Currently viewing the tag: "Coral Way"

Against the backdrop of what has been a tragic month on South Florida roadways, City of Miami residents and businesses can take solace that the upcoming Coral Way resurfacing project will now include numerous pedestrian safety improvements. Thanks to the work of District 4 City Commissioner Francis Suarez and the Transit Miami team, the residents of the Coral Way corridor will soon enjoy improved pedestrian and bicycle facilities, as well as a lower 35 mph speed limit as part of the Florida Department of Transportation’s upcoming 2.5 mile Coral Way resurfacing project.

The changes to the project come after FDOT officials originally presented designs for the corridor in November 2011 which were panned by advocates and elected officials for lacking pedestrian improvements; the plans maintained the meager crosswalk spacing and high speed design that typifies the corridor today.

Following the initial public meeting, Transit Miami was asked by District 4 staff to compile a list of pedestrian improvements that could be incorporated into the design. As a road resurfacing project, we were mindful that there was a limit to the improvements that could be made without drastically increasing the cost of the project. As such we identified a series of low cost, high impact interventions that could be incorporated into the project, which included:

  • Additional north/south crosswalks across Coral Way at every side street intersection – 13 total
  • Higher quality pedestrian crossings at major intersections (4 total)
  • Lower speed limit throughout

These recommendations were forwarded to Secretary Gus Pego by Commissioner Francis Suarez’s Chief-of-Staff, Mike Llorente, along with a note from that said, “The basic message – that the contemplated project fails to capitalize on the opportunity to make Coral Way more pedestrian friendly – is echoed by City Commissioner Suarez and several area residents who attended the community meeting on Wednesday. As you know, the contemplated project does not include any additional pedestrian crosswalks. As a result, pedestrians will continue to have access to only one crosswalk every five blocks, or .5 miles. The lack of crosswalks makes this area very difficult to navigate on foot.” (A phenomenon Transit Miami went on to document in a video post.)
After intense lobbying by the Commissioner and his staff, FDOT agreed to perform additional pedestrian counts and a speed study to gauge whether demand warranted additional crosswalks and a lower speed limit. Not surprisingly they documented a corridor whose pedestrian activity is growing despite the lack of adequate pedestrian facilities.

The analysis led District 6 staff to include five additional crosswalks across Coral Way; 4 with flashing beacons, and one new full intersection. In addition, the City will be able to financially contribute to enhanced crosswalks at major intersections, to include raised pavers and timed crosswalk signals. These measures will be accompanied by a reduction in the speed limit to 35 mph (throughout), and the inclusion of bicycle “sharrows” along the entire corridor from 13 Avenue to 37 Avenue. While not all of the recommendations were followed, FDOT agreed to a majority of what Transit Miami recommended.
Though still governed by their ‘data driven design’ mantra, FDOT’s changes to this project should be seen as encouraging news for green mobility advocates because they reflect an increase in pedestrian activity, even as measured by FDOT engineers. District 6 Secretary Gus Pego and Project Manager Ramon Sierra were clear that additional crosswalks could be requested in the near future as the corridor continues to develop more pedestrian activity. We’ve been documenting the rise of Coral Way for six years now, and now more than ever the corridor can boast that it has a vibrant future ahead. 
Kudos to Commissioner Suarez and his staff for going to bat for complete streets, and major kudos to FDOT for reevaluating their project and working together with elected officials and advocates to make these improvements. We hope that this project is an indication of how we might move forward, together to make our streets safer for all.

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Is Miami a city of traffic corridors and highways or is it a city for people? At the latest FDOT public meeting, the message from the Florida Department of Transportation is clear: Miami is for cars. Everything and everyone else comes 2nd.

Last night, FDOT held a public meeting to review the details of a re-surfacing project for Coral Way, from  SW 37th Avenue to SW 13th Avenue, scheduled to begin in March 2013. Unfortunately, not much is being done to improve pedestrian conditions on Coral Way in spite of the booming pedestrian life visible every day.  While the road will get silky new pavement, some wider sidewalks, a few brighter colored signs and ‘sharrows’, overall Coral Way will remain the same traffic sewer that it is today. Apparently, the status quo of Coral Way is all roses to the FDOT.

Except it’s not.

One thing that has always struck me about Coral Way is how difficult it is to cross it as a pedestrian. The traffic lights are so spread out that they may as well be located in separate zip codes. The design of Coral Way is one that divides people and business, rather than connects them. The traffic zooms from signal to signal in a speed’n-stop fashion reminiscent of a video game.  The restaurants, the shops, the homes and the residents  - are all separated by an impenetrable barrier of vehicles and plantings. Go to any part of Coral Way between Douglas and 12 Ave and you will see plenty of pedestrians trying to cross wherever they can. The road is the antithesis of walkable - by design. It is a roadway that’s patently ill-suited for an urban environment - and FDOT wants to keep it that way.

Crossing Coral Way in a wheelchair

The planted medians seldom have a mid-block crossing. Have you ever traversed a field of geraniums in a wheelchair? FDOT doesn’t really care.

The speed limit will remain a deadly 40 mph. Have you ever tried parallel parking with someone in an Escalade bearing down on you at 45mph? You’ll still have the chance the way FDOT is designing this road!

This project makes virtually no improvements to the comically tragic pedestrian experience of Coral Way, save for a few sections of wider crosswalks. The FDOT’s argument is that their own guidelines do not allow them to make additional safety accommodations, like signalized crosswalks, raised crosswalks, or anything else. Mind you, it’s those very same arcane guidelines that are the root cause of why Florida consistently holds the dubious distinction as the #1 deadliest state for pedestrians in the nation. Such improvements would also make notoriously dangerous Coral Way safer for motorists as well.

But things really hit home when I left the meeting at 2055 Coral Way and walked outside. I was with my bicycle and needed to cross the street. Look right: a traffic signaled crosswalk in the distance. (I measured it online - .25 miles. That would make it .5 miles total just to cross the street legally and safely) Look left: just a headlight-filled abyss. No crosswalk in sight. Someone from the FDOT had to explain this for me, so I went back inside.

I asked two of the project managers to come outside with me to experience first hand just how ridiculously divisive the configuration of this street is. I asked them, “where do I cross?” They pointed to the traffic light a quarter mile away. They simply don’t give a shit. Is that a realistic expectation? What ensued was classic traffic engineer speak. “A study didn’t show the number of pedestrians required to warrant more improvements,” I was told.

That’s because the pedestrian experience is so hostile and uninviting to begin with, rational people will avoid it if possible. “Studies” do not calculate human decision-making. It almost seemed as if I was actually speaking with a car, because the only responses were about accommodating the needs of motorists. In their eyes, I was the first person to ever walk out of that church and have to walk to the other side.

The FDOT representatives said that the speed limit can not be lowered, one reason being some of these drivers are going from Brickell to West Kendall and they need to be accommodated also. So there we have it folks. Creating the walkable conditions for businesses to succeed and all road users to be safe are not in the vocabularies of the FDOT. Coral Way is a road designed to whisk private automobiles as fast as possible through Miami. Everyone else be dammed. The ‘social world’ is of no importance. The ‘traffic world’ is the priority. Everything else is an obstacle to moving cars quickly. The ‘guidelines’ protect them. It’s perfectly acceptable to the FDOT to force a person, a mother with a stroller or a person in a wheelchair, to go .5 miles to legally cross a street.

Appropriate transportation hierarchy in an urban context.

It’s long-passed due that the FDOT revise their outdated guidelines with their own children and grandparents in mind. If their standards aren’t safe and effective for a 10 year old or a senior citizen, then they are failing. The proposed re-paving project of Coral Way is another missed opportunity for Miami to become an actual city instead of a collection of traffic corridors.

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It’s only taken FDOT 7 months, but they finally tried to fix the Coral Way bike lanes.  As some of you may recall, back in October, I performed a detailed evaluation of the new bike lanes and made suggestion for improvement.

Thanks to pressure from of our readers FDOT agreed to improve the bike lanes. According to Transit Miami sources, FDOT is done with the repair work. Unfortunately I do not have good news to report.  FDOT gave it the old college try, and as a result, the bike lanes do not get the Transit Miami seal of approval. Essentially all FDOT did was remove the white lines that incorrectly terminated the bike lanes at every intersection.

Coral Way bike lanes before repairs

Coral Way bike lanes after FDOT repairs

Personally, I’m kinda tired of FDOT’s antics.  They should have gotten it right the first time and if they needed to fix it, they should have done it correctly. These reindeer games need to come to an end.

Perhaps FDOT could get in touch with the County Public Works Department. The PWD just painted some great bike lanes on SW 2nd Avenue. I’m sure PWD would be glad to educate FDOT on bicycle lane design.  The bike lanes on SW 2nd Avenue are clearly defined with two white lines that demarcate it nicely. Peg-a-tracking is placed in potential conflict areas such as intersections and driveways. PWD produced a textbook example of what a REAL bike lane should look like. The bike lane design PWD selected is entirely suitable for this particular street.  Well done PWD! Now if we can just get FDOT on board. Please help us; we need your help PWD!

New bike lanes on SW 2nd Avenue. Please observe the peg-a-traking through the intersections and the double white line that clearly demarcates the bike lane.

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It’s been nearly 6 months since FDOT completed its auto-centric resurfacing project on Coral Way. Our readers may recall that I did a thorough analysis on the poor quality of the bike lanes which were striped on Coral Way. We were told that FDOT would go back and re-stripe the bike lanes correctly as they should have done in the first place. Well, it’s been 6 months and we’re still waiting…

Yesterday I was driving down this section of roadway and noticed all the cars overtaking me as they cruised in excess of 50 mph. This roadway has 14ft lanes which only encourages cars to speed. As I’m driving down the street I noticed a woman pushing her husband in a wheel chair while trying to cross Coral Way in front of the St. Sophia Church on Coral Way and SW 24th Road.  Unfortunately, this vulnerable couple doesn’t have safe options to cross Coral Way. The closest crosswalk to them is one block away on SW 25th Street. The next closest crosswalk is 10 blocks away on SW 15th Street. To make matter worse, the crosswalk on SW 15th Street is on a treacherous curve, making it very dangerous for even a healthy individual like myself to cross.

A man being pushed in a wheelchair while trying to cross Coral Way on SW 24th Road

A man being pushed in a wheelchair while trying to cross Coral Way on SW 24th Road

This signature FDOT project is just another fine example of their auto-centric mantra. The time is now to begin designing complete streets for all users.

Friend of Transit Miami Dana Weinstein recently wrote an editorial for the Miami Herald to commemorate Bike Month. Although Dina commutes with her two children to school on bicycles, she does not suggest that inexperienced cyclists/parents follow her lead. She says, “It really takes someone with almost a death wish to walk or bike”.

Part of me agrees with Dina.  Ever since Christophe Le Canne was killed on the Rickenbacker Causeway in January, I have come to view bicycling as a dangerous activity.

I love biking; it is part of who I am. I used to be fearless and after my stint in the Peace Corps I biked with 2 friends from Guatemala to Panama. Bicycling brings me great joy, but I no longer feel safe biking in Miami. What I feel is vulnerable. This is particularly true on our causeways, where bicycle lanes are placed next to cars which are moving at 45-75mph without any sort of hard or soft barrier to protect cyclists (i.e. Rickenbacker Causeway and MacArthur Causeway).  When I do bike now, I choose roads where the design speed of the roadway does not exceed 25-30 mph.  Even when bike lanes are present, such as the Coral Way bike lanes, I do not use them because cars are moving at 45-50mph. I prefer taking a side street were traffic moves slower.

Perhaps I am just getting old. Or perhaps now that I am married I am aware of the tremendous loss I would leave behind if I suffered the same fate as Christophe Le Canne. But the lack of proper bicycle infrastructure in Miami has been forcing me recently to drive my bicycle up to Oleta River State Park so that I may get the exercise I enjoy.  I feel defeated that I have been relegated to biking in a park.

In the interest of full disclosure, I still ride my bike (in my suit) to work everyday. Although it is only about 6 blocks away I have way too many close calls on a regular basis.

Is this the way we must live? My hope is that we can develop streets for all users in South Florida.

Its official folks, Miami has officially been ranked the 3rd most dangerous city in the country for pedestrians. Dangerous by Design, a report produced jointly by the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership and Transportation for America has concluded that:

The Miami metropolitan area is one of the nation’s most dangerous for pedestrians because the roads here generally have been designed to speed up — not slow down – traffic”.

Although the blame needs to be shared with the County Public Works Department (i.e. broken pedestrian signals), FDOT deserves an honorable mention for this shameful award. If they keep designing roadways, crosswalks and bike lanes like the recently completed Coral Way resurfacing project, Miami should be able to clinch #1 spot in a few years. This is pathetic at best and should be of no surprise to anyone.

You can find the full report here.

It’s been about a month since I first reported on the new Coral Way bike lanes. Since I have not seen any progress during the past 4 weeks I will assume that  FDOT has officially completed this project. Sadly, I think this may be the finished product. It’s unfortunate to see that what we were left with is as good as it gets.

I would like to reiterate my suggestions for improvement for the bicycle lanes:

  • Paint the bicycle lanes green at all intersections and all conflict areas (i.e. driveways).
  • Paint three bicycle symbols per block.
  • Paint two white lines instead of a single white line to more clearly define the bicycle lanes.
  • The bicycle lanes should continue through the intersections with dashed lines in addition to being painted green; this keeps the continuity of the lane while also making bicyclists aware that motorists will be turning through the lane.
  • Add more signage: “Share the Road” and “No Parking in Bicycle Lane”
  • The Coral Way bicycle lane needs a seamless transition to the already existing SW 15th Road bicycle lane.
  • Road diet. Narrowing travel lanes to ensure motorists travel at slower speeds.

Pedestrians also needed to be considered more carefully in this project. Below is what appears to be the finished product for the crosswalks. Both of these crosswalks are not safe enough for pedestrians. Particularly the crosswalk on Coral Way where cars are usually traveling at about 40 mph in this area.

This crosswalk isn’t safe for pedestrians. The yield to pedestrians signs are not effective alone, traffic calming devices need to be included with the design.

This crosswalk isn’t safe for pedestrians. The yield to pedestrians signs are not effective alone, traffic calming devices need to be included with the design.

How about a couple of yield to pedestrian signs and a more clearly marked crosswalk?

How about a couple of yield to pedestrian signs and a more clearly marked crosswalk?

Check out this video from Streetfilms.  They did a piece on this sweet ass crosswalk in Seattle, Washington; yellow flashing lights are activated with a tap of the foot.  FDOT must consider using this type of crosswalk for Coral Way and all other crosswalks were pedestrians are put in the unlucky position of crossing 4 lanes of traffic where cars travel at high speeds.

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Kudos to FDOT for installing bike lanes along Coral Way from 12 Avenue into Downtown. They are still working on getting the signage up, but I have already seen cyclists using this much needed improvement. Next segment: from 12 avenue to 37 avenue? The upcoming Miracle Mile Streetscape project is going to include bike lanes (between LeJeuene and 37 avenue). This could be one of the longest stretches of urban bike lanes in Miami-Dade County.

Bike lane before markings were painted

Bike lane before markings were painted

bike lane coral way 1

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Facial Expressions when Boarding a Train (About:Blank)
  • Transit Miami gets a nice shout out for bike advocacy (Riptide 2.0)
  • Circular Sprawl Communities from the sky (Deputy Dog)
  • The A2 is the latest plan for Eco-friendly Hypersonic flight, capable of reaching Mach 5 without a single Carbon Emission (Luxist)
  • The 5 most incredible (alternative) school locations around the world (Deputy Dog)
  • America’s Greenest Cities (Popular Science)
  • Miami adds some Bike Parking along Coral Way (Spokes ‘n’ Folks)
  • A Building too Sophisticated for LEED certification (Inhabitat)
  • Sweden’s Ice Hotel (Bldg Blog)
  • Vintage Streetcar Artist (Telstar Logistics)
  • Benefits of Pint Sized Parks (Streetsblog)

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The Miami Streetcar should only be the beginning of a visionary transportation master plan to transform the City of Miami. Part 1 of this multiple part series aims to explain the map pictured above. Later, I will go in depth to explain the specifics behind route choice, design, and the benefits each will bring to the city and all residents.

Pictured above (Click to enlarge) is a rough aerial sketch of possible streetcar routes that I envisioned in a city transportation plan. Using the basis of the current streetcar plan, I extended rail networks south, west, and east in the corridors where such transportation efforts would fit well with future, proper urban growth patterns.

The red streetcar line follows the basic path already presented. The train would head east on 1st or Flagler St, heading towards Biscayne Boulevard, where the route would turn north. At NE 11th St, Baylink would merge onto the Macarthur Causeway and head towards the beach while the Design District Route would continue North on the boulevard until NE 14th St. I chose 14th street to not overlap with the metromover on 15th and to bring riders as close as possible to the Carnival Center. The streetcar would head west to N Miami Avenue, intersecting with the FEC tracks (highlighted in Black) where a transfer would occur to the LRT which would travel from Miami through Jupiter, easily accessing every major city in between. This transfer station will also grant FEC riders with a station to easily transfer to the Health district Streetcar which would travel west from this point along NW 20th St. The Design District Streetcar route would turn left at NE 29th Street before entering Midtown Miami (Note: this is Midtown Miami, our newest neighborhood, not a development, there is no need to spite our newest urban dwellers to make a point to a developer.)

The other routes could receive funding at a later point in time, once the overwhelming success of the Miami Streetcar is evident. The Blue route would exit the Brickell station heading west on SW 10th street to SW 3rd Avenue where it would turn South. SW 3rd avenue merges with Coral Way, which will guide the streetcar to the Coral Gables CBD. At 37th Avenue, the Coral Way Streetcar could head into the Gables via Merrick Way or Miracle Mile, and later head either north or south along Ponce, further into the CBD.

The Yellow or Flagler route would also terminate at Government Center, solidly defining the central core transfer station for the city. Routes would head west along Flagler to Beacom Blvd. At Beacom the Flagler route would head southwest to Eighth Street where it would continue west. The return route for this route would travel along SW 1st St.

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Coral Way has the greatest potential in Miami to become one of the best pedestrian oriented and truly urban streetscapes in the area. With the beautiful shade provided by the banyan trees and abundant on-street parking, the thoroughfare is just pleading for the appropriate development to create a new vibrant neighborhood. Coral Way was once considered the major link between the downtown areas of Miami and Coral Gables. Up until a hurricane struck in November of 1935 (Technology has changed considerably since, Marc), a streetcar (operated by Coral Gables Municipal Transit) used to service the route through the street median.

Today, the area is begging for the type of development that would turn the street into one of the best pedestrian neighborhoods, similar to the vibrant activity on La Gran Via (Madrid), Champs Elysees (Paris), or even Newbury St. (Boston). Miami is notably missing a major pedestrian center, a real urban avenue if you will, where people can actually live, work, and take care of their daily needs within a reasonable walking distance and all under the cover of the shade provided by banyan trees and some properly designed porticos.

There has been a hint of new activity along Coral Way in the recent construction boom. Most notably: Blue on Coral Way, Gables Marquis, and The Emerald Plaza. A recent drive along the street though, led me to a condominium which was constructed recently. This particular building happened to have the most hideous tenant parking entrance occupying the majority of the usable ground level area of the building. The city needs to desperately curtail such terrible development and needs to steer growth to include ground level retail, covered porticos, on street parking, and easy access to public transit. We need to integrate the existing ground level tenants (supermarkets, pharmacies, medical offices, restaurants) with the new construction in order to improve the activity which will soon follow. The area parks also need to be expanded and restored to seamlessly integrate with the activity along the boulevard. Otherwise, the area restaurants are already teeming with nightime activity along with the cultural events and varied religious centers.

The city should also seriously evaluate a streetcar option (similar to the Miami Streetcar Initiative) through this neighborhood, in order to once again link the two city centers and provide a much needed alternative to an area with incredible potential. Image of my proposed route:

Images from: eniomart, Snarky Dork, and Prezzi’s Flickr…

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