Who supports downtown Tampa light-rail?

I believe Chuck Sykes when he says he never considered riding mass transit before he became an (unpaid?) advocate for downtown Tampa rail.

Some land in Tampa will indeed become more valuable for development, thereby making other un-served areas of the county less attractive for business investment. Studies show however that among the first businesses to open along new urban rail lines are simply relocating from the outlying regions.

Unincorporated Hillsborough will be permanently resigned to “bedroom community” status; forever dependant on commuting. He is asking us to trust the same county government that gave us “unimaginative sprawl” in the first place to somehow now wisely manage the additional billions of dollars in new taxes needed for the downtown Tampa rail project.

I agree that we’ve got to start making things happen; the question is what is the right thing to do? 

I vote we put this downtown Tampa rail project on hold for a few years while we work instead on putting the 77,000 unemployed county residents back to work NOW!

People don’t need future “options” on how to get between home and work when they are unemployed, with their home in foreclosure.

Our county government has wasted the last 3 ½ years working on this downtown Tampa rail plan when they should instead have been working to immediately create new jobs throughout the county.

Instead of helping county unemployment they added to the problem by annual layoffs.

They still have no effective plan on how to deal with another $65 million budget shortfall. 

What downtown Tampa rail advocates like Sykes do not tell you is that:

  • The sales tax increase will not help balance the county’s ailing operating budget.
  • There will still be more layoffs and service cuts.  
  • The “father” of this transportation plan, County Commission Chair Ken Hagan says about this plan: “FRANKLY, I’VE GOT PROBLEMS WITH MANY THINGS IN THIS PLAN, AND I DO NOT SUPPORT THE CURRENT PLAN” Hagan also does not support the sales tax increase needed to fund the plan. 
  • Commissioners Jim Norman and Al Higginbotham also do not support the plan or tax increase.
  • The downtown Tampa rail plan will increase the county’s already $1 BILLION debt by over 50%.  
  • Other than consultants, no high-wage jobs will be created any sooner than 10 to 25 years from now. 
  • The final leg of the west corridor from Westshore to the airport will require either additional new taxes or more debt.  
  • The 2035 plan calls for over $7 BILLION in new county sales taxes with another $7 BILLION in taxes needed from federal, state and “other” local taxes. Neither the federal government nor the state of Florida have committed to funding this project.  
  • CSX has not agreed to allow the downtown Tampa rail project to use their rail lines. Without these lines the project rail lines must be installed on already crowded Tampa streets. 
  • The average useful operating life of urban rail tracks, stations, equipment and rolling stock is 35 years. While we are planning for the future, we need to plan on replacing everything we build.

People want to go from point A to point B. Where are most of those two points and how many people go between them?  What alternative transit system would get them to use it between those points? How much would it cost users and taxpayers to pay for that transit? Is the result cost-effective, including any related social benefits? Are there any better (for the taxpayer) alternatives? 

Perhaps in two years we will have put more people back to work, paying property taxes and buying goods and services; have a better idea of the costs/benefits to the entire county that rail could bring and have new county elected officials who are more concerned about the quality of life for all the people of Hillsborough than satisfying special interest political contributors in order to keep getting re-elected.

<IMHO> Fred Jacobsen


One Response to “Who supports downtown Tampa light-rail?”

  1. The downtown Hottentots certainly have that Rail Religion…facts don’t matter. The most harmful thing about Mr. Sykes and the Tampa Tribune’s Sunday editorial is that they give the fales impression that “business” is in favor of the 14% increase in the sales tax.

    Business is not in support…just those few that believe they will get some of the funds that might flowi from the project…

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