Who needs a ride?
Charles Barmby, the City's Business Development & Transportation Manager fills in the blanks for this long-term economic development project
US 98 Bus Rapid Transit Feasibility Study - Survey
When? In other words, given all "green lights", when would the project be fulfilled?
The project team is currently evaluating transit improvements for the near term and longer-term future. The near-term improvements focus on operational improvements to the Gold Line that are intended to be implemented in the next five years, assuming funding can be identified to support these improvements. The longer-term capital improvements (improved station amenities and dedicated transit lanes on the northern segment of the alignment) have a proposed horizon of 15-25 years and would also need to identify capital funding. FDOT and the City of Lakeland are evaluating the feasibility of the proposed improvements as well as potential funding sources.
Who benefits directly? Riders? Commerce on the route? Developers? The City's tax base?
The intent is to benefit a variety of stakeholders in the Lakeland community including existing transit riders, future riders, businesses and employees, and existing drivers in the corridor.
Riders and businesses would benefit from the improved access and travel times that the project could bring. Drivers could also benefit from reductions in congestion with people switching from the car to the bus. We hope that developers and business owners alike will see the benefits of improved transit and mobility options in the corridor. With more development, the city could also assume to capture some additional revenues, however, that is not the primary intent of the project. The study does address the extent to which new development activity already projected to occur in Lakeland would need to be focused along the corridor, to achieve a level of activity that could warrant high capacity transit service in the future, and to help guide City policy priorities.
What does it look like? A bus? A train? (I see the "US 98 Bus" reference, but is it short for "Business", or is it truly a bus?)
Both near term and longer-term transit in the US 98 corridor is envisioned to be a bus. However, the corridor connects several potential plans for the high-speed rail (I-4 corridor) and commuter rail (to Downtown Lakeland). The near-term buses would be the same as those operating in the corridor today. The longer-term vision is to have a fleet of specially branded electric buses in the US 98 corridor between the Lakeland Square Mall area and downtown Lakeland (or the future intermodal facility).
The "Where?" is pretty clear as to its geography, and the "Why?" is laid out at a high level, but can more specifics be added in terms of its impact at ground level?
Impacts of the project will be evaluated further as project elements are defined in more detail. General project benefits and the “why” answer will be included in the final plan and documentation.
So, How? Taxes? Fees? Investors? Bonds? City vs. State share of the funding?
Potential operating and capital funding sources are being evaluated. However, at this time, no specific suite of funding has been identified. This will require further work by the City, Lakeland Area Mass Transit District (LAMTD), and other stakeholders.
And last on my list today: What political influences and influencers are most likely to play a role?
The study is intended to provide the context for policy decision-making regarding the corridor. Successful high capacity transit service results from an intentional and sustained commitment from many partners, including the City. This study will ideally inform those discussions going forward.