Traffic congestion spoils the dream of one Tampa resident's leisurely retirement
"My biggest concern is that with so many people moving here and driving cars and not wanting to give the cars up, because we really don't have the public transportation in place," said Sharon Tagle.
You can see the signs of our growing population just by taking a drive anywhere in Florida. Whether it’s a commute that takes twice as long as it did a few years ago, the frustrating search for parking, or the chaos around road expansions, the simple fact is more people means more cars on the road.
On a hot, blustery afternoon, Tampa resident Sharon Tagle met up on one of the many tree-lined streets around Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood, surrounded by road construction and rows of large orange traffic barrels.
She discussed how she gets around and how that experience of getting from place to place has changed.
I drove out here to meet you. I had a little bit of trouble finding my way here because of the roads being blocked off. What was your experience getting here?
I live in this town about two miles west of here. And we use these roads all the time. But whenever we turn a corner, we find a road we didn't know had been closed before.
Do you have a sense of what the end goal is for some of this construction?
They're replacing some old old pipe and every neighborhood is going to have a chance to have their street torn up. They're starting with the oldest pipes first, and then they're going from neighborhood to neighborhood. My neighborhood is called Wellswood, and it's right behind Tampa Catholic High School. It's scheduled to be dug up in about 20 years. That's how far behind they are. We have a serious pothole problem. And its seems once the potholes get fixed, they just break down again. There's there's a lot of issues with transportation and the road structure here.
Sharon, tell me how long you've been in Florida.
I have lived in Florida since 1989.
And where was your first port of call? Where did you come to first when you moved here?
I moved to St. Petersburg, which is nothing like it is now. I mean, you could roll a bowling ball down Central Avenue at eight o'clock at night and not hit anyone in 1989. And then in 2009, I moved to Tampa.
And why did you move from St. Pete to Tampa?
I fell in love and met my current husband here. So we moved here. And he's lived in Tampa all his life. And he's very familiar with the area.
You're from New Jersey originally. But what brought you from New Jersey to Florida in first place?
Oh, it's a long story. My husband at the time, his company went on strike. And his brother was the shop steward. And he knew it was going to be a long strike. So he says, 'oh, let's just move to Florida.' That seems like what a lot of people are doing these days, only they're tech tech people instead of factory people.
What was it like when you moved? Like, just describe your first impressions of the state back in the late '80s.
"Yeah, we drive to the grocery store and stuff, but if it's a special event, you can't find parking downtown, and parking when it is there is very prohibitive. We've turned away from a couple of events because we couldn't find parking."Sharon Tagle
Well, coming from a huge metropolitan area — we lived outside of Philadelphia — the first couple of years were rough because I had that 'this isn't how we do it up north' syndrome. But once I got used to it, I started to enjoy it. And then the '90s and the 2000s brought a lot of cultural improvements to the area. It was very, very pleasant to live here. And then about five or six years ago, the huge influx started of people moving into Florida, and then COVID didn't help it any because DeSantis opened up the state to all comers and things started getting crazy. My biggest concern is with so many people moving here and driving cars and not wanting to give the cars up because we really don't have the public transportation in place. And there is no way to expand the roadways to make, say, a two-lane into a four-lane. There's no place to go. There's so many people and only so much room for transportation to expand. And you see how narrow this particular street is. And when you've got cars parked on both sides of the street, it's very difficult to to move around.
Do you use public transportation at all here in Tampa?
If Uber counts. We started using Uber last year because we're retired. We really don't need to go anywhere on a bus. But we use Uber and there's water taxis and stuff, and even after the pandemic a lot of the stuff that was for leisure and fun has again since gotten very expensive and doesn't encourage people to use it.
And it sounds like you still drive a little bit.
Yeah, we drive to the grocery store and stuff, but if it's a special event, you can't find parking downtown, and parking when it is there is very prohibitive. We've turned away from a couple of events because we couldn't find parking. Our plan when we retired — my husband and I both retired six years ago — was to have a leisurely life where if we wanted to get like a steak for dinner, we would run to the supermarket and pick up what we needed for the day and maybe go out for breakfast once or twice a week. And the traffic has made that dream totally unsustainable because we live a mile from the supermarket and sometimes it takes us 10 minutes to get there.