Walt Disney, I think everyone can agree, was a visionary. His desire to see an America connected by a series of high speed trains, monorails, and people mover systems was given proof of concept by his theme park experiments and plans for the City of Tomorrow. So, while I think he would be happy that Central Florida is finally getting on board with high speed rail, commuter rail, and possible light rail, he’d be mighty amused by the way we’re going about it.
The NY Times has a great story looking at just how messed up it is. For instance Orlando, Tampa, and Lakeland are just not set up where you can get around without a car. Even Disney’s TTA, as it turns out, can’t get around without a car.
A recent visit to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, a retro-futuristic people mover in the Magic Kingdom, shows the enduring pull of car culture in Florida: a sign at the station announces that it is presented by Alamo, the car rental company.
That said, we definitely need more mass transit. As long as there is good long range planning, it can be an ‘if you build it they will come’ situation. It’s worked great that way in Portland, Phoenix, New York City (obviously), and dozens of other cities. But just building two systems with no plan to connect them shows we’re not off to a very good start here in Central Florida.
I’m going to put my “what would Walt do” hat on for a second (fully realizing, I probably don’t know what he would have done, but it’s fun to try). I think Walt would want the High Speed Rail from Orlando to Tampa, with the stops in Lakeland, Walt Disney World, and the convention center. But rather than turning right and heading to the airport, the HSR should continue right on to Daytona beach with a stop at Downtown Orlando inbetween.
The commuter rail, aka Sunrail, on the other hand could function better as a series of smaller light rail lines running mostly east and west from the main High Speed Rail. For example the first to be built could go from the convention center west toward Clermont/Ocoee and East to the airport and then UCF. The second could go from the convention center up and down International Drive connecting all the attractions and Kissimmee’s convention center (to be built).
But two north and south lines and don’t meet and don’t even stop at the important destinations, they really need to rethink that.