Friday, February 24, 2017

Scope Creep - kind of like sewage. Kriseman can't seem to control either

Where things the politicians want get added and things the designers screwed up get fixed by throwing money at them.

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin

You may have noticed that lately every major St. Pete project seems to be getting more costly.

Waveney Ann More Tampa Bay Times March 2016, St. Pete pier design costs exceed construction budget, forcing cuts

Original Estimate
Current Guess
$50 Million
$80-$90 Million
$20 Million
$34-$40 Million
Police Building
$50 Million
$70-$80 Million
Sewer Repair
$300 Million
Who Knows

In government, we call this scope creep.

That is where things the politicians want to get added to a project and things the designers over looked or screwed up get fixed by throwing money at them.

The Kriseman team and its fascination for all things bright and shiny is a project manager's dream come true.

Too busy banning the President, trying to establish a sanctuary city and blowing their own horn, the ground battle for cost control on these projects is lost among the details. It is called scope creep.

The Kriseman administration pays little attention to the detail. They put way to much trust in owner's reps and project managers. These are good people but just like everything else in a project, they need to be managed.

The issue of public art for the Pier is a classic example.

Instead of just saying no they are in search of more money for an insane addition to what is a quickly becoming an unseemly disaster.

When it comes to running the business of the St. Petersburg government, Kriseman has shown he is pretty good at writing a Tweet, chasing the silly and ignoring the will of the people.

All of these chickens are quickly coming home to roost and unless the Mayor, and his crack team of campaign consultants still on the City payroll can figure out a way to hold off the rain and delay the Pier until after the election, his honor may be in for some tough sledding.

I am starting my annual round of neighborhood association meetings and so far, when the Mayor is not around the comments are very negative.

By the way, if you would like to have me speak or be on a panel at your Neighborhood Association meeting give me a call at my office 727-545-9269. Otherwise, I may show up and sit quietly in the back of the room.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Here We Go Again: Another Transportation Campaign

Tampa Bay taxpayers keep enriching the same consultants on our transportation issue over and over and over.

Tampa, Fl
From: Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert

After taxpayers spent $1.2 million on the Go Hillsborough debacle, taxpayers are currently funding a $1.6 million study on expanding the failed streetcar.

And now we have the latest $1.5 million taxpayer funded "let's hire a new consultant same as the old consultant" gig. How did this one come about and what are they doing? We'll connect some dots.

While taxpayers were still paying Parsons Brinckerhoff in 2015 for Go Hillsborough and the sales tax hike was still being considered, the Transportation Management Association (TMA) was talking trains - again. The TMA are electeds and transportation officials representing the MPO's of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco. Their meetings are well attended by insiders and special interests but fly under the radar of the general public because most do not know this group exists.

In October of 2015 the Tampa Tribune reported CSX tracks may be route to commuter rail's future

The November 2015 TMA meeting focused on commuter rail, SunRail, the CSX corridor and how to get into the federal funding grant program for transit.

At the January 5, 2016 MPO meeting, FDOT presented the concept of passenger service on CSX-owned freight rail corridors. The presentation included the chart below depicting a hybrid rail pilot project from downtown to USF using a hybrid rail car that can run on freight tracks similar to what the city of Austin implemented. They also admit it would take 24-31 minutes to go from downtown Tampa to USF by train while  driving that trip today during rush hour is about 30 minutes, and of course less during non-rush hours.
Hybrid Rail Pilot Project presented at
January 5, 2016 MPO meeting
Rail projects require millions and billions of dollars and a committed long term revenue source to get federal funding. So the TMA invited transit lobbyist Jason Jordan, as we posted here, to their April 2016 meeting to present how to win sales tax hike referendums.

All of this led to FDOT handing HART $1.5 million last year to fund something… and hire another consultant. As reported by the Tampa Tribune last March:
Headed up by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, or HART, the study will determine how to connect Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties through various forms of public transit. 
The scope of work for the study is now being determined, after which a consultant will be hired, said HART CEO Katharine Eagan. 
“At this point, we are meeting with members of the Transportation Management Association, which has members from each county’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, talking about what to do in this corridor. Specifically, we are looking at connections between the three counties, which could include rail infrastructure.”
At least HART used an RFP to procure the work (unlike Go Hillsborough). HART's RFP was titled Tampa Bay Regional Premium Transit Feasibility Study and can be found here.

The scope of this work is not a feasibility study. The scope is to create and sell to the public a regional transit plan for projects to pursue federal grant money, e.g. New Starts.

A selection committee representing Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco rated the three vendors who responded to the RFP. Based on their ratings, Jacobs Engineering was awarded the $15. million contract. Jacobs did the alternatives analysis for the failed Greenlight Pinellas and was a subcontractor to Parsons Brinckerhoff on Go Hillsborough.

The 128 page Jacobs response to HART's RFP is found here. Most of it is boiler plate stuff but the work is not a feasibility study. Jacobs will review and update past studies, not do another study and they include many of the same people who worked on HART's 2010 rail project, Greenlight Pinellas and Go Hillsborough.

Like Parsons Brinckerhoff did with Go Hillsborough, Jacobs Engineering brings their PR firm B2 Communications attached to this work effort. Lots of the same public engagement elements as Go Hillsborough are included: focus groups, tele-townhalls, polling, social media, branding, coalition building, targeted outreach, etc.

B2 Communications also worked on the failed Greenlight Pinellas campaign. They presented their Lessons Learned at the 2015 Transit Initiatives and Communities Conference sponsored by the transit advocacy/lobbying group Center for Transportation Excellence (CFTE). These CFTE conferences are billed as "the only national conference exclusively devoted to understanding transportation ballot measures and providing concrete advice on how to win."

Unfortunately oddly missing in this effort is our own transportation think tank at USF, the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR).  Why?

After the contract was awarded to Jacobs, they requested the name of the work be changed to Regional Premium Transit Plan to more appropriately fit the work scope they are doing.

So at the January 10, 2017 Pinellas County Commission meeting where Katherine Eagan, CEO of HART presented she called this work a plan as TBNweekly reported (emphasis mine):
The goal is to come up with three priority projects supported by all parties that will meet Federal Transit Administration’s requirements for capital and/or operations funding. The goal is to complete work on the plan by September 2018. The plan will include coming up with a consensus about who will build the projects, who will run them and how they will be paid for. Eagan said the purpose of the evaluation plan was to determine the most competitive projects for federal funding.
While taxpayers are funding another consultant, taxpayers have already paid for Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco MPO's to complete their federally mandated 25 y

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long just can’t seem to take the heat

Long went after two of her biggest and most vocal critics Tom Rask and Barb Haselden both long-time activists in the public transit arena.

St. Petersburg Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
In Search of Robin
As Commissioner Janet Long attempts to push her regional transit authority idea forward, dissent is mounting. See saintpetersblog, Mitch Perry, Janet Long lashes out at transit critics and my post Bay Area Regional Transit Authority – Janet Long's Dream to Tax you more.
Long has been continually frustrated by failed attempts to get a sales tax referendum passed in Pinellas County so a guaranteed flow of money will be available for pet transportation projects.
A classic example of these regional transit authorities is TBARTA of which Long said, “I don’t know if you’ve been to a TBARTA board meeting, but I thought I was going to eat my brains out!” It is four hours of — excuse my expression — bullsh*t. All you do is listen to one study after another study after another presentation, and on and on. They don’t do anything!”
Well said Commissioner. And what makes you think your new taxing authority would be any different?
Long went after two of her biggest and most vocal critics Tom Rask and Barb Haselden both long-time activists in the public transit arena.
Rask and Haselden were both highly active in the failed Pinellas transit sales tax efforts and Long has never really gotten over the Greenlight debacle.
“I really paid attention when Greenlight failed,” Long says, referring to the 2014 Greenlight Pinellas transit tax that went down to defeat. “It frustrates me beyond belief when the Tom Rask‘s and Barb Haselden’s of the world — no matter how hard you try to be thoughtful, be considerate, be creative in terms of trying to provide good public transportation — they will not see anything good in what you do,” she said."
Apparently, she did pay a lot of attention to the 62% defeat of Greenlight since her primary goal is to take transit financing out of the hands of the public and put taxation power in the hands of her new state authorized “Regional Transit Authority.”
Long has a history of attacking the messenger and not getting the message. Fortunately, Rask and Haselden are not intimidated by Long’s often harsh comments and hawkish looks. They speak for many people who would not want to experience Long’s wrath.
It was unfortunate that thanks to some clever Republican Politics Long managed to get reelected. It would be nice if the Commissioner focused her efforts on issues that affect her constituency.
A lot of the work on this regional transit authority will go on just out of public view as Jack Latvala, Janet long and others work to pull the regional authority together with help from the State Legislature with little public input or scrutiny.
That’s where Tom Rask, Barb Haselden, Sharon Calvert and others come in.
Without ongoing watchfulness, this regional taxing authority will be dipping its hand into your wallet to provide “transportation options” that you do not want or need, and that will not meet the real public transportation need.
For now, the first step to any regional transit authority must be the complete and total dissolution of TBARTA and  a firm understanding that none of the TBARTA people will play any role in a new transit authority. Otherwise, the citizens will get a new tax, years of even more expensive studies and little to show for their money.
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