Urban sprawl is a concept most residents of East Orlando are familiar with, mostly because they’ve experienced it. If you’ve had to drive to your grocery store, travel from your home in East Orlando to Downtown Orlando for work, or depend on your car in any way whatsoever to get from point A to point B, then you’ve encountered urban sprawl.
Unfortunately, East Orlando is somewhat known for urban sprawl – the spreading of a city to rural land, which causes residents to rely on their cars to get their daily tasks done. The travel time may affect us, but how are the emissions from our cars affecting the environment?
In the most recent study done by the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation is the fasting-growing source of greenhouse gases in the United States, and was responsible for approximately 29 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2006.
The agency also reported that a passenger car puts out an average of 19.4 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from a gallon of gasoline. That may not seem like a lot – after all, a gallon of gas can probably last a few days for a resident of Avalon Park who has to drive to Downtown Orlando for work. But that’s only one person – the agency calculated that approximately 380 million gallons of gasoline are used in one day by the United States.
Most Orlando residents have to drive to work, like Adrienne Hundley. She works with Gator Adventure Productions, a traveling entertainment show where she handles alligators. The production company performs shows across Central Florida at places such as McDonald’s on International Drive and Boggy Creek in Kissimmeee. On average, Hundley says she usually drives about 30 minutes to work from her apartment off of East Colonial Drive.
“Luckily I work with my fiancé, so we carpool when we’re both scheduled to work at the same location,” Hundley says. “But sometimes I really hate the drive when I have to go by myself. I love what I do, but the drive gets to me if I have to drive in morning rush hour traffic, in afternoon rush hour traffic, or if I’m just by myself.”
Hundley also depends on her car to check off her to-do list on a day-to-day basis. She takes classes at Valencia Community College’s East Campus, which is off of North Econlockhatchee Trail. Although she says the drive only takes her about five minutes, it’s the only option she has to get to school.
“A five minute drive is probably about 30 minute walk,” she says. “I really don’t have the time to do that, and plus, I don’t feel safe walking down Colonial with all the construction.”
As of now, the dependency of cars in East Orlando doesn’t seem to be dwindling down. The first phase of SunRail doesn’t have any stations planned for East Orlando, and even when this first phase is built, it’ll be at the end of 2012. As for LYNX, UCF’s SuperStop serves as the transfer to East Orlando residents, according to Matthew Friedman, the manager of media relations at LYNX, but the completion of Innovation Way could help expand the public bus transit system in East Orlando.
“This is something [another SuperStop installation] we would consider as service levels increase and Innovation Way develops,” he says.
LYNX received more than $30 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The transit system plans to spend $7 million for the installation of bus shelters throughout Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties, according to Friedman.
If LYNX does decide to put bus stops in East Orlando, their fleet of buses will run on Biodiesel fuel, a clean-burning alternative fuel. Currently, West Virginia University is finishing a study on the exact amount of emissions that is cut down by a transit system when the entire fleet operates on Biodiesel fuel, Friedman says. The anticipated result is a 16 percent emission reduction for Central Florida.
“Public transportation by definition reduces emissions,” Friedman says. “Just one bus holding 40 passengers is 40 less cars on the roadways. Currently, we are exploring the options to install bus shelters. It’s a much-needed passenger amenity.”
Article by Nicole Lauber