In an article in the Tampa Bay Times, a new advocacy group has formed in Tampa Bay in support of light rail transit. Connect Tampa Bay, formerly Tampa Bay on Track, has launched a massive marketing campaign to push an initiative for a sales tax increase to fund light rail and other transit improvements in the Tampa Bay area.
Let’s look at who is behind this new pro-rail organization. First we have Brian Willis, a Tampa resident who sold his car when he moved to Washington, D.C. to attend law school. He relied on the transit system to get around D.C. and after moving back to Tampa, found the transit system did not provide him service adequate to meet his needs. Willis is 29 and a lawyer with Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick, P.A.
Along with Mr. Willis, the other founding members of Connect Tampa Bay are Brian Seel, a construction manager for the Beck Group, a company heavily vested in real estate development and “deeply committed to sustainable best practices.”
Brandie Miklis is an urban planner for Jacobs Engineering, whose website expresses a “dedication to sustainable development.”
Kevin Thurman is the fourth member of Connect Tampa Bay, a former Democratic political consultant and transplant from Washington, D.C. His goal is to appeal to the under 35 crowd and turn everyone out to vote to support light rail ballot initiatives in 2014. He also intends to hold many low-key meetings in private homes to get them to support the light rail initiative.
Prior to the 2010 vote in Hillsborough County, Commissioner Mark Sharpe (Dist. 7) appeared several times at the University of South Florida to appeal to the students to support light rail and the proposed increase in the county sales tax.
Students depend on transit more than most to get around campus or surrounding amenities. They are also more likely to ride bicycles or walk to get to their destinations, and have been indoctrinated with “sustainability” ideology since they were very young. It is one thing to be a single student; young, healthy, without children or having strict time commitments; who believes we are destroying the planet with our private vehicles and their carbon emissions. It is quite another to live in the real world, where you are required to be at work by a specified time, or have to shop for groceries with two kids in tow and understand the necessity of a private vehicle.
Looking at the four founders of this advocacy group, Connect Tampa Bay, it appears that they just might be more concerned with the revenue generated for themselves and their firms if a light rail project moves forward than helping to resolve a perceived transit problem in the Tampa Bay area with such an expensive solution. There will be plenty of work for law firms (eminent domain and contract services), development and engineering companies should it be approved by voters.
As in 2010, this advocacy for light rail is being pushed by special interest groups, and would not alleviate the public transportation shortcomings in Tampa Bay. It would take hundreds of millions out of our pockets every year to support. It is time for taxpayers to again understand what is at stake and insist on common sense solutions to transit that are within reason and affordable within a limited budget.
Public transportation is a national, even global, agenda, as we saw during the Super Bowl commercial God Created Transit.