Thursday, November 1, 2007

Lake Worth Tri-Rail Station/Area Charrette

The cover of my presentation as given on the bus ride from Miami to Lake Worth.

Absolutely tremendous! Do you realize that the City of Lake Worth got the benefit of 30 planning and transit professionals from around the North American continent spending about 10 hours of their time in the examination of the feasibility of transit oriented development around our Tri-Rail station? Let's just assume that on average that we would have to pay each of them an hourly rate was $100, which is probably low. That amounts to $30,000 of FREE advice. Let alone the logistics of getting all these people together in one room outside of a national conference environment. I do have to thank John Romano of the Romano Law Group for underwriting of the event and Bizarre Avenue Cafe for hosting the event. Thanks to Palm Beach County for their participation in Charrette event and to the City of West Palm Beach for providing some last minute visual aids to facilitate the process.

I am also pleased to report that the Mayor and all the Commissioners, with Commissioner Vespo coming in near the end of the 3:30 p.m. presentation in the Commission Chambers, heard the report from the team. The amount of information covered was amazing given the relatively short time that was available to address the issues at hand.

They have promised me copies of the various PowerPoint presentations that were made during the day, including the concluding presentation in the Commission Chambers. Those will be the subject of upcoming posts here. Those presentations will also be forwarded to the Commission and administration.

Rather than take the time to recite the many findings of the Charette, I will let the upcoming posts do that. What I would like to do here is talk about the day, some of the comments that were offered to me regarding Lake Worth and where we can go from here.

The Day

It started early with me getting out the door at 6 a.m. Traffic wasn't bad until I got to the north Miami area. About then, as I was going about 15 to 10 mph, the Tri-Rail option seemed more attractive. But, as I reported, I just had too much to carry to make that feasible. So I get to the convention hotel and immediately find the bus labeled "Lake Worth - Tri-Rail". See bus below.

So, I get my stuff on the bus and wait outside for a while. Time was about 7:45 a.m. or so and it was raining a little bit. 8 o'clock comes, my phone rings and it's Lynda Westin who was my contact from South Florida Regional Transit Authority (SFRTA) in coordinating the day's activities. It turns out that the group was waiting inside the hotel by the registration area and I was to go up there to check in. Come to find out, I also was to be fitted with a clip-on mic and a speaker that went around the waist - that is if you happen to be on a college cross-country team or swim 50 laps a day. I went without the mic and speaker set-up, although since I didn't use it during the day it was forgotten and is still in my possession. Then I was given a list of the attendees in the class and the names were printed in this size of type (Doe, Jane - Smith, Mary). That plus some of the names having more vowels than consonants made things interesting. So, once dispensed with those duties, we were off to the buses.

Once on I-95 north, Jeff Tumlin from Nelson/Nygaard (transportation consulting firm) introduced me. He happened to be the technical leader of the session - he is the one that made the excellent summary presentation in the Commission Chambers. I went through my presentation. It was designed so that we would have time on the bus to get to know Lake Worth and the area that the group would be examining during the day. That way we could take less time on a tour around town and get right to work on the tasks at hand.

It was obvious from their questions that this was a very sophisticated gathering of professionals from around the U.S. and Canada - many from California. They were interested in the beginnings of Tri-Rail, the status of the FEC study (east tracks for transit service) and the general make up of the area and Lake Worth specifically. I purposefully gave them the "warts and all" version of our realities here, while at the same time emphasizing the strengths and our unique qualities as well. Below is one of the pages from the presentation which highlights the area the team studied during the day.

We got off at the 10th Avenue exit toward Dixie and went south to turn left on Lake Avenue. When we turned on to Lake Avenue, Jeff Tumlin commented, "This is much nicer than I thought it was going to be - this is a great downtown." We went to the beach, went around the loop road, then headed west on Lucerne to Lake Worth Road, turned around at Palm Beach Community College and then found our way to Bizarre.

Later on in the day, I happened to be sitting next to an architect whose practice is in Vancouver - part of an international architectural firm with offices around the world. I asked him what he thought of the experience and he said, "The day was great. You know, when we got off the expressway, I asked myself why are we coming here? Then, when I saw the downtown, I knew why." Without prompting from me, he then asked, "What about the beach? That looks so sad." I told him I know, didn't want to bore him with the details about how we can't get out of our own way to make it a better place.

We got off the bus and settled in to the second floor of Bizarre. Received some general orientation presentations about what transit oriented development is all about (those will be posted here as soon as I get them), had a nice working/organizing time during lunch. It was good to see John Paxman, Ron Exline and Dr. McDungagle there from the Planning and Zoning Board. Commissioner Golden spent some time in the afternoon, getting a sense of what was going on. These pictures are all from the working session that took place after lunch and before the presentation in the Commission Chambers later in the day.

The gentleman in the medium blue shirt in the foreground of the picture above was from California. He expressed his enthusiasm for the charrette and the mobile workshop during the presentation in the Chambers. He said that he goes to a lot of these things and its the best one that he's ever been to - they were actually able to get in and work on something worthwhile and produce a result. He also, immediately after I took a seat near him before the presentation, asked, "Where are the cameras? Aren't your meetings broadcast on cable? That's the first thing that I would change." I couldn't agree more.

Anyway, as soon as the PowerPoint presentations land in my in box, I will be posting them here.