5/31/07

Bicycle Town Hall Meeting Today

5/30/07

Expanding The Miami Mentality Theory

I've often defined the "Miami Mentality" on this site as the state of mind prevalent in our region which is generally for transit options, so long as other people use them. The Miami New Times quoted my "Miami Mentality" theory today when discussing the new MDT 7-day pass, which sadly means that my theory is becoming more of a commonly accepted belief. To clarify, through personal account and research, I've found that the Miami Mentality is generally against density, non-vehicular modes of transit, in favor of traffic relief measures, and in favor of wider highways and parking- plenty of it too. The Mentality also denounces good urban planning principles often by typically stating, or rather declaring: "That would never work in Miami." Needless to say, it has taken me quite by surprise to see the latest coverage and reactions in the Sun-Sentinel with regards to the proposed managed lanes on I-95. Their news polls, obtained March 29 and April 4, show an overwhelmingly opposite trend to the Miami Mentality:

March 29 Some state legislators want to start charging tolls to use the car-pool (HOV) lanes on I-95 from I-595 in Broward County to State Road 112 in Miami-Dade County. What's your opinion?

85.4%
Bad idea. These lanes should be available for free to anyone with 2 or more people in a vehicle. (5917 responses)

14.6%
Good idea. It would raise more funds for transportation and ensure the car-pool lanes don't get too crowded. (1012 responses)
6929 total responses

April 4 State officials say I-595 could be widened much more quickly and less expensively by making it a privately operated road with tolls on its express lanes. Your opinion?

35.1%
Good idea. (1773 responses)

64.9%
Bad idea. (3278 responses)
5051 total responses

Or do they? Perhaps there are some valid reasons behind this shift in the frame of mind or perhaps the Miami Mentality is a little more convoluted than I originally perceived. I'll choose the latter. Based on the data obtained through the unofficial polls taken by the Sun-Sentinel and in browsing through some of the comments left on the site, it appears that there is a new dimension to the Miami Mentality that I had not previously considered: Money.

“Forgive me for not being able to attend this oh-so important waste of time meeting, but here's my vote by proxy- NO!!! What a $hitty idea- charge us for what we've already paid for? Screw these crooked politicians and their handouts to the contractors- enough is enough!”
-Count me Out, Hialeah, Fl

“The article is at least truthful. The public is invited to discuss the issue. The decision has already been made based soley upon financial reasons. Luxury car lanes have been discussed for years, now they will be a reality. Only in Florida. Guess the Republicans will call it no Lexus left behind.”
-Mike Woods, Boynton Beach, Fl

The views presented outline a general displeasure for paying for expanded highway service, it is expected that the government provide endless capacity and expansions to our already crowded highways. This belief stems from the precedent that the government set throughout the past decades, expanding and creating highway infrastructure "as needed." The distrust in local policies and “leaders” further exacerbates the situation, casting shadows of doubt across any project where higher costs will be waged on motorists. Contrary to the logic behind congestion pricing, the opinions conveyed show that the new local mentality aims to provide highway and parking access to anyone (which falls in line with the reaction to rising gas prices.) (For more on Congestion Pricing, click here.)

I must also note that the subject matter does not pit public transit against highway capacity expansion. Surely, had that been the case, the results would have shown a desire for rail, provided that others use the system and now apparently that money allocated to the project did not come from highway funding sources (it’s ok folks, there are statutes against that anyway.)

Of course some classic Miami Mentality always finds its way into the picture:

"Maximum use of all lanes is the most efficient use of roads. Car pool lanes do not do that. The "Pay Pool" lanes are only a way for the politicians to get more money without representation. Another non-tax tax. On top of all this Interstate roads are supposed to be free. This is not a state road it is a federal road."
-just say no, Miami, Fl

"Forget the tolls. Eliminate the HOV lane by opening it up to all drivers. That will increse the available road space by 20 - 25 percent. As an added benefit ...no more slow downs caused by drivers gawking at the flashing lights while FHP writes tickets (they have better things to do). It's a win win deal for both tax payers and drivers, costs nothing and can be put into effect at any time."
-David, Pompano Beach, Fl

I’m so glad David took the time to do the math for us, he neglected to include how many minutes it would take for for traffic to fill up the additional lane and bring traffic back to a grinding halt (Induced Travel.) Miami Mentality obviously fails to take into account general highway planning principles, is shortsighted, does not recognize the limitations of an autocentric infrastructure, and never considers perhaps that the current method of personal travel and lifestyle are the true problems at hand.

Reassuringly, every so often, a voice of reason chimes in:

“the reason for the carpool lane is to encourage drivers to carpool and take cars off the roads. what they should be doing is expanding the number of car pool lanes to 2 or 3 each way and then maybe more people would carpool.”
-John, Santa Maria, Ca

But, then again, let the few voices of reason come from a city clear across the country

Top County Planning Position Will Have Major Impact on Our Future

Miami-Dade County is advertising for a new Director of Planning and Zoning.

Let's hope a true visionary is hired to fill the position, because county planning efforts have been misguided for decades. We need a leader who isn't afraid to take risks and make unpopular decisions. We need someone who is very knowledgeable about smart growth and planning, especially with cutting edge research. We need someone who will plant the seeds for a cultural revolution here in Miami-Dade that will forever change the way we live and build cities.

This is truly a pivotal moment in our history, and it is critical that our next planning and zoning director steers Miami-Dade County along a sustainable growth paradigm that sets a generational precedent for smart growth.

The Saga Continues for Grove Station Project

Last week, the Miami City Commission voted 4-1 to send the proposed mixed-use Coconut Grove Metrorail Station project back to have its standards reevaluated.

According to the Herald's article, the project's developer Carlos Rua has admitted his frustration with Grove NIMBYs, whom he has been trying to negotiate with for more than a year over building standards and specifications.

Now I know I have lambasted this project in the past for the incredible oversupply of parking being proposed, but as time goes by and this project continues to linger, I find myself disheartened by the lack of progress. I'm tired of looking at the large vacant parcel adjacent to the station as it sits fenced off waiting for the project's groundbreaking. It's really sad when you are forced to choose between bad urban design and vacant land, especially on such an important block.

I find it interesting, though, that of all the Grove NIMBY complaints, I haven't heard any objections over the elephantine parking allotments that will surely contribute disproportionately to increased traffic congestion in the area.

Transit Miami Updates

The picture above, taken from the balcony of the Murano on Miami Beach, was forwarded to me by James, TransitMiami.com's newest author. He'll be covering the architectural and urban design aspects of the buildings rising in Miami.

TransitMiami is growing and looking for new ways to bring the latest content to you. If you have any ideas, suggestions, or comments, feel free to e-mail us at movemiami@gmail.com.

Our sidebars have changed over the past few weeks, some dead sites were removed from the Miami/Transportation blog rolls and a whole bunch more were added...

5/29/07

The 7 Day Metropass has Arrived!

That's right folks, today MDT unveiled their new 7 day metropass geared to Miami's tourist market:
The $19 pass will come with a countywide transit system map including detailed maps of Miami Beach and downtown Miami showing visitors how to get to numerous tourist attractions and destinations using Metrobus, Metrorail and Metromover. A scratch-off calendar will let passengers choose the seven consecutive days they wish to use the pass.
Now, if only we could accelerate plans to unify the tri-county transit systems and implement system wide technology which would enable the use of credit cards, we'll really be making some logical progress...
The pass will initially be sold at Miami International Airport, four visitor centers, select hotels and businesses and MDT’s transit service centers. For exact pass sales locations and hours of operation, call 305-770-3131 or visit www.miamidade.gov/transit. Online sales of the pass will begin in the fall on MDT’s website as well as a number of international travel websites.

Urban Planners and Medical Doctors are building a united front to tackle the link between sprawl and obesity.

5/28/07

Understanding Street Capacity

Below is a series of pictures that I just love. I think they do an excellent job illustrating the concept of street capacity, making clear how much valuable urban street space is wasted by private automobile travel.

This first picture above shows 24 cars on a block in some town. It's amazing how much space is taken up just so a couple dozen people can move around (or store their vehicles if the outside columns of cars are "parked" in this picture).

The second picture below clearly shows how much street space is wasted by all these private, single- occupant vehicles.

The third picture below clearly shows how much street space is preserved when mass transportation such as streetcars or buses are used to transport the same number of people through uniform space.

The last picture below illustrates just how small a space is used by the same number of people when they are pedestrians.
All of these pictures help us to see the intrinsic link between land use (e.g. density, urban design, parking requirements, etc) and transportation. In turn, it helps us understand how high quality urban land uses that emphasize density, pedestrian-oriented design, and transit instead of automobiles actually make for more sustainable environments than less dense or more sprawling locales which facilitate private automobile usage.

When you can to begin to grasp this concept, you will have begun to understand how unsustainable the auto-centric city is even with an unlimited supply of the cleanest, greenest fuel technology.

Photos courtesy of terrian.org and streetsblog.com

5/25/07

The Case for Bicycle Boulevards


Today I was going to speak about Bicycle Boulevards - specifically how they can benefit Miami (or any city) and how they might be implemented. However, the guys from StreetFilms have already made a great video explaining the Bicycle Boulevard and its benefits.

As for Miami, I think Bicycle Boulevards are a very necessary component of the larger pedestrian/bicycle-oriented system that would make our city(ies) more livable.

Right off the top of my head, three good potential Bicycle Boulevards in Miami could be:

-SW 6th St between SW 4th Ave & SW 27th Ave
-Tigertail Ave between Sw17 Ave & Mary St
-N Federal Hwy/NE 4th Ct between NE 36th St and NE 79th St

SW 6th Street is the classic example of wasted street potential at the expense of maximizing automobile traffic flow. Despite on-street parking on both sides, this street is too wide for a one-way. Combined with traffic synchronization that allows the driver to speed through almost 20 blocks without a red light, traffic calming is definitely in order. However, SW 6th happens to run right through the heart of Little Havana, one of the densest neighborhoods in all of the SE United States and perhaps Miami's most organic neighborhood. Due in large part to the density of this corridor, it has a fairly high number of pedestrians and cyclists in proportion to most other residential areas of the Greater Miami area. With the necessary traffic calming and addition of bicycle-oriented measures/infrastructure, I think this street has great potential for a Bicycle Boulevard.

Tigertail Avenue, officially holding "Scenic Transportation Corridor" status with the City of Miami, also has great potential as a Bicycle Boulevard. One thing is for sure: it is a lot more scenic by bike or by foot than it is by automobile. Unfortunately, Tigertail currently has no bike infrastructure of any kind, and several portions of the Avenue are even without sidewalks. Moreover, during rush hours Tigertail is turned into a bypass for thru-traffic avoiding US-1 or Bayshore Drive. It wouldn't take much to make this into a Bicycle Boulevard, though. I don't have official statistics, but from personal experience I would estimate that Coconut Grove has the greatest number of cyclists per capita in all of Greater Miami. I'm sure residents living along the Tigertail corridor would love to have fewer cars rumbling by their homes and making this historic street hostile to cyclists and pedestrians.

I think N. Federal Highway/NE 4th Ct has good potential as a Bicycle Boulevard for several reasons. First, it runs between NE 2nd Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard, and should not be reserved as another N/S arterial. Secondly, it would integrate very well with the Streetcar, allowing people to efficiently get from downtown to almost the City Line without ever driving. Hopefully, planners would incorporate bicycle infrastructure into proposed make-over projects for 79th Street - even having the vision to connect it over the causeway to North Beach. Also, the NE 4th Ct section is already in pretty good shape physically, having narrower streets, slower speed limits, and shade trees. However, the N. Federal Highway segment from NE 36th Street to NE 55th Street definitely needs a makeover. Designating it a Bicycle Boulevard affords the perfect opportunity for planners to remodel this currently insipid, hostile road into a high quality urban street that is the backbone for several emerging neighborhoods.

In closing, I must note that a very necessary component of these Bicycle Boulevards would be their integration with a larger system of Bicycle infrastructure. We don't want to have these Boulevards originating and/or terminating in hostile places for cyclists. This is why it is critical for planners to develop a comprehensive Bicycle Master Plan for the City and County that recognizes cycling as a legitimate transportation alternative, not just a recreational pursuit.

5/24/07

Miguel Gabela’s Zoning Board Tirade

What happens when you have a NIMBY on the City's zoning Board? Let's just say it makes for a very interesting discussion on Camillus House. I get the feeling had it been a Biotech company looking to expand in Allapattah, Miguel Gabela's response wouldn't have included multiple locations in every city district. Oh, and by the way Miguel, its a 400% space increase, not 75%...

Click here for images of the cutting edge building soon to be rising...

5/23/07

Wednesday Headlines

  • MIA is experiencing a sudden surge of International Flights. American Airline's recent announcement of 14 additional round trip flights to Colombian destinations (Baraquilla, Medellin, and Bogota) and year round, non-stop flights to Montevideo, Uruguay, further solidified the carrier's position in Miami and Latin American. Meanwhile, South African Airways is also considering adding daily non-stop flights between Miami and Johannesburg and Brazil's TAM is adding daily non-stop flights to Rio de Janeiro. There are also preliminary talks of Virgin America coming into the market within the next five years. Hopefully the recent surge of interest in MIA will justify the half billion dollars commissioners recently approved to complete the North Terminal project. The North Terminal, as we've discussed in the past, is about 1 billion dollars over budget, 393 days behind schedule, and the cause of our humiliating "exercising" train in Japan. I'd like to know how the Parsons/Odebrecht Joint Venture Contractor can justify a Billion dollars of cost overruns and more than a year in delays...Note: Parsons/Odebrecht is currently the contractor managing the MIA South Terminal (Over budget, Behind Schedule), Miami Intermodal Center (Over budget, Behind Schedule), MIA North Terminal (Over budget, Behind Schedule), MIA People Mover (Behind Schedule), and Odebrecht was the contractor in charge of the construction of the Carnival Center (Over budget and behind schedule, to say the least.) Anyone else see a worrisome trend evolving here? There's a common denominator with Odebrecht: the County. The Question then becomes who's responsible? The joint venture also placed a bid for the contract to build the Port of Miami Tunnel, however, a Spanish firm was granted that contract (that is unless some crazy idea that the firm should not be granted the job because of it's own legal ties to Cuba becomes part of someone's political agenda...)
  • In Eco News, Orlando will become the first city in the United States to operate a fleet of Hydrogen powered buses built by Ford. The city will use the 8 hydrogen buses to ferry passengers around the airport and convention center. Meanwhile GE today unveiled the first ever Hybrid Road locomotive...
  • Speaking of Buses, an MDTA bus plowed through a little Havana Church before sunrise today...
  • Floating Condos? Man, I hope this doesn't catch on...
  • Good news for the California HSR initiative: A senate subcommittee has approved a 45-point, 2 Million Dollar initial budget...
  • The Holland Tunnel is facing 30+ minute delays at 5:30 on a Friday evening, how did this guy get through in 5 minutes? Watch the video to see...
  • Three Cents off each Gallon of Gas? Oh, you shouldn't have! No, Really...
Update: Courtesy of Mark, in the Comments Below:
  • American Airlines will start daily flights to Valencia, Venezuela pending Venezuelan government approval this fall.
  • American Airlines will start four weekly flights each to Recife and Salvador da Bahia, in Brazil, later this year pending Brazilian government approval.
  • American Airlines is set to announce in a few weeks the launch of the only non-stop service between South Florida and Austin, Texas this fall.
  • American Airlines just launched new non-stops to Fayetteville, Arkansas and in June adds additional service to Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Cozumel, Freeport, Jacksonville, Key West, Nassau, and Rio de Janeiro.
  • VARIG will resume service to Miami this December, with daily non-stop service to Rio de Janeiro.
  • AeroSur will increase service between Miami and Bolivia in June from 3x to 4x a week.
  • El Al just increased service between Miami and Tel Aviv last month, from 2x to 3x a week.
  • Aerolineas Argentinas will begin 5x weekly non-stop service between Miami and Sao Paulo on 1 September 2007.
  • AirTran will launch the only non-stop service between Miami and Kansas City on 7 November 2007. On the same day, they will launch the only low-fare non-stop service between Miami and Baltimore.
  • Ecuador's AEROGAL has applied with the US DOT to fly to Miami, and is awaiting US approval to begin scheduled service later this year.
  • Iberia just increased Miami-Madrid service from daily to 10x weekly.
  • Air Plus Comet is planning to start four weekly flights between Miami and Madrid in November.
  • German airline LTU more than doubled MIA service last week. They now serve Miami 5x a week, instead of 2x. They have three flights a week from Dusseldorf, Germany and two flights a week from Munich, Germany.
Simply Remarkable...

In Search of the "American Dream"

In an article today in the Herald, Flagler County (emphasis on City of Palm Coast), is touted as the fastest growing county in the United States. Whenever I hear "fastest growing city/county" in the United States, as if that implies a fantastic place to live, I am always skeptical, especially given the deplorable planning history of fast-growing places in this country. Upon hearing that, I usually think of places like Las Vegas, Southwest Florida, and the Atlanta exurbs.

What I found interesting, is that the author (and inevitably the hostile commenters) took an angle that emphasized the emigration of South Floridians to the Palm Coast area, even stating:
"Driving a chunk of Flagler's growth: a couple thousand South Floridians. Some say they left to escape congested roads, confining cookie-cutter developments, and skyrocketing home prices".
Yeah, yeah. I hear it all the time - "I can't wait to leave Miami (usually lumping it with all of Dade/South Florida)". Jeer the overdevelopment, traffic congestion, high home prices, high insurance, overcrowded schools, blase blase. So let's move upstate to this smaller county where everything is just peachy? Not so fast my friend.

Let's break Palm Coast down for what it really is/will be:

If you examine it from satellite (above), you'll notice that nearly every subdivision neighborhood is comprised of scatter grids with poor connectivity. This means almost all traffic from each subdivision neighborhood will be dumped onto a handful of collector roads (e.g. Palm Coast Pkwy, Belle Terre Pkwy, etc). As this city grows, these roads will quickly become overwhelmed with traffic. Inevitably, officials will move to widen the arterials into de-facto highways, with at least three lanes each direction along with 40-45 MPH speed limits, long traffic light headways, and huge intersections. Due to the auto-centric nature of these roads, sidewalks will be small (if they even exist), awkward, and useless because pedestrians will have to cross large surface parking lots to get to cookie-cutter shopping centers.

They probably wouldn't walk in the first place, because even though their home may be in close proximity to where they want to go, the lack of thru-streets and presence of tangible subdivision boundaries will force the pedestrian to go way out of their way just to reach the arterial (as seen above). Biking wouldn't be much of an option, either, because of the same reasons above plus the fact that riding on these arterials will be very dangerous (if not illegal).


To add fuel to the fire, Palm Coast has an extremely low average population density of only 862/square mile. This, in conjunction with single-use zoning, creates very large distances between places, making driving everywhere (even for the most basic trips) practically a necessity. Subsequently, officials write into the city code massive parking requirements for all land uses, further inducing trips by automobiles and justifying driving everywhere. At this point, most people become much more concerned with their private property then the lifeless public spaces afforded by such an environment, so things like golf courses get built instead of public parks.

Soon enough, this area will run out of land to accommodate population growth because for years unnecessarily large building footprints have been used during the current boom. Combined with the geographic location, property values will shoot up fast (already have, to some degree), traffic congestion will increase, commute times will increase, and people will really be screwed as gas prices inevitably continue to rise. Schools will probably be overcrowded (already mentioned in the article), crime will probably increase due to a variety of reasons, property insurance will be sky high, and soon people will be citing all the same reasons they left South Florida (insert other sprawl town here) in the first place.

Sorry, there's no chance in hell I would endorse this place, let alone move there. It is about as unsustainable as any city I've ever seen, and a classic example very poor urban planning.

I think it's funny that people are already complaining about problems stemming from the area's recent growth. If growth there continues along this paradigm, the problems will only get worse.

What's in a Name? A whole lot more than you'd think...

Disclaimer: The following post, you’ll find, has little to do with Transit or recent development, but I’d like to take the time to address the apathetic attitude of our locals when it comes down to our city’s culture, history, and identity by discussing the re-branding of our local brand Burdines to Macy’s.

On June 1, the behemoth corporation known as Federated Department Stores will officially become Macy’s Inc., a move which further unifies but isolates the national retailer in the eyes of many. Federated Department Stores, which itself only acquired Macy’s in the mid 90’s, was responsible for the re-branding of local retailers across the country including our very own Burdines stores (acquired by Federated in 1956.) Other local regional retailers affected by the name games include: Bon Marche (Washington), Goldsmith's (Tennessee), Lazarus (Cincinnati), Kauffman's (Pittsburgh), Filene’s (Boston), Foley’s (Houston), L.S. Ayers (Indianapolis), Hecht’s (Maryland), and Marshall Field’s (Chicago) among others. In 2005, Federated Department stores completed the renaming of these and several other department stores nationwide.

Part of me can’t blame Federated for making a move to create a national brand image for their department stores. However, another part of me longs for the unique qualities of each retailer, the names, the history, and the traditions they instilled in the communities which fostered their growth.

It’s the removal of a crucial piece of local history- and the public reaction since which really strikes a chord within me. In early 2004, when Burdines became Burdines-Macy’s I encountered many people who shared my same displeasure with the new moniker. I, like many people, had always associated the Macy’s name with New York, the Thanksgiving Day parade, and iconic store in Herald Square. Likewise, we had always associated Burdines with our hometown, the Downtown Christmas display (for those old enough to remember it), the tacky plastic palm trees, or the Art Deco Marquee on Meridan Avenue. Simply put, to see the two names combined was appalling if not downright confusing. What shocked me most (which with 20/20 hindsight really shouldn’t have) was the passive response of locals. It irked me to see the work of William M. Burdine, a pioneer in our community in 1898, just two years after Flagler’s FEC arrived, wash away so easily under a corporate renaming scheme. The History which built Burdines into “The Florida Store,” is nearly repeated and identical when looking at all the other stores listed above. Each city had its own distinctive flagship store located downtown and started by an entrepreneur in the mid to late 1800’s.

Like Burdines, many of the department stores went down without major local opposition. There is one key exception, however: Marshall Fields. The citizens of Chicago have organized in opposition of the Macy’s re-branding in an effort to revert the Chicago Icon to its former glory and if not, at least preserve the history that Federated has consciously tried to erase. The Marshall Fields Supporters have held rallies, gathered thousands of signatures on petitions, and have been boycotting Macy’s since it removed the Chicago name. So far, it’s working. Macy’s sales at the once flagship store have dropped considerably. Federated’s sales are down nationwide and the chain missed analyst’s expectations. The same effect can be seen in the Ohio area where the Lazarus stores were re-branded and in Seattle where Bon-Marsh once thrived. As this article is careful to point out, sales have dropped nearly nationwide, except Miami:

MIAMI
At Burdines, another market where Macy's has been around for two decades, the renaming appeared to have little effect. Of those shoppers surveyed, 47 percent said they shopped at Macy's in 2006, unchanged from the 47 percent in 2004 that shopped at Burdines-Macy's. In 2002, 57 percent surveyed shopped at either Burdines or Macy's. When asked to break it out, 51 percent of shoppers frequented Burdines and 24 percent visited Macy's.

Coincidence? I think not, it seems like more of a lack of local identity to me...

Former flagship Lazarus Department store in downtown Cincinnati compared to the bland, characterless new store introduced under the Macy's name (Via Wikipedia)...

Here is an interesting piece of information I just discovered. The site of the "iconic" Sears Tower, integrated with the struggling Carnival Center, was originally a Burdines store before Sears bought the land next door, built the tower, and bought them out...

  • Thanks to Magic City on SSC for the Historical Pictures...
  • This article was written in part due to an e-mail sent to me by the South Beach Hoosier, thanks for the contribution David...

5/22/07

The Tracks are too Bumpy

Boca Raton Residents are calling for the replacement of Tri-Rail tracks at a couple of intersections along the corridor... To make Tri-Rail a better commuting option you ask? Nope, so that their drive across the tracks won't be as bumpy... Watch the video for yourself...

Relevant Headlines

5/21/07

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.

5/20/07

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...

5/17/07

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...

5/16/07

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...

5/15/07

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?

5/14/07

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.

5/13/07

The Hardrock Guitar

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

5/10/07

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...

5/9/07

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...

5/8/07

Quick News Links

5/7/07

Miami, See it like Anything but a Native; Courthouse Complex

Alright, I know it’s long overdue but here is my awaited and (hopefully) anticipated part 3 to my most recent walk through downtown:

I continued my walk into the CBD with this view of the Miami-Dade County Courthouse. I’ve posted this picture below to not only show the hideous temporary fencing that has been surrounding the courthouse for the better part of the past couple of years, but to also show the actual picture I was taking when the first of two interesting events occurred this afternoon.

As I crossed the street after taking this picture, a subject caught crossing the street in the photograph was patiently waiting for me on the north side of Flagler (Where’s Waldo?) Now, allow me to pause a second to describe this character. I’m no stylist but, I’m conscious enough to realize that she was wearing far too many layers of makeup under Jackie-o sunglasses. She was also wearing dark leggings under open-toed shoes, far out of the ordinary even for the cast of characters which typically roam along our downtown streets. My conversation with the deranged lady (DL) went as follows after she flagged me down and pulled me out of my own tranquil universe:

GJL: Yes, may I help you?

DL: Do you work for the government?

GJL: No…

DL: Do you work for a private company?

GJL: Um, Yeah.

DL: Why did you take a picture of me?

GJL: Excuse me?

DL: Why did you take a picture of me just now as I crossed the street?

GJL: In case you didn’t notice ma’am, you were standing in front of one our downtown’s most prominent and historic structures.

DL: I saw you! You took a picture of me and I want to know why!

GJL: Okay, you’re crazy and I’m walking away now…

I proceeded north further into the courthouse district with my ipod and in search of further urban opportunity. As I glanced back I witnessed my new friend darting from empty police car to empty police car before she decided to follow me. I turned west to get a shot of a “Your Tax Dollars at Waste sign” as she continued following me. Lucky for us, there was an occupied police car between me and her, where she was able to pause and discuss my alleged paparazzi activity (which would have been completely legal, in any case.) Obviously nothing came of her police inquiry as I walked by the squad car and received a wave and almost apologetic smirk from the officer…

I trudged on North towards the courthouse complex and MDC and into the scene of my next extremely odd encounter. Along the way I saw further reminders of the second largest diamond district in the United States. The r&r; Jewlery Center is housed in the former downtown post office, was built in 1912 and was the first major federal building to rise in Miami.

You just don’t encounter unique ornamentation like this anymore. There are few buildings which even attempt to add adequate ornamentation, let alone art in public places.

I came across a stunning building in the CBD. I’ve read about it the downtown development authority’s historical walking guide to downtown, but I forgot who it was owned by and when it was built. I’d like to note however, the covered portico, the ground level retail, the sense of some human-oriented planning. The building was obviously designed at a time when pedestrians were still kept in mind and should serve as a model for our future urban infill considering it adequately addressed the pedestrian needs given our hot and often rainy climate.

I continued on towards the federal courthouses and MDC campus. After reading William Whyte’s Project for Public Places, I was anxious to experience the public places established in our federal courthouse complex and major downtown educational facility. The interaction between the federal courthouses and the street is awkward and downright hostile to pedestrians. A large “temporary” concrete barrier keeps cars (and pedestrians) far enough away from the surroundings and the barren concrete plaza of MDC depicts accurately how successful our urban plaza planning has been.

Standing on the sidewalk (public property) from the MDC side of the street (Public School,) I proceeded to take the pictures depicted above. As I happily snapped away, still listening to my ipod, a couple of rent-a-cops from across the street on the federal courthouse began to flail their arms at me frantically. As I removed my earphones they were yelling to stop taking pictures of the federal courthouse. Now, this happened to me once before about two years ago, so I had an eerie feeling that things hadn’t changed since. I was with some visiting family walking around the CBD, snapping pictures of the newly rising federal complex, when we were apprehended by the same rent-a-cop currently yelling at me. That time however, he stepped out of line and reached for my younger cousin’s camera, prompting near chaos because of his inadequate training and general concept of what is truly legal. In any case, knowing I was within my full right to continue photographing the public complex, I continued snapping away, including this picture of the so called security:

I continued my walking tour heading east on the metromover to experience the Biscayne boulevard realignment project.

I continued walking west along NE 5th street, witnessing the absurd amount of shipping container traffic when I was nearly run over by what originally appeared to be an undercover police officer. As I disclosed earlier, it ended up being a US Marshall, apparently sent to find the rogue kid walking around in shorts taking pictures of downtown buildings. Our conversation went something like this, with my thoughts in parenthesis:

GJL: Good Afternoon, I’m Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal of TransitMiami.com, what can I help you with today?

USM: Hey, how’s it going? I’m US Marshall (name omitted out of personal courtesy.) Were you just over by the federal courthouse taking pictures?

GJL: Yes, I was and as far as I know that isn’t a violation of any current or past US laws.

USM: Oh, no, not at all sir. We just like to know who everyone is taking pictures around the federal courthouse.

GJL: Speaking of that, I see your undercover car and gun, but may I see some credentials to verify that you are who you say you are, you can never be too sure in today’s world.

USM: Sure. (Show’s US Marshall Badge and ID Card)

USM: May I see your Drivers’ License to verify your name? What was the name of your website again?

GJL: Sure. (Provide him with my ID) Transitmiami.com… Check it out, the pictures I took will be up there soon…Now, as far as I know, I’m within every right standing on the public sidewalk to photograph my surroundings, correct?

USM: Correct. You just have to understand sir in this new state of security (insecurity) in the United States; we can never be too secure. Just the other day, we had someone taking counter-surveillance shots of our prisoner movements (Buuuuuuuullshit) from the metrorail platform.

GJL: Oh, I understand sir. I guess it may be a matter of national security (insecurity) to chase down people who snap pictures of the federal complex. Is this a common occurrence for the US Marshall to chase down tourists in the CBD for taking pictures?

(I then realized the US Marshall was writing my driver’s license down on a pad of paper, something which I never gave him permission to do considering he never asked to write it down. I was naturally offended because he asked for my ID to write down my name but then violated my confidence in his ability to obtain only the information he had asked for.)

USM: Well it happens often enough…

GJL: Excuse me officer, but I don’t believe it is necessary for you to write down my License number as well as my name, we have both determined that I was within every right to take pictures. I provided you with my ID and granted you permission to jot down my name and would have gladly obliged to give you my license number had you asked…

USM: Oh, don’t worry sir; you aren’t in any trouble…

GJL: I’m fully aware I’m not, we both clarified that no law was broken (you, just plan on running a background check on me...)

USM: Thank you very much for your time sir. Have a nice day and enjoy your stay here in Miami

Lovely. I couldn’t possibly imagine that I would have been apprehended by a US Marshall in the downtown of my own city for taking some innocent pictures with a point and shoot digital camera. I bit my tongue and chose to not point it out to the US Marshall that from the comfort of my own home I or anyone else can obtain aerial images of the complex by navigating through Google Earth or Microsoft’s Virtual Earth. Imagine the mayhem that would be caused if such extreme measures were taken around the federal buildings of NYC, Washington DC, or any other major US city. It’s just another example of a mental lapse on the part of the local rent-a-cop authority hired to protect the federal complex from reasonable threats...

Lucky for me my encounter wasn’t with a city of Miami police officer, officers who have been known to violate the first amendment rights of photographers standing on public sidewalks and not obstructing justice. Unlike Carlos Miller, whose trial began today, I was lucky enough to not have been pummeled to the ground for no apparent reason…

Disgruntled enough I continued my tour north into the omni complex, which will appear in the conclusion and part 4 of this series…

Don't Block the Box!

5/6/07

What the Heck is a Green City, Anyway?

Judging by qualitative experience and from comments on this blog and in other local print media, it seems there is some confusion about what it really means to be a "Green City". Frankly, when people who claim to be pro-green are still referring to Mayor Diaz as "Concrete Manny" with derogatory undertones, it means many of us still don't get it. Today I was going to wax on about the counter-intuitive nature of the Green City, but instead I strongly recommend reading an essay written in the New Yorker a couple of years ago that does an outstanding job explaining why New York is actually the greenest city in the U.S. Click here to download it.
top photo courtesy of Scott Foy's Flickr account

5/2/07

Grimshaw Architects, the British architectural firm has been officially chosen to design the new Miami Museum of Science at Museum Park...

Misleading Billboards


This billboard was recently erected at the corner of SW 27th Avenue and US-1 by the northern boundary of the Grove. What a bunch of garbage - it appears this sign is implying that true urban living (e.g. Brickell, Downtown) is inherently stressful, while the less urban nature of the Grove is some desirable suburban oasis that is stress-free. What is even dumber is that the Grove and Brickell/Downtown are all neighborhoods within the City of Miami; therefore, this billboard illustrates that Miami actually has it's own neighborhoods competing against each other as if they were separate cities.


Perhaps this is emblematic of the hyper-fragmentation within Miami-Dade County, or perhaps it is a latent message via the Grove's NIMBY force that longs for a neighborhood that more closely resembles a "sleepy little village" then a unique urban environment characterized by lush, tropical foliage, a rich history, and strategic location. Regardless, it's definitely not the kind of message the City should embrace, especially given the current efforts to make Miami physically and operationally a denser, more traditional urban environment. Nor should it embrace it because one of it's most popular neighborhoods is taking a shot at the City's urban core, including its CBD and Financial District. Ironically, it is actually the denser environment that leads to less stress. This makes walking and taking transit much more feasible and friendly, which almost always means a less stressful environment than auto-dependent ones which happen to characterize much of the Grove.

Progess on South Beach

It's great to see that pro-bicycle momentum continues to grow in Miami. Last week, the Miami Beach city commission voted to approve bike lanes on 16th Street from Collins Avenue to Alton Road. This was part of an improvement plan for 16th Street, which included other traffic calming elements and pedestrian realm enhancements such as planting shade trees and widening sidewalks.

Amazingly, the bike lanes almost didn't happen. One of Miami's 387,962 NIMBY groups masquerading as a neighborhood improvement organization, the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association, had been a vocal opposition to the bike lanes on 16th. "I understand cyclists want bike paths, but why 16th Street"? Nice argument - I'm sure NIMBYs everywhere were proud.

According to the Sunpost, the real issue at hand is the right-of-way along 16th Street that would need to be taken back by the City in order to accommodate the bike lanes AND widen sidewalks. Similar to the Grove's opposition over the quality 27th Avenue enhancement project, Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association members are concerned that the City will reacquire public right-of-way between buildings and the sidewalk that has been used for private means (e.g. landscaping). Commissioner Richard Steinberg took the stated position that "widening the sidewalks toward the buildings would not, in fact, encroach on private property, but in reality the private property was encroaching upon the city land". It's great to see an elected official embrace the public realm and what's best for the city as a whole and not the private interests of a few NIMBYs.

photo courtesy of huwkan's flickr account

5/1/07

MDT Planning Dementia

I opted to skip out on writing on last week’s revelation on the progress of the north corridor thinking that I’d have enough time this week to cover the story; little did I know that my week would quickly become so complicated, but I’ve finally found some time to address the issue.

MDT has gained federal approval to begin land acquisition for the next branch of the metrorail line. No, I’m not talking about the much needed east-west extension, but the north extension, rising along 27th avenue from the current Northside station to Dolphin stadium adjacent to the county line. Despite the fact that the east-west corridor was originally planned in the 1980’s, the north corridor has somehow taken precedent over the more vital link. The seven proposed stations along the $1.3 Billion, 9.5 miles North line include: a second ridiculously close northside station, MDC North Campus, Opa Locka (just out of reach of the airport), 163 St and the Palmetto, 183 St and Miami Gardens Drive, Dolphin Stadium, and Calder Race Course at County line.

I am obviously disturbed that the North extension is proceeding before the even more crucial east-west corridor is constructed. What irks me most is that MDT is spending millions of PTP money to construct yet another N-S rail link, even though the line would essentially parallel the existing Tri-Rail route. At the same time, the SFECC is working to provide a third N-S rail link, funded by the FDOT, along the FEC corridor, while the USDOT is working on a plan to add managed lanes to I-95, despite a multi million dollar unused FDOT project which sought to add a controversial yet proven Ramp Metering system. Seems unreasonable? I think so, especially when it becomes apparent that our layers of government are effectively working against each other to solve a common problem.

I hate to see things in such a grim manner, but I can’t foresee the north corridor garnering enough riders to justify its’ construction. With competing government entities working to improve existing rail and road routes, the north corridor is seemingly becoming the next white elephant of the metrorail system. On the plus side, it will connect Dolphin stadium with a direct transit source which should garner us at least 7 weekends of extensive use (twice that when UM finally heads North too.) Aside from the northern 2 stations, however, the southern five are awkwardly placed at best, running across mainly industrial and single family home neighborhoods; areas generally not geared to handle the addition of such a major transit line.

My main concern is the $800 Million we’re working to receive from the US government. Considering this is the first project to be partially funded by the PTP, we need to construct a line that will generate the ridership and daily passenger use which will help us to further guarantee more federal subsides for our remaining metrorail lines. A failure so early into the PTP could effectively jeopardize federal funding for the east-west corridor, Baylink, or any other major transit route in the county. And, with so many other cities vying for the same funds while planning considerably cheaper projects using LRT or streetcars, the cost benefit ratio for such a large project will be hard to justify…

Update: Speaking of funding issues...