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Transportation tops issues in StPete2050

Margie Manning

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The Center for Health Equity hosted workshop for StPete2050 earlier this year. Results were shared at a recent city council meeting.

Transportation and mobility concerns have emerged as the top themes the city of St. Petersburg needs to address over the next 30 years.

City residents who took part in a series of workshops and an online survey for the StPete2050 initiative cited public transportation improvements, walkability, parking and bike lanes as among the most important subjects for the city’s future.

Other top themes were sustainability, including climate change, and education.

City officials unveiled the findings Wednesday night as they began the second set of workshops for StPete2050, a citywide conversation about the future of St. Petersburg. Additional workshops will be Saturday, Feb. 1 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the St. Petersburg Main Library at 3745 9th Ave. N., and on Tuesday, Feb. 4 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Willis S. Johns Recreation Center at 6635 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N.

Everyone’s input is important, said Deputy Mayor and City Administrator Kanika Tomalin.

“How awesome is this city going to be when we take the talent that we have … and add to it dedication and commitment and insistence on inclusivity and equity, and resilience and all of the values that make us such a special place. It’s going to propel us from great to iconic,” Tomalin said.

Those attending the Wednesday night workshop talked in small groups about each of the major themes related to the city’s future. They were asked to rate the level of progress so far and to provide implementation suggestions to be more successful in the future. See the chart below for details on what the city has heard so far about each of the major themes.

StPete2050 is the second time in recent years the city has undertaken long-range planning with citizen input. A process in 2001 resulted in the Vision 2020 plan. Vision 2020 was influential in determining land use and zoning in the city, said Derek Kilborn, manager of urban planning and preservation.

About 375 people took part in the Vision 2020 process, a fraction of the 4,550 people who have provided input during the first phase of StPete2050. This time around, the city is using non-traditional methods of outreach. An online survey got 2,560 responses in the 75 days between Nov. 7 and Jan. 22, far more than the 2,000 responses the city expected to get. Another 1,700 people provided input while attending some 30 events such as the Great American Teach-In, Pub Crawls and the MLK Family Funday. About 294 people participated in three in-person workshops in November.

Slightly different priorities emerged. For instance, people attending the in-person workshops ranked the city’s growth and character as key, while the online survey found less interest in that issue.

“When we combine those we see a more complete picture of where the community is at,” Kilborn said.

The city also got input on existing strengths and opportunities for improvement. Arts and culture, parks and recreation, and local business were viewed as a strength, while transportation options, housing affordability and job opportunities could be improved.

VHB, a Watertown, Mass.-based engineering, planning and design firm, is working with the City of St. Petersburg on StPete2050.


Closer look: Theme implementation

Participants in the second series of StPete2050 workshops are asked to talk in small groups about each of the major themes related to the city’s future.

Here are excerpts from a handout to guide that discussion

Theme: Arts & Culture

St. Petersburg will continue to be known for its vibrant art and celebrate the wide cultural resources throughout the city.

Phase One input:

  • The arts are a defining feature of who we are as a city and is a determining factor to many when determining to move to or remain in St. Petersburg.
  • There is a worry that as the economy of the city develops, local artists will be priced out of workspaces and housing.
  • While the visual arts are vibrant, more support can be given to the performing arts.

Theme: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

St. Petersburg will be a place where everyone has the resources they need to realize their full potential and where all feel welcomed and are treated equally.

Phase One input:

  • There are still many issues to resolve when it comes to bridging the racial divide in our community and economy.
  • The lingering effects of red-lining, urban renewal and other discriminatory programs need to be addressed.
  • Equity should be consider in all components of StPete2050.

Theme: Education

St. Petersburg’s greatest asset will continue to be its people. Improving access to exceptional and equitable education will allow St. Petersburg to reach its full potential in 2050.

Phase One input:

  • The quality of schools should not differ amongst different areas of the city.
  • Education can better partner with local businesses to prepare students for successful and fulfilling careers.
  • More can be done to encourage high school and college students to remain in St. Petersburg after graduation.

Theme: Growth & Character

The next 30 years of development will bring changes to our city, but we can take action to protect and enhance our community character and all that makes it unique.

Phase One input:

  • The charm of the city’s historic buildings should be preserved and replicated.
  • The design of new buildings should be reminiscent of St. Petersburg’s history and not be “blocky” or “cookie-cutter.”
  • Growth should be smart, well-planned, and able to be served by existing or concurrent infrastructure.
  • More housing options are needed besides single-family homes and large apartment buildings.

Theme: Healthy Communities

The health of St. Petersburg’s residents will remain a priority over the next 30 years. Access will be expanded to opportunities for activity, healthy food, clean air and water, and world-class medical facilities.

Phase One input:

  • It is important that healthy and affordable food is accessible in all neighborhoods.
  • The cleanliness of our air and water is vital to our health.
  • As the time we live active and healthy lives extends any of us will choose to age in place.

Theme: Shared Economic Prosperity

St. Petersburg will have an increasingly inclusive, diversified and growing economy by 2050. There will be a focus on equity, with the understanding that the vibrancy of the entire community is determined by the economic well-being of all individuals.

Phase One input:

  • Local businesses should continue to be supported and incentivized.
  • Wages have not kept pace with the cost of living increases for many residents.
  • Effective strategies of housing homeless residents in the city should be expanded on.

Theme: Sustainability & Resilience

The growth that occurs into 2050 will demonstrate the city’s commitment to environmental stewardship and resiliency.

Phase One input:

  • Sea level rise is seen as being a major threat by 2050.
  • There is a need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and waste.
  • More can be done to be prepared for major storm events.

Theme: Transportation & Mobility

The safe and efficient movement of people throughout the city will remain an important consideration in the continued growth and success of our city moving towards 2050. The integration of multiple modes of transportation contributes to a dynamic community.

Phase One input:

  • There is a strong desire for more options to travel than just through a personal automobile.
  • Too many violent incidents occur on our streets and too many pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists die in crashes.
  • There is interest in exploring the feasibility of closing portions of Central Avenue to cars.

Theme: Attainable Housing

Housing affordability is, like in many communities throughout the nation, a serious issue facing our city. While it was not included as a major focus in the Vision 2020 plan, it will continue to be a major consideration in the StPete2050 process.

Phase One input:

  • Safe, decent and affordable housing should be attainable to residents of different income levels.
  • Attainable housing should be available throughout the city.
  • Attainable housing should be interwoven with market rate housing.

Theme: Parks, Recreation and Open Space

Our park system provides an opportunity for family to gather, for children to play, and for strangers to become friends. Maintaining a world-class park system in an urban environment will ensure that St. Petersburg is still a vibrant place to live in 2050.

Phase One input:

  • The waterfront park system is one of the most admired features of our city and should be protected and enhanced.
  • More programming and other enhancements should occur at parks throughout the city.
  • Parks will play an increasingly important role in wildlife preservation and resiliency.
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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    bill schaill

    January 30, 2020at5:41 pm

    The following short piece, which ran as a letter to the editor in Florida Trend about a year ago, explains what I consider to be one of the major impediments to a 21st century transportation system in St Petersburg:

    Mass Transportation and Flawed Perception

    I hated New York subways. Stifling in the summer, damp and freezing in the winter, they forced you to surround yourself with all sorts of people, some nice, some yucky.
    I also loved them. They got me to within a few blocks of my destination quickly and at a reasonable cost. I felt the same about the commuter railroads. Irritating but life savers. Nobody ever drives into Manhattan.
    Florida’s metropolitan areas, including Tampa Bay, are in desperate need of effective mass transportation. I’m not talking about subways; I’m talking about efficient, rational bus service within the downtown and semi-urban areas and some sort of transit (monorail, light rail, articulated bus) from the major suburbs, those whose inhabitants currently jam 75, 275 and other major arteries for ever-increasing periods of time. While ride hailing may help in the increasingly jammed downtown areas, it is not the broader solution.
    Unfortunately, Floridians continue to see their state as a teenaged state, a frontier state of frontier men and women and open spaces, when, in reality, it has become a mature state, one jammed to its earlobes with citizens.

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