Tampa Rail





Uber Versus PTC?
Rideshare Politics
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HART has been pushing the idea that car hailing services like Uber are good for transit because they can close the last-mile gap between a rider's bus stop and their final destination. Those kind of pro-partnership tweets by HART drew me to look more closely at how Uber operates in such a capacity.

Turns out it's a use case idea Uber itself has been calling out perhaps as a way to soften its existence in cities where their presence has been contentious. In cities like Tampa, for example. But even so, I wondered, Uber is just a cab company in function so why does it only now make sense to form such a loud and deliberate partnership with one? Hasn't Tampa had at least two flourishing taxicab companies for decades upon decades?

The Atlantic City Lab’s Uber and Public Transit Are Trying to Get Along apparently wondered the same thing and asked the DART (the agency operating DART light rail) spokesperson about it.

As for why such arrangements hadn’t been made with traditional cab companies, agency spokesman Morgan Lyons says Uber has a “coolness factor” that raises transit’s profile in a city where it’s often overlooked.

“Being relevant to that kind of community helped us a lot more in a way than just saying: ‘Ride DART,’” he says. “Taxi service here is different than in New York or D.C. It's not something folks think of quite as readily.”

So maybe Tampa can relate to that sentiment. But honestly, I wonder if it isn't also part of a leaky brawl between HART and the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission. The PTC in Hillsborough County has been all '1950s' about letting black cars circulate Tampa streets in all uppity fashion and what not as if they're equal to the pristine Tampa Yellow cabs in service and safety. Which is to say, they are fighting Uber tooth and hail. There is repetitive content at the PTC site which is aimed at steering people clear of Uber-like solutions.

Partial screen capture of warning from Hillsborough PTC

The Hillsborough PTC would like to remind you that while companies like Yellow Cab of Tampa might own the numbers of the Devil, share-riding companies may actually be the devil.

If there is a brawl, it is not without each side having some merit. Uber is cool and efficient and it wants to work with public transit albeit perhaps as means to its own ends. HART and other transit agencies would be foolish to overlook a perfected integration with something at least resembling a taxicab company if the local taxicab companies themselves won’t play nicely. Plus, Yellow or United cab companies of Tampa are not exactly talking about releasing their own cab hailing apps any time soon (which one supposes they could since New York cabs have since taken the plunge - it’s apparently not rocket science).

But the PTC has its points about maintaining high standards which I for one have not yet taken any time to validate one way or another for or against Uber. But, I will say this, as an agency, the PTC works at making sure Tampa cabs are clean, professional, and managed well. You can’t argue with results and if you’ve seen the shoddy clunkers with plastic taxicab toplights strapped on their rooftops with chicken wire darting around in other cities, you know what I mean. Without drawing a line, without regulation, things can devolve quickly.  Maybe that's why PTC cops are packing heat?

Explaining the New Tampa Rail
Site News
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Tampa Rail is alive once more, here’s to hoping it stays that way.  In my opening entry for this iteration I talk about how the effort will be more horizontal than the Tampa Rail effort of past.  What I meant by that is that I see, in today’s re-shaped online universe, that it is better to manage a community and to curate news across multiple channels as an information network editor applying one's own voice than it is to post in one place and expect anyone to notice, as a “blogger”.

The Tampa Rail channels I've selected are about what you’d expect.  I’ve developed a firm Tampa Rail Twitter account (which is closing in on 1,000 subscribers of which I suspect at least several hundred are “real” people), and I’ve re-opened a rebooted Tampa Rail Group on Facebook.  So, engage what I spew wherever you happen to be.  

This will be a dynamic strategy - if there’s a new raging place people are meeting online I will open an outlet on it.  At some point it would seem obvious, then, that I will have to shutter others since, hey, I am after all just one guy.  But I think Twitter and Facebook pretty much covers it for the foreseeable future.

The blog’s role will be to host the original stuff but there will, unlike Tampa Rail iterations of past, probably be very little of that.  I’m looking into a number of regular publishing “packages” as I call them, but aside from those, there won’t be many entries.  Remember, I’m still not in Tampa so gathering exclusive content and using it to push my enthusiastic spirit through is just about impossible, at least compared to when I lived there.  I remember sitting at a bar with then-prominent Tampa blogger (and rocker) Tommy Duncan once many years ago between Johnny G. Lyon sets and we were musing over the complexities of blogging.  I didn’t appreciate the problem as he raised it at the time but he reminded me point blank and with a flick of his fingers in the index position that the biggest problem is always content.  Yep, Tommy, now I get it.  

But, let’s see how this new model works out.

Tampa Rail 2015 and Beyond
Site News
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Hi everyone, I'm re-tooling the Tampa Rail website and blog to operate more effectively in a different online world. The subject of this site is important to me but so is the ideology of an effective online press.  Tampa Rail will spearhead an attempt to marry a new horizontal method of campaigning itself while at the same time continuing to offer an alternative voice for rail advocacy in the Tampa region.

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