Councilman Robert Weinroth On Traffic, Transportation

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By: Councilman Robert Weinroth Special to the Boca Newspaper
Several weeks ago the Sunday edition of the Sun Sentinel carried a front page headline screaming, “We’re Going to Make Them Suffer.” What an injustice to the majority of our elected officials and traffic engineers working to alleviate congestion on the roadways to give people using our highways the impression we’re just going to make them beg for a solution to gridlocked roadways.
To be frank, I found the comments attributed to Anne Castro, chair of the Broward County Planning Council to be offensive both as an elected member of the Boca Raton City Council and as a resident/commuter in South Florida.
The idea that Ms. Castro appears to believe that only the aversive consequences of more and more congestion will convince people, “to come out of their cars,” is a serious indictment of the way Broward appears to be dealing with traffic congestion.
Buried deep in the article it was noted that only one percent of the major roads in Palm Beach County are rated F (as compared to seven per cent in Broward County). When you realize Palm Beach County accommodates 7 million tourists a year (in addition to 1.5 million residents) it is clear Palm Beach County is not content to torture its residents to change driving habits.
Is there congestion? Of course there is. But, through the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization, state, county and municipal officials are collaborating to allocate available federal, state and county funding to make travel less stressful.
City of Boca Raton’s mayor, Susan Haynie, chairs the Palm Beach MPO and I also sit on this planning board with several County Commissioners and elected municipal leaders from throughout our county. A fundamental task of the Palm Beach MPO is to develop and approve a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for our region.
The TIP is developed through a continuing, cooperative, comprehensive and coordinated effort involving the Florida Department of Transportation, the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners, the Port of Palm Beach and South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (operating TriRail) to allocate available funding.
The biggest challenge facing South Florida is finding the funds to approve the identified infrastructure upgrades for our county as gas tax revenues continue to drop due to greater fuel efficiencies and vehicles operating on alternative fuels.
Autonomous vehicles, ride sharing and reliable public transportation will, likewise, change the dynamics of road usage in the near future and planning for those changes is already being done at the state and local levels.
Public transportation will also need to take a more dominant role in moving people. This will require the state and county to find additional funding to upgrade and enhance the schedules for buses and trains to attract more “choice” riders (those who can choose to use public transportation or a private automobile).
With 300,000 new residents arriving in Florida every year, it is imperative for transportation planners to remain nimble as they view the changing transportation dynamics.
One thing is clear; allowing the congestion to build to what is “normal” in many northern metropolitan areas is unacceptable. Urban planners are working to reduce the distance and duration of the commute by closing the distance between residential areas and employment centers. In the City of Boca Raton this is being done under a new zoning category called Planned Mobility.
Ultimately, it is anticipated the pressure on the major arterials will lessen as people have shorter commutes and those opting for public transportation will be able to rely on higher frequency of trips with first and last mile connections available.