Currently viewing the tag: "Enrique Penalosa"

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Very Cool. Thanks to Sam Van Leer, Executive Director of the Urban Paradise Guild for this cool photo of a Sandhill Crane on Virginia Key. He had this to say about the re-appearance of the bird (a first in an area heavily damaged by decades of environmental abuse):

The bird was  in an area that has been undergoing habitat restoration for years by members of the Historic Virginia Key Beach Trust’s Nature and Environment Committee. Urban Paradise joined that effort at the beginning of this year, performing hundreds of hours of Intensive Stewardship to remove and control Invasive Exotic Plants.

To me, the bird’s existence there is a statement of how, with some human TLC, nature can recover some of the ground it lost. It is a harbinger of Virginia Key’s future, and how the people (and economy) of Miami can benefit by recovering such lost treasures.

I agree Sam. Lets hope that the approved Virginia Key Masterplan recognizes the opportunity to restore a native habitat in an area so close to our urban core.

“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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To all our regular readers, the message below is a direct response to the recent criticisms presented by local blog Critical Miami:

We are not anti-car zealots, we strongly believe that the key to creating a sustainable community is a multi-modal transportation policy rather than the uni-modalism that currently overwhelms Miami-Dade. It appears that in the eyes of some, Transit Miami has lost its focus, becoming too obsessed with creating a city that is designed and navigable to humans, rather than the voluminous heaps of metal we all wander around in.

A Message from the Publisher

I started Transit Miami for one reason: because I care about my community. The way I see it, Miami has a potential that no other city does, a vibrancy no other community could dream of achieving. Sadly, in my 22 years of living here, I have witnessed nothing more than its potential crumble, eroded away in congestion, corrupt politics, and square mile after square mile of inauspicious development. In my travels abroad, to Paris, London, San Francisco, Vienna, and New York, among other places, I experienced the nature of true global cities and came back longing for the same characteristics that make those cities successful. Regarding thriving, diverse economies, unparalleled educational opportunities, a pulsating cultural scene, etc, it is often difficult to understand how all of the qualities* we want for our city are tied deeply to the urbanism which defines our landscapes.

After all, we find it alarming that on average Miamians spend 30% of their income on Transportation needs, don’t you? There is a better way to live.
-Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal

Clarity on the Issues

While we appreciate Critical Miami’s kudos and acknowledge their own fine work over the last few years, we definitely feel that it is their site that is out of touch with reality in this case. Perhaps Critical Miami is baffled because they are not likely educated on best practices in contemporary urban planning. Frankly, we find it contradictory that a site that calls for “holding the line” so adamantly would be so misunderstanding when it comes to better land-use policy.

To be clear, Transit Miami never stated that worsening driving conditions was the best way to improve transit. In fact, we stated the opposite, “Additional parking will increase congestion…” The developer, not Transit Miami, originally proposed the position of hampering a vehicle’s ability to access the EWT development. We supported his decision and original plans to reduce parking capacity at EWT due to the direct links his structure would have with the adjacent Metromover structure (just as we supported reductions in parking at the Coconut Grove Metrorail Transit-Oriented Development) and never once suggested making driving more difficult, only parking.

Critical Miami mentions several times that “making driving more difficult” is political suicide and is essentially foolish. What about traffic-calming? Wouldn’t Critical Miami agree that traffic calming makes streets safer and livable for everyone, perhaps at the expense of a little speed for the motorist? If you support traffic calming in any capacity, it makes your statements about making driving appear paradoxical.

The interesting part is, we aren’t even advocating for anything drastic. For example, we promote the Miami Streetcar project, which calls for constructing a streetcar line through one of the densest and fastest-growing urban corridors in the state. This is not very drastic at all, especially in a city with a woefully underdeveloped mass transit system and sizable low-income population. We promote decreases in minimum parking standards. This is not so radical either since it reduces the overall development cost, making housing more affordable. There is a sizable body of scholarly literature available that correlates the underlying message of our letter: increasing parking capacity increases driving demand like dangling a carrot for cars.

Sustainability, Miami’s Growing Problem

Miami-Dade County, as it currently stands, is one of the most unsustainable metros in America. You can analyze this from a variety of angles, but you will always end up reaching the same conclusion: our actions will have devastating economical, environmental, and social costs if we do not change. If you want to look at it from a mobility/accessibility/congestion standpoint, Miami is incredibly unsustainable under a current unimodal paradigm and without change, it will become a less and less viable place to live and conduct business. Traffic congestion and VMTs (vehicle miles traveled) are expected to increase significantly between now and 2025. Contrary to what Critical Miami and most Americans believe, it simply is not economically or spatially feasible to build your way out of congestion (i.e. build more highways/widen roads.)

This means two things: in order to be more sustainable from a transportation perspective we must improve and expand our transit capacity and we must improve our accessibility. The transit component is straight forward enough. However, continuing the auto-centric status quo gives the illusion that we do not have to change our transportation habits and there will always be some fix or policy to make things better for driving. This could not be further from the truth and is flat out irresponsible. This is why we are against excessive minimum parking requirements, because it is like mandating more beer for an alcoholic.

Regarding the second component, accessibility, this means changing our zoning to allow mixed land uses and creating higher densities. This will enable people to travel shorter distances for their employment, retail, commercial, recreational, and residential purposes (if they so chose.)

Note: the goal of changing our land use policy is to enable people to have a choice when it comes to personal mobility, where walking or driving can be considered equal alternatives. This is a fundamental component of transportation equity.

This increases the viability of walking and cycling, which incidentally is the cheapest way to get around. However, if you continue down the auto-centric policy paradigm, you are not facilitating the type of conditions that make walking, cycling, transit, and higher density a formidable option.

Transit Miami’s Global Comparisons

Regarding the division between the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, of course it is the county that operates the local transit agency. This is likely the root of many of the problems we will face in this region over the coming decades; our inability to work together due to the multiple bureaucratic layers we have created because of perceived political injustices. This fragmented landscape of local municipalities will only serve a divisive role when it comes to regional planning initiatives.

Ryan never said or even implied that Miami was going to have a transit system like Montreal’s – he simply implied that Montreal had a quality transit system and that Miami should strive to improve theirs in order to achieve a higher transit standard and all the external benefits that go along with it. That is tough to misconstrue. In addition, he never mentioned or even remotely implied that Miami needed to “grow a mountain” to have a grand urban park. That is very clear for anyone reading that section, and it seems to me that either you grossly misread it or cherry picked that part and took it out of context to support your own point.

Transit Miami often uses global comparisons to drive home points visually to our readers on the effects of better public transit and land-use policy in other cities.

Bicycle as a means of Transportation, not just a Vacation

We don’t recall any sort of official “challenge,” however Critical Miami is unequivocally wrong about their assertion that such a program cannot work anywhere in Miami. Just because Critical Miami is a bike enthusiast doesn’t mean you understand how bicycling systems operate or can function in an urban setting. South Beach offers the perfect place for a pilot program, at a minimum. Transit Miami is in the process of working closely with our local agencies to see such a plan come to fruition, we invite Critical Miami to attend any of the local Bicycle Action Committees to air their sentiments.

Regarding Critical Miami’s comments about it taking generations to enact the type of changes we advocate, this has been proven otherwise. Enrique Penalosa, the former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, created a thriving bicycle network in his city and within just five years captured 5% of the daily transportation needs. It just so happens that Mr. Penalosa was recently in Miami, meeting with Miami officials to discuss their plans to create a bicycle network in this city, a meeting that this blogger was privileged enough to attend. Looking beyond bicycles, formerly auto-centric cities like Perth, Australia, with guidance from visionaries like Peter Newman, have transformed into legitimate multi-modal communities in just 20 years or so, which is well within the time frame of the county’s current Long Term Plan and the City of Miami’s Comprehensive Neighborhood Development Plan.

The fact of the matter is that changes occur when the funding (and mentality) is there in support. Sure, cities evolve and mature and most changes do not occur overnight, but the mentality Critical Miami presents falls in line with the mentality that has accomplished nothing in Miami over the past several decades.

-This article represents the views of the entire Transit Miami Staff…

This is a joint letter Ryan and I submitted to the Miami Herald’s Op Ed section and to the city of Miami Commission regarding last Thursday’s vote on the Empire World Towers proposal:

Commission’s View of Parking is Misguided
By: Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal & Ryan Sharp
www.TransitMiami.com

As transportation engineers and urban planners, we feel that City of Miami’s plans to increase the total number of parking spaces in the Empire World Towers development will have a detrimental effect on both the people and City of Miami.

An Increase in Parking Supply Increases Driving Demand

An increase of net parking spaces – to one per unit, as the city commission proposed – will only worsen the traffic conditions along Biscayne Boulevard and the surrounding streets. The aim of the city administration and all downtown development should be to reduce automobile dependency, not enhance it, especially in one of the few areas well served by public rail transit. Any increases in available parking will only serve as a means with which our residents will continue to neglect and undermine the intended purpose of public transportation.

More Parking = More Traffic Congestion Downtown

It is in our opinion, that the city commission should fully embrace reductions in parking space requirements for all downtown buildings within a 3-block radius of any fixed rail transit station. To do this, the city should unequivocally support Empire World Towers‘ proposed station link to Metromover, not an increase in parking spaces. Supporting both would be contradictory – essentially taking one-step forward and one-step backward. An Empire World Towers station linkage to Metromover will facilitate transit use resulting in a net reduction of vehicular trips, while more parking will do just the opposite.

Miamians possess no innate preference for car use; land use policy in this region has never presented residents with a clear alternative option. Increasing the number of parking spaces in this development will only exacerbate this problem, while doing nothing to make our transportation infrastructure more sustainable.

Car-Related Infrastructure has contributed significantly to Downtown Miami‘s Ills

Every time we allow a policy that favors cars over transit, such as increasing parking mandates, our entire region becomes less sustainable and we all lose. Drivers who are supposed to benefit from more parking actually suffer because traffic congestion worsens. Those who do not or cannot drive suffer because they feel all the externalities of car-dominated spaces, including noisy, polluted, and unsafe streets. Anyone who sets foot downtown suffers because they are forced to walk by so many unpleasant spaces, such as surface parking lots and the blank walls and curb cuts of parking garages. Businesses suffer because fewer people will pass by on foot, while employees will have worse commutes. This vicious cycle has been the status quo downtown for too long, which has left the streets unpleasant and thus a vacuum to be filled by the undesirable elements that people complain about.

Do the Right Thing and Support a Livable, Sustainable Future for Miamians

The inefficiency of the parking system proposed by Maclee is proposed to force EWT residents and visitors to seek alternative means of transit when accessing the development (a direct point made by Enrique Peñalosa to the city, was that in order for public transportation to be successful it would have to be at least equally attractive as the alternatives.) Mobility in Miami will only continue to be governed by the automobile if we continue utilizing land use policies that favor vehicles over people. Transit Miami asks the city commission, with all due respect, to reduce the parking requirements this Thursday for the Empire World Towers proposal.

Miami Dade County unveiled its 50 year parks Masterplan last Friday at the Second Great Park Summit held at Fairchild Botanical Garden. For a place that is too often known for its reactionary planning, this plan is really progressive and forward thinking. Green street corridors, a continuous green belt, and an interconnected network of neighborhood and urban parks place the plan in the company of Olmstead’s Emerald Necklace in Boston and Burnam’s Chicago plan.

The Summit bought together parks departments from all around Dade County, as well as Mayor Alvarez and members of the County Commission. Conspicuously absent were high level members of the City of Miami, South Miami, and Coral Gables to name a few. Considering all the land the County Parks Masterplan encompasses, it’s important for all municipalities to support each other and work toward the same goals. Specifially, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz should have been present, considering his stated commitment toward making Miami a ‘green’ city and improving the tree canopy.

Overall, the plan aims to take one of the largest parks systems in the country into the 21st century by rethinking what open space is and how we use it. Not only are parks considered places of passive or active use, but as common civic space that should be available to all. The highlight of the Summit was the keynote speech by former Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa who gave a great presentation about how we should choose to plan and use our open spaces (parks AND sidewalks) as places of social equality and where the daily drama of life really takes place. His advocacy of public spaces in Bogotá, from extensive bike paths, to a former country club turned public park is inspiring. He closed his presentation with the thought that “Public good must prevail over private interest.” How’s that for progressive?

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Former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, Enrique Penalosa, is internationally renowned for his progressive transit and bike-oriented urban planning policies that have helped transform the Colombia capital from a congested car-centric nightmare to a much more livable city in less than decade. Earlier this week, Penalosa came to New York to speak in support of Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing proposal that holds the power to make NYC an even more livable city by forcing cars to pay $8 to enter Manhattan anywhere below 60th St from 6am-6pm. Thanks to our friends over at Streetsblog, who created this video, we can see that from Copenhagen to New York, Vancouver to Bogota, the livable cities movement is in full gear.

To see the video above in its entirety, click here.

To see the video of Penalosa’s recent NYC speech supporting congestion pricing and transport equity, click here.

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