Walkable West Palm Beach

Road diet for Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard

3 Comments

Today’s guest, Baron Haussman, was a French civic planner whose name is associated with the rebuilding of Paris. Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809–1891), who called himself Baron Haussmann, was commissioned by Napoleon III to instigate a program of planning reforms in Paris. Haussmann laid out the Bois de Boulogne, and made extensive improvements in the smaller parks.  A new water supply, a gigantic system of sewers, new bridges, the opera house, and other public buildings, the inclusion of outlying districts – these were among the new prefect’s achievements, accomplished by the aid of a bold handling of the public funds. (Planetizen)

Enter the Baron.
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The battle for a walkable city must be fought block by block inch by inch. Little projects can make a big difference in transforming a City. Transforming unneeded travel lanes into curb side parking is one of the highest return on investment a City can make. The portion of Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. from Dixie Highway to Flagler Drive is a perfect example. The intersection of Dixie and Palm Beach Lakes is shown below. At the intersection with Dixie, one of Palm Beach Lakes eastbound lanes becomes a drop right lane. Someone took the time and expense to construct a landscaped bulbout in front of the Burger King to make this happen. Just east of the intersection the thru lane makes a reappearance and continues approximately 1,000′ to the intersection with Flagler. The take away is that you have one thru lane at the intersection feeding two lanes.

PalmBeachLakesDixie

Also notable is that a westbound right turn lane was removed. You can see the white stripes on the hospital side at the location of the former right turn lane. Palm Beach County’s website has aerial photos back to the year 2004 online. This incomplete road diet has been there since at least 2004. Why? The only benefit of the bulb-outs is that it reduces the crossing distance for pedestrians from Burger King to the hospital. We can do so much better than an incomplete road diet.

The bulbouts point out the fact that from Dixie to Flagler, you have more lanes than you need. Traffic is so light in the one lane that this person felt comfortable walking in the street:

PB_Lakes_Street_view

Even more interesting is that there are faded no parking signs. Apparently the volume is so light that motorists must have been parking in the unnecessary lane.

PB_Lakes_Street_view2

What to do with the unneeded pavement? My suggestion to turn the unneeded lane into on-street curbside parking. Here is a quick before and after using streetmix. (Note: dimensions are approximate.)

palm-beach-lakes-existing

palm-beach-lakes-remix

The cost of a surface parking space, excluding the cost of real estate, is approximately $5,000 a space. How many spaces can you fit on the south side of Palm Beach Lakes? Assuming you follow FDOT’s sight line criteria you lose a few spaces near the driveways and the intersection with Federal Highway. Also, conservatively assuming that you wish to provide an eastbound right turn lane at Flagler you still would be left with approximately 23 curb side parking spaces. The infrastructure necessary for a surface lot to provide 23 parking spaces would cost  $115,000 (23 X $5,000). All that is necessary to create these parking spaces is some paint and a few signs. This portion of Palm Beach Lakes is maintained by the City of West Palm Beach so the City doesn’t need approvals from any outside agency. What about bike lanes, street trees, and decorative street lights? These things can wait. What can’t wait is a $115,000 asset sitting idle and providing zero benefit to the public. You have a hospital, a park, and a fantastic waterfront walking trail within walking distance of the potential on-street parking spaces.

In addition to the physical parking spaces, curbside parking provides a buffer between cars and pedestrians and also a traffic calming as it provides a cue to drivers that they are on a street and not an expressway.

P.S. The streetmix section also shows the elimination of a lane on the north side of this section of Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. Unfortunately, the number of driveways really limit the number of parking spaces you can add. From both a curbside parking yield and a walkability standpoint it would be really beneficial to combine some driveways. Unfortunately we will be haunted for years by the poor site planning decisions at this location. Why was a building built at the intersection with Federal? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have an access road at the Federal / Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. traffic signal?

3 thoughts on “Road diet for Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard

  1. confused with the “Federal” references – were they supposed to read “Flagler”?

    Like

  2. Gosh, Jesse, you really should be getting paid for this I can’t believe all the work, research, time, and effort you’re taking to write these extremely comprehensive and well thought out articles.

    Maybe you could be Jeff Speck’s right-hand man and fly around the country on an expense account giving advice to other cities…cities which might listen to you! 🙂

    Like

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