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Roundup 8-16-2019

August 15, 2019

Contents

Transportation

— Keep on Growing

— The Fun Cruise Ferry

Correction Note

— Roads to Nowhere

— Scooter

— Interesting

Downtown/Channel District – New Edition

Tampa Heights – Approved

Hyde Park – Renovation

Airport – Addition by Subtraction

Port – More

Rays

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

— Free in SLC?

— About That Drive-Thru

_______________________


Transportation


— Keep on Growing

The free streetcar is still doing well.

Another VERY strong month for @TampaStreetcar ridership with 76,043 trips in July 2019, compared with 26,112 in July 2018. Downtown/#Ybor residents and visitors are showing great demand for public transportation! Thanks again, @MyFDOT.

Indeed, thank FDOT.  The grant was a very good idea that is showing its usefulness and is helping serve as a proof of concept.  Hopefully, FDOT (and local transportation planners) will learn from it.


— The Fun Cruise Ferry

Last week we discussed the real transit ferry proposal (aka South County-MacDill ferry).  This week, the other ferry, the Cross Bay fun cruise ferry, is back in the news.

Armed with an array of facts and figures, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has begun a tour of local governments to rally support for the Cross-Bay Ferry.

The mayor is asking participating local governments — St. Petersburg, Tampa, Pinellas County and Hillsborough County — for $286,000 apiece to keep the popular program afloat for the next two years. The project is expected to cost $149,000 this year and $136,000 next year, when the money would have to be reapproved.

That is roughly $572,000 from Hillsborough County entities for the two years.

Kriseman started his campaign at Tuesday’s Pinellas County Commission meeting. According to statistics cited by the mayor, ridership increased from about 40,000 riders during season one of the program, 2016-2017, to about 52,000 during season two, 2018-2019. (No ferry service was offered in 2017-2018.)

* * *

The service, which is operated by HMS Ferries, runs seasonally, from November to April. The ship carries up to 149 people. It costs $8 for a 50-minute one way trip across the bay; discounts are offered to seniors, active military, college students and kids.

Going back to the streetcar for comparison, the July streetcar ridership was 76,043 trips, and that is not the busiest tourist season (though it does include July 4).  Also keep in mind that the streetcar rides are free because of the FDOT grant of $2.67 million for three years, or $890,000 a year.

Doing some quick math, the same amount of money that subsidizes 52,000 fun cruise trips in six months (don’t forget the ticket prices) amounts to about 1/3 (4 months) of the yearly subsidy from FDOT to make the streetcar run more frequently and for free. Using the July streetcar ridership as a monthly base and rounding down, the same amount of money would subsidize around 280,000 streetcar rides. Yes, that is FDOT money, but it could be Hillsborough money if FDOT does not continue to pay.  It is not an absolute calculation, but it provides context for what you get for the money.

We are not against the Cross Bay Ferry, however, as we have said before, there needs to be a plan to phase out public funding for it (other than having Hillsborough County pay for all the infrastructure and St. Pete/Pinellas contribute nothing as in the South County-MacDill Plus ferry plan.  It is not a transit service).  It is a tourist fun cruise that should be private. Hillsborough has other, bigger needs.

Correction Note:

The italicized paragraph above originally read:

Doing some quick math using those numbers, the ferry funding from Hillsborough entities pays $5.50 dollars a passenger (286,000/52,000) not counting the ticket prices.  Using the July streetcar ridership as a monthly base, the same amount of money would pay for a little over two months of grants for free streetcar ridership (890,000/[70,000×2]=5.85) – and that is daily, all day service.  Yes, that is FDOT money, but it could be Hillsborough money if FDOT does not continue to pay.  And it is not an absolute calculation, but it provides context for what you get for the money.

As noted by a reader in a Facebook comment on URBN Tampa Bay:

 I don’t know if it’s typos or late night math but the streetcar sections math is wrong:

$282,000 is equal to about *4* months streetcar additional and free service ($296k)

That would come out to 292,000/(72,000×4)= $1.08 per rider. Which is less than 1/5th. But this is a strange stat (better just to use the reduction in cost per rider with increased spending)

It most fair just compare it to the cost per additional rider:

292,000/(50,000×4)= $1.46 for every new rider.

That means for every $1 spent on the streetcar or similar service in Hillsborough Tampa you can move nearly 4 times the riders.

(Also don’t forget Tampa+Hillsborough is 2/3rds of the service increase/free costs and could have been done years ago).

He is correct.  We failed to make our point properly, and it has been corrected above.  Our apologies. The original author has been sacked.


— Roads to Nowhere

The Times had an article on the new board that are supposed to provide recommendations on the paths of the three new/extended toll roads per the law passed by the Legislature last session (road ideas which the article also noted had been previously killed more than once as unneeded and unwanted when previously proposed).

When state lawmakers earlier this year approved the largest expansion of Florida’s toll roads in decades, they were sold on the premise that the new roads had several public benefits.

* * *

All along, however, it was the Florida Chamber of Commerce, a large consortium of private business interests, that was one of the loudest champion of the toll roads.

Now that the massive project is in the early public planning stages, it’s becoming evident just how big a role private interests will play in determining where and how these roads will get built.

Three task forces meet for the first time later this month to advise state officials. All three, one for each proposed road, will include members of the Florida chamber.

But the task forces will also include representatives from industry groups like the Florida Trucking Association, where haulers will benefit from better routes, and the Florida Internet & Television Association, where members could get easier access to customers to offer them broadband internet, a requirement of the project.

Unlike the other members on the three boards, members drawn from industry could or will financially benefit from the project.

That is hardly surprising, and we are not going to get into the details.  You can read the article here. The one thing we will quote is from representative of agriculture:

Farmers are represented by members of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation. Charles Shinn, its director of government and community affairs, is on the Suncoast extension task force. He said the governor’s office reached out to the organization.

Shinn said farmers are mixed about the projects. On the one hand, he said, agriculture depends on shipping products in and out of the state, and some farmers might welcome some of the growth rural areas could see from the projects.

On the other hand, some farmers fear the effects on the environment and the potential that the growth could take over farmland.

He said for the farmer with land along the routes looking to retire and cash out, the roads could be a blessing.

“They’re probably thinking, Thank goodness I have a way out, and that’s their way out,” Shinn said. “But I think that’s an exception to the rule and not the norm.”

The standard formula for Florida sprawl.

As we have said all along.  Certainly, at some point there may be a need for these or similar roads.  But that time is not now.  Now we need real alternatives where most people actually live.


— Scooter

There is a lot of coverage about the scooters (including St. Pete looking into them).  We are not going to get into the weeds about them.  However, the Times had a good article about the person in Tampa who has reported the most issues about them:

Rob Iles doesn’t seem the cranky, get-off-my-lawn type, more like the kind of downtown dweller a city wants. Ten years ago, Iles, managing director of a brand and communications research firm, and his partner purchased a five-story townhouse on Franklin Street. Iles enthused about life in the urban core in a newspaper story: proximity to work, things to do, diverse population, energy, vitality. (He also said in a five-level home, you make sure you have your keys, wallet and phone with you when you come downstairs.)

“I am decidedly not anti-scooter,” Iles tells me. “I am decidedly pro-proper scooter deployment and operation. And right now that doesn’t look like that’s what’s happening.”

That is essentially our position.  You can read more about his completely reasonable position here.

The Times also had an editorial which is worth reading (here):

Council members are rightly still supportive of the experiment, which ends in April. But city officials need to hold the four scooter companies more accountable. They need to better educate riders on safety, traffic regulations and operating etiquette. Tampa police already have plenty to do, but they should crack down on reckless drivers who put themselves and the public at risk.

Personal responsibility also plays a part. Riders should be aware of traffic regulations and follow the requirement that they yield to pedestrians. St. Petersburg’s proposed one-year experiment would put 750 to 1,500 scooters on the streets by late fall or early winter. If approved, St. Petersburg — unlike Tampa — would ban scooters from sidewalks. Parents must realize that these motorized vehicles, which travel at up to 15 mph, are not children’s toys; operators in Tampa must be at least 16 years old and have a valid driver’s license or permit. Some riders in Tampa appear far younger.

Scooters are, for many, an ideal “first-mile, last-mile” solution — providing a shared vehicle and a quick, cheap commuting option for short distances. They could be a critical link between bus and rail lines in Florida’s humid weather, and a tool for reducing downtown congestion and the region’s carbon footprint. Riders in Tampa like the experience, and the scooters add to the city’s lively image. But this is still an experiment, and it’s time to better marry fun and convenience with public safety.

That is all very reasonable.  We have no problem with the scooters, as long as they are used properly in a rational system.  If so, they can be a great benefit.  If not, they will a pain, and a potentially dangerous one.  Government has a role to play by creating a proper environment and rules for their use, but the real deciders will be the riders themselves.


— Interesting

Tampa is performing an interesting experiment.

The City of Tampa is testing out a type of intersection aimed at keeping pedestrians safer.

It is called a “pedestrian scramble” or an “all-pedestrian phase.”

All pedestrians will have the light to walk at the same time at the intersection of Rome Avenue and Main Street, located just a few blocks from Just Elementary and Stewart Middle Magnet Schools.

* * *

City officials tell us the all-pedestrian phase will only happening during school times for now as they continue to monitor its effectiveness.

To be honest, we are not sure how well this will work, but it is used elsewhere.  There is no reason not to at least try it here and see what happens.


Downtown/Channel District – New Edition

We had a feeling that in what was shaping up to be a pretty quiet week we would get something like this, and get it we did.

Construction has commenced on The Tampa EDITION Hotel & Residences within the heart of Water Street Tampa.

Created through a pioneering partnership between hospitality innovator Ian Schrager and Marriott International, the The Tampa EDITION will span 27 stories, including 172 guest rooms and suites and 37 exclusive for-sale, hotel-branded residences.

 

From Water Street Tampa – click on picture for Facebook page

Good and exiting stuff.


Tampa Heights – Approved

Recently we discussed the amended proposal for the second block of the Heights Union portion of the Heights project.  (See “Tampa Heights –That’s a Surprise”)  The first block has the two office buildings that are now under construction.  The second block proposal has a hotel/apartment building and various retail plus a parking garage.  From URBN Tampa Bay:

The Heights District received approval today for revised plans for the block bound by Tampa Street, 7th Avenue, Highlands Avenue, and Oak Avenue.

The proposal for this block was originally 8 stories of hotel, grocery store, retail, and parking. Now, the plans for this block include a 25-story apartment and hotel tower, along with retail space, a Sprouts grocery store, and parking.

Specifically, this approved block has 291 apartments, 153 hotel rooms, 13,694 square feet of retail, a 30,000 square foot Sprouts, and 1,433 parking spaces which will serve a large portion of The Heights master planned development.

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Our view has not changed:

First, the good.  Of course we like the increase in hotel rooms and the addition of apartments.  We like having a 25 story building.  We like that that building faces Highland.  We like the grocery store and other retail.  We also like the decreased parking.

On the other hand, we hope that the hotel/apartment building has a little more design that the initial drawings.  Needless to say the drawing of that building is quite bland and we are not sure Tampa is the best place for apartments without balconies.  We are also not sure the garage entrance on Tampa is the best idea.  We understand they have loading docks on Oak and the garage entrance on Tampa but we would rather have the part of the building facing Tampa be fully activated without curb cuts (especially if Tampa is going to have streetcar or BRT).

Based on the drawing, this project will likely add more to the bottom (the street) than it will to the top (the monumental aspects of the tower). We are all for the density and street retail.  We just hope they do a little work on the tower and some aspects of the garage.  And we really think balconies facing the river would be in order.


Hyde Park – Renovation

There is news that there are planned renovations for the old Hugo’s building at Howard and Morrison. From URBN Tampa Bay:

The building at 927 South Howard Ave. in SoHo will be renovated into SoHo Square. The renovation features 16 apartments along with retail space on the ground floor.

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

This is their take:

Though we like the proposal, we sorta wish the current structure from 1920 got to keep its historic character in some way.

We sort of agree.  You can see the building here. We see the argument for updating it, but we also see the argument for retaining the historic look.

As of the update itself, it is OK, though we are not really sure what the purpose of the faux awning on the second floor is.  Designers seem to like them, but we have never seen the point of a feature that provides no protection from the sun or rain while simultaneously giving birds a perch to hang out over your head.


Airport – Addition by Subtraction

It is not service news but:

At 2 a.m. on Aug. 20, the remaining elements of the building will be demolished, completing a months-long process to remove the old structure. This milestone marks the culmination of thousands of hours of careful planning by the Airport team, TPA’s tenants and contractors.

To ensure the safe implosion of the garage, TPA will close to all guests, tenants and employees between 1 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 20. All inbound traffic will be blocked and any unauthorized individuals on site during this time may be trespassed.

The demolition of the old rental car garage is a key part of Phase 2 of TPA’s Master Plan and makes room for new express curbsides, designed for passengers with no checked bags, as well as upcoming facility improvements, including a new guideway to the future Airside D.

The airside is the aspect of the Master Plan we are most excited about, and the garage has to go before it can get built.


Port – More

Celebrity Cruise Lines is coming back to Tampa.

After it completes a modernization in May 2020, Celebrity Cruises’ Constellation ship will sail from Tampa for the winter 2020-2021 season. This is the first time the cruise line is returning to Tampa since 2007.

* * *

The service will operate three different alternating 10- and 11-night round-trip sailings to the southern and eastern Caribbean, with one touching the Panama Canal.

* * *

The new ship, which can hold more than 2,000 passengers, will benefit the port by diversifying its level of cruise lines.

We are glad they are coming back.  More is better in this case.


Rays

You can find your Rays news here. There was also an interesting article in USA Today regarding baseball attendance and future stadium plans generally (here):

For more than a decade, from coast to coast, they rose from urban cores and suburban sprawl alike, feats of architectural perfection that defined the fan experience in Major League Baseball – in perpetuity, it seemed.

The great ballpark building boom that spanned the 1990s and into the millennium’s first decade was a welcome correction from the multi-purpose mausoleums that dotted the landscape in the 1970s. And the billions and billions of dollars expended – much of it coming from taxpayers – to create a more intimate setting felt like a permanent fix.

Yet as the industry discovers the appetite for live baseball may be shrinking, a third wave of stadiums are gradually coming online, revealing franchises’ desire to further shrink the ballpark – be it new or already existing.

Something to keep in mind when thinking about this subject.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country


— Free in SLC?

As has been well reported, when rides on the streetcar became free, ridership skyrocketed.  What if an entire transit system were free?

Jim Dabakis, a candidate for the mayoralty of Salt Lake City, is currently leading the polls – thanks in no small part to his promise to do away with fees for public transport. A recent poll by the Salt Lake City tribune found that residents of the city favour the idea by a ratio of three to one.

* * *

The city has already trialled free transit days, a move which saw a footfall increase of 16% on those days.

You can find that poll here.

Salt Lake City just had its mayoral primary to choose the top two candidates to face-off in the general election.

In an unexpected turn, Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall topped former state Sen. Jim Dabakis in unofficial primary election results for Salt Lake City mayor.

If the numbers hold, Mendenhall and Dabakis will face off in the November general election to succeed Jackie Biskupski, according to the last numbers posted about 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Mendenhall nabbed the most votes — 6,924 — in the crowded eight-candidate field, giving her nearly 24% of the vote. Dabakis squeezed into second place with 21.56%, preventing five of the other six candidates from advancing to this fall’s contest. But the margin between Dabakis and third place’s Sen. Luz Escamilla — 109 votes at 6,300 to 6,191 — is so narrow, more election results could tighten or even flip the race, so Escamilla isn’t considered out of the running.

The final primary results were not known at the time of posting. It will be interesting to see how it turns out if the policy is ever implemented.


— About That Drive-Thru

We often complain about the Burger King with a drive thru that was built near Encore because, well, it is exactly what not to build in an urban area, especially one you want to redevelop.  Minneapolis seems to get it:

Local planners say Minneapolis is the first city of its size in the country to ban new drive-through windows.

The City Council voted Thursday to ban new construction of drive-through facilities. The existing ones are grandfathered.

And note:

New drive-through windows have already been prohibited in 17 of the city’s 23 zoning districts. The Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan approved by the council last year directs the city to outlaw new drive-through facilities and gas stations.

But

The proposal would prohibit any new drive-through facility involving a business transaction at restaurants, banks, ATMs and more. The city would still allow businesses to designate a parking space for dropping off or picking up goods.

(Thanks to URBN Tampa Bay for the update)

 

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