2013 CityPlace Hotel Pedestrian Study

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CityPlace Hotel Pedestrian Study

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City of West Palm Beach, Florida

Prepared for

CityPlace Hotel, LLC Prepared by

THOMAS A. HALL, INC. October 2013

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Table of Contents Table of Contents ............................................................................................................. i Introduction ..................................................................................................................... 1 Figure 1, Study Intersection ......................................................................................... 3 Data Collection ............................................................................................................... 4 Tables 1 through 8 ................................................................................................... 5 Figure 2, Pedestrian Crossing Lengths ....................................................................... 32 Figure 3, Traffic Signal Phasing ................................................................................ 33 Future Conditions .......................................................................................................... 34 Alternatives ................................................................................................................... 35 Conclusions and Recommendations ............................................................................... 37

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Introduction CityPlace is a well known “new urbanist� development in the City of West Palm Beach, Florida. The project, developed as a joint venture between the city and the Related Companies, lies on both sides of SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard between Sapodilla Avenue and Quadrille Boulevard with the majority of the development on the north side of the roadway. Approximately 70 percent of the traffic oriented to CityPlace comes from the west along Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard, which is a one-way pair with four lanes in each direction. There are three primary, signalized access connections to Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard. Those connections are Sapodilla Avenue, Rosemary/Florida Avenue and the Hibiscus Parking Garage entrance that aligns with Alabama Avenue to the south. The Palm Beach County Convention Center is located on the south side of SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard between Sapodilla Avenue and Rosemary/Florida Avenue. However, immediately east of the Convention Center on the west side of Rosemary/Florida Avenue is the site of the proposed CityPlace Hotel. The hotel has been planned as a support to the Convention Center since there are few hotel rooms in the immediate vicinity of the Convention Center. While the management of CityPlace have always been concerned about their visitors who must cross SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard, with the addition of the new hotel, this concern has mounted. With both the Palm Beach County Convention Center and the new hotel located on the south side of SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard and the remainder of CityPlace, with its restaurants, nightclubs and shopping on the north side, the management of CityPlace has expressed concern that pedestrians crossing northsouth may have a difficult time making the crossing. For this reason, CityPlace representatives and Thomas A. Hall met with Florida Department of Transportation Traffic Operations staff on August 1, 2013 to discuss possible improvements in the pedestrian crossing experience at the intersection of SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard at Rosemary/Florida Avenue. Although several alternatives for improving pedestrian crossings were discussed at the August meeting, Mr. Mark Plass, P.E., the District Traffic Operations Engineer, noted that there was very little actual data available on how pedestrians are currently using the intersection and recommended that pedestrian crossing data be obtained to better understand what steps, if any, could be taken to improve the pedestrians operations at this location. Accordingly, a scope of work was developed that included the following:

Collect two days of pedestrian counts at the study intersection during a period of high pedestrian crossing activity. This was defined as a time during a major convention at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. Measure the time required for pedestrians to cross the roadways. Measure the median wait time for pedestrians crossing north-south. Determine average walking speed for pedestrians, average median wait time, etc.

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Propose modifications to the existing signal operations that would improve access to CityPlace. Propose methods for better accommodating pedestrians waiting in the median to cross either Okeechobee or Lakeview Boulevard.

Figure 1, Study Intersection, shows the studied intersection and adjoining land uses.

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SR 704

Palm Beach County Convention Center

Planned CityPlace Hotel Site

Rosemary Ave.

Florida Ave.

Figure 1 – Study Intersection SR 704 (Okeechobee Boulevard) at Rosemary/Florida Avenue City of West Palm Beach, Florida


Data Collection Mr. Tom Harms, Director of Operations for the Palm Beach County Convention Center, was contacted in August of this year and asked to provide dates and times for upcoming events on the convention center calendar. In order to evaluate the “worst case” existing conditions, it was thought that pedestrian counts should be collected during a major event at the convention center. Mr. Harms suggested that the next large event being hosted at the convention center was the World Waterpark Convention (WWC), which was scheduled for the first week of October. This annual event is one of the largest held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. Therefore, plans were made to collect pedestrian crossing data that week. Actual pedestrian counts were collected on October 2nd and 3rd, 2013. October 2nd was, according to the WWC, the peak day for activities held within the convention center. Although the convention began on Saturday, September 28th, the early events were conducted offsite and, consequently, did not have many participants at the convention center. Both October 2nd and 3rd were days when major WWC events were held at the convention center. Pedestrian counts were collected on Wednesday, October 2nd, from 8:15 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The pedestrian counts for Thursday, October 3rd, were collected from 8:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The different ending times for the two days of counts reflected the different event schedules for attendees at the WWC, with events planned on Wednesday that led up to a night-time party at B.B. King’s nightclub in CityPlace. Tables 1 through 8 provide a summary of the pedestrian counts by direction and time. Note that the largest single group of pedestrians occurred on October 3rd at 2:28 p.m. when a group of 11 pedestrians crossed from north to south across SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard. This can be found on Table 4 (page 18). Because pedestrians crossing SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard have a two-stage crossing, Tables 1 through 4 contain a measure of the median wait time between the two crossing movements. The average wait time varied from 53.8 seconds for pedestrians crossing south to north on October 2nd to 42.7 seconds for pedestrians crossing north to south on the same day. The average of all median wait times was (53.8 + 49.4 + 42.7 + 45.1)/4 = 47.75 seconds. However, individual groups occasionally waited far longer, with the longest recorded median wait time at 451 seconds (over 7 and ½ minutes). This extremely long wait in the median was the result of an apparent decision by a lone pedestrian to wait for a companion to join them before proceeding across the roadway. Other long waits were generally observed to be a result of the pedestrian failing to press the pedestrian detector at the second crossing point. The average pedestrian group size was just under 2 people per crossing. However, something over 50% of all crossings was completed by a single individual on all approaches to the intersection.

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Figure 2, Pedestrian Crossing Lengths, shows the length of the pedestrian crossing on each approach to the intersection. The longest pedestrian crossing is the north-south crossing on the east approach to the intersection. That crossing is 220 feet long; however, it is divided into two crossings so that the crossing is really comprised of three movements: first, the crossing of one leg of SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard, second, crossing the very wide median, and, third, crossing the second leg of the roadway. Using information contained in the tables and Figure 2, it is possible to estimate the average walking speed for pedestrians at the studied intersection. For example, Table 1 shows that the south-to-north movement has an average crossing time of 14.5 seconds across the eastbound portion of SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard. As Figure 2 shows, this crossing is 66 feet wide. Therefore, 66 feet/14.5 seconds = 4.55 feet per second walking speed. This is a relatively quick walking speed and reflects the influence of joggers in the pedestrian mix. A number of pedestrians, particularly in the morning, were observed to be jogging for exercise and, consequently, crossed the roadway at a much faster speed than the average walking pedestrian. Another group that had a much faster walking speed was those pedestrians who disregarded the pedestrian signal features and simply crossed the road as soon as they perceived a gap in traffic to be adequate. This class of pedestrians generally jogged across the roadway. The longest time required to cross this leg of the intersection from Table 1 was 44 seconds. This results in a walking speed of 1.5 seconds and was a group of two people strolling across the road. Figure 3, Traffic Signal Phasing, depicts the current traffic signal phasing at the intersection of SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard. Phases 3 and 4 show the two-phase, north-south pedestrian crossings.

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SR 704

Planned CityPlace Hotel Site

75’

53’

75’

Rosemary Ave.

66’

Figure 2 – Pedestrian Crossing Lengths SR 704 (Okeechobee Boulevard) at Rosemary/Florida Avenue City of West Palm Beach, Florida

105’

49’


O1

O2

O3

O4

P2

P4 P8

P4

O3 P8 P6 1

4B

P6 6

2

6

Figure 3 – Traffic Signal Phasing SR 704 (Okeechobee Boulevard) at Rosemary/Florida Avenue City of West Palm Beach, Florida

4A

4B

8A

8B


Future Conditions As Tables 1 through 8 make clear, the Palm Beach County Convention Center already creates a substantial demand for pedestrian crossings of SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard. In addition, the residents in the condominium tower in the southeast corner of the intersection often walk to CityPlace. It is now proposed that a 400-room hotel be constructed in the southwest corner of the intersection and an office building of approximately 188,000 square feet in size being considered for the median area east of Rosemary/Alabama Avenue. With the addition of these two developments, the pedestrian activity at this intersection will only increase as the attractions at CityPlace on the north side of SR704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard will continue to draw pedestrians across the roadway. Using trip generation characteristics data obtained from the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ (ITE) Trip Generation manual, 9th Edition, it has been estimated that the hotel is likely to generate an additional 3,568 vehicular trips per day. However, the ITE trip generation rate is suburban in nature and, in this downtown location, with CityPlace literally across the street, a significant amount of traffic may be generated by other modes such as mass transit, trams, bicycles and pedestrians. Applying a standard vehicle occupancy rate of 1.3 people per car, the hotel would be expected to generate 4,638 people trips per day (3,568 vehicles x 1.3 people per vehicle = 4,638 people). Assuming 20 percent of these people trips were completed by pedestrians would mean an additional 928 pedestrians in the study area on a daily basis. Similarly, the proposed office building is estimated to generate 2,119 daily trips. Applying the same 1.3 vehicle occupancy rate to this number results in 2,755 daily people trips. Because office workers are more likely to commute to work via their own transportation, it is probable that fewer of those workers will rely upon other modes of transportation and, in particular, their main pedestrian activity may revolve around lunchtime. Assuming, therefore, that only ten percent of the new people trips represent pedestrians, 276 additional pedestrian crossings may occur in the study area on a daily basis. Whether, in fact, such increases do occur, it is evident that some increase in pedestrian activity at this intersection will, most certainly, follow the construction of these two projects. It is not difficult to believe the future volume of pedestrian traffic at this intersection will be more than double the current volume and less driven by special events than at present.

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Alternatives In order to address concerns for both existing and future pedestrian crossings at this unusually wide intersection, several alternatives have been considered. Here is a brief list of those alternatives: 1. Pedestrian Overpass – This is the first suggestion offered by the public whenever a pedestrian crossing alternative is sought. In fact, pedestrians passing by our data collection personnel made this suggestion! 2. Improved Pedestrian Detector Visibility – Although Mr. Plass, of FDOT, expressed a concern about two-stage pedestrian crossings, they already exist at this intersection. Field observations showed that many pedestrians push the pedestrian detector button on the side of the road, but then fail to push the second pedestrian detector button in the median. This results in unnecessary delay for the pedestrian and, upon their discovery that they didn’t push the detector button, a decision to simply cross the second roadway at the first available gap, disregarding the pedestrian signals. Emphasizing the presence of these medianside pedestrian detector buttons through better signing and/or more prominent placement could cause more pedestrians to take advantage of these features. 3. Revise the Median Nose Shape to Reduce the Distance Across the Roadway – The north side of the west approach median nose was designed for a larger turning radius than is now required to accommodate northbound-to-westbound vehicular traffic. Widening the median and, thus, narrowing the roadway, would increase the median pedestrian storage area and reduce the distance required to cross the westbound lanes of SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard. 4. Pedestrian Shelters in the Median – Given that pedestrians often have a substantial wait time in the median, that wait could be made more pleasant, and could reduce the tendency of pedestrians to disregard the pedestrian signals, by providing a covered shelter to protect pedestrians from the rain or heat. 5. Revised Traffic Signal Timing to Prioritize Pedestrian Crossings - Currently, the traffic signals along this portion of SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard operate with a relatively long cycle length in order to accommodate the east and westbound traffic entering and exiting downtown West Palm Beach. While this longer cycle length may be appropriate for peak hours, a shorter cycle length during other hours of the day could reduce the time required for pedestrians to cross the roadway. Alternative 1, Pedestrian Overpass - The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 made the requirements for such overpasses so costly that they are not often considered viable alternatives and, in this instance, the relatively large land area required on either side of SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard for the landing area does not exist. Alternative 2, Improved Pedestrian Detector Visibility – The pedestrian detectors in the median are mounted on the signal mast arms. The placement is not wrong, but, by observation, many pedestrians miss the detectors. Therefore, either more prominent signs

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should be installed on the mast arms or the pedestrian detector buttons should be relocated to pedestals by the wheelchair ramps at the crossings. Alternative 3, Revise the Median Nose Shape to Reduce the Distance Across the Roadway – CityPlace has indicated a willingness to reshape the median and reduce the pedestrian path across westbound SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard. In discussions with Mr. Plass, he indicated that this work could be undertaken via permit from FDOT. The reduction in the length of the walk path is approximately 11 feet. Note that the mast arm at this location is already 17 feet south of the median edge. If the median was to be widened by another 11 feet, the distance from the mast arm and pedestrian detector to the median edge would be 28 feet, which would mandate a relocated pedestrian detector mounted on a pedestal near the new median wheelchair ramp, as discussed in Alternative 2. Alternative 4, Pedestrian Shelters in the Median – A canopy structure in the median, similar to a bus stop, but with no sides, would permit good visibility for drivers while also providing a cover for pedestrians from the heat and rain while waiting for the second stage of the pedestrian crossing. CityPlace has indicated a willingness to provide such a canopy on both the east- and west-side medians. The eastside median property is owned by CityPlace so the canopy can be installed with relatively little difficulty; however, the west-side median is public right of way and, as such, will require an FDOT permit. Alternative 5, Revised Traffic Signal Timing to Prioritize Pedestrian Crossings – Palm Beach County Traffic Engineering Division is responsible for maintaining the traffic signals along SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard. Both they and FDOT would have to agree with a reduced cycle length during off-peak periods of the day. It is possible that this could be effected by simply “half cycling” the traffic signal at this intersection while leaving the other intersections along the corridor to run in their current fashion. However, additional study would be required to determine the best course of action in achieving this alternative.

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Conclusions and Recommendations Based on the results of this analysis, it is concluded that alternatives 2, 3, 4 and 5 may be implemented with relative ease and could improve pedestrian crossing operations ath the intersection of SR 704/Okeechobee Boulevard/Lakeview Boulevard. It is recommended that these alternatives be pursued for implementation by CityPlace via permit from the Florida Department of Transportation and coordination with Palm Beach County’s Traffic Engineering Division.

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