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Roundup 11-2-2018

November 1, 2018

Contents

Downtown/Channel District – Connections

Downtown – 500

Tampa Heights – Could Be Better

West Tampa – Adaptive Reuse

Transportation – Odds and Ends

— Propitious Timing?

— Brightline

— Money

— Ferry

— Yet More Examples

Economic Development/Politics/Built Environment – Someone Has to Pay

Lessons in Planning

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

— About Ports

— Underlined

Built Environment/Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World

_________________________________________________________


Downtown/Channel District – Connections

Downtown boosters have long dreamed that the flour mill along Meridian would be bought, allowing development.

The flour mill covers a little more than 3 acres and was owned by Ardent Mills, a joint venture between ConAgra and two other agri-business companies. It has long been seen as an anachronistic remnant of the waterfront’s smokestack past and out of synch with Water Street’s lifestyle-driven mix of high-rise hotels, apartments, condominiums and offices.

Built in 1938, the 80,000-square-foot flour mill grinds wheat around the clock, shipping 1.5 million pounds of flour a day to bakeries across Florida, the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean.

Well,

. . . the development company for Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment on Friday paid $13 million to buy the ConAgra flour mill just north of their 50-acre Water Street Tampa project.

The transaction clears the way for the 80-year-old flour plant to move. . . and for developers with Strategic Property Partners (SPP) to expand Water Street Tampa’s footprint and further shape the city’s urban core.

We can’t say we are surprised or unhappy about it.   And it has this added bonus:

SPP, controlled by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment LLC, paid more than $13 million for the property, adding it to the more than 50 acres it already controls between downtown Tampa and the Channel district. At the same time, the city of Tampa has has secured the rights to connect Cumberland Avenue from Meridian Avenue to Brorein Avenue. As of November 2020, the flour mill will terminate its leasing rights to the rail spur south of Cumberland Avenue.

The road connection is important; the entire foundation of Water Street is a reconfigured street grid that transforms the moribund gravel parking lots surrounding the arena into a walkable, pedestrian-scale neighborhood. But the deal SPP and the city have struck with the flour mill is about building more than a new road: It removes a physical and mental barrier between the Channel district and central business district.

See the area here.

The streets do not line up exactly, but the connection can be done, even if it does not exactly make a grid (Pierhouse messed up the north-south grid and blocks some of the east-west grid, anyway.  Good thing we have Pierhouse and Aurora).  And it would be good, though this is overstated a bit:

While the Channel district is an easy walk from the central business district, it is neither a pleasant nor comfortable walk. Tourists, conventiongoers and Channel district residents walking on Meridian Avenue face a conundrum: With a panoramic view of the skyline, downtown is clearly close by, but there’s no clear way to get there. With the flour mill out of the literal picture — and new sidewalks to guide the way — the Channel district and city center will finally be connected.

On the north end of the Channel District, the grid is connected (Jackson being the southernmost connection before Channelside), though the government section of downtown that connects to the Channel District is not that inviting.  In any event, it will be nice to have the southern end connected, especially if Water Street develops it in line with their existing plans.  (Note that the land was once discussed for a Rays stadium and, given the rails, is often raised for a potential train station.  Whether Brightline is considering it or not is unknown. Then again, they did not buy it.)

As for the mill:

“Ardent Mills is looking at several sites in Tampa and the surrounding area for our new community mill location,” spokeswoman Mary Ann Strombitski said in an email Friday evening to the Tampa Bay Times. “We are excited to continue to serve the Tampa community from our current facility and our future new facility. We have not selected or finalized a site location yet.”

Hopefully, they will end up in the Port nearby.

And there was more activity:

One business day after paying $13 million for the site of the ConAgra flour mill, the development company for Water Street Tampa on Monday got the green light to spend another $2.75 million more on land it needs for its finest hotel and tallest office tower.

The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority board voted to sell the land — nine parcels that used to make up the curvy parts of Brorein Street — to Strategic Property Partners (SPP), the real estate venture between Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment, the private capital fund of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Even more than the purchase of the flour plant, which has long been seen as an industrial anachronism in an area expected to become a lively neighborhood and entertainment hub, the Brorein Street purchase has immediate importance for the $3 billion mixed-used development.

That’s because SPP’s plans include a new Marriott Edition boutique hotel and a 20-story office building near where Brorein used to split off from Channelside Drive.

“The reason this is critical is two of our projects could not have gone forward until we owned all the property,” SPP executive vice president and general counsel Jim Shimberg said after the vote.

As with so much, it is all tied together:

“Two huge things have happened two days in a row,” Shimberg said. “We couldn’t close (with the expressway authority) until the rights to the Cumberland crossing were secured.”

We had no doubt that the Expressway Authority would agree.  The only question was Ardent Mills.  Now, it is all worked out.

On to the more fun stuff regarding the hotel and office building:

Construction is expected to start on both projects in early 2019, and both are projected to open in 2021. The Marriott Edition building will rise 26 stories, with 173 rooms in the hotel and 46 condominiums on its top 15 floors. The office tower, at 1001 Water Street, will open next to the new medical school building already under construction for the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute.

We look forward to it.


Downtown – 500

In vaguely related news:

Bank of America Plaza in downtown Tampa will be the new corporate headquarters of the Mosaic Company, the first Fortune 500 firm to relocate to the Tampa Bay area.

The phosphate mining giant announced in May that it was moving its corporate offices from Minneapolis to Hillsborough County but the exact site had not been known until today.

Banyan Capital, owner of the 42-story tower at 101 Kennedy Boulevard, said Mosaic will rent 20,000 square feet on the 25th floor. The move-in date has not been announced nor has the number of employees who will work out of the space. 

We are all for Fortune 500 companies relocating to Tampa and downtown.  We find it interesting that they chose an existing building rather than Water Street, but, given all the potential factors involved, we draw no conclusions.  In any event, having a Fortune 500 company nearby is not a bad thing for attracting business.


Tampa Heights – Could Be Better

A few weeks ago, we discussed the office building along Tampa Street proposed by the Heights project.  We noted that on the block south of that there were plans for a hotel, grocery store, and parking garage.  This week elevations for the garage block were released.  From UBRN Tampa Bay:

As you can see from the site plan, the block includes a 30,000 square foot grocery store, 7,000 square feet of retail space, a hotel, and 1,560 parking spaces which will be a majority of the The Heights master plan’s total parking at full build out.

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

 

From the elevations, you can see that the hotel will screen the western side of the structure.  The grocery store will face Tampa.  Both those are fine.  However, we agree with URBN Tampa Bay:

We understand the development needs parking, but it needs to be dressed up better then this. A development of this size should have been able to do a better job of wrapping its parking with other uses to conceal it.

Or at least they could try to cover the parking levels with some screening or a green wall. (Otherwise the view over this nice field of flowers  will not be so pleasant) They can definitely do better than six levels of bland, exposed parking in the heart of Tampa Heights.  We know they know how to do it, because they did a nice job with the Pearl.  Hopefully, they will make some changes.


West Tampa – Adaptive Reuse

This week there was a proposal for an adaptive reuse of a cigar factory on Howard.  From URBN Tampa Bay:

Plans have been filed with the city to convert the vacant cigar factory at the northwest corner of Howard Ave. and Nassau St. into a 70-room hotel. 77 parking spaces are required according to code and the developer wants to provide 71.

The rezoning hearing is set for March 14th.

 

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for posting

The location is here.

We have been waiting a long time for the old West Tampa cigar factories to be put to good use.  We count a hotel among those uses.   While we are not so excited about two surface parking lots (and the pool is in an odd location), at least the proposal is looking for a little less parking than the code requires.  City should allow the decrease.

This is a corridor (that has been) primed for redevelopment all the way to the heart of West Tampa (especially if real transit is even built) that has a number of old buildings ready to be renovated.  The City should encourage it as much as possible (but not buildings that fake activating the street, like this)  And it should avoid surface parking fronting the street.


Transportation – Odds and Ends


— Propitious Timing?

The idea of running transit (not just commuter trains but real transit – DMU’s, running on hydrogen or electrified) on the CSX lines in this area has been around for a long time.  And, given where they go, it makes a lot of sense.  One issue has been buying the lines from CSX.  The State paid to buy them for SunRail in Orlando, but there has never really been a serious effort here.  The stars may be aligning. From the Jacksonville Business Journal:

CSX Corp. is making good on its pledge to trim surplus rail lines with more than 1,100 miles of track now up for grabs. In filings with the Surface Transportation Board, CSX (Nasdaq: CSX) targets 460 miles of track across 28 different lines – in addition to the 650 miles of track it solicited in June.

The lines – which CSX is looking to sell, abandon or discontinue service – are dispersed across a dozen states. Alabama stands to lose the most miles in CSX’s STB filings at 180, but the 650 miles solicited in June – concentrated mostly in New York – are not broken down by miles.

* * *

At the railroad’s investor conference in March, Mark Wallace, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, forecasted $500 million from selling rail lines, plus $300 million in real estate sales, over the next three years.

“If we don’t need it, let’s get rid of it,” Wallace said during the conference. “Our team has been unleashed to generate revenue wherever we can find it.”

* * *

CSX CEO Jim Foote told the Business Journal after the company’s third quarter earnings call that there was not a geographic or commodity-specific strategy to the lines the company is looking to sell. Rather, CSX is selling lines “that don’t really fit well with our network anymore” and lines “that might have strategic value for CSX, but might be a better fit for someone else,” according to Foote. Some of the lines that have been sold or abandoned had not carried trains in years, according to STB filings.

We understand that a downtown to Westhore connection would not be involved (because CSX does not have one) and would have to be built.  And we get that the CSX lines do not cross the bay, though they do connect to Clearwater through Westchase (which still has land set aside for a station).  They also go to Pasco County.  And they go near the airport from the north (there are ways to go around the airport to get to Westshore from there allowing a loop).

The article does not say anything specific about this area, but this is the time to find out.  Then we can forget the “BRT” plan, have some express buses, and work on the real transit system we need.


— Brightline

There was an article in 83 Degrees media that discussed Brightline.  First, it discussed the connection between Tampa and Orlando.  It discussed Brightline as a developer, which we have discussed before.  Then:

Baumgartner expects that an Orlando-Tampa leg would also boost the tourism and leisure industries.

“Having high-speed rail that can connect those two regions instead of sitting in a car on I-4 could be critical for tourism,” he says. “Folks who come down to Orlando for the amusement parks and want to shoot over for a day to the beaches or to see a baseball game will use it. Then there’s the reverse of that for the folks who come down to the beaches and want to shoot over to the amusement parks for a day.”

“It would connect two of the major economic engines in the state of Florida and the two anchors in the I-4 corridor,” Buckhorn says. “A lot of the foreign visitors who come to Orlando to visit the theme parks also want to visit the beaches. It would be an easy access point for them to get to Tampa for better access to the beaches.”

Someday, but probably not anytime soon (though the CSX lines could speed the process).  Let’s look at the trip to the beaches from an amusement park.  We will assume that all plans proposed right now are built.  First, you have to go from the amusement park to Orlando airport (which is in the wrong direction).  From there, you take the train to downtown Tampa.  Either by ridesharing, walking or the streetcar (depending on the station location) you get to the “BRT” stop under the interstate.  Form there you go to Gateway or downtown St. Pete.  From there, you make your fourth change and get a (potentially real) BRT line (or ridesharing) to the beach.  And after you spend the day at the beach, you get to do it again and hope all the services run on time and all the connections are made. You’d have to be a truly hardy traveler to choose that option (though getting to a baseball game at the proposed Rays stadium from Orlando would be much better, assuming you can get to Orlando airport easily and parking is not more expensive than parking for the game).

We have been very clear about our view of Brightline.  We are all for it, but the fact remains that the Orlando connection at the airport is truly suboptimal unless you are going to Lake Nona.  Right now, it is more interesting for connections past Orlando.  Say you have to go to West Palm Beach.  You can drive, but it is long and with no really good path.  You can take a puddle jumper, which takes time, money, and many people avoid them.  Or you could take a train, do something or sleep on the way and end up downtown.  That sounds much better.

The article then gets into this:

Buckhorn and Baumgartner say transit in the Tampa Bay Area needs to improve for Brightline to reach its full potential. While Brightline is privately funded, they each speak in support of the transportation sales tax on the November ballot in Hillsborough County as a way to generate the money to improve the local transit system.

“We still have to resolve the last mile issue,” Buckhorn says. “When you get to downtown Tampa, how do you move people around Tampa? That only strengthens the argument for local rail to move people to the airport, or the beaches or downtown St. Pete. That’s obviously years down the road but resolving that last mile connection is equally as important as getting Brightline because you don’t want tourists to be dropped off in the middle of downtown Tampa with their suitcases and no way to get to the airport.”

(Note, there has never been a plan to have rail go to the beach, though the Greenlight plan did go to downtown Clearwater, so that is close enough). We agree with the basic point that we need the local infrastructure, though it is hardly a last mile issue, especially for St. Pete or the beaches.  (And remember, the more line changes you have to make the more likely something will go wrong and the more likely people will choose not make the trip that way.)

Ride-sharing services such as “Uber and Lyft will be part of that equation but we also need a more robust bus system,” Buckhorn says. “It reinforces the need to pass the transportation referendum in November because it’s all about the linkages; it’s all about connecting the various modes of transportation, of which there will be many, into a single seamless system.” 

We are for a seamless system (as longtime readers will know).  However, there is no seamless system to Pinellas and the only plan right now is the weak “BRT” plan.  (And that does not take care of the “last mile(s)” issue of getting to/from Orlando’s airport at the Orlando end.)

We are for a Brightline connection in Tampa.  And we are for a coordinated transportation system in the Tampa Bay area (and, to make intercity rail work, in Orlando)  We just think that all the coverage of Brightline ignores the real strength of the service in favor of something that will likely be clunky at best for . . . given all the variables, it’s hard to say how long.


— Money

HART is requesting money from the Legislature for a number of things,

For HART’s 2019 State Legislative Funding Recommended Priorities, the authority details three major projects that are in need of funding to get underway.

Those requests include a 1) heavy bus maintenance facility, $22.86 million for construction and demolition; 2) CAD/AVL system modernization, $10 million for new equipment purchase and installation costs; and 3) electric powered transit bus demonstration project, $2.87 million for vehicle and equipment purchase. While the request may seem a bit odd given the referendum and possibility that they will have much more money soon.  However, they worked that into the request:

The documents note that funding for the projects also depends on the outcome of the Nov. 6 sales tax referendum.

If the increased sales tax to fund transit and transportation projects in Tampa Bay is approved, HART officials will alter this funding request to move from a demonstration project to a full-fledged electric bus replacement and service expansion project. HART officials will also alter its funding request for the bus maintenance facility to include real property acquisition, as building on the current site is not feasible due to future service expansion requirements mandated through the referendum and HART’s Transit Development Plan, according to HART’s documents.

Which is fine, though it will be interesting to see how much money for smallish projects gets allocated by the State if the referendum passes.


— Ferry

The Cross Bay ferry started its second seasonal service. You can get information here.


– Yet More Examples

Last week gave us yet more reasons why running buses on the shoulders is a bad idea. On Monday,

Two separate crashes on Interstate 4 in Polk County caused traffic backups for motorists traveling toward Tampa early Monday morning, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The first accident closed westbound lanes in Lakeland after a semi-trailer transporting sweet potatoes caught fire around 5:10 a.m. near mile marker 35, troopers said.

The driver, 62-year-old Steven Tillman of Orlando, exited to the emergency shoulder as the semi-trailer experienced a mechanical issue and became engulfed in flames. Troopers say nobody was injured in the incident.

The second crash came shortly after, troopers say, closing westbound lanes near mile marker 40 just west of Polk Parkway.

Also on Monday,

The northbound lanes of I-75 have reopened Monday morning following a three-vehicle crash.

The crash occurred just north of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

And Thursday (this time with serious injuries),

For the second time in less than two weeks, a suspected drunk driver made a U-Turn and went the wrong way on the Howard Frankland Bridge early Thursday morning, causing a crash that closed all northbound lanes.

Once again, accidents blocking the interstate are far too routine (as are death from these accidents).  We need real alternatives.


Economic Development/Politics/Built Environment – Someone Has to Pay

We routinely say that if you want something, you have to pay for it.  And, for years, Hillsborough County had an impact fee system (now “mobility” fees) that was supposed to have developers pay for the impact of their development.  Needless to say, it never worked (mostly because the County did not really enforce it).  A Times editorial, in a related context, pointed out the attitude that causes that:

Hillsborough County residents are paying for growth on both ends, subsidizing development on the front end while struggling to address billion-dollar backlogs for roads, schools and other public services. Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp tried to slow that senseless cycle this month with a reasonable proposal to raise development fees. The commission’s refusal to act is another reason why voters need to make smart choices for the board in the November elections.

Kemp exposed the pitifully low sum developers pay when applying to build projects that exceed existing planning guidelines. If a developer wants to tear up more than 100 acres in Manatee County, for example, the application fee alone would cost $20,000. Broward County would charge $17,500; in Pasco, the fee is $7,000. But Hillsborough’s fee is only $1,000 — a token amount that hasn’t changed since 1987, when Ronald Reagan was president.

* * *

Kemp called for commissioners to increase the fees to at least pay for the staff time. Under one proposal, application fees to consider large-scale developments would increase to $4,000 from $3,000, while fees for smaller developments (less than 500 acres) would increase to $4,000 from $1,000. The fees for other plan reviews would also increase, to up to $1,500 from between $100 and $150. But even with the higher fee schedule, Hillsborough’s rates would still be lower than those in Pasco, Manatee, Broward and Palm Beach counties. And for large developments, the higher fees would still be lower than if Hillsborough had indexed the current fee by 3 percent over the 29 years since it was last updated.

Commissioners balked, though, insisting they need more time to get feedback from developers. Commissioner Victor Crist resurrected the canard that higher fees would dampen real estate development. “Whatever fees we charge are going to be passed onto the homebuyer,” he said. It’s inconceivable that an extra $1,000 for a 500-acre project would catch anybody’s notice. Home prices are largely shaped by interest rates, the price of materials and other big costs — not modest increases over time in permitting fees. And why should current residents subsidize developers by shouldering the costs for overseeing new construction?

For far too long, the County has had a laissez-faire attitude towards development.  That has left us with poor planning, poor infrastructure, and a long list of needs.  Yes, the County miraculously finds funding (a/k/a taxpayer money) for hundreds of millions of dollars of road work when it wants to, but money if fungible.  If there was a proper comprehensive fee system, some of that taxpayer money would be replaced by fee money (and could be reallocated to other needs, though they should be real needs not pet projects).  And, yes, there would still be needs that are not the responsibility of present developers and we do not think they should have to pay for needs for past poor decisions.  But that does not mean that the ineffective fee system should continue.

As for the argument that proper fees would kill development, we are often told how desirable this area is.  But then we are told that development will not happen if we have a rational fee system that is actually enforced.  You can’t have it both ways. (Not to mention the other counties mentioned are in the same situation and seem to get by.) Just like planning, the fee system needs to be fixed and enforced.  Present residents should not bear the burden of subsidizing routine developments.

Which brings us to housing, from the Times:

Construction began on nearly 3,000 homes in the Tampa Bay area in the third quarter of this year but the new-home market shows definite signs of slowing down.

Moreover, “truly affordable housing (is becoming) an impossibility in this market,” a new report warns.

According to Metrostudy, which tracks housing starts in the bay area, 2,946 single-family homes came out of the ground in the three months ended in September, 5.1 percent more than in the third quarter of 2017. However, the increase was largely due to a near halt in construction following Hurricane Irma a year ago September.

The report (here) does not say much more, but it says this:

For the twelve months ending September 2018, annual new home starts in price ranges under $250k totaled 4,402 units, down 8.9% from the 3Q17 annual activity. New home starts in prices over $250k grew by 20.6% from 5,495 units as of 3Q17 to 6,624 units as of 2Q18.

* * *

“Hurricane Irma affected both starts and closings during 3Q17 – and the 5.1% increase in quarterly starts this year is less than losing one week of activity last year (7.7% of the quarter was lost), so a case can be made that the market was slower in 3Q18 than 3Q17,” said Tony Polito, Regional Director of Metrostudy’s Tampa market. “A telltale sign of a slowing market is contraction starting in the upper end, and while last quarter we noted a decline in the annual start pace for units over $450k, that trend continued into 3Q with a 6.8% decline in starts in that highest price band. We are already undersupplied on the lower end product as land, lot and labor costs coupled with government fees make it nearly impossible to build truly affordable housing. This situation is made worse by rising interest rates. The national 30 year mortgage has now crossed 5% which magnifies the need for affordable product.”

Because we pushed some 2017 closings into 2018 due to Irma and we had no real lost time to weather this year, the annual closing pace is above 11,000 units for the first time since 3Q 2007. Metrostudy’s theory is 30,000 new jobs equals 11,000 new “for sale” housing units. If Tampa can sustain this level of job growth, the biggest road block for new housing will be the cost of housing versus wage growth, especially with another three to four Federal Reserve interest rate increases anticipated in 2019.

 

From Metrostudy.com – click on chart for article

 

Affordable housing is always an issue. As you can see from the graphic, new houses under $200,000 have been a smaller segment for a while, and the lowest cost homes have been a very small percentage.  That is most likely because there are bigger profits in bigger houses.  Not to mention that housing prices overall have been going up, meaning fewer cheaper houses.

We find it hard to believe that, with the County’s decidedly low fees that fees are the real reason for fewer affordable housing starts. For comparison, the Central Florida report by the same company tells us “Housing affordability in Central Florida is rapidly diminishing as prices continue pushing skyward. With wages falling further behind the rate of home price appreciation, competition has revved up for condos and townhouses.”  but says nothing about fees. In Naples-Ft. Myers, overall starts seem up, but affordable housing is very low with no mention of fees.   South Florida, including Broward, has a good overall report, but it says nothing about low affordable housing starts and fees. Sarasota-Bradenton’s most recent report – May – mentions cost issues, but also says nothing about fees while mentioning interest rates.   And in none of those areas are affordable housing starts very high.

It is odd that fees only get mentioned in the report on the Tampa Bay area (especially given that the most active new home starts seems to be in Pasco, where there are mobility fees).  And there is always the option of building smaller houses, on smaller lots, and/or closer to the developed areas to lower any mobility fees that are charged. (And, while we are not necessarily in favor of it because it would be open to abuse and manipulation, if affordable housing is the real concern, there is the option of a partial reduction of fees for affordable housing, defined very conservatively, but not other houses.)  Moreover, if we had decent transportation options, people would have more to spend on homes.

But a real key, especially for this area, is that, as the article noted and was noted in reports for other areas, wage growth has to keep up with other pricing factors, including interest rates. (For more on wages in Florida, see here.)

Affordable housing is a problem nationwide. There are many proposed policies to help alleviate it.  However, we are still waiting for a good explanation of how subsidizing sprawling developments that do not include affordable units is an effective way of going about it.


Lessons in Planning

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

New Tampa offers many of the perks of suburban living while still being inside city limits: roomy homes on big lots, good schools and a low crime rate.

But the sprawling collection of gated communities in the northernmost reaches of Tampa also has a big drawback: the longest emergency response times in the city.

At 8.96 minutes, the 34-square mile district has a median response time that’s about 90 seconds longer than Tampa’s four other fire department districts, according to data obtained by the Tampa Bay Times through a public records request.

In an emergency, authorities acknowledge, a minute and a half can be the difference between life and death.

In response, the City is building a new station, which makes sense.  Setting aside an intermediate issue of where trucks that will eventually be assigned to the new station are now stationed, why are the times so bad?

Council member Luis Viera, who represents New Tampa, said the problem is emblematic of what happens when the city swallows a huge swath of land which then fills up with people. Tampa annexed what is now New Tampa beginning in the 1980s. Since 1990, the area has swelled from about 9,000 people to around 60,000.

That is one factor, but there is another:

Craig Margelowsky, an incoming board member for the K-Bar Community Development District, says he understands the rationale for placing the engine and rescue car in neighborhoods with older homes and more calls. But he wishes they could be housed at Cross Creek, nearer to his home.

“We are so spread out our neighborhoods are 500 acres or 1,000 acres. It takes a long time on these winding roads to get from Point A to Point B,” Margelowsky said. “They’re covering a whole lot more acreage than they are anywhere else.”

Exactly. Sprawl is inefficient.  It is inefficient for traffic, for transit, for walking, for infrastructure, and for emergency services.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida


— About Ports

A few weeks ago, the Port, “Florida’s largest,” released revenue figures:

Port Tampa Bay set a new operating revenue record at $59.7 million for the Fiscal Year 2018, which ended September 30th. This record eclipses the previous high in FY2017 of $53.8 million. The operating revenue figure includes only those dollars generated as a result of Port Tampa Bay operations. It does not include ad valorem tax revenue or grants.

We noted that was good.   This week, we ran across an article about Port Canaveral:

More cruises and cargo were the drivers for a banner financial year at Port Canaveral.

The port saw $103.75 million in total revenue for the 2018 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to numbers presented by Port CEO John Murray and Chief Financial Officer Mike Poole to the Canaveral Port Authority Board of Commissioners on Wednesday.

The biggest driver in the increased revenue was cargo, which broke $10 million in revenue for the first time in the port’s 65-year history. The port saw 6.4 million tons of things like cars, newsprint, lumber and rocket boosters, a 6.9 increase over fiscal 2017 numbers.

* * *

Total cruise revenue was $77.7 million, which was $4.9 million more than fiscal 2017, a 6.8 percent increase.

We get that Port Canaveral is the world’s second busiest cruise port.  We get that Tampa has much more cargo business.  And we get that Tampa has the unresolved (and now undiscussed) issue of the bridge restricting the size of cruise ships (cruise ships bring a lot of revenue).  Nevertheless, it gives some perspective to the numbers and the challenges.


— Underlined

When Miami built MetroRail, it not only chose one of the most expensive options for transit (elevated heavy rail), it left the land under much of the line (especially the southern end) as basically a long strip of grass.  Now, that is going to change.

On Thursday, a contractor is scheduled to break ground on the first phase of the much-anticipated Underline, which will eventually extend from downtown Miami to Dadeland under the Metrorail’s elevated tracks. That initial segment, in the booming Brickell district, is just seven blocks and a half-mile long.

* * *

A master plan drawn up by High Line designers James Corner Field Operations for the nonprofit group she leads, Friends of the Underline, envisions 10 miles of continuous, parallel but separated pathways for people on foot and people on bikes. Lushly landscaped with native species, the trail would connect a series of parks, gardens, playgrounds and other gathering spots whose look and feel relate to neighborhood surroundings that range from intensely urban to placid suburbia.

The comprehensive concept could cost as much as $120 million to build out. Daly has so far secured about $90 million in funding commitments from Miami, Coral Gables, Miami-Dade and the state of Florida, including money from road and park impact fees paid by developers and state funds earmarked for trail construction.

You can read more here, here, and see the details here. And note they are using some impact fees.


Built Environment/Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Vox.com had an interesting article discussing walkability and a book by the lead urban planner of Water Street (that makes it interesting on its own, if just to see what he thinks).  You can read the article here. We will just highlight this:

The idea is marketed based on a few big benefits, according to Speck’s book, one of them being economics. Cities with high walk scores also have high property values. According to a 2009 study, each additional walk score point resulted in home values increasing between $500 and $3,000.

Investing in walkable cities, whether through allocating funds to repaint pedestrian walkways or building affordable housing close to downtowns, also attracts diverse populations and creates jobs. According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, 63 percent of millennials and 42 percent of boomers would like to live in a place where they don’t need a car. And according to the National Association of Realtors, 62 percent of millennials prefer to live in a walkable community where a car is optional. If cities seem less automobile-dependent, chances are they are more appealing to a range of ages.

Walking also costs the city very little, unlike cars and even public transit. According to Speck’s book, if a resident takes a bus ride, it may cost them $1 but costs the city $1.50 in bus operation. If a resident decides to drive, it costs the city $9.20 in services like policing and ambulances. When a resident walks, the cost to the city is a penny.

People also tend to spend more money in walkable cities, stimulating the local economy. A 2008 report of San Francisco’s downtown found that public transit users and walkers spent less on each trip downtown but made more frequent trips, which meant they spent more money overall. Those in cars spent more money on one trip but frequented downtown less. 

The benefits of walking are very interesting.  But also note the difference in ongoing public costs of transit users (here, buses) and drivers (not to mention the price of roads).


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World

In October, the streetcar in Tampa went free (for three years).  In doing so, it joined a growing group.

How do you encourage people to take public transit more? One option is to make it free.

That’s what the city of Dunkirk, France, did in September when it made buses free and accessible to all passengers, even visitors. With a population of roughly 200,000, Dunkirk is the largest city in Europe to offer free public transit, the Guardian reported.

Dunkirk’s system was inspired by Tallinn, Estonia, the first European capital to provide fare-free service on buses, trams, and trolleys to registered residents. Locals pay €2 for a “green card” that gives them unlimited free trips. The program started in 2013 and, as of 2016, Tallinn claimed it was turning a €20 million-a-year profit.

Free public transit, once impossibly radical, is gaining popularity. Dunkirk joins roughly two dozen French cities that have gone fare free. Aubagne, for example, made transit free on 11 bus routes serving 100,000 residents in 2009. Over the next three years, bus ridership rose 142% and car trips decreased 10%, according to a 2013 article in Metropolitiques. In Châteauroux, eliminating fares in the early 2000s revitalized the town’s ailing transit system and catapulted its mayor to immense popularity.

Earlier this year, five German cities said they would try free public transit, though they’ve since decided to dramatically reduce fares rather than waive them entirely.

We not going to get into detail, but you can read more here and here.

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