5/30/06

Summer Transit Challenge

Well the first responders of the Miami Summer Transit Challenge are in...and, well, the results so far aren't good...
We Present the story of Ryan Garofano, a loyal transit supporter and Miami Transit subscriber. Through his story, and numerous others, the flaws of our transportation infrastructure become very evident. Whats worse, as Ryan experiences, the situation has been compounded by decades of sprawl and decentralization of our city.

Here is his terrible experience:
I had a horrible experience with Miami transit today. Because my car has not been working, I was forced to find alternative means of transportation to get from Coconut Grove to FIU South Campus for 11:00am class this morning. I left my place at about 8:50am and walked 10 minutes to the Coconut Grove metrorail station. I picked up the Northbound train within minutes, and headed to Brickell station where I was going to transfer to the #8 bus westbound to FIU. Well, I waited at Brickell station from about 9:10am to 9:50am and no #8 bus westbound. In that time, three or four eastbound #8 buses passed, but no westbound. Figuring the bus wasn't coming or had broken down, I hopped on the metromover to Government Center station where I could pick up the #11 bus to FIU. From Brickell to Government Center it makes Miami seem like more like Sao Paulo. At one of the stations, the metromover just sat there for a good five minutes. After the mover finally restarted, it came to a near stop again half way to the next station - then restarted so violently that nearly everyone on board was thrown to the floor. Yeah, so I finally arrived at Government center at about 10:07am, and decided to just turn around and go home because the damned bus ride to FIU takes an HOUR one-way (I'm not even going to vent on that issue) and I would've been too late for an hour long class for it to be worth the effort.
Food for thought: How the hell is FIU, Miami-Dade's major public university, not served by at least commuter rail? AND, perhaps more puzzling, why the hell are both FIU campuses located in total suburban sprawl country on opposite sides of the county (leaving the inner city gap empty)? When I moved to Miami for school, I expected to take advantage of a symbiotic relationship between FIU and the CITY of Miami. Not only was that a joke of an idea, but it's not even possible because of where the campuses are set. Another squandered opportunity in Miami - what a surprise, right? Lastly, how would someone traveling westbound on 8th St. west of the 826 expressway even get to a destination on the other side of the street?? There aren't any sidewalks on the right side of the street - just the guardrail and canal. God bless someone trying to cross that section of 8th street, anyway.
Check back later today for further Transit Issues and our comments on Ryan's Personal expedition, the flaws of the transit system, and upcoming news on our new site...

Bling Bling

Amid Miami's recent construction boom, we have failed to take note of how many famous architects have designed projects in our own backyard. From Cesar Pelli's performing arts center to a new performance hall for the New World Symphony on Miami Beach by Frank Gehry. World renown architects are leaving their mark on the Miami Skyline (similar to the 80's when I.M. Pei and Skidmore Owings and Merrill, left there respective buildings; the Bank of America and Wachovia Financial Centers.) Miami based architects have even gained some national attention including Arquitectonica and Chad Oppenheim.

We're doing it big down here in the Magic City. We realize that our building boom isn't just about adding density and urban life to our city, but, about adding substance, culture, and art through new architectural designs. Our skyline will continue to define the 'Magic City' as new and innovative skyscrapers continue to rise (hopefully, in a well planned, organized manner), such as Enrique Norten's Flatiron building pictured above. In Miami, the sky is the limit, well, unless the FAA imposes some new meaningless restrictions on upcoming developments...

5/27/06

There She Blows


Well, it may not be the world's largest ship, but, the USS Mohawk is currently sitting in the Miami River, awaiting (an invitation?) before it is moved to its new home in Bicentennial Park. An article dated 2004, speaks of the ships' recent arrival in Miami. The USS Mohawk and the USS Barney together will sit in Bicentennial Park (One day, when the museums in the bond referendum are actually built) next to the Miami Art Museum and Museum of Science (It will be Miami’s version of the USS Intrepid in NYC.) The Maritime Museum's webpage: http://www.ussmohawk.com/, is currently down, however, we'll keep updating you with the ship's restoration progress.

The USS Barney (has yet to arrive) is a much more impressive ship and has some more ties to South Florida History. It served as part of the blockade of Cuba during the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis...

5/26/06

The Mother of all Boats


It's not possible for us have the World's Largest anything in our backyard and not go check it out for ourselves. We went down to Watson Island (Man, can someone please do something with that wasteland already) to snap some pictures of the current World's Largest Cruise ship, the Freedom of the Seas. Thats one big ship. It dwarfed the other Royal Caribbean ship docked next to it, pretty ridiculous...

New digs for the Homeless

We hate to say it so bluntly, but, this move was long overdue. The relocation of Camillus' House out of the CBD is a wonderful thing. Not, that we have anything against homeless people, in fact, we wish there was more help available to them. Camillus' House should have always been located in the civic center area, near the hospitals and public work facilities that can help turn these peoples' lives around. Lucky for us, Camillus played their cards right by partnering with UM in a large land swap deal that placed many biotech jobs at risk if the move received widespread opposition. Let’s face it, Miami's homeless population lives in deplorable conditions and faces widespread neglect from the community as a whole. Something has to be done to help get these people off the streets. The new facility will contain 340 beds and will better equip Camillus' house in reducing homelessness. In the CBD, this move will allow for city leaders and developers to help "clean-up" local streets which currently house many of the homeless and will further enhance the developments occurring in the area...

Speaking of Moves, Stay Tuned as we begin our move to our new website, look for redirects as early as this weekend...

5/24/06

UM medical, on the rise

The Miami Herald is about 2 weeks late in breaking the news of the new UM Hospital to rise soon in the civic center area. We covered the article about 3 weeks ago and included a beautiful rendering (Pictured above.) In any case here are some highlights of the hospital:
  • Height-14 stories
  • Cost- $460 Million (Approx.)
  • Beds- 144
  • Location- NW 14th st East of 12th Ave
  • Opening- 2010

We think the design is beautiful and as someone pointed out earlier, reminiscent of the Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach. It appears to be a throwback to the Miami Modern (MIMO) era of construction and will be a wonderful addition to the civic center area. Now, if we could only attract more Biotech companies to the area, we'd have a booming medical district...

5/23/06

Unveiling of a true visionary








Well, we just got back from the unveiling of the George E. Merrick Statue in Downtown Coral Gables. The ceremony was pleasant considering it was breezy outside with cloudy skies. We rode the Coral Gables Trolley to the Coral Gables City Hall, which was also a pleasant experience. The Trolley was packed near to capacity of an assortment of students, moms, executives, and people traveling to the unveiling. The Unveiling was anything but perfect (We caught it on video, but its too large to post on youtube.com). We had a great time. The statue was commissioned by the Coral Gables Garden Club (Can't seem to find a web-site for them, but considering all the members appeared to be over 80, it's quite understandable) and was donated today to city officials.

Keep on Tolling


Open Road tolling may be coming to Miami, as the MDX will be deciding on whether to implement the system on the Dolphin, Don Shula, Airport, and Palmetto Expressways. It’s a new technology which has already been installed at the toll-plaza on the Dolphin expressway heading east bound towards Miami. With Open Road Tolling, cars wouldn’t have to slow down or stop to pay the toll. The system works great, and will temporarily relieve some of the traffic congestion that is associated with toll collection. However, we see the implementation of open road tolling as an essential equal to widening of expressways. It’s a good idea and will streamline our expressways, but, citizens shouldn’t be duped into believing that the expressways will flow freely. More space in the end will just equal more cars.

Some quick facts from the MDX website:

  • 400 cars can pass through a manned toll booth per hour
  • 600 cars can pass through an exact change lane per hour
  • 1200 cars can pass through a SunPass dedicated lane per hour
  • 2200 cars can pass through an Open Road Tolling lane per hour
On, the plus side, more tolls would be added to the system, allowing users to pay for what they actually use, rather than existing system which has the toll plazas placed in a few unusual locations where fewer drivers carry the burden of paying the tolls...

5/22/06

Tying up Loose Ends

The City of Bal Harbor residents are seeking to gain greater control of the heights and density of the buildings rising in their community. They are petitioning to get height restrictions imposed in the town (Thinking this will help prevent traffic from increasing.) Granted, fewer or shorter buildings will reduce the density of the tiny city, however, it does little to alleviate their current traffic situation. As we explore the newly created Miami 21 documents, we continue to cover and talk about the issue of height restrictions and where and when it is actually beneficial and practical to implement. But the residents of Bal Harbor should be weary to not completely hinder any further growth from occurring in their community. Also, height restrictions lower than the city's tallest building (Miami Beach) is essentially pointless and detrimental to progressive urban growth, unless it intended to prevent the sight of an iconic structure (For example, St. Louis.)

We're glad to see our readers taking our Transit Challenge seriously. We ran our challenge without knowing about the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority's own challenge in which transit officials raced across the tri-county area on trains and buses to get to downtown Miami.

We will be riding the Coral Gables Trolley tomorrow to city hall to witness the unveiling of the George Merrick Statue. George Merrick, the founder, developer, and architect of Coral Gables was a true visionary who laid the foundation for one of the most well planned cities in South Florida. Its beauty and prestige is a boon to our local society. We think its about time a statue is erected in honor of Merrick...

We'll be writing often in the coming days so visit us again soon...

5/21/06

And we're back...

...Some Might say its about time, but Miami Transit is back up and running after a 10 day hiatus in Northern Spain. We've got plenty of stories to tell and loads of Miami news to catch up on (Since when did net access become so damn expensive, we saw it up to 9 Euros for a single hours worth of use!) We're going to spend some time in the coming days reading up on the Miami 21 updates, the articles about Miami having the worst rated drivers (no, you're kidding, they needed a poll for that?), Commissioner Winton's drunken escapades (Maricon anyone?), more traffic circle news, Miami's impending office boom and the bust of the condo market...

We're also going to prod through the countless digital telegrams sent to us by our loyal readers these past few days and select some questions or experiences to share...Good Times!

5/12/06

Take The Miami Transit Challenge

Miami Transit is proud to present our Summer Transit Challenge.

We challenge our readers to use Public Transportation at least once a week this summer. Whether traveling to/from work, downtown to an event, or even the beach on the weekends, we ask that you make an attempt to make public transportation a part of your weekly routine. We’d like to hear about all your experiences (both positive and negative) so that we can receive better feedback as to what South Florida residents feel could be done to improve our transit network.

Traffic Circles


A relatively new character appearing in many of our daily commutes in South Florida is the Traffic Circle. Today, we will discuss the advantages of such traffic calming devices and how their widespread implementation can be so useful.

The idea for this topic came about because of the many traffic circles already in use or under construction in the Coral Gables and the Roads neighborhoods. They serve many advantageous purposes and when placed in effective locations can provide some or all of the following benefits:

  • Shorter commute times
  • Improved Traffic flow through neighborhoods
  • Lower installation/operation/maintenance costs than typical stoplight intersections
  • Save fuel
  • Reduce accidents
  • Enhance and beautify communities
  • Improve pedestrian traffic

With fewer stop signs and traffic signals, commuters travel time is decreased significantly while also reducing the demanding fuel consumption of stop and go traffic flow patterns. They reduce accidents by forcing traffic to slow down to more manageable speeds and increase driver awareness. A study by the NTSB, found that traffic circles reduced all accidents at intersections by 39% and serious accidents by 79%.

This is a beautiful Photograph taken by a good friend of Miami Transit, James Good. James' pictures will be appearing on Miami Transit every so often to give us aerial updates of the growth progress in downtown Miami. He regularly flies his model airplane downtown...

5/8/06

Let there be Art


Miami Beach is making a strong push to further its reputation in the global art community. The city commission recently approved the implementation and design of a giant marble slab (see photo above) in South Pointe Park, by artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle. The marble slab itself will be designed to imitate an iceberg. Ironic? Yes. A big white canvas for thugs to spray paint on? Also, a resounding yes. We image the arctic artwork featuring the latest 305 tagging as well as several “(some dumbass) was here…” inscription; which is exactly what the Miami Beach officials sought to avoid. However, the new attempts of displaying prominent works of public art will do little for Miami Beach resident/artist/designer Marc Ecko who wishes to be able to display his artistic graffiti on the walls of his area home (From Critical Miami.)

While giant arctic rocks have won recent board approval, the Art in Public Places committee is beginning its’ search for artists to paint over the city sewer manhole covers. We somehow get the idea that placing art in the middle of the busiest area streets isn’t the brightest idea, seeing that a few curious (and oblivious) souls will venture out in traffic to catch a glimpse of the designs.

Jorge Perez's Take on Miami's Growth

Great Article from the herald by Miami Mega Developer Jorge Perez:

Jorge seems to have some of the same opinions as Miami Transit. Here are some key excerpts as to what our city needs to work on to continue to boom as it has in recent years. We agree with Perez's assessment of the situation and are glad that the developers realize that they too have to work hand in hand with government officials to make Miami a more accessible place for all of us to live in.
So, what can go wrong when everything seems to be falling in place?

• Despite the huge surge of residential and hotel construction in the past few years, economic development has lagged way behind in attracting medium and large corporations that will lead to an expansion of the downtown office market. And without strong growth in downtown office employment there will be little need for further downtown housing, unless we become a city of second homeowners and tourists.
• We need to seriously invest in our public-transportation systems. It is imperative that we minimize our every-day dependence on the automobile and provide viable linkages between urban nodes. This will again require public-sector vision and strong political will.
• Cities will become the place where the very rich and a few of the very poor will live. Today, we see only condominiums that start at more than $300,000 (and those are fast disappearing). Rental housing in the urban core has almost ceased to exist as it is highly uneconomic to build rental properties, and existing rental buildings are either being torn down or converted into condominiums. With land scarcity and increasing construction costs, housing affordability could become our most pressing problem.

So, while I am very concerned with the oversupply and reduced housing demand that we are experiencing, I believe that urban job growth, transportation and affordable housing are the three issues that will affect our city most over the long run. I hope, as in the recent past, that the private and public sectors can team up to
aggressively address these issues.

-Jorge Perez

5/3/06

Dream of Fields



The Florida Marlins might be a step closer to securing a $60 Million tax break from the Florida Legislature. Local Florida Senate Republicans helped push the measure which would help close the funding gap and would facilitate keeping the Marlins in Miami (Hialeah, whatever.)
All seems well on the outside, until you start to analyze the possible location of the new Marlin's Stadium. It's on the edge of civilization, between the man-made lakes and the Everglades; on developer Armando Codina's newly acquired (and now inside the UDB) land (how convenient.) In other words, this will be South Florida's second suburban stadium designed for sports that have always been considered Urban games (Office Depot Center, being the first.) Umm, bad idea. If you build it, they will not necessarily come, not if the have to drive 30+ minutes in bumper to bumper, rush hour traffic every evening. This location continues to emphasize what MiamiTransit has spoken about in the past; the continued decentralization of Miami and South Florida. Its bad Urban Planning, plain and simple and we need to put an end to it. There are plenty of suitable locations where underutilized land can be used more efficiently to build the Marlins a new home (Orange Bowl, Miami Arena site, Flagler Dog Track site, Midtown Miami, Overtown, etc.) Plus, these sites would already have the necessary infrastructure to support such a facility and are likely to be near one of the upcoming mass transit projects in the county. Let’s look at the long-term solution rather than the quick fix and let’s plan the solution that will satisfy our community's needs first...

5/2/06

Tax the Tourists for Transit (Part II)

Legislators are a step closer to placing an additional $2 per day tax on the upcoming election ballot. The proposal, would double the tax collected per day for rental cars rented in Florida. The counties which approve the rate hike would then see a greater return per rental in their county, a figure estimated at over $100 Million annually for the entire state if ratified in every county.

This is a win-win for the Florida citizens. We reap greater benefits while not causing a greater tax burden on ourselves and use the proceeds to help rebuild our crippled transportation infrastructure. We see no reason why anyone would be against a measure that would help spur growth in our communities by further capitalizing on the booming tourist industry. Heck, Disney isn’t going anywhere and neither are our beaches which gives us all the more reason to further profit from our visitors. Not all legislators see the great opportunity the tax hike can provide, saying:

''The power to tax is the power to destroy…''
-state Rep. Randy Johnson
Ok, Patrick Henry, take it easy on the prophetic taxation ideology. Tourism already provides a huge economic boost to our economy. A greater taxation on the services used by tourists would allow us to further enhance the mobility options for tourists in our cities. May it be a rail line in South Florida or a quaint trolley line in a lazy beach retirement town, the money collected will benefit all who are required to drive in our state…

5/1/06

A View Back in Time


Amidst the unprecedented building boom we are currently experiencing, one is left wondering what our beautiful urban paradise looked like while undergoing its first major growing pains. The Magic City, as we became to be known, sprung suddenly out of the ground from a sleepy laid back town. The vibrant growth came quickly and fiercely transformed Miami into the tropical metropolis we currently know it as. We did some research to see what and how Miami's first major building boom may have looked like in the 1920s. The above photograph, taken in 1925, shows an emerging and soon to be bustling business district. The iconic freedom tower already graces our skyline, while in the foreground we can catch a glimpse of our former courthouse...