Transportation changes one step at a time
Anyone living in Southwest Florida year-round knows all about the ebbs and flows of “season.” Every year starting as early as October and running through Easter of the following year, thousands of seasonal residents jam the area. For daily commuters, this swollen population can make getting from point A to point B increasingly frustrating.
Nearly 76 percent of us in Fort Myers drive without passengers, slightly higher than the national average. That makes for a lot of cars on the road, which breeds long commutes. And it comes as no surprise that our annual population influxes make commutes even longer still. In looking for possible solutions to this problem, we couldn’t help but think back on an article we read at Curbed.com. It detailed over 100 ideas that everyday citizens, businesses and cities could all implement to make an impact on local transportation. Below are a few of our favorite suggestions from the list.
Start walking. Is there any single action that’s better for your mind, your body, and your planet? We talk a lot about the ring of walkability here at EnSite, and for good reason. It is an important aspect to consider in urban planning and design. Creating communities with walkable transportation options provides unparalleled advantages. It removes cars from the road, increases community connectivity and boosts personal health.
Start a carpool. In 2014, over 76 percent of commuters in the United States drove to work alone, most often in their personal vehicle. Carpools save money on gas, reduce your carbon footprint, let you work during the drive, and get you access to specially designated carpool lanes reserved for high-occupancy vehicles. As the above graphic shows, only 12 percent of Fort Myers residents carpool. Can you imagine if we were able to increase this figure merely to 25 percent? Even a slight shift toward carpool-style transportation would give us a promising start on our way to reducing the number of cars on the road.
Pay for transit passes. Employers in the U.S. may provide tax-free transportation benefits to workers, so there’s no reason not to ask your company to pay for personal bus, train, light rail, vanpool, and other transit costs. Since the hours when most of us commute to and from work are the peak times for traffic congestion, encouraging employees to use public transportation is a great way to reduce the impact your business has on the roadways.
Install showers and bike lockers for your employees. Want to make it easier for employees to bicycle, run, or walk to work? Provide a safe and sanitary place for people to shower and keep their stuff. Anyone who has biked to work in the Florida sun knows this is important step for businesses to take. And even though it’s not always possible to install showers, providing a place for employees to safely store their bikes encourages more regular use.
Make student IDs double as transit passes. “Transportation agencies and school districts can work together to create student IDs that contain a chip so that it also works as a year-long transit pass. Many transit agencies offer reduced fare for students — but few students can easily access this discount. Getting an ID the first day of school would be so rad and would increase student transportation options.” — Jessica Meaney, executive director, Investing in Place. We read this idea and absolutely loved it! Supporting students as they try to save money while attending a local college, university or trade school is part of what good public transportation is all about. Streamlining student access to transportation reduces barriers to entry and stimulates more regular use.
Build more linear parks. Unlike traditional green spaces, linear parks are longer than they are wide, and they take people on a journey through the city. Parks like the 606 in Chicago and the Beltline in Atlanta boost alternative transportation by creating a thoroughfare for pedestrians, rollerbladers, bikers, and more. Linear parks like our very own John Yarbrough park here in Fort Myers act as dual-purpose green spaces. This type of park design allows a car-free commute for bike riders and safe travel for joggers and walkers, providing a significant benefit to communities as they address their transportation needs.