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Question - What’s 11 stories tall, 129,000 SF, located within 0.3 miles of a transit station in a dense transit-oriented quadrant of the city (see map above), and dedicates 54% of its available volume to parking?  If you guessed Miami’s newest rising LEED Silver office structure just south of the Health District, then you guessed right.

Via Globestreet:

The space is designed to LEED Silver standards and will cater to the needs of healthcare professionals, according to Gutierrez Group…The 11-story building, located at 1001 Sunnybrook Road, will include four stories of office space and six floors of parking, says Jeb Bush Jr., commercial sales and leasing agent for Coral Gables-based Fairchild Partners, which will handle leasing for Highland Park.

Welcome to Miami.  Only Miamians can figure out how to rig the LEED certification standards so that this lousy excuse of a building can become Silver Certified.  Honestly, this building should be imploded upon completion.  The building, pictured below, is reminiscent of a few other less than notable properties we’ve discussed before (See: Miami Green, Bay of Pigs Museum, Marina Blue, etc.) and littered with the same atrocious parking standards Miami has become renown for.  Some might even say we have “world-class” parking standards.  I traveled the great cities of the United States and part of the world and have never seen another city that takes such pride in its autocentric designs.  Without a formal analysis, I’d go so far as to suggest that we have more parking structures in our high transit centers than any other city I’ve seen yet.  Its projects like these that will really tarnish the USGBC’s LEED certification system.

Image Credit: Vitruvius09 via SSC

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What seems out of place in this picture?  If you guess the triangular sliver of grass amid all the concrete and parking, then you guessed right.  I was browsing through the most recent copy of the LRTP or TIP, don’t remember which one but that is besides the point, when I came across some preliminary plans to acquire this sliver of land from the FEC.  The plan, of course, would be for MDT to convert this last remnant of green space into further surface parking for the Dadeland North Metrorail station.

Now, I realize the importance of parking for metrorail, especially given our commuter-like use of the train and extremely autocentric lifestyles, but the pragmatist in me doesn’t see the need, especially when the immediate surroundings are already paved over with under-utilized land.  Simon Malls certainly isn’t using all of their available parking, why can’t we learn to work with our neighbors first?  The problem with metrorail, contrary to common belief, isn’t that “it doesn’t go anywhere” but that we haven’t constructed anything of any value around it.  Sure Dadeland is a step away, but who wants to walk between 3 parking structures, just to walk under the teal pathway which meanders through the sea of parking? If Miami plans to make any significant upgrades to metrorail or any of our urban centers, we must begin around our existing transit nodes.  It’s bad enough this ROW won’t be used to connect downtown Kendall with the MIC using an LRT…

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Photo: New DeKalb Ave bike lane in

When it comes to adding bike lanes, a common roadblock (pun intended) is that the prospective street does not have enough horizontal space to accommodate them. For example, a typical striped bike lane should be at least four feet wide, but five feet is preferable. However, few streets have this kind of space between the parking lane and an adjacent traffic lane to make way for bike lanes without compromising legal lane widths. While taking away a traffic lane OR taking away a parking lane is an option, it can be like running up Everest trying to get the support of the community and its’ officials for this to happen, thanks to our powerful car/oil addiction. However there is one option that could serve as both a compromise and a win for the cycling/livable cities community: take away a traffic lane during off-peak hours.

To illustrate my point, I’m going to use a case from my Brooklyn neighborhood on DeKalb Avenue. As of about a month ago, DeKalb Ave was a one-way street with two traffic lanes and two on-street parking lanes. The avenue moves westbound moving out of Brooklyn toward the Manhattan Bridge, so cars regularly flew at speeds between 40-50 mph. As a result, the street was very dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians despite a high number of both being present on the street throughout the much of the day.

Picture: Existing conditions on DeKalb Ave (NYCDOT)

The solution? NYCDOT decided to take away a lane of traffic during off-peak hours and add a five foot bike lane plus a three foot buffer to protect cyclists from traffic, getting doored, and hopefully mitigate maddeningly frustrating bike lane parking. By narrowing the street to one traffic lane during off-peak hours, it serves to calm traffic from the wild, unnecessary speeding and lane changing for much of the day. However, to help accommodate more traffic during rush hours, a parking lane (on the opposite side of the bike lane, of course) becomes a traffic lane. Any car still parked during peak hours gets ticketed.

Graphic: Conceptual plan for DeKalb Ave (NYCDOT)

Some people may ask, what about the businesses on DeKalb getting hurt by the loss of parking, especially during peak periods? The answers are straight forward enough. First, NYCDOT is installing meters to encourage turnover instead of all-day parking squatting. This will actually help businesses by facilitating turnover as well as generate revenue for the usage of valuable urban street space. It will also redefine loading zone hours in order to combat double parking that clogs traffic and creates dangerous conflicts. Lastly, by calming the street and improving access for cyclists and pedestrians, the potential is there to enhance local business activity even further.

Of course this will not be a perfect scenario, but it should certainly make DeKalb Avenue more livable as it functions more like a complete street. For example, I’ve noticed that it’s actually a little more difficult for pedestrians to cross DeKalb at mid-block now, since there is a steady (albeit slower) flow of traffic along the single traffic lane. However, this can be expected in the short term, as drivers adapt to the roadway changes. Over time, studies have shown that such street changes should eventually lead to disappearing traffic, whereas drivers either choose other routes, other schedules, or not to drive. I’ve witnessed idiot drivers double-parking in the bike lane already, but so far the only way to really solve this problem is physically separated bike lanes.

So how does this tie into Miami? There are many streets with parking lanes that could sacrifice a lane of traffic during off peak hours in order to incorporate bike lanes. Some of the streets that come to mind are operated by FDOT, so it’s important that this is taken into consideration when advocating for this type of roadway reconfiguration. Many other streets in more urban areas of Miami, Miami Beach, and Coral Gables have the potential to utilize this configuration.

(Note: I know there will be at least a few haters reading this who will be eager to point out how different New York is from Miami and how this type of street space reallocation would never work in Miami/South Florida. Well let me tell you this — NYC may be quite different in many ways, but this kind of thing isn’t just being done there, it’s being done it cities all over the country, many of which are less densely developed than Miami.)

Photo: DeKalb Ave @ Washington Ave

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To all our regular readers, the message below is a direct response to the recent criticisms presented by local blog Critical Miami:

We are not anti-car zealots, we strongly believe that the key to creating a sustainable community is a multi-modal transportation policy rather than the uni-modalism that currently overwhelms Miami-Dade. It appears that in the eyes of some, Transit Miami has lost its focus, becoming too obsessed with creating a city that is designed and navigable to humans, rather than the voluminous heaps of metal we all wander around in.

A Message from the Publisher

I started Transit Miami for one reason: because I care about my community. The way I see it, Miami has a potential that no other city does, a vibrancy no other community could dream of achieving. Sadly, in my 22 years of living here, I have witnessed nothing more than its potential crumble, eroded away in congestion, corrupt politics, and square mile after square mile of inauspicious development. In my travels abroad, to Paris, London, San Francisco, Vienna, and New York, among other places, I experienced the nature of true global cities and came back longing for the same characteristics that make those cities successful. Regarding thriving, diverse economies, unparalleled educational opportunities, a pulsating cultural scene, etc, it is often difficult to understand how all of the qualities* we want for our city are tied deeply to the urbanism which defines our landscapes.

After all, we find it alarming that on average Miamians spend 30% of their income on Transportation needs, don’t you? There is a better way to live.
-Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal

Clarity on the Issues

While we appreciate Critical Miami’s kudos and acknowledge their own fine work over the last few years, we definitely feel that it is their site that is out of touch with reality in this case. Perhaps Critical Miami is baffled because they are not likely educated on best practices in contemporary urban planning. Frankly, we find it contradictory that a site that calls for “holding the line” so adamantly would be so misunderstanding when it comes to better land-use policy.

To be clear, Transit Miami never stated that worsening driving conditions was the best way to improve transit. In fact, we stated the opposite, “Additional parking will increase congestion…” The developer, not Transit Miami, originally proposed the position of hampering a vehicle’s ability to access the EWT development. We supported his decision and original plans to reduce parking capacity at EWT due to the direct links his structure would have with the adjacent Metromover structure (just as we supported reductions in parking at the Coconut Grove Metrorail Transit-Oriented Development) and never once suggested making driving more difficult, only parking.

Critical Miami mentions several times that “making driving more difficult” is political suicide and is essentially foolish. What about traffic-calming? Wouldn’t Critical Miami agree that traffic calming makes streets safer and livable for everyone, perhaps at the expense of a little speed for the motorist? If you support traffic calming in any capacity, it makes your statements about making driving appear paradoxical.

The interesting part is, we aren’t even advocating for anything drastic. For example, we promote the Miami Streetcar project, which calls for constructing a streetcar line through one of the densest and fastest-growing urban corridors in the state. This is not very drastic at all, especially in a city with a woefully underdeveloped mass transit system and sizable low-income population. We promote decreases in minimum parking standards. This is not so radical either since it reduces the overall development cost, making housing more affordable. There is a sizable body of scholarly literature available that correlates the underlying message of our letter: increasing parking capacity increases driving demand like dangling a carrot for cars.

Sustainability, Miami’s Growing Problem

Miami-Dade County, as it currently stands, is one of the most unsustainable metros in America. You can analyze this from a variety of angles, but you will always end up reaching the same conclusion: our actions will have devastating economical, environmental, and social costs if we do not change. If you want to look at it from a mobility/accessibility/congestion standpoint, Miami is incredibly unsustainable under a current unimodal paradigm and without change, it will become a less and less viable place to live and conduct business. Traffic congestion and VMTs (vehicle miles traveled) are expected to increase significantly between now and 2025. Contrary to what Critical Miami and most Americans believe, it simply is not economically or spatially feasible to build your way out of congestion (i.e. build more highways/widen roads.)

This means two things: in order to be more sustainable from a transportation perspective we must improve and expand our transit capacity and we must improve our accessibility. The transit component is straight forward enough. However, continuing the auto-centric status quo gives the illusion that we do not have to change our transportation habits and there will always be some fix or policy to make things better for driving. This could not be further from the truth and is flat out irresponsible. This is why we are against excessive minimum parking requirements, because it is like mandating more beer for an alcoholic.

Regarding the second component, accessibility, this means changing our zoning to allow mixed land uses and creating higher densities. This will enable people to travel shorter distances for their employment, retail, commercial, recreational, and residential purposes (if they so chose.)

Note: the goal of changing our land use policy is to enable people to have a choice when it comes to personal mobility, where walking or driving can be considered equal alternatives. This is a fundamental component of transportation equity.

This increases the viability of walking and cycling, which incidentally is the cheapest way to get around. However, if you continue down the auto-centric policy paradigm, you are not facilitating the type of conditions that make walking, cycling, transit, and higher density a formidable option.

Transit Miami’s Global Comparisons

Regarding the division between the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, of course it is the county that operates the local transit agency. This is likely the root of many of the problems we will face in this region over the coming decades; our inability to work together due to the multiple bureaucratic layers we have created because of perceived political injustices. This fragmented landscape of local municipalities will only serve a divisive role when it comes to regional planning initiatives.

Ryan never said or even implied that Miami was going to have a transit system like Montreal’s – he simply implied that Montreal had a quality transit system and that Miami should strive to improve theirs in order to achieve a higher transit standard and all the external benefits that go along with it. That is tough to misconstrue. In addition, he never mentioned or even remotely implied that Miami needed to “grow a mountain” to have a grand urban park. That is very clear for anyone reading that section, and it seems to me that either you grossly misread it or cherry picked that part and took it out of context to support your own point.

Transit Miami often uses global comparisons to drive home points visually to our readers on the effects of better public transit and land-use policy in other cities.

Bicycle as a means of Transportation, not just a Vacation

We don’t recall any sort of official “challenge,” however Critical Miami is unequivocally wrong about their assertion that such a program cannot work anywhere in Miami. Just because Critical Miami is a bike enthusiast doesn’t mean you understand how bicycling systems operate or can function in an urban setting. South Beach offers the perfect place for a pilot program, at a minimum. Transit Miami is in the process of working closely with our local agencies to see such a plan come to fruition, we invite Critical Miami to attend any of the local Bicycle Action Committees to air their sentiments.

Regarding Critical Miami’s comments about it taking generations to enact the type of changes we advocate, this has been proven otherwise. Enrique Penalosa, the former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, created a thriving bicycle network in his city and within just five years captured 5% of the daily transportation needs. It just so happens that Mr. Penalosa was recently in Miami, meeting with Miami officials to discuss their plans to create a bicycle network in this city, a meeting that this blogger was privileged enough to attend. Looking beyond bicycles, formerly auto-centric cities like Perth, Australia, with guidance from visionaries like Peter Newman, have transformed into legitimate multi-modal communities in just 20 years or so, which is well within the time frame of the county’s current Long Term Plan and the City of Miami’s Comprehensive Neighborhood Development Plan.

The fact of the matter is that changes occur when the funding (and mentality) is there in support. Sure, cities evolve and mature and most changes do not occur overnight, but the mentality Critical Miami presents falls in line with the mentality that has accomplished nothing in Miami over the past several decades.

-This article represents the views of the entire Transit Miami Staff…

Curb cuts are perhaps one of the most under recognized destroyers of good urban design. They completely mutilate the continuity of the pedestrian realm and endanger cyclists riding close to the curb or cars parked on the street. Curb cuts effectively subsidize parking and therefore increases driving demand. The next time you are taking a walk and you notice you seem to be undulating with the rise and fall of the sidewalk, blame the curb cuts. I challenge you to try and notice the effect curb cuts have around Miami-Dade…I think you might surprised.
Photo: nycstreets.org

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Off-street parking requirements [imposed by a city for new developments] and cars…present a symbiotic relationship: the requirements lead to free parking, the free parking leads to more cars and more cars then lead to even higher parking requirements. When 3 spaces per 1,000 square feet [of new building] no longer satisfy the peak demand for free parking, a stronger dose of 4 spaces per 1,000 square feet can alleviate the problem, but not for long because cars increase in numbers to fill the new parking spaces. Every jab of the parking needle relieves the local symptoms, but ultimately worsens the real disease — too much land and capital devoted to parking and cars. Parking requirements are good for motorists in the short run but bad for cities in the long run.

- Donald Shoup, The High Cost of Free Parking

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it twice, we’ve said it about a hundred times: parking is cancerous to urban areas. The more of it you have and the cheaper it is, the more lethal it becomes to what could be a healthy, well-designed urban area as it induces driving demand and destroys urban continuity. Unfortunately for Miamians, people in power are still about as clueless about parking as George McFly was about women.
In this recent article in the Miami Today News, it is revealed that Bayview Market (yeah, one of the proposed uber-retail developments in the Omni area with about 50 million parking spaces) is now unfathomably receiving bonus incentives from the City to build more parking. The measure is designed to reward retail developers for adding extra parking in the Urban Central Business District, allowing an additional 10 ft. of building height for every additional 75 parking spaces provided.

Though the bonus only is allowable for up to 20 ft. of building height, it is still terrible, terrible policy to be incentivizing developers to build more parking in the CBD — a place that already has such an incredible oversupply of parking it is disgusting. If this isn’t bad enough, here’s the real nail-in-the-coffin of bad parking policy: the ordinance requires that the new spaces be free to the public during business hours, and offered at market rates during off-peak periods. This is absolutely as backward as it gets.

Too bad that the people’s opinions that matter don’t think so. City Manager (and apparently urban planner wannabe) Pete Hernandez calls this ridiculous new ordinance, “good, sound policy.”

Bayview Market’s developer, Garcia Du-Quesne, also seems to have missed the boat (though he can at least claim bias):

“We strongly feel that it (the ordinance) has a tremendous foresight and reflects good planning…(it) is made for every present or future retail developer.”

Yikes. But this is what we’ve come to expect in Miami/Miami-Dade. People who have no formal urban planning education are making critical errors in policy and project approvals based on hunches, pet theories, and overly simplistic economic policy that will forever damage our quality of life and urban potential.

I’m forwarding a copy of UCLA Urban Planner and world-renowned parking policy scholar Donald Shoup’s People, Parking, and Cities (or click here for the abbreviated version) to the City Manager and all of Miami and Miami-Dade’s commissioners. If you’re reading at home and really want to become an expert of parking policy, I highly recommend Shoup’s book, The High Cost of Free Parking.

Both of these pieces will change your opinion about parking forever.

Photo: Google Earth

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National:

  • The Houston MTA has voted to use LRT on all of its upcoming 5 rapid transit routes.
  • How do you resolve a budget deficit of $29 Million? You spend $102 Million to build a streetcar of course! This method is being pitched by Cincinnati’s City Manager, who argues that the added benefit the streetcar will bring will more quickly pull the city out of economic recession.
  • Seattle voters will soon be heading to the polls to vote on a massive transportation bill which will simultaneously expand LRT service and widen highways…
Local:
  • Alesh provides a run down of how to use Public Transit. Plenty of good points, particularly: the environment, exercise, reading time, and money. The only thing I’d add to the list is social interaction…
  • Earth to these people…Lowering the parking rates at the Sonesta will CAUSE MORE PROBLEMS… If anything, parking meter rates should increase to discourage people within walking distance of the grove from driving around in search for a parking spot. If you need help on how to get around without a car, see Alesh’s post above…
  • Michael Lewis provides us with some much needed insight on the former fountain in Bayfront Park once dedicated to Claude Pepper…
  • Rail apparently isn’t a viable option to connect to the port… We still disagree

  • Parking: “…parking is one of the biggest boondoggles — and environmental disasters — in our country”

  • Local Poverty Peddlers: Herlad reports on Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust corruption

Tomorrow is an exciting day for sustainable city advocates, or for that matter anyone who cares about parks and public space. Tomorow is National Park(ing) Day 2007, where cities across the U.S. will be taking back parking spaces and converting them to park space. An organization known as the Trust for Public Land (TPL) is spearheading the national effort to reclaim public space taken over to store private automobiles.

“The organizers plan to focus attention on the need for more parks while encouraging people to rethinking how urban space is used…these efforts are designed to highlight the need to integrate accessible and functional parks and green spaces into urban environments and lifestyles - and hopefully prompt passersby to seek opportunities to roll up their sleeves and roll out the green themselves.” (Planetizen)

Most people participating are simply taking strips of Astroturf and rolling them out into parking spaces, then putting some pot plants and seating on top for a quick and easy space conversion. Some people are taking it a bit further, where design groups are challenging one another to create the best temporary park(ing) space. I’ve even seen some put ping pong tables in the space. It’s all about creativity.


In Miami-Dade, there are two known locations participating in National Park(ing) Day. TPL and the City of Coral Gables will be rolling out a park in front of Houston’s on Miracle Mile to celebrate the city’s downtown park system and promote more community green space.

In Miami, a collaboration of several arts groups will be rolling out a park in Wynwood’s Art District. The park will feature art pieces inspired by nature and made from sustainable, eco-friendly materials.

I also encourage anyone else out there to get involved and create your own park out of parking space. This is something to be done in metered spaces, so I’m talking to you in South Beach, North Beach, Coconut Grove, Downtown, Brickell, Design District, South Miami, downtown Coral Gables, etc. Don’t forget to feed the meters, though, because taking over public parking spaces without doing so is illegal (unfortunately).

Anyone willing to send us pictures of a parking squat, we’d love to post ‘em!

Photos: National Park(ing) Day 2006 in Midtown Manhattan (courtesy of Streetsblog)

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I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us but the list of “Best Tailgating Cities” came out recently and was topped mostly by the worst autocentric cities across America. Among the top ten were Miami at number 6 with Tampa right behind us at Number 7. Although parking availability wasn’t the only criteria, it was one of the key factors examined by Joe Cahn, a “Tailgating Expert.”


Harborcreek Mall, originally uploaded by maniwa_pa.

We often times refer to the automobile as the culprit behind much of our congestion and sprawling woes when perhaps we should attribute more of our attention simply to the amount of parking made available in our cities. Like cars, parking lots degrade our cities on two fronts: contributing to congestion (due to their “availability”) and adversely affecting our local climate change.

“The problem with parking lots is that they accumulate a lot of pollutants—oil, grease, heavy metals and sediment—that cannot be absorbed by the impervious surface,” Engel says. “Rain then flushes these contaminants into rivers and lakes.”

And we haven’t even begun discussing the “urban heat island” effect that parking lots contribute to, which can raise temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius, according to Indiana state climatologist Dev Niyogi.

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Is it me, or is Miami on the fast track to epic surreality?

Yesterday, Gabriel opined about how ridiculous the commission-initiated plan was to construct a Bay of Pigs museum on Parcel B behind the American Airlines Arena. Though he did a great job illustrating the bad urban design and architecture of the project, I felt compelled to write about just how preposterous this whole idea is. I’m sure I won’t say much that hasn’t already been said, but I don’t care.

Where do we begin? How about this beauty from Chairman Bruno Barreiro:

“I think we might hamper and will hamper the arena if we do not really consider an additional parking structure with amenities on that site.”

It’s hard for me to imagine any educated person saying this with a straight face. I certainly don’t think the AAA, or the Miami Heat organization, has been hampered thus far. Plus, with new parking facilities seemingly going up by the month downtown, it’s even more unrealistic to think the AAA or the Miami Heat is being “hampered” by a lack of parking. And don’t use the excuse that Metrorail and Metromover are already at capacity during AAA events - add more train cars (Metrorail), increase frequency, or both during games and concerts.

Then Chairman Barreiro, implying that such a museum could still be “park-like”, says:

“You could design these things nowadays with a lot of greenery around the edges and borders, a very friendly pedestrian use.”

Now, look, it’s understandable that the Chairman, a Cuban-American, or someone like Javier Souto, a Bay of Pigs vet, would offer their strong support for such a museum, even using transparent language like this. But com’n, another waterfront Museum, on top of a parking garage? It’s bad enough as it is don’t try to sell this as “park-like” or “pedestrian-friendly”.

The third quote that caught me off guard, courtesy of Commissioner Sosa:

“It’s (the museum) going to be very close to the water, and the history of Cuba is so close to the water.”

Wow. Do I even need to explain why this statement is completely asinine? That’s no reason to put a museum on top of a parking garage on prime downtown waterfront property!

Furthermore, voters were promised real park space on Parcel B. If anything, this Parcel should be incorporated with the Museum Park Master Plan. After all, the goal has been to connect Museum/Bicentennial Park with the piece of land occupied by the AAA using a pedestrian bridge. Why not go the extra mile and finally make this Parcel into a high quality waterfront public space?

Let me close by saying I’m not at all opposed to a Bay of Pigs museum. There are other locations and designs, however, that much more appropriate than on Parcel B. I just get the feeling that the county Commission is forcing this one down our collective throats…because they can. It’s a cheap shot proposing this museum on the waterfront, because no one in their right political mind is going to denounce this. The sad truth is that it would be political suicide in Miami. If citizens didn’t take it personally (which I’m sure many would), fellow commissioners would find a way to make anyone opposing it out to be racist, hostile to war vets, or out of touch with the Cuban-American community.

Typical Miami politics.

In my post last week regarding the absurd comments on the parking situation in downtown, I somehow skimmed over the rest of the article (likely due to the nausea induced by the aforementioned quotes) and missed even more (I’m going to go ahead and make up my own word to really put this into context) Ridiculaiety… If bad planning and stupid ideas make you ill, you may want to stop reading now:

To expand downtown parking, authority officials are getting creative, exploring the idea of building a park-and-ride garage in Brickell as a joint venture on privately owned land, Mr. Noriega said.

Can’t say I didn’t warn you but let’s analyze, shall we? “…getting creative…” is an obvious disguise for being oblivious to standard urban planning principles, hence why the revolutionary idea has never been considered before; point blank its just plain stupid. Park-and-ride…In Brickell? To serve exactly who? The People who inched on US-1 alongside Metrorail? It certainly can’t serve Brickell residents, no; they have easy access to Metromover already. And forget the Roads and Grove Nimbys; their against everything. Are we building it for the folks who drive from Pinecrest, a town which by the way recently rejected their own Park-and-Ride service which would have more effectively served residents with service to the Busway and Metrorail. No. It’s a “joint venture,” or in laymen’s terms an opportunity for yet another developer to hoodwink the public and for another corrupt official to receive a gratuitous kickback. Nobody, in any right mind, would jump at the opportunity to build a parking lot/garage in Brickell which would serve primarily as a Park-and-Ride lot- Its just not happening…

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