The mayor and her merry band of transportation consultants are at it again. In a big way, with an updated West Palm Beach Mobility Plan to be used as primary policy guide for our transportation future.
On April 30, a Mayor/Commission Work Session was held at City Hall. Attendees included Mayor Muoio, City Council members, consultants from CityFi and Alta, Assistant City Administrator Scott Kelly, and Nick Uren, Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Transportation Planning Agency. The primary purpose was to discuss the revised WPB Mobility Plan grand scheme and prepare for its acceptance by the city council at a meeting to be held on May 21, 2018. The relevant parts of the work session meeting can be viewed in the first 60 minutes or so of this video.
Everyone who drives in this city should be concerned. Very concerned. Their physical travel experience will be fundamentally altered if this document becomes WPB’s transportation policy guide. The central ideas are to engage in a “road diet” (lingo for eliminating lanes), add dedicated bike lanes, and provide space and access for more buses and trolleys. Strategies to discourage automobile use are key elements.
The revised mobility plan is a vast increase in size and scope from the report developed and presented in 2017. It has only recently been released and can be seen at wpbmobility.com. Total cost estimates in excess of $350 million are provided on p. 79 with details in Appendix 2.
Our challenges do not constitute a blanket condemnation. There are many useful ideas and the effort is certainly comprehensive and well presented. Our concern centers on the breadth of the initiative, the move toward speedy FINAL ACCEPTANCE as the policy guide, and the lack of consideration of costs as well as negatives experienced in other communities where reversing previously adopted plans such as these have been initiated.
City staff and highly paid outside consultants were enthusiastic about their plans to shrink the size of our major thoroughfares, create 100 miles of connected bike lanes, and to “mitigate” the use of cars by increasing fees to park downtown, limit those who may use public parking facilities, and impose impact fees to subsidize costs.
The overriding objective of consultant and presenter Gabe Klein of CityFi is to get people out of cars and onto sidewalks, bicycles, scooters, and buses. In a WBUR interview in Boston on 12/3/2015, Klein stated “…we could get 85% of the cars off the roads in cities, and that’s just going to be a sea change.” He also said, “In Copenhagen there’s a 180% tax on buying single occupancy vehicles – so people don’t do it. I mean a Toyota Camry is like $180,000 there.”
Noticeably, the city staff and outside consultants did not discuss many key questions at the Work Session. Cost? Not discussed. Timetable? Not discussed, other than as soon as possible. The ability of Palm Tran and the trolley system to immediately reduce any transportation gridlock? Not discussed. The mayor wanted to know why we don’t “just take” one lane on Okeechobee Boulevard rather than wait for approval. Crowding out of other key infrastructure needs? Not discussed. Negative impact to downtown businesses and future economic development opportunities? Not discussed
City staff said they never promised faster movement with this mobility plan. Rather, the objective is safety, reliability, and fun. No statistics challenging the safety claims were presented. They did acknowledge there would have to be a lot of “mitigating” to get this done. “Mitigate” and its synonyms are code words for sticks, as in carrots and sticks. They believe they have the tools to induce (force?) many people out of their cars.
One objective is to increase walkability and biking and decrease parking demand. We wonder what merchants might think about that? Some merchants in areas that have gone in this direction have noticed a drop-off in sales since you can’t carry much very far in your hands or on a bike.
Staff did admit that achieving 100 miles of bike lanes would be “very dramatic.” No kidding. West Palm Beach is in the subtropic climate zone. Need we remind anyone it’s very hot here four or five months of the year with extremely high humidity? Mr. Klein of CityFi said, “One of the things I talked to them about in Singapore is what if we ease up on the dress code? If people can wear shorts and a nice, short sleeve collared shirt to work that changes everything. These things might sound out there, but they’re coming here soon.” [At about 55:00:55 in the video].
Mr. Klein also said people aren’t buying cars anymore. “Owning transportation is dead,” he said. “Sharing transportation is the future in any urban context.” Mr. Klein is the former transportation director in Washington, DC. He was fired after an uproar over a bike lane “snafu” on Pennsylvania Avenue, claims that his plans favored urban elites at the expense of everyone else, including the less economically affluent, and an election that ousted the mayor supporting his ideas. His efforts in Washington, Chicago, and Seattle came with a trail of contentious experiments and at least one scandal. You can read about it in the article links.
Some think “complete streets,” connectivity, bikes, and buses are the future for urban transportation. Perhaps they are. But, doesn’t it make sense for our elected leaders to thoroughly look at all sides of an issue that has proven to be highly contentious in many cities before accepting a policy guide in the public domain for less than a month? Where are the voices from opponents of these aggressive, and expensive plans in other places that are trying to reverse what they believe was foisted upon them? It’s important that our elected officials hear both sides of the issue before committing West Palm Beach to this guide for the future.
THIS MASSIVE MOBILITY UPDATE INCLUDES ESTIMATES OF OVER $350 MILLION IN SPENDING TO IMPLEMENT. WHERE WILL THOSE (LIKELY UNDERESTIMATED) FUNDS COME FROM? AN INITIATIVE OF THIS MAGNITUDE AND IMPORTANCE SHOULD REQUIRE A VOTER REFERENDUM!
WE BELIEVE IT WOULD BE IRRESPONSIBLE FOR THE CITY COUNCIL TO ACCEPT THIS PLAN AS THEIR GUIDE FORWARD AT THEIR MAY 21, 2018 MEETING WITHOUT ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATION OF POTENTIAL NEGATIVES, COMPLETE FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE OF COSTS TO TAXPAYERS AND STAKEHOLDERS, AND A REFERENDUM FOR VOTERS TO DECIDE THE ISSUE.
Here’s a link to a very recent article in the Wall Street Journal on 5/6/2018 discussing resistance to bike lanes in Baltimore, Boulder, and Seattle.
We know you are busy. We don’t like loading you up with matters for which you have little time. But, if the citizenry doesn’t take the time to speak up about important issues, they deserve what they get. We’ve included links to several articles about why dedicated bike lanes (one of the central ideas in the WPB Mobility Plan) may be a bad idea. The bottom line is that bike lanes can be more dangerous than having bicyclists ride on the road itself. It is also worth noting that eliminating auto lanes to provide bike lanes penalizes 90% of users in favor of 10% or less.
We started FixFlagler.org because we were concerned about the city’s plan for what they termed “Flagler Shore.” Those plans included jackhammering Flagler Drive between Banyan and Okeechobee, reducing four auto lanes to two, installing dedicated bike lanes, and turning our tranquil and inviting waterfront into a place with a carnival atmosphere more akin to Key West than what had emerged as a city jewel in a predominantly residential and professional business neighborhood.
We presented nearly a thousand petitions to the city in opposition. Over 125 people protested the plans at a city council meeting. Dozens of letters were written to the Palm Beach Post in opposition. The Post came out editorially against Flagler Shore. The FixFlagler.org mailing list has grown to over 2,500.
The five-month “test” of two lanes rather than four along Flagler was a disaster to many who experienced it and produced many protests from the public and neighborhood residents and businesses.
All of this apparently has had little or no effect on Mayor Muoio or city administrators. The updated West Palm Beach Mobility plan includes funds to move ahead with their grand scheme for Flagler Drive. In spite of the mayor’s statement that Flagler Shore is not a priority, it appears in the updated mobility plan again with funding estimates to remove two lanes. (See items 32-34 in updated mobility plan on p. 121. Note $4.6 million is dedicated to “Quick Build” between Banyan and Okeechobee).
The mayor and city administrators have now FURTHER upped the ante by encouraging FINAL ACCEPTANCE of an expensive and radical long-range mobility plan as our transportation policy guide that has not been properly vetted by the city council or approved by voters.
Our hope is that the City Commissioners will respond to the needs of their constituents and delay acceptance of this mobility plan until much more comprehensive thought is given to the problems this may create for many residents of West Palm Beach and the surrounding communities. Furthermore, with two new commissioners on the council, time is needed for them to fully consider the ramifications of this profoundly significant policy guide.
WE ASK ALL COUNCIL MEMBERS TO VOTE “NO” ON ACCEPTING THE WEST PALM BEACH MOBIITY PLAN ON MAY 21ST.
Your calls and emails to city representatives will be important. Their contact information is included in this site. If you oppose immediate acceptance of this plan, please forward links to FixFlagler.org to your friends and neighbors and ask them to join you in stopping this project.
IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT A LARGE CITIZEN CONTINGENT ATTEND THE MAY 21ST CITY COUNCIL MEETING TO LET COUNCIL MEMBERS AND THE MAYOR KNOW WE DO NOT WANT ACCEPTANCE OF THIS MOBILITY PLAN![NOTE: The links below to articles about mobility plans, road diets, bike lanes, etc., in other cities and towns have highlights added by FixFlagler.org. The highlights did not appear in the original articles.]
- Pennsylvania Ave Bike Lane Snafu
- Hit the Road, Gabe
- Sleazy in Seattle
- Disadvantages of a Road Diet
- Why Bike Lanes are a Bad Idea
- Carolina Beach Reverses Road Diet Plan
- Gainesville, FL Reverses its Road Diet
- The Science and Politics of Bicycle Driving
Robert and Carol Garvy