Clean Air Commute Blog: A Downtown Resident’s Many Options

Posted on: May 28, 2019 in Air Quality & Environment

About half of MetroPlan Orlando staff members get to work some way other than driving alone – at least one day a week. As we close out the month of May — recognized as Clean Air Month, a time to examine how habits affect the environment – some of our staffers are sharing stories from their commutes.


Today’s commuter story comes from Elizabeth Whitton, Transportation Planner. As a resident of Downtown Orlando, Elizabeth has the shortest commute in the office, and she also has the most transportation options. Her preferred clean air commute strategy of walking gets her from her apartment to the office. However, different days demand different modes for business or personal trips. Elizabeth describes her walking trip to work, but in the second part of her story, she tells us about other clean air commute strategies, including transit and cycling, that she used on one particularly busy day. Here’s Elizabeth’s commute story in two parts:

Part 1: The 10-Minute Walk

These days, the sun rises around 6:30, and I usually start my day watching it come up over Lake Eola. I’m one of thousands who have moved to Downtown Orlando in recent years, where construction of high rises enables this lifestyle.

Living so close to the office means my commute is a 10-minute walk. Before I start, I look outside and on clear days, I can see planes on their way to the Executive Airport or the International Airport, bringing some of the millions of visitors we get each year or some of the tons of goods that we use every day.

Typically, here’s how my morning might go: I start my commute, heading toward the elevator. I usually say hi to some neighbors as we exit the building. Many of them have just moved here from other places, including San Diego, Atlanta, Washington, and the Virgin Islands.

It is hard not to notice the newly painted bike lake on my street. Cars usually drive slowly here, but recently I’ve seen too many going too fast. This bike lane connects with the painted bike lane on Rosalind, and the sharrows on Magnolia. They are all part of the bike network we are building – a daily reminder of the work we do at MetroPlan Orlando and with our partners.

I stop, waiting for the pedestrian signal to cross Magnolia. I see a LYMMO bus go by, taking riders to businesses, restaurants, or other places downtown. As I cross, I see construction workers building a new coffee shop. I’m looking forward to it opening soon.

I reach Orange Avenue and start south. As I pass the Plaza building, I see the Clean Team washing the sidewalk. I often see them on my morning commute.

Now, I’m at the corner of Orange and Church. If I time my commute right, I can see people streaming out of the SunRail station, on the last part of their commutes to offices or appointments. I walk a half block to the MetroPlan Orlando office and start my workday.

Part 2: The Very-Busy, Lots-of-Surprises, Multimodal Day

Sometimes, we just have crazy travel days. They test our patience, our stamina, our resiliency.

Of course, sometimes we have normal travel days, when everything works like we expect it to. But these are the days we tend to forget.

Uneventful travel days usually do not start with car maintenance, which is how a recent day started for me. Since I walk to work most days, I rarely use my car. It still needs to be maintained, however, so this morning began with a short drive to the service station, south of downtown.

I left my car with the mechanic and ordered an Uber to the office. I started my workday, which happened to include walking to a lunch event with co-workers.

The subject was dear to my heart. Jarrett Walker, a renowned transit expert, spoke at an Orlando Economic Partnership event and discussed how frequent, reliable service enables economic opportunity. I’ve heard Jarrett speak three times, and always learn something new. (This lecture is available online, and well worth an hour of your time. )

Shortly after the event, it was time to pick up my car. I use it infrequently enough that I sometimes question why I still have it, especially when I spend money to keep it in good condition.

LYNX has a route from our office to my repair shop, but on this day, it was not running when the real time tracker app said it should be. My co-worker, who rides LYNX several days a week, arrived at the bus stop as I was getting frustrated after waiting more than 30 minutes.

I hopped on the next bus with my co-worker, who lives near the auto shop. She then drove me to my car. A short while later, I parked the car back at my downtown apartment building.

That night, I had work and personal events to attend. I was early to one and fashionably late to another. The Polis Institute’s 10-Year Celebration was about a mile from my apartment, and it was a pleasant walk to 1010 West Church. I left after the speeches started, and a LimeBike was outside, looking lonely, almost begging me to ride it.

I pressed a few buttons on the Lime app, and off I went. As I parked the bike and headed to my last event for the day, I realized my travel day included: walking, a car ride, an Uber ride, a LYNX ride, and a Lime ride. And while it wasn’t exactly an ordinary day for me, these modes of travel are available every day in Downtown Orlando.

Our Clean Air Commute Blog runs through May 31. A previous story looked at super-commuting & teleworking. Future stories will cover traveling on SunRail, and using LYNX buses. Remember: EVERY MONTH SHOULD BE CLEAN AIR MONTH.

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