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Roundup 4-13-2018

April 13, 2018


Transportation – Some Other Stuff

— More Good Discussion

— Why Wait?

— Pinellas

— Selmon/Gandy Connector

— The Cost of Complacency

Governance – Where the Responsibility Is

Airports – Growing

Port – More Cruises

Economic Development – Good for the Schools

Rays – Developments

Economic Development – New York Times

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the County

List of the Week I I

List of the Week II


Transportation – Some Other Stuff

— More Good Discussion

The Lightning owner often has interesting things to say.  This week was no different.  He gave an interview to the Business Journal, and we’ll focus on his transportation comments.

We should learn from the Amazon proposal — we checked most of the boxes in terms of being an area where they want to be, and an area we didn’t check and probably eliminated us right off the bat and that’s transportation.

It probably did.  And all the people who care about the local economy – including County Commissioners and the legislative delegation – should take note.

But he had a broader take on transportation:

Our citizens, especially those without cars, face hardship due to our lack of transportation options, and this is across the board. Our bus service in Hillsborough — and Pinellas, too — is the worst in the country and it’s not even close. Only 18 percent of people without a car can get to work within 90 minutes and we need to have better transit to connect these people with jobs and supermarkets with fresh fruits and vegetables and to their doctors’ offices for their health. 

There is a bus rapid transit plan connecting [Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties along Interstate 275]. I think it’s important to have regional projects like that to get this region from point A to point B quicker.

Hillsborough County — all modes of transportation should be on the table in terms of providing connectivity for people and when I say all, I mean BRT, I mean streetcar, better roads, bike paths, the potential for autonomous vehicles and we should look at rail alternatives. I’m not sure they make that much sense in the current environment, but we have to look at everything.

If you look out 25 years from now at Hillsborough County, at the Tampa Bay region we should be one of the best places to live in the United States, not a doubt. We have everything going for us in terms of weather, in terms of things to do, in terms of people. It’s up to us to make that happen and we need to be able to move people from point A to point B.

We agree with most of what he said.  Our transit service is really bad.  It not only fails to attract choice riders, it fails to provide adequate service for riders who need it.  And it is important to have regional connections (though simply because a plan is regional does not mean it is a good).  We also agree that we should look at all transit solutions, including “gold standard” BRT that is really urban, mass transit.  We need a coordinated, synchronized transit system.  It is also true that the current political environment makes it difficult to get rail, though other areas have it and are expanding even now and even in traditionally conservative areas (there is nothing about being conservative that opposes good infrastructure investment), so it is not impossible.

One place where we seem to disagree is about the “BRT” plan as presented, though we tend to think he favors it because he wants something done rather than he thinks it is the best idea (though we could be wrong).  The plan splits the baby of real BRT and cost too much, making it neither really cheap nor really good. (And we doubt that a company that can go anywhere – like Amazon – would be impressed by the “BRT” plan.) Our position remains either make it real “gold standard” BRT mostly on arterial roads that promotes real urban transit and TOD or go truly cheap and fast, then focus on real transit.

And while we agree on the present political environment, the present environment is not permanent, and we can do a lot to shape it. We also believe that if rail or “gold standard” BRT was really pushed here – the biggest swing area of the biggest swing state – in a unified way, the environment might look a bit different.  (We get the local political problems, but that environment is also always in flux.) And if we are planning for 25 years, we have to plan for what we need, not settle, even if it is in phases – but that means a plan with clearly delineated phases.

What we like about the Lightning owner is that he looks to what we can be in the future and tries to move in that direction, even if we don’t always agree with all the details.  And he is honest enough to not try to sugarcoat everything.  The question is whether local officials will do the same or whether they will talk a good game and then settle.

And regardless of the discussion about the “BRT” plan, the larger point remains – we need transportation alternatives and real transit.  The lack of them inhibits our area.

— Why Wait?

We have been saying that the “BRT” plan can be done faster and cheaper (allowing a focus on true mass transit).  Last week there was news about a new HART proposal:

The proposal gives residents three options, all running on a seven day schedule from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. with a one hour frequency. Option 1 will run from Wiregrass Park-n-Ride to the Tampa International Airport; Option 2 will run from Wiregrass Park-n-Ride to the Marion Transit Center, and this option does not include an airport stop; and Option 3 will run from Wiregrass Park-n-Ride to the Tampa International Airport from Monday thru Friday with a shorter weekend route from Wiregrass Park-n-Ride to the University Area Transit Center.

According to HART, the 275LX route will be fully funded by utilizing the funds provided by the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) Urban Corridor grants and is renewable. The route will replace the existing 51LX.

The overall consensus from the community members at the hearing, and from comments on HART’s social media channels, has been that this new route is long overdue. HART hopes to eliminate long waiting periods in between buses as it moves forward with the project.

Comments from the community will be used to decide between the three options and will be presented to the Finance and Audit Committee during their review in April. The new route is set to begin on July 1.

Obviously, even the longest route above does not go to Pinellas, and the frequency is far below what is needed (though the preliminary “BRT” plan is for 15 minute frequency, which, while better, is not very good for a robust system.) And, yes, the HART route will run in traffic.  But it is also not hundreds of millions of dollars. And note that the money comes from FDOT, not the County which still underfunds HART with no guarantee of properly funding in the future or properly funding a feeder system to the “BRT” line. (When will the County, which is spending hundreds of millions on roads, commit to properly fund transit?) Moreover, if FDOT has billions for TBX/TB(n)X, why can’t it fund simple bus service with proper frequencies?

The point is not that the HART route would be a complete replacement for the “BRT” plan.  It is that, while this proposal does not fill the void, we do not have to wait for years and Federal money to get adequate bus service that can serve most of the potential riders of the “BRT” plan while working to create a proper transit system.  It needs proper funding and political will to just do it (just like funding the St. Pete BRT plan or the streetcar extension).  The real problem is that local officials have just not prioritized it.

— Pinellas

There was an interesting article in the Times regarding Pinellas/St. Pete and express lanes.

For years, anger, confusion and controversy have swirled around the state’s plan to add 90 miles of toll lanes to Tampa Bay’s interstates.

Many opposed the toll lanes from the start, calling the fluctuating tolls “Lexus lanes” that only serve those who can afford them. Politicians said they were misled by the plan to convert a free lane to a toll lane on the new Howard Frankland Bridge. And residents decried the state’s plan to rebuild the downtown Tampa interchange by plowing through their neighborhoods, culminating in a bitter 8-hour meeting that ended at 2 a.m.

All of that opposition has stemmed from Hillsborough County.

True enough, though the local officials in Hillsborough were not misled by FDOT.  Most officials (and business organizations) reflexively supported the plan and either did not read the details or just changed position after it became truly public that FDOT was going to take a free lane from the bridge.  The true opposition was from citizens.

Meanwhile, across the bay in Pinellas County, elected officials and transportation experts have expressed a much different reaction:

They like the toll plan — and they want more of it.

Not only are they okay with toll lanes coming to Pinellas, but they’ve asked — perhaps even begged — the state to extend the toll lanes even further south into the county, right into downtown St. Petersburg.

“When we first heard they initially weren’t going to go all the way through to downtown, we were actually concerned,” St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce CEO Chris Steinocher said. “We were nervous they were forgetting about us a little bit.”

First, note that the article is talking about local officials and “experts” wanting more express lanes, which is similar to Tampa.  Second, while we do not favor variable rate toll lanes:

Enthusiasm for paying tolls is a relatively new phenomenon in Pinellas. Voters decisively shot down a 1976 referendum that would have built a tolled expressway from St. Petersburg north to Pasco County, following 49th Street N and what are now McMullen-Booth and East Lake Roads.

That resounding defeat wiped out any hope of building Pinellas toll roads for decades. Meanwhile neighboring counties would go on to build the Crosstown Expressway in the 1970s (which was expanded and renamed the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in the 2000s) and the Veterans Expressway and Suncoast Parkway in the 1990s.

That sentiment seems forgotten now as Pinellas leaders and residents clamor for more options, more reliability and better connections.

We get they want more connections and options in St. Pete.  They are at the end of a peninsula and need them.  Of course, variable rate toll lanes are not new connections or real options, they are limited scope expansion of the same road that already exists, and they punish the average driver by giving them choice of very poor service or paying excessive tolls with no guarantee of better service.

DOT officials will spend the next year studying whether to extend the express toll lanes, spokeswoman Kris Carson said. The earliest construction would begin is 2021, with a projected opening of 2024. The St. Petersburg extension would also use the dynamic toll pricing, meaning the cost will rise and fall based on demand.

The added 5 miles of toll roads could cost anywhere between $200 to $400 million, Carson said.

Just note that the 5 miles of lanes will be designed specifically to not be used to their full capacity and sit mostly useless for most of the day (because the congestion will not be bad enough to justify a toll and people in free lanes cannot use them in normal traffic) and will cost close to the same range as the 41-mile “BRT” plan.

Forward Pinellas sent a letter of support to DOT in January. The board acknowledged that extending the lanes plus completing other highway improvements, such as straightening the interstate and reducing merging, would take up much of the space that any future light rail line along the interstate would use.

But voters rejected the Greenlight Pinellas referendum to pay for light rail in 2014. And the Forward Pinellas governing board believes that it’s worth the sacrifice to bring express toll lanes and highway improvements to the county, executive director Whit Blanton said.

“We’ve really had no opposition when I’ve mentioned it to public groups and at meetings,” he said. “The view is, ‘Let’s be practical, let’s be realistic, let’s make progress, and let’s not let perfect be the enemy of good.’”

There has been no proposal for perfect, and variable rate express lanes are not good, but whatever.  People say many things. (Pinellas also really isn’t built out, as the redevelopment of downtown St. Pete shows, but people still say it is.  Moreover, while we do not think light rail should run down the interstate, we wonder if St. Pete really wants to go all in on limited use roads.  One thing we do agree with is straightening the lanes of the interstate – the lane shifts in St. Pete are ridiculous and never really made sense.

Planners still need to address many questions, such as whether there will be one or two toll lanes in each direction. It’s also unclear how much right of way the lanes will require and what kind of impact that could have on surrounding neighborhoods and communities — exactly the issue that has stirred up Tampa’s urban neighborhoods.

* * *

It’s hard to pin down what exactly explains the different reactions. The impact in local neighborhoods could be part of it, Blanton said. Tampa residents knew what was planned while St. Petersburg residents don’t yet know. Some of it could also be ideological, he said, or rooted more in geographical realities than anything else.

“We are much more dependent on regional connections than many people in Hillsborough County are,” Blanton said. That’s because Tampa is the center of the region’s workspace, and Pinellas commuters will always need better ways to drive there and back.

This, of course, is a main point. No one knows exactly what variable rate toll lanes in St. Pete would involve so real reactions are still unknown.  Even the people who support the idea do not really know what they are supporting.  (And, it should be noted, that while we opposed variable rate toll lanes, arguably the interstate in St. Pete did not do the same damage to established neighborhoods to the same extent as in Tampa.)

Maybe St. Pete thinks that giving its citizens (and those who want to visit) a choice between completely inadequate roads and overpriced, often congested express lanes is the way of the future.  It is their choice, of course. But is that really the option they want going forward?  Wouldn’t they rather spend the money on real option, like BRT north to create a real BRT network with the east-west plan (for which they are seeking a mere $20 million from the Federal government)?

Pinellas is a peninsula on a peninsula, as Steinocher likes to say. And downtown St. Petersburg, especially, has seen high rate of growth over the last 10 years, increasing traffic and creating new bottlenecks.

“We want to make sure we’re planning ahead,” Steinocher said, “and that we’re seen as part of the regional experience.”

If St. Pete really wants to join in regional experience of bad transportation planning and not providing real alternatives to congested highways, we guess we can’t stop them.

— Selmon/Gandy Connector

There was news about the Selmon/Gandy Connector:

Overnight road closures are scheduled later this month as crews begin work widening lanes west of Westshore Boulevard up to the Gandy bridge. Widening won’t affect existing lanes along Gandy Boulevard, but are necessary to support future bridge infrastructure for express lanes above the existing corridor allowing commuters to avoid local congestion.

* * *

No lanes will be closed during daytime hours.

The construction is fine.

What is not fine is the bizarre rhetorical transformation of a long discussed extension of the Selmon into “express lanes.”  The two lane extension of the expressway/exit of the expressway is not “express lanes.”  It is part of the expressway that goes over Gandy. (We couldn’t find the words “express lanes” on the THEA Extension website.)  And this:

The new flyover lanes will be tolled. Existing lanes at street level will remain free. Construction on the project started this year. The new lanes are expected to open in late 2020.

The lanes are tolled because they are part of a toll expressway (and, at least based on what has been discussed, not variable rate tolled). The street level is Gandy Boulevard, something completely different than the Selmon Expressway, which has been there for a long time.  That has always been the understanding, primarily because it is true. To recast the extension of the Selmon as “express lanes” is really quite silly.

— The Cost of Complacency

The County Commission is fond of approving developments in south and east county.  Of course, that has consequences:

The once sleepy southeastern portion of Hillsborough County is sleepy no more and Hillsborough County officials are scrambling to keep up with infrastructure needs.

Meanwhile, motorists in the south county region continue to spend time fighting congested traffic to and from work.

Relief is coming, Public Works Director John Lyons says, but it will take time and a lot of money — and there are no guarantees planned improvements will keep up with residential and commercial growth.

Lots of money, and much of it from the taxpayers rather than those who have profited from all that development.

The county will need millions of dollars for an estimated 700 miles of new streets by 2045, said Melissa Zornitta, Planning Commission executive director. That doesn’t include money for expanding major roadway corridors, Zornitta said.

In addition to the Big Bend project, the county is fast-tracking expanding 42nd and 46th streets and 19th and 131st avenues in central and north Tampa, as well as Lithia-Pinecrest Road south of Brandon.

The plans do not address rapid transit projects to reduce pressure on roadways, county officials said.

Of course, development brings congestion, and poorly planned development relying exclusively on arterial roads and sprawling, unwalkable development brings really bad congestion.  The County has specialized in such development and, as often noted, completely neglected any alternatives to driving.  It has failed to learn from all the mistakes of the past: failing to change the model for development, failing to promote infill and proper use of its infrastructure, failing to properly run its impact fee system (we’ll see about mobility fees – though they will not fix the previous mistakes), and failing to stick to even the plans it creates.  And the burden for that falls primarily on the taxpayer (like the $800 million the County has set aside for roads, which, going from the article, is not being used very well and/or is inadequate to meet the needs their poor planning has created.)

“The elephant in the room is transportation,” County Commissioner Les Miller said. “Everybody cannot work in the neighborhood where they live. It is just not going to happen.”

And the elephant in the transportation room is bad planning, which the County Commission continues unabated.

Governance – Where the Responsibility Is

Speaking of the County, roads, and planning, there was an article in the Times about land use decisions that had a very unusual (at least for local media) angle:

Hillsborough County is running out of vacant land to develop. It is running out of money for new fire stations, roads and water lines. And it is running out of time to stop the culprit: sprawl.

County commissioners heard this message twice in the last three months — first from outside experts, then from in-house staff. Twice, a majority of them nodded their heads in effusive agreement.

Yet between those clarion calls, commissioners twice sided with developers wanting to build more homes outside the county’s urban boundary.

In each case, the man able to move them was Vincent “Vin” Marchetti, a Tampa land use lawyer and one of the region’s busiest lobbyists.

You can guess where this is going.  We are not going to write a long comment on it (you can read the article here), just note:

And many of those clients have cut checks to the campaigns of county commissioners in the past year. A Tampa Bay Times analysis found Marchetti and businesses he represented donated $127,000 to the four county commissioners running for re-election this year — Victor Crist, Ken Hagan, Sandy Murman and Stacy White.

Here’s another way to put it: $1 of every $7 raised by commissioners this election cycle has come from Marchetti clients.

There’s “no correlation” between the donations and his success with the board, says Marchetti, a shareholder with Stearns Weaver Miller, a statewide law firm. Commissioners, he said, “review the facts of the case and make a decision that’s in the best interest of the whole.”

* * *

When Marchetti holds fundraisers for local politicians, his clients are often on the guest list. One for Hagan last year raised $50,000.

Hagan has received the most money from Marchetti’s clients, about $56,000 of his $472,000 war chest. Hagan did not respond to calls for comment. He also did not attend either county meeting about sprawl.

“I have fundraisers for candidates that I tend to support and I ask my clients if they want to attend the fundraiser,” Marchetti said. “They either come or they don’t.”

* * *

Crist said he was surprised when the Times informed him that the developers for the project donated $8,000 to his re-election bid. Of the $78,000 Crist has raised since opening his campaign last May, $22,000 are from Marchetti clients.

“That’s news to me,” Crist said. “I don’t look at who writes checks. I’ve got two little old ladies who give their time to handle that.”

(At the end of the article there is a list of how much each commissioner has gotten in campaign donations.)

While that last quote strains credulity a bit, it could be true.

While we don’t agree with everything the attorney in question says in the article, we also don’t disagree with everything.  And, like any citizen, he is certainly entitled to support candidates and, within the law, raise money for those he likes and advocate for positions he supports. That is not where the biggest issue is.

The onus is on the Commissioners to make good decisions for the benefit of the whole county.  Ultimately, the Commissioners are the only ones responsible for their votes. You can decide for yourself how they are doing.

Airports – Growing

There was news from the airport:

Tampa International Airport saw 12.5 percent passenger growth in February.

“You have to go back before the recession in 2005 to see that kind of growth,” said Chris Minner, TIA’s executive vice president of marketing and communications, adding that it was the highest monthly growth since 2005.

Minner, reporting airport results at the monthly meeting of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which oversees the airport, said the increase was driven by two carriers — Spirit Airlines (NYSE: SAVE) and Frontier Airlines. Spirit was up 53 percent and Frontier a whopping 120 percent year-over-year.

International passenger growth was strong as well with a 13.6 percent surge.

But flights to Canada, among several airlines, have shown a 60 percent growth in seat capacity since 2011.

Air Canada was up 16 percent year-over-year. “Canada as a whole represents 57 percent of nonstop international traffic at Tampa International Airport,” Minner told the board members. 

* * *

Also on the international front, German carrier Lufthansa saw a 30 percent increase due to its additional flight. Copa Airlines, which focuses on Latin America, also performed well.

That is good to hear.  Hopefully, it will lead to more flights to more destinations.

Across the Bay, the news was also good (if slightly tainted by the reliance on one airline):

March was the biggest month in the history of St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, with 237,021 passengers, a 15 percent increase over the same month last year. Year-to-date, traffic at the Pinellas airport is up 13 percent.

Growth is good (with the usual caveat for St. Pete-Clearwater relying on one airline).

Port – More Cruises

The cruise business in Tampa is doing quite well, in line with the national tourism boom.  This week we learned:

Carnival Cruise Line announced Friday it will add 20 cruises from Tampa to Havana next year, bringing its total number of sailings to Cuba to 31.

The five-day voyages will leave Port Tampa Bay on Saturdays on the Carnival Paradise, which recently underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation, and include a call in Havana, plus stops in Key West, Cozumel or both.

Assuming Cuba stays open, that is good news, especially given that Tampa did not get another flight to Havana in the latest reallocation of flights.

Economic Development – Good for the Schools

There was encouraging news regarding Hillsborough County schools, which have all sorts of issues.

Hillsborough leaders consider the newly released results from the National Center for Education Statistics to be an accurate comparison of educational systems, despite structural differences between Hillsborough — a district that includes city and suburbs — and some of the others, which are more purely urban.

* * *

The district tied for first place nationally in fourth-grade reading and math. Eighth-graders tied for first place in reading and were in a group that tied for second place in math.

Charter school students were included, and the team that administered the test took care to include students in a wide variety of schools. Unlike state tests that measure every student, this test, called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is given to a sampling of students.

We think that is great.  One can debate whether the results are completely accurate, but it is good nonetheless.

The results, announced today by the National Center for Education Statistics, the primary federal entity for analyzing education-related data, is part of a national initiative known as “The Nation’s Report Card.” Students from 27 large school districts, including San Diego, Boston, Los Angeles, Houston and others, took part in what communities use as a tool for comparing their students with peers across the country.

In other words, the numbers are for 4th and 8th graders, not high school, and do not include richer suburban districts in other areas.  Nevertheless, it is good (and hopefully reflects improvement in the whole district).

But that is only step one. One challenge is to maintain that progress through high school.  The bigger challenge, as pointed out by the Lightning owner last week, is convincing those students to stay in this area after they are done with school.   If we can do that, it will really be impressive.

Rays – Developments

On the field, the Rays have not started the season as we would have wished, but there has been a lot of reporting about off the field action.  In reality, what is going on is the set-up for the debate that will is coming regarding the theoretical Ybor stadium.  As such, there is actually not that much to comment on, but we thought it might be helpful to just link to some articles.

First, there are the efforts among the business community to develop support for the stadium. (here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

As we have been told, how much money the Rays are willing to put up for the stadium is partially contingent on business support. For more on their potential share read here.

And, as one would expect, there is a debate about spending public money on the stadium. See here, here, and here.

Finally, here is an article about MLB team valuations and how the Rays are at the bottom of the list.  And, by any measure, including fan score, their attendance is poor.

Economic Development – New York Times

There was an article about Tampa (though they still included the “Fla” in the dateline) in the New York Times this week focusing on real estate entitled How Developers Discovered Tampa’s ‘Best-Kept Secret’. While it is not really an original article, has a couple of obvious errors, and is basically an ad for three developments in Tampa (mostly Water Street, plus Westshore Marina District and Midtown), it is nice exposure for the area.  You can read it here.

From the NY Times – click on picture for article

Some of the comments by local officials that were a bit impolitic, but we are not going to get into them.  Though one thing really stuck out to us:

Mr. Richard added that the market had been untapped for many years in terms of major construction, especially downtown. “The last thing you want to be, in terms of economic development, is a best-kept secret,” he said, “but we’ve managed to do that for decades.”

What he is saying about all the time and money spent on trade missions, advertising, and economic development promotion over many years and all the people involved in those efforts?

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the County

In Tampa, the City government was determined to remove the Bro Bowl (and build a copy hidden away next to the interstate where TB(n)X very well may make it even more obscure or destroy the recreation.  The administration had no regard for the historical nature of the Bowl or skateboarders in general.  Last week, the New York Times had an article on skateboarding entitled “Skateboarders Won: Skate parks, once considered a menace, are booming everywhere around the world. Now we head toward the first skateboarding Olympics.”

Steve Rodriguez, 46, a professional skateboarder and the owner of 5boro skateboards, helped build Ms. Sheehan’s ramp in 1995. A little more than a decade later, on the Manhattan side of the bridge, he helped organize the city’s skate community in order to save a portion of the so-called Brooklyn Banks, a popular spot for local skaters at the time. In this case, the city promised to eventually turn part of the area into a proper skatepark.

Skateboarding had gone from renegade to recreation. After decades of commandeering streets, sidewalks, parking lots and public sculptures, skaters entered the mainstream. Now New York City, the United States, and the world at large have all seen a surge of skate park development. With skateboarding entering the Olympic Games in 2020, the international growth of skate parks is likely only beginning.

* * *

In Harlem, a new skate park opened at Thomas Jefferson Park in September. The Bronx will see the completion of Williamsbridge Oval Skatepark in early 2019. Mr. Rodriguez recently worked on designs for a skate park currently under construction near the refurbished Kosciuszko Bridge. These new entrants follow the construction of Golconda Skatepark in Downtown Brooklyn, in 2016, and Cooper Skatepark in Bushwick the same year.

In Los Angeles, the highly regarded Stoner Skate Plaza opened in 2010 and features recreated elements of bygone local skate spots. The architect Anthony Bracali teamed up with skateboarders in Philadelphia for the 2.5 acre Paine’s Park, completed in 2013. The Seattle Skate Park Advisory Committee has spent the past decade advocating skate parks in that city, arguing that Seattle’s more than 29,000 skaters needed dedicated space to skate. Today, the city is home to a growing number of skate parks, as well as more than a dozen designated skate spots and “skate dots”: individual obstacles spread across the city designed for people to skate.

Just so you know about the LA recreations, unlike Tampa, they are not building replicas of historical bowls that the City destroyed:

Several local pro skaters also took part in designing the space. The names, according to sources, include: Colin Cook, Justin Cefai, Joey Brezinski, Chris Roberts and Aaron Snyder. California Skateparks and the local pros created the 20,000 square feet space to reflect landmark skate areas around L.A.

* * *

One part of Stoner mirrors an area of the West L.A. courthouse, while another portion mimics a popular skate spot along a Venice bike path.

Tampa is not mentioned in the article.

List of the Week I

Our first list this week is Newsweek’s Top 50 U.S. Cities Ranked by Quality of Life and Average Salary.  From the name of the list, the methodology seems pretty straightforward.

Coming first is Austin, followed by Denver, San Jose (CA), Washington (DC), Fayetteville (AR), Seattle, Raleigh-Durham, Boston, Des Moines, Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs, Boise, Nashville, Charlotte, Dallas-Ft. Worth, San Francisco, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Madison (WI), Grand Rapids, Houston, Sarasota, San Diego, San Antonio, Richmond, Omaha, Portland (ME), Charleston (SC), Syracuse, Greenville (SC), Albany, Hartford, Portland (OR), Buffalo, Harrisburg (PA), Tampa (at #35), OKC, Winston-Salem, Little Rock, Rochester (NY), Orlando, Lancaster (PA), Chattanooga, Louisville, Phoenix, Jacksonville, Honolulu, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Melbourne (FL), and Atlanta.

Not that great.

List of the Week II

Our second list this week goes along with the first: U.S. News’s 125 Best Places to Live in the USA. Here is the methodology.

Coming in first is Austin, followed by Colorado Springs, Denver, Des Moines, Fayetteville (AR), Portland (OR), Huntsville (AL), Washington (DC), Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle, Nashville, Grand Rapids, Raleigh-Durham, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Madison (WI), San Jose (CA), Dallas-Ft. Worth, Phoenix, San Francisco, Lexington (KY), Charlotte, Boise, Ashville, Boston, Houston, Portland (ME), Omaha, Melbourne (FL), San Diego, Greenville (SC), Lancaster (PA), Reno, Sarasota, Honolulu, Columbus (OH), Manchester (NH), Charleston (SC), Albany, Ft. Wayne, Ft. Myers, Anchorage, Winston-Salem, Jacksonville, Harrisburg (PA), Hartford, Atlanta, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Lansing, Rochester, Buffalo, Pensacola, Richmond, Indianapolis, Columbia (SC), Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Springfield (MA), Greensboro (NC), Louisville, Worcester (MA), Oklahoma City, Knoxville, Little Rock, Springfield (MO), Tucson, Santa Barbara (CA), Spokane, Milwaukee, Lakeland, Chattanooga, Reading (PA), Myrtle Beach, Tampa, Augusta (GA), Santa Rosa (CA), Orlando, Port St. Lucie, and Las Vegas.

As you can see, both lists have a number of common cities at the top of the list.  They also have some odd entries. The other thing to note is that in neither list does Tampa do very well.  The largest cause of that seems to be low incomes, though, it is interesting that other factors do not lift us more.  As noted about the U.S. News list in the Business Journal:

Tampa’s overall score dropped from 6.6 to 6.4 out of 10. The lowest score was for value, at 5.1, which compares cost of living to median annual income. The highest score was for net migration, which is a measure of how many people are moving to a particular area.

That is not a large drop in overall score, which could lead one to suspect that other areas got better more than we got worse.

As with all lists, we do not think any specific ranking really means much, though, if you are consistently getting a high or low ranking, it is probably an indicator of something.


Do with both lists what you will.

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