(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 402: Broward County Transportation

September 28, 2022

This week we’re joined by Broward MPO Executive Director Greg Stuart to talk about the history of Broward County, it’s connections to the rest of South Florida, the historic MAPS transportation plan, and how they are dealing with potential sea level rise and impacts of the pandemic.

This episode was produced in partnership with Rail~Volution.

To listen to this episode, go to Streetsblog USA’s podcast archive or our Libsyn hosting archive.

Jeff Wood (40s):
Well, Greg Stewart, welcome to the podcast.

Greg Stuart (1m 15s):
Well thank you for having me here

Jeff Wood (1m 16s):
Today, before we get started. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Greg Stuart (1m 19s):
Sure. I worked for the Broward metropolitan planning organization. We have about 38 board members and a staff of 42. We process about a billion and a half dollars a year in federal transportation dollars into Broward county, which is part of south Florida. We’re the six largest metropolitan area in the country and that’s including Miami Palm beach. And we have an incredible amount of traffic and congestion down here and very high cost of living. So a lot of the transportation things interweave with my own experiences prior to coming to the Broward MPO.

Greg Stuart (1m 60s):
I was the planning and zoning director for Broward county government, the unincorporated area, which at the time had about 850,000 people before joining them. I was with the city of west Palm beach and I was the planning zoning and building director there under the first strong mayor. Her name was Nancy Graham and we built some of the first new urbanist downtown developments, including at a called city place. Responsible for lobbying for about back then in the nineties for about 36 million federal earmark for transportation that we got outta Congress to do a bunch of traffic calling and bike lanes and just, you know, improvement in a city that had been for long for car traffic.

Greg Stuart (2m 45s):
Only prior to that, I was with the Florida department of community affairs, which was the growth management agency of the state of Florida and was one of only two states in the country that had statewide land use and zoning, where we were really working towards trying to create urban service boundaries and keep the urban areas contained and be able to manage growth and water and sewer Capac working on school capacities and parks. So really interesting kind of background there, which all started with my first job out of college, which was a small county in Northwest Florida called citrus county along the coast.

Greg Stuart (3m 31s):
And they had 98,000 people and it was like, okay, well, this is an interesting challenge, wrote their first comprehensive plan and their first unified planning document, which is Lou zoning. They didn’t have zoning when I first got there. So I had a lot of interesting conversations with pig farmers believe or

Jeff Wood (3m 50s):
Pig farming zones.

Greg Stuart (3m 51s):
Yeah, well now there is, then there was no zoning, so you’d have residential, single family developments coming in adjacent to pig farms. And I dunno if you’ve ever had the opportunity to tour a pig farm, but the pits that the pigs enjoy bathing in have a unique smell. And so they don’t necessarily make the best compatible

Jeff Wood (4m 14s):
Neighbor. I will say I’ve been to Fayetteville, Arkansas and, and Tyson chicken is right there. So maybe it’s similar,

Greg Stuart (4m 20s):
Probably chicken. We didn’t have chicken farms there. I’d seen in Georgia back when I was an undergrad. And I remember going, wow, this really does smell. There’s no way around it. Anyway. So, you know, basically my experiences come from basically entry level, all the way up to senior management, working on everything from land use and transportation, trying to kind of change the way we do business. Working at the department of community affairs. I worked with a gentleman named Ben star and we actually created transportation, concurrency exception areas, which really was all about trying to encourage transit and use of transit and urbanized areas, moving away from a livable service standard for cars.

Greg Stuart (5m 7s):
And that then got me very interested in the whole idea of livable cities and what that would look like. And I had the great opportunity to go to west Palm beach and really practice that their zoning code, their land use and all the rest of it. Plotters library had come in and done a couple master plans for us. And so we had to take their master plans and make them into zoning documents, which that was kind of an interesting experience. And then ultimately, you know, coming down here to Broward county, which I think is, you know, one of the most unique things that I’ve experienced where built out community with about 2 million people in the county boundaries and watching it change from what was a rural area to a suburban area.

Greg Stuart (5m 53s):
And the term prioritization was used a lot in suburban type development. And now we’re turning around and becoming a very neighborhood centric community where the neighborhoods of these cities are becoming unique beasts of themselves. But so, you know, the bigger picture with Broward is, you know, what it’s becoming and the changes that are happening. And, you know, even from my own neighborhood, I literally on the weekends, I don’t need to use my car. We walk to the grocery store, we walk to restaurants, we’re able to ride our bikes and, and that’s happening throughout Southeast Florida, that experience. So even though the density is increasing, the distance of vehicle travel is actually decreasing.

Greg Stuart (6m 37s):
So it’s a, it’s an interesting experience on

Jeff Wood (6m 39s):
That. Yeah, that is really interesting. Also, is it, is it normal for, you know, planning and zoning directors and, and folks that focus on comprehensive plans and things like that to go to an NPO?

Greg Stuart (6m 49s):
No, for my experience, no, it really isn’t. And that was actually one of the, when I got offered the job, that was one of the interesting things, you know, with the elected officials on my board, they’re like finally we have somebody that understands land use and it was eye opening when I went and met with a of my colleagues, because many of them really, they don’t come from that background. They come from transportation, engineering, roadway, capacity department of transportation type background, and they don’t necessarily, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just, you know, I have a different view of the system and that view, I’ve been really almost evangelistic in working with my colleagues through the American metropolitan planning or the association of MPOs and the national association of regional councils.

Greg Stuart (7m 46s):
When I get a chance to talk to them, I’m not just talking to them about the transportation component, it’s how it integrates with all the other aspects. So I think probably was a good thing that I got the job and I got the experience, but what taught me the experience kind of neat story is when I was in west Palm beach, we actually were working very hard to get the earmark Congress. Earmarks were allowed, chair of appropriations on the house was a gentleman named Mark Foley. We worked hard with, to get the appropriation. The per was issued, budget was passed in Washington and they gathered it and where my mayor and I are very excited. This is great.

Greg Stuart (8m 26s):
We’re gonna get 36 million lot of money back in the nineties. And we’re like, okay, well where’s the money? And I’m like, where’s it coming from? So they said, well, it was transferred over to Florida department of transportation. So called FDO and central office. I’m like, Hey, the mayor and I were waiting for the money, you know, got all these programs. And they’re like, well, Greg, you have to work with this thing. And I’m like, okay, well, that’s interesting. What’s and they’re like, well, Palm beach county has an MPO. So who was in charge? Randy Woodfield was the gentleman’s name, nice guy. He taught me a lot. So when I ended up calling Randy and the county and the city didn’t necessarily get along very well, the county wanted more suburbanization or prioritization.

Greg Stuart (9m 13s):
As, you know, some people would call it with Walgreens on every like, well, Greg, he Southern accent. So a in, I Greg, you need to go. And this transportation I’m that looked into what or LTP is. And I’m like doing, writing the amendment, working with my team members, we submitted, it went public hearings, they advertised it and I’m like done great. Where’s my money, bill Greg, there’s this thing called transportation improvement plan. And I’m like, what penny goes, yeah, we gotta put you in that.

Greg Stuart (9m 57s):
And that usually is in the fifth year of the transportation plan. So basically you’ll get your money in about six years from now.

Jeff Wood (10m 4s):
Oh my gosh.

Greg Stuart (10m 6s):
Yeah. So, so all the good plans that we had to complete the cities entire rebuild the infrastructure in the city of west Palm beach, all the roadways one passed my mayors, you know, passed her term, you know, basically she was term out and then the subsequent mayor didn’t ever get to get the money. And so then the mayor after that, who is now a Congresswoman in, in, in Washington from west Palm beach area, basically had the chance to put the money in the investment where we had thought it was supposed to go. Unfortunately for her, the project had to be built all at, within that physical time period, all the year of expenditure the fifth year or sixth year from when we originally finally got it approved through the local government process.

Greg Stuart (10m 60s):
So basically she had to build all the transportation projects within basically a year and a half. And that created complete gridlock in west Palm beach, created all these horrible experiences for her as a mayor. And it really wasn’t the intent we had really planned to do, you know, here, we’ll phase this project and phase that project, you know, build everything out over our time period. And unfortunately, because the money would expire because it was a earmark the way it had run through the process that Randy told me I needed to do, Randy Whitfield, the mayor had a lot that mayor had a lot to face that said I learned the entire MPO process from Randy.

Jeff Wood (11m 42s):
Good, good thing. You know it now. Right?

Greg Stuart (11m 43s):
Well, it’s been, it was interesting when I ended up with this job almost 15 years later, I called Randy. Randy was still in the position and I called him and I’m, I’m like, Hey Randy, remember me? And he goes, yeah. And I’m like, guess where I work? And he was like, what? So it was, it was like one of those moments where it’s like, now I, you know, you understand the rules, you understand what you’re supposed to do, you know, because of him that it’s like, now I can actually really work with the local governments to get things done. Yeah. Because the other thing, well, the processes are all the same. There are ways to expedite, like doing a long range transportation plan amendment along with the tip amendment should have happened simultaneously.

Greg Stuart (12m 27s):
They shouldn’t have been staggered. And so I’ve been able to work with my locals to make sure that they get projects through and out the system. We had a, a streetcar basically that we were gonna put in here in south Florida in Broward with an appropriation of about 136 million. And I fast tracked that as fast as I could possibly get it through working with the FDA on that. Unfortunately, things take time and the politicians changed and the public decided that the street car would sink into the ground because there wasn’t, you know, the ground is soft and I’m like, okay, interesting theory. So now we’re, you know, past that point and they’re now talking about a light rail system and have your rail system, we’re looking at doing bus only lanes, we’re actually the system plan.

Greg Stuart (13m 18s):
And my background is actually where we are.

Jeff Wood (13m 21s):
I, I wanna know, I wanna know first off, a little bit more about Broward county. I mean, you talk about Broward fertilization and kind of some of that history, but I’m, I’m curious, like it’s part of three MPOs in, in south Florida. And that’s interesting to me just because I don’t think there’s any other place in the country that has three large NPOs right next to each other, but also kind of, what’s some background about Broward that might be interesting to, to the listeners

Greg Stuart (13m 43s):
Broward basically, you know, the Broward has grown rapidly really is one of those places. It started in the eighties population of about thousand people. And it grew to 2 million where we are today. And that growth really is kind of what makes it a little bit more unique, the experiences of the area isn’t, it’s a suburban area to Miami day because it’s not, it, it actually had its own urbanized area and Miami dad had its own. And I, as a child, I remember there used to be trees between Broward and Miami dad and Broward and Palm beach.

Greg Stuart (14m 28s):
And in fact there were trees in lots, lots of areas. But you know, when, when you’re talking about back then there were really basically three large cities here larger like close to 80,000. And it was Pompano Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood, then a couple of smaller cities down the beach, Helendale beach, you know, and so forth. And everything started growing together during the eighties. And that’s when we probably had the fastest growth rate in the nation. And we started seeing growth in areas that didn’t necessarily support the growth. Initially. One of the things that Broward actually had done that I had in my pocket was in 72, the precursor to the MPO, it was called the Broward county land use planning board.

Greg Stuart (15m 22s):
They actually created a master plan for the county, which basically had a build out of about 2.4 million. And they had two different models of growth the county could have. And one was a suburban model, which is the one they chose. And one was an urbanized model, which we can still do. And so it laid everything out. It said, think, build here, do this, do that. It actually laid out a transit system. It laid out a roadway network highway system. It laid out where schools could go where you’d have business centers. And to be really honest with you, it grew that way. Even through the eighties and nineties, with the rapid growth and that document itself, they weren’t using.

Greg Stuart (16m 6s):
So the natural growth actually mimicked what this organization had put together. It also had laid out a governance structure that they didn’t follow. They had a regional government structure and they were like, there should only be five governments and there’s all, there’s 31 cities here. So they didn’t necessarily, you can tell Noah followed this document, but naturally it grew that way. There was an expressway. They ran through the center of the county to a, a beltway that ran around the edges of the county towards the Everglades and the Sawgrass expressway pretty much it’s where they had projected. It was gonna be the east west expressway.

Greg Stuart (16m 46s):
They had called the port Everglades expressway. That’s actually now 5 95. So, you know, a lot of that actually occurred, laid out where Greenways will occur and low and behold, a lot of plans that I had seen before I got here, talked about this Greenway and that Greenway. So a lot of the work from the early seventies was translatable into not only the development pattern that occurred here, but then the next development pattern, which is this redevelopment that we are going through. And I think that’s kind of the fascinating part and that redevelopment is also occurring where they projected urban centers. And so following that map, the 72 document, which was a simple, very small, you know, maybe 60 pages program of what a development pattern could look like we’ve been following.

Greg Stuart (17m 37s):
And that’s actually been part and personal of what we did in our long range transportation plans to say, okay, well now we know this has happened and utilizing the book from 72 and where redevelopment is actually occurring, which was based on what the 72 plan said. Then this is the type of transit system that could go into effect, and this is what it can support. And so that next generation of development that we’re having now to bring us up to what our maximum mobile support can be based on resources at about 2.4, 2.5 million people. We know that you know, where this system and what that system could, and our partners at the county transit office and at tri rail and at Florida department of transportation, I’ve been introducing them to this document when I got this job.

Greg Stuart (18m 28s):
Cause I just happened to have a copy of it. God knows how I got it, but I have that discussion one day and I literally kept on following it. And just with, as a guide and I’ve been sharing it with our local government partners as well. So they’re, they’re aware of why their corridors look the way the corridors do and what they can do to the corridors. And, you know, we helped create land use categories that would advance a transit system. So while it doesn’t James, one of my favorite lines that he uses is OD without the T. And it’s like, so we have all this area where he have oriented development. We didn’t necessarily have the right transit employees, but that’s not because we weren’t trying.

Greg Stuart (19m 12s):
It was because there was actually a plan that once that development got in place, it would support the infrastructure for a transit system. That’s been one of the efforts that our MPO has been, you know, basically grappling with when I first got here and now very direct, this is what we’re doing, and this is how we’re doing it. And that’s affected affordable housing. It’s affected climate change. And as well, because we know from soils and all the rest of it from that 72 plan, what, you know, what type of storm surge at this area can handle, what type of drainage, natural drainage that can occur based on, you know, heavy flooding and heavy rain events.

Greg Stuart (19m 52s):
So now all of a sudden you start seeing those aspects of the 72 plan come into our reality now. And I really, it’s a very kind of neat thing to know that there was a group of people back in the seventies that were actually thinking about this stuff and that there ideas weren’t lost

Jeff Wood (20m 9s):
Also. I mean, going back even further than 72, there’s a history of, of development on like the FEC quarter, right? The, the Flagler line, there’s, there’s a history of cities popping up along the rail line and kind of that being a way for the, the coastal Florida to develop. And I’m, I’m wondering how much the 72 plan kind of reflects some of that initial development that happened originally because of the rail line.

Greg Stuart (20m 33s):
Well, the rail line’s fascinating all of itself because basically there were a few cities down here Dana beach or Danette was called and Fort Lauderdale. There was another little city here called Flo that became what a city called Oakland park now in Broward in the rail line itself that the Henry Flagler brought down from St. Augustine because they had a freeze up there and he was looking for areas for his resort hotels. And so Broward wasn’t like the stop on the railroad that he was interested in for the redevelopment side or the development side. It really was Fort Dallas, which became Miami and, you know, Palm beach island, which, you know, we know where west Palm is.

Greg Stuart (21m 18s):
So that was part and parcel of his designs. So Broward didn’t necessarily have that design. It was actually an area that they were kind of skipping over. It was more agricultural and they had planned it to be agricultural, even on the Florida east coast, there was a couple of stations, but it was to pick up and deliver farm product versus what happened in Miami or Fort Dallas and in Palm beach island where it was more of here’s where you drop off tourists and you know, where we’re an encouraging development. So Brower didn’t necessarily have that history with the Florida east coast railway, like the other two area parts of the region have, it was always looked at more as a farmer community.

Greg Stuart (22m 3s):
And so, you know, with that type of knowledge, the FEC development itself, back in the twenties and tens and early, early, late 18 hundreds, basically all of that really wasn’t what the rail line did for Broward. It wasn’t, it was again, the ag side of things. The military ended up putting in a, on the air force base where for training for pilots, but even then for the most part, Broward was pretty rural and pretty agricultural. So you know, that the effect now with the FEC is a little bit different of a story. And we can tell that by, you know, the bright line in our future commuter rail system, at least from downtown Miami, up to west Palm beach or up to downtown Fort Lauderdale, the first phase of passenger local passenger rail back on that corridor is gonna be a lot of redevelopment at that point where the stations are gonna come back in.

Greg Stuart (22m 59s):
And I think that’s the story, the law you’re trying to spin into this, but the reality of that is these were agricultural and there was really no like this we’re gonna become the, the big cities along the corridor. You know, Hollywood, Hollywood beach, city of Hollywood had a station and there was a resort hotel from the twenties. But even with that, you know, it never, it didn’t catch like the Biltmore in Miami and what became Miami Dade county or, or west Palm and Palm beach, even Boca Raton struggled for years because it was more so, you know, the, the story originally of the freight, the rail line for those cities it’s yeah, that was what brought a lot more people down here, but it wasn’t necessarily what built the cities once, once that lit was there, the roadway network came in and all the rest of it and real estate developers started looking everywhere.

Greg Stuart (23m 57s):
And lots of subdivided land started happening where, you know, people in Chicago and New York could put $500 down or $500 in and own a piece of property in south Florida. A majority of that was in areas that were not suitable to build houses. There was just not even land there. Hmm. So, you know, a lot of, a lot of speculation occurred, you know, maybe that’s what the story of the rail line was, was it brought the speculation to this region, but the development itself that occurred, you know, post world war II. And, you know, that was, that was probably, you look at the advent of the automobile, the Florida turnpike, the movie theater, where the boys are, you know, kind of changed people’s views of what Broward county was and what it could

Jeff Wood (24m 48s):
Be. But now you have a, you know, you have a, an opportunity because there is that rail line there, and it does connect to all these places along the corridor, bright

Greg Stuart (24m 56s):
Line coming in bright line, coming in the private rail system. That’s phenomenal. You know, that’s a great system that is ultimately the design was originally to bring it to Orlando and that’s still moving forward. The Flagler rail line that the passenger rail that used to be there. That’s coming back with this, you know, coastal rail system we’re putting in, we have a second heavy rail system to the west here where my offices are out the window, where on top of the Cypress Creek station that connects all the Western cities together, west Eastern cities together on that line. And you know, basically now it’s a matter of tying the rest of the systems together, but I’m, I’m gonna go back to roadway.

Greg Stuart (25m 38s):
Network really kind of is what drove. And I hate to use the term traffic to the region and, you know, the train sells a good story, but it wasn’t, it was the Genesis of very small towns and not of what became a megalopolis. And now I think the megapoli the story of that is the fascinating piece of rebuilding the infrastructure to actually handle it. And that’s, as I opened up the statement, a lot of the cities here where the neighborhoods are becoming unique to themselves and self sustaining and self-contained, and I think that’s the thing that then allows for a transit system to make a difference, you know, your bar system and your street car system, where you live phenomenal, great stuff.

Greg Stuart (26m 27s):
Where I grew up in, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we had a trolley system that would go from one borough to another borough and around the, you know, that’s, that’s what, how those places grew. This didn’t necessarily grow that way. It’s that long and linear piece. And you can say, yeah, but it didn’t necessarily promote an eco install.

Jeff Wood (26m 48s):
And now you have, you know, well, just a couple weeks ago, I got emails from your team about what’s going on in Broward county, including the, including Matt Broward. I’m curious a little bit more about the mobility advancement program and, and kind of how you are trying to implement that.

Greg Stuart (27m 0s):
You know, basically mobility, the mobility advancement program is the implementation of a penny. Surtax down here for transportation. Our agency basically got really tired of every time. We would look at this map behind me again, the, our transit systems plan and say, Hey, you know, we could do this. We could do buses and exclusive lanes. We could put a light rail system down, we could do a streetcar system and it would always be, we don’t have the money. We don’t have the money. We don’t have the money. So my board basically directed me, go, go figure out how to get the money. And there’s always so much money. You can get outta Washington, but we need to have a local path.

Greg Stuart (27m 41s):
And so we spent a good seven years through a program called speak up Broward, and we would go out to communities and talk the importance of transportation and ways to fund a system ways to pay for a light rail system, ways to pay for a heavy rail system. And it always came back to, well, you know, you have the ability to tax rental cars and you can tax license tags. But what really generates the money is sales tax because it not only tax the people that are here, but we have a very robust tourist trade, not like Disney, but still robust enough.

Greg Stuart (28m 23s):
And we actually have probably one of the largest mega yacht sales every year in the world where people come here and buy these yachts that are three 50 million and more, and they all get a percentage tax on. ’em it’s all great. So yeah, so the world, I don’t understand, but it’s all good. I always

Jeff Wood (28m 48s):
Challenge. I understand that world.

Greg Stuart (28m 50s):
Yeah. But I always like, if, when people call me to complain, I’m like, listen, give a chance, let go with you. So I understand the suffering you’re going through, but you know, the, that’s a story about bright line. I’ll tell you that later, but you know, that’s kind of where the sales tax settle. And so talking to the public, the private sector before I got here, went out for surtax for a really robust transit system. It failed, we worked with the cities and the county for a 50, 50 or half penny for transit and a half penny for infrastructure. Unfortunately, they tied it together, but, and that language was awful.

Greg Stuart (29m 32s):
But the penny for transportation passed and the penny for infrastructure failed, the reason we had divided it up in that way is because the cities needed to redo their roads and all the rest of the, the necessary parts to support a bus, rapid transit system, the things that, you know, you need to have in place. So that was, you know, failed. And it was tied together. Both things had to pass right to pass the ballot. Language was for the transit was do yes or no. And you agree to raise by 1 cent or half a cent. And then the other language for infrastructure set, do you support increasing your tax by 0.05% for sales tax for infrastructure?

Greg Stuart (30m 21s):
And then it wasn’t a yes or no. It was all in the yes or no box. And it failed, obviously our focus groups that we did afterwards, actually the voters said, well, I voted no for that because I thought you were raising our sales tax by 5 cents because of the way it was written. And it was really kind of interesting because it was five set. And, you know, if you kind of, it took me a while to understand that, but then I’m like, oh yeah, I could see where that would confuse somebody. So then the third time we went out, which was the charm with the county. It was for a full penny for transportation period, which is what established the map program.

Greg Stuart (31m 7s):
And, you know, that actually passed in almost the super majority there. We said that there was gonna be about 27 miles of light rail, but didn’t identify where we had identified a whole bunch of projects, but didn’t say which, and when it was a really interesting thing to see pass, because it was completely counterintuitive to what everybody tells you and how a search actually work. And, you know, I met with my colleagues from around the country when we were moving forward with that. And I’m like, it’s really hard to, you know, save this to people because we’re always so busy going around going, you have to show exactly where that station’s gonna be and what that system’s gonna look like and where the start and the stop and the points and this and the other.

Greg Stuart (31m 51s):
And basically the voters in Broward said, no, I don’t care. Take this money and do something with it. And that’s what created the map program, which is to be honest with you, probably one of the greatest achievements I can say that has happened down here in probably a good 20 to 30 years, because that actually has opened up our communities, not only to be able to sell fund projects, but also leverage a lot of this infrastructure attacks that’s coming outta Washington, thankfully to actually advance a bunch of transit projects. And so the map behind me may not exactly be the exact map that they’re gonna build, but it stimulated the conversation in the community enough to say, yeah, we want something and I don’t care, get it done.

Greg Stuart (32m 40s):
And so, you know, we were excited to see that pass. Obviously the county was extremely excited. The money actually sits with the county commission the way for law is written. So it, it, it has been a real positive thing. Our partners in Hillsborough county, in Tampa bay area, they, they also had a half penny sales tax that they did, but it ended up being deemed unconstitutional because they were putting the money instead of with the Hillsborough county folks that they were putting money in different agencies, pods and different city pods. And so the, the Supreme state Supreme court called that unconstitutional. So basically the way we’ve done it here in Broward now, the way it’s written in past that leaves it to be constitutional.

Greg Stuart (33m 24s):
It really is the county commissioner’s money and, and their, their decision points. So, you know, for us working with the county administrator, Monica Shapiro, who I would’ve loved to, I wanted her to be on with me today. You know, she, we’re working together to try to figure out things to get built and what moves forward. So the Broward county, part of the coastal link project, where in Miami day, they call it their smart plant, the Northeast corridor, we are ready to rock and roll with that. You know, we have the CapEx money put together. There is the operating money already put together. So we’re able to go and we’re gonna actually be putting that into small starts literally, hopefully in September to move forward with that corridor.

Jeff Wood (34m 6s):
Yeah. So how is, how does that link up to the money from the infrastructure bill? Like you mentioned? I mean, there’s, there’s a lot of money in there increase in funding for transportation projects. Obviously it’s, it’s a good amount of money, but it’s not, you know, it’s not a ridiculous amount of money. It’s still, you still have to go through, like you said, small starts and, and the, I guess, I don’t know what they’re calling it these days, but new starts to get the larger projects. But yeah, it, it seems like a, a good thing, but how is it, how is that working out for you all in terms of trying to apply for the programs or have you even started yet? Cuz it’s just so new.

Greg Stuart (34m 38s):
It’s so new and that’s, we are going, like I said, we’re going through the small starts for this corridor. September would be the first thing. There’s actually two projects the county wants to move forward with without federal funding, just using our local funds. That would be more of an east west project. And I’m not necessarily at Liberty to tell you which ones they are, but I can tell you that those are also gonna be moving forward at the same time we’re doing this north Southeast and we’re also gonna be submitting next year for intermodal pieces that connect the Seaport airport, tri rail FEC, bright line and local passenger all together.

Greg Stuart (35m 18s):
And you know, that’s because we have the leverage of the local money, the map money, that’s gonna allow us to go after a larger share of the discretionary. So while small starts new starts, the pots grew, but they’re still the same pots. There’s also all the discretionary grant programs. And, and so what I’ve been working together with our partners at the county in the cities is let’s find one mega project. And that’s that intermodal center. I’m talking about connecting airport Seaport to all the local services. And that might be our mega project. The mayor of Fort Lauderdale wants to create a tunnel system for the railroad through downtown to allow for additional.

Greg Stuart (36m 4s):
And yes, you can build tunnels in south Florida and they don’t flood. You can actually do that. And he’s advocating for that for the purposes of additional residential units and all the rest, which actually allows us. The reason housing is so expensive here is just, there’s a lack of development space. You lead. We’re not that behind. Yeah, that said, so, you know, there, there’s a lot of trying to call less around certain projects is gonna be the interesting challenge for us, but the money is there and the match is there. We can do 50% matches, 75% matches to federal.

Greg Stuart (36m 47s):
And that’s an unusual situation for almost anybody, even my partners down in money ADE right now they’re, they’re sit with a half penny. They really say at a full penny, see a much more robust system being developed in Miami day and my partners to the north and Palm beach. They haven’t even started the conversation yet. So, you know, that’s, I’m, I’m happy to have those conversations with them of what they could do to kind move forward.

Jeff Wood (37m 11s):
Well, it’s not just transit projects too. You have transportation projects kind of with large there’s there’s bike, pet improvements, there’s bus stop and shelter improvements. You have the high capacity corridor planning. What other projects are, are in the, the hopper as it were and which projects stand out to you most

Greg Stuart (37m 27s):
Actually, that’s been fun too, because knowing that, you know, when we first, like I said, when I got here, I’m like, let’s do these transit projects. And they’re like, well, we don’t have any money. I did have the federal money or formula dollars that were coming down to us. And so working with my board, we were like, okay, we studied the corridors. We knew where the transit was gonna be. And that also came out of that 72 plan. And we recognized that the transit wasn’t there yet. So James and my entire mobility team started focusing on last mile connections on these corridors. So the bike lanes and the sidewalks and all the infrastructure that you normally would see cities build after the transit system went in, we’ve put in before.

Greg Stuart (38m 11s):
So, you know, just in my tenure here, I’ve been shy of about 750 million worth of just sidewalk projects. And I still have more to go. And all of that was because we were tying neighborhoods to corridors. We were putting in sidewalks into neighborhoods. So that way you could walk from your house to the corridor to get on a rapid bus or a rail system, we it’s gonna be there. And so we were really focusing on those last mock connections over the last decade to spend our federal dollars, putting that infrastructure in. That’s why now with the map program to help them focus on a transit system is like great for us because we’ve, we can kind of show them through this dense neighborhood we’ve already done the last mile connections.

Greg Stuart (38m 60s):
And you now these folks that live a quarter mile in a half mile in have a safe walking route to get to transit. And on top of that, we’ve been working with the cities to plant trees and create the environment where you can actually walk there because yeah, it gets hot here. So we get into the nineties, feel like temperatures can be about a hundred, but we have an ocean breeze and with shade and an ocean breeze, it’s actually quite nice. I mean, it’s walkable. So that’s, we’ve been really concentrating on that. The bike lanes that we’ve been putting in, which has been a whole nother thing, I’m really proud of personally, a lot of people don’t understand it, but I would go to meetings and people would show up and you know, their child had died, been run over by a car because they were on their bike or their husband was run over by a car because he got off of a bus and needed to cross the street in no location.

Greg Stuart (39m 54s):
And the infrastructure wasn’t there, he went through Vietnam, but didn’t, it didn’t make it off of bus and Broward. So I’ve been really advocating the infrastructure necessary to create a safer environment for folks too. And so we’ve added hundreds of miles of bike lanes to our communities. And there’s one particular area that I’m extremely proud of, which there were three children that unfortunately died not together, but at separate incidents over a multiple year period. And now that neighborhood, we rebuilt the road, two lane facility put in bike lanes, put in sidewalks, put in pedestrian scale lighting, and you can go there at any time of day or night.

Greg Stuart (40m 38s):
And there are people on bikes and there are people walking their dogs and there are people, you know, feeding the ducks. And, and I kind of look at that and go, you know, if you have like one of those moments at the time where you said, yeah, I did a good thing. That’s that’s when you realize, yeah, you actually kind of did a good thing and there hasn’t, you know, there hasn’t been a pedestrian or bicyclist fatality within that part of the region. And since that occurred, since those improvements occurred. So, I mean, there’s things that we’ve been doing to be proactive. There’s things that we’ve been doing to be reactive. You know, I don’t think in my lifetime, we’re gonna get to a vision zero where we don’t have any fatalities here, but you know, that that is a personal goal because no one should die trying to get to the doctors or trying to get to your job, or even just going for a walk with your kids and, you know, trying to create the environment for that is really important.

Greg Stuart (41m 32s):
An important door organization.

Jeff Wood (41m 33s):
Let’s talk a little bit about, about climate change and, and potential sea level rise. I think that Florida has a little bit of a, you know, there’s obviously you’re on the coastline and so you see it already, and I’m wondering what the MPOs kind of role is in, you know, adaptation or, or process to, to make sure that there’s places that are safe from climate change. And you’re dealing with the kind of the, the fallout of, from what potentially could happen in the future.

Greg Stuart (42m 0s):
That’s a really great question. And I’m gonna give you longer winded, probably answer. So we actually had experienced during hurricane Sandy, which didn’t was 500 miles off our coast. It removed our coastal highway, route a one, a it’s called actually took out the bedrock of the road and the road collapsed into the ocean. It happened on a beautiful clear day while hurricane Sandy was off the coast, but it was a gorgeous day. It was a Sunday. I was at my house and the city manager Fort Lauderdale at the time called me and said, do you have the D T secretary’s phone number, cell phone number? And I’m like, why?

Greg Stuart (42m 41s):
And you know, legitimate questions Sunday, why are you calling me for this? And, and it’s beautiful out. And he goes a one a has gone into the ocean and I’m like, what? And he goes, yeah, this between here and here. And I’m like, of course I’m thinking, okay, beautiful day. It hasn’t rained. I was at the beach earlier in the morning, everything was fine. So I got on my bike and I actually rode to the one bike lanes that we put in. I rode down to where he was talking about and low and behold the road had actually washed out and ocean water was coming over and Palm trees had collapsed into the road and the, the lifeguard stands were tipped over and I’m like to hell.

Greg Stuart (43m 24s):
And literally I called the city manager Feldman at the time. And I’m like, here’s, here’s, you know, the number for Jim Wolf. I’m also calling him to let him know to get his people out here because that’s actually a state road. And it was like, if he became an emergency for all of us, it wasn’t a declared emergency at the state level. So it was a little difficult to deal with because, you know, there was a little bit of denying going on up in Tallahassee at the time. And so, and we’re not exactly one of their favorite places. You know, we basically all got together, all the agencies and said, okay, we need to get funding in here and deal with rebuilding the roadway.

Greg Stuart (44m 6s):
We had the discussion of what that would be like. And you know, is it important enough to keep the connection there? You know, the state district secretary came up with you, drive pilings down to keep the bedrock in the road in, and you do this and you do that. And the road can be re inundated by the ocean water a few times, but it wouldn’t be pulled out to sea. So we started really thinking about what resilient infrastructure would look like. And the Obama administration, we applied for a grant with the Obama administration to actually study, not just Broward, but Palm beach, Miami, dad, and Monroe. And we looked at all of the state and federal facilities here in Southeast Florida and looked with there’s a climate change, compact people here.

Greg Stuart (44m 48s):
I’m sure there’ll be at the, you know, at the event, but they have studies that they’ve been doing, but we actually did our own and measured, which road would go under water. And when based on different scenario planning, we had a private consultant, my favorite name ever, his name was James flood. And James came up with all these scenarios for us. And we’ve actually on the Broward piece, we actually went a little bit further and we asked our board for additional money to do local roads. So we actually have an idea of when each road and when failure will occur 500 year, a thousand year storm events, all of that.

Greg Stuart (45m 28s):
And we started looking at that and we actually calculate that in when we’re providing funding to rebuild roads or put in improved facilities. And so we’re already looking at ways to maintain and mitigate some of those impacts locally, obviously a, a 20 foot sea level rise that, you know, at that point it’s yeah. Post is a little bit hard to, yeah, that’s a very different conversation, hard to plan that. Well, you know, I’ve been working with the development community and they’ve actually been really kind of interesting to work with because we had the conversation about the first and second floors of some of these multifamily, taller buildings, 30, 40, 50 story buildings.

Greg Stuart (46m 13s):
Can they be resilient enough to handle being inundated permanently on the first and second levels? And can the building continue to operate, you know, make sure that the generators and all the rest of it can be hooked up in a place that they stay above the 30 foot foot level. And you know, this final limitation as I’d call it and see to keep things somewhat livable. You know, we may reflect more of being like a Venice than we would be looking like Southeast Florida is today. But you know, a lot of the developers are very keen on saying, okay, well, they’re looking at their properties more than a 30 year investment plan.

Greg Stuart (46m 54s):
You know, it’s a 50 year, a hundred year. And so, you know, we actually, we actually did a lot of work on our studies, James ER, again, from my team led a lot of those efforts, he’s really, you know, very, very good at understanding systems. And so we’ve been looking at the roadway network. I actually wanna spend our we’ve been working with Florida power and right on the power network. A lot of the real rationale of not bearing the electrical system is because of sea level rise. So we’ve actually been working with them. They’ve been raising the, the power grid, not lowering it. And so it one gets above the tree line and two, it’s actually more sustainable at that level. And it allows us to kind of deal with the necessary infrastructure that society is gonna need to make it through.

Greg Stuart (47m 40s):
At least a percentage of us, maybe 30% of us might be left down here, you know, to be able to proceed in, in an environment. So we look at that when we look at any of the investments we’re doing with our federal dollars and with the Obama or with the Biden administration. Now they’ve actually allowed us to go further, which allowing us to even look at affordable housing. So all those links kind of tie together, the sea level rise, the storm events, and now, you know, affordable housing cause housing is, you know, when you talk about losing, you know, maybe 40% of your housing stock, eventually you need to be able to figure out where that 40% or at least 20% of it will go. They’re not all gonna move to Orlando.

Jeff Wood (48m 20s):
Yeah. And then there’s also, I mean, I’m going from, sorry, I’m going from doom to doom, but you know, climate change. And then also, you know, the pandemic, I’m curious how that’s impacted Broward county and, and your work at the MPO.

Greg Stuart (48m 34s):
That, one’s a really good question as well, because you know, what we actually saw, which may was kind of indication for our bike and sidewalks efforts is people actually started using them much more. People were stuck at home. They wanted to use the facilities we built. And I got a lot of you don’t usually get thank you, emails from people, but during the pandemic, a lot of the folks that I did get emails from were like, I’m really glad that sidewalks here now. I’m really glad there’s this bike lane. I took my family on a bike ride. And because, you know, you couldn’t even really didn’t go to stores. You didn’t go to restaurants, everything got delivered. So, you know, the reality, the tra the system itself wasn’t as scary for people that said it.

Greg Stuart (49m 15s):
Didn’t also, we didn’t stop doing what we needed to do either. You know? Well, our offices kind of morphed into everybody working from home. Like everybody else did. The reality was we just kept the system moving. And we made sure that our projects continued to move into the pipeline to get constructed. And we actually did a lot of work for roadway work, which, you know, we did bike lanes in an area between Pompano and lighthouse point Northeast, Northeast Broward. And the cities were like, oh no, this is gonna be horrible. The pandemic happened, the bike lanes got put in, and now there was no tragedy. The maintenance of traffic continued all the stores that were there, stayed there. And, and it was just like, okay, things, things actually sometimes out of adversity, good things come that adversity that everybody was facing.

Greg Stuart (50m 5s):
It was like all of a sudden people who always would say, you know, no one’s ever gonna walk in Florida and south, Florida’s just too hard. There’s just, it’s just too sunny. It’s just do this, do that. And now all of a sudden people are walking, they’re walking to grocery stores. They created an environment that people started thinking, well, you know, where am I gonna go? I mean, I’m just gonna go for a quick walk. And all of a sudden that actually that was an advantage thing to really redefining the way south Florida operates. Even folks that lived in more suburban areas and gated communities, you know, I got a cause too. It’s like, I need sidewalks in my neighborhood. Well, you’re in a gated community. I’m sorry. I can’t put the investment there because has to be open to the public.

Greg Stuart (50m 48s):
And it was kind of funny listening to folks that, you know, had isolated themselves for, you know, a good two decades, all of a sudden wanting to become part of a fabric of society. So, you know, again, that’s the planner in, but it was, it was interesting.

Jeff Wood (51m 4s):
Well, so revolution becoming to south Florida in October, actually October 30th to November 2nd, what do you hope that people will come see in Broward? I, I imagine that you have a few mobile workshops and some stuff that’s going on up there in Fort Lauderdale. Cetera. I’m curious what you hope folks will check out when they get there.

Greg Stuart (51m 20s):
I hope that they get off the Fort Lauderdale or if they take trial rail and Hollywood and PO out and actually go to our neighborhoods, don’t spend time going to the second largest attraction in Florida, the Sawgrass mills, which is a big, giant shopping mall. You know, don’t go there, but I’m saying spend some time experiencing really the south Florida that most people don’t see get off of the interstate highway system, get off of the arterial network and go in and experience some of the neighborhood areas that actually have these small little local downtowns go to a restaurant I’m gonna pro I’m gonna try, hopefully with my team members to provide a list of places to go and experience what is unique about south Florida, because what’s UN unique about south Florida or the term again, I’m gonna use prioritization is the Walgreens on every corner because that’s happened in Miami.

Greg Stuart (52m 19s):
It happened here. It happened in Palm beach. That’s not what Florida’s about. What Florida is, is that little neighborhood like I live in where I walk three blocks and I met a brewery and I walk another block and I can get my haircut. I block a half a block and I can go to my local grocer. You know, that’s, that’s the experience I really would like to see the folks from revolution have, because why people choose to stay like you have in San Francisco is that walkability and experience. And that it’s a great place to be a person. And we have that here, but you don’t see it when you’re sitting in your car and you don’t see it when you’re on 95 and you definitely don’t see it when you land on your airplane.

Greg Stuart (53m 1s):
Cause all you see is like sprawling in all directions. But if you have that chance to have the experience, that’s really what I’m looking for. Go to downtown mass district, go to the fat village, go to downtown Pompano, spend some time along some of our coastal cities Lauderdale by the sea Pompano beach, by the sea Dan beach and have a, a chance to actually see what like the new urban or re urbanizing areas can, you know, bring value to. I think that there’s a lot of really neat experiences for the folks to have and understand why we’re still growing.

Jeff Wood (53m 40s):
I look forward to seeing the map of where you tell people to go

Greg Stuart (53m 44s):
Mimic, mimic this because a lot of those circles, those are like places that are neat to go to. Yeah. You know, and that’s where you capture people’s interests, you know, because it’s, it’s not a shopping center on the, it’s why you can do that anywhere.

Jeff Wood (54m 0s):
Yeah. Where can folks find more information about, about Broward and Broward that Broward NPO?

Greg Stuart (54m 5s):
Well, our website is a great place to start. It’s Broward, npo.org. We also have a Facebook and all the social media, which is captured, speak up Broward and that will provide you lots of information and data. And we’re really happy to, you know, just if they want to ask a direct question, info, Broward, npo.org, I personally will look at it and provide you comments back and provide information that you might be interested in.

Jeff Wood (54m 35s):
Awesome. Well, Greg, I wanna thank you for joining us. We really appreciate your time.

Greg Stuart (54m 39s):
Thank you for having me really enjoyed. Thanks for letting me Yammer on for a bit.

Listen to the Talking Headways Podcast.


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