Trains and self-driving cars, headed for a (political) collision


“It’s like they’re designing the pony express in the world of the telegraph.”

Florida state senator Jeff Brandes, a Republican representing District 22, uses that line frequently to characterize Greenlight Pinellas, a comprehensive transit plan for Florida’s Pinellas County. Up for a public referendum on Election Day this Tuesday, Greenlight will fund increased bus service and a new light rail system. Supporters say it represents a tried, true, and long overdue solution to the area’s perennial transit woes. Pinellas, the city of St. Petersburg, and the broader Tampa Bay region are consistently near the bottom in a number of transportation and livability indexes. They suffer high average commute times, astronomical pedestrian fatality rates, and massive per-capita spending on the private automobiles that, given today’s inadequate public transit system, even the very poorest need to get by.

But Brandes argues that the entire idea of bus- or train-based public transit…

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