8/31/06

Midtown Madness Part 2

I’d like to thank those of you who took some time out of your day to participate in today’s column. As always, I encourage everyone to participate (even if you disagree with me) in all the subjects we discuss here on Transit Miami. If you have any questions, comments, or story ideas please feel free to contact me at MoveMiami@gmail.com...

2222 Biscayne, a suburban designed building, in the new urban heart of our city center. A terribly planned building for any situation and a nightmare for all South Florida residents, this building epitomizes the mess that is occurring in South Florida. Let’s begin with the rosy depiction of the “artsy like” building. Anyone else notice something conspicuously missing from the streets of Miami? Like Traffic. Lots of it too. In fact, there are actually only seven cars in the whole aerial along with the bus on tracks in the lower right hand corner. Why is this significant? Well because it appears to misrepresent the impact this building will have on the local community and all of South Florida as a whole. I’ll touch up on this in a second.

Next up; the actual building. Something about it just isn’t shaping up here with me (and no it isn’t the actual height of the building either) perhaps it’s the mammoth parking garage the building sits upon. No no, that artistic throwback Bacardi camouflage won’t fool me; I still see a parking garage, a mighty big one at that. Four parking spaces per ever thousand squared feet of rentable space. Given that it’s a 450,000 square foot office building…that equates to 1,800 parking spaces. That’s 1,800 cars which will likely travel with only one occupant every weekday down I-95, along the 836, or through your very backyard. They may even travel from as far as a new development outside the UDB and arrive to work everyday wondering why Miami traffic is such a disaster. That’s beside the point, but, I should also note that the developer has gone out of their way to market the fact that they have doubled the parking requirement for the building…It’s actually considered a selling point…

Now, we’ve got to open our eyes here and smell the coffee. This building is slated to rise about the same time that the City of Miami will be done spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build a streetcar that runs along NE 2nd Avenue (It’s the street to the right where the red bus thing is located.) It is also just one block away from the FEC corridor which may be seeing commuter passenger travel just as soon. How is it then that these modes of transportation were not taken into account when the building was designed? How is it that we are continuing to build our city so poorly? Yes, we’ve finally gotten the right idea about urban growth in our city’s core, but why are allowing ridiculous parking requirements to further jeopardize the quality of life? My usual rhetoric? Yes, but how will anyone get to this building if all of our roads are already over capacity? It’s likely that the developer hasn’t taken this into account or simply doesn’t care. Perhaps the traffic impact analysis is coming back saying that everything is A-OK when it clearly is not…

In addition to failing to take into account the Miami streetcar properly, the building continues to personify what makes using public transit so difficult to begin with. Take the non shaded sidewalks as an example. How would you like to walk in the heat or rain along that sidewalk on your way to the streetcar? While we rethink our daily commuting habits, we need to start planning our buildings to incorporate a new urban way of life; otherwise the daily ridership of the streetcar will be as lackluster as metrorail once was while the tempers along the interstates will be higher than ever…

Oh, by the way, the building is advertised as being located in the "Midtown Financial District." I guess there must be a bank nearby or something...

8/30/06

Midtown Madness Part 1



Ok, so we are going to switch gears today and we're going to get a little bit interactive. I'd like you all to study the above picture and tell me what you see wrong with it. Believe me, there are numerous issues with this building, 2222 Biscayne, an office building slated to rise in Miami's Midtown District. Have fun with it and point out as many flaws as possible, I'll be back this afternoon to speak about this and see what everyone has to say...

8/29/06

Ernie Schmernie

As hurricane Ernesto approaches with some of the most miniscule winds a tropical cyclone could offer, frenzy ensues in South Florida with the typical last minute preparations. It never ceases to amaze me at how many people are always caught "off guard" when a hurricane is approaching. We live in Florida for god sakes not Nebraska; you'd think people would be better prepared for this sort of annual ritual. Ernesto may not be anything to worry about when it comes to the sturdiness of your house but I just hope it blows away most of the political eyesores stuck to the chain link fences of your nearest failed affordable housing project...

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8/28/06

Riff Raff Rivero

Heck, I hope it doesn’t come as a surprise to any of you, but, scam master Oscar Rivero is today’s Monday Moron. It just so happens that he’s had this award coming for quite sometime, however, in doing some preliminary background research on him through google and Miami-Dade property records a few weeks ago, I lacked some of the solid evidence presented in the recent herald article and thus did not want to make any "unjust" accusations. />

In the affordable housing circus, Rivero is the ring leader and star. He duped us out of over a Million dollars and yet only managed to build us, well, nothing. All we’re left with is a half constructed multi million dollar house he is building for himself in South Miami Coral Gables some swath of land between the two cities. Although I am glad he’s finally locked up, I can’t help but worry about the additional expenses taxpayers will face as we now have to pay for his housing at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center as well. It’s like a double whammy with this guy.
Prosecutors charged Rivero, a 36-year-old lawyer and civic leader, with two first-degree felonies: grand theft and committing an organized scheme to defraud. If convicted, he would serve a minimum of 21 months in state prison.

Civic leader? Perhaps I am using the wrong definition of what a civic leader is, but, I typically don’t think that a thief and con artist could possibly qualify as one, but, then again this is Miami-Dade County; a place where we usually let inmates run the asylum to begin with. Speaking of inmates, does anyone else think that 21 months seems a little to short considering how many lives he impacted?
Rivero's attorney, Lilly Ann Sanchez, said in a written statement, ``Mr. Rivero is an outstanding member of the community whose hard work earned him the respect of his peers, the public and even Florida's governor.''
I figured since lawyers get to write all these fun, made-up statements, I would compound the story a little too: Then, he decided to get the respect he worked so hard to attain and decided to use it as a litter box for his cat, McClatchy. Hence, allowing McClatchy to urine all over his hard work, credibility, and legitimate business. Hey, look at that, making stuff up is fun…
Sanchez added that Rivero has so far returned $1.5 million of the public's money, including the money that was supposed to go to the Little Havana affordable housing project. Prosecutors, however, say the return of public money does not absolve fraudulent acts.
I assume his role model is Juwan Howard; the basketball player who stole some glasses in Miami Beach recently and offered to pay for them after the fact. I wonder if we can get the $10,000-$49,999 he donated to UM, assuming that it was our money too…
Rivero spent Saturday night in jail and is expected to spend tonight there as well. He is scheduled to appear before a judge Monday morning for a bail hearing.
Look, considering that the judge is requiring him to prove that the money used to post $1 million bail was not obtained fraudulently, I don’t think he’s going to be getting out of there anytime soon…

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8/24/06

The Widening Gap

The shortage of middle income housing and jobs in South Florida is kind of like the big elephant sitting in the corner of the room; nobody wants to address the situation. I’ve summed up my thoughts on the situation below, but, I am sure that I did not cover everything as detailed as I would have liked to or I likely missed some key points. />

I blame the disappearance and migration of the middle class on two main points- education and urban planning. Bold? Yes. But, I have come to realize that many of our issues boil down to the education available in the immediate area. See, the South Florida higher education system is weak at best. Now, I am not at all ragging on the individual schools, but rather the amount of them both public and private available in the area. The lack of a solid and large education structure deters many mid-level jobs from coming to our area. Large companies tend to stay away from our region as well because of the difficulty they face in staffing their company with educated individuals. A large concentration of educational and research facilities will be a further draw to our region and will provide us with a steadier stream of educated minds rather than the immigration influx we have been surviving on until now. />

UM is already a major economic engine for our community. They have recently stated plans to create a biotech research center in the heart of the health district. I’ve seen this successful model elsewhere (Cambridge, Ma. around the MIT campus) where large biotech companies have set up shop around the campus area to take advantage of the fresh minds the universities are putting out. Many biotech companies have been relocating to the state recently, however, it seems that our government officials have done little to nothing to try and entice them to move into the health district. There isn’t much in renaming the district if we aren’t going to try and use it to our advantage… />

The second major cause of the sudden collapse of the middle class is attributed to the lack of urban planning and alternative means of transportation (What a surprise!) Seriously, the American dream is for everyone to live in a 3+ bedroom house with a spacious backyard and a garage large enough to hold an army tank. This mentality induced sprawl and has yet to change especially here in Florida. People have not adjusted to the urban lives that are experienced elsewhere (NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Toronto, Heck even Houston and Atlanta.) There is an inherent refusal on the part of Floridians to give up the sprawling half acre homes for a denser life more suitable for a metropolis like Miami. With a denser community we may have seen better planning for public transit and better traffic situations. Traffic is after all, one of the main frustrations atop of all South Floridian’s lists of pet peeves. The amount of congestion we face in the coming future will continue to degrade our quality of life, leaving Miami a city for the extremely wealthy seasonal visitor or for the service individuals of the low wage echelons...

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8/23/06

Ryan's Take on the PTP

I have come to the conclusion that blogging while moving is a very difficult task to achieve, but, now that I have settled in the blogs will start flowing regularly once again. The following piece was written by Ryan who contributes to TransitMiami fairly often. It has a similar theme to an article I have been working on and will post soon to provide some contrasting opinions on the PTP subject matter. Enjoy!
Hello Miami. Well, I thought now would be a good time to get a visual of Miami-Dade County’s mass transit upgrades provided that the main projects that have been proposed are completed. Since the People’s Transportation Plan and subsequent half cent sales tax was passed in 2002 to fund new transit projects, there have been many colorful maps illustrating what the County would look like with all the wonderful new lines built. Unfortunately, after four years of mismanagement, debt, corruption, and poor planning the original master plan for rail projects to be built through 2025 now isn’t much more than a fantasy.

So after I scribbled all over a Google earth image of Miami-Dade I realized how screwed up future system will look. What an illogical mess. Here are a few of the conclusions I’ve come to:

1) More than half of the updated system will essentially be commuter rail. Obviously you have Tri-Rail, but then the North extension of the metrorail largely traverses the suburban industrialized no-man’s land on the northern end of 27th avenue. It’s better than nothing, sure, but it shouldn’t be prioritized ahead of more logical inner city alternatives. Also, the East-West extension to FIU is looking nearly as ugly. Less than half of that line will run though city neighborhoods like Flagami (provided Flagami NIMBYs don’t get their way) while the remained will run in more suburban areas west of the Palmetto and terminate way out at the turnpike where stations in the vicinity will serve largely as park n’ ride. Park n’ ride? That, my friends, is a staple of commuter rail. In summary, the only wholly inner-city rail extension appears to be the Miami Streetcar project, which hasn’t even secured any funding yet.

2) What’s the deal with skipping over Little Havana? It’s arguably the largest highly urbanized neighborhood in the entire state of Florida. Apparently, though, it’s not good enough for quality mass transit. Forget about the proximity to downtown, not good enough. Forget about it being perhaps Miami’s most organic neighborhood, still not good enough. Forget about Calle Ocho being one of the most famous streets in South Florida, the tourism, the critical mass of working class residents, or the strong pedestrian presence…not good enough. It seems ludicrous to me that Calle Ocho or Flagler Street have not even been considered for streetcars. In my opinion this corridor is without question the most deserving of a streetcar in all of Miami-Dade County. It wouldn’t even be likely to cause a major traffic problem because both Flagler and Calle Ocho are one-way streets.

3) Talk about fragmented; if I live in South Miami and attend FIU, I’d have to go the complete opposite direction all the way to downtown first, then way north of FIU to the airport before I arrived in West Miami-Dade. This trip will likely take 45 to 60 minutes, which is just outrageous considering it’s only a few miles between South Miami and FIU.

4) We have to get Miami Beach connected to the mainland. We can’t wait another 10 years before we even evaluate BayLink again. Quite frankly, not having a connection between downtown Miami and South Beach is just unacceptable. These are two of the most urbanized areas in the entire Southeastern United States. These are the economic engines of Miami-Dade and to a large extent, South Florida. I could write the entire report for advocating this rail transit connection. This is the South Florida version of not having a connection between Manhattan and Brooklyn or Queens. Just the idea alone is unfathomable for anyone with any recollection of New York whatsoever. It shouldn’t be any different here.

Bottom line, despite the recent developments with Tri-Rail and the Miami Streetcar, we cannot be complacent. We must continue to put pressure on local officials in charge of our collective future. We need to hold our elected officials accountable and we can start by taking to the polls this fall.

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8/21/06

Dumb Growth

Although the title may have proved comical to many of you, I have decided to change the weekly feature to Moronic Mondays. I did this after some consideration that the weekly column could offend some readers and portray a much unintended hateful message. In any case, Moronic Mondays still provides a humorous outlook on the not so humorous blunders and deficiencies of our current politicians and government entities.

The Moron of the day is Steve Sapp. Sapp is vying to unseat Katy Sorenson in the race to become the district 8 commissioner yet again after failing in a 1998 effort as well. I figured any opinion I could create on person who running against Katy Sorenson would be very biased, so, instead I based today’s article on some key comments made by Sapp recently. Let’s analyze this excerpt from Sunday’s Herald:
Sapp also challenges Sorenson's drive to revamp development along South Dixie Highway, where eight historically underdeveloped areas are to be transformed into pedestrian-friendly, mixed-development town centers.

Sapp, a former president of the Dade County Farm Bureau who owns an agricultural firm, says the plans ``don't fit with the type of life people want to lead in this community.''

''People like to drive. They like to be spread out,'' he said, adding that he believes a cluster of development along the South Dixie Highway corridor will only add to congestion in the area.

Sorenson argues that mixed-use development on existing transit corridors makes more sense than suburban sprawl.
Pure genius Sapp. Yes, people love to lead lives sitting in their oversized SUVs burning gas at $3.00 a gallon while idling in traffic on their daily commutes. This is the ideal life we all sought to live and is by no means the reason why the middle class is beginning to disappear from South Florida. Sapp, it appears that you are living in the 1950s, when sprawl was chic and the automobile was a novelty item in many homes. The Herald even went so far as to mention that the areas we “underdeveloped,” as in dire need of attention, residents, and new growth. See New Urbanism, again. When will this backwards mentality finally change?
“Bao and Sapp say they would approve moving the UDB but only if issues such as traffic congestion and school overcrowding are addressed.”
Addressed, how? Are they planning on adding some lanes to something? Is this the viable solution that will convince you to approve the project if you were commissioner? Or are they going to build us a magical subway line through all of South Dade. But why stop at traffic and school analysis? Our electrical grid, water sources, police, fire, and health coverage will also be just as depleted…

Bottom Line, Katy has the right idea. The best we can do for South Dade is begin to centralize the new communities in the area and give them their own character. We need to create density along US-1 to emphasize the need for South Link and justify the costs of creating a public transportation network. Pinecrest’s moves to minimize density along their portion of the corridor is a detriment to not only the city but also all citizens of Miami-Dade County who will never be able to benefit from the full capability of the corridor due to these anti urban growth ordinances…


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8/17/06

Odds N' Ends and More to come



  • This is the latest photo from photographer James Good’s collection. I try to feature James as regularly as I can because many of his photographs are simply stunning.

  • An article in today’s MiamiSunpost speaks of the intricate challenges that face the Miami Beach Alliance for Reliable Transportation committee (ART.) ART is similar to the United Citizens for South Link (UCSL) committee which I am a member of in the sense that they are both organizations of citizens looking to advance public transportation in their given areas. ART faces some of the same challenges as UCSL due to poor public involvement on the part of the local citizens. Later today, I will write about the past UCSL meeting in which I had the opportunity to sit down with State Representative Julio Robaina (he’s on the Transportation committee in Tallahassee) and ask him a few questions one on one.

  • There are some new blogs being featured on my sidebar, so make sure you check some of them out. Plus I deleted some of the dead ones including the Diary of the SF Commuter BS...

  • Rick also sees a mental lapse over at MIA.


  • I will also soon cover the developments in Coconut Grove in a partial response to some recent discussions going on over at the Coconut Grapevine. I typically accuse the Grapevine and Grove residents of being too NIMBYish, however, I often see the validity behind a small portion of their concerns. In any case, I won’t be attacking them in any way; just looking to start a discussion on some possible alternatives for their area…

  • Julie, thanks for the question, I've been meaning to discuss that issue also. It's on my ever growing to-do list, but, I'll get to it this week since you asked...
Stay Tuned…

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Lets Talk about Krome/Insurance

Like I said earlier, I spent the better part of my Saturday morning at the United Citizens for South Link meeting hammering out some issues with the Florida Department of Transportation, Cutler Bay city officials, and State Representative Julio Robaina. The topic of conversation was the proposed expansion of Krome Avenue. The various reasons officials have given to widen Krome Avenue vary greatly from the ridiculous to the extremely ridiculous. Safety along the avenue is a big concern for the DOT, which, I don’t deny; however, as UCSL pointed out, the safety concerns are not tied to the size of the road but rather its initial design. Some also claim it could be used as an alternate route to access Monroe County or as I see it a very good route for people who want to avoid paying the tolls along the turnpike.

The current DOT model favors a four lane road, yet traffic increases and patterns suggest that this configuration would probably be clogged by the time construction is complete (what a surprise!) This is where I began to raise some interesting points, most notably, if the two lane road isn’t “enough” to satisfy growing traffic needs, or the four lane road isn’t “enough,” or the six or eight or twenty lane road, when will someone stand up and say that widening simply isn’t effective? When and who will be progressive enough to put a stop to the hapless widening and divert the money elsewhere. Well, as it turns out if the money earmarked for Krome isn’t used on Krome it goes to another county for yet another widening project. Looks like the government has safeguards against smart policy…

Representative Robaina understands my concerns and agrees with the basis of my argument that in the end what we suffer from most is a lack of vision or Urban Planning. We both believe that the expansion of Krome will lead to the expansion of the UDB due to the added capacity, something we both stand against. In the end, there is no “easy” solution for Krome, yet the DOT has to figure out a plan for the blighted road.

Believe it or not, there is a lot riding on this road (no pun intended) for all of us. It will determine where future growth will occur; whether we will continue to deplete our land and water resources to the west or learn from our mistakes, take a stand, and change the way we originally built our city. Welcome to New Urbanism…

State Representative Julio Robaina is one of those exceptional politicians that I have met who has an honest and good natured characteristic about him. He is the only representative who is currently standing up against insurance companies to fight for better coverage and policy. He is hosting an “Idearaiser” (creative) this Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm at the Coral Gables High School Auditorium. It seems like a great event for all citizens to go out and state possible ideas to insurers and policy makers alike…


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8/16/06

Transit Updates

  • Broward’s Transit Tax has hit a little bit of a snare in the county commission as they decided against spending $750,000 public dollars to promote the tax to citizens. A foolishly bold move to keep citizens in the dark as to what the whole penny increase would actually fund. The commission needs to educate voters about the tax to provide them with enough information to make educated decisions before they vote. They also batted down some of the colorful wording that was going to be used to describe the tax on the November ballots. It appears that the county commission is attempting to foil the transit plans and further increase the congestion on Broward’s streets.
  • Miami-Dade transit officials are getting the ball rolling quickly on and extension of Tri-Rail into southern Dade County. Now that the state will control the dispatch and scheduling of trains along the 72 mile corridor, Tri-rail hopes to extend service into the most congested parts of Kendall and Homestead. Transit officials are looking to host a “demonstration day” where passenger diesel multiple units (DMU) will run along the southern extension from the Metrorail connection through Kendall, past Tamiami airport onto land outside of the UDB, and down into Homestead. If anyone finds out when the demo day is, please let me know so that I can try to attend…
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8/14/06

Cribs: The Henry Flagler Edition

I spent the latter part of the weekend learning about the founding father of Florida firsthand. To understand Florida more clearly, I figured it would be best to try and learn as much as possible about Henry Flagler; the visionary millionaire who first made Florida accessible to the masses. /> Flagler was more than the oil and railroad magnate who laid the FEC railroad tracks and created various iconic resorts (including the former Royal Palm Hotel in our very own Fort Dallas.) Flagler was a visionary and an extremely generous businessman which selflessly donated greatly throughout all of his endeavors in Florida. Flagler in fact had so much to do with the creation of Miami that its inhabitants at the time tried to name the city ‘Flagler’ in his honor. Henry Flagler not only created a basic foundation for many of our South Florida cities but also created basic a infrastructure for the entire state which included his prized railroad, power supply (FPL), water treatment facilities, and several schools and churches in every community where his train traveled. /> Palm Beach, we can find one of the largest houses constructed during the magnificent gilded age. Whitehall was Flagler’s winter residence here in Florida and was no less extravagant than some palaces I’ve visited in Europe. Whitehall should be a must visit for all South Florida residents to better understand our history and creation. The 60,000 square foot palatial residence was built as a wedding gift for his third wife, Mary Lilly in 1902. The Gilded Age was a time in America where several entrepreneurial business owners amassed sums of money which was previously unheard of. /> Gilded Age was a very prosperous time for all. It was a time of progress and great industrial and technological advances. Whitehall was constructed as not only a beautiful residence but also a venue for Flagler to host other elite socialites to discuss art, literature, and cultural events. Whitehall nearly met a premature death in the 1920's when the property was sold to developers who constructed a horrendous hotel behind the house and nearly once again in the 1950's with the demise of the Hotel.

I highly recommend that everyone experience the grandeur of the wealthiest citizens of the late 19th century by visiting Whitehall, Vizcaya, or Ca D' Zan. I will soon touch on some of the contributions of Flagler in the Miami area and what his foundation means to us today...

To see more of my photographs, visit my newly created Flickr Page...

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8/9/06

Cut down the Stripper Pole Palm!



Driving around this afternoon, I found a palm which nearly impeded my view of one of those wonderful billboards this new law will protect. I was worried for a second that the palm may cover up the phone number for this fine South Florida establishment or at least the semi erotic, neon, oscar-like statues...

Folks, this is a serious issue that we shouldn't take lightly. I implore everyone to pass out the petition to attempt to repeal this blatantly stupid special interest law...

Special Thanks to Rick, for already trying to spread the word...

Perfecting the Florida Landscape

Speaking of Moral issues, on June 20th, 2006 our local government sold out to big business, again. Governor Jeb Bush signed a bill into law that would protect the sightlines of the 13,700 billboard located within the state. By protecting their sightlines, I mean, it will enable billboard companies to cut down all trees which happen to grow in the path of their visually assaulting signs, without compensating (Public) property owners. So, in short, a municipality can spend millions of dollars to beautify a median with oaks or royal palms only to have those trees chopped down by Viacom or Clear Channel or any other media giant who owns a billboard and feels that the trees have grown to a point where they obstruct their signs without compensating the municipality for the trees.
“In passing House Bill 273, the Legislature sought to correct two ongoing problems that interfered with a billboard's visibility from passing motorists. First, the view of many billboards became obstructed over time as the result of roadway beautification efforts where trees and vegetation were planted in public rights of way.”
I fail to see how this was a problem, the whole point of the beautification was to remove the view of the advertisements. Think of the trees as our TIVO for billboards…

Please join the effort to place an amendment to the Florida constitution on the ballot in the general election.

Fun facts:
-Florida is 1st in the Nation for Number of Billboard Structures on Federal-Aid Highways
-20,711 Billboard structures
-Florida is 3rd in the Nation for Number of Billboard Structures per Federal
-Aid Highway mile. We have 21.8 billboard advertisements per 10 Federal-Aid Highway miles
-30% (5, 978) of Florida Billboards Violate HBA standards





Technorati Tags: Florida, Billboards, Traffic

8/8/06

Back on Track

  • It’s nice to be back online. I hate ignoring my cyber audience, even if it is on a temporary basis. Much has happened during my brief absence, so I created this overview to wrap up some thoughts…
  • I've cleared up my issues with Miamista, though we realized in the end it was all one misunderstanding. He had some kind words to say and confused my name for Gael Garcia Bernal...Its all good...
  • Had there been a Maricon Monday award today, our definite winner would have been none other than Senator Mel Martinez, the oil sellout himself. Now, some of you may accuse me of picking on republicans in my weekly installment, however, they are the majority right now with spotlights cast upon their every move. I’m sure if and when we see a change in power; we’ll see some admirable democrats win the prize. Now, back to Martinez and the ridiculous extent he will go to, to keep the politics as bi-partisan as possible. There’s no other way to say it but; he backs Katherine Harris up in her bid to unseat Bill Nelson. The Governor, the President, and even the Republican Party turned their backs on her, in May! Her staff has absolutely no confidence in her ability and campaign scandals continually surface, yet, Martinez still thinks she’s fit to represent us…
  • Broward is looking to create an East-West LRT to begin to unify the public transit in their sprawled out county. Some are calling for a BRT to be implemented instead, which, I hate to say it will do absolutely nothing but run some empty buses east-west. The LRT is a long shot, considering there currently isn't a funding plan. By placing it on its own right-of-way, it will enable the train to traverse the 21 mile section rather quickly, taking passengers from the Everglades Office Depot Center to the Airport. I’ll keep an eye on this for any updates…
  • I’ve received quite a few e-mails from urban planners and readers alike asking me what I think about the planned FEC corridor. Though, I’ve always intended to get around and write about it, I never have, until now that is. Running trains along the more easterly FEC corridor is a good idea, but not a brilliant one. Now, it’s a good idea that should have always been pursued much more aggressively by legislators because it is the route that runs closest to the three primary city centers and has the best chance to actually improve daily commutes. It’s not a brilliant one because it’s at least twenty years too late. Now, it shouldn’t give us any reason to celebrate or laud a lame-duck governor who just now in his final year in office is looking to exit with a bang; by becoming the governor who sliced a couple of last minute deals with the SEC and FECI. No way, not now, it’s eight years too late for him to begin that legacy. The FEC corridor has been for too long been the obvious choice for improving our local mass transit. It runs fairly close to the SEC tracks in much of Palm Beach and Broward counties; however, it runs through city centers and much closer to major passenger destinations like seaports and airports. In Miami-Dade the two routes take completely different routes with the SEC heading westward to MIA and probably enough out of the way to discourage enough people to not ride. The FEC proposed southern terminus would be in downtown Miami, likely somewhere near the freedom tower or Miami arena, precisely where our central transfer station (MIC) should be…
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8/7/06

Murphy's Law

If there is one law that I can always hold to be correct, this would be it. It appears that my blogging software has decided to act up at the most inappropriate time; when transit related news abounds. I have picture to show (see below) which won't appear, articles to write on the FEC tracks, and people to bestow the honorary maricon Monday award upon...

I will be back online soon folks, do not lose hope. Some major changes will be occurring here behind the scenes soon as I make a final switch to type pad software which (from what I've heard/read) is one of the most reliable blogging tools. Some happy blogging should be on its way...

Oh, by the way there is an Alliance for Reliable Transport meeting tonight on Miami Beach. Follow their link on the left for more info... I'm going to try to attend, depending on how the rest of the day turns out...


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8/4/06

The Right Price

The following article was written by Ryan, The Sprawl Hater, as a contribution to my guest columns section. I hope this one stirs up some serious conversation about an idea I also proposed a while back on consolidating our regional transit agencies into one. I'm heading away for yet another one of my weekend getaways, I'll be back Sunday evening to add some of my own thoughts. Until then, Enjoy...
How’s it going, Miami? It’s The Sprawl Hater back to spread the good news and offer some fresh perspectives. Well, it turns out that “high” prices at the pump have an upside after all. APTA, the American Public Transit Association, has recently reported a 4.25% increase in transit ridership nationwide for the first quarter of 2006. According to APTA officials, the increase in ridership has a strong correlation with rising gasoline prices, which are approaching the record high of $3.057/gallon in the wake of Hurricane Katrina last year. Perhaps Thomas Friedman wasn’t so crazy when he said that the sooner we get to $100/barrel oil, the sooner Americans will change their consumption habits.

*Noteworthy Transit Aside: APTA estimates that U.S. riders of public transit help save the county 855 million gallons of gasoline per year!

Moreover, nearly every metropolitan area in the U.S. has set forth initiatives to expand their mass transit services. Although this is good news nationally, it means less federal dollars will be available to help fund local projects here in South Florida. My suggestion: Miami-Dade Transit, MDX (Miami-Dade Expressway), and SFRTA (South Florida Regional Transportation Authority - the group that runs Tri-Rail) need to form a partnership similar to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City, which would not only handle public transportation, but also tolls for bridges and expressways. I know this can be a parsimonious town, but seriously tolls here are pretty modest when compared to some of the major Northeastern cities. If tolls were raised to $3.00 - $3.50 in certain locations, there would be a ton of extra revenue leftover after road maintenance to help fund/expedite the expansion of our local and regional transit systems. If 100,000 cars per day passed through the new tolls at $3.50 a pop, that’s an extra $200,000 per day and as much as $70 million in additional revenues annually. I know this suggestion probably sounds radical to many South Floridians, but we’ve got to find a way to be more sustainable and less dependent on oil. This is especially important considering the University of Florida estimates an additional 1.8 million residents will reside in South Florida by 2020. This means that even with good urban planning (isn’t likely if history has told us anything) congestion is expected to triple over the next 15 years.

Scary.

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8/3/06

The REAL Issues of the Cuba Fiasco

It appears that e v e r y b o d y is busy writing and talking about Cuba lately; something that has nothing to do with Transit or development, most would think. However, the past few days have led me to some more stark realizations about our city: we severely lack a large, central, public location where people can come together to show their solidarity for any subject or reason. Just look at the focal point of this week’s celebrations: the parking lot of the Versailles Restaurant in little Havana. Good food, no doubt, but a parking lot? That’s the best we could come up with? I find it quite fitting considering our lives down here tend to revolve around the automobile and Cuba more than anything else, why not just combine the two. /> Union Square. No Champs Elysees. No Trafalgar Square. Nada! Celebrations instead are relegated to makeshift parades down bird road or awkwardly placed on the steps of the AA Arena. Even the Stephen P. Clark center with its near Brutalist appearance, abundant concrete area, and central train station lacks a common place where thousands could gather for celebrations, rallies, or protests (proves to be very beneficial for those on the county commission.) Heck, even the catastrophic and ridiculously hideous Boston City hall serves a better civic purpose for the people of that region. How can we begin to plan a city if we can’t define its center?

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8/2/06

The DMU is Coming to Orlando

It’s official. An unprecedented deal has been struck to bring commuter rail to a second city here in Florida, Orlando. The $500 Million commuter rail will operate much like Tri-rail, using the same Diesel Multiple Units (DMU) vehicles along 61 miles of CSX owned tracks. Trains should be moving from Debary into Orlando by late 2009 and to Osceola by 2013.

I find it shocking that Jeb would endorse such a progressive and innovative plan, especially after convincing voters to repeal the initiative to create a state-wide high-speed train network due to its “excessive” cost. Change of heart or did it take him a few years to finally realize that congestion can only be relieved by seeking alternate modes of transportation? Either way, it’s a win-win situation for Orlando commuters.

"Establishing commuter rail will ease congestion, which will improve the quality of life of people both on and off the road," Bush said.

Enough Said… Congratulations to the residents who will benefit from the new commuter rail. I hope they look to South Florida to see how to not create a benefitial transportation network. I can see already that they are planning on using a downtown central lynx bus transfer station to create an intermodal center in the urban heart of their city. Good Planning, ours is miles away and most likely to open after theirs… />No word yet on any possible improvements for Tri-Rail out of the deal with CSX, I’ll keep you posted…

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CSX/Tri-Rail Update

Here is the Tri-rail update I promised you. The only supporting evidence I could find was in the press release issued by Gov. Jeb today...

The CSX/State deal will now enable the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority to control the dispatching of passenger and freight trains along the 81 mile Tri-Rail route. This should result in much smoother Tri-rail operations and will allow dispatchers to give the trains priority along the lines. The new agreement could also open up the CSX lines to further growth in Southern Miami-Dade County. This could prove to be very beneficial to Miami residents, however, part of the CSX lines travel west of the UDB boundary which means that our local politicians may try to open up that land for further sprawl once the trains get rolling...

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8/1/06

Air Utility Vehicle

In case you haven’t noticed, I added the comments highlight bar over on the left recently. I'd like to emphasize that as much as this is a blog, I also enjoy receiving your feedback via comments or e-mails to encourage further web discussions. />

Move over SUV, the age of the Very Light Jet is approaching quickly. What’s a Very Light Jet or VLJ for short? It’s the future of personal air travel for those of us unlike Philip Frost who can afford the new Airbus Corporate Jet. It’s priced such that it is becoming a very affordable commodity for many Americans at around $1.5 million. Not too bad for a jet capable of traveling at 360 knots (415 mph), at a maximum ceiling of 41,000 ft, and a range of 1,125 nautical miles. />

Family road trips cross country may soon be a thing of the past. New companies like Dayjet here in Florida are quickly springing up, ready to transport passengers via VLJ to many suburban general aviation airports. />

Eclipse Aviation was created purely on the hunch that it could one day build and sell these VLJs as easy as automobiles. Eclipse has also developed a training program in conjunction with United airlines to train customers who are also interested in piloting their new vehicle. They recently received FAA approval to do just that, however, competition isn’t that far behind them. Honda, the formidable foe to American automakers, has also been developing a VLJ of their own (after-market muffler upgrades are in development.) All jokes aside, it appears though that these new jets intend on revolutionizing the way we live and travel… />

In California something called “Residential Airparks” are springing up. The houses offer 2 car garages as well as personal hangars to park small aircraft. Pilots can taxi down the neighborhood streets to a private runway to commute to work from. It appears that some have gotten so fed up with daily traffic that they have simply decided to fly themselves regional airports instead. Not too practical, but, 12 of these residential airparks already exist…

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