Currently viewing the tag: "FDOT"

South Florida’s second bike sharing program launches today, December 14th! After over a year of planning, permitting, bringing people on board with the concept, and even getting cities to pass new ordinances permitting advertising at their stations, B-Cycle is finally ready to roll out with 200 bikes and 20 stations. That number should expand to 275 within a month.

If you’re able, head to one of the launch events during the day.

Hollywood: 10:00 AM 326 Johnson St.
Fort Lauderdale: 1:30 PM Esplanade Park
Pompano Beach: 4:00 PM

Aquatic Center

B-Cycle is funded by a $311,000 FDOT grant funneled through Broward County Transit as well as their own capital. Outside of the one-time FDOT grant that will only go towards 75 of the bikes and a few stations, B-Cycle will be supported by ad revenues and user fees and expects to turn a profit. Their plan is to use that revenue to build out to a 500 bike system over a period of five years. While high profile Public-Private Partnerships (PPP’s) such as I-595 and the Port of Miami Tunnel get a lot of attention, it’s great to see the concept being put to use on a transportation mode that doesn’t involve a motor vehicle.

Usage is essentially membership based and then either free or $.50 for the first 30 minutes any bike is checked out. Memberships start at $5 for a 24 hour pass and go to $45 for an annual pass. The second half hour, and every half hour afterwards, costs more ($3) in order to encourage quick turnaround. You’re probably familiar with the concept if you’ve tried DecoBike or another program, but the idea is to pick up the bike at one location and leave it at another station at your destination. The trip often won’t take more than 20 minutes.

Some have raised concerns that B-Cycle might flounder because it is spread too thin over the county. Most of the stations are focused around downtown and the beach in the three launch cities, however, which should cater to the popular tourist and hangout spots. Check the map showing the stations launching tomorrow in blue at broward.bcycle.com. I’m confident it will be better than many small bike sharing systems, such as the self-proclaimed “first bicycle sharing program in the Southeast” in Spartanburg, South Carolina with 2 stations and about 15 bikes. Try bike sharing in Broward as soon as you can and judge for yourself. B-Cycle will have “ambassadors” at the stations today to show you how to use the system, even if you don’t make it to the launch events.

Disclaimer: I manage the FDOT grant, inherited from my predecessor. Of course, I’d love the project even if I didn’t, as it brings bike sharing closer to me. But don’t take this post to be any kind of official FDOT statement.

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Is Miami a city of traffic corridors and highways or is it a city for people? At the latest FDOT public meeting, the message from the Florida Department of Transportation is clear: Miami is for cars. Everything and everyone else comes 2nd.

Last night, FDOT held a public meeting to review the details of a re-surfacing project for Coral Way, from  SW 37th Avenue to SW 13th Avenue, scheduled to begin in March 2013. Unfortunately, not much is being done to improve pedestrian conditions on Coral Way in spite of the booming pedestrian life visible every day.  While the road will get silky new pavement, some wider sidewalks, a few brighter colored signs and ‘sharrows’, overall Coral Way will remain the same traffic sewer that it is today. Apparently, the status quo of Coral Way is all roses to the FDOT.

Except it’s not.

One thing that has always struck me about Coral Way is how difficult it is to cross it as a pedestrian. The traffic lights are so spread out that they may as well be located in separate zip codes. The design of Coral Way is one that divides people and business, rather than connects them. The traffic zooms from signal to signal in a speed’n-stop fashion reminiscent of a video game.  The restaurants, the shops, the homes and the residents  - are all separated by an impenetrable barrier of vehicles and plantings. Go to any part of Coral Way between Douglas and 12 Ave and you will see plenty of pedestrians trying to cross wherever they can. The road is the antithesis of walkable - by design. It is a roadway that’s patently ill-suited for an urban environment - and FDOT wants to keep it that way.

Crossing Coral Way in a wheelchair

The planted medians seldom have a mid-block crossing. Have you ever traversed a field of geraniums in a wheelchair? FDOT doesn’t really care.

The speed limit will remain a deadly 40 mph. Have you ever tried parallel parking with someone in an Escalade bearing down on you at 45mph? You’ll still have the chance the way FDOT is designing this road!

This project makes virtually no improvements to the comically tragic pedestrian experience of Coral Way, save for a few sections of wider crosswalks. The FDOT’s argument is that their own guidelines do not allow them to make additional safety accommodations, like signalized crosswalks, raised crosswalks, or anything else. Mind you, it’s those very same arcane guidelines that are the root cause of why Florida consistently holds the dubious distinction as the #1 deadliest state for pedestrians in the nation. Such improvements would also make notoriously dangerous Coral Way safer for motorists as well.

But things really hit home when I left the meeting at 2055 Coral Way and walked outside. I was with my bicycle and needed to cross the street. Look right: a traffic signaled crosswalk in the distance. (I measured it online - .25 miles. That would make it .5 miles total just to cross the street legally and safely) Look left: just a headlight-filled abyss. No crosswalk in sight. Someone from the FDOT had to explain this for me, so I went back inside.

I asked two of the project managers to come outside with me to experience first hand just how ridiculously divisive the configuration of this street is. I asked them, “where do I cross?” They pointed to the traffic light a quarter mile away. They simply don’t give a shit. Is that a realistic expectation? What ensued was classic traffic engineer speak. “A study didn’t show the number of pedestrians required to warrant more improvements,” I was told.

That’s because the pedestrian experience is so hostile and uninviting to begin with, rational people will avoid it if possible. “Studies” do not calculate human decision-making. It almost seemed as if I was actually speaking with a car, because the only responses were about accommodating the needs of motorists. In their eyes, I was the first person to ever walk out of that church and have to walk to the other side.

The FDOT representatives said that the speed limit can not be lowered, one reason being some of these drivers are going from Brickell to West Kendall and they need to be accommodated also. So there we have it folks. Creating the walkable conditions for businesses to succeed and all road users to be safe are not in the vocabularies of the FDOT. Coral Way is a road designed to whisk private automobiles as fast as possible through Miami. Everyone else be dammed. The ‘social world’ is of no importance. The ‘traffic world’ is the priority. Everything else is an obstacle to moving cars quickly. The ‘guidelines’ protect them. It’s perfectly acceptable to the FDOT to force a person, a mother with a stroller or a person in a wheelchair, to go .5 miles to legally cross a street.

Appropriate transportation hierarchy in an urban context.

It’s long-passed due that the FDOT revise their outdated guidelines with their own children and grandparents in mind. If their standards aren’t safe and effective for a 10 year old or a senior citizen, then they are failing. The proposed re-paving project of Coral Way is another missed opportunity for Miami to become an actual city instead of a collection of traffic corridors.

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A series of FDOT meetings were held on this week around Miami-Dade County.

First the SW 1st St Bridge reconstruction to connect East Little Havana to Downtown over the Miami River was held at the Historic Miami River Inn. The discussion included options to rehabilitate the existing bridge or replace the current 4-lane metal deck structure with a 3-lane concrete deck structure including wider sidewalks and a bike lane. This important connection will link downtown to East Little Havana. FDOT is also considering options to connect the new bridge to the existing historic footbridges that currently connect to the  Miami River Inn, a National and locally designated historic building. The new bridge will be shifted slightly north, away from the Inn,  and will include railings, lighting and a bridge tender house with historic details.

Second a new bridge is being designed to replace the Tamiami Canal Swing Bridge over the Palmer Lake entrance to the Miami River. One of only operable 3 swing bridges in Florida, the existing bridge will be relocated to Fern Isle Park to connect the park to the recent acquisition at the Police Benevolent Association. The new Delaware Parkway Bridge will connect the Miami Intermodal Center to the 2 city parks further south and will be part of the Miami river greenway network in the future phases. FDOT will be expanding the bridge to a single leaf bascule bridge including 4-lanes of traffic and NO BIKE LANES. We question why there would be no bike lanes of an expansion project between destinations. Please tell FDOT Thank you for relocating the historic bridge and please find a way to add bicycle lanes across onto Delaware Parkway.

2 Beach routes were also heard this week.
The construction of the West Ave bridge will include travel lanes, sidewalks and bicycle facilities. This is envisioned as a small scale bridge primarily for bicycle and pedestrian access.
Second, the much discusses Alton road project is the subject of major controversy as it has led the city of Miami Beach to challenge state statute 335.065 which requires FDOT to consider bicycles in their plans. This could have HUGE implications for bicyclists all over the state. We need to come together and work with FDOT to support a preferred alternative that includes bicycle facilities before we return to the stone age of having no alternative but to ride on 4′ sidewalks.

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The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority approved a plan yesterday to move forward with a local and express commuter rail along the famed corridor that once carried Flager’s train to Key West. The decision by the board will advance a “fast start” plan proposed by Tri-Rail administrators to leverage existing administrative costs and recently purchased locomotives to run service along the FEC line from Jupiter to Miami within 3-5 years.

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The plan is an answer to FDOT officials who had previously proposed giving the concession to run trains directly to the FEC company in an effort to privatize the system. Tri-rail planners, though, say this is not necessary as they are already 80% privatized and can run the service for half the price as the proposed FEC plan. “For the same [capital] cost as the FEC- FDOT plan, we can provide 56 trains on the FEC between downtown Ft Lauderdale and downtown Miami, while also providing connectivity with the rest of the region,” said Joe Quinty, Transportation Planning Manager with the SFRTA.

Under the “fast track” proposal, which will now go to the tri-county MPO’s for approval and further cost feasibility, trains would use the FEC line from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami, with 7 stops in Miami-Dade County. Stops include 163 Street, 125 Street, 79 street, 54 Street, 36 Street, 11 Street/Overtown, and Government Center. As currently envisioned the plan would cost Tri-Rail an extra $15 million a year in operations costs by expanding existing contracts with Bombardier and Veolia. The FDOT plan would have cost $25 million a year and provided fewer stops in Miami-Dade County.

The project was approved 6-1, with the lone exception being FDOT District 6 representative Gus Pego. The plan envisions several types of service along the line, beginning with direct service between Ft. Lauderdale and downtown Miami. Regional service beyond Ft.Lauderdale will be established at Atlantic Boulevard, where a line connects the existing Tri-Rail tracks with the FEC service.

FDOT has been studying rail service along the FEC for years, with the latest SFECC Study looking at an integrated service, similar to what is being proposed, at a cost of over $2billion for the tri-county area. This plan hit a wall this spring when the Miami-Dade County MPO balked at moving forward with the study because of concerns over cost.

Tri-rail planners say that the fast track project is a way to get service running on the line as the South Florida East Coast Corridor study advances and addresses the MPO concerns. As currently planned, the service would not require any county or federal funds for operations or construction.

One third of the additional operational costs will come from farebox revenue from the new line, while the rest will come from a combination of Tri-Rail service adjustments, and yearly contributions from each of the 17 cities that will have stations of between $350,000 - $550,000. The capital cost to build the line is approximately $270 million, which will come from the Florida Department of Transportation.

Quinty went on to say,  “We believe this new SFRTA is superior to FDOT’s approach, as it can be implemented quickly (by avoiding the Federal project development process), provides better regional service coverage, and will not require any additional county or FDOT operating funds.”

25 people showed up to the public meeting Tuesday night at the Miami Beach Regional Library.  It was an open format, with the project laid out on two long tables and key personnel available to answer questions and take comments.

One table featured a visual summary of the crash data, and one table showed the proposal from a bird’s eye view.

Mayor Matti Bower thanked everyone for coming, even if, “they [FDOT] never do anything I ask.”

There were several members of Miami Beach City Staff there:  two engineers from Public Works, Rick Saltrick and Diane Fernandez.  Fred Beckman, the Public Works Director was there, as well as Assistant City Manager Duncan Ballantyne and Community Outreach maven Lynn Birnstein.

Beckman, Bernstein and Ballantyne were there mainly to facilitate the participation of Marlo Courtney of Goldman Properties and Michael Comras, of the Comras Company, two prominent developers, who along with Realtor Lyle Stern and other property owners in the area have formed the Collins Avenue Improvement Association, (CIA).

CIA in turn, has hired engineering consultant Ramon Castella of C3TS in Coral Gables. It is heartwarming to see civic leaders like these gentlemen take such an active role in making our streets better.  I, for one, am grateful for their efforts.

The CIA is working with the City Managers’ office, who has pledged to use quality of life funds to enhance the project. This extra cash will amp up a once vanilla RRR (Road Resurfacing and Reconstruction) project into a “mini mod” with new sidewalks, new curbs, landscaped bump outs and an additional amount of drainage.

Oh yes, and the addition of the 10 foot left turn lane.  But I digress.

As merchants, the CIA are really focused on sidewalks.  The sidewalks along this corridor are not only old and broken, but are really small. Between 5 and 6.5′.  Add to that the massive amount of regulatory and way-finding signs, street furniture and café seating plus the large numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists, and it doesn’t take the other CIA to figure out Collins Avenue needs more sidewalks.

FDOT, happily, is committed to making the sidewalks as wide as possible, without moving the curbs.  This means they will have to aggressively pursue encroachments.  We wish them well.  On Miami Beach, we sometimes loose 5-6 feet of public right of way on any given corridor to private landscaping or even hard construction due to these types of encroachments.  The CMB policy, for the most part, has been one of  “Don’t ask, don’t take.” This works well to quell the fear of construction for adjacent property owners, but does little to enhance transportation.

Unfortunately, CIA is so focused on picking out streetlamps and placing parking stations, trashcans and benches, that they have lost sight of the big picture. Addressing the congestion on Collins Avenue that makes the entire experience of being there unpleasant and unsafe for everyone.

FDOT is addressing the unsafe conditions -   at least for cars. In the July 2011 Safety Study done by CH Perez and Associates, they document how unsafe Collins Avenue is for cars.  They looked at reported crash data for a three-year period, (2007-2009).  1,152 crashes in three years gets you on FDOT’s High Crash List.  84% were property-damage only crashes. 29% of crashes were rear end, 23% sideswipe and 18% involved a park car. 6% of all crashes involved a pedestrian (2/3) or bicycle, (1/3) and of those 67 crashes, 85% resulted in injuries.

Good news is there were no fatalities during the study period. Bad news is we know how under reported bicycle-car accidents are.

The report names aggressive driving as the number one probable cause for the crashes, and believes the lack of a left turn lane is to blame.

And so, the hardworking and dedicated engineers, project managers and safety specialists who are working on this project use the extra ten-feet (gained by narrowing the parking lane and travel lanes) to add an extra lane of traffic.

In reality, the added travel lane will only make the problem worse by adding to the congestion of Collins Avenue, which will ramp up the aggression, which will cause more accidents.

Anyone who has ever been on Collins Avenue knows the score, especially at unsignalized intersections.  Cars wait in the travel lane to make that left-hand turn.  And wait and wait because of the congestion.  Cars two and three behind them whiz around on the right when then can, often grazing the parked cars, shouting expletives and showing the finger.  The driver waiting to make the turn finally sees an opening and makes a dash, only to be stopped short by the pedestrian or bicyclist he did not see because he was so focused on the cars coming at him in speeds that range from the posted 30 to 35 MPH.  When the waiting driver makes his move, either a pedestrian or bicyclist gets hit or a chain reaction of rear-end collisions happen behind him. (As an aside, this craziness of the modulating posted speed limit should be addressed immediately, bringing the posted speed limit to 30 throughout the corridor.  I would like to see 25, but that’s just me.)

The left turn lane allows traffic to continually move through the corridor while allowing three cars to stack up waiting to make that elusive left turn.

This will induce latent demand and add capacity - and traffic - to the roadway. More cars on Collins Avenue are not the answer. More pedestrians are key to restoring the economic preeminence of this retail district.  You do that by making the sidewalks safer by moving the bicycles into a dedicated lane.

Additionally, the bike lane will help encourage users of Collins Avenue who are not in cars.  More people biking and walking equals more choices for people to get around.

The best part is that in 20 years when we get a wholesale reconstruction of the corridor, we will have shifted the travel mode from 90% percent cars to 20% cars.  Justifying removing the turn lane and extending the sidewalks and adding landscaping.

Adding bike lanes now is the seed required to achieve that future. Unfortunately none of the project managers ride a bicycle.  I have invited them all to try it: on Collins now.  Or ride the sharrows on Washington Avenue and see how that feels.  They need to see there is more than one way to solve the problem they have defined, and there is a better solution is to deal with the root cause, not just add too it.

Please send an email to the man in charge, Harold Desdunes at harold.desdunes@dot.state.fl.us.  He assured me he would have the engineers take another look at the study, but they need to put their bike helmets on to do it.  Send an email asking for their support. My City Manager, Jorge Gonzalez said he direct staff to ask for the bike lane.  It’s a start, but the Department is rushing to complete the plans.  Time is of the essence!

All is not lost, but your help is needed to prod FDOT in the right direction.

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Call  me crazy, but I am the type of girl who likes to go to public meetings about road construction. They speak to me about the promise for a better future.  I especially like the ones when I know at the end of the awful, dirty, dusty, jarring process, a new bike lane will be born.

So I was excited about the FDOT upcoming meeting to roll out the $2.5 million dollar project on A1A in Miami Beach,  from Fifth Street to Lincoln Road.  I have been waiting for this project for years, watching the funding shift to and fro from year to year in the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP, yes I get excited about them too!)  I was happy because last spring, the Department came up with a Bicycle Master Plan for all of A1A in District 6 that called for a bike lane on almost all of Collins Avenue!

Be still my heart!

I was thrilled to see in this project moving forward, with a projected start date of May 2013.   They plan to narrow the parking lanes, narrow the travel lanes, reconstruct a few blocks to gain ROW, all the right moves……  BUT

My heart stood still…..

THEY DID NOT INCLUDE THE BIKE  LANES.

So where oh where did the bike lanes go? And for whom will the ROW be?

Looks like that gained right of way is being added to allow for an exclusive left turn lane throughout the whole segment, i.e. MORE  CAR TRAFFIC!

You can make a difference in putting this project back on proper footing!

Send an email to any of these FDOT officials and ask them to include a bike lane in Project Numbers 250236-1-51-01 and 250236-3-52-01.  SRA1A/Collins Avenue from 5th Street to Lincoln Road. You may even want to remind them they already said they would!

Heidi.Solaun@dot.state.fl.us

Rita.Bulsara@dot.state.fl.us

Gus.Pego@dot.state.fl.us

Copy the local elected officials in Miami Beach:

MayorBower@miamibeachfl.gov

Michael@miamibeachfl.gov

Deede@miamibeachfl.gov

Jorge@miamibeachfl.gov

Ed@miamibeachfl.gov

Jonah@miamibeachfl.gov

Jerry@miamibeachfl.gov

COME TO THE PUBLIC MEETING

MONDAY, October 25, 2011

Miami Beach Regional Library

227 22nd Street, Collins Park, Miami Beach

6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

This is more than a RRR.  This is a chance to enhance mobility by improving modality for bicycles by designating a lane in which to build the share.

Hope to see you there.

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It appears there will soon be some discussion of whether to use the new “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” sign that was approved in the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

This sign would only be used on lanes less than 14′ wide, which are too narrow for a bicyclist and a motorist to safely travel side by side. On these types of roads, where there is no bike lane, would you rather see this new sign or the “Share the road” plaque/warning sign combo?

The MUTCD does give engineers a choice. Don’t let the picture sizes fool you, the yellow warning sign is bigger. Answer in the poll below.

Share the road photo by flickr user belboo.

 

 

Which type of MUTCD approved sign would you rather see to alert and inform motorists of bicyclists presence?
Yellow "Share the Road" warning signs
Regulatory white "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" signs
No signs
pollcode.com free polls

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Last night I attended a meeting at Legion Park with representatives from the FEC and about 50 residents and business owners from the Upper East Side. Also present were Commissioner Sarnoff, a representative from the FDOT and a representative from the Port of Miami. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the upgrades to the FEC rail line which are currently underway and the establishment of a “quiet zone” from the port north to NE 71st Street. In order to qualify as a “quiet zone” the FEC will upgrade the rail crossings which will make blowing the train horn unnecessary. The FEC is also replacing the rail line with a quieter track in order to reconnect service to the Port of Miami in anticipation of the port expansion and dredging to accommodate the larger Panamax ships which are expected to significantly expand its cargo business.

Most resident where supportive of the FEC’s plans, but the conversation quickly turned to passenger rail. The majority of those in attendance wanted to know why passenger service was not moving forward. Commissioner Sarnoff was quick to point the finger at the Miami Dade County MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization). He mentioned that both the Broward and Palm Beach County MPOs had already passed resolutions in support of passenger rail service. The FDOT representative confirmed this as well and she actually made it sound like her department was on board with passenger rail service on the FEC. (I was very happy to hear that the FDOT was supportive).

Why can’t our Miami Dade County elected officials get their act together and actually do something that is in the public’s best interest for once? They need to stop playing politics and do what is best for the South Florida community. Last night’s meeting clearly showed that residents and businesses desire passenger rail. Providing passenger rail service on the FEC is really a no-brainer and will make the South Florida region more competitive. For some reason, that is beyond my understanding, our Miami Dade elected officials can’t seem to figure this one out.

Passenger rail is fundamental to our economic success. Young, talented and educated job seekers (as well as employers) are in search for cities that provide a better quality of life. They are not interested in spending countless hours commuting in bumper to bumper traffic. Passenger rail will spur development opportunities for real estate developers to break ground on walkable, mixed-use, transit oriented developments. This is progress, not futile road expansion projects that destroy communities rather than making them stronger.

Safety Issues for Pedestrians Along the FEC

Wendy Stephan, former president of the Buena Vista Homeowners Association, asked the FEC representative if they intended to make the area surrounding the tracks more pedestrian friendly. In particular she cited the area from NE 39th- 54th Street along Federal Highway which does not have any pedestrian crossings. She pointed out that people cross these tracks (including her mother-in-law in her pearls, lol) to get to the Publix and Biscayne Boulevard from Buena Vista and the surrounding neighborhoods because there aren’t any proper crossings for 15 blocks.

One of the FEC representatives then began to refer to the people crossing the tracks as “trespassers”. I took issue with his statement and I quickly pointed out to him that the FEC cannot possibly expect for people to walk 15 blocks out of their way just to cross the tracks to catch a bus on Biscayne Boulevard or purchase food at Publix. Further north we find the same problem from NE 62nd –NE 79th Street where we there is only one crossing at NE 71st Street which the FEC has asked the County to close, but the County so far has denied this request. Its worth mentioning that I see small children crossing the train tracks from Little Haiti every morning on their way to Morning Side Elementary School on NE 66th Street. There are numerous schools along the FEC corridor from downtown north to NE 79th Street and nearly not enough pedestrian crossings. An FEC representative basically said this was not their problem. Commissioner Sarnoff said his office would look into building bridges or tunnels for pedestrians to get across the tracks safely. Instead, I think we should look into at-grade pedestrian crossings (see below) rather then spending big bucks on tunnels or bridges which will most likely not be used by anyone besides drug addicts.

No need to be gimicky; we don't need bridges or tunnels to get across the rail line safely. Proper pedestrian rail crosswalks are less expensive and more effective.

How about an FEC Greenway?

Friend of Transit Miami Frank Rollason asked the FEC representative about their responsibility of being a good neighbor and properly maintaining the right of way (ROW). He pointed out that there were homeless people living on the FEC ROW, people using drugs as well has hiding stolen goods in the overgrown shrubbery. The FEC representative snubbed Frank and said, “We do maintain it”. (Yeah right).

I told the FEC representative that the FEC could be a good neighbor by including an FEC Greenway into their plans. An FEC Greenway would root out homelessness and drug use as joggers, walkers, parents with strollers and bicyclists would discourage undesirable activities with their presence. I was also snubbed by the FEC representative and was basically given a look that said “yeah right kid, good luck with that, looks like you are smoking crack with the crack heads on the FEC line, there is no chance we are putting a greenway on the FEC.”

Overall the meeting was very positive. The FEC and the City of Miami need to work together to find solutions to add more crossings for pedestrians. Pedestrians shouldn’t be forced to walk 15 blocks to cross the tracks. The City of Miami should also press the FEC to incorporate a greenway into their plans. A greenway would deter crime and improve the quality of life for everyone that lives near the train tracks. That being said, rail is the priority. The FEC has 100ft of ROW; if they can somehow safely squeeze in a 10-12 ft greenway they should.

Lastly, we must all write a quick email to our County Commissioners and tell them to stop playing politics with our future economic prosperity. We need local and commuter passenger rail service today, not in 15 years. You can find our recommendations for passenger rail service on the FEC here. Let’s make this happen South Florida!

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Florida At Risk of Falling 20 Years Behind Other States

It is summer vacation season. Perhaps you just returned to South Florida from one of the world’s great cities. Chances are, you probably experienced bicycle facilities that are generally better than what we have here in South Florida. While recently there has been significant improvements to the bicycle infrastructure in Miami-Dade County, there is still a key design element that is missing from our streetscape.

Image Courtesy of New York City DoT

A cycle track, is a physically separate and protected bike lane and is considered by bicycle planners and experts as the safest and most enjoyable way to ride a bicycle through an urban environment. Widely seen as a catalyst to encourage riding because of the inherent safety of the protection from traffic - either by a curb, bollards, parked cars or pavement buffer - cycle tracks are revolutionizing the way people view cycling in an urban context.

 

Before you read any further, watch this short video via StreetFilms.org on the new cycle track in Queens, New York City. On a personal note, I was in New York last weekend when this facility opened. Having cycled in the same area prior to the building of this lane, I was awestruck. Seeing so many people enjoying an area of Queens that was previously a miserable traffic-choked hellhole, the experience was almost surreal.

There are numerous studies that show cycle tracks are proven to increase ridership tremendously versus unprotected, striped lanes. A new protected lane on Manhattan’s busy First Avenue saw cyclist counts rise by 152% throughout the year the facility was opened. As most people cite safety issues as their biggest barrier to cycling for transportation, cycletracks offer a solution that not only makes traveling safer for the cyclist, but for the motorist as well. Numerous studies have found that crashes between bicycles and traffic diminish when a protected cycle track is available.

While many cities throughout the USA and world have installed such facilities like the Queens example to great success, Miami-Dade County does not have a single on-road protected bicycle lane/cycle track. The feeling of unparalleled uplift I experienced upon riding the Queens lane quickly faded to frustration when I realized the challenges ahead for Miami.

So what is the problem? Simply put, the Florida Department of Transportation does not recognize cycle tracks as an approved bicycle facility. Therefore, some of the FDOT’s biggest roadway projects in Miami-Dade County like the proposed redesigns of Alton Road in Miami Beach, Flagler Street in Little Havana, Brickell Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard will not include cycle tracks. In fact, the feasibility of such facilities have not even been studied by the FDOT in these projects because the design standards of cycle tracks are not approved. Even worse, some of these projects have start dates in 2016 with completion dates approaching 2018, 2019 and 2020.

If the FDOT does not adopt the cycle track as an approved design standard as these major projects move forward, FODT will be 20 years behind other states and cities in implementing accepted bicycle facilities. The benefits are obvious. We’ve spent a lot of electronic ink here at TransitMiami in lambasting the FDOT’s outdated auto-centric designs and how they imposed them on the Florida landscape. This is not the time for that. Simply put, it’s time for the FDOT to join the ranks of the enlightened world of modern urban design and adopt cycle tracks that will create the conditions for safe and sustainable urban transportation. Give us the facilities that will lead to safer streets, healthier people, clean air and stress free commutes.

Here is an abbreviated list of American cities that have built segregated bicycle facilities. It’s time for Miami to join this list.

Chicago, IL
Madison, WI
Davis, CA
Long Beach, CA
Denver, CO
Boulder, CO
Portland, OR
San Francisco, CA
Minneapolis, MN
Cambridge, MA
Boston, MA
Washington, D.C.

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Imagine a world where you can breeze down US1 during rush hour without a care in the world. No gridlock. No traffic. You bypass intersections and the suckers stuck in the slow lane because you are on one of Miami-Dade’s numerous newly implemented ‘Managed Lanes.’ From the Palmetto, to LeJeune, to the entire length of US1, transportation officials have rolled out toll lanes across South Florida, and more are to come.

Unfortunately this future is not in some fantasy world - it is the transportation plan being pursued by our Miami-Dade MPO - led by the Florida Department of Transportation and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority.

Image Courtesy the Miami-Dade MPO. The MPO Transit /Managed Lanes Expansion plan conflates two very different mobility strategies and sets the stage for an incremental phase out of premium transit service.

What are managed lanes? The FHA defines managed lanes as, “Highway facilities or a set of lanes where operational strategies are proactively implemented and managed in response to changing conditions.”  In most cases this involves variable tolling on the managed lane based on surrounding levels of congestion.  Simply put, the lanes are toll roads that run parallel to ‘free’ roads, allowing users to pay a premium to bypass traffic.

As you can see from the map above from the Miami-Dade MPO Near Term Plan, the planners at the MPO have some serious confusion about the relationship between managed lanes and transit. MPO planners are conflating their need for more revenue with their responsibility to provide better mobility throughout Miami-Dade. What follows is what MPO planners have in mind for your transportation future (Disclaimer: I didn’t make this up - it came directly from the MPO Near Term Plan):

Once the SR 836/826 interchange reconstruction is complete the managed lane system can be expanded. A combination of tolling, express lanes and transit services, similar to the operation on I‐95 Express managed lanes represents a greener, cost effective strategy to meet the demand on the transportation system. At a relative minimal cost of implementation this strategy provides a feasible approach that has proven to yield the desired results of mobility improvements that will help transit become more sustainable.

Greenwashing at its worst. To claim that adding capacity to the road will lead to any sustainable benefit is disingenuous at best - and to further claim that this will yield some transit benefit is an insult to the people of Dade county.

The optimal strategy for managed lanes is to convert existing lanes and shoulders , as was done with the I‐95 Express project. Managed lanes in the 2035 LRTP comprise 99 center line miles of improvements. Approximately 27% of those improvements are identified as “Cost Feasible” in the LRTP, 61% are funded only for planning design and right‐of‐way. The remainder of the facilities are unfunded.

FDOT is undertaking a PD&E study for the development of managed lanes on the Palmetto Expressway.
This north‐south corridor is an important link between the Kendall area and the MIC completing a grid of
future managed lanes carrying express transit services.

MDX has initiated a PD&E study for the integration of a managed lane project along the South Dade Busway along US1. If the PD&E study finds that managed lanes are feasible and if the improvements are made to the Busway, it would be operated as a managed lane and the available capacity would be “sold” to auto drivers. The fees paid by private autos would be based upon the demand, in order to preserve free flow conditions. Buses that currently use the exclusive right‐of‐way would operate in mixed flow. Revenues from the tolls would first go to repay the bonds then secondly would go to pay for the operation of the facility. The level of revenues dedicated to transit would still need to be determined and the FTA, who paid for a portion of the Busway, will need to approve the planned project. FTA has stated that the approval of the project would be based upon the level of benefit provided to transit.

Thank goodness for the FTA. We have written extensively on the conversion of the busway to an expressway,  but this is the clearest indication yet that MDX is up to no good. They acknowledge that toll revenue would go to other needs before even being considered for transit, and that the FTA is not yet on-board with their plans because there is no benefit to transit riders. The citizens of Miami-Dade County are being fleeced of their right to convenient and easy mass transit so that county leaders can build ‘lexus lanes’ from one end of Miami to the other.

Different from progressive congestion management policies, like London’s now famous congestion pricing plan, managed lanes are not intended for urban, transit served areas.They provide a fast alternative to both non-tolled streets AND transit, and are described by the FHA as a ‘highway facility.’ While congestion pricing is meant to control/reduce car demand in urban and transit served areas, managed lanes are simply extra capacity and another revenue source for cash strapped transportation agencies.

Regarding London’s congestion pricing plan, Next American City had this to say,

London’s congestion charge system charges private car users who enter the zone £10 ($16) per day between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. The scheme has been a huge success, resulting in a 20% drop in car use, £120 million ($197 million) annual net-revenues, and the fastest growth rate for the city’s bus system since the 1940s. …

As a result of the congestion charge, CO2 emissions fell by 16% within the charging zone, with nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions dropping too. Functional benefits also exist. Average traffic speeds have increased by 37%, with delays to private journeys decreasing by 30% and bus journeys by 50%. Speedier journeys have also reduced average taxi fares.

Congestion pricing is an important part of urban mobility management - but the managed lanes plan proposed by the Miami-Dade MPO is nothing more than a veiled ploy to undermine transit service, and expand highway capacity. There are plenty of ways to expand transit ridership, but managed lanes is not one of them. We need strong and vocal support of transit reform and expansion - NOT the slow dismantling of transit service to the benefit of Miami-Dade’s Mercedes driving population.

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Tallahassee – Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Ananth Prasad announced today that Governor Rick Scott has authorized the Department on behalf of the State of Florida to sign the pending Full Funding Grant Agreement for the SunRail project in Central Florida.

On Tuesday, Secretary Prasad spent the day meeting with citizens across Central Florida and the SunRail funding partners to discuss the framework of the SunRail project.

“The local officials told me they strongly support SunRail and will work with the State and businesses to ensure its success. Furthermore, they clearly understand that the local governments will cover cost overruns,” said Secretary Prasad. “Be assured, I will hold the local officials and the private businesses to their commitments to make SunRail succeed.”

SunRail is a commuter rail transit project that will run along a 61-mile stretch of existing rail freight tracks in Central Florida. The major funding partners for the project are FDOT, the Federal Transit Administration, Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Osceola counties and the city of Orlando.

The 31-mile first phase of SunRail will serve 12 stations, linking DeBary to Orlando. Phase II will serve 5 additional stations, north to DeLand and south to Poinciana. Service is expected to begin service in late 2013- early 2014.

For all the SunRail materials, please visit our website at www.dot.state.fl.us and click “Secretary Prasad announces SunRail decision.”

Secretary Prasad’s SunRail remarks as prepared are below.

As Prepared

Good morning, thank you for joining me today.

As you all know, SunRail is a project that the Department, previous governors, legislatures, local elected officials, and tens of thousands of Floridians have spent years working on to move forward.

At the federal level, Florida Congressman John Mica chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has been the most vocal champion of SunRail and commuter rail in Central Florida for nearly twenty years.  He has supported this project by securing funding and he has held numerous hearings and public meetings throughout Florida and in Washington.

Most recently, on Tuesday I spent the day meeting with citizens across Central Florida and the five major SunRail funding partners to discuss the framework of the SunRail project.

I laid out the details of the project and I asked them all if there were any new facts or information about SunRail - since they last voted on the project - which they felt should have a bearing on the decision of whether or not to proceed.

This was important because SunRail is a partnership between local, state and federal governments - along with private sector entities - and it has been years in the making.

With longtime advocates in Congress and the Florida Legislature, it has been championed as a much-needed transportation alternative in Central Florida.

The state’s participation in this contractual partnership has been contingent on local government commitments, federal appropriations, and promises by private sector companies.

My recent tour of Central Florida provided an opportunity for any of these groups to explain if they no longer intended to live up to these promises.

They did not, and I have reported this back to Governor Scott.

The partners told me they still support the commuter rail system, and they clearly understand that the local governments will participate in covering any cost overruns.

I spent most of my time listening. I listened to the elected officials, but, most importantly, I listened to the public comments.

I listened to all sides of this debate, and I must tell you that the overwhelming majority of opinion expressed in each of the meetings I attended was in favor of moving forward.

This was extremely helpful and I want to again state that I appreciate everyone’s participation in the meetings this week.

I then spent nearly two hours with Governor Scott on Wednesday to brief him on the meetings and to once again review the history and legal framework of SunRail.

This was the latest in ongoing meetings with the Governor and his staff to present research and opinions from a wide variety of experts.

As many of you know, the SunRail agreement was approved by a previous legislature.

At the conclusion of the 2009 Special Session on the SunRail project, the Florida House voted 84 to 25 to create the current framework of the project. In the Florida Senate the vote was 27 to 10.

These votes, cast by legislators from all across Florida, include affirmative votes by current House Speaker Dean Cannon, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, and CFO Jeff Atwater who presided over the Senate at that time.

SunRail was also supported by former Governors Bush and Crist.

Money from both the federal government and here in Florida has already been appropriated for the project.

Details of those appropriations are in the additional information packets that will be made available after my remarks.

Included is a letter from Chairman John Mica, of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, dated just days ago, reaffirming the federal commitment to have funding immediately available for SunRail.

With all due diligence complete, it is time for a decision.

Because of all these previous actions and legal commitments spanning several years, today I am announcing that the Governor has authorized the Department on behalf of the State of Florida to sign the pending Full Funding Grant Agreement.

This will culminate in SunRail’s construction and operation.

This decision was made after a long deliberative process, and the result is that all stakeholders and partners will be held accountable as the project moves forward.

As I mentioned, the SunRail project includes a number of specific commitments from private sector supporters.

The additional information packet has a more complete listing of these entities and their promised actions, but here are a few examples:

  • In exchange for the purchase of rail track, CSX has committed to investments in railways all over the state. These investments will support other infrastructure such as helping make Florida’s ports more accessible for trade.
  • Walt Disney World has committed to partially subsidize Commuter Bus Transit Service throughout Central Florida to its property.
  • Florida Hospital has committed to pay $3.5 million for its own rail stop and to market and subsidize ridership for all its 17,000 employees.
  • Tupperware Brands Corporation has committed to donate 10 acres of land to serve as the site for the proposed Osceola Parkway station and to establish a shuttle service to carry employees and others to encourage ridership.

In conclusion, today I will call Peter Rogoff – the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration – and tell him we will sign the Full Funding Grant Agreement once it clears the 60-day review period in Congress and is transmitted to the State.

I will now take your questions.

 

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The following letter was sent to Gus Pego,  District 6 Secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation, from Scott Timm, outgoing Executive Director of the MiMo Business Improvement Committee. Scott and other MiMo stakeholders like Barabara Gimenez and Nancy Liebman have been vocal proponents of improving pedestrian conditions on Biscayne Boulevard, recognizing the connection between successful commercial frontage, and vibrant pedestrian culture.

Mr. Pego,

As you know, the MiMo Business Improvement Committee (BIC) has been advocating modifications to the current design of Biscayne Boulevard, especially the section between 61st and 77th Streets. I understand that at the time the project was being presented to the community, there were competing interests and requests that resulted in the current design. And I certainly understand that budgets are tight, and would not advocate needlessly spending taxpayer dollars.

But the current design of Biscayne Boulevard is a disaster, and it is only a matter of time before someone is killed or seriously injured along this stretch. Your office says that more enforcement is the solution to the problem. Do parents with small children rely on enforcement only to protect their youngsters from danger, say from toxic chemicals under the sink? No, they add easy-to-install cabinet locks to make the environment safer, so that 24/7 enforcement is NOT required. Why insist we spend millions of taxpayer dollars on ongoing enforcement solutions when the roadway could be designed once to enforce safe speeds and conditions?

This item recently posted to the TransitMiami blog illustrates the all-too-common problem - speeding cars flying off the road and smashing streetlight poles and bus shelters. This has been a ongoing occurrence in this neighborhood, and yet all of our meetings with your staff end with the apology that “there’s nothing we can do.”

We think there is something you can do. The MiMo BIC has proposed a re-striping scenario to restore parallel parking to Biscayne Boulevard, creating safer sidewalks for pedestrians and safer speeds for motorists. We’re told that FDOT can do nothing until Biscayne Boulevard is identified as a priority, specifically in the City of Miami’s Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan (MCNP).

Interestingly enough, we are in the MCNP. Policy TR-1.4.5 defines the “Urban Street” as “a pedestrian and vehicular way whose primary function is to serve adjoining residential neighborhoods and the businesses that serve them.” The policy identifies some city roadways as prime examples of Urban Streets, and Biscayne Boulevard is the first one listed. Quoting further from the MNCP: “Principles that will guide the design process will include, as appropriate: lower design speeds and control of traffic volumes utilizing traffic calming devices including but not limited to modification of lane widths consistent with lower design speeds; wide sidewalks; medians; roundabouts; landscaping; attractive lighting; creative and informative signage; on-street parking; and other design features and amenities as appropriate.”

All we want is a neighborhood that is safe for motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. A neighborhood that will encourage pedestrian activity as a way to revitalize the local businesses. A neighborhood where the historic roadway serves as a point of pride. Unfortunately, the current design of Biscayne Boulevard is flawed, and for the sake of safety - if not esthetics -  it needs to be repaired before someone else is injured or killed.

I would also encourage you to become a regular reader of the TransitMiami blog. There you will learn about problem spots throughout Miami-Dade County where pedestrians and cyclists are forced to fight for their lives; spots that could be made safe with simple roadway design changes.

For personal and family reasons, I am leaving my position at the MiMo BIC, to return north. But know that the BIC, and scores of local residents, business owners, and property owners, will continue to advocate for safer streets and sensible design. We hope that FDOT will partner with us in that journey.

Thank you,

Scott Timm, Executive Director of the MiMo Business Improvement Committee

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From the Sun Sentinel:

Q: In May, a new report ranked four Florida metro areas, including Orlando at No. 1 and South Florida at No. 4, among the nation’s most dangerous for pedestrians. You recently testified before Congress that it might not make sense to build sidewalks, landscaping and bike trails. Can you elaborate?

A: My point was we should not have pre-established goals. We need to make sure it’s needs-driven rather than a fixed amount of money or a percentage of the program spent on landscaping or sidewalks where they might not make sense.

Florida has been doing very good. Our highways are the safest in their history. (In 2009, the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said traffic deaths in Florida dropped to a historic low. The state recorded 2,563 traffic fatalities in 2009, compared with 3,533 in 2005.)

We’re committed to pedestrian safety. The numbers are trending downward. We recognize that one accident and one life taken is one too many. We’ve started a thorough review of our policies. We’re going to make sure any changes we need to make continue to make our roads safer for pedestrians, for people in automobiles and for bicyclists.

Mr. Secretary, Florida has NOT been doing ‘very good’ on bicycle/pedestrian safety. While auto accidents are down, the recent Transportation for America report “Dangerous by Design” showed that our four largest cities rank in the top four most unsafe cities in the US with regard to pedestrian safety. How can you reconcile these rankings with your assertion that numbers are trending downward? 3,359 pedestrians died in Florida’s four largest cities from 2000 to 2009 - that’s 30% more bike/ped fatalities than traffic fatalities in 2009.

Mr. Prasad: I am concerned about the direction FDOT is taking with our streets - and your commentary in the Sun Sentinel is the best evidence yet that your office, and indeed the entire culture of the Florida Department of transportation is out of touch with the needs of the citizenry. The day of car dominated transportation planning is over – FDOT needs to catch up with the times and work toward creating a truly multi-modal network. Streets are for people – not just cars! Traffic studies, highway building, and level of service designations in many cases should take a back seat to issues of quality of life and urban functionality when planning state roads.

Too many State roads continue to turn their back on their context; this does not need to be the case. The ongoing work on Brickell has been a lost opportunity to reduce design speeds, add more crosswalks, and create an amazing pedestrian boulevard - a sentiment voiced by the Brickell Area Association and Brickell Condo Association. The ongoing repaving of Biscayne Boulevard has also been a lost opportunity to provide better streets for citizens - a sentiment echoed by the MiMo Business Association. The growing uproar over State stewardship of local roads is reflected in the range of people participating in the discussion; from board rooms and storefronts, to neighborhood and condo associations across Florida. The constituency of FDOT alienated citizens is growing its ranks and includes merchants, industry, residents, and elected officials.

The list of lost opportunities goes on. Let me reiterate: this is not about pitting modes against each other, but about achieving a balance for all users. That may mean in some cases a reduction in car LOS and capacity - but also lead to greater capacity for other modes. We can plan for a future of more cars, but we can also plan for a future of more flexible mobility. The choice is in the hands of the FDOT.

Finally, Mr. Secretary, your assertion that the philosophy of your department with regard to bike/ped funding is ‘needs-driven’ is exactly the type of circular thinking that obfuscates the real issue and makes transportation planning sound mystical. Transportation demand is controlled by public policy and investments; there is nothing accidental about the transportation choices people make. The more investments we make in creating multimodal transportation networks, the more demand there will be for those networks. Either you are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Florida’s citizens or you have a basic misunderstanding of the way transportation networks operate. Elected officials, transportation engineers, and the myriad of transportation agencies determine transportation demand by providing (or limiting) mass transit alternatives, pricing roads and parking cheaply (or expensively), and providing abundant (or limited) pedestrian and bicycle facilities.

Transportation choices don’t happen by accident -they require a commitment to achievable goals. We need leadership that recognizes that spending on bike/ped infrastructure and transit operations is an investment that pays off by, 1) keeping money in people’s wallets, 2) increasing property values, and 3) attracting the creative class (and accompanying community investment) that goes along with improved urban amenities.

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