Reimagining Key West Transit
By Roger McVeigh
The pause created by the Covid Pandemic offers an opportunity for a whole new restart when Key West Transit comes back. Let’s implement changes now, rather than wait for the future.
An improved, vibrant, frequently used public transit system is vital to our community’s long-term sustainability.
This strategic community asset can be funded primarily from federal and state funding sources. Transportation funding is often dependent on increases in ridership, and a reinvented Key West public transit system will enable residents and visitors to go car-free. More riders means more outside funding which means less tax burden on the residents of Key West.
Enabling residents and visitors to go car-free leads to improvements in the quality of life of all residents, including cleaner air, less traffic congestion, and safer streets for pedestrians, bicycles and all road users.
A successful public transit system will help alleviate our workforce housing and income inequality challenges, making it easier and more feasible for our workforce, to thrive without owning a vehicle, an annual savings of $10,000 per year.
A long-term recommendation from the June 2018 final report of the City Commission appointed Parking and Alternative Transportation Committee group, states: “the City Manager and Public Transit Director should evaluate and overhaul the transit system to create significant increases in ridership through an emphasis on frequency, simplicity, communications and reliability.” Further, the report highlighted key actions needed:
- Expanding Duval Loop to include Truman Waterfront and Higgs/White Street corridor and establishing a North Roosevelt Loop
- Increasing frequency of Lower Keys Shuttle and consolidating local bus routes, freeing up assets to increase frequency on remaining routes, increasing ridership
- Adding free dependable WiFi to all public transit vehicles and providing an education, rebranding, and marketing campaign
Key West Transit used these recommendations in working with a consultant to develop an ambitious and forward thinking 10-Year Transit Development Plan (TDP) that was adopted by the City Commission in November 2019. The TDP represents the community’s visions and goals for transit in Key West and provides the strategic road map for the future of Key West Transit, achieving the goals highlighted above and then some.
The TDP Executive Summary highlights the community’s desire for more frequent and simple service and proposes new local “Loop” and “Connector” routes that achieve this goal by 2021. Change the routes now, before service is restarted. We’ve already got a plan. We just need to implement it sooner.
Key capital, infrastructure, and technology improvements recommended in the TDP including establishing the Key West Intermodal Center (park and ride lot on Stock Island), purchasing smaller bus vehicles, implementing bus locator apps and mobile fare payment systems (unless going fare free), enforcing parking regulations, and expanding marketing awareness. can come later. We may want to consider proposing a quarter to half percent sales tax in Monroe County to to provide funding to repair our long-neglected roads and to upgrade our antiquated public transit system. This approach would shift the burden from local property taxes and homeowners to tourists by funding these infrastructure improvements from the spending by our 4 million annual visitors.
Can you imagine how many fewer cars and the reduction in traffic that would result:
- Free and reliable transit service from Stock Island to Old Town every 15 minutes?
- Service from the Key West International Airport to Old Town every 20 minutes?
- 15-minute Loops downtown, Midtown, and in New Town?
Key West has a hard-working and dedicated transportation department comprising almost 40 transit professionals led by Rod Delostrinos, a military veteran with a background in logistic and a natural leader. Empower Rod and his team by giving them direction, and a modest amount of resources.
NOW! What better time to act than a whole new restart of Key West Public Transit offered by the pause created by the Covid pandemic. City Management and the City Commission can undertake the improvements NOW.
About Roger McVeigh
A 15-year resident of Key West, Roger has been dedicated to public service since retiring in 2006 from a career in public accounting as a Partner with KPMG LLP in Atlanta, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida. He’s a graduate of the City of Key West Ambassador Academy (2007) and the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys Leadership Success Academy (2009). Roger is active in local government and has served as a Board Member and often Treasurer of a diverse group of nonprofit and civic organizations covering education, social services, recreation and the arts, among others. He’s currently serving on the Advisory Committee for the City of Key West Crosstown Greenway Project, the City of Key West Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Lower Keys Medical Center Board of Trustees.
Roger hails from Knoxville, Tennessee, attended both Emory University and Georgia State University and received his BBA in Accounting from Georgia State in 1983.Roger lives with his beautiful wife Cindy, and their two chihuahuas, Oreo and Cocoa in Old Town. He loves his adopted home of Key West, enjoys travel, hiking, supporting University of Tennessee Volunteer sports teams, and endurance sports including swim/bike/run events.