Friday, December 12, 2014

Overestimating Traffic Generation

Angie Schmidt compiles a number of sources calling into question the traffic generation predictions relied on by local governments.  Link to:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Declining Brick and Mortar Retail Sales on Black Friday a Reason to Revisit Parking Regulations

Brick and mortar retail sales were down 7 percent on Black Friday last week, as shoppers continue the move to online purchases. Story at:  Foot traffic last year was half of what retailers experienced in 2000, even as the economy recovered. Link to:

Parking regulations for retail are based on parking demand on Black Friday and the weekends before Christmas.  As retail continues its shift to the internet, the Instititute for Transportation Engineers--whose parking demand standards are adopted by local governments nationwide--ought to revisit its demand data.  Some are even making a pastime of photographing mostly empty parking lots on Black Friday.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Imagine Winter Park

For my thoughts on the City of Winter Park, please go to and click "like" at "Imagine Winter Park."  Link to:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ravaudage Billboards Coming Down...hopefully

The City of Winter Park has on its October 27 Agenda a Settlement Agreement that, if approved, would eliminate the out-of-scale, and out-of-context billboards on the Ravaudage property, including the unsightly one at Lee Road and 17-92.  In exchange, static billboards would become digital (and more lucrative) along I-4 and a new digital billboard would be erected on Lee Road west of Ravaudage.  At first glance, it looks like a win-win for all the parties.  Here is a LINK to the Agreement.

UPDATE: The City Commission approved of the agreement.  One of the billboards on 17-92 has been removed.  W're awaiting on removal of the billboard at 17-92 and Lee Road.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Complete Streets Policy Celebration Premature

FDOT can adopt a new Complete Streets policy.  Orange County can adopt a transit oriented development overlay district.  Yet we can still end up with 12 foot outside lanes--as wide as those on an interstate highway. 

Here are the existing conditions on Orange Avenue in the vicinity of the Sand Lake SunRail station:

Notice the ten foot lanes and existing paved surface of 58 feet for a pedestrian to cross.  Orange County designated this a Transit Oriented Development overlay district by an adopted ordinance--Section 38-1085 of the County Code.  The Code envisions a more urban environment and states, "The intent of the TOD overlay zone is to...promote lively, pedestrian-friendly development that will serve as an attractive place to live, work, shop and recreate."  It further states, "Street patterns should be developed to simplify access for all modes of transportation and should be designed to serve vehicular traffic as well as pedestrians, bicyclists and transit customers." 
Let's see if the re-design alternatives FDOT and Orang County are considering would "simply access" for pedestrians:

The option above is a typical Orange County "improvement": add a large median (so trucks don't encroach both lanes when making a U-turn) and increase the lane width from 10 feet to 11 and 12 feet.  Total pedestrian crossing distance will have increased 20% to 72 feet.  Motorist speeds will have increased about 10 miles per hour.   For comparison, Fairbanks Avenue next to Rollins College, also on the state highway system, has 10 foot lanes.  The narrower lanes handle truck and Metro bus traffic just fine and yet keep motorist speeds relatively tame and narrow crossing distances for students. 

This next option above would create Central Florida's first "buffered bike lane."  Notice how the sidewalk is wider and more inviting.  However, now we've increased the median to 22 feet.  The pedestrian crossing distance has increased to about 86 feet--about a third wider than existing conditions. 

The option above may be the most interesting by including on-street parking--a rarity on the state highway system.  Parked cars tend to slow motorists, but that's not the goal here, with the wide lanes and median.  NOTE to FDOT: The buffer between the parked cars and bicycle lanes is insufficient to protect bicyclists from doors flinging open. 

If the County is serious about encouraging transit oriented development in the vicinity of the SunRail station--and if FDOT is serious about its new Complete Streets policy--then the wide lanes and huge median do not belong here.   The goal should be to slow motorist traffic, not speed it up. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why Subsidizing Big Box Retail Is Economically Irrational

Here's a LINK to an article in Salon magazine about the resurgence of downtown Asheville, North Carolina.  We stayed in downtown Asheville with the kids last winter and found a thriving little City with great restaurants and night life.  The article explains the math, comparing tax revenue from the City's Wal-Mart to more appropriate downtown development on a per acre basis.

Downtown Asheville, NC - The buildings close to the street generate substantially more tax revenue than the suburban-form businesses, including those that tear into the urban fabric, on a per acre basis. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Earthquake at FDOT

The Florida Department of Transportation's Executive Board approved a Complete Streets policy. The policy requires the agency to "routinely plan, design, construct, reconstruct and operate a context-sensitive system of 'Complete Streets'" serving "the transportation needs of transportation system users of all ages and abilities...."  The policy calls for integration of Complete Streets into FDOT's "internal manuals, guidelines and related documents governing the planning, design, construction and operation of transportation facilities."  Critically, the policy recognizes that Complete Streets "require transportation system design that considers local land development patterns and built form."    

Click to enlarge
This new policy is nothing less than an earthquake at FDOT.  The days of replicating the same highway system standards--4 or 6 lanes of 45 mph posted high speed traffic--without regard to the surrounding development (including dense urban business districts, houses, elementary schools, etc.) are hopefully ending.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Over-the-Rhine's Amazing Revitalization

Revitalized city block in Over-the-Rhine

When I grew-up in Cincinnati, Over-the-Rhine had become the epitome of inner city decay and disinvestment.  Michael Douglas's movie, "Traffic," captured its reputation as a horrid inner city neighborhood, where his teenage daughter becomes a prostitute to pay for her drug addiction.  John Norquist, past president of the Congress for the New Urbanism, once noted to me that Over-the-Rhine's troubles began in the 1950's, when Cincinnati began ripping out its streetcar lines.

The City has reinstalled modern streetcar lines, with service expected to begin in a year.  A non-profit development company, 3CDC, strategically invests in buying and revitalizing old buildings, now the sites of thriving businesses, apartments, and condominiums.   Washington Park, once a home to the homeless, now attracts families with children from throughout the region. 

My Dad took me on a tour of Over-the-Rhine over the Labor Day weekend.  The transformation from conditions that existed during my childhood is amazing.  When Graeter's Ice Cream, a Cincinnati institution, opens a location in Over-the-Rhine, something profound is occurring. 

If Over-the-Rhine can revitalize, so, too, can Paramore in Orlando or any other inner city neighborhood stricken with disinvestment.  Seeing is believing.  Cincinnati's strategy warrants copying. 

Graeter's Ice Cream parlor in Over-the-Rhine.  Non-profit developer, 3CDC, is rehabilitating the adjacent building.  

Washington Park, in front of Cincinnati's historic Music Hall. 

Another building undergoing revitalization by the non-profit developer, 3CDC, in front of the Cincinnati Streetcar line.  The line's permanence is hastening the area's improvements.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Voodoo Science of Parking

Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab quoted me in her column last weekend, "Square footage is actually a very poor determinant of parking demand."  I gave Beth an example from Donald Shoup's High Cost of Free Parking, criticizing the Institute of Transportation Engineers' parking demand manual for fast food restaurants with drive-throughs:  

Each dot on the matrix shows peak parking demand in relation to the gross square footage of the restaurant, according to various studies.  Two restaurants, only 2,500 square feet in size, created demand for 42 and 43 parking spaces.  Yet another restaurant, 5,500 square feet—more than twice their size—created peak demand for only 20 parking spaces.  In other words, square footage poorly predicts parking demand.  ITE even acknowledged this with its disclaimer, “Caution – Use Carefully -- Low R2.”  However, ITE also drew a line on the matrix (a “fitted curve”), recommending that 2,500 square foot restaurants have no fewer than 24 parking spaces.  The line gives the illusion of scientific precision when, in fact, there’s none.  (If the studies showed reasonable predictability, the dots would congregate much, much closer to the line.)  Cities and counties adopt what’s recommended on the line into their codes.  

That’s why I call this, “The Voodoo Science of Parking.”

Strip shopping center at Pine Hills Rd. and Silver Star.
Another example where our codes poorly predict parking demand--but create sprawl.  

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lessons from Buenos Aires

Streetfilms posted a superb video about changes in Buenos Aires, one of the world's great cities, including a new BRT line through 9th of July Avenue (constructed in only six months), the expansion of cycle tracks (called "ciclovias"), a new pedestrian-only street, and bike share:

I visit Buenos Aires about once every couple of years and will look forward to seeing these improvements first-hand.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Petition for SunRail Weekend and Night Service Strong out of the Gate

In the span of a day, more than 750 people signed an online petition to add SunRail service on weekends and later at night.  You can sign the petition at:  (UPDATE -- 7/21/14 -- More than 1,700 have signed the Petition and Mayor Jacobs has begun dialogue on expanding service.)

I added a comment that SunRail is bringing hundreds to Winter Park and that weekend and late night trains would bring even more.  Here are photos of crowds heading to and leaving from Park Avenue businesses on a recent Friday:

The Orlando Sentinel reported that Rep. John Mica (R-FL) is attempting to secure $25 million worth of self-propelled trains, on loan to Tri-Rail in South Florida, in order to expand SunRail service. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vehicle Miles Traveled Still Down

You can find an interesting set of charts analyzing vehicle miles traveled based on United States Government data, through April 2014, at:

Overall miles driven remain at 2004 levels.  (I can't recall any traffic study correctly projecting this declining and stagnating reality during the years I sat on the Orange County Planning and Zoning Board). Vehicle miles traveled based on population growth, shown in the chart above, are the same as they were almost 20 years ago.  

Here's the relationship to gasoline prices:

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Winter Park's Aggressive Tree Chopping

My street, Carollee Lane, has lost two impressive canopy trees lining the street in the last year--not to storms or disease, but to the City's aggressive campaign to remove trees ostensibly near the end of their natural lives.

I'm not convinced the trees were dying or posed an inordinate risk to property.  (UPDATE: 7/21/14--The City was convinced).  Limbs weakened from age or rot can and should be removed before removing an entire tree. 

Any number of contractors, out to make several thousand dollars, will tell you a tree "should be removed."  The question is whether the City's arborist made that determination and whether it was a sound one. 

The most recent tree removed had an apparently healthy trunk--not one hollowed out by age or riddled with disease.  The foliage was still lush. (UPDATE: 7/21/14--As to the tree below, the property owner said a recent storm downed half of the tree.  He supported the tree's removal and said the City will plant new live oaks.  As to the other tree, I'm informed there was visible rot hollowing the trunk, although the property owner isn't happy about the tree's removal.  Yet another neighbor informed me that branches and trees downed in storms have damaged parked cars, nearly hit walkers, and, during the 2004 hurricanes, uprooted water pipes.)   

The stump disrupting Carollee Lane's tree canopy.   

This scene has repeated, more recently, on North Park Avenue near Pennsylvania Avenue and on Webster next to the golf course.  

More communication with citizens as to which trees require removal and why is in order.  

Carollee Lane -- before removal of the tree on the right.  What a loss.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Childhood Obesity Costing Tens of Billions

An article at cites two studies with sobering news about the prevalence and cost associated with childhood obesity:
"Nationally representative data do not show any significant changes in obesity prevalence in the most recently available years ... unfortunately, there is an upward trend of more severe forms of obesity, and further investigations into the causes of and solutions to this problem are needed," Skinner and co-author Joseph Skelton, MD, of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., said. 
The analysis was one of two studies examining pediatric obesity published this week. A second study in the May Pediatrics suggested that, over the course of a lifetime, higher medical costs associated with childhood obesity average about $19,000 per person, and extra costs average about $12,900 per person when normal-weight children become overweight or obese during adulthood. 
"To put these findings in perspective, multiplying the lifetime medical cost estimate of $19,000 times the number of obese 10-year-olds today generates a total direct medical cost of obesity of roughly $14 billion for this age alone," wrote Eric Andrew Finkelstein, PhD, from the Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University, and colleagues.
Extrapolating the $14 billion cost of higher medical costs associated with obese 10-year-olds over their lifetimes to other age groups results in an even more staggering figure.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Municipalities Can Adopt 20 mph Speed Zones

Florida Statutes sec. 316.189 states, "With respect to residence districts, a municipality may set a maximum speed limit of 20 or 25 miles per hour on local streets and highways after an investigation determines such a limit is reasonable.  It shall not be necessary to conduct a separate investigation for each residence district."

Around the world, cities are lowering speed limits to 20 mph for greater safety.

If those living on a residential street want a 20 mph limit, municipalities should accommodate the request.   The Florida legislature should amend the statute to include counties.

Massengale and Dover on "Great Streets"

Below you'll find a video of John Massengale and Victor Dover's "Great Streets" lecture at the Congress for the New Urbansim in Buffalo last month.  It's more than an hour long, but worth viewing for the wonderful examples from around the world, many of which Victor presented at Rollins College a few months ago:

Friday, June 13, 2014

Convert One-Way Streets to Two-Ways

Here's a LINK to a story about a study of streets in Louisville converted from one-way to two ways.  An excerpt:
While Louisville experienced a five percent jump in crime during the post-conversion study period (2011 to 2013) as well as the period before conversion (2008 to 2010), a disproportionate amount of crime occurred on multi-lane one-way streets (according to police records). Yet nearly three years after the conversions took place, crime dropped a jaw dropping 23 percent on the converted streets. Auto theft alone has decreased by almost a third on the converted streets, even as it climbed by 36 percent on the nearby one-way streets. At the same time, there was a 42-percent reduction in robberies on the converted streets.
Some of the best returns on real estate investment in Louisville are now found on these formerly fast and furious streets. Property values have increased on two-way streets while nearby one-way streets have declined. The now two-way Brook Street has seen a 39 percent increase in property values after conversion, according to records from the Property Valuation Administration.
Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando could see a resurgence of retail if the City were to convert it from one-way to two-ways.  As a pilot project, the City should at least consider such a conversion north of Colonial Drive.  According to the Orlando Sentinel, a citizen volunteer task force advising City Hall said that
City officials should consider changing downtown's current one-way street network, which is designed to moved traffic in and out quickly but isn't so great for people who aren't in cars. 
Ridgewood Avenue, which connects North Park Avenue in Winter Park to Maitland, would become more desirable to home buyers if converted to two-ways.  I suspect the City made Ridgewood a one-way street heading north to reduce cut-through traffic from the Enzian theater and Park Maitland School.  However, a conversion to two-ways would slow-down cars as well as reduce unnecessary motor vehicle travel by residents, who often must "circle around" to get home. I also suspect property values would rise.  If presented with data from the Louisville study, I'm curious as to what the residents who live there would prefer.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Roundabouts: A Tool for Placemaking

Better Cities and Towns published a piece titled, "Roundabouts: A Tool for Placemaking," which City of Clearwater engineer Ken Sides and I co-wrote.  You can find it at this LINK.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Too Fat to Fight

Retired military generals, concerned about the impact of childhood obesity on military readiness, released a report titled, "Still Too Fat to Fight,"  available at this LINK.  BusinessWeek picked up the story at this LINK.  The report focuses on consumption of sugar-laden junk food by kids and teens, the fact that one out of five are ineligible to serve due to their weight, and the enormous cost of treating medical conditions of servicemen and their families linked to obesity.  A built environment that discourages walking and biking, contributing significantly to this epidemic, does indeed affect our national security.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sentinel op-ed on Cycle Tracks

Click to enlarge
Some vehicular cycling advocates criticized my support of traffic signals that prevent crashes by detecting and controlling the movements of motorists and bicyclists in a cycle track.  The critics, who oppose cycle tracks, contended that such signals cause motorist delay.  Ironically, vehicular cyclists often delay motorists by "taking the lane" in no-passing situations before "releasing" motorists trapped behind.  The concern about motorist delay--no doubt genuine--seems rather selective.

Here's an article about the signalized Dearborn cycle track:

Sunday, May 4, 2014

First Friday Night Run--SunRail Brings Hundreds to Park Avenue

Winter Park Station southbound platform at approximately 8:30 PM Friday night. 

We'll have a better sense of ridership after several weeks, but if SunRail's first Friday night run is any indication,  the commuter train will bring hundreds of people to Park Avenue's shops and restaurants.  

We caught the 8:36 PM southbound train, the last of the evening, at Winter Park Station and rode it roundtrip to Sand Lake Road, returning to Park Avenue more than an hour later.  The train was standing room only on the way south with a celebratory atmosphere.   At night, when visibility is limited, it's difficult to know when the train starts and stops, it's so smooth.  The train is nicer than the light rail that serves big cities such as New York, Chicago, or Washington by featuring tables, plush seating, and bathroom facilities.  A countdown clock to the next train arrival would be nice on the platforms. 

Both the northbound and southbound platforms were crowded with people returning home from Park Avenue. I would estimate that Park Avenue businesses had several hundred more patrons than otherwise Friday evening thanks to SunRail.

The only other rail stop with a meaningful crowd that boarded the train was Church Street Station.

Downtown Kissimmee--another destination--aims to benefit when SunRail expands in Phase II.  Mt. Dora would benefit, too, if the Orange Blossom Express becomes reality and so, too, would Downtown Winter Garden with a spur. 

The initial lack of weekend service has left many people dumbfounded.  But on Friday night, Metro Orlando seemed to take a huge step forward.  

     Northbound platform, Winter Park Station, at about 8:20 PM Friday night. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Vehicular Cycling and Cycle Tracks--Do it All

The Rise of Protected Bike Lanes in the U.S. from Green Lane Project on Vimeo.

Vehicular cycling is a technique in which the bicyclist behaves like a motor vehicle.  By riding more in the middle of motorist lanes, instead of off to the right, and following all traffic laws, the cyclist becomes predictable, more visible, and safer.  The excellent CycleSavy course, conceived locally and taught nationally, trains cyclists in this technique.  I invariably use these techniques when I ride.  I highly recommend those with an interest in cycling, or those who use a bicycle to commute, to take a CycleSavy course.  Go to for more information and great resources. 

Some proponents of vehicular cycling oppose cycle tracks, such as those featured in the video above and which I wrote about in an op-ed published in the Orlando Sentinel.   The concerns generally center around: (1) the potential of right-hook crashes caused by locating cyclists to the right of motorists; (2) the inability of motorists to see cyclists hidden behind parked cars framing a cycle track; and (3) that cycling infrastructure sends a message that cyclists do not belong on roads in general with rights commensurate with motorists.

The first two concerns are valid.  To prevent right hooks, cities must engineer solutions.  One is a separate traffic signal for bicycles, which enables cyclists to cross an intersection before motorists can turn.  

Another solution calls for "mixing zones" at intersections.  One such mixing zone is a green "bike box," which places cyclists in front of motorists.  Another technique, shown in the graphic below from the New York City Department of Transportation, is to gently merge motorists into a combined lane with cyclists.

Source: NY City DOT

The second concern, about the invisibility of cyclists behind parked cars, also valid, is ameliorated by prohibiting parked cars close to the intersection.  The National Association of City Transportation Officials recommends prohibiting parking within 30 feet of an intersection, where parked cars buffer the cycle track.  An engineer would increase this distance as warranted. 

As to the third concern, I am not persuaded that bike infrastructure sends a message that bikes do not belong elsewhere, where infrastructure is lacking.  Road context, created by high speed road design, is the key factor sending a message that bikes do not belong, despite laws to the contrary.  Many cyclists have experienced harassment on high and higher speed roads.  I doubt much harassment occurs on neighborhood streets and other low speed roads.  A motorist focuses on and responds to the immediate context, not to bicycling infrastructure seen elsewhere, perhaps miles away on another day.  A slow-moving cyclist when the road design is saying, "Go fast," is the motorist's immediate focus and the context of most harassment.  

Absent meaningful bicycling infrastructure, vehicular cycling is a critically useful technique.  There is no safer way of riding in traffic.  But only a small percentage of people who ride bicycles will overcome apprehension, or take a CycleSavy course.  I took the on-road portion of the CycleSavy course with an older lady named Sheila from Gainesville.  Despite the very kind, extra attention given to her by the CycleSavy instructors, she had a very, very difficult time. It just wasn't for her.  Sheila, however, would do very well on a cycle track.  If we want to encourage more people to ride bicycles, cycle tracks are proven to increase the number of cyclists and are indispensable.  

So do it all--cycle tracks and CycleSavy.  There is no "one size fits all" solution.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Economic Activity from New Winter Park Stadium Could Depend on Parking Garage Location

Proposed Harper-Shepherd Stadium, as obtained by the Winter Park Voice blog site.
UPDATE: 7 21 14 -- Rollins has decided against the Harper-Shepherd Stadium site.  This opens a door for Dan Bellows, developer of Ravaudage, and UP Development, developer of a new Whole Foods at 17-92 at Lee Road.)

The blogsite Winter Park Voice posted documents showing earnest negotiations between the City of Winter Park, Rollins College, and the Manatees minor league baseball team (currently located in Brevard County) over construction of a new minor league baseball stadium at Rollins College’s Harper-Shepherd Field.  A rendering of the proposed stadium shows classic architecture reminiscent of the Rollins College campus. Rollins would own, lease, and share the stadium.  

This information ought to somewhat ease the minds of Winter Park residents who were upset over the prospect of locating the stadium at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.  From a political standpoint, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park site is the least popular of four proposed locations because the City would give up recreation fields to private enterprise--one ball field for the stadium and the two remaining ball fields for parking.  Increased traffic would potentially create circumstances forestalling a much needed road diet on Denning, now a high speed barrier between residents and the park.

According to the City of Winter Park, the baseball team balked at the idea of locating on the Ravaudage site, also the most expensive option.  The developer wants $8 million in infrastructure work and an additional $3 million in cash. 

A site on the other side of 17-92 would be adjacent to a new Whole Foods strip shopping center, but little else.  The Manatees and Rollins College may not want to embroil themselves in the controversy of extending Lee Road to Denning Drive.  All traffic would concentrate on 17-92 and Lee Road, incredibly congested at rush hour.  The City characterized this site as the “most complicated” option due to the multiple parties involved.

Rollins College’s Shepherd Field is the most promising location because it is an existing baseball stadium.   Unlike the other sites, traffic would diffuse on three different roads--Denning, Fairbanks, and Orange Avenue.

The City should carefully consider where to build a parking garage, estimated to cost $6 million.  The Manatees want the parking garage next to the stadium.  However, a reasonable distance between the garage and stadium--so as to cause patrons to walk past numerous small businesses and restaurants on Orange Avenue--would generate far more economic activity before and after games.  (This is the same strategy Universal Orlando used for CitiWalk—by locating it between the parking garages and theme parks.)

Signage should steer motorists away from the residential neighborhood on the west side of Denning. 

Shepherd’s Field is located about three quarters of a mile from SunRail—a bit far for walking; however, for bicyclists, a proposed SunRail Trail could connect the Winter Park station to Shepherd Field and the Orlando Urban Trailhead at Mead Gardens. 

Shepherd’s Field has the best proximity to Rollins College, whose baseball team would play at  the stadium.  It is also the least costly option and, from what I can tell at this early stage, may be where the City is intent on bringing minor league baseball to Winter Park. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lynx is finally fixing its maps

                                                 Bus route maps posted--in Portland, OR. 

Lynx, Central Florida's bus transit agency, is finally updating and improving its maps to more resemble those posted at fixed rail transit stations.  The most important new map is one showing links to and from SunRail, which warrants posting at all SunRail stations.  Here's a LINK.

Lynx should also post the new route maps at Lynx Central Station and other principal bus stops.  Portland's Tri-Met does this. People will not board a bus without knowing where it goes.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

SunRail--Almost Ready

Crews were finishing the SunRail platforms at the Winter Park station weeks before passenger service begins.  

In only a month, Central Florida's commuter rail system, SunRail, begins a "soft opening," with free rides offered for two weeks beginning May 1.

The Winter Park station is particularly well-done. The northbound platform integrates seamlessly into Central Park.

SunRail northbound platform--integrated nicely into Central Park.
Soon enough, we'll know how many people will ride SunRail despite the ridiculous half-hour headways between trains, the two hour headways mid-day, and lack of night and weekend service.  Link to the schedule HERE.  If I have a hearing downtown that ends at 10:00 AM, I won't wait for a train at 11:15 AM to return to Winter Park.

SunRail needs 15 minute headways during peak hours, half-hour headways during non-peak hours, service until midnight and on weekends, as well as a connection on the OUC tracks to Orlando International Airport to become convenient mass transit.

SunRail test run along the Orlando Urban Trail.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Keep Partisan Politics Out of Local Government

Local government should not be about partisan politics.  As others have said, there isn't a Democratic or Republican way to fill a pothole.  Frank Torres posted a thoughtful analysis of how injecting partisan politics into the Orange County Mayoral race could backfire on the challenger, Ms. Demings, at this LINK.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Victor Dover at Rollins College: Raise the Bar on "Complete Streets"

Victor Dover lecturing on Street Design, the title of his new book, co-authored with architect John Massengale.
Veteran planner Victor Dover, whose redesign of Park Avenue in Winter Park in the late 1990’s made it one of Florida's greatest streets, lectured to about 150 students and visitors at Rollins College last night.  One reoccurring  theme was to "raise the bar on 'complete streets,'” the widely used term for streets designed for all users, whether motorists, pedestrians, or bicyclists. 

“A street is not complete unless it’s beautiful,” Dover insisted.

A case in point was the Okemos, Michigan roundabout, an over-engineered span of asphalt conveying a message of car space and not people space.  (Michael Wallwork, the engineer who originally designed the Okemos roundabout, told me that the City retained a subsequent engineer, who “blew-up” his design by adding unnecessary lanes and increasing the design speed.)  The Okemos--like the Horizon West roundabouts--was not properly engineered to target entry, circulating, and exit speeds to below 20 miles per hour--essential for pedestrian and bicyclist safety. 

“If we’re going to design a circle, make it a people place,” Dover suggested, showing a slide of the Seven Dials in London, England. 

Dover noted that he is ending New Urbanists' unofficial moratorium on showing images from Europe.  

Dover was promoting his new book, Street Design, co-authored with John Massengale.  He said they inserted voluminous, color photographs so that “an elected official can ask, why can’t we have a street like that?”  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott--A Welcome Turnaround

 Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) last week released the following proclamation for "Florida Bicycle Month":

Click to enlarge
Who'd have thought we'd see words like these from Governor Scott a year ago, when he was vetoing the Coast-to-Coast Trail?  The Governor's 2014 Budget contains tens of millions for advancing the project.   His  proclamation speaks of the Florida Department of Transportation elevating protection of vulnerable road users to "critical priority" status.  It's a very welcome turnaround.    

Thursday, February 13, 2014

City of Orlando: Don't Cave-in to Wawa

Mediocrity in Winter Park.  
Wawa is the latest chain assaulting Florida's built environment.  It doesn't have to be that way.  Several local governments asked Wawa to alter its standard suburban layout to an urban, "gas backwards" layout respecting the street.  Architecture, instead of gas pumps, would dominate the streetscape.  7-11 is using this urban friendly format in the City of Orlando--and they're getting tons of business.

Urban-friendly 7-11 at Fern Creek and Colonial in the City of Orlando.
However, Wawa  has obstinately refused to adopt the urban format, emboldened by the fact that, each time, the local government caves.

Orange County staff caved even though Wawa was proposing to put their suburban gasoline station in the Sand Lake Road SunRail TOD.  If Orange County staff won't take a stand to protect the urban integrity of an area slated for transit oriented development, where will they?

In exchange for some "architectural adjustments," the City of Bradenton, Florida caved, allowing Wawa to build a suburban layout in an area slated for intense urban development classified as Transect 5 (Urban Center) of the City's form-based code.  

Altamonte Spring requested an urban layout and then caved when Wawa refused.   

City of Winter Park staff requested an urban layout.  Wawa refused.  At least staff did the right thing and recommended denial.  You can read the Winter Park staff report HERE.  The City ultimately approved the suburban Wawa, pictured above, the layout punching a hole in an otherwise improving corridor.  

In the instances of Orange County, Altamonte Springs, and Winter Park, the local governments did not have codes requiring the urban gas station layout.  It's well-past time for all local governments to update their codes.  

The City of Orlando, which has done a good job over the years protecting and improving its "traditional city," is the latest dealing with Wawa's obstinate behavior.   Orlando--Please don't cave.  When they refuse flexibility, remind them they don't offer the most desirable form of economic development.  As one planner told me, when Wawa threatens to walk (as they did in each instance above), tell them not to let the door hit them on the way out.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Biking after the snow

Dearborn cycle track, in the heart of Chicago's Loop, on a cold Sunday morning, February 2, 2014.
I spent an early Sunday morning cycling through Chicago's loop on a DivyBike, the city's bikeshare system. As you can imagine, I dressed for warmth with temperatures in the teens.  I found the DivyBike system easy to use and the bike comfortable, its reasonably thick tires cutting through several slushy areas easily.  

A day after a snowstorm canceled 350 flights in and out of Chicago, the city kept the Dearborn cycle track (touted as "best in the country") sufficiently free of snow and ice, aside from a couple treacherous spots on the bridge over the Chicago River.  The city has a camera traffic detection system, which gave me priority over motorists to lessen conflicts.  Green bicycle signals allowed me to proceed straight before a red arrow changed to green for turning motorists.  

Within blocks, few driveways create conflict points, which the City painted green to alert both motorists and bicyclists.  At no point was I concerned about my visibility to motorists. Overall, it's a comfortable facility--despite the frigid air and snow.  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

How NYC Is Making Streets Safer

Link HERE and scroll the bar in the middle of the photos for "before and after" imagery of New York City pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure improvements.  Very well done.

Streetfilms has posted a New York City "before and after" video:

Florida cities and counties can apply the same methods in appropriate locations.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Close the Local Bike Trail Gaps, Too

Typical weekend morning--carrying bikes through a muddy, rocky gap in the Cross-Seminole Trail
Governor Scott's budget is calling for record levels of transportation funding--$8.8 billion.  Certainly a small portion can and should fund the closing of gaps in the Coast to Coast Trail through FDOT. Also important is to fund the closing of frustrating gaps in local bike trails.  The gap in the Cross-Seminole Trail, pictured above, is one example.  To its credit, Seminole County has put closing this gap on the front-burner, where it belongs (before some kid slips, falls, and  injures himself on the rocky path).

The extension of Orange County's Little Econ Greenway from Forsythe Road to the Cady Way Trail should not await funding of millions for a pedestrian bridge over Semoran Boulevard.  Cyclists can use the existing traffic light in the interim.  [UPDATE 1/22/2014--An Audubon Park Elementary School student is in critical condition after being struck in a crosswalk at or near this intersection in the last week. A Glenridge Middle School Student, also in a crosswalk, was killed at or near this intersection last Fall.  It's time to accelerate construction of the pedestrian bridge before another tragedy strikes.]  Completion of the Little Econ to Cady Way gap will provide a continuous bike trail and low traffic on-street route from downtown Orlando via the Orlando Urban Trail and Cady Way Trail to the University of Central Florida.  MetroPlan should add this gap to the appropriate 5 year funding budget.  

Completion of the Orlando Urban Trail to Church Street Station would be a welcome addition, but is awaiting funding for a multimillion dollar pedestrian bridge over Colonial Drive, which may take several years. UPDATE 3/7/14: The Bungalower has reported that FDOT included the construction money for the bridge for 2015/2016.

The cost of accomplishing all this would be miniscule compared to the overall $8.8 billion the State of Florida will spend if the legislature approves the Governor's 2014 funding request.