Walkable West Palm Beach


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Your input needed! Shape the future of Dixie in WPB – This weekend and next week

South Dixie is undergoing a positive transformation. Significant private investment has been made, with an assortment of restaurants and retailers opening along it – but this has been in spite of the highway, not because of it. South Dixie has the advantage of a great stock of prototypical old buildings – the type of buildings necessary for entrepreneurship to flourish, as Jane Jacobs explained so well.

What it doesn’t have going for it is a hostile sidewalk environment with cars flying by at 45 mph and very little shade. A plan for a better public realm has been crafted and if executed I believe South Dixie will achieve an even greater level of success.

Highways are not places for people. What should the new name be? Dixie Avenue or something completely new?

Vested stakeholders have come together on a vision for a road diet on South Dixie that would transform it into more of a place to linger and enjoy — al fresco dining, shopping, etc. — and tame the dangerous car speeds. Many stakeholders have been involved in the process to date, including City Commissioner Paula Ryan, merchants, neighborhood associations, and residents who live adjacent to South Dixie. Read more about efforts in past posts.

Rumor is that FDOT is pushing for bike lanes up and down U.S.-1 (aka Dixie in most of the county), contradicting the well-established consensus that emerged in the South Dixie charrettes. In those charrettes led by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC), the community determined that due to the limited right of way on Dixie, volume of traffic, and priorities for placemaking, it would be best to prioritize sidewalk space and on-street parking here. Importantly, this design would slow cars more than striped bike lanes. Striped bike lanes next to travel lanes give a perception to a driver of a wider travel way than does a row of parked cars right next to the travel lanes.

Let me be clear: I’m a huge advocate for biking. I bike myself all over town and I want to see WPB embrace Dutch style biking for everyone. Dutch guidance is clear: In no case should a roadway that carries more than 15,000 cars per day consider using a bike lane. Nor should a cycle lane be considered if speeds are at or above about 30 mph. This is a good article from Cycle Toronto that explains some of these nuances in Dutch guidance. The Dutch have been doing this better than anyone for the past 40+ years, and we would be wise to learn. This simplified chart (kilometers per hour) shows the relationship between car speed and volume and separation. In short: As speeds and volumes go up, more separation is needed.

 

 

A compromised bike lane sandwiched between heavy traffic (including many Palm Tran buses) and on-street parking does not serve people on bikes well, and will only be used by the competent few – it will not attract new riders. No bike lane should be added on this stretch unless it is a physically protected bike lane (behind parked cars or a physical barrier) due to the very heavy traffic volume. Because the right of way is limited and there are issues with curb cuts/driveways, a physically protected bike lane isn’t possible unless on-street parking is removed. Maybe at some point in the future, this will be a possibility, but in the meantime, I think we should focus our resources on creating world class north/south bikeways on Lake and Flagler instead of a compromised design on U.S.-1 that will never attract anything beyond a paltry share of bike riders.

I support the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council’s designs and I hope you will too. Please attend these very important meetings this weekend and voice your opinion in favor of the road diet, and furthermore, for the plans created by TCRPC and the community. The same could be said for sections of Dixie north and south of the TCRPC study area — the MPO should listen to the input of residents and stakeholders. Dixie is no longer a highway, it is becoming a place with distinct characteristics along its length.

Workshop is this Saturday 9 am – 2 pm at South Olive Elementary
Open studio charrettes are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 10 am – 7 pm at City Hall. Final presentation 5 pm on Wednesday, August 30th.

Hope to see you there.

 

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FDOT Statewide Lane Elimination Guidance

This FDOT Lane Elimination Guidance is a resource for advocates across the state to reference.

Road diets work. West Palm Beach owes much of its downtown revitalization to successful road diets on Clematis Street and Dixie through downtown, and a successful rightsizing of Olive Avenue that stitched back together the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic University and the neighborhoods to its south. (Great video presentation on the history of these projects by Ian Lockwood, City Transportation Engineer at the time).

The FDOT process outlined in this document has been used successfully. Tequesta, a city to the north of West Palm Beach, recently gained approval for a six-to-four lane elimination using this process. Road diets are a proven safety tool to reduce frequency and severity of collisions and make streets more livable, endorsed by the Federal Highway Administration.

This guidance is quite good, and contains an appendix of lane elimination projects in Florida (Appendix A). Appendix C contains existing lane elimination request processes for various FDOT districts.


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Feds: Build protected bike lanes and narrow lanes!

It’s not easy getting livable streets built. Many engineers still operate under a ‘move the cars’ mindset that does not acknowledge the fundamental differences between a street and a road.

Whether asking for protected bike lanes, narrower travel lanes, or trees in the public right of way, too often the answer is “We can’t do that, it’s not in the manual!”

This new Federal Highway Administration document makes clear: We should be building high-quality bike and walking infrastructure, such as protected bike lanes (There’s a guide for that! For those technicians engineers out there), narrower travel lanes, and trees.

This guidance should help our engineer friends get over their hangups and start designing the places we want on projects such as the South Dixie Corridor, Flagler Drive, and Okeechobee Boulevard. Story from Streetsblog USA.


Reblogged from Streetsblog USA, by Angie Schmitt

The Federal Highway Administration wants to clear the air: Yes, state and local transportation agencies should use federal money to construct high-quality biking and walking infrastructure.

State and local DOTs deploy an array of excuses to avoid building designs like protected bike lanes. “It’s not in the manual” is a favorite. So is “the feds won’t fund that.”

Whether these excuses are cynical or sincere, FHWA wants you to know that they’re bogus.

Last week, the agency released a “clarifying” document that shoots down, on the record, some of the common refrains people hear from their DOT when they ask for safer street designs. This is a good document to print out and take to the next public meeting where you expect a transportation engineer might try the old “my-hands-are-tied” routine.

Here are the seven things FHWA wants to be absolutely clear about:

1. Federal funds CAN be used to build protected bike lanes.

In case any doubt remains, FHWA printed its own design guide for protected bike lanes. It’s okay to use federal money to build them.

2. Federal funds CAN be used for road diets.

FHWA created a whole website to help states and municipalities implement road diets that reduce lanes for motor vehicle traffic to improve safety. FHWA wants local agencies that federal money can be used on them.

3. Engineers are allowed to use design guides other than the AASHTO Green Book for projects that receive federal funds. 

The AASHTO Green Book — published by the association of state DOTs — is a behemoth, but its crusty old street design standards aren’t the only game in town. The protected bike lane templates in the design guidepublished by the National Association of City Transportation Officials are totally kosher. Go ahead and use them. FHWA says it supports a “flexible approach to the planning and design of bike and pedestrian facilities.” That means “It’s not in the Green Book, so we can’t do it” isn’t a valid excuse.

Peter Koonce, a transportation engineer with the City of Portland, said this clarification should make designing quality bike infrastructure easier.

“Agencies like ours occasionally encounter resistance to the use of treatments in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, the FHWA Separated Bike Lane Guide, or other Guidance documents from reviewing agencies [] because there is a lack of familiarity with new treatments, thus a difficulty to apply engineering judgment,” he said. “An example of this is bicycle traffic signals.”

4. “Highway” funding CAN be used for bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

It’s not only the Transportation Alternatives Program that can be used to fund bike and pedestrian infrastructure, FHWA says. Many other sources of federal funding can be used to support safer biking and walking in the right circumstances, including funds from the huge pot in the Surface Transportation Program.

5. Vehicle lanes DON’T have to be a certain width to receive federal funds.

No, lanes don’t have to be at least 11 feet wide on the National Highway System or at least nine feet wide on local roads. According to FHWA: “There is no minimum lane width requirement to be eligible for Federal funding.”

FHWA refers to blanket adherence to typical lane-width standards as “nominal safety,” but using engineering judgment based on the particular circumstances as “substantive safety,” urging engineers to practice the latter.

Also: “In appropriate contexts, narrower lanes, combined with other features associated with them, can be marginally safer than wider lanes.”

6. Curb extensions, roundabouts, and trees CAN be used on streets in the National Highway System.

“There is no prohibition on incorporating these features on NHS projects,” FHWA says. “Curb extensions, also known as bulbouts or neckdowns, can have significant benefits for pedestrian safety.”

7. Speed limits DO NOT need to be set using average vehicle speed. 

Another common myth the FHWA addresses is the idea that the speed limit for federally funded roads must be set using the “85th percentile” rule — which means that the limit is based on the speed that the fastest 15 percent of drivers exceed on a road. FHWA calls the 85th Percentile rule “just one part” of an approach that should consider other factors like pedestrian traffic. FHWA has its own tool for calculating appropriate speed limits.


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Preliminary South Dixie Corridor plan presented

In case you missed it: The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC) has released the draft plan for the South Dixie corridor (Okeechobee to Albemarle). Most notably, the plan has arrived at a strong consensus for a road diet and provides detailed renderings for what that would look like. A 4 to 3 road diet constitutes the highest return on investment change that can be made along South Dixie and we are glad to see this strong consensus to move forward.

Link to the draft study.

What is a road diet? Watch this excellent explainer from StreetFilms.

Let’s move this process forward as quickly as possible. It’s likely to take a very long time for funds to be raised, designs to be finalized, and construction to begin. Perhaps we can start this redesign in a cheaper and more inexpensive fashion much sooner. How about we start testing with some inexpensive tactics like paint and signage? That’s what Delray Beach did with its project to narrow 5th and 6th Avenues from 3 to 2 lanes. Here is a photo of a cheaply constructed cycle track in Salt Lake City. We need better infrastructure and more livable streets now, as opposed to waiting a decade.

DSC04646

Image courtesy StreetFilms.org


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South Dixie Corridor Implementation Committee report

The South Dixie Corridor study has been published to the blog under “Reference Documents“. In the coming weeks, we will be taking a closer look at this report, as well as what is not in the report: namely, a four-to-three road diet for South Dixie.

The Palm Beach Post ran an excellent article this past week about this corridor and the substantial investment and development happening along it. If you missed it, it is well worth a read.

Palm Beach Post article

South Dixie Corridor study


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Road diet for Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard

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)

Enter the Baron.
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The battle for a walkable city must be fought block by block inch by inch. Little projects can make a big difference in transforming a City. Transforming unneeded travel lanes into curb side parking is one of the highest return on investment a City can make. The portion of Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. from Dixie Highway to Flagler Drive is a perfect example. The intersection of Dixie and Palm Beach Lakes is shown below. At the intersection with Dixie, one of Palm Beach Lakes eastbound lanes becomes a drop right lane. Someone took the time and expense to construct a landscaped bulbout in front of the Burger King to make this happen. Just east of the intersection the thru lane makes a reappearance and continues approximately 1,000′ to the intersection with Flagler. The take away is that you have one thru lane at the intersection feeding two lanes.

PalmBeachLakesDixie

Also notable is that a westbound right turn lane was removed. You can see the white stripes on the hospital side at the location of the former right turn lane. Palm Beach County’s website has aerial photos back to the year 2004 online. This incomplete road diet has been there since at least 2004. Why? The only benefit of the bulb-outs is that it reduces the crossing distance for pedestrians from Burger King to the hospital. We can do so much better than an incomplete road diet.

The bulbouts point out the fact that from Dixie to Flagler, you have more lanes than you need. Traffic is so light in the one lane that this person felt comfortable walking in the street:

PB_Lakes_Street_view

Even more interesting is that there are faded no parking signs. Apparently the volume is so light that motorists must have been parking in the unnecessary lane.

PB_Lakes_Street_view2

What to do with the unneeded pavement? My suggestion to turn the unneeded lane into on-street curbside parking. Here is a quick before and after using streetmix. (Note: dimensions are approximate.)

palm-beach-lakes-existing

palm-beach-lakes-remix

The cost of a surface parking space, excluding the cost of real estate, is approximately $5,000 a space. How many spaces can you fit on the south side of Palm Beach Lakes? Assuming you follow FDOT’s sight line criteria you lose a few spaces near the driveways and the intersection with Federal Highway. Also, conservatively assuming that you wish to provide an eastbound right turn lane at Flagler you still would be left with approximately 23 curb side parking spaces. The infrastructure necessary for a surface lot to provide 23 parking spaces would cost  $115,000 (23 X $5,000). All that is necessary to create these parking spaces is some paint and a few signs. This portion of Palm Beach Lakes is maintained by the City of West Palm Beach so the City doesn’t need approvals from any outside agency. What about bike lanes, street trees, and decorative street lights? These things can wait. What can’t wait is a $115,000 asset sitting idle and providing zero benefit to the public. You have a hospital, a park, and a fantastic waterfront walking trail within walking distance of the potential on-street parking spaces.

In addition to the physical parking spaces, curbside parking provides a buffer between cars and pedestrians and also a traffic calming as it provides a cue to drivers that they are on a street and not an expressway.

P.S. The streetmix section also shows the elimination of a lane on the north side of this section of Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. Unfortunately, the number of driveways really limit the number of parking spaces you can add. From both a curbside parking yield and a walkability standpoint it would be really beneficial to combine some driveways. Unfortunately we will be haunted for years by the poor site planning decisions at this location. Why was a building built at the intersection with Federal? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have an access road at the Federal / Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. traffic signal?