Friday, October 21, 2011

FDOT Hits Home Run with New District Secretary Hattaway

WMFE-FM's Mark Simpson filed a news story on PBS's Transportation Nation at THIS LINK about the Florida Department of Transportation's selection of Billy Hattaway as its new District 1 Secretary.  District 1 covers the State's sprawling southwest corner, from Winter Haven to Naples. 

Billy is a leading engineer, an avid bicyclist, and a nationally-known authority on Complete Streets.  Given the large number of retirees in southwest Florida who will need safer and more accessible thoroughfares when their driving days end, FDOT Secretary Prasad could not have made a more outstanding appointment.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bike Trails Pump $42 Million Into Orange County's Economy Annually

Here's a LINK to an economic analysis conducted by the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council finding that Orange County's bike trails pump more than $42 million annually into the local economy.  Downtown Winter Garden's economic renaissance--prompted in large part by the West Orange Trail--should give pause to those who would strip the minimal funding provided for such trails.

Sixty-seven percent of Downtown Winter Garden businesses reported increased sales and revenues from the West Orange Trail.
The Atlantic Cities posted an article looking at the same issue at THIS LINK.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fed. Highway Admin. Backing Roundabouts

FDOT Pursuing Roundabouts on U.S. 41 in Sarasota

The Federal Highway Administration extolls the virtues of modern roundabouts, including on State highways, in the following video.  When conventional intersections become roundabouts, injury and death rates plummet.  The traffic flow benefits of roundabouts--in addition to long-term taxpayer savings--are indisputable. 

Roundabouts Slated for U.S. Highway 41

Hooray for the Florida Department of Transportation, which is pursuing roundabouts on U.S. 41 in Sarasota at 10th and 14th Streets.  This tremendous news should raise hope for municipalities around the State--including Maitland--desiring more pedestrian-friendly business districts. Every local government--and the Florida Department of Transportation--should conduct a conceptual roundabout study before adding lanes or converting an intersection with stop signs into a lighted intersection.  Metropolitan Planning Organizations should add roundabouts to their lists of desired transportation improvements.  Click HERE for a news article about long-range plans for U.S. 41. 

Here's a video from FDOT's September 22 Community Meeting:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rural Highway Undermines Horizon West "Pedestrian Oriented" Policies

County Road 535--a four lane divided rural highway--severs the connection between thousands of homes and Sunset Park Elementary School.  Reduction of the posted speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph has had inadequate effect because the County engineered C.R. 535 for comfortable interstate highway speeds.  Nothing controls motorist speed more so than thoroughfare design. 

Horizon West architect Tory Parish has posted a report about the intersection of C.R. 535 and Overstreet, where numerous children cross to walk to school.  You can find a link to her report HERE

Crossing guard at C.R. 535 and Overstreet helping a bicyclist across eight lanes of traffic, including turn lanes, engineered to interstate highway specifications. 
We've lost the art of changing thoroughfare design based on the context.  The County should have designed C.R. 535 as a rural highway that changed into an urban boulevard or thoroughfare north of Reams Road.  Condominium and apartment residents will need to get into their cars to cross the street in order to shop and dine.  Reality on the ground is inconsistent with County policies to make Horizon West "pedestrian-oriented."

Long-term, in accordance with the County's road maintenance schedule, the County should look to reconstruct the quarter-mile of C.R. 535 north and south of the Overstreet intersection to make it safer for the kids who walk and bike to school.  Remove the massive shoulders.  Plant trees.  Narrow the lanes from 12 to 10 feet.  Install urban curbs.  An appropriate design goal would reduce the comfortable driving speed in this segment to 35 mph.  You'll find more thoughts in Tory Parish's report.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Forbes Names Celebration one of America's "Prettiest Neighborhoods"

Water Street in Celebration.  Photo courtesy of John Von Fossen. 
Here's the LINK to a Forbes article and another LINK to an accompanying photo essay naming Celebration one of America's "prettiest neighborhoods."   It's well-deserved recognition.  Local governments ought to make New Urbanist communities, like Celebration, Central Florida's default pattern for new development.   But in many instances, we make it illegal.  For example, in Orange County, there's no incentive to emulate the Water Street canal, depicted above, because water retention must be at least 100 feet in width, a well-known engineer told me. 

Market Street, Celebration, Florida
 The building setbacks on Market Street would violate the Orange County Zoning Code.  The FDOT's Florida Green Book and Orange County's excessive off-street parking requirements discourage on-street parking.  The condominiums above retail would violate the prohibition of the mixing of uses.

Market Street.
Instead of requiring environments like that depicted above, our local codes make sprawl the default development pattern.  Sprawl is not a free-market outcome, but the result of onerous on-site parking requirements, setback requirements, open-space requirements, floor area ratios that discourage multi-story buildings, use separation, dumbed-down thoroughfare classifications, the discouragement of gridded street networks in the Florida Green Book, ever-widening thoroughfares that turn walking and biking into deadly pursuits, and a lack of regulation over the form of development. 

Celebration reminds us how to do it right.