Thursday, December 27, 2012

Let's Start Rewarding the Recyclers with PAYT, a market based, low cost approach to recycling and waste disposal

Let's Start Rewarding the Recyclers with rates bases on volume of waste. You don't pay less per unit of water if you use more of it, why then should your cost per unit of trash go down if you throw out more. Saint Petersburg is the largest city in Florida that does not offer curbside recycling. Other cities charge less per month than St. Pete yet offer free curbside pickup of recyclables and additional services because they use PAYT.

So how do we start? Citizens can make this happen. The first thing we can do is to stop putting our container out twice a week. This will demonstrate public support and save the city money. Every time a truck stops we wear breaks, use fuel to accelerate and add air and noise pollution.
Saint Petersburg charges those who recycle more to subsidize those who don't. That is the effect of a flat rate for every home. There is a big discount for each extra container of waste and a only small discount for once a week service. When PAYT, (or Pay as You Throw) is used recycling goes up and trash volume goes down. We all save money and have a cleaner city.

We can all help the city save money by voluntary use of once a week service, and those of us who qualify can have a lower bill. (a link to the application is below) Even if your bill does not go down you will save the city money and help make curbside recycling more affordable.

Only a few of us qualify for the discount but if we help more people do this we then can ask city council to expand it to everyone. To qualify for a lower bill you must have a single family residence with a one-person household, a lot size of 8,500 sq. feet or less, and a water usage of 5,000 gallons or less per month. But everyone can reduce, reuse, recycle, buy less junk and start putting our can out only once a week.

The two most traditional approaches to disposing of municipal solid waste are a flat-rate system or municipal taxes. All users pay the same municipal taxes regardless of how much waste they present for pickup. Under the flat-rate system there is no link between “the actual costs for waste disposal and individual waste production,” so users do not consider the quantity of waste they produce.

PAYT is based on two guiding principles of environmental policy: the polluter pays principle (PPP) and the shared responsibility concept. The rationale for PAYT can be divided into three broad categories:

Economic Sustainability
Under a PAYT scheme the costs of waste management can be moved from a flat fee. Waste management services are then treated just like other utilities such as electricity or water that are charged by unit of consumption.  PAYT is an effective tool for communities struggling to cope with soaring municipal solid waste management expenses. Well-designed programs generate the revenues communities need to cover their solid waste costs, including the costs of such complementary programs as recycling and composting. Residents benefit, too, because they have the opportunity to take control of their trash bills.

Environmental Sustainability
PAYT programs are an effective tool in increasing waste separation and recycling, and also encourage waste minimization. The result is significant energy savings from transportation, increases in material recovery from recycling, and reduction in pollution from landfills and incinerators. PAYT programs also encourage producers to develop more efficient designs and environmentally friendly product life cycles. EPA supports this new approach to solid waste management. Less waste and more recycling mean that fewer natural resources need to be extracted. In addition, greenhouse gas emissions associated with the manufacture, distribution, use, and subsequent disposal of products are reduced as a result of the increased recycling and waste reduction PAYT encourages. Landfills also produce methane, a greenhouse gas. In this way, PAYT helps slow the buildup of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere which leads to global climate change. For more information on the link between solid waste and global climate change, go to EPA's Climate Change Web site.

Waste collections costs are distributed more fairly among the population, and in proportion to the amount of waste each user generates. Free riders are no longer able to have their behavior subsidized, and PAYT is said to promote community sustainability. Household waste is “generally positively related to household income so poorer families are likely to face lower waste collection charges under PAYT systems.” 

When there is a change to any established municipal service, public resistance is common. Charging for waste can also sometimes result in illegal dumping (fly-tipping) or the waste being passed to unlicensed or illegal disposal methods.

Urban communities usually offer curbside collection while rural communities provide drop-off collection service. Both the European Union and the US Environmental Protection Agency have published handbooks for introducing PAYT.

North America
PAYT programs operated in California, Michigan, New York and Washington as early as the 1970s, although The City of San Francisco “had practiced a kind of PAYT scheme since 1932.” By 2000, 6 000 communities in the U.S. (20%) and 200 in Canada had implemented user fees for waste management. In 2002 North Americans disposed of 24 million tonnes of waste, with residential sources accounting for 9.5 million tonnes. PAYT programs resulted in residential waste declining from 9 - 38 % and increased recycling from 6 – 40%.

The city of Gainsville has been able to offer better service at a 35% lower cost with PAYT. Residents can opt for a once a week pick up of a 30 gallon can for a $ 13 a month fee with free curbside pickup and other services like a swap shop where used goods can be reused or upcycled.

Austria was the first country to implement individual waste charging in 1945, but PAYT did not catch on until the 1980s when efficient and secure electronic identification systems became available. The first city in Europe to implement an electronic identification and billing system for waste charges was Dresden, Germany. Since 1991 the European Waste Policy has required that “part of the costs not covered by revenues from material reuse must be recovered on the polluter-pays principle.” Versions of PAYT are present in municipalities all over Europe.

After being introduced in the 1970s, 954 municipalities (30%) in Japan have implemented PAYT programs. The city of Taipei currently runs a scheme where households and companies purchase specially printed blue bin bags, and place waste in it. The municipal waste management department collects only rubbish placed within these special bags. Called the "Per Bag Trash Collection Fee", this scheme encourages usage of recyclable packaging, as those do not need a special bag and are disposed free of charge. As a result Taipei's waste volume is down 35.08%, and recycling has increased 2.6-fold from 1999. PAYT is also implemented in Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, China, and Taiwan.


Residential Rates in St. Petersburg

Twice-a-week Service:

Single Family Residence, Business or Institution

One automated (90 gal.) automated container - $22.33
Each additional (90 gal.) automated container - $12.31*
Multiple Family Residence-per unit - $22.33
Once-a-week service:

Subject to City approval if customer meets all of the following criteria:

single family residence with a one-person household
a lot size of 8,500 sq. feet or less
a water usage of 5,000 gallons or less per month - $17.69


Single Family Residence, Business or Institution

One automated (90 gal.) container or 2 cans, manual system - $53.27
Each additional can or container - $26.10*
Multiple Family Residence - per unit - $53.27

To apply for once a week service click here.


1. Batllevell, Marta and Kenneth Hanf. “The fairness of PAYT systems: Some guidelines for decision-makers.” Waste Management 28 (2008): 2793-2800.
2. Kelleher, Maria, et al. “Taking out the Trash: How to Allocate the Costs Fairly.” C.D. Howe Institute Commentary 213 (2005): 1-22.
3. Bilitewski, Bernd. “Pay-as-you-throw – A tool for urban waste management.” Editorial. Waste Management 28 (2008): 2759.
4. Reichenbach, Jan. “Status and prospects of pay-as-you-throw in Europe – A review of pilot research and implementation studies.” Waste Management 28 (2008): 2809-2814.
5. Sakai, S., et al. “Unit-charging programs for municipal solid waste in Japan.” Waste Management 28 (2008): 2815-2825.
6. What I Picked Up About Trash in Taipei -
7. Hong, Seonghoon. “The Effects of unit pricing system upon household solid waste management: The Korean Experience.” The Journal of Environmental Management 57 1999): 1-10.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Demolition has been postponed, please sign the petition.

Guided Walking Tours at the Historic YMCA in Downtown St. Petersburg, Sunday November 11, 2012.

St. Petersburg Preservation, Awake Pinellas and Historic YMCA will be hosting an Open House. These tours may be the last opportunity for the public to see this ornate building which is threatened with demolition. The tours will allow a “last” chance for the public to see the ornate detailing, tile and iron work and pecky cypress beams that make this building unique. All tours will be guided.

Please click here and sign a petition to the Community Preservation Commission which says:
I urge you to NOT allow the destruction of the our city's cherished history. Vote NO to Demolition of the Historic YMCA building. 
Background: The Mediterranean Revival styled building, located at 116 5th Street S., St. Petersburg, FL, was constructed in 1927 for $550,000 and served the YMCA until 2001. Pecky cypress wood beams and tile were used throughout the interior of the building, especially in the entrance lobby, and much of this decoration still remains. The building includes a large, decorative tile swimming pool. In addition to its architectural features, the building is remarkable in that it was one of the largest community funded projects in the City and was successfully built as the ‘20's “bust” was descending.

Today, although vacant, the building still stands as one of the architectural gems of downtown St. Petersburg and serves as a public and physical reminder of our city's deep and rich culture. The building was among the first structures designated as a St. Petersburg landmark, having been designated in1990. An application by the ownership group was filed on October 1, 2012 to demolish the building and to allow for the construction of a drive-in banking facility. The application is scheduled for a public hearing on November 16th before the St. Petersburg Community Preservation Commission (CPC) which will vote whether or not to grant the application and to allow for demolition of the Historic YMCA building.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Republican National Convention, Please Pay Your Bills

Petition to be delivered to: St. Petersburg City Council
Members of City Council, please ask the RNC to reimburse us for all costs of the party and convention.
The Republican National Convention opened with a party in St. Petersburg for delegates, politicians and wealthy donors. City tax payers are on the hook for $580,000 for that party. Now we know that the RNC has raised more than $55 million and may be able to pay these costs. Donor Bill Edwards gave $4.6 million and receives city subsidies. Donors like Sheldon Adelson, Communist China's casino mogul and David Koch spend millions to influence government. They can well afford to pay their bills. Please urge city council to insist these expenses are borne by the RNC, not taxpayers.

Will you sign the petition? Click here to add your name, then share it with friends on Facebook, Twitter and by email to your friends 

We were interviewed on radio station WMNF 88.5 FM, Friday October 26th about the petition. The segment is on about 30 minutes into a show called Radioactivity. You can tune in at .

Twitter users, please retweet:

Tampa Bay Times August 31, 2012
The city is $5.2 million over budget this year, including nearly $600,000 in expenses for hosting a welcome party for the Republican National Convention.
The tab comes after Mayor Bill Foster repeatedly declared that taxpayers wouldn't be on the hook for the Sunday bash at Tropicana Field. The money is on top of $1 million in police costs that Tampa agreed to give the city from a $50 million federal grant it received for convention security.
It cost St. Petersburg $580,000 for workers to prepare the city for RNC activities.
"I don't know what to say about this," Council Chair Leslie Curran said Thursday. She learned of the shortfall from the Tampa Bay Times.
...Foster said he would ask the Tampa Bay Host Committee, the party organizer, to pay expenses not covered by Tampa.But on Thursday evening, Foster said he will not make that request.
"I don't see park improvements and street sweeping and sidewalk cleaning as an expense related to the event," Foster said. Still, a city document classified the $580,000 in expenses as "Estimated RNC costs and no revenue.

Tampa Bay Times October 19, 2012

City Council will meet this Thursday. City Hall, 175 5th Street North
Please call 727-893-7117  and ask that they request reimbursement from the RNC.
Thursday,  November 1, 8:30am City Council

Free Parking at St. Pete Early Voting Site, Thanks to City Council member Wengay Newton, Early Voting by Absentee Ballot on Sunday and Monday

This morning at the start of the council meeting Vince Cocks used the open forum to ask that council let the public know parking meters are free during early voting. He had watched many feeding the parking meters and was concerned that some may not vote if they didn't have change or were worried about expensive parking tickets.  Wengay Newton made a motion with a second by Karl Nurse to "bag" the meters. Steve Kornel spoke in favor.

There was pushback from the mayor, staff and councilmember Kennedy who called it a "knee jerk" reaction to an  open forum comment. He seemed to view public comments as a nuisance.

The city argued that parking spots would fill up with office workers who would use the space all day. That could be reduced with signs that said "Parking reserved for voters".

Soon after that a city staffer was out putting red bags on the parking meters on 5th Street.

Thanks Wengay!

Early Voting
County Building  - Annex Conference Room
 501 First Ave. N., St. Petersburg, 33701

County Courthouse 
315 Court St., Room 117, Clearwater, 33756 - PARKING MAP

Election Service Center
 13001 Starkey Rd., Starkey Lakes Corporate Center, Largo, 33773

Its bad enough that the Supervisor of Elections has suppressed early voting by limiting it to three sites and the legislature has cut the number of days and cut early voting from two Sundays to only one. Parking meters and fines for expired meters were one more barrier. 
Parking meters in front of city hall across the street from early voting. Photo by Vince Cocks.

Voter suppression in 10 states.     More here.

It is imperative to blast this out to everyone you've got on your email lists, and to ask them to do the same.   The Supervisor of Elections (SOE) in both Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties have ruled the following offices WILL BE OPEN Sunday, Nov. 4th as well as Monday Nov. 5th.
This means voters who have traditionally voted on the last Sunday before election day, after church, will be able to car pool to the SOE offices in Pinellas and one of the Hillsborough offices:
Pinellas315 Court St., Room 117, Clearwater• 501 1st Ave. N., St. Petersburg• 13001 Starkey Rd., Largo (Starkey Lakes Corporate Center)Drive Thru Available Only October 22 - November 6; at Starkey Office; Front Entrance of Building
• Use the ballot dropoff box INSIDE. DO NOT put your ballot in any box outside these locations.
Robert L. Gilder Elections Service Center; 2514 N. Falkenburg Rd., Tampa, FL 33619
Monday at all 4 SOE locations.

Voters will have to bring their signed ID cards to get a ballot. According to the Pinellas SOE web site:   "Both photo and signature identification is required to vote a regular ballot in Florida. Acceptable forms of ID include Florida driver license, Florida identification card, U.S. passport, student or military ID, debit or credit card, retirement center ID, neighborhood association ID or public assistance ID.  If the photo identification does not have a signature, another form of identification is required with a signature. Voters without acceptable identification may still vote a provisional ballot, which will later be evaluated by a canvassing board for eligibility. To avoid delays at the polling place, voters should bring acceptable identification."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Our Protest Helped Stop the Unfair St. Pete "Fire Fee" Flat Tax

Please thank council members  for voting against this with an email to:
or call 893-7117.

Big business and the wealthy would have received a huge property tax break on the backs of the poor and non-profits with a proposed "fire fee"

That's why citizen's formed the Fair Tax Coalition and petitioned St. Petersburg City Council and Mayor Bill Foster which says: "Stop this gimmick that reaches into all pockets, regardless of ability to pay. Council should promote a more equitable source, such as millage adjustments, not a flat tax that targets the poor."

Fair Tax Coalition members asked City Council to reconsider Fire Fee

More information:
St. Petersburg would collect fire fee from low income residents via liens.
Complex, regressive fee has to go.
Whom to blame for higher taxes
St. Petersburg leaders must decide how to raise 10 million tax or fee editorial Fuzzy math at St.Petersburg city hall.

While St. Pete city government stubbornly insists that the poorest residents do not pay their fair share of taxes, research tells a different story. 

Its not true that some of us pay nothing for city services. Single family home owners and tenants pays about $600 a year in "flat tax" utility base fees in addition to charges based on consumption. We also pay  a city tax on water and electric use.

The poorest 20% of Floridians earn about $10,000 and pay 13.5% of their income in state and local taxes. The richest 1% pay only 2% of income in state and local taxes.

Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy: Unbalancing Florida's Tax System: Eliminating Taxes on Wealth Has Shifted the Burden to Other Floridians 

 Who Pays? Florida Fact Sheet   

Poverty Rises in Florida While the State's Tax System Benefits the Wealthy

Despite citizen protest the city gave Sam's Club a quarter million dollar state tax break for hiring people they would have hired anyway and for paving a parking lot they would have paved anyway. The Fire Fee/flat tax  would save 75% big box stores every year.

FY '13 BUDGET HEARING - Thursday, September 27, 6 p.m., City Council Chamber, 175 Fifth St. N.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Updated on September 19th, 2012, first posted August 12th, 2012

Grass Roots Protest Stops Unfair St. Pete "Fire Fee" Flat Tax

Please thank council members  for voting against this with an email to: or call 893-7117.

We won! Tonight at the city public hearing we turned out a large number of very eloquent speakers. We went in with 3 votes for and 5 against.  After public testimony Karl Nurse broke the ice with a commitment to vote no. Two council members then spoke in favor of the tax. Dudley accused us of class warfare, calling it class welfare. Gerdes, Kornel and Newton reaffirmed their opposition, giving us 4 no votes, so it was dead, at best we would have a 4-4 tie. Danner gave a tortured speech in favor of the tax that hurt his case. The mayor jumped in with a hard sell that fell flat. The city attorney overstepped his office by trying to sway votes with "You have spent all of this money", referring to the $75,000 wasted on a law firm where a former city lawyer now works. Curran said she had only voted yes to move it to hearing. After a motion to lower the flat tax to $20 failed we had a motion to eliminate, passing 6-2. Thank you for all of your hard work. 

You can use our petition to comment, "Thank you for voting no".  Danner, Nurse, and Curran joined Gerdes, Kornel and Newton to kill the Fire Tax!

St. Petersburg city council rejects mayors proposed fire fee.

Big business and the wealthy will get a huge property tax break on the backs of the poor and non-profits with a proposed "fire fee"

Don't blame this unpopular new tax on firefighters, this "fire fee" is not directed for fire protection. The "fee" is a tax to provide funds to balance a $10 million shortfall anticipated in the FY 2013 budget and allow the city to continue piling up excessive reserves. 

The city has provided a hardship exemption only for property worth over $10 million so the wealthiest can shift their tax burden to the poor and middle class. 

That's why citizen's formed the Fair Tax Coalition and started  a petition to St. Petersburg City Council and Mayor Bill Foster which says: "Stop this gimmick that reaches into all pockets, regardless of ability to pay. Council should promote a more equitable source, such as millage adjustments, not a flat tax that targets the poor."

Please click here and sign this petition. 

South St. Peterburg Democratic Club met last Saturday at the Sanderlin Center.   Fair Tax Coalition gave a presentation on the "fire readiness" fee.   

Fair Tax Coalition members ask City Council to reconsider Fire Fee

Download these handouts from the Fair Tax Coalition: Here and here and here.

More information:
St. Petersburg would collect fire fee from low income residents via liens.
Complex, regressive fee has to go.
Whom to blame for higher taxes
St. Petersburg leaders must decide how to raise 10 million tax or fee
New: editorial Fuzzy math at St.Petersburg city hall.
"A lot of people feel strongly that it's described inaccurately," said Darden Rice, with People's Budget Review. "It really has nothing to do with being ready for fire preparedness. And people are concerned that it has a fee that disproportionately impacts lower income families."
Fire readiness fee still an option for St. Pete

While St. Pete city government stubbornly insists that the poorest residents do not pay their fair share of taxes, research tells a different story. 

The poorest 20% of Floridians earn about $10,000 and pay 13.5% of their income in state and local taxes. The richest 1% pay only 2% of income in state and local taxes.

Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy: Unbalancing Florida's Tax System: Eliminating Taxes on Wealth Has Shifted the Burden to Other Floridians 

 Who Pays? Florida Fact Sheet 

Poverty Rises in Florida While the State's Tax System Benefits the Wealthy

Despite citizen protest the city gave Sam's Club a quarter million dollar state tax break for hiring people they would have hired anyway and for paving a parking lot they would have paved anyway. With the new Fire Fee/flat tax big box stores will save 75% every year.

FY '13 BUDGET HEARING - Thursday, September 13, 6 p.m., City Council Chamber, 175 Fifth St. N.   
FY '13 BUDGET HEARING - Thursday, September 27, 6 p.m., City Council Chamber, 175 Fifth St. N.  

If you can't speak please fill out a yellow card and write "No Fire Tax".


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cockroach Bay Restored

 Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve protects 8000 acres of the most pristine waters in Tampa Bay.

Google map

Volunteers plant marsh grass.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Yes or no on commuter rail? Transportation options compared.

Maricopa County planners improve transportation options
for Phoenix, AZ, residents

With gas prices pinching all of us, it's good to know that some communities are taking bold steps to give their residents options for getting out of their cars and into public transportation.
That's exactly what's happening in the greater Phoenix region as Valley Metro continues to extend its wildly popular light rail network and increase bus and parking access to light rail service.
Today it can cost upwards of $50 to fill up your tank, so we need more and better transit options to help us save money for life’s priorities instead of putting it into the gas tank.
FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff rides light rail with US Representative Ed Pastor of Arizona's 4th District
During his visit to Maricopa County yesterday, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff rode light rail to Tempe and Mesa with Congressman Ed Pastor and met with Mayors Phil Gordon of Phoenix, Hugh Hallman of Tempe, and Scott Smith of Mesa.
He also saw first-hand how planned transit projects throughout the Phoenix area will improve connections between the region's roadways, the Central Mesa Light Rail corridor, and the major activity centers of downtown Phoenix, downtown Tempe, Arizona State University, and Sky Harbor International Airport.
These are the places area residents, business travelers, and tourists need to go, and the region's transit planners are working hard to get them there safely. For example, during events at the US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix, event tickets also serve as transit passes--when you buy your ticket, you've already bought your ride.
The Central Mesa Light Rail Transit line is one of 10 new projects included in the 2012 budget President Obama proposed to Congress in February.
This new line is in addition to the existing Central Phoenix/East Valley Light Rail project, which opened in 2008. The FTA provided $587 million for the existing project and its extensions--including $36 million from the Recovery Act--and that investment is estimated to have spurred more than $5 billion in economic development along the corridor. Ridership continues to exceed expectations.
Continuing to invest wisely in Maricopa County transit facilities will ensure that Arizonans and their children have good transportation options for generations to come.
This is what our FTA is all about--connecting people to jobs, schools, downtown areas, and the essential services they need like medical care and groceries. And as gas prices continue to batter our wallets in these already challenging economic times, giving people car-free options to get where they need to go only becomes more important.
President Obama said that for America to compete and win in the 21st century, we have to out-innovate and out-build the rest of the world. The people of Phoenix, Maricopa County, and Arizona are doing both.
That was a positive view of transit from President Obama's administration. Here is an opposing view from the Cato report used by Rick Scott in his decision to refuse federal funding for High Speed Rail.

Phoenix: In 1998, Valley Metro projected that it could build a 13-mile light-rail line for
$509 million (in 2009 dollars). By the time the line opened the last days of 2008, the cost
had ballooned to $1.5 billion for 20 miles— an 88 percent increase in per-mile costs.
Considering that transit carries only 0.6 percent of travel in this auto-oriented region,
this line is not likely to do much for the region’s transportation system.

And here is a quote from a rebuttal of a 2007 Cato report on Portland and a summary of a newer report. Debunking Randal O'Toole's Attack on Portland: CNU Study Rebuts Anti-Rail/Anti-Planning Hokum

In their recently revved-up insurgency against public transportation, critics of light rail transit (LRT) seem to be making a particular point of selecting for attack some of the most successful LRT operations in the USA. In practice, this means attacking also the urban policies, economic performance, and other characteristics of the cities these rail systems serve.
Of these, Portland, Oregon – which serves as a national model of excellence and success in both urban planning and public transportation (see Portland Light Rail and Public Transport Developments) – has become a primary target of the ongoing jihad against Smart Growth, urban transit, and especially the "dreaded" rail transit.
The latest effort to nuke Portland's reputation as a paradigm of effective planning and superb urban transit comes from national anti-transit, anti-planning, pro-sprawl activist Randal O'Toole in a tract sponsored by the extremist rightwing Cato institute propaganda mill.
"Portland, Oregon, long touted as the paradigm of modern urban planning, is awash in corruption, government waste and public discontent" claims a Cato news release (PRNewswire-USNewswire, 9 July 2007), summarizing the central theme of O'Toole's diatribe, a 20-plus-page "policy analysis" titled "Debunking Portland: The City That Doesn't Work". "O'Toole catalogues Portland's failures in city planning and offers suggestions to other cities on how not to repeat its mistakes" continues the Cato release, which cites O'Toole – who happens to be based in Oregon – as a "Cato institute senior fellow".

Portland, Oregon: Heavy investments in rail transit and draconian land-use policies
have made Portland one of the few cities that can honestly say rail transit increased per
capita transit ridership. To promote compact development and reduce per capita driving,
most of Oregon is zoned so strictly that people are not allowed to build homes on their
own land unless they own at least 80 acres and earn at least $40,000 to $80,000 (depending on soil productivity) per year farming it.107 Inside the growth boundaries, Portland and other cities have rezoned dozens of neighborhoods for high-density development. In many cases, zoning was so strict that, if someone’s single-family home burned down, they would be required to replace it with multifamily housing.108Although this resulted in rapidly rising land prices, developers failed to build transitoriented developments along Portland’s rail lines. So Portland began offering a variety of subsidies, most of them paid for through tax increment financing. To date, Portland has spent nearly $3 billion building light-rail lines and nearly $2 billion subsidizing developments along the light rail and Portland’s streetcar. The results have been mixed. While transit ridership has increased since 1990, rail transit still carries less than 1 percent of the region’s passenger travel. Moreover, transit’s share of commuting declined between 2000 and 2007. In fact, Census Bureau data indicate that the absolute number of transit commuters shrank from about 58,000 in 2000 to 57,000 in 2007 while the number of auto commuters grew by about 66,000.109Surveys of one of the Portland area’s largest transit-oriented developments reveal that residents use transit a little more than people in other neighborhoods—but not for ommuting.110 Many transit-oriented developments have struggled, and research by the Cascade Policy Institute’s John Charles has shown that the key to success is plenty of parking; those with inadequate parking tend to have high vacancy rates.111 In a very real sense, then, successful developments are not even transit oriented.

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood poses questions for Rick Scott. High-speed rail is a cheap alternative to widening interstates, if not that, then what?

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