Saturday, November 10, 2007

More from the Veteran's Day Parade

Veteran's Day Parade

This is the first successful upload of a video. I took this with my digital camera as the batteries were wearing out and I think that affected the quality. We'll try again on some other subject matter. There was a good crowd out today and a nice showing in the parade. Lots of participation.


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Friday, November 9, 2007

A couple of other things that I'd like to mention...

Just following up from the last post, during the question and answer session following the presentation, the Mayor seemed very interested in the concept of establishing a shuttle along the Lake Worth Road corridor - between the beach and Palm Beach Community College. This would also take care of Lake Worth Towers and trips to the grocery, as well. The key point made by the group that came here was that the time between shuttles would have to be less than 10 minutes and it would have to be marketed well to capture the Community College traffic. These vehicles could use bio-diesel or hybrid technologies for less environmental impact. This idea was echoed by none other than Drew Martin at the last Commission meeting.

I really like the concept of bike lockers and a bicycle "fix-it" station as part of the transit oriented development - another one of the ideas brought forth. We could even have some downtown and at the beach. The bike locker pictured here is just one of the styles available. You can do a Google search to see the other varieties.

Look for more posts coming up that summarize other presentations made last Wednesday. It's been a while since we've had a "Truth Matters" show so look for one this coming Tuesday from 8 to 9 p.m. I will also be joining Jim Stafford for the "Live Show" on Lake Worth Talk next Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Summary Presentation - Rail-Volution Conference Lake Worth Tri-Rail Charette

These are selected slides from the presentation made in the Commission Chambers once the group completed their work during the day. I will also add some explanation to the various slides and amplify on the some of the highlights. Remember to click on the image for a more detailed view. Thanks go to Jeff Tumlin of Nelson/Nygaard for putting together this excellent presentation.

Jeff Tumlin made the point that the common thread for successful transit oriented development is pedestrian friendly design. That is, design the public space with shade trees, ample sidewalks, street furniture, appropriate scale lighting and interesting pedestrian level architecture. Through location within half a mile of transit facilities, you encourage regional connectivity without dependence on the automobile - for access to shopping and residential opportunities that might not have been as readily available in other locations. And by doing so, you create a new project that has additional value to the community - as well as a return on investment. The traditional parking lot next to the station is something to avoid as it does not add value in the same way as transit oriented development (TOD). Note that if you live within half a mile of a transit station, you are five times more likely to use transit than you are if you are outside that radius. More on that later.

The pie-charts above are interesting. They break down common household costs and separate "Location Efficient Environments" (another name for TODs) and "Auto Dependent Exurbs" (Wellington, Palm Beach Gardens, the Acreage, etc.). The red slice of the pie represents the portion of income devoted to transportation. Living in close proximity to transit and using it as a mode of transit reduces your cost of transportation significantly - leaving more disposable income or freeing up additional money for housing.

Transit oriented development employs a lower rate of required parking than traditional developments. The two slides above show the impact of the cost in providing parking for a variety of developments over a range of densities. You can see the impact of reduced parking requirements in terms of fixed costs that the revenue producing development must carry. It should also be noted that no where in the City is a density of over 40 units an acre allowed. So Lake Worth is clearly at the left side of the above graph.

In the State of Florida, we have state mandated concurrency which means that public facilities have to be in place at the time the impact of a project happens. Many public facilities are covered by this law, but the one that gets the most is transportation and traffic level of service. In each community's Comprehensive Plan, level of service standards are adopted. When a project comes through the development review process, it has to prove that its traffic impact does not exceed the adopted level of service standards. In Palm Beach County, traffic studies for development in municipalities is covered by the County's Traffic Performance Standards ordinance. The first and second bullet points above identify the need to adjust traffic generation figures as it applies to TOD project since they inherently generate less traffic than traditional auto-oriented development. The last bullet point deals with the need to look at level of service for all modes of transit- including buses, shuttle vehicles and bicycles in this sort of development scenario.

The above slide is particularly interesting. The red line represents the typical "park and ride" parking lot operation - much like we have now at the corner of Erie Street and Lake Worth Road. What is shows is that the lot fills up in the morning as people are parking to commute to work and remains full the rest of the day - essentially restricting the amount of parking available and passenger volume on the transit line is reduced because of this. Managed parking, the blue line, represents parking that is regulated through a pricing structure, a maximum length of stay provision or other method. It does a little better than the typical "park and ride" situation. However, look at the difference in the amount of parking available with a mix of uses (retail, office and residential) along with a managed system of parking - the green line - or the characteristics of a TOD project. Same size of parking facility, but a more efficient utilization over time and a more reliable generator of ridership for the transit system.

This is an aerial of the study area, with the half mile radius around the station shown by the red circle.
This is the "overlay" to the aerial showing the uses that are transit supportive and those that are not. Notice that all the areas indicated in black are not transit supportive. One universal recognition of the group was that I-95 is a tremendous visual and physical barrier. The gray areas were thought to be mildly transit supportive, but the low density of the current land uses within the Park of Commerce and the high school are not great source of transit demand. The lower density residential uses (light green) are somewhat supportive of transit. But the big contributor would be the downtown area and the multi-family zoned area north of Lake Worth Road - as well as Palm Beach Community College, but its impact is less since it is outside the half mile radius. Thus the need for a shuttle, which will come up later in the various comments from the study groups.

The following slides are comments from the four groups and each had a different take on the issues, but shared much in common as well. I think they speak for themselves. Remember you can see more detail by clicking on the image. You can even save it by right clicking on the image and then select save as, then choose an appropriate place on your hard drive to save it.

One of the concepts the Canadians present offered was that of "ECO-density". This is a whole movement that is being promoted by city of Vancouver, British Columbia. You can see mention of it under the comments offered by Group 2. I am preparing an upcoming post that will include some samples of information from Vancouver. There are a lot of things that we can capitalize on here, given their lead. And it happens to be consistent with my approach on redevelopment within Lake Worth. So look for more information on that soon. If you want to get a start on it, you can click here and that will take you to an informative .pdf booklet on the concept of eco-density.

Group 2 Comments

• Broader range of housing
opportunities to match
demographic changes

• “Eco Density”: Enough people
living close enough together to
reduce ecological footprint and
need to drive. Includes high
quality of life, local services within
walking distance

• “Invisible Density” – increase
housing without changing
neighborhood character:
Secondary units, smaller units,
better managed parking

(Note: For some reason the slide with the above information did not translate well to a jpeg format. If you would like a copy of the whole PowerPoint presentation, please e-mail me or we can meet up and I can let you download from a thumb-drive.)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Traffic is Up!

I thought that you'd be interested in seeing some statistics from this blog. The graphs below show the activity for the last 30 days (blue line), compared to the previous 30 days (green line). Note that there were 655 visits to this site over the past 30 days coming from 225 unique visitors.

The chart below shows the sources of traffic. Direct means that someone types in in the browser address window or has it as a bookmark. Search engines mean that they use a service like Google and type in "Wes Blackman" or "Lake Worth" in the search box. Referring sites mean that someone has a link on their site to this one. Almost 50% of the traffic here is direct traffic.

Below is a summary of the number of pages visitors look at while here. FYI: The most popular item of the blog is the "Beach" category. No surprise.

This is using the Google tracking software and web application. For some reason September numbers were unusually low and that was not reflected on my other tracking software. This month they seem to be more in sync.

Thanks for visiting and I hope what you find here is of interest.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

More from the meeting...

So, both of those items passed on second reading, so they will be on the ballot on January 29th. There was another item too that passed concerning residency requirements for the Police and Fire Chiefs. Commissioner Jennings brought up the prospect of merging operations with the County and wondered if it was wise to change our charter given that major structural change. She thought that the issue would be moot if the mergers/takeovers go through. By the way, I heard today that the County pulled out of the negotiations today related to pension costs. We may be hearing more on this shortly.

Another item that took up a lot of time concerned the day labor situation on Lake and Lucerne. Apparently the State weighed in and said that the City cannot have the signs and the cones there anymore. So, now fines will be levied on those that attempt to pick up the workers, but not the workers themselves. All this activity would be moved to the shuffleboard courts. Commissioner Jennings, who voted no and was the only one to do so, was concerned about liability and enforcement "if things got out of hand there" - meaning fights for work, etc. There was a renewed discussion regarding the need for a labor center and part of the motion, made by Commissioner Golden, included calling for a workshop to talk to all social service agencies that might have a role in addressing the situation.

That's when I left the meeting. I understand that the Tree Ordinance passed 3 - 2, with Commissioners Vespo and Lowe voting no. The FMPA matter was tabled and I am not sure if there was a date certain or not. Certainly, the City needs some expert advice in this area to help map a strategy so that the City is protected over the long haul in relation to it electric power producing capacity. It is obvious the many cooks have had their hand in the broth here on the City's part, but none have adequately asserted the City's interest. Hopefully, some delay here will be used to strengthen the City's position.

The other item of particular interest was the appeal of the Sunset decision. The Commission voted 3 - 2, with Commissioners Golden and Jennings dissenting, to appeal the ruling. This is a smart thing to do and it has ramifications for municipalities around the state. Basically, the judge is asking that the City determine the number of parcels are affected by the land use plan change (the challenge related to the zoning was denied since that is considered a development order). According to the law and the judge, anything affect 5 or less parcels cannot be overturned by referendum. Any land use plan change affecting 6 or more parcels can be. So, what is the difference between 5 and 6 - an arbitrary decision in my mind. It also means that municipalities, in order to preempt a referendum would have to determine how many parcels are affected at the time of a land use decision. There is no way to "scientifically" determine how many are affected and it would lead to long-winded and ultimately meaningless decisions regarding the number of parcels affected. Remember that this is part of a slippery slope leading to referendums for all comprehensive plan and land use changes that is the keystone of the Hometown Democracy movement.

FYI: The group that sued the City is using the services of the attorney that is behind that movement. Adhering to the judge's ruling would be a step in that direction.

One last note: It is disappointing that one side seems to be disproportionately represented at City Commission meetings.