The Keys will be a focus of Talk Transit

Richard Clark, the executive director of Monroe County Transit, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about how to get around the Keys.

Clark has had first-hand experience with some of the odd fish behavior recently.

He said, “When we were coming back in, right at the public boat ramp at Garrison Bight, we saw a nurse shark, clearly it was just spinning, all of the signs that people talk about, they see with the strange fish behavior. I could not get a picture of it as fast as I would have wanted them to. But I would just encourage anybody that that sees any species exhibiting that type of behavior to just go to my FWC and report it, it’s really easy to do. So if you see it, report it. It’s certainly going to help us try to determine what’s going on. Many of my fisherman friends are very concerned about it. So anything we can do to help report where we see that behavior is helpful.”

Paul Comfort, a podcaster dealing with transit came to the Keys recently.

Clark said, “He came to town, he’s from the Maryland/DC area, but flies literally all over the world. They do one show a month. So we were very fortunate to have him come here. They don’t get to see somebody starting a transit system from ground zero. So it was fun for them. We really talked more about the history, not just of where we’re going and all of the things we’re trying to build, but the history of Flagler and what that railroad meant back in 1912. At that time, the eighth wonder of the world is what everyone called it. So obviously, the tragic end of that in 1935 and I didn’t realize it until we were talking, there still hasn’t been a hurricane any stronger than the 1935 hurricane that made landfall in Florida. There has not been another stronger hurricane to hit the US mainland since 1935.”

Comfort and Clark did a podcast called Talk Transit.

Clark said, “The show will air in May. You’ll see us going around town, they did some shots coming into town. They flew into Miami, drove down to get all of that video. Some of it is nightlife to bring some appeal. Then it’s a lot more about the smaller electrification we’re doing, the electric vehicles, local service that frankly the Keys has never seen. We don’t we don’t have local service. Key West has offered that local service for some time, but the rest of the Keys just hasn’t seen it. A little bit in Islamorada, but for the most part nobody’s seen it. So we wanted to start with touching our community first and touching our community first means allowing people where they live to go to the grocery store, pick up a prescription, go to dinner. So that’s our first stop. It will be a 100% electric. We always constantly think about sustainability, and resilience here. It’s very important as we build our infrastructure out, that we always keep that in mind.”

Will the infrastructure support the electrification?

Clark said, “It will. We’re using, four transit vans, if everybody can picture those. They’re essentially 12 plus one vans. There are some that are fully wheelchair accessible with a lift in each zone, as well, but those are typical, if you bought any type of electric vehicle where you can plug and play. We will do a little bit of fast charging for opportunity charges. So there will be a little bit more infrastructure. When it comes to big vehicles, any kind of bus, someone sent me a note the other day that one of the school systems is going exclusively electric. That takes an entirely different level of infrastructure. The loads that we put on our vehicles down here, we’re running AC in our vehicles 11 and a half months out of 12. So just the idea of running AC, and putting a load of humans on a large vehicle, you’re not going to get the distance you need. So the bigger vehicles present a little more challenge. But there are some really neat things people are doing out there these days with hydrogen, CNG. There’s lots of options. Right now we’re going to start small and grow.”

Is that a result of grant funding?

“It is,” Clark confirmed. “Everything we pursue, we always try to leverage everything we do. Our job is to not just be good stewards of our taxpayer dollars here, but all of the things we can get from the state and the federal government to help leverage what limited funds we have. That’s really what’s going to make the system grow properly and make sure we do it for the future, where we don’t start something that then we say, oh, my gosh, what did we do? I’m always thinking five and 10 years out. Are we always going to be able to pay for it? Are we going to be able to modernize? If you don’t set those things up upfront, you can be in for a real hiccup, five and 10 years down the road.”

There is a three-year plan for Monroe County Transit. Where does the electric vehicle phase fit in?

Clark said, “Our first service offering where we’re outsourcing everything for Stock Island and Key West, that RFP is on the street. All of them are due April 16. We will score it, probably award someone that that particular contract. That service I’m hoping probably June timeframe. That’s our dipping our toe in, having an operator do everything, vehicles, everything. The longer term electrification, even if they gave us the grant today, it would take at least a year to get the rolling stock, put everything in place, work with the Feds. I mean, it’s a big plan, and especially when you’re getting federal money, and that grant, there’s zero local tax dollars going in. It’s 100% federal with help from the state. So it’s truly found money. Those are the things that we really always try to pursue as aggressively as we can.”