Walkable West Palm Beach


1 Comment

Enlightened County Engineering professionals wanted!

There are only two days left to apply for two positions that greatly impact the future trajectory of our county: County Engineer/Public Works Director and Palm Beach County Director of Traffic. This is a critical hire, and I would urge blog readers to write the county commissioners and County Administrator Verdenia Baker to implore the county to hire someone who reflects your values. This position will have far-reaching impacts on the future shape of Palm Beach County. Do we continue to follow the status quo of prioritizing auto level of service above all else, or do we shift our approach to reflect the context and needs of communities? A new commission and relatively new county administrator make this an opportune time to change from business as usual.

Write the commissioners now to tell them what qualities you want to see in these new hires.
All county commissioners email: BCC-AllCommissioners@pbcgov.org 
Verdenia Baker, County Administrator, email: vbaker@pbcgov.org

Please forward this post to anyone you think would make a good fit and share widely.

Links to the positions —-

PBC County Engineer (closes 2/24):

http://pbcgov.com/OnlineApplication/Asps/App/ShowJobNotice.aspx?JobAnnouncementSeq=3853

PBC Director of Traffic (closes 2/24):

http://pbcgov.com/OnlineApplication

 


5 Comments

Watch out, ‘jaywalking’ Sunfest patrons!

Earlier today, I alerted the community to the fact that police officers were issuing citations warnings to Sunfest patrons crossing at Quadrille and Clematis Street. For now, it appears that this enforcement activity has stopped.

[Clarification: Fines were not issued today. However, Bob Katzen, downtown neighbor and friend, was stopped by an officer and asked for ID. His information was taken by an officer. An officer stated they would issue warnings today and fines in the coming days. The officer was not approachable and did not wish to engage in conversation with Bob about the law, at one point threatening jail.]

The very term ‘jaywalking‘ deserves its own scorn, as I’ve written about in the past, as do pedestrian enforcement campaigns.  But in this post, I want to focus on the reasons why people cross against the signal and how conditions could easily be improved for pedestrians by implementing Jeff Speck’s recommendations from nearly two years ago.

Anyone standing at this intersection for a few minutes will see people crossing against the light. I do it. City officials do it. Everyone does it. But as it stands, this intersection is prioritized to move cars. Meanwhile, Clematis Street has been transformed into a superb people-centered environment by prioritizing people. Clematis was recently recognized as one of the best main streets in the United States. Taming cars along its length is one of the main factors that led to its resurgence.

Here’s the problem: A main street that invites people on foot to shop, stroll, and dine is combined with an intersection crossing that makes crossing the street a long, boring wait in the scorching sun. What would you do in this environment?

Here is what Jeff Speck had to say about the Quadrille and Clematis intersection in the Walkability Study.

 In terms of its crossings, the highest priority to improving Quadrille is to create more pedestrian-friendly crossings and signalization regimes at Clematis and Fern. At Fern, this improvement would include reshaped corners with a curb radius of perhaps 20 feet, rather than the current 50. Because it is a State Highway, removing the pushbutton requests will be difficult, but the City must fight for pushbuttons that actually activate the crossing signal, rather than merely lengthening the crossing time after a too-long wait.

As already discussed under A Safe Walk, the current signalization regime in place in much of the downtown is not a type that is found in any city that is known for welcoming pedestrians. From a national best practices perspective, it is truly substandard. Unfortunately, changing the current regime requires cooperation from Palm Beach County, which controls it. It is hoped that the evidence already provided will convince the County to recognize downtown West Palm Beach as the exceptional environment that it is, and allow it to implement the signal removal recommendations above, as well as the following comprehensive changes:
• Remove pushbuttons from all signals except those along Okeechobee and Flagler,
where longer crossing times are needed due to excess width. In those locations,
working with FDOT, allow the pushbutton request to preempt the signal cycle, so
that pedestrians are not led to believe that the buttons are broken.
• Implement simple concurrent crossing signals at all intersections, such that the
pedestrian is given the walk signal at the same time as vehicles heading in the
same direction. Use Lead Pedestrian Indicators (LPIs) at intersections with high
pedestrian volume, such as Rosemary & Okeechobee, Clematis & Quadrille,
Fern & Flagler, and Lakeview & Flagler.
• Working with FDOT as necessary, shorten signal cycles to a target length of 60
seconds for the entire cycle at all signalized intersections.

This is really simple stuff and it will make a major improvement. Fixing the signal timing, adding leading pedestrian indicators (LPIs), and ideally, getting rid of pushbuttons so we get an automatic walk signal at the light would be a long way toward prioritizing people at this crossing. It’s been two years since the Speck walkability study was published recommending these changes. The city and the DDA are fully behind it. The county is responsible for signal changes downtown, so the change needs to come from the county.

If you received a citation or are just frustrated by crossing at this unsafe intersection, let’s focus on a productive outcome by addressing the root of the problem: the intersection signalization, which is the responsibility of the county. Email the county commissioners and public officials involved at the links below and copy the city.

County
BCC-AllCommissioners@pbcgov.org
ENG-ActionCenter@pbcgov.org

City
jmuoio@wpb.org

 

 

 


4 Comments

How do impact fees impact urban Palm Beach County?

Tony Doris of The Palm Beach Post covered an issue that is extremely important to municipalities in Palm Beach County: Transportation impact fees. Story is below.

Here is a list of points I think policymakers should be thinking about as we move forward. There is a lot to unpack here so consider this a starting place for discussions.

    • Traffic counts are going down in and around downtown WPB while residential population has increased dramatically. [Article]. This is the power of good urbanism for transportation: As neighborhoods develop a mixture of uses and destinations in a walkable vicinity, trip length and trip frequency declines.

 

    • Even if the streets were congested, which they aren’t, our street network is built-out in and around downtown and what is needed isn’t more road capacity for single occupancy vehicles, but rather different modes that can increase the options of people to get from point A to point B to allow the system to continue functioning. I love this quote from Jarrett Walker of Human Transit, describing the functioning of a transit system:

 

    • As the study by Urban3 shows (see video below), a large portion of the impact fees generated downtown have been spent outside of downtown. Even the major capital project cited as benefiting downtown, the Okeechobee and Australian interchange project, has had specious benefits to the downtown neighborhood. Same for money spent to widen Okeechobee. If suburban commuters’ lives are made slightly more convenient by 30 seconds of travel time each day, at the expense of the urban fabric in which the fees have been generated, can this really be considered a benefit? Besides, the law of induced demand shows that road widening begets more traffic, cancelling out its benefits in short order.

 

    • Urban3’s countywide tax productivity study shows that the breadbasket of the county is the traditionally designed neighborhoods east of I-95. This land area accounts for 1/3 – 1/2 of the entire tax base of Palm Beach County, although as a percentage of the total land area it is much less. (skip to minute 31 in the video below). These are the areas with the highest potency, with downtown West Palm Beach the most potent of all land areas in the county. Good stewardship over the county’s fundamental resource (land) would suggest that policymakers not just safeguard, but enhance, this high yielding source of wealth and county operating revenue.

 

    • Let’s not forget that city residents pay county taxes just the same as folks in the unincorporated part of the county. What are city dwellers in neighborhoods east of I-95 getting in return for this substantial county tax levy?

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.




County staff is simply following policy as it is written. A smarter transportation impact fee policy will make a stronger county and stronger cities. This change needs to come from the County Commission. There’s much more to be said on this subject, but it’s good it is starting to get attention. Palm Beach Post story below.

 

Urban3 presentation at the Chamber of Commerce – “How We Value the City”

————————————————————————–

As business improved, the owners of Table 427 in West Palm’s up-and-coming Northwood Village looked forward to adding a patio with seating for 100 more.

That would give Maria and Roberto Villegas enough seats to qualify for a free liquor license to really boost business. In preparation they bought chairs, tables, refrigerators and a fountain.

Then Palm Beach County officials told them if they hoped to obtain a building permit, they’d have to pay a $17,000 impact fee for road improvements. They only gross $13,000 a month, Maria Villegas says.

And what road would the county use the money for that could possibly benefit them, she asks. “The back alley?”

“If we can’t do the patio, we will take our equipment and move it to the Gardens and do another small restaurant there,” her husband says. “If you want to bring people to the area, give us a little help.”

City Administrator Jeff Green says the Villegas are poster children for a county tax program whose fees are designed to improve roads but which charges too much and puts improvements where they’re of little benefit to urbanized areas like Northwood or downtown.

Where is the money going?

The city commission has scheduled a vote for Feb. 16 on a resolution urging the county to use impact fees not just to widen suburban roads but for “alternative transportation infrastructure, streetscape improvements and other investments more appropriate for the eastern urban area.”

County Administrator Verdenia Baker — who once served as impact fee coordinator — counters that the program is being used exactly as set forth in the county charter, for thoroughfares, collectors and arterial roads. “They are not necessarily spent on city roads,” she says. “In addition, they can only be expended for capacity purposes and not maintenance or repair or renewal, just capacity, and that’s how it’s calculated. If we included all of those other costs, …the costs would be very high.”

Impact fees are commonly used by Florida counties to have builders pay for municipal needs associated with that urban growth.

But in an unusually pointed article in the Insider Newsletter on West Palm Beach’s website, next to a photo of Mayor Jeri Muoio, the city says the county’s administration of the impact fees amounts to “a multimillion-dollar problem.”

The article, headlined, “City wants the county to spend downtown dollars downtown,” says road impact fees are assessed by estimating how much traffic a project will generate, and charging accordingly. The money is supposed to pay for adding lanes, buying right-of-ways to help widen roads or for installing traffic signals, the city says.

The problem: “The county is using it on projects in other places (sometimes not even in the city.),” the article says.

“If your restaurant is on the corner of Okeechobee Boulevard and Jog Road, then most of your customers probably will drive to get there because they don’t live within walking distance. But if your restaurant is on the corner of Clematis Street and Olive Avenue, then many of your customers probably won’t drive to get there,” the article says.

So, the city wants the county to change the rules and use the money not just for road capacity but for trolleys or bike share programs or other improvements that help people get about downtown, where the money is generated in the first place.

Interpretation of the program

But Baker says impact fees were never meant to serve as the city proposes.

“We have spent the money properly and we have spent dollars within the zone to lay the foundation for people to get in and out of downtown West Palm Beach,” she says. The money is meant for capital projects, not operating costs like trolley systems, she says.

She adds that the fee structure is based on how much impact a project is expected to have on area roads, on average. But any developer or business owner expanding a building is free to hire a traffic consultant, take measurements, do a study and make a case for a reduced fee, as long as they follow the county’s basic methodology, she says.

West Palm’s Green counters that during the past 11 years, the county collected $9.3 million from the downtown impact fee zone but only $6.5 million went back to the zone for projects. It went toward rebuilding the interchange at Okeechobee and Australian Avenue, for example, and to widen Okeechobee.

The spending isn’t limited to the immediate area where the money was collected, but that doesn’t mean contributors don’t benefit, Baker responds. “People who live in the downtown area do leave the downtown area.”

As far as the heft of the fees, she says, the county has a backlog of road projects, not to mention the vast amount of development in the pipeline that promises to impact county roads even more. “Every time we don’t collect enough revenue to offset the impact, it becomes part of the backlog.”

“I’m not saying they didn’t spend the money to improve downtown,” City Administrator Green says. “But if you were to add up the numbers, the amount they collected in our area versus the amount they spent in our area….”

And with $2.5 billion worth of development projects in the pipeline, most of them downtown, he said, “it’s only going to get worse.”


2 Comments

Australian Avenue alternative

Palm Beach County proposes to add an additional southbound lane on Australian Avenue north and south of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard between 7th and 15th street. The County project is vehemently opposed by residents in the area. This post will discuss WalkableWPB’s design proposal for Australian Avenue, the status of the County’s project, and the myriad of policy issues this project has exposed.

WalkableWPB Proposal:

Here is a photo of the section of Australian Avenue where the County proposes to add the third lane:

australian_ave_existing

With the County’s plan a third lane would be added in the above picture between the road and the sidewalk.

Here is an aerial view of the road. Note in the photo that the existing right of way is at the back of the sidewalk and has a width of 106′. The 106′ dimension will be critical in developing a design solution.

Australian Avenue Aerial

Australian Avenue Aerial

Prior to learning about the County’s proposal residents along the road were already unhappy with Australian Avenue. Their major concerns are the recent removal of existing street trees (shown in the above photo) in the swale, difficulty of backing out from residential driveways onto Australian, hostile roadway environment for pedestrians and property values, lack of bicycle facilities, and the illegality of parking in the swale.

Based on the residents concerns and the present and future traffic growth trends for Australian Avenue WalkableWPB is proposing that the road remain four lanes and that one-way access roads be added to each side. With the one way access roads Australian Avenue would become a multiway boulevard. A good precedent for this type of roadway is the Esplanade in Chico, California shown here:

Esplanade Chico California

Esplanade Chico California

and in google street view:

Below are sketchup models of Australian Avenue with the addition of one way access roads.

Australian Avenue - Proposed Multiway Boulevard

Australian Avenue – Proposed Multiway Boulevard

australian_02

Australian Ave.- Proposed Multiway Boulevard

Australian Avenue - Proposed Multiway Boulevard section with dimenions

Australian Avenue – Proposed Multiway Boulevard section with dimenions

Multiway boulevards have made an appearance on the blog before. In fact, the most popular post on the blog was an April fool’s day spoof where we reported that Okeechobee Boulevard was going to become a multiway boulevard. An excellent summary of why you would use a multiway boulevard follows from the ITE Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares Manual:

The multiway boulevard is an alternative to conventional higher-volume, higher-speed arterial streets. This thoroughfare type may be used where the community’s objective is to accommodate urban mixed use or residential development and a walkable environment on corridors with high traffic demands. A multiway boulevard combines a central thoroughfare for higher-speed through movements bordered by landscaped medians that separate the central thoroughfare from one-way access lanes on each side of the boulevard. The access lanes provide for slower local traffic, parking, bicycle travel and a pedestrian oriented streetside and are designed to discourage through traffic. Multiway boulevards may be considered where a community desires to make a very wide arterial street more pedestrian friendly yet recognizes the need to retain traffic capacity.

The proposed one-way access roads for Australian Avenue address all of the residents concerns. In order to fit within the existing 106′ right of way and avoid the taking of residents property the one-way access road does not have parallel parking. It is unusual  to have multiway boulevard with a large number of driveways and without on-street parking, but it is appropriate for Australian Avenue as the roadway frontage consists of suburban ranch style houses. If desired, parallel parking spaces could be added to the proposed boulevard between the existing driveways either on the sidewalk side or by narrowing the outside median between trees, but either option would require additional right of way from the property owner.

You may be wondering how can a one-way access road and outside tree lined buffer fit and not require the residents to give up any of their property? In order for it to fit Australian Avenue will have to go on a road diet fitting with its 35 mile per hour speed limit, school zone, and abutting residential properties. The diet includes narrowing the median to 10′ and 11.5′ wide outside lane consisting of 10′ of pavement and 1.5′ wide gutter pan. On the access road, a 9′ lane is used with an additional 1.5′ wide gutter pan for a total width of 10.5′.

Multiway Boulevards are quite common in European cities such as Paris, but they are few and far between in the United States. Surprisingly, nearby Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard west of I-95 has a section that is a multiway boulevard. The Palm Beach Lakes section is not the best example as its access roads are too wide and lack a deciduous tree canopy. It isn’t perfect, but that portion of Palm Beach Lakes does show how the access road and the center road can be different realms. The photo earlier in the post of the Esplanade in Chico California shows how beautiful these roads can be with a great tree canopy and we could fill page after page with beautiful European examples.

The best book to learn more about multiway boulevards is the the Boulevard Book by Allan Jacobs. You can also read his earlier studies on multiway boulevards for free online at the University of California Transportation Center :

http://www.uctc.net/papers/248.pdf

http://www.uctc.net/papers/300.pdf

http://www.uctc.net/papers/500.pdf

Status of County Project:

On Monday April 14th County staff held a public meeting at City Hall to discuss the project. At the meeting County Engineer George Webb stunned residents when he began his presentation stating that he understood that the people in the room didn’t want the current project and that he wasn’t going to force the project on them. He explained that Australian Avenue’s drainage system is in need of repairs. He explained that the County has different funding sources for roadways which include gas tax and impact fees. Impact fees can only be spent on roadway capacity projects and that the County’s design for an additional third southbound lane north and south of the Palm Beach Lakes intersection was an attempt to provide a capacity project that would also fix the maintenance issues on Australian Avenue. He also explained that the County is very short on gas tax money for maintenance and that it would be a very long time before Australian Avenue was repaired with gas tax funds.

Several options were suggested such as killing the project, transferring the road to the City, or developing a more palatable roadway capacity project. No decision was made.

Policy Issues:

It was shocking to hear County staff say that there was money for shiny new roads, but no money for maintenance of existing roads. Palm Beach County is experiencing what Strong Towns founder Chuck Marohn has termed the second life cycle of the suburban growth ponzi scheme. The maintenance bill on our 1960 and 1970s suburbs is due and there isn’t enough gas tax to pay for the repairs, but we have this huge pile of cash to build new roads.

One must wonder how the County project had gotten so far along in design without the City objecting. Does the City have any input on County projects in the City? Do the County and City work together to identify mutually agreeable projects in the City? The City, correctly, doesn’t support the County’s design and it is quite easy to criticize. It is much more difficult to develop a project than to criticize. Does the City have any better ideas for more palatable capacity projects to spend the impact fees?

Finally, what qualifies for adding capacity – Can a project that shifts people from their cars to other modes qualify, e.g. a cycle track?


Leave a comment

The face of Uber

[Story from The Palm Beach Post] Perhaps when you think of the sharing economy and ‘ride-hailing‘ services, this isn’t the prototypical user that comes to mind. Retiree Nancy Gregory pleaded with the County to keep the ridehailing service going at today’s vote on an operating agreement with Uber:

uber-user-nancy-gregory

Palm Beach Post photo

“If you cut Uber, I don’t know what I’ll do because I depend on them,” retiree Nancy Gregory of West Palm Beach told commissioners as tears came to her eyes. She said the application on her smart phone lets her see a picture of the driver and follow the progress of the vehicle and typically she has to wait only three to five minutes for a ride, and she feels more comfortable with Uber than with ordinary cabs.

In a close 4 to 3 vote, the County chose to allow Uber to continue operating through September 20th. Thanks to the County Commissioners who voted yes on this issue, including Steven Abrams and Hal Veleche.

This story illustrates something that our elected officials should bear in mind: As much as they might think Uber is just another overhyped Millennial generation fad, it is helping people like Nancy Gregory. There is a whole cohort of people in this country, let’s remember, that do not drive, voluntarily or involuntarily. I speak with many people who live downtown in either a car-light or car-free lifestyle, and Uber gives them a much-needed, reliable way to get around in the instances a car is required. It’s cheaper, faster, cleaner, and easier than using a traditional taxi. It’s a different experience and a better one.

Palm Beach County is a very car-dependent place, through decades of design and funding favoring the auto-centric development model. I see Uber as great way to leverage the walkable neighborhoods Palm Beach County has in places like Abacoa and the downtowns of Delray, Boca, and West Palm Beach (to name a few), and make it that much easier for households to downsize to one or even zero cars. What would an extra $9,000 in disposable income do for a Palm Beach County family, and for the county’s economy? I don’t know, but I’m certain it will be a good thing, which is more than I can say for some economic development schemes the County has hatched. Rather than being focused on hitting home runs, our County officials need to focus more on base hits that are lower risk and higher return to the taxpayer. We must do better to provide choice in transportation and Uber is a step forward in a positive direction.


11 Comments

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.

 


5 Comments

Disappointing day for on-demand ride services Uber and Lyft

In a decision that is sure to be looked at in a few years with astonishment, the County today voted to issue a cease and desist order for 10 days before an injunction begins. Sigh. This is like slapping telephone operators with fines when their disruptive business model began to threaten the telegram business. Uber and similar on-demand services are destined to transform the economy; it’s not a matter of if but when.

Complete Streets Palm Beaches is a new group that has launched with the intent to create more awareness of countywide livable streets and transportation issues, such as this, and to change public policy in a positive direction. Please follow the page for updates. Also, following is the letter I wrote to the Board of County Commissioners [email all commissioners – use BCC-AllCommissioners@pbcgov.org ]. Please feel free to copy and use it.

——————————

Honorable Commissioners,

I ask that you allow Uber/Lyft and similar on-demand services to legally operate in Palm Beach County.

This is a classic case of regulation not keeping up with market innovation. In this case, the marketplace has actually provided a much better regulatory scheme through self-regulation. If you haven’t ridden Uber/Lyft before, please experience it before passing judgement. I can guarantee you will find the experience more pleasant and safe than riding in a traditional taxicab. Uber drivers are fully vetted and they are regulated by the most important party — the end user. Every driver is rated by the user after a ride and if their rating is low, they are kicked out of the system.

The genius of on-demand services is the ability to respond to demand in real-time. This keeps prices low. Uber is also a solution to the ‘last mile’ problem in public transportation – how do you get from a transit stop to your end destination? Uber provides a cheap answer.

Palm Beach County should embrace what is an inevitability – the transformation of our economy by on-demand services. The longer we wait, the more outdated and backwards we appear to the types of innovators and entrepreneurs we want to attract.