The Transit Subcommittee of the Miami-Dade County MPO Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Committee (CTAC) recently met on Wednesday, January 11, 2012. Among the items on the agenda were updates on pigeon defecation issues at various Metrorail stations, on Miami-Dade Transit’s alternative fuels usage, and on the configuration of the soon-to-be-purchased Metrorail train cars.
Unfortunately, though, virtually no new information was actually provided at the CTAC Transit subcommittee meeting on the new Metrorail cars. Mr. Jerry Blackman, General Superintendent of Rail Maintenance for Miami-Dade Transit, regretfully explained to the subcommittee that all County officials and employees were prohibited to speak on any details pertaining to the new Metrorail cars due to the imposition of the “Cone of Silence”.
According to a Miami-Dade County Administrative Order promulgated in 2002 and an accompanying memo, the Cone of Silence is a policy “designed to protect the integrity of the procurement process by shielding it from undue influences prior to the recommendation of contract award”. Basically, the Cone of Silence is intended to ensure that no local government officials or staff engage in any sort of funny business deal-making when the local government in question is awarding work contracts.
Indeed, Request for Proposals (RFP) #654 for the “Purchase of New Heavy Rail Vehicles” is listed on page 22 of the most current Cone of Silence Report as of January 9, 2012. However, it seems that Superintendent Blackman may have been overly circumspect by giving the CTAC such limited information on the new cars. According to that 2002 Administrative Order and memo, County personnel are exempted from the provisions of the Cone of Silence during publicly-announced meetings, such as Wednesday’s CTAC Transit subcommittee meeting.
Nevertheless, with some persistent probing by various CTAC members, Superintendent Blackman did suggest that the new train cars would include “the latest technology”, including more reliable vehicles, a better public address (PA) system, and in-train screen monitors indicating the train’s arrival times. Mr. Blackman also confirmed that Transit is looking at the prospect of integrating more advertising into the train cars to help generate revenue.
The issue of bike racks in the train cars also came up, and Superintendent Blackman confirmed that Transit is actively working-out the logistics and other technical practicalities of incorporating bike racks throughout the whole train (not just the last car). He suggested that some sort of bike signs would be included on the exterior of the new train cars designating which cars would accommodate bikes, as is done on the Portland light-rail MAX.
CTAC member Dr. Claudius Carnegie rightly directed the committee’s attention to the inadequacy of the current Metrorail Bike and Ride policies, adding that there needed to be greater “bicycle facilitation system-wide”. His comments echoed the recent Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) resolution #16-2011 requesting that Miami-Dade Transit review and update the existing rules of the Bike and Ride program.
All in all, those in attendance learned more about Miami-Dade Transit’s pigeon roosting and defecation elimination strategies than the configuration of the new Metrorail cars. Given the recent controversy over the purchase of the new train cars, the caution exercised by Superintendent Blackman during the Cone of Silence for this RFP is quite understandable. The Cone of Silence for this contract is expected to be lifted sometime in Spring 2012.
On a very positive final note, Mr. Blackman stressed how he and the rest of the Transit Department are eager to involve more members of the public, including the bicycle community, on optimizing the configuration of the new Metrorail train cars for all!
Here’s a quick recap of the salient points from these meetings.
- Miami Beach has a few roadway projects that are of interest to the Bikeways Committee, including Collins Park, 44 St, Bayshore area in Middle Beach, Dade Blvd and 51 St. These are all in various stages of development and for the most part behind behind schedule, if even started, with the exception of Collins Park (near 22 St and Dade Blvd) which has all the permits done. These items take up a sizable chunk of time at every meeting, rarely have any real updates to report, and I’ve yet to truly understand the relevancy of some of them to the overall health of bicycling in Miami Beach.
- On the bike racks front, the city has hired a consultant to take care of all having to do with this, from identifying target locations to getting all the permits needed.
- There is also a kerfuffle over some people (a commissioner included) wanting to reduce the width of Alton Rd down to 8 feet to appease some key residents, but this is beyond the scope of the Bikeways Committee at the moment.
- I also inquired about the connection of the Oceanwalk promenade from 5th Street south to South Pointe Park, and I was told it was on track for construction later this year. This would create a continuous path from the Baywalk all around the SoFi area to South Pointe Park and then north to 23 St (I won’t count the Boardwalk because it discriminates against bicycles, skateboards and rollerskaters - bah).
- No significant update on the roadway projects.
- The Bayshore HOA wants to strip out all bike lanes in the neighborhood, as reduce the width of all roads, in order to “slow down traffic” as well as for “beautification.” This goes directly against the Bike Master Plan and is being opposed by various people in the city gov as well as by the Bikeways Committee. Next month there will be a Neighborhood Association meeting where this will come to a head. More info as I get it.
- The consultants for the bike racks are in the process of being hired but it seems like this may actually be a good thing for the city. These consultants will be able to deal with all the aspects of putting the bike racks out there exclusively and if all goes to plan, in 4-6 months we should see around 100 new bike racks going up around the city, mostly in the South Beach area. Here’s hoping.
- The bike share program for Miami Beach, handled by DecoBike, is on schedule for an August launch (site says July, but its August). Colby Reese (Owner? Pres?) of DecoBike updated the committee on all the city official wrangling that’s had to be done but which is finally on its final stages. The website is now open so drop by. I’ll write more about DecoBike later on.
- It has become painfully clear that the Miami Beach Bicycle Master Plan needs to be revised. It is deficient in many ways, fails to address State-owned roads, and simply does not address the true needs of the city in terms of bicycle infrastructure vis-a-vis our specific geographic situation. It also fails to take advantage of all the recent developments in alternative transportation. When compared to the Miami Bicycle Master Plan, released just last year, the MB plan just doesn’t seem like it is addressing cities separated only by a causeway. This isn’t an easy task, so expect more info about this in months to come.
- Lastly, it is possible we may get some indoor bicycle parking space at the Lincoln Rd Cinema multi-level parking. I brought this up on the April meeting, how there was a space that was totally unused and could serve perfectly as an indoor bike parking area, and Gabrielle Redfern ran with it. She remembered some information that led to the possibility of this happening. Cross your fingers! I’ll also write specifically about this once I get some info I requested.
The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 2:00 PM. Be there!
Today was the first time I used one of the bike racks mounted on the MDT buses, as I did a bike-bus commute from South Beach to FIU Biscayne Bay. I boarded the 93 bus at Omni station and loaded my bike onto the rack closest to the driver. I should note that I ride a steel city bike with a pair of panniers - this is a heavy bike with an even heavier rear wheel area. But I got it on and locked it into place following the instructions on the MDT website. It still felt wobbly so I asked the driver if I’d done it correctly, to which she responded with a non-committal sound I took to mean yes.
Long story short (the longer version was posted to my blog), the locking mechanism slipped off the front wheel and the bike fell off the rack at my stop on 135 St & Biscayne Blvd, being hit by the bus into the next lane. It wasn’t run over, thankfully, but it was damaged so I couldn’t ride it. The driver reported it but did nothing else, shifting the blame entirely onto me and then leaving without even saying sorry. I filed a complaint via the MDT website but I fully expect them to blow their nose with it. I accept it was partly my fault because I may not have locked it properly, but I also asked for confirmation from the driver and received none. The driver also obviously was not paying attention to the bike otherwise she would have noticed when the locking arm slipped off.
I see bikes on the bus racks every day and I assume these reach their destination fine and dandy. But while I realize my case may be out of the ordinary, I cannot be the only person who has used these racks for the first time and did not know if they were used correctly. The buses should have better signage explaining the proper operation of the locking mechanism, and the drivers should be trained (and frankly required) to make sure that bikes are properly secured, especially when people ask them explicitly. While MDT may not make itself responsible for every single bike that goes on one of their bus bike racks, it cannot be good for business (to appeal to the basest denominator) if cases like mine happen more often.
Has anyone else out there had a problem with the MDT bus bike racks?
The “bog box” mall at 5th St and Alton Rd in South Beach surprises us yet again. After installing 14 new bike racks along the Publix front on 6th St, I just spotted 20 new bike racks along the Lenox Ave side of the mall.
I had already seen four when I first reported on the new ones along the Publix side, but wow, what a pleasant surprise to see an extra 16! This really gives me hope that they will also address the 5th St end of the mall once stores open there. Many thanks to the developers, AR&J SOBE, LLC.
And if we can be a bit bold, maybe you’ll also consider some of the ideas tossed out in this other post? I took this pic while it was raining, and boy, it would’ve been nice to have a dry place to park the bike. Just saying.
New Bike Racks at the 5th & Alton Mall
I needed some things for dinner and quickly rode my bike to Publix at the Mall on 5th & Alton. It’s sort of a given that there would be no bike parking and I’d have to lock my bike to the garbage can, and indeed its what I had to do, but for a very different reason: there were new bike racks all full of bikes!
There are 13 new bike racks along the Publix side of the mall on 6th St, in addition to the two original ones.
Kudos go to the developer for actually delivering on what they promised the City of Miami Beach and for providing a service for their customers.
I did a quick circuit of the mall to see if there were more new bike racks. I saw four racks near the corner of Lenox and 5th, by the Vitamin Shoppe (I can’t remember if they are new or not, but I can’t really recall having seem them there before) and that was it. Since there are no stores on the 5th St-facing side of the mall yet there’s no big issue though once Petco finally opens, things may be different (the image below’s probably a small taste).
Still, thanks for the new bike racks. It makes me feel like we can indeed expect future bike needs to be met as well.
I vacationed in Key West a while back with my wife. I loaded our bicycles on my car, and once we parked the car at our hotel we didn’t need it again until we left. It was a wonderful experience riding all over town. I wanted to share one way that they have implemented bicycle parking on their narrow streets designed for cars. It’s an excellent use of on-street parking, and very easy for any city to retrofit their parking.
Do bicyclists have to pay the meter to use these spaces?
This was not the crowded end of Duval St., but the bicycle parking was still seeing use at this time of night.
Miami Beach is inherently bikeable. It has a well-connected grid of small blocks, a mixed-use pattern of land uses and several key destinations reachable within a short ride. In addition, the City now has a bicycle master plan adding bicycle lanes and bicycle parking. This fact, however, does not prevent the city from having a few terrible examples of bicycle parking. This weekend I chose to document what I find to be the three worst specimens. In descending order:
# 3. The second-runner up goes to this “Wave” style bicycle rack located at Lucky Strike on Michigan Avenue. Although wave style racks can be useful, they must be placed so that both the wheel and the frame can be locked to the rack. In this particular location, the rack is about six inches too close to the wall, meaning that the tire hits the wall before being able to properly fix the bicycle to the rack. This results in a bicycle more apt to fall over, or a bent tire in the event that a thief decides he/she wants the bicycle more than you do.
# 2. The first runner-up goes to this unused rack located behind a bus shelter at the Miami Beach Post Office on Washington and 13th. Like the rack above, this rack is too close to the railing/wall. In addition, this style of rack gets the “ambiguous use” award. Does one put their wheel in the wide slots, or the narrow? Do you lift the bike over the top of the rack and let it rest at a 45 degree angle? I have seen all three maneuvers performed, but actually suggest none of the above. Go find a street sign, as this one is useless.
And the worst bike rack on Miami Beach goes to…
…this ridiculous wave rack located at the Bank of America on Alton Road. I think the images speak for themselves.
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