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Roundup 8-11-2017

August 11, 2017

Contents

Transportation – On the Boulevard

— The Boulevard Idea

— Choices

— Starting Point

— Road Element

— The Highway Issue

— Transit

— Development

— Other Cities

— Hiding the Road

— The Spur

— Removing a Through Road

— Summary

— Conclusion

Transportation – Getting What You Paid For

Port – Odd

Seminole Heights – Moving Forward

South Tampa – Fad Diet

________________________________


Transportation – On the Boulevard

Much of the loudest dissatisfaction with the TBX program has come from the Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights (and presumably Sulphur Springs, though not as loudly) area that were originally cut up by the construction of I-275 north of downtown.  The residents there were rightly upset by the idea of FDOT expanding the footprint of the interstate even further, especially as the neighborhoods have been revitalized and are doing quite nicely.  Moreover, many residents are quite protective, looking to limit the height and density of buildings along the two main roads (Florida and Nebraska) and even looking to narrow and slow them down – making them basically local roads.


— The Boulevard Idea

One idea that has been floating around is the idea of ripping out I-275 north of downtown (usually to Bearss) and building a boulevard.

“Tear it down!” said Joshua Frank, an urban planner who wrote his Master’s degree thesis on an alternative to the controversial highway expansion program called TBX (short for Tampa Bay Expressway).

Frank has been studying the issue for more than a year and is the vice president and president-elect of the Urban Charrette, a non-profit group that educates and collaborates with communities to educate them about urban design best practices.

His presentation, “Bifurcation to Boulevard”, showed how transforming the Interstate into a wide, landscaped boulevard, featuring bike and pedestrian paths and even light commuter rail, would transform the area north of Tampa’s downtown core.

Frank described the current north-south highway as primarily a local expressway for people living and working between the University of South Florida (USF) and downtown Tampa.

Less than 35 percent of the vehicles that traverse the roadway are from outside the area, according to Frank.

“It is expendable,” he said, arguing that over the past 50 years, I-275 has severely damaged neighborhoods, polluted their air, raised noise levels well beyond acceptable standards, and lowered property values.

“Reintegrating” the neighborhoods now split by the six-lane roadway would improve their quality of life and lead to a rapid and sustained increase in economic activity, according to Frank.

Calling his plan a “dream scenario”, Frank said turning I-275 into tree-lined boulevard similar to the Champs-Élysées in Paris or the Embarcadero in San Francisco would “make it better for all of us.”

While there is little to no possibility of such a boulevard actually being like the Embarcadero or Champs-Élysées (we will get to that a little later), it still could be a nice road and is still an interesting idea with obvious potential upside. We are all for nice, urban boulevards and good transit.

That being said, right now we are neither absolutely in favor nor opposed to the idea. We are (and have been) thinking about it, and, the more we think about it, the more questions arise about the details. Some of them are straightforward questions.  Some of them involve issues for the neighborhoods that do not seem to have been raised. We also wonder how to sell this idea to the large number of people not from the immediate neighborhoods who travel through the neighborhoods (on the interstate or otherwise) and who, initially at least, will not see how they would benefit from this proposal.  (And, like it or not, the proposal would need to be sold to those people to get anywhere).

As there has now been enough coverage of the idea and a presentation to the MPO, it seemed like a good time to put out our thoughts, questions and concerns in the hope to move the conversation from simply visions to the more practical. We are aware that some people may react negatively to our discussion and say we are attacking the plan. That would be unfortunate.  We are not attacking anything.  We are asking questions, raising issues, and making points that need addressing to have a proper plan.

Before we go further, one problem with discussing this proposal is that, as far as we can tell, the standard presentation by the planner who is the face of the proposal has not been put online.  That makes it hard to refer to some of the graphics and concepts.  Nevertheless, we will try.


— Choices

The first thing we will say is that the discussion about this particular segment of road (frankly all of the interstate) has been set up (like most of the present political discourse) as a false dichotomy between interstate expansion and interstate removal.  There is a spectrum of possibilities from the TBX-like expansion to fitting another lane in the present footprint to doing nothing to adding transit in the present footprint to removing the highway altogether.   That being said, the idea of removal should still be considered (as should doing nothing, at least until there is better infrastructure in other parts of the area to support changes).


— Starting Point

If the portion of I-275 north of downtown was not there now, we would not be for building it there (and maybe not at all).  That being said, it is there and has been there for quite a while.  We get that simply being there is not an argument for keeping it, but the fact that this area more than tripled in size while it was there and was built relying on it being there is an issue.  In fact, while often overlooked in importance in favor of I-4/I-275 to the Howard Frankland (as areas to the north are generally overlooked by both the City and the County) here are some traffic stats:

From Stpetersblog – click on chart for article

Some of the traffic north of Orange – which is downtown south of the interchange – (and other parts) comes from the I-275 stretch north of downtown.  Based on the presentation by the proposal planner to the MPO, the peak point of usage on the stretch of I-275 north of the interchange is about 160-165,000 cars/day (see chart below), which is about the same as the number for east of Westshore or between Dale Mabry and Armenia.  It is not clear what the growth will be on the northern stretch will be, but it is likely that the number is not insignificant.

All that being said, it is within the realm of possibility to remove that stretch of interstate (though there has been no explanation of why the planner decided to stop the interstate at Bearss and not closer, like Busch).  And it goes without saying that most people living right on the interstate would probably rather have it not right out their front or back door (especially with no sound barrier).  On the other hand, most people now living in those houses probably bought them when the interstate was already built, so its existence was not a surprise.  That does not mean their interests are irrelevant.  It also does not mean that their desires should govern the entire discussion. (And there is the question of what Pinellas might say to losing its way north, especially if Pasco does not want to build that east-west road.)


— Road Element

Last week, the proposal planner made a presentation to the MPO board.  For the most part, it was well done. He spoke of recreating the grid and made the case for the grand boulevard. (Somewhat incongruously he also discussed using Michigan turn lanes. A Michigan turn lane is an odd turn lane structure.  If you are making a walkable/bikeable, transit focused boulevard it makes no sense to include a number of bizarre turn lanes and additional cut-outs. There were a few other oddities, but all-in-all it was well done.)

Page 202 of the MPO Agenda for the Aug 1, 2017 meeting – click for full agenda

To break it down a little more, according to the presentation, some slides of which are included in the MPO agenda from that day (starting around pg 200 of this pdf), it appears that most of the people using I-275 north of the interchange are coming from Busch and points north and the drivers from exits in Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights (though many probably coming from farther away) account for less than quarter of the traffic.  Basically half of the traffic is getting on/off between Bearss which is quite far out).  (See pg 202 of the pdf).  The planner, and others, says that those are people going to USF, which to some degree is true but there are many other places to go, including home.  He also said the traffic is getting off downtown, but his chart ends at I-4, which seems to indicate a precipitous drop as people go on I-4, meaning it may or may not be “local.”  But the specific point we see in the numbers is that most of the traffic on the stretch of road in question is from areas outside of Seminole Heights, Tampa Heights and Sulphur Springs.  That outside traffic appears to be split about evenly between “local” and not “local” traffic.  Obviously all those people have to get around somehow.not be able to support the traffic now supported by the interstate.  Traffic will have to be carried by other roads, especially going downtown on Florida/Tampa (he actually just says Florida) and Nebraska. He gives the number of 70K cars for the boulevard, and 35K cars each for Florida and Nebraska (we are not sure how Nebraska with one lane in each direction can take half the traffic of a three lane boulevard), with light rail and commuter rail (read CSX) picking up the slack and maybe adding some capacity.  (We disagree that CSX should be commuter rail – at least not in Hillsborough. It seems clear that for most of Hillsborough it should be local service, but we will set that aside for this discussion)  It is not clear how much of the traffic for Florida and Nebraska would be new traffic, but, based on the planner’s numbers, it would have to be at least half.  Remember, based on the slides in the MPO agenda, I-275 has a peak between 160-165,000 cars/day.

 

Pg 207 of the MPO Agenda for the Aug 1, 2017 meeting – click for full agenda

Given the need to use them for overflow, in our opinion, there is no chance of a road diet for Florida down to one lane in each direction (though it could theoretically be two ways with two lanes in each direction).  Moreover, the Nebraska road diet should probably be reversed (not to mention Boulevard, which also had a diet).  The fact is that Tampa and the County have woefully few decent north-south roads that actually go from south of Kennedy to north of Busch with any consistent capacity, which may to some degree explain the interstate traffic numbers).  The simple fact is that if the boulevard option is chosen, you either do not put the other surface roads on a diet or you choke on traffic and choke downtown.

The reality is that, from the presentation on the boulevard plan, out of 165,000 trips running on I-275, at least 140,000, including trucks, would be put on local roads through those neighborhoods on local surface roads, especially if downtown actually thrives. We get that pushing that traffic through local roads is actually some people’s theory behind removing highways – the idea that highways connect cities but do not cut through them and local traffic should be on local roads.  However, we are not sure that is actually what those neighborhoods want.

— The Highway Issue

In addition to the local road element, the planner said that he would use a new connection of the Veterans to I-275, which together with I-75, would take traffic from north of Bearss and overflow traffic.  Setting aside objections to having to drive further (off-peak, downtown to Carrollwood can take as little as 20-25 minutes on the interstate) or potentially requiring the widening of I-275 between downtown and Westshore to take traffic pushed there by the highway removal, we have advocated for such a road to pull some through traffic out of Tampa among other reasons.  However, the Veterans idea was killed years ago to keep the area “rural” and has basically been foreclosed by new development where the connection should be made (see here and here).  A Pasco road option, which we actually favor, has never gotten anywhere.  Simply put, this condition cannot be counted on to exist.


— Transit

The plan also calls for transit running from downtown up the boulevard.  It is not entirely clear what form of transit it would be, though likely light-rail or BRT in dedicated lanes, but it could be done.  The biggest issue we see is who the will transit serve  Without real connections to neighborhoods beyond the boulevard, it will just be local service will a limited catchment area, especially given the limited density in the area now and the apparent desire for the neighborhood to keep limited density.  We understand that there will be hubs of development at major intersections where the interstate exits are now but will they be of sufficient density with sufficient opportunities for more development to support such a line?  Moreover, that is all new development, not the existing traffic from beyond the immediate area. Maybe the idea is to get transit to USF, but that is unclear and still ignores a large number of people who appear to be using the interstate now.

The presentation also included some references to “commuter rail” on the CSX lines.  Setting aside our view on using the CSX lines in Hillsborough for commuter rail as opposed to local transit, there is no plan right now to buy the CSX lines.  There is not even an offer or negotiations.  While we like the idea of using the CSX lines for transit, that is a condition that does not exist and may never exist.  And, assuming the idea is to run commuter rail from Pasco to take up some of the traffic, that would require Pasco approval, Pasco transit connections, Pasco planning, etc.  And to be useful, there would have to be a much wider range of transit in Tampa to get those commuters to the ultimate destination.

Any reader would know that we are all for real transit.  However, beyond building the something on the boulevard, the proposal seems to make a number of assumptions about transit that simply cannot be made.  It does not mean they can’t happen, but it does point out that the boulevard concept actually is just a small part of a much larger discussion that, Tampa Bay Next notwithstanding, is still really not being had.


— Development

Aside from what to do with all the people who use the interstate to avoid the roads through the neighborhoods, there is question to what becomes of the land where the interstate now is.  This is where the Champs-Élysées comes up.

The actual presentation had better slides than the MPO agenda pdf, but we will do with it what we can.

Josh Frank is the man behind the project. To him, it’s all about efficiency.

“You can have a train or a bus or autonomous vehicle in this center corridor in the median. In addition to that, there are six lanes of vehicular traffic,” he explained of the project.

His plans also include interior bike lanes.

First, some math.  Let’s assume the boulevard has narrow traffic lanes to slow down traffic and be pedestrian friendly: about 10 feet each.  Let’s assume the transit lane is 12 feet.  Street parking is 8 feet.  The median is 12 feet wide.  The sidewalk is also wide-ish (at least for Tampa), but excessive, so 10 feet.  And assume 5 foot bike lanes in each direction.  Just for the sake of argument, there are three traffic lanes, one transit lane, parking, a sidewalk, bike lane, and half a median in each direction.  That is 71 feet in each direction or a total of 142 feet.  That is a reasonable, if not narrow, size for a true, urban grand boulevard with transit and all the features. Note that the Champs-Élysées is 230 feet wide and, while 10 lanes across (like we said long ago, complaints about the pedestrians and the width of Ashley are totally overblown – it is the walkable environment that is lacking) with wide sidewalks, the metro is underground as is some parking. (And, did we mention, it is in the enter of Paris?) The Embarcadero, the road, is also pretty wide.

So how wide is the actual highway through Tampa now?  Well, it varies.  Obviously at exits, it is wider than other areas (some exits are quite wide).  However, in other places it is quite narrow.  Luckily we do not have to guess too much.  The planning commission has this handy mapping tool where you can measure such things (though we are rounding a little because we are not going to say our use of the tool is perfectly precise).

Looking at some major intersections/exits, where it is most likely there could be some decent development, you find the Busch exit is 970 or so feet from exit ramp to exit ramp.  The Bird Street exit is about 320-325 feet ramp to ramp.  Hillsborough (on the north side) is 640 or so feet ramp to ramp.  Those are the wide spots.

However, when you get into the neighborhoods and away from exits, there are many locations that are much narrower. At Clifton St north of Hillsborough, property line to property line (back yard to back yard) is about 220 feet.  At Idlewild it is about 240.  Farther north, between Central and Hunley at around Clinton it is about 310 feet.  And farther south at Emily and Elmore it is about 220.  Very rarely, it gets under 200 feet.

The point is that, with are assumed 142 foot Boulevard, you will have roughly 40 to 100 feet on either side for development.  That is not very much.  Yes, you can build something reasonably tall and/or dense if you do not need to buffer the neighborhood behind you or worry about shadows with 100 feet (and don’t need parking), but in much of this area you have houses – often time even backyards – fronting what would be the boulevard or development.  Unless some of those houses go (through private sales, of course) you will have no Champs-Élysées (which, of course, did not involve highway removal) or Embarcadero. (As noted, the Champs-Élysées is 230 feet wide and so would not even fit in places. Similarly, the Embarcadero is quite wide though hard to measure exactly because one side is waterfront. Frankly, we recommend dropping those as referenced to what might get built) You may have small, urban-ish development, but only at the large intersections is there even a chance of any density without messing with the very neighborhoods that are trying to be helped.

Moreover, to really make it an urban boulevard – a main city street – and support the transit work,  the neighborhood would have to buy into the density change and some of the housing is going to back up to parking lots, dumpsters, and businesses, which is already an issue for development on Florida.  Can you really have 6-10 story buildings right next houses? You can, but do the neighborhoods people want that?  They have not in the recent past. We don’t know about now.  That is a decision that will have to be made and that will have to be reflected in the City code and all its planning.


— Other Cities

Another interesting part of the discussion regarding the proposal is that other cities have removed highways or are thinking of removing highways.  There are a number of examples cited that fall in three general categories: burying the road, removing a spur, and removing a through road with other alternatives.  We draw examples from a number of sources (many of which overlap), focusing on, but not limited to, the Congress for New Urbanism’s (CNU) Highways to Boulevards website, including its January 2017 report Freeways without Futures 2017 (which we’ll refer to as FWF). and the rest of the Congress for New Urbanism’s website on the matter. (Note: we are not really looking at cities like Paris, Madrid or Seoul for a few reasons.  First, it is harder to get relevant information.  Second, they are much larger with full transit infrastructures.  Third, they are national capitals that draw massive investment from their governments. However, it is worth noting that Paris has an inner ring road surrounding its central city with about a 3 mile radius and Madrid buried a riverfront highway.)

— Hiding the Road

The first category is hiding the road which is self-explanatory, but it is important to note that the road is not removed, it is just hidden.  The best example is the Big Dig in Boston where a major highway in downtown Boston was buried using cut and cover techniques.

Other examples that fall into this category are the Alaskan Way in Seattle (see here and here); the Klyde Warren Park over the Woodall Freeway (SR 366)   in Dallas (see here and here); and I-70/44 in St. Louis where they are building a small connection over I-70/44 in downtown to connect a bit better to the Arch park (though they should cover more of the highway to really connect downtown to the river.  Some suggest they should just make the highway a boulevard but it is not clear why that would be better than just covering it more completely). There are also proposals to bury I-35 through central Austin . And there is a controversial proposal for I-70 in Denver (which would actually be expanded under the plan), though the Denver highway is also subject to a proposal for removal. (See here and here)

Of course, while it is theoretically possible to tunnel or cut and cover in Florida (and, assuming there were no cost issues, to us that would be the best option), it would be very expensive and complex to do, so we doubt it will be considered.  Therefore, while we like the model of covering the highway with green space/boulevards, it is not very useful for discussing the I-275 proposal.

— The Spur

The second category is removing a spur.  This involves removing a portion of highway that ends in what is usually a downtown or urban area (similar to 175 and 375 in St. Pete).  Removing such a spur has far less impact on the over-all transportation network than removing a through road, and, in most examples, the main highway is left alone.  That makes it much easier to remove.  For instance, while the waterfront Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco was removed, it was just a spur into the northern end of downtown and I-80 remains right along the south side of central San Francisco and connecting to the Bay Bridge.  The commonly cited Park East Expressway in Milwaukee is another example.

The CNU literature provides a number of other spurs that have either been removed or had proposals to remove them.  Among them were another road in San Francisco, I-280, (FWF  pg 22) that can be seen here;  I-710 in Pasadena, CA (FWF pg 18)    that can be seen here; Route 5/the Skyway in Buffalo to which we have no objection (in fact, most of the highway through downtown Buffalo was built in the wrong place) ; McGrath Highway in Sommerville, MA, see here and here (no problem removing that); I-395 through Overtown (not going to happen); Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls, NY (definitely should happen); the Oak Street Connector in New Haven, CT (fine with us); and Route 29 in Trenton which can be seen here (once again, fine with us).

The important thing to note is that spurs are the easiest roads to remove and replace with boulevards because they are not through roads.  However, because of that, they are also not examples that are very helpful shedding any light on the I-275 proposal.

— Removing a Through Road

The final category is actually removing a through road. While this has happen and is being proposed, there are a few conditions where it tends to happen, including the road often losing usefulness and/or traffic and there are readily available alternatives. The following are some examples of removals and proposed removals.

Portland. Harbor Drive ran through Portland on the west side of the Willamette River and was removed.  However, looking at a map, it is clear that there are a number of alternatives around downtown Portland to pick up the slack (in addition to transit) and, as noted in this report:

In the 1950s, the six lanes of Route 99 ran along the Willamette River as a major thoroughfare, but as other freeways were built, it became less popular with drivers, who could get across the city faster using one of the newer roads. In 1968 Oregon’s governor proposed transforming the highway into open space, and the freeway was closed for good in 1974. The ensuing open space stretches along a long portion of the riverfront.

In that case, the road was less favored and there were ample alternatives like I-5 just across the river and I-405 a bit to the west which was completed right before Route 99 closed.  If one looks at most examples of where a road is actually removed, especially in a growing area, one finds that there are ample nearby alternative highways.

Chattanooga. The Riverfront Expressway in Chattanooga was underused and not a key through road.  Rather, it was built to service industry along the riverfront.  As the industry departed, the use of the road declined. Its removal helped create a much more vibrant waterfront area.  On the other hand, there were/are still highways running through and to downtown Chattanooga.  In fact, if you look at Google maps satellite view, the present image shows one being expanded.

Dallas. The proposed removal of I-345 in Dallas is another case in point.  That stretch of road looks like it is part of I-45 going around the east side of downtown Dallas, which has a highway loop around it. (See here). Even with the removal of the I-345 segment, there are highways to and around downtown Dallas from all directions.  Yes, there would be fewer lanes in the immediate area, but there is still real highway access. Not to mention an ample transit network.

Detroit. Another proposed road removal is I-375 in Detroit, which is actually just a kind of strange loop around downtown (see here) that cuts off much of downtown from the surrounding area.  The removal of the loop would not really do anything to the overall transportation flow in Detroit but would open up parts of downtown and the river.  All the main through highways would be there.

Oakland. Another road removal proposal is I-980 in Oakland, which is another instance of an “underused” segment of a downtown loop. (See here).  As described:

The freeway is now an underused remnant connecting CA-24 and I-580 to I-880. While it carries only 73,000 cars a day and no freight traffic, it cuts an enormous 18-lane swath through the center of Oakland and isolates the West Oakland neighborhood. The design of the freeway was typical of large scale 20th century infrastructure projects, which disproportionately affected low-income communities of color in a quest to improve commutes for affluent white suburbs.

(FWF pg 17)    We have no doubt that removing I-980 would be beneficial to the neighborhoods nearby.  However, removing I-880 and its disruption of the connection between downtown and the waterfront would really help connect the grid in Oakland.  As far as we know, no one has proposed that, probably because removing I-880 would be a mess for transportation in the East Bay.  Removing I-980 on the other hand is relatively minor, though the other highways really do not have excess capacity.  Regardless, it is not removing a key component in the local transportation infrastructure. (In fact, many, if not most of the roads listed by the CNU for complete removal are described by them as “underutilized” which does not really describe the portion of I-275 under discussion.)

Rochester. Another example is the eastern part of the inner loop around downtown Rochester.  You can tell by our description of the stretch of road, that is not a critical through road. You can see it here.

Bronx. New York is seriously moving towards removing the Sheridan Expressway (I-895) which is a small stretch of highway connecting two other highways which are also connected a short distance away by another highway.

Hartford. The CNU also listed I-84 in Hartford (map here) as a possible road removal site, but looking at the CDOT website on the project, that does not seem to be among the alternatives actually under consideration. This article seems to indicate that while removing the I-84 viaduct where it is may be possible, the road may be rebuilt in another location relatively nearby and another interstate covered. The vagueness about what is actually happening in Hartford makes it less than useful for our consideration.

Syracuse. One of the closest examples we could find in the recent discussions was a proposal to remove a portion if I-81 through downtown Syracuse.   While the Syracuse area is much smaller and growth is much lower, I-81 is a through road and the alternative to using it is miles away. Moreover, much like Tampa, there is little to no existing transit.  On the other hand, the stretch to be removed seems to be much shorter that the proposal in Tampa.  Moreover, there has been no definitive decision about what to do.

Denver. As we discussed above, one of the proposals for I-70 through eastern Denver is to just remove it.  While, like the Tampa Bay area, Denver is a fast growing area, Denver has a mature transit system and more developed highway system to take the excess traffic.  And, importantly, the proposal has not been adopted or implemented.

— Summary

None of the through road removals we looked at are nearly as extensive as the one proposed in Tampa.  Most removals are relatively small stretches in and near the core of a city.  Moreover, none of the full removals proposed in the United States involved through roads of rapidly growing areas with growing traffic, except the proposal by a few to remove a small stretch of I-70 in Denver. But, as we noted, they have a more extensive highway system and a large transit system that already exists.

In other words, there are no really comparable examples of completed projects.  That does not foreclose doing removing I-275, it just makes it harder to learn lessons.


— Conclusion

Based on the presentation to the MPO and what we have seen, there remain a number of things that need to be worked out in this idea.  As we said in the beginning, we are not against it though we are not necessarily for it. There are details that need to be worked out and preconditions that need to be met. And without working those things out, it will not sell and probably will not work very well.  We have tried to lay out some of the issues in an effort to move the conversation along.

First, there are trade-offs, such as no road diets on Florida, opening up Nebraska and maybe Boulevard, zoning for density, dealing with shadows, noise, parking, and traffic on local roads.  There are also missing other preconditions to the plan as presented:  the Veterans does not connected to I-275/75 in the north.  There is no light rail or commuter rail, no is there a plan for any.  There is no money for transit at all – especially operating costs.  And there all the other matters we have discussed.

And, because it does not exist in a vacuum, to really get somewhere, and to help convince people who do not live in the immediate Seminole Heights, Tampa Heights, and Sulphur Springs areas – people who are also stakeholders – the details need to be addressed.

We do not claim that this is a comprehensive study of the issue.  On the contrary, it is our initial thoughts. As we said, we are putting them out there in the hope of helping to focus the discussion.  However, one thing even the proposal presentation, with all its assumptions, shows is that everything is connected and what is really needed is plan for a comprehensive, coordinated transportation system for the whole area.


Transportation – Getting What You Paid For

For a number of weeks the chronically underfunded HART has been discussing rearranging their service to make it more efficient for the busiest routes and cutting less busy routes. There was news from HART this week:

Motivated by harsh financial realities, Hillsborough transit board members approved a plan Monday that will eliminate nearly 20 percent of bus routes despite emotional pleas from riders who rely on them.

The new system should improve service for about 80 percent of riders, giving them shorter, more direct routes that run more frequently, according to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority staff.

* * *

The HART board approved the new route system 12-1, with [County Commissioner] White dissenting.

HART staff held more than 40 public meetings this summer to solicit feedback on the changes. Some of those suggestions from riders were built into the new plan, including keeping the Brandon Flex route for another six months while HART improves its HyperLink service in that area. HyperLink is one HART solution for getting people to and from bus stops, for $3 a trip.

Other changes based on rider input include additional service north of Fletcher Avenue, extending Route 19 to the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind, and alterations to routes serving north and south Dale Mabry Highway, Busch Boulevard, Progress Village and other areas.

It is definitely not the optimum solution, but there is logic (and business sense) to making sure the most used routes are done well rather than spreading resources too thin to provide good service anywhere.  Understandably, that does not sit well with the people who will lose service, and we are very sympathetic to them.

Starting Oct. 8, entire parts of the county, such as Town ‘N Country and Carrollwood, will be left with limited to no coverage. The hardest hit region of the county, with only one bus route in a more-than-300-mile region? South Hillsborough County.

“I’m not going to sugar coat it: they got hosed,” White said after Monday’s HART meeting. “It’s terrible for residents in unincorporated Hillsborough.”

Before HART voted, it heard from dozens of residents who ride the very routes that were being cut. That included older residents, those with disabilities and anyone who can’t afford their own car. All rely on HART’s buses and vans for their transportation.

White said his office fielded many phone calls and emails from people concerned about routes to MacDill Air Force Base and in the Sun City Center area.

Under the recently approved 2018 route plan, anywhere south of Boyette Road will be served by a single route that runs along U.S. 41 once every hour on weekdays.

And he is right, in a sense, but the hosing comes from the County Commissioners who refuse to fund HART decently (and we mean “decently,” like a bare minimum of rational service, not “properly” which would be much more than mere “decently”) and those officials and activists who work so hard to keep HART completely underfunded.

If the Commissioners don’t like not having service to their constituents we suggest they do what they do when they want other things for their constituents – allocate some money for it.


Port – Odd

There was recent news about the Port.

Gov. Rick Scott this week appointed Mike Griffin to the Tampa Port Authority following media reports of “excessive spending” by port executives.

“Recently, I was concerned to see media reports detailing wasteful spending by the executives at Port Tampa Bay,” Scott said in a statement. “The actions detailed in these reports should serve as a reminder of the importance of the oversight every appointee is charged with providing. I look forward to the Tampa Port Authority Governing Board reviewing policies to prevent wasteful spending by employees.

And what were those reports? From abcactionnews.com:

We looked at credit card statements from Anderson and 7 of his top aides at the port.

In the last 3 years, those port executives spent more than $870 thousand ($871,830.48) on their P-Cards.

Official             CC charges

Elliott————–$235,320.87
Alfonso———–$157,339.54
Miyagishima—–$132,936.26
Anderson———$109,408.79
Strauch————$92,675.06
Lovelace———-$88,776.32
Padron————$46,667.14
Ramsfield———$8,706.50

See a database of ALL of their charges and amounts here: http://wfts.tv/2tvvq7M

They charged more than $30 thousand in golf club memberships and outings at TPC Tampa Bay and Cheval Golf Club.

One of the executives with a Cheval Club membership happens to be living in the Cheval gated community.

And there is a bunch more.  So what is the logic to this spending?

“It’s part of what you do.. We roll out the red carpet” says Port Tampa Bay’s CEO Paul Anderson.

He’s makes no apologies when it comes to spending millions of your tax dollars.

“I was brought here to compete in the major leagues, not single A”, Anderson replies.

And we get that they have to do some entertaining.  Whether they need golf club memberships in their own neighborhood or they need to spend quite than much is not clear.  A more thorough accounting would be nice.  Hopefully, that will be forthcoming.  The Board, especially its elected officials, should have been checking that all along.


Seminole Heights – Moving Forward

As if to make the point about issues in development, a developer who had to give up one proposal in the Seminole Heights historic district on Florida due to neighborhood opposition about shadows and neighborhood character, found a lot outside the historic district with fewer restrictions and no need for architectural review:

Wesley Burdette, who opened the Warehouse Lofts in early 2016, is planning a mixed-use building with a parking garage at 5236 N. Florida Ave., on a .98-acre lot he paid around $500,000 for in 2015.

The Avenue Lofts will include 52 residential units in three stories over 11,000 square feet of ground-floor retail fronting North Florida Avenue. It also includes a 100-space garage, which will be behind the main building.

Two tenants have already committed to the retail space: Anytime Fitness, which has around 5,000 square feet. The remainder of the space will be a food hall concept, Burdette said, with Tampa barista Ty Beddingfield’s Kofe concept as an anchor.

The top floor of the project will be a rooftop for residents.

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

 

It is a nice looking project on a very deep lot with parking garage hidden somewhere in the back, where the rendering does not show it. It is also noteworthy that there are not many houses around it. (see map here)

The question on the boulevard is whether the neighborhood is will to accept such developments right next to people’s front and backyards.


South Tampa – Fad Diet

There was news this week about changes to Bay-to-Bay:

Tampa and Hillsborough County officials are working on plans to resurface and reconfigure Bay to Bay from Dale Mabry Highway to Bayshore Boulevard.

From Dale Mabry to Esperanza Avenue, which is a block west of MacDill Avenue, Bay to Bay could go from four to three lanes — one in each direction and a turn lane in the middle. Taking out one lane of traffic also would allow officials to put a bike lane protected by a 2-foot buffer on each side of the road.

From Esperanza east to Bayshore, there’s simply too much traffic — a lot of it making left turns at several closely spaced intersections — to allow for any reduction in lanes. So the recommendation is for Bay to Bay to remain four lanes. There Bay to Bay’s pavement could be painted to designate “sharrows” — shared lanes for both cars and bikes. And gaps in the sidewalks would be filled in.

We are all for protected bike lanes, but, frankly, the plan is just silly (and sharrows are absurd, especially at that intersection).  Creating bike lanes that connect to nothing and just melt away into car traffic is not particularly useful.  But it seems it has nothing to do with creating real bike infrastructure or logical planning:

Palma Ceia is a neighborhood where walking is enjoying something of a renaissance.

A home-grown group, the Sidewalk Stompers, consists of parents and students who promote walking by strolling to Roosevelt Elementary together. The PTA and merchants have given prizes to students and classes with lots of walkers. And in a year and a half, the number of students walking to school has more than doubled.

But for some parents and others, there’s a disincentive to walking: Bay to Bay Boulevard.

That would explain the plan.  However, if they can choke most of the traffic on Bay-to-Bay, they should choke traffic on that last stretch for the pedestrians and cyclists trying to get to Bayshore.  The City could easily have a left-turn lane and a right turn lane at Bay-to-Bay and Bayshore going east and one lane going west, leaving space for bike lanes connecting to Bayshore.  Cutting off the path between the neighborhood and the walking/biking spine that is Bayshore is a waste. If the City can’t do it right, the money should be spent making good bike infrastructure somewhere else.

 

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