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Friday, Dec 19, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Another call to arms with little movement on transit

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If you missed it, not to worry. We've written roughly the same call to arms many times through the years and you can pretty much count on reading it again.

The editorial this time came off another story in Mother Trib on mass transit, or the lack of it, by reporters Mike Salinero and Kevin Wiatrowski. One of the points in their article was that in the next two decades, Hillsborough County alone is expected to increase by a half-million people.

v vThat doesn't tell you how many more Wal-Marts, strip malls, grocery stores, gas stations, burger doodles and Major League Baseball stadiums that will include.

The editorial suggested the best option these days is a policy group formed several months ago by county Commissioner Mark Sharpe. Made up of the three mayors in the county and some agency heads, Sharpe has said he wants a plan by the end of the year.

I suppose dusting off the plan commissioners came up with after another yearlong study by something known as the Committee of One Hundred has gone out of date. I don't remember if that one was based on horseless carriages or not. It has been a while.

The problem, of course, is that everybody wants some kind of coordinated transit system, but apparently nobody wants to pay for it. We don't seem to mind paying for more layers of highways that are expensive and usually out of date before they even open.

v vThere was an interesting study last week that came out of the online magazine Slate about the worst drivers in the country. I think it is related to the mass transit story above.

The article focused on a number of factors, but cutting to the chase, the four cities with the worst drivers are (4) Tampa (3) Hialeah (2) Philadelphia (1) Miami.

It's no accident, so to speak, that three Florida cities made the top-four list of worst drivers, and how Orlando and St. Pete avoided getting up there is difficult to understand.

Apparently, Hialeah made the list not because they have more accidents but because they seem to hit people and other cars at higher rates of speed.

The truth is I'm not sure Floridians are any worse than drivers elsewhere. Some of the worst drivers I've come across were in Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta and one weird guy outside Valdosta, Ga., who must have spent half an hour weaving back and forth just enough to build up a traffic snarl on Interstate 75 that ran all the way back to Atlanta.

Here, with few alternatives, most of you know there are places, such as the Kennedy/Dale Mabry intersection, Bruce B. Downs, almost anywhere on U.S. 19 in Pinellas County and that nightmare mix of roads going north off Kennedy toward the airport, Clearwater and Town 'N Country where insanity takes over at rush hour.

Bottom line is, I don't think you are all that much worse than anywhere else. It's just that our bumper-car road system doesn't give you any choice.

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