Walkable West Palm Beach


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300 block of Evernia restriping could signal watered-down implementation of Walkability Study

 

The 300 block of Evernia Street has been restriped with angled parking on the north side of the block. The Walkability Study called for angled parking on both sides of the street, but WPB Engineering informed me that the number of driveways precluded this from being achievable, in addition to concerns about meeting minimum lane width standards.

evernia

Jeff Speck proposal from Downtown Walkability Study

Although I’m ecstatic to see the progress, the statement about minimum lane width standards is very concerning. Most if not all the recommendations in the Speck Walkability Study are not possible without 10 foot lane widths or less. An 11 foot minimum standard is a highway/suburban standard. If anything, a walkable downtown core should be more concerned about a maximum lane width, above which the street becomes hostile to people on foot, rather than focusing on a minimum. A minimum lane width is a testament to street priorities: Making sure cars feel comfortable as possible driving through. I’m not sure where or when this policy came about, as it certainly wasn’t the case when Ian Lockwood and the New Urbanists were working in the city.

I understand there are reasonable street widths that need to be attained for purposes of public safety, ie, Fire Department (although Fire Departments are notorious for going overboard). However, we should be striving for streets that are as skinny as possible, more worried about creating more pavement than needed than we are worried that cars might have to slow down a bit. Restriping our lanes isn’t just about getting more parking yield, although that’s a great benefit. It’s about the many benefits in walkability and urbanism that come from having slower, more humane streets.

Slowing the cars is exactly what makes a place livable and desirable in the first place.

#SlowStreets #SlowTheCars

PS – I hope I’m wrong about this block and our street design standards. If a West Palm Beach engineer is reading this, perhaps they can respond on the blog to quell our fears that they will insist on 11′ minimum lane widths on downtown streets.

 


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Palm Beach County: 0.5 | City of West Palm Beach: 0

Recent interactions with the County have been refreshingly positive. The County, which apparently controls signalization and (some?) striping at intersections, has responded in a prompt and serious manner about pedestrian safety concerns in downtown. Bravo, County Engineering! No, this is not an early April Fool’s joke.

 

Case one was a missing crosswalk connecting the Hyatt Place hotel on Olive Avenue and Lakeview to the Two City Plaza condominium building across the street, and CityPlace further east. This is a frequently crossed intersection for residents of 2CP as well as guests at the Hyatt Place, and although there are pedestrian signals, the crosswalk was missing, leading to a potentially dangerous situation for right-turning cars headed west on Lakeview. The crosswalk will help alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians here.

Case two is a pedestrian pushbutton issue for the Quadrille and Hibiscus Street intersection. The response I received is pasted below.

 Thank you for bringing your traffic concerns to our attention. You are right about the street light. they are the jurisdiction of the State and the City.

 We pulled the pedestrian signal activation log and found that a lot of people cross at this intersection. Most of the crossing happened on the south leg with the number of activations exceeding 210 on Saturday. Quite a few cross on the north leg as well, and only few cross north and south.

 Staff has increased the “WALK” signal phase time from 7:00 to 10:00 seconds on all approaches. They also increased the “FLASHING DON’T WALK” time to cross Quadrille from 16:00 to 18:00 seconds. The maximum green signal time for the east/west movement was also increased to make sure there is enough time for pedestrians to cross even after the end of the pedestrian signal phase.

 We don’t think it is a good idea to put the pedestrian signal phase on recall so it’ll come up automatically during each signal cycle. This will cause an unnecessary disruption to the vehicular traffic on Quadrille. Moreover, the turning traffic may not pay attention to pedestrian in the crosswalk because they’ll  get used to seeing the pedestrian signal display coming up when there are no pedestrians in the cross walk.

 As an intersection with high pedestrian activity, we’ll replace the existing pedestrian signals with countdown signals. this work should be done in few weeks.

 Fattoush,

Can you please issue a WO to replace the existing pedestrian signals at the intersection of Hibiscus and Quadrille with countdown signals?

 Thank you.

 Motasem Al-Turk, Ph.D., P.E.

Traffic Division

Palm Beach County

Let’s be clear: This solution is far from perfect, and I’m going to continue to push for the signalization regime recommended by walkability expert Jeff Speck [refer to page 22 of the downtown walkability study – main section pasted below]. Pedestrians should have better prioritization from left and right turning cars at this intersection, such as a leading pedestrian indicator. Better light timing and a countdown signal does little to solve the real issue: Cars are king on Quadrille, without exception, and to impede their movement in any way is anathema.  Even though this solution leaves a lot to be desired, and I disagree with the assessment of Mr. Al-Turk, the County is still to be commended for taking the issue seriously and promptly doing something about it that has made the intersection marginally better. At least pedestrians are not stranded in the middle of the intersection as the crossing traffic light turns green.

Jeff Speck Walkability Study, on pedestrian-friendly signals:

A survey of the most and least walkable cities in America reveals a clear correlation: walkable cities rarely have pushbutton signal request buttons. Called “beg buttons” by pedestrian advocates, these signals are alternately annoying and confusing to pedestrians, most of whom do not understand how they are supposed to work—and many of whom end up jaywalking out of sheer frustration.

Here is how these signals work in downtown West Palm Beach: A pedestrian approaches a crosswalk, pushes the button, and waits for the light to change. Typically, a long time passes before the light changes—sometimes more than two minutes. After perhaps 30 seconds, the pedestrian assumes that the light is broken, and jaywalks.

What the pedestrian does not realize is that the pushbutton is not designed to cause the light to change. Rather, it is designed only to lengthen the eventual red light, so that the pedestrian has more time to cross. Given the tremendous amount of jaywalking that these signals cause, these lengthened crossing times are, at best, irrelevant. This dangerous behavior is perhaps the clearest example of the vast difference between traffic safety theory and traffic-safety reality in Palm Beach County, and should be of grave concern to County engineers.

If County engineers want to create a system in which jaywalking is reduced and pedestrian safety enhanced, they will look to other places where cars and pedestrians interact with a much lower incidence of injury, such as Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, and the smaller towns that surround these cities. What they will find in these places is an almost complete absence of pushbutton signals, short cycles of 60 seconds or less (total), and “concurrent” crossing regimes, in which pedestrians move with parallel traffic, and turning cars must wait for the crosswalks to clear.

Such signals are made more effective by a technology called the Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI), in which pedestrians receive a 3-second head start to enter (and “claim”) the intersection before cars receive a green light. There are a number of locations where these could be put to good use in the downtown.

In terms of encouraging safe pedestrian behavior, the length of the signal cycle is of great significance. When traffic congestion is the dominant concern, traffic engineers prefer longer signal cycles, as they have the advantage of moving large volumes of cars on each approach. These longer periods of vehicle movement mean longer waits for pedestrians trying to cross a street. This is more than just an inconvenience, because it causes jaywalking. For this reason, the long-cycle signalization regimes that make sense in suburban Palm beach County are ill suited to  pedestrian-heavy areas like Downtown West Palm Beach, and should be corrected at the first opportunity.

 

The irony is that the County, which has historically been no ally in creating more walkable streets in West Palm Beach, has taken more bona fide action than the City of West Palm Beach at this point. And that is a pretty low bar, as these pushbutton timing and crosswalk stripings are superficial interventions by their nature. By superficial, I mean interventions that do little to tip the risk  scale in favor of people on foot versus those driving a car. Nonetheless, it is something.

The City/CRA/DDA undertook the Walkability Study. But to this point, not a single of its recommendations have been implemented, even though the City recently identified 17 recommendations ready to go, now.

Implement this study! Choose one of the 17 recommendations, get some paint, and restripe a lane. Now.

 


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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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City: Seventeen Walkability Study recommendations ready to go, right now

The Post reports that the city committee tasked with implementing Speck’s report has a list of 17 recommendations that “can and should” be done right away. This is fantastic news. The faster we do so, the stronger our city will become.

I was especially pleased to see consensus reached on parking signage. Moving forward on this, now, instead of waiting another 10 years for the perfect citywide master plan, is the right approach for a light piece of infrastructure that is relatively low cost and easy to change. Keep it tactical.

As the changes become visible, I will post them on the blog. City Staff: Please contact the blog as we would like to cover these positive changes.

Story from the Palm Beach Post.

———————–

West Palm Beach already putting ‘walkability’ ideas in place

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At least 17 of urban designer and “walkability expert” Jeff Speck’s ideas to improve downtown West Palm Beach can be done right away, and should, a city committee says.

After Speck submitted his 101-page report in the fall, a committee began meeting weekly, Rick Greene, director of development services and a member of the group, said Friday.

West Palm Beach already putting ‘walkability’ ideas in place photo

Allen Eyestone

“There are going to be costs associated with all of them,” Greene said. He noted that something such as narrowing travel lanes to make room for extra parking, require nothing more than some street paint.

Others, he said, will require approval by the city commission because they’re more expensive or because they are weighty concepts.

One of the latter would be the one that probably has drawn the most attention: how to make it easier to cross busy Okeechobee Boulevard

West Palm Beach already putting ‘walkability’ ideas in place photo

Damon Higgins

Some of the 17:

Sapodilla Avenue: Restripe between Evernia and Fern streets to two 11-foot driving lanes and an 8-foot parking lane Restore parking on the east side between Banyan and Datura streets.

Rosemary Avenue: designate as a key bicycle route from the Convention Center Hotel to 11th Street, including across Okeechobee, with bikes mixing with slow-moving traffic. Revert the one-way segment from 7th to 9th street to two-way traffic (would require city commission OK).

Fifth Street: Reinstate seven parallel parking spots that had been eliminated. Restripe a 30-foot section to reduce two 15-foot driving lanes to 11- foot lanes and add an 8-foot parking lane.

Evernia Street: Restripe the roadway between Quadrille Boulevard and Olive Avenue to create two 11-foot motor lanes flanked by two 16-foot-deep angled parking areas.

Fern Street: Replace 10-foot driving lanes with 8foot parking lanes, 9 feet of green space, and 8foot sidewalks. On one side, insert an 8-foot two-way cycle track. Offer merchants the option of small parklet decks for sidewalk dining.

Parking: Hike meter parking rates so there’s always about a 15 percent vacancy of curbside spaces. Use extra money to improve neighborhoods where meters are.

All Aboard Florida: Connect Clematis, Datura, Evernia, and Fern streets with a connector. (Working with All Aboard.)

Seventh Street: reconnect across Florida East Coast Railway tracks to where city hopes to build a “jazz neighborhood.” (Working with FEC.)

Signs: Install prominent signs directing visitors to downtown parking garages.


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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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Quadrille Boulevard Make Over

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)

 

This post is borne out of the frustration with FDOT’s current plans for the resurfacing of Quadrille Boulevard. In this post we will demonstrate that is possible to transform Quadrille Boulevard utilizing FDOT’s own design standards. As a recap, FDOT’s current plan for resurfacing Quadrille is basically to put back what we currently have. At the August 27th FDOT open house several savvy citizens pointed out to FDOT that this road has excess pavement and there is an opportunity to right size this road at minimum cost with their resurfacing project.   Suggestions made by citizens ranged from bike lanes or the addition of on-street parking on one side of the road. The City for its part recently completed a study by Jeff Speck that recommended right-sizing lanes to provide parallel parking on one side of the street.

FDOT did respond to our suggestions. Here is the response letter to one citizen:

FDOT response roskowski quadrille blvd 2 FDOT response roskowski quadrille blvd 3

Frankly, FDOT is wrong in their response to the citizen stating that 10’ lanes aren’t allowed on state highways. FDOT’s primary design manual is the Plans Preparation Manual (PPM). The PPM contains a very interesting chapter titled Transportation Design for Livable Communities (TDLC). The TDLC chapter is tucked away at the end of the manual far and away from the geometric requirements for highways and stroads. As shown in the following table from the TDLC chapter there is a footnote that allows thru lanes to be reduced from 11’ to 10’ in width in highly restricted areas with design speeds less  than or equal to 35 MPH, having little or no truck traffic.

tdlc_lane_width

FDOT has already approved a 30 MPH design and posted speed limit for Quadrille. So it possible to utilize 10’ wide lanes. Another thing to keep in mind about Quadrille is that the year 2013 AADT is 10,600. This means that a three lane section is sufficient for the entire project. In FDOT’s project limits Quadrille currently varies from 3 to 5 lanes. The roadway has a fairly consistent 59′ width of pavement excluding the gutter pan. You have another three feet if you count the gutter pan and the Florida Greeenbook TND chapter allows the gutter pan to be counted as a part of travel lane.  Here are few pictures of the five lane section:

IMG_3851

IMG_3847

The current roadway context reads racetrack and not 30 MPH urban core. What would 10’ wide travel lanes allow for Quadrille? First, let us start with FDOT current proposal for the existing 59′ of pavement for the section from Banyan to 3rd:

quadrille-banyan-3rd-fdot

Basically they are going to perpetuate bad design and provide 15′ travel lanes!!! That is some serious extra pavement. What is unconscionable is FDOT response in the letter that they wouldn’t stripe a buffer for the parallel parking since the parallel parking lanes meet the minimum width. Funny that they have no problem having a travel lane exceed the minimum standard width, but heaven forbid you want to narrow the travel lane to the minimum and have a parallel parking lane exceed the minimum width. With that extra width in the parallel parking lane someone might be able to safely open their driver side car door without being hit and the narrower travel lane might slow cars down to the 30 MPH speed limit.

Below are a several potential roadway configurations of what might be possible if we were to right size the road. It should be noted that these concepts are preliminary and need further analysis for feasibility. Issues such as right turn lanes at intersections, (if needed as right turn lanes and walkability aren’t a good mix), and horizontal alignment for roadway transitions haven’t been analyzed, but they give you a quick idea of what might be possible :

Option 1 

quadrille-banyan-3rd-buffered-bike

By utilizing 10′ lanes then bike lanes are a real possibility. Note that parallel parking proposed  is 7.5′ wide, but FDOT”s standard is 8′ wide. This 6″ reduction in width might require a variance, but I think it is useful to provide a slightly wider buffer for the bike lane. I would love an extra two to three feet of extra pavement, but this proposal is a dramatic improvement over the placing of a bike lane next to parallel parking without a buffer. The purpose of the buffer is to reduce injuries when a parallel parked car opens their door into the bike lane. Also, note that the parallel parked cars position provides a wall of steel to protect cyclists. If you want your City to attract millennials, then you need buffered bike lanes.

Next we have an interesting twist on the parallel parking on one side of the road concept.

Option 2

quadrille-half-multi-way-blvd

A partial lane reduction allows a multiway boulevard (access road) with parallel parking to be built on one side of the road. The access road functions as a low speed sharrow and there is room for a bike lane on the other side of the road. A good example of the sharrow bike lane in the access road is Octavio Blvd. in San Francisco. The Dutch are also fans of the multi-way boulevard access road – sharrow – treatment to retrofit existing facilities. Dixie Highway near the intersection with Bridge Road in Hobe Sound Florida has a multi-way boulevard on side of the road. Another advantage is that parallel parking is a breeze with the access road and who wouldn’t want to walk on a sidewalk that is buffered by a slow speed access road?

Here is another option that would add bike lanes to the existing five lane section:

Option 3

quadrille-five-lane-w-bike

Here is the proposal for the five lane section in the Jeff Speck study:

Option 4

quadrille-five-lane-w-parallel-parking

Looking at the above typical sections it is hard to believe that all of them use the same 59′ of existing pavement. The sections above were created using a free website called Streetmix . Streetmix is very easy to use.

With all the press releases about how FDOT gets complete streets I am shocked to see that a street in a downtown urban core with a 30 MPH design speed with 15′ existing travel lanes was scoped as a project to put back what you already have.

So what needs to be done next? I would suggest that you write to FDOT Secretary Prasad, copy your elected officials, and request that you would like to have FDOT investigate alternative typical sections that right size this road. The right sizing can take many forms from parking to bike lanes. If you like one of the designs in the post then I would go ahead and include it in your letter. Ask FDOT why can’t the road be striped the way you want?  Make sure to mention Transportation  Design for Livable Communities (TDLC). Hopefully, rational voices will prevail and FDOT can engage in a meaningful dialog with the citizens of West Palm Beach on the right size configuration of Quadrille.

Also, I would like the City to formally request FDOT to employ their TDLC procedures to develop concepts for Quadrille Boulevard which increase parking and / or provide bike facilities. Maybe Quadrille Boulevard could serve as a model for how FDOT implements complete streets with resurfacing projects.


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Why 12-Foot Traffic Lanes Are Disastrous for Safety and Must Be Replaced Now | via CityLab

If you’ve been following the walkability study for downtown, you know how crucial 10 foot lanes on Okeechobee Boulevard are to the plan. Jeff Speck makes a persuasive argument for 10′ lanes in urban areas in this article in CityLab.

The agency’s bike and pedestrian coordinator, Billy Hattaway, is one of the good ones. But does he have the power to move FDOT to a 10-foot standard?

Moving beyond Florida, the task is clear. Our lives are currently being put at risk daily by fifty state DOTs and hundreds of county road commissions who mistakenly believe that high-speed street standards make our cities and towns safer. In my most considered opinion, these agencies have blood on their hands, and more than a little. There are many standards that they need to change, but the easiest and most important is probably the 12-foot lane. Armed with the facts, we can force this change. But only if we do it together.

It’s time to push this discussion to its logical conclusion. Until conflicting evidence can be mustered, the burden of proof now rests with the DOTs. Until they can document otherwise, every urban 12-foot lane that is not narrowed to 10 feet represents a form of criminal negligence; every injury and death, perhaps avoidable, not avoided—by choice.

In the meantime, I welcome evidence to the contrary. We’ve shown them our studies; now let them show us theirs. Unless, of course, they’ve thrown them out.

Via CityLab.  Why 12-Foot Traffic Lanes Are Disastrous for Safety and Must Be Replaced Now – CityLab.

Past stories on Okeechobee Stroad: https://walkablewpb.com/tag/okeechobee-stroad/