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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Opinions generic
Opinions generic

The ability to move around Gainesville safely and efficiently is key to four of the City of Gainesville’s Strategic Plan goals: A Great Place to Live & Experience, Resilient Local Economy, Equitable Community and More Sustainable Community. 

Years ago, I chose Gainesville as home, partly due to its improving network of bicycle facilities and long cycling routes like the Hawthorne Trail. When it was time to find a more permanent home base, I selected a location based on the convenience of being able to ride a bus from home to work and back. And in 2022, I ran for Gainesville City Commission to make sure the multi-family neighborhoods of SW Gainesville had a champion for a safe, efficient transportation system that empowers them to live their fullest lives. 

RTS, Gainesville’s bus transit system, is an integral part of that transportation system. It is vital to the lives of college students and employees as well as residents who don’t drive personal vehicles for every trip. 

The pandemic sharply reduced ridership among all transit systems and RTS was no different. Our ridership rebounded but we are actively studying how to return to the robust ridership numbers we experienced before. The continued success of RTS will depend on cooperation between all partners, including UF, which constitutes nearly 70% of all rides on our buses. 

Over the last 50 years, we have leveraged the resources of UF, Santa Fe College, Alachua County, the federal government and the City of Gainesville to create an exemplary bus system that is the envy of similarly sized cities. It is an uncertain time for the future of public transportation nationwide, but we know Gainesville can’t thrive without a strong bus transit system.

In 2018, the City Commission adopted a goal of eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries. This “Vision Zero” informs our transportation infrastructure decisions. How we build streets and for whom are not merely technical details. Our streets can’t be just for thousands of cars to quickly commute in for work and our trails can’t just be for recreation. Our bus routes can’t only focus on the easiest nodes of student housing to connect to campus. Our efforts must support a system that empowers more residents to get from point A to point B with less danger, less cost and less pollution. Streets, sidewalks, trails and buses are all important pieces of such a system.

I invite residents of District 3 in southwest Gainesville, users of our buses, streets, sidewalks, trails and all interested neighbors across Gainesville to attend my District 3 Virtual Town Hall April 24 at 6 p.m. It will be a time to ask questions about transportation issues like RTS, Vision Zero and our Streets, Stations and Strong Foundations tax-funded projects. 

Casey Willits is the District 3 Gainesville City Commissioner. 

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