Saturday, November 17, 2018

From Drew Martin at the Sierra Club: East-west passenger rail in Palm Beach County and air-conditioned network of trolleys and platforms.

Passenger rail, the planning and construction of modern and convenient east-west transportation in PBC takes on all new significance coming on the heels of the exciting news yesterday about Brightline and Richard Branson, as reported by business journalist Jeff Ostrowski at The Palm Beach Post:

Brightline and Virgin Group said Friday [Nov. 16th] they will form a “strategic partnership” that includes a name change for the private rail service between West Palm Beach and Miami.

Brightline will rename itself Virgin Trains USA this month and adopt the Virgin Trains USA branding in 2019.

Let’t take a look back. An exciting and provocative idea: East-west rail in South Florida.

Imagine if you could take high-speed rail to West Palm Beach and then the trolley to Wellington? No traffic. No worries. And fast.

Drew Martin presented his ideas (see below) about improving passenger rail in Palm Beach County at the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC) meetings in October 2016 and in June 2017. Learn more about that below. Mr. Martin is the media/press spokesman for the Loxahatchee Sierra Club and he can be contacted by clicking on this link.

[Take Note: The next TCRPC meeting is on December 14th. In the meantime the public is awaiting the minutes from the meetings held on September 21st and the one on October 12th: “Joint Meeting with the South Florida Regional Planning Council in Broward County”.

Hopefully those minutes will be available soon. Do you know who represents Palm Beach County on the TCRPC? To find out click on this link.]

Now to Mr. Martin and his ideas for improving
the passenger rail network in PBC:

It really came as a big surprise at first for many upon learning that Drew Martin is a supporter of expanding passenger rail service going east-west in PBC even though much of this construction could possibly impact environmentally-sensitive areas such as the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge, stormwater treatment areas and water sources such as Grassy Waters preserve.

But in the context of population growth, improving the environment, reducing greenhouse gases and making our transportation needs more sustainable, Mr. Martin’s idea makes perfect sense from the environmentalist perspective.

Mr. Martin brought up this idea at the TCRPC in June 2017. Read more about that below.

Another intriguing idea from Mr. Martin was providing air-conditioned bus stops and train platforms for the public to encourage more use of public transportation. Whether all that extra energy needed for air-conditioning provided mostly by FPL (generated by natural gas) would offset the use of gasoline and diesel fuel for passenger vehicles is something that will have to be studied, e.g., whether or not it’s carbon neutral and makes sense economically.

But on the topic of east-west passenger rail and public transportation it is worth noting that former Lake Worth commissioners Ryan Maier and Chris McVoy, PhD, two outspoken environmentalists in their own right and both of whom supported All Aboard Florida early on (later to become Brightline and the next phase of the project, the Coastal Link), it certainly makes sense that expanding passenger rail going east-west in this County is an idea worth considering.

From Mr. Martin about public transportation given at Public Comment at the TCRPC meeting in June 2017 on the topic of east-west transportation and commuter rail: 

“He [Drew Martin] stated he also attended the mobility conference in West Palm Beach and felt it was well done. He stated there was talk about public transportation and getting people out of their cars, but it was limited to I-95 and downtown West Palm Beach. He stated what we need to look at is some sort of trolley system that will run all the way out to the Village of Royal Palm Beach, because there really is no east/west public transportation. He also noted there was an interesting proposal to have air-conditioned train stations for the public to encourage more use of public transportation.”

And from a TCRPC meeting in October 2016 are these two excerpts:

He [Drew Martin] agreed it is not practical to always ride your bike or take transit in Florida, especially in summer, but until we get air conditioning at bus stops, it will be hard to get people to stand in the sun to wait for a bus. He said it is a good idea, but we would have to change how people live their lives.

and. . .

He stated he does not understand why people never turn off their cars. He stated he saw a woman yesterday park her car in the shade, leave the car running, and get out and smoke a cigarette. He suggested having the schools release the grades at different times. He said because everyone is released at the same time, there is gridlock anywhere near a school.

Do you like Drew Martin’s idea of air-conditioned bus stops and AC for passenger rail platforms? How about the idea of passenger rail going east-west in PBC?

Take some time and think about Martin’s idea of an east-west network of interconnected trolleys and how this could all fit in with Brightline passenger rail and the future project called the Coastal Link!

For example, you could get off a Coastal Link train in the City of Lake Worth and then take a trolley to Greenacres and then on to Wellington. Or. . .

  • Have a trolley connect Palm Beach Gardens to Westlake.
  • Connect West Palm Beach to Royal Palm Beach and Belle Glade.
  • Trolleys from Delray Beach to the US 27 Intermodal Corridor; then trains south to Miami or north to South Bay.

The ideas are limitless. Here is an environmental concern of Martin expressed in June 2017 at the TCRPC:

“He [Martin] indicated he attended an Oceans Forum presentation by the Nature Conservancy that showed the value of the reefs off Palm Beach County are particularly significant, because of their huge economic value. He noted another thing that is damaging the reefs is the use of sunscreen.”

Have yet to learn much more about the damaging effects of sunscreen on our reefs, but when that information becomes available will most certainly share the details and any alternatives to sunscreen available for local fans of our beaches and for visitors up north planning a vacation during the upcoming Fall/Winter Season later this year.

And maybe prior to considering Drew Martin’s idea of an east-west passenger rail trolley network. . .

. . . and maybe just slightly more important than the possible harmful effects of sunscreen came this information from the very same TCRPC meeting in June 2017 from Martin County Commissioner Doug Smith, news which came as a very big surprise for many of the public here in Palm Beach County:

“He [Commissioner Smith] stated one of the concerns is Palm Beach County getting their National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) accreditation, because the [Herbert Hoover] dike is not fixed.”

For more about the Herbert Hoover Dike and Lake Okeechobee click on this link to learn about what happened at the TCRPC meeting in July 2017.

For another interesting read click on this link for an article published in Risk & Insurance titled, “The Day the Dike Breaks” by reporter Dan Reynolds.