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Fate of Uber in Palm Beach County to be determined August 18, 2015

Fate of Uber in Palm Beach County to be determined August 18, 2015

Executive Summary:
Citizens For Improved Transit supports Uber as a transportation option that has significant positive impacts on the lives of county residents and benefits the local economy. On August 18th at 9:30 a.m., the Palm Beach Board of County Commissioners will vote on an ordinance that will determine if Uber will be able to continue operating in Palm Beach County.

Uber, the cell phone app that allows users to request rides, has been operating in South Florida for just over a year and has provided over 5 million safe rides in South Florida.

The Broward Board of County Commissioners voted on August 11, 2015 to adopt rules that allow Uber to operate in Broward. Uber is looking for Palm Beach County to adopt similar rules to be able to continue providing service in Palm Beach County. The primary issue being discussed is the extent of the background checks required of drivers. Some County Commissioners propose requiring a Level 2 FBI background check on Uber drivers. Uber wishes to continue its practice of ensuring drivers’ clean driving and criminal histories through the use of accredited third party back ground check companies with access to national, state, and local databases.

Individuals will always have the option to use a traditional taxi service if they choose: however it has been shown that those who use Uber prefer it as a safer, more affordable, and reliable transportation service. Palm Beach County residents should have the option to choose if they want to use Uber as a transportation provider.

Citizens For Improved Transit’s recommendation: Uber should be allowed to continue to operate without additional restrictions. It has a proven track record of safe service that benefits the community without using any tax dollars. If at anytime in the future the background checks Uber performs are found to be insufficient the County Commissioners can require increased background checks to continue operations in the county. Uber is an asset to Palm Beach County and should be allowed to continue serve its residents.

What you can do:
The Board of County Commissioners will be voting if to allow Uber to continue to operate in Palm Beach County on Tuesday, August 18th. The meeting is open to the public and starts at 9:30 a.m. on the 6th floor of 301 North Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach, FL 33401.

  1. If you have an opinion on Uber you can speak for up to 2 minutes in front of the county commissioners at the meeting. It is required you fill out a card to speak when you arrive before discussions on the topic starts.
  2. Send an email to BCC-AllCommissioners@pbcgov.org and all the P.B.C. commissioners will recieve your email. Emails should be sent no later than Monday August 17th.
  3. Watch the meeting live on Channel 20 or on the internet at http://www.pbcgov.com/publicaffairs/CH20Live.htm
  4. If you have not tried Uber, use the code “UBER-PBC” and your first trip up to $20 will be free.

Facts about Uber:
Uber rides cost approximately 60% less than a traditional taxi ride. A $30 taxi trip would cost $12 using Uber. A fare estimate can be seen before requesting a trip after inputting the starting location and ending destination. Click this link for a two-minute introductory video on how the Uber service works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8VjcZeuvmo

Uber is an additional transportation option for Palm Beach County; if anyone chooses not to use the service they can continue to use the existing taxi services instead.

Uber drivers are confidentially rated from 1 to 5 stars by the passenger after every ride. The Uber app constantly reviews driver ratings to maintain a high level of service. Riders can also easily and confidentially write in a comment when they put in the rating for the driver so Uber knows what the issue was for a low rating. Uber drivers who behave unprofessionally or who make passengers feel unsafe are quickly eliminated from receiving more rides through this system. With driver accountability built into the Uber app through the rating system, drivers are very courteous, often going above and beyond to make the ride as pleasant as possible. Riders are able to view the driver’s name, their rating, car model, license plate number, and phone number when requesting a trip.

Once an Uber trip is requested, the vehicle typically arrives in less than 10 minutes in most areas of Palm Beach County, and wait times are under 5 minutes in more populated areas. While a rider is waiting for their vehicle to arrive they can track the vehicle in real-time on a map on their smart phone. This allows a person to stay in a comfortable and safe environment until the Uber vehicle arrives. Additionally riders can easily share ride details, including the specific route and estimated time of arrival, with friends or family so they can see a rider’s current location and arrival time.

Seeing where the vehicle is at all times is a huge advantage for safety, which taxi companies do not have. It is also very convenient, with traditional taxi services a rider is often given an unrealistic estimate of when their vehicle will arrive.

This is done because dispatchers only know the general areas where their taxis are. A taxi driver wanting a fare could radio the taxi dispatch saying they are on route to pick up a passenger even if they have not dropped off their current rider. This leaves the passenger standing outside looking around for the taxi to come without an accurate idea of when it will arrive.

A report conducted in partnership with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reveals that when empowered with more transportation options like Uber, people are more likely not to drive when impaired which saves lives. Nearly 25% of all Uber rides are taken during peak times for drunk driving-related incidents.

Uber presented to the White House Conference on Aging their ongoing efforts to engage the senior community. These efforts include providing free workshops to teach older adults how to use the Uber app, and offering a free first ride. Palm Beach County has a large senior population whose mobility options become increasingly limited as they age. Seniors either become isolated, must rely on family and friends, or continue to drive even though it may be unsafe for them to operate a vehicle. Uber can be an affordable and reliable option for seniors. Click on the link for a two-minute video on how Uber increases mobility options for older adults: https://youtu.be/n4d6LVLCdcA

Payment for an Uber trip is automatically deducted from the user’s credit/debit card on file, eliminating the need for carrying cash. The Uber app also allows users to easily split a fare between multiple riders traveling together. Once a trip is completed a receipt is automatically emailed to the passenger which includes a map with a highlighted route the vehicle took, trip length, and time taken for the trip. This prevents the common complaint about taxi services whose drivers could take a longer route to increase the fare with no way of monitoring to prevent this.

Benefits of Uber in Palm Beach County:
Tourists and business travelers from most major cities have Uber service and expect it to be accessible. Palm Beach County will appear behind the times if we do not have Uber.

With short Uber trips averaging $5 – $7, individuals who use Palm Tran Connection at $3 each way may choose Uber for local trips. With Palm Tran Connection rides costing the county an average $32 each way, the county could save significant amounts of tax dollars while providing less trips as the use of Uber grows in the senior and disabled communities who use Palm Tran Connection. This will be essential over the next ten years as more baby boomers retire and age in Palm Beach County and increase the demand on Palm Tran Connection service.

The trend of people moving to urban communities such as West Palm Beach is to be able to live in close proximity to work and daily activities without having to drive a car. These individuals and families want to have services like Uber as a transportation option. Uber also promotes the use of mass transportation options such as Palm Tran buses and Tri-Rail. Individuals can take the bus or train to go long distances, then use Uber for the shorter distances from where the mass transit option ends to reach their final destination. For example, an individual wishing to visit a friend’s house may be willing to take a Palm Tran bus down US1 for several miles, but would not want to walk 7 blocks on smaller local streets once they get off the US1 bus. This is when they would call Uber and for a few dollars get to their destination without feeling the need to own a car.

A small percentage of the $1.00 safe rider fee Uber charges for each trip could go to the county for oversight of the Uber service to ensure safety.

Uber helps the economy by giving Palm Beach County residents who want to be Uber drivers reliable and dependable work with a fair living wage. In the one year Uber has been in South Florida it has provided over 15,000 drivers with either full or part-time work. It is up to each individual driver when and how long they want to work by simply turning on/off their cell phone app when they are available to provide a trip. Uber drivers receive 80% of each fare and can be an Uber driver full-time and make a living wage or part-time to supplement their income. Click this link to watch a one-minute video on why people choose to be Uber drivers: https://youtu.be/_somDg9Mzrg

Thank you for taking an interest in improving transportation options in South Florida.

All the best,
Tomas Boiton
Citizens For Improved Transit, Founder

Transit Oriented Development, TOD

Transit Oriented Development, TOD

Transit-oriented development (TOD) is a mixed-use residential or commercial area designed to maximize access to public transport, and often incorporates features to encourage transit ridership. A TOD neighborhood typically has a center with a transit station or stop (train station, metro station, tram stop, or bus stop), surrounded by relatively high-density development with progressively lower-density development spreading outward from the center. TODs generally are located within a radius of one-quarter to one-half mile (400 to 800 m) from a transit stop, as this is considered to be an appropriate scale for pedestrians.

Why are TODs important to South Florida?

South Florida came of age during the era of the automobile. The area’s huge increase in population during the 195

0’s-1990’s was accommodated largely by westward development and the rapid growth of subdivisions that were all predominantly accessible by the automobile.  While all of this growth provided increased access to homeownership, our current development patterns have also placed quite a heavy toll on the vitality of our cities and on our natural resources.

In Miami-Dade county alone, 40% of all carbon dioxide emissions can be attributed mostly to private automobile and truck use.  For theentire South Florida region, wateris  becoming an endangered resource, further threatened by continued growth into the western portions of the area bordering the Everglades.  From a city planning and place-making perspective, exclusive reliance on cars robs communities of their vitality by creating environment that are pedestrian and bike hostile — ultimately a city’s vitality is directly related to the number of people that interact and connect regularly with the built environment.  Access to transportation choices allow residents and visitors alike — of all ages and abilities — to access the services they need, and provides mobility choices for all.

South Florida, with its diversity of cultures and ages as well as its touristic appeal, is an ideal region for greater emphasis on mobility choices and transportation expansion.

TOD around the World

Many of the new towns created after World

War II in Japan, Sweden, and France have many of the characteristics of TOD communities. In a sense, nearly all communities built on reclaimed land in the Netherlands or as exurban developments in Denmark have had the local equivalent of TOD principles integrated in their planning, including the promotion of bicycles for local use.

In Other Words…

“It’s not about the transit, it’s about creating great places. Transit is just one of the tools. TOD (transit-oriented development) is really about the fundamentals of good neighborhoods. Transit becomes the means to an end in creating a liveable community.”

“My admonition to you would be to remember that, in the 21st century, building transit is about community building, and it’s about people moving. It’s those two things, it’s not one or the other.”
– GB Arrington, a consultant with PB Placemaking in Portland, Oregon

South Florida’s Newest Old Rail

South Florida’s Newest Old Rail

South Florida is going back to it rail roots.  As a region, much of the development and growth in this area over the last century or so can be attributed to Henry Flagler and his Flagler East Coast (FEC) Railroad (and of course, Julia Tuttle who played no small role in attracting Flagler’s interest and investment).

As development boomed and the era of the automobile emerged, Flagler’s railroad, which was never truly considered commuter rail, was overshadowed by huge investments in roadway and highway construction.  Interstate 95, running almost in parallel to the FEC railroad in South Florida, became emblematic of how people moved and the railroad was seen as the transporter of freight.

Today all of South Florida finds itself at an interesting crossroads.  Through a combination of generational shifts, economic conditions, land scarcity, attention to environmental preservation and renewed interest in urban areas, much of the region is experiencing a change in perception particularly with regards to mobility.

No longer is the private automobile seen as the only real choice for getting around. Much of South Florida is beginning to see that cars alone are not the ideal way to move people and planning for an auto-dominated city leads to a variety of urban and human ills.  Such is the moment that All Aboard Florida has stepped into the role of regional transit provider.

The conversation started, publicly at least, around 2012.  All Aboard Florida, run by FECI, a sister company of the original FEC Railroad, has created rather large scale plans for Flagler’s rail line.  The company is moving forward with the creation of train service between Miami and Orlando, with service expected to start in 2016.   FECI isn’t just taking on rail service though; the company is planning a major mixed use development and train station on several downtown Miami blocks.  Read more about their plans here.

All Aboard Florida estimates that it will take 3 million cars off the road annually with its rail service that connects travelers between Miami and Orlando in about three hours and trim nearly an hour off of travel time between Miami and West Palm Beach.   While this rail service will not provide local commuter rail, it may play an important part in establishing local service.  The Tri-Rail Coastal Link project is pushing to add Tri-Rail service along the FEC line to run alongside All Aboard’s trains.  While still in the planning stages, Tri-Rail Coastal Link would fill in the gap for local commuters between Jupiter and downtown Miami with the possible addition of about 28 new train stations between the two cities.

Both projects could have an enormous impact on South Florida’s mobility, connectivity, economy, urban development and sustainability.  Citizens for Improved Transit will be monitoring both projects and providing updates as available.  Join our newsletter to stay informed.

Designing Streets for Pedestrians

Designing Streets for Pedestrians

Smart Growth America recently published the Dangerous By Design 2014 report which analyzed and cataloged the most dangerous streets for pedestrians.  Of the most dangerous large metro areas nationwide, Florida holds the top four positions and South Florida is number four in pedestrian fatalities. Number one on the list is Orlando/Kissimmee, followed by Tampa/St Pete, Jacksonville, and finally Miami/Ft Lauderdale/Pompano Beach.

As our transit services grow and improve, our communities must make pedestrian safety a top priority.  After all, every transit user starts each trip as a pedestrian.  The absence of safety for those walking could have a negative impact on transit ridership and support which in turn could reduce the demand and political will towards transit improvement and expansion.

Smart Growth America, and many other urban/transportation planners, contend that street design plays a major role on our street’s safety.  See the whole report here.  Locally, a new group called Walkable West Palm Beach is an excellent example of how local action can help improve safety and walkability.  Most recently, the group has worked with urban planner and author of Walkable CityJeff Speck, to complete a walkability study for the area.

Palm Beach Quite Zone Funds Secured

Palm Beach Quite Zone Funds Secured

According to the All Aboard website, All Aboard Florida, the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization announced on August 13, 2014 that funding had been secured to create a continuous quiet zone between the City of Hallandale Beach and downtown West Palm Beach along the Florida East Coast Railway.

PARK(ing) Day

PARK(ing) Day

International PARK(ing) Day is coming up on Friday, September 19, 2014. While many people are still learning what PARK(ing) Day is exactly, numerous communities worldwide look forward to the late summer event. For the last few years, hundreds of PARK(ing) spots have popped up in nearly 200 cities covering 35 countries.

SO WHAT IS PARK(ing) DAY? Started in San Francisco by Rebar in 2005, PARK(ing) Day is a creative and interactive urban project that aims to raise awareness for public space and how we view that space within the city. Essentially, PARK(ing) Day participants pick a metered, street parking space and re-envision it as a temporary mini-park.  The best part:  just about anyone can build a PARK(ing) spot for a day.  PARK(ing) Day is a community-driven initiative built off of the community’s imagination and interest in seeing  public space in a new light.

Transforming a parking space into a park can take many forms – PARK(ing) Day spots can be a simple mini green space with sod, a bench, and few trees; a design space with modular outdoor furniture; an exercise space; a play space; a small urban garden; and many other ideas. Some PARK(ing) Day spaces incorporate local businesses while others add an element of pedestrian and/or bike safety, such as a temporary crosswalk or separated bicycle lane.

PARK(ing) Day spots can be up for a few hours or all day, depending on the community, its regulations and policies and its natural flow of activity. Some cities require permits and may not accommodate purely pop-up spots with no previous arrangements while other cities are more flexible with the event, particularly if PARK(ing) Day has been done there and has gone well. Regardless of each city’s process, the day presents the opportunity for residents, business owners, leaders and officials to remember that our streets and sidewalks are public spaces and can be adapted to the community’s needs.

The ideal location for a PARK(ing) Day spot would be a metered, on-street parking space in an area that has fair to high pedestrian traffic and visibility. PARK(ing) Day installations typically make for great conversations and interactions with curious passersby that inquire about what is going on. People will stop into the park to interact, play or just have lunch. On average, a metered spot would cost a few dollars for a couple of hours of parking — imagine everything that can be done, and the benefit of creative re-imagination of public space, for that same price. This is precisely what PARK(ing) Day challenges us all to do!

PARK(ing) DAY IN SOUTH FLORIDA Over the last few years, PARK(ing) Day installations have occurred in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, but none have been recorded for Palm Beach County. ParkingDay.com, the event’s official site, allows participants to post locations and information for local PARK(ing) spots. The site also provides more background and history on the idea, plus offers a great DIY Networking tool to help organize potential PARK makers and goers.  If you’d like to organize your own spot, check out the FAQ section here.

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