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.

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