By Jim Bleyer
The Tampa Bay Times characterization of Tampa Bay as having “one of the worst transit systems in America” is not only “silly and misleading” but 180 degress from the truth, according to nationally-recognized transportation expert Mark Aesch.
If the article, published Feb. 16, underwent the scrutiny of the Times’ self-serving Politifact feature, it would easily earn the “Pants on Fire” rating. For the uninitiated, that translates to a complete lack of credibility.
Aesch, CEO of TransPro Consulting, made a name for himself heading the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority where, under his stewardship, it eradicated deficits and boosted ridership. He now advises the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART).
The Times obviously didn’t talk to a representative sampling of transit customers, Aesch told HART board members at a Monday morning workshop. He strongly stressed that HART attained ” the highest customer satisfaction score of any transit system in the country.”
The transit agency was measured by the New Promoter Score (NPS), considered the gold standard for determining customer satisfaction, Aesch explained following the workshop.
Customer satisfaction with current transit is also fairly high on the other side of the bay. In February, 2016, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) announced it received high marks in an NPS study: nearly 90 percent of customers agreed that the buses are well-driven, and a similar percentage said they feel safe riding the bus.
“What’s really impressive here is that 97% of PSTA customers felt that service quality has improved or stayed the same over the past year,” Aesch said.
The gross mischaracterization aligns with the Times editorial position of cramming an outmoded and ultra-expensive light rail system down the throats of Tampa Bay citizens through a sales tax increase. The newspaper has been relentless in its advocacy, so much so that it has blurred the line between fact and editorial comment.
Voters have been more than reluctant to throw their hard-earned dollars away. They’ve said so emphatically, crushing pro-tax light rail referendums in Hillsborough and Pinellas only many public officials aren’t listening.
The public exposure of the Times fountain of misinformation comes 10 days before the newspaper’s symposium, “Fake News vs. Real News – and how to tell the difference.”
Just as light rail is passé, so is printed media. The citizenry is far ahead of the politicians in that realization.