No ‘fake news’: All For Transportation clears up myths

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.

All For Transportation has widespread backing from bipartisan groups included the Greater Tampa, South Tampa and Upper Tampa Bay chambers of commerce, Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Times.

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.

An urban future means growth for all cities, not just mega-cities

By Hania Zlotnik

This story is part of What Happens Next, our complete guide to understanding the future. Read more predictions about the Future of Cities.

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.)

Millennial workforce split on transit options

September 17, 2018 11:14 AM
Updated September 17, 2018 11:14 AM
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?

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Steve Upshaw, CEO, Cross Country Home Services

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Citizens Group Files Lawsuits to Stop Neal Project in Sarasota

Staff Report•TheBradentonTimes.com
Sunday, Aug 19, 2018
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.

Legislative ‘usurping’ brings costly lower Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority bond rating

Written by on August 14, 2018

Legislative ‘usurping’ brings costly lower Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority bond rating

Citing “unprecedented intervention” by the Florida Legislature, one of the nation’s top credit-rating agencies has downgraded the outlook on all Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority (MDX) senior-rated bonds from “stable” to “negative.”

By “usurping local autonomy” in reducing state tolls and diverting surplus revenues to other county projects, state lawmakers forced MDX to slash its tolls system-wide by an average of 6.28% this year, overriding MDX’s plan to increase tolls to match the rise in the consumer price index in 2019, according to a July 27 report by Fitch Ratings.

The May 2017 bill, sponsored by Rep. Bryan Avila and supported by Florida House Speaker Pro Tempore Jeanette Núñez and Sens. Anitere Flores and Rene Garcia, also requires MDX to allot at least 20% of its surplus revenues to other county transportation and transit projects near MDX roadways.
Ms. Núñez, Ms. Flores and Mr. Garcia did not respond to requests for comment, and Mr. Avila’s office was not provided sufficient time to respond.

Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Esteban Bovo Jr. at the time said he applauded the move, adding it would “provide much needed toll relief and further development of transit operations” for county residents.
Mr. Bovo, currently on recess, did not provide a comment for this article.
This June, MDX’s then-chairperson Shelly Smith Fano said she was “thrilled to announce” the toll reductions, effective July 1.

“The MDX board has always acted on the best interest of Miami-Dade County, MDX bondholders and most importantly our valued customers,” Ms. Smith Fano said in a prepared statement for the June 8 release. “MDX has been an exceptional steward of our customers’ toll dollars and have continually kept our promises by delivering roadway projects on time and on budget.”
MDX officials declined to comment for this article. “The press release has all the information,” MDX spokesperson Tere Garcia wrote.

But Florida Transportation Commission member Maurice Ferré, a former MDX board member and four-term Miami mayor, says the toll reduction and revenue rerouting were done for political reasons, and any short-term savings for residents will be undone by even higher tolls down the road, the result of increased bond interest rates whose costs will be passed on to drivers.
“It really should be categorized as criminal negligence,” he said. “It’s a tragic move by ignorant people going in the wrong direction with good intentions based on political considerations without understanding the consequence of their actions. They don’t understand the system.”

Other major metropolitan areas in the state, like Tampa and Orlando, whose Central Florida Expressway Authority last year froze tolls while voting to keep future toll increases to 1.5% over five years, are further evidence, Mr. Ferré said, that state legislators are discriminating against MDX.

“Even after we increased our tolls in 2013 and 2014, which is why Jeanette Núñez is angry, we were still the average, so Miami users – the toll users of MDX – are not paying more than toll users in Tampa, Orlando or other places around the country,” he said. “MDX had to be very cautious to not go over these averages. The question is, why did the legislators in Tampa and Orlando react differently than the ones from Miami-Dade County? They mean well – I don’t think they do this out of malice or to hurt. But what Jeanette Núñez is doing – she thinks she’s being bold and brave, but what she’s really being is brazen.”

MDX has maintained its system and facilities satisfactorily and kept a “robust’ roadway inspection schedule, Fitch Ratings personnel wrote, but ongoing maintenance could be impacted by the state-ordained reductions.

Such a “fundamental policy shift,” the report states, raises concern about the state intervention’s long-term impact on MDX’s future fund allocation for capital expenditures, its ability to issue additional debt and future legal actions further impacting the organization’s independent rate-making flexibility.
“In the near term, the measurement prompted MDX to suspend $192 million worth of projects not currently under project,” the team, led by primary analyst Stacey Mawson, wrote. “However, the majority ($561.6 million) of the authority’s five-year $678.2 million work program is earmarked for expansion and capacity improvements, leaving a manageable amount for system maintenance and repairs.”

That budgeted amount, which runs through fiscal 2022, is reflective of a larger $1.2 billion project cost encompassing 50 projects, 45% of which is already completed.

Fitch Ratings affirmed MDX’s “A” rating on $1.434 billion outstanding revenue and refunding bonds.

The rating, the report states, reflects the essentiality of MDX’s roadway system to Miami area commuters, its logistical proficiency in managing system assets and effective maintenance, planning and expansion, such as its recent implementation of the Open Road Tolling system.

Because limited alternative routes exist for commuters to travel through the corridors MDX serves on its five expressways, the system has “a mature traffic profile with steady annual increases in toll transactions,” though the report added that growth is “projected to level off in forthcoming years.”

Future potential developments that Fitch Ratings determined could lead to negative rating action include:
■An unclear long-term toll policy and/or continued legislation requiring toll rate reductions.
■Transferring surplus cash for non-project county uses, which limits economic rate-setting and timely investment in system assets.
■Demonstrated lack of legal independent rate-setting authority.
■Underperformance of traffic and revenue with an unwillingness or inability to accordingly adjust tolls.

In 2017, transactions on all MDX roads stabilized, increasing 5% to approximately 495 million transactions in fiscal 2017, the second year 100% of tolls were collected electronically. SunPass collections accounted for 81%. Toll-by-Plate accounted for 17%.

Actual transactions for the first 10 months of fiscal 2018 are 6% lower than forecast due to 18 days of lost toll collections due to Hurricane Irma, though the Fitch report states transactions would still be 1.1% lower than expected if hurricane days were excluded.

MDX, formed in 1994, is responsible for operating, maintaining and improving an expressway system currently comprising the Airport (SR 112), Dolphin (SR 836), Don Shula (SR 874) and Snapper Creek (SR 878) expressways, as well as the Gratigny Parkway (SR 924).

Where Ride-Hailing and Transit Go Hand in Hand

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.

By and large, much of the North American transit industry would seem to agree. According to a report released this week by DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, since 2016 at least 27 more communities across the United States have joined arms with Uber, Lyft, and other transportation network companies (TNCs) to supplement or substitute traditional service—even as questions linger about the wisdom of undertaking these kinds of programs.

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 of DePaul’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.

Conservatives come out against carbon tax bill from GOP lawmaker

BY MIRANDA GREEN

 

A newly proposed carbon tax bill is creating a fissure in the Republican Party, with conservative groups coming out in fierce opposition Monday to legislation introduced by a House GOP lawmaker.

Several conservative groups bashed a measure introduced earlier in the day by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) that would impose a tax on carbon-emitting companies.

Americans For Tax Reform President Grover Norquist called the bill a political loser.

“Carbon doesn’t pay taxes — families pay taxes, people pay taxes, taxpayers pay taxes,” Norquist said at the National Press Club. “This is just the most recent effort by the left to find a way to get into your pockets.”

Conservatives took turns denouncing the legislation, which would impose a tax on companies that emit gases that contribute to climate change. Opponents highlighted the hundreds of dollars in energy price hikes it could bring to U.S. households.

They also characterized Curbelo as a Republican who is trying to appease Democrats. Curbelo is running for reelection in a congressional district that presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won handily in 2016.

“There is no appreciation to be gained by the real Democrats by pretending to be a Democrat,” Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment, said of Curbelo. “There’s a Republican consensus against this bill. It’s a bad idea, and any Republican who is tempted to embrace it will see very little friends on both sides of the aisle.”

The event was held down the hall from where Curbelo introduced his legislation two hours earlier.

Curbelo’s bill would repeal federal taxes on gasoline, diesel and aviation fuels and replace those with a $24 per metric ton tax on carbon dioxide emissions that would increase annually.

The measure also breaks with the party’s long-standing opposition to policies that punish the fossil fuel industry for carbon pollution.

The carbon tax in Curbelo’s bill would apply to coal mines, fuel refineries, certain manufacturing facilities, natural gas processors and fossil fuel importers. It would likely increase the cost of products and services that use fossil fuels, and revenues from the tax would go toward infrastructure, low-income households and climate mitigation projects.

Many of the conservative speakers at Monday’s event disputed that a carbon tax would thwart rising temperatures and climate change.

“Science is a distraction, it’s a rhetorical gotcha,” said Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Of course I believe in manmade global warming, but it’s much better than they’ve told us.”

Norquist said it was unnecessary to look at the science to see that the proposal would not help the free market.

“You don’t have to get into the science,” Norquist said. “You can get into the question of, ‘have more free market solutions led to lower emissions as new technologies and fracking have evolved?’ And people who told us this couldn’t happen were wrong.”

The bill is adding fuel to an already fiery debate about whether fossil fuel companies should be held responsible for emitting greenhouse gases.

Last week, the House passed a mostly symbolic resolution introduced by Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) that spells out opposition to a potential carbon tax. While Republicans hailed the vote outcome as a victory, six GOP members opposed it; a similar measure introduced by Scalise in 2016 received unanimous Republican support.

Republicans at Monday’s press event warned that those six members would have to deal with voting against the party as they seek reelection.

“Such a foolish vote is only a mistake for the members who vote that way,” said Kerpen.

Norquist said the vote might become crucial for midterm election races.

“Every single congressman who voted against Scalise should be educated — all citizens should know where their congressman or senator or state legislator stands on making their energy affordable for them, and I think all center-right groups will work on highlighting that,” Norquist said.

Timothy Cama contributed to this report.

Babcock Ranch In Florida Is To Sustainable Living What Tesla Is To Sustainable Transportation

July 15th, 2018 by

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.

New I-95 sound walls rising from Boca Raton to Deerfield Beach

Marci Shatzman, Contact Reporter, South Florida Sun Sentinel

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.

mshatzman@sun-sentinel.com,

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June 18, 2018 10:43 AM

Updated June 18, 2018 02:07 PM