Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Better Late Than Never. The editor at the Post on Okeechobee Blvd. and the Public Forum held in West Palm Beach, “Getting from Point A to Point B”.

The editorial in The Palm Beach Post today (5/31) is now available online, about the forum held in West Palm Beach on May 22nd, 9 days ago.
     To sum up the editorial today is very easy. At the Public Forum last week Michael Busha summed it up this way:

Get everyone in the same room and not leave until you have a solution.

“Hmmm. Who is Michael Busha?” Find that out below. Thank You for visiting today. Stay tuned for Segment #6 later on today. . .

Segment #5. “Getting from Point A to Point B”, Public Discussion, traffic on Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach.

For Segment #4, “Presentation given by PBC Administrator Verdenia Baker” and to read segments 1–3 of the series use this link.

Below is more information from Verdenia Baker, the Palm Beach County Administrator, on the performance of the Convention Center in West Palm Beach and the tremendous tourism draw it is turning out to be with the addition of the Hilton Hotel next to it. In a video (see below; at the end of this blog post) you can watch the this session which includes Juan Mallerat from the planning firm Plusurbia and Michael Busha, Executive Director of Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.

The Public Forum held on May 22nd:
This forum was hosted by Town of Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio, West Palm Beach Commissioner Shanon Materio, and Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard.

Juan Mullerat, who originally hails from Barcelona, Spain, shared international examples of successful urban transportation corridors with multiple users. He pointed out that one particular section of Okeechobee Boulevard — a very busy stretch near the Convention Center — seemed to provide an excellent place for grass to grow but not much benefit for bicyclists or those on foot. He broke down the percentage of space allocated in the corridor in the following way: pedestrian 7%, bikes 0%, vehicles 55%, and 38% for grass.

While “Green”, the grass is not acting in a beneficial way to improve the efficiency or safety of the corridor. He pointed to other examples, such as the Diagonal in Barcelona and the famous Champs Elysees in Paris that are wider, or nearly as wide, as this section of Okeechobee Boulevard that handle a number of modes of transit in a much more balanced way. His talk was lighthearted and informative.

Michael Busha from Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council told the tales of a warrior that had experienced all the battles from the beginning here in Palm Beach County. He paralleled former Mayor Nancy Graham’s talk relating stories about the earlier days on Clematis Street when his was the only car on the road and the target of kids throwing rocks. 

[Sounds far-fetched? An exaggeration? It’s not. I worked for the City of West Palm Beach in 1989 while Nancy Graham was mayor. Back then Clematis Street was one to avoid.]

Mr. Busha concluded that in order to make progress toward a workable solution for the traffic/pedestrian conflict on Okeechobee Boulevard — you have to get everyone in the same roomand not leave until you have a solution. He also talked about how that process worked concerning integration of the Brightline train service vis-à-vis other modes of rail transportation.

County Administrator Verdenia Baker’s talk, briefly discussed in segment #4 as well, highlighted the tourism attraction power and the synergy created by the addition of the new hotel to the existing convention center. Her overriding concern was for the safety of future conference attendees and visitors crossing Okeechobee Blvd. during their stay to enjoy the various offerings at City Place and other downtown venues.

Recently held Governor’s Hurricane Conferences where a large group of people made their way to City Place from the Convention Center area:
This picture from Verdinia Baker’s presentation makes the point. But doesn’t the grass look wonderful!

Ms. Baker made it very clear the number of groups will be increasing per event and this condition of waiting to cross the street, taking refuge in the median, will continue until a permanent solution is found. She grimly pointed out:
It would take just one accident to sway convention planners to steer away from West Palm Beach for future events.
Baker was the strongest proponent of an overhead passageway across the corridor, or possibly even a tunnel. She did admit though, the tunnel alternative, would be a very expensive option but something has to be done. It would take just one accident. . .

Enjoy the video and please share with everyone who has an interest in this very timely topic: