Orange County’s moment is now. Between now and Election Day, voters will decide whether to keep the congested, outdated, broken status quo — or to transform and improve Orange County’s future by voting yes on the transportation initiative. For the region’s business community, labor movement, safety advocates, civil rights leaders, and anyone who’s spent hours stuck in traffic on I-4, this measure is a no-brainer.
Here’s why. Economic data shows that by 2030, 1 million new residents, 500,000 new jobs, and millions more annual visitors will be coming into our region. While this is great for our economy, it means our roads will be more congested. Our residents, and our visitors, deserve better. This new transportation measure will improve our mobility landscape by offering convenient, comfortable alternatives. Right now, the Lynx system is undersized for what our community needs.
If the Orlando region is going to keep pace with other major cities, better transit isn’t a “nice to have,” it’s a “need to have.” For the first time in my five years as the president and CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership, I have seen unlikely partners come together to pass a dedicated transportation tax. People understand the importance of having a safe and reliable transportation system — one that recognizes highways alone are not the answer. We must be smart, efficient and sustainable.
Today, the number of jobs reachable by public transit in a 30-minute commute in the Orlando metropolitan area is 5,500, while the number of jobs reachable in 30 minutes by car is 536,084. That number drops to 2,458 if the person relies on a bicycle.
Those statistics are unacceptable. It tells us that our current infrastructure is failing top businesses and talented workers who seek a higher quality of life.
This plan is supported by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and will double the current transit system and create more frequent and reliable service for those who depend on transit to get to work or school, or to access health care. This will lead to greater ridership, which will help reduce congestion on roads, helping everyone, including drivers who never use transit.
There’s a financial reason to support this measure as well: federal money. Voting “yes” on transportation will give us access to state and federal funding dollars that would otherwise be lost to competing regions with robust transit networks like Austin, Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Denver, Miami-Dade, and Broward County, locations that have passed similar measures to improve their transportation systems. If we don’t pass this measure, we’ll likely be leaving money on the table.
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During the Orlando Economic Partnership’s recent leadership mission trip to Denver, it became clear that a thriving downtown core is a key to the economic vitality of our region. A vibrant downtown not only boosts the quality of life for our residents but acts as a catalyst for recruiting the world’s most innovative companies to grow and expand in our region.
Imagine being able to travel to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando by bus, train or car, whichever option you choose, through better roads with less congestion and more accessibility.
This is the best transportation funding option that will limit the tax burden on businesses and residents with tourists and visitors paying 50% of the taxes. Every penny tax collected stays right here to be invested in our community, which is great for local businesses.
Let’s move Orange County forward and make sure we have answers to the undeniable problem of lack of accessibility and equity when it comes to finding jobs and attracting new businesses. Workers take multiple buses to get to work, with routes articulately planned out with no room for error, to simply get to work or home on time.
We need to get out of the 1990s — whether you use public transportation or not, whether you drive a car or not. Transportation plays a role in our everyday lives and voting yes can make our community and neighborhoods better. It’s about the future of businesses that depend on reliable transportation for their people, products, and productivity.
This is our last shot — and the best opportunity. Let’s not throw away our shot and vote yes on transportation by Nov. 8.
Tim Giuliani is the president and CEO of Orlando Economic Partnership.