Welcoming those arriving by train, bus, or by bike to Downtown West Palm Beach

The Jeff Speck Walkability study pointed out there is a need to provide a cycle track to connect the multimodal center (Amtrak, Trirail, Greyhound, Palm Tran) to downtown and the All Aboard Florida train station. Since the City has a grant funded project to improve Fern St. and Datura and Evernia will be closed at the FEC tracks, then Fern St. appears to make the most logical choice for the cycle track, right? Maybe. Even though Datura and Evernia will be closed at the FEC tracks, both of these streets have some advantages over Fern. We will start with an exhaustive update on our recommendations for Fern St. and follow with a brief discussion of the pros and cons for Datura or Evernia. It is important to note that Evernia and Fern are twin streets. What is proposed for Fern will work for Evernia.

A prior post on Fern St. included a poll for options and the winners were the tree lined median bicycle boulevard options such as this one shown in the walkablewpb sketchup drawing:

Proposed Fern St. - WalkableWPB poll winner
Proposed Fern St. – WalkableWPB poll winner

Here is a reminder of today’s Fern St.:

Existing Fern St.

When you hear Fern you probably think of a forest of trees and not the current forest of asphalt and concrete.

Here is the City’s initial grant proposal for Fern St.:

Fern Street cross section
Fern Street cross section

As we discussed in the prior post; the City’s preliminary proposal was to retain the head in angled parking and add sharrows. Sharrows and head in angled parking aren’t a good mix, especially for a street that provides a connection from a transit hub to downtown.

Here is a streetmix section of the WalkableWPB winner:

Fern St.
Proposed – Fern St.

This design is truly in keeping with its namesake, Fern St. The street could become a truly sustainable green street where depaved areas allow stormwater to infiltrate into the ground as it does in nature and the tree canopy would reduce the urban heat island effect. In the middle of the sidewalk you will note the proposed bioswales. Below is a photo of real bioswales that are a great fit for Fern St. A 3′ wide parking egress zone is provided behind the curb. This design is low cost since you can just de-pave a portion of the existing 13′ wide sidewalk. In photo you will notice that the  existing sidewalk was retained on the building side.  Small curb cuts are provided with ornemental metal trench grates to convey storm water from the road to be infiltrated into the de-paved areas of the sidewalk. Detailed drawings of this bioswale installation are provided at the end of the post.

SW 12th Street bioswale, Photo by Kevin Perry, Bureau of Environmental Services, City of Portland
SW 12th Street bioswale, Photo by Kevin Perry, Bureau of Environmental Services, City of Portland

Couple the green street with a comfortable median Bicycle Boulevards such as those found in downtown Winter Garden Florida and in our nation’s capital on Pennsylvania Avenue. Here are a few links real streets with these facilities :

Fern St. could become a world class gateway to our downtown. The one issue is that the WalkableWPB winner may exceed what the City has budgeted for this project. It amazes me that we spend hundred of thousands of dollars providing landscaping at the I-95 Okeechobee interchange to welcome cars to our downtown, but we have a shoe string budget to welcome cyclists to our City. Bike tourism is real. If we had decent bike facilities I could see plenty of tourists using a bike share at the multi-modal center to tour downtown West Palm Beach.

The case for Datura and Evernia:

Both of these streets provide a more direct route to the multimodal center than Fern. Both streets will have significantly less traffic than Fern. Datura is interesting in that it has a wonderful terminating vista view of the historic Seaboard train station.

Seaboard train station - view from Datura
Seaboard train station – view from Datura

Note the arched front entrance of the station that would welcome the cycle track.

A con is that both streets will terminate at the FEC tracks and can not provide a direct route to Flagler. The proposed connector street along the west side of the FEC could mitigate this. Perhaps a separate bicycle rail crossing could be provided north or south of the station to mitigate the loss of the Datura and Evernia rail crossings.

As stated earlier, Evernia could look exactly like what is proposed for Fern St. Datura St. is more challenging as it has a narrower right of way and large FPL electrical transmission poles at the curb line. Converting Datura to a one-way street with a two way cycle track and angled parking on one side of the street is an inexpensive option that would equal or exceed the current on-street parking yield. Here is a possible section for Datura:

Datura - Cycle track option
Datura – Cycle track option

In the comments let us know your ideas on how to best make a cycle connection between the multi-modal center and the All Aboard Florida station.

Bioswale Details:

SW 12th St. Portland Oregon image courtesy of Sustainable Stormwater Management Program
SW 12th St. Portland Oregon
image courtesy of Sustainable Stormwater Management Program
SW 12th St. bioswale section - image courtesy of Sustainable Stormwater Management Program
SW 12th St. bioswale section – image courtesy of Sustainable Stormwater Management Program


  1. Sarah

    Is there going to be any help for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross Tamarind? I haven’t been there in person for a while but from Google Maps it looks like there’s just a yellow caution sign alerting motorists that there is a crossing at Datura. That requires pedestrians and bicyclists to launch themselves across the street and hope for the best. That’s pretty intimidating, and not welcoming at all! I know it’s not exactly high traffic at the moment, but also with the massive parking lots across the street from the train station, it’s not clear where downtown is if you don’t already know the city when you arrive (and I think will be even less obvious if it will be possible to see the AAF station and that Datura is closed at the FEC tracks). I’d like to see a traffic light which is operated by a pedestrian crossing button. And a clear path/sign to downtown.

    • The crossing of Tamarind is treacherous. I agree that a traffic light may be necessary at Datura and Tamarind. Cars move very fast through this section of roadway; too fast considering this is THE hub for nonmotorized users into our downtown!

      I want to see engineers treat pedestrians and bicyclists with respect instead of an afterthought. Most of our ‘solutions’ for vulnerable users involve doing the least possible to inconvenience drivers. That’s just unacceptable in 2015.

      • Baron Haussmann

        Crossing Tamarind safely is an issue. One of the advantages for placing the cycle track on Fern is that there are savings in combining a vehicular and cycle track traffic signal at this intersection. The Jeff Speck Walkability report recommended a pedestrian crossing signal at Datura and Tamarind.

        What amazes me is that the train station received a transportation enhancement grant to install benches, landscaping, and sidewalks. The improvements seem fairly well executed, but I wonder if the money would have been better spent on improving the experience of somone who wants to walk or ride their bike across Tarmarind?

        • As far as I know, Tamarind is a city-controlled road. The city should be able to be more flexible in its design, correct?

          There is already a signal at Fern and Quadrille. Perhaps an additional signal at Datura or Evernia in order to allow patrons of the transit hub to cross?

          • Baron Haussmann

            Tamarind is City controlled. Here is a link to some of the more progressive pedestrian signal ideas in the U.S.:


            The Pelican crossing is a stage crossings with median refuge that includes artwork in the median.

            The City has an enhancement grant to improve Tamarind just north of Banyan and they also added the useless center median on Clematis that benefits no one. F.Y.I. The parallel parking could have been converted to angled and the center turn lane eliminated and you would end up with the City’s current proposal for Fern St. We will be haunted by that mistake for the next 50-100 years.

            It seems that this section of Tamarind is the perfect candidiate for the next MPO grant cycle.

  2. Baron Haussmann

    How to fund the project. The Fern St. design has incredible stormwater benefits. The City needs to look into leveraging the MPO funding with grant funding for improving stormwater quality in urban environments. There is grant money out there, e.g. TMDL funds, for urban stormwater quality retrofits.

  3. Joe

    Thank you WalkableWPB. Is there any way the city can implement this on Fern for less? There must be some parts that could be implemented later, or some way to be clever.

    Bioswales make infinite sense in FL where we get big bursts of sudden rain – great cost-effective infrastructure, and good for the environment. They really should be the standard, especially on future traffic calming

    • Baron Haussmann

      The project could absolutely be built in phases. For the first phase you would build option #1 – parallel parking buffered cycle track shown in the prior Fern article with the addition of the bioswales in this post. Here is the link to the prior Fern article:

      Note that the sidewalk widths are the same in both options. At a later date you would add the tree lined center bike median.

      The City’s grant proposal had new street lights. You could leave the existing utilitarian street lights in place. The nice thing about putting the trees in the center median is that they don’t interfere with the existing overhead electrical distribution lines for the street lights. The City’s design places the trees in conflict with existing overhead electrical distribution system. There is merit in undergrounding these lines, but if I had a choice I would spend the money on the tree line bike median.

      The other thing to watch for is if an irrigation system is proposed. The quality of landscaping will suffer and the landscape architect will kick and scream, but if you are on budget you can skip the irrigation system and use drought tolerant plantings.

      If you built option #1 in the prior post and kept the old street lights you would probably come out cheaper than the City’s current design.

  4. Sarah

    I had another question, which is only tangentially related. When I go to Google Maps, and click to show Bicycling, it shows bicycle trails and bicycle friendly roads. That map shows that Clematis is the way to go from the Tri Rail train station – if I didn’t know the city, that’s what I’d use to plan my route. Do you guys know who designates which roads get shown on Google Maps as bicycle friendly? If so, how do we either change them, make sure that the map is up to date, or figure out how to get the city to designate good safe routes that all link up? For example, coming in from the south west by bike to downtown, Google maps shows that Southern Blvd is the way to go. But that is terribly treacherous, and Summit Blvd is much better in my mind. It is also possible to cycle from Summit to either Southern or Forest Hill by going through Dreher Park, but that is not shown on the map. And we need to get safe routes connecting up to Flagler from everywhere in downtown.

  5. Susan Landeryou

    In Michigan, we evidently called bioswales, “berms.” My spell check won’t even accept “bioswale” as a word.

    The other word I had never heard was “sharrow.” My spell check won’t accept it as a word, either.

    From Wikipedia’s entry on “road verge”:

    This term has many synonyms and dialectal differences, with some dialects and idiolects without a term for this area and instead using a circumlocution .[6] Terms used include: Berm: Pennsylvania , Indiana , Ohio , Michigan , Wisconsin , New Zealand .[7] Boulevard: North Dakota , Minnesota , Iowa , Illinois , Ohio, Wisconsin ; United States Upper Midwest ;[7] Winnipeg , and western Canada ;[6] Markham, Ontario . Boulevard strip: U.S. Upper Midwest. Curb lawn: Kalamazoo, Michigan ;[8] Elyria, Ohio ;[9] Miami County, Ohio ;[10] [11] Greenville, South Carolina .[12] Curb strip: New Jersey , New York , North Carolina , Florida , Ohio, Indiana, Michigan , Iowa , Kansas , Nebraska , Oregon , Washington [7] Devil’s strip or devilstrip: Akron, Ohio ; Northeast Ohio .[13] [14] [15] Easement .[16] Furniture zone, also planter/furniture zone or landscape/furniture zone: a term used by urban planners, indicating its suitability for “street furniture ” such as utility poles and fire hydrants, as well as trees or planters.[17] Grass bay: New Jersey.[16] Grassplot: East Coast of the United States , Pennsylvania .[7] Nature strip: Australia .[18] Neutral ground: U.S. Gulf States .[19] [7] Park strip: Ohio .[1] Parking: Illinois , Iowa , Western United States .[7] Parking strip: Washington state , Oregon , much of California .[7] Parkway: Greater Los Angeles , San Francisco Bay Area , West Coast of the United States , Ohio, Illinois , Missouri , Florida , Texas .[20] [7] Parkway strip: Austin, Texas ; Fort Collins, Colorado .[21] Planter zone: SmartCode /New Urbanist terminology.[22] Road allowance: Ottawa, Canada [23] Road verge: Australia .[24] Roadside: Australia[25] Sidewalk lawn: South Carolina .[26] Sidewalk plot: Virginia , Maryland , Indiana , Tennessee .[7] Snow shelf: Connecticut Street allowances: Toronto . Street easement. Street lawn: Ohio.[1] Swale: South Florida .[27] Terrace: U.S. Great Lakes region , Missouri .[7] Tree belt: Massachusetts .[7] Tree lawn or treelawn: Ohio, Indiana, New York, and elsewhere.[20] [7] Verge: England , New Zealand , Western Australia.[28] [20] >

  6. I love the idea of a median bicycle boulevard and had proposed something similar for the town I live in as a way to bring bikes downtown by connecting the multi-use trails at either end of downtown on Main Street, rather than routing them completely around downtown http://smalltownurbanism.com/2014/10/31/main-street-crossing-improvements-via-a-new-protected-bike-lane/. It’s a a great way to give more balance to our public rights of way and de-emphasize the car. And as pointed out in my blog, also allows a pedestrian refuge at the center of the street, making for easier pedestrian crossings.

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