Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An Extravagance We Cannot Afford

If, as it has been observed, military generals are always preparing to fight the "last" war with outmoded technology and tactics that have been superceded by new conditions, can we say that those who govern Pensacola Beach now seem to be planning to fight for a type of tourist business that is rapidly disappearing with the changing times and economy?

Doubling the Bob Sikes Bridge toll to the equivalent of half a gallon of gas is not the problem. Building an $8 million to $10 million parking ramp in the center of Pensacola Beach is.

Beach businessman Bruce Ferris has it right when he told the News Journal's Kris Wernowsky, "The money could be utilized on a better shuttle system."

The best ECAT has been able to manage for access to Pensacola Beach is a miserably bare bones bus schedule that runs between the beach and downtown Pensacola only twice a day, six days a week. The scheduled times and stops are abysmal. You could move an artillery regiment faster -- and they'd probably have more fun while sight-seeing along the way.

Nothing but highways built for individual automobiles directly links Pensacola Beach to the airport; the I-10 corridor; East-West coastal highway 98; popular scenic, historic, museum, or recreational sites on the mainland; and all the other beach communities from Fort Walton to Perdido Key.

For once, how about meeting the future instead of lagging behind it? Rather than committing to build a multi-million parking lot as if we are still in the 1980s, the Santa Rosa Island Authority can lead the way in getting everyone together throughout the Greater Pensacola area; all the little fiefdoms from Perdido Key to Fort Walton Beach. Start planning now for an imaginative, convenient, and enjoyable area mass transit system that integrates and expands tourist (and local resident) travel options throughout the Northwest Florida coastal area.

Hundreds of other communities in the U.S. and around the world -- many of them with widely dispersed populations no bigger than ours -- are doing it with a mix of buses and trams, light rail cars, and a variety of other people-moving systems. You can be sure thousands more are planning to join them soon as we are compelled, at last, to wean ourselves from our oil addiction.

In four months, a $2 toll is going to look cheap when gas is selling for $7 a gallon. Only some "new" multi-million dollar parking ramp will seem like an extravagance that we cannot afford.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You don't get it. The engineering firms and bond lawyers who have a cozy relationship with the county don't make money off improving mass transit. They make money off building high monstrosities for gas guzzlers that pollute the air. Buses are for the poor suckers. Parking ramps make the rich businessmen richer.