Friday, June 18, 2010

Broward 2035 Long Range Transport Plan

This was a presentation from the Broward County Metropolitan Planning Organization done at the Wilton Manors Town Hall on Tuesday night this week.

If you look at a map of the county, it is obvious that Broward County is built up.  The area that is not built up in the actual county is either water, the Everglades National Park, or the Seminole Reservations out in the middle of the state.  What we end up having when a new development goes up is that an old one needs to come down. 

All of these people need to go places and not everyone can or wants to live next to their office.  Investment in new roads is prohibitively expensive so the county will try to concentrate on creative use of existing infrastructure.  The plan is to create gateway hubs to get into the existing transportation system.  As people begin to use that transit system, the implication is that more links can and will be built where they are needed.
Money for transit and infrastructure comes from gas taxes and federal income taxes. 

The current thought is to put buses in their own dedicated lanes.  While I am strongly in favor of buses feeding rail links I am reading that last statement and seeing a contradiction.  The county has realized that it is "prohibitively expensive" to build and widen new roads.  If you widen the existing roads, you have to pay the property owners along the main streets for the land taken away.   It may even mean that businesses will end up closing, and it will end up being commercial and industrial properties that will bear the brunt of this decision since they are on the main feeder routes like SR 7/US 441 or Oakland Park Boulevard to name just two.  Assuming that everyone agrees and that the business owners will sell off their front parking lots so you can widen Oakland Park Boulevard with another lane, dedicated to buses only, you won't necessarily stop any more people from driving the road, although some may take the buses.  The dedicated lane implies that you can't drive on it if you're in a private vehicle, I assume except to turn at an intersection. 

Another option was that there would be the use of Rapid Buses where bus has control of stop lights on main routes.  This seems like a better option to me as the buses snarl traffic as it is.  The way it would be done is that the buses would have a MIRT system that trips the emergency responder sensor system at the intersection and counts down the light faster or immediately so that the green comes sooner.  The presenter admitted that the best place to be in that case would be behind the bus if the road is clogged.

The bus routes will feed East to West to Dixie Highway and the new FEC High Speed Rail corridor that is planned.  This makes a lot of sense, buses feeding the rail corridor so that people can take the train to the stop and hop on a shuttle to get to their office down the road.  The bus routes on Oakland Park Boulevard and State Route 7 carry 4 times more people currently than the number of people who use Tri Rail on average.  The traffic on those routes are the highest volume in the transit system.  Oakland Park Boulevard with 3.2 million dollars in improvements at Andrew, Dixie Highway and Federal Highway will recieve new transportation hubs where people can cross from one mode to the other - bus route to route or train to bus for example. 

Anyone who lives in Wilton Manors knows that we live in a walkable neighborhood.  Assuming that we don't get hit by a car crossing Wilton Drive, we can get to most places in the central business district without excessive auto use.  A statistic that was stated was that Wilton Manors has one of highest proportion of pedestrians in state.  Adding the FEC light rail commuter line will certainly add to that as well as enhancing and revitalizing the businesses on Dixie Highway.  It will give us more places to walk to and continue our conversion into a textbook model of New Urbanist excellence.

In planning the transit corridors, the most important principal was to protect neighborhoods and to use transit to enhance them.  This is intended to be a systemic, long term and holistic approach, where the planning will look at where people walk within five min walk radius.  The land use plan for Dixie Highway in Wilton Manors was one of first that the planners looked at.  The land use plan is intended to encourage transit use on the Dixie corridor and the FEC.  This is a different corridor than Tri Rail which seems to serve the businesses just off of I-95.  The strategies are intended to promote transit and pedestrian oriented development.

The closing comment was "Planning preceeds future investment".  If you lay out your plan correctly, people will find it makes sense to use the area.   You won't end up with a deserted Wilton Drive or have Dixie Highway as gloomy as it is now. 

If you build it, they will come.  We will have our own field of dreams if things work out right.  We who live in Wilton Manors know it is a special place, with links everywhere we need to go.  Hopefully with vision and a lot of hard work, we can make it even better.  Luckily the Broward MPO has realized the gem we have here and are willing to help.

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