David Byrne knows how to make muti-modal transportation sexy. The Talking Heads frontman is an avid bicyclist and (who knew?) bike rack designer in New York City. With support from many others, such as Mayor Mike Bloomberg , NYC is transforming the city by elevating the role of feet, bikes and transit.
Like NYC, the city of Sarasota has a plan for mutiple modes of transportation, which was the subject of the June 13 Planning Board meeting. You want less traffic and more fun getting around? This is where you begin. There are four areas:
1) Citywide Mobility Strategy — This creates eight different mobility districts. May not sound like much, but this is a giant leap into linking the land use context to mobility options and infrastructure such as sidewalks and paths.
2) Complete Streets — this is a new-ish concept that basically says any new street or major rehab project builds in support for cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians.
3) Mobility Funding — The mobility study is destined to sit on a shelf unless dollars are appropriated to build the sidewalks and paths and fund transit.
4) The Circulator — The study has two proposed routes: a downtown route from US-41 to School Avenue along Main Street, and a “tourist route” linking cultural destinations.
So these all sound great, but there are a couple of challenges:
1) Getting the Public More Involved — The Board, city staff and consultants lamented the lack of public interest, but you know what? The presentations are BORING! Other cities are making it completely exciting, so get on it.
2) Funding — First, the city is strapped for cash. Second, part of the discussion is a totally wonky look at moving from transportation impact fees (i.e., roads) to mobility fees to fund muti-modal options. Impact fees of any kind can only be spent on new enhancements tied directly to what the project generates. As noted in the meeting, it means investments depend on where development is happening. It also means playing nice and coordinating with the County.
3) Circulators — To understand why circulator success is tricky, let’s start at the other end of the transit spectrum: subways. Subway stations are fixed and frequent service brings a gazillion people to that stop. Because of this, the land uses are pretty high density and uses are planned across the system — where the housing, offices, stores and such go. In cities, people usually don’t have the car as an option, or if they do, parking is expensive. A circulator in Sarasota has none of these advantages. We have a lot of the ingredients here for a successful circulator (a great downtown, tourists, students), but the exact recipe for success is a big question mark.
4) Mobility Districts — Marking these districts would essentially signal where Sarasota would prefer to see areawide redevelopment outside of the downtown core. This is the most important — and controversial — conversation to be had in Sarasota now, and you need look no further than the current Walmart debacle to understand why.
In the comments let us know what topics you’d like to cover in depth and find good examples:
• Mobility Districts
• What makes Circulators successful
• Complete Streets
• Forget mobility — give us more intel on how to make Walmart fit!
See Sarasota’s Mobility Study Page: letsgetmovingsarasota.com.
For more in-depth information on the recent Planning Board meeting, the presentation from June 13 is here.