Sunday, May 20, 2018

Trump should cap gas prices

If you want to help with all of this consider an electric car.

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD 
You're probably watching gasoline prices go up and wondering what’s going on.
Well, the answer is a lot.
The seasonal changeover is in process, the petroleum industry sees a good economy and the chance to gain massive profits while most of us are distracted by our own lives and the machinations of politics, and some of the big geopolitical players in crude oil supply still think they can mussel the United States around by playing with oil supplies, think OPEC.
Trump Tweet:
Looks like OPEC is at it again. With record amounts of Oil all over the place, including the fully loaded ships at sea, Oil prices are artificially Very High! No good and will not be accepted!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018
With our economy, humming along these Petro players are trying to cash in while the geopolitical petroleum suppliers can’t get a handle on Trump, so they are trying a power play.
NBC News by Martha C. White:  Trump Adds Fuel to the Fire of Rising Gas Prices
How big is the impact of a rise in gas prices on our economy?
"Every penny rise generally takes out billions of dollars from the economy in other avenues, and discretionary spending is always the first to take a hit," said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.
 “The general rule of thumb is that every 1 cent per gallon more results in $1 billion less in consumption per year.”
What would the impact of gas at $3.00 for the rest of the year? About $45 billion in less spendable consumption for the year which would take a major bite out of the Trump tax cuts.
It is time for action.
The petroleum and gasoline business is a constant throughput industry and relies on a steady flow of product sales to maintain the massive amount of dollars that flow from consumer back up the chain.
Trump needs to issue a series of executive orders capping gas prices, freezing domestic crude oil and refined product exports and diverting them to domestic refiners and suppliers.
Further Trump needs to issue executive orders stopping the sale and shipment of all military hardware, ammunition, repair parts and services to countries holding us hostage with their crude oil prices. Again, think OPEC.
The oil industry from the well to the pump cannot stand even a brief hiccup in the process flow of oil and money. Let’s cause some of that foreign crude start piling up in ships that cannot unload, and OPEC tank farms and see how quick the price changes.
If you want to help all of this consider an electric car.
If you're in the market for a new car and your daily commute is less than 75 miles, there are a number of good electric cars that will meet your need. Every electric car on the road means a decrease in the amount of refined oil products we consume.
For now, it is time for Trump to step up and do what he does best call their bluff. My guess is he will win again, and OPEC and big oil will lose.
If you agree Tweet or e-mail this post to Trump or the White House and let the president know you are with him on this one.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

School Security a Political Football

Superintendents and school board chair persons sounded collectively like a kindergarten class that had just been told recess was canceled.

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.
The Florida Legislature could have done a better job setting up and funding the mandates in the school security Bill.
Every school district in the state started screaming the minute the Bill passed.
Was this accident, intention or retribution?
No one knows for sure, but public education does not seem to be the apple of the legislator’s eyes.
I am pretty sure the boys and girls in Tallahassee knew they were poking the bear when they moved funding to support the security mandate, just not enough, from school funding and left school districts hanging. Sort of a double slap in the face.
Superintendents and school board chair persons sounded collectively like a kindergarten class that had just been told recess was canceled.
These “leaders” of public education did what they do best they started looking for someone else to shoulder the burden.
For a while, it looked like the big cities and sheriffs around the state might jump in and help, but then reality set in, and they begin to see that they were being hood-winked into a never-ending funding pit with school boards going on their merry way while Counties and Cites get left filling the bag.
Suddenly, the School districts began to meet some surprising resistance. You can read about it in a Tampa Bay Times article Kathryn Varn: Pinellas commissioners won’t pay for more deputies in schools and from Caitlin Johnson Tampa Bay Times: St. Petersburg will no longer put officers in elementary schools.
Now it looks like The Pinellas County School district will use private security guards; see Tampa Bay Times Claire Mc Neill and Kathryn Varn Staff Writers: Security guards to be temporary fix in Pinellas schools.
It sounds kind of scary to me. If I had a kid in school and wasn’t already looking at Charter schools this would definitely push me over the edge.
The long-term fix being touted by many local school districts is the expansion or creation of their own “Police Departments."
This looks like a recipe for disaster on a number of levels. Most of these Superintendents and school boards can barely run a school system let alone a Police Department.
In an earlier Post, Whining about the cost of school safety, I addressed the real problem facing the Florida Public School system which is an overriding desire to live in the last century with bloated administrations, lavish non educational programs and an abiding desire to spend more money on everything but that the class room.
While the Charter school industry gradually picks the flesh off the skeleton of public education and delivers superior education and results, Public School districts have yet to offer any hint of restructuring, reducing costs or cutting non-core educational programs to help fund school safety.
They are simply playing the heart strings of school safety and hoping a big bag of cash will show up to make the problem go away.
So far, things are not looking too good.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Jane Castor campaign misleads voters about its own fundraising success

Tampa, Fl 
Edited by: Tom Rask 

Campaign finance reports for the month of April show former Tampa police chief Jane Castor raised $33,540 in April from 89 donors. A political action committee called “Tampa Strong,” which is likely to support the same issues Castor does, raised $15,250 in April, with $10,000 of that from four corporations writing checks for $2,500 each.
The amount reported was low, given that Castor’s campaign three days ago claimed on Facebook (see below) to “have raised over $250,000 to date.” Their post linked to an article on FloridaPolitics.Com that emphasized that this feat had been accomplished “in just two weeks!”
The FloridaPolitics.Com article stated that the funds were raised from “more than 300 donors” and the feat had been accomplished “since she announced her run for Tampa Mayor in mid-April.” Therefore, additional funds in excess of $216,460 must have been raised during the first six and a half days in May for her “over $250,000” claim to be true.
That scenario is so unlikely that it can be safely dismissed. The Tampa Bay Times reportedthat “Castor’s campaign said it and an associated committee have raised about $250,000 so far.”  Given that a total of $224,962 had been raised through the end of April and the campaign’s claim of “over $250,000” on May 7th, it can be deduced that approximately $30,000 was raised in the first week of May.
By saying “we have raised” in a campaign Facebook post, Castor appears to be equating campaign funds with PAC funds in her messaging to voters. The campaign doesn’t mention her PAC other than platitudinally as #TampaStrong and “we are Tampa Strong.”
The month of April also saw Castor tell a Tampa Bay Times’  columnist that her police department’s 2015 highly criticized “biking while black” citations “were a mistake.” Castor’s change in position came one week before announcing her run for mayor.
In 2015, Castor defended the citations while refusing interview requests from the Times about the matter.
Castor’s designated campaign staff also didn’t respond to our April 26th request for an interview or answer questions about her May 3rd fundraiser at the private Tampa Yacht & Country Club. That event was not announced on her campaign Facebook or Twitter pages, while events in fundraising events in Seminole Heights and at Ulele Restaurant were announced through those channels.
The host committee for the yacht club fundraiser invitation listed 16 people, of which four are lobbyists. The Seminole Heights event listed a different group of people, and a “suggested contribution” of $250, compared to $500 at the yacht club event.
The presence of lobbyist Patrick Baskette on Castor’s host committee may signal that Castor is willing to spend public funds on a new Rays stadium in Ybor City. Baskette and Ron Christaldiare both lobbyists at Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick, and Christaldi has taken a leading role in trying to bring baseball to Ybor.
Castor’s campaign appears to be trying to soften her previous “tough cop with arms crossed” image in favor of bright colors and approachability. Former St. Pete mayor Rick Baker’s makeover last year didn’t bring him victory in that city’s mayoral race, and even earned him some ridicule. How Castor’s policy and appearance makeovers will be received by Tampa voters remains to be seen.
Her opponents view Castor as current mayor Bob Buckhorn’s proxy and she will certainly get his endorsement in due course. Some fear that Castor will only serve four years and then step aside in order for Buckhorn to return as mayor. That prospect is either appealing or unappealing, depending largely on how satisfied a person is with how the City of Tampa has been run under Buckhorn.
Castor’s opponent Ed Turanchik raised $22,145 in April from 85 donors and leads overall fundraising with $102,100 raised for his campaign. Castor is averaging $376 per donor and Turanchik $361.
There are seven announced candidates, with Turanchik and Castor viewed by many as the candidates with the best chance of winning. However, unforced errors like this week’s misleading claims about its own fundraising could create headwinds for the Castor campaign even before hurricane season begins June 1st.
As always….the Guardian reports and our readers decide. Like our Facebook page to find out when we publish new stories. 

Read this Post at Tampa Bay Guardian

This post is contributed by the Tampa Bay Guardian. The views expressed in this post are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet or any publications, blogs or social media pages where it may appear.
Cross Posted with permission from: Tampa Bay Guardian

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

St. Pete Unfiltered – The Movie – The Movement

This is a bright and talented group of people who, could make a major difference in how St. Petersburg looks at its Wastewater problems.

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.
St. Pete Unfiltered was a local art film that gained some notoriety at the 2018 SunCoast Credit Union GIFF film festival in Tampa. The film was researched, written, edited and produced by nine local students. The defined themselves as: “The St Pete Unfiltered Team is a close-knit group of environmental activists and advocates from St. Petersburg, Florida.
Here is an explanatory page from their Facebook Page:
Since 1977, five years after the Clean Water Act mandated that municipalities bring their wastewater treatment systems into compliance with the Act’s conservation measures, the City of St Petersburg has not increased its sewage treatment capacity in the face of a growing population. In fact, on April 2nd, 2015, the City of St Petersburg decreased its wastewater treatment capacity by closing the Albert Whitted Waste Water Treatment Facility. Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration and City Council had reams of expert reports and testimony that stated that the remaining three treatment facilities could not handle the increased sewage treatment burden.
From April 2015 until 2017, while claiming itself to be Florida’s greenest city, St Petersburg’s Mayor Rick Kriseman and Public Works staff knowingly violated the Clean Water Act by dumping more than 1-billion gallons of sewage into Tampa Bay, its aquifer, and its beloved surrounding waters, resulting in 89 felonies and 103 misdemeanors. These crimes come at an expense of 326-million dollars to the citizens of St Petersburg and its surrounding communities.
This is St Pete Unfiltered.”

My wife and I attended the film’s opening, and I must say I was quite impressed. The film was compelling, told the story of the City of St. Petersburg’s long and troubled waste water history.
Since then I have not seen or heard much about the film or the St. Pete Unfiltered movement, so I checked the web  site and Facebook page. Here are the links:
The web page is unattended, and the Facebook page has not had much action since March.
The film did an excellent job of capturing the problem and the consequences, but like many documentary efforts after the excitement of discovery and impact of the first presentation the prospect of hard work to pursue the issue and create action becomes a reality.
One of my original questions was,” Would the film be available for showing/viewing by the public,” and the answer at the time was no. I think that was a mistake.
This is a bright and talented group of people who, if their environmental credentials are real, could make a major difference in how St. Petersburg looks at its Wastewater problems. 

The City’s wastewater problems did not change after the film’s premier, the City Administration’s transparency and forthrightness did not improve, and the City recently completed deep injection wells blocks from the Southwest treatment plant where who knows what will be pumped below the aquifer.
If it was all just about making a good film, they did and that’s ok. However, if it was really about the bay, the wildlife and the quality of life around Tampa Bay, then I would like to see one or more of these folks step up and continue the process.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Developer Wants Land Use Changes & Opposition Shows Up En Masse

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

Guest post from:
Shirley Wood, a resident of south Hillsborough County

Talk to any resident in southern Hillsborough County and they will tell you about what they deal with daily- unbelievable traffic jams, numerous accidents, and a rising crime rate- and it will soon be even worse if the developers get their way. The push now is to allow for more density in development by changing the County Land Use Code* from R-2, which allows 2 units per acre to R-3 which will allow 3 units per acre. In one planned “village” this will mean up to 13,200 houses on 4,400 acres way out by Balm, which sets a precedent for more sprawl all over the county's rural areas.

Residents showed up last Thursday evening at Riverview High School for a public meeting to listen to those representing the developers. The meeting, supposedly organized by the developers, although held in a public high school, using county A/V equipment, and with a Hillsborough sheriff deputy provided, was advertised as a chance for residents in the area to hear about the planned village and the enhancements it would bring to their area. 

The meeting was attended by well over 500 people from the areas including Balm, Wimauma, and Tropical Acres- many who had received a letter inviting them to attend. Food and beverage was provided and a short presentation was made by David Smith, an attorney for one of the developers before citizens were allowed to speak and ask questions. 

According to the developers this change will only apply to this one development- So the question asked by some residents- then why change the entire land use code?? Why not just apply for a zoning change for this one parcel of land? Of course the developers know this will set the precedent for any future developments anywhere in Hillsborough County. Among some of the claims Smith made in his presentation: 
  • In order for R-3 to apply a development must have over 160 acres with “enhancements”. 
  • R-3 is not about rezoning property- it is about changing the county’s Land Use Code 
  • At this time the only property that would be affected would be the one proposed development in southern Hillsborough County (of course no comment from him about the precedent this change would set and the fact that this code change would allow any developer to apply for this change in the future anywhere in the county.) 
  • Said this would not automatically change from R-2 to R-3, but would give the developer the “opportunity” to seek that change 
  • Claimed that the water and sewer in any development would be paid for by the developer in agreement with the county. 
Then it was time for public comments and it was obvious the residents were NOT impressed with all of the promised “enhancements” this “village” would bring to their area. Citizens lined up at the mic to take their turn asking questions. The first was a question concerning the term “public housing” in the proposal. Smith claimed that term was not in the proposal at which the citizen turned to the audience and asked how many had read the proposal with the words “public housing” and several raised their hands. Smith assured him he would reread it and get back with him on that. The follow up was a question asking if Smith could assure them there would be no zero-property line housing, to which Smith said he could not. As for the promise of more parks- one resident told them that their neighborhood already has a park, but no money to maintain it or to provide security so it can safely be used. Another said that before the developers showed up with their thousands of houses they had all the “green space” they needed. Improved roads was also mentioned by Smith as a plus that would come to southern Hillsborough and the residents jumped on this reminding him that traffic now, before this proposed development is built, is already a nightmare, and the county has said that any relief to the congestion is 10 years in the future*. Some honestly said they were afraid of what this meant to their neighborhoods and their way of life.

The questions continued for an hour and ended with the final citizen reminding everyone that the people they were addressing their comments to were not the ones who could do anything about their concerns or even cared about their concerns, and telling them that the fight must go to their county commissioners and the county planning commission. He then turned to Smith and asked, “This development has already been approved hasn’t it? The only difference is whether the density will be 2 houses to each acre or 3 houses to each acre?” To which Smith said yes. So sprawl has already been approved by our county, and the question now is only how dense these developments will be. 

Citizens must speak up now if they want to stop this change to our Land Use Code with even more density in already over-developed rural areas. Future meetings are planned and hopefully the turnout will continue to grow and citizens will continue to contact their county commissioners about this issue. Dates of scheduled meetings are:

July 12, 2018, 6:30p Public Meeting - Riverview High School, 11311 Boyette Rd. Riverview, FL 33569

July 23, 2018, 5:30p Planning Commission Hearing - 18th floor County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Downtown Tampa

August 16, 2018, 6:00p County Commission 1st Public Hearing - 2nd floor County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Downtown Tampa

October 11, 2018, 6:00p County Commission 2nd Public Hearing - 2nd floor County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Downtown Tampa
An Eye note: The Developer's Contact listed in the first link above includes Attorney Vincent A. Marchetti

The Times published this article about Marchetti last month.Hillsborough commissioners are concerned about sprawl … until this guy shows up

This Times article last year reported Marchetti hosted a fundraiser for Hagan after he filed to run again for a District seat he had already held.

Are county taxpayers are paying for these meetings hosted by the Developers?  If so, why?

Cross Posted with permission from: Eye On Tampa Bay

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Floating art sinking for lack of funds?

There have not been any estimates or plans for the operation, maintenance and up keep of the floating structure.

St. Petersburg, Fl  Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.
As the City of St. Pete heads for the finish line regarding art funding for the Pier and Pier Park, the artsy and powerful are in a nearly desperate race to raise the remaining funds for the project.
You can get some detail from the Tampa Bay Times Waveney Ann Moore Fundraising effort for Echelman art at Pier faces ticking clock
The Janet Echelman floating art piece at the Vinoy end of Pier Park continues to be more than a little controversial.
Janet Echelman Massachusetts based floating art creator has presented images of her $3 million art work, which would “float” over Spa Beach. Spanning about 390 feet the piece made of mesh and LED lights will be tethered about 15 feet from the ground.
While the $3 million price tag is just short of ridiculous there have still not been any estimates or plans for the maintenance and up keep of the floating structure.
You can get some additional detail  in my Bay Post Internet Post: Flotsam Jetsam and Floating Art. Also my post Will the Floating art sculpture survive state arts funding cuts?
There are a lot of arguments against this project not the least of which is all of this money could be put a lot better use for the local arts or the City in general.
For now, the truly artsy and privileged of the City are all a gush about the floating art structure. They also seem to be comfortable with the rest of the City picking up the long-range costs for operation and repair, from which I am sure the Echelman staff are looking forward to the revenue.
Council member Montenari seems to be the only rational thinker on this project and surprisingly Steve Kornell, who is usually highly suspect of things with uncertainty and unknown long-range costs is “all in."
As for the rest of City council, they just can’t seem to get by all those floating lights on a summer’s night. I wonder whether they will show up when the wind is at 35 knots?
This project is a bad idea on a number of levels and to avoid committing the City to some unnecessary expense and liability the Council should ask some detailed questions about how this thing will function, what the ongoing costs will be and where, besides the Pier subsidy, where will the money come from. 
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Sunday, May 6, 2018

St. Pete’s Biogas disaster

City Council seemed to lurch between being surprised and being miffed that the highly touted “clean energy” “save the environment” project was in trouble

 St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog
City Council seems surprised as the City’s Biogas and Solids project costs mushroom from $64 million to currently $93 million and projected savings head toward $0. You can get some detail from John Romano Tampa Bay Times Columnist, Romano: Is it still environmentally conscious if it’s based on a sham?
I decided to drop by the City Council meeting Thursday (May 3, 2018) and catch the “Sewer Report."

Following some preliminaries, the often energetic but seldom entertaining Claude Tankersly, Public Works Administrator, lead City Council through a meticulous series of questions and answers seemingly to get the factual answers into the record before a discussion broke out.

If you would like to see E-5, the Sewer Report for yourself click here: Sewer Report scroll down to item 5 Sewer Report C. Tankersley and move forward a couple of minutes for the report.

Here is a good synopsis from Tampa Bay Times Caitlin Johnston Staff Writer, St. Petersburg City Council learns nothing solid about biosolids.
City Council seemed to lurch between being surprised and being miffed that the highly touted “clean energy” “save the environment” project was in trouble and unlikely to pan out as promised.
What I find interesting is they are surprised at all.
If you go back in history and check not only in St. Pete but in most jurisdictions these pie in the sky altruistic projects designed to make or save money and rescue humanity from itself almost never yield the promised results.
Tankersley and his consultants alluded to assumptions that are no longer true, estimates that were overly generous and a failure to realize that once you actually produce bio gas(methane) you have to do something with it.
All of this drama is casting great doubt on the ability to raise money from the sale of the product.
Then there are those “energy credits” they toss around that may or may not apply, may or may not be available and for the record, may or may not have a market. Think Bit Coin.
It is easy to set in an office and dream up these projects, make a series of desirable assumptions and sell a project to City Council because they have no expertise in any of the subject matter.
Elected strong mayors and City Council members have become enamored with projects that “pay for themselves” and save the environment. That’s how we got here. Only Steve Kornell had enough common sense to see through all the methane haze and vote no on the original project.
As a good rule of thumb City Council members should routinely look at the long range projected savings from untested projects like this one and divide three. Then look into the costs add a 50% risk factor and then make a decision.

For now, Tankersly and his team are trying rope in TECO/Peoples Gas for transport of the methane to the Sanitation Department for use as motor fuel. The Sanitation Department has a natural-gas fleet of trucks.

Problem is methane is not exactly what Peoples gas has in their system and methane from wastewater treatment facilities is dirty in its initial form. More than likely by the time the City gets the gas processed to meet any commercial use standards the cost will be prohibitive.

If I were advising TECO/Peoples Gas, I would suggest they be understanding and pass.

For now, the best approach may be to invest in a true electric generation facility, use the electric power to run the plant and if there is any surplus sell it to Duke Energy.

This thing was destined to be a disaster from the start and the objective going forward should be to minimize the losses and the impact on rate payer's bills.

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Friday, May 4, 2018

22% ridership drop in one year on busiest bus route in Pinellas

From: Tampa Bay Guardian

Edited by: Tom Rask 
Posted by TBG2016 on 

PSTA calls it the Central Avenue Trolley, abbreviated “the CAT.” Launched in 2011, the CAT was billed as “a one-seat, non-transfer ride from Pass-a-Grille to the St. Petersburg Pier.” At that time, PSTA attributed systemwide ridership increases to the CAT.
That was then. During the first six months of PSTA’s current fiscal year, CAT ridership dropped 22% compared to the previous year. The Guardian obtained this information through a public records request made to PSTA.
The number of riders on the CAT was 481,059 versus 376,820 for the first six months of fiscal years 2017 and 2018, respectively. The service thus lost more than 1 out of 5 riders in just one year.
The CAT has a “free fare zone” near downtown St. Pete, and a 50 cent zone that extends to 34th Street (see map on right). Riding the CAT has also been free during some events. These free rides, paid for by taxpayers, are included in the ridership numbers.
Despite this free and almost free service, and despite cutting the cost of a monthly PSTA bus pass in half to $35 for several months, CAT ridership still declined. The data (download it here) indicates that its set to decline even further next year.
PSTA issued no press release to announce this collapse ridership on its busiest route. When ridership was increasing, PSTA issued a total of 36 press releases during a four-year period to announce increasing ridership. The number of press releases discussing ridership levels has been as follows in the last few years:
2012 – 12
2013 – 13
2014 – 6
2015 – 5
2016 – 0
2017 – 0
2018 – 0

PSTA CEO Brad Miller (picture from his Twitter feed)

None of these 36 ridership press releases from PSTA announced declining ridership.
Thus it is clear that when ridership went up, PSTA talked about ridership, When ridership is declining, as it has been for a long time, PSTA talks about something else. They use your tax dollars to thus “inform” the media and the public.
Has the predicted “Transit Apocalypse” now reached PSTA? Many transit agencies now have unfunded pension and health care obligations that exceed their annual operating costs.
We reached out to PSTA for comment, but had received no response from staff by the time of publication. However, PSTA board member Brian Scott said “I prefer not to comment about specific route ridership without an opportunity to visit with staff and confirm the numbers first.”
We asked Scott if, in light of these ridership figures, the board should rethink its Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit (“BRT”)  project. Scott responded “I believe ridership trends should be a key component in any discussion regarding service changes. “
The Central Avenue BRT project requires $41 million to build, all of it using public funds. Additionally, it requires $3.5 million per year to operate, most of it public funds, and will take away a travel lane in each direction on 1st Avenues North and South. The project has yet to be funded by the Federal Transit Administration.
As always….the Guardian reports and our readers decide. Like our Facebook page to find out when we publish new stories.
See article at Tampa Bay Guardian: 22% ridership drop in one year on busiest bus route in Pinellas

This post is contributed by the Tampa Bay Guardian. The views expressed in this post are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet or any publications, blogs or social media pages where it may appear.
Cross Posted with permission from: Tampa Bay Guardian

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