Lots went on this week in transit and I for one am exhausted. I know we have been silent these past few weeks on what has been happening, and speaking for myself, I didn’t have anything new to add to the discussion that I had not already said before. MDT is having problems, ridership is up, and the people in charge are asleep at the wheel. Does that sum it up? Not to be frivolous, but if we don’t laugh about this we’ll go crazy.
There are no quick fixes. We are fast approaching a time when people realize that not having a transit system in place is the same as not having adequate sewers or electricity. We are living up to our image as a Banana Republic, and unfortunately some of those so-called Banana Republic’s down south are much better off transit-wise than we are.
This morning on NPR Houston Mayor Bill White talked about the challenges facing his city. In light of the Mayor’s Conference going on today, I thought it appropriate to show how another car-centered modern city is dealing with not having adequate mass transit:
Well, the Miami-Dade County Commission did it again – they continued the mentality that rising fuel costs should amount to higher transit fares. As much as I would like to agree that transit fares were well below the point they should have been, I cannot justify anyone spending $100 for a monthly metropass.
Let us compare similar monthly passes across America:
Dallas $50 or $80
LA $62 - $98
New York $81
Are we oblivious to what happens elsewhere around this country? Most cities have a zonal system of affixing prices to their tickets, charging more for longer distance trips. These long distance routes, service suburbia, places where transit really should not be servicing unless the area population density is well above 8 people/acre.
There is also the logical answer to the funding dilemma; charge drivers. Congestion pricing and parking pricing encourages greater transit ridership while reducing congestion (see London.) Those whose travel habits cost the greatest societal burden (drivers) pay the most for their services.
I could go on for hours on this subject (I assure you, I will) but the underlying message here is that we are continuing the flawed mentality regarding our automobile habits and transit funding.
Does anyone even care anymore? With all this talk about global warming, alternative fuels, and the trimming of every government budget due to major financial cutbacks, you’d think the community would be up at arms about an approval to build even yet more development on our western fringes. Ecosystem destruction? Check. Vehicular-oriented development? Check. Massive unnecessary infrastructural strains on the County? Check. This approval falls in line with every single reason why living in South Florida has become extraordinarily difficult for the average middle-income family.
I’ll tell you this much, I’m fed up and Transit Miami is going to do something about it.
For those of you who are still out in the dark, the County Commission moved the UDB boundary again last week in order to accommodate some projects in the name of the community saving special interests. Disgustingly, the 9-4 super majority vote is enough to override the impending veto by Mayor Carlos Alvarez. In doing so, our incredibly intelligent elected officials have defied the opinion of local planning experts (not just us), most County residents, and State growth management officials.
But the county commission overlooked those pleadings Thursday when it approved two controversial applications to build outside the UDB — one for an office complex, another for a home improvement center, which includes plans to build a new high school. The state, mayor and planning and zoning board’s pleas also were ignored.
Big box retail and absurdly placed office complexes (with plenty of parking), just what nature called for along the edge of our shrinking everglades ecosystem. 600,000 square feet of office space in a river of grass would equate to something like this:
The county planner said construction outside the UDB isn’t necessary because there is enough space available inside the boundary for several decades.
Sorenson stopped her colleagues before the final vote, warning of a long fight in the courts if the state finds the county didn’t comply with growth management law. Addressing Assistant County Attorney Joni Armstrong Coffey, Sorenson asked what would happen if the county was not in compliance with state growth laws.
”We will be in litigation,” Coffey said.
Where is Norman Braman when you really need him?
Let the lawsuit begin (Note: yet another strain on the public financial capacity…)
Lets not even mention the fact that he expects DPZ to do any work from this point on for FREE!! What boggles my mind is that he originally suggested the quadrant system, only to change his mind later to city-wide implementation. In my business that’s called a change order, and there is no reason that DPZ should not be compensated for it. It all boils down to a cheap political trick: rather than force a vote against the plan (which he would be responsible for) he is going to try to force them to stop working on the plan (by not paying them), and later blaming the administration and DPZ for not following through.
The fact is that this plan works, and it works a lot better than what we have now. Period. Any other arguments he or any other commissioner makes is small potatoes. It serves the public good, will create a walkable city, and provides for the transitions from high density areas to low density areas that are non-existent in the current code.
- The State growth management planners have officially drafted a report recommending Miami-Dade County commissioners to reject the most recent bids to move the Urban Development Boundary further west. The issue will now head back to county commissioners who will vote again based on the state’s recommendations.
- We really did not see this going any other way, considering the state has repeatedly warned County Commissioners on the devastating consequences our area would face should the UDB be extended west. We hope that Sally Heyman stays true to her word and reverts to her original vote against the expansion and are perplexed that this issue will somehow only narrowly be defeated. When it comes to the UDB, much of the county commission does not vote in the best interest of constituents. We’ll keep you posted as to when the County will be meeting, but in the meantime e-mail your county commissioner…
- We hope that the County administration comes back home with a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished in order to see these projects come to fruition. MDT and the Commission should be ashamed that these critical projects were downgraded because of poor management however, given the poor management of previous projects and ridiculous cost overruns, this really shouldn’t surprise us. Transportation options shouldn’t become the center of a cultural war, on the contrary, transit should unite our neighborhoods and make county-wide mobility easier for all.
- We commend Commissioner Cabrera for introducing some greener initiatives and for the city’s support in making Coral Gables a bicycle friendly community. Free parking for electric vehicles may be ahead of its time, considering that few electric vehicles are available on the market today, but the city is headed in the right direction in providing the local infrastructure to even make this technology possible. The exclusion of hybrid vehicles from this proposition is recommended by Transit Miami due to the varied nature of hybrid vehicles (20 mpg Yukon Hybrid - 50 mpg Prius.) We believe the city needs to continue in the green direction by subsidizing only virtually zero emission projects (Bicycle, EV, Trolley, Pedestrian, etc.)
A national transportation commission, with the scary sounding name of “National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission,” released a report last week known as Transportation for Tomorrow. This report calls for, among other things, raising the gas tax by 40 cents in five years, creating a new federal bureaucracy, imposing federal regulations on states ability to draw private investment in things like Public-Private Partnerships, and adding a federal transit tax on every transit ticket sold.
Ouch. Let’s look at this thing piece by piece. My first thought on the gas tax was that it wasn’t too bad of an idea. The Federal Highway Trust fund is expected to be short $4.3 billion in 2009, so a higher gas tax would solve the immediate problem. But U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters and two other commission members released a dissenting report, where they point out some serious problems with the federal gas tax. First, the federal government already plays too large of a role in transportation funding. Since the feds redistribute the wealth between states,
The second problem with increasing the gas tax is that it is a flawed system. With more fuel efficient cars and even a few electric cars on the road today, some users are not paying as much as others for the same service. As Secretary Peters pointed out, we need a new alternative. All users should pay for using the road, whether it be at a toll booth or using some kind of GPS mileage system or whatever. But now is a good time for change, as several states are already looking into alternative funding sources. If the federal gas tax is left alone, the shortfall in funding will gradually force states to seek alternatives such as these.
Creating more bureaucracy is a bad thing, especially at the federal level where it will only strengthen the federal control of transportation. Telling states what they can and cannot do with private investment will only hurt projects like I-595 and the
Taxing transit tickets is sheer lunacy. Thankfully, Peters also comes out against this. Transit agencies set prices to cover as many costs as they can while still attracting the number of riders they need. If the federal government throws a tax on every ticket (the actual commission report says “all trips,” which would apply to free trips like the Miami MetroMover), that will only upset the balance the transit agency has reached between revenue and ridership. They would be forced to sacrifice their ridership or reduce fares and eat the cost of the tax themselves. The tax money would go to the general fund, where it could go towards paying for new highways or someone else’s transit system. So the chances are good that it will take away money from transit agencies. I will personally write to any congressman who dares to introduce such idiocy into a bill and I hope that the thousands of transit riders would also join us in opposing such an idea.
If you want to know who was responsible for this, read their names here. Every commissioner but Mary Peters, Maria Cino, and Rick Geddes supported the report. We’re grateful these three retained enough sanity to dissent.
- Tri-Rail carried more passengers in 2007 than in 2006. The overall system ridership is up 31% since march 2006…
- City of Miami is working on identifying vacant lots to be used for park space…
- The County Commission is trying to get the state and federal government to kick in hundreds of millions of dollars for metrorail expansion, everglades restoration, river dredging, pedestrian overpasses, and a regional homeland security hub among other projects… We’ll cover this in more depth later today…
- Office vacancy rates continue to decline…
- Bike Blog presents a comprehensive wish list for 2008 Bike facilities…
My name is Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal; I am a transportation engineer, urban planning student, and local sustainable planning advocate from transitmiami.com. I am here today to voice my unconditional support for the plan sitting before you; a plan that will revolutionize the city of
and will make urban life a real possibility for more county residents. Miami
streetcar will serve a vital role in the future development of our city. It will serve as an economic catalyst for the entire county by guaranteeing mobility where it is needed most; our downtown core. Contrary to the suburban sprawl most of this commission voted in favor of a few weeks prior, the streetcar will allow the county and city to continue growing in an ecologically and financially sustainable manner for years to come. I cannot begin to quantify the economic benefits our entire community will experience through this measure. Most importantly, the streetcar provides the means with which to construct some truly affordable housing, located within easy reach and facilitating life not governed by the economic constraint of owning a vehicle for personal independence. Miami
The benefits the
tunnel will provide are twofold: providing direct easy access to and from our second largest economic engine and perhaps more importantly, ridding our newly emerging downtown urban center of the traffic, smog, and noise pollution produced by these vehicles daily. The reduction of these nuisances in our city center will foster a hospitable urban environment. portof Miami
An unprecedented resolution sits before you today aimed at simultaneously solving some of the transit, infrastructure, and societal needs of this community. As is the case with most plans of this size, it isn’t without its share of flaws; however, the economic and intangible benefits these upgrades will produce should be enough to outweigh any of your reservations. I ask that the commission take the necessary steps today to propel
into a new, sustainable future. Miami
We some how bypassed this article last week, but, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez vetoed commission recommendations to approve a number of projects outside of the UDB. The veto will likely stand given that the commission lacks the 2/3 majority to override the mayor, presuming that none of the commissioners switch sides…
“If Miami-Dade moves outside the UDB, it will affect our delivery of services and strain already taxed resources,” Alvarez wrote. “Police and fire rescue services would be spread over a greater area, resulting in longer response times due to greater distances and road congestion.”
Meanwhile, on the losing end of the veto, Lowes’ attorney Juan Mayol laments about not having short drives to buy plywood:
“We are hopeful that the county commissioners will continue to recognize that these hard-working families are tired of overcrowded schools and long drives to buy such simple things as plywood or a garden hose.”
How often are people in
”This is a very beautiful thing that will look good on the bay,” said Commissioner Natacha Seijas, who said it could compare to Sydney’s signature Opera House in Australia.
Evidently Natacha has never visited, let alone seen what the Sydney Opera House looks like. The preliminary designs by Chisholm Architects more likely resembles a cheap imitation Mies van der Rohe house, on steroids. Even then, remotely comparing this thing to any Mies van der Rohe structure is glorifying it far too much; this thing is HIDEOUS folks. What’s more, it’s boxy shape apparently tries its best to pave over the full 4.5 acre park (like most Cuban-American homes in Hialeah…)
”Obviously, the area has changed dramatically from what it was in the past,” said Chairman Bruno Barreiro, fretting that nearby development was leaving the arena without sufficient parking. “I think we might hamper and will hamper the arena if we do not really consider an additional parking structure with amenities on that site.”
Some said it could maintain a park-like atmosphere with the right landscaping. ”You could design these things nowadays with a lot of greenery around the edges and borders, a very friendly pedestrian use,” Barreiro said.
AKA: We’ll skimp out due to cost overruns and plant some Queen Palms…
Now, let’s apply some of the principles learned by the studies conducted by William Whyte on successful urban spaces in the late 1970’s and portrayed in this Month’s BoM.
Blue Circle: First and foremost a successful Urban Park is no more than 3 ft above or below the surrounding pavement, thus making the two flights of stairs necessary to enter the only open space left in the 4.5 acre park and immediate physical and sociological drawback to the urban space. An excerpt:
“Circulation and sitting, in sum, are not antithetical but complimentary. It is to encourage both that the zoning stipulates the plaza not be more than three feet above or below the street level. The easier the flow between street and plaza, the more likely people are to move between the two- and to tarry and sit.”
Red Circle: Large concrete open spaces do not bode well in the Miami sunlight. See those little people walking around in the plaza? Their a figment of someone’s imagination because nobody, in their right mind will be attracted into an unshaded, concrete park, two flights of stairs above street level, and in an area whose eastern bay view is completely obstructed by a blank concrete wall…It’s just not happening. An Excerpt:
“In summer, [people] will generally sit in the sun as well as the shade; only in very hot weather- 90 degrees or more- will the sunny spots become vacant.”
Yellow Circle: Street interaction? Inexistent. There is some foliage provided as Barriero suggested, but its only in place to cover up the monstrous parking garage this building will sit atop. The site is foreboding to pedestrians and the on street parking depicted is highly unlikely, given that a garage is being constructed…
Green Circle: Look at the public access to the Bay. Also Inexistent. It appears that the Museum has taken advantage of the beautiful vistas and has wholly blocked off the easter views to the non-paying public. The covered breezeways on the east side of the building provide cover only to museum patrons.
Heck, we’d do anything to revert to the original plans which included an apartment building attached to an entertainment complex…Anything but an above ground parking structure on prime public waterfront land…Are these people even thinking?
Now I understand a lot of people are spewing hate at Elizabeth and DPZ, but I say give her a break. I’m guessing the reason she made the quote to “pass as is” was not meant as an arrogant gesture, but as a sign of frustration. And you know what? I’d be frustrated, too, if I were her.
Yes, the Miami 21 project is both large and complex, but there have been more than 100 public meetings over the course of nearly two years to clear things up. When it comes to public input, this number definitely verges on the high end, yet somehow people are still confused. There has even been ample information and supporting documentation available at Miami21.org for which to help clear things up.
Look, I know for a fact that if I had any real concerns about a project like this I would do whatever it takes to get answers (before it goes to the commission!). Yet people (and Commissioners) still don’t even understand basic tenets, such as whether or not existing buildings would be grandfathered-in under the new code. We’re adults, people - at some point we need to take the initiative to figure things out instead of waiting to be force-fed information.
Thus, I think we could interpret her “pass as is” quote another way. It goes something like this:
“If after 100+ public meetings and forums, plus an easily accessible website with ample supporting documentation, people still are clueless about the proposed code, then how much of an affect will additional meetings really have? Once you reach a certain threshold of meetings, offering any additional meeting should have little appreciable benefit - if any at all. Thus, after 100+ meetings, you begin to wonder one of two things: (1) Are the people who claim they still ‘don’t get it’ really confused, or are they just opponents of the new code (and subsequently opponents of change) acting to create doubt in the minds of commissioners and about the work of DPZ? or (2) Is this symptomatic of Miami’s anemic citizen involvement in public affairs?”
As for the Commissioners, there is no excuse. This is arguably the most significant vote of these Commissioners lives, and they’ve known it was coming for two years now. Given their tremendous access to the city’s planners, DPZ, and pretty much any information they need to help them understand Miami 21, it is inexcusable and irresponsible that they still don’t understand the proposed code.
While I have mentioned that Miami 21 is not a perfect code, it is so much better than the current one. It begs the question, would you rather continue under the anachronistic, byzantine code we currently have, that allows hodge-podge development and is completely and utterly hostile to pedestrians and cyclists?
It is critical that people understand this, because to continue under the old code would have devastating consequences for Miami’s future. So, if you are one of those people who has gone to meetings and taken the initiative to understand Miami 21 but is still genuinely confused, I implore you to do whatever it takes to educate yourself during the next 90 days - Miami’s future hinges on this code.
As for the hearing tomorrow, there is still some controversy surrounding Miami 21. Some officials and citizens are still concerned about affordable housing, which you can’t blame them for after the disgusting, embarrassing revelations of the past year regarding the Miami-Dade Housing Agency and City of Miami Department of Community Development. It should be interesting to see how the City Commission reacts to these concerns tomorrow morning.
Photo courtesy of Miami21.org
Vice-Chairman Dennis Moss was quoted, “It’s not an easy situation and folks are not going to give in in terms of their philosophies”.
Here’s a philosophy: We’re all screwed if the recommendations from the watershed study are ignored. Why? According to the study:
- The South Miami-Dade Watershed region is expected to nearly double in population by 2050, going from 791,000 in 2000 to approximately 1, 500,000 in 2050.
- The Watershed cannot continue to grow as expected without substantial consequences to its water and natural resources, quality of life, and community characteristics
- The Watershed Plan calls for a Smart Growth (which we’ve preached for over a year ad nauseam) approach to accommodating future population growth; however, if the the alternative (sprawl or current) approach continues the watershed area will negatively and irreversibly be changed
- The waters of Biscayne Bay will be subject to substantial increases in water pollution
- 3/4 of our agricultural areas will be lost to sprawling, low-density residential subdivisions
- Traffic congestion will increase significantly
- The effectiveness of the $8 billion Everglades restoration program will be greatly reduced
- It is estimated that the “sprawl scenario” will cost nearly $8 billion more for infrastructure than the recommended Watershed Plan between now and 2050, which does not even include substantial environmental costs (who’s going to be funding most of this unnecessary, unsustainable infrastructure? Mostly taxpayers.)
Seijas, easily the worst of all the county commissioners (and that is really saying something), who is lucky to even have a job after threatening a fellow commissioner’s life during session in the County Chambers, is leading the charge to foil implementation of the watershed study. It shouldn’t be of much surprise to citizens, given that she is profoundly connected to developers and pro-sprawl interests as evidenced by her consistent voting record to move the UDB line and quotes like “I don’t see why we need to be creating an environment for them (Manatees) to continue”.
Her opposition is significant because she is the chairwoman for the GOEC, which oversees urban growth policies and monitors the utilization of our natural resources. What’s she saying?
“I don’t think this study should be used to do anything (involving major land-use decisions)”.
OK, so nearly $4 million, six years of research, and perhaps the future of our region may be down the drain if she gets her way. Some Commissioners are talking about potentially adopting some aspects of the Plan but ignoring the land-use aspects. Duh. It doesn’t work like that. ALL OF THESE ASPECTS ARE INTERCONNECTED.
This is the type of business that makes my blood pressure boil because the incompetence and special interest pandering is so blatantly obvious, shameless, and completely detrimental to the area’s future. This is the same type of incompetence and slipshod politics that has sadly become standard practice for many of our elected officials. It has become obvious that expert opinion, research, and administrative work are almost entirely irrelevant in this county, because our elected officials instead use their own pet theories, intuition, and self-interest to make decisions that will negatively affect the area for many generations to come. Frankly, it is not only unprofessional, but completely embarrassing.
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