11/30/06

$2 Billion Widening Spree

What a way to waste $2 Billion. Widening Krome? Don't be fooled, our basic transit infrastructure fell apart long ago. FDOT simply doesn't understand the social ramifications of doing this. They claim the widening is necessary to create a safer facility for motorists; however, it will only open a floodgate to more pointless housing developments. When I spoke to some FDOT officials recently, they informed me that the money is designated for improvement on Miami-Dade roads only, if the project isn't completed within a designated time frame, the money is simply funneled to another county in the state for a similar project. I was initially inquiring to find out the possibility of using the money for something that would benefit a wider range of people within the county, say Public Transit? No, that would be intelligent...

11/29/06

In the News...

  • Today at 9 am, Miami-Dade Transit will be determining just how large a proposed Transit Oriented Development may be at the Coconut Grove Metrorail station. Grove Nimby’s have promised to be out in force fool heartedly opposing any significant density in from the proposed project. A decrease in density would be a severe detriment to all Miami-Dade residents not just the people who would benefit from the transit development. The site needs to be built to maximize its potential and provide the greatest benefit to the greatest amount of people within in the county rather than the special needs of a vocal minority group. The local community cites traffic issues as their main concern along the intersection; however, they fail to realize that any development which occurs on the site will likely adversely impact traffic. The development would not only be able to maximize the use of our only urban transit system, but would begin to add some much needed density along two major corridors; US-1 and 27th Ave.
  • Kendall residents are at a virtual standstill in traffic deciding what transit options to pursue for their neighborhood. As development continues westward (like the bright idea of building homes west of Tamiami Airport) area traffic will only continue to get worse. Fearing that trains will only “exacerbate” the commutes of many drivers, the CSX rail corridor isn’t seen as a great alternative by many (who likely live along the corridor and fear a decrease in their home’s value.) Here’s a bright idea: Ride the train along the CSX corridor and you too won’t be exacerbated. Residents are also pulling for a proposed rail link down Kendall drive; however, they insist that the train must not remove any lanes of traffic. So, going by the mentality of the majority of Miami residents, they too would like transit in their areas so that other people may use it, while freeing up space for their own vehicular commutes. Good Luck. A train down Kendall drive would be disastrous unless we quickly change the way we develop the major thoroughfare. An elevated train down the median would prove to be a gigantic failure, leaving would-be passengers with at least three hectic lanes of traffic to cross before traversing the parking lots of an assortment of strip shopping centers.
  • Traffic cameras are coming to a city residential community near you. That’s right; the commuter village of Pembroke Pines in Broward is going forward with plans to install a network of intersection cameras to catch red light runners. Need I remind them though, that entering an intersection on a yellow light is legal in the state of Florida and that the driver may complete his maneuver even if the light has turned red so long as it did so after the vehicle completely passed the white markings of the intersection. As long as they cite people for the right thing and don’t abuse the camera policy, I’m all for the eyes in the sky.
  • Miami-Dade Commissioners unanimously approved the final step in the Island Gardens debacle. Flagstone development has now been given the green light by the county to begin dredging along Watson island to support the city’s first mega yacht marina.
  • Keep an eye on Transit Miami for all the latest news on Transit/Development issues in the Greater Miami area. I will be changing up the site soon as I switch to a better blogging software. As always, If you have any stories, news, or information you would like to share, please e-mail TransitMiami at MoveMiami@gmail.com...

Time Credo Loves Miami


I got home last week and ironically one of the first things I reached for was the most recent edition of Time magazine which happened to be lying around. I thumbed through the pages when a striking image of a beach I recognized caught my eye. After reading the article There's Trouble--Lots of It--in Paradise, I tossed the magazine aside in utter disgust that such a prominent news organization could foolishly paint such a bleak and inaccurate portrait of my home city. It felt like a personal assault. I decided not to blog about the article that evening to not further publicize the rubbish. However, recently some bloggers have shared their own sentiments on living in the Greater Miami region, most notably; Rick of SOTP. Rick plans on leaving for Denver as soon as a job becomes available in the area in order to be closer to the rural surroundings where he plans on retiring. I don’t question his choice on places for retirement, I’m sure the Rocky Mountain crisp air and wilderness are just as ideal as the beautiful warm beaches across our state, but, I do doubt the widespread belief that Denver or any other major US city will prove to be a better temporary alternative home. Now, it’s not just Denver, or Rick’s case, but, many of the sentiments shared as reasons to leave Greater Miami are just as prevalent in nearly every American city across the country. Let’s start with traffic. With the exception of a couple major metropolitan regions in the country with excellent public transit, traffic is just as bad if not worse as in Miami (Although, yes, the drivers may not be as bold.) Cost of Living. That’s easy, if you live near a major metropolitan area, you are likely going to pay for the convenience the only way this can be avoided is by moving to the rural parts of the country or to a smaller town or municipality. Business week (via SOTP) references the most affordable suburbs of 2006 all of which I am sure are plagued with the traffic, living costs, etc. They noted Weston as an affordable suburb of Ft. Lauderdale which is ironically itself a suburb of Miami; I can only imagine the traffic headache face Weston residents face on a daily commute. I digressed, but, there was a point in there that I wanted to make: Due to the way our cities have been built over the past few decades, we are all likely to face the same set of poor development hassles associated with city living.

Going back to the Time Magazine article, I find it extremely unprofessional for the author and editor of the magazine to portray such a biased and generally inaccurate story about any municipality. The article focuses on rising insurance premiums and a terrible education system in Miami, both of which are problems which face our entire state rather than solely our community and are the result of terrible guidance by the state and national lawmakers. The article fails to include how Miami’s crime rate has decreased significantly since its all time highs in prior decades. How about the fact that Miami is still the bustling hub for Latin-American business in the United States, second only to New York City in International Banking and Diamond trade, is experiencing a boom unlike no other American city, and is the site to one of the largest global modern art showcases when Art Basel visits. A recent article in the New York Times highlights the recent growth of Wynwood arts district and how the event has changed the once blighted neighborhood. As Bob:Miami points out, this article appears nearly 25 years after to the date of another Time article which began like this: “South Florida is hit by a hurricane of crime, drugs and refugees…” yippee! Let's not forget their masterpiece published in 1996 titled Gloom Over Miami. As a reader also wisely noted, Tim Padgett, the author of the most recent anti-Miami tirade, wrongfully interchanged statistics between the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County throughout the article. Just bad journalism.

As if a blow by Time magazine wasn’t enough for one week, one of our Senators, Tom Tancredo, publicly stated from a conservative rally at the Breakers in Palm Beach that “Miami has become a Third World country. You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you're in the United States of America. You would certainly say you're in a Third World country.” Don’t hold back Tancredo, tell us how you really feel. Certainly he’s visited a third world Country and must speak from his wise experiences. (Note: Tancredo hasn’t ever visited the Miami area and would be willing to do so if he could stay at a five star hotel, just the kind of guy we need making national decisions, a pork barrel spender who makes decisions based on circumstantial evidence, cough, cough, Iraq.) So, I guess Tancredo is the type of guy that would find even the most accommodating Marriott Resort as “roughing it.” I hate to break the news to you, but Miami is haven for Cuban-Americans, most of which are considered legal US citizens due to the policies of the oppressive government back in their homeland. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was quick to defend our city (well sort of, just because they’re in the same party I’d never refer to someone who flat out insults my hometown and district as a “friend”) by inviting Tancredo to visit beautiful Miami and experience our hospitality firsthand. Jeb Bush also quickly came to the defense of the city he will soon once again be calling home and called the senator naïve. I think he’s just an ignorant out-of-touch politician who is just looking to get some sort of approval from his conservative base and clearly fails to realize that like New York and Boston were once havens to Irish Immigrants, Miami is today’s haven to Hispanic culture.

Read Tancredo’s reply to Gov. Bush (The opening statement begins with the notion that Jeb has the “…desire to create the illusion of Miami as a multiethnic all American city…”)

As I search for some sort of reasonable conclusion for this article, I am compelled to remind people that running away from the issues which plague our city is simply not the right solution (No, I don’t accuse Rick, or Tere of running away…Rick is retiring and Tere is likely part of the middle-class that is being squeezed nationally.) Miami, like every major metropolitan city across the nation has its share of problems, but, they will not get better unless we collectively decide to do something about it. Traffic is a uniform problem across the United States, from major cities down to small towns because of the way we have chosen to live and build our municipalities. If we don’t stand up to these problems today, our past will repeat itself and Miami will forever become synonymous with criminal activity, drugs, and a haven for Latin-American culture…



Updates:

Michael Lewis of Miami Today News has a great reply to the Time Article...

Time Magazine affiliates HBO and AOL (all under the Time-Warner Umbrella, local office in Doral) have offices in Miami, Oh the irony...

The company which engineered the exterior cladding of the AOL/Time-Warner headquarters in NYC, is based in Miami...Permasteelisa...

Sorry Time Magazine and Tommy Tancredo, Miami ditched the statewide slump in Tourism...Guess people like to visit third world cities...

26th Parallel, Riptide, and Flablog all chime in...

11/28/06

The Pesky Pedestrian Issue

A few months ago, while covering the opening of the Carnival Center, Alesh of Critical Miami led me to an interesting article on the concept of second generation traffic calming. The basic concept behind second generation traffic calming is that alternative traffic calming devices are implemented within a given street years after it was originally built. Such alternatives include the adaptation of a pedestrian zone along the street (as Alesh pointed out on Biscayne Boulevard), removing the strict order of the lanes which separate traffic, lax traffic laws, etc.

Reversing decades of conventional wisdom on traffic engineering, Hamilton-Baillie argues that the key to improving both safety and vehicular capacity is to remove traffic lights and other controls, such as stop signs and the white and yellow lines dividing streets into lanes. Without any clear right-of-way, he says, motorists are forced to slow down to safer speeds, make eye contact with pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers, and decide among themselves when it is safe to proceed.

The article cites several cities where the traffic rules are: “There are no rules.” Drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians are essentially free to do as they please along some of the most congested cities of the world. It forces drivers to be more aware of their surroundings rather than on an autopilot mode, attempting to stay between the guidelines. It’s definitely an interesting concept and is apparently pretty effective in cities where such practice is considered the norm. In fact, many of these cities have lower pedestrian fatality rates than cities with extremely rigid streets and driving laws. Now, I’m not advocating switching Miami streets into this wild free-for-all (although at times I feel like we already have), but, I do believe we must begin to look at new concepts to minimize the almost daily pedestrian fatalities which appear in the news headlines nightly.

I came across the above video to demonstrate how traffic flows when there aren’t stringent traffic laws, signals, or markings along the street. It’s extremely chaotic, but, notice how seamlessly traffic flows through the intersection in India

Won’t you be my neighbor?




Coral Gables
has a new resident moving in soon. That's right, soon to be former governor Jeb Bush will be moving into the Segovia tower along Granada's Golf course (leftmost building.)

Rent is $5,500 per month for the 3,949 square foot unit. The condo has three bedrooms, three baths plus a powder room, overlooks Granada Golf Course and is walking distance to Miracle Mile.

(And buddy Armando Codina's office HQ...)

11/27/06

Coral Way: A Real Urban Scene


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

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

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

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

Images from: eniomart, Snarky Dork, and Prezzi's Flickr...

11/23/06

The Modern Turkey Transit

It only seemed appropriate to share this picture with you all today. Taken by a transit security camera in New Jersey at the Ramsey train station, it shows a flock of wild turkeys seemingly waiting for a train to arrive…Happy Thanksgiving…

Image from Lopez1's (No relation) Flickr...

11/21/06

Tom: "MDTA Butchery for December 2006"

A loyal reader and transit user, Tom, led me to this document containing the latest adjustments in MDTA service. There are many cutbacks due especially to a lack of ridership (20% of the adjustments listed), including Tom’s typical late night ride home; Overnight 40. He writes:

“I'm a little miffed that they're killing the overnight 40 service which I always use to get home late at night... but that isn't the least of the absurdity!”

Other, more notable changes include the addition of the route 34 “flyer” an express coach bus which will travel from Florida City along the busway to the Dadeland south stations making a limited number of stops (Express Fare: $1.85.)

If you have a story, article, or anything you'd like to contibute, feel free to forward it along to me at movemiami@gmail.com... I'll be back soon with some thoughts on the district 2 runoff and the Miami Streetcar Initiative which is seemingly hanging in the balance of this election...

11/20/06

North American Transit Cartography


I found these interesting maps of North America over on RadicalCartography. This innovative site is dedicated to finding new ways of mapping the Earth. The image above depicts the public mass transit systems of all the major cities in North America (Tampa's Trolley didn't seem to qualify.) It includes all heavy rail metro systems (and busways?) except commuter rails. Also pictured above is a map of the current and very underutilized rail network which spans our continent…

11/17/06

Density in the CG CBD

If all goes well, the City of Coral Gables will soon be approving the above mixed-use development in the city’s core. Designed by Fullerton-Diaz Associates, this mid-rise exemplifies the kind of Mediterranean styled architecture which has been rising in the city beautiful lately. Not all has gone smoothly however, in gaining city commission approval. Commissioners initially balked at the project due to the added traffic it would cause as well as its obviously excessive 97 foot height. Give me a break. Unlike buildings elsewhere across the county, Fullerton (along with the Coral Gables city code) paid great attention to the street/pedestrian interaction with the building; the porticos further solidify that much of the city’s streets will remain accessible to pedestrian activity in all types of weather. The height claims border on the ridiculous, especially considering the building would be over 200 ft shorter than the tallest building in the city...

11/15/06

I-95: A Rail Solution



So, the highway we built to relieve congestion on the boulevard is now a parking lot during the peak rush hour periods, what do we do? Well, we revert to the rail solution, after we removed much of the rails and likely allowed people to move into developments alongside whatever relic was left. The picture above shows the former reaches of the FEC rail corridor in the heart of the CBD. Yes, that is four lanes of track you see.

Sadly, most people still tend to see tri-rail as the “rail to nowhere” rather than a possible solution to the aggravation they face daily in bumper to bumper traffic on I-95. Although, I agree Tri-rail isn’t the solution for everyone, there is still a large percent of daily commuters which could depend on the service for their daily commuting needs or to easily access the regional airports. I know a recent excursion by Ryan on Tri-Rail to Ft. Lauderdale Airport saved his wallet a bunch in parking, gas, and tolls.

Recently, Tony Ortega of the Broward-Palm Beach New Times took us along to experience his personal daily experiences on Tri-Rail. Tony’s experience, unlike the accounts of many other journalists I’ve read, accurately displays the sentiments and experiences I’ve heard since the double tracking of Tri-Rail was completed. An obvious sign that the service has improved is the 36% increase in daily passengers seen over the past year.

“But lately, the success of Tri-Rail is getting a little out of hand. We're going to be sitting in each others' laps soon.”

Tony’s take on the reliability of Tri-rail begs the question: Why aren’t more I-95 commuters willing to give the service a shot?

“Since I began keeping detailed records in July, only six northbound trains I've taken were more than 15 minutes late, and only one was more than 20 minutes behind schedule (last week, some idiot's truck broke down on the tracks in Hialeah, and by the time it was hauled off, my train was an hour late). The morning southbound, since I pick it up nearly at its start, is almost never late at all.”

He describes how the train travels through some of the more uninviting areas of our region, a grim reminder that perhaps we haven’t done enough to steer the right kind of developments within easy access of each station.

“On the way, the "train to nowhere," as it's often been derisively called, takes riders through a South Florida landscape that doesn't make the travel brochures. The rail corridor cuts through industrial parks and warehouse farms. If you look out the west-facing windows, you get glimpses inside the back bay doors of machine shops and other manufacturing plants. It's an ugly if honest view of South Florida's harder industries, where no business would waste the money to put up a pretty façade to face a railway.”

If anything though, Tony’s article and daily commute shows us that there are useful alternatives available which are effective for daily use. The system can be built to serve the needs of many more people in a manner which will become both reliable and convenient for all commuters. Vital links are still missing to move passengers from tri-rail to the daily business centers, but, at least we are now seeing the passenger traffic that could warrant east-west expansions.

“My morning Tri-Rail leg ends at the Broward Boulevard station, where I disembark and begin the best part of my day, flying downtown in the bike lane past cars stuck in traffic.”

Like, I’ve mentioned before, the growing popularity of Tri-rail will force us to use either the CSX or FEC rail corridor to a greater extent. I still hope that the FEC corridor can be developed into a tri-county LRT system, finally interconnecting the three main municipalities like never before (or at least since the tracks in the picture above were reduced and negated.)

"The FEC line Seeburger is helping to develop would place stops only a mile or two apart, in downtowns and near other attractions. It's the one tourists would be more likely to use or folks on their lunch hour. Commuters would find it too slow."

"They have to be complementary," he says. "And if they're not, there are a lot of things that go south on us... It doesn't make sense to have two commuter systems a mile apart from each other."

Amen to that.

11/14/06

I-95: Disaster in the Making


Today, we switch gears (pun, you decide) over to I-95. The above photograph was found on a forum which I frequent and was originally posted/hosted by FTLBeachBum. The image was taken sometime in the 60's, evidenced by the construction of the disastrous I-95 project occurring at the top of the frame. As you all may already know, I-95 was constructed haphazardly in the mid 1960's as the first main North-South arterial. It was built to relieve congestion on Biscayne Boulevard and the few other streets which offered N-S routes. In its construction, I-95 destroyed the overtown community, displacing thousands of African-American residents and physically dividing a community. The effects of the highway on the planning in our city are still being felt today. Many things have changed since this picture was taken; the Library for example is no longer found in Bayfront Park, Surface Parking lots no longer comprise such a great proportion of our downtown land use, and apartments no longer sit above the neglected Miami Circle along the South Bank of the River...

The upcoming posts will focus on the latest proposals to enhance the traffic flow along the behemoth as well as the alternatives we can use to avoid the very congested highway...

I-95: The Liquid Plumber Solutions


Well, I-95 has grown vastly since its terrible inception in the 1960’s. Today, the arterial remains a vital part of the economy and local infrastructure, but, much like Biscayne Boulevard was in the late 50’s it is also plagued with a crippling amount of congestion. Rather than expand the highway further (a method which has been proven to be ineffective and not cost efficient for projects of this size) the Florida Department of Transportation is turning to more innovative ways of improving the existing traffic flow.



If you’ve driven along I-95 recently in Miami-Dade County, you may have noticed a system of signals installed at all on ramps in both directions from Ives Dairy rd. to NW 62 St. The signals are part of a comprehensive and controversial plan to reduce the number of conflict points which could disrupt the flow of traffic along the highway. Ramp meters, as they are known, are designed to limit the flow of additional vehicles onto the highway if congestion is imminent (the breakdown of traffic from acceptable to congested occurs very quickly.) The signals will prevent cars from entering the highway in this 11 mile segment, until the flow of traffic along the highway has stabilized and is able to accept additional vehicles. On-ramps are one of the major causes of congestion along all major highways. Ramp meters remove the “right” of vehicles to continuously enter the highway, giving priority to the vehicles which are already on the highway. By controlling the amount of vehicles which are allowed on I-95 at any given time, we will be able to ensure that the interstate is always operating as close to its peak capacity as much as possible. A real-time data analysis and camera system will relay live feeds and statistics to a traffic center which will constantly monitor the highway’s progress.

A downside to ramp metering is the addition of cars to other neighborhood streets which may have otherwise been able to enter the highway. Ramp Meters in a sense give priority to the highways. Logically, they will ultimately benefit the greatest number of motorists daily and will minimize the travel times for most motorists. Here is a list of Ramp Meters accross the Country.

A recent Herald article speaks of another method which is currently being used in California and Utah, among other parts of the country. The plan would involve converting lanes (probably HOV lanes) to Pay as you go lanes. The lanes would allow motorists to pay an additional heftier fee to access a dedicated lane during the heaviest congestion. Many, including me, see this as a great benefit to only those who can afford to pay the larger fee on a regular basis. Proponents argue however, that everyone benefits because cars are removed from the “public” lanes. True, but HOV can provide the same if not better benefit, if we just learned how to use it properly (See Slugging.)

11/13/06

Same Ole Sweetwater

The reoccurring theme lately has become centralized on the opinion of the public with regards to community projects. Community involvement opposition recently has driven many projects in directions that most city planners/urban developers would not necessarily agree with and Sweetwater is no exception. The architecture department at Florida International University has created a master plan to help transform Sweetwater from just another suburban residential enclave to a self sustainable college town that together with the university can continue to grow mutually to serve all area residents needs. Needless to say, the city opposes any change, especially change that could involve bringing the metrorail into their area.

Given the ridiculous opposition, one would assume that the FIU architecture department proposed to integrate mammoth sized buildings in the single family home neighborhood. However, the FIU plan would begin to slowly transform Sweetwater to better suit it and the college, by providing a sort of center where denser housing, government jobs, public services, and parks would be located. The growth would help to sustain the city tax base and would be a boon to the local residents by drastically improving the connection between the school and the city. It would also help minimize the impact of metrorail on the surroundings by creating a more densely urbanized area where the train would arrive.

The fact of the matter is that Miami residents seem very opposed to change. Understandably, most people do not trust the local government entities to make sound decisions on growth and development in the area given the track record of abuse by developers and city/county officials. I’m certain, however, that with the aide of the University’s school of Architecture, the city residents could work together with planners to lay a better foundation and identity for their city...

11/10/06

Savviest Party


Sorry about the infrequency of the posts lately, I’ve been caught in the middle of a very hectic week. I spent the better part of my day yesterday discussing some transit issues with some of the top minds in the county. We were brainstorming of some ideas to get TransitMiami more involved in community education and planning. Some new things will be happening around here very soon including a software (finally, yes, Alesh) to something other than this terrible software I currently use.

Last night, I attended the Miami’s 50 Savviest Singles party at Bricks (amazing sound and light system), hosted by The Miami New Times and Hope Center of Miami. I was a honoree at the event and had the opportunity to mingle with some of Miami’s most progressive and unique individuals. I spent most of the night conversing with Dr. Sean Kenniff of “Survivor” fame, Jennifer Santiago, and Adam Saban (Shuster and Saban, LLC.) The proceeds of the evening went to the Hope Center of Miami, a wonderful organization that has been in Miami since 1955 and is dedicated to needs of special individuals in our region.

I’m about to embark on another cross-state expedition. This time, I’m headed across the alley and over the sunshine skyway into Tampa. I’ll snap a few picks depending on what the day looks like and I’ll try to write some transit related material later today (Kendall Corridor, Ramp Metering, Port of Miami Tunnel, Pay lanes on I-95, etc.) Speaking of Kendall Corridor, word on the street is telling me that the community involvement at the local meetings have been pushing to keep trains off of the CSX corridor as well as above grade along the Kendall Dr. corridor. I’ll share my thoughts later, but, as many of you may already know, I’ll likely share why this is such a terrible idea…

11/8/06

My Two Cents

It’s nice to be back in Miami, albeit for just a couple of days. I’ve kept my opinions on the recent elections as quiet as possible but hope that all my readers took it upon themselves to vote on Tuesday, I did. I’m fairly pleased with most of the results except for a particular Florida amendment which passed; number three. You know the one which will allegedly “protect” our state constitution by making amendments pass by a 60% margin rather than the typical majority. What exactly are we protecting the constitution from? The opinion of a clear majority? Floridians have yet to realize the serious implications which come with the passing of this law. It’s a huge win for big businesses in Florida and huge loss for the rest of us. With 58% of the people voting in favor of it, I wish its own rules had been applied to the amendment.

While I’m at it, we also fumbled in voting in favor of wasting millions of dollars on tobacco education. It’s been proven that some of the anti-smoking efforts of this new campaign are a completely ineffective. Now, I’m in favor of educating people on the health risks of smoking, but, there’s only so much intervening we’ll be able to achieve successfully with this new program.

Nationally, it’s interesting to see that Americans have voted for a whopping 50+ Billion dollars of bond initiatives to improve our floundering and neglected infrastructure. Across the nation, people are looking to improve public spaces and facilities, just so long as the improvements didn’t come in the form of an additional tax. Meanwhile, Broward residents rightfully rejected a proposed transit tax which would have effectively done little to address the county’s transit infrastructure. With such terrible planning and little vision of what BCT hoped to accomplish, it’s no wonder the additional tax was rejected.

11/7/06

At the Town Center




An unprecedented two town centers were announced yesterday in
Broward County. The County will now feature several of these false city centers as the mall concept continues to decline in popularity nationally. The Margate town center will be located at the former site of The Swap Shop, while the Village at Gulfstream Park will serve as an Entertainment Center in Hallandale. I didn't know you could place villages in the middle of counties with millions of people. What really irks me about these things isn't the concept, but rather the actual execution by developers who see them as the next trend for sales. Making them trendy, typically negates everything that makes them actual Town Centers and gives them a fake charm rather than some actual substance...

11/6/06

Make a Donation, get some Legislation

There is something fishy (Pun Intended) going on between developer Sergio Pino and the County Commission. Pino has nearly secured the ability to build 500 homes on land bordering the Tamiami Executive Airport and has even been able to get lawmakers to reduce the airport “buffer zone,” effectively placing homes closer to the runways. Planes will now be able to fly as low as 148 ft over some of the proposed houses.

What a terrible project. Talk about an effective way of curbing future airport and airport related growth. I wonder how long it will take after residents move in, to complain about excessive airport noise. It reminds me of the people living behind railroad tracks which never expected to see trains running along them. But, don’t worry about planes crashing on houses:

“The Century Gardens project includes 24 town houses and a strip mall at the end of a runway. In the middle is a small park requested by county officials -- where they said pilots could aim in the event of a crash.”

You know, because that is why we create park space in the County to begin with, for planes to crash land.

Here are some notable parts of the Herald article:

Pino's group has also convinced the airport that a buffer zone surrounding the airport -- where new homes are banned -- should shrink. Almost all of the 68-acre Century Gardens project falls within this buffer zone, now zoned for industrial or business use.

Mayol, Pino's lawyer, successfully argued that the buffer zone was designed to limit neighborhood complaints about noise, and had nothing to do with public safety.

Pino is no stranger to the commission. This year, he and his companies donated $29,000 to the reelection campaigns of five commissioners, records show.

Pino's companies also donated $25,000 to a political committee challenging a recall effort against Commissioner Natacha Seijas.

In 2004, Pino took Commissioner Jose ''Pepe'' Diaz on his private jet for a fishing vacation in Cancún, Mexico. Diaz never listed the trip as a gift in financial disclosure forms he is required to file.

Though the County Commission vote won't take place until Thursday, bulldozers already have been spotted at work on the land.

11/3/06

City of Fools

We’ve got issues folks. Big ones. We have to find a way of lowering our ranking on this list, while raising our ranking on this list. That’s right Miamians are apparently a very uneducated breed of individuals when compared to other major cities across the country. As I like to refer to it, lack of education is the big elephant sitting tucked away in some nondescript part of the city. Nobody likes to bring up the subject although we all know it’s there and it’s the likely source of many of our regional problems. Perhaps things like this (or this) wouldn’t be so commonplace in our city if our literacy rate, graduation rate, or higher education percentages were all higher.

The recent education rankings don’t even mention Miami. In fact I had to search here, to find our measly 16% of adults aged 25 and older with Bachelors Degrees. 16%? That’s half what NYC has and more than three times less thank Seattle, the highest ranked city. It’s also no coincidence that the cities with higher levels of educated citizens also have more major companies headquartered in their respective regions and higher median household incomes than Miami. It’s a catch 22; should we be concentrating on educating our citizens to attract better and bigger industry to our region or should we entice and provide incentives for companies to move to our region and hope that the better educated masses follow? Either way, things have got to change or else we’ll continue to see the city’s middle and lower classes continue to be priced out of the area.

With regards to the crime: I’m glad our ranking has fallen in recent years, but, if you look at all 371 cities, way too many greater Miami area cities are also ranking fairly high on this list. I assume if our educated population base was higher, our rank on this list would decrease substantially.

Florida cities as a whole are at a grave disadvantage in attracting large corporate headquarters to our region. Our entire state education system also ranks somewhere near the bottom, alongside Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Gov. Jeb Bush has done little to nothing throughout his tenure to improve our national education rankings and thus improve our state’s appeal to major employers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t attribute Miami’s education woes to the state’s education deficiencies, but, it is definitely a contributing factor.

According to national figures, Florida's graduation rate was 55.7 percent in 2002, putting it at No. 48 nationally, ahead of only Georgia and South Carolina.

As MVB also points out, our local government agencies and organizations in charge of recruiting and enticing companies to relocate to our area is ineffective to say the least. The inter-county/municipality competition alone is terrible.

Anyone have any education reform/business generation/crime reducing solutions?

11/2/06

Bird Rd. Train Accident


Good luck if you are trying to get anywhere from west Kendall this morning. At 3:15 this morning a car collided with a train on Bird Rd. and 72nd Avenue. It isn’t certain what occurred that would cause this car to go careening into the locomotive of the 9 car train, causing the train to derail. I can safely assume however, that this is another instance of a Miami driver not knowing how railroad crossings work…

Image from Miami Herald

Video Link…

It’s Official; I’m Savvy

I’m elated and equally stunned to announce that I have been named one of Miami’s 50 Savviest Singles by the Miami New Times. I feel incredibly honored to have been nominated by a peer of mine for this award and hope that I can continue to contribute to my community. I live for this city, as many of you might already know, and genuinely always have my community’s best interests in mind. It's motivating to see my name appear alongside doctors, lawyers, and other established individuals in the Miami business community, considering that I have yet to graduate from the University of Florida.

I’d like to personally thank Maria A.K.A. Manola Blablablahnik of Sex and the Beach fame, who nominated me for the award. Having met Maria only once, she determined that my dedication to my site and my community involvement merited a nomination. Thank You.

To see the article/photograph and other 49 Savviest Singles, please pick up today’s edition of the Miami New Times. There will also be a celebration of sorts next Thursday at Bricks in Miami from 7-10 pm which I likely will be attending. Tickets, I believe, are $60 and proceeds go to the Hope Center in Miami. I also uploaded the article here and reprinted the bio below for those curious readers who live outside the state. It’s the first time I mention anything so personal on the site, enjoy.

Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal, 21, was born and raised in Miami, Florida. He is currently studying Transportation Engineering at The University of Florida, but, still manages to remain active in the Greater Miami region. He is the creator and author of TransitMiami.com, a local website dedicated to discussing the transportation and urban planning problems that face our region. He uses the site to inform fellow citizens about the developments happening in their area, while offering his professional suggestions in an open forum discussion. He is also an active member in the United Citizens for South Link, a political action committee dedicated to educating citizens about the advantages of public transportation in the South Dade region. In his spare time, Gabriel attends public seminars to address the upcoming public transit projects of the people’s transportation plan and is working with researchers to create a new method for analyzing congestion along Florida’s highways.

11/1/06

Ryder/Arza/Shoma Homes, Recipe for a Doral Disaster

I just came across an old article in the Miami New Times, which discusses one of my most despised developments in Miami; the Ryder Systems Headquarters off of the turnpike expressway, on the edge of the everglades and civilization. I despise this project not only because of its location but because of what it is home to. The fact that one of the largest companies in the area and the nation would choose this site as its corporate headquarters is sickening. Its shows how little Ryder systems is concerned about Miami and how fickle its intentions to contribute positively to the urban fabric of our city really are.

It appears, much to my suspicions, that some sort of fishy land deal occurred, which allowed Ryder to sell their Doral digs and move west. The involved parties include no other than our own racial slurring state representative Ralphy Arza, as well as Shoma Homes Employees. The original plan was to develop the Ryder 45 acre parcel into, well, what would you know; a “Town Center” styled development. On top of being a complete load of BS, the development was slated to be “pedestrian friendly.” I guess these guys planned on attracting many of the pedestrians which walk from parking lot to parking lot in Doral.

Even more sickening is the way Masoud Shojaee, president of Shoma Development Corp., was able to pay off Ralph Arza $20,000 up front and an additional $30,000 once the zoning change was complete. So, now not only is Arza a racial slurring, voice mail leaving dirty politician, but, apparently his services can be purchased to influence the way our city is redeveloped. I propose we overturn the zoning changes and tear down the buildings which continue to push the development boundary westwards…

Bye, Bye, Ralph…

US Flight Patterns


Ever wonder what the thousands of flights which take place daily over the American skies look like digitally? Aaron Koblin, of UCLA, using some digital media and statistics from the FAA, was able to recreate a time-lapse sort of digital video of all the flights which take place in the United States daily. Combined with some nifty music and color coded flight paths, it makes one of the most interesting studies to watch…

Click Here for Video…

Via An Affair with Urban Policy…

Welcome BOB:Miami

I've come across another site dedicated to the reurbanization of Miami; Boom or Bust: Miami. Here is the website's description, taken straight from their page:
Here you can find all sorts of information relating to Miami’s historic urban transformation. When the word “historic” is used here, it is done so with utmost care and concern for what is factual. Miami’s developers, projects, architects, and neighboorhoods are all spotlighted, and issues such as transportation, culture, and the local economy are addressed in full. The goal is to seperate speculation from fact so that the big picture of Miami’s growth can unravel. Maps and illustrations provide a big picture analysis. Select the “Articles” option in the Categories listing for all BOB: Miami articles. The “Pieces to the Puzzle” category showcases Miami’s transforming urban neighborhoods. The rest of the categories are self explanatory. Uncover the truth behind Miami’s urban transformation, here. Enjoy!

Welcome to the Blog Community BOB:Miami, the reshaping of our city is a momentous and often arduous subject to follow. Another voice on some of the most important happenings in our community is definitely welcomed by Transit Miami