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Commuters react to mobility study findings

Posted at 8:26 PM, May 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-02 20:26:37-04

Following a nearly year-long mobility study, the City of West Palm Beach said they now have a clear plan of making your commute easier.

But that might mean more people ditching their cars and instead turning to bikes, walking or public transit.

Click here to learn more about the results of the mobility study.

We sent NewsChannel 5's Alanna Quillen on the roads to discuss the future of West Palm Beach travel with commuters.

Kami Kreaps of Lake Worth needs her car to get to work every morning.

"If I decided to use a different mode of transportation, it would probably be a lifestyle change," she said.

She has no choice but to brave the dreadful traffic on Okeechobee, to get to her job in downtown. She starts her morning commute near Military Trail and usually takes I-95, which she says gives her less trouble than downtown traffic.

"My least favorite part of my commute is probably how long it takes for me to get to work from where I live," she said.

It's not easy. It takes up to 30 minutes to travel just eight to ten miles and the worst part of the commute is through downtown. 

"Really just the light system that we have there," she said.

She also has to pay for downtown parking, which adds to her commute planning each week.

"During events, the pricing goes up dramatically. So I generally Uber in," she said. "There's been times that I parked at Tri-Rail and got a Sky Bike and biked in to work.”

And that's what the city's mobility study suggests a culture shift to get more cars off the road in the next 20 to 30 years. To do that -- for starters -- West Palm Beach wants to add more trolley and Palm Tran routes, as well as upgrading the buses.

"So there's definitely different options. And I'm not super frustrated with any of them, it's just sort of the reality right now," said Kreaps. "Unless I'm willing to bike 10 to 15 miles per day, or take some other type of public transportation, I have to use a car."

Kreaps said she believes the city has done a good job in making an effort to address the transportation issues it faces.

"It's creating a conversation about the problem and really brainstorming about what the solution is," she said. "I'm come from Dallas, Texas and the traffic in Dallas is insane. One of my favorite parts of living in West Palm Beach is that it still takes half the time it would take if I was living in a big city."

Meantime, Joseph Roskowski rides his bike to his office on Datura Street every day. 

I joined him on his way to work. His commute is just a mile but crossing Okeechobee was treacherous.

"It's a really steep barrier to entry, you can't just hop on your bike and go safely, because we haven't really built the roads for that," he said.

In addition to navigating the inevitable construction areas, sometimes there were obstacles in our designated bike lanes, such as parking enforcement trucks parked in the bike lanes while conducting sidewalk work.

"Long lights make drivers really upset, they then see a bike, they're already angry. I've been run off the road several times," he said.

Roskowski has lived in Boston and has biked in other places across the country. He said biking in West Palm Beach could use some improvements.

"Designs here are much less safer biking, we have a lot wider roads, large distances between lights, we have really wide lanes," he said.

The mobility study was spearheaded by Gabe Klein, a national cityscapes expert, who applied aspects of mobility plans in Chicago and Washington, D.C. to the mobility study recommendations issued for West Palm Beach.

To accommodate commuters like Roskowski, the city wants to upgrade streets like Datura and Quadrille with expanded bike lanes, expanded sidewalks and more greenery to provide shade and ease of access for pedestrians.

But until that infrastructure is there, Roskowski said people are going to resort to the simplest option.

"So if you want get people off the road, you have to make it a pleasant easy experience to help people not to drive," he said. "You're not going to really get a culture shift without a shift in the infrastructure and the facilities. People do what's easiest and convenient."

The city told me they aren't expecting everyone to ditch their cars but they do plan to move forward very soon on some of the study's suggestions when they adopt the recommendations at their next commission meeting later this month.

Expect to see improvement on traffic lights timing, expansion of the bike lane network and restructuring of parking in downtown.

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