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Roundup 4-27-2018

April 27, 2018


Downtown/Channel District – Really Getting Going

Downtown – Another Rendering

Transportation – Variety

– Ferry News

— Make Straight the Way

— Confab

— Odd

Economy – Jobs

South Tampa – Sanctuary

What Do You Expect?

Adventures in Planning – New Tampa

Rays – Money Talk

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country (and World)

— Hit and Run

— Transit Debate


Downtown/Channel District – Really Getting Going

This week, the JW Marriot in Water Street broke ground.

From Water Street Tampa – click on picture for website

Even more interestingly, that is just the start of what promises to be quite an active time at Water Street.  From the Times:

Within a year, developers said Monday, construction should be underway on 10 — 10! — of Water Street Tampa’s planned 22 buildings. Watch for Amalie Arena, now flanked by acre after acre of bare dirt, to be surrounded by up to about 20 construction cranes at a time, with nearly 3,000 hard hats on the job.

* * *

Phase one of the project will generally take place inside the space bounded by Channelside Drive, E Cumberland Avenue, S Meridian Avenue and S Morgan Street. Breaking ground on a staggered schedule will be:

From the Business Journal:

The JW is the first building and already slated to be the official host hotel when the city hosts its fifth Super Bowl in 2021. 815 Water Street — apartment and condo towers perched atop a ground-level grocery store — will follow in the months ahead. By the end of 2018, more than a dozen other buildings in Water Street will be under construction.

While the schedule after 815 water Street is not clear, so far SPP has been sticking to its public statements (relatively unusual for this area), so we have no reason to think, barring some unforeseen larger issue, most of the list will not start this year.  This project promises to truly be transformative for downtown (especially if Riverwalk Place also starts on time).  However, once again, to really reach its potential, we need real transit.

And, just for kicks, here is another screenshot of the Edition video from URBN Tampa Bay giving a better view of the overall building:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Like we said last week, it is ok to get excited once the building actually starts. (Though we still wish they would address protecting pedestrians from the elements a bit better).

There was also this:

At more than 55 acres, Water Street Tampa is already massive for an urban infill project, among the largest developments of its type in the U.S. But its developer said Tuesday that the project could get even bigger.

* * *

Water Street is currently slated to total 9 million square feet at completion, but it could be larger, said James Nozar, CEO of Strategic Property Partners.

Though, we’ll just have to see.  On the other hand, if they can make money, why not?

Downtown – Another Rendering

Last week we had the first rendering on the Riverwalk Place project.  The project website as a slightly different version of the rendering:

From – click on picture for website

It is a little more detailed, and it is just nice to consider.

Transportation – Variety

– Ferry News

We have noted that we like the Cross Bay Ferry, but it is just not set up to be a real transit option.  It is more of a tourist or recreational excursion.  Last week, there was news that just reinforced that view.

Delaware-based HMS Ferries, the company that operated the ferry pilot project during the 2016-17 season, and Seastreak LLC & Yacht Starship Dining Cruises LLC both responded to a request for proposal the city solicited earlier this year, according to documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

The HMS Ferries pitch includes cost and revenue projections for three years using the same boat and teal used during the pilot project.  The team’s proposal noted that as a way to “hit the deck running” to ensure “an even more impressive” route than the original, which exceeded revenue expectations.

HMS did propose some changes, including decreased fares and a different operating schedule. . .

The proposed route schedule would not serve morning commuters between the two cities.

* * *

The ferry would run between November and April because the boat used operates in Boston during the spring and summer months.

The article in the Business Journal had HMS’s proposed schedule, which begin running at noon on weekdays and 10 am on weekends.  That is great for a relaxing trip, but not a real transit option. And the other proposal emphasizes the true nature of the service:

It’s unclear whether the Starship Dinner Cruises proposal would run during additional months.  The company operates four dinner cruises in the Tampa Bay area as well as the Pirate Water Taxi fleet that runs along the Hillsborough River near Riverwalk.

It is a cruise, not transit.

As we have said, the first run was a nice experiment.  Now, the area has a choice.  Is it going to look to this kind of ferry for real transportation, in which case the ferry service needs a whole new approach, or it is just going to be recreation, in which case these proposals are fine?

— Make Straight the Way

A couple of weeks ago, we discussed possible express lanes in St. Pete (See “Transportation – Some Other Stuff — Pinellas”.  Another aspect of the possible changes to the St. Pete interstate was straightening the lanes of the interstate, which has long been needed.  This week, the Business Journal had more.

The Florida Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to improve traffic flow through St. Petersburg along Interstate 275, one of several being planned as near-term solutions for increasing traffic congestion.

A draft plan shared with the Tampa Bay Business Journal shows $65 million in widening and re-striping projects adding lane continuity to the stretch of highway between 54th Avenue South and Gandy Boulevard.

Motorists changing lanes slow traffic and increase congestion, especially during peak travel periods. The project could increase safety by limiting the amount of times motorists have to change lanes in heavy traffic.

That is definitely true.  But here’s the kicker:

Right now there isn’t a single continuous lane from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to the Howard Frankland Bridge along southbound I-275; northbound travelers have just one. FDOT wants to reconfigure the interstate to provide two continuous lanes in each direction along the stretch of interstate.   

We knew the lane changes were bad, but, in reality, we never checked that point.  It is absurd. The real question is how has this state of affairs been allowed to last so long?  Shouldn’t FDOT have cleaned this up for a relatively small sum before deciding about large interstate expansion?  And, really, why wasn’t it included in TBX?  We get they love express lanes, but this is so basic.

The project would require some widening between 26th Avenue South and 54th Avenue South near Interstate 175, between 22nd Avenue North and 38th Avenue North on the northbound side; between Fifth Avenue North and 22nd Avenue North on the southbound side; and southbound between Gandy Boulevard and 54th Avenue North.

* * *

Most of the work would include utilizing existing infrastructure with occasional expansion necessary. In some areas along I-275, lanes can be re-striped to accommodate seamless travel through Pinellas County on the interstate.

A modest amount of widening may be needed, but clearly restriping the road could take care of a lot of it.  And we are fine with some modest widening to make the fix.  But nothing is that simple:

FDOT has $7 million earmarked for design development of the project, but that funding could be shifted as part of the agency’s overall interstate modernization plans including widening to accommodate lanes for bus rapid transit proposed under the Regional Transit Feasibility Plan.  

Naturally.  We wouldn’t expect them to just fix something that has been so obviously wrong for years (if not decades).

Of course, being an article about interstates, it had to have something like this:

Transit supporters are still hoping for multimodal solutions that would take drivers off the road rather than footing the tax bill for accommodating them on roads, but FDOT says it’s working within the framework that currently exists.

We get trying to bring context to a discussion, but this is not the context. There are two different issues.  Not wanting to spend up to $9 billion on destructively widening the interstate through the heart of Tampa without addressing real transit is completely different from spending $65 million from fixing something that FDOT should have fixed in the beginning.  We want real transit, but that doesn’t mean we want poorly designed roads.

— Confab

The Business Journal had an article about an upcoming transit conference:

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will host this year’s American Public Transportation Association Bus and Paratransit Conference, where transit leaders from across the globe will gather to find innovative transit solutions, HART announced Thursday.

The four-day conference from May 6 to 9 gives HART and PSTA a leadership role in the global conference and the ability to engage in conversations about how to address the region’s long-standing transit woes.

Maybe the conferees are interested in seeing a case study in how not to create a bus system. So what will they do?

The conference, to be held at the Tampa Marriott Waterside, will focus on operations and maintenance, accessibility and paratransit, integrated mobility and transformative technology, first-mile/last-mile transportation, safety and security, planning and sustainability, funding and finance, capital programs, procurement and workforce development.

That is all well and good, except it is a bus conference.  It is not about comprehensive transit development.  If it helps local transit agencies and local governments make the bus systems better, great, but that is all it is.

— Odd

There was some oddness from TBARTA this week.  On April 22, Sunshine Citizens posted the following screenshot from TBARTA on their Facebook page:


From Sunshine Citizens – click on chart for Facebook picture

As you can see in the circled section, it lists the total cost of the project (here the Howard Frankland improvements, though the note implies Tampa Bay Next) as $8.1 billion.  Because Tampa Bay Next has not actually put out its plan, that was odd.  We knew TBX was planned to cost between $6-9 billion, though media reports often tried to go with a lower cost. In any event, we thought that maybe it was a place holder but wanted to examine the full document.  Sunshine Citizens put this link as the source.  But, when we checked, that would not resolve.  So we went to the TBARTA website and looked for the document.  We found what appeared to be the document here. which is a TBARTA MPOs CCC meeting agenda.  Nothing odd there.  However, what was in the document was a bit odd.

From TBARTA – click on chart for document

As you can see, the same project now has a much lower total cost ($817 million). According to the Business Journal:

Stephen Benson, a government liaison with the Florida Department of Transportation, emailed TBARTA Saturday asking where the agency got the $8.1 billion figure. TBARTA’s Senior Planner and Project Coordinator Anthony Matonti replied someone had mistyped the cost estimate and added an extra zero, according to an email chain obtained by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

A follow-up email from Benson asked that TBARTA use the term “interstate modernization” and not Tampa Bay Next.

“Please be extra careful when describing these projects since a lot of people are watching them,” Benson wrote.

Setting aside that, yes, people are now watching, we figured it was a typo.

Regardless of the numbers they list, the proposals for the interstate (especially the variable rate toll lanes) are excessive and counterproductive.  And it does not change the fact that there seems to be a bottomless well of money for widening the interstate (in ineffective ways) and previous little for real transit. (And if FDOT can find billions for these roads, why can’t it find $20 million more for St. Pete’s BRT or pay for the streetcar expansion in Tampa?)

Tampa Bay Next is supposedly still ongoing.  The Regional Transit Study is supposedly taking input.  Whether that means anything remains to be seen.

Economy – Jobs

Time for a look into the job market.

Tampa Bay continues to lead the state in job demand, with a reported 43,272 openings in March.

* * *

The region was second in the state with jobs created over the last year. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford led the state with 43,700 jobs (+3.5 percent), followed by Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater with 28,700 jobs (+2.2 percent), and Jacksonville (+21,500 jobs, +3.1 percent).

Job openings are not the same thing as new jobs, but both stats are good (though we have to wonder why those jobs openings are not being filled, especially with all the new people moving here) and there is the question of wages because of things like this:

Almost half of all homes on the market in the Tampa Bay area are unaffordable for many buyers. According to Zillow, 48.7 percent of homes for sale are “high-end — more than $348,0000 in Tampa Bay — while just 20.5 percent are “low-end’’ or under $118,000.

Not to mention the high cost of car ownership here and lack of real alternatives (and the “BRT” plan will not really do much about that).

Regardless, more jobs is a good thing.

South Tampa – Sanctuary

At the end of last year, we discussed The Sanctuary, a proposed condo just north of Bay-to-Bay on Bayshore. (See “South Tampa – Bayshore Bland” )  At the time we only had simple drawings that were very bland, especially on the back side.   Now, there is a fancier rendering, at least of the front:

From Sanctuary – click on picture for website

Here’s the website.

We’ll set aside that the rendering makes it appear that this is some tower rising in a jungle, like some long-lost Maya temple.  The façade is ok.  We can’t see the back, but we can see the sides and they are still bad.  That is what most people will see most of the time.  Even worse, look at the connection to the street, which is Bayshore.  It is basically all driveway.

We have no idea how nice the units are going to be.  They may be great, but the external architecture, especially what you can’t see in the rendering but will see all the time if this gets built, really needs an upgrade.

What Do You Expect?

There was another article about noise in a local downtown, this time, St. Pete.

Downtown’s rapid growth has not been without tension between its residents and the businesses and events that draw exuberant crowds.

The city, which has been attempting to amend its noise ordinance over the past few years, isn’t there yet.

“There are a lot of issues. There are a lot of stakeholders who have a great interest in them,” said Dave Goodwin, the city’s director of planning and economic development.

There’s the booming entertainment sector. Then there are the residents flocking to the high rises and condominiums.

“Both of those sectors are growing,” Goodwin said. “They are a little bit on a collision course and we want to have an ordinance that fairly addresses the needs of both, because they are both a positive thing.”

On April 12, he laid out three options to the City Council’s Public Services and Infrastructure Committee. They could endorse a more precise, science-based decibel system to monitor the noise, add progressive penalties to the current “plainly audible” system, or radically modify it by using such methods as reducing the distances used to determine noise from a particular source.

All options would require start-up equipment and personnel, Goodwin said. Noise enforcement staff would likely be civilian employees from the Police Department, an issue that raised concerns among council members because of the new requirement for police officers in schools.

We are not going to delve into the whole article. (You can read it here). We are fine with having some logical regulation of noise in an urban area.  There is no need for blasting music outside at 2 am.  On the other hand, if you choose to live in an urban area (and just an urban area, a downtown) with urban amenities, you have to accept that there will be noise, including bars and concerts that go a little late. (And, really, what kind of soundproofing technologies are they using in the new construction?)

If you don’t want noise, live somewhere else.

Adventures in Planning – New Tampa

There was an interesting article in the Times regarding New Tampa.

New Tampa was built on sprawl.

Big houses, often in gated communities with lots of green space, are the operating principle for developing the area Tampa annexed in pieces starting in the mid 1980s.

But residents who love the good schools and pastoral setting are increasingly frustrated by traffic. Some worry about being able to get to a hospital in an emergency.

First, it is not pastoral.  It is a car-centric, sprawling mess of subdivisions, illogical roads, poorly designed retail, and limited transportation options.  And the way it is laid out, there is little hope of too much road relief.

And now a massive new development plan is making its way through the City Council that would put nearly 700 homes in the K-Bar ranch subdivision in New Tampa’s northeastern tip. That has the area’s council member raising his voice in protest.

“I have a problem with this because I think of lot of it is based on wishful thinking,” Luis Viera said at a recent meeting.

The magical thinking? That Tampa and Pasco County will agree any time soon to open a road linking K-Bar Ranch to Wesley Chapel.

This is where it gets interesting.  As you may recall, there is a road that should link Pasco and Hillsborough, but it doesn’t.  Why?  Because this is the Tampa Bay area.

Connecting Kinnan Street to Mansfield Boulevard over the Pasco County line has been a stalemate of long standing between Tampa and Pasco. The two roads are currently separated by a tiny strip of grassy land. The sparring has lasted more than a decade. Expecting a resolution to the standoff any time soon, Viera said, is like believing “in the second coming of Elvis.”

Pasco County is conducting a study to determine if Kinnan-Mansfield should be connected. That study should be finalized this summer and then presented with a recommendation to the county’s Metropolitan Planning Organization in September.

But Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn isn’t holding his breath.

“That has been a long-standing issue, a long-standing bone of contention. Pasco has not been inclined to work with us on that, which doesn’t make any sense at all. That would relieve a lot of the pressure in that area,” he said.

That’s not how Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore sees it. Tampa was the party that cut off talks several years ago, he said.

At one time, Pasco County residents did most of their shopping in New Tampa and were more open to connectors with northern Hillsborough County, he said. But with the opening of the Shops at Wiregrass nearly a decade ago, Pasco residents don’t need the connector as much.

“The tide has changed now. Things have changed,” Moore said. He said he’ll wait for the study before making up his mind but emphasized that his constituents’ feelings on the issue are what is important to him. And they aren’t clamoring for the connector.

That is about this area’s level of planning and development.

The road would be useful for everyone, providing at least a partial alternative to Bruce B. Downs (but maybe his constituents like being stuck in traffic on SR56 or Bruce B. Downs when trying to get south).  As you can see here, the road does not even go through a residential neighborhood.  It goes between neighborhoods.  There is absolutely no reason not to connect this.  In fact, there is no good reason it was not connected before.  (And, despite the City Council initially voting for the development, the new houses should not be built until the city figures out how people can get around.)

Honestly, the whole issue is just stupid.  However, the lack of intelligent and coordinated planning is a hallmark of this area’s failure to learn lessons over time.  Just look at South County.

Rays – Money Talk

There has been a lot of news about the Rays (including this article from the Wall Street Journal about baseball in Florida. ).  We are not going to get into all of it.  However, there was an interesting article in the Times about a possible stadium funding mechanism.

Private developers would bear much of the cost of a new Rays stadium in Ybor City under a plan Hillsborough County officials are putting together.

Developers would benefit by cashing in on commercial, retail and other construction around a new ballpark, according to Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill. Taxpayers would win by not having to foot as much of the bill.

But one incentive local officials hoped would help grease the deal is no longer in play.

Both the city of Tampa and the county applied to get the land around the proposed ballpark site designated as an economic opportunity zone, a new federal designation that gives tax breaks to developers who invest in low-income areas.

The Ybor site, however, was not among the 427 sites that the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said this week will be recommended to the federal government.

It was not one of 427 sites in Florida?  Even more:

The state received more than 1,200 requests for the program from cities, counties, civic associations and other government entities. Each site was assessed according to poverty rates, population, unemployment rates and other economic indicators.

* * *

While the Ybor site did not qualify for the opportunity zone designation, 108 other sites in Tampa Bay were nominated by the state.

They include land next to Port Tampa Bay and Tampa International Airport. Areas of South St. Petersburg, East Tampa and Tampa Heights were also recommended.

Land near the Port was ok, but Ybor was not?  It was not one of the best third of sites in the state?

State officials did not provide specifics on why the Ybor ballpark site did not make cut.

“Feedback was incorporated as much as possible, and balanced with the economic analysis,” said spokeswoman Tiffany Vause. “For example, a request in an area with very low unemployment may not have been chosen.”

Is there a significant different between the Port and Ybor?  How specific are the employment figures they are considering? But there is a more basic question – how many sites to compete with Ybor did the City and County put forward?

We are not saying that, in a vacuum, the Ybor site should have been picked. On the other hand, given all the other sites that were picked, the failure of that site is odd.  And it is odd that the effort seems more like an afterthought than a plan.  In any event, we shall see what happens.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country (and World)

— Hit and Run

We often say that just painting a bike lane on a road is not really creating bike infrastructure, which is really a statement of the obvious to anyone who has biked.  This week, there was a report from the Wall Street Journal:

Hit-and-run crash deaths are rising nationwide, and pedestrians and bicyclists account for close to 70% of the victims, according to a new report, as more people cycle to work and motor-vehicle fatalities are at a near-decade-high level.

The number of hit-and-run fatalities jumped 61% from 2009 to 2016, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

* * *

To improve safety, he said, pedestrians and cyclists need physical barriers like protected bike lanes—an idea gaining popularity around the U.S. but also causing fights in some places over reduced parking or travel lanes.

And protected lanes do not mean bike paths and trails that just end without connecting to anything (like some recent plans).

You can read the whole article here.

— Transit Debate

The debate about transit often descends into a very odd, seemingly ideological mess.  We have long maintained transit is not a conservative of liberal issue.  Maybe there are other explanations.  For instance, maybe this article from Bloomberg points somewhere:

Electric buses were seen as a joke at an industry conference in Belgium seven years ago when the Chinese manufacturer BYD Co. showed an early model.

“Everyone was laughing at BYD for making a toy,” recalled Isbrand Ho, the Shenzhen-based company’s managing director in Europe. “And look now. Everyone has one.”

* * *

For every 1,000 battery-powered buses on the road, about 500 barrels a day of diesel fuel will be displaced from the market, according to BNEF calculations. This year, the volume of fuel buses take off the market may rise 37 percent to 279,000 barrels a day, about as much oil as Greece consumes, according to BNEF.

And add to that electric trains and transit potentially taking cars off the road.  We are not going to flesh it out more now. If you are interested, you can look into it more.

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