WTS Symposium Yields Interesting Thoughts on the Future of Transportation

What will the future of transportation look like? Guest panelists Alex Bond of the Eno Center for Transportation, Anoch Whitfield of Tindale Oliver and Debbie Leistner of the City of Gainesville tackled this and other issues during the 4th WTS Transportation Symposium on November 13, 2014 at the University of Florida campus.

From Bond’s perspective, the use of general funds for investing in transportation is the better choice over the long run. “We have wasted thousands of hours and pages wringing our hands over the decline of the gas tax and the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund,” he said. “It’s time to set that aside and focus our collective effort on making the argument that transportation is a wise investment for general funds. By eliminating modal silos and introducing flexibility, general fund transfers have enabled some of the best programs ever offered by USDOT.”  Bond is a graduate of UF’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

Anoch Whitfield, a transportation professional with the firm Tindal Oliver, and who is also the president of WTS Central Florida, took a different approach to the future of transportation. She stressed the importance of maintaining the integrity of the environment for future generations. “Just consider the amount of pavement that has bulldozed over beautiful, natural landscapes,” she said. “I grew up on dirt roads surrounded by flowered fields and treed backyards. All big cities started off as small towns, but there are also ‘big cities’ that have been more forward-thinking that have grown and matured as big cities but that have also kept their small town feel, character and walkability.”

She added that transportation professionals need to redefine how transportation networks are built. “We’ve learned that the way we’ve been doing business [such as] designing our transportation infrastructure for the car has resulted in social distancing, increasingly polluted environments, increasing dependence on the automobile, increases in obesity for children and adults, and not to mention plain old road rage,” Whitfield said.

Debbie Leistner, is a planning manager for the City of Gainesville. She is also a UF graduate. Leistner spoke about transportation funding from the local perspective and highlighted various projects of which some will remain unfunded due to the most recent defeat of the Moving Alachua County Forward 1-cent sales surtax, an initiative which was struck down by voters in November 2014 despite endorsements from community leaders and businesses in Alachua County. The measure would have raised about $240 million over an eight-year period for road building and transit projects.

The event was well attended with more than 40 guests comprised of students and transportation professionals.  The symposium is hosted every year by the WTS Florida Gator Student Chapter at UF. Sponsors of the symposium this year included Transoft Solutions, ESSIE, UFTI, STRIDE, UF Bookstores, and Tindale Oliver.