Walkable West Palm Beach


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Sunday: Paint a mural in an intersection!

This Sunday, a group of volunteers will be painting the intersection at Fern Street and Tamarind with the mural pictured below. It’s a joint effort by The Knight Foundation, StreetPlans, Dreyfoos School of the Arts, the City of West Palm Beach, and the Downtown Development Authority. Hope to see you there Sunday from 11 am – 2 pm!

To participate: Fill out this form and email to Brandon Zicker, City of West Palm Beach.
bmzickar@wpb.org

Tamarind and Fern mural design.jpg

 

INTERSECTION REPAIR PROJECT

FREE FUN LIVE ART MUSIC FOOD COMMUNITY

Background:  Street Plans, an urban planning business, received a grant from the Knight Foundation to implement an Intersection Repair Project and they selected the City for its pilot program. Intersection Repair is a creative means to “purpose a neighborhood street intersection as a community space.”  

Who?  Working with the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, Visual Arts Department students were invited to participate as teams to create proposals for the first Intersection Repair to be painted in the city.  

Why?  The main objective of this project will be to demonstrate the impact that this creative intervention Intersection Repair model can have on the community.  It is intended to draw attention to the context of this intersection and to place emphasis on the routes of other non-auto oriented forms of transportation: walking, bicycling, and public transit.  

How?  Six teams of visual art students, grades 9-12, submitted proposals – Art in Public Places selected the design

When?  Sunday, March 5, 2017 11am – 2pm  

Where?  At the intersection of Tamarind Ave. and Fern Street

The Art Team: The selected team is made of four young ladies, Ania Johnson, Jessica Raia, Megan Tachev and Dani Walters

The Intersection Repair Design:    

The selected design incorporates different species of native palm trees mixed with silhouettes of active people biking, walking, etc. wrapped in warm, vibrant colors reflective of our environment.  


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Walkable West Palm Beach action alert: Fern Street changes go before commission on Monday!

[Update: This item was supposed to happen at the last work session, but it got bumped. It is the first item on the agenda for Monday, February 9th, 10 am at City Hall].

The top priority for Walkable West Palm Beach in 2015 is to implement the Jeff Speck study. Fern Street is the first substantial project moving forward that includes recommendations from the Speck study. We need your help to get it moving. Below is the explanation and the action step to take to help.

In order to move the project forward, angled parking spaces need to be converted to parallel parking spaces in order to fit a bike lane or a cycle track (it’s not clear whether there is room for a proper cycle track) on the street. Without conversion of angled parking spots to parallel, there is no room for a bike facility and the most this street will receive is sharrows. This would involve the loss of some of the angle parking spaces on Fern. However, with the implementation of the full Speck study, there are many more parking spaces to be gained in the downtown, resulting in a net addition of around 500 parking spaces total.

The parking administration is not happy about losing some spaces on Fern Street and pushing against the project. We need you to speak up and write the commissioners letting them know you support converting parking spaces on Fern to parallel spaces. Suggested verbiage, please tailor as you see fit:

I support the Jeff Speck study. I support converting parking spaces on Fern to parallel spaces in order to implement a better, more walkable and bike friendly Fern Street to connect from Tri Rail transit hub, to Cityplace and All Aboard Florida, to the water. Any loss of parking on Fern Street is negligible and the downtown will see a net increase of almost 500 spaces total. Please allow planning staff to see this project through.

The commission work session meeting takes place at 10:00 am Monday, February 9th at the City Hall. It is open to the public and may or may not include public comment. Come if you can, and make sure to write the commission and Mayor.

Related:

Jeff Speck Downtown WPB Walkability Study [see page 56 for Fern Street]

Ideas for Fern Street/Evernia/Datura from Baron Haussmann


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Walkable West Palm Beach action alert: Fern Street changes go before commission on Monday!

The top priority for Walkable West Palm Beach in 2015 is to implement the Jeff Speck study. Fern Street is the first substantial project moving forward that includes recommendations from the Speck study. We need your help to get it moving. Below is the explanation and the action step to take to help.

In order to move the project forward, angled parking spaces need to be converted to parallel parking spaces in order to fit a bike lane or a cycle track (it’s not clear whether there is room for a proper cycle track) on the street. Without conversion of angled parking spots to parallel, there is no room for a bike facility and the most this street will receive is sharrows. This would involve the loss of some of the angle parking spaces on Fern. However, with the implementation of the full Speck study, there are many more parking spaces to be gained in the downtown, resulting in a net addition of around 500 parking spaces total.

The parking administration is not happy about losing some spaces on Fern Street and pushing against the project. We need you to speak up and write the commissioners letting them know you support converting parking spaces on Fern to parallel spaces. Suggested verbiage, please tailor as you see fit:

I support the Jeff Speck study. I support converting parking spaces on Fern to parallel spaces in order to implement a better, more walkable and bike friendly Fern Street to connect from Tri Rail transit hub, to Cityplace and All Aboard Florida, to the water. Any loss of parking on Fern Street is negligible and the downtown will see a net increase of almost 500 spaces total. Please allow planning staff to see this project through.

The commission work session meeting takes place at 5:30 pm Monday at the City Hall. It is open to the public and may or may not include public comment. Come if you can, and make sure to write the commission and Mayor.

Related:

Jeff Speck Downtown WPB Walkability Study [see page 56 for Fern Street]

Ideas for Fern Street/Evernia/Datura from Baron Haussmann


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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.:

Fern_Street_view_ugly

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


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Fern Street to become a great street

The City of West Palm Beach is about to begin final design on Fern St. improvements. The project received a grant from FDOT for construction in the amount of $660,000. Kudos to City staff for putting together a successful grant application. In this post we will discuss the design proposal in the grant application and provide some alternative designs for Fern St.

The project hopes to achieve the following for Fern St.:

  • “complete street” offering multiple transportation options
  • pedestrian enhancements
  • beautification enhancements. e.g. landscaping, decorative street lights.
  • better bicycle facilities
  • reduce stormwater discharges

Fern Street has 80′ right of way with 13′ wide sidewalks, two travel lanes, and angled parking. Here is the existing typical section:

fern-st-existing

 

and a Google street view of what most of Fern St. looks like; followed by view of the improved section of Fern from Sapodilla to Rosemary:

Fern_Street_view_ugly

 

Fern_Street_view_publix

The amazing thing is that the two sections of road in the photos above are geometrically identical. Street trees make all the difference. Decorative street lights and patterned / colored crosswalks are nice, but a tree canopy makes a great street.

The City proposed in their grant application to replicate the section of Fern from Sapodilla to Rosemary with the addition of sharrows and bioswales. For those not familiar with bioswales you should check out this video from street films about the Indianapolis cultural bike trail.  One thing to note in the video, is that the cultural trail had long runs of bioswales where no had to step out of  a parked car.

The proposed sharrows, a.k.a. shared lane markings, in the grant application are troubling as it is a well known fact that bicycle facilities shouldn’t be placed in streets with head in parking as cars backing out don’t always see cyclists. If the City wishes to utilize the Fern concept then the solution is to change the parking to head out angled parking. Here is a great video explaining head out angled parking. The problem with head out angled parking is that it can be a tough sell.

Presumably, the City prepared their grant application for Fern prior to All Aboard Florida’s plan to close Datura and Evernia and without the knowledge of the subsequent increase in traffic that Fern will experience.  Painting sharrows, adding street trees, and converting to head out angled parking will make Fern a better street, but it is disingenuous to believe that this will bring any meaningful increase in cycle ridership.  Painting sharrows was probably added to the design so that project scored higher on the grant application. Dedicated bike lanes or cycle tracks provide a much better cycling experience than sharrows.

At walkablewpb we take a holistic view of street design and don’t think that every street in the City needs a bike lane or a protected cycle track. However, the City does need a strategic cycle network. The strategic cycle network as envisioned would be akin to what the interstate highway system was intended to be before it became a tool of suburban sprawl and to paraphrase Enrique Penalosa, it would be built to standards that you would feel safe letting your eight year old ride their bike on. If we are serious about providing a City where a person doesn’t need a car for every errand then one of the most important routes on the strategic cycle network would be from the Tri-rail / Palm Tran bus station to the downtown area and the future All Aboard Florida station. With the proposed closure of Datura and Evernia, Fern street is the only logical street for a continuous east-west strategic connection. Datura and Evernia have merit, but these streets won’t be a straight connection to the proposed north-south strategic cycle network cycle tracks on Tamarind and  Flagler. It should be noted that Evernia is a twin of Fern so that all of the options presented for Fern are applicable to Evernia.

What would Fern St. look like with proper bike facilities? Well, we have developed a smorgasbord of options. The existing 13’ wide sidewalks on Fern are very wide and can be reduced. For a frame of reference the French quarter in New Orleans has 7′ wide sidewalks. If a restaurants were require additional outdoor seating then they could install parklets in on-street parking spaces.

Presented are concepts which keep the 13′ wide sidewalk and those that reduce the sidewalk width to 8’. Inspired by the Ramblas in Barcelona, we have included concepts with a cycle track in the center (median) of the road. There are already a few median cycle tracks in the U.S. Links to existing median cycle tracks are included later in the post. One pattern that emerges from the concepts is that 13′ wide sidewalks support parallel parking on both sides of the street and 8′ wide sidewalks support a combination of  parallel parking on one side of the streets and angled parking on the other side of the street. Once you decide on sidewalk width then it is simply a matter of where you place the parking and the cycle track. For your consideration are the potential options to make Fern St. a great street:

Option #1 – Buffered cycle track with parallel parking on both side of the street:

fern-st-buffered-cycle-track

Simple and effective. The  parallel parking and buffered bike lanes are the exact width of the existing angled parking. For most of Fern all that is necessary is that you restripe the road and add some street trees. Five feet of the 13′ sidewalk has been turned into a bioswale. Moving the parking away from the curb allows for a passenger unloading area that doesn’t conflict with the bioswale.

Option #2 – Buffered cycle track with parallel parking on one side and angled parking on the other side of the street:

fern-cycle-track-w-angled--parallel-parking

Higher parking yield than the parallel only parking options, but with an 8′ wide sidewalk there isn’t room for long linear bioswales.

Option #3 – Median cycle track with parallel parking on both sides of the street.

fern-bike-boulevardFor this option the cycle track is moved to the center of the road and there is now room for additional trees in the median. With on-street parking next the curb line the bio-swale would have to be moved to the middle of the sidewalk which isn’t impossible, but it makes the piping more expensive than placing the bioswale right behind the existing curb line.

Option #4 – Median cycle track with parallel parking parking on one side of the street and angled parking on the other side of the street

fern-st-median-cycle-angle--par-parking

For this option the angled parking will probably have to be placed at 45 degrees since the median reduces the amount of room to back out. The angled parking options without the median will probably be 60 degrees since you have two lanes to back out.

For good measure we have thrown in two options where parking is placed in the center of the street. These design have the highest parking yield since there are no driveways to interfere with parking. The downside to this option is that pedestrians don’t have the buffer of parked cars at the curbside.

Option #5 – Bike lanes with a combination of center angled and parallel parking.

fern-st-bike-lanes---center-parking

  Option #6 – Median cycle track with center parallel parking and bioswales.

fern-st-cycle-track-center-parking--swale

With option #6 you end with long expanses of bioswales at the correct location to receive storm water. These bioswales would very beneficial in providing a buffer for pedestrians on the sidewalk.  Option #6 shows a single tree in the center which would be lower cost to construct than the two tree medians shown in the other options.

There you have it. An evaluation matrix of each option comparing  cost, street tree canopy, parking, pedestrian comfort, stormwater, and cycle facilities should be prepared during the design process and based on the project priorities a design can be chosen. Some options do one thing very well, while others are like goldilocks. Feel free to let us know what design you like in the comments.

Several of the designs presented include a median cycle track. Two recently constructed median cycle tracks are Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC and Sands St. in Brooklyn New York. Sands St. Click on the below images to see these streets in google street view:

Here is another example of  a tree lined multimodal path in the median of downtown Winter Garden, Fl:

Finally, here is the obligatory Parisian example. You have to look carefully as the landscaping hides the bike path in the median.

We hope that the City and their consultant give the median cycle track due consideration.

To reduce stormwater the City should consider pervious pavers. Pervious pavers could be installed in the parking area for those options that don’t have space for bioswales. This would provide stormwater benefits while at the same time providing a texture change between the various realms of the street.

Project priorities. The $660,000 allocated for construction doesn’t go very far. The priorities should be cycle track and getting the street trees in the right location. Everything else can be added later.

City staff has indicated that are just beginning the design of this project. We hope that the City will reach out to the public and improve upon its initial concept.  Again, great job to everyone at the City who obtained this grant.

Finally, if you have read this far then it is worthwhile to read this quote from Jeff Speck’s Walkable City on what would happen if we were to design the typical main street to keep each specialist happy:

First we would need at least four travel lanes and a center turn lane, to keep the transportation engineers happy. These would need to be eleven feet wide – no, wait, make that twelve feet, because the fire chief might want to pass a bus without slowing down. To satisfy the business owners, we would need angle parking on both sides (another forty feet), and eight-foot separated bike paths against each curb for you know-who. Then we would need to add two-ten foot continuous tree trenches to satisfy the urban forester, and two twenty-foot minimum sidewalks for the pedestrian advocates. Have you been doing the math? We now have a Main Street over 175 wide. This is more than twice the normal width and about as efficacious an urban environment as a large-jet runway-and just as conducive to shopping.

 

 

 


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Walk to the grocery store challenge

Strong Towns recently issued a challenge for its readers to walk to the grocery store. The idea is to get out of the car and experience this essential activity from a different perspective that doesn’t involve driving, whether it be walking, biking, or taking public transportation. There will be more of these “Strong Citizens” challenges and the hope is to involve increasing numbers of people in everyday ways to make our communities stronger places. If you have a Strong Citizens idea, you can submit it here.

I’m well situated to walk to the grocery store because my neighborhood makes it an easy choice. Notice I didn’t say “I’m lucky to live near a grocery store”. Living in a neighborhood with a high walk score and low car dependency was very much a conscious choice, a lifestyle choice. I would go as far to say that I choose the kind of place I’d like to live, then choose a job in that place or as nearby as possible. This strategy allows one to be rooted in the community, rather than having little ties to the neighborhood because the experience of it is always behind the wheel of a large automobile.

Untitled_map

 

 

Our nearest grocery store is a Publix about 1/3 of a mile from our condo building. It’s a pleasant walk and the easier route is to walk along Rosemary avenue through CityPlace, a New Urbanist mixed use development which offers a covered arcade with outdoor fans along much of the walk, and pretty good shade trees.

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That would be the easy way out, though, and I figured it would be more interesting to blog about the walk taking another route along a lesser street, Fern Street. Fern suffers from a lot of deficiencies: Too wide, curb radius at Quadrille are insanely huge, lack of shade tree cover. It’s not as important in the dry season, but when it’s wet season in South Florida (the other half of the year), walking is a real struggle through the molasses-like humidity and heat. This is the street that most folks need to take, because many of the residents of downtown live on the east side of Quadrille Boulevard, a major arterial and divider between east/west downtown. Due to the impending street closures at Datura and Evernia Streets for the All Aboard Florida rail station being built, Fern becomes that much more important as a connection for people walking and bicycling from the east side of Quadrille to get to the Publix, the only downtown supermarket.

Leaving my residence, a nice row of live oaks along my building is really starting to mature, planted around the time this building was completed I’m certain. The crossing over Quadrille Blvd is downright treacherous, with cars averaging 35-40 mph, and never stopping for pedestrians in the painted crosswalks. Raised crosswalks would have made a world of difference here and actually elevated the pedestrian to a position of respect where drivers might actually stop. I’ve been told sight line requirements also prohibited the City from planting trees between the roadway and the sidewalk, which is best practice for urban planning as it provides a physical barrier between speeding cars and vulnerable human beings on foot, not to mention psychological benefit of feeling safer. It’s just nicer. But it couldn’t be designed appropriately since this is an FDOT road and FDOT can’t tell a highway from a highline.

There’s no light at Fern Street to cross Quadrille Blvd, so you’d better be fast getting to that pedestrian refuge island in the median because the cars ain’t stopping. Not the easiest task for the many senior residents living nearby who walk here everyday. If you want to cross at Hibiscus Street at the light, you may need to walk several blocks out of your way, depending on where you live. Once you make it to the light, you’ll discover the pedestrian button is broken. And even if it did work, you have to contend with left-turning and right-turning cars into your path in what is a very poorly lit intersection. Once you make it to Fern, pray for trees to be planted as you walk the last couple blocks to the corner where the Publix is.

There it is: Nirvana. Raised intersections, curbless, gutter in center of street, brick pavers make Rosemary Avenue a walker’s delight.  Publix is well placed at the corner, with an entrance onto the street as well as from the back parking lot, which is brilliantly concealed by being built below grade. Ample shade trees (live oaks) make the blocks on CityPlace a fantastic public space.

This walk is really the tale of two streets: One maintained by private property owners, the other by the City. The former is comprised of CityPlace and the right of way adjacent to my condo building, which is required to be planted and maintained by the building. The latter is city right of way where redevelopment hasn’t occurred yet – pretty much all the pictures that show poor conditions in the public realm. Even excellent Rosemary Avenue isn’t spared – the City still maintains the trees along it, and they are stunted live oaks that will never reach their potential.

This post probably sounds very critical at this point. It is because I know the area well because I walk it almost daily, and I’m passionate about making it better and safer. I still choose to walk to the grocery store nonetheless. Most of the time I bike there because it makes it that much easier and fun. With an upcoming project slated for Fern Street, there is hope Fern will become a much better street in the near future for walking to the grocery store. How does a street get better? Here’s what we said after Victor Dover’s talk in May:

Who leads in street design? Government. Once a street is designed as a place and investors have certainty, private investment will follow. So much of our public realm is utterly depressing that it does not provide a platform for long-term value, but rather short term gains. Good streets are a public good with benefits that accrue to the citizenry at large and cannot be privatized. Only local government can do this job; in fact, it is at the core of what good local governance is all about. I asked Dover what are some of the best investments a local government can make to provide a quality street, public investments that will attract people and private investment? Street shade trees and bicycling, he said.

 

Walking to the grocery store could be a pleasure, adding to the placemaking potential of West Palm Beach, rather than a challenge. We just need to make the small incremental steps to get there, starting with planting shade trees in the right of way, fixing lighting issues, and repairing pedestrian crossing buttons and timing.