Key West Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Top 10 Stories of 2020 – #6: Key West Transit Abandons Old Meandering Routes. But…

By Chris Hamilton, December 27, 2020

Orange, Red, Blue or Green? Inbound or outbound? Is it Sunday? Is this clockwise or counterclockwise? Whichever route you chose, it was not easy to figure out where you would end up. Meandering. Circuitous. Serpentine. Snaking. Winding. Twisty. No tortuous, that’s it. That’s how one would describe Key West Transit’s old bus routes. Take a look for yourself:

The Old “City” Routes

Could YOU figure out how to use the system if you needed to go somewhere? Unless your life depends on it you likely just gave up and didn’t take the bus. 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.

First a Look Back With the Promise of a Better Future

The City’s 10-Year Transit Development Plan (TDP), adopted in late 2019, is an ambitious, progressive plan in that direction. The TDP promises a system of “Loops” (Duval, Old Town, Midtown, New Town, Stock Island) to be connected by a few simple “Connector” routes; Airport (along S. Roosevelt), North (along N. Roosevelt), KWIC (Key West Intermodal Connector on Stock Island), and the Lower Keys Shuttle). All routes, Loops and Connectors are to run on 15-20 minute frequencies and look like this:

What We’re Getting Today

When Key West Transit began operations again on May 16, after having been out of service since the beginning of the shutdown in late March, they quietly reemerged with just two City routes, North and South Lines, instead of the four Red, Orange, Blue and Green. Here they are below. Note these lines were slightly tinkered with to go into Bahama Village on October 12.

To their credit, the Lines do look more straightforward than the previous Red, Orange, Blue and Green routes. They seem to simply and directly get passengers from many points north on Stock Island and in New Town to downtown where they can connect to the Duval Loop if they need to go elsewhere. So yes, this is progress!

This graphic from Key West Transit depicts the new North and South Lines overplayed with the Duval Loop and the Lower Keys Shuttle.

But the Glass is Half Full

While we applaud the fact that Key West Transit ripped the bandage off quickly and just abandoned the old routes, we are disappointed in the frequency of service and the lack of any transparency and communications regarding when things will change.

Each line only has 10 trips in per day and 10 trips out. That’s 80 to 90 minutes between each bus at any given point. To top it off, the last trips out from downtown leave at 7:20 pm. And service is even less on the weekend. THIS isn’t going to attract people out of their cars. The level of service is simply not adequate for anyone contemplating this for work or school or any kind of reliable transportation. Trips need to be at least every 15-20 minutes, like on the Duval Loop.

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 have a model in the Duval Loop. It is Simple, Frequent and FREE and people love and use it. 410,000 trips were taken on the Duval Loop in 2019, more than the Red, Orange, Blue, Green Routes and Lower Keys Shuttle combined. The formula needs to be replicated on the new City North and South lines. Or get moving more quickly on implementing the Loops and Connectors model in the TDP Plan. We also would implore Key West transit to provide map and schedule information at every bus stop on the New North and South Lines, upgrade their outdated website, institute a real marketing program and be more transparent and communicate when all these things are going to happen.

We applaud Key West Transit for making some progress and hope for more. And THAT’S why this story comes in at #6 on our Top 10 List.

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#7: Covid Recovery Plan’s Focus on Open Streets and Downtown (December 26, 2020)
#8: Some Progress on E-Bikes and Scooters Ordinance (December 23, 2020)
#9: FREE Fare on Duval Loop for Visitors is Back! (December 22, 2020)
#10: The Cow Key Bridge Carmaggedon That Wasn’t (December 21, 2020)

Key West TDP Draft Report (Large File)

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

Chris Hamilton
Chris Hamilton

A native of the District of Columbia, where for a couple decades+ he led the nationally renown Commuter Services unit for Arlington County, VA’s DOT, Chris has lived in Key West since 2015. He lives downtown and works and volunteers for a couple non-profits.

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