An underlying theme in my first three “reimagining” articles has been the efforts being taken to take back our city from automobiles. It is implied in the first one and more explicit in the second and third article. Simply put, we lost something, beginning in the 1950’s, when we started designing our city for cars instead of people. From residential streets that are too wide, to a US highway that is now so wide that it is dangerous to cross without being encapsulated in tons of steel, we have sacrificed livability on the alter of the automobile.
It simply doesn’t have to be that way.
We have started the process by building multi-use paths in various parts of the city. As those pieces are tied together, you will be able to safely bicycle across town. Wider sidewalks will allow you to safely walk around without fear of being hit by a car.
Golf carts are an interesting variation on the theme. Unknown outside of golf courses in the 1950’s, golf carts have become a popular way to getting from one place to another in towns across America. I figured there would only be a few folks taking advantage of our golf cart ordinance when we first passed it. Much to my surprise, there are now hundreds of golf carts on our streets.
Sitting between golf carts and regular cars are so called “LSVs” or Low Speed Vehicles. They have license plates and the insurance requirements of a regular car, but they are slower and are not supposed to be on US 19.
There will still be a place for conventional automobiles or light duty trucks. Anything that involves jumping on US 19 or SR 54 is still going to require you to take a conventional motor vehicle. Let’s face it, you have to be suicidal to want to bicycle or pilot a golf cart or LSV on US 19. The highway has bike lanes in places, but there is no way I’d risk my life by trying to ride my bike on one.
For all your other trips around town, you’ve got options. That range of options should expand over time. Some streets are closed to golf carts, but not bicycles or LSVs. These include Marine Parkway, Congress, and Massachusetts Avenue. I disagree with this limitation, but I am in a minority and I recognize that there are serious traffic issues on these streets. Once we get speeding under control, these streets will become safer for everyone and we should be able to open them to golf carts.
Scooters are also a possible future option. I’m not sure whether or not scooters on our streets and sidewalks are a good thing or not. They seem to be mostly for fun, but there are more and more of them around town.
One interesting issue is a state Department of Transportation prohibition on golf carts crossing wide roads, such as US 19. Mind you, pedestrians and bicycles are allowed to cross the highway, just not golf carts. That makes no sense to me. It also apparently makes no sense to golf cart owners, since I regularly see golf carts crossing the highway, particularly at Main Street. I suspect the better part of valor is to recognize that golf carts need to get across the highway and make sure that at least some of our controlled intersections are configured to allow them to do so safely. Marine Parkway, Gulf Drive, Main Street, and Grand Blvd (in Port Richey) intersections on US 19 should be reconfigured to allow safe crossings.
Walking should also be an option for short trips. We have some sidewalks, but we need a lot more and the existing sidewalks need to be brought up to current standards for width and be kept well maintained. Some of our existing sidewalks are too narrow for two adults to walk side by side and they are right against the street. That is not safe. These sidewalks need to be widened and moved away from the traffic lanes, if at all possible. Tying our existing multi-use trails together is a step in the right direction. Adding additional sidewalks along residential streets will be another step in the right direction.
We also need to think about making sidewalks and pedestrian areas inviting. In the downtown, that means looking at providing shade. Railroad Square is a case in point. This area was designed to allow automobile traffic to be blocked off so that people can use the Square as a pedestrian mall. Unfortunately, there is precious little shade there and it is simply too hot to use during daylight hours for a good part of the year. There are some design plans in the works to offer suggestions on how to solve this issue. Sidewalks in front of businesses need shade too. Canopies are one option. Trees are another option, although decent shade trees bring issues with them, primarily roots that tend to break up sidewalks and asphalt.
Finally, we need to make it possible for people who drive to the downtown to park their car once and then get around the downtown without having to get back into their car. We have an electric shuttle on order. It will offer people the opportunity to park in the new garage or one of the existing downtown parking lots and get to anywhere in the downtown they want to go. Operating hours and the exact route have not been set yet, but look for the shuttle to arrive in November.
The Chasco Fiesta and some other events have had shuttle service in the past and they have proven very popular ways of parking at remote lots and not having to walk all the way to the event.
Have you already started using something other than a car to get around town? Let me know in the comments.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor
Chris Lineman says
1st: many sidewalks are not passable because automobiles block access. Code enforcement issue?
2nd: i live on Indiana Avenue and have requested many times for measures to be implemented to redirect and reduce traffic (this is a residential neighborhood), reduce speeds, enforce traffic violations (cars blast thru stop signs all along Indiana Avenue, specifically at Forest and Indiana). Many of those speeding and blasting thru the stop signs are employees of Morton Plant North Bay Hospital.
I have raised all of these issues with city council and all attendees of city council meetings, NPR Police, Morton Plant North Bay Hospital executives.
As you are aware, I take great pride in the city of New Port Richey and tend to be actively engaged; however, I am now to a point of requesting you, city council and others address these specific issues. I am not the only taxpayer with these requests. Many of my neighbors feel the same. My visitors feel the same. My 14 year old child feels the same.
Rob Marlowe says
Thanks for proving the point I was trying to make in last week’s note: https://robmarlowe.com/reimagining-our-neighborhoods/
Indiana Avenue is 23′ wide and has safety stripes on the sides and racing stripes down the middle. It is no wonder people speed on it.
Lose the striping and clip three feet off the street and it would slow down traffic.
Colin McDowell says
Any long-term plans to set up New Port Richey as a transport hub – for express bus services and the like? That might influence thinking around “last-mile” services like the electric shuttle and golf carts.
Related – what shocked me recently – were the poor connections between Dade City and New Port Richey. My wife, who doesn’t drive, was called up for jury service in Dade City. She’d have to leave NPR around 6pm on Sat to get to Dade City courthouse for 7am Mon on public transport. Check it out on google maps. Better overall public transport options would make NPR a better place to visit and stay.
Rob Marlowe says
Gulfview Square Mall currently servers as the largest bus hub in West Pasco. There are also transfer hubs on US 19 at Cross Bayou and at Moog Road.
I’ve heard suggestions of utilizing the Southgate Shopping Plaza as a Park & Ride / transfer hub, but I don’t believe anything has ever come of it.
Cross county transportation options are bad and getting worse by the year because of the amount of growth along the SR 54/56 corridor. SR 52 is slated to widening and growth will choke off traffic along it as more people move to Pasco and commute to Tampa. There are currently no good solutions.
Jerry Uhlenbrock says
Are there plans to work with Port Richey to install sidewalks on land along GRAND from MASSACHUSETTS to 19.? I
Rob Marlowe says
There is no right of way, but there are options. Addressing Grand between Sims Park and Port Richey is one of the topics I’ve got in the queue.
Colin McDowell says
IMO. The priority should be connecting public buildings with wide sidewalks similar to those added to Madison north of Main. City Hall, Library, Rec Center, Schools, etc should be linked. For example widening Main in front of City Hall/library, widening Madison south of Main to Gulf High, and widening Indiana all the way from Madison up to the Rec Center.
Rob Marlowe says
Thanks for the great ideas.
Where they exist, the sidewalks on Madison south of Main definitely needs attention. The existing sidewalks are way too narrow and too close to the street.
One idea that has been kicked around is to extend the Madison multi-use trail south a few blocks and then route a bike path from there to Grand Blvd, so it would connect to the Grand Blvd trail that we’re looking at to connect the downtown with the Marine Parkway trail.
Indiana is an interesting idea as well. The existing Multiuse trail goes from the Madison side of Richey Elementary up past the Rec. Center, but adding a wide sidewalk up Indiana has merit. I don’t know what sort of right of way we’ve got on Indiana, but if we could recover three feet of asphalt, there might well be room.