Sunday, October 28, 2018

What NoTaxForTracks Said, What They Wrote

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

The PAC was filed with the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections on October 5, 2018. The PAC was established as formal opposition to the All for Transportation 14% sales tax hike that is on the ballot.

On October 17th the Times published an article about Mayor Buckhorn supporting the rail tax hike that included:
The only organized opposition to the tax is from Americans for Prosperity — an anti-tax, small government group founded by oil billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch.
That was totally incorrect.

But such newsworthiness that Mayor "I haven't seen a rail tax I don't support" Buckhorn is supporting another rail provided the Times another opportunity to provide free earned media in support of the rail tax.

The Times was finally shamed into having to acknowledge NoTaxForTracks. Times reporter Chris O'Donnell contacted several representatives of the NoTaxForTracks PAC yesterday.

NTFT asked O'Donnell to email his questions and NTFT responded in writing. This is important to compare what O'Donnell wrote vs NTFT's full responses.

The Times has given pages and pages of free earned media coverage to All for Transportation for the last four months. As we previously reported, the Times has even printed multiple articles in one day to cheerlead for the tax hike.

Below are the questions from O'Donnell and NTFT's actual response.
First you asked me on the phone why we formed so late?
We formed to counter the deception perpetrated by wealthy developers bankrolling the All for Transportation campaign. The public is unaware that this is a tax hike over 30 years costing $16 billion. 
1. Why is it a bad plan?
It’s a tax:
It is a new 30-year increase of our sales tax on purchases, going from 7% to 8% which totals a whopping $16 billion and makes Hillsborough County the highest taxed county in Florida.

It's unnecessary:
This tax increase is unnecessary as Hillsborough County Commissioners re-prioritized $800M of existing revenue for transportation funding over 10 years that along with our existing gas taxes funds needed maintenance and safety issues.
It funds 4 rail projects
This spending plan fully funds three of four rail projects outright without leveraging federal funds because they wouldn’t meet minimum federal thresholds for cost-effectiveness. This means that Title 6 protections likely won’t be in place for the transit-dependent community. 
According to Beth Alden of the MPO during an August Tampa City Council discussion of this tax and according to organizers of All For Transportation who wrote the 5-pages of fine print that voters won’t see on the ballot, this plan is based on the MPO’s Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). Page 168 of the plan funds rail which we believe is too costly and provides little to no congestion relief. The Hybrid Rail project long cited on the MPO’s wishlist is a diesel-burning train built for freight tracks. There is no demonstrated ridership for the USF to downtown route to justify the exorbitant costs. In fact the Regional Premium Transit study showed that benefits didn't exceed costs. There is also streetcar construction, modern tram (aka light rail) from downtown to West Shore and then a people mover from West Shore to the airport. 
It gives developers a break from paying for impacts of their developments:
We believe new development should pay for new roads. The mobility fee that developers pay to reduce road impacts will be cut in half if this tax passed. This is Table 7 from the Hillsborough County Mobility Fee study. Developers pay 30% less with a ½% sales tax, and likely more than half if the whole 1 % enacted. See  

Legal issues:
There are several legal issues that are troubling. The charter amendment goes against several provisions of 212.055 Florida Statutes.
2. Your group has stated there are no funds for widening or new road construction. All for Transportation disputes that pointing to the “ “ of the General Purpose Portion (the 54 percent). They also state that those restrictions only apply to Hills County and Tampa, not Temple Terrace and Plant City? Why are they wrong and No Tax for Tracks right?

45% of the funds go to Transit and there is an intentional reason the 55% portion is called General Purpose and not Road Purpose. In the amendment voters are deciding, there is an express prohibition against any funding of new auto lane capacity in the major categories of Maintenance, Congestion Reduction, and Safety. The fourth category is for Bike/Pedestrian Infrastructure which by definition isn’t new auto lane capacity. The final category called Remaining Funds has a road capacity prohibition that isn’t as obvious. This clause states that any remaining funds can be used for any purpose allowable by state statute (so far so good) AND by the charter amendment (which prohibits new auto lane capacity). In legal terminology, the “and” clause means both criteria need to be satisfied to be true. Since the amendment includes a prohibition on new auto lane capacity, the remaining funds can never be eligible for usage towards new auto lane capacity.

3. Ms. Calvert is saying that the plan has four different rails components. Can you explain? (I will ask her if that’s better)

See above on why this a bad plan.

4. How should the community fund needed transportation fixes?
We need a 10-year plan with defined projects that don’t crowd out future transportation technology advances. The County Commissioners restored some of the existing funding that was pulled back during the recession and they are starting to address the backlog. The key phrase in your question is needs versus wants. We have plans to fund what is needed, but funding for pricey trains to downtown stadiums takes an additional tax that residents of Hillsborough County can't afford. 
5. Your group has raised $7,000. How will you compete with a group that has raised $2.3 million? How will the group campaign to get its message to voters

As in 2010, it doesn’t take that much money to tell the truth.

6. Why has the group not taken a position on the schools half penny tax?
We are a PAC formed to oppose the Hillsborough County Charter Amendment No. 2. Some of our members are personally supportive of the school tax. Formally we do not oppose the school tax.

7. As a former HART board member, do you agree that bus service should be expanded? If so, how should that be funded?

During my six years on HART, we expanded service (measured in revenue hours and miles) every year. Starting in 2014 and continuing today, as in Charlotte which was oft-cited at the time as the model we should emulate, ridership has plummeted. I favor a robust, flexible transit option utilizing buses until newer, faster cheaper options become available. Autonomous rideshare holds a lot of promise to that end. Fixed rail or buses in exclusive guideway doesn’t. In 2015 I spoke in favor of a portion of the $800M in funding that the Hillsborough County Commissioners were re-directing to transportation, go to HART. I spoke in favor of value capture in defined urban area where HART services were heaviest such as they do in Lakeland. Furthermore, it has been several years since HART initiated a fare study.

Now that rideshare is legal in Hillsborough County, there are many private providers of transportation that take handicapped riders to their medical appointments that don’t cost the $76 round trip that taxpayers subsidize for each rider of the rationed HARTPlus service. In many cases, their trip isn’t much more than the $8 they would have paid to HART for subpar service.
O'Donnell took succinct answers that even included some citations and the Times published this article titled Three weeks before election, tax foes organize to fight transportation measure.

First the timing in the title is wrong. NoTaxForTracks filed October 5th, which is a month before the November 6 election. Details must not matter.

The same rail cartel band of wealthy special interests with their transit advocates in tow put their band back together months ago. That band is a broken record playing the same old stale song over and over again.

The Times was so adamant to adhere to the All for Transportation doctrine not to mention the word rail or trains, that they truncated NoTaxForTracks name to No Tax. 

No one has ever truncated the NoTaxForTracks name. The Times never truncated the name NoTaxForTracks in 2010 or in 2014 during Greenlight Pinellas. NoTaxForTracks is a brand name in Tampa Bay and suddenly the Times decides to truncate the name. 

The Times does not want the voting public to know the $16 Billion tax hike is a rail tax. 

Why didn't the Times truncate the name All for Transportation to All for Transit?

All for Transportation is not a grassroots effort. It is an astroturf campaign funded by wealthy special interests using millennials as their public face. Jeff Vinik has dumped almost $500K into All for Transportation's coffers. 

Vinik associates and his allies, including the Tampa Bay Partnership band members, have dumped their obligatory hundreds of thousands of dollars into another rail tax hike campaign. It is 2010 all over again.

No surprise that All for Transportation refused to comment. 

They do not want to answer any questions about the plan they wrote. 

They have no citations or evidence to backup all their exaggerated claims.
Posted by Sharon Calvert at 3:49 PM 

This post is contributed by EYE ON TAMPA BAY. The views expressed in this post are the blog publisher's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet.

Cross Posted with permission from: Eye On Tampa Bay

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Fraudulent Transit Plan Skewered at Tampa NAACP Meeting: They Will Vote ‘No’

Tampa, Fl
Tampa Bay Beat
By: Jim Bleyer

Vinik’s 3 stooges—Willis, Frazier, and Michaels—were dazed and dumbfounded after NAACP crowd voiced its ire at transit tax.
By Jim Bleyer
There is one group in Hillsborough County that Jeff Vinik can’t buy.
The Vinik-inspired sales tax referendum came under heavy fire Thursday night when Tampa’s African American community attacked it as vague, promoting unwanted gentrification, and a bailout for development interests at the expense of the working poor.
After the meeting, NAACP President Yvette Lewis declared the referendum’s backers “can’t ram this down our throat. Our community will cast a ‘no’ vote against this regressive tax.”
For Vinik: an epic fail.

NAACP members were disgusted and irate over Vinik’s regressive tax
Vinik’s three stooges—Rena Frazier, Brian Willis, and Michael Stephens—were envisioned by their boss as glib emissaries.  At the end of the evening, the trio were tongue-tied and nonplused by incisive questioning and criticism over Vinik’s hidden agenda—the bailout of his troubled Water Street Tampa development.
Tampa Bay Beat has learned from two independent sources that certain people close to the NAACP were offered cash to wheedle an endorsement of what amounts to a multi-billion dollar taxpayer swindle.  No amount of cajoling, pandering, and outright lying had any effect either.

Transit monies would bail out a beleaguered Vinik and his Underwater Street development
No local media were in apparent attendance.  The Tampa Bay Times, the primary propaganda arm for Vinik, was criticized for its unbalanced coverage of the issue which will, if passed, displace minorities residing in East Tampa.
Vinik is the de facto owner of the Times.  He and a few others essentially own the financially failing media entity.  Other media outlets in Tampa Bay have been compromised in their coverage of the transit scam and Tampa Bay Beat will have more on this in the coming week.

 Hudson, Vinik’s frontman, would rather have been anywhere else.
Tyler Hudson, Vinik’s point man in the grossly misnamed All For Transportation (AFT) effort, sat grim faced in the audience as criticism from Tampa’s black community rained down on the plan.  Cristina Barker, Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s former protegĂ© on loan to Vinik, sat frowning and scribbling notes. Kevin Thurman, the fourth stooge and relegated to the audience, ineptly tried to explain the glaring flaws in the $15 billion, 30-year developer bailout which would make Hillsborough County the Florida county with the highest sales tax.
Stephens propagandized the regressive tax as the “alternative to nothing” but irate audience members debunked that explanation as clearly false. 
Rejection of the transit tax by a key demographic could seal the fate of the misguided referendum.  The Vinik-led scheme already had stiff opposition from residents in unincorporated Hillsborough, conservatives,  savvy progressives, and those who didn’t just enter this life and are able to recognize blatant fraud.
City voters outside the downtown core won’t benefit from an expensive USF-airport light rail system that would be obsolete well before its completion.
“If Jeff Vinik and Frank Morsani were interested in the minority community,” they would have been paying the $30 annual NAACP dues,” observed one member of the audience.
Morsani, along with Vinik, are the main bankrollers of the tax.  The Morsani College of Medicine at The University of South Florida is the anchor tenant at the Water Street flop.
Others criticized  the All for Transportation so-called “ oversight committee” which has no allowance for average citizens who will be affected by the billion dollar scam.  The committee would consist of representatives of the special interests who will reap the financial windfall from the tax.
Attendees at the monthly meeting wisely noted that developers have not been paying impact fees commensurate with the benefits they reap from Hillsborough County.
Earlier in the day, Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White held a press conference where he asserted the $15 billion Vinik honeypot would be overseen by a committee not accountable to the citizens of Hillsborough County.
White also noted that added road capacity, defined as widening roads or building new roads, is expressly prohibited under the Vinik scheme. Because of the prohibition, the plan would do very little for suburban commuters, he said.
The commissioner’s concerns dovetailed with those expressed at the NAACP meeting.
 “This proposal seeks to embed this tax into the Hillsborough County Charter (which is like our local constitution) and it does not call for just the tax increase,” White explained.
“It would give an independent committee – whose members would not be responsible or accountable to you, the citizen – the authority to spend the funds. Furthermore, the ballot language paves the way for this committee to be stacked with members that are not from the areas where the majority of these taxes will be paid.”    
The name “All for Transportation” is a red herring.  In a county where 1.4 million reside, it was actually a microscopic “community” of five donors who paid consultants and petition gatherers to get the transit tax hike on the ballot. A dismal $700.72 came from 10 other donors, a whopping 15 donors in all.
The referendum, with misleading and suspect ballot language, was approved for the November ballot by Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer.  An auditing process that typically takes a minimum of six months was fast-tracked in 40 days.  The auditing firm in charge has a history of fraudulent activity and was forced to change its name due to its disreputable  skullduggery in Alabama
.Anger in the room was palpable. 
                                      Engineer Joe Robinson took the tax proponents to task.
   Cross Posted with permission from: Tampa Bay Beat
 This post is contributed by Tampa Bay Beat. The views and opinions expressed in this post are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Bay Post Internet or the publisher.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Did Hillsborough MPO Director Cross An Ethical Line?

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

We posted here and here about the credibility of the Hillsborough MPO is on a downward spiral. The Hillsborough MPO has gone rogue but has the MPO Director now crossed an ethical line?

On August 27th we asked Hillsborough MPO Director Beth Alden if the massive 30 year 14% transit tax hike was funding the MPO's 2040 long range transportation plan (LRTP). That claim was reported numerous times by local media. Alden seemed flustered with the question and tried to respond that she had not taken much time looking at the transit tax hike petition.

However, after more questions were asked, Alden admitted she had spoken to two All for Transportation (AFT) PAC activists and spokespersons. Alden spoke to Kevin Thurman and Christina Barker when the petition drive began in mid June and they also met on July 2nd. Alden indicated she met with Thurman and Barker the same day she said Thurman and Barker were meeting with county commissioners. **

There is no record in the county lobbyist registry of Thurman or Barker meeting with county commissioners at County Center so they met with commissioners under the radar elsewhere.

Alden is quoted in a Times article of June 15 about the transit tax hike funding the outdated long range transportation plan from 4 years ago. When contacted, the Times reporter said it was someone from both the MPO and AFT PAC who told him the tax hike was funding the MPO's 2040 LRTP.
Obviously, it was Alden from the MPO.

Later during the week of August 27, we found out Alden had presented at the August 23 Tampa City Council meeting. The agenda item for that meeting states Alden would be presenting what would be funded in the transit tax ballot initiative.
Agenda item at 8/23/2018
Tampa City Council meeting
(click to enlarge)
Alden's feigned ignorance on August 27 that she had not taken the time to know what was in the transit tax was not true. She had presented on August 23rd about the tax hike.

When Tampa City Councilman Louis Viera, who sits on the MPO Board, was contacted, he confirmed that Alden was invited to tell the Tampa City Council what the transit tax hike referendum would be funding. When Viera was asked if the City Council was going to invite someone to speak from the All for Transportation PAC who wrote the transit tax hike and got it on the ballot, he said that would be a "waste of time".

That statement is astounding and raises a big question. Was taxpayer funded MPO Staff involved in this tax hike effort? Did MPO staff collaborate to any extent with the transit advocates who wrote the charter amendment five pages of fine print?

Are there ethical issues with the Director of the MPO, who is paid by taxpayers, being the "go to" person to tout what the AFT transit tax hike is funding?

Alden's presentation to the Tampa City Council on 8/23/2018 can be found here.

At that public meeting, Alden merged information from the 2040 LRTP with the transit tax hike - as if they are one and the same. The name of Alden's presentation is titled "2040 Plan and All for Trans".

We asked Alden who authorized her to make such presentation and her response was the Tampa City Council requested it. Alden does not work for the Tampa City Council. She works for the MPO Board. From what we can determine, the MPO Board never authorized her presentation. A number of board members we spoke to had no idea she made the 8/23 presentation.

There are problems with Alden's August 23rd presentation. She presented misleading and wrong information.

AFT's 5 page charter amendment is here

Alden states that new roads and adding new road capacity on existing roads (except for intersection improvements) may be eligible under Any/Other  and Bike/Ped".

That is false.

There is no Any/Other funding category in the charter amendment language or the MPO's 2040 plan. Alden made that up.

In the AFT tax hike there is a funding category called "Remaining" which does not exist in the MPO's plan. A "Remaining" funding category is in the General Purpose (which includes maintenance, safety, intersection improvements and bike paths/sidewalks) funding portion. There is also a "Remaining" funding category Transit restricted funding portion of the charter amendment tax hike.

AFT's tax hike mandates that 85% of the General Purpose funding portion be spent on maintenance, safety, intersection improvements and bike path/sidewalks. The "Remaining" funding category in the General Purpose funding is 15% what is remaining after funding the other three categories.

Dig a bit deeper. The "Remaining" funding category in the General Purpose allows those funds to be used on anyproject to improve transportation which includes transit. However the charter amendment specifically states those "Remaining" funds can only be used on projects permitted by BOTH Florida Statute 212.055 (1)AND the charter amendment.

Use of the word "and" is important because that requires all criteria listed be met. The charter amendment tax hike provides no dedicated funding for new road capacity, it only specifically prohibits and limits new roads.

Since the MPO's plan includes four Tampa rail projects, the 15% "Remaining" funds in General Purpose could become the slush fund to cover major cost overruns that almost always occurs with costly rail projects.

The "Remaining" funding category of the Transit Restricted portion is 20%. That is what is left after the other 80% of the transit funding is spent on the mandated transit and train projects. None of the remaining funds in the transit restricted portion can be used for roads. It must be used for transit - another slush fund to cover rail projects cost overruns.

Alden knows new road funding is excluded in the AFT transit tax hike. Her organization wrote the MPO plan that does include funding new road capacity. She was specifically engaged with the AFT transit activists who wrote the language.

Alden did not want to say there's no new road funding in AFT's tax hike so she carefully couched her wording. She covered herself by stating new road capacity "may be eligible" which also means new roads may not be eligible" to have it both ways.

None of the regulations in the 5 pages of the AFT tax hike charter amendment are in the MPO plan. Alden knows that too. The MPO plan uses dollars and has specific projects with associated costs.  Alden's presentation creates a false impression that the MPO plan and the AFT rail tax hike are one and the same.

Alden is also wrong about being able to reallocate bike/pedestrian funding which is massively overfunded in the AFT tax hike.

Reallocation of any funding is only allowable in the General Purpose funding categories for maintenance, intersection improvements and safety (sections 11.07(1), (2) and (3). And then it requires a 75% super super majority to reallocate any of those funds.

The tax hike language specifically prohibits reallocating any funds dedicated to bike paths/sidewalks (Section 11.07(4).
Included in the Transit Tax Hike
 charter amendment ballot language
(click to enlarge)
No reallocation of any funds in the Transit Restriction portion is allowed. None of the $7-8 Billion MANDATED to be spent on transit and city of Tampa rail projects can be reallocated to anything else - for 30 years. It would require passing another charter amendment to repeal this tax or change it. Alden conspicuously left out that information

Alden misrepresented the proportion of the total tax that will be spent in the city of Tampa.

AFT's rail tax will fully fund the three of the four rail corridors (exception is the Streetcar) listed in the MPO plan. The MPO plan states the three Tampa rail corridors will be financed 100% by a one percent sales tax hike - which will be paid for mostly by taxpayers in unincorporated Hillsborough.

The population of the city of Tampa is currently about 27% of the total population of Hillsborough County. When the Tampa rail projects are included, about 50% of the total $16 Billion tax hike will be spent in the city of Tampa over the 30 years.

Alden ignored the rail/transit funding in the MPO plan that would be spent in Tampa. If she did, everyone would know AFT's transit tax is a Rail tax. Alden knows "rail" is a four letter word that has become toxic in Tampa Bay.

AFT does not want the word rail mentioned and Alden complied. AFT has spent millions and millions on expensive misleading glossy mailers covering for their rail tax.

Alden is a known transit enthusiast. She has the audacity to include proposing tearing down 10 miles of I-275 from downtown to Bearss Avenue in the MPO's current 2045 planning process.

Big problem is Alden was not truthful in her August 23 presentation. Alden is a taxpayer funded bureaucrat who does not represent AFT.  She should not have taken it upon herself to act as one.

The MPO Board must address this issue because Alden works for them. MPO staff cannot be misinforming or misleading the public or anyone else about what AFT's 30 year $16 Billion tax hike is funding.

The MPO must clearly distance themselves from AFT and their tax hike.

The credibility of the Hillsborough MPO will continue spiraling downward unless the MPO Board takes actions to reign in its own bureaucracy.

Point of reference: Christina Barker works directly for Jeff Vinik who has handed over $480K to AFT, the tax hike PAC and is the PAC's biggest financial backer. Kevin Thurman was the Executive Director of the now defunct transit lobbyist nonprofit Connect Tampa Bay. Thurman's wife Ali Glisson also works directly for Jeff Vinik. Barker and Glisson both previously worked for Mayor Buckhorn.
Posted by Sharon Calvert at 2:26 PM 

  This post is contributed by EYE ON TAMPA BAY. The views expressed in this post are the blog publisher's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet.

Cross Posted with permission from: Eye On Tampa Bay

Sunday, October 21, 2018

DUNKIN - AKA DUNKIN DONUTS – can they make it on coffee?

Is it just me or have the donuts at Dunkin Donuts gotten smaller?

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.

I admit it; I am a donut fan, and I am especially attracted to the powdered sugar coated; vanilla cream filled Dunkin delight. Or at least, I was.
I have noticed over the last few months my favorite donut seems to have gotten smaller and the amount of filling, which once was quite generous now seems to be administered with an eye dropper.
The other distressing change is that after about 1:00PM there are almost no donuts in the mid Pinellas County Dunkin stores.
There are a lot of changes at Dunkin Donuts as reveled in CNN Money by Danielle Wiener-Bronner: Dunkin' Donuts is officially dropping 'Donuts'
On a recent afternoon when things had been going exceptionally bad I decided a sugar-coated vanilla cream filled pick-me-up, and an iced coffee would set all things right.
I headed to my favorite DD in Pinellas Park, only to be greeted by a small nearly empty donut shelf. Determined, I headed for a DD in Kenneth City. The somewhat talkative donista assured me they had my desired confection and quickly produced a powdered sugar-coated treat and a cup of ice coffee.
I slipped into the somewhat industrial looking booth took a sip of coffee and a big bite of the donut UGH!!!!!..... Jelly filled.
You just can’t trust anyone these days.
You may notice that the donut case and number of varieties of donuts has also been reduced at your favorite DD, or I guess it is just plain “D."
The Dunkin folks have long lusted after the Starbucks business model of expensive coffees and a loyal well heeled following, and these latest moves seem to be a tack in that direction.
The Dunkin moves away from their core business in search of the elusive high-end coffee drinker seems risky at best to me.
I suspect there will still be long lines around the drive through early in the morning for coffee, but I bet the number of people picking up a box to take work will diminish as the quality and size of Dunkin’s actual donuts continues to decline.
You would think that people who run a business as big as Dunkin would watch the news and at least be aware of what happened at SEARS when a bad business plan really went south.
As for me, I think I am through with Dunkin or Dunkin Donuts for now.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am writing this from my favorite Starbucks where I am drinking an iced coffee, trying figure out which of their sweet treats I will substitute for long timed loved powdered sugar coated vanilla cream filled donut.
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Thursday, October 18, 2018

All For Transportation Will Be A Transit Failure

Tampa, Fl

From: Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert

As we discussed here, the All For Transportation Hillsborough County Charter Amendment cloaks itself around transportation and safety improvements, while deceptively and intentionally constraining road capacity and thus increasing congestion. They are intentionally downplaying their true advocacy for transit, specifically fixed guideway or rail solutions. Yet those will be an even bigger failure than their so called transportation improvements.
Train wreck
First, the transit related sections from the plan.

Section 11.08. Uses of Transit Restricted Portion. The Transit Restricted Portion, and any Agency Distribution received by HART, shall be spent by HART for the planning, development, construction, operation, and maintenance of public transportation projects located solely in Hillsborough County, which are consistent with the HART Transit Development Plan, as adopted and amended from time to time by the HART board of directors, to the extent permitted by F.S. § 212.055(1), and include expenditures in the following categories:
Cited directly from the plan, this section allocates over $7 billion, or 45% of the estimated $16 billion in total funds raised over 30 years, directly to HART.
(1) Enhancing Bus Services. No less than forty-five percent (45%) of the Transit Restricted Portion shall be spent on bus services, including express, neighborhood, circulator, paratransit, and all other types of transit now or hereafter operated by HART. HART shall consider the following factors in determining the projects included in its Project Plan for this purpose: existing transit ridership; increasing existing service; expanding service to more residents; existing and future land use; and the availability and feasibility of obtaining third party funding sources to fund any portions of the Project Plan.
Cited directly from the plan, this increases funding for expanding HART bus related services. That is, what it does today, to nearly $3.2 billion, or 20% of the total tax over 3 years. Note what appears to be a scope expansion for HART or "existing and future land use", which is not explained elsewhere. Is that for right of way acquisition, or is that for transit oriented development?
(2) Expanding Public Transit Options. No less than thirty-five percent (35%) of the Transit Restricted Portion shall be spent on transit services that utilize exclusive transit right-of-way for at least seventy-five percent (75%) of the length of the applicable service. HART shall consider the following factors in determining the projects included in its Project Plan for this purpose: existing transit ridership; utilizing or extending existing fixed guideways and rights-of-way; increasing existing service; expanding service to more residents; existing and future land use; and the availability and feasibility of obtaining third party funding sources to fund any portions of the Project Plan.
Cited directly from the plan, this is nearly $2.5 billion, or nearly 16% of the total taxes over thirty years. "Utilize exclusive transit right-of-way" specifically will require rail and/or dedicated transit lanes.
(3) Remaining Funds. Any remaining portions of the Transit Restricted Portion shall be spent on any project to improve public transportation permitted by F.S. § 212.055(1) or this Charter.

Cited directly from the plan, this is about $1.4 billion, or 9% of the total revenues, which can only be reallocated to "public transportation" parts of the plan, i.e., sections (1) and (2) above. The Tampa transit advocates who authored the plan were careful to ensure monies from the "General Purpose" section of the plan could flow to transit, but that monies allocated for transit were locked into transit.

The plan is a hail mary to dying transit. Transit ridership is falling throughout the US. Reports are common throughout the mainstream media as well as urbanisttransit advocate and libertarian sources. All modes - commuter rail, light rail, bus are affected. Legacy transit cities are as affected as are newer ones. There are several reasons - ride sharing, improved economy, lower gas prices, more telecommuting. It does not really matter that much. Transit nationally has never had a major share of commuting outside of New York City, and cities such as Tampa, without a large central business district, are not conducive to transit. Regardless, when people have a choice, most chose not to use transit. Even during the great recession, when transit ridership reached its recent high ridership, it was not that great.

Hillsborough is no exception. From FY 2016 to 2017, HART''s weekday ridership to date had decreased 7.7%. This is on top of the decrease in ridership of 6.5% from FY 2015 to 2016. That adds up to an average daily loss of 6831 riders in Hillsborough County, which grew an estimated 100,000 new residents during those years. The residents in Hillsborough have not been choosing HART. They have been choosing to drive their cars.

Even if we had a more developed transit infrastructure as AFT is proposing, it will not get you to where you want to go faster than driving. According to Governing magazine, riding transit takes nearly twice as long as driving. That holds true even in New York and Los Angeles and other transit heavy municipalities nationally. Despite all the transit investment, driving is still faster. Twice as fast. To believe that the AFT will do any better with Hillsborough any time soon is a foolish game.

Regardless, Hillsborough, we are told, is the definition of sprawl. Who am I to argue? Well, the best way to get around, and get to a job, has been, and will be, by car. Studies show that car commuters have about 30 times more job accessibility than those who take public transit. Spending billions on transit will be of little to no help for those who need improved access to their jobs, and the choice of better jobs.

Then there is just the fact of the large numbers of 700,000 new residents moving into Hillsborough in the next 30 years. Hillsborough population will grow from 1.4 million to 2.1 million. Even if AFT was wildly successful and more than quadrupled HARTs ridership to 8% of commuters (which has not happened in any transit agency over the last 30 years), there will still be over 1.9 million people in Hillsborough driving cars daily, or an increase in over 500,000 more people in cars. Transit is unable to respond to this demand especially when HART is currently averaging less than 43,000 riders per weekday. We must anticipate the need for new road capacity, which current residents clearly prefer and future residents will as well, which this plan explicitly underfunds (if at all).

In fact, HART has NO PLANS to spend this kind of money. This plan funds HART at over $126 million in 2018 equivalent, or about 4 times what they are funded today with Ad Valorem taxes. They have little in the way of vetted plans or designs for the type of transit corridors planned by AFT. Sure, HART has it's Ten Year Development Plans (TDP)
 and aspirational plans, but those are nowhere near "shovel ready", and much more modest than AFTs vision. It will take years for HART to study, design, plan, assess environmental impacts, perform economic studies, comply with land use, acquire right of way, etc. before a single track is laid. Don't believe me? It took 7 years for Sunrail in Central Florida to become operational after the counties approved the project, and which required little new rail development as they acquired the rail from CSX. The result, of course, was paltry ridership, around 3400 per week day through June 2018. In the mean time, those 700,000 new residents will keep piling in with their cars.

The "plans" that do exist are from the Hillsborough MPO 2040 LRTP. Specifically, Figure 3-29 identifies several rail projects:
1.            USF to Downtown Tampa, with a DMU (diesel!) on existing (CSX) track
2.            Tampa Downtown to Tampa Westshore, modern tram
3.            Tampa Westshore to Tampa airport, automated people mover
4.            Ybor City to Downtown Tampa, streetcar
Which, of course, are all in city of Tampa. The most expensive forms of transit is serving less than 30% of Hillsborough population, while being paid for by the other 70% who live, work and play in the county. Not only that, these rail corridors -- downtown, Westshore, airport, USF -- serve the wealthiest neighborhoods with the shortest commutes in Hillsborough. Even if these 4 rail lines regularly served an unreasonably optimistic 10% of the population of Tampa, that is only 37,000 people out of a county of nearly 1.4 million. This is a bad investment in mobility. Not to mention the regular commuters and visitors from nearby Pinellas, Pasco, and Polk counties will see no benefit. Pasco in particular is growing at an even faster rate than Hillsborough, further pressuring Hillsborough's transportation infrastructure, which this plan does nothing to relieve.

Do you not believe this plan forces mal-investment in rail? Let's get it from the Chair of All for Transportation, Tyler Hudson:

Tyler Hudson, Chair, AFT, confirming their plan enshrines
fixed guideway transit. AFT Facebook Live chat October 4, 2018

AFT already restricted me from commenting on their Facebook page after I cited clauses in their plan and the implications. Now I expect they will block me completely.

When more Americans telecommute than take transit, perhaps we've reached the event horizon on the black hole of transit.

The AFT plan attempts to bail out dying transit and HART with ill conceived plans for a relative few in Tampa, that will take years to develop, and will result in commutes twice as long than driving.

Time to stop the wishful thinking, and deal with the reality we live in Tampa Bay.
This post is contributed by EYE ON TAMPA BAY. The views expressed in this post are the blog publisher's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet.

Cross Posted with permission from: Eye On Tampa Bay