Walkable Communities in Central Florida:

Reflecting on Jeff Speck’s Talk

Streets that are safe, comfortable, and interesting invite us to walk and be active. That was the message of Jeff Speck, a recognized expert in creating walkable communities. He spoke to a group of MetroPlan Orlando board members, staff, area transportation planners, and the public on Wednesday. Think about your last walk. Whether you walked for enjoyment, exercise, or out of necessity, did you feel safe, comfortable, and enjoy the experience?

In Orlando, places — tucked away here and there — that meet this criteria, but overall, too few of our neighborhoods encourage us to walk. Opportunities abound in our region to improve the ease of walking to work, parks, grocery stores, and health and community services.

So what can we do?

1) Build on the momentum to adopt and implement Complete Streets policies. Seven of the region’s municipalities have done so already

2) Assess each new transportation project for how it creates opportunities to promote public health, connect to existing networks, and enhance economic mobility

3) Coordinate transportation investment with land use policy. As Speck said, we need safe, comfortable, and interesting places to walk. Transportation experts can plan, design, and engineer the safest road possible, but the surrounding buildings and public space provide the comfort, desire, and purpose for walking. Orange County and Casselberry are updating their land development codes to prioritize the pedestrian experience and safety. These efforts coordinated with transportation improvements, such as Complete Streets and increased transit service will enhance opportunities for more walkable neighborhoods throughout our region

Areas around SunRail stations, such as Winter Park and downtown, already score well in Speck’s walkability criteria. New and proposed development around the Longwood, Lake Mary, and Maitland stations offer opportunities for compact, walkable neighborhoods along the rail line. Efforts underway in Osceola County, especially the Tupperware station and downtown Kissimmee, will enable easier access to jobs, housing, and services.

Speck’s talk inspired discussion and ideas for how we can improve a person’s ability to walk to their job, grocery store, doctor, and anywhere else they choose to go. Thank you to Healthy Central Florida for organizing and supporting Speck’s visit. Healthy Central Florida is a partnership between Florida Hospital and the Winter Park Health Foundation.