Robert Davis, founder of the town of Seaside, and leader in the New Urbanism movement, is now stepping up to lead again -- this time in finding a solution to traffic issues on 30A.
Davis and the Seaside Institute hosted a 30A mobility project workshop this week at its new Learning Center Assembly Hall.
Leaders in the industry and innovative thinkers such as Davis, Secretary of Florida Department of Transportation Jim Boxold, Dr. Joachim Taiber, Rick Hall, Lukas Neckermann, and Dr. Brice Harris spoke on day one.
The ideas those in attendance heard were not only innovative, but cutting edge.
They spoke of their visions for 30A and South Walton's future, and to transform transportation.
They talked about autonomous vehicles.
Boxold said that 90 percent of car crashes could be eliminated with the use of autonomous vehicles.
He spoke in favor of narrowing car lanes on roadways and added buffered bicycle lanes.
"People tend to drive slower when on narrower car lanes," he said.
The panel proposed there be a medium added to 30A, which would be a transit lane. The vehicles in the transit lane would most likely be autonomous vehicles.
Diagrams depicted lanes on the far sides for walkers/bikers, a narrower driving lane that would encourage smaller cars, and the transit lane in the middle.
During a panel discussion Davis led the charge in the discussion of how to lead people from a resort community vision to community vision.
Davis's idea is to lure people to live here much of the year, moving away from tourism.
"Tourism has a limit," he said. "We want people who have flexibility and can live anywhere to choose to live in South Walton, and for our children to come back here to live after graduating from college."
Taiber, who hails from an auto-industry background, noted that after 30 years, it's natural that Seaside is experiencing transportation problems, a problem that effect local businesses, workers, and tourists.
"What are our options? How can we improve?" he asked. "Seaside has been innovative in other ways; now it seeks to be innovative in resolving this issue."
One possible answer discussed was the use of Uber.
Davis spoke of his desire that Seaside be a place that people can live and age in place.
Davis said modes of mobility on 30A should be attractive and fun, like the conch train in Key West -- an open-air vehicle.
Rick Hall of Florida DOT, has been coming to Seaside since 1984 and noted that Davis built Seaside as the first New Urbanist community built from scratch since the 1930s. Hall recommended using on-street parallel parking as a means of speed control, as well as public transportation and the addition of north/south and east/west connectors.
Davis acknowledged that connector roads are critical.
Affordable living housing for workers would be essential north of 98, who could then be shuttled to jobs.
One idea suggested by Davis of how to cut down on congestion on 30A would be to initiate a $20 congestion charge for driving on 30A. He said people would soon decide that Uber is cheaper once you factor in the charge and parking.
As talk moved forward into the realm of how to pay for the changes, BP money, the Restore Act, grants, and making 30A a toll road were all discussed.
"This situation presents the best opportunity in the nation," said Rapid Venture Partners Investment Firm's Sven Hackmann of the opportunities to be -- once again -- a model for the rest of the nation. "It can be a living lab for innovation if you establish an international test bed for this project."
Mac Carpenter, with the Walton County Planning Department, liked the ideas he heard at the workshop and agreed that a dedicated transit lane is what needs to be built on 30A.
"The opportunity to create an innovative district here is exciting," he said.
All seemed to agree on the need to bring in Uber first and foremost.