ORLANDO – As Mayor Buddy Dyer was quick to note, if you want to get local residents out of their cars, and off congested local streets, highways and interstates, they need to be provided with alternative means of transportation.
Orlando is already making significant progress in that regard, the mayor pointed out on Friday.
“We’ve already had the groundbreaking for the first phase of SunRail,” he said of the 61-mile commuter rail line that will open in 2014, and include four stops in downtown Orlando.
“We’ve also had the kickoff for the East-West Limo Ride Expansion,” Dyer said, in reference to the shuttle service that will transport commuters from the SunRail train stations to their next destination.
Then again, what did an old parking meter, with flowers planted in it, have to do with transportation?
Inspiration, the mayor hopes.
“This is about one less car, one more park – and making Orlando a great place to live and to work,” Dyer said.
On Friday, the City of Orlando hosted the One Less Car, One More Park event. It served several purposes.
One was increasing the mayor’s long-term goal of encouraging residents and employees to commute to work using an alternative mode of transportation – bus, bicycle, or car-pooling among them. This helps reduce the need to find a parking space, saves residents money on gas, and reduces congestion and pollution, the mayor said.
“Due to lack of transportation options, historically Central Floridians have relied on cars to travel,” Dyer said. “But with our region’s focus on strategically developing our transportation infrastructure, residents will not have to rely solely on vehicles anymore.”
That’s why Dyer hosted an awards ceremony on Friday in front of City Hall as part of the One Less Car, One More Park public awareness campaign. He used the event to remind city residents that Orlando has invested in not only new walking and bike paths in this city, but also that SunRail is on the way.
The light rail system will cover Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties and be built in two phases, with 18 stops that will include stations in Altamonte Springs, Winter Park, Kissimmee, Celebration and Poinciana.
“We strive to increase the number of trips by sustainable new transportation models,” the mayor said.
But the mayor also wanted an event that could “visually demonstrate the benefits of mass transit” — visuals that he hoped would “encourage our community to change their transportation behaviors.”
As part of that, six local design firms were invited to temporarily transform eight on-street metered parking spaces into re-imagined parks and green spaces. The goal: to show the positive impact of leaving cars at home and instead walking, biking, carpooling or using public transit for their commute.
Local design firms that contributed to this campaign included AECOM, Comprehensive Engineering Services, Inc., Creative Village Development, DLR Group & KZF Design Studio, E Sciences and reThink. Their contributions were available throughout the day, and the public was given an opportunity to vote for their favorite re-imagined parking space.
At 2 p.m., Dyer announced that E Sciences had been voted the winning design firm, and the agency was presented with a trophy made from a recycled parking meter.
E Sciences is an engineering, environmental and ecological consulting firm based in Orlando.
The aging parking meter had been made to be used as a planter. It would be a traveling trophy, the mayor’s office noted, eventually returned to the city and then awarded to next year’s winner.
The One Less Car, One More Park event is part of Green Works Orlando, the city’s sustainability initiative, designed to encourage residents to “go green.”
As Dyer noted, a number of local transportation agencies helped work on the One Less Car event, including Bike/Walk Central Florida, the LYNX bus system, MetroPlan Orlando, reThink and SunRail – all hoping to remind residents that there are alternatives to getting into a car. It’s a useful public awareness campaign, the mayor noted, that will hopefully have positive long-term results.
“I want to thank the local agencies that came out to support this effort today,” Dyer noted.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.