Ok – It’s a Street Fight!

Spend a weekend walking the gritty streets of traffic-choked Manhattan and it’s all you need to experience to understand why so many brilliant people, backed by enormous sums of venture capital, are working 24/7 to change the way we move from point to point. Imagine the smart-phone revolution applied to mobility. The way we move around in two decades may be as strange to us as fax machines and rotary-dial telephones are to today’s college students.

Next week I intend to write more about this epic tsunami of future innovation coming from places like Detroit and Pittsburgh, but today I want to emphasize the here and now.

My trip to NYC evidenced the inspiring grit of New Yorkers taking back their streets by making them fun and safe for walkers, shoppers, runners, bicycles, and drivers. Credit starts with the true revolutionaries, people like former Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein and NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, whose book Street Fight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution – makes a compelling case that with paint, lawn chairs, umbrellas & other inexpensive items we can take our streets back, creating new forms of spontaneous life by spawning value from concrete and asphalt.

Parking – What a Waste of Space  Metros such as NYC know the value of space and encourage density. The dwellings are tall and street parking is used to provide protective separation between green-painted bike lanes and active traffic.

What you will not see are vast expanses of concrete or asphalt lots playing host to hundreds of cars as we do in Tampa or tourists’ destinations like Orlando (see the photo below) where sprawl is endemic. The wasting of valuable real estate on these monuments to squandered potential is part and parcel for Florida. At least old Florida. For I am now observing a new force at work, visible in the plethora of street activists now populating Facebook’s Transit Now Tampa Bay or writing for URBN Tampa Bay, but also from unexpected places like FDOT District 7, which is becoming the wellspring for a myriad of cool transit pilot projects and studies for even larger transit deployments.

OK – I get that Tampa is not NYC or Boston or San Francisco, but like many emerging metros in the Midwest or South, the case for investing in public transit rather than public parking is beginning to take hold. More money spent on public transit – and I mean GREAT public transit – is money not contributing to the waste of valuable real estate for parked cars, that could otherwise contribute to the local economy. It also means that failed roads, whose only remedy according to cranky old transportation engineers is wildly expensive widening, can actually be slimmed down to support other uses, such as walking, biking, shopping, and safer commutes for those behind the wheel.

What do I mean? Think US 19 and then imagine the exact opposite.

Or think Busch Blvd or Fowler Avenue and imagine a vastly different streetscape. Think potential: unleashed. We at Tampa !p are doing just that. In 2017 we partnered with Sam Schwartz Engineering to explore cool options for remaking Fowler Avenue from a means to move from parking lot to parking lot into a vibrant destination place.

And this year we introduce a new Circulator Service which we hope will be the first brick in the foundation of a new world order for the University area – one where people are valued over cars and hundreds of thousands can move easily from point to point without the madness associated with finding your parked car, driving a short distance, looking for a new parking space and then repeating over and over.

Over the next 12 months, I intend to take Sharpe Bytes deep into the heart of the mobility revolution that will reshape our world. I will be writing about what I see, experience, and hope to deploy in Tampa and beyond. Maybe it just means laying some paint on the road, or perhaps it means deploying fleets of robot-driven buses.

Janette Sadik-Khan wrote, “if you can change the street, you can change the world.” I intend to take you into the very heart of this world-changing revolution. It will be crazy, wild, a bit gonzo, and might even BYTE.