They're calling it "All Aboard Florida," and we think a high-speed train service between Miami and Orlando would be terrific for Central and South Florida. Construction of the All Aboard Florida (AAF) project is expected to begin this year, with service starting in 2016.
Rail service is an efficient transportation solution that addresses the serious problems of our reliance on fossil fuels, congestion on our roads and highways, and the growing preference of the American people for better transit options. In this day and age, modern rail service represents a forward-thinking investment to help us all move better, faster, and sustainably.
But in order to make AAF the dynamic and efficient transportation corridor it could be, and mitigate a number of adverse impacts on local communities, it needs to include connections for walking and biking.
That is why Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is leading the campaign for a rail-with-trail component of the AAF project - a dedicated trail for walking and biking alongside the rail corridor and connecting to passenger stations and nearby population and business centers.
As with many transportation projects, AAF offers a mixture of potential benefits and negative effects on local communities and the environment. The proposed rail-with-trail would offset many of these negative effects by reducing parking and traffic congestion, providing enhanced emergency services access, and securing important open space for public use.
Rail-with-trail projects like this are booming in popularity, as planners realize that such trails maximize ridership of a rail system by improving access, reduce the need for parking and traffic mitigation, and have a huge impact on the health and well-being of residents. And riding or walking alongside a train corridor has been proven to be incredibly safe - far safer than sharing road corridors with cars.
Many rising American communities are including rail-with-trail as part of their new transit systems to provide a truly mobile transportation solution for growing populations. Florida must follow suit or risk being left behind in the competition to provide attractive communities where people want to live and invest.
Americans are increasingly demanding ways to combine biking, walking and transit as a way to free themselves from the costs - in money and time - of driving. An AAF project that ignores this by not including biking and walking connections will fail to make the most of this significant investment.
The corporation behind AAF has indicated they are not eager to explore the possibility of an adjacent trail, despite the urging of local communities that will be served by it. These same communities have already included an adjacent trail in their planning documents, indicating the important that bike/ped connections are to their plans for the future. It is even featured in the approved Florida Statewide Trail Plan as a high-priority corridor.
So Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's staff and partners in Florida are launching a campaign to make the voices of Florida's residents heard concerning this massive infrastructure project that will impact the transportation options of millions of Floridians for decades to come.
Stay tuned in coming weeks to learn how you can join the groundswell of local support for a biking and walking trail component to All Aboard Florida. This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a good project even better.