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Roundup 2-17-2017

February 17, 2017

Contents

Transportation – Alphabet Soup

— Re-Enter The Party of No

— What Would It Look Like

— The Other Elephant in the Room

— Conclusion

Transportation – The Other Ferry

Transportation – A Little Too Much Autonomy

Port/Cuba – A Cruise

Downtown/Hyde Park – Lafayette Place

Downtown – Chillin’ at the BK Lounge

Bayshore – Virage

Transportation – About Routes

Transportation – More Tales of Biking

Rowdies – Moving Forward

Landmarks – UFO Sightings

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

______________________________

Transportation – Alphabet Soup

As we have been discussing recently, there is a move to have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between HART and PSTA to work together.  That comes as the Tampa Bay Partnership is pushing for some sort of unified MPO and transit agency.  As with most transportation issues, that has caused a lot of activity which Stpetersblog has been covering nicely.

— Re-Enter The Party of No

Let’s start with the MOU between PSTA and HART.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to cooperate and collobarate with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), but only after adding additional language clarifying that it is not a move towards a potential merger or a regional sales tax increase.

That language was needed ostensibly to assuage the MOU’s critics, including HART board member Karen Jaroch. 

Setting aside that the language is not needed at all, what is her complaint?

Of underlying concern to Jaroch and some others is Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long’s aspirations for the two Bay area transit agencies to form a regional council of governments. Such a group, Long told HART members last fall, could provide “better, more nimble” solutions to problems that they currently face. Long’s idea would fold PSTA, HART, and other transportation providers such as the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, ferryboat operations and others under the regional council of government. Certain functions, or entire organizations, could be consolidated within the council of governments concept.

But critics fear that it’s an underhanded move to get another transit tax proposal to go before the voters, which they vehemently oppose.

“They intend to use this MOU to go to Tallahassee to request funding for how to pay for Long’s proposal, and how to get the regional sales tax funded,” said Tea Party activist Sharon Calvert during the public comment portion of the meeting. Calvert and Jaroch have frequently cited a comment by PSTA head Brad Miller last month that he would be going to Tallahassee on Tuesday, February 7, to talk to lawmakers, a day after HART was poised to approve the MOU.

It is the same complaint as always.  And, we ask again, if there is a referendum and it passes, what is the problem? In our system, the people are free to tax themselves if they see fit.  A referendum for a tax is the essence of taxation with representation. You can’t get more back to the Founding Fathers than that. And if you want to vote against it, that is your right.

In any event, HART, as usual, is going along:

But HART board members Sandy Murman and Mike Suarez said they knew nothing about any trip to Tallahassee, saying that was perhaps being discussed across the bay, but not in Hillsborough County.

“This is an MOU. It is not a merger,” said Murman. “It is a very specific document. It is not broad. It is not general. It is very, very specific. I think to not do this today makes us more or less a ‘do-nothing’ board.”

Given past history, we don’t doubt that it is not being discussed in Hillsborough County. More to the point:

Suarez said that until the Legislature approves funding for a regional authority, nobody should worry that the agencies were about to merge.

After their last subcommittee meeting, HART attorney David Smith changed language in the MOU so that it now states that it must be approved annually by the HART board. The board went ahead on Monday and put in additional specific language spelling out that it has nothing to do with a potential merger and tax increase, though Shananan expressed frustration for the need to do so. “This is a redundancy over a redundancy.”

Having to approve it annually is silly.  Either they agree to work together or they don’t.  Having it renewed annually just leaves it open to be undermined in perpetuity.  (With all this HART silliness one wonders whether the vote had to be unanimous.  Why bend over so much to appease one member?)

But, most likely that is the point.  It has been clear for some time that the Tea Party does not want a merger, not because it is inefficient but because it may be more efficient. As we have laid out before, from their statements and actions, they don’t want good transit.  They do not provide transportation alternatives. (One possible reason can be found here.) They don’t actually want it to be efficient and provide appealing service to choice riders.  And HART, by going along with them, supports their position.

We are all for talking to everyone and everyone having their say.  But if they do not provide any useful ideas, following their recommendations will not be productive.

— What Would It Look Like

Setting all that aside for now, let’s just assume that a move for a regional approach moves forward, what are the options?

Long said her goal is in sync with the official line emanating from the Tampa Bay Partnership, who are calling for regional transportation governance in the Tampa Bay region. With more than two dozen agencies in the greater Tampa Bay area working on transportation solutions, the concerns being expressed is that there is no “synergy” that ties them together.

Some say the obvious model should be TBARTA, the eight-county transportation agency created by the Legislature a decade ago. But a lack of funding from the onset has hampered any serious attempt for TBARTA to fill that role. Long is outspoken in calling the agency a paper tiger.

“I don’t know if you’ve been to a TBARTA board meeting, but I thought I was going to eat my brains out!” Long says. “It is four hours of — excuse my expression — bullsh*t. All you do is listen to one study after another study after another presentation, and on and on. They don’t do anything!”

And how did that come about?

The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority was created by the Florida Legislature a decade ago to develop and implement a regional transportation master plan of the seven-county West Central Florida region. Yet as Manatee County GOP Senator Bill Galvano recounted on Wednesday, it was created without a funding mechanism, after then Governor Charlie Crist vetoed the $8 million in appropriations that were created with it.

Galvano said, “That was  a shock to all of us,” adding that, “I don’t think he (Crist) realized the connection and it felt through the cracks.”

TBARTA is a paper tiger now, but that is by choice.  How much have local officials pushed to get real funding?  Not enough to become really newsworthy.  It could change if there is will to change it. Meanwhile, back in Hillsborough,

Hillsborough County Metropolitan Transportation Organization director Beth Alden says she’s all for regionalization in local transportation but says that the urgency right before the legislative session is a bit concerning.

Actually, lack of urgency would be more concerning, but anyway, what is her concern?

While Long believes that a new transportation authority featuring Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties is what’s needed now, Alden says that’s “short-sighted,” saying that the region is much larger than that. She contends that if the Tampa Bay region wants to compete with other metropolitan regions around the country, it needs to include the entire areas that are in TBARTA, which include Sarasota, Hernando, Polk, Manatee and Citrus counties.

Yes and no.  In any event, there is a counter argument:

Long doesn’t support that theory, criticizing Alden’s attitude as coming from a planner’s point of view, not “the common sense, day to day commuter of people going back and forth to work.”

“When you look at the density data, it becomes clear that the basis for this new model has got to be Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough,” Long says, adding that the other Tampa Bay area counties should be given goals and objectives to meet, and when they do, “they can be part of the authority.”

That Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco are the core of the region’s population and transit need is clear.  On the other hand, we really don’t see the two ideas things as mutually exclusive.  Why can’t you have an agency covering a large area that provides useful transit in the core of the region?  Why can’t you have a core agency that has agreements with smaller agencies (like the HART/PSTA MOU)?  Once again, it is a matter of will.  Logically, the core will have more transit and facilities that the periphery.  Other regions seem capable of doing that.  What makes us the exception?

Which brings us back to the head of the Hillsborough MPO:

The Hillsborough County MPO already has formal planning agreements with Pinellas, Hernando, Pasco, Polk, Sarasota and Manatees counties, all working within the MPO TBARTA coordinating committee.

Which is not particularly effective as it now exists, otherwise we would not be talking about this topic.  Once again, to a large degree that is by choice.  But, setting that aside, the Hillsborough MPO head continues:

In December, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) jointly finalized a new rule calling for MPO’s in urbanized areas to merge. It was first promulgated last summer, and Alden says her organization has spent the past six months studying four different cases on how MPO’s organize planning processes in other parts of the country.

“We think we have crafted a thoughtful approach that includes public discussion of the issue, and independent nationwide research into effective strategies to address the issue of regionalization,” she says. “We can do this well, but we need to do our homework.”

Alden was inspired to post a lengthy comment on the MPO’s Facebook page last week following a Tampa Bay Times editorial lauding the Enos Center report, writing: “I’m not at all saying we should do nothing for regional transit. I’m saying we have to walk before we can fly.”

The Facebook post (here) is a relatively long discussion of how our needs are underfunded, so we will try to pull out the core of the argument:

Common sense would tell you, and polling confirms, that our citizens want their roads repaved regularly; they want #smart #traffic signals, #safe #walk-&-bikeways, #roads that are lit at night and don’t turn into ponds when it rains; they want #buses that show up more often than once an hour, and that access the #jobs, #schools and #healthcare close by, not on the other side of a long bay #bridge.

These are transportation basics, and this is where most of our local tax dollars go. And the dollars fall short! We’re funding these basics at about half the level most people expect. (See the http://www.planhillsborough.org/2016-state-of-the-system-r…/ for details.) #Florida is a low-tax state, and we get what we pay for. Unfortunately this doesn’t leave a lot of room in the budget for big-ticket rapid transit systems that span county lines. Which of these basics would you like to fund less?

I’m not at all saying we should do nothing for regional transit. I’m saying we have to walk before we can fly—figuratively and also literally. Tampa Bay was listed in the Top 10 most dangerous places in the U.S. to walk, once again, just last month. If you’re taking your life in your hands every time you try to cross a city street, you won’t be able to get to a rapid bus or rail station– even if money dropped out of the sky for us to build one. 

Setting aside that having an MPO for Pinellas, Pasco & Hillsborough and then expanding it could be seen as walking before flying, that is true, to a degree.  However, repaving should be part of usual expenditures. And the County found $600 million to do it.  Sidewalks are not built properly by choice – just part of the bad planning and prioritization of sprawl.  And there are other low tax states that have no problem with transit (not to mention other parts of Florida).  And transit, both very local and cross-bay, is woefully underfunded by choice (and not just with the Tea Party, but they don’t help).

The fact is that many other areas have worked regionally, planned regionally, and built transit. It is not so much learning to walk before we fly.  It is a matter of someone sitting on the couch knowing how to walk and knowing how to fly but choosing to still sit on the couch (while, it must be said, other areas are already running and flying) Until that choice changes, nothing will change.

— The Other Elephant in the Room

Given all that, a (if not the) major issue is how whatever regional entity is being discussed will be constituted – mainly the representation.  We think representation should be based on population.  Of course, that means that Hillsborough will have more representation than Pinellas, which never goes down well.  On the other hand, Hillsborough has to recognize that it can’t run everything and prioritize itself over everyone else, which also does not go down well.  Basically, that means that everyone has to act in good faith – in the make-up and functioning of whatever entity is being discussed.  (Frankly, if there really was the political will to act regionally, it could happen with our present structures.)  The reality is that without good faith, regardless of structures, we will be stuck on the couch anyway.

— Conclusion

Our problem is not lack of knowledge, it is lack of will.  It is a lack of will to plan well, and it is lack of will to push for what is really needed (just like it was a lack of will to speak truth to FDOT that led to the mess with the Howard Frankland Bridge.  Once there was real will, there were changes).  Just listening to the party of no will not solve anything.  And simply rearranging the chairs may help, but it will not fix what really ails us.

As we have said before, we think the consolidation of transit agencies is more important than consolidation of MPO’s, though we do not oppose the latter (through TBARTA or a smaller group) provided there are protections for neighborhoods to not get run over in the process (though they get run over in the process we have anyway).  In both cases, though, the real question is whether local officials are really more committed to moving forward locally and regionally than they are to narrow political interests.  County by county or regionwide, nothing will happen until this area gets off the couch.  Whether it finally will remains to be seen.

Transportation – The Other Ferry

Speaking of political will, there was news about the South County-MacDill ferry this week.

There would be no hard feelings if Hillsborough County decided to turn down federal money for a ferry connecting MacDill Air Force Base to south county and go it alone, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said.

Still, Castor told the Tampa Bay Times she is “very frustrated” that county leaders are only now debating the best path forward to make the ferry a reality. Castor announced the $4.8 million Federal Transit Administration grant in 2014 and the project remains in limbo three years later.

“It is frustrating to win a large federal grant and not be gung-ho at home about getting this done,” Castor, D-Tampa, said.

The proposed ferry would service south and east Hillsborough residents commuting to and from MacDill Air Force Base in South Tampa. The Department of Defense is very supportive of the project, Castor said, because it will help ease travel times for base personnel.

Yes, it is frustrating.

County Administrator Mike Merrill said the county is “diligently working” on it but it’s a complicated project between the environmental concerns, including disrupting manatees, and the security questions of launching a boat to a military base.

“There are so many moving pieces to this thing,” Merrill said. “I know that people are frustrated because they look at it from the outside and wonder why is it taking so long. I would probably feel the same.”

Even basics about the ferry line remain up in the air. For example, officials haven’t decided where boats will launch on the east side of Hillsborough Bay.

Castor said that’s unacceptable on the county’s part. Merrill said it’s one of many delays caused by the mandatory federal study. 

Is it?  Remember this:

The port chairman said the ferry service could interfere with maritime traffic in Old Tampa Bay. Last August, Audubon of Florida opposed putting the terminal and 1,500 parking spaces on the Schultz preserve, where the state has spent $2.7 million restoring native habitat.

That was early 2015. There has never been a good explanation about how other cities deal with the interaction of their ferries and their ports and why we couldn’t do it.  Nor have there been clear alternatives to for the terminal.  It is easy to blame it all on federal requirements, but even if the County drops the federal money, they still need to know where the terminal is going to go?  And it will always cut across the channel in the Bay so how is that going to work?

And then there is this:

Like all of Hillsborough’s transportation needs, the ferry was also held up by a basic question: How will the county pay for this?

First, the County Commission assumed it would be covered by Go Hillsborough (a poor assumption).  Apparently there was no plan B until last week.

Commissioners decided last week, though, to make it a priority. They could also dip into the $21 million won in the BP oil spill settlement to help pay for it.

“While it may have merit, we have limited resources and we treat it like any other project,” Merrill said. “Grant or no grant, there’s a local match and its competing with other projects.”

That’s fine.  But aside from playing fields and subsidizing retail and sprawl, what are they prioritizing?  And then there was this:

If bureaucratic red tape in Washington was a problem, Castor could have helped, she said.

“What I heard from the county in 2015 from the county administrator was they didn’t intend to move forward unless the transportation referendum passed,” Castor said. “I did not receive any request for, ‘Congresswoman, will you help us speed up action at federal agencies.’ ”

Not surprising in any way.  Apparently the Commission couches are very comfortable. (At least they found $600 million in spare change while sitting on them.)

Transportation – A Little Too Much Autonomy

The Business Journal had a report about a proposed bill regarding autonomous vehicles.

A House bill filed Thursday to streamline Florida’s autonomous vehicle regulations will have a Senate companion.

The bill, filed by Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford), removes a requirement that the person operating a vehicle in autonomous mode possess a valid driver’s license. Instead, the autonomous technology would be deemed the licensed entity.

Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) is working on a companion bill that updates language to reflect industry feedback.

As we have said before, we are not opposed to testing autonomous vehicles in Florida.  We are actually in favor of it.  But there need to be some rules.  Quickly reading the bill, we just have a few questions.  How old must a person be to operate an autonomous vehicle?  What skills and knowledge must they have? Can a kid send an autonomous truck on a trip?  And there are many others.

Once again, we are not opposed to having autonomous vehicle in Florida, but this is not a proven technology.  There needs to be some control (not less control) until it is all worked out and proven.

Port/Cuba – A Cruise

There was news about a cruise to Cuba.

The Carnival Paradise ship will begin offering voyages from Tampa to Cuba beginning June 29, the cruise line announced Tuesday.

The overnight visits to Havana will be featured on 12 different four- and five-day cruises from Tampa.

Four-day cruises will depart June 29, July 13, Aug. 24, Sept. 7 and 21, and Oct.5 and 19, as well as May 3, 2018, and include a daytime and overnight visit to Havana. Five-day voyages will depart Aug. 14 and 28, Sept. 25 and Oct. 9, and include a daytime and overnight visit to Havana as well as a stop in either Cozumel or Key West.

Assuming there are not new regulations on Cuba travel, good deal. But it also touches on another issue from a few weeks ago.

Gov. Rick Scott warned Florida’s ports via Twitter on Wednesday not to do business with Cuba, a day before a delegation of Cuban maritime leaders arrive in the state hoping to strengthen business ties here.

“Disappointed some FL ports would enter into any agreement with Cuban dictatorship,” Scott wrote. “I will recommend restricting state funds for ports that work with Cuba in my budget.”

* * *

Shortly after issuing the warning, Gov. Scott doubled down during a Wednesday news conference in Tampa where he announced proposed tax cuts for the new state budget.

“I don’t believe any port in our state, none of them, should be doing business with a brutal dictator,” Scott told reporters.

He clarified that his warning was aimed at seaports only, not airports. Commercial flights serving Havana recently resumed from Tampa and other U.S. cities after more than five decades.

Scott’s office later told the Tampa Bay Times that the tweets were sent following the news that Port of Palm Beach and Port Everglades would be signing memoranda of understanding this week. Port Tampa Bay was not mentioned by the governor’s office.

Given that the Port relies on state money for many of its projects, the warning is quite relevant, though a bit odd.  First, as noted, there are cruises and flights to Cuba.  It does not seem to make much sense to take the tourism business but give up cargo business that, if the Federal government allows it, will now flow to other states.

Even more interesting, the coverage brought up something else:

Whether Port Tampa Bay was planning on entering into an agreement with Cuba remained unclear.

The Cuban delegation visits Tampa on Feb. 1 and 2 and the Tampa port had planned to sign a memorandum of understanding, proposing they start discussing business opportunities allowed under U.S. law, said Patrick Allman, a member of the Tampa port’s governing board.

What’s more, Allman said, the memorandum had been approved by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the U.S. Treasury Department agency that administers and enforces trade sanctions against Cuba.

“I was under the understanding that we were doing this,” Allman said. “With what the governor said, I’m not sure now.”

But another port official, communications vice president Edward Miyagishima, said there were no plans in Tampa to sign a memorandum of understanding, either before or after the governor posted his tweets.

“Not to my knowledge,” Miyagishima said. “We are not going to look at an MOU until we get an okay from OFAC. We are taking a very conservative approach.”

And, from the Business Journal:

After a series of tweets on Wednesday by Florida Gov. Rick Scott saying he would recommend restricting state funds for ports that work with Cuba, Port Tampa Bay officials said the port didn’t have any plans to enter into any agreements with the current Cuban government.

“We’re not signing any memorandums of agreement,” said Ed Miyagishima, Port Tampa Bay’s vice president of communications. “We did our due diligence and we are taking a conservative approach. I have always said we are Cuba-ready. We will be happy to work with the Cuban government once it becomes legal to do so.”

Which is interesting because the Feb 3, 2017, edition of La Gaceta (pg 12) has excerpts from the draft MOU.

The thing is that we support the Port pursuing an MOU – not because we like the Cuban government (we don’t) but because, if US-Cuba trade is going to happen, we may as well get a cut (and if it doesn’t the MOU won’t do anything anyway). And there is no reason, if there is Florida trade, Port Everglades and Palm Beach should get business instead of us. The Port should be negotiating and seeking OFAC approval.  We are not sure why the Port would say they were not negotiating if they were.

Nevertheless,

“The governor controls the purse strings for a lot of the investment in our port,” Buckhorn said. “The state has contributed tens of millions of dollars to port-related infrastructure. We’re counting on that money moving forward.”

While we disagree with the Mayor on the Cuba trade issue, the point he makes regarding the money is valid.  But those things also can change.

Downtown/Hyde Park – Lafayette Place

Lafayette Place had its first hearing before the City Council last week. From URBN Tampa Bay:

BREAKING: The mixed-use project Lafayette Place received preliminary approval from the Tampa City Council tonight by a vote of 7-0.

The project will have its 2nd and final hearing on March 2nd.

Some added features of the project include a helipad on top of the main tower, a sky bridge connecting the main tower and the neighboring residential tower, and a large LED art light project on Lafayette Central’s garage that at night will look like a waterfall. 

We are not sure what the LED art lights will look like, but at least the developer now recognizes that the parking garages are huge and need some attention.  We wish it was more, but at least it is something.

Downtown – Chillin’ at the BK Lounge

This week, the City Council seems to have outdone itself.  In question was a proposed walled, free-standing Burger King with a drive thru right across the street from Perry Harvey Park at Scott and Jefferson.  As described by URBN Tampa Bay:

This Thursday a proposal for a freestanding Burger King at 801 Scott Street in Downtown Tampa goes before the Tampa City Council. The project needs a Special Use 2 permit. In it’s final staff report, the city’s Development Review & Compliance Staff recommended denial of the project. We also recommend denial.

The site plan is attached. As you can see the main feature of the site plan is a drive thru. The building is brought up to the street on zero sides of the lot. Maybe worst of all, this is right across the street from Perry Harvey Sr. Park, the largest urban park in Tampa. Also, notice the wall that will be built around the whole lot.

Here is a rendering of the varying height wall that surrounds the place:

From URBN Tampa Bay - click on the picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on the picture for Facebook page

And here is a site plan:

From URBN Tampa Bay - click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Note how small the actual building is.

We did not see the hearing, but the City website indicates it was adopted on second reading, the City Council ignored their own staff’s recommendation to reject the and approved the permit.  The mere possibility that they might do so is absurd.  Not only is it not urban, it has a drive thru and is walled. Could something downtown be less inviting?

What’s even more interesting is reading the staff report and finding that drive-thru windows, with certain restrictions, are part of the code for the central business district near the interstate and actually promotes building walls. What, is it 1970?

Change the code and stop settling.

Bayshore – Virage

The project on the old Colonnade land released a new rendering and a new name:

The condominium tower under construction at the former site of the Colonnade restaurant on Bayshore Boulevard has a name: Virage Bayshore.

We’re not sure about it being under construction, but, regardless, here are the details:

The 24-story tower will include 71 units, most of which start at $1 million and range from 2,400 to 3,300 square feet. The top two floors will contain a single unit each, at 6,900 square feet, and be priced at just under $5 million. Below the two penthouses are four floors that will contain two 4,500-square-foot residences each.

From the Business Journal - click on picture for website

From the Business Journal – click on picture for website

We are sure the units will be very nice, but looking from the outside it is pretty much a standard looking condo.  We still wish it had a real connection to Bayshore, but it is what it is.

Transportation – About Routes

This week the nonstop Tampa-San Francisco flights began. And because we love their graphics:

From Tampa International - click on picture for Facebook page

From Tampa International – click on picture for Facebook page

It is a welcome addition.  Which leads to the question of what’s next. While it is not breaking news, there was an article about airports in Florida that include some comments about route development priorities in Tampa:

What are your key opportunities for route development?

Tampa International Airport has had tremendous success over the previous six years in recruiting international air services, more than doubling the number of international enplaned passengers.

However, Tampa Bay still maintains a comparative capacity to population deficit for international seats relative to other Florida markets. Scheduled service to Havana, which began in December, as well as Icelandair’s new service beginning in September 2017, will work to close that gap.

Additional opportunities for us include Mexico City and its beyond markets, where Tampa Bay maintains strong business ties, as well as additional European services, including to Manchester and Amsterdam.

On the domestic front we’re working to supplement United’s San Francisco service beginning in February with additional western capacity, including connectivity to San Diego, Portland and Salt Lake City and increased capacity into the Los Angeles market.

We have heard all that before, but the list is narrowed.  All those targets are solid. We shall see.

Transportation – More Tales of Biking

For the last few weeks, we have been discussing the effort by planners in Hillsborough to learn about flaws in the infrastructure.  This week the Times had an interesting article about Pinellas.

Time slowed down as Whit Blanton was launched over the handlebars of his bike, flew over the hood of a Honda Fit and crashed onto the surface of the Duke Energy Trail.

* * *

Moments before, Blanton was on his way to work as the executive director of Forward Pinellas, the county’s agency for coordinating transportation and land use plans.

Then he suddenly found himself lying on the ground near Old Coachman Road in front of Spectrum Field, waiting for paramedics to arrive.

The driver, a Philadelphia Phillies intern starting his first day of work, was pulling out of the spring training complex’s parking lot. He was trying to see whether Old Coachman Road was clear of traffic.

From the trail, biking along at 10 mph, Blanton said the car was invisible to him, blocked by hedges and a fence. Blanton later learned he wasn’t visible to the driver, either, as the Honda pulled forward onto the trail and into the bicycle’s path.

Blanton said Clearwater police gave the driver a ticket for failing to yield the right-of-way in that collision on Monday. But the 52-year-old transportation planner later wrote on his blog that “we all recognized that design problems contributed to this crash.”

Which is an unfortuante story (though we are told he was mostly ok), and it never should have happened.

Pinellas’ bike and pedestrian trails are a crowning achievement for the county, but Blanton said there’s still work to be done to make them safer. The trails were shoehorned into a sprawling, built-out county, and some segments have not been designed to mesh well with Pinellas’ busy roads.

“We spend a lot of energy on our trails under the guise that they’re the safe place to ride,” Blanton said, “but this is kind of an object lesson that the trail isn’t always the safe place.”

He said the safest place for a bicyclist may not always be on the trail. The road can be safer, he said, where the cyclist rides with the flow of traffic, is visible to drivers and controls the lane right down the middle.

Actually, protected bike lanes and trails which connect properly with roads are still the safest place.  If the intersection had not been obstructed, the accident could have been avoided – just cut the foliage and don’t put a fence in the way.  To do that requires people to actually look and care.

Rather than a lesson that riding in the road is best, this is a lesson that infrastructure needs to be properly planned and maintained. It is not enough to just build something to appear to be building something.  It needs to be done right.

Rowdies – Moving Forward

The St Pete City Council approved the first reading of moving forward with the Al Lang referendum. As tweeted by a Times :

Unanimous vote in favor of advancing @TampaBayRowdies May 2 referendum on Al Lang expansion. Final vote on March 2. #MLS2StPete

If (when) it gets past second reading, it will be interesting to see how it goes.

Landmarks – UFO Sightings

As most readers know, there is a landmark spaceship on Dale Mabry.  And there is a good chance you thought it was quite unique.  Well, if you did, last week curbed.com disabused you of that notion. Here’s one in Austin:

From Curbed.com - click on picture for website

From Curbed.com – click on picture for website

And, not only that, but:

There are UFO sightings everyday, but they aren’t the kind you imagine.

Instead of alien spaceships flying high in the sky, we’re talking about Futuro Houses: UFO-shaped prefab homes originally built in the late 1960s. These rare homes are located all around the world, from Los Angeles to Antarctica and from New Jersey to Estonia.

According to TheFuturoHouse.com—an extensive website dedicated to documenting the unique structures—at least 80 to 100 Futuros were manufactured, some were destroyed, and a handful are still waiting to be discovered.

But around 64 of the UFO houses are scattered in different countries, still standing and causing locals and visitors alike to do a double take. After all, it’s not often that you see a real-life UFO. 

Never fear, as far as we can tell, ours is the only one that is a strip club (this is Tampa, after all).

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

While we are discussing $6 billion for express lanes and some interchange improvements (the latter having been needed for decades), in Miami they are discussing other things:

Miami-Dade officials have just mapped out their overarching Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) plan, eliminating some key unknowns, but are still analyzing where to find money to fund its six corridors. For the first time, now plans include price tags, up to $3.6 billion.
Commission Chair Esteban Bovo Jr.’s Policy Council Committee, which he said was set up to discuss such pressing priorities, including transportation, met for the first time last week. For transportation, it’s important to speak about funding, Mr. Bovo said. “We already have a plan but need to know how to pay for it.”
Transportation chief Alice Bravo provided an overview of corridors and estimated cost, for the first time filling in major blanks of the SMART Plan. A key decision appears to be the mode of transit along each corridor.
As spelled out, corridors and their modes are:
■Miami Beach, a 3.3-mile elevated Metromover from Miami’s Museum Park Station to Fifth Street and Alton Road in Miami Beach.
■East-West, a 10-mile at-grade, partially elevated Metrorail extension mainly along State Road 836 from the Miami Intermodal Center to Florida International University.
■Kendall, a 10-mile, at-grade Metrorail along the Kendall Drive median from the Turnpike to the Dadeland North Metrorail Station.
■North, a 9.5-mile, at-grade Metrorail extension along the Northwest 27th Avenue median from 215th Street to the Martin Luther King Jr. Metrorail Station.
■Northeast, a 14-mile, at-grade commuter rail in the Florida East Coast Railway corridor from downtown Miami to Aventura using existing tracks.
■South, a 20-mile, at-grade Metrorail extension along the existing transitway.

You can look at the article for the details and how they think they might be able to pay for it.  We do not know if this will go anywhere, but it is interesting to compare approaches.

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