June 18 2013

Learning from Tourism-Based Transit: An Orlando, Florida, Case Study

Orlando, Florida, is consistently the most-visited city in the United States with 48 million annual tourists. It should come as no surprise, then, that a major portion of the local economy is made up of service, hospitality, and theme-park-related jobs relying on national and international visitors. Despite the industry’s importance to the area, local infrastructure decisions often ignore both tourists and tourism employees.

Public transportation options currently exist, but are scarcely advertised and can be difficult to figure out, even for locals. Those who want a more cost-effective way of getting around, other than taxis, and who want more freedom than hotel shuttles can provide, are relegated to using the International Drive Trolley or taking the public bus service known as Lynx. While most citizens don’t see the immediate importance of fixed-transit, city officials should be more conscious of future trends in transportation.

Orlando International Airport, monorail

Still, I always find it interesting that visitors and locals love taking the Airport People Mover and the Disney Monorail, even though they never use public transit in their everyday lives. Why are these systems so popular? Transportation engineers should take note of three important aspects: these systems are free, simple, and convenient.

Everyone enjoys a free ride, especially if they’ve just paid for a flight to Orlando or admission to a theme park. However, Miami’s MetroMover proves that even a downtown circulator can become an attraction for both tourists and commuters, as well as an economic asset. What these rail lines also have in common is that they are user-friendly, with limited stops and clear signage. Lastly, the stops are conveniently placed and the ride is quick – usually faster than by car or bus.

While transportation to and from Orlando’s attractions will continue to focus on cars, taxis, and busses, investors and transit officials are looking toward the future. One plan that has gained traction in the past year is for a magnetic levitation train that would connect the airport to the attractions area. This will be just one piece in a comprehensive Orlando-wide transit system.

What type of transportation do you use when traveling to other cities?

Credits: Data and photos linked to sources.

Alex Lenhoff

Alex Lenhoff is a graduate of the Masters of Planning in Civic Urbanism program at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. His other degrees include anthropology and foreign languages, which provide him with a diverse, human-centered perspective on urban planning. Alex returned to Orlando after spending a few years traveling through Europe, teaching English, and attending universities in Germany and Spain. He hopes to use his experiences abroad to further the built environment in Florida through efficient design, environmentally friendly practices, and authentic communities. During his time at The Grid, Alex wrote about Orlando’s challenges and successes, while profiling a city coming into its own.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 18th, 2013 at 9:49 am and is filed under Infrastructure, Transportation, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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One Response to “Learning from Tourism-Based Transit: An Orlando, Florida, Case Study”

  1. Arden Brey Says:

    I believe we share a number of interests. My education consists of a BA in Industrial Design (University of Cincinnati) and an MCP in City Planning (Georgia Tech) with a specialty in Transportation Planning. I was a route and station consultant to MARTA in Atlanta and with the State of Georgia.
    Alex,
    I recently retired comfortably, but find I miss working on, and solving transportation problems, so I turned to inventing transportation solutions that I think specific cities could benefit from. I now am a citizen advisor to the Jacksonville Transportation Advisory Board, and formerly to the Jacksonville Transportation Administration (JTA) concerning rapid transit routes and station locations).

    My next area of interest is promoting a maglev HSR route between Atlanta and Jacksonville and have found some interest in Georgia. When it is convenient, I’d like to get share some thoughts and experiences. Arden

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