Key West Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Top 10 Stories of 2020 – #2. Teri Johnston’s Re-Election Moves Our Issues Forward

By Chris Hamilton, December 29, 2020

A Covid Recovery Plan, a Strategic Plan, a Duval Street Revitalization Plan and an understanding of and willingness to act bravely on bike, walk, transit and streets for people by our mayor, gives us hope for our little island’s future.

Let’s not sugarcoat this. Electing either of the other candidates in this year’s Mayoral election would have set our City back. Especially for the issues we champion at Friends of Car-Free Key West & Duval Street/Historic Downtown. In research we did on the candidates records and answers to various questions, we gave the Mayor a B+ grade while giving Mr. Rossi an F and Mr. Haskins a D- (see “Grading the Candidates on Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People: Mayor’s Race;” July 24, 2020). So in our view the Mayor’s re-election is a big freaking deal.

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 our Facebook page. Her breadth of understanding and depth of knowledge are not often seen by a public official who has so many other issues pressing on her at the moment.

Mayor Johnston Champions Revitalizing Duval Street

The Mayor at the grand opening of the Mall on Duval.

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. An amazing consultant team has been selected and they are expected to begin work shortly. 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.

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.

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

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.

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.“ 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. 

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

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 annually, 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.

The Mayor’s Covid Recovery and Strategic Plans are Groundbreaking

As we’ve agreed City Hall has lacked some focus over years past, the Mayor had us when she started talking about a Strategic Plan. We thought it appropriate that she decided first doing a Covid Recovery Plan and that she got that done in a couple months time. We thought so highly of the Covid Recovery Plan, it comes in at #7 on our Top 10 (Key West Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Top 10 Stories for 2020 – #7 Covid Recovery Plan Focuses on Downtown and Business December 25, 2020). Now the same wonderful team that put together the excellent Covid Recovery Plan is embarking on a building a strategic plan for the first time in more than a decade. The goal of the 3 year plan is to engage the community in a collaborative process to identify priorities on a range of things that are critical to the future of the island including, major capital projects, housing, sea level rising, traffic, tourism and the environment. 

The Plan’s consultant Alisa Levy tells us, the plan itself will have an annual operational component with tasks and timelines to ensure that the actions are implemented. While the plans are malleable, they follow a general “blue print” for change and growth. 

The process of creating the Strategic Plan involves four major steps:

  1. A Community survey to gather input and priorities;
  2. The development of the 3 year goals for the plan with a Community Advisory Committee, City Employees and the City Commission;
  3. The development of an Annual Operational Plan (per year) with timelines and action items, and
  4. Regular monitoring and evaluation at quarterly workshops with the City Leadership and the Commission.

There will be a communication component to provide the community with regular updates on the plan. The process itself will be participatory, engaging, and will hopefully bring government and the community closer together to meet shared goals.

The collaborative process has the potential to bring our community together and set us on the right path. We understand that the Strategic Plan should have gone through the process and be ready to implemented in time for the next budget cycle. That’s a good thing!

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 actions that she’s willing to do the right thing. The re-election of Teri Johnston as our Mayor gives us the best chance to make our little island paradise more bike, walk, transit and streets for people friendly. We need more of the Commissioners to follow her lead. And THAT’s why it is our #2 story of the year.

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#3: Crosstown Greenway Shows Path Forward for Bikes (January 2, 2021)
#4: Duval Street Revitalization Project Brings Hope to Downtown (December 29, 2020)
#5: Duval and Whitehead Streets Rebuilt and Repaved, But... (December 28, 2020)
#6: Key West Transit Abandons Old Meandering Routes (December 27, 2020)
#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)

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