Rail subsidy does NOT make sense
The world changed since Commissioner Hagan’s Transportation Task Force took up the study 3 ½ years ago. 77,000 county residents are now unemployed, with twice that many underemployed. Except for consultants and lawyers, the Tampa rail project will not create any new jobs for 5 to 10 years. Creating incentives for businesses to locate along the rail route will result in disincentives to locate anywhere else in the County.
Only half the cost of the light-rail project will come from the “penny tax” with most of the rest needed to come from our cash-strapped state and federal governments.
The more we talk about where the rail lines and stations should be located, the less we seem to know about who is going to ride the thing or how often. No wonder we have to subsidize it; we’re not even considering how much it is worth to potential riders. With the mind-set that it won’t pay for itself, I am concerned that we also won’t consider the value we get back for our investment.
The County is anticipating spending $4 BILLION on transportation anyway from the half-penny sales tax increase voters approved back in 1996. Do we trust our County government with ANOTHER full-penny sales tax increase?
If we are going to tax ourselves to improve the quality of life in Hillsborough, we should first aim that money at incentive programs to help create jobs now by encouraging businesses to locate into the empty buildings and storefronts we see everywhere. Why isn’t that program on the ballot?
I propose that we put the sales tax increase and the light-rail project on hold for a few years while we figure out where it needs to go; who is going to ride it and what is the true return on investment for the entire community given the tens of billions of dollars this will cost us and our children’s children.
<IMHO> Fred Jacobsen