The Policy Leadership Group met on May 22, 2013 to begin work on a “Transportation Strategy for Job Growth.” In attendance were the mayors of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City, along with the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners and HART board members. Transportation consultant Herbert Marlowe gave a pretty power point presentation outlining his strategy for determining transportation goals with the focus on job growth, for which he sought approval from the group to proceed.
Marlowe began by establishing that all seats at the table will have equal input into the discussion. He asserted there was no pre-determined solution. The first goal of the Policy Leadership Group will be to find solutions which will add value to our communities in the form of return on investment (ROI). Once this is determined we will look towards methods of funding the transportation solution(s) agreed to by the group.
The group expressed the primary objectives they wished to come out of the strategy sessions. Commissioner Beckner said we need to define the challenges. Commissioner Murman wishes to define and prioritize future corridors. Commissioner Crist affirmed the need to find new sources for funding any project due to declining gas tax revenues and also stressed the need for connectivity between all of the areas involved. HART board chair Fran Davin expressed the need to clarify to the public what can be done with what we have, and Commissioner Higginbotham agreed that the public must be engaged throughout the entire process. Commissioner Miller questioned whether we are deciding to build our way out of this economy.
Facilitator and consultant Herbert Marlowe stressed again the need to focus on the creation of job, work, and play centers. He said people should be able to take transit to work, take transit on lunch hours to shopping areas and back to work, and then take it home at the end of the day. This is transit oriented development. The adjacent photo is Center Commons in Portland, Oregon, which is the poster child for transit oriented development and comprehensive land plans.
Marlow set a time line for three phases of the study. The first to be accomplished by December 2013 would be the study of job and business growth. Second is to look at various transportation networks and projected this segment to be concluded by the end of 2014. Finally, a governance and funding study would be completed by the end of 2015. Commissioner Murman thought the time-table Marlowe presented was too long and wanted to shorten each of the three to six months.
Everyone expressed the need to reach out to the public. Temple Terrace Mayor Frank Chillura wanted assurance that there will be no secret meetings. The group was assured every meeting and discussion will be open to the public. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn stressed now is the time to act since federal dollars are available for transportation projects. Commissioners Sharpe and Crist intend to focus on the youth and transit users of tomorrow. They seem most receptive to major mass transportation undertakings. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they do not pay taxes, run businesses, are not yet punching a time clock, raising a family, or counting pennies and saving to buy a home or pay their mortgage and utility bills. Remember those carefree idealistic days?
One of the issues of great concern Marlowe described was the intention to focus on increasing population density (again with the transit oriented development). The goal is to determine and target specific areas within the county to create the transit oriented work, shop, and play areas and confine people within the areas to multi level high density residential apartment buildings. We are already seeing this being constructed along Boy Scout Road across from International Plaza and Bay Street, which is near the airport and Westshore Blvd. The entire concept of linking transportation with economic growth appears far-reaching and will do nothing to improve economic conditions in the Tampa bay area in the short-term or even within the next decade.
Connect Tampa Bay has already scheduled their first transit workshop in Pinellas County on June 1, 2013 from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM, at Pinellas Realtors Organization, 4590 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater, Florida.
As quoted on their website:
“It is said that a small group of dedicated citizens can change the world. Here’s one example of what a dozen volunteers can do: For the past few weeks the Sierra Club of Tampa Bay has had small groups of volunteers at events all over the bay. Working together, the volunteers signed up over 1,000 people to support transportation options.”
If you want your voice heard plan to attend this meeting and as many future meetings as you possibly can. We do not want a small group of “stakeholders” making decisions affecting the future of our county, how and where we live, and how and where we work and play. Before you go, read this excellent article by Lynn Stuter linked here to understand the methodology practiced in these “workshops” known as the Delphi Technique.
And if they start to speak about sustainable development, ask them to define what they consider to be unsustainable.