The last few days have included many firsts: first ride on the Key West Express, first bike commute to work, first meeting, first time caught in a rainstorm on my bike ride home, first community forum, first survey participants, and now, first blog.
I thought it only appropriate, with an internship focused on discouraging personal vehicle arrivals to the island, that I arrive car-free. But let’s take a step back.
Key West has a transportation problem. Or more accurately perhaps, Key West has several transportation problems. The focus of my research is to identify the barriers and benefits to a car-free arrival.
There are two important things to consider about this research. The first is that 45% of Key West tourist arrivals are those who have flown into the Miami airport and rented a car (TDC, 2013). This is our target group. We hope to promote or create alternatives to car rental that will still suit their needs. The second thing to consider is that anecdotal research indicates that repeat visitors are significantly less likely than first-time visitors to arrive with a personal vehicle. If my survey research confirms this, then we will discuss how to successfully market “car-free” arrival to FIRST TIME visitors. It seems that repeat visitors realize that once they arrive, they do not need a car, so they look into other routes for arrival and during their stay that do not involve cars. The question is, What would it take to persuade first-time visitors to have the understanding of repeat visitors? Is there any amount of marketing or article writing that would persuade those accustomed to the autonomy of car travel to consider other options?
Back to what I was saying. I thought it would be hypocritical for me to bring my car down while trying to figure out how to discourage others from bringing theirs. So here I am looking goofy on my bike ride home after my 3.5 hour ferry ride on The Key West Express from Ft. Meyers, Florida.
My home base is right in the heart of the island, due east from the heart of town. And my place of work is just a 5-minute bicycle ride up Flagler Ave. Not too far if you ask me. But during my initial one-on-one interviews, I heard conflicting reports on the size of the island.
When inquiring with Key West airport departures about why visitors did or did not rent cars during their visit, one middle aged guy insisted “Why would you need a car? Everything is so close. It would be a total waste of money.” Meanwhile, the guy at the table next to him claimed, “People think the island is small, but it’s really not. You need a car to get around.” He further indicated that there was nothing – no discounts, convenient or fun transportation options, parking fees – NOTHING that would discourage him from renting a car during his next visit. And so it begins!