Friday, August 24, 2012

A Better Strategy Than Widening Roads

Orange County and FDOT's knee-jerk reaction to traffic congestion is to add lanes.  We know the consequences--wider, faster thoroughfares are more deadly, helping us earn the distinction as the most dangerous metro area for pedestrians and bicyclists in the United States.

Orange County and its municipalities should look to Carmel, Indiana as a model.

Money magazine ranked Carmel, an affluent suburb of Indianapolis, the number 1 small city in America.  An article in the Indianapolis Star reports:

Notice the lack of traffic signals — there are only 38 in a city with about 400 miles of roads. Notice the lack of 4-way stops. Many have been replaced with roundabouts.  .... 
A few years ago, a five-mile trip down Keystone Avenue from 146th to 96th Street took 15-20 minutes and included long stops at several traffic lights — think SUV’s, mini-vans and Toyota’s mixed in with semi’s. It was a mess.  Today, thanks to new roundabout interchanges, there are no lights. And the trip takes about 6 minutes.
Over the past 15 years, Carmel aggressively replaced stop lights with free-flowing roundabouts and roundabout interchanges. The city has 57 roundabouts, more than any city its size in America. And there are 34 more planned in the near future.  .... There has also been aggression in the way the city has attacked traffic congestion, insisting on bike lanes, connecting pedestrian paths and even forcing developers to build roundabouts if they intend to create an intersection that could one day be a problem. 
The result of all this has been an influx of new residents, moving here from all parts of the country, the world....  
 Orange County's resistance to roundabouts represents an old way of thinking.  Windermere is a  wonderful local example of how roundabouts virtually eliminated traffic congestion--despite 20,000 vehicles passing through each day--while keeping the charm of two lane roads.  Carmel, Indiana shows what local governments can and should do on a larger scale.     

Windermere roundabout.  (Photo credit: Max Geller)  Who'd want to sit here if this was a conventional intersection?
As another person put it, roundabouts "vaporize" traffic congestion

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Opposing Rail is Politically Hazardous

In Central Florida's most interesting Congressional race this primary season, Rep. Sandy Adams' attacked Rep. John Mica for "wasting money on things like SunRail," which she called a "boondoggle" in incessant television advertising.  Last night, the voters rejected Adams' message and re-elected Mica by a wide margin:
U.S. House District 7 (Rep. Primary)
147 of 147 precincts reporting
John Mica 61.2% 32,073
Sandra Sandy Adams 38.8% 20,370

Matthew Falconer ran for Orange County Mayor in 2010, stating the race was a "referendum" on SunRail.  Matt came in last place in a four-candidate primary, his anti-SunRail stance winning him just 15% of the vote against three pro-SunRail candidates.

In the spring of 2011, soon after Governor Rick Scott rejected Federal high speed rail funds and a proposed agreement under which the State would have no financial obligation for operating costs, his popularity plummeted to record lows.  Another link HERE.  More than a year later, our Governor remains fighting in recovery mode. 

When Florida Secretary of Transportation Ananth Prasad toured Central Florida communities before approving of SunRail, large pro-rail crowds met him at the Maitland and Orange County meetings I attended. The opposition was vocal but insignificant.  Having learned from his High Speed Rail experience, Governor Scott realized that the political cost of killing SunRail would far exceed the political cost of disappointing his anti-transit Tea Party base.   

Other factors certainly played a role in each instance described above.  However, I-4 is too crowded, and people spend too much time away from their families commuting to and from work or driving across the State.  The cost of building roads far exceeds the cost of building the same capacity in rail, and rail, if done correctly like Amtrak's Acela route, can even capture huge market share and turn a profit.  If I were a political consultant, and my client told me he or she wanted to run against rail in Florida, I would suggest caution.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Physically Fit Kids Perform Better at School

Another study is out, not yet peer reviewed, but confirming other studies that physically fit children generally perform better at school.  Here's a LINK to the story at WebMD.