Friday, May 20, 2011

76% of Voters Support SunRail

According to an Orlando Sentinel poll, 76% Orlando voters back SunRail, the 61 mile commuter rail system Governor Scott is reviewing. 

Another poll, of major employers on the SunRail route including the Orange County Courthouse, Rollins College, and Tupperware, found that huge majorities of workers would consider using SunRail for their commute. 

Governor Scott received a packet of more than 100 letters and resolutions from businesses, civic organizations, and local governments supporting SunRail.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Winter Park Commission Urges FDOT to Adopt Complete Streets

The Winter Park City Commission unanimously adopted a Complete Street resolution--to gradually make streets safe and comfortable for motorists and non-motorists.  Importantly, the City urged the Florida Department of Transportation to follow suit.

WMFE-FM's Mark Simpson reported on Winter Park's resolution at THIS LINK.  He interviewed me for the news report in front of an apartment complex across from a Lynx bus stop on Lee Road--a four lane divided highway.  There's no painted crosswalk in the highway--or any relatively safe place to cross to the bus stop--for more than a half-mile in either direction. 

During the interview, a lady in an electric wheelchair zoomed into the thoroughfare while cars whizzed by her back and forth at 45-50 mph. 

Photo by: WMFE's Carly the intern.
The report states that I persuaded lawmakers to start adopting Complete Streets principles.  Truly, the credit goes to Florida Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, who has expressed that Complete Streets principles should apply at both the State and local levels.  Senator Gardiner had language incorporated into the Community Planning Act of 2011 giving local governments the tools to use Complete Streets and street grids to implement "transportation concurrency," which is Florida's system of widening roads to accommodate new development.  Under the old concurrency system, a motor vehicle capacity deficiency would require the widening of an arterial road (making it less safe for pedestrians), despite the presence of a parallel road, or the ability to create a grid or other alternatives for motorists.  The new language gives much needed flexibility to local governments. 

FDOT has adopted Complete Streets in its 2060 long-range plan.  For the lady on the electric wheelchair, we can't wait that long. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Complete Streets Revitalizing New York City

Here's link to an interesting StreetFilms video about how "Complete Streets" principles are revitalizing New York City.  On-street parked cars buffer the bike lanes, which the City painted green.  (The Federal Highway Administration has now approved green bike lanes.  They should become more common.)   The City installed the bike lanes without reducing the number of lanes by narrowing lane width from 12 feet.  You'll find ideas in the video applicable to less dense areas, including Central Florida.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

John Mica: Please Streamline the Bureaucracy While Saving Sidewalk, Bike Lane Funding

Anyone who periodically reviews my posts know I have great admiration for Rep. John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.  I am asking him to consider modifying a proposal he floated to eliminate a 10% federal funding mandate for sidewalks and bike lanes.  The Orlando Sentinel published my strong words last week:
"How many more headlines must we read of kids getting killed or critically injured walking to school, walking to a school bus or riding their bikes?" Geller said. "To shift funding away from bike lanes and sidewalks, when Florida is number one in the nation for pedestrian and bicyclist deaths, is reckless and irresponsible."
Today, for the second time in two weeks, a motorist struck a child waiting for, or walking to a school bus in Central Florida.  The child, fourth grader Anthony Moore, died.  There were no sidewalks despite numerous subdivision homes nearby. 

Minneola Shores Road in Clermont, where a motorist killed a 4th grader today waiting for a school bus.  This photo came from the Orlando Sentinel. 
The Florida Department of Transportation devotes only about $35 million to sidewalks and bike lanes out of a $7 billion budget.  We are literally talking about a drop in the bucket.  Removal of the federal mandate would jeopardize this minimal funding. 

As I told Fox35 news anchor Keith Landry, if we have no assurance the States will spend the funds where needed, we need to question whether to remove the mandate. 

I appreciate Rep. Mica's interest in streamlining the bureaucracy.  A federal bureaucrat should not require considerable brain power or time to to calculate 10% of a grant figure and to review a a one page certification that the funds were appropriated for the intended uses.   Therefore, the new Federal Transportation Bill should:

(1) streamline the review and approval process for the funds;

(2) eliminate the mandate when States reach certain benchmarks, such as a reduction in the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths and critical injuries; and

(3) at the very least, eliminate the mandate only for highway landscaping and beautification, and reduce the 10% figure commensurately. 

The benchmark idea comes from Professor Bruce Stephenson, director of the Master of Planning program at Rollins College.  Ironically, several proposed SunRail stations are on or near State roads.  To devote no resources to bike and pedestrian facilities in these areas makes no sense. 

Although not scientific, those who responded to an Orlando Sentinel online poll voted decidedly against removing the sidewalk and bike lane funding mandate

Poll: Should feds cut money for bike paths, sidewalks?

U.S. Rep. John Mica wants to let federal-gas-tax money designated for bike paths and sidewalks to be spent on roads instead. Should the feds cut money meant for bike paths and sidewalks?

Yes. Far more people use roads, and with our infrastructure crumbling, fixing them comes first. (16 responses)         6%

Maybe. How about only if bike lanes and sidewalks are added when roads are improved? (4 responses)    1%

No. We should encourage more people to walk and bike and get out of their cars. (259 responses)

279 total responses

(Results not scientific)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Winter Park Taking the Lead on "Complete Streets" in Central Florida

Winter Park will likely become Central Florida's first local government to adopt a Complete Streets Policy, requiring thoroughfares safe and comfortable for motorists and non-motorists.  Click HERE for a story running in the Winter Park/Maitland Observer.  The draft I reviewed would encourage the FDOT to adopt a Complete Streets policy, too, and would direct City staff to work with the FDOT on Complete Streets implementation.  The FDOT controls Winter Park's principal thoroughfares--17-92, Aloma/Fairbanks, and Lee Road--the City's most dangerous for pedestrians.