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.