Grid Un-Locked Culminates in Carma, Community Solutions



Community leaders and concerned citizens gathered at The Francis last night for the culmination of Grid Un-Locked—a six-week, six-session series bringing six speakers to the podium for a comprehensive review of mobility, transportation and traffic congestion in the area. Organized largely by Chris Gallagher of Hoyt Architects and Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Cooper, the series aims to enable and activate the community to handle today’s traffic, as well as coming growth, without breaking the infrastructure or city experience. “Every one of us, if we put our thinking caps on, can come up with some idea of where we might go,” says Gallagher.

Cooper took the stage first, bringing the audience up to speed and cementing four key principles recurring throughout the series, including the importance of “the grid” in understanding local traffic. Traffic is not a question of the number of lanes, but the number of options that the traffic grid provides its users. “Options are what keeps traffic moving,” says Cooper, and adding only a few streets to a grid can increase options by almost an order of magnitude. “Are you a road-builder or a connection-maker,” he asks. Next, to understand local traffic, one must understand land use patterns, i.e. what destinations create trips and how time of day affects trips. Rush hour will always be a thing and some businesses attract more people than others; understanding these things is key to understanding how to channel the effects. A possible solution could be another emerging theme—complete streets. Complete streets offer space for multimodal transportation, from cars to bikes, pedestrians and mass transit. And all of these solutions must take into account a community that exists on a spectrum from urban core to rural landscape, where not every road has the same demands.

With Gallagher as the series’ concluding speaker, the tone was less of lecture and more of wrap-up and brainstorming. The key, according to Gallagher, is that there will be no simple fix or single plan to account for all of these moving parts. And there exists no one entity that bears sole responsibility. The solution, based on the previous five weeks of study, would actually be myriad solutions from multiple people of all walks of life in the community. From government to road builders and users, and from employers to employees and philanthropists and community chambers, each can have a role to play, with projects small and large. As an employer, Gallagher cannot unilaterally create more roadways, but he can allow his staff staggered arrivals in the morning, easing congestion at key times. “When you add all those things up,” he says, “you can improve the quality of life and create a better community.”

Even those not old enough to drive are chipping in. The winners of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County’s two-day Hackathon Competition, the students of Team Carma, shared their concept for a mobile app that helps coordinate carpooling between parents, students and drivers. Called Carma and created by Venice High School senior Liam Hines, Pine View School eighth grader Bear Mancinni, Anastasia Samedi of Booker Middle School and other teammates, the app was inspired by seeing fellow students unable to attend their schools of choice. “One of the biggest problems in realizing these opportunities was transportation,” says Hines. With Carma, parents can schedule rides and track them, students can see their schedules and when rides arrive and drivers can schedule their rides and earn points for driving safely and consistently.

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