Currently viewing the tag: "cars"

Hats off to Commissioner Marc Sarnoff for working with Coconut Grove residents, business leaders, and advocates for pushing the livable streets agenda forward. Starting on July 4th, Commodore Plaza will be closed to cars and opened to pedestrians, cafes seating, and live music. Each closure will take place for five consecutive weekend from Saturday at 6pm to early Sunday morning. This pilot project will help determine whether or not closing Commodore more permanently is feasible. Please contact Commissioner Sarnoff  (My Commissioner tab above for more info) to let him know that you appreciate the effort.  More importantly, go out and experience the urbanism!

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A street mural being chalked on Commodore Plaza during the early hours of Bike Miami Days.

Taken for a Ride is an amazing documentary by Jim Kleina and Martha Olson that documents the efforts to derail mass transit in America. Ever wonder why the U.S. has the worst mass transportation system in the industrialized world? Using historical footage and investigative research, this film tells how GM fought to push freeways into the inner cities of America, and push public transportation out.

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Jim Motavalli of the New York Times’ Wheels section has this to say about the cost of owning cars versus bicycles. Ultimately, most Americans own both. However, if money is tight you might consider the cost savings of ditching at least one of those family cars and/or choosing to walk or bicycle for those trips closer to home. It could save you and your family thousands of dollars per year.

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“There is no such thing as a natural level of car use. The number of cars used in the city is a political decision. Traffic problems don’t come from more cars, they come from more roads…”

-Former Mayor of Bogota Enrique Penalosa

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If Senators Clinton and McCain have their way, this summer Americans might be duped into thinking that a “gas-tax holiday” will help alleviate the financial strains of filling up. The gas tax holiday undermines the principles of supply and demand and is little more than a cheap political gimmick. If imposed, the holiday would only save the average American consumer $30 throughout the course of the summer.

The gas-tax holiday continues the flawed mentality that the rise in oil prices is a temporary matter. FYI- oil prices nudged past $125 a barrel today, the fourth day this week of record highs. America needs to realize that there isn’t going to be a “quick fix” to this critical problem. The era of whizzing around carefree in gas powered vehicles is coming to a close and we must now turn our focus to more sustainable forms of making the most out of our available land. This shift will not be easy. It’s not that simple to turn back 6 decades of automotive mindset and policy in a country whose infrastructure largely revolves around oil.

As James Howard Kunstler put it in this week’s Businessweek:

It’s not that we’re driving the wrong cars. It’s that we’re driving cars of any size, incessantly.

To view the Gas Tax petition, visit Gas Tax Scam

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While many of you nominated The Onion’s recent article regarding DOT’s new “reckless driver” lanes, we felt that highlighting this article so late in the week would be redundant, especially considering Streetsblog’s and Planetizen’s coverages. Instead this week, we bring you the Dog Sack:Via It’s Knuttz

Send all Transit Humor Images/Columns to movemiami@gmail.com…

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Imagine a drive-thru church? It’s not far from reality. Last Christmas, I heard of a church that was having a drive-thru nativity scene. The ostensible reason was that people didn’t have to get out of their cars in cold weather. Some churches, however, like this one in Orlando, do it when they don’t have cold weather. One of the main purposes of a church is fellowship, and it’s easy with a crowd of people in a building. It’s rather difficult, on the other hand, to carry on a conversation with someone in another car.

While I came close to riding my bike to my church’s sunrise service today at the beach, churches in Ohio and Virginia offered drive-thru Easter pageants. It should come as no surprise, since they only reflect our greater car-centric culture—but it’s still frustrating. Why can’t churches be more pedestrian friendly?

One church in Texas has walk-thru scenes of Stations of the Cross on permanent display. Has anyone seen similar walkable displays or pageants, or have you seen any local churches touting drive-thru dramas? Please voice your thoughts. We want to see examples, whether good, bad, or ugly.

Also, any thoughts for improvements? I would like to see a bus shelter and a bike rack in front of my church. What about your neighborhood churches?

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“We can have a city that is very friendly to cars, or is very friendly to people. We cannot have both.”

-Enrique Penalosa

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Ah, the 1950’s, a time when the US economy was rebounding from the stresses of World War II and federal money was freely flowing every which way to rebuild a struggling economy. The most notable “achievement” which evolved from this hasty federal spending was the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (Dwight Eisenhower Interstate System) of 1956.

As this documentary illustrates well, the 1950’s was also a time for extreme naivety, clearly shown through the future independence personal vehicles will bring to our cities. The ideas range from absurd construction techniques (an atomic reactor which creates tunnels with extreme heat) to far more absurd “new dimensions for the American highway.”

If there is one statement where the show was actually spot on, I’d say it’s this one:

“The shape of our cities will change, as expanded highway transportation decentralizes our population centers into vast urban areas. With the advent of wider, faster expressways the commuter’s radius will be extended many miles”

You can say that again…

The official video description:

An excerpt from the 1958 “Disneyland” TV Show episode entitled “Magic Highway USA”. In this last part of the show, an exploration into possible future Transportation technologies is made. It’s hard to believe how little we’ve accomplished on this front since 1958, and how limited the scope for imagining such future technologies has become. Witness an artifact from a time where the future was greeted with optimism. Note the striking animation style here, achieved with fairly limited animation and spectacular layouts.

Today’s Metro Monday come to us from our loyal reader James Good.

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This is part II of a three-part series on Auckland, New Zeland’s struggle toward a more sustainable transport system. There are a lot of parallels with Miami, so it’s definitely worth taking a look.

In case you missed part I (or if you loved it so much you want to see it again), click here.

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Off-street parking requirements [imposed by a city for new developments] and cars…present a symbiotic relationship: the requirements lead to free parking, the free parking leads to more cars and more cars then lead to even higher parking requirements. When 3 spaces per 1,000 square feet [of new building] no longer satisfy the peak demand for free parking, a stronger dose of 4 spaces per 1,000 square feet can alleviate the problem, but not for long because cars increase in numbers to fill the new parking spaces. Every jab of the parking needle relieves the local symptoms, but ultimately worsens the real disease — too much land and capital devoted to parking and cars. Parking requirements are good for motorists in the short run but bad for cities in the long run.

- Donald Shoup, The High Cost of Free Parking

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:

I’ve often defined the “Miami Mentality” on this site as the state of mind prevalent in our region which is generally for transit options, so long as other people use them. The Miami New Times quoted my “Miami Mentality” theory today when discussing the new MDT 7-day pass, which sadly means that my theory is becoming more of a commonly accepted belief. To clarify, through personal account and research, I’ve found that the Miami Mentality is generally against density, non-vehicular modes of transit, in favor of traffic relief measures, and in favor of wider highways and parking- plenty of it too. The Mentality also denounces good urban planning principles often by typically stating, or rather declaring: “That would never work in Miami.” Needless to say, it has taken me quite by surprise to see the latest coverage and reactions in the Sun-Sentinel with regards to the proposed managed lanes on I-95. Their news polls, obtained March 29 and April 4, show an overwhelmingly opposite trend to the Miami Mentality:

March 29 Some state legislators want to start charging tolls to use the car-pool (HOV) lanes on I-95 from I-595 in Broward County to State Road 112 in Miami-Dade County. What’s your opinion?

85.4%
Bad idea. These lanes should be available for free to anyone with 2 or more people in a vehicle. (5917 responses)

14.6%
Good idea. It would raise more funds for transportation and ensure the car-pool lanes don’t get too crowded. (1012 responses)
6929 total responses

April 4 State officials say I-595 could be widened much more quickly and less expensively by making it a privately operated road with tolls on its express lanes. Your opinion?

35.1%
Good idea. (1773 responses)

64.9%
Bad idea. (3278 responses)
5051 total responses

Or do they? Perhaps there are some valid reasons behind this shift in the frame of mind or perhaps the Miami Mentality is a little more convoluted than I originally perceived. I’ll choose the latter. Based on the data obtained through the unofficial polls taken by the Sun-Sentinel and in browsing through some of the comments left on the site, it appears that there is a new dimension to the Miami Mentality that I had not previously considered: Money.

“Forgive me for not being able to attend this oh-so important waste of time meeting, but here’s my vote by proxy- NO!!! What a $hitty idea- charge us for what we’ve already paid for? Screw these crooked politicians and their handouts to the contractors- enough is enough!”
-Count me Out, Hialeah, Fl

“The article is at least truthful. The public is invited to discuss the issue. The decision has already been made based soley upon financial reasons. Luxury car lanes have been discussed for years, now they will be a reality. Only in Florida. Guess the Republicans will call it no Lexus left behind.”
-Mike Woods, Boynton Beach, Fl

The views presented outline a general displeasure for paying for expanded highway service, it is expected that the government provide endless capacity and expansions to our already crowded highways. This belief stems from the precedent that the government set throughout the past decades, expanding and creating highway infrastructure “as needed.” The distrust in local policies and “leaders” further exacerbates the situation, casting shadows of doubt across any project where higher costs will be waged on motorists. Contrary to the logic behind congestion pricing, the opinions conveyed show that the new local mentality aims to provide highway and parking access to anyone (which falls in line with the reaction to rising gas prices.) (For more on Congestion Pricing, click here.)

I must also note that the subject matter does not pit public transit against highway capacity expansion. Surely, had that been the case, the results would have shown a desire for rail, provided that others use the system and now apparently that money allocated to the project did not come from highway funding sources (it’s ok folks, there are statutes against that anyway.)

Of course some classic Miami Mentality always finds its way into the picture:

“Maximum use of all lanes is the most efficient use of roads. Car pool lanes do not do that. The “Pay Pool” lanes are only a way for the politicians to get more money without representation. Another non-tax tax. On top of all this Interstate roads are supposed to be free. This is not a state road it is a federal road.”
-just say no, Miami, Fl

“Forget the tolls. Eliminate the HOV lane by opening it up to all drivers. That will increse the available road space by 20 - 25 percent. As an added benefit …no more slow downs caused by drivers gawking at the flashing lights while FHP writes tickets (they have better things to do). It’s a win win deal for both tax payers and drivers, costs nothing and can be put into effect at any time.”
-David, Pompano Beach, Fl

I’m so glad David took the time to do the math for us, he neglected to include how many minutes it would take for for traffic to fill up the additional lane and bring traffic back to a grinding halt (Induced Travel.) Miami Mentality obviously fails to take into account general highway planning principles, is shortsighted, does not recognize the limitations of an autocentric infrastructure, and never considers perhaps that the current method of personal travel and lifestyle are the true problems at hand.

Reassuringly, every so often, a voice of reason chimes in:

“the reason for the carpool lane is to encourage drivers to carpool and take cars off the roads. what they should be doing is expanding the number of car pool lanes to 2 or 3 each way and then maybe more people would carpool.”
-John, Santa Maria, Ca

But, then again, let the few voices of reason come from a city clear across the country

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For those of you that didn’t know, today was national boycott gas stations day, an ill-conceived plan to deal a financial blow to the oil industry for the steady increase in gas prices. Let me begin by clearly stating why this will not work: America is addicted to oil, if we don’t buy it today we’ll buy it tomorrow; the only truly effective way to enact change and really impact the finances of the oil industry would be to change our lifestyles and dependency on the substance. What am I talking about? Bikes, Buses, Rail Transit, and your own two legs are some of our alternatives. A real blow to the gas industry would be a reversal in the American mindset, a change in our style of planning (or lack thereof,) and an immense amount of money invested in our national infrastructure; all of which I can’t foresee evolving in our immediate future.

National boycott gas stations day was a short-sighted band-aide-like attempt to solve one of our most critical national problems. I say band-aide because like many of our “solutions” if failed to adequately address the real underlying issue (like the solutions for the “property insurance crisis,” but I’ll touch on that subject at a later point), instead the boycott focused on the rising cost of oil and its effect on our economy rather than concentrating on our addiction to a limited natural resource and viable alternatives to keep our economy vibrant and people mobile.

We’re too focused on the rising cost of gas and its effect on our pocketbook to realize that we’ve dug ourselves an enormous suburban grave. Many of our neighborhoods are un-navigable to anything but vehicles, often missing sidewalks in some of the newer communities in west-Dade. Should gas prices rise sharply further beyond the affordable realm for many, the effects of our unchecked, unplanned growth will place a greater economic strain on our lives as we search for yet another quick fix to our mess…Someone better call J&J quick, because we’re going to need some more Band-aides

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