Key West Releases 17-Point Covid Recovery Plan

Business Recovery Includes Free Duval Loop, Promoting Outdoor Business, Making it Easy for Businesses to Get Help and Marketing Coordination

At Tuesday’s City Commission Meeting the public got its first look at the “Key West Recovers! A 17-Point Business and Humanitarian Covid Recovery Plan for 2020-2021.” It is worth everyone’s time to review the easy-to-read and succinct 8-page plan and the accompanying Key West Recovers PowerPoint presentation that the Mayor and Commissioner’s received from the consultant, Elisa Levi. If you have 30 minutes, it is well worth it to watch Elisa’s passionate presentation in this video (click on item 4).

Elisa Levi presenting to the City Commission.

Ms. Levi had recently been hired to do a long-term strategic plan for the City going out 3-5 years. But the Mayor thought we needed something more immediate to deal with the current crisis. Elia described it as the strategic plan is building the house, and the Covid Recovery Plan is like the house is on fire. We don’t have the luxury of time and we need to move the needle forward now to help the community cope. She painted a bleak picture saying unemployment quadrupled since March, that the Chamber estimates 3,000 workers may leave Key West, the need for food has doubled and Covid cases are up. This plan covers the most important items as ascertained by a broad group of the community.

The report states that “Key West Recovers has been built from the ground up in a matter of six weeks. It comes from community members, and is an excellent example of government/civil society participation. In total, the process involved more than 300 people, who volunteers approximately more than 200 hours of time.” The process took place in four major steps: 20 Zoom roundtables with 250 people from various community groups; 2. Surveys; 3. an 11-member blue ribbon task force; 4. back to the community for feedback.

The Plan has 17 specific points, 10 aimed at business and 7 at humanitarian. Many of the points are already being addressed, including the Commission last night making the Duval Loop free for visitors. All 17 of the action items are important, but for us here at Friends of Car-Free Key West and Duval Street/Historic Downtown we’ll highlight some things we’ve talked about over the last six months in the many stories we’ve published here from the Duval Loop, parklets, moving business outdoors, and creating help for local businesses and marketing:

Item 3 – Operation Storefront – An initiative supported by the Florida Keys Council of the Arts to fill empty storefronts on Duval St. The Arts Council will move their annual membership show into shops to entice locals to visit Old Town, and to make the street look beautiful.

4. Safe Events, Fairs and Festivals – Promote outdoor events, fairs and festivals by making it easy for businesses to submit applications. The City will assist as much as possible, and help with planning.

5. Promoting Outdoor Business – Assist restaurants and cafes with efforts to move outside by creating a Safety Protocol and application and by assisting them upon request.

7. Duval Loop – Cut the fees to encourage visitors to get around town to our businesses for free.

9. Free Business Assistance – one-on-one consulting to business owners in KW.

10. Communications Coordinator – This is the lynchpin of the Plan. There are currently many resources available for Covid, but no mechanism for sharing them with the community. The City will hire a Communications Coordinator to share resources, services and tools with the Community.

We are lucky to have so many people who love our island, put their heads together and come up with a plan to help us move forward, together, as One Human Family. Everyone who participated, deserves a lot of thanks and credit. Especially the Mayor and the consultant, who didn’t charge for this phase of her time. I was lucky enough to interact with Elisa on one of the Zoom Round Tables and some private follow-up and she was incredible. If her and the community’s work on this is an example of what we’ll get with the upcoming Strategic Plan, then our little island is in very good hands.

Everyone should get behind this plan and help the City move it forward.

Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Need New Talent on City Commission – That’s Why We’re Voting for Dr. Ryan Barnett in District 6

There are those of us, especially at Friends of Car-Free Key West/Duval Street & Historic Downtown who are impatient for needed change. We want pedestrian only blocks along Duval and perhaps adjacent streets, parklets to replace some on-street parking spaces and wider, people-oriented sidewalks downtown with more shade trees, street furniture and opportunities for art and retail. We envision a network of protected bike lanes crisscrossing our island and more bike parking at destinations. We want improved public transit that includes simplified routes, increased frequency and a fare-free service. We expect better managed parking that allows downtown residents to park near their own homes.

Doing these things will improve sustainability and our environment, increase health, boost local business prosperity, promote equity and bring about happiness too. It will be difficult to expect any of this wonderful change to occur if we have the exact same City Commission we had when the election process started.

District 6 in red is the heart of downtown Key West.

That’s why we need a new, fresh voice on the City Commission, otherwise we’ll just get more of the same. And that’s exactly where we’re headed if the 15-year incumbent in the District 6 race for Commissioner is elected again. We’ll have the same exact Commissioners and perhaps many close 4-3 losses on creating a positive future on our issues. That’s why we support Dr. Ryan Barnett for District 6 City Commissioner. We need to turn those losses into wins.

In the run up to the August 18 City of Key West primaries we conducted research on the voting records of the Mayor and Commissioners and we asked those running for office and their challengers thirteen questions on bike, walk, transit and streets for people issues. With this data we gave out grades (see chart below) and made recommendations in all the races (Mayor’s race; District 6; District 3; Other Commissioners). There’s only one race left to be decided. Six of the seven slots on the Commission are set for the next two years, with the seventh, District 6, in a runoff between 15-year incumbent Commissioner Clayton Lopez (D+) and challenger Dr. Ryan Barnett (B). Here’s how we made the case for Dr. Ryan Barnett in July: Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: District 6.

We need at least 4 reliable votes on Commission to move our agenda forward. Dr. Ryan Barnett will be one of those votes.

Politics and thus change is a numbers game. Four votes are needed to move forward legislation. Three of the seven who currently sit on the dais (Johnston, Weekley, Kaufman) are stalwart supporters on bike, walk, transit, and streets for people issues, having all received grades of B+. We need a reliable 4th vote because the others’ grades, especially Commissioner Lopez, have been less supportive. To be clear we have high hopes for Commissioner Davila and perhaps Commissioner Hoover to also emerge as more reliable votes on our issues. But based on the data, Dr. Ryan Barnett can be that 4th vote. If others emerge too, great! Here’s why.

Mayor Johnston (B+) has an ambitious agenda for revitalizing Duval Street, making more room for bicyclists and pedestrians on our streets, getting parking policy right and enhancing Key West Transit. In the face of Covid era realities and climate change Key West is going to need brave new approaches to these issues. We owe it to the Mayor to give her the votes for positive change. Based on our analysis, we believe Dr. Barnett shares the Mayor’s agenda and can be that reliable vote for needed action and change.

Dr. Ryan Barnett will bring needed understanding and change on bike, walk, transit and streets for people.

While we like and respect the service of the gregarious long-time Commissioner Lopez and his vociferous voice on national politics, that’s not enough reason to vote to extend his tenure to 19 years when little progress has been made on our issues. Commissioner Lopez’ votes and answers to our questions demonstrate a tendency to favor 20th century car-centric solutions. Especially troubling as District 6 is the heart of a tightly woven historic downtown that needs more room for people not cars. Dr. Ryan Barnett has demonstrated in his answers to ours and others’ questions, that he has a better understanding of these issues, they’re interconnectedness, and that he isn’t afraid of changing some things to make them better.

If you were trying to line up at least 4 votes for progressive change on bike, walk, transit and streets for people issues, it is obvious from the data that we’ll have a much better chance getting things done putting Dr. Ryan Barnett and his Grade of B on the dais and not Mr. Lopez’ Grade of D+.

That is why we are endorsing Dr. Ryan Barnett for City Commission in District 6. It is time for a fresh start and new talent.

Friends of Car-Free Key West & Duval Street/Historic Downtown City Commission Scorecard on Our Issues

WhoDistrictGrade
Commissioner Jimmy WeekleyDistrict 1B+
Commissioner Sam KaufmanDistrict 2B+
Mayor Terri Johnston MayorB+
Commissioner Gregory DavilaDistrict 4C+
Commissioner Mary Lou HooverDistrict 5C
Commissioner Billy WardlowDistrict 3D-
Who do we want being the potential swing vote?
Challenger Dr. Ryan BarnettDistrict 6B
Commissioner Clayton LopezDistrict 6D+

Dr. Ryan Barnett’s response to 13 questions from Friends of Car-Free Key West

Commissioner Lopez’ response to 13 questions from Friends of Car-Free Key West

Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: District 6; July 21, 2020 This is the full article we published in July. We encourage you to read this as its full of data, analysis and other sources of material that back up our endorsement.

Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People; July 20, 2020

Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People, Mayor’s Race; July 24, 2020

Capital Bikeshare is 10 Years Old. Its Success Hinged on Pioneers Working Together.

In just 10 short years bikeshare has changed the way we move about our cities. Here’s a little more back story on the pioneers who worked together to transform transportation in North America.

September 20, 2020 marks the 10th Anniversary of Capital Bikeshare, the first successful, large-scale bikeshare program in the U.S.A. After a decade of growth, a system that began with 400 bicycles at 49 stations now has nearly 5,000 bikes at almost 600 stations in 3 states. More impressive is that the massive success of CaBi, as it is affectionately known, sparked a movement that now sees similar bikeshare operations in 120+ cities across North America. 10 years later Capital Bikeshare is still one of the top systems having been named North America’s best just a few months ago (Six Best Bikeshare Systems in the U.S. and Canada, Money Crashers, June 20, 2020).

Bikeshare, along with the micro-mobility devices that followed it, have in a very short time, revolutionized the way we get around our cities. If not for the daring and teamwork of some pioneers in the D.C. region, who knows how long it may have taken to prove the feasibility of this idea and catch on the way it did. The best systems have become such a staple of everyday living that one can’t even imagine the Washington, D.C. region or the cities of New York or Chicago today without their respective bikeshare.

Two innovative DOTs took a leap of faith on the concept.

Gabe Klein DDOT Director and Chris Hamilton Commuter Services Chief

What’s remarkable is that a couple of local government entities, the District of Columbia and Arlington County, Virginia Departments of Transportation, jointly took a leap of faith, launched and then quickly expanded a unified system without the usual and laborious bureaucracy and proof of concept planning that precedes most government projects. As a result, the agencies hit the ground running, met immediate acclaim, and that success fueled further growth. It was only once Capital Bikeshare was firmly established as an ongoing concern, a couple years into the project, that the DOTs took a breath and generated “transit development plans” or TDPs that covered long-term planning, expansion and financing that cements the system as a permanent part of the region’s transportation infrastructure.

DDOT mirrored its chief, acted like a start-up and pushed the project over the finish line.

Gabe Klein’s book Start-Up City discusses the birth of Capital Bikeshare.

It was a perfect storm of people and opportunities that made it all come together. The District had tried a small 10-station bikeshare project called SmartBikeDC that generated early adopter fans. D.C.’s progressive mayor, Adrian Fenty, hired for his District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Chief an unconventional, entrepreneurial, start-up guy in Zipcar executive Gabe Klein who knew how to get stuff done quickly. Mr. Klein assembled an amazing team of like-minded people who ensured the eventual Capital Bikeshare project felt more like a private start-up than a government run project. Once Gabe decided to abandon SmartBikeDC’s operator Clear Channel Outdoor and join with Arlington’s bikeshare procurement, he and his people made the CaBi project blossom and pushed it over the finish line.

Gabe’s team included true believers like Jim Sebastian and Chris Holben, who did all the planning under the direction of their their boss Karina Ricks. Alice Kelley, Scott Kubly, John Lisle, Karen Le Blanc, and others were part of Gabe’s brain trust. Gabe and a host of others at DDOT ensured success. This story is well chronicled in Gabe’s awesome book, Start-Up City (our review of the book), on Wikipedia and in a number of articles that appeared in the news within a few years of the launch (Many Unsung Heros Made Capital Bikeshare a Reality, by Dave Alpert, Greater Greater Washington, 1/9/13; The Best Bikesharing Program in the United States – How D.C. of all places, made it happen. by Tom Vanderbilt, Slate.com, 1/7/13.)

SmartBikeDC

But a lesser known subplot of the story had developed concurrent with the District’s efforts on the other side of the Potomac. For Capital Bikeshare’s launch to actually happen on September 20, 2010, this story had to advance over the course of a few years on both sides of the Potomac before coming together. Without this set of circumstances serendipitously happening, just this way, bikeshare as we have come to know it, may not exist.

Arlington Commuter Services entrepreneurial spirit gave life to an idea and wouldn’t give up in the face of bureaucracy.

Chris Hamilton and Paul DeMaio

Across the river in Arlington County, the Arlington DOT had a successful entrepreneurial Bureau (Commuter Services) that for more than a decade had been using top of the industry private contractors to pioneer groundbreaking retail (The Commuter Store), business to business (Arlington Transportation Partners), community outreach (BikeArlington and WalkArlington), internet (CommuterPage.com, CommuterDirect.com and more), marketing (Arlington’s Car-Free Diet) and research services (Mobility Lab) that relied on an intricate maze of outside grants and self-generated funding. It’s accolades and success (A Dozen Easy Principals for Organizational Success), allowed it to act autonomously enough to bypass some of the usual bureaucracy to bring new projects to market. That included Capital Bikeshare. The management part of that team included: Lois DeMeester, Bobbi Greenberg, Jay Freschi, Chris Eatough, John Durham and Howard Jennings.

The Bike Arlington Team – Chris Eatough, Chris Hamilton, Henry Dunbar, Erin Potter, Dennis Leach, Lois DeMeester and Paul DeMaio in May, 2015 at the National Building Museum Gala Honoring Capital Bikeshare.

It started with this team, whose mission was to “make it easy” to use transit, bike, walk and share the ride, believing in the idea and dream of one of its younger team members, Paul DeMaio. Paul traveled to Europe and brought back stories of nascent bikeshare projects in Germany (Call-a-Bike comes to mind). He painted such a vivid picture of solving first and last mile transportation issues at one of the team’s annual strategic planning meetings, that everyone encouraged Paul to write a proposal for the unit to submit a grant for State “experimental” transportation funding. When it wasn’t funded the first year, it was resubmitted again and got funded a year later. Paul was then tasked to lead the Arlington effort and the entire bureau committed to making the project happen. Something this different would take a multi-disciplinary and entrepreneurial team to bring it to life. Luckily, in Commuter Services, bikeshare found life.

Angie Fox, then Executive Director of the Crystal City BID

Once seed funding was found via the State grant, the Crystal City Business Improvement District’s insightful leaders (Angie Fox and Rob Mandle) volunteered to match the State money if the County would agree to start the project in Crystal City. In fact, concentrating on one specific neighborhood helped the project. Then DOT Director, avid bicyclist and annual European bike trip traveler Dennis Leach, who protected and nurtured Commuter Services’ vision from the rest of the bureaucracy, came up with half of the initial funding by matching the state grant and BID monies.

With money in hand and the realization that the project couldn’t be done with County staff (too many hoops to ramp up), the team turned to look for a contractor to operate the system. The idea was modeled after the County’s ART bus system, where Arlington owned the buses but hired a private company to manage and operate the system. The County was also responsible for all marketing and public relations for ART. Commuter Services just happened to already be the unit that did the ART bus marketing, so this model was envisioned to work similarly for bikeshare. The County would own the equipment, hire an operator and keep the marketing and public/community relations in-house.

The Commuter Services team didn’t think of bikeshare as just biking or a novelty but rather as an extension of the transit system and as a serious addition to the transportation service mix offered by the County. This philosophy undergirded everything and was a large part in how needed people, throughout the government hierarchy who were pre-disposed to not spend money or take on new projects, were brought into the fold. Arlington already had a reputation for “smart growth” and getting people to use transit. If bikeshare was seen as part of that, then it didn’t seem so foreign. This strategy was crucial in gaining acceptance. (Read: Cities Must Understand Bikeshare Is Transit)

Lois DeMeester, Jay Freschi, Chris Hamilton and Bobbi Greenberg

Using the ART bus operation as a framework, County Attorney Bruce Kimble and Purchasing Agent Maryam Zahory likely spent 100 hours (volunteering nights with Commuter Services) to draw up a never-before-been-done Request for Proposals (RFP) and then a contract for the unproven concept. Thousands of municipalities had contracts for bus systems. But THIS kind of bike transit system had never been tried before. Their painstakingly meticulous and pioneering work eventually paved the way for other cities across the U.S.A. (the RFP and contract was widely shared) to put out similar contracts for service, spurring bikeshare across the continent.

Regional cooperation wins out.

A small portion of the bike stations in Arlington, on the left side of the Potomac and the District.

By now our story has taken a couple years just to get to this point. Having heard that the District was having problems with Clear Channel and thus might need a Plan B, the team ensured the RFP and contract allowed for other local jurisdictions in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to “ride” or piggyback Arlington’s contract without having to go through their own entire procurement process to purchase their own set of bikes and stations and thus create a regional system. District of Columbia, City of Alexandria, VA and Montgomery County, MD staff were asked to sit on the RFP selection panel as a result. After months of work, the group selected Alta Bicycle Share, a company that was set up specifically for this project by Alta Planning & Design from Portland, OR. This spin off company was later acquired by Motivate.

Chris Zimmerman, Dennis Leach and Jay Fisette

Even as a vendor was being selected, the District was still holding out hope with their talks to use SmartBikeDC vendor Clear Channel Outdoor. A couple forward thinking, smart-growth champions, County Board Members Chris Zimmerman and Jay Fisette, insisted on a regional approach and didn’t want Commuter Services staff to move forward differently from D.C. They initiated a meeting with DDOT’s Gabe Klein and Arlington staff.

It helped that a number of influential local bloggers at Greater Greater Washington, TheWashCycle and Beyond D.C., among others, cheered for bikeshare in the region and also insisted that different systems on either side of the Potomac made no sense. It aided the cause that the Alta Bicycle Share vendor proposed using the amazing Montreal Bixi system bikes. The solar-powered system didn’t need to be hard-wired like SmartBikeDC and the bikes were much more sturdy. After the meeting, the Clear Channel route was abandoned by the District and Arlington and D.C. staff moved forward together on a unified project.

Two DOT’s working together with a shared belief in an idea and in each other.

Just a few days after Capital Bikeshare launched on September 20, 2010 the District, Arlington and Alta Bicycle Share teams met at Nationals Ballpark to watch the Presidents conduct their 5th inning race using Capital Bikeshare bikes. We knew we’d arrived when the roar of the crowd saw the Presidents on our bikes.

Although both agencies were using the same contract to work with Alta Bicycle Share to create a brand new bikeshare system, there was no formal compact, memorandum of understanding, or agreement between the DOTs on who did what and how they’d manage that system. The District and Arlington owned their own respective equipment (the stations and bikes – although the bikes could cross jurisdictional lines), shared managing the vendor and were responsible for all marketing and PR. The people involved, on both sides of the Potomac had a shared belief in the project.

Everyone respected the respective strengths each brought to the table and trusted each other to have the best interests of the whole at heart. That faith in the idea and each other fueled the project. Another common bond between the District and Arlington teams was respect for the vendor Alta Bicycle Share, who brought an amazingly strong team of their own to the project (Alison Cohen and Charlie Denney among them). Too often government entities treat contractors at arms length or worse, like serfs. But Mr. Klein’s background in the private sector and Commuter Services experience using private contractors elevated the endeavor to a true partnership between all three entities. It clicked. And the results were fun and amazing.

This is how Alison Cohen put it in a 2013 interview:

“From the agency side, the team that I worked with from DDOT and Arlington was so professional and incredible, the real thought that I had was “don’t mess up”. During that first launch, there was a lot of learning between Alta, PBSC and the clients, and we ended up working all together to make sure that everything was covered. We at Alta ended up being in the middle to fill in all the gaps in this first-ever bike share contract. It was a very tiring and very exciting 4 months from when we completed our contract in May 2010 to system launch in September 2010. There was such a wave of dedication from all of the staff of the agencies, all the staff that we hired, and from PBSC to ensure a successful launch.” League of American Bicyclists, June 4, 2013, Women Bike Wednesday: Alison Cohen, Bike Share Pioneer

Yes, the system was almost named George.

The D.C., Arlington and Alta teams worked with Arlington’s marketing firm (Alberto GonzalezPulsar Advertising which included Jim Wright and Katherine Carlson) to come up with a name and branding. Yes, we almost called the system George, after our first president. WeCycle was another popular choice. Capital Bikeshare and CaBi won out for a variety of reasons including trademark issues and testing with the public. Pulsar had also worked with the Downtown DC BID on the branding of the D.C. Circulator bus and this would become visually evident later as Gabe Klein insightfully insisted Capital Bikeshare branding be similar to the Circulator – thus the unified red, black and gold colors.

It further helped that the firm (Destination Sales and Marketing Group, (DS&MG) headed by the amazing entreprenaur Lois DeMeester, the District was using for its TDM marketing program, goDCgo, and would be responsible for much of the marketing and social media rollout, was the same contractor working for Arlington Commuter Services on various projects. In fact goDCgo staff (Katie Sihler headed the effort) sat next to the Bike Arlington (DS&MG) staff (Chris Eatough and Tim Kelley) responsible for Arlington’s portion of the rollout.

“Don’t underestimate how hard it is to work together to make something happen.”

With a contract vendor, branding and marketing teams in place, this is where Gabe’s management and communications’ team took the lead heading into the summer before the launch. It made sense as they were the most heavily invested in terms of stations and bikes after all, and so they pushed the ball over the goal line toward the September 20 launch. The rest is history.

Me waving.

At the grand opening ceremony at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette welcomed everyone “to the most bike friendly region in America!” He added:

“This is regional success. Don’t underestimate how hard it is for one jurisdiction to reach out to another and for two of them to work together to make something happen. And it’s only the beginning because Alexandria, Falls Church and Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties are next.”

He was right, the story of Capital Bikeshare happening may have seemed easy to the public. But the confluence of good people and goodwill and the serendipitous circumstances that had to occur to make this happen is the real untold story of CaBi. Congratulations to everyone involved, on both sides of the Potomac, in changing the region’s transportation system and showing the way towards a better future for the rest of the country. Happy 10th Anniversary!

– By Chris Hamilton, September 13, 2020

Resources about the history of Capital Bikeshare:

Gabe Klein’s book, Start-Up City – Inspiring Public and Private Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done and Having Fun vividly brings to life the go-go atmosphere of the project and time. I highly recommend the book!

Many Unsung Heros Made Capital Bikeshare a Reality
By David Alpert (Executive Director) January 9, 2013; article in Greater Greater Washington

The Best Bikesharing Program in the United States – How D.C. of all places, made it happen
By Tom Vanderbilt, January 7, 2013, Slate.com

Arlington TV Newsmakers video about the launch of Capital Bikeshare

Capital Bikeshare in Wikipedia

Cities Must Understand Bikeshare Is Transit, by Chris Hamilton, April 17, 2015

Women Bike Wednesday, Alison Cohen, Bike Share Pioneer; June 4, 2013; The League of American Bicyclists

Arlington County’s Capital Bikeshare page including reports, stats and more…

DDOT’s Capital Bikeshare page

Capital Bikeshare’s About and History page

We Need Key West Transit To Communicate Their Path Forward

On July 30 we brought you an article, “Key West Transit Takes Steps Towards Future With August Public Hearings” announcing the public hearings on August 12 and 26 about the changes Key West Transit instituted in May. The virtual Zoom meeting on the 12th was attended by about five staffers and four acknowledged transit buffs (myself included). Staff said the meeting wasn’t to answer general questions, but to address Civil Rights discrimination issues that might have arisen as a result of those changes. Since no one raised any civil rights issues, they took a few other questions from the three of the four participants. But the answers provided by the Transit Director left us more befuddled than before the hearing about the state of what is happening now, the reasons behind it and what might be happening in the near and long-term future.

Summary of Presentation

Route coverage within 1/4 mile.

The Transit Director described that the system went from 6 to 4 routes on May 16. The reason for the modification was a drastic decrease in revenues. It was explained that 50% of the revenues come from the State and 50% from city from parking garage fees and bus fares. As their budget was cut, it was necessary to reduce routes and hours and provide basic service to those who rely on it. He showed a map of the old routes and the new routes. Another change was they instituted a $1 fare for visitors on the Duval Loop. In summary, those were the changes. He explained using maps, that despite the changes, most of the island still has a route route within a quarter mile of their home. He said that if these changes cause discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1965, we want to know about it.

What We Think We Heard

We think we heard that because of Covid Crisis hit, their budget has been slashed in half and that is why it was necessary to reduce the number of routes and service hours. But we also think we heard that there’s a shortage of drivers AND a shortage of buses to run the service and therefore that contributes to Key West Transit not being able to put out more service. Our confusion arises because it wasn’t clear if the lack of frequency on these two new routes, which is only every 80-90 minutes, was because of budget cuts or lack of drivers and buses or both?

The Transit Director described delays in aquiring new buses and that it was difficult to hire new drivers. He seemed to say that the new buses, because of their size (did we hear him use the word cutaways a few times in describing them?), allowed the system’s drivers to not have to go through as much training and certification as the current buses require. Presumably this will make it easier to hire drivers in the future?

When asked about making the City Routes more frequent, the Director seemed to say that the amount of service out there now meets the needs of the people using it now. Increases would depend upon ridership analysis showing a need at certain times of day or on certain routes. If a need was shown, then they’d consider it.

He didn’t seem to acknowledge the connection between the lack of service and low ridership and that perhaps increasing the frequency was the key to showing more of a demand for service. It seemed chicken or egg to us.

Is the Lack of Frequency a Civil Rights Issue?

Key West Transit’s new North Line runs buses at every 80-90 minutes frequency.

We’d argue that Key West Transit only has this half right. They showed a map indicating that most people live within a quarter mile of a bus route. So in going from four to two routes, everyone still has access. That’s a good thing. But when that service is so infrequent as to be useless to depend on for getting to work or to the doctors or to the grocery store, then perhaps THAT’S a Civil Rights issue? We aren’t qualified to weigh in on the law. However, the lack of frequency seems bad for equity and bad for business. If someone depends upon the bus or doesn’t own a car or if someone would like to use the bus, then frequency matters.

Investing in Our Transit System Is Good for Our Island

We get that these are tough times. But basic transportation should be treated like street lights, water, sewer, and electricity as a basic service. A certain level of service should be maintained. Perhaps we can’t do service every 15 minutes at the moment as the 10-Year Plan calls for, but how about every 30 minutes, instead of every 80-90? And where did that $1.5 million the Feds gave Key West Transit a couple months ago, go? If the City is serious about battling climate change and helping our environment, about affordable living (housing + transportation costs), equity for all its citizens, not just those with the ability to afford to drive cars, and with helping our economy prosper, we need a public transit system that people would want to ride.

We’ve applauded the City and Key West Transit for adopting a progressive and much needed Plan. But we’re worried that Key West Transit is going backward and not forward. Key West Transit needs to communicate with transparency what the situation is and when, to the best of their ability to tell us, things will start changing for the better. Good, transparent communications aren’t too much to ask of a public agency. Especially one we need and are rooting for.

There’s another hearing on August 26. We hope Key West Transit will answer the following questions:

Questions Based Upon the Hearing

  1. What was the original budget for this current year and what is the revised budget?
  2. What is the proposed budget for next year that begins October 1, 2020?
  3. What is being done with the $1.5 million dollar Covid grant received from the Federal Government?
  4. When will the frequencies increase on the new North and South Routes?
  5. When will the frequencies increase on the Lower Keys Shuttle?
  6. When will the new Loop routes be instituted?
  7. Is the City looking at making transit for the City routes free? If not are they developing programs for employers to provide free transit to their employees?
  8. Is Key West Transit going to put up map and schedule information on the new City routes and Lower Keys Shuttle like is done on the Duval Loop?
  9. When is Key West Transit going to upgrade its outdated website and institute a marketing program?

Key West Transit Takes Step Towards Future With August Public Hearings

On May 20th we brought you the story Shhh… Key West Transit Has Quietly Changed Their Routes upon their return May 16 from a Covid shutdown. The City is now holding mandated public hearings on those changes on August 12th and 26th via Zoom. Prior to their Covid shutdown of the system, the City’s Key West Transit operated four City Routes, the Red, Orange, Green and Blue routes, the Duval Loop and the Lower Keys Shuttle. They consolidated the four City Routes into two simpler North and South routes. That’s the change.

These Are the Old Routes

We’ve long advocated for an end to these rambling, confusing, seemingly aimless routes with their terrible frequency to be replaced by a simplified, more direct and more frequent transit system.

The Promise of a Better Future

The City’s recently adopted (October, 2019) Key West Transit 10-Year Transit Development Pla (TDP) is an ambitious, progressive step in that direction. The TDP promised a system of “Loops” (Duval, Old Town, Midtown, New Town, Stock Island) that were connected by a few simple “Connector” routes (Airport, North (Roosevelt), KWIC (Stock Island) and the Lower Keys Shuttle). All the routes are to run on 15-20 minute frequencies and look like this:

For more background and information on the future of Key West Transit please read our story Reimagining Key West Transit, May 10, 2020 by Roger McVeigh.

What We’re Getting Today

Though they haven’t said it in any public documents, it seems as though the changes instituted on May 16 are the beginnings of implementation of the 10-Year Plan of Loops and Connectors. The North Route, in fact looks like the “North Connector” Route and the South Route looks like the “Airport Connector” Route in the TDP. If so that’s a good thing. What we’d like to know is what is the timetable for the other Loops and Connectors. What’s awful about this interim system is the frequency. It’s the same as before, with the bus coming every 80 to 90 minutes. We hope they’ll quickly rectify this to entice more users to the system. Here’s the current routes that are part of the public hearing:

We don’t see any changes on the Lower Key Shuttle as there still seems to be 10 trips in to Key West each day and 10 trips out.

Questions for the Public Hearing

If we get the chance to ask questions, here’s what we’d like to know:

  • When will the frequencies increase on the new North and South Routes?
  • When will the frequencies increase on the Lower Keys Shuttle?
  • When will the new Loop routes be instituted?
  • Is the City looking at making transit for the City routes free? If not are they developing programs for employers to provide free transit to their employees?
  • Is Key West Transit going to put up map and schedule information on the City routes and Lower Keys Shuttle like is done on the Duval Loop?
  • When is Key West Transit going to upgrade its outdated website and institute a marketing program?

We applaud Key West Transit for moving forward with their long-term plan and we hope it get’s implemented sooner than later.

Here’s a Handy Web Page to Bookmark Bus Routes in Key West

Friends of Car-Free Key West Getting Around Key West Guide – Bus

Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: Mayor’s Race

Article 4 of 4: Mayor Teri Johnston is a Very Good “Friend” of Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People

Article 1: Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: Weekley and Kaufman Stand Out as True “Friends”
Article 2: Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: Challenger Dr. Ryan Barnett is a Good “Friend” of Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People
Article 3: Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: Challenger Kimball Ingram is a Good “Friend” of Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People

Today Friends of Car-Free Key West brings you our results for the City of Key West Mayor’s race, taking place on August 18 between incumbent Mayor Teri Johnston and challengers Mark Rossi and Rick Haskins. Based upon the incumbent’s voting record over the last two years and both hers and her challengers answers to our 13 questions in four categories: Duval Street and Downtown, Duval Loop and Public Transit, Bicycle and Pedestrian and Parking Strategies, we give Mayor Johnston a Grade of B+, Mark Rossi a Grade of F and Rick Haskins a Grade of D- on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Issues. It isn’t even close. Therefore, Friends of Car-Free Key West enthusiastically recommends voting to re-elect Teri Johnston as Mayor of our City.

We want to thank all three candidates for talking with us and to Mayor Johnston (response) and Mr. Haskins (response) for taking the time to respond to the questions in writing. (Mr. Rossi’s brief response.) The Mayor’s effort was particularly commendable. Mr. Rossi was thoughtful in following up and talking with us and we respect his past service and standing in the community, but in the end his response was lacking. We appreciate that Mr. Haskins submitted something in writing but he showed a lack of depth in his responses. Further below we provide a spreadsheet that includes the specific Past Votes and how we scored them, the 13 questions and our scores of each answer and all of the responses from the candidates in their entirety in their own words. (Photo credit for restaurant picture Michael Beattie at Conch Scooter blog.)

CandidatePast Votes ScoreQuestionaire ScoreGrade
Mayor Teri Johnston1015.5B+
Mark RossiNA-2F
Rick HakinsNA2D-
Past Vote Scores can range up to 16+ points, Questionnaire Scores can range up to 13+ points.

Why Teri Johnston for Mayor

The Mayor’s Record and Vision Stands Head and Shoulders Above Her Competitors

In her brief record as Mayor, Teri Johnston has three times voted for the Mall on Duval, voted for each of the bicycle and pedestrian initiatives we researched, and voted for the expansion of metered parking in every case. The only time we disagreed with her voting record was when she voted to impose a $1 fee on Duval Loop bus rides for visitors, and even then she’s made clear her intent for that to be temporary and to expand free transit to all other city routes. The Mayor’s vision on Duval Street and downtown, public transit, bicycle/pedestrian and parking strategies issues is as progressive, far-reaching and exciting as anything you’d see from better known “bike/walk/transit cities” that get it like Paris, Seattle, Portland, Boulder, Austin and other places we regular showcase on the Friends of Car-Free Key West Facebook page. We hope you’ll take the time to read her responses in full because they show a breadth of understanding and a depth of knowledge not often seen by a public official who has so many other issues pressing on her at the moment.

In the little we’ve seen, Mr. Rossi shows that he clearly has a car-centric view of transportation. He’s championed building garages in the heart of downtown and making it easier to find cheap, easy parking for downtown employees and New Town residents. He’s also belittled efforts to invest in revitalizing Duval Street and trying any temporary measures such as Mall on Duval recently saying: “Yes, we need to fix the potholes, but other than that, I think it’s fine the way it is… We can do a fluff-and-buff cleanup, but other than that, let’s not waste taxpayers’ money on this.(City Seeks Firm for Duval Street Improvements, Mandy Miles, Keys Weekly, January 20, 2020)

While answering our questions, we didn’t find much depth in the responses from Mr. Haskins. For example, when discussing the Duval Revitalization Study, any interim steps that might be taken before the study is complete or on removing parking on Duval, his answers rested upon seeing what was presented and listening to the community before making a commitment one way or the other. He didn’t lead with any ideas or vision for a future other than waiting for people to bring him proposals and seeing what the community would support. He said similar things about transit. On bike issues, other than telling us he rides a bike for exercise he didn’t say much else. On parking, he did say he wasn’t in favor of raising any fees on permits and didn’t think Zone Parking Permits would work or could be enforced. In closing he told us “I believe that Key West is already on track becoming safer to bike, walk and bus and would again defer to the experts to provide us with a plan to improve anything that is not operating at the highest level.

The responses show the challengers haven’t given these issues much thought. If one care’s about these issues then one shouldn’t give these candidates much consideration either.

Mayor Johnston Champions Revitalizing Duval Street and Downtown

The Mayor ran on a platform of revitalizing Duval Street in 2018 and came through by initiating the Mall on Duval pilot project and getting a Duval Street Revitalization Study RFQ through the process. A consultant should be on board shortly to begin work. This is huge! Says the Mayor: “The future of Duval is one that features more convenient, safe modality options for pedestrians, bicycles and similar eco- friendly transportation types. This has been a community request for 20 years that needs to be realized.” We agree.

The grand opening of the Mall on Duval

As for ideas before the study is complete, the Mayor Johnston says: “As we strive to find that fine balance between a healthy community and economy, we started closing down congested blocks of Duval Street to vehicular traffic to provide a space for locals and visitors to safely social distance. After the reduction of allowable restaurant capacity, we are encouraging outdoor sidewalk cafe seating. Prior to Covid-19, merchants on Fleming Street hosted “First Friday on Fleming” to attract guests to a local neighborhood atmosphere. During my first 19 months, we invited the Key West Jazz band down to entertain shoppers on Duval. These smaller, more intimate events could be our future.” We like that while she believes in having a plan, her upcoming City Strategic Plan and Duval Street Revitalization Study to name two, she dares to just try things in the interim, like Mall on Duval or closing Duval for Covid. Trying new things and iterating them on the fly, without assurances they’ll work, shows guts and leadership.

Mayor Johnston Envisions a Future With Free Transit

In answer to our question about free fares on the Duval Loop and other City routes Mayor Johnston said: ” Yes, the $1 fee for the Loop is a temporary emergency measure in response to a very uncertain budgetary year. I think that the majority of the Commission, including me, would like to offer free public transportation opportunities as we did with our Senior Citizens (60 or older) earlier last year.” She goes on to say: “Free transportation options help make Key West more livable for our work force and reduce congestion on our narrow streets.” We like that the Mayor makes the connection between increased transit use and reducing congestion on our streets.

Regarding hiring transit marketing firm, the Mayor agreed with us on the need and said: “Yes, a quality marketing firm, who represents and highlights our City’s public transportation system, would be a tremendous asset.” We appreciate that the Mayor broadens the discussion to all communications and mentions the Key West Bight’s successful marketing, something we’ve mentioned before (Does Duval Street/Downtown Need a Business Improvement District?, June 4, 2020), and says: “This type of proactive communication would certainly increase ridership on the Loop, KW Transit and Lower Keys Shuttle all while reducing vehicular congestion in our community.

In response to our question about higher wages for bus drivers the Mayor demonstrates a depth of knowledge on the issues saying: “Our pool of CDL-qualified bus drivers in the Lower Keys is limited and in high demand between the Monroe County School Board bus drivers, HTA trolley and train drivers, and the City of Key West. Because our public transportation system runs 18 hours a day for 362 days a year, our demands on these qualified drivers are much greater than either of the other entities. So, yes, our compensation has to clearly be commensurate with our demanding job requirements. Our drivers are responsible for transporting over 760,000 riders a year.

The Mayor Had Us On Bikes When She Mentioned “The 5 E’s”

Unless you are a bicycle advocate or planner you may not know of The 5 E’s, but Mayor Johnston certainly does. Color us impressed. In answer to our question (#9) about safety on our streets she says: “Yes. We should follow other successful communities by focusing on the 5 e’s: education, encouragement, enforcement, engineering and evaluation. That successful model, coupled with dedicated bicycle lanes and an enforcement component to keep vehicles/ scooters out of these lanes, will encourage safe bicycling. And yes, speed needs to be enforced. “Slow down, this ain’t the mainland” is more than a bumper sticker.

Mayor Johnston is a champion of the Crosstown Greenway Pilot Project as it is part of the Phase 1 implementation of the Bike/Ped Plan

In the same answer she goes on to discuss the potential for one-waying some of our narrow streets to find room to promote shared mobility. This shows the potential promise of having room for the “dedicated bike lanes” she speaks of to be safely separated from cars. Another win for persons on bicycles.

We are happy to see she mentions the Crosstown Greenway pilot project moving forward in October and agreeing to implement Phase 1 of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. The Mayor says she rides her bike a couple times a week, scores points for being one of the “Zombie Ride Nannies”, and closes with:

“I look forward to seeing more locals and visitors on bicycles as we create safe, connected, dedicated bicycle lanes and routes through our entire city and into Stock Island.”

Mayor Johnston Understands Progressive Parking Policies Will Help Alleviate Our Downtown Neighborhoods’ Parking Problems

In answer to our question about raising the cost of a Residential Parking Permit this year and incrementally in future years, Mayor Johnston says: “Yes. The value of the residential stickers is $5,840 per year in free parking throughout our community. We have continued to add 4 hours of free parking in new city lots and areas to benefit our locals. I believe that our sticker fees should be proportionate to the value of the sticker and be included with the annual CPI increases that other city fees incur. This lets us keep up with costs associated with the sticker and no one takes a major hit in any one year.” She was the only candidate in all the surveys that answered both parts of the question and she stuck her neck out.

As part of the Mall on Duval, Mayor Johnston and management staff set up a booth to answer questions.

The Mayor is also one of the few willing to say a Zoned Permit Parking system is needed, noting “This need exists right now in Bahama Village and Old Town because of their proximity to our commercial corridor and the number of existing transient facilities in these areas.” It was interesting to hear her go on to say that granting exemptions eliminating off-street parking spots is a problem. Good for her. We’ve listened to the Parking Director John Wilkins on many occasions bemoan parking problems on blocks resulting from home owners eliminating their driveways. The Mayor also agreed on the need for additional parking enforcement saying: “It is essential that we enforce residential parking spots; otherwise their value diminishes and we send the wrong message to the violators.

Parking issues are a prime example of the Mayor being unafraid to lead. Too many times in this City our elected leaders act as if we can have our cake and eat it it too. They think everyone can drive everywhere and park for free or nearly free and the city’s policies reflect this. Mayor Johnston understands how we vastly under price our on-street parking downtown and how this leads to the problems we have, including safety issues for people on bikes. Her willingness to raise the price on parking permits, put in zoned parking and enforce the rules shows she wants to make the place better and has the toughness not just to spout happy talk.

Mayor Johnston Will Continue To Make Our Island a Better Place

We like that the Mayor is a planner, but more importantly she’s a proven doer who’s willing to adjust and iterate as projects meet the reality of hitting the ground. In each of our subject areas, Duval Street, public transit, bicycle/pedestrian and parking issues, Mayor Johnston is leading. The Mayor’s toughness on making hard decisions is an asset. She’s shown in her votes and answers that she’s willing to do the right thing. Keeping Teri Johnston as our Mayor provides us the best chance to make our little island paradise more bike, walk, transit and streets for people friendly.

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The Scoring and Backup Documents

We’ve compiled a spreadsheet that includes scores from Past Votes and scores from the Questionnaire and provides a final Grade, based upon those scores, for each candidate. A snippet of the Candidates Scoring Spreadsheet is below. You can also download the spreadsheet as a PDF for ease of reading. You’ll notice it has the Past Votes scores of the existing City Commissioners too. Scores are broken down into four categories:

  • Duval Street and Downtown
  • Duval Loop and Public Transit
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian
  • Parking Strategies
Past Votes Record and Scoring

We were able to find 16 votes over the past four years on these issues broken down as: Duval Street and Downtown (4 votes); Duval Loop and Public Transit (2 votes); Bicycle and Pedestrian (6 votes); and Parking Strategies (4 votes). In scoring these votes we generally gave a plus one (+1) if they agreed with our position on the item and a minus one (-1) if they didn’t. In a few instances we gave an extra point for some votes we deemed extra worthy or an extra point for the item’s Commission sponsor. Generally a total Score of about 16+ is possible.

The Votes

Duval Street and Downtown

  • Aug 21, 2018; Approving Lease of 1400 Block to Southernmost House in exchange for them building a pocket park (FOR)
  • April 2, 2019; Item 22, Vote to Extend Mall on Duval through May, June, July & until midnight (FOR)
  • August 20, 2019; Vote to Extend Mall on Duval through November, 2019 (FOR)
  • November 19, 2019; Vote to Extend Mall on Duval twice a month through February 17, 2020 and then cease (FOR)

Duval Loop and Public Transit

  • August 6, 2019; Item #11, Approve submission of 10-Year Transit Development Plan (FOR)
  • May 5, 2020; Item #10, Authorize $1 Fare for visitors on Duval Loop (AGAINST)

Bicycle and Pedestrian

  • February 7, 2017; Item #23, Authorize FDOT to proceed with 4 car lanes or no changes instead of FDOT and publicly recommended 2 car lanes, middle turn lane and protected bikeway (AGAINST)
  • March 20, 2018; Item #16, Recommend City Manager make efforts to hire a Transportation Coordinator in a timely manner (FOR)
  • September 20, 2018; Item #27 Revisit Speed Limit Map, establish limits to greatest extent (FOR)
  • March 5, 2019; Item #21 Accepting Key West Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Transportation Plan (FOR)
  • September 19, 2019; Authorize rebuilding Atlantic Boulevard Multi-Use Path (FOR)
  • November 16, 2019; Admiral’s Cut discussion sponsored by Weekley. Withdrawn from Agenda (FOR bridging Admiral’s Cut)

Parking Strategies

  • September 20, 2018; Item #14, Accepting Parking and Alternative Transportation Report (FOR)
  • September 4, 2019; Item #22, Meter 1500 block of Reynolds and 700 and 800 blocks of Seminole (Casa Marina) (FOR)
  • September 4, 2019; Item #23, Meter Smathers Beach (FOR)
  • December 3, 2019; Meter Jackson Square and 500 block of Thomas Street while accepting Employee Pass (FOR)
Questionnaire Scoring

Each of the four categories includes three questions and one final overall question for a total of 13 that we sent to the candidates. They are scored the same way with up to one point (+1) for a good answer to minus a point (-1) for a bad answer. There were a few answers we deemed good enough for an extra half point. Generally a total score of 13 is possible on the Questionnaire.

The Questions

Duval Street and Downtown

  1. Do you favor funding the Duval Street Revitalization Study in the fiscal year 2021 budget? Will you fund the recommended improvements in the next year? Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. What are your ideas for interim projects (before the Study makes recommendations) on Duval or Downtown that would make it more pedestrian friendly and people oriented? Answer limited to 100 words.
  3. Do you think removing all parking on Duval Street would enhance the downtown environment? Would you support an ordinance that would allow parklets (benches or tables and chairs on a platform) to replace parking downtown? Answer limited to 100 words.

Duval Loop and Public Transit

  1. Do you favor returning to a free Duval Loop for visitors to our island? Do you favor fare free rides on other City routes for everyone? Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. Do you believe a third-party consulting firm should be retained to assist the City with branding and marketing the Duval Loop, Key West Transit and Lower Keys Shuttle programs? Answer limited to 100 words.
  3. Do you believe compensation of bus drivers should be increased to attract and retain a stable base of drivers?  Answer limited to 100 words.

Bicycle and Pedestrian 

  1. Please name a few bicycle and/or pedestrian projects (they can be from the Bike/Ped Plan) you would vote to fund in your term. Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. How often do you ride a bicycle and for what purposes?  How do you propose we get more people to bike and walk in Key West? Answer limited to 100 words. 
  3. Do you believe increased traffic enforcement (speeding) will improve public safety for pedestrians and people on bicycles? Or do you believe that infrastructure improvements will improve safety? Or Education? Perhaps nothing more is needed or perhaps all 3? Explain how public safety should be accomplished. Answer limited to 100 words.

Parking Strategies

  1. Do you favor raising the price on Residential Parking Permits to the $35 proposed in the FY21 budget? And even more for 2nd and 3rd vehicles? Do you favor going incrementally higher in future years? Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. Do you favor instituting Residential Permit Parking by Zone so that the permit allows one to park near one’s own home? Answer limited to 100 words.
  3. Should the City hire more parking enforcement officers since it has been demonstrated that these positions are self-funding and that residents desire increased enforcement efforts. Answer limited to 100 words.

GENERAL/CATCH ALL

  1. What do you think of when you think of Car-Free Key West and its mission and how do you propose to make it easier and safer for more people to bike, walk, take the bus and use streets and why do you think this is important? Limit 300 words.

Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: District 3

Article 3 of 4: Challenger Kimball Ingram is a Good “Friend” of Bike, Walk, Transit & Streets for People

Article 1: Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: Weekley and Kaufman Stand Out as True “Friends”
Article 2: Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People – Challenger, Dr. Ryan Barnett Is a Good Friend of Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People
Article 4: Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: Mayor Teri Johnston is a Very Good “Friend” of Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People

Today Friends of Car-Free Key West brings you our results for the District 3 City Commission election in New Town, taking place on August 18 between incumbent City Commissioner Billy Wardlow vs. challenger Kimball Ingram. Based upon the incumbent’s voting record over the last four years and both his and his challenger’s answers to our 13 questions in four categories: Duval Street and Downtown, Duval Loop and Public Transit, Bicycle and Pedestrian and Parking Strategies we give Mr. Ingram a Grade of B and Commissioner Wardlow a Grade of D- on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Issues. Therefore Friends of Car-Free Key West recommends voting for Kimball Ingram for District 3.

We want to thank both candidates for making the effort and taking the time to thoughtfully respond in writing (Ingram response; Wardlow response). We know they are both very busy and it says something about both that they gave this some thought. Even though he doesn’t receive our recommendation, we want people to know that we respect the long service of Commissioner Wardlow, the generous way he acknowledges us and the straightforward way he answers the questions. Further below we provide a spreadsheet that includes the specific Past Votes and how we scored them, the 13 questions and our scores of each answer and all of the responses from the candidates in their entirety in their own words. (Photo credit for restaurant picture Michael Beattie at Conch Scooter blog.)

CandidatePast Votes ScoreQuestionaire ScoreGrade
Commissioner Wardlow-1-2D-
Kimball IngramNA10B
Past Vote Scores can range up to 16+ points, Questionnaire Scores can range up to 13+ points.

Why Kimball Ingram for District 3

Commissioner Wardlow Consistently Disappoints On Our Issues

With multiple votes against extending Mall on Duval, a vote against keeping the Duval Loop free for visitors, his vote to keep four car lanes on S. Roosevelt instead of bicycle/pedestrian-friendly alternatives, and multiple votes against expanding metered parking, the incumbent has often been at odds with progressive multi-modal changes. He reiterates this with the responses to our questions including not supporting removing parking on Duval Street, not supporting marketing for Key West Transit and not supporting an increase in the Residential Parking Permit nor understanding that we do not currently have a Zoned Parking system. After 11 years of service on the City Commission we believe that if we want to make it easier and safer to bike, walk, take the bus and use streets for people we need change in District 3. In his answers Mr. Ingram has articulated a voice for doing better on these issues.

“I think as a small island, getting people out of cars is always a noble undertaking.”

Kimball Ingram
Mr. Ingram’s Progressive Vision on Streets for People and Parking Strategies

Mr. Ingram’s responses to our questions showed an obvious and excellent understanding of the issues in each of the four areas we highlighted to discuss. In particular his discussion of Duval Street and bicycle issues resonated with us. He advocated as an interim measure one-waying Duval and creating room on it and some cross streets for outdoor seating, pocket parks and wider sidewalks or the addition of bike lanes. This is progressive thinking in trying new things. He went on to say in the next question about removing parking on Duval (something Mr. Wardlow opposes) “The Duval corridor should be far more pedestrian and cycle friendly. The addition of bike lanes, parklets and bringing shops outdoors can only enhance the downtown experience. In addition, I would want to revisit the guidelines that make it difficult for businesses to enhance the areas around their shop fronts. That included additional seating, flowers and plants and anything that Code currently sites people for if they have not paid for the right to have seating outside their business.

We like that he thinks Residential Parking Permits should be by Zone. Mr. Wardlow noted we currently have a Zone system. He’s wrong. Residential Parking Permits are good to park anywhere, not just in your home zone. We think the City could use more Parking Enforcement personnel and Mr. Ingram doesn’t. We like his counter that parking enforcement with more of a carrot is needed and that improved efficiencies within the current unit are needed before more personnel are added.

Mr. Ingram Sees Public Transit in Context of Entire System

While not exactly answering our “return to a free Duval Loop” question directly he did use it as an opportunity to discuss creating parking opportunities outside of downtown and using the bus system to get people in. He also suggested this could provide more room on the streets for bikes and pedestrians. This is the kind of holistic, multi-modal transportation thinking we envision too. He also said that Key West transit needed to sell the idea of change and win over skeptics while noting he didn’t think it mattered whether this marketing function was done in house or by a third-party vendor.

Mr. Ingram Gets Infrastructure and Education are Necessary to Get More People Biking and Walking

“I believe infrastructure and education are necessary. By designing roads with safe areas for bicycles, and ensuring adequate space for both cars and bikes, we could reduce tension between drivers and cyclists while also creating a bike culture in town. Educating locals on the rights of bicyclists is important but the sheer volume of tourists means we would always be trying to educate new people. This is labor intensive and costly without necessarily being effective. Creating a city where there are dedicated bike and pedestrian lanes with some protection would help encourage people onto their bikes or on foot.”

Kimball Ingram in answer to question 9 “Do you believe increased traffic enforcement (speeding) will improve public safety for pedestrians and people on bicycles? Or do you believe that infrastructure improvements will improve safety? Or Education? Perhaps nothing more is needed or perhaps all 3? Explain how public safety should be accomplished.”

We like that he and his whole family bike. A lot. Too often we’ve heard from the current crop of Commissioners and City Management that they drive everywhere. We believe this exacerbates the car-centric transportation system in this town and believe leaders should set the example. It bodes well that he mentions funding the short-term bicycle and pedestrian networks in the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Transportation Plan.

Mr. Ingram Gets Bike, Walk, Transit Makes Our Island Better
Kimball, top row, third from right, participates in the Smart Ride Bike Fundraiser

We think Kimball Ingram gets it and having him on the dais at City Hall will go a long way towards a more bike, walk, transit and street for people friendly Key West.

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The Scoring and Backup Documents

We’ve compiled a spreadsheet that includes scores from Past Votes and scores from the Questionnaire and provides a final Grade, based upon those scores, for each candidate. A snippet of the Candidates Scoring Spreadsheet is below. You can also download the spreadsheet as a PDF for ease of reading. As we add races (Mayor’s races), the spreadsheet will grow to include each. You’ll notice it has the Past Votes scores of the existing City Commissioners too. Scores are broken down into four categories:

  • Duval Street and Downtown
  • Duval Loop and Public Transit
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian
  • Parking Strategies
You can click on the above spreadsheet image to enlarge and read it better. With the three downloads below you can click on the words and pull up the document directly or you can hit the download button and download the file.
Past Votes Record and Scoring

We were able to find 16 votes over the past four years on these issues broken down as: Duval Street and Downtown (4 votes); Duval Loop and Public Transit (2 votes); Bicycle and Pedestrian (6 votes); and Parking Strategies (4 votes). In scoring these votes we generally gave a plus one (+1) if they agreed with our position on the item and a minus one (-1) if they didn’t. In a few instances we gave an extra point for some votes we deemed extra worthy or an extra point for the item’s Commission sponsor. Generally a total Score of about 16+ is possible.

The Votes

Duval Street and Downtown

  • Aug 21, 2018; Approving Lease of 1400 Block to Southernmost House in exchange for them building a pocket park (FOR)
  • April 2, 2019; Item 22, Vote to Extend Mall on Duval through May, June, July & until midnight (FOR)
  • August 20, 2019; Vote to Extend Mall on Duval through November, 2019 (FOR)
  • November 19, 2019; Vote to Extend Mall on Duval twice a month through February 17, 2020 and then cease (FOR)

Duval Loop and Public Transit

  • August 6, 2019; Item #11, Approve submission of 10-Year Transit Development Plan (FOR)
  • May 5, 2020; Item #10, Authorize $1 Fare for visitors on Duval Loop (AGAINST)

Bicycle and Pedestrian

  • February 7, 2017; Item #23, Authorize FDOT to proceed with 4 car lanes or no changes instead of FDOT and publicly recommended 2 car lanes, middle turn lane and protected bikeway (AGAINST)
  • March 20, 2018; Item #16, Recommend City Manager make efforts to hire a Transportation Coordinator in a timely manner (FOR)
  • September 20, 2018; Item #27 Revisit Speed Limit Map, establish limits to greatest extent (FOR)
  • March 5, 2019; Item #21 Accepting Key West Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Transportation Plan (FOR)
  • September 19, 2019; Authorize rebuilding Atlantic Boulevard Multi-Use Path (FOR)
  • November 16, 2019; Admiral’s Cut discussion sponsored by Weekley. Withdrawn from Agenda (FOR bridging Admiral’s Cut)

Parking Strategies

  • September 20, 2018; Item #14, Accepting Parking and Alternative Transportation Report (FOR)
  • September 4, 2019; Item #22, Meter 1500 block of Reynolds and 700 and 800 blocks of Seminole (Casa Marina) (FOR)
  • September 4, 2019; Item #23, Meter Smathers Beach (FOR)
  • December 3, 2019; Meter Jackson Square and 500 block of Thomas Street while accepting Employee Pass (FOR)
Questionnaire Scoring

Each of the four categories includes three questions and one final overall question for a total of 13 that we sent to the candidates. They are scored the same way with up to one point (+1) for a good answer to minus a point (-1). There were a few answers we deemed good enough for an extra half point. Generally a total score of 13 is possible on the Questionnaire.

The Questions

Duval Street and Downtown

  1. Do you favor funding the Duval Street Revitalization Study in the fiscal year 2021 budget? Will you fund the recommended improvements in the next year? Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. What are your ideas for interim projects (before the Study makes recommendations) on Duval or Downtown that would make it more pedestrian friendly and people oriented? Answer limited to 100 words.
  3. Do you think removing all parking on Duval Street would enhance the downtown environment? Would you support an ordinance that would allow parklets (benches or tables and chairs on a platform) to replace parking downtown? Answer limited to 100 words.

Duval Loop and Public Transit

  1. Do you favor returning to a free Duval Loop for visitors to our island? Do you favor fare free rides on other City routes for everyone? Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. Do you believe a third-party consulting firm should be retained to assist the City with branding and marketing the Duval Loop, Key West Transit and Lower Keys Shuttle programs? Answer limited to 100 words.
  3. Do you believe compensation of bus drivers should be increased to attract and retain a stable base of drivers?  Answer limited to 100 words.

Bicycle and Pedestrian 

  1. Please name a few bicycle and/or pedestrian projects (they can be from the Bike/Ped Plan) you would vote to fund in your term. Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. How often do you ride a bicycle and for what purposes?  How do you propose we get more people to bike and walk in Key West? Answer limited to 100 words. 
  3. Do you believe increased traffic enforcement (speeding) will improve public safety for pedestrians and people on bicycles? Or do you believe that infrastructure improvements will improve safety? Or Education? Perhaps nothing more is needed or perhaps all 3? Explain how public safety should be accomplished. Answer limited to 100 words.

Parking Strategies

  1. Do you favor raising the price on Residential Parking Permits to the $35 proposed in the FY21 budget? And even more for 2nd and 3rd vehicles? Do you favor going incrementally higher in future years? Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. Do you favor instituting Residential Permit Parking by Zone so that the permit allows one to park near one’s own home? Answer limited to 100 words.
  3. Should the City hire more parking enforcement officers since it has been demonstrated that these positions are self-funding and that residents desire increased enforcement efforts. Answer limited to 100 words.

GENERAL/CATCH ALL

  1. What do you think of when you think of Car-Free Key West and its mission and how do you propose to make it easier and safer for more people to bike, walk, take the bus and use streets and why do you think this is important? Limit 300 words.

Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: District 6

Article 2 of 4: Challenger Ryan Barnett is a Good “Friend” of Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People

Article 1: Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Issues: Weekley and Kaufman Stand Out as True “Friends”
Article 3: Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Issues: District 3 – Challenger Kimball Ingram is a Good “Friend” of Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People
Article 4: Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: Mayor Teri Johnston is a Very Good “Friend” of Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People

NOTE THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN ON JULY 21, 2020 for the August 18 primary. We’ve written a follow-up article on September 29 entitled: Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Need New Talent on City Commission – That’s Why We’re Voting for Dr. Ryan Barnett in District 6

Today Friends of Car-Free Key West brings you our results for the District 6 City Commission election downtown, taking place on August 18 between incumbent City Commissioner Clayton Lopez and challengers Dr. Ryan Barnett and John Wilson Smith. Based upon the incumbent’s voting record over the last four years and both his and his challengers answers to our 13 questions in four categories: Duval Street and Downtown, Duval Loop and Public Transit, Bicycle and Pedestrian and Parking Strategies, we give Dr. Barnett a Grade of B, Commissioner Lopez a Grade of D+ and John Wilson Smith No Grade (more on that in a minute) on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Issues. Therefore, Friends of Car-Free Key West recommends voting for Dr. Ryan Barnett in District 6.

We want to thank all three candidates for talking with us and Dr. Barnett (response) and Commissioner Lopez (response) for making the effort and taking the time to thoughtfully respond in writing. We know the gregarious and warm-hearted Commissioner Lopez well and respect his long-tenured service. However that isn’t enough to overcome what we see as a lack of understanding and commitment on our issues based on his record on the dais and answers to our questionnaire. In our conversation with Mr. Smith it was evident he’s open to our ideas but he admitted he’s still talking to the people and experts and is still fact gathering, so couldn’t yet answer our questions. Further below we provide a spreadsheet that includes the specific Past Votes and how we scored them, the 13 questions and our scores of each answer and all of the responses from the candidates in their entirety in their own words. (Photo credit for restaurant picture Michael Beattie at Conch Scooter blog.)

CandidatePast Votes ScoreQuestionaire ScoreGrade
Commissioner Lopez34D+
Dr. Ryan BarnettNA10B
John William SmithNA0NG
Past Vote Scores can range up to 16+ points, Questionnaire Scores can range up to 13+ points.

Why Dr. Ryan Barnett for District 6

Commissioner Lopez’ Disappointing Record and Vision

Twice voting against extending Mall on Duval, a vote against keeping the Duval Loop free for visitors, a vote to keep four car lanes on S. Roosevelt instead of bicycle/pedestrian-friendly alternatives, and a vote against expanding metered parking in Jackson Square and the 500 block of Thomas, demonstrate how the incumbent has often disappointed those of us seeking multi-modal progressive change. He reiterates this letdown when answering our questions, including pushing interim ideas off until a Duval Study is done, not supporting removing parking on Duval Street unless a like amount is found elsewhere, pushing off committing to Duval Street revitalization and bus marketing and not supporting an increase in the Residential Parking Permit nor Zoned Residential Parking Permits, especially egregious because he represents downtown where parking in front of one’s own house is difficult.

After fifteen (15) years of service on the City Commission we believe that if we want to make it easier and safer to bike, walk, take the bus and use streets for people we need change in District 6. In his answers, Dr. Barnet effectively communicates a new and exciting voice for doing better on these issues.

“Making it safer to get around by walking, bike or bus would be my goal when working with Car Free Key West. “

Ryan Barnett
Dr. Barnett Envisions a Pedestrian Friendly Duval Street With Less Cars

Dr. Barnett’s responses indicate an already broad depth of knowledge on the four issue categories and a willingness to lead the charge on trying new things that is commendable. In particular his discussion of Duval Street resonated with us.

He gets that we need to invest now in Duval Street to attract new business. He explains that a future with social distancing means “adapting in a way that helps to change the landscape of our main thoroughfare to keep up with the ever-changing environment.

Parklets example

In discussing interim ideas before the Duval Street Study is completed he says: “I would like to see a more pedestrian friendly Duval Street with less cars and more foot traffic. This could be accomplished by making Duval Street a one-way street that slows traffic using plants, street markings and bollards to help slow traffic. Also, adding more park benches and restaurant seating outside in front of restaurants so people are able to social distance but still enjoy a more pedestrian friendly Duval Street.” Importantly in answer to our question about removing parking on Duval he answers yes he would do it and yes he’d support an ordinance allowing parklets (benches or tables and chairs). We have advocated for many of these ideas and like his willingness to start making change now.

In contrast, just a few days ago on the “It’s Too Early With Gwen Filosa Show“, note how Commissioner Lopez answered reporter Gwen Filosa. “About Duval Street. Pedestrian only? What do you think?” She asked. He said: “I’m so hesitant to go in that direction.” Gwen says maybe partially? Commissioner Lopez continues: “I’d consider that, (partial). I think that some of the visions people have of Duval Street as this pedestrian mall are based on cities that have sidewalks twice as large as ours… we don’t have that much space, so would I entertain the thought, absolutely, but would I say I’d like to see that going in? No.” (Check the 29:42 mark of their conversation at the link above for the exchange.)

We think it is worth sharing a response to this question from Keys Weekly to Dr. Barnett. What’s one thing that the city council can do to help small businesses? His answer is pertinent because it shows that he doesn’t care about these issues just when he’s talking to us advocates:

“We can very equally acknowledge that there are other things we can do to help support small businesses. We are seeing it with Duval Street. We’ve fought about the Duval Mall and closing Duval Street for as long as I can remember. Overnight, when social distancing became an issue, we have closed Duval Street for the public during the weekend, and it has positively contributed to the ambiance and foot traffic in a safe way. We have to build on top of that and take that further. We have to allow outside seating for our restaurants to offset closing 50% of their seating.”

Dr. Ryan Barnett in the Keys Weekly newspaper
Ryan Barnett Believes in Investing in Enhanced Public Transit

In response to our question about returning to free fares on the Duval Loop and bringing free fares to the City routes he answers, “yes” as he’d like to make transit “as attractive as possible for riders.” He discusses this in the context of raising the cost of a Residential Parking Permit saying “at 5 cents a day for a parking permit in Key West I think we could consider raising the price of a permit help pay for an enhanced public transportation system.” We wholeheartedly agree!

Duval Loop bus

In response to our question about Key West Transit hiring a marketing firm, he says yes that needs to be done and goes on to say “Programs and marketing that promote public transport and decreased dependence on driving cars from point A to point B would be very beneficial. A lot of the time tourists don’t realize they don’t need a rental car but pay for one and never use it. This takes up parking spots and provides for a driving hazard when people that are unfamiliar with the road and one ways are behind the wheel in Key West.” We like that again he holistically ties the need for better transit to too many cars on the island. Lastly he agrees compensation needs to be increased to attract and retain a stable base of bus drivers and says “Sustainability is a big part of my platform. Creating a more sustainable and enjoyable public transportation is very important.” We think Key West Transit would have a very good friend in Ryan Barnett.

Dr. Barnett Ties Less On-Street Parking In Tourist Areas to More Room for Bicycles
Dr. Ryan Barnett

Like with transit, Dr. Barnett seems to take a step back and realize that addressing the number of cars on the street relates to making it easy and safe to use a bicycle, saying in response to our question about naming a few bicycle and pedestrian projects: “More street markings around the city for bicycles. Less on street parking in high-density tourist areas. This would allow for less car traffic in pedestrian heavy locations. Better services to help tourists get to their vacation rentals without having to rent a car. “

He goes on to say: “Add more street markings for bicycles in areas where bike safety is an issue. For example, a road like Windsor by the cemetery could benefit from more street markings to remind people to look out for bicycles on the road.

We like that he rides his bike everyday. Contrast this to most current city leaders and management and perhaps bicycle advocates will have a true friend at city hall.

Raising the Cost of Parking to Pay for Alternatives to the Car

In answer to our question about raising the price of Residential Parking Permits Dr. Barnett says:

Yes it’s a supply and demand principle to me. The supply of parking spots in Key West is very sparse and the demand for these spaces is high. Therefore, price for parking should go up. This accomplishes two things. Hopefully a continued decrease in dependence for cars in Key West. But also a larger fund to support programs that allow people to travel around Key West without the need for a vehicle. Especially when they are visiting. 

We especially like this quote as it shows that Dr. Barnett understands the relationship of parking pricing to the amount of cars on our streets and the need to invest in bike, walk and transit programs. While Dr. Barnett doesn’t favor Residential Parking Permits by Zone as we do, his answers throughout the survey lead us to believe he’d have an open mind in the right context.

Ryan Barnett Understands Bike, Walk, Transit Makes Our Island Better

In the end, we believe a vote for Dr. Ryan Barnett means a better future for bicycling, walking, transit and using streets for people in Key West. We wholeheartedly recommend voters in District 6 embrace change for a brighter future.

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The Scoring and Backup Documents

We’ve compiled a spreadsheet that includes scores from Past Votes and scores from the Questionnaire and provides a final Grade, based upon those scores, for each candidate. A snippet of the Candidates Scoring Spreadsheet is below. You can also download the spreadsheet as a PDF for ease of reading. As we add races (District Three and the Mayor’s races), the spreadsheet will grow to include each. You’ll notice it has the Past Votes scores of the existing City Commissioners too. Scores are broken down into four categories:

  • Duval Street and Downtown
  • Duval Loop and Public Transit
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian
  • Parking Strategies
Past Votes Record and Scoring

We were able to find 16 votes over the past four years on these issues broken down as: Duval Street and Downtown (4 votes); Duval Loop and Public Transit (2 votes); Bicycle and Pedestrian (6 votes); and Parking Strategies (4 votes). In scoring these votes we generally gave a plus one (+1) if they agreed with our position on the item and a minus one (-1) if they didn’t. In a few instances we gave an extra point for some votes we deemed extra worthy or an extra point for the item’s Commission sponsor. Generally a total Score of about 16+ is possible.

You can click on the above spreadsheet image to enlarge and read it better. With the three downloads below you can click on the words and pull up the document directly or you can hit the download button and download the file.

Below are Dr. Ryan Barnett’s and Commissioner Clayton Lopez’ responses:

The Votes

Duval Street and Downtown

  • Aug 21, 2018; Approving Lease of 1400 Block to Southernmost House in exchange for them building a pocket park (FOR)
  • April 2, 2019; Item 22, Vote to Extend Mall on Duval through May, June, July & until midnight (FOR)
  • August 20, 2019; Vote to Extend Mall on Duval through November, 2019 (FOR)
  • November 19, 2019; Vote to Extend Mall on Duval twice a month through February 17, 2020 and then cease (FOR)

Duval Loop and Public Transit

  • August 6, 2019; Item #11, Approve submission of 10-Year Transit Development Plan (FOR)
  • May 5, 2020; Item #10, Authorize $1 Fare for visitors on Duval Loop (AGAINST)

Bicycle and Pedestrian

  • February 7, 2017; Item #23, Authorize FDOT to proceed with 4 car lanes or no changes instead of FDOT and publicly recommended 2 car lanes, middle turn lane and protected bikeway (AGAINST)
  • March 20, 2018; Item #16, Recommend City Manager make efforts to hire a Transportation Coordinator in a timely manner (FOR)
  • September 20, 2018; Item #27 Revisit Speed Limit Map, establish limits to greatest extent (FOR)
  • March 5, 2019; Item #21 Accepting Key West Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Transportation Plan (FOR)
  • September 19, 2019; Authorize rebuilding Atlantic Boulevard Multi-Use Path (FOR)
  • November 16, 2019; Admiral’s Cut discussion sponsored by Weekley. Withdrawn from Agenda (FOR bridging Admiral’s Cut)

Parking Strategies

  • September 20, 2018; Item #14, Accepting Parking and Alternative Transportation Report (FOR)
  • September 4, 2019; Item #22, Meter 1500 block of Reynolds and 700 and 800 blocks of Seminole (Casa Marina) (FOR)
  • September 4, 2019; Item #23, Meter Smathers Beach (FOR)
  • December 3, 2019; Meter Jackson Square and 500 block of Thomas Street while accepting Employee Pass (FOR)
Questionnaire Scoring

Each of the four categories includes three questions and one final overall question for a total of 13 that we sent to the candidates. They are scored the same way with up to one point (+1) for a good answer to minus a point (-1) for a bad answer. There were a few answers we deemed good enough for an extra half point. Generally a total score of 13 is possible on the Questionnaire.

The Questions

Duval Street and Downtown

  1. Do you favor funding the Duval Street Revitalization Study in the fiscal year 2021 budget? Will you fund the recommended improvements in the next year? Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. What are your ideas for interim projects (before the Study makes recommendations) on Duval or Downtown that would make it more pedestrian friendly and people oriented? Answer limited to 100 words.
  3. Do you think removing all parking on Duval Street would enhance the downtown environment? Would you support an ordinance that would allow parklets (benches or tables and chairs on a platform) to replace parking downtown? Answer limited to 100 words.

Duval Loop and Public Transit

  1. Do you favor returning to a free Duval Loop for visitors to our island? Do you favor fare free rides on other City routes for everyone? Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. Do you believe a third-party consulting firm should be retained to assist the City with branding and marketing the Duval Loop, Key West Transit and Lower Keys Shuttle programs? Answer limited to 100 words.
  3. Do you believe compensation of bus drivers should be increased to attract and retain a stable base of drivers?  Answer limited to 100 words.

Bicycle and Pedestrian 

  1. Please name a few bicycle and/or pedestrian projects (they can be from the Bike/Ped Plan) you would vote to fund in your term. Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. How often do you ride a bicycle and for what purposes?  How do you propose we get more people to bike and walk in Key West? Answer limited to 100 words. 
  3. Do you believe increased traffic enforcement (speeding) will improve public safety for pedestrians and people on bicycles? Or do you believe that infrastructure improvements will improve safety? Or Education? Perhaps nothing more is needed or perhaps all 3? Explain how public safety should be accomplished. Answer limited to 100 words.

Parking Strategies

  1. Do you favor raising the price on Residential Parking Permits to the $35 proposed in the FY21 budget? And even more for 2nd and 3rd vehicles? Do you favor going incrementally higher in future years? Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. Do you favor instituting Residential Permit Parking by Zone so that the permit allows one to park near one’s own home? Answer limited to 100 words.
  3. Should the City hire more parking enforcement officers since it has been demonstrated that these positions are self-funding and that residents desire increased enforcement efforts. Answer limited to 100 words.

GENERAL/CATCH ALL

  1. What do you think of when you think of Car-Free Key West and its mission and how do you propose to make it easier and safer for more people to bike, walk, take the bus and use streets and why do you think this is important? Limit 300 words.

Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People

Article 1 of 4: Weekley and Kaufman Stand Out as True “Friends”

Article 2: Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: District 6 – Challenger Ryan Barnett is a Good “Friend” of Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People
Article 3: Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: District 3 – Challenger Kimball Ingram is a Good “Friend” of Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People
Article 4: Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: Mayor Teri Johnston is a Very Good “Friend” of Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People

Which of the candidates for Mayor and City Commission of Key West are best on the issues of bike, walk, transit and streets for people? Who truly are the “Friends” of Car-Free Key West? We hope to help answer those question with a series of articles over the next week. We’ve tracked past votes and received answers to our questions from all the candidates. Based upon the record and their answers, we are providing scores, grades and recommendations.

In our next post we’ll look at the District 6 downtown race between incumbent Commissioner Clayton Lopez and challengers Dr. Ryan Barnett and John William Smith. Next we’ll review the District 3 New Town race between incumbent Commissioner Billy Wardlow and challenger Kimball Ingram. Finally we’ll bring you our look at the Mayor’s race between incumbent Mayor Teri Johnston and challengers Mark Rossi and Rick Haskins.

In each of these races we looked at the past voting records of the incumbents on 16 different votes over the last four years. We gave a score to each of the votes based upon whether we agreed with that vote or not. Since we didn’t have a past record for the challengers, we sent a questionnaire to every candidate and asked them to help us by filling it out. To their credit, all the candidates responded in one way or another. We similarly scored those answers.

For full transparency, we will provide you with Past Votes and Questionnaire scores. We will also share each candidates answers to the Questionnaire in full. For ease of understanding and comparison, we then gave each candidate a simple Grade of A (Excellent) through F (Fail) based upon those scores. The candidate with the higher grade receives our recommendation. It is that simple.

One thing we plan on doing in the future is providing a rolling Friend’s Votes Walk, Bike, Transit and Streets for People Scorecard for grading the incumbents every year. So we’ll build upon the scorecard spreadsheet and fill it in with new votes and present it each year. We want the Mayor and City Commission to know we care about these issues and are watching. Look for the next Friend’s Votes Scorecard in the summer/fall of 2021 and then another one a year later, just before the 2022 elections.

Scorecard on Current Commissioners Voting Record
CommissionerVotes’ Total ScoreLetter Grade
Jimmy Weekley16B+
Sam Kaufman16B+
Greg Davila10C+
Mary Lou Hoover6C

Since we’re saving the presentation of each of the races over the next few days, today we bring the scores of the newly elected incumbent Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, who didn’t have a challenger, and the other three incumbent Commissioners, Sam Kaufman, Greg Davila and Mary Lou Hoover. This way you can preview the Votes and take a look at the questions. We didn’t ask these folks to fill out a questionnaire.

Commissioners Weekley and Kaufman Consistently Vote for Bike, Walk Transit and Streets for People

With votes always approving the Mall on Duval and increasing metered parking spaces as well as sponsoring establishing slower speeds (Kaufman) and a pedestrian bridge at Admiral’s Cut (Weekley), amongst a host of other positive votes, Commissioners Weekley and Kaufman are consistently in the corner of bike, walk, transit and streets for people.

As they were the lone two votes in February of 2017 against keeping four car lanes on S. Roosevelt instead of bicycle/pedestrian-friendly alternatives and again in May of 2020 against instituting a fare on the Duval Loop for visitors, the two Commissioners stand out for going against the grain and doing the right thing. That’s why they both scored 16 points and received a grade of B+ on our scorecard. We wish everyone on the dais voted on these issues the same as them. Key West would be better for it.

Next article we’ll bring you the results for the District 6 race for Commissioner, so please stay tuned…

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The Scoring and Backup Documents

We’ve compiled a spreadsheet that includes scores from Past Votes and scores from the Questionnaire and provides a final Grade, based upon those scores, for each candidate. A snippet of the Candidates Scoring Spreadsheet is below. You can also download the spreadsheet as a PDF for ease of reading. As we add races, the spreadsheet will grow to include each. You’ll notice it has the Past Votes scores of the existing City Commissioners too. Scores are broken down into four categories: 

  • Duval Street and Downtown
  • Duval Loop and Public Transit
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian
  • Parking Strategies
Past Votes Record and Scoring

We were able to find 16 votes over the past four years on these issues broken down as: Duval Street and Downtown (4 votes); Duval Loop and Public Transit (2 votes); Bicycle and Pedestrian (6 votes); and Parking Strategies (4 votes). In scoring these votes we generally gave a plus one (+1) if they agreed with our position on the item and a minus one (-1) if they didn’t. In a few instances we gave an extra point for some votes we deemed extra worthy or an extra point for the item’s Commission sponsor. Generally a total Score of about 16+ is possible.

Click on the above image to enlarge it and read it more easily or download it using the button below.
The Votes

Duval Street and Downtown

  • Aug 21, 2018; Approving Lease of 1400 Block to Southernmost House in exchange for them building a pocket park (FOR)
  • April 2, 2019; Item 22, Vote to Extend Mall on Duval through May, June, July & until midnight (FOR)
  • August 20, 2019; Vote to Extend Mall on Duval through November, 2019 (FOR)
  • November 19, 2019; Vote to Extend Mall on Duval twice a month through February 17, 2020 and then cease (FOR)

Duval Loop and Public Transit

  • August 6, 2019; Item #11, Approve submission of 10-Year Transit Development Plan (FOR)
  • May 5, 2020; Item #10, Authorize $1 Fare for visitors on Duval Loop (AGAINST)

Bicycle and Pedestrian

  • February 7, 2017; Item #23, Authorize FDOT to proceed with 4 car lanes or no changes instead of FDOT and publicly recommended 2 car lanes, middle turn lane and protected bikeway (AGAINST)
  • March 20, 2018; Item #16, Recommend City Manager make efforts to hire a Transportation Coordinator in a timely manner (FOR)
  • September 20, 2018; Item #27 Revisit Speed Limit Map, establish limits to greatest extent (FOR)
  • March 5, 2019; Item #21 Accepting Key West Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Transportation Plan (FOR)
  • September 19, 2019; Authorize rebuilding Atlantic Boulevard Multi-Use Path (FOR)
  • November 16, 2019; Admiral’s Cut discussion sponsored by Weekley. Withdrawn from Agenda (FOR bridging Admiral’s Cut)

Parking Strategies

  • September 20, 2018; Item #14, Accepting Parking and Alternative Transportation Report (FOR)
  • September 4, 2019; Item #22, Meter 1500 block of Reynolds and 700 and 800 blocks of Seminole (Casa Marina) (FOR)
  • September 4, 2019; Item #23, Meter Smathers Beach (FOR)
  • December 3, 2019; Meter Jackson Square and 500 block of Thomas Street while accepting Employee Pass (FOR)
Questionnaire Scoring

Each of the four categories includes three questions and one final overall question for a total of 13 that we sent to the candidates. They are scored the same way with up to one point (+1) for a good answer to minus a point (-1) for a bad answer. There were a few answers we deemed good enough for an extra half point. Generally a total score of 13 is possible on the Questionnaire.

The Questions

Duval Street and Downtown

  1. Do you favor funding the Duval Street Revitalization Study in the fiscal year 2021 budget? Will you fund the recommended improvements in the next year? Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. What are your ideas for interim projects (before the Study makes recommendations) on Duval or Downtown that would make it more pedestrian friendly and people oriented? Answer limited to 100 words.
  3. Do you think removing all parking on Duval Street would enhance the downtown environment? Would you support an ordinance that would allow parklets (benches or tables and chairs on a platform) to replace parking downtown? Answer limited to 100 words.

Duval Loop and Public Transit

  1. Do you favor returning to a free Duval Loop for visitors to our island? Do you favor fare free rides on other City routes for everyone? Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. Do you believe a third-party consulting firm should be retained to assist the City with branding and marketing the Duval Loop, Key West Transit and Lower Keys Shuttle programs? Answer limited to 100 words.
  3. Do you believe compensation of bus drivers should be increased to attract and retain a stable base of drivers?  Answer limited to 100 words.

Bicycle and Pedestrian 

  1. Please name a few bicycle and/or pedestrian projects (they can be from the Bike/Ped Plan) you would vote to fund in your term. Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. How often do you ride a bicycle and for what purposes?  How do you propose we get more people to bike and walk in Key West? Answer limited to 100 words. 
  3. Do you believe increased traffic enforcement (speeding) will improve public safety for pedestrians and people on bicycles? Or do you believe that infrastructure improvements will improve safety? Or Education? Perhaps nothing more is needed or perhaps all 3? Explain how public safety should be accomplished. Answer limited to 100 words.

Parking Strategies

  1. Do you favor raising the price on Residential Parking Permits to the $35 proposed in the FY21 budget? And even more for 2nd and 3rd vehicles? Do you favor going incrementally higher in future years? Answer limited to 100 words.
  2. Do you favor instituting Residential Permit Parking by Zone so that the permit allows one to park near one’s own home? Answer limited to 100 words.
  3. Should the City hire more parking enforcement officers since it has been demonstrated that these positions are self-funding and that residents desire increased enforcement efforts. Answer limited to 100 words.

GENERAL/CATCH ALL

  1. What do you think of when you think of Car-Free Key West and its mission and how do you propose to make it easier and safer for more people to bike, walk, take the bus and use streets and why do you think this is important? Limit 300 words.

New 91-Space Parking Lot at 1300 Duval is Missed Opportunity for Downtown Affordable Housing and Revitalizing Our Main Street

Have you seen the construction going on at Duval and United? In a city chock full of creative, inventive and entrepreneurial people, how in the world did it come to this? The best use of a huge plot of land at 1300 Duval Street, our historic main street, is a 91-space commercial surface parking lot? That’s a mainland solution to land use. The good people of South Park – “ample parking day or night” – would be proud. The good people of Key West should be embarrassed. Especially since we’re desperately looking for land to build affordable housing downtown and because we’re looking to revitalize Duval Street. What a waste.

A 5-ft. grass landscape buffer concession is lipstick on a pig.

This is a backward step for the City. The owners of the property can’t even say how long they intend to keep it a parking lot. The HARC Chairman (to his credit he hated the proposed use) bemoaned that if the lot proves lucrative, it could be there a long time. And he’s right. Watching the City’s proceedings on the proposal were painful. It seems that because the owners of the property have a currently valid permit to run a parking lot, the City was powerless in stopping them from doing the same thing after they tear down the unhistoric Tropical Rental building and expanding the lot. The City Attorneys said they couldn’t deny the permit because there were no grounds in the code on which to deny it. So they had no choice but to approve it and get a few tiny concessions in the form a a 5-foot grass landscape buffer around the property that includes 100+ plants and a dozen trees. It’s like lipstick on a pig.

These blank spots muffle urban life, deadening the surrounding human environment. There’s no arguing that huge surface parking lots create an atmosphere that is inherently hostile to the pedestrian: dull, unbearably hot in summer, windswept in all seasons, and potentially menacing.

Sarah Goodyear, Bloomberg City Lab

A Failure at Planning for the Future

The failure is still on the City for not thinking ahead. Instead of always reacting to what developers bring them, the City should have identified this parcel a long time ago for redevelopment, especially since there are no historic structures on it. The City should have made the existing commercial parking lot license a non-conforming use, so that when it was sold, that use would no longer be valid. In fact they should have rezoned the property with some bonus density to prioritize getting what they do want. But in order to do these kinds of things, the City has to be more pro-active about its future. The City seems to just process requests. Why aren’t we doing any proactive planning? Instead we get stuck with a huge surface parking lot in the heart of downtown. This is a squandered opportunity.

Interim Uses Could Have Included Pop-Up Retail and the Arts

The City could have also sat down with the owner and talked about other interim uses for all or part of the lot to enliven downtown and perhaps help some struggling sectors of our community. Imagine that space with a bunch of food trucks and outdoor seating. Perfect in our Covid era. Imagine further some of that space filled with giant tents, or reused cargo containers converted for artists spaces or pop-up retail, like the wonderful Art Shack Studios and Galleries out on Stock Island. You could have still kept some parking for those uses, but THAT would have enlivened Upper Duval AND gave some of our struggling entrepreneurs a shot at starting something that could grow. That’s how you do economic development by the way, help small businesses start and grow. But we digress. Why didn’t the City call in the Chamber and the Arts Council to sit down with the owner and talk about the possibilities? No, the owner didn’t have to do anything other than they have done. But had someone showed they cared about what was going on in the middle of our main street, perhaps the new owners would have cared more too. Consider this another reason why Duval Streets needs a business improvement district (BID) (Does Duval Street Need a Business Improvement District?; June 4, 2020) because you can bet any BID worth its salt would have seized on this opportunity to do something better for downtown.

Let’s Get This Right the Next Time

We’re left with what? Hoping that if and when the new owner decides to do something with the property it will be to everyone’s liking and benefit? Or are we going to actively push now for the things we want in the future? A parcel this large and important doesn’t come along to be redeveloped that often. The City and the community have as much right to say what we want there as the property owner. And we can use carrots of higher density to sweeten the deal.

What is needed there is retail, arts, museum/attractions, restaurants or even office space on the first level. With affordable housing on top. And we should provide bonus density to go a little higher to get all the uses we want. While we’re at it the City needs to not ask for any parking minimums with any new development. This is downtown. Let’s expect people to walk, bike and take the bus for goodness sake. We can and should expect better for our Main Street, now and in the future. Let’s be vigilant and proactive in working with the new owner to think better for our future and get it right next go round.

Chris Hamilton, July 11, 2020

NOTE: To those who believe there is a lack of parking and welcome this urban blight, please read this article. We have plenty of parking downtown. The problem is it is badly managed. Here’s some solutions: “The City Raised Bus Fares. Time to Tackle Parking” May 12, 2020