For an in-depth explanation of Boca’s term for what urban planners call a “Transit Oriented Development” that Boca calls “Planned Mobility Districts” or PMD, see our video: Boca Matters with Former P&Z Board Member Steve Utrecht.
To help reduce vehicle traffic congestion in Boca Raton, the City adopted Planned Mobility District (PMD) regulations in 2010. PMD projects are allowed to have higher residential density in exchange for designs that promise reduced vehicle use. Now, nine years after adopting PMD regulations, US Census Bureau data indicates Boca Raton residents have actually increased vehicle use for commuting to work. The data for Boca Ratonians commuting to work using cars, trucks or vans is shown in the chart below. The data was obtained by the US Census Bureau directly from Boca residents.
PMDs won’t reduce traffic outside their “bubble” without supporting infrastructure for non-vehicle use
Former Planning and Zoning Board member Steve Utrecht raised a good question in a recent interview with BocaFirst. He said “I think we’re missing the boat (with PMD) when we don’t put the emphasis on (traffic) mitigation strategies AND infrastructure improvements.”
Traffic mitigation is a planned reduction in residents’ use of vehicles. PMD, therefore, is one attempt to reduce vehicle usage within a development.
Infrastructure (schools, roads, trails, amenities, mass transit) improvements encourage non-vehicle forms of mobility outside of the PMD project. For example, the proposed University Village PMD north of Spanish River Blvd. might mitigate vehicle use within its neighborhood. But if the infrastructure surrounding the neighborhood is congested and schools are overcapacity, then vehicle use will continue to increase. As shown below, non-vehicle forms of transportation to work have not changed much while vehicle use has continued to increase.
The City should adopt a timely goal of reversing the vehicle use trend shown in the US Census Bureau data. But achieving this goal will require traffic mitigation, infrastructure upgrades as well as other initiatives. If we fail to do so, we’ll just be building nice apartment buildings.
Is the City of Boca Raton tracking PMD effectiveness?
The US Census Bureau data should raise red flags about Boca’s Planned Mobility District effectiveness. If their effectiveness is not being tracked against goals, the paraphrase from Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland seems appropriate – “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”