4/26/06

Q&A; On Miami Transit

In our one month of service we’ve been asked many great questions from our loyal readers and subscribers. However, we recently received a question which has been asked quite often. It came from Tere, from the Coral Gables Blog (Great blog, check it out if you haven’t already.) In any case, we have spent countless hours trying to answer this question; it is the goal of Miami Transit to try to find a reasonable answer to questions like these:

In your educated and knowledgeable opinion, do you think that Miami can become a town that uses mass transit like NYC or Boston? And also, that our gov. can build a transit system that is logical, useful and smart?

I don't think we can survive this immense condo/growth boom unless we give up (or seriously reduce usage of) our cars. But will the people do it? And will the gov. step up to the plate?


Honestly, yes. But it isn’t that simple. Here is the background as to why it isn't. The demise of a dense and urban lifestyle in Miami occurred in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, when the majority of the United States underwent an extreme suburbanization, if you will, of American culture. The readily available and relatively inexpensive post-war automobile allowed for easy mobility across cities and states for nearly everyone (the groundwork was laid by President Eisenhower’s Interstate system in the late 1930’s.) It was around this time which we saw many cities begin to dismantle their Mass transportation networks due to the declining ridership caused by the automobile (Examples include Philadelphia’s Trolley system, Miami (1940’s), Jacksonville, etc.) The automobile brought about a new way of life and with that a new perspective to urban planning. As streets grew wider, speed limits on major thoroughfares increased and developments were pushed further back from the street edge (Note: this brought about those huge neon signs nearly every store must have in order to be seen by the speeding motorists.) Cities were being developed to accommodate automobiles rather than pedestrians and thus we successfully achieved urban sprawl in nearly every major U.S. City. Most cities began to consume land at a rate disproportionate to their population growth. Expressways were created to relieve city traffic, but after a couple of decades of expansions, we now fully understand their limited capabilities and rising maintenance costs.

During this time, we also witnessed a near collapse of our central business district (CBD). Without a Mass Transit network to access a centralized location of employment, we then began to see a suburbanization of the job market in Miami (side note: A herald article a few years back stated that Miami was one of the least dense business markets in the United States, with over half of the local jobs scattered outside of the downtown region.) Now, this situation poses severe complications when trying to adequately serve the needs of our residents with Mass Transit. A mass transportation network works well when most travelers have a common destination (Brickell, Downtown, Civic Center) located within a fairly close proximity. However, when a large amount of jobs are located in areas scattered throughout the county (Doral, Fountain blue, Kendall, Coral Gables) we run into an extremely difficult logistical problem in transporting residents to all these various locations. Now, to revert to having an organized system where people and goods flow efficiently, many key things would need to occur. For example, Miami and Miami-Dade county need to work together to create specialized business districts, which can be served easily by a rail or a rapid bus network. This was partially the idea behind creating Metrorail in the 1980’s, but the collapse of a substantial job market in the CBD and over inflated ridership numbers, caused our first reattempt at Mass Transit to be a complete failure.

A logical transportation network would go hand in hand with a rational county policy to lure business back to the areas where it can be best served by such a network. Suburban construction such as Ryder’s global Headquarters in NW Miami-Dade along the Everglades should have never have happened under this coherent and forward thinking policy to improve the quality of life in our region through better transportation and urban renewal. Traffic in Miami will only get worse over the coming years as planners still argue over what transportation alternatives should be sought (Note: the next Metrorail line, slated for a 2012 completion date, will travel north along 27th avenue to Dolphin Stadium, rather than East-West, adding a second North-South heavy Rail line for commuters (Tri-Rail, being the first) but accomplishing little in solving the needs of residents in western part of the county.)

With the right leadership, an ulterior form of transportation will succeed in Miami. City leaders need to press for proper urban growth rather than the continued urbanization of lands far from the city core (outside the UDB.) Through urban renewal and a change in the way our communities and buildings are developed (Note: every new building in Miami is being built on some sort of parking garage “pedestal”) we will begin to see more Miami residents depend on Mass Transportation as a way of life…

We hope that was able to shed some light on the real issues which plague Miami. Great Question Tere, keep them coming...
Got a Question for Miami Transit? E-mail us at MoveMiami@gmail.com...

Bus Upgrade Update


  • Miami-Dade County has voted to make the biggest purchase in the transit system's history, opting to buy 300 30ft buses from Optima Bus corp. The contract calls for an option for an additional 300 worth approximately $200 Million for all 600 buses.

Some Quick Facts about the new Opus Buses: (Click Here for a Video)

  • Under 30' Opus single-door accommodates 27 seated passengers (54 passengers total)
  • Front entry ADA fold over ramp
  • Side impact barriers provide a safe and secure riding environment
  • LOWEST emissions in smog causing Nox in its class.
  • Reduced Nox emissions from 4 grams to 2.2 grams (a decrease of 45%)

  • The above diagram is from Atlanta's Hartsfield airport, it is of a People-Mover similar to the one which will be installed at Miami International Airport. We wonder if they too paid $2 Million to "exercise" their mover or if they planned accordingly and didn't rely on an Airline to manage the construction of a new terminal. Something obvious tells us that these trains must be fragile, if they can't be taken off the tracks and into storage for a couple of years before use. In any case, the North terminal project is way behind schedule (Go Figure!) and isn't likely to open to passengers until 2010.
  • Banker Adrienne Arsh donated $1 million to the UM ethics program. Miami Transit would like to take this opportunity to recommend that Joe Martinez and Joe Arriola be the first ones to sign up to take advantage of UM's newly revamped ethics programs...

German Water Bridge

I found this picture to be too fascinating to not share. It is a 1 km water bridge in Magdeburg, Germany; it was completed in October 2003. It cost 500 Million Euros to build and links two vital German Industrial shipping Canals over the River Elbe.

4/18/06

Gridlock!


Miami was the scene of Snicker’s newest citywide ad campaign yesterday because nobody was going anywhere, for awhile (pardon the pun, it was just too easy.) In any case, the closing of Biscayne Boulevard for the past day has provided a great insight as to how fragile Miami's Transportation infrastructure really is. Downtown streets were clogged as the flow of people and goods came to a virtual standstill. The best part, there is no solution in sight and the problem is only bound to get worse. As the city grows and hopes to create a more urban lifestyle, little is being done to address transportation in downtown. Sure buses are being added daily, but this is Miami, people here have yet to warm up to an $800 Million Train dubbed "the White Elephant." Also notice that every new building is rising upon some sort of hideous parking garage pedestal, so with every new downtown resident comes another vehicle and another headache for transportation planners. We are being counter-productive by not changing parking requirements for buildings that are already accessible by Metrorail and Metro Mover in downtown. Downtown residents should warm up to the idea of walking a few blocks to buy groceries, catch Metro Mover or the upcoming Streetcar, or to get to work. A recent Herald article cites a lack of parking at the Miami Performing Arts Center, but hey, wasn't that the point of building it downtown; to establish an urban center to our city where we don't need to rely on our automobiles to get everywhere. Ex: American Airlines Arena, the majority of the fans who take Metrorail to and from the game have a much shorter (and cheaper) commute than the many that paid $25 for a parking spot across the street. Even Lincoln Center in NYC was built with only a few "designated" and handicapped parking spaces, albeit NYC has a very modern transit network, but the Center was built in the 1960s at the height of the suburbanization of American Culture.

Traffic like today’s makes us wish we had never removed the Trolley cars which roamed the streets of Miami and Miami Beach in the 1930's and 1940's (see picture above.)

Food for thought:
The Typical highway can handle approximately 2,300 cars/lane/hour vs. a heavy rail train which can handle approximately 75,000 people/lane/hour...

Tax the Tourists for Transit


Florida Lawmakers are coming up with a great plan to have tourists subsidize mass transportation projects in south Florida by a new $2 per day tax on all rental vehicles. We believe this is a great idea, which will in the end help us all, including the tourist sector. The measure would have to be approved by Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach voters in next November's elections. Approximately $42 million can be raised annually and will be used to gain further federal funding for the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA, which manages Tri-Rail.) Future plans could include a rail link between the three airports, commuter rail along the FEC corridor, or some Light Rail Transit Opportunities.

This is a win-win for all residents. Any of the options listed above would spur vast economic growth along the rail lines. We would see more Transit Oriented Development occur where we need it most and would see a greater amount of our residents relying on public transportation. This sentiment isn't shared by all however, some Broward NIMBY's (not in my backyard) are already challenging measures to bring commuter trains to the FEC corridor. With gas at $3 per gallon, I don't know too many people who would like to sit idling on I-95 for hours everyday, why not consider alternatives people!

The next SFRTA meeting is set for Wednesday night at the Gwen Margolis Community Center in North Miami...

4/13/06

Homeland Deficiencies


There is obviously a huge flaw in the US Immigration system. No, I am not talking about the cheap Mexican labor crisis (Notice that most people only care about who’s going to do the low-wage, menial labor jobs in the US). That being said lets analyze why. Here we have the case of two, hard working, innocent Lithuanian twins. They were raised in the United States and are daughters of criminals recently extradited back to their home country. These two girls have opportunity knocking at their door if they are given the chance to live in the United States (They once called it the ‘Land of Opportunity’ not ‘The Land of Democracy Spreaders’). Instead, the heartless, misgoverned, and irrefragable decisions of the department of homeland security are to ship these girls back to Lithuania for a life of misery and hardship. Ok, maybe we are going to extreme here, but it is a safe assumption that these girls would lead more successful lives in the United States than in Lithuania. Now, here we are trying to pass a bill that may provide millions of undocumented illegal aliens US citizenship, while at the same time are shipping a couple of teenagers off to live in an orphanage. I guess what they are trying to tell us is that if you arrive here illegally, are willing to pick tomatoes for $5 an hour, and we have no clue who the hell you are to begin with, you can stay; but if you are a documented Lithuanian teenager who poses the threat of (__Insert Ironic Threat here__) then you have to go back to an orphanage in Lithuania. We all know how well the Department of Children and Families is operated here in the US, so we can only imagine to what atrocities these girls will be returning to. So much for the so-called justice system…

Image Courtesey of: Jewish World Review

4/11/06

Who Plans our Cities?

We recently took the above photograph on a drive east from Naples on I-75. Amidst the beautiful views of the everglades grass and pristine wildlife (That we erroneously paved a road across in the 1920s to disrupt the flow of water in the Everglades in order to facilitate automobile movement) we come across the very large and disturbing view of the Bank Atlantic Center and rising TAO Condos, just on the water's edge (or swamp, whatever). Honestly, whose bright idea was it to build dense population structures in suburbia on the edge of a pristine sanctuary? Its just bad urban planning...

4/7/06

A step in the right direction

It's good to see the city of Miami, take a giant step forward to help those who need it most by creating a housing assitance program. This is a win-win situation for all South Florida residents. It begins to address the housing situation for lower-wage workers by providing them assistance in purchasing a home or condominium with-in the city of Miami limits. This is intelligent growth, seeing that we need to begin to densify our city in order to accommodate future projected growth. It provides the city with a great way to revitalize neighborhoods with working class citizens. It will also hopefully lead to a greater city wide use of Mass Transportation, seeing their close proximity with the City jobs located in the CBD. We here at Miami Transit, argue that we need to see more affordable housing units rise in the areas that need it most; however, it needs to be done properly. We are seeing too many condo conversions and not enough rental units available for those who need it the most. Through smart Urban renewal, Miami will continue to grow and adapt to the needs of every citizen and will be able to accommodate much more growth in the future...

4/5/06

Back on Track


It seems that South Florida residents are starting to get the hang of taking public transportation and walking to their destinations, however, just not in the way our transit authority would like. Ridership numbers for Metrorail and Metro Mover continue to steadily increase as more South Florida Commuters grow impatient with traffic. Now, we just need to get people from walking on the track when Metro Mover malfunctions and we'll be all set. A walk along a 20+ foot high electrified catwalk doesn't seem like our ideal commute, but at least they got the right idea. Hopefully the new cars one day coming from Bombardier will not have a button that allows riders to control the doors. Thanks to Critical Miami for finding the article. Until then, keep riding...

4/3/06

Tunneling to Success

It appears that the FDOT is finally putting their ideas to a good use, other than the generally useless road expansions we continue to see across South Florida. Useless I say because in the long term this widening constitutes no major changes to the increasingly clogged expressways and streets of Miami. This project on the other hand will actually help reduce congestion where it will soon be needed most, in Miami's core along the new rising scrapers. The Port of Miami Tunnel, will effectively reduce Traffic through our Central Business District (CBD) and will make our city streets cleaner, safer, and more pleasant to walk around. Though major challenges lie ahead, the completion of this project will further improve Miami's status as a world city, able to complete massive Public works and urban infrastructure problems. With proper foresight, the FDOT should also to work on establishing special travel lanes for cargo only along the 836 and 826 to ensure the movement of goods in and out of our port...