The Unpleasant Truth About Traffic in Boca

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In a recent article, the Sun Sentinel explored the pros and cons of Boca’s “new look.”   Numerous members of the City Council were interviewed, as were various development advocates, but although the headline touted “citizen concerns,” not one ordinary citizen or citizens’ group such as Boca Watch or BocaBeautiful.org was quoted.  Nor was there a single word about traffic. Not one word.

 

A $50,000 “traffic study” by Boca’s City Council has focused on the problems with one intersection, at Fifth and Palmetto, site of the enormously popular Trattoria Romana and the enormously controversial Wildflower development.   We learned that in preparation for its conclusions, the well-paid consultants counted cars in the month of September, which is like recording snowfall in July. A similar study of the gridlocked intersection at 5th Avenue and Federal Highway was conducted when the main destination there (Florida’s largest Publix) was closed for renovation. Even if they come up with a brilliant solution for Fifth and Palmetto, that will fix only a tiny piece of the problem.

 

The root of Boca’s coming traffic congestion crisis is this: too many residential and commercial units are being crammed into the one square mile “downtown” where there are only five main roads. The new plans for Royal Palm Place alone call for a 3000 car garage. If all the apartments, offices, retail establishments and hotels are completed, we estimate that there will be an additional ten thousand cars in and around the downtown area by 2018. And that’s just the people who live and work and want to park there.

 

The developers and their allies tell us that the infrastructure studies done over 20 years ago anticipated all of this, and that we have nothing to worry about. If you are experiencing slower commutes on Glades, Dixie, Federal, Palmetto or Camino, it is not because of the new residents of the downtown (they haven’t arrived yet), but because of the increased traffic caused by people passing through Boca. That’s people travelling from Delray to Pompano or Deerfield and back. Their solution? Maybe we need to build a bypass around Boca’s downtown! The Boca Beltway!

 

You’ll also hear lots of talk about how we don’t need to worry about cars because we are building a “pedestrian friendly” downtown. The assumption that people are joyously going to walk everywhere ignores both Boca’s demographics and the laws of human behavior. If everyone’s going to be on foot, why are the developers building all those parking spaces? To be used as auto storage units? Are people going to travel to and from the grocery store on trolleys or segways? And what about the people who come from out of the area to service all of our new downtown residents? Or the visitors who come and stay in all the new hotels? Perhaps downtown Boca will become the aerobic capital of the world.

 

There’s a much simpler solution to Boca’s coming traffic mess. Let’s pause new construction in the downtown—especially the massive Via Mizner Phases II and III—until we have done an area-wide traffic study, counting traffic in peak periods like February, and come up with a comprehensive plan to cope with the cars of the additional residents, commuters and tourists who will flock to Boca’s new urban mecca. Let’s put the horse before the cart for a change, or more specifically, lets make sure we have the roads before the cars arrive.

 

That’s what the Boca development debate should be all about. Not the paint job on the Mark or the number of Mizner turrets a developer can put on a concrete pile.

John C. Gore, President, BocaBeautiful.org

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John, President of BocaBeautiful.org is a 13-year Boca resident and lives in Downtown Boca. He is also Chairman and CEO of Political Solutions International LLC, a consulting firm which advises a wide range of clients on government relations organization, competence, issue management and strategy. Prior to his chairing Political Solutions International, Mr. Gore served from 1996-2002 as Group Vice President, Government and Public Affairs, for the British Petroleum Company in London. In that capacity Mr. Gore was responsible for BP’s government and public affairs activities in over 70 countries. He is a 1970 graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and attended Georgetown University Law School. He is married to the former Antonia Stepovich of Fairbanks, Alaska. His outside interests include golf, creative writing, and the arts.

2 COMMENTS

  1. No question that an accurate traffic study must include accurate traffic counts, reasonable assumptions and predictions of future traffic loading and is paramount in determining and assessing the traffic impacts by staff, the public, regulatory agencies, including but not limited to, the Florida Department of Transportation, Palm Beach County, Planning and Zoning, the CRA and City Council, of any particular development in the City
    .
    Assuming that valid traffic studies will be submitted in the future, what is to be concluded from these studies? How is it to be determined that the impacts are acceptable or not acceptable? That’s where the City’s Comprehensive plan comes into play. Florida State Statues requires each municipality to adopt in their comprehensive plans, minimum acceptable Levels of Services (LOS)for infrastructure (potable water, waste water, storm water, aquifer and solid waste),and numerous other elements such as housing, coastal management, parks and recreation, schools, conservation and last but not least, transportation. The transportation element of the city’s comprehensive plan can be found at http://www.ci.boca-raton.fl.us/pages/sites/default/files/Uploaded_PDF/TRANAdoption_0.pdf.

    Proposed projects are checked to determine if the minimum adopted LOS for all the elements are available as part of a required “Concurrency Compliance” evaluation. If the impacts of the develop causes the element(s) to drop below the adopted LOS, the city cannot issue the development order unless the developer mitigates the impacts or the city amends it’s comprehensive plan, subject to the approval of the state. The comprehensive plan and subsequent concurrency compliance check is an object methodology for insuring proper growth management.

    What should be questioned is the City’s adopted LOS for traffic. Is a LOS of E still acceptable to the user Was it ever acceptable when first adopted in the early 80,s? Does the user know the difference between a LOS values of A thru F? Some communities in the city reject any roadway widening in their area and are willing to live with a LOS of F. An accurate and acceptable traffic study will assist in determining concurrency of the adopted LOS but is that LOS something the user finds acceptable and can we afford the monetary cost for improvements if it isn’t acceptable?

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