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Friday, December 29, 2017

Orlando tests out nighttime 'passenger loading zones' to make ridesharing easier

Posted By on Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 6:37 PM

  • Graphic via City of Orlando
Orlando is testing out nighttime "passenger loading zones" in the downtown area that will make it easier for visitors to catch an Uber, Lyft or taxi ride.

City officials say they're trying to curb the effects of "the push" that happens when downtown bars and clubs stop selling alcohol at 2 a.m. and push out hundreds of drunk patrons onto streets closed to traffic, like Orange Avenue. Inebriated people waiting for their rides often form a cluster along the street that can be chaotic.

Earlier this year, Dominique Greco Ryan, Orlando's recently hired night manager, told us one of the initiatives she planned to introduce was segmented areas off main streets to make it easier to catch rideshare services and disperse crowds faster.

With that idea in mind, Greco Ryan says city staff started a pilot program in December that created eight passenger loading zones in downtown Orlando designated with red-and-white signs. From 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., an Uber driver or a person picking up  friends, for example, can pull over in the area for five minutes while riders get in the vehicle. In the daytime, the zones will serve as 30-minute freight parking by permit only.

The eight zones include:

- Orange Avenue at Jefferson Street, near Orange County Brewers.
- Washington Street behind the Orange County Regional History Center.
- Central Boulevard at Garland Avenue, with two areas on either side of the train tracks.
- Pine Street at Orange Avenue, near Artisan’s Table.
- Church Street at Magnolia Avenue.
- Rosalind Avenue between Jackson Street and Church Street, near the Orange County administration building.
- Jackson Street and Orange Avenue, near the Grand Bohemian Hotel.
- Church Street between South Terry Avenue and South Division Avenue, near the Amway Center.

Greco Ryan says city officials and the Nighttime Economy Committee decided to designate several transit hubs instead of having just one location because they wanted to spread out the crowd; also, there was no central spot that would have been convenient for every person. The second phase of the program might also include formal agreement with some rideshare companies.

"We do plan on doing branding to make the zones more eye-catching," she says. "Maybe down the road, if these are successful, we might add other enhancements, like lighting, food trucks, food vendors or public restrooms. We want to make them attractive."

The Orlando Sentinel reports the city also plans to spend a $1.9 million federal grant on 15 new bike patrol officers for downtown. Greco Ryan says another improvement in terms of parking is a decision by the city to open up its public City Commons garage near City Hall between 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. She adds that the city is also looking into signage that would make it easier for out-of-town visitors to find available parking garages.

"The whole goal is to make people feel more comfortable with utilizing the transportation options they have," Greco Ryan says. 

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