June 11, 2008

Florida needs commuter rail

Beth Kassab of the Orlando Sentinel attended the Regional Rally for Rail. In her column today, she wrote:
"The idea is to get multiple regions in the state to join Central Florida's fight. The logic is this: If Central Florida loses, so do cities like Tampa and Jacksonville, which may also seek rail."
This is very true. Commuter rail is not just an Orlando project. The entire state of Florida needs this system.

As mentioned above, other cities in Florida need passenger rail service, too, and if the Central Florida commuter rail system dies, so does any chance those other cities will get a rail system in the future.

But the importance of commuter rail extends beyond just the transportation needs of Tampa and Jacksonville. The future economic prosperity of the entire state depends on this project. Allow me to explain.

Tourism is the foundation of Florida’s economy, and Orlando is the cornerstone. For years, tourism in Orlando has generated a windfall in sales tax revenue for the rest of the state. Yet this cash flow is under attack – not by this year’s budget crunch or by commuter rail – but by other global markets that seek to supplant Central Florida as the world's premier tourist destination.

In a global marketplace with increasing travel options, every advantage and disadvantage has an impact on the success or failure of a destination. Traffic congestion is a serious threat to the Orlando brand.

As the world gets flatter, vacationing in competing markets becomes easier for domestic and international tourists. And these markets are aggressively trying to take business from Florida (as we are from them.) For example, the city of Dubai is planning to invest $15 billion in its infrastructure over the next five years. They have a global vision for the future. Compare that to Florida, where the American Society of Civil Engineers recently released a report stating that infrastructure investment in Florida is inadequate.

If our competitors are upgrading their product and we are not, we will fall behind, and the entire state will suffer. So Tampa, Jacksonville, Lakeland and other cities need to support the Central Florida commuter rail project. Their economic outlook depends on it.

2 comments:

Sagansky said...

Bob,
I agree.
"Tourism is the foundation of Florida’s economy, and Orlando is the cornerstone."

To bad this commuter rail project doesn't stop at the Orlando International Airport or ANY of the major theme parks to pick up those valuable tourists!

Bob said...

1. The second leg of Central Florida's rail system will travel from the Orange County Convention Center to Sand Lake Road where it will connect with the North-South route, then east to the airport and UCF Medical School.

2. Commuter rail is not for tourists, its for commuters. The benefit of commuter rail to tourism, though, is that it is needed because traffic congestion has a negative impact on Orlando's image.