Editorial: Cars off the road

Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 4, 2013 at 4:31 p.m.

Nearly 25 years ago, Gainesville's Regional Transit System first identified the need for park-and-ride lots. On Monday, the first lot finally opened.

It consists of 43 spaces in a designated park-n-ride area within the lot of the new Walmart Supercenter off Northwest 34th Street near U.S. 441. Commuters can park their vehicles there for free and catch an RTS bus to the University of Florida and Shands.

It might not seem like much, but these kind of efforts are exactly what the area needs to reduce traffic congestion.

Community discussions about transportation sometimes descend into a dynamic of roads versus buses. That's unproductive and misguided.

Everyone who drives should cheer when increased mass transit options lead to cars coming off the roads. There's a desperate need for road improvements in the area, but we won't be able to simply build our way out of the problem of crowded roads.

Park-and-ride lots are envisioned in plans for new developments including the Butler Plaza expansion, Celebration Pointe and Newberry Village. Putting park-and-ride lots at entry points into the city will provide options for commuters to leave behind their cars, rather than fight for limited parking spaces on the University of Florida campus or downtown.

College students have the incentive of bus rides paid through their fees, while more than 32,000 area employees are part of an employee bus-pass program. But more incentives are needed to convince workers to ditch their cars and ride the bus.

It might simply mean improvements to the frequency and reliability of RTS buses, or some version of a bus rapid transit system might be necessary. Either way, continuing to increase bus ridership is a key part of solving the area's long-term transportation problems.

So even if the new park-and-ride lot isn't an option, cheer when you see people parking there if you're shopping at the new Walmart. It means one less car on the road when you're driving home.

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