Palm Beach Public Transit Analyst Warns: Don't Be Like Broward

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Jesse Bailey is a real estate analyst for a Palm Beach apartment company who also sits on the West Palm Beach Downtown Neighborhood Association and the city's Watershed Advisory Board. Since 2012, Bailey has also run the popular Walkable WPB blog, a site that discusses ways to improve transportation in Palm Beach County. There have been posts about crosswalk designs and explainers about street widths. Recently, there has been emphasis on “avoiding Browardization” — because Broward's transit system is notoriously awful, Bailey explains.  

“The commonly used term of ‘Browardization’ refers to this idea of really poor land-use planning that has consumed the area in a sprawling car-dependent pattern,” Bailey says. “I think a lot about what Palm Beach County needs to do differently and how to grow in a more sustainable way.”

In the past two months, Bailey has written two posts about this: “Message to Palm Beach: Avoiding Browardization” and “Bus system is integral to avoiding the fate of Broward County.”

Most people avoid taking the bus in Broward because a trip that takes 30 minutes by car can take two hours on the bus. People who do take the bus complain that the bus arrives infrequently and is rarely on time. This leaves riders waiting indefinitely in the rain or sweating on the side of the road.

(There are plans to remedy some of this, Broward County Transit Director Chris Walton explained to New Times in February, but the agency is short on funding. He hoped that county commissioners would agree to ask voters for a half-penny sales tax increase during this November's elections, but because there is disagreement on how such revenues would be spent, it's unlikely any such ballot language can be agreed-upon by a June deadline.)

As Palm Beach County grows and traffic congestion along with it, Bailey hopes that Palm Tran learns from Broward’s mistakes and plans a more efficient public transportation pattern.

“We need to build communities and neighborhoods that can capture more trips within them,” Bailey says. “New developments being built out west need to be built in a more urbanist style and compact, so more destinations are closer to people.”

Bailey reports that Palm Tran has discussed “re-envisioning the entire route of bus networks” in the county. And big changes are being made. Last October, Clinton Forbes took over as executive director of Palm Tran. He previously served as vice president of operations at the Central Ohio Transit Authority, which served 19 million rides a year. Palm Tran currently delivers 12 million rides.

One idea Bailey has posited on his blog is about Houston’s bus network. Without increasing funding, last year, Houston’s transit agency increased ridership by increasing the frequency of the most common routes and cutting less-popular routes.

Last week, renowned transit consultant Jarret Walker (who is also one of the lead designers of Houston’s bus plan) spoke to the Palm Tran board. Bailey attended as a member of the public. There, Walker explained how cities will be paralyzed from growth if single-occupancy vehicles are the only way to get around. Walker also stressed increasing ridership.

When it was over, Bailey commended Forbes and the entire Palm Tran board for hosting Walker’s lecture.

“I believe Palm Tran can become an integral part of our transportation mix in the county. Indeed, with the inevitable growth coming, it must, if we are to continue to grow while avoiding the fate of Broward County,” Bailey wrote on his blog after the event. “This was a courageous first step taken to move Palm Tran in a more productive direction.”

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