Archive for May, 2007

Why Miami Parks are a Disaster

Let’s hear the City of Miami Parks Citizens’ Advisory Board’s annual recommendations…Wait, what’s that? There aren’t any Citizens’ Park Advisory Board Recommendations because 19 dedicated citizens couldn’t show up regularly enough to have quorum at meetings??? I’m not making this up; I don’t think I could if I wanted to…See for yourself:

Legacy of Incompetence and Self-Interest Continues to Plague Miami

An article in the Herald today brings to light a very serious issue that has significant consequences for Miami-Dade’s future. According to insiders and the Herald, it is looking like the recommendations from the South Miami-Dade Watershed Study and Plan, which include holding the Urban Development Boundary and encouraging most development along the US-1 corridor to stop further sprawl, may be ignored by officials who either think they are experts or who just don’t care about anyone but themselves.

Vice-Chairman Dennis Moss was quoted, “It’s not an easy situation and folks are not going to give in in terms of their philosophies”.

Here’s a philosophy: We’re all screwed if the recommendations from the watershed study are ignored. Why? According to the study:

  • The South Miami-Dade Watershed region is expected to nearly double in population by 2050, going from 791,000 in 2000 to approximately 1, 500,000 in 2050.
  • The Watershed cannot continue to grow as expected without substantial consequences to its water and natural resources, quality of life, and community characteristics
  • The Watershed Plan calls for a Smart Growth (which we’ve preached for over a year ad nauseam) approach to accommodating future population growth; however, if the the alternative (sprawl or current) approach continues the watershed area will negatively and irreversibly be changed
  • The waters of Biscayne Bay will be subject to substantial increases in water pollution
  • 3/4 of our agricultural areas will be lost to sprawling, low-density residential subdivisions
  • Traffic congestion will increase significantly
  • The effectiveness of the $8 billion Everglades restoration program will be greatly reduced
  • It is estimated that the “sprawl scenario” will cost nearly $8 billion more for infrastructure than the recommended Watershed Plan between now and 2050, which does not even include substantial environmental costs (who’s going to be funding most of this unnecessary, unsustainable infrastructure? Mostly taxpayers.)
As you can see, the alternative to the Watershed Plan is wholly unsustainable. How could any politician unequivocally dismiss such an obvious and significant plan to accommodate future growth? Look no further than our County Commission and the Governmental Operations and Environment Committee (GOEC), chaired by none other than sprawl-champion Natacha Seijas.

Seijas, easily the worst of all the county commissioners (and that is really saying something), who is lucky to even have a job after threatening a fellow commissioner’s life during session in the County Chambers, is leading the charge to foil implementation of the watershed study. It shouldn’t be of much surprise to citizens, given that she is profoundly connected to developers and pro-sprawl interests as evidenced by her consistent voting record to move the UDB line and quotes like “I don’t see why we need to be creating an environment for them (Manatees) to continue”.

Her opposition is significant because she is the chairwoman for the GOEC, which oversees urban growth policies and monitors the utilization of our natural resources. What’s she saying?

“I don’t think this study should be used to do anything (involving major land-use decisions)”.

OK, so nearly $4 million, six years of research, and perhaps the future of our region may be down the drain if she gets her way. Some Commissioners are talking about potentially adopting some aspects of the Plan but ignoring the land-use aspects. Duh. It doesn’t work like that. ALL OF THESE ASPECTS ARE INTERCONNECTED.

This is the type of business that makes my blood pressure boil because the incompetence and special interest pandering is so blatantly obvious, shameless, and completely detrimental to the area’s future. This is the same type of incompetence and slipshod politics that has sadly become standard practice for many of our elected officials. It has become obvious that expert opinion, research, and administrative work are almost entirely irrelevant in this county, because our elected officials instead use their own pet theories, intuition, and self-interest to make decisions that will negatively affect the area for many generations to come. Frankly, it is not only unprofessional, but completely embarrassing.

Illegal Advertising Eyesores

The increasing number of advertisements appearing on nearly every rising structure in the Miami Skyline is alarming, let alone visually assaulting. Almost every building has some sort of tarp-like advertising perched on its side, plastered with the face of D-wade or some product you have absolutely no interest in to begin with. It seems that everyone has their own version of how to create a time square in Miami; I can assure you this isn’t it. The City of Miami and Miami-Dade County are finally working to draft ordinances which would place greater fines on property holders and limit the number of these illegal ads dotting our new landscape. If only now they could do something to persuade our Florida Legislature to repeal the ordinance allowing for the removal of trees which are obstructing the sight of permanent billboards.
I took these pictures as I walked around downtown last week on my way to a meeting. The first two pictures depict what these hideous banners look like, typically placed on uncompleted high-rises or on the blank walls of existing structures. The Third picture below is of a recent new addition to the advertising assault: the Mobile ad aka Media Truck. Believe it or not, some people pay large sums of money to have their ads plastered to the side of a truck whose only objective is to drive around and be seen…

Miami Needs a Parking Intervention

Miami…it’s time to admit that you have a problem, and you need to get some help.

In my opinion, a recent Zoning Board meeting exemplified a) just how obsessed the City is with parking requirements; and b) how the City just flat out does not understand the connection between parking requirements, urban land use, induced vehicular demand, or how these elements factor into building a sustainable city.

This last Monday, the Miami Zoning Board oversaw a resolution on its agenda calling for a reduction in parking requirements for a proposed affordable housing building in the Lummus Park/South Overtown area. The resolution sought a special exemption from an already excessive parking requirement to allow 58 spaces instead of 103 for a building to be located on NW 4th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues. So, what’s the big deal, other than the fact that this building is located a block outside of downtown and is a 6-7 minute walk from Government Center Station? It’s a “very” affordable housing project courtesy of Camillus House designed to house the ex-homeless.

So in review, this proposed building will be 1) located one block from downtown; 2) short walk to City’s transit hub; 3) very affordable housing for the recently-homeless. Despite these characteristics, there was still substantial deliberation over whether or not to exempt this project from already excessive parking requirements. Never mind the fact that recently homeless folks likely will not (and shouldn’t feel obliged to) own a car, given their financial situations.

In particular, one Board member Ron Cordon, questioned the likelihood of recent homeless folks getting executive office jobs downtown, saying “Jobs in downtown are not typically offered to these people…instead, they will seek out small shops to gain employment…and for that, they will need a car because the transportation is inadequate”. In fairness, one Board member, Brett Berlin, did state that this location is “perfect for someone without a car”.

With the first statement above, I’m guessing Mr. Cordon drives from his house to a parking garage, rarely setting foot on the downtown streets. If he did, he would notice that downtown actually has a high concentration of “small shops”. Also, there are countless job opportunities all along the Metrorail line, which residents of this building would have easy access to without a car. Moreover, this location is just blocks from Little Havana, which may have the highest concentration of “small shops” in the whole metropolitan area. This is easily accessible by multiple Metrobus lines. Also, what about all of the low-skilled service jobs offered by hotels and restaurants, which are highly concentrated nearby in downtown, Brickell, and South Beach? This sounds to me like another example of City Board/Commission members using gut instinct and intuition rather than supporting facts and research. Sadly, these are the same people who make critical decisions that will affect our quality of life now and for the distant future.

Bottom line: Even with multiple reasons to justify a reduction in required parking spaces, the resolution only passed by a 5-4 vote.

Perhaps it’s time to bring in parking guru Donald Shoup to lead an intervention.

South Miami

For Part 1 of the South Miami Series, Click Here

I was driving west on Sunset recently and was rather pleased to see the addition of a Bike lane to a meager 2 block stretch of Sunset Dr. East of 57th Ave. Although the Bike lane isn’t considerably long, its a decent inroad to getting our local drivers and streets accustomed to sharing the right of way with alternative forms of transportation. The whole South Miami Business district should be repainted to include bike lanes. The inclusion of such alternatives would make the South Miami downtown a more pleasant place for people to navigate.Then I stumbled upon the largest eyesore the South Miami commission could have approved in the heart of its newly found business district: a parking garage. The commission foolishly bypassed the residential requirement for this mixed-use structure, meaning we’ll see one of the oddest combinations in mixed-use structures: Ground-Level Retail with a multi-story parking deck above. When walking around South Miami or Sunset Place, one is always quick to notice the amount of traffic in the area and the little amount of nearby residences. The South Miami business district would be a much more vibrant part of the city and community if some proper dense housing was finally incorporated into one of these projects. Side note: from where I took this picture, I was surrounded by empty parking lots, plenty of on-street parking, and the new HSBC parking Garage, looming in the distance were the also massive Sunset Place Parking Structure and the few hundred spaces incorporated into the whole foods market. Think getting to South Miami is difficult now? Just wait till these two projects come online…

With that, I turned my attention to a plot of land 2 block south of Sunset on 57th ave, originally slated for some dense apartments with some ground level retail but now under construction for some town homes. I could barely contain my excitement! Such a waste for such an integral piece of abandoned land so close to the South Miami Business District, Metrorail, and some newly incorporated Bike Lanes…

Metrorail Design

Via ImageMD’s Flickr

Odds N Ends

  • Free Dunkin Donuts on Thursday if you participate in the Commuter Challenge Day by riding Tri-Rail…Or, you could just print this voucher and go to your nearest Dunkin Donuts, but I’d still recommend giving the train a try…
  • On that Note, with regards to Ryan’s Post on the absence of a regional farecard system, Larry Lebowitz, the transportation Guru at the Miami Herald, has informed me that MDT, BCT, Palm Tran, and the SFRTA are working together to implement such a system soon. Apparently the hold up is coming from the SFRTA. I’ll be working to obtain more information on the subject…
  • Great Ideas, now just agree to build the darn thing downtown…

Boycotting Gas Stations, The Fastest way to Accomplish Nothing Nationwide

For those of you that didn’t know, today was national boycott gas stations day, an ill-conceived plan to deal a financial blow to the oil industry for the steady increase in gas prices. Let me begin by clearly stating why this will not work: America is addicted to oil, if we don’t buy it today we’ll buy it tomorrow; the only truly effective way to enact change and really impact the finances of the oil industry would be to change our lifestyles and dependency on the substance. What am I talking about? Bikes, Buses, Rail Transit, and your own two legs are some of our alternatives. A real blow to the gas industry would be a reversal in the American mindset, a change in our style of planning (or lack thereof,) and an immense amount of money invested in our national infrastructure; all of which I can’t foresee evolving in our immediate future.

National boycott gas stations day was a short-sighted band-aide-like attempt to solve one of our most critical national problems. I say band-aide because like many of our “solutions” if failed to adequately address the real underlying issue (like the solutions for the “property insurance crisis,” but I’ll touch on that subject at a later point), instead the boycott focused on the rising cost of oil and its effect on our economy rather than concentrating on our addiction to a limited natural resource and viable alternatives to keep our economy vibrant and people mobile.

We’re too focused on the rising cost of gas and its effect on our pocketbook to realize that we’ve dug ourselves an enormous suburban grave. Many of our neighborhoods are un-navigable to anything but vehicles, often missing sidewalks in some of the newer communities in west-Dade. Should gas prices rise sharply further beyond the affordable realm for many, the effects of our unchecked, unplanned growth will place a greater economic strain on our lives as we search for yet another quick fix to our mess…Someone better call J&J quick, because we’re going to need some more Band-aides

#1

We’re Number 1! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, take a drive along the Palmetto, idle on the dolphin while people use exit lanes as strategic advancement lanes, or try to cross any intersection when your light turns green…
“Miami motorists said they saw other drivers slam on their brakes, run red lights and talk on cell phones, according to AutoVantage, a Connecticut-based automobile membership club offering travel services and roadside assistance.”

Let’s not forget: One finger salutes, driving on the shoulders in heavy traffic, illegal u-turns, cutting off, total disregard for traffic laws, pedestrians, traffic signals, or anything else which attempts to hamper “progress,” nanny-nanny Boo-Boo Faces, drag racing…am I missing anything?

Miami Needs a Comprehensive Farecard System

On my way to work recently, I encountered something that aggravates me to no end: out-of- order token machines. And it’s not like just one of them is out-of-order - ALL OF THEM. This pretty much causes chaos at the particular station, making life hell for security guards (as well as shifting their focus from what they should be doing). Sometimes they will try to give you change, but most times they are stuck letting people through without paying a fare.

This level of service is completely unacceptable, yet it seems to happen much too frequently. The bottom line: we need a legitimate farecard system. It’s such a pain in the arse to walk around with pockets full of change or having to break larger bills to get tokens. This is a big money loser for MDT as well; I wonder how many people are allowed through without paying their full fare (or any fare) because of a system breakdown like this?

I know one thing for sure, I would ride Metrorail more often during months I am without a Metropass if I wasn’t hassled by the payment options of the current system. If I don’t have any tokens left, or no $1 or $5 bills, I’m stuck either breaking a larger bill at a store for a pack of gum, or finding an ATM, taking out $20 (plus $2.00 service fee), then finding a store to break my $20 on a pack of gum so I can ride the Metrorail. I’m sure thousands of other people go through similar ordeals so they can ride. Perhaps thousands of choice riders stay away because of such inefficiency.

For example, let’s use New York’s MetroCard. If I don’t own a car and I plan on using subways and/or buses for most trips, I’ll buy a monthly card (similar to Miami’s Metropass) for about $76 dollars, which allows for an unlimited number of rides that month. However, unlike Miami’s Metropass, if I ride my bike to work sometimes I may not need to spend $76 for an unlimited monthly card. I could then buy a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard (from automated kiosks, by the way), and pay only half as much as a monthly unlimited card. Moreover, I can refill the card as needed, and can use it to pay for up to four people at a time. This would make life easy when family visited, because instead of renting a car or dealing with the hassle of change/tokens for each member, the host could use their farecard to pay for family/friends. Or, depending on how long your family/friends are staying and how much transit you intend to use, they could each purchase unlimited day ($7) or unlimited week ($24) cards. This would give us total transit freedom and eliminate payment hassles. Transfers between transit lines/modes would be free under most circumstances mentioned above. Even for non-transit riders, this means fewer cars on the road because tourists and visitors would feel less obliged to rent cars (thousands of cars on Miami roads each day are rentals).

For anyone who wants to voice their displeasure with our inefficient, antiquated fare system, click here.

The Hardrock Guitar

Anyone know what happened to the Bayside Hardrock Cafe’s rooftop Guitar?

Jorge Perez Speaks out on Affordable Housing

Jorge Perez spoke out today at the City of Miami Commission Meeting clearing the names of Miami city officials who purchased condos in his affordable housing projects in downtown. He and city officials were recent targets in a Herald article which criticized the actions of related and city officials alike…

Tri-Rail Expansion Delayed, Again

Tri-Rail delays (yet again) the expansion of service from 40 to 50 trains on weekday schedules. This next delay will guarantee that the new schedule will not be fully operational for the Third Annual South Florida Commuter Challenge on May 17th, a great time to show potential new riders the full benefits of the new and revamped Tri-Rail system…

MDC Wolfson Campus

All I have to say is wow! This a step in the right direction…It may be a slight knock off the CCTV building in Asia but this building would add an incredible dynamic to Miami’s Skyline…Its also a Chad Oppenheim Design…
Edit: The Pictures originated from the Chad Oppenheim Design and Architecture website, they were removed and found by TransitMiami on a local forum, originally posted by DGM…

Quick News Links