I have often pondered the ways to improve transportation in our community. Many options have been offered up: a ferry from Apollo Beach to MacDill AFB to alleviate the commute from that bedroom community for thousands per day. A high speed line to Orlando to alleviate congestion on I-4, not to mention making that interstate safer. And the light rail line within Tampa, from the airport to downtown Tampa to USF. Lastly, TBX adding a high occupancy vehicle lane to many of our interstates to foster ride-sharing and generate income.
All along I wondered why our community leaders did not attempt to implement plans that are distinctly low tech/low cost. What, exactly? Well, what about flexible work hours to spread the density of the commute over more time, say offering flex hours to suitable employment situations from 6-10 am and then from 3-7 pm. I am not a traffic engineer by any stretch, though it seems likely that if you diminish the arterial clog by reducing the aggregate number of vehicles attempting to drive on the roadway over a longer period of time, traffic ought to flow more smoothly.
This idea would need to have the support of the major employers in the area, to allow more flexible work hours to avoid peak traffic hours. And what about the next step in that equation: offer up a day or two a week to work from home? Fewer vehicles on the road ought to spell better commute times, and a better quality of life.
Another low tech option is ride sharing. This is far from a new idea, yet I hear nothing about efforts to encourage drivers from sharing the driving responsibility. People who work in one location all day long, within a concentrated area like Westshore, Downtown Tampa, Downtown ST. Pete, USF, for example, might have a fighting chance at making this work.
You may recall that our Governor turned down the funds for the high speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. The cost to the state of Florida seemed insurmountable and not economically justifiable. Maybe that was a huge mistake, as the price to add that rail line will only increase in price as time wears on. Yet, I could not wrap my head around what happens when you took the train from Tampa to Orlando, and still needed a car on the Orlando leg?
I just heard the solution: the city of Altamonte Springs has partnered with Uber to offer 20% subsidy for taking Uber within the city limits. An additional 25% discount is offered when trips are taken to the Sunrail station. Ha! Handling the last mile is the ticket. The result of this program has increased the traffic on Sunrail, a much needed improvement to the ridership that was sub-par. Most importantly, drivers have options that were not available even 3 years ago, using services like Lyft and Uber. As a society, you can feel the paradigm shift that Uber enacted, offering low cost point to point transportation to anyone, while limiting the need to control or own a vehicle. (https://www.uber.com/blog/orlando/altamonte-springs/)
I also want to point out that the City of Tampa has a fleet of 6 passenger open air vehicles/golf carts that offer point to point transportation around downtown for FREE! It’s called the Downtowner and I see the vehicles with passengers all hours of the day and night, moving citizens around the city, without using their own cars.
I am going to add the use of these services to the low cost/low tech options we ought to employ as we consider long range transportation options. Do you have any ideas?