The Northwest Florida Regional TPO and West Florida Regional Planning Council hosted their 2nd Annual Emerald Coast Transportation Symposium on Pensacola Beach, May 29 and 30. Building on the success of the first symposium, the two-day event provided a forum for leadership in transportation and growth management.
With four keynote speakers – including FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad – and nine breakout sessions, more than 200 professionals and policymakers came together to discuss ways in which we can more efficiently and effectively adapt our transportation system to 21st century economic and environmental realities.
“Transportation planning projects are long-term and expensive. When newly elected officials come into office, it’s often hard to keep existing long-range plans on track,” said Destin City Councilman and Northwest Florida Regional TPO Chairman Jim Wood. “Those who attended this event left with a better appreciation of the need for our citizens to come to a consensus and elected officials to stay the course.”
Discussion topics included airport and port planning issues, complete streets strategies, alternative fuels, infrastructure and health, and more. Innovators had the opportunity to inspire, experts shared their best practices, industry leaders discussed their regionally significant issues, and guests increased their collective knowledge of how transportation impacts health, the economy, and the environment.
The relationship between transportation and the economy – as well as infrastructure impact and health – became much more apparent to attendees at the end of the symposium. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
The WFRPC is planning to host a third symposium sometime in 2015. Speaker videos will be posted here soon, please check back.
Tim Chapin, Ph.D. – Professor, Florida State University
Tim Chapin, Ph.D., of Florida State University’s Urban Planning Department, demonstrated to attendees how Florida’s population composition will change in remarkable ways between 2010 and 2030, with a large increase in the percentage residents in their retirement years (aged 65 and older). Driving this remarkable demographic transformation in Florida and the United States in the next two decades is the aging of the Baby Boom generation into retirement. The aging of Florida’s population will have profound impacts upon the state, its cities and counties, and the real estate industry that provides housing for these residents. The aging of the Baby Boom generation provides a wonderful opportunity to build upon some of the efforts in Florida at developing mixed-use and human-centered (rather than automobile-centered) communities.
Creating Great Cities
Gil Penalosa – Executive Director, 8-80 Cities
Gil Penalosa, executive director of 8-80 Cities, spoke passionately on ensuring the safety and joy of children and older adults (from 8 year olds to 80 year olds) are at the forefront of every decision we make in our cities. He showed how quickly and easily transportation-weary cities could be transformed into thriving communities where people can walk, bike, access transit and visit vibrant parks and public places, no matter their age, ability, or social status. He gave real-world examples of the benefits of putting people first when planning cities from the point of view of public health, environment, recreation, mobility, and economic development.
John Robert Smith – Chairman, Transportation For America
John Robert Smith, Chairman of Transportation for America, believes strong local economies are the foundation of a strong national economy, but today, America’s economic competitiveness is threatened because our cities, towns and suburbs are not getting the resources necessary to keep up with transportation needs. At the same time, our existing federal transportation fund is on the verge of bankruptcy in the face of slackening gas tax receipts and severe budget cuts. We need to make new connections within our communities – cities and towns, both big and small. Local communities have the vision for transportation networks that will ensure that businesses can recruit a diverse, dependable workforce; goods can reach their destination cheaply and efficiently; and our cities, suburbs and towns can attract talent and compete on a global scale.
Keynote Address by FDOT Secretary Prasad
Ananth Prasad – Secretary, FDOT
Secretary Ananth Prasad discussed that state has more funds for transportation this year than in years passed and stressed the importance of community consensus in transportation planning. If communities cannot reach decisions about their transportation needs, the state will move past them and fund communities that DO have an agreement on long range goals. He stressed that transportation infrastructure was vital to bringing in economic development, but that “hope and pray” was not a good business plan – DOT isn’t going to put infrastructure in place and hope that new industry comes to take advantage of it. Local communities must do their work first to entice industry and then the state can help with infrastructure.
Representatives Doug Broxson, Marti Coley and Clay Ingram discussed the 2014 Florida Legislative Session and its effects on transportation programs and projects, the economy and partnerships around the state.
Aviation industry experts gave a regional and federal perspective on the role aviation plays in the communities and our local economies and the recent boom in regional aviation development.
Bringing Industry to the Region
Escambia County Commissioner Gene Valentino moderated this lively panel discussing what it takes for a community and an entire region to compete for and “land” compatible, energized business and industry – and sharing the differences and similarities between state and private sector visions of “an attractive place to do business.”
Speakers in the Complete Streets panel discussed the growing recognition across the nation of the economic and health benefits of a balanced transportation system. The foundational principles of complete streets were detailed and both local government and private leaders gave updates on current projects. Panelists also focused on the challenges and opportunities of developing complete streets in the panhandle region.
The Future of Transit
Panelists discussed a variety of major transit projects underway or in the plans and the process for obtaining funding. Guests learned about the demographic and socioeconomic trends that will have an impact on transit in the future as well as how technology will change how people use transit in the future.
Plan to Reality
Speakers discussed the wide range of tasks involved before, during and after a highway is built, bike paths or sidewalks are installed, bus rapid transit rolls and several other complicated planning projects. (watch video)
Building Lean & Green
Innovative ideas and practices were shared that can build roads for less money and keep the environment in mind. Topics included public-private partnerships, crushed asphalt and super pavement.
Ports: Florida’s Secret Weapon
Panelists explained out how ports bring high-paying jobs and economic benefits to the communities while moving goods around the globe efficiently and seamlessly. Panelists gave an overview of their specific port and their uniqueness. Topics discussed included the Panama Canal expansion, physical space constraints for the ports, and how the ports are focusing on niche areas to maximize profits.
Speakers from Gulf Power and natural gas companies discussed choices and practical applications of using alternative energy for our personal automobile or a huge commercial fleet from what is available today as well as what will be on the horizon.
Health and the Built Environment
Panelists in Health and the Built Environment discussed the impacts of infrastructure on health, as well as how each one of them has led reform in their respective organizations to incorporate health data and objectives into local and state government infrastructure policies. (watch video)
WFRPC’s 50th Anniversary
And last but certainly not least, the West Florida Regional Planning Council has served Northwest Florida by addressing urban development issues for 50 years. Executive Director Terry Joseph and Chairman Thomas Abbott, mayor of the city of Callaway gave an overview of the council from its early years to its current responsibilities and services. (watch video)
Disclamer: The Northwest Florida Regional TPO and the West Florida Regional Planning Council do not necessarily endorse, support, sanction, encourage, verify or necessarily agree with all the comments, opinions or statements made during the Transportation Symposium. Any information or material distributed at the event, including advice and opinions, are the views and responsibility of those making the comments and do not necessarily represent those of the Northwest Florida Regional TPO and the West Florida Regional Planning Council.