Multimodal Economic Development Opportunity

The importance of advanced transportation technology to regenerate growth and improve efficiencies cannot be undervalued. Required: a regional partnership approach across multiple industries.

Across the Central Florida region, a complex web of multimodal transportation mechanism supports a diverse range of industries and fuels our economic engine. Improving existing infrastructure and developing new technologies associated with transportation for land, sea, air and space is imperative for the continued economic growth of our state.

Obvious industries such as tourism are centered on transportation as either an enabling contributor or, as in the case of the Port Canaveral cruise lines, are creating a luxurious “home away from home” experience for Florida tourists. These multimillion-dollar floating transports contain all the essential elements of a small city with the convenience of a different beach each day. The multitude of complex networks, and recent cruise liner incidents, remind us of the need for reliability and safety in critical systems, and the significant impact these systems have to the bottom line. Impacts to one industry can often spill over to the rest of the business community and createa knock-on effect that could potentially weaken a region for an extended period of time.

Also central to the tourist-based economy, theme park rides have evolved to become very complex systems that encompass simulation, automation, propulsion and power systems with audiovisual elements into highly reliable and safe “blow your doors off” thrill rides. While these rides do not meet the typical definition of transportation as a method for moving products or people from one place to another, it could be argued that the high technology simulation and in-seat acrobatics transport enthusiasts to a different world, albeit for a short duration experience that terminates right where it started! With Orlando holding strong on the top 10 of most visited U.S. vacation destinations, Central Florida creates the perfect landscape for melding practicality with fantasy.

The airline industry is not only responsible for transporting masses of people to Florida’s well-known tourism destinations and burgeoning business opportunities, aviation continues to grow and comprises a significant portion of our economy with maintenance, manufacturing and assembly, as well as pilot and crew training. Not limited to commercial and military aviation activities, more companies are entering into collaborative agreements with universities for research and development and incorporate advanced technology processes into their value streams. The Space Coast and surrounding areas will continue to reinvent themselves to be seen as leaders in the private and public aerospace markets.

With the completion of the Space Shuttle Program and the incorporation of the Space Shuttle Atlantis into its new home at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Florida’s Space Coast is re-tooling and getting ready for the launch of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. We have already seen the first few commercial launches to the International Space Station and hope to soon see the launch of humans again from U.S. soil. Space Florida has been actively working across the state to encourage and embolden revitalization of aerospace derivatives for the next generation, such as suborbital space tourism, microsatellites and autonomous or remotely piloted vehicle development.

Back on the ground, trucking and rail provide the “meat and potatoes” transportation support for the region by importing fuel, food and other commodities from all over the world to sustain our homes, hotels and businesses. These methods have large haul capacity but also consume significant natural petroleum resources. The rail infrastructure in Florida operates more north-south, which limits the use of current infrastructure to reducing geographical separation of regional tourist destinations, which are aligned east-west across Central Florida.

A highly efficient system such as magnetic levitation light rail has low lifecycle costs and effective passenger volume capabilities. Magnetic levitation propulsion systems use a single live rail to power the electromagnets to lift the train totally off the track with an air gap and a Linear Induction motor to propel the vehicle. Once the vehicle is up to speed, except for continued levitation, additional power is only required for wind loads and gradient changes. In addition to having no emissions, light rail solutions are easily mounted on elevated tracks that reduce the environmental footprint.

The importance of advanced transportation technology to regenerate growth and improve efficiencies cannot be undervalued. Central Florida hosts several key tourist attractions and venues that could support advancements such as light rail options to improve the geographic flexibility and access to multiple venues along the Central Florida High-Tech Corridor and beyond. Regional businesses in advanced manufacturing, simulation and transportation should continue to encourage transportation development in our local universities with subjects that embrace advanced propulsions systems, simulation and adaptive control, as well as transportation planning with urban and environmental considerations. The growth in these areas of expertise would promote additional benefits to local businesses by increasing high technology workforce and incentivizing new companies to host their corporations in an environment of innovative growth.

Although infrastructure costs can present a significant buy-in challenge that prevents individual cities or counties from implementation, a regional partnership approach across multiple industries would increase the opportunity for success and propel our region economically, as well as enabling a multidimensional experience for future tourists.