With less than a month remaining before the Nov. 6 election, the All For Transportationcampaign is trying to combat what it says is misinformation about the 1 percent sales tax referendum on the Hillsborough County ballot.
“With an existing backlog of $9 billion in transportation projects and an estimated 700,000 more people expected to move into Hillsborough County within the next 30 years, we can’t continue to ignore our transportation and transit problems,” said Tyler Hudson, All For Transportation chair.
“But a ‘Yes’ vote in November will be a decisive step toward reducing congestion, making our roads safer, and improving our overall quality of life.”
The group documented several misconceptions it has heard from voters.
Some think the All For Transportation plan is the same plan that was rejected in 2010. That referendum was similar in that it would have raised sales tax 1 percent, but its provisions were vastly different.
Moving Hillsborough Forward, the 2010 transit initiative, was mostly focused on transit enhancements. Of the money raised, 75 percent would have gone toward those projects and the plan lacked restrictions on how the money was spent.
This year’s transportation plan allocated 45 percent to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority with most of the rest going to cities and Hillsborough County to pay for roads and safety projects, among other non-transit needs.
That’s another misconception campaigners are hearing from residents worried the tax won’t ease congestion or pay for new lanes or roads.
The referendum would use about 20 percent of the $280 million raised each year to pay for all of the road widening and new road projects in the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s long-range plan that are currently backlogged and un-funded.
All For Transportation campaigners are also reminding voters that the county does not spend enough on transportation. There’s a $9 billion backlog in transportation projects and that number gets bigger every year as the county continues to fall short on keeping up with transportation needs.
The campaign is also pointing to a provision in the referendum that provides specific oversight responsibilities on how revenue is spent. The referendum — No. 2 on the Hillsborough ballot — requires an independent oversight committee with 13 members who ensure money is spent in accordance with the referendum by conducting annual audits.
The members cannot be elected officials or earn or otherwise receive direct or indirect compensation from any of the agencies allocating resources. That includes the three cities in Hillsborough County and the county as well as HART.
But opposition is out there. The Florida chapter of Americans For Prosperity launched an ad last week that blasts the referendum as an unnecessary tax hike.
However, other than AFP, there is no local organized opposition to the transportation initiative.
No Tax For Tracks, the committee registered with the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections that fought the 2010 referendum, has not raised funds. Meanwhile, All For Transportation has raised more than $2 million.
The future is urban—but it does not lie exclusively in mega-cities.
About a decade ago, for the first time in history, the number of people living in urban areas surpassed that of those living in rural ones. But “urban” does not mean New York or Beijing or Rome. About half the urban population still lives in fairly small cities of fewer than 500,000 people (at least in developing countries) that may resemble rural areas more than mega-cities. Europe, for instance, has just two mega-cities and many smaller cities.
There are already 29 mega-cities with populations of 10 million or more—including Delhi, Shanghai, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Lagos and Kinshasa—but they make up just 12% of the global urban population. By 2035, we’re expected to have 50 mega-cities, but they would only account for 16% of all urban dwellers.
What’s more, urbanization has not advanced at the same pace in all regions. Europe and Northern America urbanized early, and their populations are already mostly urban (74.5% and 82% respectively). So are those of Latin America and the Caribbean, 81% of whose inhabitants live in urban areas. In sharp contrast, Africa’s population is still mostly rural (57%) and Asia’s has just become 50% urban.
Asia’s urbanization levels are largely determined by those of the two population giants, China and India. Until 1990, they were among the least urbanized countries in the world, with only 25% of their respective populations living in cities. Since then, China’s economic transformation has been accompanied by very rapid urbanization: China is expected to be three-quarters urban by 2038, up from 60% today. India, by contrast, still lags far behind with just about a third of its population living in cities, a proportion expected to rise to 45% by 2038.
High urbanization levels are associated with higher GDP. As the experience of China shows, rapid economic growth tends to accelerate urbanization. When high shares of the population make their living from agriculture, the productivity of that sector tends to be low. By contrast, during economic development, the most dynamic sectors of the economy tend to cluster in urban centers—or even give rise to them.
In China, for instance, the economic liberalization that began in 1978 promoted the development of enterprises in rural villages, which led to an economic boom in rural areas. The growth of rural enterprises spurred the development of new towns and cities by making villages become increasingly urban. As a consequence, the number of cities in China grew from 193 in 1978 to 655 in 2008, with the majority of new cities being small or medium-sized. The emergence of so many new cities—many located near the rural areas from which they derived their dynamism—helped reduce the impact of rural-to-urban migration on the large cities of China.
The movement of people from rural to urban areas is only one of the ways in which urban populations grow. Additions to the urban population also happen because births exceed deaths in urban areas, or because new cities emerge or existing cities expand, often encompassing former rural settlements. In some of the least developed countries, urban populations increase mainly because urban couples have many children who survive to be adults.
Rural-to-urban migration has not in general been the major contributor to urban population growth in developing countries.
For instance, in Niger, where the population is mostly rural (84%), the number of urban dwellers is doubling every 17 years because fertility is still a high seven children per women. Similarly, in much of Africa, high fertility is fueling rapid urban population growth, implying that increasing urbanization in the region is often not indicative of economic dynamism.
Demographers estimate that in most developing countries since the 1960s, the excess of births over deaths has accounted for well over half of the population increase in urban areas. Therefore, rural-to-urban migration, though significant over certain periods, has not in general been the major contributor to urban population growth in developing countries. Furthermore, in highly urbanized countries the majority of internal migrants already originate in cities and simply move to other cities, therefore having no impact on the overall size of the urban population. That is the case in the United States, in most European countries, and in highly urbanized developing countries, such as Brazil.
Urbanization is mostly positive. Evidence from developing countries shows that, on average, people living in urban areas are better off than rural dwellers. Because urbanites have better access to health care, they have better health and live longer than rural dwellers; their educational attainment is higher because educational institutions are better and more easily accessible in urban than in rural areas; and they benefit from a more diversified labor market than that typical of rural areas. Nevertheless, cities in developing countries are not free from stresses: high levels of underemployment, the growth of slums, lack of adequate infrastructure, and costly services are problems that remain on the agenda of countless cities.
The expected expansion of cities in the developing world poses a number of challenges, including the necessity of generating decent jobs for their growing populations and providing them with adequate urban services in terms of housing, water and sanitation, transportation, electrification, nutrition, education, and health care. Furthermore, over the next few decades, cities will have to increase their resilience to the consequences of climate change, especially considering that many populous cities—such as Shanghai, Osaka, Mumbai, New York, Miami, Rio de Janeiro, Alexandria, and Durban—are located in coastal areas that are very likely to be affected by rising sea levels. Though a few of the coastal cities are beginning to take measures to increase their resilience to floods and storm surges, if the average global temperature increases beyond 2° celsius, large tracts of urban land will be submerged and people will have to move elsewhere.
Technology and economies of scale may facilitate addressing some of these challenges. But in most countries, proactive planning for ensuring the resilience of urban centers is still the exception rather than the rule. Innovative approaches will be necessary to ensure that urban centers may continue to offer the best chances of enjoying long and productive lives. These approaches will require educating and nudging people to practice resource conservation, especially with regard to energy and water use. Technology may provide some solutions but it is ultimately the adoption and consistent use of appropriate technologies by each of us that will make a difference.
(Note: All statistics cited in this piece are derived from World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision, produced by the Population Division of the United Nations.)
This week’s question to South Florida CEOs who are on the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: Statistics show millennials don’t want to own cars and prefer to use Uber and public transportation whenever possible. Have you seen this trend reflected in your workforce?
While there are Community Care Plan employees who will use Uber or public transportation on an occasional basis, given that our office isn’t in a downtown urban location, I don’t believe that it has been a trend for our employees.
We have quite a few millennials working for us, and they all enjoy their automobiles. The statistics which shows that many millennials prefer not to own cars are heavily influenced by cities that have had far better public transportation for many years than most major cities in Florida. The independence of owning our own cars is deeply entrenched in the minds of all Floridians, including millennials.
Armando Caceres, CEO, founder, All Florida Paper
Many of our younger employees choose to live downtown and put off owning a car. I’m noticing the buses, trolleys and Metrorail are bustling with people and all of these services are becoming more reliable because of increased use. This is all great news for our city.
Kelly-Ann Cartwright, executive partner, Holland & Knight Miami chair of the firm’s Directors Committee
Although I have not yet seen it in my workforce, I have seen it with millennial family members. There is something to be said about being able to shed the expenses and headaches that come with automobiles/commuting and instead, using that time and money for more fulfilling endeavors. I think millennials are on the right track with this trend.
Ralph De La Rosa, president, CEO, Imperial Freight
None of our employees use public transportation, likely because we aren’t located near any major transit system. Uber has been a great addition to the market, but as a company, we don’t use it all that much.
Jalal Farooq, principal, Al-Farooq Corporation
In the last several years, we have seen a steady decline in students bringing a car to campus. Students are using Uber and Lyft, Zip Cars, biking and bike-share, public transit, e-scooters, and other ways to get around. The university is encouraging carpooling, especially through app-based services, to further reduce traffic on and around campus. The University of Miami is working with community partners to make a variety of transit options more available and we strive to create a campus that is increasingly pedestrian-friendly.
Dr. Julio Frenk, president, University of Miami
We haven’t seen that phenomenon with the millennials at our workplace. They all still enjoy owning their own cars.
Kaizad Hansotia, founder, CEO, Gurkha Cigars
I can’t say that any of our employees have given up their cars completely. Miami is a big city and the truth is you need a car. That being said, I know that the employees based out of our Coral Gables office are constantly taking advantage of the Freebee cars and trolleys. They’re extremely convenient to get around Downtown Gables — particularly in these hot summer months. Uber and Lyft also are good options when you need to get to a meeting in Downtown or Brickell and want to avoid the inconvenience and high cost of parking.
Javier Holtz, chairman, CEO, Marquis Bank
Yes, most millennials do not want the cost and commitment associated with owning, insuring and maintaining a vehicle and are used to shared concepts as opposed to private ownership. We are living in the Uber generation and developers need to consider this when planning future developments. For example, our upcoming Miami River Walk apartment development is a transit-oriented project, which will appeal to millennials due to its extensive amenity offering, close proximity to offices and entertainment options in Downtown and Brickell, and value price offering.
Camilo Miguel Jr., founder, CEO, Mast Capital
We find most people are still driving to work. However, I have recently experienced upper level management using Uber for daytime meetings in order to maximize efficiency.
Noreen Sablotsky, founder, CEO, Imalac
I have witnessed a few employees opting for Uber/Lyft service going to and from work. Though it only seems to make sense monetarily if they use the shared ride option, which cuts costs and lowers their carbon footprint. Otherwise, it can cost more than the expenses for a used car, depending on how often they are out and about, i.e., monthly note, gas, car insurance, parking.
Deborah Spiegelman, CEO, Miami Children’s Museum
While there is an uptick in use of Uber and ride-share as options, many of our associates are millennials and they still drive to work daily. We haven’t yet seen an increase in the use of public transportation among the millennial demographic specifically.
A deep political divide runs through American politics. It’s a gap stretching from a place where talk of sea level rise ends and conversation about climate change begins.While sea level rise is a subject most lawmakers are willing to at least touch upon, the topic of climate change is either ignored or ridiculed in many corners of Tallahassee and Washington.
“Sea level rise is more palatable,” said Susan Glickman, the Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “That’s due in part to its undeniability.”
Long-time Republican strategist Mac Stipanovich, who splits his time between Tallahassee and Destin, lays climate change “denialism” squarely at the feet of the party he represents.
“Denying climate change has become a part of the right-wing Republican dogma, just like Second Amendment absolutism and lower taxes in all cases,” Stipanovich said.
If climate change is real, and manmade, Stipanovich said, it becomes “a huge serious problem” to be dealt with, and attempting to address the issue, either through carbon taxes, zoning restrictions or other means “would be politically unpopular.”
That, the strategist concluded, makes addressing climate change a low percentage play for Republicans. Implementing policies that will only make a small group of environmentally concerned activists happy “would be politically unpopular.”
“It’s now enshrined in Republican dogma to be a climate denier,” Stipanovich said. “And if we’ve learned anything recently, you can’t twitch a bit when it comes to the new right wing Republican dogma or you’re excommunicated.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has proven the equal to any Washington D.C. denialist. Arguably the state’s most famous Republican, the governor turned U.S. Senate candidate made national news in 2015 when he was credibly accused of preventing state employees from even uttering the words “climate change.”
Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis, who are competing as Republicans to replace Scott in the governor’s mansion, appear poised to stay the conservative course where climate change and sea level rise are concerned. Neither Scott, Putnam nor DeSantis responded to several Gatehouse Media requests to complete a short sea level rise survey.
Putnam was the only Republican offered the survey who even responded to it with a statement.
“The threat of sea-levels rising presents a challenge to our beautiful beaches and booming tourism industry,” Putnam said. “This is an issue of focusing more efforts into investing in the infrastructure for Florida to be a strong, resilient state. We need to have beach re-nourishment, we need to support our estuaries, we need to invest in infrastructure that will harden our coastlines and allow us to move well fields inland.”
Asked to differentiate between sea level rise and climate change, a Putnam spokeswoman offered “we have no change to the statement as submitted.”
Long after the survey was sent, DeSantis, at a campaign stop in Englewood, did acknowledge that climate change “may be a factor” in creating an ongoing red tide crisis in the Gulf of Mexico in South Florida.
“I certainly wouldn’t rule out warmer waters having an impact; it seems reasonable,” DeSantis told Gatehouse Media’s Zac Anderson.
He termed climate change “more of a national and international issue” than one facing Floridians.
Tide gauge measurements at several points across Florida provide proof that not only are the world’s oceans rising, but that the pace with which they are doing so has accelerated since 2006. Studies consistently show the flooding is happening with more frequency.
This year flooding caused by high tides is anticipated to occur 60 percent more often in the United States than it did in 2000, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study.
Glickman said sea levels can be expected to rise between six inches and 2.9 feet by 2050. Experts say that between 2005 and 2017, $7.4 billion has been lost in home value across 5 coastal states due to sea level rise, and Florida’s $5.4 billion in losses are the most of any state.
“No matter what we do now we’re looking at an impact,” she said during a recent conference call. “We need to be making long term decisions.”
Phil Levine, one of five Democrats running this year for governor, became known as an advocate for steeling Florida against sea level rise when he was mayor of Miami Beach. Levine even boasts of having campaigned for that job from a kayak, paddling down the middle of a busy street inundated by flooding for which sea level rise was to blame.
“While some people get swept into office, I kind of got floated into office,” Levine likes to say.
Levine and two fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Andrew Gillum and Chris King, provided lengthy answers to the Gatehouse Media survey questions about sea level rise.
Gubernatorial candidates Gwen Graham and Jeff Greene did not participate. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson also declined to participate.
Levine used the survey to point out that hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent in Miami Beach to raise roads, install seawater pumps, improve building codes and erect sea walls to protect the city.
“The city has become a model for others around the world confronting climate change,” he said.
Gillum called for state-wide investments in infrastructure, the elimination of carbon emissions and coordination between local, regional and federal governments to find solutions to climate issues.
“I would direct all relevant state agencies to begin planning for sea level rise mitigation and adaptation, and to prevent further salt water intrusion,” he said. “And I would put scientists and science back in charge of our state’s climate change policies, not lobbyists.”
King said he has made environmental policy a cornerstone of his campaign.
“I have big, bold ideas for Florida on issues such as climate change, rising seas, Everglades’ restoration, clean water and air and building a clean energy economy,” he said in response to the Gatehouse Media survey.
Glickman and Rafe Pomerance, a former State Department official, contend that now is a crucial time to be talking about sea level rise and risking the leap to the scientifically linked proposition of climate change.
The Washington D.C. culture, though, has come to be exemplified by people like GOP Sen. James Inhofe, who, as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, once famously tossed a snowball onto the floor of the Senate and asked how snow could exist if the planet were warming.
Politics is hindering the country from moving forward on climate issues at a critical time in the nation’s history, Pomerance said.
“Congress is tied down fundamentally because of denialism,” he said. “This is holding us hostage to actually doing something about the issue.”
U.S. Rep Charlie Crist, a Democrat representing Florida’s 13th Congressional District, said unlike many others, Florida’s congressional delegation seems willing to see things differently when sea level rise and climate change are debated.
“Our delegation, they’re pretty moderate on the thing, for the most part. It’s hard to be a Floridian and not kinda get the environment thing,” Crist said.
Florida’s First Congressional District U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, of Fort Walton Beach, is as conservatively Republican as anyone in the House, but he’s also a member of the 84 member Climate Solutions Caucus.
“I don’t agree with some of the views some Democrats and even some Republicans have about the strategy to combat the problem, but I certainly can acknowledge that the earth is warming and humans make some contribution to that warming,” Gaetz said. “I see sea level rise as a consequence of climate change.”
The sea level rise/climate change discussion is “far too driven by peoples’ partisan lens,” Gaetz said.
“I think Republicans and Democrats need to be able to look at the same data and come to the same scientific conclusion, and then we can disagree about what the best strategy is to deal with the problem,” he said. “I’ve been very disappointed that too many in Washington aren’t even willing to establish a common set of baseline facts.”
The Climate Solutions Caucus, Gaetz said, is a “Noah’s Ark” caucus, that only admits a member of one political party alongside a member of the other political party. He said he’s encouraged to see the 84-member caucus continuing to grow.
The Caucus was actually founded by Florida House members Carlos Curbelo, a Republican and Ted Deutch, a Democrat. Fellow Floridian Bill Posey, also a Republican, recently became the newest of the state delegation to become a Caucus member. Republicans Gaetz, Brian Mast and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democrats Crist and Stephanie Murphy are members.
The Caucus has established three primary short term goals.
Its first is to bring Democrats and Republicans together to acknowledge the basic science behind sea level rise and climate change, Gaetz said.
“It’s hard to deny the clearance on bridges in Florida is changing,” Gaetz said. “That seems to be indicative of sea level rise.”
The second Climate Solutions Caucus objective is to educate House members about bad climate-oriented legislation.
“There are times in bills when someone will try to ban a review or study about the impacts of climate change,” he said. “Usually the Caucus sticks together to maintain an analysis of climate change in the other work that the Congress does.”
The third objective, Gaetz said, is coming together as a non-partisan caucus to find “solutions we can agree on.”“I think the federal government is going to have a role in dealing with the consequences of climate change because many federal assets will be impacted by the affects of climate change, notably our military,” he said. “We cannot expect states to deal with the evolving territorial claims in the Arctic that are exacerbated in their complexity by climate change.”
The military and protecting the nation’s military assets from rising seas has continued to be a priority in Washington, even while other agencies, notably the Federal Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency have slashed programs.
On Aug. 13, President Trump signed a defense authorization bill that includes a requirement that the military design and modify its buildings to better resist flooding, and calls for new military installations constructed in the 100-year flood plain be designed to withstand an additional two feet of flooding.
It also authorizes the U.S. Coast Guard to acquire six new ships capable of moving through sea ice, and calls upon the military to look into Chinese activity in the Arctic.
As with many other sea level rise or climate change-related issues, even the proposed military appropriations ran into resistance. Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) attempted to delete a requirement for a climate vulnerability study that had been added to the defense bill.
The amendment was defeated by 234-185, with the victory secured, at least in part, through the work of the Climate Solutions Caucus.
“It’s challenging, with the makeup of the body as it is, at present,” Crist said of moving climate-related legislation through Congress. “There’s an opportunity, though, this year, for things to change, at least in the House. If that occurs, maybe we can do a lot of good things.”
With primary elections fast approaching in this year’s governor’s race, and the U.S. Senate showdown between Nelson and Scott on the horizon in November, a coalition of environmental organizations on Aug. 15 released a study meant to advise competing candidates on the state’s gravest concerns.
Climate change is one of six issues specifically addressed in the document, called Trouble in Paradise.
“With approximately 75 percent of this state’s population in counties lining the coast, Florida must prepare for the increasingly severe weather and sea level rise caused by climate change,” the report states.
The study calls for Florida to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, invest in renewable energy, harden vulnerable infrastructure and steer development away from “areas vulnerable to the impact of severe weather,” Gatehouse Media’s Dale White reported.
It also calls for opposition to offshore drilling, the adoption of building codes the promotion of higher energy efficiency and expanded tax incentives for electric vehicles.
Pointing out the risks and economic impacts from flooding and higher storm surges, the report issues “a clarion call for leadership,” calling on the new governor to hire and appoint respected leaders who understand the myriad issues facing the state, the report said.
“Addressing community resilience and climate change in a proactive manner not only prepares this state for future challenges but also will result in more livable communities and long-term economic savings for taxpayers.”
GateHouse Media reporter Dinah Voyles Pulver contributed to this report.
SARASOTA — A group of affected neighbors filed two lawsuits against Sarasota County on Friday that could put a massive Neal Communities subdivision east of I-75 and south of Clark Road on hold.
The Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners approved the Neal Village development, known as Grand Lakes, on July 11 in a series of 4-1 votes, as part of the county’s 2050 Village concept, an optional development framework that permits additional density. Neal is set to build 1,100 homes on 500 acres he purchased for $20 million last December.
This extra density is in exchange for public benefits that guide development in the rural areas east of I-75 into compact, mixed-use, pedestrian friendly villages by protecting large areas of open space, and ensuring that supporting infrastructure is paid for by the development.
Casting the dissenting votes, Commissioner Charles Hines asked, “Where is the walkability? Where is the compatibility? Where is the connectivity with the larger overall village?”
A large group of Serenoa, Serenoa Lakes and nearby large lot homeowners, along with Twin Lakes Park users, presented their objections during the public hearings leading up to the boards’ July decisions.
The citizens group argue that developer Pat Neal’s privately-initiated comprehensive plan amendment, which enabled the rezoning to proceed, violates the county’s long-range growth plan. They also say the rezoning itself violates several of the county’s zoning regulations.
The lawsuit asks that the State of Florida hold an administrative hearing to find that the Neal amendment is inconsistent with the other goals, objectives, and policies in the county’s comprehensive plan because eliminating the village mixed-use requirement promotes urban sprawl.
Eliminating the mixed-use requirement was previously considered by the county in 2014 during a public initiative known as 2050 Revisited. At that time, several large landowners and developers, including Neal, proposed eliminating the mixed-use center. County staff rejected the developers’ proposal because staff’s analysis determined that, without direct access to a commercial center, a core 2050 plan principle would be violated.
Nevertheless, when Neal proposed eliminating the mixed-use requirement as a privately processed amendment, the 2018 county staff reported that they had no objections and recommended approval.
“It is a shame when citizens have to dig into their own pockets just to make sure the planning officials follow their own rules, said David Anderson, spokesperson for the petitioners. It is very discouraging that the commissioners ignored the merits of our arguments and approved the Grand Lakes proposals, so, our only recourse available is very costly litigation.”
The second suit asks the Sarasota County Circuit Court to reverse the rezoning approval because the Grand Lakes application did not satisfy the protected open space and non-residential use requirements in the county’s village zoning regulations.
The petitioners’ attorney, Ralf Brookes, says the outcome could have major implications throughout the county for future 2050 village development.
The Manatee-Sarasota Sierra Club, a leading environmental group, and 1000 Friends of Florida, Inc., a leading smart growth advocate, are providing financial support and legal assistance in the Grand Lakes challenges.
Partnerships between traditional public transportation agencies and Uber and Lyft have boomed since 2016. Where are they going?
Ever planned to take the bus, but wound up calling an Uber? That’s what the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority did in 2016.That year, ridership across St. Petersburg, Florida’s fixed route bus lines plummeted by 11 percent—twice the drop PSTA experienced in the first year of the recession, and one of the deepest declines of any major U.S. system. Pinellas County constituents had recently rejected the concept of transit even more directly: PSTA’s one-cent “Greenlight Pinellas” sales tax proposal to spread bus service and build a light rail system bombed at the ballots in 2014.That forced the agency to eliminate some of its existing routes, and to rethink how it was doing business. So it called in the apps. To cover the areas it had left transit-bare, PSTA became the first agency in the country to subsidize Uber trips. Since its “Direct Connect” program launched in February 2016, PSTA has given $5 discounts on rides provided by Uber and a local taxi company (and as of more recently, Lyft) to and from 24 popular bus stops in its service area to as many as 1,000 riders per month. “This is the future,” PSTA CEO Brad Miller told reporters on the day of the launch of the program, which was widely hailed as an example of what an amicable partnership between mass-transit and ride-hailing would look like.
In many ways, the same factors that pushed Pinellas County to the world of ride-hailing have pushed the rest of these cities: a desire to provide higher-quality mobility in areas where transit options fall short or where there’s not enough parking. There’s also a degree of brand-consciousness at play, said Joseph Schwieterman, the director ofDePaul’s Chaddick Institute, who co-authored the report with Mallory Livingston, a DePaul graduate researcher. “Transit agencies can’t afford to become like the taxi industry and let the world pass them by,” Schwieterman said.
Working in tandem with Uber, Lyft, and other similar offerings is a way for transit agencies to insert themselves on the primary communication channel riders are already using—their smartphones—and could be a step towards reimagining the on- and off-board customer experience.The question of whether ride-hailing apps are pulling riders on or off public transit—complementing it, or cannibalizing it—has been a cloud over the transportation industry for years. Transit ridership is declining on systems across the country, particularly on buses, and especially in smaller and mid-sized cities. While Uber, Lyft, and others TNCs have frequently taken the blame, the more significant drivers in ridership declines are likely service cuts and lower gas prices. “The writing is on the wall for many lightly used bus routes,” Schwieterman said. “Everybody is scratching their heads about how to better deliver their product, given how fast-paced society is becoming.” Establishing a link to on-demand transportation could be one way to do it.But as the transportation analyst Bruce Schaller has recently written, surveys in several major U.S. cities show in aggregate that a majority of TNC users in those cities would have taken public transit, walked, biked, or forgone their trip if the ride-hailing apps hadn’t been available. These services are siphoning off some transit passengers who can afford it, in some areas.
On the other hand, Uber and Lyft also appear to be penetrating neighborhoods with poor transit coverage and low car ownership rates, places traditional taxi services would not go. And in some cases, when it’s late at night and transit options are scant, calling a car is a far more time- and cost-effective option.In most cities, rider demand for Uber and Lyft trips through these transit agency partnerships has not been overwhelming. That much-ballyhooed pilot program in Centennial, for example, was not extended due to insufficient demand. PSTA has seen consistent ridership increases with its Direct Connect program, growing 210 trips per month in March 2017 to 994 trips per month by August of that year, according to PSTA data provided to CityLab. That’s still not much: A mixed-traffic lane with frequent buses can move at least 1,000 people per hour.These TNC partnerships have hardly boosted transit demand. And plenty of transportation advocates fear they could be counterproductive, by unwittingly contributing to the perception that Uber and Lyft can meaningfully replace mass transit. “I’m sure we’ll get some criticism with this report for creating a risk that funding for transit will fall as these partnerships come to the table,” Schwieterman said. “It’s a fine line between maintaining the system and outsourcing parts of the system.”
There are other risks tied to partnering with TNCs. These companies are notoriously protective of ridership data, which is a limitation for transit agencies trying to judge the success of these subsidy and tie-in programs. When PSTA signed its original contract with Uber, for example, “there was nothing in it about data,” said Bonnie Epstein, a senior planner at PSTA. The agency did eventually get some ridership totals from Uber (as noted), but nothing about the origin or destination of the trips, for example.
Similarly, there’s nothing stopping Uber, Lyft, or any other private transportation company (including taxis) from raising minimum fares without notifying public agencies first. Uber has done this repeatedly in Pinellas County since the Direct Connect program launched in 2016. According to Epstein, some riders have complained that the $5 public subsidy is no longer as useful as the cost of the Uber becomes equal to (or greater than) the cost of a second bus ticket in addition to the one they’re already buying at their connecting station. This story will be updated with responses by Uber and Lyft to requests for comment.Partnerships between ride-hailing companies and transit agencies are still in a delicate courting stage, said Jon McBride, a business strategist with a focus on emerging transportation modes. As far as agreements go, “I expect public agencies to become more specific about their data sharing requests, ways to influence equitable access and compensation models,” he said.
Tucked into a corner of Southwest Florida about a half-hour from Fort Myers, Babcock Ranch is what developer Syd Kitson calls the most sustainable new community in America. It started when Kitson, a former NFL player, purchased the 91,000 acre ranch in 2006. He immediately struck a deal to sell 73,000 acres of the property to the state of Florida for a wildlife preserve. He then donated 440 acres to Florida Power & Light with the stipulation that it construct a solar power plant on the land. Today, that parcel is covered by 350,000 solar panels that feed electricity into the electrical grid.
Then Kitson went to work with local partners to design and build a new community on the remaining 17,000 acres. “We want to be the most sustainable new town in the United States,” Kitson tells CBS News. “We had the advantage of a green field, a blank sheet of paper. When you have a blank sheet of paper like this, you really can do it right from the beginning.”
The town gets most of its electricity from the nearby solar power plant during the day. Although the community has 10 small battery stations, Kitson says large-scale battery storage is still too expensive (Elon Musk would disagree), so at night or on cloudy days, the community draws power from the utility grid. “The people here pay the exact same amount that everybody else pays in the Florida Power and Light network,” he says. “Clearly, if you have a number of cloudy days in a row, it will impact the efficiency and the available electricity that comes from the solar field, but this is Florida, and if you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes.” Last year, when Hurricane Irma swept across that part of the state, not one solar panel was damaged.
The first residents began moving in at the beginning of this year. 500 homes are expected to be completed by December. 19,500 dwelling units are planned over the next two decades. All of the structures in Babcock Ranch will feature the latest energy efficiency technology and offer 1 gigabit internet access. Alexa will handle all smart home functions. Outside, there are 50 miles of nature trails through the wildlife preserve next door. A farm-to-table organic gardening project is underway and a K-8 charter school is planned. Residents will be encouraged to leave their cars at home as they walk, bike, or take advantage of the electric autonomous shuttle bus fleet that will service the community.
“This community is a unique opportunity to really implement sustainable technology in a practical way,” Haris Alibašić, a professor at the University of West Florida, tells Good.com. “Cities around the world have started adopting 100% renewable energy targets, but it’s both intriguing and encouraging to see this happening from a developer.” He adds he would like to see more affordable housing included in the plans for the community. A three bedroom home in Babcock Ranch sells for $195,000 and a four bedroom town house lists for $795,000. “I think the ultimate key to long term sustainability is attracting people from diverse incomes and backgrounds,” he says.
Last January, Richard and Robin Kinley became the first family to move to Babcock Ranch. They chose a house near a lake, which has now been named Lake Kinley in their honor. “The air is nice and clean here and I think these types of communities are the future,” Robin says. “I felt very much like when I bought a Tesla back in 2013 and I said, this is definitely is going to make it,” Richard adds. “I felt the same way about Babcock Ranch.”
Their first neighbors were Donna and James Aveck, who moved in a few weeks later. “We love the innovation here,” Donna says. “We think it’s a very small planet and we want to do our part to conserve it.” Babcock Ranch has thought of every detail when it comes to sustainability. Jim says, “When I go to the gym, which is huge, and I get on the treadmill, the energy I generate by running actually feeds back into the electric grid.”
Communities that have already transitioned to 100% renewable energy include Aspen, Colorado; Burlington, Vermont; Greensburg, Kansas; Rockport, Missouri; and Kodiak Island, Alaska, according to the Sierra Club. But Babcock Ranch has designed sustainability into the entire fabric of the community from the beginning. Just as Tesla has driven change in the transportation industry, Babcock Ranch will encourage other cities and towns to make sustainability part of their community DNA.
If you live near a stretch of Interstate 95 under construction, you may be getting some quiet: Seven noise-blocking walls are planned from Boca Raton, south of Glades Road, to Deerfield Beach, south of Southwest 10th Street.
One of the sound walls, near the Fairfield Gardens community in Boca Raton, is already complete, rising 22 feet.
The I-95 noise had carried into parts of Fairfield Gardens, but the new wall resolved that, said David Abramson, with the homeowners association board. “I’ve been back there,” he said, “and it’s night and day now.”
The sound walls from Boca Raton to Deerfield Beach coincide with an I-95 plan to widen and convert carpool lanes into two toll express lanes in each direction.
The toll express lanes are expected to open by spring 2022, weather permitting, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.
It can take months to build any of the sound walls, which are made from precast concrete and rise anywhere from 8 feet to 22 feet. Panels in the middle get tropical designs, usually birds, with plain walls on either side.
The other communities receiving sound walls:
— Mizner Forest in Boca Raton will receive a 20-foot wall. Construction is expected to start Tuesday.
— Palm Beach Farms, Boca Square, Raintree and Palmetto Park West in Boca Raton will each get an 8-foot replacement wall.
— County Club Village in Boca Raton will receive either an 8-foot retaining wall or a 14-foot wall, depending on the location.
— Tivoli Park and Natura in Deerfield Beach each will have 22-foot walls.
Meantime, noise barriers already in southern Broward could be expanded or modified for an I-95 and I-595 express-lane project. One project, at Hollywood Boulevard and Sheridan Street, is the design phase. They still are being considered along I-95, between Hollywood and Hallandale boulevards and at the Broward Boulevard interchange.
Officers decide whether the walls are needed after they use devices to measure the noise. Officials consider building sound walls when the noise level meets a federal standard of at least 67 decibels. By contrast, a rock concert could reach as high as 100 or more decibels.
Florida stands to lose more homes — and real estate value — to sea level rise damage than any other state in the nation this century, according to a new study.
By 2045, nearly 64,000 homes in Florida face flooding every other day. Half of those are in South Florida.
If you buy a house now, before your new mortgage is paid you might have to regularly do the rolled-up-pants, shoes-in-hand commute that has become an enduring image of sea rise.
These numbers, released in a report compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists, used housing information from Zillow and a flood model from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that predicts 6 1/2 feet of sea rise by the end of the century.
Former studies of Zillow data showed Florida has hundreds of thousands of homes worth billions of dollars with the risk of being permanently drenched with six feet of sea rise.
This report, said one of its authors, Rachel Cleetus, talks about “a looming threat flying completely under the radar” — regular flooding.
“Well before homes go under water we’ll start to see chronic inundation that affects home value,” she said.
By the end of the century, Florida’s number of at-risk homes jump from 64,000 to a million. In 2100, the report said, about 1 in 10 homes in Florida will face flooding every other day. That puts the Sunshine State at the top of the list nationwide for homes at risk.
The report underlines the domino effect these repetitive floods could have on a community if nothing is done.
As these floods grow more frequent and more intense, they’ll start chipping away at the value of coastal homes, something initial research shows is happening in Miami-Dade and beyond. As these waterlogged homes lose value, their owners may decide that it’s easier to abandon them to foreclosure rather than pay a mortgage worth more than the house.
The authors of the report note that this kind of housing crisis would be more severe than any the U.S. has faced before. Unlike housing market crashes, where property values usually bounce back, these homes will be unusable (and unsellable) forever.
Federally backed mortgage buyer Freddie Mac wrote in a 2016 report that the resulting social and economic impacts of climate change are likely to be “greater in total than those experienced in the housing crisis and Great Recession.”
The dark possibility hinted at in these numbers also underlines the potential unsteady future of one of the main sources of revenue for the kinds of projects that save communities from the worst effects of flooding — a city’s tax base.
That’s especially visible in Miami Beach, one of South Florida’s most vulnerable communities. By 2030, Miami Beach homes paying $17 million in property taxes face regular flooding. By 2100, that jumps to more than $760 million.
Keeping a city dry as seas rise isn’t cheap, but some Miami communities are investing in solutions. Miami Beach raised stormwater fees to fund $500 million in street raising and pump installation projects. Miami’s “Forever Bond” was highlighted in the report as a positive story of a community taxing itself to pay for these projects.
The report made clear that the kind of action South Florida cities are taking right now is important. If other communities don’t start soon, it will be even harder for them to react to the threat in the future, said Joyce Coffee, president of Climate Resilient Consulting.
“If you don’t have these two things — a tax base and existing momentum — you’re on the losing side of history,” she said.
The report did suggest one solution that radically changes the number of homes at risk. If the world keeps fossil fuel emissions low, like the standards decided upon in the Paris Agreement, and ice melt is kept to a minimum, most sea rise damage could be averted. The authors said that would save 93 percent of Florida’s at-risk homes by the end of the century.
The report — and that 93 percent number — was compiled just before a new study from 80 Antarctic scientists showed that arctic ice melting has tripled in a decade. The work suggests the world has an even smaller window of time to act to stall the worst effects of climate change.
“We have to radically cut carbon emissions,” said Cleetus, author of the real estate risk study. “We have to prepare for the worst case scenario.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced this week that it is sending almost $23 million to public transit systems across the Sunshine State that were damaged by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is sending $22.8 million to 15 public transit systems based in Florida. This is part of $330 million that Congress approved for the FTA’s Emergency Relief Program back in February. The bulk of those funds–$223.5 million–are headed to Puerto Rico while Texas is getting $23.3 million and $6.7 million is for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who advocated for those funds on Capitol Hill, applauded the news.
“This is welcome news for a number of transit systems in Florida,” said Nelson this week. “For months they’ve had to struggle to find ways to pay for damages caused by last year’s devastating hurricanes. Thankfully, they’re finally getting some relief.”
Most of the FTA money headed to the Sunshine State is penciled in for South Florida. The Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works is getting $11.4 million while the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority is getting $1.14 million. Broward County is getting $857,000, Collier County is penciled in for $226,000, the city of Key West claiming $209,000 and Lee County receiving $515,000.
Other systems across the state are also getting FTA money with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority getting $734,000, Lynx/Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority receiving $432,000, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority getting $80,000 while $111,000 is headed for Sarasota County, $153,000 to Brevard County, $57,000 to Charlotte County, another $110,000 to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, $70,000 to the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners and Tallahassee’s StarMetro getting $41,000.