Currently viewing the tag: "Transit"

Miami-Dade Transit will be taking comments on their annual recently released their Transit Development Plan 2011 update. You can find the document here. The Transit Development Plan is required by State Law to, “present the operational and capital improvement needs of Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) and also serve as a planning tool to project future MDT needs for the implementation and operation of transit service.”

The Transit Development Plan is an important planning tool as it provides a complete picture of funding sources, revenues, and expenses (on the operations side), while also describing the existing transit network, demographics and planned service changes. It is the closest document we have to a ‘People’s Transportation Plan’.

In the years following the demise of the Orange Line MetroRail extension, the TDP has been focused on reducing the operating budget and squeezing efficiency from the existing system, while not really providing a clear framework for increases in ridership. The October 2009 update described its budgetary strategy as, “an avoidance of any major service expansion except for the MIC-Earlington Heights Metrorail connector service.”

Two years later, the TDP doesn’t paint a rosier picture for premium service expansions; none are envisioned in the near term.  But what the document does reveal is a department that is trying to do more with its existing infrastructure, both through increased efficiencies in the network and improved passenger amenities.

Several new ‘enhanced’ bus routes are also discussed, including the North Corridor Enhanced Bus project, and the SR 836 Express Bus Project. We’ll talk more about those later. What we can say now is that the service expansions envisioned by this latest TDP are very modest – and incremental – improvements to service around the county as an alternative to the ambitious and extensive PTP.

Aside from some new routes, MDT has been working on implementing improved passenger amenities, such as real-time bus tracking and WiFi access. MDT began rolling it its popular  Wi-Fi service in 2010, and currently provides service in all Metro-Rail trains, and approximately 20% of the bus fleet. The coming year will see the program expanded to the entire fleet of MetroBuses and all station platform areas. Future service expansions, such as the NW 27 Enhanced route, will also come equipped with Wi-Fi as a standard feature.

MDT is also moving forward with implementing a new AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location)  software system that will replace the current system (which dates from the late 90’s). The new system will provide for real-time tracking, and transit signal prioritization – elements that should help MDT make modest ridership gains using existing infrastructure. The real-time tracking will allow full integration with smart phones, and will also be a standard feature in future service expansions. This improvement will finally give the South Dade Busway the signal priority it was designed for, and shorten commute times along this heavily used transit corridor. MDT plans to issue an RFP for the system this year, with a launch scheduled for mid-2012.

Kudos to MDT for advancing these needed technological improvements - they will pay for themselves and then some. One need only look at the EasyCard system and Automatic Passenger Counters (APCs), implemented in 2009, which MDT has been using its to make targeted improvements to service schedules. The efficiencies created by using this data (adjusting/eliminating empty routes) has allowed MDT planners to use infrastructure more wisely.

This year’s TDP includes numerous service changes that involve adjusting routes using the APC data, along with staff recommendations, according to MDT Planner Maria Battista. Among the data used to make service changes, Battista said, “administrators have held monthly meetings with the drivers and superintendents that let us know what is going on in their routes.” The adjustments in service respond to the current ridership demands. Some routes are being reduced by 15-20 minutes at non-peak hours (prior to the morning rush, or during evening hours) based on data that showed no usage during these times. These surgical adjustments will help ensuring that MDT facilities are being used when and where they are needed most.

The TDP 2011 shows an agency working with what it has. No premium service expansions, but important improvements to existing service. This all comes against the backdrop of an agency - it would seem by the media- in disarray. No Director, serious FTA funding problems, a lackluster commission directive, and a newly installed Mayor whose commitment to transit involves converting a transit corridor into a highway. The changes proposed by the TDP 2011 set the stage for premium expansions sometime in the future. The incremental ramp-up of ridership in new enhanced bus routes, along with the improved passenger amenities, and GPS tracking abilities will allow our elected officials to take hold of the agency and provide the premium service expansion that this community demanded almost a decade ago.

Suggestions and comments on the annual TDP update can be sent to BPB@miamidade.gov.

As reported in the April 21st issue of Miami Today, Marlins Stadium stakeholders are meeting monthly to devise ways for fans to travel to the games at the new Marlins stadium, set to open for the 2012 season. While recent news mentions options including trolleys, bus transfers and water taxis, premium mass transit and bicycle connections to the stadium remain elusive. 

The new Marlins stadium is set to be the first LEED-silver certified baseball stadium in the USA. As criteria for this certification, the stadium’s design incorporates an impressive array of environmentally sound measures. As reported in this NBC story on April 19th, the stadium will also feature “2,000 spaces for bicycles”. After an inquiry to the Marlins via the team’s website, FanFeedback@Marlins.com replied, “We will have 536 spots reserved for bicycles all around the stadium for those whom do not commute by car.” However, we at TransitMiami wonder if that simply means unattended bicycle racks spread around the stadium, or a secure valet/bicycle check like that of San Francisco’s AT&T Park as seen in this clip (via Streetfilms.org). While there is a discrepancy in the number of spaces and questions regarding security, it is encouraging news for cyclists at the ballpark either way. TransitMiami will continue to look into the details of these accommodations.

But what about getting to the new stadium by bicycle? The site is less than 3 miles from the heart of Downtown and Brickell. It would make complete sense to connect these two dense residential areas and the stadium with a safe bike route for a multitude of obvious reasons. TransitMiami is calling on the Miami-Dade Public Works Department, the City of Miami and the Marlins to be pro-active in this regard.

Personally, I rode from Brickell to the stadium site this weekend via NW South River Drive and NW 4th street. It is mostly a pleasant ride of less than 20 minutes through leafy residential areas of Little Havana. Of course, there are a few perilous intersections with little consideration given to pedestrians or cyclists along the route. But overall, a designated bike route seems entirely feasible on a variety of roadways to link the densest areas of Miami with the stadium. I can even envision a Marlins ambassador leading a group ride from Downtown/Brickell during day games.  What a perfect way for the Marlins to promote the LEED certification of the new ballpark as well as provide a fun and hassle-free way for their local fans to get to the game!

Commuting to baseball stadiums by bicycle is wildly popular in cities like Denver, San Francisco and Washington DC as those stadiums make significant accommodations for cyclists. In an age of soaring gas prices, traffic congestion and expensive parking, Miami needs to ‘step up to the plate’ and provide cyclists a safe route to the game.

As said in the baseball movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, he will come.”

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While Miami’s political attention is on County charter changes, Miami-Dade County residents should consider a change that would reduce our second-largest cost of living: transportation.

Our largest cost of living, housing – at least the portion directly determined by County government, i.e. property taxes – is overseen by an official that we recently decided that we should elect.  Now any Property Appraiser must improve the lives of a majority of County residents in the area of property taxes in order to be re-elected.

This technique should by applied to the area of transportation, changing the County charter to create an elected County Transportation Director with the power and responsibility over all modes of transportation.  This would insert into County government one person whose sole political interest is to move as many County residents to destinations that matter to us.

Any candidate for County Transportation Director would have to convince a majority of voters that he or she is best able to come up with plans, and implement them, for saving us time and money by extending facilities, increasing capacity, and reducing waste.   An elected County Transportation Director would have to improve the lives of a majority of County residents in the area of transportation in order to be re-elected.

Creating an elected County Transportation Director would also address issues with the current system in which certain modes of transportation, or certain facilities, are overseen by separate County departments.  For example, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, because it only deals with toll highways, has an interest in not losing revenue to rail or buses.  Separate departments may act against such interests out of benevolence, but it would be better to remove temptation.

Transportation investment and maintenance decisions should be made on the basis of how many people could benefit, regardless of mode or facility.  An elected County Transportation Director would have every incentive to make decisions in such a way, improving mobility for all County residents and reducing our cost of living.

Submitted by Andrew Frey.

I happened to be looking at the transit reports the other day and I noticed that the Metromover had its best month ever this past March (2011).   I might be wrong, but I went pretty far back and found no other month above the 848,970 recorded this past March.

The Metrorail as well had one of its best months ever at 1,673,175.

You can find the reports at: http://www.miamidade.gov/transit/news_technical_reports.asp

 

Changes are coming to the Stephen P. Clark Deathstar very soon.

Charter reform: the latest issue du jour. Term limits, easier citizen petitions, new at large districts - these are some of the possible changes facing voters in May, and depending on the details theycould be revolutionary or they could be useless. Mayoral candidates like Commissioner Carlos Gimenez and others on the County Commission are trying to advance sweeping changes to county government. Kudos to them for trying, but without considering sweeping changes to transportation planning and funding, charter reform will not mean much to the residents of Miami-Dade County. 

A truly comprehensive charter reform plan must address the inadequacies of our existing system of transportation planning and governance. Multiple overlapping and competing agencies are responsible for planning and financing roads, highways, and transit, with no coordinated, unified vision. Transit capacity is not being expanded, while roadway congestion cost Miami-Dade County residents $3.2 billion in 2009 according to the Texas Transportation Institute “National Congestion Report.”

Among the policy changes advocated by folks like Commissioner Gimenez is a change to county UDB expansion policy - making it more difficult to expand the urban development boundary, as listed in his ‘Blueprint for Charter Reform’. (Gimenez clarified his position at a Latin Builders Association luncheon last week saying he would not rule out moving the line). While Gimenez’ position on the UDB is in flux, one thing is clear: holding the UDB and encouraging infill development must be coordinated with expanded premium transit options within the urban service area.  The challenges presented by growth management are intimately tied to local transit options: the two cannot be disconnected.

Voters in 2002 saw the need for the creation of a premium transit network, and passed the visionary People’s Transportation Plan and ½ cent sales tax, mandating the creation of a Citizens Independent Transportation Trust to oversee the tax and act as stewards of the PTP. Though the CITT was created, it was never truly independent, and the plan remains an unfulfilled mandate.

Charter reform is one of our best opportunities to finally take control of our transportation future - through the creation of an independent authority responsible for all transportation planning and expansion in Miami-Dade County. Led by an elected executive transportation professional, the authority would be responsible for setting policy and implementing a plan that works for allcitizens of Miami-Dade County – transit users, cyclists, pedestrians and motorists alike.

With gas prices certain to continue their upward rise, Mayoral candidates like Commissioner Gimenez need to be bold in addressing the imbalance of transportation options in this community. They may want to start by looking at charter reform as part of the answer.

The Texas Transportation Institute just released its annual study on National Traffic Congestion - and surprise! congestion is on the rise across the country, and especially here in Miami. Miami ranked 7th in the top 15 cities for longest travel delay and congestion cost (under cities like Chicago and New York).

Important to note in the rankings is the definition of congestion cost, calculated as, 

Value of travel delay for 2009 (estimated at $16.01 per hour of person travel and $105.67 per hour of truck time) and excess fuel consumption (estimated using state average cost per gallon).

Other notable factoids include:

- highest transit usage occurred in 2008, but 2009 transit ridership remains historically high (due to the bus service expansion following the PTP)

-Congestion cost in Miami-Dade County $3.2 billion dollars in 2009 - at an average cost of $892/car.

Unfortunately, the calculations tend to fall apart when comparing Public Transportation numbers and the benefits derived from continued service. According to the data, public transportation accounts for a reduction of $217 million in congestion costs. The problem with this number is that it’s derived from calculating transit trips and their value. The report compares vehicle miles traveled for cars and places these on equal footing with unlinked public transit trips - a calculation that ignores the benefits of compact urbanism (ie. downtown). One public transit trip equals more than one car trip because the areas around transit nodes contain more density and intensity of activity that one need not take multiple trips for different activities.

In spite of this misleadingly low number, we can still see that congestion has a hidden cost on our economy that we pay for indirectly and that our limited transit network (here in Miami) provides a tangible benefit in reducing these costs.  This should be signal to our elected officials that transit has an economic value, and pulls its weight, in spite of the fact that farebox revenues do not pay for the operation of the system. We end up paying for the lack of transit in other ways - car maintenance/insurance/gas, tolls, environmental and social costs, not to mention lost productivity.

The report did have one shining jewel of advice when considering how these numbers should be used by officials in considering transportation projects and their impact on congestion:

Consider the scope of improvement options. Any improvement project in a corridor within most of the regions will only have a modest effect on the regional congestion level. (To have an effect on areawide congestion, there must be significant change in the system or service).

Well said. Transportation planners in Miami-DadeCounty have to stop thinking about ‘congestion’ as a problem that can be fixed with operational gimmicks and highway expansion. Congestion is going to exist with or without projects like MDX’s South Dade lexus lanes. What we need to do is provide people with an expanded array of transportation options that will give them an alternative to congestion. Projects that try to ‘ease’ congestion will only serve to benefit a small number of users, as in the case of the US1 managed lanes; wealthy residents of South Dade will benefit, but the rest of the working class and poor residents of South Dade will continue to use the service that remains on the Busway, or have no other choice than to sit in congestion and wait. Doesn’t sound like an equitable or efficient use of the public righ-of-way to me.

 2010 was an ambitious year for MDX. Open road tolling really took off, and MDX had its planners busy working on ways to turn our County into an expressway wonderland, where everyone is only a block away from smooth rides; all the while, as our friends at rollbacktolls.com report, MDX ran a $2.4 billion debt through 2010. While we at Transit Miami do not think that tolls are the problem, we support others’ efforts to put MDX under a magnifying glass - after all, they act with complete impunity when it comes to planning and operating the expressway system in Miami-Dade County. And it would seem that their long-term strategy is to dismantle the few bits of premium transit we have in this region.

Take for example the plans they released in July (2010) to build a double decker expressway on top of Tri-rail, in an effort to connect all the major expressways in Miami. Insensitive to the fact that building a highway directly on top of a major regional transit system would only compete for riders, sources within MDX even admit that the likelihood of obtaining federal funding for the system is low considering the feds gave SFRTA several hundred million dollars only two years ago for Tri-Rail Upgrades. How backward can these folks be with regard to the true transportation needs of Miami-Dade County?

Now the latest assault on Miami-Dade Transit: the effort to dismantle the South-Dade Busway and create lexus lanes for the wealthy residents of Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, and Pinecrest. MDX planners are meeting with area residents to get buy-in for the project, but what they won’t tell people is that this is part of creating a parallel highway to US1 that reaches South Dade.

The irony is that the busway was conceived as low cost alternative to bring transit to the mainly underprivileged residents of South Miami-Dade County along existing train tracks built by Henry Flagler. The busway was never meant as a limited access highway for the wealthy residents of suburbs that have developed since then. Be that as it may, MDX is moving full speed ahead preparing plans to convert the bus-only transit way into an I-95 style lexus lanes expressway with elevated intersections.

What does MDT get in return for letting MDX rape its only premium transit service to the residents of South Miami-Dade County? A big fat nothing. No shared toll revenue. Faster travel speeds say MDX, but at the expense of accessible and convenient transit. On a line that already runs beyond capacity most peak times, the only transit oriented upgrade to the busway would be to make true BRT improvements, increase frequencies and headway, and eventually to extend the metro-rail south; what they should not take apart a thriving transit service. 

It’s time for a change in transportation planning in Dade County. We cannot allow MDX to continue to expand highway capacity at a time when most Miami-Dade residents are clamoring for expanded transportation options that will help them out of their cars.  The myopic car-centric decision making at MDX will only continue to degrade transit service until one authority is made responsible for uniting the managerial know-how and Right-of-Way MDX posses with MDT’s transit mandate. Until then, it is open season for MDX, and the drive to expand roadway capacity will continue at the expense of transit ridership.

On Wednesday, the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) and the Florida Public Transportation Association (FPTA) hosted a transit summit in Fort Lauderdale. The event, attended by several hundred transportation professionals, featured short speeches from the directors of all the South Florida transit agencies as well as some words from other transit advocates and “luminaries.”

The FPTA also took the opportunity to highlight their foray into social media, the IM4Transit campaign. Roughly akin to a Facebook “Like” or the too quickly forgotten Facebook groups, their goal is to sign up 100,000 Floridians who support transit. If you care to, sign up at IM4Transit.org or head over to Facebook and spread the like. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) also expressed their support for the IM4Transit campaign, which serves as their pilot program in social media.

Harpal Kapoor, director of Miami Dade Transit, defended himself (perhaps in response to recent criticisms) by talking up his success as a leader.

Continue reading »

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I received the following email from Miami Beach transportation activist Gabrielle Redfern, on an upcoming speaking engagement against a new proposed scheme by the City of Miami Beach. If you can attend, you will find the information below.

Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club

PRESS RELEASE

Meeting Date:       Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
Meeting Time:      8:30 AM
Meeting Place:     David’s Café II, 1654 Meridian Ave., South Beach

Miami Beach civic activist Gabrielle Redfern, speaks out against the city’s proposed fifty million dollars in Parking Bonds (debt), as this week’s guest speaker at the September 21st meeting of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club .

Gabrielle has been investigating the finances of the city Parking Department, which brings in some thirty million dollars a year, and has formed some strong opinions as to the benefits (or harm) to taxpayers of taking on so much new debt, especially with our difficult financial situation.  Her objective is to further the development of an integrated and managed high-tech transportation and parking system, which she believes the terms of the new bonds might hinder.

Gabrielle is county commissioner Sally Heyman’s appointee to the Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Committee and a member of the Mayor’s Miami Beach Blue Ribbon Committee on Bikeways.  She also served as vice-chair of the MPO’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and is a member of the city’s Design Review Board.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

David Kelsey, Moderator for the Breakfast Club
For more information contact David Kelsey .  To be placed on the Breakfast Club ’s mailing list, contact Harry Cherry.  Both can be reached at TuesdayMorningBreakfastClub@Yahoo.com

Visit our new web site at: http://www.MBTMBC.com (Miami Beach Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club ).

Who said public transportation isn’t fun?

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Unfortunately, there is no good news coming out of County Hall with the release of a long overdue assessment of the status of both the North and East/West Alignments of the Metro-rail Orange line. The projects, called for in the People’s Transportation Plan, have been on hold for several years because of the lack of long term  financial commitment on the part of the administration and County Commission. This lack of long term funding has led the Federal Transportation Agency to consistently give  a medium-low rating to Miami-Dade Transit’s New Start application for federal Transit assistance.  As a result, MDT plans to finally withdraw its application for federal New Starts funding in order to prevent being penalized in the next application. This should be no surprise to anyone, and considering the lack of ridership projected for these routes, is a blessing in disguise.

Report author and transit guru Ysela Llort lays down the law in pretty clear terms:

My July 17, 2008 report to you on MDT’s Financial Status and subsequent August 28, 2008 report on 30-year financial scenarios for the department clearly laid out policy options for the Board both in the short and long-term that would be needed to arrive at the 9.4 billion in needs beyond existing revenues in order to build, operate and maintain the Metro-rail Orange line, including both the NW 27th avenue corridor and East/West corridors.  Among the options to be considered were fare increases, additional General Fund Support (beyond the maintenance of effort level), unification of the transit system,  a two cent increase to the local Option Gas Tax, adjustments to the current municipal contributions, and adjustments to fare-free programs.

Llort is a straight talker, and  maintains that there can be no premium transit expansion without a greater local financial commitment. As it is, she writes,

If at any time we wish to pursue federal funding for any transit New Starts or Small starts project, the FTA will demand that MDT demonstrate that it can operate and maintain both the existing system and the expanded system.

Read: We will not get premium transit expansion until the BoCC commits to funding the expanded system. Any system improvements we pursue without federal help are just patches that will not ultimately lead to any substantive increase in ridership.

Mayor Alvarez has tenuously supported the Orange Line, but has not gone to bat for the expansion, instead choosing to pursue a strategy of “Affordable, Incremental Transit Improvements” (in light of the fact that the Board will not make the bold move of further strengthening MDT’s financials)  I have been a proponent in the past for this incremental pace of improvement, but disagree on what this administration deems to be the correct increment of expansion and level of affordability.  Not to mention the many changes (some cited by Llort above and others in my May 2008 post on the subject) that could have been undertaken by now to help MDT’s financial situation, but that still remain unchanged.

While there have been notable and important advances made by MDT  in the last few years (the EASY cards, MIC/ Earlington Heights, system restructuring), the current pace of improvements is simply unacceptable. The Board was presented with a report earlier this year that showed revenue, service and ridership for the different alternatives of premium transit for the Orange Line (heavy rail, light rail (LRT), bus rapid transit (BRT), and BRT-lite).  In each instance a funding gap exists without an increased financial commitment by the BoCC (regardless of the type of technology). Striking the balance between increasing ridership and spending prudently is the name of the game, so the current plans, described by Llort in the report, call for a BRT-lite along both the NW 27th Ave line and the East/West Dolphin Expressway alignment. In my view, this will attract the least amount of potential riders, and will not contribute to critical system wide expansion, but is an alternative to spending money on routes that are not yet ready for higher levels of service.

Our leaders need to change how they think about planning transit expansion in a way that takes into account total system connectivity - not just how to accommodate random corridors around the County. Maybe now that the albatross of the Orange Line is being cast aside, our leaders can focus on expanding Metro-rail to places that will increase ridership (like Miami Beach), and that will lead to greater network connectivity (like the Douglas Road corridor).

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Hey everyone…sorry for the long hiatus, I’ve been in El Paso for the past couple of weeks participating in an exciting planning project for the city. The city of El Paso hired a team of planners led by the local Miami firm of Dover Kohl & Partners to develop plans for Transit Oriented Developments around three new BRT corridors the city is implementing (and to update their Comprehensive Plan). Yours truly was invited as a transit/planning/bike consultant and I am excited about the work going on here.

Proposed Sun Metro BRT Routes

El Paso is a cool city (22st largest in the country) with a lot going for it. Great architecture abounds, and the mountains are really stunning. Like most American cities, they have had a torrid love affair with highway building, but their newfound commitment to transit is an encouraging sign of things to come.

Historic Union Station Watercolor by Kenneth Garcia

Historically, El Paseños were blessed with one of the most extensive network of streetcars in the USA (which also extended into Juarez, Mexico), and was also one of the first to draft a Comprehensive Plan (compiled way back in 1925 by pioneering landscape architect George Kesseler).

Historic streetcar map

It is nice to see other cities investing in transit. Too bad our own County Commissioners can’t get their act together to provide adequate transit to the residents of Dade County. As the rest of the country advances toward multi-modal transportation, our own transit plans continue to stagnate with no end in sight.

If you want to check out more of the work being done in El Paso, go to www.planelpaso.org. (I’ll Be back in Miami soon!)

For about a month, Florida bike blogs have been awash in calls to request the veto of Highway Bill 971 (HB971) by Gov. Crist. I was one of them. When I first saw the post come through Twitter, I immediately retweeted it to all my followers and posted about it here at Transit Miami.

Thing is, I’m not entirely sure WHAT about the bill is it that we’re raising a ruckus about. I assure you, I’m not being facetious or outright annoying; I just really want to know.

The call to arms centers around the changes to the state law dealing with bicycle lanes. Here is the actual text found on HB971 (PDF link) (strikethrough are deletions, underlined are additions):

316.2065 Bicycle regulations.—
(5)(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
3. When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, or substandard-width lane, that makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge. For the purposes of this subsection, a “substandard-width lane” is a lane that is too  narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a one-way highway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of such roadway as practicable.
(20) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a pedestrian violation as provided in chapter 318. A law enforcement officer may issue traffic citations for a violation of subsection (3) or subsection (16) only if the violation occurs on a bicycle path or road, as defined in s. 334.03. However, a law enforcement officer they may not issue citations to persons on private property, except any part thereof which is open to the use of the public for purposes of  vehicular traffic.

I don’t see what is wrong with the information above. Yes, it mandates that bicycles must use bike lanes when present, but it does not take away a bicycle’s right to the regular road use under circumstances which make the use of the bike lane impracticable. The call to attention is centered on the “must ride in the bicycle lane” part, but isn’t that the point of why we ask and advocate for bicycle lanes, so we can use them while we ride?

(The bill also raises other issues which I’ve always seen listed as secondary, like allowing for a process where a person convicted of 4 or more DUI can reapply to have their driving privileges reinstated after meeting a series of requirements. I’m all for second chances, but 4+ DUI convictions seems troublesome to me. But again, I always see this listed as a secondary reason for the request of a veto.)

So, I honestly ask, what exactly about that wording is it why we’re asking for a veto?

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For the past couple of weeks I have been eating, drinking, and biking my way through France. My wife and I spent a week honeymooning in Provence and another week in Paris.

Provence

We spent the first week of our honeymoon cycling through the heart of wine country in Provence. Our tour was organized by Headwater and was truly epic. When you travel on a bicycle you get to fully experience your surroundings.  You smell the country side, you feel your environment and you interact with the locals. There is something about traveling on a bicycle; for those that have done it you know what I’m talking about. For those of you that haven’t, you should really consider it. You can find our itinerary here.

Arriving in Cotignac

Elevated crosswalk in Carces used to calm traffic

Bollards used to protect pedestrians and calm traffic. Notice how the street and sidewalk are the same grade

No sidewalk? Not a problem, just create a space for pedestrians by striping

Paris

I can’t say enough about how wonderful this city is. Unlike Miami, most motorists actually yield to pedestrians. All intersections are clearly marked with wide zebra crosswalks.  I also noticed that the pedestrian crosswalk signals are much lower than the pedestrian crosswalk signals here in the United States. Placing the pedestrian crosswalk signal closer to eye level makes it easier for both pedestrians and motorists to notice them.  Also, traffic lights are placed before the crosswalk and not in the middle of intersections.  By placing the traffic lights before the crosswalk it forces motorists to stop before the crosswalk, giving pedestrians the right of way they deserve. Another feature I also observed was the pedestrian fences.  In areas where pedestrians should not cross the street, tasteful pedestrians fences have been erected to corral the pedestrians towards the large zebra crosswalk.  Sidewalks, for the most part, are wide and inviting.

Notice how motorists are forced to stop before the crosswalk when traffic signals are not located in the intersection.

Traffic signals are placed before the crosswalk and not in the intersections.

Sidewalks are wide, making the public realm more inviting to walk

Tasteful fences are used to guide pedestrians to the crosswalks where it is safe to cross.

The Velib bicycle share system in Paris is absolutely spectacular. Because Paris is so walkable, I only used it once, but the system is very easy to use and is well connected to mass transit.  I was amazed to see Parisians from all walks of life using the Velib bicycles. I saw stylish women and men using the bicycles, as well as businessmen, businesswomen and the elderly using the Velib.

A fleet of Velibs

Bicycles lane were clearly marked and in many areas were allowed to share the bus-only lanes. Buses are equipped with an electrical horn that sounds like a bicycle bell.  Bus drivers use this electrical bicycle bell to politely warn cyclists and pedestrians that the bus is coming.

Bike boxes give cyclists priority in the transit queue

Chevron arrows through an intersection

Chevron arrows across an intersection into a protected bicycle path

Bicyclists can share the bus lane

The metro and the bus system are easy to use.  At the metro stations and bus stops there are electrical boards advising transit users when the next train or bus will arrive.

The next bus arrives in 2 minutes

Next train arrives in 3 minutes

Most crosswalks have provisions for the blind and I even found a train station that had a textured path that could be felt with a walking cane.

Textured path to help guide the blind in a train station

Most crosswalks have provisions to help guide the blind

Parks are scattered throughout Paris. The parks I entered were active and drew a wide array of people of different ages.

Children playing in one of the many park of Paris

Lounging in the warm afternoon Paris sun

Paris recycles; Miami does not.

Since December, The Florida Public Transportation Association has been conducting an online survey regarding statewide attitudes among Floridians regarding public transit. The surprising results of the survey were released recently:

  • 66% of respondents say that, during a trip in Florida within the last month, they consciously wished that they had a convenient public transit option as an alternative to the costs and hassles of traffic and parking.
  • 93% say that gas prices will rise or “skyrocket” in the next decades.
  • 79% agree that, “Florida needs to invest now in transit infrastructure to competitively attract jobs, tourists, retirees, and new business centers in the future”.
  • 93% think that public transit is becoming increasingly important to Florida’s future.
  • 52% of respondents identified themselves as “a business person”.
  • 42% say transit is so important to Florida’s future that they are willing to help spread the message to their elected officials and the community.

While there are a variety of reasons for Floridians to choose transit over driving, the top three benefits of transit according to the survey are:

  1. Transit is a good alternative to fighting traffic congestion.
  2. The cost savings of transit over driving are considerable.
  3. Transit decreases American dependence on foreign oil.

Wes Watson, Executive Director, said, “With gas creeping back up, with Florida’s population growing, and gridlock getting worse, Floridians clearly think that public transportation is increasingly important to Florida’s future”. He also expressed delight that 42% of respondents are willing to help spread the word and said, “Look for a major announcement coming soon about organizing transit supporters in Florida”.

The survey was available to Floridians online at FloridaTransit.org from Dec.-March 2010. The thousands of survey respondents included riders, elected officials, and business leaders.

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