Thursday, December 12, 2013
By Carmel Delshad : WMFE
Preservationists fought to save one of Winter Park's original homes from the wrecking ball. After that battle was won, the 5,000 square foot home still had to be moved. When streets proved too narrow and tree-laden to accommodate a traditional house move, plan B involved...the lake.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
In central Florida the car rules. A network of wide highways link sprawling cities.
But now two machines which saw their heyday in Florida more than a century ago are making a comeback: the train and the bike.
With the arrival of the SunRail commuter train in 2014 some cities are looking to bicycles as a way to get passengers to their final destination.
In Winter Park -- built in the late 1800s -- the city's sustainability coordinator Tim Maslow is thinking about how to incorporate cycling into the transportation mix. Maslow says the new SunRail and Amtrak train station could be a starting point for bike sharing.
“We see having a station here with maybe ten bikes at first to see how it goes," says Maslow. "You could go up to 20 bikes per station with some of the companies we’ve been looking at.”
One company talking with Winter Park is the Wisconsin based B-cycle, which is backed by the bike manufacturer Trek. In Denver, the company has some 50 bike share stations where users can rent their bikes, and B-cycle says the system works well with the city's light rail line. Train passengers use the bikes to go the last leg of their journey after getting off the train.
Bike sharing already has a foothold in South Florida, where Broward County has started a system. Sales manager Lee Jones went for a ride around Orlando on a recent visit. He says bike share stations around SunRail may have to be positioned to avoid the busiest roads.
“I did find some of the very wide streets, basically three lanes across, it was almost like being on the interstate," he says.
Some cities along the rail line are ideally situated for this back to the future approach to getting around.
Tim Maslow, from Winter Park, points out his city was designed so passengers could easily walk to and from the train station.
“That was before the automobile was so prevalent in everyone’s lives, so when they came down to the train station they actually had to go to different locations that were no longer than a 15-20 minute walk, because in Florida no one would walk that far,” says Maslow.
A return to cycling as a primary means of transportation may seem a bit old fashioned. But when the bicycle first appeared in America, it was high tech. In the 1969 Western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Paul Newman's Cassidy shows off a bicycle with the words: "meet the future."
The movie was set in the late 1800s, when the real-life Cassidy and the Kid were robbing trains in the American West.
In Florida at that time, rail barons were laying a network of tracks across the state, and the whole country was gripped by a cycling craze.
"It was huge in this country, huge," says Tim Bustos, the executive director of the Florida Bicycle Association.
"Next to the railroad, bicycling was like the most powerful transportation lobby out there. [Bicycles] were expensive, so it was mostly well to do and influential people that could afford them.”
And in the late 1800s, well-to-do people were taking the train to cities like Winter Park to spend their winter vacations.
Winter Park’s not the only place where rail and cycling could make a comeback.
The Florida Bicycle association’s headquartered in Deland, and Tim Bustos dreams of making the city a hub for cycling in the state.
He says SunRail’s completion in 2016 could help, by giving riders better access to a network of cycling trails. Bike share could also be part of the mix.
“People that would have rented a car five years ago, are now using bike shares," he says.
"It’s cheaper, it’s easier, it’s more enjoyable.”
Some DeLand cyclists have reservations- they say a safe route first has to be found from the train station to the city’s downtown, five miles away.
“We’re researching routes that could be bike friendly," says Ted Beyler, who owns the Deland Cyclery, one of two bicycle shops in Deland. Beyler’s on a chamber of commerce committee looking into the problem, and he says if that can be worked out, bike sharing could take off.
"That’s the major hindrance that I see is the proximity of the station to downtown Deland," says Beyler.
However, central Florida bicycle advocates agree that SunRail’s arrival brings with it a chance to begin a new chapter in the shared history of cycling and rail.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
(Orlando, Fla -- WMFE) "I'm afraid I have not heard about the bill" one voter says. "It's a blank for me right now," another admits. "I have not a clue," a third offers, summing up the general level of awareness about the House transportation funding bill in the home district of its chief author, John Mica (R-Fla.)
Mica has acknowledged that his transportation bill looks unlikely to have an easy road through Congress -- in fact it's been divided into three to boost the chances -- but he believes his constituents will understand the rationale for the $260 billion, six-year spending plan. Given their low-level of awareness about the bill being hotly debated in Washington, his confidence may be justified. (Listen to tape above).
Mica says the push back from fellow lawmakers isn't because of the merits of the bill, but rather, because it doesn't have thousands of earmarks like its previous transportation funding legislation.
The bill has drawn the ire of mass transit advocates, who are unhappy with plans to scrap a requirement to fund public transport from gas taxes, and the bill, HR7, is currently stalled in the legislature.
Despite the bill's unpopularity, the Winter Park Republican told WMFE in Orlando that he thinks people in his district would support moves to put transportation money back in the hands of states to spend as they see fit.
“I don’t think that bureaucrats in ivory towers in Washington know what’s best for Florida, or for our communities," he said.
Thursday, December 01, 2011
By Mark Simpson
Orlando, WMFE) Under a new Florida Senate redistricting proposal released this week, powerful Republican U.S. Representative John Mica -- the chair of the House Transportation Committee -- could be drawn out of his current 7th District seat, which currently runs from just north of Orlando to just south of Jacksonville.
Mica is based in the small but wealthy city of Winter Park, north of Orlando. The new plan removes Mica’s portion of Winter Park from the 7th District and places the entire city within Florida's 24th Congressional District, which is currently represented by Republican Congresswoman Sandy Adams.
Mica’s district would still cover large portions of Volusia, Flagler, and St. Johns Counties. The Florida House is expected to release its version of the new map next week. State lawmakers will finalize the new district maps during January’s legislative session. Both chambers are controlled by the GOP, and both the State Senate President and House Speaker are from central Florida.
Mica's office says he's reserving comment until after the legislature decides on the final maps.
Read more about the Florida Senate proposal here.
Friday, April 15, 2011
By Mark Simpson
(Orlando, Fla. -- Mark Simpson WMFE)
Advocates of the “Complete Streets” movement hope they are on the verge of gaining ground in Central Florida. Planners at the City of Winter Park, located north of Orlando, say they have drafted a “Complete Streets” resolution for the city. Mayor Ken Bradley is also supporting the measure which is expected to come up for a vote in about two weeks.
Dan Burden, executive director of the Walkable and Liveable Communities Institute was in Winter Park this week to discuss improvements that could be made to local roads. He says a complete street is a thoroughfare “where a person can just naturally switch seamlessly from mode to mode”. That means encompassing walking, biking, driving, and even moving big trucks down the road. Burden presented those concepts to Winter Park commissioners while in town.
Listen to Dan Burden explain how "road" psychology impacts driving speeds
Meanwhile Orlando land use attorney Rick Geller is pursuing an effort to tack “complete streets” language to a state transportation bill, while the legislature is still in session this year. He says “complete streets” are needed at the state level to set standards for local communities to emulate. It’s not clear if Geller’s language will be picked up before the session concludes May 6th, but he says he’ll back next year if it’s not.
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Saturday, April 02, 2011
By Mark Simpson
(Orlando, Fla. -- Mark Simpson, WMFE) Commissioners at the City of Winter Park, just north of Orlando, voted unanimously this week to kill a nearly $2 million beautification project, hampering a planning strategy that put greater emphasis on mixed use development. The original plan was was part of a $9 million street and sewer upgrade along the main road leading into the city’s west side.
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The section of Fairbanks Avenue in question is actually a state road. It runs from Interstate 4 to Winter Park’s center. The beautification project would have happened parallel to planned work upgrading sewers in the area. City planners wanted to add planted medians to the center of the road, in coordination with a planned repaving by the Florida Department of Transportation.
The medians would have eliminated a center turn lane, known commonly as a “suicide lane.” Planners say the medians would make the road safer by reducing conflict zones during turns and slow down traffic. However merchants along the Fairbanks corridor became concerned about paying an anticipated $340,000 assessment for the improvements as well as forcing customers of some businesses to make u-turns to reach them. They showed up en masse at the City Commission’s meeting this week to express their worries. Commissioners voted to go ahead with planned sewer and repaving, but axed the median component citing cost concerns.
The beautification efforts would have also started an incremental experiment with form based codes in Winter Park, which are considered to be a leading trend in city planning. The city of Miami overhauled its entire planning and zoning code to transform it into a form-based code called Miami21. The plan went into effect last year. During the 20th century U.S. cities were influenced by Euclidian zoning, which separated residential, commercial, and industrial zones from each other, placing them in designated areas. Form-based codes allow mixed use buildings, such as ground floor commercial spaces with residences on a second level, to be built on the same site. They also rely on pictures and give builders and planners an image of what forms and layouts are preferred.
David Zusi, the Waste Water and Utility Director for the City of Winter Park, says because the commission voted down the median portion of the upgrade project the beautification efforts will be up to businesses around the area. He also says, attempts to use form-based codes in Winter Park will continue, but he didn’t provide details.
Zusi indicated that installing medians would likely not be considered again for at least a few years, by then, the state will have finished repaving the section of Fairbanks Avenue.
City planning staff had been working on the project since 2005 under a previous City Commission. It had been estimated to take one year and cost just under $9 million dollars. New estimates without the median are not available yet.
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