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Deerfield Beach Identifies Traffic, Parking Problems

Deerfield Beach, a south Florida community, is fortunate to have a beach that is both beautiful and popular, attracting local citizens, residents from neighboring cities, and tourists. However, because the only direct access to this barrier-island beach from the mainland is provided by County Road 810 (Hillsboro Boulevard), which includes a drawbridge over the intracoastal waterway, demand for beach access has caused traffic bottlenecks on both sides of the bridge as well as parking problems at the beach.

In August 1994, the City of Deerfield Beach asked CUTR to study methods to reduce these problems. To accomplish this, surveys of a number of other beach communities across the state were conducted to determine how they deal with their traffic problems. There was particular emphasis on determining beach use patterns and assessing the potential for transit service to help meet transportation needs for the beach. The survey of other beach communities revealed the following:

As in Deerfield Beach, limited land space hinders opportunities for improving traffic circulation by increasing capacity on local roads. Several cities benefit from transit service to the beach. Most of these are served by traditional transit provided by the local or county transit system, but some provide a more distinctive rubber-wheeled, open-air trolley service. In almost all cases, transit service is provided only once an hour, with an average fare of $1.00 per one-way trip. Some communities offer seasonal parking permits to non-residents, at considerably higher rates than to residents to reduce demand for beach parking. Deerfield Beach's parking meter rate of $.25 per 15 minutes was found to be comparable to other rates charged at beaches around the state. The survey of beach users was conducted on two different days of the week during December and February. The intent of the surveys was to determine who uses the beach, patterns of beach use, perceptions of traffic and parking conditions associated with the beach, and potential interest in a transit alternative for access to the beach. Results of the surveys of over 300 beach users revealed the following:

Over 75 percent of beach users were not permanent residents of Deerfield Beach. Over 60 percent of the non-resident considered themselves seasonal visitors, the majority of whom stay for more than four weeks. A total of 86 percent of December users accessed the beach by car; 74 percent of February users came by car; most others walked. A total of 57 percent of December users and 45 percent of February users were in parties of two; between 20 and 33 percent were in parties of three or more. The average length of time spent at the beach was approximately three hours. In the December survey, 59 percent of users felt there were no traffic problems associated with the beach, 30 percent believed there were occasional problems, and 11 percent believed there was a consistent problem. In the February survey, 48 percent felt there were no problems, 15 percent felt there were occasional problems, and 37 percent believed there was a consistent problem. In the December survey, 50 percent believed that parking was not a problem, 27 percent felt it was sometimes a problem, and 23 percent felt it was consistently a problem. In February, 38 percent believed that parking was not a problem, 12 percent indicated it was sometimes a problem, and 50 percent believed it was consistently a problem.

In addition to survey results, observation revealed the following:

On the days of heaviest beach usage, traffic congestion began after 10:00am. The worst congestion occurred between 1 and 4pm.

The largest contributing factor to congestion on Hillsboro Boulevard and SR A1A was the opening of the bridge every 20 minutes, with traffic backing up more than a half-mile.

Even on the busiest days, metered parking was available on side streets, while free parking was available near the park at 5th street west of SR A1A. Based on the surveys and observations, the following recommendations were made:

The City should work with the Florida Department of Transportation and the U.S. Coast Guard to determine if traffic flow would be improved if bridge openings were limited to once every 30 minutes instead of every 20 minutes.

A high quality weekend shuttle service test should be considered between the beach and a park-and-ride facility on the mainland near US1. The City should apply for grants from the Florida Department of Transportation to help fund the shuttle service.

Better signage related to parking locations and park-and-ride/shuttle opportunities should be considered. More people should be encouraged to access the beach by bicycle. Bike racks and bike banks for storing personal belongings along the beach should be installed, and bike racks should be installed on shuttle vehicles.

For further information on this study, contact CUTR Research Associate Eric T. Hill.

The full unedited text of this report can be found at the CUTR Web site.