How Orlando is improving its transportation infrastructure through technology

How Orlando is improving its transportation infrastructure through technology

By: Beatrice Silva

2 min read  — Public transportation is a vital contributing element to urban sustainability. Practical transportation networks that integrate public travel can help lower a city’s per capita carbon footprint. It also makes metropolitan areas more livable by easing commute times and expanding accessibility. Over the last few decades, technology has played a critical role in the evolution of transportation. Transportation technologies most often tackle challenges involving alternative fuels, demographic shifts, traffic analytics, safety and security. 

 

 

Almost 300,000 people live in Orlando and an estimated 75 million people visit the city every year, according to Visit Orlando. These figures are just part of the reason why Orlando has issues with its transportation system. Among companies tackling these challenges is Omnimodal LLC, an interdisciplinary team of mobility tech experts that has created smart mobility management solutions to ease congestion by helping to make public transportation easier to navigate. 

 

“Let’s say you live over by Orlando Health, but you work in Winter Park. You have to take a bus or catch a bike share to get to the [train] station. You’re having to possibly download the Lynx bus tracker app. You have to download whatever scooter or bike-share app you want to use. Then you have to download the SunRail app. They all possibly have separate payment interfaces as well. The future here is how do we integrate things to let folks download whatever app they want? Let’s allow the data to flow and have interoperable payment options, so folks use what’s going to work best for them. Otherwise, you have 16 apps on your phone that you’re kind of playing bingo with to figure out,” David Thomas Moran, CEO of Omnimodal LLC, told Orlando Business Journal.

Beep, a driverless and electric shuttle, is another company making big changes within Orlando’s transportation industry. The company uses key hardware and software to enhance safety, sustainability and mobility. Not having a human driver may seem like something out of a science fiction novel, but it is actually quite common and effective. Beep believes that its technology eliminates human error when it comes to driving. The shuttle is equipped with scanners, sensors and cameras that make its reactions similar to a human driver but without having to worry about the human distractions. As for sustainability, it’s electric-powered motor makes it extremely environmentally friendly. “Look at the passenger count we had, which was 14,000 riders, equivalent to 7,000-9,000 cars off the road. That starts to show the impact these vehicles can have in not only eliminating road congestion and removing or reducing parking requirements but also impacting safety,” Joe Moye, CEO of Beep, told Orlando Business Journal. 

 

As transportation continues to be transformed, safety will always be a top priority. Autonomous vehicles will reduce the reality of human error which is the cause of 85% of all accidents on roadways. Improved safety is a result when combined with a reduction of cars on the roadways due to this mobility service, according to Beep’s Mobility Platform. 

 

Undoubtedly, technology will continue to impact the way people commute. Today, travelers are demanding more and more mobility alternatives. A city’s sustainability relies deeply on the different ways it’s able to offer transportation for its community. To ensure a region’s success and growth, metropolitan areas must continue to find more effective solutions to increase the overall quality of their transportation services.

 

Spotlight On: Patti Garrett, Mayor, City of Decatur

Spotlight On: Patti Garrett, Mayor, City of Decatur

By: Max Crampton- Thomas

2 min read April 2020 — The city of Decatur is among the many cities across the United States dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett discusses her city’s efforts to assist the business community and residents in this time of crisis, including the provision of loans to small businesses and an information pipeline for the community.

 

How is the local governance working to assist the business community in mitigating the challenges and impact felt from the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Our Community and Economic Development department has initiated a strategic marketing campaign, highlighting businesses such as restaurants and fitness facilities with links to their websites and information. You can find some examples on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/visitdecaturga/

We also have developed an interactive map showing which businesses are open, such as restaurants that are open for take-out or curbside pick-up and retail locations with on-line ordering. Our Downtown Development manager is checking in almost daily with businesses, holding a Zoom call with retailers and a separate call with restaurants. We also have developed a webpage with resources for businesses: https://www.decaturga.com/ed/page/covid-19-resources-decatur-businesses

In addition, we have now established a small-business loan program with $400,000 from the city budget. Businesses can find more information at our website: https://decatur.civicweb.net/document/3216

What efforts is the city making in terms of assisting those residents who have become recently unemployed? 

The city has extended the grace period for city taxes to July 15 with no penalties or interest. More information on that is available here: https://decatur.civicweb.net/document/3218

Do you feel the city’s efforts toward mitigating the challenges caused by this pandemic are receiving enough state and federal support? 

Georgia cities are asking for additional assistance for cities of all sizes in the 4th Supplemental Aid Package. Our revenue streams and budgets will all be significantly impacted and we are asking for Congress to approve emergency appropriations for direct local budget relief for cities of all sizes. While private sector businesses can qualify for tax credits for wage expenses, the city is continuing to pay employees who are not able to work, such as school-crossing guards, without the same benefits afforded to the private sector.

How can the community best assist the city’s efforts in this time of need? 

We ask that citizens be patient and know that the city is committed to providing high-quality essential services. Support local businesses; practice physical distancing but not “social” distancing – stay in touch with family, friends and neighbors. Residents can also show their appreciation of the city’s front-line employees, including sanitation workers, firefighters and police officers. This can be done with a simple smile, wave or thank you.

What would your message be to the local community that is sheltering in place and waiting for a return to normalcy?

We are a resilient and resourceful community. It’s important to follow the rules as we move through this together. We are #DecaturStrong.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:


https://www.decaturga.com/

 

 

Spotlight On: Mayor Sandra Bradbury, City of Pinellas Park

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read August 2019 — The unprecedented economic growth the Tampa Bay MSA, including Pinellas County, is enjoying comes with both benefits and challenges. At the very center of Pinellas County is it’s fourth largest city, Pinellas Park. Invest: Tampa Bay recently spoke with Mayor of Pinellas Park Sandra Bradbury. She discussed how the city is handling the region’s growth, its focus on remaining economically and environmentally sustainable, and her outlook for the next year.

 

 

 

What efforts are being made to encourage environmental sustainability in the city? 

In a partnership with the Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch, we just started development on a new park called Lurie Park. This park is going to be completely accessible for all handicapped people, from children to the elderly, and will be geared toward our veterans. We also just purchased a four-acre property that was a horse stable, which we are in the process of converting to a farm. It is an extension of the existing Helen Howarth Park. Our goal is to work with the U.S.-based network of youth organizations 4-H and bring students to the farm to teach them how to sustainably raise and grow their own food.

How are you supporting local business growth? 

Businesses come to us all the time because we have a relatively large amount of commercial area that’s available for development. The city council and voter referendum created a package of incentives that we could use to retain businesses that want to grow and expand. These incentives allow businesses the flexibility to move offices or add square footage to their buildings. We are one of the few places that has this ability. It is within our ordinances to allow our economic development manager and her team to offer incentives to local businesses, which revolves around how much they are growing and how many employees they will be hiring with the expansion. So far, city council has provided seven packages to different companies that have grown in Pinellas Park. 

What does the next year look like for Pinellas Park? 

We think the future is bright. We have a lot of businesses that are still looking at us as a place to expand into. Our position is unique because we are at the very center of the county. We are also one of the few cities that still has vacant land available, especially in our industrial area. This gives a business the opportunity to come here and develop their work space. With the economic growth in the region, our homes have gone up in value over the years, but overall the Pinellas Park area is still affordable. We have parks in the area, and our citizens assist in the conservation and revitalization of those parks as necessary. Overall, we feel extremely positive about the next year. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://www.pinellas-park.com/

No Stopping Tampa Tourism Rocket

Max Crampton-Thomas

2 minute read July 2019 — Quite often when the city of Tampa Bay is mentioned it is in the context of how rapidly the area is growing both in population and economically. The boom Tampa Bay is experiencing can be attributed to a great many things, including a bustling tech sector, a revolutionary healthcare market and first-class educational institutions. Perhaps most influential in all this growth, however, has been the economic rocket that is the city’s tourism sector. Tourism in Tampa Bay has steadily risen year after year, and with events like Super Bowl LV and Wrestlemania 36 on the horizon, that trend shows no signs of slowing down.

The spike in tourism to the region has not been by chance. Rather, it can be attributed to the focused and deliberate efforts made by local businesses, government and community organizations. Invest: Tampa Bay recently spoke with Santiago Corrada, the president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, about the record year the city had in 2018. “We had an incredible end to the 2018 calendar year. It was another record-setting year for hotel revenue, which is phenomenal given that we have had record-setting years every year since 2014. We ended 2018 at $673.5 million in hotel taxable revenue, which was almost 5% higher than the previous year at $644 million. This is important for us because anytime a county hits $600 million in taxable revenue, it is granted the designation of a high-impact tourism destination. We have been able to reach that designation for two years in a row, and this year was even more important because our county commission just approved a rise in the tourism tax from 5% to 6%, which is the highest that any county can collect.” The growth in tourism throughout Tampa Bay also has a spillover effect. As demand increases and new attractions open they bring with them fresh job opportunities for local residents.

To sustain momentum and build on these milestones, Corrada says that attracting new hotels to the city makes sense. “There are certain big-name, five-star brands we do not have in Hillsborough County, and as the business plan makes sense to add these properties then we will. These new properties will yield different business groups and markets for the region. We have to continue to capitalize when we have an opportunity to expand our reach, refresh our brands and to always have something new to bring visitors back,” Santiago told Invest. “That’s why new developments like the Tampa Riverwalk are so important, why food halls are so important and why Busch Gardens updating and adding its roller coasters is significant because it gives people a reason to want to come back to Tampa Bay. Sustainability in this industry has to do with still being aggressive and still going after it.”

Tampa Bay is quickly becoming a premier, must-visit destination in Florida. Tourism in the city of Tampa Bay shows no signs of slowing down, and due to the efforts of organizations like Visit Tampa Bay will likely reach new heights in 2019. 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:

https://www.visittampabay.com/

Spotlight on: George Cretekos, Mayor, City of Clearwater

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read JULY 2019 — For the second year in a row, Tripadvisor awarded Clearwater  the distinction of having the best beach in the country. This comes as no surprise to the city’s 115,000 residents, who have long been stewards of their environment. With the population in the Tampa Bay region growing, that stewardship becomes even more important. 

Invest: Tampa Bay recently sat down with Mayor George Cretekos, who is on the verge of completing his second term. He discussed how the city is handling population growth, the challenges associated with it and how residents are at the forefront of environmental sustainability in Clearwater. 

How are Clearwater residents supporting environmentally sustainable practices? 

As I complete my second term, I appreciate how our residents and businesses have, on their own initiative, promoted sustainability and environmental stewardship.  Before there had been any talk about governments banning single-use plastics in the region, Clearwater’s businesses had started their own programs to stop using plastic straws. It is now common to find many restaurants in Clearwater that do not offer plastic straws or styrofoam to-go containers. This is a testament to how our residents are promoting sustainability and being good stewards of the environment.

How is the region handling the recent increase in population growth?

The region must have smart growth to make sure we are not only taking care of the environment, but also guaranteeing accessibility for our residents and visitors. We continually hear that we have traffic problems and at certain times of the year those problems can be exasperating. The population in this region needs to adapt to using alternatives like public transportation, which can be a better option than building more roads. We should model our transportation efforts to be like that of other major cities where reliable public transportation is an alternative.

What are the biggest challenges facing the city of Clearwater? 

Transportation and affordable housing are the two biggest concerns for the Tampa Bay area. A large percentage of the employees in Clearwater does not live in the city; if we can help provide affordable housing for these employees then the transportation problems could be eased. These individuals would not have to commute long distances into Clearwater, which in turn would help clear a significant amount of congestion on the roadways and emissions. My fellow mayors in the Tampa Bay region have realized that we may be separated by a body of water, but that doesn’t mean that our interests don’t run parallel. When one city does well then we all do well, so we should be working together to solve these issues.

To read more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.myclearwater.com/home