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Roundup 4-6-2018

April 6, 2018

Contents

Transportation – On and On

— Adventures in Transit Plans

— Change?

— About Those Options

— BRT the Letter

— Conclusion

– The Half Fix

— Streetcar

Economic Development – Truths

Downtown/Channel District – Getting Going

Built Environment/Planning – No Room?

Westshore-ish – Midtown Officially Announced

South Tampa – Maybe Not Closing Bayshore

Airport – A Small Sign

Time – What it Would Be Like

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

— Brightline

— Revitalization and Gentrification

_____________________________


Transportation – On and On


— Adventures in Transit Plans

As expected, there was new about the Regional Transit Study plan.

— Change?

First, one of the big flaws in the plan is the lack of dedicated lanes, with most of the project running on highway shoulders and part also in express lanes on the Howard Frankland.  Well,

Tampa Bay’s transit advocates have set an ambitious new goal: full, dedicated lanes for a bus rapid transit line connecting three counties.

That’s a step up from the previously announced plan to build a 41-mile BRT route along Interstate 275 connecting Wesley Chapel, Tampa and St. Petersburg.

In that version of the plan, the buses used several lane options, depending on the segment of the route. For some portions, the buses would have their own lanes, either on the shoulder of Interstate 275 or in the expanded median between Westshore and downtown Tampa. In other segments, they’d run in mixed traffic, whether in the managed toll lanes of the future or even with regular interstate traffic.

First, there are many transit advocates, and not all advocate the “BRT” plan. Setting that aside, the idea sounds positive, but what does it really mean?

But now the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority has a bolder vision. Chairman Jim Holton told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on Wednesday that his group will now push for the buses to run in dedicated lanes — whether along the shoulders or median of I-275 — from Pinellas to Hillsborough counties. The final plan is still being developed. A team from Jacobs Engineering, which in January proposed BRT as the region’s most realistic transit option, will spend the next six months making presentations to the public and gathering feedback. They’re scheduled to deliver the completed plan in September.

Holton expects the firm will know by June whether or not the proposal will include exclusive BRT lanes running across the Howard Frankland Bridge. In the old plan, rapid buses would have shared the new toll lanes set to be added when the Howard Frankland is remade into an 8-lane bridge by 2024.

It appears to mean that the plan would have dedicated lanes on the Howard Frankland (and presumably the previously announced Westshore to downtown stretch) but still run on the shoulders or in full traffic elsewhere. The biggest problem with the plan (though it is a problem) is not the express lanes on the Howard Frankland.  Even bigger, for us, is the reliance on highway shoulders.  So what is he proposing?

“If we could make the shoulder a totally dedicated  lane, exclusively for transit … I would prefer to do that.” Holton said.

If you could do that, it would be interesting.  However, 1) there is no indication you can have truly (meaning without any other vehicles ever using them) exclusive bus lanes in the shoulder and, if you can, that it would be safe and 2) then there would not be any shoulders and any problem on the interstate would be that much worse (problems like here, here, and here which, as we noted recently, happen routinely around here).

Moreover, if the buses run in the median and then have stops on local streets, you either need expensive ramps to get off the interstate or the buses have to cross the congested traffic.  And, given that in much of the area, the “median” is really an inner shoulder, the same issues apply to the median.

And, regarding full-time, exclusive use of the shoulder, can it even be done? From URBN Tampa Bay:

This scheme to put buses on the highway to justify blowing billions of dollars widening the highway is called BOS, Bus-On-Shoulder. The “dedicated lane” FDOT refers to is the highway shoulder, not an actual travel lane dedicated to the full-time and exclusive use of buses. According to USDOT’s national highway policy, you can’t even legally operate a bus on the shoulder full-time, the bus is only allowed to use the shoulder when congestion is so bad that highway traffic is moving less than 25mph, and so then the bus is allowed to get on the shoulder and go 35mph, until traffic speeds up to 35mph, and then the bus has to get back into traffic. It’s not like the bus is in its own lane and if the highway gets congested, the bus can just keep humming along at 55mph unfazed. When the highway slows, so will the buses. (The feds tried that before, where the buses keep doing 55 in their lane, while the adjacent lanes crawl along. They soon stopped that because the speed differential was dangerous and people died.)

We did an admittedly quick search and could not find an official document that said full-time shoulder use was not allowed (which is not to say one does not exist; we just did not find it), but we did find a Federal Highway administration guidance document on bus on shoulder operation that was exclusively about part-time usage and stated pretty clearly:

It remains the policy of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that constructing and maintaining roadway shoulders along all major and minor arterials and freeways provides inherent value. Shoulder width is one of the controlling criteria that FHWA requires a formal written design exception if minimum design criteria are not met on the National Highway System.(1)

Aside from their structural benefits for pavement and drainage, shoulders provide refuge for vehicles in emergency situations, access for first responders, and an additional recovery area for drivers trying to avoid conflicts in the adjoining travel lanes. The safety benefits of shoulders are documented in the AASHTO Highway Safety Manual and other studies. Because of these factors, the decision to use shoulders for travel should be carefully considered and limited in both its application and time of usage.

(you can get it in pdf form here) In other words, if you have full-time, exclusive lanes for buses on the shoulder, for safety, you would need to build a new shoulder. (The document explains that the best bus on shoulder practice is basically Minnesota’s policy which we discuss here.  Hint – it is part-time usage)  For obvious reasons, not having shoulders that emergency vehicles, crashes and broken down cars, not to mention cars that are pulled over, can use is a bad idea.

But, even if you could do it, there is more.  We listed five obvious issues (other than frequency, funding, and synchronizing with the local bus services) that arise from the “BRT” plan:

  1. This is not BRT
  2. Running buses in the shoulder is problematic
  3. The connections to activity centers is weak
  4. Running a system in/on the interstate is definitely not optimal
  5. The plan will not promote transit oriented development

Even if you run the buses in dedicated shoulders, while you may partially address number 1, you do not solve 2-5 (the problem with the shoulder is there is no shoulder). And you do not solve frequency, funding, and local bus services.

Returning to the TBARTA Chairman:

If the bay area chooses to build a BRT system, Holton said, then “I have one fundamental role …  to make sure it’s real BRT. That’s what I’m dedicated to doing.”

That is one thing we agree with, though real BRT would run mostly in arterial roads with proper stops in the heart of activity centers to help develop ToD. That is the way to address many of the issues above.

— About Those Options

If that was not enough, an article in the Business Journal based on a discussion with the lead engineer or the study and the TBARTA CEO raised more questions than it answered.  First,

Talking points both for and against the plan as it is currently being presented don’t fully represent the challenge facing Tampa Bay regional transit.  The BRT route, if implemented, would create a spine to get riders from one general area to another, but once that connection happens, riders would still need to get to their final destinations.

That’s where local options come in that would be facilitated through either county transit agencies or others with implementing authority.

Setting aside that the “BRT” plan will not create a real spine, getting people to where they are going is a problem.  As we have noted, this whole plan is based on the premise that somehow people get to the “BRT” (which would require redoing local bus service), ride the “BRT”, then get to their destination using another connection.  While the article list some local connection possibilities in downtown St. Pete, downtown Tampa, and Westshore, those all need planning, frequency, and funding, the last two of which local systems have lacked for years.  And that does not include getting people to the “BRT” from where they live so they can get to activity centers. (And circulators are nice, but having a line that runs closer to/into more activity centers to which people can just walk is even better.)

It needs to be made clear that the “BRT” plan really serves commuters travelling a good distance to get to work, not local travelers. For the “BRT” to really work, all the feeders must be in place, not just at destination but to get people to the “BRT” in the first place.  So, in reality, the “BRT” and the local connection all form part of one big plan. A proper system would have more direct local transit connections to and from the line, especially in residential areas.  Leaving it up to the counties to plan out in the future is quite the act of faith.

But we knew that.  Even more interesting for us is this because it gets to the process and discussion:

[Jacobs Engineering Project Manager] Pringle and [TBARTA CEO] Chiaramonte met with the TBBJ to discuss ongoing transit plans and coordination efforts.  Pringle said he hears a lot of misconceptions from residents responding to the plan.

“It’s a draft.  We still have to do all the engineering, all the environmental planning.”  Pringle said. “These are things that can continue to be discussed.”

He reiterated the plan is a first step transit plan aimed at creating an attractive regional project that could draw down federal funding and that could make a strong case for future local connections.  The Howard Frankland Bridge, he said, will still be reinforced to accommodate light rail if that is ever part of the region’s transit plans.

Pringle also said his firm is considering a phasing process where more than one transit project is included in a series of steps.  Chiaramonte said TBARTA could include other projects in its transit development plan.

The two refuted complaints from transit activists that using existing CSX rail lines would be a better use of public funding saying the connection most frequently referenced – one connecting the USF area to downtown Tampa – would be a local project under the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority’s purview.

That last point is echoed by the Tampa Bay Partnership’s head in another Business Journal article:

“If [critics] want CSX going to downtown Tampa, that’s a Hillsborough County project that needs to be studied by HART [Hillsborough Area Regional Transit] and the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization, and there needs to be a funding plan for it,” Homans said.

There is a regional CSX option that would connect Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, but some view that plan as cost prohibitive.

“If it is a regional program, then that requires so much more study because it’s a multibillion-dollar project at that point.”

Setting aside that the CSX tracks run throughout the area and any system using them could be expanded in phases throughout the region (and what is a regional transit study that does not study an obvious regional transit idea?), a few weeks ago, we were told this:

There’s nothing to stop Tampa Bay regional planners from moving forward with two transit projects in its plans for a catalyst project instead of one, according to the firm studying options.

Jacobs Engineering Project Manager Scott Pringle told the Hillsborough County Planning Commission on Monday that the results of the regional premium transit feasibility plan could include bus rapid transit and a rail corridor. Pringle acknowledged a CSX rail corridor between the University of South Florida and downtown Tampa has its benefits, but his overall talking points still heavily favored what his firm is describing as bus rapid transit.

That certainly strongly implies that the CSX route could be included in the transit plan.  Even more telling was that the CSX line was included in the Regional Transit Study, and not just initially.  It was part of the big reveal of the “BRT” plan. (See here) and later (See here) If the CSX line could not be in the regional transit plan, why was it included in the study?  Was the CSX analysis just to set up a cost argument for the bus plan?

And saying that other ideas could be included in the plan is all well and good.  What are the options?  If not CSX, what?  What are the criteria for a project being included?  Does it have to cross a county line immediately or can it be part of the phased approach?

We get the cost argument of the “BRT” plan versus the CSX line. (We don’t think it is dispositive, but we get it – the “BRT” plan is cheap.)  We get the political point that it is easier to get Pinellas to support something that runs in Pinellas over something just in Hillsborough.  However, based on the study itself and the statements of the engineers, the CSX argument above makes no sense and makes one wonder.

— BRT the Letter

The Times featured a letter/column from the some leaders of the Tampa and St. Pete Chambers of Commerce on the “BRT” plan.  While it should be noted that both organizations have a history of adopting a “just do something, anything” approach, the letter makes their case, so we will discuss it (you can read the whole thing here).

The Florida Department of Transportation has invested in a study to address our transit woes. That study, dubbed the “Regional Transit Feasibility Plan,” validates concerns expressed across our region and for good reason. Over the next 20 years, local travel miles will increase by 51 percent — yet current plans provide for no more than a 19 percent increase in traffic lane miles, projecting a 220 percent increase in congestion within a region that already suffers from protracted delays.

We will accept that as true.

The first step of the plan was to identify top-performing connections and recommend a “catalyst” project to get us out of the gate. While other options are still being vetted, the project that has emerged as the front-runner is regional Bus Rapid Transit (“BRT”) from downtown St. Petersburg to downtown Tampa to the University of South Florida to Wesley Chapel.

Actually, the first step was to study a bunch of historical studies, not our present condition, to identify which of the corridors identified in the previous studies would be able to give us the cheapest plan, or at least get us under the $10/ride threshold.  But, anyway, we will agree that we need transit.  That is not the question.  The question is whether the “BRT” plan proposed is what we need. Here is why they say the plan is good:

BRT represents a reasonable starting point; it is affordable, regional, timely and inclusive:

BRT may present a reasonable starting point, but the proposed plan is not BRT.  Setting that aside, let’s look at the points:

First, affordable – it is cheap.

Second, it is regional, which it is.

Third, it is timely, meaning we would not need to buy right of way, which is true, but is just another way of saying it is cheap.

Fourth, yes, many people live near the interstate but what reason would most have for using this service when it is not clear how it connects to local bus systems and feeder routes; it is not clear that it will be frequent; it does not actually go to a number of activity centers; and it will not create TOD?  So we give them the number of people nearby with those caveats (Plus it does not say they are within ½ mile of a station, just the route).

Finally, this:

Thirty years ago, our greatest regional challenge was transportation. And yet, here we are with no progress in sight. The time for ultimatums has passed. It’s time to move beyond paralysis toward consensus and meaningful progress.

Our businesses — and those considering a move to Tampa Bay — expect it. Our employees and co-workers need it. Our young professionals demand it. And our children deserve it.

We agree – progress has not happened. And we agree that companies that are considering moving to our area look for transit, but we think they are looking at the quality of transit and the willingness to invest in the improvement of the area. We question whether this “BRT” plan as the core system will have any effect on their decision-making.

Finally, we will reiterate: if a “catalyst” project 1) is not planned and executed exceptionally well and 2) is promoted by creating inflated expectations that stand little chance of being realized, it will catalyze nothing but opposition to future projects.  Right now, the “BRT” proposal runs the risk of checking both those boxes.

— Conclusion

After all the new discussion, the fact remains that the main thing going for the “BRT” plan is that it is cheap.  Simply saying it is a catalyst does not make it so.  Moreover, especially after the CSX comments, there are no known additional plans or next phases to be included.  Additionally, the relative silence about reorganizing and funding feeder systems (not just local circulators around business districts) is a major issue that is not being addressed.  To even for this plan to work properly, feeders have to be considered as part of the plan.  We need a coordinated, synchronized system.

We could support a well thought out, proper, “gold standard” (a term that has been apparently been dropped) BRT plan (even if it BRT is not our preference for a spine).  But, based on what we have been shown, this is not one.  We maintain that the same basic service and catalyzing effect could be served by a substantially cheaper plan that does not create false hopes and sure to be dashed expectations of having real transit solution, while, at the same time, the region works on real transit.


– The Half Fix

FDOT is moving ahead with the partial interim fix to the previous interim fix to the obvious numerous bottlenecks it built around the airport/Howard Frankland.

The Florida Department of Transportation is looking for firms to design and build strategic lane enhancements on State Road 60 around Memorial Highway and the Westshore area.

The department hosted an information session for interested firms this month and is collecting bids for the $3 million project. FDOT wants to extend existing merge lanes in order to eliminate bottlenecks through the busy corridor.

* * *

Firms would have to consider expanding shoulders to accommodate new lanes, according to draft documents, which are subject to change. FDOT asked in its request for proposals that firms not include any designs that require purchasing additional rights of way.

FDOT is also soliciting proposals for improvements to Interstate 275 near SR 60 both northbound and southbound. Requests for proposals on those improvements would go out at the end of April with letters of interest from engineering firms due by May 21. The department expects to give the go-ahead to a firm by the end of the year.

I-275 improvements would include an additional northbound lane between south of Kennedy Boulevard to just before Lois Avenue. They would add a southbound lane from Memorial Highway to south of Kennedy Boulevard. Traffic there currently bottlenecks into two lanes before becoming four lanes on the Howard Frankland Bridge.

Construction would likely include widening the existing highway, some resurfacing, ramp modifications and noise walls.

The I-275 improvements would cost about $25.7 million with construction spanning as much as 650 days.

As we have long said, they should just keep the four lanes going all the way through on I-275.  Adding one lane would keep a bottleneck, though not quite as bad as now.

As for Memorial Highway, one of the biggest problems is the need to keep changing lanes to get where you want to go.  This plan will not fix that, but whatever.  It would just be nice if FDOT stop having interim fixes that keep our area under construction.

And then there was this:

The two projects are what FDOT considers “near-term” because they leverage existing infrastructure and minimal funding. Other projects still in the works include I-275 at the Westshore interchange, the Westshore to downtown Tampa corridor and near the University of South Florida exits as well as the connection between Interstate 4 and the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway and portions of Interstate 75.

FDOT planned these projects to enhance workforce development by leveraging investment in areas with high job concentrations. Once contractors are chosen, construction on SR 60 is expected to take about 235 days.

Enough with the “leveraging.”  These project do not leverage anything. FDOT is half-fixing poorly designed, inadequate roads at a point of congestion which exists, in large part, because there already is a high job concentration.


— Streetcar

Last week we discussed the plan to extend the streetcar to the Heights.  This week:

The city of Tampa and HDR, the consultants hired to facilitate the InVision Streetcar process, are making final preparations to send a preferred enhancement plan to the Federal Transit Administration for inclusion on its New Starts project development list, an early step in drawing down federal grant dollars to pay for the project.

Federal grants typically cover about half of a project’s cost with local governments or agencies splitting the other half. The streetcar overhaul is a $100 million project.

Tampa’s preferred 1.3-mile streetcar route enhancement would connect the existing streetcar route from Ybor through the Channel District and on to the convention center through the downtown core and into the Heights. The project would serve 16,000 jobs and 5,500 residents.

But progress on the streetcar has much bigger implicationsthan serving downtown businesses and residents. It’s an opportunity to create a crucial transit connection to a larger regional system.

As you can guess, the idea is to connect to the “BRT” bus system, which at least is part of planning the connecting routes.

The city’s original goal was to send its preliminary project goals to the FTA by the end of this month. Now the city and HDR are working to make sure the streetcar enhancements align with the Florida Department of Transportation-funded Regional Transit Feasibility Plan that currently recommends a 41-mile bus rapid transit route connecting downtown St. Pete to Wesley Chapel along Interstate 275. 

Regardless of what you think about the “BRT” plan, that is reasonable. As important, if not more, is the need to address the failings of the streetcar, which is too slow, too infrequent, and too expensive as it is (especially if you plan on having people connect from a bus ride they just paid for).

The city hopes to have the project included in the FTA’s New Start project development this July with a goal of beginning service by 2024 if funding is obtained.

We will see.


Economic Development – Truths

While we do not agree with him on everything, we have made no secret of the fact that we like the Lightning owner (aside from just fixing the Lightning).  Last week he gave us another example of why:

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik told his love story with his adopted hometown to hundreds of local tech workers Wednesday.

But it was a message of tough love, too.

The Tampa Bay region is “behind Nashville by about 10 or 15 years,” Vinik said. Its startup community and angel investors are unknown to the business world and each other. The area’s well-documented transportation woes need answers. Still missing is an ecosystem to cultivate entrepreneurs.

“As a community, we need to take it to a higher level,” Vinik said.

The remarks came at the start of the Synapses Innovation Summit at Amalie Arena, a tech and entrepreneur conference now in its second year. Organizers hope the gathering can start to fill in the gaps Vinik laid out and connect disjointed, and often anonymous, technology and entrepreneur companies from across the region so they can build and grow together.

He is right.  As any regular reader knows, we agree that this area needs to take it to a higher level.  That includes planning and transportation.

The 40-acre, multi-billion development he has planned can’t thrive unless Tampa is able to retain its young talent, he said. He recalled a recent meeting with 50 local high school students, where he told them that if two-thirds left for college and never came back to Tampa Bay, “then we are failing.”

“By magic they are not going to stay here,” the former Wall Street investment manager said. “We’ve gotta give them a reason to keep them here.”

Some may say he is just trying to promote his development. Of course he wants his development to be successful, but there is nothing wrong with that.  And he is right about giving people a reason to stay.  Implicit in his comment is that we are still lacking in that area.  But he added:

The good news is no one else in Florida has stepped up to become the state’s center of innovation. And Vinik believes no other area is better situated than Tampa Bay to assume that mantle.

“It is ours for the taking,” he said. “We put our minds to it, together, collectively, as a group, five to 10 years from now we will be the leader in Florida, if not the leader in the southeast in terms of startup activity entrepreneurialism, which will do wonders for the culture of this area and the growth of this area overall.”

While he is focusing on entrepreneurialism, the point can be applied more broadly.  The fact is that this area has many positive attributes, but is often hamstrung by inertia, complacency, and settling.  We are happy that the Lightning owner is out there pushing.


Downtown/Channel District – Getting Going

Speaking of the Lightning owner, there was new about the Water Street JW Marriott:

The developer of Water Street Tampa will break ground on its JW Marriott convention hotel in the coming weeks.

Hillsborough County Aviation Authority on Thursday approved a height variance for the 26-story hotel. With that approval, Strategic Property Partners is “planning to break ground on the JW Marriott later this month,” spokeswoman Ali Glisson wrote in an email.

The hotel sits on Old Water Street, across from the Marriott Tampa Waterside Hotel and Marina.

The hotel’s grand opening is scheduled for 2020, she said.

 

From the Times – click on picture for website

We look forward to it.


Built Environment/Planning – No Room?

Last week, the Census Bureau released its latest population estimates.

Nearly 55,000 people moved to the Tampa Bay are last year, making it the tenth highest city nationwide in terms of population increase, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The 2017 census estimate places Tampa Bay’s population around 3,091,399 after tens of thousands moved here last year, making it the 10th biggest population gain by a metro area in the country.

That is a large increase.  Here are the top 10 metros by numeric change:

Top 10 Largest-Gaining Metropolitan Areas (Numeric Increase): 2016-2017

2017 Rank 2016 Rank Metropolitan Area 2017 Population 2016 Population Numeric Change
1 1 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 7,399,662 7,253,424 146,238
2 2 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 6,892,427 6,798,010 94,417
3 3 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 5,884,736 5,795,723 89,013
4 4 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 4,737,270 4,648,498 88,772
5 11 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 6,216,589 6,150,681 65,908
6 6 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 3,867,046 3,802,660 64,386
7 13 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 4,580,670 4,523,653 57,017
8 8 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 2,509,831 2,453,333 56,498
9 9 Austin-Round Rock, TX 2,115,827 2,060,558 55,269
10 7 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 3,091,399 3,036,525 54,874

Source: Census Bureau

The Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater metro area includes Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Hernando counties, so the top 10 counties for raw population increase are also interesting:

From the Census Bureau – click on chart for website

Hillsborough County accounts for almost half the Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater growth.  Not to mention:

Right now the county has the largest employment base in the region with more than 772,000 people in the workforce. It’s also the largest workforce importer with 42 percent of the nearly 1 million jobs in the county filled by workers who live outside the county.

In other words, there are a lot of people; there will be more; and there are a lot of people who come to Hillsborough each day.  The really obvious conclusion is that Hillsborough needs much better and more diverse transit options (not just an express bus).  But there is something else:

Hillsborough County needs to update its economic development policies if it’s going to keep up with a growing population.

* * *

“We’re currently losing a lot of land that is currently designated for commercial and industrial space because there’s a lot of interest in housing and retail,” said Lucia Garsys, the county’s chief development of infrastructure services administrator.

The Planning Commission expects 400,000 more jobs over the next 30 years. Under the current development trend, the county would need to expand its urban core by 54,000 acres, according to an early look at the presentation. That kind of growth would require 700 miles of new streets to connect new development to the county’s existing grid.

First, the “urban core” of Hillsborough County is very small and pretty much all within the city limits of Tampa.  Even Tampa has a relatively small, if growing, “urban” core.  Most of it is built in a suburban fashion.  Essentially, all of Hillsborough County’s development is also suburban, if not exurban.  Hillsborough County needs to create an urban core before it considers expanding it.

As for losing land designated for commercial and industrial space to residential and retail, that is also a question of planning.  The problem is the County Commission which cannot stick to a plan and constantly approves additions to the sprawling mess it has created over decades rather than promoting infill, reuse, and more density that would leave land for commercial and industrial.

The Planning Commission is recommending the county take steps to limit the number of retail and housing developments in spaces that were originally zoned for commercial or industrial uses unless for some “extraordinary public purpose.”

* * *

Balancing residential growth with new job space could help county planners reduce the impacts of a commuting workforce by providing jobs close to where people live.

“If you can reduce the trips that someone takes to work you do a couple of things,” Garsys said. “You reduce the impact on roads and you give workers more time to spend with their families. It’s really about quality of life and fiscal sustainability.” 

That is a good idea, but reducing the trips would require rethinking how the area is developed, creating a more urban design rather than sprawling subdivisions with limited entrances/exits on arterial roads, and more mixed use development.  Those are things the County Commission has been loath to do, even though the reality is that if there is better use of land, there will be less need for more infrastructure.  It will save money and save land.

Commissioners will also have to consider how to accommodate growth. Urban land around Tampa and Brandon is nearly built out. Garsys expects robust discussions about whether to expand commercial and industrial space into areas that are currently more rural or to redevelop existing land to accommodate more growth. All areas of the county are currently underutilizing land under current county code.

Because there is basically no urban land in Brandon, it cannot be built out, but we will set that aside for a minute and just talk about suburban land.  Brandon (and most of the rest of the County) is not built out.  Much of the land is underused – much of it parking.  Proper redevelopment of underused land could accommodate much of the growth.  Certainly, if the County continues to allow 1980s building patterns, the mess will continue.  Once again, note:

All areas of the county are currently underutilizing land under current county code.

And that is with the sprawling plan the County already has.  Do not expand the areas for development and let the land be properly utilized.

The Planning Commission is recommending a hybrid of the two strategies.

They should reconsider.  There is no reason to expand the developable area.  All that will lead to is more of the same and we will be back, having the same discussion in a few years.  The County Commission has spent years promoting poor planning, poor development, subsidizing residential and retail, and underinvestment in proper transportation throwing the burden on local taxpayers.  We do not need more of that.  We need good planning that promotes and incentivizes more density and infill to use the infrastructure we have. We need the County to stop approving bigger development outside the urban service area. We need proper transit.

And if you are not going to make it better, at least stick to the mediocre plan for once.


Westshore-ish – Midtown Officially Announced

A few weeks ago, we discussed what was then known as Tampa Bay 1. (See “Westhore-ish – Tampa Bay 1”) Last week it was officially announced as “Midtown.”

Midtown Tampa, Bromley said Wednesday, will include 1.8 million square feet of new commercial space:

Bromley hasn’t disclosed what preleasing thresholds would be necessary to begin construction. The developer is planning to break ground in 2019 and wrap up construction by 2021. For both office and retail real estate, a substantial portion of the space typically has to have a committed tenant in place before a developer will break ground.

Given previous false starts, it will be interesting to see how fast they can fill up space.  At least the previously rumored Whole Foods move has been confirmed. So has this:

Tampa City Council will hold a public hearing on Bromley’s rezoning request for the property on April 12. Bromley has acquired additional acreage since its last plans were approved, and its expanded plans require a rezoning.

You can check out our previous discussion for a site plan, renderings (including the one “released” last week), and our discussion.


South Tampa – Maybe Not Closing Bayshore

A few months back, we discussed a WalkBike Tampa proposal to close Bayshore every now and then to make it basically a park and let people walk and bike without fear of traffic. We said:

. . .maybe it would be fine every now and then on Bayshore, but Bayshore already has walking and biking facilities.  We think the focus should be on other parts of the city, where the majority of people live – like East Tampa/Seminole Heights (say Nebraska or Florida or a cross street) or West Tampa.  Maybe there should be a rotating program. The rest of the City (and County) needs as much, if not more, focus on walkability and bikeability (as well as unifying events) as South Tampa.

This week, there was some action:

Hours after Tampa City Council members advanced a tentative plan to close portions of Bayshore Boulevard to cars some Sundays to encourage walking and biking on South Tampa’s waterfront, Mayor Bob Buckhorn squashed the idea.

“We are looking at other options, but for the foreseeable future, Bayshore will not be one of them,” Ashley Bauman, Buckhorn’s spokeswoman, said Thursday evening. “Even as a pilot project.”

* * *

[WalkBike] also has suggested making routes through Ybor City, Tampa Heights and New Tampa vehicle-free on a handful of Sundays between November and April. Those appear to still be on the table for discussion.

On Thursday, both sides sounded more conciliatory about Bayshore and the other routes.

“The city is open-minded to the concept and willing to discuss it,” said Jean Duncan, the city’s transportation and stormwater services director. But the city wants more details on how many police officers and other city services will be required, she said.

That seems mostly quite reasonable.

The proposal takes its organizing principles from the Open Streets concept, which originated in Colombia and has spread across the world in recent years. The movement is often linked to support for more bike lanes, wider sidewalks and other safety improvements.

If you have been to an Open Streets event, it is quite clear that the best place to do them is where there is something to do along the route where people can stop and interact.  While it is pretty, there are not a lot of activities along Bayshore.  Likewise, New Tampa would not really be a good location.  Ybor City or Tampa Heights (and other places in town, like Seminole Heights and West Tampa) would be better.

Once again, we like the idea.  We just think Bayshore is not the best place for it.


Airport – A Small Sign

There was news last week regarding Lufthansa’s flight to Tampa (and reported this week by the Business Journal here):

Lufthansa in recent schedule update adjusted Frankfurt – Tampa operation during winter 2018/19 season, effective from 28OCT18. Current CityLine A340-300 service is scheduled to be replaced by Lufthansa Mainline A340-300, resulting capacity increase for Premium cabin.

While it is not an increase in service, it is an increase in valuable seats on the route.  It is a small but important indication of the success on our international route.  Now, to make it daily.

And then there is general aviation:

For the second straight year, Sheltair’s Tampa facility rose to the top of the rankings in AIN’s annual FBO Survey. The location earned an overall score of 4.74, and was the only service provider to earn scores of more than 4.70 in each of the five categories.

Well done.


Time – What it Would Be Like

We are still trying to figure out the real cause of the rapid push to change the time in Florida (things usually do not pass the legislature with no real discussion and large bi-partisan margins).  In any event, the Times had a good graphic presentation on the effect of the proposed time change here.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida


— Brightline

There was news about Brightline:

. . . construction on the second phase to Orlando is beginning soon, according to the Orlando Business Journal.

Buildout of office space for planning and engineering staff at the Orlando Airport is nearly complete, with staff to begin moving in as soon as this week.

Construction on the Orlando Airport property will begin in June/July, with a 30-month timeline from the start of work until service begins. An Intermodal Terminal Facility is already built, and a 70-acre Vehicle Maintenance Facility along with the actual rail is being added.

No news about connecting this area to the line.


— Revitalization and Gentrification

As older parts of cities get revitalized, there is always a risk of displacing the people who live there.  Interestingly,

As home prices spike near University of Central Florida’s emerging downtown Orlando campus, a group is launching a regionwide land trust that would start in Parramore with below-market rents and prices.

The Central Florida Foundation has worked with Orlando, Orange County, Florida Housing Coalition and other groups for more than a year on launching Central Florida Land Trust. The idea is to offer more affordable prices on select housing as the west side of downtown Orlando redevelops with classrooms, restaurants, shops and apartments.

“In Parramore, if people move there in force, the people who live there will be forced out,” said Mark Brewer, president of the Central Florida Foundation. “We’re making real estate affordable in the long term. Gentrification is not always a bad thing. It’s bad when you displace people in the neighborhood.”

Prices in the Parramore postal code have increased at quadruple the rate of other Orlando ZIP codes in the past year as UCF and Valencia College prep their new campus to open next year.

Here is how community land trusts work: Generally, nonprofit groups acquire donated or deeply discounted land and build houses or apartments there. The trust leases the land at a low cost, so residents’ only full-price expenses are for the home that stands on it, whether they buy or rent.

You can read the rest of the article here.

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