And yet a Florida DOT meeting agenda includes detailed instructions on how to drive there—plus a free parking pass.

There’s a troubling tendency for public officials in charge of U.S. transit systems not to actually step foot on the buses and trains they oversee. The result is a totally unsurprising failure to anticipate basic problems: if you’re used to parking right beside your destination, for instance, you can’t appreciate the importance of a good sidewalk network leading to a transit stop or station. Your understanding of the challenges facing daily riders is theoretical at best.

Jesse Bailey at the blog Walkable West Palm Beach points us to an especially egregious instance of this windshield perspective in action. The Florida Bicycle and Pedestrian Partnership Council, convened under the auspices of the state’s Department of Transportation, is supposed to help people get around on bike or on foot. And yet a recent meeting agenda explains—at great length, and at the very start of a 115-page document—where council members can park.

There’s a parking map for the Tallahassee destination:

And detailed written directions beneath the parking map that include tips on how to park (facing forward!) and all-cap advice on HOW NOT TO GET TOWED:

BE SURE NOT TO PARK IN THE FSU WARREN LOT WHICH IS LOCATED ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE VISITOR DIRT LOT. THAT LOT IS MARKED WITH A RED AND YELLOW FSU SIGN AND YOU WILL EITHER GET TOWED OR GET A TICKET IF YOU PARK THERE.

And a free parking pass you can print out and tape “in your back window so
that it is visible when standing behind the vehicle”:

And—wait for it—a very friendly reminder that it’s preferable not to, you know, run over people:

The speed limit in the garage is 5 mph. Please drive carefully as there are many pedestrians making their way through the garage.

Bailey’s final take is spot on (original emphasis):

Our governmental leadership, transportation agencies, and advocates all need to be cognizant of how the conversation is framed:  Are we merely paying lip service to the community of people who bike and walk for transportation? How are our governing bodies to understand the needs of those walking and biking if the only time they consider their needs, they arrive via automobile and don’t consider people arriving using the very modes they are meeting to discuss? And if non-motorized users are overlooked by meeting organizers for a meeting about non-motorized users, imagine what happens for meetings in which this isn’t the topic of discussion.

The council members who drive to these meetings will no doubt do so because it’s very difficult for them to walk or bike or ride transit. That’s not to knock them; if it were easy and convenient to get places without a car in Florida cities, the state wouldn’t need policy committees on alternative transportation. And who knows—maybe the parking instructions have been included ironically, and every meeting commences by turning the garage passes into confetti.

But there’s a reason some cities have started to require that transit officials actually ride transit: the farther you’re removed from a problem, the less urgency you feel to resolve it.

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