ISLAMORADA'S TRAFFIC PROBLEM
Help us preserve Islamorada
TRAFFIC - DETAILED ANALYSIS
The Problem in Detail
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) publishes Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) counts on its website at https://tdaappsprod.dot.state.fl.us/fto/. The AADT is the total volume of traffic on a highway segment for one year, divided by the number of days in the year. Since these numbers are an average, the AADT can be much higher in peak season and lower at slower times of the year.
Islamorada AADT count (number of vehicles that pass through this area) from April of 2019 to March of 2020 is noted below:
Traffic is measured in Florida by a Level of Service (LOS). The LOS is measured by the speed traffic is moving in a particular area. Comparable to school letter grades, a higher grade denotes faster moving and acceptable Levels of Service and lower grades denotes slower moving and traffic. Some traffic studies also measure the time a motorist has to wait to turn on to US1, which can also be factored into the LOS. An LOS of D is considered unacceptable and both the Monroe County and Islamorada Comprehensive Plans do not allow further development with a failing LOS as explained below.
From the Monroe County Staff to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), 10/21/2020 meeting:
“The overall LOS for the entire length of U.S. 1 has fallen from LOS C to LOS D, and there is no reserve capacity for additional trips. According to the policies and regulations in the Monroe County Year 2030 Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code, this would mean the County may not permit new development, other than single family homes, unless the proposed development’s traffic impact is mitigated.”
Click here to read this Board of County Commissioners Agenda item
The same principles apply to Islamorada. However, the segments of US1 running through Islamorada failed the previous traffic study conducted by Monroe County, by receiving a “D” rating with no reserve capacity. Roget Bryan, the village attorney, stated in 2019 that the failing grade didn’t matter because Islamorada followed the LOS grade achieved on US1 for all of Monroe County. Now that all of US1 has failed in Monroe County, the Village Staff and council need to address this problem.
Further, Monroe County is considering changing the way the County measures the LOS. The BOCC decided to update the data gathering methods and redo the LOS Study. County staff estimated these tasks will be done by the end of 2021. If the County makes this methodology change, but does nothing to stop the amount of increased traffic, the problem will only continue to get worse.
To understand the problem, it is important to define the different segments of traffic:
2. Local residents who work locally
The Tourist Segment of Traffic:
The 2019 Monroe County Tourist Development Council Visitor Profile Survey has provided the following statistics:
Click here to view the 2019 Monroe County Tourist Development Council Visitor Profile Survey
These numbers suggest that 3.1 million tourists drove to or through Islamorada. The TDC/Rockport study tells us that of 5.1 million tourists who visited the Keys, 2.99 million tourists were overnight visitors, or 59%. Apply that percentage to traffic travelling through Islamorada:
Annual Overnight Tourists (59%): 1.83 million
Annual Day Trippers (41%): 1.27 million
Assuming the average party size was two people and you calculate an arrival trip and departure trip for each party, the Average Annual Daily Traffic Count (AADT) for each tourist segment is:
Annual Overnight Tourists: 5,014 AADT or 25% of all Islamorada traffic
Annual Day Trippers: 3,479 AADT or 17% of all Islamorada traffic
Tourist segment total: 42% of all Islamorada traffic
The Workforce Segment of Traffic:
The 2018 Monroe County Tourist Development Council/Rockport Study provided the following statistics, which are included in the supplemental documentation section of this analysis.
44% of all jobs in Monroe County are tourist-related
Islamorada has 2,800 tourist jobs
Construction jobs are 3,941 Keyswide
Islamorada comprises 11% of Monroe County
Assuming the average tourist Industry worker commuting to or in Islamorada was one person per vehicle and you calculate a daily trip to and from work, the Average Annual Daily Traffic Count (AADT) for tourist industry employee is 5,600 or 28% of all Islamorada traffic.
Click here to view the Tourist Development Council/Rockport studyNew Construction Development:
The graphic below illustrates how new development adds to our traffic problem in several ways along with adding to other challenging issues.
The worsening of already bad traffic impacts all aspects of our lives in the Keys. The tourist experience becomes tainted when travelers are stuck in traffic jams. Attracting tourists could focus on quality, not quantity. Property values may be negatively impacted as the Keys becomes a less desirable place to live. Our natural environment is already stressed to unsustainable levels.
The construction industry may have ample opportunity to prosper with redevelopment opportunities. Construction could focus on blighted areas and dilapidated structures.
Mass Transit in the Keys - The Miami Dade Transit System (MDT)
MDT has a program targeted to Miami-Dade County workers that travel to the Keys for employment. MDT has a grant agreement with FDOT for funding to operate the Monroe-Dade Express bus service that runs from Homestead to Marathon; route #302. Monroe County currently does not have an agreement with Miami-Dade Transit nor does it contribute funds to the Monroe-Dade Express service.
Based on 2019 ridership counts, only 420 workers ride the Miami Dade Transport bus system in and out of the Keys on a daily basis. These numbers come from a route that originates in Florida City and terminates in Marathon.
MDT added an extra bus to the route a couple of years ago to offset high demand of morning ridership, where riders were lining up at 4AM to be able to get a seat on the bus for a 5AM departure. Even with the addition of an extra bus it was reported that many could not get on the bus and were not able to report to their places of employment that day. Complaints from workers also have been reported that the afternoon bus rides out of the Keys are often so full leaving Islamorada that buses cannot accept more riders in Tavernier and Key Largo. These workers are left behind after a likely long day of work and often have to wait hours for the next bus.
COVID seating spacing requirements cutting bus capacity in half likely is exacerbating the problem.
Council Thoughts about Traffic Congestions When Running for Council in 2020
"There are no real good answers here. As long as the TDC continues to advertise, we’ll have more traffic in the Keys. A toll road might help and putting the [truck] weigh station in Key Largo before drivers get to our community might help."
"We should ask the TDC to reduce advertising to a mass market and target only discrete groups that provide less impacts and greater economic benefits. The 3 segments of the Old Highway on PK, Windley, and UM should be designated for local traffic only to prevent traffic delays and hazards caused by pass-through drivers who use the Old Highway as a shortcut around slower traffic on US 1. Close the Fills, and restrict parks and boat ramps to use by local residents only during holidays and periods of heavy use as was done this summer before July 4th until after Labor day."
"We need to develop the best possible relationship with FDOT and other state agencies so we can work together to find solutions for our traffic issues. Tallahassee is the key to getting critical funding for infrastructure needs. Our council needs to consider decisions that impact traffic the most and not make traffic worse."
"Before the TDC was a countywide organization, I chaired the Monroe County Advertising Commission with a publicity budget of $120,000 per year to bring in more tourists. When the TDC was brand new, I was opposed, based on the fact that we did not have the infrastructure to handle more tourists. Back then, it was our water supply with a water pipeline from Florida City that often was inadequate for our needs. The Overseas Highway is now creating the major infrastructure shortfall. The TDC spends tens of millions of dollars each year to advertise for more tourists, instead of the $120,000 I had a few years ago. The millions and millions spent by TDC could be used on needed infrastructure instead of advertising for even more tourists."
"My priority for this is driven by the significant difficulty of identifying realistic solutions. The fact is that every visitor to any Keys destination west of Lower Mat must traverse our community. In addition, the rapidly growing number of Islamorada property owners choosing to rent, legally or otherwise, their homes to tourists that tend to spend considerably more time on the road locally going to bars, restaurants and other attractions compounds the challenge. Add the day visitors to the Fills, Founders, Anne's Beach and other sites and you have our problem personified."
Click here to read possible solutions to consider regarding our traffic problem