Best of Barker’s View: If you build it, they can’t come. . .

Angels & Assholes will return next Friday!  Until then, here’s something to contemplate:

Three years ago, I published the following piece on the still festering issue of denying public transportation to Tomoka Town Center, Tanger Outlet and the western reaches of Boomtown Boulevard.  

And nothing of substance has changed. 

We’re still being held hostage – told that a simple reroute of an existing bus line will cost us “$871,510, including $483,435 for the purchase of a bus.”

I think its patently clear that some retail management types and certain public officials, who spent $4.5 million of our money to underwrite Tanger Outlet alone, would prefer that the great masses of unwashed undesirables – the poor, the disabled, the “wrong demographic” – not have access to the tony shopping complex, or, inexplicably, the jobs they sought to create with a liberal dose of our hard-earned tax dollars. 

So, let’s take a walk down memory lane and have a look at a Barker’s View post from November 2016. 

When you’re done – take a gander at the front page/above the fold piece in today’s Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Still no Votran to Tanger area,” and ask yourself, with former County Manager Jim Dinneen now retired and off to greener pastures, “What’s changed?”:

“No bus service planned for Tanger Outlets Mall”

Really?

This morning I read an informative piece in the Daytona Beach News-Journal reporting on the County of Volusia’s shortsighted refusal to extend Votran bus service to the new Tanger Outlet Mall.

In essence – Volusia officials are money-grubbing again, and the abject arrogance expressed by the County’s top transportation official tells me County Manager Jim Dinneen is pulling the strings on this one.

Last year, the County Council voted to approve an agreement to contribute $2.25 million to the Tanger development – while Daytona Beach city commissioners approved the expenditure of an additional $2.25 million for roads, water and sewer pipes, sidewalks and other infrastructure.

The highly anticipated 39-acre, $100 million-dollar retail center is set to open later this week.

Now, county officials would have us believe that they failed to allocate funds for public transportation service to the outlet mall.

They can’t be that stupid.

Can they?

Like everything else in Volusia County, the devil is in the details.

After throwing a collective $4.5 million of our tax dollars into a private retail development we’re told that the critical element of public transportation won’t be available.

The reason?  No money.

According to Steve Sherrer, general manager of our county operated bus system, “There is currently no funding in Votran’s operating budget to support new service to the Tanger mall.”

In Volusia County’s typical over-the-top fashion –  Sherrer would have us believe that adding a short connection to an important economic driver like Tanger would cost between $300,000 to $400,000 a year – not counting the cost of vehicles.

Bullshit.

According to Google Maps, using the North Williamson Boulevard route from the nearest Votran stop on LPGA Boulevard, the distance is approximately one-half mile.  Too far for the elderly or disabled to walk – especially on a hot summer day – but a short five-minutes by bus.

In June of last year, Sherrer sent a letter to the City of Daytona Beach asking if they would be interested in funding bus service for Tanger Outlets and the nearby Trader Joe’s distribution center.

Seem weird?  You bet it is.

In turn, Assistant City Manager Betty Goodman responded, “It is surprising that Votran’s opinion is that expense for the new service would need to be borne by the city.  As I’m sure you are aware, we do not have any budget for Votran service routes.”

Surprising indeed.

According to Sherrer, “We certainly recognize that Tanger is going to be a legitimate trip generator, but if I don’t have any money in my budget (to add Votran service to the outlet mall) how am I supposed to provide it?” he asked. “I reached out to the city but I can’t twist their arm.”

When asked by the News-Journal whether Votran has sought funding assistance from the outlet mall itself, Sherrer said, “We have not heard from Tanger, but I haven’t picked up the phone (to speak with them).”

Of course not.

Why would the general manager of our public transportation system consider “picking up the phone” and communicating with the area’s most touted retail destination in years to discuss alternatives to a problem everyone saw coming over a year ago?

I suppose it comes from the same mindset that fails to budget – or at least plan for the system flexibility necessary to address a legitimate public need.

Let me get this right: We use millions in public funds to create ‘jobs’ – then fail to provide a means of access to workers who rely on public transportation – and the shoppers who will ultimately make or break our investment.

Tragic.

In most competently managed and accountable organizations – Mr. Sherrer would be called on the carpet and summarily fired for his incompetence, lack of strategic planning, piss-poor budgetary oversight, and the condescending tone of his public communications on a matter of community concern.

(In January 2018, Mr. Sherrer was “moved to a new role” with RATP Dev, the company Volusia County contracts with to manage our public transportation system.  In that role, Mr. Sherrer is, “providing oversight services to transit systems in the eastern United States, including Votran.”)

As I’ve previously said, once again a situation erupts that exposes the depth of dysfunction in County government and begs the obvious question: “When is it appropriate to hold public officials accountable”?

In the Dinneen administration the answer is never.

In government, as in most progressive private organizations, accountability exists when a responsible individual, and the services they provide, are subject to critical oversight. This occurs when the responsible party is required to provide articulable justification for their actions, omissions, expenditures, planning, and performance.

A practice especially important for government officials at the executive level whose decisions can have wide-ranging and very expensive implications – such as the management of our public transportation system.

Despite overwhelming evidence that Mr. Dinneen is incapable of holding his senior staff responsible for their continuing pattern of gross mismanagement – a serious problem that has been the hallmark of his tenure – rather than demand accountability, our elected officials continue to praise Dinneen’s performance, and reinforce his behavior.

Ridiculous.

You want to know what is truly the most serious issue Volusia County residents face?

It is the staggering level of incompetence, government waste and resource mismanagement during Jim Dinneen’s administration – and a continuing, almost institutionalized, lack of substantive oversight by our elected officials that allows this atrocious malfeasance to continue.

Now, as always, Volusia County is crying poor-mouth and threatening service cuts to taxpayers as a means of shirking yet another county responsibility.

Call it what it is – extortion.

You want transportation to the most heralded addition to the Halifax area’s retail scene in over 20-years?

Then pay us what we demand – or walk.

Disgusting.

 

Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal

3 thoughts on “Best of Barker’s View: If you build it, they can’t come. . .

  1. Votran’s failures have been evident to those of us on the west side with their reaction to the opening of the Debary SunRail Station. Rather than adjusting the existing routes to incorporate the station, they created a separate route as an “express” to the station which basically mirrored an existing route other than the last half a mile.

    Votran’s continued inability to respond to a changing community is not at all surprising. Which is sad, because the best thing about bus service as compared to other forms of mass transit is its flexibility.

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  2. Could today’s story possibly be a follow-up to tne Views-Journal’s lead story under the masthead “Employers scramble for help” One might think no because 48 hours is a tight deadline for the daily NJ. Maybe both stories were hidden in plain sight. Wednesday’s $5 ad collection was too costly for the unemployed to purchase. Today’s is hidden because the unemployed without that paper are scrambling to find the deals they most need; retailers don’t have time to read it on the busiest shopping day of the year. I wonder if the paper has already handed out Christmas assignments for retail/employment related stories for the Dec. 24 and 26 issues? Happy holidays to everyone else.

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  3. I, probably like most people, just assumed that adding a stop at Tanger Outlets was just a matter of putting in a new bus stop and putting up a sign. I recently discussed this with a past manager of Votran and was enlightened by his response. Apparently, there is nothing that Votran can do about adding any additional stops at this time unless and until the Volusia County Council authorizes additional funding for the system. Apparently, the number of stops is dictated by the number of minutes dedicated to each stop, and at this time there are no minutes left in a day to shoehorn another stop in. The entire system has been critically analyzed and the stop times shortened so as to provide the maximum number of stops available per day. At this point, the only way to add stops is to fund the purchase of another bus and the drivers needed and then re-analyze and reset the system to accommodate it.
    So don’t complain to Votran about the lack of stops. Instead, look to your County Council and urge them to fund the transportation needs of the folks that depend on bus service to the burgeoning Tanger Outlets area.

    Sent from Gary Mosterts communicator

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