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Altis, Moderne Boca, and the possibility of the Midtown project will no doubt increase congestion along Military Trail. With all of this new development, the city needs an effective pedestrian/bikeway plan to encourage residents to leave their cars behind to enjoy these close-by amenities. However, right now crossing Military Trail, as one resident put it at the recent Planning and Zoning meeting, “feels like playing frogger to get across the street safely”.
Sure, some of these development projects offer an opportunity for increased convenience to residents who are in walking or biking distance from these new areas. For example, Moderne Boca residents are next door to the Spanish River library and the restaurants at Shoppes at Blue Lake. Residents living in neighborhoods located near Yamato are now close enough to bike to the new Altis shopping center including the Fresh Market grocery store.
But the missing piece here is setting up a system for pedestrians to safely travel to these places without the fear of getting run over by a car whizzing by on heavily traveled roads in the area like Military Trail, Yamato Road, and Spanish River Boulevard.
City’s Track Record on Supporting Pedestrian-Friendly Ideas
The rate of development is superseding progress being made to ensure Boca is more pedestrian friendly. The city website states the following goals:
“The City of Boca Raton’s Bicycles/Pedestrians Program is designed to improve and enhance access to existing facilities and programs, and to increase the public awareness of bicyclists and other pedestrian users of pathways and roadways. The City is actively pursuing the improvement of the physical facilities that bicyclists and pedestrians now, and in the future, will utilize. The City is taking bold steps to provide safer road systems and sidewalks that will make Boca Raton truly “Bicycle and Pedestrian Friendly.” The concept of a comprehensive network that links and connects recreation facilities, environmentally sensitive lands, neighborhoods, work places and commercial areas will allow not only recreational use of these facilities, but will provide an alternative means of transportation for all of our residents. There are four basic facilities: bike lanes, shared-use paths, bike routes and sidewalks.”
However, at a recent City Council meeting regarding changes for the St. David Armenian Church on Yamato Road, several City Council members stated that they are interested in reducing the required width of the sidewalks along Yamato from 8 feet to 6 feet.
What is their reasoning? They claim the sidewalk is underutilized. How is that within the scope of their goal to make Boca more pedestrian friendly? They should be fighting to retain the current sidewalk requirements and following their plan to educate and incentivize residents to walk or bike more often. One good sign is that they did mention adding a bike lane to Yamato, but this should not be a reason to minimize the sidewalks, which are safer for families to travel on.
Pedestrian Concerns Raised About Midtown Project
A huge concern about the proposed Midtown project is how will this area be developed in a pedestrian-friendly way?
At the recent Planning and Zoning meeting on December 22, a resident from Paradise Palms talked about how challenging it is to cross Military Trail, so much so that during events the police are brought in to help pedestrians cross the street safely. Another resident mentioned how unwelcoming the sidewalks are along Military Trail, explaining that mothers find it dangerous to walk their baby stroller along the sidewalk even if they live in an adjacent neighborhood. Then another resident pointed out that we need wider sidewalks and crosswalks to make the area more pedestrian friendly. It was also mentioned that special barricades may need to be set up to provide a safer walking environment along Military.
Then there was the discussion about the building setbacks for this proposed mini-city. It is critical that the buildings are far enough away from Military Trail to ensure that pedestrians can get around safely, especially if they are trying to make this area a Planned Mobility Development zone. Yes, each developer will be required to address making the area in front of their project pedestrian friendly, but that leaves out the remaining sidewalk. Who will ensure a seamless pedestrian-friendly sidewalk throughout this area?
Proponents are trying to build up the area to connect buildings on the east side of Military to those on the west side, but if pedestrians are currently scared to walk along the sidewalk and to cross this busy road, how will more buildings and more traffic ease their concerns? Having a shuttle sounds helpful, but it doesn’t solve the entire problem. We need to drastically improve walkability before additional development is approved.
What Needs To Be Done By The City’s Leadership
Some important steps can be taken to address these concerns.
- Get innovative. It’s time to set up a creative, effective pedestrian plan in the western part of Boca to encourage residents to take advantage of the opportunity to walk or bike instead of always sitting in traffic. There are numerous examples in other towns to look to for creative ideas, including raised crosswalks, better technology for crosswalk signs, and manipulating the traffic signals to provide more time for pedestrians to cross the street safely. Why not consider a pedestrian bridge or tunnel?
- Educate. Now is the time for the city leadership to better inform the public about the opportunities for walking and biking around town. This can be down through social media and at the numerous city-sponsored events.
- Incentivize. The city could be forming public-private partnerships with local businesses to award their staff for walking or biking to work. There is a huge opportunity for those living and working along Military Trail to take advantage of such an incentive programs like National Bike Month. Or what if stores and restaurants offered a coupon or contest for those customers who choose to walk or bike?
Voice Your Concerns
- The Citizen’s Pedestrian and Bikeway Advisory Board is expected to be posting a public survey for both bike and pedestrian users. Please look out for it. We will share it with you as soon as it is made available.
- Attend upcoming meetings addressing the Midtown project and other projects impacting pedestrians.
- Contact the following representatives with your questions, ideas, and concerns:
Members of the Planning & Zoning Board:
William Fairman, Chair – WFairman@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Arnold Sevell, Vice Chair – ASevell@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Rick Coffin, Secretary – RCoffin@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Larry Cellon, Board Member – email@example.com
Glenn Gromann, Board Member – GGromann@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Kerry Koen, Board Member – KKoen@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Janice Rustin, Board Member – firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Susan Haynie – email@example.com
Deputy Mayor Mike Mullaugh – firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilman Mayor Robert Weinroth – email@example.com
CRA Chair/Councilman Scott Singer – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeremy Rodgers – email@example.com
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I strongly agree with you on the need to make this part of Boca more pedestrian friendly. Let get creative and not fall for the easy way out.
Time for the installation of vehicular and pedestrian traffic control devices at closer intervals, the designation of crosswalks at these intersections, and the seriousenforcement of local speed laws.
I don’t know one “Boca person” that would get on a shuttle to go to a shop or store. Delray Beach has a shutle, and the only people that ride it are the ones that cant afford their own car, and we all know that “Boca people” can not only afford their own car but a Mercedes at that.
Further more when I think of the type of people who like to bike or walk to a store or grocery market, I don’t think the area’s mentioned in your article even appeal to them from a real estate perspective. I could see them choosing to live in an already established pedestrian friendly neighborhood, not Military Trail whose speed limit is 45 and people do 50-55.
I think at a certain point you just have to accept that these areas are never going to be “super” pedestrian friendly no matter what you do to them. You can’t have your cake and eat it to.
Actually, there is no need to get creative and innovative. Just look at the ideas from strongtowns.org. Look at historical centers of European cities-they are pedestrian friendly because they don’t have 40-50 mph speed limits within city limits. Or even Boca downtown with a 30mph speed limit. There is no way Military, Palmetto west of downtown and Glades will ever be pedestrian friendly with the current speed limits, they are not streets, but roads. Simply walking and carrying out a conversation is difficult because of noise from traffic.The speed limit has to be reduced, lanes narrowed, and on street parking available for the street to become pedestrian friendly. It is not critical for buildings to be set back far, but on the contrary, buildings have to be set close to the street, like on Palmetto/Federal (kind of pedestrian friendly) otherwise it’s a conventional suburban plaza/huge parking lot situation. Military trail is a highway running through the city and pedestrian bridges or tunnels won’t help because people don’t want to go underground and would instead cross the street illegally, plus it’s discriminatory towards disabled. Such major redesigns will simply not happen, the suburbia does not allow for easy retrofitting. Look, they cannot turn the lights on Palmetto park rd at night west of rail crossing and east of Palmetto/Military intersection (I contacted city, county and state), and we are talking pedestrian friendly here.
An excellent and timely piece. Alternative transportation, including bicycle and pedestrian friendly infrastructure should be a key issue for the March 14th municipal elections. Alleviating congestion requires vision, planning, and strong leadership. If you agree that this is an important issue, please reach out to our elected officials and voice your opinion!
I’m new to receiving your emails and it’s a bit difficult to follow some of the issues without context. The Midtown proposal sounds worthy of examination but I don’t where or what it is. Perhaps a link to pages explaining each issue would help.
Jack, Thank you for your comment. The term mid-town refers to an area of the city that is now specifically defined by developer organization headed by Tom Crocker. Mr.Crocker is the original developer of Mizner Park and Boca Center. The newly defined mid-town areas encompasses approximately 45 acres and is bordered by Glades Rd to the North, St Andrews Blvd to the West, I-95 to the East and a canal network to the South. It includes both Town Center and Boca Center.
The developer is in the process of requesting a new zoning category within the city to ultimately obtain greater building density for the area.
Thank you for clarifying where midtown is located as that is the most congested area of the city. There should be not development approvals that adds a single trip to Glades Rd in this area. Any councilman that votes for this is only thinking about how to support developers at the expense of residents.
Is this project adding homes as well? If so,which schools will be impacted? Many residents are upset with all the boundary changes at this time.
Also, when will the Downtowner be back in service? I can see people using the Downtowner around this new project. Great way to avoid parking nightmare. But trust me, no one is walking.
One of the issues of concern for residents, regarding Midtown, is the request by the developer to increase the allowable building density in the area. Currently the subject area is approved to develop 1,250 residential units. The developer is seeking to double that amount to 2,500 units. These approvals are the type of variance from code that create a cumulative negative effect throughout the city. This manifests itself in excess traffic on our roads. BocaWatch is not aware of which schools are impacted.
The Downtowner has withdrawn from the City of Boca. Their current business model in other cities is supported partially by subsidy funding from the those cities. Boca, thus far, has not chosen to provide a subsidy.