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Boca Empty Streets

The Sweet Sound of Silence

by Jim Wood

Have you noticed that vehicle traffic is down substantially in Boca Raton recently? The main cause of this is, of course, residents staying at home to combat the coronavirus pandemic. This not only reduces vehicle use for work commuting, but also other forms of vehicle use such as school trips, shopping, recreation access, etc. While our hope is that things will return to normal rapidly, we also wish that vehicle use would remain lower. See the article Boca Needs a Traffic Diet for more about that idea.

While vehicle traffic has decreased during the pandemic, alternative forms of transportation have increased. This includes walking, cycling, skating, scooters, etc. The result is less vehicle traffic, noise and environmental pollution, increased safety and a healthier lifestyle. If vehicle use can remain lower as the economy rebounds, these advantages will continue along with a more vibrant city.

Historical vehicle traffic in Boca

The following graph shows that vehicle use for work commuting has been increasing in Boca Raton. Residents’ commuting during rush hour can provide anecdotal evidence to confirm these statistics.

US Census Bureau Vehicle Commuters
Boca Vehicle Commuters. Data from US Census Bureau American Community Survey. Graphic by Les Wilson

Each data point in the graph represents the average number of residents commuting to work on a daily basis for that year plus the prior four years. For example, in 2012 an average of 33,623 Boca Raton residents commuted to work in vehicles every day. That number is the average of the daily work commuters for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Notice the large decrease in residents commuting to work in vehicles in 2012. This decrease is due to the financial recession that began in 2008. That is, less residents had jobs to commute to; therefore, lowered vehicle use.

Future possibilities

We can also expect a decrease in Boca Raton residents’ vehicle traffic as a result of the pandemic recession beginning in 2020. This disruption, although painful in many ways, also represents an opportunity to improve the short and long-term quality of life for Boca Raton residents by making the reduced vehicle usage permanent. 

The article “There’s no better time for cities to take space away from cars” expands on this idea. Now is the time to set short- and long-term quantitative goals for permanently reducing vehicle traffic in Boca Raton. Imagine less vehicle traffic, noise and environmental pollution, increased safety and a healthier lifestyle. 

A number of cities are aware that their sidewalks are becoming crowded while wider streets are relatively empty and are experimenting with closing roads to vehicles and opening them for other forms of transportation. On Thursday, March 25, 2020 New York City began closing two streets per borough to vehicles.

 Boca Raton should consider doing the same.

Mizner Park during Pandemic
Mizner Park at 1pm Monday March 23 2020

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