Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, January 30, 2021

Anyone who relies on the public buses in the Tampa Bay area knows how much wasted time is built into the system. Today’s St. Petersburg Times devotes not one, but two stories about this:

- On the Pinellas side, a look at the Route 19 bus, which takes about 2 hours to navigate 35 miles. If you have to transfer between buses, good luck.

When [Karen] Fernandez, 40, moved her family from the Chicago area to Clearwater, she was happy about all the sunshine but none too glad about taking the bus.

“It’s nothing like Chicago,” Fernandez says with a frustrated wave of the hand. “It seems like everywhere you need to go you have to take two buses. You almost have to have a car here.”

You can forget about that “almost” part — in order to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time, you need a car. Despite being an urban zone, Pinellas and Hillsborough are car-centric infrastructures more akin to suburbs. Even residential neighborhoods aren’t designed for much pedestrian movement.

- Meanwhile, in Hillsborough, the transit authority pays Mark Sheppard to be a “travel trainer” — someone who provides free assistance for people inexperienced with riding public buses.

While this is a nice idea — especially since most of the recipients of this help tend to be mentally or physically challenged — it strikes me as telling. HARTline’s bus routes are so complicated and spotty that there’s a need for someone to draw maps and give instructions. Shouldn’t it be a bit more effortless to use something as fundamental as a bus?

I can hear the guffawing in New York and Chicago now. Can you imagine NYC employing “subway trainers” to show people how to get on a train, or “taxi trainers” to show people how to flag down a cab? Tampa looks rube-ish by comparison.

In both cases, you’re seeing the results of a half-assed approach to public transport. The Catch-22 is clear: It’s hard to pour more money into a service if more people don’t use it, yet more people won’t use it in the shape it’s in. As bad as traffic is getting around here (and it’s getting perceptibly terrible), it’s going to have to get tons worse before any serious efforts are made to encourage people to bus it to work (or anywhere else).

Light rail, forever a proposal for more efficient state-wide people-shifting, might be something to look at on a metro level. Phoenix is embarking upon a rail project, and since the metrics for that city match up with Tampa Bay quite closely — spread-out infrastructure, congestion, etc. — it will bear watching as a possible future model. It’s obvious the current solution isn’t working.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/30/2005 08:36pm
Category: Florida Livin', Society
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So you catch a cab. You slide into the back seat, shut the door and set off. The driver greets you thusly:

“Where to, buddy; and, are you looking for a girlfriend/boyfriend?”

Offhand, it could be a bit creepy. But Ahmed Ibrahim’s made a nice little matchmaking hobby out of it, linking up Manhattan’s lonely hearts.

“I was joking around with this girl … who said she couldn’t find a boyfriend,” he recalled. Ibrahim took her number.

Three days later, a man got in his cab and bemoaned his bad luck finding a woman. Ibrahim called the woman and gave her the man’s number. Three weeks later, she called back and said they had gone on a date and were getting along great.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is my new project,’” he said.

A star is born. In more ways than one:

Since then, he has been featured on Fox News Channel and NBC’s “Today” show and in The Wall Street Journal. He even has an agent shopping his story to producers in Hollywood.

I’m visualizing a Tony Shalhoub big-screen vehicle coming out of this…

In a way, this strikes me as a real-life flipside of the “Taxicab Confessions” environment. The cabbie hears all kinds of wacko stuff every day; instead of the seamier stuff, the romantic impulse comes to the forefront.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/30/2005 07:44pm
Category: Society
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I grabbed a pair of shorts out of my dresser this morning. I hadn’t worn them in several weeks.

I thrust my hands in the pockets…

Hello! A five and two singles came up. Jackpot, baby!

It’s always a nice surprise to find money in your clothes. However, I’m so anal retentive about putting my money in the proper place, i.e. my wallet, that I practically never end up finding it in the random pocket. The notable exception: When I’m out at bars, and it’s too much trouble to dig for my wallet every time I want a drink. That might explain how these seven dollars wound up in the pocket — except that I can’t believe I’d go out wearing these particular shorts (they’re not what I’d wear for clubbing).

What can a shorts-clad lad do with seven dollars on a sunny Sunday afternoon? Hmmm… Not much, I guess. But I’ll try to dream up something.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/30/2005 01:09pm
Category: General
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