Smarter transportation around our city

District 3 Commissioner Robert Stuart

In February, Orlando was chosen as one of five cities to be awarded the 2017 Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge Grant. The Smart Cities Council is just what it sounds like — a group of world-renowned experts in the smart technologies fields whose goal is to accelerate and support the growth of smart cities worldwide.

But what does that mean for us? In June Orlando hosted its Readiness Program Workshop, where 130 local stakeholders discussed how we can become, “the world’s most intelligent, interconnected and efficient city,” as Mayor Dyer outlined during his opening remarks. As we move forward, we are concentrating much of our resources and heavily pursuing one area: transportation.

When I meet with residents or attend meetings, transportation is one of the most talked about topics besides public safety. Residents are concerned and want to know what is happening as our city continues to grow. (We’ve gained 130,000 new residents in the past two years.) More people see what many of us knew all along — living in an urban neighborhood is a great way to cut a commute!

Through Smart Cities, we are working on initiatives for safer intersections, smarter wayfinding and navigation, the creation of the Beyond Traffic Innovation Center (a partnership with UCF and FAMU), and the study of automated vehicles. (Did you know Florida is one of only two states that legalized the testing of automated vehicles on public roadways?)

One question posed in the UCF/FAMU grant application is difficult for many of us, especially those of us who’ve called Orlando home our entire lives: “How will we adapt?”

It’s hard to imagine a Southern city — with transportation infrastructure built almost solely on the back of vehicular travel —ever redefining itself as anything but a car-centric region. The steps to create a multi-modal transportation system can be expensive and, let’s be honest, sometimes seemingly pointless when you’re stuck in traffic on I-4 or Edgewater Drive.

But don’t give up hope. We’re making meaningful strides.

We’re extending SunRail south into Osceola County — 17 miles and four new stations. We’re also working on a nonstop airport shuttle that takes SunRail riders from the Sand Lake station directly to the airport for a stress-free, train-to-plane experience.

We have expanded the downtown bus circulator system, LYMMO, to include a third route, the Lime Line, which can move people from Creative Village to the Federal Courthouse. This line joins the original Orange Line — which now includes a loop circulating the North Quarter — as well as the Grapefruit Line, which moves people from Parramore to Lake Eola. These expansions have been created to merge seamlessly with the future expansions of the bus circulator north and south from College Park, Florida Hospital and Mills/50 to Orlando Health, Delaney Park and Sodo.

We’re also building a pedestrian bridge to take residents over Colonial Drive into and out of Downtown — a key piece of our Urban Trail system. (I hope you’ve gotten a chance to enjoy the new portion of the Urban Trail along Bumby Avenue.)

Our cycling community — of which our new transportation director, Billy Hattaway is a part, organizing 40-mile bicycle rides every Saturday — has helped the City add 40 new bike racks. (Thanks to the College Park Main Street for the unique and artistic one in Albert Park.) The Bike Share program has surpassed 10,000 members.

Even if you’ve never rented from Bike Share or ridden SunRail, these changes benefit us all. They take cars off of our roads, provide environmental benefits and help attract economic development.

I appreciate your support of our Great City as we all adapt together!

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