Currently viewing the tag: "Sprawl"
I came across an interesting website (Trulia Hindsight) which provides us with an animated map of homes in the United States. The animations use the year the properties were built to show the growth of streets, neighborhoods and cities over time. The data comes from the real estate website Trulia. Of the 900,000+ properties in the Miami area only 0.2% are depicted which interestingly enough is a wide enough range to accurately depict the sprawl that has occurred in our region.

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I was reading through an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune which chronicles the lives of commuters- people living way out in the suburbs (sprawl) and the absurd lifestyles they lead basically centered around absurd commutes. It’s interesting to witness the lengths people will go to in order to fulfill their idealistic view of the “American Dream.” Even more shocking is the amount of time they waste annually, idling in traffic rather than relaxing, spending time with their families, or just interacting in some socially normal behavior outside of their vehicle. I copied the more notable sections of the article below:

The Dunn Brothers coffee chain has “belts” in terms of when its stores open, said company President Chris Eilers.

“Urban stores open about 6:30. First- and second-ring suburbs, 6. And in the outskirts — Elk River, Monticello — it’s 5:30,” he said. “Typically, what sparks it is the number of people who show up before you open, pounding on the door and wanting their coffee.”

It’s an interesting way of analyzing commute patterns but the coffeehouse provides us with a great ruler for measuring sprawl…
That side trip alone can add a half-hour to an already epic daily trek. And it means a staff member from the day care needs to walk the first-grader to school later in the morning, when it opens. Eager would love to arrange to work from home. And she says it “makes me want to cry” to have to crawl into town alongside so many freeway-clogging single-driver cars, when more carpooling and bus rides would speed the trip for all.

Now what Eager, like many suburbanites, fails to realize, is that suburban sprawl makes bus riding and carpooling extremely difficult to implement because most sprawl areas lack a definitive center from where an organized system can be implemented successfully.
But Ardner, the mayor of Mora, sees the stresses that creates. “Truth is, we’d love to have a four-lane road up here,” he said. “If you know anyone whose arm we can twist, we’d love to hear about it.”

But that’s just it, said Johnson. What people do in their own lives to save money, finding a cheaper home farther out, creates costs for society.

“The public massively subsidizes all of this,” he said. The cost of adding lanes in Mora, for instance, would be averaged out across all users, even those driving a lot less. “Just imagine what would happen if we charged people what it costs to live this far away. That’s sort of behind a growing inclination, in Minnesota and elsewhere, to think about taxing mileage rather than fuel, to really calibrate how much you’re using the roads.”

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has talked of moving toward what he calls a “fuel-neutral mileage charge,” partly because new technologies such as electric cars will make it harder to collect revenue from road users. Six states are taking part over the next two years in a major study aimed at experimenting with using onboard computers to gauge roadway use and charge drivers accordingly.

Many megacommuters, partly in response to the cost of gas, are making big adjustments. Toni Roy, coming in from Claremont, in Dodge County, to Bloomington, often stays with her folks overnight. Davis, the Mora commuter who gets but an hour at home at night before turning in, works 10-hour shifts four days a week so she doesn’t have to drive in on Wednesdays, and sometimes trades homes with her city-based sister. She hops an express bus in Blaine many mornings, letting the driver deal with the stress of the trip’s most-congested stretch.

It’s interesting to see the educational contrast in Minnesota’s political scene, an occurrence which seemingly happens far too often across the country. The unwitting and shortsighted local politician seeks roadway expansion as a “viable” solution to his constituents’ needs while the state works on a broader level to reduce emissions and personal vehicular transit…

Some Related News:

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If you picked up the Herald this morning, there’s a good chance you read this article.

I think my jaw literally hit the floor when I read it. It appears the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority is using the Reason Foundation and their misguided, obsolete, and flawed road-based transportation planning schemes to “craft a vision” for 30-year expansion of MDX expressways. For the vast majority of urban planners, particularly those with any understanding of best practice in growth management, transportation planning, and sustainability, this little “road party” is laughable. It’s almost like a bunch of insurance agents, smokers, and Big Tobacco lobbyists in a room together trying to envision a future of less lung disease without any real doctors present in the room. If this is what politics and planning have come to in Miami-Dade County, I see little hope for an improved, sustainable future.

Oh yeah, and $8 billion dollars? Everyone is always talking about how hard it is to fund transit projects, especially with the deplorable amount of federal aid and massive national demand. Yet it’s funny how it always seems like billions are quickly and easily available for the (road) projects that make the least sense. Eight billion would certainly go along way toward improving transit in the county. Instead, it seems like those in power are either still living in the “the vacuum” themselves, completely oblivious to consensus best practice planning and sustainability, or they’re sprawl industry insiders/backers, or they’re NIMBYs in power suits…or perhaps a combination of all three.

So, while Miami-Dade wastes its time snuggling up with the Reason Foundation and all but ensuring a self-fulfilling prophecy of congestion, pollution and sprawl into perpetuity, New York has recently hired international urban planner extraordinaire Jan Gehl as a consultant. This is a man who is primarily responsible for turning Copenhagen around from a congested, auto-centric city into one of the world’s most livable, pedestrian-oriented, and bike-friendly cities — in just 40 years. In just a short period of time since being hired by the City, plans have already been unveiled for NYC’s first Euro-style physically separated bike lane right on a busy avenue in Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg is touring Europe as of this moment discussing environmentally-friendly solutions to urban traffic, such as Paris’ Velib bike-sharing program and London’s Congestion Pricing.

It’s simple — Miami-Dade can easily choose this path and begin to move in a new and vastly improved direction. However, if we continue down the current path, it will soon be too late.

* Correction: The original posting wrongly mentioned the MPO instead of MDX as the conductor of the 30-year road plan. However, the MDX 30-year road plan will be submitted to the MPO for inclusion in the 2035 Long-Range Plan.

Photo courtesy of http://www.pritchettcartoons.com

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Apparently Turnpike planners have missed the boat on established best practice metropolitan transportation policy. According to the Herald, they will be discussing their preliminary ideas to decongest the Turnpike, including a plan to expand the expressway to 10 lanes between 836 and 874, and possibly all the way to Homestead. I guess they want to do everything in their power to justify sprawl and make South Florida as unsustainable as possible.

When are these people going to learn that a “predict and provide” approach to building highways is both counter-productive and unsustainable? It’s been addressed over and over and over again by researchers that widening highways such as the Turnpike, especially at its current capacity, does little but induce more driving demand while simultaneously justifying the auto-dependent sprawl it serves.

Lest we forget that such a project also takes years to finish and usually costs hundreds-of-millions of dollars — money that could be much better spent on transit improvements and maintenance of existing roadway facilities. Such policy is even more appalling within the context of climate change (especially with South Florida’s geography) and a threatened Everlgades ecosystem.

So, I encourage anyone who would like attend the open house tomorrow to go and voice your displeasure with any plan that will widen the Turnpike. Even better if you bring with you the studies I hyperlinked above to support your claims. Let these planners know that South Floridians are tired of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on futile roadway projects that justify sprawl, do nothing to improve quality of life for Miami-Dade residents, and continue to leave commuters with little alternative to driving. Tell them you want to see sustainable alternatives that are transit-based.

The meeting information:

Thursday, September 27
5:30-7:30pm
Florida Dept. of Transportation District Six Auditorium
1000 NW 111th Ave, Miami

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Global:

  • A Town in Germany has decided to handle its traffic problems by removing all the traffic signals. The plan is to remove all signals in the city center to make life easier for pedestrians, evening the playing field and forcing traffic to no longer dominate the roads.

“The idea of removing signs to improve road safety, called “Shared Space,” was developed by Dutch traffic specialist Hans Monderman, and is supported by the European Union.”

Meanwhile Columbia, Missouri Business owners and a local developer are upset that the federally funded PedNet program will hamper vehicular traffic in favor of friendlier pedestrian and bicycle options. Who knew?

“The concern for the business owners and anyone who lives in the area is that the intersection will be less friendly,” Lindner said. “And vehicular traffic is always going to be the major mode of transportation in Columbia, so you can’t ignore the impact on it. We should be trying to alleviate congestion, not do things to make it worse.”

  • Discussions are underway about possibly merging the metropolises Hong Kong and Shenzhen into one Mega-City. The plan is being considered to make the region more competitive in the global market and to better link the existing cities.
  • Burj Dubai has officially surpassed Toronto’s CN tower, making it the tallest free standing structure in the world at 555 meters and 150 stories. Like most things in Dubai, the buildings’ final height is a closely kept secret, but it is expected to rise between 750 and 800 meters…

National:

  • They say everything is bigger in Texas, but Arlington’s Public Transit system is the smallest for cities with 350,000+ inhabitants. Actually, Arlington doesn’t even have a Public Transit System, garnering it the distinction of the largest American city without one.

“Arlington residents have voted down a public bus system three times in the last 27 years, worried about big buses lumbering down their quiet suburban streets, as well as the cost of a service that many believe would benefit only a few. But advocates say the city’s growing population, coupled with the pain of higher gasoline prices, make buses an easier sell now.”

Sell? You shouldn’t have to sell anyone a public transit system. If they want to choke in their own congestion and sprawl then so be it. Let them degrade their own quality of life rather than spend money on a transit system in a city where people clearly don’t get “it.”

  • The D.C. Council is working on some legislation which would make Bicycle parking a requirement at all apartment buildings with more than 8 units and 10% of automotive parking capacity at commercial establishments.
  • This excerpt speaks for itself:

“The Minneapolis bridge collapse on Aug. 1 led Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters to publicly reflect on federal transportation spending priorities and conclude that those greedy bicyclists and pedestrians, not to mention museumgoers and historic preservationists, hog too much of the billions of federal dollars raised by the gas tax, money that should go to pave highways and bridges. Better still, Peters, a 2006 Bush appointee, apparently doesn’t see biking and walking paths as part of transportation infrastructure at all.”

Click here for the full article

Local:

  • FAU trustees approved plans to build a 30,000 seat, $62 Million stadium for the Owls’ football team on the Boca Raton campus. Construction is set to begin in 2009.
  • More reasons why converting every neighborhood into its own municipality is such a bad idea: identity crisis. The suburban bedroom community of Davie has been struggling to find itself for the past few years amid all the other South Florida “cities.”
“With all of the cuts, Transit will be down to 34 million annual miles of service. That’s seven million more miles, a 26 percent increase, that have been delivered since late 2002 when Miami-Dade County voters approved a half-cent sales-tax increase for transportation.

But it’s a whopping 10 million miles short of the 44 million miles that former Mayor Alex Penelas promised by 2008 during the campaign. The agency never got close, peaking at 38 million miles in December 2005 and paring back in three subsequent lineups.

In Transit’s defense, ridership has remained steady as the miles have been cut — an indicator that the planning and scheduling gurus aren’t sacrificing riders.”

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The Tragedy of Suburbia is a 20 minute presentation by James Howard Kunstler which just about sums up everything we are trying to achieve with this website. His witty presentation is thorough and identifies many of the main problems facing every American city. It goes hand in hand with many of the issues addressed in our book of the month: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces; and will provide you with some great visual evidence on our planning deficiencies.

Now, you’ll notice this video is marked under our weekly Metro Monday feature but clearly lacks any mention of public transit. We’d like to emphasize that this is done on purpose. Our message is that transit is far more than trains, buses, and automobiles; it’s a comprehensive study of these systems and their interactions with our urban landscapes and people. It includes our buildings, their uses, and the way people interact with them on a daily basis…

Image Via myuzishun’s Flickr

The alarms should have rung long ago, not today when the stock market plunged 300 points on the news of dismal results coming from the nation’s top sprawl produces. It’s pretty disappointing to see that so much of the US economy is based on the growth of these development groups which continue to produce nothing but atrocious housing developments on the outer fringes of nearly American city. Its also ironic that what we consider to be an economic engine in our communities is also responsible for degrading our lifestyles, increasing congestion, straining our resources and with that likely costing us as taxpayers more in infrastructure needs and upgrades than the economic benefit we receive in return:

“Disappointing results from home builders including Pulte Homes Inc. and D.R. Horton Inc. — squeezed by a sluggish environment from home sales and continued defaults in subprime loans — weighed heavily on the market.”

An Excerpt from Suburban Nation, The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream:

“…The primary goal of the [housing] industry remains to build and sell individual houses as quickly and profitably as possible, to “blow and go,” as they put it…Homebuilders, land developers, and marketing advisers are all constituents that must be won over if the campaign against suburban sprawl is to succeed. Their participation will be meaningful in the long run only if it is driven by the profit motive, because in America at the millennium, ideas live or die based upon their performance in the marketplace….A higher standard of development will become common place only if it offers greater profits to those who practice it.”

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Local News:
  • Palm Beach County is looking to expand water Taxi service throughout the county to create multiple water transit hubs at key coastal communities. I can’t really foresee a water taxi service solving any traffic problems in any of the three counties until considerable advances are created on land-borne transit services first. As it is the existing service serves mainly as a sight-seeing tour, accomplishing little for our daily traffic woes…
  • The Everglades Restoration plan is behind schedule and quickly rising in cost, now estimated at nearly $20 Billion. Meanwhile, development continues to encroach as we keep decimating our novel ecosystem…
  • Merrett Stierheim has the right idea, Miami-Dade severely needs a reputable higher-learning research institution. Problem is, who is going to show the initiative to get such a monumental project moving?
  • One word: Recentralization. It’s happening and it is severely needed. Forget the suburban office digs in Doral, Blue Lagoon, or BFE (Ryder.) The time to create an urban, vibrant, and useful CBD is now…
  • Bids will be accepted soon to find a contractor to build the US Southern Command’s 700,000 square foot expansion in Doral. We’re working on finding a rendering of the new facility, designed by the local office of Leo Daly Architects.
  • New seats coming soon to the Gusman…
Blog News:
  • SOTP addresses the lame ordinance which bars limo companies and private car services from picking up passengers within an hour of their initial request…
  • Miami-Forum shows some “love” for the imbecilic public works department of Miami Springs…
  • Riptide 2.0 discusses the integration of Bikes with Miami 21…
National News:
  • How do you stop Sprawl? You Sue the cities which don’t comply with smart growth patterns, that’s how…
  • MARTA Plans a system wide review and possibly overhaul to make daily transit operations run smoother…

I just completed Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself and I came across a couple of quotes which are noteworthy:

“…Although the bookshop was no more than seventy or eighty feet away, I discovered that there was no way to get there on foot. There was a traffic outlet for cars, but no provision for pedestrians, and no way to cross on foot without dodging over six lanes of swiftly moving traffic. In the end, I had to get in our car and drive across. There was simply no other way. At the time it seemed ridiculous and exasperating, but afterward I realized that I was probably the only person ever even to have entertained the notion of negotiating that intersection on foot…”

Sound familiar? I can think of dozens of roads and intersections locally which could serve as the exact road Bill is describing. Try crossing Kendall, US-1, or any other stretch or road and you too will notice that pedestrian planning is an afterthought, at most.

“…You find it at Disneyland, where people flock to stroll up and down a Main Street just like the ones they abandoned wholesale in the 1950s. It happens at restored colonial villages like Williamsburg, Virginia and Mystic, Connecticut, where visitors drive long distances and pay good money to savor the sort of compact and tranquil atmosphere that they long ago fled for the accommodating sprawl of suburbs. I can’t begin to account for it, but it appears that in this country these days we really only want something when it isn’t really real…”

I get the feeling Bill Bryson gets “it.” I’ve long noticed the obsession with fakeness in this country. Celebration and Tradition, two newer Florida “towns” immediately come to mind, let alone Disney or any of the various “town centers” popping up across our landscape. More on this subject later, I get the feeling it’s a topic we’ll be addressing more often…

A recent CBS4 “investigation” supports our claims that road expansion simply isn’t the solution to the traffic woes in our region. The report puts the new 836 west extension to the “test,” with two vehicles racing to a central meeting point on Bird Rd and SW 137th ave. The results were disappointing to those hoping that the extension would provide western suburbanites with a speedier alternative to the turnpike (you know, because of that exorbitant toll.) What the CBS4 report and many natives fail to understand is just how traffic, roadway expansions, and arterials interact with each other.

To simplify, think of traffic as a fluid (water) and roadways as pipes. The obvious is that when there is a clogged pipe (accident) no water can pass through. Easy enough, right? Now, many people assume that by creating a new path for the water (836 extension) water will be able to flow quickly along this new path. But, given the existing saturated nature of the current western routes (Tamiami Trail, Bird, Flagler, etc.) the new extension alleviates a certain amount of traffic from each corridor, providing no specific time difference impact to any single corridor. If too many cars choose to use the extension, then it too becomes saturated and proves to be just as ineffective as the alternate street routes. In then end, the whole system balances out and our overall personal gain is negligible. Plus don’t forget that any gains will be rendered useless once western expansion continues (you know, because of all that extra “capacity” we created) and more cars are found to fill in the gaps along each of the corridors… Good Luck!

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Herald: Suburban sprawl threatens Lake Okeechobee.

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We turn our attention once again today to the East Kendall Homeowners (Association? Organization? Federation? Coalition of the willing?) to discuss the initial purpose of the group’s existence. The EKHO was formed in June 2005 in opposition to the former Dadeland Breezes development, slated for N Kendall Dr. and 77th Ave. An excerpt from their site:

“A massive development called “Dadeland Breeze” is being proposed for our neighborhood. This development will demolish the 3 story apartment buildings at N. Kendall Drive & S.W. 77 Ave. in order to construct a complex of 8 condominium towers up to 8 stories high with nearly a 100% increase in the density of the existing buildings. This proposed construction project is clearly incompatible with the low-rise scale of our “East Kendall” residential neighborhood…”

I’d like to speak to the person who reasoned that an 8 story building was “out of character” with the neighborhood, but the Palmetto expressway, expansive parking lots of Dadeland Mall, or the gargantuan 6 lanes of Kendall drive just blended in seamlessly with the surroundings. The fact that most East Kendall residents don’t likely walk to their local Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, or Mall is the most alarming part of this discussion. Furthermore, I find it kind of hypocritical when a group speaks out against a project of greater density because of “increased traffic” but yet also goes against measures to bring public transit to their neighborhood. Is it the development that East Kendall fears or is it a change in the way of life?

“…It will worsen our already bad traffic, further burden our over-capacity schools, and have a negative impact on the quality of life of our families.”

Yahtzee! “Impact on the quality of life” Now, what impact precisely is anyones guess, but a change that will have us living a more vertical, sustainable, and likely healthier life doesn’t sound so bad, that is, unless you like idling in traffic along US-1 or Kendall bouncing around from parking lots to fast-food drive-throughs.

What many Miami residents, organizations, etc. fail to realize is that change and progress are a way of life. Had such powerful opposition existed in the early 1900’s, much of our prized downtown Brickell land could still look much like it did in 1915:

Imagine that? The Four Seasons was once a 2 story bungalow. By now we surely would have paved clear across the everglades and into Naples had someone not decided to build vertical…

Try explaining that and the benefits of sustainable growth to these folks, the EKHO, a group of citizens obviously set in their ways and accustomed to the lousy quality of suburban life:

A commenter from another blog recently brought up a point about Miami’s climate, and how it may affect transit and mobility, as well as why it is rarely mentioned on Transit Miami. Because it’s true we speak little of local climate-related issues and many people use Miami’s climate as an excuse to drive everywhere, I thought now would be a good time to formally address the concern.

The reason weather is rarely discussed on this site is because we think for the most part it is a non-issue. By and large, Miami‘s climate doesn’t pose any more problems than in any other city. Sure, we get a lot of rain during the wet season, but our frequency of rain is actually less than that of many other cities. What I’m saying is, it may rain hard in parts of Miami for short periods, but rarely will the same location get poured on day-after-day-after-day. On the other hand, it can be rainy, wet, foggy, and cold all day long in London, Copenhagen, or even Boston and New York. It’s not unusual for this to happen across the entire city, for several straight days anytime during the year. This doesn’t stop nearly 40% of Copenhagen residents from biking to work each day. Nor do several month long bouts of frigid weather stop people from using transit from Montreal to Moscow. Miami is fortunate enough to have six months of practically rain-free weather with temps between 75 and 82 degrees – most cities that are already transit-oriented could only dream of having such a climate.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most people commute early in the morning when temperatures are nearly at their coolest, which is certainly bearable even during Miami‘s hot wet season. Thus, riding a bike at a leisurely pace with mild morning temperatures, you probably won’t even break a sweat. However, businesses and/or buildings should be equipped with shower facilities in case you were to break a sweat. Toronto, for example, has a program in place which is aimed at being bicycle-friendly, whereas all new buildings of a certain square footage must be equipped with shower facilities. Moreover, with improved transit and new lines, people can bike short distances to transit, then ride in AC downtown or wherever you are employed.

In poorly designed places, heat does have the potential to be oppressive. This is why it’s so important to adhere to quality urban design principles, with buildings having short setbacks coupled with awnings or sidewalk shade trees (this usually means higher density – one more reason why it’s not an evil thing). Mayor Diaz is trying to attack this issue with a Tree Master Plan, with goals to improve the City’s tree canopy by 30% by 2020. Developers need to do their part, too, by making their street frontages more protected from sun.

This is one more reason why low-density sprawl is so bad, especially in South Florida‘s climate. Think about it: If you’re walking along a typical suburban, car-oriented street where everyone has a driveway and one-story flat homes are set way back, you’re probably baking in the sun. However, walking along Miracle Mile or Main Highway is much more pleasant because trees and/or urban design elements are providing shade.

And lastly, rain is definitely a non-issue for pedestrians - all you need is an umbrella!

Photo courtesy of slowernet’s flickr photostream

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  • MDT’s Buses on the shoulder program is going well. With 50% fewer late buses the pilot program is looking good thus far along the Killian routes.
  • Last year’s fastest growing Transit System, Tri-Rail, is working the kinks out of its latest “service enhancements.” The agency is still struggling to gain dispatch control from CSX and last week experienced a dismal on time performance between 50-60%…
  • Remember those stupid trucks with billboards which drive around and cause congestion, pollute, and obstruct your view? Here are the people responsible
  • Sunpass will be selling at half price to placate 13,000 people who live in sprawl-land, or something of the sort…What I’d like to know is when we’re going to wake up and start using toll money to finance real transit projects… (Via SOTP)

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