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Roundup 4-19-2019

April 18, 2019


Transportation – Surf and Turf

— Ferry

— Roads to Nowhere

— Autonomous Test

Channel District – More Sparkman

Rocky Point – Re-try

Downtown/Hyde Park – TGH

Downtown – By the Highway

Westshore-ish – Midtown Hotel

Port – Down by Redwing

Economy/Economic Development

— Population

— Tourism

— Living

USF – Branches

Politics/Regionalism – Water

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country/Built Environment/Planning – Parking

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World


Transportation – Surf and Turf

— Ferry

After waiting years for something to happen (and having the County spend quite a bit of money on consultants) on the MacDill-South County ferry idea, there was a lot of buzz this week about a modified proposal.

Ferry operator HMS Global Maritime and the South Swell Development Group submitted a business plan on Tuesday to Hillsborough County as part of a public-private partnership with the county.

* * *

The new permanent service would connect from Williams Park in South Hillsborough County to MacDill and would launch in 2022.

It would also connect commuters between South Hillsborough County, MacDill, downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg.

That last point does not seem to be exactly true.  First, most of the routes are not useful for commuters (more on that later), and, second, there is no single service that visits all four stops during the same period, to wit:

The new service includes:

* * *

The frequency will be every 10 to 15 minutes leaving Williams Park and going to MacDill on weekdays. The ride would be 14 minutes long.

And, in the partnership, what will the partners do?

The partners behind the MacDill route have offered to pay all operational costs and maintenance repairs of the new service, including the Tampa Bay service. The proposal covers 20 years of operations, which is a $100 million financial commitment, according to a release.

The proposed service would require construction of new ferry docks at Williams Park and MacDill, a ferry ticketing area, parking for 750 cars, a tram service to the Air Force base, and a reconfiguration of the existing intersection of U.S. 41 and Riverview Road, according to the release.

In other words:

Two companies, HMS Ferries Inc. and South Swell Development Corp., would pay more than $100 million to operate and maintain the four boats for 20 years, according to a business plan shared at a press event Tuesday. But county commissioners must first to agree to pay the up-front costs to get the project running.

So what will this cost taxpayers?

And perhaps more important, it still requires approval from Hillsborough County Commissioners to pay $36.5 million for ferry docks at Williams Park in Gibsonton, plus four vessels, offices and other capital costs.

Setting aside that the County would pay for “offices”, it is worth noting this about the previous South County-MacDill ferry plan from 2018 when the old County Commission tried to kill the plan:

Commissioners then cited a consultant’s report that stated the costs of docks, boats and parking at a south county terminal may be as much as $30 million, well above the $22 million in BP settlement money the county set aside in 2017.

(Back in 2014, the proposal was for the County to pay $24 million.)

In our view, the analysis should focus on the transit aspect because we do not think the County should be in the business of paying the capital or other costs for fun-cruises.  The only real transit part of the plan is the South County-MacDill part.  It is the only part that will run with frequency on weekdays.  The lack of daytime connections from South County to downtown or St. Pete removes that service from real transit consideration.  So our focus is on the South County-MacDill element.

Like the previous South County-MacDill plan, right now, we are neither for nor against this one.  We see the potential merit of the South County-MacDill route for real transportation (like logical destinations generally, decent sized market, and good frequency) but have not seen the details of this plan.

And we have some questions: What do the taxpayers get for the increased capital contribution?  How much of that cost is not related to the South County-MacDill element? What happens if the private partners do not make money off the deal or decide to walk or go out of business?  If it makes money, is there profit sharing, and, if so, what is it? (And, given how much the County would spend/risk up front, if not, why not?) And is there any South Tampa access other than actually on the base? Have they resolved all the issues that held up the South County-MacDill service for half a decade?  Is Williams Park (map here) even viable for a 750 car parking lot? Who pays to replace or upgrade boats and facilities? That’s enough to start.

As we said, we are not opposed to the plan, but we need to know more to determine if this plan is worth it (or needs some modification), especially when the County would be paying up front and there are many other needs in Hillsborough County.

— Roads to Nowhere

The rural toll road plan in the legislature keeps moving along.

Plans for three new or expanded toll roads across rural areas of the state continued to roll through the Senate on Thursday, despite critics warning about sprawling development.

With the issue a priority of Senate President Bill Galvano, the Senate Appropriations Committee backed the proposal (SB 7068), which calls for spending $45 million next year and would lead to establishing task forces to study economic and environmental impacts of each project.

* * *

The proposal would extend the Suncoast Parkway from the Tampa Bay area north to the Georgia border, extend the Florida Turnpike west to hook up with the Suncoast Parkway and build a new transportation corridor from Polk County to Collier County.

Galvano, R-Bradenton, has said the roads would help rural communities, address the state’s continued rapid growth, provide new hurricane-evacuation options, expand bicycle and pedestrian trails and lay the groundwork for new water and sewer lines and broadband.

None of that is a surprise, though we doubt the above-stated reasons for the highways.

Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican who is carrying the bill for Galvano, said the intent is to anticipate the future needs of the state.

Anticipating future needs is a good thing.   Of course, there are known needs present and future in populated areas that are not being addressed, and, as has been stated by proponents, this plan is intended to push development into other areas, creating, not solving, future needs.

There was also this oddity about the “working groups” that would evaluate each road idea, reported by Florida Politics:

The working groups — which would include a cross-section of agency stakeholders and an “appropriate conservation or community” nonprofit member — would deliver their findings in a report to state leaders.

Sen. TomLee, the bill’s sponsor, said the working groups would help recommend “where interchanges are located” and “how alignments are developed” to help the state avoid routes that could be economically or environmentally harmful.

But the Thonotosassa Republican also suggested the project advisers could scrap one of the roads.

“There is nothing in this legislation that is self-executing,” Lee said. “[DOT] could easily come back with a no-build on one or more of these corridors — that’s entirely possible.” 

Setting aside that we are not sure what an “appropriate conservation or community member” is and acknowledging that the composition of the working groups like will be changed, if they are just studying potential projects, fine, but there is no need to set aside large sums of money.  Remember:

Under the proposal, funding would grow from $45 million next fiscal year to $90 million in the 2020-2021 fiscal year, about $135 million the next year and a recurring amount of $140 million starting in the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

That’s quite a bit for roads that have not even been approved yet (and are not needed). And while the plan may not be self-executing:

The possibility that the projects could be abandoned has prompted concern from lawmakers as the legislation has moved through the House and Senate. But it’s something Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, has rejected.

“I think the task forces will help us plan, develop and engineer,” Galvano told reporters last week. “But the need is so overwhelming that I don’t think [dropping a project] is a possibility.”

Setting aside that the need is questionable at best (though there is a definite need for an east-west road on the north end of the Tampa Bay metro area and a decent need for a road between Jacksonville and I-75 that are not being addressed), it is unlikely that the working groups will be allowed to find the roads unnecessary or a poor idea.

And there was another interesting tidbit.  You may remember SunPass’s not so smooth software transition last year.  From Florida Politics:

New documents, released in response to an inquiry from state Sen. Tom Lee, raise new ethical and legal questions about how the Florida Department of Transportation paid off a firm vying for the state’s lucrative SunPass contract in order to secure the deal with politically-connected contractor Conduent.

The procurement is getting new attention in 2019 from Lee and other state Senators after a series of investigative reports about Conduent’s massive SunPass technology and customer service failures.

At the center of the SunPass saga in 2014 and 2015, when the state paid the Cubic company $3.6 million to end its formal bid protest, was then-FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad, whose close ties to engineering firm HNTB may raise more eyebrows.

HNTB was the firm hired by FDOT to oversee the procurement of the SunPass overhaul, a dysfunctional one from its very beginning in 2013. Prasad worked for HNTB both immediately before and immediately after his nearly five-year tenure as secretary of FDOT.

First, we commend the Senator for investigating what happened with SunPass, because it was quite the mess. (You can get into the details in the article here and a Times article here )  But:

Prasad, whose work at FDOT set him up for a lucrative return to the private sector, again finds himself immersed in Florida’s toll road future in 2019; as President of the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association, Prasad represents companies that stand to gain from Senate President Bill Galvano‘s push to expand the state’s toll road system by hundreds of miles.

Which is relevant because:

Galvano, R-Bradenton, said the idea for his roads announcement came from discussions with the Florida Transportation Builders Association, which represents state road and bridge builders, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The road builders gave his Innovate Florida PAC $20,000 during his run for the senate presidency, while the chamber gave it $125,000 during that time period.

We would say the whole thing is all very odd, but, unfortunately, it isn’t.

Finally, there is this:

“If there are people that think we need to all live in an urban area and ride around on scooters, I can’t help them. I mean, that’s just not reality,” Lee said.

The truth is we agree with him (though we are not sure how many people think we all need to live in urban areas and ride scooters). People have different needs and desires.  Everyone is not going to live in an urban area.  And everyone is not going to ride scooters.  On the other hand, it is also true, and should be acknowledged, that we do not all need to (or want to) live in far-flung suburbs and drive everywhere.  And there is clearly a solid market for urban and close-in suburban living.

The truth is that most people in this state live in built up areas, including urban and close-in suburban areas, and, as the Governor has noted, want to be able to get around them better.  The bigger problems in this state, not just our area, are not a lack of sprawl or far-flung suburbs.  It is a poor transportation system and lack of choices in already built up areas.  That is where the legislature should be focusing time and money – providing people with useful choices and alternatives where they are, not building roads in rural areas that are basically intended to extend the existing issues to what is now open space.

As we have said, maybe at some point in the future, some of the road ideas in the plan may be needed, but now is not that time. (And as we keep saying, we are not against needed highways, like an east-west route in the north end of our metro area, but they should serve actual needs.) If the legislature wants to spend a couple of million studying theoretical long-range future plans for roads, that’s fine.  But now is the time to address congestion and lack of alternatives in the populated areas of the state, not creating a fund for roads of questionable utility.

— Autonomous Test

We have been clear in saying two things about autonomous vehicles: 1) there will be a place for them in a transportation system in the future though they will not be a panacea and 2) we probably will not be seeing really useful autonomous vehicles in large numbers anytime soon.  This week there was news that Clearwater is trying to have a pilot program on Clearwater Beach:

The City Council agreed during a recent work session to write a letter of support for the demonstration of a 12-passenger, self-driving vehicle along Mandalay. The letter will be included in an application for a federal grant to run the project, Hartman said.

* * *

The proposed one-mile test route would run a loop from the Pier 60 area north on Mandalay to Juanita Way, Hartman told the council. A technologist monitoring the onboard systems can grab the wheel to go around stopped delivery vehicles and avoid other mishaps.

* * *

It runs about 12 mph, and to ensure it runs all day without a recharge, the route it follows can’t be longer than a mile, Hartman told council members. It also can’t as yet negotiate the traffic circle on Clearwater Beach.

* * *

The proposed test — a collaboration between the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, engineering firm Stantec and the city, would run between October and January, before the height of the winter tourist season kicks in.

First, given that description, the buses are not really autonomous.  Because they need drivers to get around delivery vehicles and the like, they are partially autonomous.  Second, they apparently can’t really drive in the roads fully since they can’t go in the traffic circle.  Third, 12 mph is quite slow and certainly not rapid transit.

We have no problem with a pilot program, but those limitations do not give us reason to change our opinion.

Channel District – More Sparkman

The next phase of Sparkman Wharf’s renovation is starting.

. . . construction is underway on the next phase of renovations to the plaza — changes that will transform not only the property itself, but that entire corner of downtown Tampa, with 180,000 square feet of loft-style office space and more than 60,000 square feet of new storefronts.

* * *

In the coming months, SPP will replace the building’s existing facades with a “much more modern, industrial look,” said Sam Stein, senior development analyst for SPP. The new facades will also feature massive windows.

The interior demolition, which began as a lawn and dining garden opened to the public late last year, is almost complete. The offices will be built in space that was previously home to a movie theater, among other entertainment concepts.

“The building is a steel structure, so we’re bringing that out and adding more steel,” Stein said. “So the building will look completely different from the outside.”

The new facades will be white with gray accents and exposed black steel, Stein said. The overhaul also includes second-floor outdoor terraces on both the north and south sides of the property — totaling 10,000 square feet of outdoor terrace space, which will be decked out with trellises and canopies.

Here are some renderings of the water side:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

The street side will look like this:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

It looks fine to us with a good amount of cover, at least on the water side.  The street side is a little lacking.

As for tenants,

The office space in the wharf is priced in the mid to upper $40s per square foot for all-inclusive rent. That’s well above the average asking lease rates in downtown Tampa today, but Bevirt said there’s been no resistance to the rental rates.

“The types of tenants are coworking, health and life sciences, design,” Bevirt said. “It’s really called ‘creative Class A’ office. It’s one of the most unique office offerings in the U.S. right now.”

Gimmicky real estate term aside, we are sure the space will be nice.  Hopefully, it will be full.  We look forward to seeing how the whole area comes together in a few years.

Rocky Point – Re-try

There was news about Rocky Point.

Northwood Raven, based in Charlotte, paid $7.8 million for the vacant 3-acre lot next to the Westin Tampa Bay in a deal that closed in late March, according to Hillsborough County property records.

Northwood is planning to build a 180-unit apartment building — 68 one-bedroom units, 96 two-bedroom units and 16 three-bedroom units — that stands nine stories high. It is seeking a substantial change determination from the city, as the proposal differs from plans previously approved for the property.

Northwood’s website anticipates a groundbreaking in 2019, with the first units to deliver in 2021.

This is the lot:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

And this is a rendering from the developer’s website:

From – click on picture for website

The rendering does not reveal that much other than the building seems to have quite a large mass.  We would have to see a site plan to really get a feel for if the massing and layout works.  However, as a general matter, this type of development, rather than the sprawling apartments with surface lots, is more along the lines of what we believe Rocky Point should be. (We withhold judgment on this specific project until we can learn more.) Maybe, just maybe, at some point Rocky Point will finally become the walkable, urban enclave it should have originally been.

Downtown/Hyde Park – TGH

Tampa General has submitted its plans for its land in the Grand Central area (map here).  The project involves two 9 office story buildings (6 stories of offices and 3 stories of parking).  There is also another ten story garage for a total of around 3000 parking spaces.  There is some retail, which we will discuss in a minute.  First, here are the renderings:

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on pictures for post

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on pictures for post

And the site plan:


From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on pictures for post

The renderings are a bit rough so it is hard to say that much about them.  The office buildings appear to be basically boxes with some variation in cladding. The garage is a garage.  As for the ground floor and retail here are the lower floors of the buildings:

From the City of Tampa Accela system – click on picture for larger version

As you can see, the building facing Kennedy has some potential retail space facing Kennedy.  The other office building (Magnolia building) has some very small space that looks more like a lobby facing Kennedy/Grand Central. Both buildings also have parking on the ground floor.  The part of the Magnolia building actually facing Magnolia is mostly parking, even facing the street.  From the renderings, it appears to be hidden parking, but it is parking and not an activated street – even though it is across the street from Altis Grand.

We are for having a busy activity center in the Grand Central area. We do not really have a problem with the massing of the office buildings or facing Kennedy and Magnolia with office buildings, but the street activation ranges from a bit weak to non-existent. We also get the need for parking, but putting parking right along Magnolia is weak, especially with so much parking and a free-standing garage. (It is also unfortunate that Cleveland will again be left dead for another block.)

We do not have enough information on the façade to have an opinion about it.

Hopefully more information will be forth-coming and they will address some of the weaknesses in what we have seen so far.

Downtown – By the Highway

The apartment tower proposal for a lot between the ramps for I-275 was approved.  From URBN Tampa Bay:

The residential tower project at 102 East Tyler in Downtown Tampa received approval today. The tower is 23 stories with 172 units and a restaurant slip at the project’s southeast corner. The tower height is 260 feet.

The project is providing 451 parking spaces, while only 172 parking spaces were required.


From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for post

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for post

As we said when this first came up, this is a complicated lot.  We understand the limited retail, though it could have been done better.  We also understand some of the problems with garage access, though the streetscaping could be better.  The parking seems a bit much, though we have heard a few explanations for it.

Yes, the tower design is generic and the street activity is not very good.  And it will sit in a major gateway to downtown Tampa, which is not the best.  On the other hand, while we are not overly enamored with this project, we recognize the challenging location.  Even within that location, we would like it to be a bit better, but it has been approved (at least someone wants to build a big building on that lot) so hope for the best.

Westshore-ish – Midtown Hotel

New details regarding the Midtown Element/Aloft were released.

The 7-story hotel Midtown Tampa developers will start to build this summer will be a dual-branded Aloft and Element property with 226 rooms and a rooftop terrace, pool and lounge designed to appeal to locals as much as to out-of-towners.

* * *

Aloft and Element are millennial-oriented subsidiaries of Marriott International. Both will operate in the building, with each maintaining a distinct look. The Element, which developers say will be the first of that brand in Tampa, will have 115 rooms with a minimalistic design that makes use of natural materials. In-room kitchens and oversized closets will aim to facilitate longer stays.

Aloft’s 111 rooms will feature bold colors and sleek design, with check-in, check-out and access to the rooms themselves done with a smart phone or smart watch.

The hotel will have a central lobby, a bistro and restaurant featuring small plates. The fitness center will be more than 1,000 square feet, or nearly double the size of a typical hotel fitness center, developers say. The hotel also will have meeting space on the seventh floor and 24,000 square feet of street-level retail.

Maybe the whole Midtown project really will be built at once.  As with Midtown generally, the internal elements are fine, we are more concerned about the project’s connection to the neighborhood.

One note of interest: this hotel will have 24,000 sq feet of street retail (per the Times above and Business Journal here) while the Hyatt Place in the middle of downtown being built on formerly City property will have 3200 sq feet of street retail (see here and here), but at least it will have a hotel bar.  Good thing the City is so exacting in the projects it chooses.

Port – Down by Redwing

The Port Redwing dredging is apparently done.

It’s the project that took nearly 20 years to get started, but only six months to finish.

A $63 million dredging project to expand the Big Bend Channel at Port Tampa Bay has been completed complete a year ahead of schedule, the port announced Monday.

The wider, deeper channel will allow for bigger ships to call at the port’s 270-acre Port Redwing terminals, which are expected to become a new hub of manufacturing, warehousing and ship-to-shore cargo distribution. The Big Bend Channel connects to the main channel in Tampa’s harbor, creating a link for the movement of goods between the Interstate 4 corridor and markets as far away as China.

While we are curious why the schedule said it would take so long, excellent.  On to the next project. . .

And, as it so happens, there is a next project.

Port Tampa Bay has approved a site improvements permit for the construction of a flour mill facility for Ardent Mills.

Ardent Mills LLC submitted the application for the construction of a flour mill and grain and storage terminal on 10 acres of port property with an estimated project cost of roughly $62 million, according to port documents.

Ardent Mills recently received approval of a ground lease agreement with the port to lease 10 acres of land at Port Redwing near Berth 302 in Gibsonton for the project. It will require easements for utilities, conveyors that go to Berth 302 and a railroad spur that comes from Port Redwing rail, according to documents.

Thus ends the long saga of the downtown flour mill and begins a new story for Port Redwing.  Good news all around.

Economy/Economic Development

— Population

As is well-known, population growth helps drive the economy.  THIs week the Census released new estimates of growth for the last year.  Here is the table of top 10 metro areas by actual population growth (not rate):

Table 7.

Top 10 Metropolitan Areas in Numeric Growth: 2017 to 2018

Rank Name April 1, 2010
(Estimates base)
July 1, 2017 July 1, 2018 Numeric Growth
1 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 6,426,222 7,407,944 7,539,711 131,767
2 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 4,193,127 4,761,694 4,857,962 96,268
3 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 5,920,487 6,905,695 6,997,384 91,689
4 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 5,286,750 5,874,249 5,949,951 75,702
5 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 2,134,402 2,512,917 2,572,962 60,045
6 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 3,439,805 3,884,469 3,939,363 54,894
7 Austin-Round Rock, TX 1,716,321 2,115,230 2,168,316 53,086
8 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 4,224,966 4,570,427 4,622,361 51,934
9 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 2,783,462 3,091,225 3,142,663 51,438
10 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 5,636,363 6,200,001 6,249,950 49,949

Source: US Census Bureau – article here

It speaks for itself.  The question is when the per capita GDP will really take off.

— Tourism

There was news about tourist tax revenue.

Hillsborough County received more than $3.8 million in tourist development funds from overnight stays during February. The previous record, set in 2018, was $3.4 million.

“Tampa Bay continues to build year after year on its growing global reputation as Florida’s most diverse, dynamic and desirable vacation destination,” Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada said in a news release.

Historically, February is the second-highest month for tourism-related revenue after March, according to the Hillsborough County Tax Collector’s Office.

We don’t know about having the global reputation as Florida’s most desirable vacation destination (see Orlando and Miami), but tourism is definitely growing in this area, as well as the rest of Florida.

Hotel occupancy for the month averaged 85.8 percent, up 3.6 percent from the previous year. Revenue per available room was up 5.4 percent. Overall hotel revenues exceeded $80.6 million for the month.

As always, note that while occupancy is growing, revenue was growing faster than occupancy and revenue is what drives the tax numbers. Nevertheless, growth is good.

It also seems that, at last, the County Commission is going to add the 6th percent bonus on the bed tax.

— Living

There was interesting news on rents.

Tampa Bay renters are getting less bang for their buck. According to HotPads Research, a Zillow affiliate, a typical bay area renter would have to give up 300 square feet of space to have the same monthly payment as five years ago. That’s the equivalent of losing two and a half small-ish bedrooms.

In other words, rents are rising at a decent pace.  But how does this compare to other areas?

Nationally, renters are losing 225 square feet of space.

This is the full list can be found in the article here. It also tells us:

Nationally, rent affordability has made some marginal improvements over the past five years – but while incomes have grown fast enough to allow the typical renter to better afford their rent payment, the space available to them at that price has decreased. And as the rental market gains momentum, rent costs per square foot will likely follow suit.

So, apparently, people can more easily afford to pay the same amount for less space.  Can they afford to pay the higher amount for the same space?  It does not seem to say.

While our rents may still be a bit low for large metros, so are our incomes. The questions is whether incomes are (or will be) rising as fast as rents (or home prices).

USF – Branches

The legislator who led the USF consolidation move has filed an amendment the higher education bill.  From Florida Politics:

The amendment to the bill (HB 839) would ensure the St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee campuses were designated “branch campuses.” That change blocks USF from instead creating regional campuses some faculty and administration worried would diminish the smaller schools’ autonomy.

The USF consolidation task force recommended protecting campuses as branches. Congressman Charlie Crist also sent a letter supporting that protection.

The amendment would also protect the entire USF system’s funding by blocking the Florida Board of Governors from using consolidated data at the three campuses “for purposes of determining eligibility for funding.

It is a logical move, especially considering this:

. . . by combining data from all three schools, USF’s overall graduation might have fallen below state standards that determine pre-eminence.

Protecting against that potentiality makes sense. However, once again, all this could have been avoided is, as should have happened, the consolidation was properly planned before it was written into law.

Politics/Regionalism – Water

A while back, we discussed Tampa’s proposal to convert wastewater into drinking water.  We discussed how there was vocal opposition from Pinellas and Pasco.  We also said that, assuming there was no scientific problem, we saw nothing wrong with the idea and that adding more water to the regional supply should help everyone.  Recently, the Times ran a column in opposition (here) and an editorial conditionally in favor (here) of the plan.

This week, Tampa Bay Water acted, sort of.

Facing strong public opposition, the region’s water supply authority again postponed voting on a city of Tampa plan to produce 50 million gallons a day of drinking water by pumping treated wastewater into the Floridan aquifer.

Tampa Bay Water board members voted unanimously to put off making a decision for more than a year, the latest in a string of delays for the $350 million project dubbed “toilet to tap” by critics.

Water board members had already postponed a scheduled October vote until February. In February they postponed it until Monday. On Monday, they agreed there were still too many unanswered questions to make a final decision and postponed a vote once more, this time until June 2020.

So what was the reason for the postponement?

“There is considerable public concern and alarm about what effects there might be on the aquifer and our drinking water,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Mariella Smith, a water board member, said during the meeting. She said she had asked the Tampa Bay Water staff to ask the city questions about those issues, and most of the answers involved a variation on “we can’t tell you until we do a feasibility study.”

Smith said she had highlighted in blue ink all the places where that answer had occurred. Then she held up several pages of documents entirely covered in blue highlighter.

* * *

Leaders of local chapters of the Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters strongly urged the board to reject Tampa’s proposal. They complained about a lack of transparency, a lack of scientific studies of the potential effects and what they perceived as a rush to gain approval before Bob Buckhorn leaves office as Tampa’s mayor.

As we have said before, if there are legitimate questions about the science and possible negative environmental impact of the proposal, we are all for studying them and getting clarification.

But in addition to the environmental questions about the project, critics — including several former Tampa Bay Water officials — have raised concerns that Tampa may be trying to break free from the 20-year-old Tampa Bay Water agency, which was created to end the notorious water wars of the 1990s. Tampa officials have insisted that is not their goal.

We find the above objection unconvincing.  In any event,

The motion to postpone the vote on what Tampa officials call the “Tampa Augmentation Project” came from St. Petersburg council woman Darden Rice, who dangled an incentive for Tampa to agree to another delay: The board would support Tampa’s attempt to get $1.6 million from the Legislature to pay for a feasibility study, and if that fell through, then Tampa Bay Water would provide the money itself. Tampa would provide a matching amount.

That is reasonable enough.

And we definitely still think the idea, on its face though not necessarily in details, has merit (with the caveat that it actually works as advertised). As the Times editorial said:

Tampa is also not using the project as a means for withdrawing from Tampa Bay Water. The city recognizes the value of working cooperatively to manage the region’s water resources; that’s one reason it’s bringing a new, significant water supply to the table. Consultants say that reusing water now being dumped into the bay could help the region meet its growing water needs – all while saving local taxpayers up to $35 million in avoided costs for new water supply projects. And redirecting the water could remove thousands of pounds of pollutants daily from Tampa Bay.

That is all good and within the framework of Tampa Bay Water.  However, if there are, as there seem to be, legitimate unanswered questions that require some study, we are fine with that as well. Better to make sure of the science before-hand rather than have to scramble later, as long as, if the idea pans out, it is accepted.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country/Built Environment/Planning – Parking

Last week, we discussed parking minimums.  We are not going to get into a long discussion this week.  However, we have two items of note.

First, is an article from the American Planning Association (here) that gives a good rundown of the arguments for reducing or eliminating parking requirements, especially in urban areas with good transit.

Second, Strong Towns has a nice crowdsourced map (it is referenced in the first article but their link does not always work) of policies around the country. (map here and website here)  Most we have looked at start with removing minimums downtown and work out along good transit lines, especially rail.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World

For those who think 1) that ridesharing will solve our transportation and 2) that transportation should be completely market oriented:

Uber Technologies Inc has 91 million users, but growth is slowing and it may never make a profit, the ride-hailing company said on Thursday in its IPO filing.

* * *

The disclosure also highlighted how far Uber remains from turning a profit, with the company cautioning it expects operating expenses to “increase significantly in the foreseeable future” and it “may not achieve profitability.”

(not to mention that the roads are subsidized) If the grand-daddy of them all is not going to make a profit, one has to wonder about the industry as a whole over the long run.

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