Currently viewing the tag: "complete streets"

Shortly after the Dangerous by Design report came out, I filled out a letter at the Rails to Trails website to be sent to the Florida Legislature on the subject. I just got a form-letter reply from Speaker Larry Cretul that I’d like to share.

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.  I welcome the opportunity to learn of your concerns and I appreciate your suggestions for improving transportation safety.

Please know the Florida Legislature is concerned about the number of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities, and has worked to make our state safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.  State law requires walkers and riders to be fully considered in the development of transportation facilities.  In addition, the Legislature passed legislation in 2005 that requires motorists to completely stop for sight impaired pedestrians with a properly identified guide dog or service animal, and 2006 legislation requires motorists to allow three feet clearance when passing a bicyclist.  These efforts have resulted in increased pedestrian safety, as this past year saw pedestrian deaths decrease five percent over the previous year.

The Florida Department of Transportation’s Safety Office bicycle/pedestrian coordinator works with many offices within the department to provide input and suggestions throughout the various stages of planning and design.  This position also serves as a member of the Strategic Intermodal System technical advisory committee to ensure a focus on safety with alternate modes of transportation.   In addition, the Florida Department of Transportation has a bicycle and pedestrian interest group that meets regularly to discuss safety issues.

I would encourage you to work with your local government and metropolitan planning organization on pedestrian and bicyclist safety needs in your area.  State law requires the plans and programs for each metropolitan area provide for the development and integrated management and operation of transportation systems and facilities, including pedestrian walkways and bicycle transportation facilities that will function as an intermodal transportation system.  I assure you that I will keep your concerns and suggestions in mind throughout the legislative process

Thank you again for writing to me.  If I can be of assistance to you in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Larry Cretul
Speaker

It doesn’t say much that I didn’t expect; the Legislature pats itself on the back for the few advancements that have made and then it passes the ball to the local government and to us as citizens. The really bothersome part of that is, if I were to go ask people in the various micro-City Halls of Miami, they would all point me back to Tallahassee as the one I need to talk about improving the traffic situation unveiled by the Dangerous by Design report.

When your arguably four major cities are all listed as Russian roulettes for pedestrians and bicyclists (compounded by the hit-n-run epidemic), this isn’t a matter only for the local government, this is a state-government matter, and a very serious one. Take responsibility and take action.

Over the past couple of weeks I have noticed electrical work being done on traffic lights and pedestrian crosswalk signals around the Brickell Area. Unfortunately, the contractors don’t seem to think that the pedestrian crosswalk signals are all that important.  Last week the pedestrian crosswalk signals on Brickell Ave. and SE 14th Street did not work for almost an entire week.  Two days ago they started working again.

The pedestrian crosswalk signals didn’t work for nearly a week at this busy crosswalk on Brickell Avenue and  SE14th Street.

The pedestrian crosswalk signals didn’t work for nearly a week at this busy crosswalk on Brickell Avenue and SE14th Street.

Today around 12:30pm I noticed contractors doing some work on the traffic lights on SE13th Street and South Miami Avenue. On my way back from work, at around 5:30pm, I noticed that all the pedestrian crosswalk signals at this intersection were not working.

Pedestrian crosswalk signal not working on SE13th Street and South Miami Avenue. South Side Elementary School is ½ a block away.

Pedestrian crosswalk signal not working on SE13th Street and South Miami Avenue. South Side Elementary School is ½ a block away.

Pedestrian crosswalk signal not working on SE13th Street and South Miami Avenue. South Side Elementary School is ½ a block away

Pedestrian crosswalk signal not working on SE13th Street and South Miami Avenue. South Side Elementary School is ½ a block away

At around 6:00pm I called 311 and reported the problem. The operator was very helpful and he told me that it could take up to 30 days to fix the problem, but that he would flag it as an emergency.

My fingers are crossed that the pedestrian crosswalk signals are working by tomorrow morning.  It just so happens that an elementary school sits about half a block away from this intersection.  I see a lot of parents with children crossing this already dangerous and poorly designed intersection every weekday morning.  I think that if we can keep our traffic lights working we can keep our pedestrian crosswalk signals working too.

I also think that the city could do a much better job of promoting the 311. Unless you are a Transit Miami reader you probably don’t know about it. Perhaps the city could start a public service announcement campaign by putting the 311 phone number somewhere above crosswalk buttons throughout Downtown and Brickell? This can be done very cheaply with something as simple as a sticker.

Yesterday I posted a blog regarding the lack of crosswalks in Downtown.  I took it upon myself during lunchtime today to count the number of pedestrians that crossed the street on SE 3rd Avenue and SE 1st St. were a crosswalk currently does not exist. If there was ever any doubt whether a crosswalk is needed, today’s results overwhelmingly favor pedestrian demand for a crosswalk. Within a 5 minute time span, 60 pedestrians crossed the street where there isn’t a crosswalk!  If a pedestrian were to get hit here, some would blame the jaywalker. I wouldn’t, I’d hold those that designed this intersection responsible.

SE 3rd Avenue and SE 1st Avenue. Intersection without a crosswalk.

SE 3rd Avenue and SE 1st St. Intersection without a crosswalk.

FDOT just recently repaved a section of Biscayne Boulevard in Downtown.  I’m not sure why, but several major intersections were left without a pedestrian crosswalk. I really can’t think of a reason as to why FDOT did not take this opportunity to include 4 crosswalks at every intersection.  There is enough density and pedestrian activity to justify 4 crosswalks at every intersection.  Aside from helping pedestrians cross three lanes of fast moving traffic, crosswalks serve as traffic calming devices as well.

To make matters even worse, the intersection on Biscayne Blvd and NE 4th street had an existing crosswalk and crosswalk signal, but not anymore, FDOT decided to remove them. Check out the old crosswalk and signal right here: View Larger Map

Here are just a few examples of intersections without crosswalks:

Biscayne Blvd and NE 4th Street

Biscayne Blvd and NE 4th Street. Crosswalk and pedestrian signal were recently removed.

Biscayne Blvd and NE 1st St.

Biscayne Blvd and NE 1st St.

Biscayne Blvd. and SE 1st Street. This intersection is less than half a block away from a busy Metro Mover station.

Biscayne Blvd. and SE 1st Street. This intersection supports a busy Metro Mover station.

SE 3rd Avenue and SE 1st Avenue. Please notice the electric turn arrows, this only encourages cars to move faster through downtown.  I'm not sure if FDOT or the County PWD is reponsible for this intersection, but need a crosswalk and pedestrian signals.

SE 3rd Avenue and SE 1st St. Please notice the electric turn arrows, this only encourages cars to move faster through downtown. I'm not sure if FDOT or the County PWD is responsible for this intersection, but it needs a crosswalk and a pedestrian signal urgently.

Dear Governor Crist,

As you may know a recent report produced jointly by the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership and Transportation for America has shown that the following four metropolitan areas within Florida are the most dangerous cities for pedestrians in the United States.

1.         Orlando-Kissimmee, FL

2.         Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

3.         Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL

4.         Jacksonville, FL

The report titled “Dangerous By Design” concludes that Florida roads are dangerous for pedestrians because they have generally been designed to speed up -not slow down-traffic.

As residents of Miami Dade County, this comes as no surprise to us. However what does surprise us is that Florida has managed to take the top 4 spots nationally; this clearly is not a great achievement. The common denominator for all 4 metropolitan areas is the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) which is responsible for designing most of the roads within these urban environments.  We believe that (FDOT) should be held accountable for poorly designed roads within our state that results in hundreds of preventable pedestrian deaths each year.

The decades of auto-centric culture within FDOT needs to come to an end. A major paradigm shift has to occur within FDOT from designing roads for cars to designing them for people. There is no simple solution and it will take a leader who is capable of changing an organization whose sole focus seems to be moving more cars faster, rather then considering pedestrians and bicyclists. Florida happens to be the most deadly state for bicyclists as well.

With so many retirees and an economy that is heavily dependent on tourism, we hope that FDOT can reinvent itself and begin designing safer roads for future generations in Florida. This pedestrian epidemic needs to come to an end now and it begins with a progressive and proactive FDOT which is capable of designing complete streets for everyone.

Regards,

Transitmiami.com

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, led by Representative James Oberstar (D-Minn), released their long anticipated draft of the Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 yesterday, and it is a far cry from the 18-month patch suggested by the Obama Administration last week.

Included in the bill is $469 million for transportation funding over six years. The highway/transit split is still biased in favor of highways, but the bill seeks to streamline the New Starts application process and provides almost double the amount of funding provided in the last transportation bill. Unfortunately, the bill still lacks the funding framework and rules that take into account greenhouse gas emissions and walkablity. Only in this way can we be sure that federal tax dollars go to transportation alternatives, rather than more road and highway projects.

Together with Transportation for America, we are urging readers to participate in a National Call-In Day, Wednesday June 24, to ask House representatives to address funding rules, and not put off a vote on the bill. This from Transportation for America:

The bill has a lot of what Transportation for America supporters have been pushing for, but without any accountability to measure its success or failure, it still falls short.

Without over-arching goals and targets – such as lower energy consumption, greater affordability, and expanded access – there’s no way to be sure billions of dollars in transportation spending will truly deliver clean, safe and smart transportation. That’s why your call today, as members of Congress are marking up the bill, is so important.

Please call your representative and urge them to co-sponser the National Transportation Objectives Act of 2009 (H.R. 2724). Let them know that you want to make sure the billions spent on transportation help us cut down on emissions, give us real energy security, and provide you with more affordable options for getting from A to B.

To find out who your representative is please go to here.

Congressional switchboard number: 202-224-3121

Diaz-Balart, Lincoln, Florida, 21st
Diaz-Balart, Mario, Florida, 25th
Hastings, Alcee L., Florida, 23rd
Klein, Ron , Florida, 22nd
Kosmas, Suzanne M., Florida, 24th
Meek, Kendrick, Florida, 17th
Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana, Florida, 18th
Wasserman Schultz, Debbie, Florida, 20th
Wexler, Robert, Florida, 19th

Admittedly, we are about a week late in covering this one…but, hey we beat the Herald.

Coinciding nicely with the National Bicycle Summit last week, and our very own bike month, Mayor Manny Diaz announced a resolution in support of Complete Streets. Its great to see more and more government entities across the country getting behind the movement to better balance our transportation infrastructure-recognizing that streets are for more than just cars. However, before we get all excited here,  remember who truly controls the majority of streets in the City: FDOT and the County. As our readers know, the former has been particularly inept at balancing Florida’s streets, often hemming and hawing over the most rudimentary of roadway improvements.

Thus, we the people need to do better as watchdogs, providing oversight in all roadway reconstruction projects that fail to improve conditions for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders. And remember, just because there is a resolution  for complete streets  doesn’t mean the city will ultimately act upon it. Nonetheless, good for Manny D for taking the lead.

If you have a street project in your neighborhood or along your commute, let us know about it, especially if you are not seeing conditions improve for anyone but the motoring majority.

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Last week, Transportation for America officially launched their plan to improve our nation’s infrastructure, reshape our economy, and wean Americans off foreign oil.  T4America is a grassroots network composed housing, environmental, public health, urban planning, transportation and other organizations.  Transit Miami will be actively working with T4America over the coming months to bring you the latest news from the congressional front lines.  Together with T4America, we can make a substantial change on national (and Local) transportation infrastructure policy.  We are committed to enacting sweeping changes in the upcoming 2009 Transportation Equity Act (TEA), a long-held bastion for highway lobbyists and insiders.

T4America’s 5 Step Plan:

BUILD TO COMPETE – We must catch and pass competitors in China and Europe, by modernizing and expanding our rail and transit networks to reduce oil dependence and connecting the metro regions that are the engines of the modern economy.

INVEST FOR A CLEAN, GREEN RECOVERY – Our nation’s clean-energy future will require cleaner vehicles and new fuels, but it also must include support for the cleanest forms of transportation – modern public transit, walking and biking – and for energy-efficient, sustainable development.

FIX WHAT’S BROKEN – Before building new roads, that will themselves have to be maintained, we must restore our crumbling highways, bridges and transit systems.

STOP WASTEFUL SPENDING – Re-evaluate projects currently in the pipeline to eliminate those with little economic return, that could deepen, rather than relieve, our oil dependence.

SAVE AMERICANS MONEY – Provide more travel and housing options that are affordable and efficient, while helping people to avoid high gas costs and traffic congestion. Save taxpayer dollars by asking the private developers who reap real estate rewards from new rail stations and transit lines to contribute toward that service.

Add Los Angeles to the list of cities looking to resurrect their former streetcars. The Red Line (pictured above operating on SF’s Muni) is seen as a pivotal part of LA’s multi billion dollar plan to resurrect the Broadway Theater District. The “Bring Back Broadway Initiative” aims to rebuild a downtown corridor once bustling with entertainment, nightlife, and shops.

Bringing Back Broadway will create a plan for a vibrant Broadway district that provides entertainment, eclectic cultural amenities and diverse retail options for Downtown residents and visitors to one of Los Angeles’ most remarkable historic areas, while serving as a central focus for revived downtown streetcar transportation.

An innovative aspect of this project is the involved financial participation of private investements along the corridor. Immediately parallels with Miami’s Flagler Street come to mind. A corridor once filled with life, shops, and bustling with activity, we can learn from Los Angeles by creating public/private partnerships to redevelop this critical downtown corridor.
Much more fundraising is left to be done if the ambitious effort is to be realized, and of paramount importance is getting all property owners involved in their share of the rehab. Standing outside the Los Angeles after the presentation, Michael Delijani pointed to the $1 million in yearly assessments collected by the Historic Downtown BID as a sign that owners would do their part. He told how improved cleaning and trash collection have already bettered the Broadway streetscape.

The map below depicts the once far reaching tracks of the former Pacific Electric lines in Los Angeles:

The Miami-Dade County Public Works Department and Florida Department of Transportation are at it again, busy coming up with harebrained ideas to “solve” the congestion problems of Miami-Dade. The recent proposed scheme is a system of reversible flow lanes scattered across the county adding a limited amount of capacity at certain points. The problem I have with system isn’t the lanes themselves, but rather how our local government continues to undermine itself and efforts to reduce congestion.

About a decade ago, the state Department of Transportation tried to improve Seventh Avenue by removing on-street parking, especially those with ample nearby surface lots and behind-stores parking.

Local merchants, commercial property owners and some nearby residents were outraged. The local politicians told the DOT to back off. Nothing changed.

DOT tried to improve Seventh Avenue by removing on street parking? This is the fundamental problem I have encountered with my profession and is the main reason why I plan to jump ship from engineering to urban planning. Engineering, particularly transportation engineers, tend to be concerned with one thing and one thing only: efficiency. FDOT has a nasty habit of overlooking other crucial details such as transit use, on street parking, streetscapes, bicycle facilities, and pedestrian interaction in the name of squeezing out a little extra capacity.

Other serious questions need to be addressed. This is a community with high transit usage, meaning more pedestrians than other parts of town. Will they be able to safely cross the avenue? Lighting will be paramount.

I predict if this disaster of a plan is put into effect, we will inevitably witness pedestrian deaths increase sharply. Under this plan Seventh Avenue will become a highway, inaccessible to anything and anyone not traveling in a car and further hampering efforts to create a livable community.

If the reversible lanes work, operationally and politically, on Seventh Avenue, more of them may follow. Several studies are under way: North Miami Avenue, between downtown and 79th or 82nd street; U.S. 1, from I-95 to Bird Road; portions of Flagler Street, and Bird Road, just west of the turnpike, between southwest 117th and 147th avenues.

US-1 from I-95 to Bird Road? Never mind the fact that this stretch of street runs parallel to the one logical transit solution in the county: Metrorail. Adding capacity along US-1 is the last thing we should do when we already have a solution with plenty of capacity zooming along overhead. Why waste PTP money to undermine our transit system? This plan will create miniature highways all across the county, jeopardizing any hopes of creating urban neighborhoods.

Upcoming Meetings 6-8 pm:

Tuesday: Church of the Open Doors UCC, 6001 NW Eighth Ave.
Wednesday: Culmer-Overtown Neighborhood Center, 1600 NW Third Ave.
Thursday: New Jerusalem Primitive Baptist Church, 777 NW 85th St.

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As our friend Verticus from MVB discussed in our recent post on the Miami streetcar, a monorail system would prove to be a slightly more efficient transit system than a streetcar- if you were comparing the modes strictly on that level. Looking at it strictly as a Transportation engineer, as Verticus has suggested, I can attest that any mode of transportation which travels along its own dedicated right-of-way will prove to be a more efficient form of moving passengers around. However, as I have come to realize throughout many years of studying and thought, looking at our environment strictly from a system optimization perspective, sacrifices an inclusion of other major contributing factors. I’ve outlined these factors below in a brief comparison between the Miami streetcar and any other form of transportation (such as Verticus’ Monorail concept) and analyzed them from the perspective of an urban planner and a transportation engineer.

Passenger Efficiency- As I stated above, this is the one major advantage a dedicated right-of-way will have over streetcar technology. However, even the efficiency of the system has its drawbacks when placed in the context of the urban environment we are studying: Miami’s Design District. Typically, passenger rail systems established on dedicated ROW’s feature stations located no less than a mile apart. The long distance between system stations makes these types of transit ideal for moving passengers from nearby townships and suburbs (or Sprawled areas where stations feature extensive parking,) rather than intracity connectivity. The purpose of the streetcar is to create an intricate web of urban transit and its closely placed stations (1/3 of a mile or so apart) permits more independent mobility on a fixed rail system (more on the benefits of this later.) Installing an advanced signalization system along the streetcar route ensures that the streetcars will always receive priority at intersections and will ensure the movement of the system along the route.

Street Interaction- The streetcar here has the clear advantage, located at the street level rather than a fixed guide way hovering above the city streets. I cannot stress enough how important tying in our transit systems to our streetscapes is when trying to establish vibrant urban neighborhoods. The streetcar invites street level activity on the sidewalk and ground level of adjoining buildings.

Economics- A rough comparison of recently completed modes of transit across the United States:

LRT/Streetcar:


Portland, Oregon- 4.6 mile loop- $12.4 million per mile
Tampa, Florida- 2.3 mile line- $13.7 million per mile
Charlotte, North Carolina- $31 million per mile
Denver, Colorado- $27.6 million per mile
Salt Lake City- $42.2 million per mile
National Average- Approx $40 million per mile

Monorail:

Las Vegas, Nevada- 4 mile line- $87 million per mile

Cost per passenger mile:

LRT:

San Diego- $0.17
Salt Lake City- $0.15
Dallas- $0.55
Portland- $0.29
Sacramento- $0.42
Denver- $0.40

Fixed automated guide way systems:

Jacksonville Skyway monorail $10.71
Detroit Peoplemover $5.80
Miami MetroMover $3.42

Plain and simple, the cost associated with acquiring the necessary land to create elevated stations and guide ways any dedicated ROW transit would require would make the project wholly financially infeasible. The clear advantage of the streetcar is that it will be built entirely on existing ROW’s and municipally owned land. For power source efficiency data, please click here.

Environmental Vitality- Hurricanes pose the obvious biggest threat to creating a permanent system of overhead wires to power a streetcar system. We have not yet identified a potential solution to this issue, however we know one exists given the ability of streetcars to survive the strongest winter winds and snow storms of Canada and Northern Europe.

Conclusion- What many people fail to realize is that the streetcar is a solution for the City of Miami’s transit needs. It provides a system of reliable urban transit which will make much of the city more accessible to all residents. The advantage of any fixed rail system over an advanced bus network is that rails bring about land use changes and buses do not. Establishing a fixed rail network allows the city of Miami to permanently alter parking requirements, building setbacks, and many of the other vital components which differentiate an urban setting from a suburban one. The streetcar isn’t designed as aide to the suburban Kendall, Homestead, or Pembroke Pines commuter, but rather the residents which will be infusing the downtown core. The streetcar provides the means for current and future city of Miami residents to easily enjoy urban mobility. Combined with the new regulations instilled in Miami 21, the Miami Streetcar will reduce the need for automobile use for those residents living within its’ sphere of pedestrian access.

For more information, please visit the City of Miami’s FAQ regarding the Miami Streetcar…


(Click on the photo for a larger image)
  • Appropriate density w/rowhouses
  • Quality architecture and urban design
    • Front porches
    • Short setbacks
    • Beautiful ornamentation
    • Designed to interact with people and not cars
  • Bike Lanes
  • Real Trolleys (aka Streetcars)
  • No Curb Cuts/Driveways - On-street parking ONLY

It’s very straightforward - we could have this in Miami, too.

photo courtesy of freekpowerticket’s flickr account

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