Walkable West Palm Beach

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Shop small on Saturday, participate in #BlackFridayParking on Friday

This Saturday is Small Business Saturday. I encourage readers to support local business not only Saturday but all year long.

Downtown parking is abundant, easy, and cheap. Let’s say that again. In fact, the City has made our parking free for these few days of holiday shopping — that must be an indication that the supply of parking is so great that the market price has been driven to effectively zero, right? Otherwise, free parking would create a shortage of spaces and inadequate turnover of spaces in high-demand streets, actually harming business. One can only hope the City Parking Administration is applying the principles contained in Donald Shoup’s seminal work,  “High Cost of Free Parking“. Shoup was recently interviewed on the Strong Towns podcast.

If you’re looking for something more constructive to do on Black Friday than the typical big box consumerism binge, join us for Black Friday Parking. It’s a nationwide effort to call attention to the destructive nature of minimum parking requirements. These requirements hurt small businesses by raising the barrier to entry. They favor the large big box model, hurting our municipal finances, and spreading out our land use pattern to further subsidize driving at the expense of other modes. Here is a visual depiction of these effects, courtesy of Joshua McCarty of Urban3. In the map below, higher bars indicate higher property tax value per acre. Blue color indicates a higher coverage of building versus parking area, while red indicates a higher ratio of parking versus building.


Image courtesy of Urban3

Participate on Friday by posting photos of big box parking lots with hashtag: #BlackFridayParking

Read more about the event on Strong Towns.

[PS – If you’re interested in the study Urban3 did for West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County, see video below]


Angled parking slims down obese streets

The Restless Urbanist wrote about the benefits of head-out angled parking and the considerations in implementing this parking tactic. It’s worth a read as we have many streets in our downtown which could benefit from angled parking, of which head-out has a number of benefits over head-in, especially for bicycling routes.

Great video on head-out angled parking from Dan Burden

In downtown West Palm Beach, we have many east-west streets that suffer from what I would call ‘street obesity’. These are streets that are unhealthy for retail because they place people in close proximity to cars moving 30+ miles per hour, racing from one light to the next. Evernia Street and Fern Street are examples – they have curb to curb widths sometimes approaching 60 feet. This is an unhealthy amount of pavement that hinders the flourishing of the indicator species of success: People walking, people using public space.  Angled parking is the only way to narrow some of our downtown urban streets sufficiently (10 feet or less for urban streets) in order to slow cars and promote walking, because the huge curb to curb width means that parallel parking will not narrow the driving lanes sufficiently. Narrower driving lanes mean slower speeds and safer people.

Angled parking can serve two major functions for our obese downtown streets. 1. Most obvious, it provides a greater parking yield than conventional parallel spaces. Drivers also find it easier to park in angled parking versus parallel spaces. 2. Angled parking narrows the driving way, slowing the cars, and putting a huge steel barrier between pedestrians in the sidewalk and automobiles.  As Steve Mouzon posted yesterday, sidewalk cafes are one of the best causes and effects of walkability, and they can only be successful on streets with vehicular traffic if patrons feel completely comfortable sitting while cars are moving a short distance from them. Let’s remember that everyone is a pedestrian at some point downtown, even if they arrive by car.

Angled parking isn’t appropriate for every street, but for those fat streets that needs to lose a few pounds in lane width, it can be an invaluable tool.

Of the two types of angled parking (head in or head out), head out has some real advantages that may seem counterintuitive at first, but are worth serious consideration by the City, especially on those streets where we expect and welcome significant bicycle traffic.


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If you are actually serious about solving your parking problem, try these Straightforward Parking Solutions

Solving parking issues can be contentious, but it can be done.

Reblogging this parking Cliff’s Notes from small scale urbanist developer R John Anderson, borne out of frustration with the lack of understanding for how to get parking right. Parking is one of those critical components if we want small scale, quality urban infill to flourish in our community.



There is a relationship between how woefully uninformed people are about parking and how epically they lose their shit over parking problems.  I am really tired of explaining the basics of modern parking management to people who seem incapable of using the Internet.  Here are the highpoints from Donald Shoup’s fine book The High Cost of Free Parking:

  • Recognize that all public parking is not equal.  Some spaces more convenient than others, so price them accordingly.  The spot at the curb in front of the coffee joint should not cost the same as the top floor of the seven level parking structure.
  • For retail areas, price the parking at the curb for a 15% clearance rate. Raise the prices for curb parking until you reach the point where when 15% of the spaces are available.  Reduce the price of parking in a rational gradient, the further away from high demand the cheaper the space.
  • Make…

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South Florida cities should unbundle free parking benefits

After calling out the City of Fort Lauderdale StreetsSmart: 2015 Transportation Summit for ignoring non-vehicular transportation modes, the City has updated its website to reflect alternative transportation options. Kudos to the City for making the change.City_of_Fort_Lauderdale__FL___Transportation_Summit

While this is a positive development, we have a long way to go in our understanding, appreciation, and normalization of non-vehicular modes of travel in South Florida. The terminology itself indicates how far we have to go: “Alternative” transportation options presumes the primary transportation option is the car. While that may be true in terms of percentage use, in our language we need to be very cognizant of respecting all modes equally.

The event is still giving free parking to all attendees, which subsidizes the driver while leaving the Tri-Rail user or the bus rider out of luck. This is the wrong market signal to send and the leadership to change this condition has to come from the top levels of government. Just adding a subsidy for users who take public transportation would punish the person walking or biking. From a policy standpoint, I’d much prefer we just eliminate any transportation subsidies for these events altogether (“unbundling”) and let people make rational choices for themselves.

I would hope this topic is discussed during the Summit. It’s not Fort Lauderdale’s fault so much as a shift in thinking that needs to happen in our region. Unbundling free parking benefits is one such “Shoupian” tactic that can and should be implemented by local governments throughout South Florida to lead by example.

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Transportation Summit or Driving Summit?

The City of Fort Lauderdale recently announced the 2015 Transportation Summit, and it sounds like a very worthwhile event with a great lineup of speakers. Here’s the event description:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 | 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Broward Center for the Performing Arts | Huizenga Pavilion
201 SW 5th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale 33312
The StreetSmarts 2015 Transportation Summit is a regional event focused
on creating safe, livable, connected, sustainable streets for people of all
ages and abilities. Join us and collaborate with elected officials, regional
experts, and industry leaders to exchange best practices, share innovative
ideas, and achieve our common vision of transforming Fort Lauderdale
into the city you never want to leave.

Looking on the City website, though, I was disappointed to see the lack of consideration given to other modes of transportation to the conference. It’s a Transportation Summit, after all, not a Driving Summit. Free parking is included with every attendee registration. There is also a nice link on the website to “Parking” but nothing about alternate modes such as Tri-Rail.

2015-04-23 14_32_04-City of Fort Lauderdale, FL _ Transportation Summit

You might be thinking this post is much ado about nothing. “Big deal; this is South Florida! Everyone drives everywhere here!”

And that’s exactly the point. We are so dependent on our cars to get around in South Florida that even an event called “Transportation Summit” presumes that all attendees will arrive in an automobile. And we make arriving in a car the obvious, rational choice because it’s free! Sounds like the first item on the agenda of this meeting should be to have all attendees review Professor Shoup’s book “The High Cost of Free Parking”.

Now suppose someone overcame the subsidized free parking arrangement and wanted to take Tri-Rail to the meeting, at their own expense, even though free parking is included in their registration. It’s doable. The Broward Center is only 1.8 miles away from the nearest Tri-Rail station, and there are a few decent bus options (#22, 60, 81 on Google Maps). Unfortunately and inexplicably, Broward B-Cycle does not have a bikeshare station at one of the most heavily trafficked Tri-Rail stations. From downtown West Palm Beach, I absolutely loathe driving south and this would be an easy choice for Tri-Rail, even if it meant getting an Uber for the last 1.8 mile of the journey rather than the bus.

The journey from the Broward Tri Rail station to the final destination

The journey from the Broward Tri Rail station to the final destination

No bikeshare station at the Broward Tri-Rail stop!

No bikeshare station at the Broward Tri-Rail stop!

Google Maps calculates the total trip, one way, at a little over $7 if the bus is used. So you’re looking at a total cost in the range of $15 – 25 depending on whether you take Uber or a bus for the final 1.8 miles. Driving costs $51 using the IRS cost to operate a vehicle for 2015 (gas + wear and tear on a car) which the IRS estimates at 57.5 cents per mile.. Let’s be conservative and assume a more efficient car is driven; the cost is likely to be in the $35 range. On top of that, you must pay for parking. Easy win for Tri-Rail.

Unless, of course, parking has been paid for you. Then it makes you that much more likely to choose to drive instead of take transit.

For all the talk of safety and getting people out of their cars, we are still operating under the assumption that everyone will drive, and this mentality leads to disconnects in our policy such as this. If you’re like most municipal employees commuting into the city, getting free parking at a taxpayer funded municipal parking structure, you’re likely to assume everyone else does the same. And if you are tasked with setting up a Transportation Summit, that means Driving Summit. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

This issue may sound trivial, but it’s indicative of a broader driver entitlement culture that needs to change.

So what’s the answer?

We can start to change at the government level through leading by example. Get out of your car and actually experience transit for yourself so you can understand it. The MPO is to be commended for having board members actually ride transit throughout the County last year:

The answer is not to expand subsidies to transit and car parking, because it would have the perverse effect of penalizing the person who bikes or walks to the final destination. The simplest and best policy shift is to remove parking and transportation subsidies altogether from events such as this, and more broadly, to decouple transportation subsidies from employment and living arrangements.

The sooner it happens, the quicker we can realize safer streets and more livable communities for all.


Parking minimums require developers to get it wrong

Strong Towns’ Black Friday Parking event showcases the absurdity of parking minimums for second year running.

On Black Friday, an army of strong towns advocates hit the pavement, documenting parking lot utilization across the country.  It’s dangerous work. Woe to ye who would deny a crazed shopper that $199 HDTV special for a few seconds! But for the sake of a greater purpose, #blackfridayparking participants persevered at risk of being trampled.

Black Friday Parking isn’t focused on protesting all that is wrong about our national consumerist obsession, although there is plenty to say about that. Instead, Black Friday Parking focuses on an area of policy that is often overlooked and maybe seen as esoteric, but impacts our cities and towns perhaps more than any other land development regulation. In its application, it favors the big box retail model, the car-dependent development pattern, and the associated public highway funding that make it all possible. In that way, parking policy is more the cause of the Black Friday consumerist madness than the effect. It is part of a system perfectly adapted to our national car addiction and oil dependency.

Parking minimums are the worst policy for good urban form. They spread out development, make places unwalkable, and create vast expanses of low-yielding land use. Parking is expensive to provide and it favors the big box store over the hometown business. Big boxes are capital-intensive, high-volume and low margin, publicly subsidized, and yield a very low return to the municipal coffers. They do provide nice sound bites at a ribbon cutting, though. Hundreds of jobs! Lots of new property tax revenue! What isn’t said is that this growth is unproductive and also creates huge infrastructure liabilities that aren’t included on a city’s balance sheet.

Think this is just a bunch of theoretical blathering? Just listen to Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Anath Prasad, making remarks to the West Palm Beach City Council, about how transportation spending “attracts the Wal-Mart, Target, Bass Pro Shop”. Go to minute 12 of this video: FDOT remarks on Flagler Bridge This is happening everywhere, in the same way.

Black Friday Parking locally

I traveled to visit family, so I couldn’t take photos of local retail parking for the #blackfridayparking event. I suspected that if any retail strip would be filled to capacity, it would be the Palm Beach Outlets. But the Palm Beach Post tells a different story:

At Palm Beach Outlets on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, a stream of cars flowed into the parking before the sun came up Friday. But die-hard deal seekers said they were surprised there wasn’t more traffic at the outdoor mall, which opened at midnight on Friday.

“We do this every year,” said Toni Anderson of Lantana, who was shopping at the outlets with four family members. “It is pretty quiet. It took a lot of the fun out of it.

The group started shopping just after midnight at The Mall at Wellington Green, where they said crowds were also small. They decided to head for the outlets about 5 a.m., Anderson said.

“I figured it was new, and there would be more people,” Anderson said.

Shindler said the group arrived at the outlets about 6 a.m., and was expecting to have trouble finding a parking spot.

“That is why we got up so early, we were expecting it to be a little more crowded,” Shindler said.

Incidentally, the Post did a story this past Wednesday about parking needs in a new waterfront development. In this instance, a developer wished to provide fewer parking spaces than required by code. Instead, the City of Lantana will get less greenspace, more pervious pavement, more stormwater runoff by the intracoastal, and of course its precious parking.

Variances included decreasing the amount of required parking spaces from 2.5 per unit to 1.87, decreasing the size of parking stalls and aisles, building taller buildings than what code allows and putting fences in some areas where code requires a masonry wall.

Developer Trinsic Acquisition Co. and Goray came back Monday night with a new site plan that complied with town code. To make room for more parking, some green space was scrapped, said Dwayne Dickerson on behalf of the developers…

Vice Mayor pro tem Malcolm Balfour said he liked the original site plan better because there wasn’t a parking lot at the front of the property. Dickerson said it was necessary to do that to provide enough parking spots to be in line with the code.

The purpose of Black Friday Parking is to show that planners don’t have a crystal ball. The rise of internet retailing, the decreased importance of Black Friday sales, and the trends towards more urban retail formats are all trends that cannot be foreseen with any degree of accuracy. Abolishing parking minimums doesn’t mean developers will get it right either. It just means they won’t be required to get it wrong.





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#BlackFridayParking social media event is happening today

Friends, Black Friday Parking, a nationwide event to showcase the ridiculous nature of minimum parking standards, is happening today. Take a picture and upload it to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #blackfridayparking. Also note the estimated utilization (40% full, etc)  and turn on geolocation. Strong Towns is keeping a feed and map of all the photos.

If anyone locally can snap a few photos of the PB Outlets, I would be grateful. I am traveling out of town this weekend. Any strip malls or big box lots in Palm Beach County will be great additions.

Link and feed on Strong Towns.org