On Monday, February 3rd 2014, The City of Miami Beach is launching a new free trolley bus that serves Alton Rd and West Ave between 5th St. and Lincoln Rd. The purpose of this trolley is “to help you get to Alton Rd and West Ave businesses” during the FDOT construction project of the same streets. The Alton/West Loop trolleys will travel from 5 Street to Lincoln Road, along Alton Road and West Avenue, with 21 stops along the way.
The service will run approximately every 10 minutes from 8 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Sunday. The trolley has a capacity of 25 passengers and has an external bike rack and free Wi-Fi (coming soon). In addition to the free trolley, the City is providing Free Four-Hour Parking at Fifth & Alton Garage with the Trolley Voucher.
While I am not usually one to criticize public transportation projects, especially FREE ones of any sort, I do have some concerns about this particular trolley. Since the goal is to get people to shop at Alton Rd/West Ave businesses, the City seems to have assumed that the reason people are currently staying away from this area is because there is not sufficient parking available. However, this is, at least for me, not at all the reason I do not shop on Alton Road. I thought I would enlighten the City with my TOP 5 REASONS I’M NOT SHOPPING ON ALTON RD RIGHT NOW (and won’t even if the City sends me a free limo).
1. It is more scenic to walk in the trash dumpster alley between West and Alton than on Alton Rd.
Alton Rd is just plain ugly right now. It has always been ugly but now it’s uglier than ever. It’s just not a pleasant walk looking at all those construction signs and the torn up road. Why would I sit in a coffee shop on Alton, looking at a ripped-up street if I can enjoy a coffee on pleasant, pedestrian-friendly Lincoln Rd just a few blocks away? I guess I am not the only one to think this way since the local Latin cafeteria next to my building on Alton Rd recently closed shop.
2. It isn’t safe to be on West and Alton or Alton Rd.
I would rather not die like this. And you?
3. I’d rather not subject my lungs to breathing in the combined exhaust of 10,000 cars.
Yep, it looks like that around here lately. A lot.
4. The traffic lights suck for pedestrians.
Wait, I have to wait 3 minutes for the light to turn green for me, and then I get 22 second to spurt across the street? Nah, that sucks. I don’t even know how someone without my athletic abilities will achieve this (elderly, handicapped…). Pedestrians are really made to feel like second-class citizens with this kind of treatment. That’s why so many of them simply disrespect the lights and decide to cross anyway.
5. There is no bicycle infrastructure on Alton Rd/West Ave
So, as you can see from above, it’s kind of impossible, or really annoying, to be around Alton Rd by foot right now and since driving is not an option right now, there is really only one other alternative. Biking. Needless to say, the treatment for cyclists is even worse than the one for pedestrians since there is simply no infrastructure at all. No bike lane, no bike parking, not even a cutesie sharrow (I say cute because I like the little bike paintings on the street but consider them completely ineffective - but that’s another topic).
So instead of showing you a really great bike lane on Alton Rd, since there is none, I’ll show you one of the Ciclovia held in Bogota, a weekly event where the main street in Bogota is entirely shut down to traffic. This event is a huge success and is attended by thousands of people walking, biking, scooting, and running through downtown Bogota. It seemed to work real well for the local businesses to, as it is held on a Sunday morning which would otherwise not generate such a large crowd. As it turned out, to get people to downtown, no free trolley busses had to be installed by the city. People say Miami is South America - I can only hope this will be true one day.
Having said that, I still love to shop on Lincoln Rd so I will from now on refer to this trolley as the free Lincoln Rd shuttle. I’m sure tourists will be delighted they have a free connection between Ross and Lincoln Rd now. And of course, the homeless will be grateful for an air-conditioned place to rest their weary bones. However, I’m not sure it’ll do anything at all for those businesses suffering along on Alton Rd.
Is the optimal place for bicyclists really between speeding traffic and swinging car doors or is bicycle planning in most cities still just an afterthought? Can it really be the case that major arterial roadways planned for reconstruction like Alton Road in Miami Beach which are between 100′ and 120′ really have no room for bicycles?
The plan for Alton Road which the City of Miami Beach approved is still the wrong one but neighborhood organizations are not accepting that the plan is set in stone until the concrete is poured and dry.
Though Miami Beach is in the top 10 cities in the nation for biking to work according to the US Census, a perfect storm of Department of Transportation heavy-handedness, local bureaucratic impassivity, and ineptitude on the part of elected representatives has led to a hugely expensive design no one endorses. Alton Road, expected to become a showpiece of island multi-modalism, will instead become a wide-lane, high-speed, completely-congested Department of Transportation boondoggle say residents. If Miami Beach can’t get a multi-modal design with its committed and educated pedestrian and cycling advocates is there any hope for the rest of the country?
Thousands of major arterials around the country are in the process of reconstruction right now as the first roadways of the Highway Act of 1956 are being rebuilt. And despite the amazing strides made in a few exceptional places, the default design on the traffic engineer’s books is still the wrong one. The difference now is that residents know better. This is making the job of elected officials who have always trusted the DOT very difficult. Something’s got to give.
Residents are available to discuss this important issue further.
On Facebook: Alton Road Reconstruction Coalition.
On the web:
Miami Beach Resident and Urban Planner
The FDOT Alton Road project has officially begun. While the impact is still rather manageable as only the North part of Alton Rd is undergoing construction, this massive project is soon to take on more importance as South Beach’s major and one and only North-South highway will be shut down in parts. The complete construction schedule for April 8 - 25 can be found here.
While resident groups such as the Flamingo Park Neighbourhood Association and the West Avenue Neighbourhood Association have raised major concerns of the project and expressed them to the City of Miami Beach, there has been no response from City Hall. I recently emailed Mayor Matti Bower and all commissioners asking for their stance on this project and expressing my concern of the impact to those who walk or bike along West Ave:
I am extremely concerned about the FDOT construction plans for the Alton Road project […] I am afraid that it will no longer be possible to safely take my daughter for a walk or to school. I am worried about noise, pollution, congestion […]. Furthermore, we are shocked that Alton Road is going to offer “sharrows” for bicycles. Sharrows are not a safe option on Alton Road. We also understand that no bike lanes are planned for West Ave either and feel very disheartened that a city that aims to provide bike alternatives to residents simply ignores this alternate mode of transportation for such a long foreseeable future.Please provide me with your thoughts on how the City plans to ensure that West Ave will still be a livable place for the next 2.5 years.
The only answer I received was from Gabrielle Redfern, a former Transit Miami writer and current Chief of Staff to Mayor Bower: “The mayor is also concerned about how this construction will effect traffic. The City has done its best to work with FDOT to make the project as painless to the residents as possible. However, a complete road reconstruction, with the addition of much needed drainage, will not be without some inconvenience to us all.”
Mayor Bower sent her own answer in her e-mail newsletter today, providing a beautiful example of the true art of double-think so masterfully employed by politicians. Double-think, is, of course “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… “. Here goes her version:
“This week I traveled to Tallahassee to participate in Dade Days. This organized lobbying trip is undertaken to ensure that your feelings are made clear to our legislators in our State Capitol. I focused my meetings on economic development, sand replacement and making our streets safer for our children as well as protecting our ability to establish living wage ordinances and offer domestic partnership benefits in our community.”
And then, further down in the newsletter:
“DEATH, TAXES,…AND ROAD CONSTRUCTION. Faced with the trials and tribulations of our Alton Road, no doubt Benjamin Franklin would have added “road construction” to his list of life’s unhappy certainties. While we can all look ahead to the benefits of the current FDOT Alton Road project, putting to work thirty-two million in gasoline tax dollars: a safer Alton Road with better drainage, upgraded water delivery service, and pedestrian lighting along with new landscaping, I’m pretty sure no one is looking forward to the two and a half years it will take to complete the work.
Next week, work will be concentrated from Dade Boulevard to Michigan Avenue, with construction crews working between 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. weekdays. During this period, one south-bound lane will be closed, and there will be no left hand turns southbound onto Dade Boulevard. Intermittent lane closures will also occur from 10th Street to Bay Road.
Additionally, one eastbound land of the MacArthur Causeway will be closed as part of the ongoing Port of Miami Tunnel project, at the same time that Alton Road below 5th Street, from South Pointe Drive to Commerce Street remains closed to allow for installation of a new larger sewer pipe.
Dade Boulevard eastbound, from Alton Road to Convention Center Drive, may be closed at times for continuing work on a new seawall and multi-use pathway; and lastly, Collins Avenue, north of Lincoln Road as far as 26th Street will also experience some intermittent lane closures.”
What gives, Mayor Bower? If it is the children you are concerned about - shouldn’t the Alton Road project features wider sidewalks to make walking there safer? Are sharrows on Alton Road really safe options - for kids or adults? And lastly - all this construction - and what do we get out of it? MORE ROADS. MORE CARS. MORE TRAFFIC. MORE CONGESTION. Not exactly what I think of when I envision “making our streets safer” for kids! Continue reading »
Continue reading »
FDOT held public information meetings last week to present their Alton Road reconstruction project. The project is scheduled to kick off just 1 week, April 1st 2013, and lasts until “summer 2015″ and costs an estimated $32 Million. The presentation by FDOT touched on the main work items, in particular the 3 pump stations and drainage system that will be installed, as well as the reconstruction (repavement) of Alton Road. The project Fact Sheet gives an overview of the project.
Residents and business owners listened attentively as FDOT presented the project. Almost everyone agrees that the project is necessary as flooding has been a huge issue in this area of Miami Beach. However, the project includes re-routing Alton Road traffic onto West Avenue for the majority of it’s duration. For this purpose, West Ave is reconfigured into a 3-lane road (currently 2 lanes with a turning lane). For a period of at least 6 months, all Alton Road traffic will be North-bound-only, and all South-bound traffic will be re-routed to West Ave.
As a resident of West Ave, this certainly caught my attention. West Ave is a rather residential street that is home to large condominiums such as the Mirador, the Waverly, the Floridian and many smaller buildings. According to the 2010 Census, over 30,000 people live within 10 blocks of this 15 block section of Alton Road. As opposed to busy Ocean Drive or Washington Ave, West Ave does not host many tourist-geared businesses, and the few restaurants and shops are mostly frequented by locals. People enjoy walking their dogs and strollers on West Ave, stopping by Whole Foods or Epicure for some groceries, or linger over a coffee on Starbuck’s patio. There is a lot of Decobike usage on West Ave. So when the FDOT representative announced without a blink of his eye that this same West Ave would be “reconfigured to allow for alternate traffic flow” - my heart skipped a beat.
I began wondering what it will be like to have the street I live (and bike, and walk, and run, and take my daughter for walks) on turned into a one-way 3-lane highway from one day to another. As it is, cars are rather disrespectful on West Ave and, despite beautiful little reminders posted in the intersections that it’s the LAW to YIELD to pedestrians, I am usually forced to speed-walk across West Ave when there is a short pause in traffic. How will this be when delivery trucks, county buses, tourists, taxis, and simply everyone else that needs to get on or off the beach will be driving past my front yard? Examples of other one-way 3-lane highways such as “Calle Ocho” in Miami prove this setup is deathly to the neighbourhood (when is the last time YOU decided to stroll on Calle Ocho for fun?). Let alone the pollution and noise caused by such a major highway - now I am worried that I won’t even be able to exit my condo without actually risking my life. As one speaker at the public forum begged FDOT to understand - “we live here. And - we paid a lot of money for it…”.
But wait, there is more! If at least this massive project provided some safer options for pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate Alton Road in the end, it might all be worth it, right? After all, as was previously pointed out by Transit Miami, “Miami Beach bikes and walks to work“, and Miami Beach claims that “the City and residents of Miami Beach have identified bicycle improvements and programs as part of their strategic plan and as a priority goal“. So surely, some improvements must be planned for Alton Road to meet this “priority goal”! Perhaps Alton Road will boast broad tree-covered sidewalks, with a bike lane, and patios for restaurants? This would give us something to look forward to at the end of all the years of noise, traffic, congestion, and pollution…perhaps Alton Road will look something like this, as envisioned by the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association?
One can always dream…well, in short: this is not what Alton Road is going to look like. Alas, there is no grand plan by FDOT (suprise!) and there will be no bike lanes on Alton Road. However, FDOT is kind enough to include sharrows on Alton Road. Yes, you read that right. According to Daniel Iglesias, the engineer in charge, given studies and research from their side, sharrows are “the safest option“. Let that sink in for a moment. Now - there may be some lunatics crazy enough to bike just about anywhere - on mountain tops and in river beds - but I challenge anyone to actually bike on an inner-city highway heavily frequented by buses, trucks, and careless Miami drivers - on a sharrow. This thought would be funny - if it weren’t so terribly sad.
The Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association has expressed significant opposition to the FDOT plan for the reconstruction of Alton Road. In their view, “Alton Road reconstruction is a once in 50 year event to properly address the multiple needs of all user groups – multi-modal mobility options for pedestrians, bikers, autos, and transit users, contribute to a functional environment for business and with trees, landscaping and street furniture foster an attractive and safe neighborhood for our residents and visitors […]. This ill-formed Alton Road project is going to create safety issues for all types of transportation (pedestrian, motorized and non-motorized vehicles) and create a detrimental impact on the businesses and property owners along this essential commercial corridor. […] Join us in our outrage over a plan that emphasizes speed at the expense of safety, economic vitality, and quality of life.”.
The West Avenue Neighbourhood Association has also expressed concerns with the project, stating that “FDOT is placing an undue burden on a highly residential neighborhood“.
We will keep monitoring this project closely and provide status updates.
FDOT is planning a two-year Alton Road construction project. Alton Road will be closed at several intersections and all traffic re-routed to a parallel street (West Ave). The project is scheduled to start this April. The project includes plans for reconstructing the road, installing new drainage, installing new lighting, signs, and pavement markings, and constructing concrete islands.
Given the duration and scale of the project, and the inevitable impact on the surrounding residential neighborhoods, residents have been asking FDOT for details on the implementation. As a result, FDOT has scheduled two public information meetings to provide the public with more information.
To me, there are many questions that still need answers. Will there be a bike lane on Alton Road? Will there be larger sidewalks and shade trees planted? Will it be easier and safer to cross Alton Road? When I attempt to cross Alton Road on 13th Street, the “count-down” next to my walking sign is on as soon as I step on the crosswalk. I have exactly 26 seconds to shuffle across - good thing I’m not an old lady with a cane. Cars, on the other hand, get 3 full minutes before the stop light turns green for pedestrians. Just another instance of how pedestrians in Miami are made to feel like second class citizens.
The project has a lot of potential to make Alton Road safer and a more desirable place for pedestrians and bikers. In its current state, I stay away from Alton Road as much as possible as it is nothing but a highway in the middle of the city, noisy, stinky, trafficky, and dangerous. Let’s see what FDOT has in store for us.
Middle Beach Meeting
6pm Tuesday March 19th
Miami Beach Golf Club
2301 Alton Road
Miami Beach FL 33140
South Beach Meeting
6pm Thursday March 21st
Police Athletic LEague
999 11th Street
Miami Beach FL 33139
A series of FDOT meetings were held on this week around Miami-Dade County.
First the SW 1st St Bridge reconstruction to connect East Little Havana to Downtown over the Miami River was held at the Historic Miami River Inn. The discussion included options to rehabilitate the existing bridge or replace the current 4-lane metal deck structure with a 3-lane concrete deck structure including wider sidewalks and a bike lane. This important connection will link downtown to East Little Havana. FDOT is also considering options to connect the new bridge to the existing historic footbridges that currently connect to the Miami River Inn, a National and locally designated historic building. The new bridge will be shifted slightly north, away from the Inn, and will include railings, lighting and a bridge tender house with historic details.
Second a new bridge is being designed to replace the Tamiami Canal Swing Bridge over the Palmer Lake entrance to the Miami River. One of only operable 3 swing bridges in Florida, the existing bridge will be relocated to Fern Isle Park to connect the park to the recent acquisition at the Police Benevolent Association. The new Delaware Parkway Bridge will connect the Miami Intermodal Center to the 2 city parks further south and will be part of the Miami river greenway network in the future phases. FDOT will be expanding the bridge to a single leaf bascule bridge including 4-lanes of traffic and NO BIKE LANES. We question why there would be no bike lanes of an expansion project between destinations. Please tell FDOT Thank you for relocating the historic bridge and please find a way to add bicycle lanes across onto Delaware Parkway.
2 Beach routes were also heard this week.
The construction of the West Ave bridge will include travel lanes, sidewalks and bicycle facilities. This is envisioned as a small scale bridge primarily for bicycle and pedestrian access.
Second, the much discusses Alton road project is the subject of major controversy as it has led the city of Miami Beach to challenge state statute 335.065 which requires FDOT to consider bicycles in their plans. This could have HUGE implications for bicyclists all over the state. We need to come together and work with FDOT to support a preferred alternative that includes bicycle facilities before we return to the stone age of having no alternative but to ride on 4′ sidewalks.
At the City of Miami Beach’s Neighborhoods and Community Affairs Committee meeting today, City staff attorneys were directed to challenge the Florida State Statutes that require the inclusion of bicycle facilities on state roads, and protested the inclusion of bike lanes on the Alton Road reconstruction project on the same safety grounds that require the facility contained in the Statute.
You might remember that Transit Miami has been pushing the department to consider alternatives to a traditional bike lane since the first time FDOT ventured on the island back in June of 2008 . We later reported on the progress of the project here and here, all the while hoping that FDOT would try using more that one tool in their bicycle planning toolbox. Finally, after years of lobbying and advocacy, FDOT presented several alternative options for a bicycle facility on Alton Road at the quarterly progress report on the $40 million dollar project.
Too bad Miami Beach City Commissioner’s told FDOT to take their bike lanes and put them, well, somewhere else.
Not only that, Commissioner Gongora convinced his fellow policymakers of the idea to attack the law requiring FDOT to consider other users for the roads they build and maintain. The Commission added to the Legislative Agenda of their paid Tallahassee lobbyist to get the provision of the Florida Statutes 335.065 removed or changed by giving the municipalities the ability to opt out of bicycle facilities required by the DOT. (Mind you we are talking about Miami Beach - arguably some of the best urbanism in the entire State of Florida, and the one place most poised to take advantage of a well designed bicycle network.)
So today FDOT comes back. The Mayor had said that the bike lanes should not be next to the flow of traffic but between the curb and the parked cars - a parking protected cycle track.
FDOT showed that.
That required a three-foot buffer between the four-foot bike lane and the 8-foot parking lane, reducing the sidewalk to six feet.
Then Commissioner Ed Tobin, who used his power while he sat on the MPO, asked for a physically separate cycle track.
FDOT showed that.
That resulted in an Alton Road with 10-foot sidewalks and a four-foot bike lane separated with a four-foot jersey wall from the traffic, but no parking lane.
FDOT then showed an option with a 16-foot sidewalk and four-foot bike lanes, and again with no parking.
For it’s part the City’s Public Works Department showed their alternative which was to make West Avenue an alternative to having a bike lane on Alton Road. FDOT responded by requiring that all the numbered east-west streets between Fifth and Michigan Avenue be retrofitted with bike lanes, which would require millions of dollars the City would have to borrow and permanent removal of 56 parking spaces.
The kicker is that work would have to be done before FDOT gets started on Alton Road.
So we’re back to Alton Road.
You have the heap on the credit to FDOT. We are used to giving them hell here on Transit Miami, but we have to give credit where credit is due. They have done a lot of work and shown they can see a different type of road in the future for many of our city’s streets. They should make certain that all of their projects get such attention to detail in nurturing the mix of users. FDOT is realizing it’s responsibility to make getting from one place to another as enjoyable and safe as possible for everyone.
Not just those in cars.
And that’s what we need. We need to stop building the same old roads that provide for only one type of mobility. Alton Road needs more people walking, taking transit, and riding a bike- not driving in their cars.
Commissioners Jerry Libbin, Michael Gongora and Jonah Wolfson disagree and voted to challenge whatever design FDOT plans to build on Alton Road that includes a bike facility - on safety grounds.
It was one of the most twisted uses of the law I have ever seen. 40 years of research and data supporting the safety and efficacy of bike lanes by the Federal Highway Administration and the current work of Dr. Jennifer Dill dismissed by two lawyers and a politician.
The City is doing its best NOT to have FDOT build a complete street. I pray every night the City would use half the effort it puts into fighting bike facilities, into building them along with better sidewalks and crosswalks.
Where were these same politicians when FDOT used the Baylink infrastructure promised to us when they rebuilt the Macarthur for the port tunnel?
And with everything in South Beach going down the tubes, except the water, faster than you can say Atlantic City, the only hope we have for a stable economic future and decent quality of life is to allow for more mobility on this tiny island through as many modalities we can offer, not just expecting everyone to get around Miami Beach in a car.
We need this Alton Road reconstruction project - but we also need better mobility on Miami Beach. I am dismayed at the lack of vision in this community. Everyone on a bike or on foot, on a board or on skates or in a stroller or wheelchair or scooter is a person not in their car.
What a wonderful place this could be.
Florida At Risk of Falling 20 Years Behind Other States
It is summer vacation season. Perhaps you just returned to South Florida from one of the world’s great cities. Chances are, you probably experienced bicycle facilities that are generally better than what we have here in South Florida. While recently there has been significant improvements to the bicycle infrastructure in Miami-Dade County, there is still a key design element that is missing from our streetscape.
A cycle track, is a physically separate and protected bike lane and is considered by bicycle planners and experts as the safest and most enjoyable way to ride a bicycle through an urban environment. Widely seen as a catalyst to encourage riding because of the inherent safety of the protection from traffic - either by a curb, bollards, parked cars or pavement buffer - cycle tracks are revolutionizing the way people view cycling in an urban context.
Before you read any further, watch this short video via StreetFilms.org on the new cycle track in Queens, New York City. On a personal note, I was in New York last weekend when this facility opened. Having cycled in the same area prior to the building of this lane, I was awestruck. Seeing so many people enjoying an area of Queens that was previously a miserable traffic-choked hellhole, the experience was almost surreal.
There are numerous studies that show cycle tracks are proven to increase ridership tremendously versus unprotected, striped lanes. A new protected lane on Manhattan’s busy First Avenue saw cyclist counts rise by 152% throughout the year the facility was opened. As most people cite safety issues as their biggest barrier to cycling for transportation, cycletracks offer a solution that not only makes traveling safer for the cyclist, but for the motorist as well. Numerous studies have found that crashes between bicycles and traffic diminish when a protected cycle track is available.
While many cities throughout the USA and world have installed such facilities like the Queens example to great success, Miami-Dade County does not have a single on-road protected bicycle lane/cycle track. The feeling of unparalleled uplift I experienced upon riding the Queens lane quickly faded to frustration when I realized the challenges ahead for Miami.
So what is the problem? Simply put, the Florida Department of Transportation does not recognize cycle tracks as an approved bicycle facility. Therefore, some of the FDOT’s biggest roadway projects in Miami-Dade County like the proposed redesigns of Alton Road in Miami Beach, Flagler Street in Little Havana, Brickell Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard will not include cycle tracks. In fact, the feasibility of such facilities have not even been studied by the FDOT in these projects because the design standards of cycle tracks are not approved. Even worse, some of these projects have start dates in 2016 with completion dates approaching 2018, 2019 and 2020.
If the FDOT does not adopt the cycle track as an approved design standard as these major projects move forward, FODT will be 20 years behind other states and cities in implementing accepted bicycle facilities. The benefits are obvious. We’ve spent a lot of electronic ink here at TransitMiami in lambasting the FDOT’s outdated auto-centric designs and how they imposed them on the Florida landscape. This is not the time for that. Simply put, it’s time for the FDOT to join the ranks of the enlightened world of modern urban design and adopt cycle tracks that will create the conditions for safe and sustainable urban transportation. Give us the facilities that will lead to safer streets, healthier people, clean air and stress free commutes.
Here is an abbreviated list of American cities that have built segregated bicycle facilities. It’s time for Miami to join this list.
Long Beach, CA
San Francisco, CA
On Thursday, Transit Miami attended FDOT’s public hearing on Alton Rd.
FDOT ran a PowerPoint presentation describing the project, and there appears to be nothing new. The parking lane has now been reduced to 8′, and 1′ has been added to the sidewalk in both the preferred alternative and the alternative with bike lanes. So we don’t know what happened to leaving any space for a Baylink streetcar.
Several members of the public got up front and voiced their opinions.
Continue reading »
Continue reading »
Just a reminder: Tonight at 6:00 is FDOT’s public hearing on Alton Rd. It will be at the Miami Beach City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Drive, in the Commission Chambers on the 3rd floor. The meeting is supposed to include a presentation by the project team and time for public comments.
I’m heading down from Fort Lauderdale for the occassion. Those of you who live nearby have no excuse…
I am sorry, in my previous post I neglected to mention that there is an improvement in the new Alton Road: They propose increasing the parking lane to 9 feet!
On-street parking is a dangerous, highly addictive habit. When you know it is available, you want it, and may not stop at anything to get it. Plus, not to mention, it is likely cheaper than any parking garage. You let its availability control your life: you plan and scheme to get your fix of it and you will fight to defend your right to stop a lane or two of traffic to maneuver your Hummer into a space.
I want to thank the members of the Alliance for Reliable Transport (ART), for forcing FDOT and the City to see a vision of the future that is different and will, then by definition bring new and needed results. Even I was skeptical when a respected ART steering committee member returned from far-flung historic and highly urbanized Cities around the world with pictures of streets built properly. Streets with wide sidewalks, luscious shade trees and dedicated bicycle lanes. Could this really exist here at home? ART showed us that it could. Yet, no one seems to listen.
If the city and DOT do not listen to ART, at least listen to the neighborhoods: Flamingo Neighborhood, led by Judy Robinson or the Westies, always well represented by Arthur Marcus (and Benita Argos). They know you cannot cross Alton Road, ride on Alton Road, or enjoy a peaceful alfresco meal without inhaling exhaust on Alton Road. We are begging FDOT and the City for something different.
If not the Artists or the Neighbors, listen to the City Engineer, the Traffic Manager or the Public Works Director: Wide sidewalk and a demarked bicycle facility for non-motorized vehicles will increase mobility…. mobility is the key to our economic engine: getting tourists in, getting around, spending their money and leaving to make room for the next.
We should listen to the Costal Communities Transportation Master Plan (CCTMP) that says the traffic and congestion problems do not come from our neighbors; it is internal. The congestion occurs because we believe that we can only get around our seven squares in our cars due to the abundant on-street parking! We should follow the lead of the Mayor of Paris who banned parking on the Champs Ellissee!
Nothing causes more congestion than parking. It takes away the opportunity to do anything else with our precious right-of way but store a ton or two of steel and plastic. Parking is not traffic calming. It is parking. At $1500.00/space (the average revenue per year), the City adds $487,000 a year to its coffers (well, not really into the general fund because parking is an enterprise fund.) Is it worth it? Is $500,000, more a year into the bottomless and questionably productive Parking Fund worth the death of businesses or a pedestrian trying to cross the street?
The misconception that there are not enough parking opportunities on Alton Road with out the 325 on street parking spaces is just that: a myth. The City is spending $15 MILLION dollars for 1000 parking spaces at 5thth and West, not to mention that the Herzog & de Meuron Garage and the Robbins Garage will add hundreds spaces. There is ample parking in the area, so when will we be able to re-purpose on-street parking? There is no time better than this project. and Alton, there is parking at 10
Finally, there is the little matter of a memo related to non-motorized vehicles on Alton Road, among others and FDOT statue 335.065(1)(a). In December of 2006, the City declared many of our streets “generally not safe” for non-motorized vehicles”. Don’t we then have an obligation to make them safe by adding a segregated facility for them? Here is our opportunity and an accompanying Florida Statue! The State has a legislative mandate to add the bicycle lane, enhance pedestrian accessibility, and improve safety for all modes of transport. Nowhere in the State Statue or in the City Code is parking (on street parking) given the same kind of priority. Instead, we make that up and justify it with a 10-year-old report called The Walker Study.
Come out on June 26 and tell the City of Miami Beach and the State of Florida that any renovation or rehabilitation of Alton Road that does not include a dedicated bike lane, 20 foot sidewalks, and a travel lane 12 foot wide to accommodate the Baylink is not an Alton Road we want to waste our money on. Tell the bureaucrats and politicians that we will not sit through two torturous years of road construction to end up with the same road we have today.
Alton Road on Miami Beach does not work. Traffic is clogged, pedestrians cannot cross, and bicyclists cannot ride safely. On Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 6:00 pm in the Miami Beach City Hall Commission Chambers, The Florida Department of Transportation will hold a public meeting, which will be our last chance to make Alton Road work for the future. In terms of road construction projects, especially in an urban historic setting, opportunities to do something different are few and far between. We will gather that day, to be handed an opportunity from the State of Florida to make Alton Road work by doing something different.
Instead, it looks like we will be getting more of the same.
The plan that was recommended by the land use committee and from the City Commission as a whole is the same Alton Road we have today. The same. Same seven lanes of traffic. Same marginally wide enough sidewalks, and same bumper-to-bumper on-street parking.
Let us start with the 100’ right of way. 100 feet! 75 of which are carved out for the seven lanes of traffic. Note: seven lanes is essentially equivalent to the south bound segment of I-95.
Image Via Zickie’s Flickr
Onto the sidewalks
13 feet. That’s it. It might sound like a lot, when compared to the highly touted but very ineffective ADA requirements of 3 feet (remember this three feet is brought to you by the same people who think $6.25 should be minimum wage) but 13 feet is hardly adequate for the most pedestrainized area in the state.
This is Miami Beach. People have been coming here since the Smith-Avery family began ferrying them over here to experience our amazing climate. Our outdoor dining scene rivals some of the century’s oldest ones established in Paris and Rome, and we are barely 75 years old! I often shake my head at the folks who sit on 41st street outside Arnie and Richie’s crammed between a light pole and a trash can, while I barely have two feet to walk past by. Miami Beach is a tourist destination. Tourism is a mainstay of our economy that will ride us out during oscillations in the real estate market. We must do everything we can to bring people here and get them around in an economical and environmentally friendly manner.
Let’s not forget another Miami Beach mainstay: our vibrant Orthodox community, a group that promotes walking as a virtue. This absence of adequate pedestrian facilities forces hundreds to walk the streets two days a week. We need wide sidewalks. Wider than most and Alton Road with the bus shelters, parking stations, pedestrian lighting, street lighting, and trash cans can barely accommodate a café table, let alone folks strolling and patronizing the shops and living and crossing. Yet the plan that was recommended out of our City Commission is more of the same.
Someone smarter than I defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The State of Florida is coming to us, wanting to fix our road, give us wider sidewalks, more options for non-motorized transport, rational public transit ways, more landscaping and this solution, this opportunity for real change, and therefore real results is being lost to petty politics and 325 parking spaces.
More on the parking issue in segment 2. Stay Tuned.
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