FDOT’s South Florida Commuter Travel Survey – What to make of it?

A lot of us saw the bike / ped blogosphere light up when the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) announced that they would conduct what they call the “South Florida Commuter Travel Survey”. We at the SFBC put forth an announcement on our Facebook page.

At first glance this is a very good idea – commuting is of course not tied to car travel. Or so one would think.

Because FDOT seems to think so. This is nothing new to anyone who ever has engaged with FDOT – their car-centric approach at the expense of all other modes of transport (public transit, biking, pedestrian, etc.) permeates all their thinking. This became most evident when you actually took the survey.

You are first asked to name the beginning and endpoint if your commute. So far, so good. Then you are shown a map which allows you to change the route according to your personal preferences. That would have been nice had there been an option to indicate that one travels by bike or public transit or walks. Google Maps on which this is based allows for that – it is not clear why this was not included.

What follows are a number of questions that again put the car in the center of interest, without regard to other modes of transportation, followed by questions about one’s personal traits.

Calling this survey car-centric is an understatement. And by doing so FDOT treats everyone else as zeros. They do not count, are unimportant as commuters.

– What about the person who uses a bike to get to work and uses a bike path?
– What about the person living in Hollywood taking the train to Miami? Or the person living in Kendall taking the bus / metrorail?
– What about the multi-mode user coming to Miami from Fort Lauderdale by bus and bike?
– What about the person who walks to her workplace?

At a time when mileage driven per person decreases, at a time when public transit, biking and walking are in higher demand than before, at a time when urban density increases, conducting a survey like this shows how backward looking FDOT and its contractors are.

None of these users count for the purposes of FDOT, they are nothing more than zeros in the car-centric universe in which FDOT seems to operate.

This could have a number of reasons:

1. The contractor which this task was given to (Gannett Flemming; one can ask whether this not overly complicated task was a good fit for outsourcing, but that is a different question) did not take account of anyone not traveling in cars and had discretion to not include modes of transportation other than cars. This would make Gannett Flemming look bad.

2. FDOT approved this survey as it was handed to them. That would make both FDOT and Gannett Fleming look bad.

3. Gannett Fleming proposed to include modes other than cars, but FDOT decided not to follow through with this. This would make FDOT look bad.

Neither of the options 1.-3. are attractive, but one is likely close to what happened.Conducting such surveys makes sense if they are forward-looking. We are afraid that FDOT missed another chance to change – yet again.

We have contacted Gannett Fleming about this omission of a large portion of commuters and are waiting for their reply. We will keep you posted on whether, and if so how, they respond.


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