Currently viewing the tag: "Sprawl"

Traffic on 826

There are several reasons why widening highways is usually a futile strategy to combat traffic congestion. For one, highway widening projects are costly and time consuming. It has also been well documented that adding new capacity to highways creates induced demand, which essentially means it will generate more traffic on the road. Consequently, over time the widened highway gradually fills up with additional traffic until it reaches a threshold, and is congested again. Of course, just the principle of widening highways is flawed because it encourages driving, it’s unsustainable, and it raids funds for other major transportation projects that are much more sustainable, such as transit. However, research from the Sightline Institute points out that widening highways also leads to substantial increases in GHG emissions in the mid-to-long term.

Conventional dogma preached by road-widening enthusiasts claims that additional capacity will decrease GHG emissions by easing traffic congestion. According to Sightline, this limited benefit only holds true in the short term, if at all. In the medium-to-long term, however, adding one mile of new highway lane will result in an increase in CO2 emission by more then 100,000 tons over 50 years. To quantify that, at current rates of emissions, 100,000 tons of CO2 equals the 50-year climate footprint of about 100 typical U.S. residents.

Image: Sightline Institute

Miami-Dade Commission Charmain Bruno Barreiro woke up this morning and decided that he wanted to see a permanent development boundary somewhere west of the UDB (and east of Naples). Matthew Pinzur writes about Barreiro’s big idea in the Herald. He wants to rethink the boundary so that there is a buffer between the Everglades and the UDB. What?? He wants to hire a consultant to decide where that line should be. Pinzur points out though that “Barreiro’s idea of hiring experts has been tried and ended up stymied by politics. Most recently, the county spent six years and $3 million on the South Miami-Dade Watershed Study, an attempt to protect water supplies that evolved into a complex 40-year plan for growth management.” You go Pinzur!

I took a stab at studying the Watershed Study expecting bad planning policy and a series of platitudes about parks and birds and butterfly’s being important. I was surprised to find an intelligent, well thought out document. The report describes that Dade County’s “two major policy choices for the future can be characterized as either a Sprawl Scenario or a Smart Growth Scenario. The long-term consequences of a sprawl scenario are enormous. This is the path that the County is on today. The Smart Growth choice will require the County to take some bold, but achievable, policy steps. The benefits of choosing a Smart Growth policy are substantiated by the Study and supported by the literature.” Sounds good, right? It gets better. The study makes policy recommendations based on the current stock of housing, along with projected population growth:

Specific Watershed Policy Guidelines:

2007 through 2025: Allocation of 100 percent of the required 102,000 dwelling units inside the existing Urban Development Boundary (UDB) through 2025;

2026 through 2050: Allocation of a minimum of 60 percent (61,000) of the required 102,000 dwelling units inside the existing UDB between 2026 and 2050″


How much more clear does this issue have to be? If you have a chance read through the document. It has a lot of great graphics and data that support land use changes within the boundary that increase density along transit corridors (new and existing). We need another UDB like we need another 8 years of George Bush. Lets try implementing the policy recommendations that have already been made. The more these commissioners talk the more irrelevant they become.

In other UDB related news, the West Kendall Community Council delayed a meeting last week to discuss a project called ‘Parkland 2014’, a Lennar development that encompasses over nine hundred acres outside the UDB. “According to the completed plans filed with the county earlier this year, the developer is proposing 1,257 single-family homes, 2,436 townhomes, 3,248 condos, and about 200,000 square feet of retail space off Southwest 152nd Street and Southwest 162nd Avenue.” Oh Jeez.

The following article below is a reprint from NPR.org on April 1, 2008:

Atlanta Family Slashes Carbon Footprint

Atlanta resident Malaika Taylor used to live the typical suburban life — the kind that helps make America the world’s top contributor to climate change. But four years ago, fed up with commuting, Taylor and her 11-year old daughter, Maya, moved from the suburbs to the city.

And their “carbon footprint” shrank.

“There are some weekends when I don’t even use my car,” says Taylor.

The Taylors live in Atlantic Station, a new community in mid-town Atlanta designed to put jobs, homes and shopping all in one place, close to public transportation. Developments like Atlantic Station are springing up around the country, and proponents say they help cut car pollution, including the carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change.

Atlantic Station: A Climate Change Model

On a typical morning, Taylor walks her daughter to the bus stop and then keeps going 10 minutes to her job as a property manager at an apartment complex.

“I have to admit, if it’s raining or really cold, I drive,” she says.

Her mile-long commute is unusual in Atlanta, where the federal government estimates the average resident drives 32 miles each day. Early surveys show the people who live and work in Atlantic Station drive about a third that much, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We don’t often think of a development as a way to solve environmental problems. But this is really a unique example of kind of growing your way into better environmental quality,” says Geoff Anderson, who helped steer the Atlantic Station project through the regulatory process for the EPA. Anderson now heads Smart Growth America, an environmentally friendly development advocate.

At first, the EPA supported Atlantic Station as a way to help Atlanta fight its unhealthy smog problem. Anderson says now the agency sees the community as a model of how America can fight climate change.

“The two biggest things we do from a carbon perspective are, we heat our houses or cool them, or we drive. And when you combine that, that’s going to add up to a big chunk of your personal carbon footprint,” Anderson says.

A Smaller Impact

Reducing her carbon footprint was not Taylor’s intent when she moved. She just wanted her life back.

But living in the city has cut the small family’s impact on global warming to about half the national average for a family of two.

When they lived in the suburbs, Taylor filled up her gas tank three or four times every two weeks. Now she fills up once in two weeks.

Her other energy bills shrank, too.

In the winter, her gas bill to heat her suburban house was almost $200. Now she uses electricity to heat and cool their compact, two-bedroom loft. That bill tops out around $80, about 20 percent less than the average bill for an Atlanta household.

Apartments often have lower energy costs because of shared walls and smaller spaces. Americans send more than 1 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air, or about a fifth of the nation’s total emissions. If lots of Americans lived like the Taylors, then the nation’s greenhouse-gas pollution could drop by hundreds of millions of tons.

Of course, the move didn’t come without tradeoffs.

“I can’t afford to buy a house in the city. It took me four garage sales to get rid of enough stuff to fit into my apartment. I thought I purged, and it still wasn’t enough, and I had to purge again,” says Taylor.

Gaining a Life

On one recent rainy afternoon, Taylor drives to pick up Maya at the bus stop. It takes them almost no time and hardly any gas or greenhouse gas emissions.

What’s more, when it’s time to take a trip to the grocery store, it takes only two minutes to get there, and she’s is back home within 15 minutes.

“That’s hands down one of the biggest perks about living here. The convenience, convenience, convenience,” Taylor says.

It’s only 4:20 p.m. Maya has already made a big dent in her homework. And Malaika has a few hours to kill.

“Maybe I’ll work out. Maybe we’ll play a game. It makes a huge difference just in the quality of our life,” Taylor says. “We get to spend a lot more time together. I think she’s happier. I’m happier. It makes life a lot better.”

Image: Flickr

If Senators Clinton and McCain have their way, this summer Americans might be duped into thinking that a “gas-tax holiday” will help alleviate the financial strains of filling up. The gas tax holiday undermines the principles of supply and demand and is little more than a cheap political gimmick. If imposed, the holiday would only save the average American consumer $30 throughout the course of the summer.

The gas-tax holiday continues the flawed mentality that the rise in oil prices is a temporary matter. FYI- oil prices nudged past $125 a barrel today, the fourth day this week of record highs. America needs to realize that there isn’t going to be a “quick fix” to this critical problem. The era of whizzing around carefree in gas powered vehicles is coming to a close and we must now turn our focus to more sustainable forms of making the most out of our available land. This shift will not be easy. It’s not that simple to turn back 6 decades of automotive mindset and policy in a country whose infrastructure largely revolves around oil.

As James Howard Kunstler put it in this week’s Businessweek:

It’s not that we’re driving the wrong cars. It’s that we’re driving cars of any size, incessantly.

To view the Gas Tax petition, visit Gas Tax Scam

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The Herald is reporting that the county commission overturned Mayor Alvarez’s veto in favor of moving the Urban Development Boundary for a Lowe’s at 8th St and 137th Ave and a retail center at Kendall Drive and (gulp), 167th Avenue (i.e. the Everglades). More sprawl, more self-interests, more incompetence. We’ll have lots more on this later.


Natacha Seijas, Pepe Diaz and crew want more of this…

Photo: Flickr

Does anyone even care anymore? With all this talk about global warming, alternative fuels, and the trimming of every government budget due to major financial cutbacks, you’d think the community would be up at arms about an approval to build even yet more development on our western fringes. Ecosystem destruction? Check. Vehicular-oriented development? Check. Massive unnecessary infrastructural strains on the County? Check. This approval falls in line with every single reason why living in South Florida has become extraordinarily difficult for the average middle-income family.

I’ll tell you this much, I’m fed up and Transit Miami is going to do something about it.

For those of you who are still out in the dark, the County Commission moved the UDB boundary again last week in order to accommodate some projects in the name of the community saving special interests. Disgustingly, the 9-4 super majority vote is enough to override the impending veto by Mayor Carlos Alvarez. In doing so, our incredibly intelligent elected officials have defied the opinion of local planning experts (not just us), most County residents, and State growth management officials.

But the county commission overlooked those pleadings Thursday when it approved two controversial applications to build outside the UDB — one for an office complex, another for a home improvement center, which includes plans to build a new high school. The state, mayor and planning and zoning board’s pleas also were ignored.

Big box retail and absurdly placed office complexes (with plenty of parking), just what nature called for along the edge of our shrinking everglades ecosystem. 600,000 square feet of office space in a river of grass would equate to something like this:

Miami Everglades UDB Expansion

The county planner said construction outside the UDB isn’t necessary because there is enough space available inside the boundary for several decades.

Sorenson stopped her colleagues before the final vote, warning of a long fight in the courts if the state finds the county didn’t comply with growth management law. Addressing Assistant County Attorney Joni Armstrong Coffey, Sorenson asked what would happen if the county was not in compliance with state growth laws.

”We will be in litigation,” Coffey said.

Where is Norman Braman when you really need him?

Let the lawsuit begin (Note: yet another strain on the public financial capacity…)

Today’s Pic o’ the Day illustrates what happens when parking requirements and density combine to create disastrous combinations. This city illustrates some finer urban elements in the CBD but as of late has sprawled out beyond control. Can anyone name the city or the suburb?

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Tri-Rail Commuter Train, originally uploaded by jmdspk.
Due to the volume of e-mails, I know when we are running behind on a given topic (sorry!) but hey, you can always count on us to cover every transit/development related story sometime within the given week.

This week’s topic is how FDOT, like every other DOT across the country (I guess the Feds set the precedent here), is trying to raid the public transit funds for more road expansion projects in the Greater Miami Area (get used to it folks, we don’t fly with the “South Florida” nomenclature around here.)

On one end is the Florida Department of Transportation, or DOT, trying to keep money it uses to build and improve state roads. At the other is Tri-Rail, struggling to find money to fund the commuter train’s operations and pay for new projects.

Let us analyze this statement briefly. The Florida Department of TRANSPORTATION (not too aptly named, eh?) is trying to raid the nation’s fastest growing public transportation system (tri-rail) of hundreds of Millions of Dollars over the next 5 years for various road widening schemes? Jeff Koons of the Palm Beach MPO and Tri-Rail governing board has the right idea:
“I wish we had more dollars, but by [giving Tri-Rail] the $2, I hope they realize this is a crisis,” he said. “The state needs to take a look at adding some funding sources for regional mass transit.”
Without this dedicated funding source, Tri-Rail, like all of the sprawl inducing road projects, would be dead in the water. The Agency would have until October to come up with $17 million or else shut down in the midst of 2 years of solid growth, capacity expansion, and recent train dispatch control.
If Tri-Rail doesn’t get a dedicated funding source and if the three counties cut their funding next year as expected, Tri-Rail officials say they’ll have to drastically reduce service. Under that scenario, Tri-Rail could default on a $334 million federal grant used to construct a second track because the money was awarded based on the agency’s pledge to operate at least 48 trains a day weekdays.

The troubling aspect of this issue is not only how we continue to heavily subsidize our roadways at an uncontrollable rate, but that our state transportation agency is attempting to financially dismantle our commuter rail system in order to expand congestion. The State continues to battle itself, by working on projects that contradict themselves: Tri-Rail, Road expansion, HOT Lanes, etc. The FDOT epitomizes a transportation agency and policy that is anything but; eager to shift resources away from reasonable solutions and further legitimizing the misconceptions often encouraged by people like Gregg Fields:

But is it streetcars we desire? The mass transit message is decidedly mixed. One day earlier this month, Tri-Rail celebrated ridership hitting a whopping 15,000. There are Burger Kings with more traffic at their drive-thru windows — and they serve food.

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Facial Expressions when Boarding a Train (About:Blank)
  • Transit Miami gets a nice shout out for bike advocacy (Riptide 2.0)
  • Circular Sprawl Communities from the sky (Deputy Dog)
  • The A2 is the latest plan for Eco-friendly Hypersonic flight, capable of reaching Mach 5 without a single Carbon Emission (Luxist)
  • The 5 most incredible (alternative) school locations around the world (Deputy Dog)
  • America’s Greenest Cities (Popular Science)
  • Miami adds some Bike Parking along Coral Way (Spokes ‘n’ Folks)
  • A Building too Sophisticated for LEED certification (Inhabitat)
  • Sweden’s Ice Hotel (Bldg Blog)
  • Vintage Streetcar Artist (Telstar Logistics)
  • Benefits of Pint Sized Parks (Streetsblog)

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This week’s Streetwise Column by Herald Reporter Larry Lebowitz, presented an “innovative” new use for Miami-Dade’s Busway program. We’ve taken some time to mull over the basics of the plan over the past few days (apparently so have a number of you based on the number of emails I received) and have prepared an analysis of the project based on the data Larry provided in the article.

Imagine widening the Busway from two lanes to four and giving buses and carpoolers with at least three passengers a free ride.

It is a stretch of my imagination, that is for sure, but from the looks of it, this does not seem like a promising solution for South-Dade commuters. Granted, the Busway is far from perfect, but adding lanes, albeit managed lanes, is hardly the solution to an ever-growing congestion problem.

Instead of encountering dozens of incredibly looooooong lights at the busy cross streets on today’s Busway, imagine flying over all the major intersections as the government guarantees a reliable 50-mph journey from Dadeland to Florida City or the turnpike interchange near Southwest 112th Avenue.

The sad part about this is that some sort of “benefit” has to be presented for motorists in order to shore up the funds to marginally improve the transit infrastructure. I guess that is one of the major issues we have to deal with when we have a President who in his next financial deficit (that is not a budget) wants to reduce an already anemic transportation fund by $3.2 billion. One major question remains: What is going to happen to all of those cars not going to Dadeland or the Palmetto when they merge back onto a US-1? We cannot honestly expect all these folks to suddenly abandon their cars and hop on Metrorail, can we? Or will the lanes be extended north into downtown, continuing to undermine the reason why Metrorail was constructed along US-1 to begin with - to get people out of their cars.

A similar variably priced tolling plan is about to be introduced on a 24-mile segment of Interstate 95 between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. They are also planned for the expanded Interstate 595 in Broward.

True. However, I do not think drawing comparisons between US-1 and limited access highways is fair. HOT lanes are a novel concept for the highway scenario, but not along a corridor where driveways and intersections all interfere.

Not only could it provide a little relief to the normal wall-to-wall madness on the overburdened South Dixie corridor, but it could also finally fulfill the Busway’s original promise: real rapid transit.

Once again, see our unrelated qualms above on transportation spending as a whole in this country. It’s deplorable!

”Without a strong transit component, this doesn’t work,” said Javier Rodriguez, executive director of the expressway authority.

Amen!

Elevated intersections will incite plenty of sturm und drang from communities along the Busway. The neighbors must be mollified, especially if Transit is forced to relocate its stations away from the intersections to maintain easy street-level access for riders.

Wow, you can say that again. Most of these communities have already reduced the allowable density along US-1 making Mr. Rodriguez’s point listed above extremely difficult to accomplish. Transit needs to treat any further upgrades to this project as a rail project, bringing with that the power to enact land-use changes for the corridor that will continue to prepare it for future rail transit, increase bus ridership, and lay a foundation for preventing future westward and southern sprawl. Without a massive overhaul of the land around the Busway, this corridor will never realize the transit ridership necessary to fund such a project.

Besides noise walls and landscaping, some must-dos:

Whoa, noise walls are a definite must-do-not. This project needs to entwine the Busway (future railway) as much as possible with the surroundings, not create an inhospitable environment for those walking, biking, or using transit.


All plans must leave a pocket for future light rail or Metrorail within the 100-foot corridor as the Busway was originally intended. It might take 30 to 50 years to get trains there, but that’s what the people were promised and the bulk of the growth is already occurring down there.

Definitely! Can’t stress this point enough.


The plan must set aside money to re-time all of the signals for cross-street traffic trying to get onto and across U.S. 1 under the elevated intersections.

This is something MDT/MPO should do now to give the 15,000 daily transit riders a surefire benefit to riding the Busway. Which reminds me, what exactly is MDT up to these days?

An expanded Busway must mesh with the community charettes aimed at future redevelopment of Princeton, Naranja and Goulds into transit-oriented development villages.

Ditto for preserving the existing bike path and enhancing pedestrian access to and from the Busway.

Once again, we cannot stress how important this is. These details will ultimately make or break a project like this. Take Metrorail for example, it is a great transit system but the surroundings are beyond lousy.

The point of this article was not to criticize Streewise or Larry Lebowitz - after all he’s just the messenger - but rather to condemn a plan which is seemingly being hailed as the golden ticket for fixing congestion. The fact of the matter is, for any real change to come of any of these plans (Metrorail, Bay Link, Miami Streetcar, Busway included) we need to push for land use changes more favorable to living lifestyles which are not automatically governed by the necessity of owning a vehicle.

Okay, let me get this straight. The Florida Panthers spurned their downtown Miami digs in 1998 for the Bank Atlantic Center on the western fringes of suburbia. Now the Panthers are feeling a little bit lonely along the River of Grass and want to create a Mixed-Use Facility in western Broward?

The company said the project would create a source of funding for ongoing capital improvements, allow it to expand its programming to events that it is unable to secure because of the lack of hotel infrastructure in the area, and create a cultural hub for western Broward County.

Lack of hotel infrastructure in the area? I didn’t see that one coming when they built that foolish stadium out west. Now the Panthers want to make suburban sprawl the center of culture in western Broward, when will the stupidity end?

Ah, the 1950’s, a time when the US economy was rebounding from the stresses of World War II and federal money was freely flowing every which way to rebuild a struggling economy. The most notable “achievement” which evolved from this hasty federal spending was the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (Dwight Eisenhower Interstate System) of 1956.

As this documentary illustrates well, the 1950’s was also a time for extreme naivety, clearly shown through the future independence personal vehicles will bring to our cities. The ideas range from absurd construction techniques (an atomic reactor which creates tunnels with extreme heat) to far more absurd “new dimensions for the American highway.”

If there is one statement where the show was actually spot on, I’d say it’s this one:

“The shape of our cities will change, as expanded highway transportation decentralizes our population centers into vast urban areas. With the advent of wider, faster expressways the commuter’s radius will be extended many miles”

You can say that again…

The official video description:

An excerpt from the 1958 “Disneyland” TV Show episode entitled “Magic Highway USA”. In this last part of the show, an exploration into possible future Transportation technologies is made. It’s hard to believe how little we’ve accomplished on this front since 1958, and how limited the scope for imagining such future technologies has become. Witness an artifact from a time where the future was greeted with optimism. Note the striking animation style here, achieved with fairly limited animation and spectacular layouts.

Today’s Metro Monday come to us from our loyal reader James Good.

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The conclusion to the three part story on Auckland, New Zealand’s car addiction. This part concentrates on the sustainable and economic benefits of upgrading to alternative transit. They accurately rip apart the notion of cars, highways, and the expanded option of “personal independence” contributing an “economic benefit” to society…

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We received this editorial recently from Alan Farago and after receiving his expressed written consent decided to republish it here for you to read. The original article appeared in the Orlando Sentinel on January 14, 2008

If there is a silver lining in the sharp contraction of housing markets across the nation, it is the impetus to reform a model for economic growth — suburban sprawl — that is fundamentally flawed.

The state investment pool — repository for taxpayer funds of municipalities in the state of Florida — sunk billions of dollars into leveraged financial products tied to suburban sprawl.

In other words, whether we like it or not — whether we are Democrat or Republican, environmentalists or developers — Florida invested in the dream, others profited from it, and now all taxpayers are at risk on the sprawl side of the ledger.

It’s time for some plain speaking: The financial system that underpins low-density, scattered development in Florida, most often viewed as platted subdivisions in wetlands or farmland, is bankrupt.

That is a problem because the sprawl model has been a big, if not the biggest, driver of Florida‘s economy.

When policies about growth for construction and development are discussed by government, they are organized around rules and regulations for zoning and permitting.

But the true parameters for suburban sprawl aren’t set by rules or regulations or even by public choices on land use and development: They are established by banks and what banks can finance.

Most consumers hear about it in terms of “subprime mortgages.” The reality is different. Those who benefited most from the “ownership society” don’t live on Main Street; they work on Wall Street and made huge fees and commissions on speculative leverage, the underpinning of suburban sprawl.

There are many intermediaries — praetorian guards to the field generals of sprawl, each reaping a host of legal, engineering and lobbying fees. But the end goal of Wall Street’s sprawl arrangement was to persuade distant investors, through the assurances of ratings agencies and insurers, that any particular development — based on demographics, proximity to markets and even architectural and design parameters — would deliver returns with the same reliability as a similar set of box retailers or platted subdivisions in, say, Las Vegas.

Thus, the passion for preserving a local spring, or the Everglades, was blocked out by fractions and formulas claimed to diversify risks while guaranteeing a predictable, high stream of income to investors.

Not only have we lost our springs and much of the Everglades, the banks lost, too.

The banks didn’t lose roseate spoonbills or swallow-tailed kites. Instead, they lost hundreds of billions for investors, many of whom have abandoned the market for leveraged debt related to housing.

In other words, the spoonbills will come back sooner than the markets tied to debt for suburban sprawl. So, it is a good time to consider alternatives to a status quo that lost whatever leverage it had to reality.

Although its advocates claim the contrary, subdivisions far from places of residents’ jobs are not what the markets want; the subdivisions are what Wall Street can finance to its maximum benefit.

Those benefits are defined by the degree of leverage. Conversely, if one puts limits on leverage, attached to particular locations and property, it is possible to choke off sprawl the same way cancer researchers are learning to limit the spread of tumors by cutting off their blood supply.

It is time for a new model for growth that puts brakes to sprawl, matching what investors can expect to earn and what developers can finance to the true cost of protecting aquifers, the environment, and infrastructure that serves existing taxpayers.

For this to happen, Congress has to connect banking regulations, governing the issuance of financial debt such as mortgage-backed securities and such, to land use and the environment.

It is a tall order, but there is no better time than the middle of a crisis to consider new solutions. In the United States, the work of bond ratings, insurance, public and private debt has been deemed off-limits to scrutiny to all but the financially competent who are rewarded, in turn, by tipping the scales of equity to private interests.

During the housing boom, this worked especially well because everyone was a winner (except the poor and the environment). In The New York Times, Floyd Norris captured the formula in part: “It was the greatest credit party in history, made possible by a new financial architecture that moved much of the activities out of regulated institutions and into financial instruments that emphasized leverage over safety.”

The other part of the formula is the one that matters most: So long as leverage fails to account for the safety of our communities, we will be at the mercy of Wall Street and the masters of suburban sprawl. It is time to get smart and put handcuffs on a financial system that has been golden to all but the people who have to pay for them. That would be you and me, Florida taxpayers.

Alan Farago of Coral Gables, who writes about the environment, can be reached at alanfarago@yahoo.com. He wrote this commentary for the Orlando Sentinel.

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