With one year left until SunRail is set to take to the tracks passing through Winter Park, the city is teaming up with students from Rollins College to address a lingering loose end in the system’s planning: the last mile.
From DeBary to South Orlando, with Winter Park in between, the rail drops riders from station to station, but getting the last mile – from station to office – isn’t covered yet in the current plans, said recent Rollins environmental studies graduate Ilana Feldman. As part of a grant issued by the Environmental Protection Agency to Rollins to find a way to capture the investment of SunRail, she and two other students sought a solution for the problem through a city-centric bike share program.
“We’re trying to find a solution to what’s called the last mile problem … If there’s a commuter rail that goes through town, it won’t necessarily go to the exact location that the person would have to work, so as an incentive to use the commuter rail there’d then be a bike program so they could get from the station to wherever they work or from the station to work,” Feldman said.
To learn more about Keep Winter Park Beautiful and initiatives the city is taking to stay sustainable, visit kwpb.org. For more information about the Bicycle Library Program and other sustainability projects at Rollins College, visit rollins.edu/sustprog/bicycle.html
Rollins operates a bike share system of its own on campus, allowing students, faculty and staff to check out bikes for three days at a time to commute around the community for no cost – but this bike share program would span the mile radius of Winter Park to specifically serve SunRail riders.
“With SunRail that’s coming in, I know its going to have people coming and going for campus and a need for an expanded system,” Rollins environmental studies and sustainability program coordinator Ann Francis said.
Feldman, along with her two fellow students Jenny Salchunas and Caitlyn Glatting, surveyed 100 Rollins students and 100 random community members about a potential bike share program, and compared their findings to the use of similar programs wheeling into cities across the nation.
From Portland, Ore., to Washington, D.C., and in-state in Miami Beach and in Broward County, they matched up feedback to already rolled out programs to come up with suggestions for Orlando and Winter Park. Their proposal, which they presented to Rollins faculty in April, fell in line with what the city of Winter Park is working to secure, said the city’s Sustainability Coordinator Tim Maslow.
This week, the city of Orlando is scheduled to move forward with a request for proposal to contract out the construction and management of 20 to 30 bike share kiosks in the city centered on and scheduled to launch with SunRail in May 2014. Maslow said Winter Park will serve on the selection committee in the process, and then join in with five stations of its own as the only other SunRail city currently pursuing the bike share system. Each station would have an automated check-out kiosk with 10 bikes available to check out, which could then be returned to any other station in either city.
“If you get on at our SunRail station you can event rent a bike here, take it on SunRail and drop it off downtown or vice versa … It’s user friendly,” Maslow said.
The idea behind a bike share system falls in line with both Winter Park and Rollins’ continuing commitments to sustainability, Maslow and Francis said. Fewer cars on the road, lower emissions, and increased physical activity, they said, make it a perfect match moving forward, especially as SunRail moves in.
“SunRail isn’t just about SunRail,” Maslow said. “It’s about getting around without a personal vehicle.”
To capitalize on that, and the connectedness and density of downtown Winter Park, he said the city is researching bike share station locations at the Winter Park Village, Hannibal Square, Rollins College and the Winter Park Public Library, all of which fall within a mile of the train station. To evaluate how these proposed stations will play into the city’s transportation master plan, along with SunRail and other sustainable initiatives, the city’s launching a new transportation study in the coming months.
“Everyone’s had these different ideas … what we’re doing is compiling all of those ideas into one cohesive plan,” Maslow said.
With the support of the city, along with Rollins and the city of Orlando, Rollins recent grad and research project participant Jenny Salchunas said she’s hopeful that her team’s research can help make a local bike share program a reality.
“There’s a lot of programs that can help make this a success,” she said, “It’s just a matter of getting everybody on board.”