Currently viewing the tag: "Miami Beach"
Paris has finally unveiled its highly anticipated bicycle sharing program, sending a global message that it’s serious about reducing emissions and embracing sustainable urban transportation. Over 10,000 bikes are now available for rent at over 750 stations, with plans to double the fleet to 20,000 by years end.
Dubbed “Velib” (a play on words - Velo = bike & liberte = freedom), the system works like this:

A local or tourist who is interested in renting a bike goes to a high-tech docking station, swipes a credit or debit card at a meter (translated into eight languages), and a bike is yours for a nominal fee. A one-day pass costs only 1 Euro ($1.38), a weekly pass 5 Euros ($6.90), and a yearly pass only 29 Euros ($40.00). There are no surcharges, taxes, or other fees, so long as the bike is returned within 30 minutes. Over 30 minutes, you would be charged an incremental “late fee”, which is designed to facilitate high turnover and ensure that bikes will be available for rent at each station. If you want to take out another bike after 30 minutes, go right ahead - for convenience, bikes can be returned to any of the docking stations, which are located an average of only 300 yards apart.

“This is about revolutionizing urban culture…for a long time cars were associated with freedom of movement and flexibility. What we want to show people is that in many ways bicycles fulfill this role much more today.”

~ Pierre Aidenbaum, Mayor of Paris’s Third District

According to the New York Times, early indications point toward success for Velib. Even before a single docking station was open, some 13,000 people had already purchased yearly subscriptions online.

Paris is definitely moving in the right direction. Bicycle-sharing on this scale is absolutely one of the most important urban planning developments to come along in sometime. There’s no reason why Miami can’t follow Paris’ lead.

In fact, I challenge the City of Miami Beach, which I believe to be the most appropriate place for bike-sharing in South Florida, to strongly consider implementing its own version of Velib. It has the density and compactness that will allow this sort of program to thrive. It would be great for tourists, who no longer would feel obliged to rent cars. It would be great for locals, whom besides benefiting directly from the service, would benefit tremendously from fewer cars and VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled) in their communities. It’s even more logical when you consider that Miami Beach lacks (unfathomably) quality transit.

Once the program manifests success on the beach, it could set a precedent for cycling/transportation policy elsewhere in Greater Miami. I mean, after all, Miami should be a national (and global) leader in cycling, given its phenomenal assets - climate and ecology.

The little improvements are nice, but it’s time to step up and create cycling initiatives that will revolutionize urban transportation in Miami and South Florida.

Photos courtesy of Le Fil’s & austinevan’s flickr accounts

Though it often seems like TransitMiami is only critical of Miami’s urban planning, transportation, land use, and urban design, we believe it is important to illustrate the bright points as well.
This brings me to today’s post, where I want to showcase my favorite Greater Miami street - Espanola Way on South Beach.

From an urban design perspective, this street embodies all the incredible potential I see in Miami. Let’s take a moment to address several of the elements that give Espanola Way its fantastic urban design:

  • Appropriate density for an urban environment; good physical urban continuity
  • Buildings are right up to the sidewalk; this defines urban space, in turn creating a much better sense of place than we see in most of Greater Miami
  • Narrow street; this minimizes the amount of valuable urban street space allotted to automobiles, which means less thru-traffic (none at all when it is blocked off for the Farmer’s Market), noise, emissions, and lost street space
  • Presence of shade trees, awnings, and balconies offer a reprieve from the hot South Florida sun
  • Mixed use buildings
  • Moderately wide sidewalks (for Miami)
  • Architecture that reflects local culture and history
  • Facades that are open to the street, which engage pedestrians
Frankly, this is what a high-quality urban environment looks like. There is plenty of density, but it’s built at human scale. Because the streets are narrow and parking spaces few, Espanola Way doesn’t suffer from the noise, emissions, and lost street space that plagues so many other Miami streets.

While a lot of the shops are quirky, there is a decent mix of restaurants and cafes (I am a big fan of Hosteria Romana). The point is, however, that if many other Miami streets and neighborhoods were designed this way, the foundation would be set for an urban community that has a comprehensive set of urban amenities.

Photos: Mouffetard’s, clarks aunt, & golbog’s flickr

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Miami Beach is stepping up its commitment to art in public spaces in a big way. The renderings for the marble sculpture “Drift”, by Spanish artist Inigo Manglano-Ovalle depict the forthcoming behemoth that will soon arrive on the shores of South Pointe Park. The 16 foot tall abstract representation of an iceberg that has broken off from the continental shelf and floated to South Beach pushes the individual to examine the harsh realities of climate change. As a part of the overall renovation of the park, Miami Beach city commissioners made a significant declaration of their commitment to beautification, the arts, and the responsibility to remain vigilant in the examination of contemporary issues in art, as well as global issues. The selection of the world renowned artist was influenced by his numerous other installations across the US.

The suspended chrome cloud that has been on display at the opening of Zaha Hadid’s Contemporary Arts Museum in Cincinnati among many other locations is another example of the artists intense observations of the world in which we inhabit, the experience of being in that world and the effect we have on it. Earlier work focused on issues of migration and immigration and while some artists path seem to migrate deeper, toward a particular, smaller if you will, subject, Manglano-Ovalle’s subject matter continues to be expansive, moving toward larger more universal objects and concerns.

The physical articles created to encapsulate the many themes of his work are consistently pieces of unprecedented beauty. They are both incredibly simple and vastly complicated, expressionistic and highly calculated, whose tangible qualities alone dictate their classification as high art. The opportunity to have such a sculpture, outdoors, in the public realm, as a permanent installation is a privilege.

Like another Manglano-Ovalle sculpture of an iceberg, that is seen as its whole self, including all that would ordinarily be submerged, the people of Miami can look forward to the installation of this art, knowing there will be more and more to be discovered in what lies beneath. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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This extraordinary image posted at Skyscrapercity by James Good illustrates the need for revitalization for downtown’s premier park space. As well as how appropriate the location is for Museums with the Metromover stop already in place. The museums will be a great buffer for the park from the intrusive traffic of the highway beside the park. I am also interested in hearing thoughts from our readers regarding the somewhat sensitive issue of the need for, specifically, green park space.

Is it unfair to compare Miami to other cities in terms of green park space when across the causeway is the enormous public space, Miami Beach. I assure you I am a strong supporter for park space in Miami proper, but I feel there is an entirely different analysis required based on the unique quality of the beach. Being the single most obvious draw for all of South Florida residents, the beach almost creates a requirement of other city parks to include an attraction, if they are to be fully utilized. While some would propose a stadium or a waterpark, it seems that the museums are the perfect, compatible solution, in keeping with the desired qualities of a public green space.

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Via Miami Fever

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We’re all used to the stunning aerial footage generously provided to us by local amateur photographer/RC Pilot James Good, but I’m afraid he’s outdone himself this time with some amazing video footage shot from South Beach’s South Pointe:

Click here for the classic still frames…

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I’m glad Representative Julio Robaina stepped up today and finally declared that through consolidation of city services, Miami-Dade taxpayers could save $50 Million Dollars. Although Robaina was speaking of only consolidating one branch of various municipal governments, it’s a step in the right direction- the direction that would consolidate all local municipalities under one effective roof. We have to stop undermining the power established by the Miami-Dade Home Rule Charter in 1957 and need to start using it to become a more efficient municipal entity. What do I mean? No more Surfside, Pinecrest, Miami Gardens, El Portal, Key Biscayne, etc. Sure the neighborhoods will still exist, but the municipal authority will be absent, consolidating their governing authority in the hands of an expanded and qualified (better paid too, obviously) county government. The majority of these municipalities are going to feel the crunch of the property tax reform anyway, bringing many of them to the brink of bankruptcy, seeing that the greater part of them are just bedroom communities without any real commerce or industry sectors. Heck, Imagine what it would look like if every census designated place became its own municipality…

It’s an idealistic situation, I’ll admit, but the fact that there isn’t a comprehensive governing body with the authority to draft area-wide planning/zoning, transit, development, greenways, etc. is pretty archaic.

Example 1:
MDT and county planning has had a plan to maximize density along the US-1 corridor (as they should) to maximize the overall system benefit of metrorail and the busway, allow for less westward growth, etc. However, each city along the corridor has final say on the TOD along their particular portion of the corridor. MDT and TOD developers have to therefore seek planning/density/zoning approval from whichever city their project resides as well as the county. It’s redundant! To make matters worse, every city has its own agenda: Pinecrest for example, has reduced density along their portion of the corridor (in a futile attempt to “prevent” further traffic.) Newsflash kids, the growth south and westward will cause far worse traffic through Pinecrest than any expanded development along US-1.

Example 2:
After the passage of the PTP in 2002, one of the first rail projects to come under consideration was the Miami-Miami Beach connection: Baylink. Despite the overall benefit (tourism, local access, etc.) the transit system would have provided to a greater proportion of the local population, Miami Beach politicians derailed the project, pushing back its earliest date for county consideration to 2015! MDT and the county could have pushed ahead without Miami Beach approval, but the elected governing body of the time lacked the political will to force the Beach agenda aside.

Neighborhoods have incorporated into proper municipalities to escape the corruption, abuse, or neglect that evolved in Miami’s County politics over time (Yes, I am aware that 25 of the 34 Municipalities were formed prior to the 1957 Charter.) Instead of adjusting the system to provide better public oversight, neighborhoods have been uniting and adding yet other layers to the local bureaucracy. Nowadays we’re looking to cut taxes, not services, why not cut the fat?

The picture above, taken from the balcony of the Murano on Miami Beach, was forwarded to me by James, TransitMiami.com’s newest author. He’ll be covering the architectural and urban design aspects of the buildings rising in Miami.

TransitMiami is growing and looking for new ways to bring the latest content to you. If you have any ideas, suggestions, or comments, feel free to e-mail us at movemiami@gmail.com.

Our sidebars have changed over the past few weeks, some dead sites were removed from the Miami/Transportation blog rolls and a whole bunch more were added…

That’s right folks, today MDT unveiled their new 7 day metropass geared to Miami’s tourist market:
The $19 pass will come with a countywide transit system map including detailed maps of Miami Beach and downtown Miami showing visitors how to get to numerous tourist attractions and destinations using Metrobus, Metrorail and Metromover. A scratch-off calendar will let passengers choose the seven consecutive days they wish to use the pass.

Now, if only we could accelerate plans to unify the tri-county transit systems and implement system wide technology which would enable the use of credit cards, we’ll really be making some logical progress…

The pass will initially be sold at Miami International Airport, four visitor centers, select hotels and businesses and MDT’s transit service centers. For exact pass sales locations and hours of operation, call 305-770-3131 or visit www.miamidade.gov/transit. Online sales of the pass will begin in the fall on MDT’s website as well as a number of international travel websites.

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It’s great to see that pro-bicycle momentum continues to grow in Miami. Last week, the Miami Beach city commission voted to approve bike lanes on 16th Street from Collins Avenue to Alton Road. This was part of an improvement plan for 16th Street, which included other traffic calming elements and pedestrian realm enhancements such as planting shade trees and widening sidewalks.

Amazingly, the bike lanes almost didn’t happen. One of Miami’s 387,962 NIMBY groups masquerading as a neighborhood improvement organization, the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association, had been a vocal opposition to the bike lanes on 16th. “I understand cyclists want bike paths, but why 16th Street”? Nice argument - I’m sure NIMBYs everywhere were proud.

According to the Sunpost, the real issue at hand is the right-of-way along 16th Street that would need to be taken back by the City in order to accommodate the bike lanes AND widen sidewalks. Similar to the Grove’s opposition over the quality 27th Avenue enhancement project, Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association members are concerned that the City will reacquire public right-of-way between buildings and the sidewalk that has been used for private means (e.g. landscaping). Commissioner Richard Steinberg took the stated position that “widening the sidewalks toward the buildings would not, in fact, encroach on private property, but in reality the private property was encroaching upon the city land”. It’s great to see an elected official embrace the public realm and what’s best for the city as a whole and not the private interests of a few NIMBYs.

photo courtesy of huwkan’s flickr account

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What is taking Miami so long to embrace bicycle-oriented policies? Given the area’s fantastic year-round weather, terrible traffic congestion, underdeveloped mass transit, and fairly dense urban core (i.e. Miami proper, Miami Beach, downtown Gables), one would think Miami would be at the forefront of developing bicycle-oriented infrastructure. This certainly hasn’t been the case, however. As of this day, there are only a handful of bicycle lanes in all of Miami-Dade County, and they are located primarily in the suburbs of Coral Gables and Key Biscayne.
Mayor Diaz’s Green initiatives provide an excellent foundation for sustainability in Miami, I find that a bicycle-boosting initiative is conspicuously missing. If you google “Miami” and “bike”, you’ll sadly get more results for bike-related activities in Ohio’s Miami Valley then in America’s southernmost metropolis. Doing some quick research, the only mention of bicycle projects was at the MPO’s website. However, there are only a very small number of bike projects being considered, and all of them are either fragmented suburban routes or recreational trails. It appears there is very little direction or leadership for improved bicycle policy in Miami. Meanwhile, many cities across the county and around the world are pedaling full speed ahead (pun intended) with their own initiatives to promote bicycling as a popular, sustainable, safe, and effective means of transportation.

  • New York, NY: An elaborate city website exhibits all the bike information you could ever need, including maps. The City already has several hundred miles of bike lanes cris-crossing all five boroughs, yet plans to implement another 900 lane miles of bike lanes and greenways. NYC even has a bicycle master plan, which, if I am not mistaken, is completely foreign to any municipal body in Miami-Dade.
  • Louisville, Kentucky: The City is in the process of implementing a citywide system of bike lanes and paths. Mayor Jeffrey Abramson, who keynoted the 2007 National Bike Summit in Washington, has adopted a “complete streets” policy that requires bike lanes as apart of all major road improvements.
  • Seattle, Washington: Creating safer cycling conditions is the City’s top priority. The City is about to implement its own Bicycle Master Plan, a 10-year strategy to create 200+ miles of bike lanes citywide.
  • Portland, Oregon: A national leader in urban bicycle policy, the City’s fantastic website has extensive biking information. Everything from maps, guides, and brochures - it’s on the website.
  • Copenhagen, Denmark: Perhaps the most bicycle-friendly city on Earth, 32% of residents bike to work. This is despite being a city with a climate that is cool, wet, and dreary for much of the year - the antithesis of Miami (so much for all those lame weather excuses Miamians use to drive everywhere). So 32% of residents bike to work…fantastic, right? Not good enough for Copenhagen. The City has set a goal to increase this percentage to 40%.
Photo courtesy of Flickr account: vj_pdx

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I got some of the latest shots of the proposed retail center slated to rise on 5th street and Alton Rd. on Miami beach, just across from the up and coming Vitri Lofts. The retail center will feature some of the principles I am always advocating for the buildings rising in the design district and other parts of Miami. If just some of these concepts were required on all of the buildings in Miami, I guarantee we would have a far better pedestrian friendly atmosphere and a much easier time implementing public transit infrastructure and use. For example, a bus station will be integrated into the project, bringing the beach’s many transit users right into the front doors of the complex:Covered sidewalks and tree landscaping are an integral part of creating and maintaining vibrant pedestrian activity, particularly in Miami due to the heat and frequent summer showers. 5th and Alton will feature cover porticoes, palms, and public artwork, similar to that of many of the buildings on Miami Beach:Some of you think we’re against vehicles, which simply isn’t true. We’re against planning for vehicles as the priority of any project. Buildings should be designed to primarily interact with people rather than cars. 5th and Alton will likely feature enough parking for most of its visitors, but the parking garage won’t be the focal point of the structure and neither will its’ unsightly entrance. The entrance is relegated to a back street, Lenox Ave, where the traffic impact will be minimal and the pedestrian and transit entrances will remain uninhibited:
Update: Fifth and Alton is being developed by the Berkowitz group in conjunction with the Potamkin Family. The project is slated to be 170,000 square feet and will contain a Staples, Best Buy, and Publix among others. The City of Miami Beach will be purchasing parking spaces from the retail center for public use at a cost of $9.5 Million. The Berkowitz group created the Dadeland Station mall in Kendall as well as the Kendall Village Shopping complex in west Kendall, which both also featured large Romero Britto sculptures…

Looks like the new home of the New World Symphony will reach its $200 Million fund raising goal ahead of schedule:
Someone has given the New World Symphony $90 million toward the Frank Gehry-designed complex the orchestra is planning on Miami Beach. It’s one of the largest single donations ever to an American arts organization.

To put it in perspective, Carnival Cruise Lines founders Ted and Lin Arison’s $40 million gift to New World in 1996 — 1.3 million shares of Carnival stock — was the largest private donation ever to a U.S. orchestra.

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Awhile back (January 5, 2007) I first read about an accidental meeting between a famous Chinese architect (Xing Tong) and a pair of Art Deco preservationists (Don and Nina Worth) from Miami Beach in the South Florida Business Journal and Miami Sunpost. It’s an interesting story which remarkably led to the Shanghai designation of the Art Deco weekend back in January. I somehow didn’t report on it back then, but, follow the links above to get an idea on the background story.

Apparently both Shanghai and Mumbai (Bombay) have architecturally significant and Art Deco districts, both of which are in peril due to impeding construction and modernization efforts. The Asian delegation arrived in January to not only experience the South Beach deco district but to also learn how to preserve their own buildings while establishing them into bustling pivotal parts of the city. In a sense similar to the preservation efforts along Miami Beach in the 1970’s, Shanghai’s officials are working hard to protect what is left of their Art Deco buildings, seeing that already countless have been lost. Deke Erh, a Shanghai photographer for the past 20 years, has been documenting the destruction; he recently published a book Shanghai Art Deco to bring greater attention to architectural treasures of Shanghai in the 20’s and 30’s before the rise of Mao Zedong.

Mumbai like many other cities in the 20’s and 30’s witnessed unprecedented growth along its waterfront. Many of the building in this time period were designed in the Art Deco style thanks to the initial efforts of the Maharajah of Indore who commissioned some of the leading European architects of the time to construct his palaces: The Manik Bagh and Umaid Bhawan (pictured above.)

“Just as the “Miami Vice” television series had a hand in illuminating certain qualities of Miami Beach‘s Deco heritage, Professor Mehrotra made it clear that the pop culture might of Bollywood is helping to preserve whole stretches of beloved buildings in Bombay. Still awaiting “historic district” status, a process begun by Mehrotra and others over ten years ago, the Back Bay and Marine Drive buildings have appeared in so many movies and music videos that developers wrecking ball dare not attack. The inertia is helped along by an antiquated regime of rent control that has frozen both investment and necessary improvements.”

To continue reading on the Miami Beach-Mumbai-Shanghai efforts, read the Slatin Report: Far East of South Beach

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Public Picks Favorite American Buildings…It shouldn’t come as surprise but only two Miami buildings are mentioned in the top 150, the Delano and the Fountainebleau, which further reinforces the fact that Miami’s architecture is rather bland and lacks a single iconic structure…

However, in looking at the top 10 “buildings” notice that 4 of them aren’t actually buildings but really just structures…

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