It’s time to talk transit

When it comes to getting around in the Keys, there’s a lot that can be done to make things a little easier.

Richard Clark, Monroe County Director of Transit, Joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to discuss transportation.

This is a new position in Monroe County.

Clark said, “The position has been a long time coming. We’ve been looking at this issue here in Monroe County for a decade or better. Mayor Rice and others have been working diligently now for the past two or three years trying to identify what our core problems are from a transportation perspective and how we actually solve them. Not just outlining our problems, but what we do. Where do we go to help with the funding of those projects?”

The ongoing discussion outlined more than 150 items and narrowed that down to 10 or 12.

Clark said, “We’ve got millions upon millions of dollars that we’re asking for to fix our issues. If we’re going to find solutions to get people out of their cars, if we’re going to find solutions to get our roads moving in a nice, consistent manner, someone’s got to own it and so that’s exactly what I’ve been tasked with doing.”

Clark spent 10 years as a county commissioner/city councilman in Jacksonville, FL.

He said, “I no longer have that political affliction. I’ve been working for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority ever since.”

None of the solutions for the transportation issues in the Keys are inexpensive, but a deep look into how to do it will happen.

Clark said, “We’re at the let’s talk to our communities, let’s talk to each, individual island. We’re a bunch of neighborhoods connected by bridges, so if you don’t get into the neighborhoods and figure out each individual problem – they are absolutely not the same – we can’t build the best model until we do such a thing.”

Monroe County certainly presents a rather specific set of challenges with the connecting bridges and one major road.

Clark said, “It’s arguably one of the most unique systems in the country. The idea of how we move people up and down the Keys and move people in an efficient way and a safe way. It’s just a different, different model than anywhere else you’re going to find in the country.”

Add in the amount of traffic on that one road and it can pose real complications. The county has created a three-year plan to tackle the situation.

Year one is reaching out to stake holders and have several community meetings.

Clark said, “We need to understand where everybody is, what they want to do, how they want to move, how we get employees to employers. It’s a big process to come up with a good set of ideas that’s neighborhood and community driven.”

The next step in year two tackles what system will work. How are the biggest problems solved?

Clark said, “Let’s build a model that solves as many of the problems as we can. We’re not going to solve them all. Then go back into the community again.”

In year three, if everything is set, service will begin.

Clark said, “That doesn’t mean all of it. That means let’s find those areas where we move the needle the most. We have some obligation to help Key West Transit. They have an enormous surge that’s happening as we speak of population.”

What’s the best way to get people out of their cars and into public transit?

Key West Transit has been pulled out of Key West recently because there’s been a need.

Micro mobility is a smaller, more maneuverable way to get people to the main system. The 40-foot buses may not be the best option for the roads in Key West.

Clark predicted, “We’re going to see a lot smaller, a lot more maneuverable vehicles that help people get around.”

All great transit systems start with the basic question: how do we get people to walk, ride or take smaller vehicles to a main system and not on the road, one person one car.

Clark added, “A transit system at its core, what makes a successful transit system is really quite simple. It’s do you have a clean service? Do you have a safe service? And most importantly, is that service frequent? Do you have frequent reliability? That’s why trains and subways are so successful. Every two, three, five minutes, they’re there. You can count on it. The most success systems honor what seem like really simple things that are very hard to do.”