown/Channel District – First Steps

— One More Thing

Built Environment – It’s All Relative

TIA – Keeping Up With Technology

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Old Tampa


Transportation – Persistently Accomplishing Nothing I, Cont

What would a Roundup be without another transportation discussion (other than more fun to write)?  This week, there are a number of items worth discussing.

— Editorial

First up is an editorial from the Times regarding the County Commissions shenanigans on the TIF idea (and idea worth considering in concert with an overall examination of needs and financing possibilities).  It is good, so we quote it at length:

Commissioners voted 6-1 to advance the proposal, which would establish, as board policy, the county’s intent to set aside one-third of future growth in property and sales tax revenues to transportation. In the wake of two failed transit tax initiatives in recent years, commissioners said it was time to do something, and supporters hailed the move as both progressive and fiscally conservative.

In fact, it is neither. The county is not creating a new revenue stream for transportation; it’s merely raiding money already there. While declaring this as a board policy is better than the original idea from the sponsor, Commissioner Sandy Murman, to enshrine the move as a county ordinance, following the policy is voluntary. The commission can violate it any time — for debt, for an emergency, for police and fire expenses. Commissioners opted for the weasel language after the county’s financial advisers warned it would be irresponsible to restrict future budgets for any specific purpose. There is always a risk the economy could sour, and taking money off the table could leave the county exposed. Remember the recession? And raiding funds could weaken the county’s credit rating, raising the costs for borrowing.

Exactly.  Like we said last week, the Commission is really not doing anything except expressing an opinion that maybe they will spend some money – or maybe they won’t.  So what is the point other than to seem to be doing something when you are actually doing nothing?

The measure is expected to generate about $823 million over 10 years. But sweeping that money from the budget creates holes in other places. Over that same time, the county will need to find $245 million to cover the costs of inflation and expanded services for the 25,000 residents expected to move in every year. And that budget hole doesn’t include the costs of building 25 new fire stations and a host of other facilities the county will need to accommodate growth.

While $800 million may sound like a lot, it won’t make much of a dent in the county’s $12 billion backlog in transportation needs. Two-thirds of that money could be spent now on maintenance and four marginal road projects in the suburbs. With this policy, the county would dole out the money on an annual basis, which means it would not go for major capital investments in rail or buses, but rather be frittered away on pet road projects in commissioners’ individual districts.

Murman said the move will “test our fiscal priorities” going forward. In reality, nothing has changed. The commission has had the authority all along to dedicate more money every year to transportation. How having a gentlemen’s agreement changes the equation is anybody’s guess.

The only thing that’s changed is the board’s undue sense of accomplishment. Members on Wednesday all but dusted off their hands in praising this empty step forward. After years of examining how to improve connectivity throughout Tampa Bay, this plan does nothing to link job centers or the region, to bring in state or federal transit dollars or to make the area more competitive nationally.

Again, exactly. There is no real plan other than some road work.  It is not a transportation plan, it is a road plan, that, just like the old impact fee scheme, may go nowhere anyway, especially when other needs pop up and the inevitable slow down comes to the economy.  There is yet a glimmer of hope that the Commission with drop the games and get down to the dirt work of really governing and trying to solve problems.

The board will hold a hearing on the plan Sept. 8. There is still time for his colleagues to join Commissioner Les Miller, the lone no vote Wednesday, to hold out for a transportation initiative that might actually work.

Well, only a glimmer.

— Talk

Also in the editorial quoted above was a major point:

With this policy, the county would dole out the money on an annual basis, which means it would not go for major capital investments in rail or buses, but rather be frittered away on pet road projects in commissioners’ individual districts.

In other words, even if the money commitment-ish held, there is no path to a coordinated, comprehensive, transportation system.  There is no real solution to anything.  Which brings us to some comments by the Mayor of Tampa last week.

The Hillsborough County Commission this week took the first meaningful step in setting aside a third of all future growth revenue for transportation improvements, but Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is skeptical about the commission’s prioritization of mass transit funding.

“I don’t want to be in a position every year having to go beg to the County Commission, particularly if it involves mass transit,” Buckhorn said.

The Commission’s step was not meaningful and there is no need to be skeptical Mayor – transit is not a priority for the Commission at all.

“I’ve been to the altar with them so many times and I’m tired of being jilted,” Buckhorn said Thursday. “I need a dedicated revenue stream and I need one that’s bondable that is in perpetuity because the bond markets are not going to finance a major rail system without certainty that that revenue stream is committed for at least 30 years.”

Setting aside that “we” (not “I”) need a dedicated revenue stream because the city belongs to the people, it is true that a dedicated revenue stream is needed – for what exactly, though, is a question we’ve had for a while.  Presenting a much more fleshed out and inclusive vision with some actual potential corridors and some idea of technology would make him a more attractive bride or to at least encourage the public to force a shot-gun wedding.  But anyway:

The Go Hillsborough half-penny sales tax would have provided that sort of long-term funding and wouldn’t have been threatened by potential declines in county revenue.

Except it was a bad plan overall, but that is irrelevant now.  Pining away for it will accomplish nothing, though learning from it would be useful.  The County Commission seems to be passing on that.  How about the Mayor?

Instead Buckhorn said he’d get behind a petition effort to force a transit referendum to the 2018 ballot. Because voter-enacted ballot measures are both expensive and time consuming, such an effort wouldn’t be able to get done in time for this year’s election.

Nevertheless, Buckhorn touted such an effort as the only way to give voters a choice, arguing that the County Commission has proven their lack of interest in funding mass transit.

We have no problem with that idea, provided that the referendum is for something better than Go Hillsborough; something that covers at least the close in county and connects it with real transit to activity centers within the city limits; something that provides a vision and a plan going forward, not just one and done paid for over 30 years with no idea of what would come next.  We are all for citizen action, if it actually does something useful. That is something on which people can focus. But then we get back to a muddle:

Buckhorn will be pushing for what’s known as the local option to give Tampa residents a bit more of a say in transit funding. Right now state law mandates that only county’s can put ballot initiatives to voters. The legislature could change that and allow cities to put forth their own funding proposals.

In both 2010 and 2014 when sales tax initiatives failed, the measures fared far better in Tampa and St. Petersburg, where urban residents tend to be more transit-oriented.

“I would think that if [St. Pete] Mayor [Rick] Kriseman and I had the ability to do that within the municipalities that we could pass it and we could fund the beginnings of a transportation system, particularly rail, that would link downtown St. Pete to downtown Tampa and the airport,” Buckhorn said.

First, the City tax (misleadingly called local option – as though the county-wide is not local) thing will likely not fly.  Second, realistically, were it to pass, this Mayor would not see any of the money because it would pass in November 2018 and he would be out by March 2019.  Third, what is the cost of putting rail on the Howard Frankland – which is the large elephant in the room?  Can the cities really raise enough money to build two real rail systems that meet and cross the bridge?  Is that an even mildly realistic idea?  And if you can do something like that, it should be like BART as opposed to the local MUNI in San Francisco – regional and planned and built regionally.  The City tax idea goes in the very opposite direction.  And it distracts from a petition supported referendum, which is counterproductive.

We are all for real transit.  We are for crossing the bridge with rail some day.  We are for citizen action.  But we need real vision and real solutions – which get real people from their homes to real destinations.  For years the TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough people met and talked.  The Mayor was there.  For all that time, we did not see a real vision of how a transit system would work within the City, save for a vague idea of a starter line between downtown and Westshore (an idea we are fine with, by the way), or how that would really grow to become a real system.

That does not excuse the County Commission from their mess, but the TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough process was bigger than the Commission. Realistically, the Mayor is not going to get the money (and we still have to wait for the transit studies), but he could provide a vision while dropping the city tax.  That would help sell the whole idea – and any petition for a referendum.

— Attitudes

Which brings us to a HART confab this week about the “Future of Transit.” We are not sure that HART really is the group to really address that as it undermined the 2010 referendum, fought creating a truly regional organization (something the Mayor of Tampa apparently also opposed.) and hasn’t had a real vision since, including when it was at the TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough table.  But, anyway, what happened?

First, there was a guy who wants to spend his own money to really develop Tampa, has been trying to get tenants for his development, and has been talking to major corporations around the country:

The event’s speakers were HART chairman Mike Suarez; CEO Katharine Eagan; Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg; and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

But Vinik was the only one who dared enter into the minefield that light rail has become.

“Obviously, there have been some failed referendums over the last several years in this area,” Vinik said, acknowledging transportation measures that attempted to bring light rail to Hillsborough and Pinellas in 2010 and 2014.

“I’m an all-of-the-above person. … We’ve got to think about light rail. We’ve got to think about bus rapid transportation. We’ve got to think about using the water and ferries.”

The important thing, Vinik said, is continuing to move the conversation forward. He said he was “extremely encouraged” that HART and the Florida Department of Transportation are collaborating on a premium transit study that will look at all transportation options regionally. The study is expected to be completed in 18 to 24 months.

“I think we’ve got to explore light rail, and we have to explore using the CSX lines,” Vinik said after the morning event, held at the University of South Florida Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation. “That doesn’t mean it’s the only answer, but it does mean it’s something we need to strongly consider.”

Nearly 100 miles of CSX freight lines may be available for commuter rail connecting four counties and the downtowns of Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Vinik specifically pointed to proposals for expanding the street car so it runs through more of Tampa and developing a rail option that connects downtown to Tampa International Airport.

Then there were the local officials:

The other three speakers — Suarez, Eagan and Brandes — seemed to distance themselves from the topic of rail, focusing instead on Uber and Lyft, a ferry pilot project connecting downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg, and amping up Hillsborough’s MetroRapid service — a diminutive version of bus rapid transit without its dedicated travel lanes.

“I’m concerned about some of the areas we dive in to,” Brandes said. “A lot of people, I feel like, feel that if we’re not talking about trains, we’re not talking about transit.”

If leaders continue to evaluate options about what the future holds, Brandes said, he thinks bus rapid transit is going to arise “as the main way we can get around this community.”

Suarez, too, talked about bus rapid transit, though he indicated that HART’s existing MetroRapid route along Nebraska and Fletcher avenues is not true bus rapid transit because the buses are still driving in the same lanes as other vehicles.

“It’s not perfect,” Suarez said. “And it never will be until we get dedicated lanes so those buses can act more like trains and less like buses stuck in traffic.”

Quite the contrast in approaches. What is funniest about this is that it is so predictable.  Setting aside that building and operating true BRT is not necessarily cheaper than rail (See “Transportation – More Muddle” and “Transportation – Inadvertent Truths”) and that buses should for part of a transit system, what is the massive aversion to even discussing rail, other than HART is a bus agency? Because.

— Conclusion

Basically, if you want to know why transportation can never get solved, the above described complete muddle gives you a pretty good idea.  And it is this mess that leaves us with FDOT dictating TBX.

And it is here that we will note this:

A South Florida mayor is taking on the Florida Department of Transportation.

Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober said the new express lanes that go through his city have turned Interstate 95 into a nightmare for residents and commuters.

“It has definitely made living in the city of Hollywood a miserable experience,” Bober said. “You have to sit in traffic every day where you didn’t have to do that before.”

Which is what you want to hear when FDOT is going to spend $6-9 billion.  (You can read more here and the Mayor of Hollywood’s letter here.)

But all that is still better for local officials because it is a lot easier for most to just support FDOT’s plan and not make the hard choices to really get something done.

Which brings us back to this: You have to remember that every city competing with us also has an urban building boom and many started before (and are much further along than) ours.  Also remember that most have some sort of real transit and many are expanding it.

Now, ask yourself the key question, one that the Lightning owner likely will encounter every time he talks to a potential tenant: if you were a company coming with a lot of money to invest and you saw the local officials trying as hard as they can to do things on the cheap (even though over the course of its lifetime, true BRT is not even necessarily cheaper than rail), what would you think?  Would you choose the Tampa Bay area or places where they are already investing in their future?  And the same holds true for people with skill and talent.

Transportation – Persistently Accomplishing Nothing II, Cont

Now for more transportation fun. The PTC is moving toward new regulations on rideshare companies, whether it can or not.

. . .the rules and policy committee voted 2-1, with Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco dissenting, to push forward with expedited rules. Under the board’s anticipated guidelines, they would vote again at the rules and policy committee meeting on Sept. 1 and then again at the full PTC meeting Sept. 14, with a final rule approved in October.

Rules preliminarily supported by a PTC committee would require transportation network companies, or TNCs, to implement fingerprint-based background checks and annual vehicle inspections conducted by a certified mechanic before a driver can begin operating as a for-hire driver.

Both provisions have been highly opposed by both major TNC players in Hillsborough County, Uber and Lyft.

If the rules are enacted and the PTC is awarded an injunction against Uber for continuing to operate against the rules, Uber said it will leave Hillsborough County.

Which, of course, is what they want, because the PTC serves the legacy cab and limo companies that do not want the competition.  But, you say to yourself that those are just safety regulations. For the sake of argument, fine.  But how about this:

Also at issue within those rules is a provision that would establish mandatory minimums on TNC fares and wait times. The proposed rules would set those at $7 and seven minutes, respectively.

How does a pick-up delay serve anyone other than cabs or limos?  How does a minimum fare serve anyone but cabs or limos?

“You’re giving the limo industry some breaks, but you’re not doing a doggone thing for the riding public,” said Lyft attorney Steve Anderson.

Pretty much, but don’t forget the cab companies. And the PTC agrees:

Cockream said he didn’t worry too much about whether or not minimum wait times were implemented because that was an issue for the companies to sort out. However, he defended the minimum fares.

“This industry would go away to the detriment of the riding public,” Cockream said, referring to the taxi industry.

That is an admission that the PTC is trying to engage in protectionism and hurt competition.

If a company can show up faster, so be it.  Why is that a concern of the government?  Who said there would be no way for people to get rides?  If people choose the competition, maybe the PTC should look to make it easier/cheaper for cabs to function (and maybe the cab companies should raise their game) – where they clearly have authority. . . for now.  At least one member of the Board seems (though we remain to be convinced) to be trying to actually come up with a proper agreement.

Hillsborough County Commissioner and Public Transportation Commission board member Victor Crist is reaching out to State Sen. Jeff Brandes for help in dealing with the ongoing debate over how to regulate transportation network companies.

* * *

Ahead of this week’s meeting, Crist sent a letter to his PTC colleagues in the rules and policy committee asking them to put the brakes on deciding on rules. He argued the rules would have “a significant impact on the traveling public as well as transportation providers throughout Hillsborough County.” He also warned approving rules hastily could lead to legal ramifications if the process for doing so did not meet certain reporting criteria.

Crist accused the rulemaking process of creating a “potential unintended consequence of benefitting one regulated industry over another.”

Setting aside that the consequences of pushing ridesharing out of the area is clearly intended by those supporting the new rules, that is fine, but it is also an admission that the PTC should be eliminated.

Economic Development – What Is It?

There was a column in the Times about the new EDC CEO that sounded really familiar.  First, it said a number of nice things about the new guy, which is fine.  Then:

Still, even he acknowledges this three-city metro area, separated by a bay, is a more complex topography than the typical single “hub and spoke” urban core typical of most major metro areas. That’s one reason that, while he is a walking encyclopedia of “best practices” gleaned from earlier experience, he is wary of simply trying to push economic development strategies here just because they may have had success in a different market at a different time.

“We are shaped differently, so development patterns occur differently,” Richard said in a recent interview. “I need to understand those dynamics.” But one theme is clear and repeated by Richard: Regionalism is rising across most U.S. metros, and Tampa Bay must embrace it, too.

We agree, and note that this is from an outsider coming in without an interest in hyping a legacy.  The fact he is talking about the need for regionalism makes us wonder why all the previous talk about regionalism has apparently not done much.

So far, his easy smile and thoughtful demeanor also come with a competitive streak that’s setting the stage nicely for some of the issues already bubbling to the surface of Richard’s growing to-do list.

At the top: Figure out how best to market all of Tampa Bay as a distinctive place to do smart business and enjoy a coastal Florida lifestyle.

“The one thing that everyone says, in my conversations with leaders, is that the community as a whole flies under the radar,” Richard noted. “There is a sense we need to heighten the awareness of the advantages of doing business in Tampa and Hillsborough County, in particular. There is strong consensus to double down on our marketing efforts.”

If that quest sounds familiar, it should. Many business leaders here — from tourism executives and economic developers who in 2014 embraced “Bollywood Oscars” to the politicos who hosted the Republican National Convention here in 2012 — have concocted grand promotional pitches aimed at raising a better-defined image of Tampa and Tampa Bay to the larger world.

Apparently, for all the hype, those things haven’t really done the trick.

What captures the essence of Tampa Bay? I’ve sat in law firm boardrooms, tourism agency headquarters and university classrooms where some version of that question has been asked time and again. We are, it seems, a very mixed bag of Midwestern niceness with a diverse economy of modest headquarters, some very pleasant beaches for tourists, a fine airport and a funky Latin quarter called Ybor. Packaging that into a compelling marketing message has proved most challenging.

So that’s why we’re glad to see Richard arriving here and so quickly endorsing the idea of branding and marketing Tampa and Tampa Bay anew — before we get forever defined from afar by others as simply bland or an urban hodgepodge. The issue is all the more timely now that the Tampa Bay Partnership is morphing from a regional marketing organization to one more focused on political advocacy.

We are all for good branding and we are all for being competitive and ambitious.  The thing is that this branding discussion has been going on basically for living memory (though maybe using different lingo).  Yet, as we said in 2014 (and before that), “the problem with branding this area is that, as an area, we do not know what we are or what we really want to be.

Which gets to something we said in 2015:

. . . When decades have been spent settling for a real estate and back-office based economy enhanced with diminished expectations and a culture of excessive hype that may sell here but does not really fly in other places, it is not a surprise it is hard to tell our story.

But nothing need be permanent.  We have assets, and we have the ability to have solid accomplishments.  Yet, as long as minor achievements are trumpeted as huge successes (and huge successes are not extant) without a critical eye to our deficiencies and the political will to change them, we are only holding ourselves back.  Our real branding will come from real achievement.  And hype just gets in the way.

Marketing is fine, but when you are trying to get people to spend big money and actually move to your city, your real brand (rather than what you try to sell) will be a reflection of what you really are relative to other places.  And that is the real issue: we may be better than we were (we are), but how do we compare to everyone else?  In other words, if you want a successful brand, you have to answer the same old question:

If someone can go anywhere, and with other places that already provide amenities that they want, why should they come here?

If you want to come up with a successful brand, answer that question.

Economic Development/History Lesson – Blown Lead

And there is another aspect to economic development. Researching something else, we found this article from the Orlando Sentinel back in 1988 about Orlando expanding their international service.  It has such nuggets as this:

Delta Air Lines Inc. will become the second domestic carrier to offer non-stop service between Orlando and Europe this year when it begins flying to Frankfurt, West Germany, on June 3.

Pan American World Airways Inc. will start flying non-stop between Orlando and Frankfurt on April 3, and several other airlines are considering or planning to increase non-stop international service in Orlando.

And this:

Mexicana Airlines, which started scheduled flights linking Tampa with Mexico City and Cancun last month, also is considering Orlando service.

Mexicana is gone, but Orlando still has AeroMexico and Volaris (flying to Mexico City – with JetBlue flying there, too – and Guadalajara), plus other airlines flying to Cancun.  We have no flights to Mexico City or Guadalajara.

Then the 1988 article tells us this, which is really interesting given the growth in Orlando (and Fort Lauderdale), compared to Tampa International until the new staff took over:

Orlando International handled about 3.7 percent of Florida’s international traffic in 1986. Miami International had a 91.8 percent share and Tampa International, 1.5 percent. In 1985, Orlando had 1.2 percent of the state’s international market.

It is amazing to think that in 1988, Tampa had more international air traffic than Orlando.  It is so common around here to hear about the power of the Mouse, etc., like this from this week’s column on the EDC CEO:

Tampa Bay has suffered a bad case of “metro envy” for decades, thanks to its close proximity to Orlando (home of the Mouse and, now, also Harry Potter theme parks) and Miami’s international flair as the gateway to Latin America. Both of those cities already enjoy global reputations. 

But the article from 1988 shows us that nothing is inevitable.  Even in the late 80’s, with the Mouse well entrenched, Tampa had more international air traffic than Orlando.  But at this point Orlando was at the beginning of a concerted push to grow its profile.  Meanwhile, this area tapped into its almost adolescent combination of insecurity and self-satisfaction and, over the course of a number of years, made a series decisions (or failed to make a series of decisions) that allowed us to fall behind the competition.  We had a lead, but our lead was not pushed – hard.  And it went away . . . far away.  Now we have to compete with and try to catch up (or at least get close) with Orlando and Fort Lauderdale (at least the present airport administration is working hard and experiencing some success) which have become far more entrenched.

To large degree this story is a microcosm of our overall economic development (and other development) history – complacently letting ourselves fall behind while ignoring the big picture.  And it is not just theoretical, air connections are a major factor in recruiting businesses, especially HQs. Just like proper transit and proper planning. And all that goes to helping projects like the Lightning owner’s project succeed.

There is no resting on your laurels in economic development.  Other cities (worldwide these days) are always trying to take what you have – businesses, jobs, flights, port traffic, state and federal investments.  You have to press every advantage and make up as much as possible for every deficiency. And you can’t believe your own hype.

Right now, relative to where we were, we are improved.  However, as we keep saying, we still are behind (see air connections, container business, transit, per capita GDP, and lack of regionalism) and playing catch-up – not necessarily with the same places (though it is arguable that to some degree it includes the same places), but still playing catch-up.  And we still have far too many local officials trapped in the attitudes and actions of the past, where we fell behind.

Port – Cuba Calling?

And that all brings us to attitude, aggressively pursuing opportunities (and being seen to do so), and Cuba.

We have noted how the Port won’t go to Cuba (though it is not clear why).  Maybe Cuba will come to the Port.

As their two nations build new relations, the people who run the ports in Cuba are making plans to visit the operators of U.S. ports on the Gulf of Mexico during the next few months.

Tampa, which traded in tobacco and cattle with Cuba before the United States imposed an embargo five decades ago, is home to one of the ports recently contacted by Cuba’s port authority.

“Port Tampa Bay is Cuba ready, and would welcome meeting with the representatives of the Cuban National Port Authority should they come to the U.S. to tour Gulf ports,” Edward Miyagishima, the Tampa port’s vice president of communications, said via email.

The trip is being arranged with the help of Engage Cuba, a Washington, D.C., coalition of private businesses working to lift the embargo on Cuba.

Well, that is something.  Though it still does not explain the lack of initiative by the Port, especially when you note this:

At least two other sites along the gulf, the Port of New Orleans and Alabama State Port Authority, said they also have been contacted by Cuba about a visit.

Both these ports already ship limited supplies of agricultural products to Cuba.

In other words, the other ports already are doing business (that is not coming here) and building connections (which are not being built here).  We still cannot understand the Port’s complacency and why it is playing hard to get.  Even if business is not that big now, is business so good at the Port that they can sit back, let others build the business connections, and hope others come to them?

At least others in this area are not so complacent.

Meantime, a delegation of maritime industry leaders in Tampa will visit Cuba in October through Tucker Hall, an international public relations agency in Tampa that has supported business and humanitarian missions in Cuba since 1999.

The trip is a private initiative separate from Port Tampa Bay but some port tenants will join the delegation, said Bill Carlson, president of Tucker Hall.

They are scheduled to meet with the Cuban Foreign Ministry and with leaders in the fields of environmental protection and deep water oil drilling and to learn about the future of the cruise line industry in Havana.

They might also visit the Port of Mariel, an industrial center encompassing some 180 square miles west of Havana that features factories, storage for trade, and a marine terminal with an initial annual capacity of about 1 million containers.

Some see the Port of Mariel as ideally positioned to capitalize on recent expansions to the Panama Canal that will accommodate ships with greater capacity. They see the Cuba port as a trans-shipment hub for gulf ports in the United States.

“Cuba is the most important economic development opportunity Tampa Bay will experience in our lifetimes,” Carlson said. “There will be billions of dollars in foreign investment in Cuba. That trade should be going through Port Tampa Bay.”

Still, few see any immediate economic payoff in establishing a relationship with Cuba’s port leaders. The Port of Mariel needs time and U.S. laws need to change before the two nations become major trading partners.

That last point may be true now, but:

Regardless, Carlson said, if local leaders want to see container ships, cruises and ferries sailing to and from Cuba in the future, the time to forge a relationship with the island’s people and government is now.

“We have to move quickly,” he said, “and be aggressive to compete with other cities and states.”

Indeed. On Cuba, the Port is using the old Tampa airport strategy – when the old director used to tell us that there was just no demand for international service.  We hope in the future it doesn’t leave us too far behind.

Regardless, we can do much better.

Downtown/Channel District – First Steps

The infrastructure work on the Lightning owner’s project is set to begin.

Road and infrastructure work will start Aug. 29 on Morgan Street and will affect Channelside Drive and Jefferson Street in downtown Tampa. They represent the first steps by Strategic Property Partners, the real estate firm of Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, and Cascade Investment toward rebuilding 40 acres of Tampa’s urban core.

The $35 million road work project involves adding infrastructure underground, including pipes for a chilled water distribution plant. It also will change traffic patterns and add roads.

The first phase of road construction is expected to continue until next summer. The roads affected will remain open during construction, though traffic may be limited.

The goal is create a traffic grid in downtown Tampa that is easier to navigate but slows motorists to allow for more bikes and pedestrians.

You can read the article for descriptions, but this is a map of the changes:

From the Business Journal – click on map for article

It is good that this work is starting, though it will cause a lot of disruption – and without real transit we are not sure if the changes will have the intended effect rather than just create gridlock. (Hence the Lightning owner’s comments above)  That remains to be seen.  At least, keeping with their pattern of doing things well, the Lightning owner’s team is setting up a website (here to inform the public of the work and disruptions.

— One More Thing

There was also news about Channelside the complex.

Strategic Property Partners and Franklin Street — which SPP tapped to lease and manage the property — have launched the “Channelside Bay Plaza VIP card,” which is good for special promotions and offers at the plaza.

Which is nice.  You can read the details in the article.  More interesting to us is this:

“Thanks to our partners at Port Tampa Bay, we were able to open the wharf to the public earlier this summer, and now, in partnership with the plaza tenants, we’re launching this program as another way to connect with our neighbors in the Channel District,” Glisson wrote in an email Monday.

Since the Port owns all the land, it makes one wonder why the Port did not open up the wharf before, when the plaza was floundering, to try to make it more successful.

Nevertheless, hopefully, it will get revitalized.

Built Environment – It’s All Relative

There was a recent report from Redfin  regarding walkability that has gotten some local press coverage.  First, the Business Journal had an article understatedly entitled “Newly built homes in St. Petersburg are among the most ‘walkable’ in the U.S.”   that told us:

New residential construction in St. Petersburg is among the most walkable in the U.S., according to a new ranking out this week.

Redfin, a real estate brokerage, analyzed the Walk Score of new construction compared to the city’s overall Walk Score. Walk Scores are based on how many public spaces and parks are in a neighborhood, along with pedestrian-friendly design and enough population density for businesses to thrive.

In St. Pete, according to Redfin, 88 percent of new construction gets a better Walk Score than the city’s score of 42. (New York has the top Walk Score in the U.S. at 88.9.)

That ranks St. Pete at No. 4 for walkable new construction. Philadelphia, Chicago and Cleveland, Ohio, were the top three, respectively. Rounding out the top 10 were Boston, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Denver, San Francisco and Dallas. 

Then the Times had an article somnolently entitled “Development is making St. Pete and Tampa downtowns more pedestrian friendly, report says” that told us:

All those apartments, condos and houses going up in and around downtown St. Petersburg are giving the city a boast-worthy distinction — it’s among the nation’s top 10 urban areas for “walkable new construction.”

And Tampa isn’t far behind, according to the national real estate brokerage Redfin.

While many parts of the Tampa Bay area remain inconducive to a pleasant stroll — think St. Petersburg’s Tyrone area and Tampa’s West Shore district — downtown resurgences are making both cities more pedestrian friendly.

Redfin ranks St. Petersburg third among cities in which more than 80 percent of new residences have a “walk score” higher than the citywide score. Its 88 percent rating is due to the construction of hundreds of new multifamily units downtown along with scores of new homes and townhomes nearby — all within walking distance of restaurants, shops and other urban amenities.

* * *

Tampa just missed the top 10. It ranks 12th, with 54 percent of new construction boasting walk scores higher than the citywide 49 percent.

First, yes, both Tampa and St. Pete are getting more walkable, especially downtown.  However, even though they say what the report said, both articles are written in a way to confuse the results in a hype-tastic way.

What Redfin report actually said (and which URBN Tampa Bay got right here) is that new construction is more walkable than the existing built environment.  So, by way of example, if your built environment is totally unwalkable (say walk score of 1) and what is now getting built is mildly (though nor really) walkable (say a still very bad walk score of 10), you would rank very high in this report because new construction would be more walkable than the existing built environment.  If your existing built environment is very walkable and what you build is basically the same (see Boston, San Francisco or New York) you would not rank as high.

As reflected in the Times headline (but muddled in the article), the report is saying is that this area is getting more walkable, particularly in downtowns. (Things like the recently revealed Halcyon in St. Pete  and Channel Club in Tampa – though it does not really do much on the street, that should be starting soon. )  It does not say we are one of the most walkable areas. (Just look at a picture of DC, Boston or Seattle and you can see that the claim is not true)  It does not even say that most new construction is excessively walkable – it is just more walkable than what was there before.  That is good (and true to some degree), but it is not consistent with the hype.

We are getting better, but we are not really where we should be.

TIA – Keeping Up With Technology

One again, the airport is working to keep ahead (or at least up with) the needs of passengers.

Tampa International Airport will have more charging outlets than almost any airport in the nation — more than 7,000 in all — when its $1 billion renovation is completed next year.

* * *

The additional challenge will be ensuring the airport is ready for technology that may not be standard today, but is around the corner and that travelers will demand within several years.

To that end, some of those technological advances at TIA will include:

Just another way the airport refuses to be complacent, which other organizations in the area should note and copy.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

We often say that much of the opposition to rail is ideological, not practical (because it is).  Many argue that opposition to rail it is some sort of conservative idea, which the examples of places like Salt lake City, Phoenix, Norfolk, Charlotte, and a host of others shows is not the case.  There is another big example – Dallas – which is definitely not some socialist bastion.  Dallas has an extensive rail network, and it wants more – so much more that there is a debate about two new rail lines – not about building them but because people are fighting over which to come first.

Four Dallas Area Rapid Transit board members Tuesday criticized and questioned the agency’s planned approaches to building two new controversial rail lines — one through downtown Dallas and the other through northern suburbs. 

“I have some concerns about being able to do both at the same time,” said board member Paul Wageman, who represents Plano. 

* * *

DART has long planned to add a second light-rail route through Dallas’ central business district. The agency and the Dallas City Council chose a route that is mostly at street-level last year. But the agency in recent weeks has said that a different route  is likely to work better. That revelation came after downtown residents, business leaders and landowners started pushing for the agency to spend more money to put the line mostly underground.

As that controversy continued brewing this summer, the agency and Plano officials revealed a plan to also spend hundreds of millions of dollars to fast-track the Cotton Belt line project that connects the airport to northern suburbs. That plan angered people who were pushing DART to find a way to put the second downtown line underground.

The northern suburbs of Dallas are definitely not socialist territory. The fact is that our lack of proper transit is not about right or left.  It is about moving forward and building a proper city or just neglecting our infrastructure and leaving us less competitive.

And that is not to say we are for wasting money – we aren’t.  There needs to be a good plan with proper checks.  But we understand our development pattern is ultimately wasteful and that cities require proper transportation infrastructure which throughout the world, including in the United States has rail as a part.

Old Tampa

URBN Tampa Bay had a really nice find.   The blog modern cities went back into the archives for some old picture of Tampa.  While we have seen pretty much all of them elsewhere, they are still great.  Though we have to say when you see what was torn down (much of which is now surface parking, it is pretty sad) We like these that show you what Tampa was really like, even into the early 1970s.



From Modern Cities – click on photo for website


From Modern Cities – click on photo for website


From Modern Cities – click on photo for website


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