As Miami politicians struggle with decisions like whether to fund the area’s second commuter rail line or how to provide adequate bicycle infrastructure, it may be worthwhile to look at how other American cities approach the challenges related to regional transportation planning and decision-making.
The Portland Area Metro has emerged as a model for sustainable regional governance as it pursues aggressive reductions in vehicle miles traveled, by drastically expanding its bikeway network, making investments in mass transit and encouraging transit oriented development. These decisions are made by a regional governing body: Metro, “an elected regional government, serving more than 1.5 million residents in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties and the 25 cities in the Portland region.”
Metro is the agency responsible for planning the region’s five light rail lines (52.4 miles), a commuter rail line (14.7 miles), a 651 bus fleet, an aerial tram, and, since 2009, the only American streetcar system with cars made in the USA. The entire system logs an estimated 350,000 weekday rides.
Comparatively, Miami-Dade County has a population of 2.5 million residents, has a heavy rail line (22.4 miles), a downtown people mover (4.4 miles), a strained fleet of 893 buses, and one ailing commuter rail line (70.9 miles) - representing just over 400,000 daily rides, and run by competing agencies.
Metro’s transit expansion is only part of its successful mode shift. The region has seen the number trips made by bike double since 1997 . Approximately six percent of Portland commuters now take their bikes to work, the highest percentage in America and about 10 times the national average.
While Miami has made preliminary steps to advance a mode shift toward active transportation, a quick search of the Transit Miami archives testifies to the growing pains Miami has experienced and the work that remains undone. Miami-Dade County can learn from the example set by Metro’s institutional framework - a model for how regional government can take responsibility for transit expansion and smart growth planning.
Decisions related to transit and regional planning are separate from the other functions of government - allowing County officials to advocate for projects region-wide. In addition, the Metro Auditor is an elected seat that serves as the executive watchdog of Metro’s operation.
The seven members of the Metro Council are directly elected, which makes it the “only directly elected regional government in America,” according to Chris Myers, a policy assistant at the organization. On the other hand, the Miami-Dade MPO is composed of a comparative hodge-podge of county commissioners, municipal representatives, and a representative from the highway building lobby, MDX.
The members of the Metro Council hold no other political office, and while they do consult with elected members of the region’s 25 cities, they are elected by large districts (the three-county area is divided into six total districts), forcing the councilors to focus on regional issues.
The desire for a regional focus was made explicit in Metro’s charter:
We, the people of the Portland area metropolitan service district, in order to establish an elected, visible and accountable regional government that is responsive to the citizens of the region and works cooperatively with our local governments; that undertakes, as its most important service, planning and policy making to preserve and enhance the quality of life and the environment for ourselves and future generations; and that provides regional services needed and desired by the citizens in an efficient and effective manner, do ordain this charter for the Portland area metropolitan service district, to be known as Metro.— preamble of the Metro Charter, November 1992
As the steward of regional land-use decisions, Metro has had a hand in ensuring walkable, urban land use patterns that are another driving factor in the relative success of Portland’s mode shift. More than one-third of the 1.5 million residents in the Metro service area are concentrated around the city of Portland. Metro coordinates planning policies that encourage conservation on the suburban fringe, while accommodating population growth in compact, infill development.
In comparison, as people flocked to South Florida over the past decade, the Miami-Dade County Commission allowed developers to push growth to the north, west and south; expanding suburban sprawl and ignoring the benefits of compact, walkable neighborhoods. These developments simultaneously demand more roads, and make mass transit less effective.
Portland began its shift toward more transportation options in the 1970s when area leaders elected not to build a new eight-lane highway to the suburbs, putting the money toward transit development. Later, the Portland Transit Mall opened downtown, followed by the area’s first light rail line. Now the Portland area ranks 8th in America in transit ridership, even though it ranks 23rd in population. Transit use is growing faster than the area’s population while vehicle miles traveled are steadily declining.
The question for Miamians and their leaders is, what’s next? More roads? More traffic? Or, is it time to make bold changes in anticipation of a better future?
Public Meeting Schedule
Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS THE EVALUATION AND APPRAISAL REPORT (EAR)?
The Florida Growth Management Act requires Comprehensive Neighborhood Plans throughout the state to be assessed periodically to determine how the plans are working and what areas need updating. The EAR process is not a revision of the zoning ordinance. Revision of the zoning ordinance was recently completed by the adoption of the Miami 21 Code in October of 2009. This assessment process is known as the Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) and must be completed every 7 years to assess the City’s progress on areas including, but not limited to, Public Works, Capital Improvements, Transportation and Housing. The EAR process allows us to collect valuable information to revise the City’s Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan to better address the City’s needs.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE PUBLIC MEETINGS?
Public input is an important component of the evaluation process and is where City planners learn about major issues facing your neighborhoods. Your participation in this process will lead to a thorough evaluation and serve as a base towards updating the Comprehensive Plan to meet the needs of our residents.
WHY SHOULD I PARTICIPATE?
The EAR is your opportunity to share your knowledge and concerns about the City’s needs. This is also an opportunity to learn more about the issues that shape the City’s future and to better understand the planning process.
WHEN WILL THE MEETINGS HAPPEN IN MY AREA?
Meetings are being held throughout the City to facilitate your participation. All City residents, property and business owners are encouraged to participate. See calendar for meeting details. Participants may attend any and all meetings that are most conveniently located to the participant. Everyone’s participation is welcomed.
In accordance with the American Disabilities Act of 1990, persons who require accommodations to participate in these events may contact the Planning Department no later than (3) business days prior to the event at (305) 416-1404 / TTY/TDD: (305) 416-1735.
City of Miami Planning Department
Many of today’s global cities are old-world cities that reinvented themselves. Like London or Istanbul, they already had enormous complexity and diversity. On the other hand, there are old-world cities, like Venice, that are definitely not global cities today.
And then there’s Miami. Never an old-world city, today Miami is certainly a global city — why? It’s quite surprising. Where did its diversity and complexity come from? Let’s go back to the history. Before the 1990s, Miami was sort of a dreadful little spot, frankly.
There was lots of domestic tourism; it was cheap; it was rundown; it was seen as dominated by the Cubans. But several important things happened. One was the infrastructure of international trade that the Cubans in Miami developed. There was also real estate development, often spurred by wealthy individuals from South America.
All this coincided with the opening of Latin America. In the 1990s and early 2000s, firms from all over the world — the Taiwanese, Italians, Korean, French, all over — set up regional headquarters in Miami. In the 1990s, there was also deregulation, so Miami becomes the banking center for Central America. Then the art circuit, the designers’ circuit, and other things began to come into the city. Large international corporations began to locate branches there, forging a strong bridge with Europe that doesn’t run through New York. That mix of cultures — in such a concentrated space, and covering so many different sectors — created remarkable diversity and complexity. Of course, the Miami case is rather exceptional.”
Chalk one up for Miami! This is great news, but we still have our work cut out for ourselves if we truly want to become a competitive global player. We need to seriously think about investing in a proper public transit system if we aspire to be a Global City.
You can read the entire interview with Saskia Sassen here.
Transit Miami friend and environmental activist Sam Van Lear is celebrating the second successful year of the Urban Paradise Guild. If you are not already familiar with the UPG, it is a great organization that Sam founded to work toward the restoration of native ecosystems throughout South Florida. Please check out the celebration at Oleta Park this weekend. Look below for more details.
Where: Oleta River State Park: 3400 N.E. 163rd Street, North Miami, Florida 33160
Why: This Volunteer-Powered organization has removed over 100,000 Destructive / Invasive Exotic
plants and trees using Organic Stewardship (no herbicide) methods developed by the group. UPG
has also planted mangroves, Hammock trees, and native groundcover by the thousands. In 2010
UPG has expanded, with the Location Adoption of Matheson Hammock (Miami-Dade County Parks)
and new UPG Chapters at El Portal, Hialeah, Vizcaya, and Liberty City. UPG Nurseries at Oleta and
Vizcaya are producing native plants, with the Liberty City Nursery coming on line soon. Partners
make so much possible. Activities take place almost every weekend, ensuring steady progress
toward UPG’s goal of “Creating Sustainable Paradise in South Florida, one Habitat at a time.”
Who: We extend a special invitation to UPG Volunteers, Interns and Staff, plus Partners including
Florida DEP, Miami-Dade Parks, DERM & Vizcaya, MWC, and of course Miami Dade College and
other schools, students, faculty & staff (Kindergarten – Grad School). The public is welcome. Bring
What: Birthday Activities include…
• Demonstration Planting on Oleta’s South Point (site of 1,000’s of UPG Stewardship hours).
• Picnic / BBQ, with separate grills for meat, veggies and seafood. Bring family-favorite food!
• Live Music by UPG Members and Friends (bring and instrument & play!)
• Kayaking & Canoeing on the Bay.
• Volleyball by the Beach. Bring Football, Futbol, Frisbee, and whatever you need.
• Swimming and Snorkeling.
• Weeds to Wonders activity: Building a Burma Boat (Kayak made from Exotic Burma Reed).
Cost: Admission is FREE for Planting Volunteers before 10am. $6 per car after 10am.
If you encounter problems with Evite, send an e-mail to email@example.com and you will be added.
Email Michelle London: firstname.lastname@example.org with what you are brining for the Picnic/BBQ.
Please bring a family favorite food, or beverages (no alcohol), cups, plates, etc.
We have been talking a lot lately about FDOT’s upcoming Brickell Avenue resurfacing project. One thing that has been noticeably absent is police enforcement of traffic violations on Brickell. I lived on Brickell Avenue for a year and half and have now been working there for the past two and a half years. Not once have a seen anyone pulled over for speeding or for not yielding to a pedestrian. Personally, I would like to see more police enforcement here.
I believe FDOT needs to design a roadway that discourages speeding, but there are too many other blatant moving violations that can only be addressed by police enforcement.
Two weeks ago, the Google street-view bicycle was in town, visiting both campuses of Florida International University (Modesto Maidique Campus in Westchester, and Biscayne Bay Campus in North Miami Beach). While some areas of both campuses can already be seen in Google Maps’ street-view feature, the bike was taking photographic data to complete the view of everything in between the main streets crisscrossing the campuses. We’ll keep an eye on Google Maps to see when these new views show up and let you know. Thanks to the person responsible for getting the Google Street-View Team down here (I know who it was but I don’t know he wishes his identity to be made public).
Speculated upon by Miami Bike Scene last week, yesterday I spotted the brand new bike lanes on SW 127th Avenue, stretching from Bird Road (42nd Street) to Miller Drive (56th Street). I’m told by a resident of the area that the road is used by a lot of people on bicycles, so hopefully the bike lane will make it safer for them to ride and make it more obvious to drivers that they need to watch out for bicycles sharing the road.
At this week’s Bicycle Action Committee meeting, the regular updates given on the status of the Bicycle Master Plan were missing a few crucial projects, all of which are in Commissioner Frank Carollo’s district. I asked the Bicycle Coordinator, Collin Worth, what happened? Ever the diplomat, he informed us that they had been put on hold by the new Commissioner. “Does the Commissioner not understand that these projects are of crucial importance to the connectivity of our bicycle routes“, we asked.”…the safety of cyclists who use them to bypass busier streets and access the restaurants and shops of Coral Way?”
Mr. Worth would not speak for the Commissioner, who had sent no representation of his own to the meeting so… what can we do? Rumors (so far, just rumors) suggest Carollo is no fan of the Bicycle Master Plan (yet), that he thinks car parking is more important than bringing cyclists and pedestrians to stores, or that he simply doesn’t realize how important these projects are to us, the residents of Miami.
Of course, we cannot expect the new Commissioner to automatically support everything started in his district before he took office. We understand that it can take time to look at each project and that even if it is nearly completed, he will be held responsible if it is completed under his watch. So, we have reached out to the Commissioner and hope that you will, too. Let him know that you support road improvements that support the City’s Complete Streets Policy and/or Bicycle Master Plan and/or whatever you feel is important.
Each City of Miami Commissioner controls the dollars spent on capital improvements (including road projects) in his district. Have you emailed or called your commissioner to introduce yourself yet? He needs to hear from you. If you do not live in the City, you can still reach out to the commissioner of the district where you work, do your shopping or otherwise visit.
TransitMiami.com encourages our readers to engage with their local government and support moving Miami better.
I don’t think anyone will argue with me when I say that Christopher Lecanne’s death last Sunday could have been avoided. There are a number of factors that contributed to that tragic event, starting with Carlos Bertonatti’s decision to inebriate himself and then drive back home under the influence. This was not an accident. Bertonatti may not have set out to kill Lecanne, but the moment he decided to drive under the influence he accepted, consciously or not, that he could be an instrument to death. And he was. But there was also an aspect to the event that has to deal with the bicycling infrastructure on which Lecanne transited, namely the bike lane that puts people on bicycles right next to cars on a road where drivers routinely overshoot the speed limit.
This event highlighted something that bicycle advocates in Miami have been telling those in positions of power for days, weeks, months and years prior: our roadways are not safe for people on human-powered vehicles. Key Biscayne is one of Miami’s premier cycling location, the place where, if anywhere, going beyond the strict requirements of the law would be worth it given the amount of people on bicycles that use it. And yet, as written by Esther Calas, P.E., Director of Miami-Dade County Public Works Department, the facilities there only meet the State and Federal requirements. That’s all they shot for, without consideration that this particular area could use some specifications that go beyond.
Key Biscayne is a microcosm of Greater Miami. The tragedy that took place on Key Biscayne last week can, and has, and will, happen elsewhere in Miami wherever bikes and car are forced to co-exist without the proper attention as to how that coexistence needs to happen for safety’s sake. Need proof? Look no further than October 2009 and the sad case of teenager Rodolfo Rojo, killed on Biscayne Boulevard.
How many more Rojos or Lecannes will it take before those people in positions of power, people put there by our very own votes, will finally get the message and take action to protect the bicycle-riding segment of the population they represent and serve?
As it is usually the case, the tragedy has acted as a catalyst and now we’re getting responses and promises from people like Commissioner Sarnoff and Miami Dade County Mayor Alvarez (still notably missing is Miami Mayor Regalado). I hope these lead to actual changes, I really do. Maybe this will make people realize that bicycle advocates are not just talking to hear themselves talk when we tell politicians over and over than more and better bicycling infrastructure can and does help keep people safe when on human-powered vehicles.
Bicycle riding isn’t a fad. It is an accepted, long-standing and continually-increasing form of transportation, one that has to be taken seriously and accounted for in current and future plans for the cities and county of Miami.
When it comes to Lecanne, could a separated bike lane have saved his life? We’ll never know for sure. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could figure it out before we have another such tragedy in our hands?
Then the City of Miami teamed up with the Miami World Center Group, which began accumulating property in 2004. Immediately after the property was purchased by the group, the City upzoned the area nearly 250%, vastly increasing the value of the World Center holdings. In 2008, City resources were diverted to developing a “Special Miami World Center Zoning District”, with an unspecified cost to taxpayers. In 2009, the Overtown CRA contracted a $1.2 million regional impact study, normally paid for by the developers themselves. In the June 2009, the City of Miami issued a conflict of interest waiver to allow the CEO of the World Center to sit on the Board of the Downtown Development Authority while continuing to do business with the City.
So what now? Faced with financing and legal problems, lobbyists for the World Center Group are going after public money to bail them out. A “public / private partnership” for a billion dollar convention center in Park West is being pushed by the DDA, whose Board contains lobbyists and supporters of World Center. This is despite Mayor Regalado’s vow to put any new mega-projects to a public referendum, the Miami Beach Convention Center’s planned $55 M in renovations, and numerous studies showing lack of demand for such a project. If a convention center is built (albeit extremely unlikely), there would suddenly be demand for thousands of hotel rooms in the area, potentially resurrecting the Miami World Center project from the grave.
So if it sounds like history repeating itself, it is. Why do City officials continue to follow the same failed strategies as in the past? Why not think outside the box in this era of change? Instead of mega-projects, why not beautify the area “one block at time” as the new Mayor has suggested. Put a public park on the old arena site, focus on a commuter rail into Downtown, lobby for a supermarket to serve the 20,000 residents north of the river. A clean, pedestrian friendly neighborhood will encourage investment and vastly improve the quality of life for the 5,000 or so new residents of Park West. This is a proven model used around the country, including South Beach and we should use it. Our New Mayor ran on a platform of listening to concerns of constituents and NO MORE mega-projects. Unfortunately there are still those in the City who are not listening.
Miami Today reports that Metrorail will install “free” wireless internet service at all stations in 2010 and then eventually on all trains by 2011. The Wi-Fi hotspots will cost about $2 million. Susanna Guzman-Arean, who handles Miami Dade Transit’s strategic planning and performance management, makes an interesting argument for the wireless service:
It’s a lot better to sit on the train and be productive than be sitting in traffic, we think that it would motivate people to get out of their cars.”
Unfortunately, Wi-Fi alone will not motivate people to get out of their cars. If Metrorail is serious about adding riders, they should begin by lowering their prices. A one way ticket costs $2; the same price as the subway in NYC. According to U.S. Census Bureau, 2003 American Community Survey, the median annual household income in Miami is $23,774, compared to $39,937 in NYC. Not only is the Metrorail considerably more expensive relative to wages, but we get a lot less “bang for our buck”. The level of service which Metrorail provides is inferior. For $2 in NYC you are provided access to a more extensive transportation system. Lowering prices is the first step.
Improving the quality of the existing service is the second step to increase ridership. I mentioned to a coworker who commutes daily on the Metrorail that Wi-Fi would be available on all trains. Julio was not impressed. He told me he would rather see the air conditioning work and the trash on the trains picked-up. Valid point. This should be a priority, not Wi-Fi. This is not to say that commuters won’t use this service. Some will, but in the new era of smart phones, fewer people will find the need to use their laptops.
Ridership will increase if two conditions are present:
1) If there is a financial incentive (i.e. cheaper then commuting by car)
2) If the quality of service is reliable and improved (i.e. commuting
time should be comparable if not faster then driving a car and trains should be on time, clean and the air conditioning should work)
Even with the “free” wireless internet service, Metrorail commuters are paying too much for the service which is provided to them. The $2million would be better allocated to the daily maintenance of the trains. There are certain factors that encourage ridership; Wi-Fi alone is not one of them.
South Florida livable city advocates, don’t forget that Miami 21 makes its way back to the City Commission on Friday, September 4th at 10am. Apparently, there will be opportunity for the public to comment so it’s really important that you come out to support the effort. Below is a message sent from Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk to Miami 21 advocates late last week.
On behalf of the entire Miami 21 team, our sincere thanks for your show of support at the August 6th public hearing. We were gratified, inspired and moved by residents of all ages who came out and spoke so eloquently about why the City needs Miami 21.
We are sure that the positive turnout had an enormous effect on the Commission and is in large part due to why it is coming back so soon for another hearing. While we hope it will move quickly to a Commission discussion, there is still the possibility that the hearing be reopened again for public comment. Thus it is important to have a room full of supporters again. We urge you to attend September 4th at 10:00am to express your support. We remain very hopeful for a positive turnout and vote on this day.
You may also read an article about Miami 21 that I penned for the Next American City Magazine here.
See you on Friday!
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