New Garden View Apartments Residents Being Provided Bus and Bike Incentives to Go Car-Free

By Chris Hamilton. Story is cross posted at KONK Life on June 16, 2023Support ($) our local journalism here. Follow us at  Friends of Car-Free Key West & Duval Street/Historic Downtown on Facebook and Twitter.

Tenants are just starting to move into the 103 units at the Key West Housing Authority’s new Garden View Apartments at 5220 College Road. That’ great news as it makes a dent in our critical need for affordable workforce housing. New residents are expected to receive some kind of Key West transit pass, providing them with free bus service on the new “Key West Rides” on demand service for Key West and Stock Island. To promote bicycling, the projects’ developers, with the City’s advice, have installed proper bicycle parking throughout the property in weather-protected areas under the buildings and near stairwells.

As the new development is only about 4 miles from the center of Duval Street and our Historic Seaport, it’s possible many residents can ride a bike the twenty-minutes or so to work, shop and play downtown. Treating bicycle parking as a bonafide transportation method signals residents without cars that they are valued too. Providing them with free transit encourages them to take the bus. The transit and bicycle incentives taken together will make it possible that residents can live car-free, saving thousands of dollars a year on the high cost of owning and operating a car. This brings overall livability costs down for our beleaguered work force and helps all of us as it alleviates traffic and parking congestion.

This is in stark contrast to the non-industry standard bike racks installed outside in the weather and the lack of any transit incentives or shuttle bus that the County approved at the recently occupied 240 units at Wreckers Cay on the other side of Stock Island. So, good for the City and the Housing Authority on getting it right. Let’s hope A.H. Monroe and the City do something similarly appropriate at The Lofts workforce housing project.

Research shows that the best time to get someone to change a commute habit is when they move into a new home or change jobs. So, the combination of proper bicycle parking at the home end, a relatively short distance to downtown and the potential for free transit passes help set the stage for more people ditching the car and using bikes and the bus to get from Garden View to downtown. Let’s take a look at the new bicycle parking, what we know about the bus passes and a few things we can do to make it even safer and easier for those wishing to bike between this new development and Old Town.

Free Transit

The details aren’t all fleshed out yet, but in the near future the City’s Sustainability Coordinator Alison Higgins hopes to reveal a special pass provided to new residents that will allow them to ride Key West Transit buses for free. As there is no more fixed-route service, that means residents will be able to use the new “Key West Rides” on-demand service. There are bus stops in each direction directly in front of the new buildings. If the Garden View pass is modeled on the current $25 31-Day Pass, that’s a $300 annual savings to Garden View Apartments residents and quite the incentive to try the new Key West Rides service.

Compare this to the County’s oversight of the new 240-unit Wreckers Cay housing complex. The County required a bus stop but didn’t require the developer to incentivize people to use the bus. No transit passes. No shuttle bus either. And this complex is larger than the Perry Hotel and Oceans Edge Resort, each of which provide free shuttle buses. So good on the City for trying to do something at Garden View.

Proper Bicycle Parking

We were very disappointed in the bicycle parking installed at Wreckers Cay in the fall and wrote about it here (Wreckers Cay and County Need to Do Better By New Residents Who Want to Bikes Between Stock island and Key West, September 2, 2022). The developers used non-industry standard wave bike racks that don’t support the frame of a bicycle and they installed them outside and exposed to the weather instead of under the cover of the building so they could get more cars parked there. And the County approved all of this.

In contrast, the City’s Multi-Modal Transportation Coordinator Ryan Stachurski worked with the Housing Authority throughout the process to ensure the Garden View Apartments had quality, industry standard racks and that they were put under the cover of the buildings to protect them from weather. Going even further and putting them in prime locations near the stairwells. If we’ add one more thing, it would be electric outlets for e-bikes and e-scooters. As we discussed in the September story, you get the transportation you build for. If you treat bicycles as an afterthought instead of as an essential mode of transportation, you’ll get people driving cars. If you provide suitable bike parking at both ends of the trips and a safe bicycle network, you’ll get more people biking. It’s that simple.

Four Miles or Twenty Minutes By Bike to Downtown

If we had our druthers, all new affordable workforce housing would be built downtown or at least on the Island of Key West in order to make it easy and thus maximize the potential for already cashed strapped workers to go car-free. But the Garden View Apartments is on the very edge of Stock Island and just 4 to 4.5 miles, depending on the route and destination to most of downtown. That’s just 20 to 24 minutes or doable for many able-bodied people. Put these folks on an electric assist bike and it is even quicker. Google Maps says the same drive in a car – without traffic – is 13 to 16 minutes. That doesn’t include time to find parking either. So, people on bicycles are not at much of a disadvantage timewise in comparison.

4 Things to Make It Safer and Easier to Bike Between the Garden View Apartments on Stock Island and Downtown

1 – We Need Bike Lanes on College Road
No bike lanes on College Road.

The County has done a nice job on their side of Stock Island by putting wide, often green bicycle lanes on the major streets of Maloney Avenue, 5th Street, 5th Avenue and Cross Street. On the City’s side of Stock Island, where the Garden View Apartments are located, College Road lacks any bicycle infrastructure. This is evident in the Stress Map. There seems ample room to rectify this. When I asked Mayor Johnston about this she said:

“Just drove down College road and was amazed that we resurface this road without consideration of a dedicated bicycle lane. This road is a major pedestrian and bicycle route that could have been made so much more efficient with a little more forethought. And yes, you may quote me. I am also grateful for the bicycle parking and convenient bus stop at the Garden View Apartments. And the fact that they are pet friendly.”

2 – We Need to Address N. Roosevelt Boulevard
One of two bicycle crash deaths that occurred on N. Roosevelt.

For residents of the new Garden View Apartments, the shortest distance downtown is via N. Roosevelt Boulevard. While the wide Promenade that makes its way along the water much of the way can be beautiful, the many retail driveways make for a stressful and sometimes dangerous commute (Stress Map again), especially if drivers who aren’t accustomed to bicycle traffic coming from both directions, don’t look both ways, as evidenced by two bicycle deaths last year.

City staff tells us that as part of a plan to repave N. Roosevelt Boulevard in the near future, FDOT officials are doing a “safety audit” to study things they can do to make the highway safer while they are redoing the street. We understand this is in a draft form and will be shared with the public after it has been vetted. Green paint, raised sidewalks and mirrors where there are driveways? Signage? Consolidated driveways? Wider sidewalks in some places? Separation for e-bikes? A 25 or even 20 MPH limit? We don’t know what all the solutions could be, but we do know that FDOT, the City and the property owners need to fix things.

An alternative is to make it easier to cross the highway and get people onto the very safe Crosstown Greenway (Duck, Staples, Von Phister, South). But this adds more than a mile to the commute, the Triangle is a nightmare for bikes and there’s no safe crossing at Duck Avenue so, perhaps making N. Roosevelt Boulevard safer should be the priority. Especially as FDOT has already nixed a light at Duck Avenue.

3 – We Need to Spend Real Money and Educate Visitors to Slow Down and Be Careful Because Key West Is Different Than the Mainland

Educating the over million people who visit Key West each year, 77% of whom arrive by car, to watch out for and cede the way to bikes and pedestrians should be more of a priority. Most of these folks come from car-centric places where they aren’t used to sharing streets with so many bicycles, e-vehicles, and people. Nor are they used to our tiny, crowded streets. If we can spend $350,000 annually on marketing the Historic Seaport using an advertising vendor, by all means, we should hire a marketing firm and market a car-free experience to visitors AND provide a safety campaign aimed at those that drive, educating them that Key West is different, and cars don’t rule. The City spends virtually no money on this. Nor does the TDC. Nor does the County. During this summer’s budget season, we should tell our commissioners at every level to put some money where their mouths are because they all talk about education as a good thing but never put anything behind it. If they spend some real dollars, we’ll all be safer for it.

4 – More Bike Parking at the Work End

Having a safe and reliable place to park your bicycle makes it more likely you’ll use it. So just like having good parking at their new Garden View home is a good thing, so is great parking on the work, shop and play end. On Duval and adjacent streets, we’ve observed full bike racks and bikes parked on trees, streetlights, building and signposts and fences. As we documented two weeks ago the City has started to put in more racks around downtown. But it isn’t enough, it isn’t consistent, it needs to be in the streets – not on the sidewalks and it needs to happen more quickly. Again, the ask to commissioners is to put up more dollars. We only spend $45K a year on bike parking, much of which is replacing worn out racks. Imagine what spending $200K annually for a while could do?

When We Make It Easier to Bike and Take the Bus, We All Win

Having a safe and reliable place to park your bicycle at home, work, shopping, and play and having a safe and connected network of trails that can get people quickly from Stock Island to downtown make it easier and thus more likely more of us will use a bike to get around instead of driving a car. Free and frequent bus service make it easier and more likely people can rely on transit for work, shopping, and play. For our strapped workforce, going car-free can also save lots of money on the high cost of owning a car. More people going car-free helps all of us fight traffic and parking congestion, improves our environment, makes us healthier and happier and it is more prosperous for downtown Mom and Pop Shops too. It makes our little island more like the paradise it should be. We all win when we make it easier and safer to bike and take the bus.

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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 car-free downtown and works and volunteers for a couple non-profits.

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