(Im)mobility in Tampa Bay
This will be short, but I’m in a serious situation right now where I’m researching transportation assistance for the mobility impaired (disabled). What I’m finding in my research is the grand division of the Tampa Bay metro region.
Perhaps there are options from singular cities that serve the region, but searching for Tampa Bay options resulted in Tampa-specific and Hillsborough County-specific options. That didn’t state or show support for those in the region who have to commute from Pinellas County to Tampa or vice-versa.
The Hatfield-vs-McCoy approach of his region is a disability of its own that impends the mobility in progress.
The St. Petersburg Times took local area governments to task on their requests for economic stimulus project funds. Most of them were low key, beautification projects that would neither create jobs nor serve a purpose.
I want to know if the TECO Line Streetcar is on this list of projects. I don’t mean the quarter-of-a-mile extension. I mean funding to complete this sucker so it runs through downtown to the north.
Seriously, Tampa doesn’t seriously link it’s new residential units in the Channelside district to central downtown. it hasn’t linked it’s new downtown condos with the entertainment district to the east. How do you do that, stimulate foot traffic in all markets AND potentially stimulate the retail sector? Extend that street car.
That or you can try to get a windfall of cash to do ornate bullshit that shows no vision, no ingenuity, and no long term planning. That’s the usual in Florida…
My issue is transit
The one local issue that I have hit on and written about over various mediums the last ten years is transit and mass transit here in the Tampa Bay area. This post isn’t supposed to be about hyping those letters, blog posts and what not though.
It’s an election year… Early voting is over and the bulk of those planning to vote in this country will do so on Tuesday. Me included.
So I took a look at my own ballot this afternoon on the Supervisor of Elections web site to see who would be running for what. I know who I will be voting for in several races (be it presidential, federal, state representation, school board, etc) except County Commission. I had thought to vote party line on everything but this is where I’ve gotten frustrated with either party involved: The planning in Pinellas County and it’s involvement in the region.
Which brings us back to transit.
I’ve got two county commission races on my ballot, both at-large seats here in Pinellas. One pits Rene Flowers against Nancy Bostock while the other pits Paul Matton versus Neil Brickfield.
I visited all four candidates web sites and… well, I’m a little upset. Yeah, a lot of citizens are upset over a lot of issues from the County Commission regarding their conduct (the Jim Smith land deal and other such things), seeing phrases like Restore Confidence in our local Government doesn’t surprise me, and seeing a heavy use of phrasing about responsible spending doesn’t surprise me with candidates of either party…
But where’s the beef?
Seriously, there is no true coverage of the issues on Bostock or Flower’s web page — one has banalities and another has nothing at all.
Matton and Brickfield aren’t much better — Neil has key phrases for stump speeches used on his site while Paul has essays about Accountability, Sustainability and Responsibility.
But as a voter, I am not looking for catch phrases or essays. I’m looking for an answer. An answer to a question that seems to be missing every election year in Pinellas County: What do you plan to do about transit issues?
Earlier this evening, I emailed all three campaigns and posed a variation of the same question:
know it’s AWFUL late in this election cycle to ask questions, but I was wondering about your stances on local transit and mass transit?
Are you for the go-it-alone version of transit solutions or are you a backer for the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority? Are you more inclined to support road projects or do you see a fixed-guide way (rail) form of transit as an integral part of Pinellas’ (and Tampa Bay’s) future?
These issues — planning, implementation, administration, funding and oversight of transit in the county and the region — have an effect on residents lives every day. It’s not in the same league as some party-line generality issues such as positions on guns, having military service to ones resume, position on marijuana or what not. Every time you step out your door and drive somewhere, walk somewhere, grab a bus somewhere, etc. you’re affected by how Transit is handled in the area.
I’ll post any replies here when they come in.
Update 11/03/2008 8:30 AM: Paul Matton replied to my email with a short line that didn’t really answer my questions:
before we go with rail we need to fix transportation as your commission I will do that
You can't get there from here
It’s spring now and Florida’s weather is perfect. Touching near eighty with blue sky stretching as far as you can see. A wisp of cloud here and there and breezes just keep things right.
Perfect weather and perfect to go out and do stuff in, right?
So I got the urge to get out and about the Bay area during this past week and – just to humor myself, I checked PSTA‘s web site in order to see if there was a bus route I coudl take to get elsewhere in the Tampa Bay metro area. And herein lies the mockery of mass transit options in Tampa Bay or poor use of tools that have been newly employed on local web sites.
So earlier in the week I wanted to go across county lines to downtown Tampa and meet up with a friend to hang out. Cynically, I already knew the chances of me finding anything were slim to none (means to get into the other county) or impossibly out-of-my-way… But I decided to humor myself and just go to the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s website and see what I could find… Read More
Don't let these lapse
Last year, I purchased a couple domain names – TampaBayRail.com and TampaBayRail.net. I intended to launch a web site on mass-transit and address the Tampa Bay area as one region. Not a separate-but-equal take that local government has had in the past on transit solutions. But those plans were soon forgotten as other issues worked into my life (including hand surgery, political campaigns and walking the dog).
Now, for those of you aware of what the local blogosphere has to offer, you already know David Pinero has Tampa Rail.org up and running. Pinero’s site is a great civic orientated pro-rail web site. The plan in my noggin’ with my own blog/site were just to ride the “rail” names but talk about all transit issues in general. But all of this is really beside the point, so let’s move on.
Basically, time goes by, the seasons change, the Gators were champs and John Grahame sucks. A few weeks ago I got notification from my domain registration company that both domain names were soon going to expire. I could renew the domain names for however-many-years I’d like or I could simply let them disappear into the digital tumbleweeds of the interweb. They’d likely be snatched up by a spammer or domain-name broker with no interest in Tampa, Tampa Bay, transit in Tampa Bay or rail in the region.
The whole thought reminded me of what happened to the previous official website that the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County operated regarding a rail system. A few years back (2002), those governments held the rights to TampaRail.com (check the wayback machine). For some reason, the powers that be (City of Tampa? Hillsborough County?) let that domain name expire around 2003. The name was quickly snatched up and exploited by a Russian domain name broker. The web site and url shifted to BlueHeronMedia.com, then ended up drifting into oblivion before being removed from their servers. Tampa’s official rail website was as dead as the pro-rail movement in the region. But the movement is now stirring again.
This past summer, we were all witness to the grand spectacle of the Hillsborough Expressway Authority trying to launch a new sprawlway through the region. Along with Mayor Pam Iorio (and the Tampa Bay Partnership and Tampa International Airport) renewing a push for a regional rail system through the Tampa Bay area. Emphasis on the Tampa Bay regionalism of their presented interest.
So, what’s a guy to do? I have control of TampaBayRail.com and .net. I could sell them and possibly recoup some of the costs of the domain names — eventually. Instead, I decided to do some good. I offered both domains to the City of Tampa. You entrepreneurs may see this as a waste of money on my part, but just consider it a good deed.
Suffice to say, the city was receptive of the idea, so both names are now controlled by Mayor Pam. I don’t expect you to see a regional rail website any time soon, but there is the possibility for a united Tampa Bay rail effort on the web — with TampaBayRail.com potentially it’s base location on the web.
Another nail in Amtrak's coffin?
I’m not trying to knock Amtrak as so much declare there is a major need of a revamped national railway system…
This latest incident is proof positive of it.
Amtrak, the federal rail authority, operates passanger service throughout the continental United States. Where the federal government has been more than happy to subsidize the auto industry and the airline industry, Amtrak has been another story…
Operating on antiquated tracks, sharing tracks (and playing second fiddle) with freight trains and having a sub-par/failure of a High Speed Rail option are proof positive Amtrak needs a makeover. Congress and the current administration are fast to say that it’s weight should be shed entirely but that’s really lacking forsight.
The network needs to be upgraded — via a private entity or the federal government — and would provide thousands of jobs by doing so. Ultimately it can shrink dependance on foreign oil…
…but of course, you can’t do it any time soon. The financial black hole fo the Bush administration prevents us from doing that.
Will wonders never cease?
Well, Johnny wrote letters to the Clearwater City Councel along with Pam Iorio and Rick Baker (in seperate letters) discussing the possibility of a ferry link between cities….
Well? Gues what? Someone else thought that Tampa and St. Pete could be a great ferry route and are funding a study on it.
They are at least looking into it – not because of what I wrote but just because. I’m happy about that though.
Pinellas Rail's Backwards Tale
Well, well, well, the Pinellas County MPO gave their blessing to a slightly-poor-but-better-than-nothing Monorail system in Pinellas County. The seeds of Mass transit are either sown or they are buried before their funeral has commenced.
I’m not a big fan of the separate-but-equal mass transit planning of the Bay area, that’s part of the reason why I call the plan slightly poor. I’m also not a fan of the idea that the current scheme basically ignores commuters in North Pinellas who have the farthest to travel.
But my opinions on Pinellas County Mass Transit and the proposal are better than my opinion on some of the comments coming from Pinellas County Commissioners who are against the concept. Let’s take Susan Latvala for example:
“I just think we’re too developed to integrate something into our system,” County Commissioner Susan Latvala said. “We’re way too far down the road for this.”
When things get built out – that’s when Mass Transit comes into play. Why doesn’t that logic register with Latvala? Has she ever been out of Pinellas County? What IS the solution if not a rail system? Wider roads? More roads?
I guess Susan is resigned to the idea that every commissioner from this point on should be convincing Pinellas County residents they can’t do shit about traffic…
This plan is part of a coordinated mass-transit effort that Karen Seel can’t quite grasp:
“In 95-degree weather, will someone really take the rail and walk the rest of the way?” said Seel, the MPO chairwoman.
I guess she doesn’t have much confidence in how well coordinated this will be with buses and trolleys as was stated in the MPO endorsement. Buses running in coordination with rail stations cut down on wait times. As it stands right now, Pinellas County buses are running in a non-coordinated effort and in poor run times. Seel’s statement gives blessing for this – not seeing mass transit improvements tied to the monorail system.
Either it’s a step forward or a step deeper into the back-water politics of Tampa Bay. Only time will tell if Pinellas will make the right call on mass transit instead of allowing further traffic fatalities and headaches because of commission indolence and fears of the unknown.
Hoyt Hamilton, come on down!
I got a response from Councilmember Hoyt Hamilton of the Clearwater City Council over the Ferry idea that I floated with them.
He brought up the fact that they had offered a free ferry in 2000 and it saw a little bit of ridership and before it, a private ferry was in service that charged 3 bucks round trip and did poorly.
I got encouraged that someone replied at all… And now I’ve gotten my head on straight and typed up another letter, thanking him for it and then talking about some issues that I have with what he brought up.
The Free Ferry operated on weekends alone. I have no clue what the hours were. It operated for 3 months total and saw some 2650 riders. Losses were 500 smackers a day. Ok, good. Now how come you were only operating it on weekends when tourists are on Clearwater Beach or trying to get to the beach all week? Were you specifically tryign to cater to the locals who would be beach hopping on the weekend?
How much advertising was part of this free ferry service? I wasn’t a beach visitor in 2000 and don’t recall any press about the ferry being in existence – let alone publicity about using it to get to and from Clearwater Beach.
If you’re goign to do something, you can’t just do it half assed. That’s what Clearwater seems to have done with the ferry while it was in operation. I’ve been out on the beach during tourist season this year and I’ve seen how the spring break crowd is confined to the strip…. That or traffic dodging while trying to walk the Clearwater Memorial Causeway.
My reply letter is already typed up and ready to send. I’m glad I got a response. Now let’s see if Pam Iorio (or one of her staff) or Rick Baker (or one of his staff) reply.
Got Marketing? Segway of Clearwater doesn't
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m big on the Segway HT. The media laughs at it, people in general ridicule it and everyone I have seen ride it smiles instantly and loses their negative tone at least for a while when onboard.
It’s a thing of freedom to the disabled – though not medically approved by the FDA. It’s a vehicle of fun for those who are tired of the automobile.
And it’s the most poorly marketed item possible at Segway of Tampa Bay – Clearwater.
While Tampa Bay lacks mass transit – a vital part of the Segway’s appeal to get where you’re going faster while not quite going bike speed and going much faster than foot speed – it has traffic issues that have been brought up time and again by moi and others aroudn the blogosphere. People are looking for alternatives for short commutes and such and Seg of Clearwater is no where in sight.
Downtown Tampa is currently undergoing a developement boom and those who are going to be living downtown are going to need a means to get around that shouldn’t include the car – something that will travel where the TECO Streetcar won’t. St. Petersburg already has a large urban populous. Segway of TB – Clearwater? They’re on the beach showing off the device but not actually catering to potential customers. To show up on Clearwater Beach with the device sells the item like a novelty to the masses and not as a legit means of transportation.
Going to their web site, they laude sight seeing over mobility. They avoid the transit question because they happen to be exotic car dealers – why shut out one means of business with your other means of business?
It frustrates me when something that can be used is mis-advertised or just plain swept under the rug. Such is the Segway in this suburban hell.