The movement of people and goods efficiently and cost effectively is a key to facilitate the growth of a community’s business, residency and tourism. The University Parkway/ Interstate 75 Corridor is now faced with accelerating growth in all these areas. Recently, emergency steps have been undertaken to address the movement of people and goods by innovative steps to improve traffic flow with long-term plans for highway expansion. Since the growth in business, residency is expected to continue and road solutions are limited. The future is now to review and embrace alternate people/goods movement solutions.
An October 2014 article in “Living On the Suncoast” proceeded to outline possible solutions that included commuter light rail, bus rapid transit and even automated electric van circular networks. The idea is to transfer people from a low-density carrier mode to a much higher density mode.
Many cities have determined that buses do not attract a broad section of the population and thereby reduce the usage of the majority of car owners. Rail has been found to be successful in attracting the most ridership and has been shown less expensive to operate than buses.
It would work on the University Parkway corridor for several reasons:
• Monorails are safe. Whether they are of the straddle-beam or suspended variety, modern monorail technology makes derailment virtually impossible.
• Monorails are environment friendly. Since most are electrically powered, monorails are non-polluting.
• Monorails are cost effective. The Seattle Center Monorail, built in 1962 for the Century 21 exposition, is run by a private corporation. In return for the concession to operate the one-mile line, the corporation pays the city $75,000 annually. What private business would take on a contract like this unless profits were guaranteed?
• Monorails are receiving serious attention from transit planners. Houston Metro selected monorail for its city rail system, only to be cancelled later by the city’s mayor. Jacksonville built a people mover-scale monorail in its downtown. Other cities have done the same.
The vision for a monorail on the University Parkway corridor would be as follows:
The monorail is most effective when it connects points of rider density and therefore the key points of connection could be from an area near Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and University Parkway continuing west on to an area near the two Benderson shopping areas at UTC and Cooper Creek Boulevard with an intermediate stop near Lockwood Ridge Road and Tuttle Avenue before termination at the airport. It appears that it would be possible for the monorail system to be constructed predominately down the center of University Parkway, thereby minimizing right-of-way issues and maximizing use of space. The route would be more than seven miles in length.
The people connection to the monorail stations could be collector vans or trolleys (a trolley collector system is already planned by Benderson/Taubman). Moving into the future this monorail system could be linked with a north/south system linking with Tampa to the north and Naples to the south.
It can be envisioned that the University Parkway corridor could extend south from the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport down Tamiami Trail connecting to downtown Sarasota and loop east up Fruitville Road following north up Cattlemen Road completing the loop at the UTC mall area on University Parkway.
There could be a partnership with FPL to construct a primary electric power source based on solar to minimize operation cost.
The future is now and we have an opportunity to move ahead on the transportation curve by designing and implementing efficient and cost effective people moving systems to not only eliminate impendence of the growth of business and tourism but also facilitate it. A monorail system could be the safest option to facilitate the movement of people while minimizing impacts on auto traffic.
Michael Finney is a Lakewood Ranch resident.