The Leonard Lopate Show

Is a Tampa Homeless Program Exploiting Residents, Or Providing Opportunities?

Thursday, December 04, 2014

New Beginnings of Tampa, one of the city's largest homeless programs, sends crews of unpaid men to work jobs. Some employees admit to overcharging the state, and residents.

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Transportation Nation

Orlando On Track For Bike Share Next Spring

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Orlando's transportation planning agency says the city could see a bike sharing system up and running by next spring, in time for Central Florida's SunRail commuter train, a program we reported on last fall. On Wednesday Metroplan Orlando's bike share working group got a look at bikes produced by one of the companies angling for a toe hold in Central Florida.

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Transportation Nation

Top Transpo Congressman, John Mica, Mulls Next Move

Friday, November 09, 2012

Shovel Ready: Congressman John Mica talks to reporters at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new intermodal rail terminal in Winter Haven, Florida (Photo by Matthew Peddie)

(Orlando, Fla. -- WMFE) John Mica, the chair of the U.S. House Transportation Committee, joined with Florida Governor Rick Scott and other business leaders and elected officials near Winter Haven Thursday, for the symbolic groundbreaking of a new intermodal rail terminal.

Before grabbing one of the gold painted shovels, Mica, a republican from Winter Park, Fla. praised the governor for his business savvy and leadership in supporting the project, which will serve as a distribution hub for trains and trucks delivering cargo throughout Florida. The project came about after rail company CSX reroute freight traffic from 62 miles of track to accommodate the SunRail commuter train.

"We are very fortunate to have Governor Scott with his business background at this time and his vision for transportation and infrastructure," said Mica.

"You cannot build this state or this community or projects like this without people like Governor Scott."

Florida Governor Rick Scott, CSX Chief Executive Michael Ward and US House Transportation Comittee Chair John Mica (photo by Matthew Peddie)

Mica and Scott have not always seen eye to eye on big transportation projects in Florida, notably on the failed high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando, which the Governor nixed early in 2011 by rejecting $2.4 billion dollars in Federal stimulus money. At the time Mica panned the Governor's decision, labeling it a setback for the state's transportation, economic development and tourism.

While the high-speed rail plans collapsed, there's evidence to suggest Mica may have -indirectly- helped Central Florida's SunRail Commuter train avoid a similar fate during his tenure as chair of the house transportation and infrastructure committee.

Mica lists the two year Highway Transportation bill and the FAA bill as  accomplishments during his chairmanship, but he says those came about in spite of the Obama administration.

Looking ahead to a second Obama administration, Mica said he hopes the president will work better with Congress on transportation issues this time around. "They've been absent without leave," said Mica. "I’m hoping that their second time around they’ll be more cooperative."

Advocates for increased transportation and infrastructure spending have lauded President Obama's stimulus plan and his advocacy of a national rail network.

Mica, who comfortably staved off a Democratic challenger to retain his seat in Florida's U.S. House District 7 Tuesday, is due to be termed out of his role as chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. However he says he'd like to hang onto the position if possible.

“Oh we’ll see," he said. "It depends on whether they grant waivers or not, and that’s yet to be decided.”

"I’ve been honored to chair for the last 2 years, ranking for four years, chaired a sub committee for six years, and I intend to be a leader in whatever capacity my colleagues choose,” said Mica, who's also in line for other potential committee chairmanships.

"But I’m not moving from transportation even if I took another slot,” said Mica, who added he intends to be in a key position to make decisions on transportation policy.

Republican Congressman Bill Shuster of Penn. has already expressed an interest in the committee chair position.

Florida Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad was also pondering the implications of the second Obama term. Prasad said it's important that there's leadership at the Federal level and that members of congress can work together to craft a long term highway transportation bill.

"I just hope we can get to a deal," said Prasad.

"The last deal was only two years, and partly because I think folks in congress wanted to get past this election... Now that the election's over, let’s not wait another two years to get another two year bill, let’s work next year and have a long term bill that creates a transportation vision for the country.”

Historically transportation funding bills were non-partisan bills approved for six years at a time to facilitate planning of longer term projects. For more on how that changed this Congress, read our previous coverage.



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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Isaac Won't Hit Tampa, But it'll Still Ruin the RNC

Monday, August 27, 2012

It will be hard for the GOP to hammer home the case of smaller government in the middle of a crisis where only government can make a difference.

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The Takeaway

Tampa's Democratic Mayor Prepares to Host the Republican National Convention

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In a month and a half, 50,000 people will descend upon Tampa for the Republican National Convention, and the Democratic mayor of that city, Bob Buckhorn, is going to play host.


It's A Free Country ®

Explainer: What the Ron Paul Campaign Needs to Stay Alive

Friday, July 13, 2012

There's still a reason to talk about Ron Paul, and it has to do with whether or not he'll be allowed to talk at the Republican National Convention next month.

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It's A Free Country ®

Christie Talks Bipartisanship in Washington: A Tryout for Tampa?

Monday, July 09, 2012

In front of a standing-room-only audience, the blunt style of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went over big at the Brookings Institute in Washington on Monday.

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It's A Free Country ®

Fundraising Falters, but Paul, Supporters Look to Convention

Thursday, March 22, 2012

If he could run on enthusiasm alone, Paul would be riding high. But when it comes to cash, all signs point to Ron Paul’s well drying up, slowly but surely.

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The New Yorker: Out Loud

Ben McGrath and Amy Davidson on Super Sam Fuld

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ben McGrath and Amy Davidson on Super Sam Fuld.


Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Jump in Oil Prices Hits US Trade Deficit, DC Eyes SF-Style Parking, and Is US Surface Transportation Secure?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Just how vulnerable are America's railroads to a terrorist attack? The Wall Street Journal reports that "for every $50 the Transportation Security Administration spends on aviation security, the agency budgets $1 to protect surface transportation."

Will separated bike lanes come to Toronto? (NOW Toronto)

Bike parked outside of WNYC's Greene Space (photo by Kate Hinds)

The big jump in oil prices pushed the nation's trade deficit higher in March. (AP via NPR)

DC is trying out San Francisco's dynamic parking pricing. (WAMU/Kojo Nnamdi Show)

Boston cabbies and credit card companies try to reach a compromise. (WBUR/Radio Boston)

Tampa's taxpayers could be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in shortfalls at the city's financially-strapped parking division. (Tampa Tribune)

NYC is exploring technology that would provide real-time traffic info via GPS -- as well as provide vehicle miles traveled information. (NY Daily News)

Toyota will launch a new set of sales incentives on many of its models. (Wall Street Journal)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

--a new report shows how states spend their transpo dollars (link)

--Indiana bans texting (link)

--storefronts use bikes as sales draw (link)

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Transportation Nation

Florida Mayors to Rick Scott: We May Never Have This HSR Opportunity Again, Please Reconsider

Thursday, March 03, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) With just hours to go before oral arguments begin in Florida's high-speed rail lawsuit -- and one day before the Department of Transportation-imposed deadline for the state to accept the $2.4 billion in federal money or lose it -- the mayors of Orlando, Tampa and Lakeland jointly sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott they say addresses his concerns about the state's liability.

Scott has been resolute in his belief that the state's taxpayers would be on the hook if the project goes bust. The Mayors' letter argues that the state is protected and that the "USDOT has unambiguously waived its standard repayment obligation."

The letter concludes: "We may never have the opportunity again in Florida to build a project of this scale, impact, and significance with 90% federal funding.  We have had every reasonable indication that the balance of construction costs and operating costs will be funded by the private sector.  This provides a remarkable combination of resources for a project promising so many benefits to our region and our State. It is our sincere belief that this letter fully addresses all of your concerns and that there is no reasonable risk to the State of Florida or any other impediment to moving forward with this worthwhile project."

We've reached out to the governor's office for his reaction and will update if we hear anything.

Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court will be hearing arguments in the case today at 3pm; there will be a live video stream here.

You can read the letter the mayors sent the governor here (pdf) or below.

Letter to Gov Scott HSR 03-02-11 v6

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Transportation Nation

No Deal: Florida High Speed Rail Lost in Space

Friday, February 25, 2011

Florida Governor Rick Scott at the Port of Jacksonville in January 2011. Scott has said he supports investments in ports and highways. But not high speed rail. (Flickr image by JAXPORT)

[UPDATE: On Friday morning, Governor Scott asked USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood for another week to consider the proposal for an interlocal entity, the potential compromise described below.]

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) Florida Governor Rick Scott will make no formal announcement about his final decision to kill the Tampa-to-Orlando high speed rail line, his spokesperson told the Tampa Tribune. It seems that the people of Florida and the nation will have to settle for a brief interview Scott gave to a local Fox News affiliate. “I’m not convinced that project is a good project," he said. "There’s a significant risk of cost overruns for construction. Historically that’s what’s happened with those projects.”

Neither the reporter, Derrol Nail, nor the Governor seemed to appreciate the irony that these remarks were delivered at the Kennedy Space Center, where Discovery departed on its final mission yesterday. NASA's shuttle program, a rather expensive mode of transportation enjoyed by only a few, has nevertheless brought great economic development to the region, and the winding down of the shuttle program will mean layoffs: United Space Alliance, for instance, has announced that 548 workers at Kennedy will lose their jobs come April.

Constructing America’s first high speed rail line in Florida, while not as difficult as building a space station, would more than make up for that dip in employment. Senator Nelson, who was also on hand at the launch, told Fox that the Governor “has made a mistake that’s going to cost people 24,000 jobs in the immediate future.” The Senator’s official statement yesterday pulled no punches. Nelson called the Governor’s decision to reject $2.4 Billion in federal high speed rail funds “pitiful,” “a monumental mistake,” and “hasty and ill-informed.”

Scott’s spokesperson held firm, insisting that “the governor remained principled in his position in protecting Florida taxpayers.” And indeed, principle appeared to play a larger role than practicality.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Canadian Oil Keeps Midwest Gas Prices Lower Than The Coasts, Republican Budget To Hit NY's MTA, and Americans Like Transportation, They Just

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Rockefeller Foundation survey says Americans support road upkeep and transit systems --  but they don't want to pay for them. (Washington Post).  (A storyline we've been following:  check out these stories from September 20, 2010: "Election Report:  Give Us Transportation, Just Don't Make Us Pay For It," and this one from November 1, 2010;  "Wariness about Spending on Transportation and Infrastructure Accompanies Voters To the Polls."

Gas prices are rising faster on the coasts than they are in the Midwest, thanks to bargain-priced oil coming in from Canada. (NPR)

New York's MTA would lose $73 million in federal aid under the House Republicans’ budget plan to be voted on this week, according to a study released yesterday by Rep. Anthony Weiner. (AM New York)

All five candidates in Tampa's mayoral race support light rail and improved transit -- as well as high-speed rail in Florida. (Tampa Tribune)

A light rail system that would stretch from Detroit's downtown to one of its business districts and then several miles further to the border with its northern suburbs was the topic of a hearing this weekend. Some fear that even if the project advances beyond its initial 3.4-mile stage and links the riverfront to the Eight Mile Road city limits, it will not stretch far enough. "Where's it going to go from there?" said one resident. "Ain't no jobs in this city. It needs to go into the suburbs, not just stop at Eight Mile Road." (Chicago Tribune)

NPR says the U.S. is in a streetcar boom, and more than a dozen cities either have them or are actively planning for their development, according to Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer.

The NY Daily News rejects one local politician's idea to make platforms safer -- but says the MTA "has a responsibility to do something when a train hits someone on average once every four days. It should test platform doors in a pilot program and not be rattled by critics."

Colin Beavan (remember No-Impact Man?) says bring on the bike lanes. "The fact of the matter is that it would be safer for New York as a whole if we had more bike lanes. And not just the people who travel along the streets, but the people, like you and me, who live on them

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Transportation projects are set to take a massive, immediate hit under a spending bill headed for the floor of the House of Representatives this week. One city in France is considering an 18 mph speed limit. We test drive the MTA's real time bus info. And there's a new lawsuit for Indiana's I-69 highway project.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

Charlotte Gets Dems, Tampa Gets GOP

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Department of FWIW -- The 2012 Democratic National Convention goes to Charlotte NC, which voted under a Republican mayor to tax itself for a light rail system (it now has a Democratic Mayor).  The 2012 Republican National Convention goes to Tampa, which under a Democratic mayor was part of a county-wide vote to REJECT a transit tax.  Got all that?

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Transportation Nation

Election Report: In Tampa Area, Independents and Republicans are Drawn to Transit Tax, BUT....

Friday, October 29, 2010

(Tampa, FL -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  It's hard to imagine, that in this year, in these times, there's a measure anywhere that asks voters to approve a new tax.  But in the Tampa, Florida, area there's actually a referendum on the ballot, asking voters for an extra penny for every dollar they spend to build a local transit system and improve area roads.

Tampa's county -- Hillsborough -- is a key swing county (it voted for both Obama and Bush) in a key swing state, so the outcome of the vote here will no doubt be studied by Mayors and transit planners for evidence of how to fund cash-strapped transit systems for years to come.

Some other context about Florida -- for years the state was a boom state, fueled largely by housing construction.   But that market, as you know, tanked.   Unemployment is now at 12 percent, one of the highest in the nation.  The African-American community,  which helped fuel Obama's victory here two years ago, has been particularly hard hit.  Over by the C. Blythe Andrews Jr. public library, Sadiqa Muqaddam told me his story -- he'd been working as a welder for forty years, starting at a shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

"One day I was going all over the state of Florida.  I was working out of Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, everywhere, I was everywhere, you know?   And now, when I look around, there's no jobs.  There's no jobs."   In the last year, Muqaddam lost his home.   "I'm renting, now I'm back renting.  Before I used to own.  I'm used to walking in my three bedroom house, two jobs, my little Chihuahua.  I don't have that no more.  Even my dog died.  Lost my cars, everything."

"I got the raggediest car out here."

I Ask Muqaddum about the transit tax, and at first, he's dubious.  "We don't have -- It's just like you're taking, you know, we ain't got.  And then the little bit we do got, you're taking, you know."

I push Muqaddum, asking, as I frequently do, about the opposing view.

I say, "Some people say well, it's going to help create jobs, particularly in what you do, welding, construction."

"Maybe," he says "Maybe down the line."

Listen to the full conversation with Muqaddum.

In the past, sales tax ballot measures have proven successful -- Charlotte funded their LYNX light rail system with a 1998 ballot measure for a half-cent tax that was again supported by voters in a 2007 measure championed by Republican Mayor Pat McCrory, and in Colorado, where the Denver Mayor, John Hickenlooper, now running for Governor,  -- got a ballot measure passed in some 32 counties in 2004, the year Goerge W. Bush won the state of Colorado for a second time.

And here too there are independents and Republicans who believe in this initiative.  One man, who didn't want his name used because he works for a large non-profit, told me he had voted for the Tea Party-backed Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate, but also for the transit tax. 

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories

Monday, August 09, 2010

Boeing now has more cancellations than new orders in 2010 for Dreamliner (AP)

Tribune puts out list of Chicago's 10 worst transportation blunders.

Cost will be highest hurdle for high-speed rail (Philly Inquirer, four part series)

State and local money done, Denver looks to feds to finish "T-REX" rail and road project (Denver Post)

Good takes a look at San Francisco's new parking pricing system, designed by Adam Smith.

And the New York Times over the weekend looks at how Clayton County Georgia and other localities, facing budget shortfalls, have axed public transit entirely....and how red light cameras are becoming an issue in the 2010 elections.

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