Streets for People / Just Passed ‘Greener, Cleaner Transport Act’ Says City Vehicles to Be Electric By 2030, Adds Measures to Improve Transit, Biking and Parking

This week the City Commission did something quite remarkable for our environment and our future. Officially citing rising fuel prices, the war in Ukraine and a concern for our dependence on fossil fuels but perhaps just because four of its seven members are running for re-election this summer, they got off the dime and enacted a series of eco-friendly measures, dubbed the ‘Greener, Cleaner Transport Act’, aimed at making our little island a greener, cleaner bike, walk, and transit paradise. 

Ordinance 22-10 mandates all City and contractor vehicles must be fully electric by 2030. The ordinance also specifies all rental mopeds and golf carts be electric by 2030 and all rental cars by 2035. Ordinance 22-11 is an agreement with FDOT to toll non-Monroe County plates crossing into Key West over Cow Key Bridge to provide dedicated funding for frequent and free Duval Loop-like bus service across Key West, Stock Island, and the Lower Keys. To complement the expanded bus service, Ordinance 22-12 lifts the current moratorium on recreational vehicles and gives the go-ahead to a consortium of local bike shops to pioneer a combined bicycle, e-bike and e-scooter share system at 100 locations throughout Key West and Stock Island. Rounding out these measures is Ordinance 22-13 that puts hourly limits on visitors using the 1,000 unmarked free, 72-hour parking spaces downtown. 

As a group, the Greener, Cleaner ordinances work together to reduce the use of gasoline powered vehicles, create viable transit, bike, and scooter options, and nudge visitors into these alternatives by putting limits on all the free parking scattered throughout old town. It was great to see business organizations coming together with environmental groups to champion the act. We go into the details and timeline of each measure below.

1 – All City and Contractor Vehicles Will Be Electric By 2030

To lead by example, all City fleet vehicles from Key West Transit buses, police cars, public works trucks, to even fire and rescue will need to be converted to electric by the year 2030 per Ordinance 22-10. City of Key West Police Chief Sean Brandenburg said: 

“Our team has already been researching zero emission vehicle options for about a year. Given our small size, the range our vehicles need to travel isn’t the issue it might be in more sprawling districts. It helps that some of the new electric models look amazing! We’re excited to be part of the solution.” 

The fleet makeover will be sped along with generous contributions from the bipartisan American Jobs

Plan (infrastructure package) passed last year in Washington as it has incentives for municipalities doing these fleet conversions. The City said contractors, including Waste Management who handle our trash and recycling must adhere to this rule too. And they’ll be eligible for the federal money also. The City’s Sustainability Coordinator Alison Higgins hailed 22-10 as “rightly putting Key West on the forefront of battling climate change.”

2 – All Recreational Rental Vehicles Must Be Electric by 2030 and Rental Cars by 2035

Ordinance 22-10 also specified that all rental recreational vehicles, such as mopeds and golf carts, must phase out gas-power and be electric by 2030. Pirate Scooter, Conch Scooters and Sunshine Scooter rental officials thanked the Commissioners for giving them the extended time (8 years) to go all electric. All three companies promised to try to beat the deadline by a year or more. Said longtime owner Jon Brenner at Sunshine Scooter: “Our customers are more sophisticated these days and feel more comfortable with a quieter, non-polluting ride. This gives us the incentive to catch up more quickly with where the market was going anyway.”

Any rental cars have until 2035 to be zero emission. Local advocates were disappointed that rental cars also didn’t include a 2030 compliance date. However, the 2035 date aligns with the California law that all vehicles sold to consumers by that date will be zero emission. Experts say that the California law puts pressure on major rental companies to comply across the U.S.A., so the alignment makes it fairly easy for Hertz, Enterprise, National and other companies to come into compliance. 

3 – New Toll on Visitors Across Cow Key Bridge to Fund Expanded Duval Loop-Like Service Across Key West, Stock Island and Lower Keys

The City’s little Duval Loop carries double the passengers the other City routes and Lower Keys Shuttle carry altogether. It does so because the route is simple, the bus comes along somewhat frequently, and it’s free. City officials finally took the Sustainability Advisory Board’s advice and over the next 20 months will replicate the Duval Loop’s success City wide by creating a series of simple loops and connector routes into Midtown, New Town and Stock Island as laid out in the Key West Transit 10-Year Plan

Ordinance 22-11 specifies buses shall come by at least every 15 minutes for 12 hours a day and every 30 minutes for six hours a day, seven days a week. The Lower Keys Shuttle will go from service that averages between 90 minutes and two hours to every 30 minutes. All Key West Transit service, including the Lower Keys Shuttle, will be free – just like the Duval Loop is. The transition will be complete by January 1, 2024. Best of all the entire cost will be covered by a painless small toll on non-Monroe County resident vehicles crossing into Key West over the Cow Key Bridge. Freight will be exempted. FDOT officials told the City Manager tolling could be in place by the start of 2024 and that they’d take an extra percentage of the toll to help pay for the rather quick, by FDOT’s standards, implementation. Said the Mayor: 

“If we seriously want to reduce congestion, improve parking and attract a labor force from outside Key West, we must get this done.”

4 – Bicycle, E-Bike and E-Scooter Share Goes Island Wide as Moratorium on Recreational Vehicles is Lifted

Based on the early success of the recent Lama E-Scooter pilot, Ordinance 22-12 lifts the two-year old moratorium on recreational vehicles and its prohibition on using public right-of-way for app-based vehicle sharing to jump start the use of micro-mobility and get more visitors out of their cars. In response Lama Mobility is teaming up with WeCycle, the Bike Man, Eaton Bikes, and Island Bicycles to quickly expand a seamless point-to-point Key West, Stock Island and Key Haven wide bicycle, e-bike, and e-scooter share program. Aimed at providing visitors, workers and residents, the ability to hop on a micro mobility vehicle of their choice at 100 stations. 

Visitors can walk from their hotel or use the Duval Loop to get to a destination, but on their way back they can take a one-way bicycle, e-bike, or e-scooter trip for free. Or vice versa. With stations scattered throughout all neighborhoods, locals can hop on an e-scooter and head to work and take the bus back if it’s raining. The free rides will be paid for, by you guessed, the new transit tolls. The idea is to give people one-way transit and bike/scooter options! Research shows that enabling one-way trip decisions makes it easier for people to choose to leave their cars at home. While most of the 100 stations will be on private property, the City pledged to provide up to 25 parking spaces for station placement. Said Parking Director John Wilkins: 

“Each of these stations can hold 14-18 bikes or scooters in place of one car parking space. Given the climate crisis and the congestion freeing impact of this groundbreaking transportation option, the tradeoff is easy for us to make. We look forward to working with the new vendor to find ideal spots around downtown.”

5 – City Puts Hourly Limits on Free Parking Spaces for Visitors Downtown

In a move designed to complement Ordinance 22-11– Expanded Key West Transit (#3 above) and Ordinance 22-12 – the lifting of the moratorium on e-bike and e-scooters (#4 above), the City enacted a Visitors Pay-to-Park Ordinance 22-13. It makes the roughly 1,000 unmarked spaces downtown, currently available for free for up to 72 hours or three days to anyone, 4-hour only zones instead. Residential and Key West worker permits excepted. It essentially means locals can keep treating the spaces as free, 3-day parking but visitors will have to move their cars every four hours. This is aimed at getting visitors who are here longer, to store their vehicles in long-term lots and garages and not be tempted to keep using them to get around town. Fans of the old Ron Popeil, know the term “Set it and forget it.” And that’s just what the Commissioners want visitors who bring cars here to do. Park their car, forget it and walk, bike, use the bus or new micro mobility e-bike and e-scooter options. The City’s Parking Director is tasked with getting the new signs up by the new fiscal year or October 1, 2022.

City Commended for Taking the Lead

A who’s who of advocacy groups lined up at the dais and thanked the mayor and commissioners for finally taking a stand for our environment and making our transportation system greener and cleaner. Keys Last Stand; Reef Relief; Safer, Cleaner Ships; Mote Marine Laboratory; and Community Foundation of the Florida Keys all spoke in favor of the package of Greener Cleaner ordinances. In a welcome surprise so did the Key West Chamber of Commerce, the Lodging and Attractions Associations. Even Pier B’s Mark Walsh, Southernmost Houses’ Michael Halpern and former Commissioner Margaret Romero chimed in positively. Everyone seems on board with the new commitment to our environment via greener, cleaner transport.

April Fools!

By now we hope our readers realize all the above is fiction. Sorry. But it is April 1. It was fun to dream of some simple improvements that could make our island greener, cleaner, safer, and easier to get around and thus more prosperous, environmentally sustainable, and happy. Wasn’t it? 

Perhaps we are the fools for letting the naysayers, NIMBYS, and whatabouters stop these kinds of pragmatic projects that would make our island home even better. I mean, we really don’t think any of the above four ordinances, is that much of a stretch. Right? We here at Friends of Car-Free Key West & Duval Street/Historic Downtown hope you’ll join us in trying to make some of these come true. Help us by liking our Facebook page, following us on Twitter and vocally advocating for changes. Our little island paradise will be all the better for it.

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