Vehicular traffic counts in and around downtown have been trending down since 2005. This downward/flat trend has continued after the recession ended in June 2009, and even though GDP is well above the peak reached at the previous cycle of economic expansion.
Here is the Traffic Counts table in and around downtown:
GDP, 2006 – 2014:
How is it possible that counts are down, even though we are approaching our sixth year of economic expansion, have surpassed (by a large margin) the prior peak in GDP, and residential population downtown has gone up dramatically? All the conventional wisdom of traffic engineering would say this isn’t possible and that new lane miles must be added or else we are in for Carmageddon. We’ve heard this story before.
Palm Beach Counts has some excellent datasets that shed light on what is going on in downtown West Palm Beach. The charts below show the downtown zip code, 33401, in relation to other county zip codes as ranked by mode share. Note: This is a crude approximation as the 33401 zip code includes areas that are not downtown and are car-dependent. Downtown undoubtedly ranks much higher on these measures when its true boundaries are utilized.
The blue highlighted bars show the 33401 zip code. This zip code ranks first by a large margin in walking mode share, fourth in biking mode share, and seventh in public transportation mode share. The table below shows 33401 in relation to Palm Beach County and the state of Florida. 33401 is approximately nine points below the Palm Beach County and Florida share of work commuters who drive alone.
As West Palm Beach continues to grow and receive private investment, now is the time to incrementally expand transportation investments in and around downtown that facilitate walking, biking, and transit. Imagine what we can achieve with an expanded trolley, the SkyBike bike share system, and implementation of the walkability study to make downtown more walkable and bikeable. A more prosperous and livable city is literally at our feet if we seize the opportunity.