6/30/07

Update Regarding Quebec's Route Verte

In a recent post, I profiled Quebec's "Route Verte" bikeway, touting it as a "250+ mile long route". However, I missed a digit in there: the bikeway is actually an astonishing 2,500+ miles long!

In the post I also compared Route Verte's length to traveling between Miami and Daytona Beach, or between New York and Washington. However, it's actually roughly the equivalent of a bike path from Miami to San Diego or from Miami to New York and back.

Thanks to Mike from "littlecircles" for pointing this out, and to "Streetsblog", an awesome livable cities blog in New York, for the plug.

6/29/07

Miami 21 Still on Ice

Miami 21's first reading before the Commission yesterday turned out to be rather disappointing. After nearly nine hours of discussion, Commissioners chose to defer an official vote on the proposed new zoning code for another 90 days. This is largely due to the "confusion" still permeating citizens and Commissioners alike.

Now I understand a lot of people are spewing hate at Elizabeth and DPZ, but I say give her a break. I'm guessing the reason she made the quote to "pass as is" was not meant as an arrogant gesture, but as a sign of frustration. And you know what? I'd be frustrated, too, if I were her.

Yes, the Miami 21 project is both large and complex, but there have been more than 100 public meetings over the course of nearly two years to clear things up. When it comes to public input, this number definitely verges on the high end, yet somehow people are still confused. There has even been ample information and supporting documentation available at Miami21.org for which to help clear things up.

Look, I know for a fact that if I had any real concerns about a project like this I would do whatever it takes to get answers (before it goes to the commission!). Yet people (and Commissioners) still don't even understand basic tenets, such as whether or not existing buildings would be grandfathered-in under the new code. We're adults, people - at some point we need to take the initiative to figure things out instead of waiting to be force-fed information.

Thus, I think we could interpret her "pass as is" quote another way. It goes something like this:
"If after 100+ public meetings and forums, plus an easily accessible website with ample supporting documentation, people still are clueless about the proposed code, then how much of an affect will additional meetings really have? Once you reach a certain threshold of meetings, offering any additional meeting should have little appreciable benefit - if any at all. Thus, after 100+ meetings, you begin to wonder one of two things: (1) Are the people who claim they still 'don't get it' really confused, or are they just opponents of the new code (and subsequently opponents of change) acting to create doubt in the minds of commissioners and about the work of DPZ? or (2) Is this symptomatic of Miami's anemic citizen involvement in public affairs?"
As for the Commissioners, there is no excuse. This is arguably the most significant vote of these Commissioners lives, and they've known it was coming for two years now. Given their tremendous access to the city's planners, DPZ, and pretty much any information they need to help them understand Miami 21, it is inexcusable and irresponsible that they still don't understand the proposed code.

While I have mentioned that Miami 21 is not a perfect code, it is so much better than the current one. It begs the question, would you rather continue under the anachronistic, byzantine code we currently have, that allows hodge-podge development and is completely and utterly hostile to pedestrians and cyclists?

It is critical that people understand this, because to continue under the old code would have devastating consequences for Miami's future. So, if you are one of those people who has gone to meetings and taken the initiative to understand Miami 21 but is still genuinely confused, I implore you to do whatever it takes to educate yourself during the next 90 days - Miami's future hinges on this code.

6/27/07

Miami 21 Reminder

Don't forget - the first reading of Miami 21 is today! Check it out live on channel 77.

Can Working Less Fight Global Warming?

Given the urgent action that must be taken to fight climate change, it is important to be searching for ways to cut our harmful emissions. One particularly simple, yet important area that has not received much attention thus far is work hours. Is it possible that we could curb our emissions significantly just by working a few less hours per week?

According to a study led by Harvard economics professor Mark Weisbrot, it's very possible. The study, conducted for the Center of Economic and Policy Research and titled Are Shorter Work Hours Good for the Environment?, claims that if Americans adopted European standards for work hours, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2000 would have been 7% lower than its actual 1990 emissions. This assumes U.S. workers would average 35 hours of work per week, as is typical throughout much of Europe.

Not only would this help the world's worst global warming offender curb its emissions, it would provide workers with the equivalent of seven weeks of additional time off per year. This is time that could be spent with families, friends, relaxing, or even getting more sleep. Sound unrealistic? A survey issued by the Center for the New American Dream found that half of all Americans with full-time jobs would prefer to work a four-day week at 80% of their current pay.

Perhaps even scarier, though, is if the inverse were to occur. According to the study, if Europe was to move in a new direction and adopt the American standard of work hours, it could consume 25-30% more energy per year. However, this isn't just a US vs. Europe issue. As the economies of developing countries grow, they will almost certainly move in a direction to adopt either the American or European standards for work hours. If these countries were to choose the American standard, they would likely consume between 15% and 30% more energy than if they had adopted the European standard. What's the significance? All the extra carbon emissions could result in a devastating 1-2 degrees Celsius of additional warming.

Considering that we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80-90% this century, changing the American standard of work hours deserves some serious consideration. Perhaps at a minimum, we should be given a choice of whether we want to to take an "hour cut" or not, as is argued by the Preservation Institute.

Important Cycling Meeting Set for Thursday Night

Another important opportunity to improve cycling in Miami-Dade will occur tomorrow night.

The issue at hand will be the proposed extension of the "Black Creek Trail" 8.8 miles to reach the Krome Trail at the L-31 N levee. Not surprisingly, there's a vocal and organized opposition to the extension, so it's important that cycling proponents or anyone who cares about sustainability shows up to this meeting.

The meeting will be held at:
Click here to visit the Spokes N' Folks blog for details and additional information.


6/26/07

Countdown to Miami 21 Hearing is Down to 24 Hours

It's hard to believe, but Miami 21 (east quadrant) is finally scheduled to go before the City Commission tomorrow for its first reading. It's been a long two years waiting, but I think the final product will be well worth the wait. While it isn't perfect, it's still a monumental improvement over the current code. It will give Miami a fighting chance at becoming a more livable, sustainable, pedestrian-oriented city, which would've been highly unlikely under the current code.

We must understand, however, that these positive changes will not happen overnight. Most of Miami suffers from legacies of planning incompetence, and it will take years for the new code to manifest large-scale positive change.

As for the hearing tomorrow, there is still some controversy surrounding Miami 21. Some officials and citizens are still concerned about affordable housing, which you can't blame them for after the disgusting, embarrassing revelations of the past year regarding the Miami-Dade Housing Agency and City of Miami Department of Community Development. It should be interesting to see how the City Commission reacts to these concerns tomorrow morning.

To see the final draft of the code, click on the Miami 21 link above. Also, I recommend checking out the supporting links on the sidebar, which contain a lot of pictures and maps that help illustrate what Miami 21 is all about.

Photo courtesy of Miami21.org

6/25/07

Miami 21 Updates

A few days ago the most recent amendments to Miami 21 were published on the code's website, www.Miami21.org.


After looking it over, here are some noteworthy amendments:

  • The addition of an official definition of bike lanes and bicycle routes
  • The inclusion of cycling as a form of transportation to be promoted as a means of achieving sustainability
  • The requirement that developers post a "performance bond" at the time of permit application, which will force all new buildings over 50,000 square feet to be at least LEED Certified Silver. Failure to accomplish these standards within one year after the completion of the project would force developers to pay into the Miami 21 Public Benefits Trust Fund (would help fund affordable housing, among other things)
  • Article 3.7.1.d: Bicycle use of thoroughfares should be as follows: Bicycles and vehicles may share use of lanes on thoroughfares with design speeds of thirty 30 mph or less and should not share use of lanes on thoroughfares with design speeds of more than thirty (30) mph. Thoroughfares may include dedicated bicycle lanes. Greenways, waterfront walks and other Civic Spaces should include bicycle lanes.
  • Article 3, Section 3.7.1.e, Thoroughfares: Bicycle Lanes may be made part of thoroughfares that have sufficient paving width to accommodate bicyclists’ safety. A City-wide bicycle plan may designate an interconnected network serving bicyclists with a series of routes that include Bicycle Lanes as well as Bicycle Routes that give bicycles priority, such as those Thoroughfares which parallel major corridors and which can be reconfigured to limit conflicts between automobiles and bicycles.
  • Developers will receive incentives to reach Gold or Platinum LEED Certification
  • Down-zoning of T3-L from allowing 18 units/acre to only 9 units/acre
  • The requirement of at least one bicycle rack for every 20 vehicular parking spaces (it used to be 10 in some cases)
  • Within a half mile radius of a TOD and within a quarter mile of bus transit, the required parking may be decreased by 30%. In T6-48, parking for residential uses located within 600 feet of a Metrorail or Metromover station shall not be required.
  • Bulb-outs may be added where Thoroughfare widths are wide and design speed high, or where sidewalks are narrow in order to facilitate pedestrian safety.
So as you can see, there is some important new language that has either been added or altered within Miami 21. It's very encouraging to see all the new bicycling components, including language recognizing bike lanes and bicycle routes. However, I'm disappointed that they doubled the number of vehicular parking spaces necessary before even one bicycle rack is mandated. Perhaps most important of all, though, is the language encouraging the creation of a Bicycle Master Plan. This will be where cycling in Miami really takes off, not through a zoning code.

I'm not sure yet how I feel about the performance bond. It sounds like a good idea upfront, but I worry that wealthy developers will just say "the hell with LEED" and just plan from the get-go to pay into the special trust fund. Even though the trust fund is designed to help fund affordable housing, we just cannot sacrifice opportunities to have green buildings.

I was very disappointed to see the T3-L designation get down-zoned. Could this be a bone thrown to "suburb-in-the-city" types who fear density and true urban living?

As for the parking reduction language, it sounds pretty good on paper. However, I would much prefer to see it mandated instead of just an option, because developers in Miami do not have a good track record of reducing parking when possible under the current code.

6/24/07

Quebec Makes a Bold Cycling Statement

The province of Quebec doesn't mess around when it comes to cycling. A 250+ mile long route will be completed this August, making it the longest such route in North America. Known as "Route Verte" (Green Route), the trail has taken over 10 years to complete and will traverse 320 municipalities all across the province. To put that into perspective, it would be like having a continuous trail from Miami to Daytona Beach or New York to Washington.

Wow.

According to the website dedicated to the trail:
"You can cycle the Route Verte all at once, section-by-section, or by following your own itinerary. Some people regularly use the sections close to their homes, while others make a special trip a few times per year. The Route Verte can be a personal challenge or a relaxing place to spend your leisure time. You can enjoy it alone, as a family, or with friends. Every year numerous groups organize special outings along portions of the bikeway. When it comes to leisure, tourism, health, and the environment, the Route Verte is an invaluable asset".
Furthermore, Route Verte is marked with signs that display route information, including nearby services or attractions, making it very user friendly for locals and tourists alike.

Way to go, Quebec.

I think Florida is currently underutilizing one of the nation's most scenic roads - A1A. If the state wants to send its own bold message that it is serious about cycling, while simultaneously providing a fantastic coastal transportation asset that would traverse hundreds of communities, it would step up and create a continuous A1A trail. It could be our "Orange Route".

Photos courtesy of SamediVelo.com, Wikipedia, and Canadatrails' flickr account

Ice, Global Responsibility, Public Art

Miami Beach is stepping up its commitment to art in public spaces in a big way. The renderings for the marble sculpture "Drift", by Spanish artist Inigo Manglano-Ovalle depict the forthcoming behemoth that will soon arrive on the shores of South Pointe Park. The 16 foot tall abstract representation of an iceberg that has broken off from the continental shelf and floated to South Beach pushes the individual to examine the harsh realities of climate change. As a part of the overall renovation of the park, Miami Beach city commissioners made a significant declaration of their commitment to beautification, the arts, and the responsibility to remain vigilant in the examination of contemporary issues in art, as well as global issues. The selection of the world renowned artist was influenced by his numerous other installations across the US.




The suspended chrome cloud that has been on display at the opening of Zaha Hadid's Contemporary Arts Museum in Cincinnati among many other locations is another example of the artists intense observations of the world in which we inhabit, the experience of being in that world and the effect we have on it. Earlier work focused on issues of migration and immigration and while some artists path seem to migrate deeper, toward a particular, smaller if you will, subject, Manglano-Ovalle's subject matter continues to be expansive, moving toward larger more universal objects and concerns.



The physical articles created to encapsulate the many themes of his work are consistently pieces of unprecedented beauty. They are both incredibly simple and vastly complicated, expressionistic and highly calculated, whose tangible qualities alone dictate their classification as high art. The opportunity to have such a sculpture, outdoors, in the public realm, as a permanent installation is a privilege.



Like another Manglano-Ovalle sculpture of an iceberg, that is seen as its whole self, including all that would ordinarily be submerged, the people of Miami can look forward to the installation of this art, knowing there will be more and more to be discovered in what lies beneath. It's just the tip of the iceberg.

6/23/07

Cancun Bound

I'll be off for the week as I head over to Cancun for some good old Beach relaxation. Ryan and James will be around to keep discussing Museum Park, the Design District, and whatever else pops up this week...Meanwhile, I'll be floating down a subterranean river at Xcaret:Via Coatlikuee

6/21/07

Oak Plaza. First out of the Gate!



This is just the beginning of smart urban planning for the design district, and a continuation on a theme for DACRA. Watch for a comprehensive examination of the plans in place for the design district, coming soon.

Environmental News

Herald: Suburban sprawl threatens Lake Okeechobee.

News Briefs

  • CBS does a little math for us: Corruption + 11 City Workers = Miami.
  • MDT is looking into using hovercraft for the 18 month pilot water taxi program. The two water taxi routes (Haulover-Miami and Matheson Hammock-Miami) would operate the $1.2 Million boats with a maximum capacity of 30-50 passengers. The hovercraft are being considered due to their minimal impact on manatees and the delicate sea grass of Biscayne Bay, but would be limited to a 30 mph operation speed.
  • MIA is working on renewing an incentive program to gain new service to more destinations from Miami.
    • "Cities the airport would like to begin direct service to include Capetown and Johannesburg, South Africa; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; Casablanca, Morocco; Brussels; Dublin; Helsinki; Moscow; Warsaw; Budapest; Tokyo; Seoul; Hong Kong; Shanghai; and New Delhi or Mumbai, formerly Bombay."
  • The DDA may soon be granting Macy's some financial incentives to stay downtown...I'd like to see Macy's revamp their downtown store before we go head and hand them a handout. I couldn't agree more with Mayor Diaz:
    • "The mayor has insisted the store has to be redone so that it is appealing and more open to the street..."

Design District's "Oak Plaza" Offers Glimpse of What to Expect with Miami 21

Here at Transit Miami, we're always preaching about how important it is to increase Miami's density while simultaneously reinforcing how critical it is for this density to follow quality urban design principles. Unfortunately, I've spent more time bashing new developments for being auto-oriented, fueling NIMBY rhetoric that "all development is bad and greedy", and ultimately squandering a great opportunity to improve Miami's urban facade.

However, I'm happy to inform you about "Oak Plaza", a new development in the Design District. This development, which recently won the Congress for the New Urbanism's 2007 Charter Award, is a perfect example of how quality density with pedestrian-first urban design can enhance our neighborhoods.

What makes it work? The buildings engage the pedestrian realm instead of hiding from it. The arcades not only add architectural flair, but they offer shaded walkways for pedestrians. The buildings are built right up to the sidewalk, which helps define urban space and enhance pedestrian accessibility. The sidewalk trees don't appear to be much more than aesthetic at this point, but just as the neighborhood matures overtime, the trees should grow enough to add some shade in the future.

My favorite part of this development, however, is the creation of a public plaza. Public plazas, when designed right, can serve as great public gathering spaces and are the next best thing to parks. If you've ever been to Manhattan, you'll notice that plazas are everywhere, and thousands and thousands of people use them each day, be it as a meeting place, for people-watching, or just as a nice spot to sit on a ledge and rest for a few minutes. William Whyte, a world-class urban observer and mentor for so many urban planners, does an excellent job showcasing public plazas in his book The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (the red book in our "recommended reading list").

Thus, plazas present a great opportunity to provide Miami with more public meeting spaces, which it desperately needs. It's very difficult to be a thriving urban destination without them. Oak Plaza's architects even designed this particular plaza around 150 year old oak trees. Again, this shows that with good urban design we can have increased density without bulldozing over all of our trees. Khoury & Vogt, Cure & Penabad should be applauded for this design.

Note: The two main buildings at Oak Plaza will be called Y-3 and Ligne Roset.

Fortunately, we should see many more developments like this once Miami 21 passes. Oak Plaza embodies the type of design elements that Miami 21 will mandate. Hopefully those concerned with an increase in density in their neighborhood due to Miami 21 can see that Oak Plaza represents a great example to follow when critiquing future developments.

Erik Vogt, one of the project designers said it well when referring to Oak Plaza, "a critique of what Miami could have been and what it still could be".

Beth Dunlop, Herald architectural critic says it even better:
"If every work of architecture had the intelligence, the artistry, the engagement and yes, the sense of enchantment of Oak Plaza, we'd be living in a really remarkable place".
Photos courtesy of Congress for the New Urbanism

Miami Mentality: Ignorance

The new tolls on the 836 will be opening up soon (July 1) along with the new MDX 3 mile west extension of the highway. You can read all about it here. But, once again, the comments section of this article is where we'll find some of the finest examples of the Miami Mentality:
"Nothing but a scam, to steal your money anyway they can. Things are just going to get worse and the traffic that will be backed up at that toll plaza in the morning will be a nightmare for the commuters. This county and it's politcians who permitted this to go thru are nothing but a bunch of scoundrels, and thiefs. THIS COUNTY SUCKS !! I will definitely try to find a way around this toll and not pay them a single red cent. MDX = CROOKS" -A Commuter

"What ever happened to the extensions they were going to build down to kendall and homestead? We voted for the 1/2 penny tax, they took our money to build toll plazas in order to take more money from us! This is nothing new in Miami, they're simple lining their pockets as usual.
Anyone that does not vote for the property tax cut in January will only continue feeding money to these crooks!" -Mike

"Your 1/2 penny tax is going to a stupid "Move it Yes you can!" public awareness campaign. How about giving us some toll relief instead? Or building the FIU metrorail route? We need to repeal that 1/2 penny tax now!" -Ollie

"What about the taxes we all pay hidden in every gal. of gas? Do the people know the goberment is selling every bridge, roads to China, Chavez and Arabes countries to any one with money. That's why we have to pay tolls. e" -Pedro

It's amazing to see how many people blatantly do not understand where the money from the 1/2 penny sales tax goes. MDX is a separate entity from MDT (which it shouldn't be) and was operating a system of toll roads where only 28% of users were paying for 100% of the tolls. There were some comments calling for the expansion of metrorail, but with representatives like Zapata leading the Sweetwater community against those efforts as well, any reasonable plan to alleviate the problem seems impossible...

Dump The Pump!

The day is dedicated to raising awareness that public transportation helps improve the environment and conserve fuel. It also offers the opportunity for people to beat the high price of gasoline and support public transportation as an important travel option that helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
-Via APTA

Locally:

6/20/07

Vatican's Ten Commandments (for drivers)

No Joke. I don't think I could have concocted this story had I tried. I wish the Vatican had been a little more proactive, the "Ten Commandments of Living a Sustainable Life" would have worked just as well...

The Vatican's Ten Commandments for drivers:

1. You shall not kill.
2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.
3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.
4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.
5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.
6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.
7. Support the families of accident victims.
8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.
9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.
10. Feel responsible toward others.

Apparently, this list hasn't gotten around to everyone in Miami...

Transit Miami Profile: EKHO

We turn our attention once again today to the East Kendall Homeowners (Association? Organization? Federation? Coalition of the willing?) to discuss the initial purpose of the group’s existence. The EKHO was formed in June 2005 in opposition to the former Dadeland Breezes development, slated for N Kendall Dr. and 77th Ave. An excerpt from their site:

“A massive development called “Dadeland Breeze” is being proposed for our neighborhood. This development will demolish the 3 story apartment buildings at N. Kendall Drive & S.W. 77 Ave. in order to construct a complex of 8 condominium towers up to 8 stories high with nearly a 100% increase in the density of the existing buildings. This proposed construction project is clearly incompatible with the low-rise scale of our “East Kendall” residential neighborhood…”

I’d like to speak to the person who reasoned that an 8 story building was “out of character” with the neighborhood, but the Palmetto expressway, expansive parking lots of Dadeland Mall, or the gargantuan 6 lanes of Kendall drive just blended in seamlessly with the surroundings. The fact that most East Kendall residents don’t likely walk to their local Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, or Mall is the most alarming part of this discussion. Furthermore, I find it kind of hypocritical when a group speaks out against a project of greater density because of “increased traffic” but yet also goes against measures to bring public transit to their neighborhood. Is it the development that East Kendall fears or is it a change in the way of life?

“…It will worsen our already bad traffic, further burden our over-capacity schools, and have a negative impact on the quality of life of our families.”

Yahtzee! “Impact on the quality of life” Now, what impact precisely is anyones guess, but a change that will have us living a more vertical, sustainable, and likely healthier life doesn’t sound so bad, that is, unless you like idling in traffic along US-1 or Kendall bouncing around from parking lots to fast-food drive-throughs.

What many Miami residents, organizations, etc. fail to realize is that change and progress are a way of life. Had such powerful opposition existed in the early 1900’s, much of our prized downtown Brickell land could still look much like it did in 1915:

Imagine that? The Four Seasons was once a 2 story bungalow. By now we surely would have paved clear across the everglades and into Naples had someone not decided to build vertical…

Try explaining that and the benefits of sustainable growth to these folks, the EKHO, a group of citizens obviously set in their ways and accustomed to the lousy quality of suburban life:

6/19/07

Miami's Climate Should Not Have Much of an Impact On Cyclists and Pedestrians

A commenter from another blog recently brought up a point about Miami’s climate, and how it may affect transit and mobility, as well as why it is rarely mentioned on Transit Miami. Because it’s true we speak little of local climate-related issues and many people use Miami's climate as an excuse to drive everywhere, I thought now would be a good time to formally address the concern.

The reason weather is rarely discussed on this site is because we think for the most part it is a non-issue. By and large, Miami's climate doesn't pose any more problems than in any other city. Sure, we get a lot of rain during the wet season, but our frequency of rain is actually less than that of many other cities. What I’m saying is, it may rain hard in parts of Miami for short periods, but rarely will the same location get poured on day-after-day-after-day. On the other hand, it can be rainy, wet, foggy, and cold all day long in London, Copenhagen, or even Boston and New York. It’s not unusual for this to happen across the entire city, for several straight days anytime during the year. This doesn't stop nearly 40% of Copenhagen residents from biking to work each day. Nor do several month long bouts of frigid weather stop people from using transit from Montreal to Moscow. Miami is fortunate enough to have six months of practically rain-free weather with temps between 75 and 82 degrees - most cities that are already transit-oriented could only dream of having such a climate.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most people commute early in the morning when temperatures are nearly at their coolest, which is certainly bearable even during Miami's hot wet season. Thus, riding a bike at a leisurely pace with mild morning temperatures, you probably won’t even break a sweat. However, businesses and/or buildings should be equipped with shower facilities in case you were to break a sweat. Toronto, for example, has a program in place which is aimed at being bicycle-friendly, whereas all new buildings of a certain square footage must be equipped with shower facilities. Moreover, with improved transit and new lines, people can bike short distances to transit, then ride in AC downtown or wherever you are employed.

In poorly designed places, heat does have the potential to be oppressive. This is why it's so important to adhere to quality urban design principles, with buildings having short setbacks coupled with awnings or sidewalk shade trees (this usually means higher density - one more reason why it’s not an evil thing). Mayor Diaz is trying to attack this issue with a Tree Master Plan, with goals to improve the City's tree canopy by 30% by 2020. Developers need to do their part, too, by making their street frontages more protected from sun.

This is one more reason why low-density sprawl is so bad, especially in South Florida's climate. Think about it: If you're walking along a typical suburban, car-oriented street where everyone has a driveway and one-story flat homes are set way back, you're probably baking in the sun. However, walking along Miracle Mile or Main Highway is much more pleasant because trees and/or urban design elements are providing shade.

And lastly, rain is definitely a non-issue for pedestrians - all you need is an umbrella!

Photo courtesy of slowernet's flickr photostream

News Briefs

  • MDT's Buses on the shoulder program is going well. With 50% fewer late buses the pilot program is looking good thus far along the Killian routes.
  • Last year's fastest growing Transit System, Tri-Rail, is working the kinks out of its latest "service enhancements." The agency is still struggling to gain dispatch control from CSX and last week experienced a dismal on time performance between 50-60%...
  • Remember those stupid trucks with billboards which drive around and cause congestion, pollute, and obstruct your view? Here are the people responsible...
  • Sunpass will be selling at half price to placate 13,000 people who live in sprawl-land, or something of the sort...What I'd like to know is when we're going to wake up and start using toll money to finance real transit projects... (Via SOTP)

Synthetic Skyline


Via ImageMD's flickr...

6/18/07

Blog Update

Some changes are taking place around here in order to better organize the site content and our transit-related offerings. Notice the lovely new dual sidebars (took me a couple of hours of CSS editing/learning) which will soon feature more useful content than before. We're also in the process of introducing a "recommended reading" section where we suggest excellent books to spruce up your own knowledge on Urban Planning, Transportation, or Architecture...

So what do you all think? I'll be working on updating the site some more over the next few weeks, but I'd like to hear what our dedicated users think of the changes. Any suggestions? Comment or send ideas to movemiami@gmail.com...

Introducing the Biscayne-Everglades Greenway

Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald

Good news for bicycle advocates: the Biscayne-Everglades Greenway is getting closer to becoming a reality. The proposed 42-mile trail would be the first and only bike trail in the U.S. to connect two national parks (Biscayne National Park & Everglades National Park).

The landmark proposal is still “largely conceptual, with designs nearing completion”, according to park planner at Everglades National Park, Fred Herling. As it currently stands, however, the Biscayne-Everglades Greenway is to be composed of two routes. The first route would originate at Biscayne National Park and travel westbound through Homestead and then to the Ernest P. Coe Visitor Center just past the entrance of Everglades National Park. The second route would then originate at EPC Visitor Center, then travel back eastbound to Biscayne National Park via Florida City this time.

According to the Herald, the Greenway would be replete with trail amenities including benches, rest stops, scenic mile markers, vegetation markers, and even occasional outlets for kayaking and canoeing.

How much is this going to cost, and who’s going to pay you ask? Current estimates are approximately $30 million. Homestead has applied for federal funding, which officials feel confident they will receive. Miami-Dade County has agreed to pick up a portion of the tab so far, but only for a small eastern segment.

I must say, though, while it is very encouraging to see this level of support for such a large bicycle project, it still appears that cycling is considered a “recreational pursuit” and not so much a legitimate form of transportation within this county. We need to continue to pressure for a Bicycle Master Plan - one that includes a vast network of urban bike lanes and greenways as well as recreational trails. Hopefully the Biscayne-Everglades Greenway will be the first step in a new direction for bicycle transportation policy in Miami-Dade County.

Sarnoff Pledges to Clean Up Downtown

6/16/07

Simply to be very clear... As much as I am pro development, for all it brings to the Miami of the 21st century, I hope that we continue to treasure the rich, diverse and unique architectural heritage of Miami, and Florida as a whole. This image was originally posted on SSC by arch photographer and demonstrates the great necessity for preservation.

6/15/07

Museum Park Discussion

This extraordinary image posted at Skyscrapercity by James Good illustrates the need for revitalization for downtown's premier park space. As well as how appropriate the location is for Museums with the Metromover stop already in place. The museums will be a great buffer for the park from the intrusive traffic of the highway beside the park. I am also interested in hearing thoughts from our readers regarding the somewhat sensitive issue of the need for, specifically, green park space.

Is it unfair to compare Miami to other cities in terms of green park space when across the causeway is the enormous public space, Miami Beach. I assure you I am a strong supporter for park space in Miami proper, but I feel there is an entirely different analysis required based on the unique quality of the beach. Being the single most obvious draw for all of South Florida residents, the beach almost creates a requirement of other city parks to include an attraction, if they are to be fully utilized. While some would propose a stadium or a waterpark, it seems that the museums are the perfect, compatible solution, in keeping with the desired qualities of a public green space.

Via Miami Fever...

6/14/07

Making Cycling Even More Attractive


As you may already know, I support bicycles. I am a huge advocate for improved bicycle infrastructure in Miami, including a comprehensive Bicycle Master Plan.


Nonetheless, I often speak to people who have concerns about using bicycling as a legitimate form of transportation, even if Miami had hundreds of miles of separated bike lanes.

Some of the more popular concerns include fear of theft, lack of secure racks, and problems with the bike’s generous proportions, particularly when on a crowded train or attempting to store it inside of a building. Fortunately, I’ve found a solution to most of these concerns: folding bikes.

The folding bicycle certainly isn’t new technology, but it’s rare I see people using these bikes and even rarer to hear people talk about them.

A couple weeks ago, I was introduced to the amazing convenience of the folding bike. I was in Brooklyn at the time, and was planning on going down to Philly for the weekend to visit some old friends. Lucky for me one of my friends allowed me to borrow their new Dahon.

After learning how to fold and unfold the bike, I packed some clothes in a backpack, and raced off through Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and into Lower Manhattan. I decided to test its convenience on the subway - no problem. Even fumbling at bit, it only took about one minute to fold up the bike and it was light (only like 20-25 lbs.) enough to carry right over the turnstile. The C train was relatively crowded, but I was still able to get a seat comfortably while holding the folded bike.

At Penn Station, I didn’t have to worry about maneuvering a regular sized bike through masses of people, nor having to lug it up or down stairs/escalators. I boarded Amtrak, stowed the bike in the rack above my seat, and read a book during the hour and change trip.

Upon arriving at 30th Street Station in Philly, I didn’t even have to bother with cab fare - I just unfolded the bike and road off to meet my friends about 12 or 13 blocks away. Upon arriving at my friends’ place, I folded the bike back up, walked past the doorman without any looks or objections, took the elevator with ease, and stored it in their small apartment without feeling guilty about space.

I was hooked. I just ordered a Dahon myself, and can’t hardly wait another day for it to arrive. In the meantime, let me share with you just a short list of benefits for folded bikes:
  • Integrates flawlessly with all forms of transit. Instead of taking up a bunch of space on a Metrorail car, or loading and unloading a regular sized bike on the front of a bus, the folded bike is easy to carry on board
  • They usually fold up in just 15-30 seconds
  • Most of them fit conveniently into a duffel bag or suitcase - perfect for carry-on luggage on planes
  • They take up a fraction of space in your home (especially great for smaller living spaces)
  • No longer do you have to worry about them getting stolen from some random chain-up or even a rack. You probably won’t even need to buy any chains or locks in the first place
  • You could even bring it into the office. Put it in a carrying bag, it stores easily
  • Performance is as good as or better than regular sized bikes, depending on what model and/or brand you use
  • Allows you the freedom to go just about anywhere; its convenient integration with transit is particularly beneficial
To learn more about folded bikes and their benefits, check out this great link.

Photo courtesy of joelmann's flickr account

6/13/07

An open letter reply to the East Kendall Homeowners Organization (EKHO)

In response to recent editorials by the East Kendall Homeowners Organization and Ed Levine, I decided to submit my own editorial to the Herald, let's hope they publish it...

An open letter reply to the East Kendall Homeowners Organization (EKHO):

It is disheartening to see such a motivated and presumably progressive group of individuals that comprise the East Kendall Homeowners Organization speak out so adamantly against a plan that would provide better access to most of the Kendall community. If we are to remain an economically viable community, we must embrace transit growth and the urban living that comes with it, rather than shun it with half-baked objections and trepidation towards drastic lifestyle changes.

The inability to embrace alternative forms of effective transit is disconcerting, particularly in a region currently choking on the congestion induced by its own unchecked growth and sprawl. It is typical of the mentality fostered in this particular region and has been cultivated by our addiction to the automobile. The mentality is further compounded by the opposition to the CSX corridor alternative, presented by Ed Levinson (Community Council 12) last week, which declared that transit along the corridor would only hamper vehicular traffic. This mentality will soon become our prime obstacle in creating a truly urban and sustainable metropolis.

Miami has to sever its addiction to the automobile. Public transit has failed in Miami not because a lack of effort, but because of a widespread opposition to change in community planning efforts and lifestyle changes on the part of our citizens. With regards to concerns on property value, studies conducted by the APTA (particularly in Miami) showed an "assertion that rail transit imparts value to residential property in districts where the population values the access provided by that transit service the most, regardless of the income of the district."

A less troubling notion is that MDT continues to push costly suburban commuter rail lines, further justifying our city's unremitting sprawl. MDT should scrap these plans to spread Metrorail across the county to citizens who obviously won't even use it and should instead work to bring less costly Streetcars and LRT to our urban core. How can we justify suburban commuter trains when we lack the necessary mobile infrastructure in our densest regions?

It is of paramount importance that our citizens educate themselves on the benefits of proper public infrastructure and urban planning before they take up such a bold position against reasonable measures which would help steer the future growth of our community. It is with all due respect that I therefore ask the members of the East Kendall Homeowners Organization to think about what is best for the future of our community rather than themselves.

Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal
www.TransitMiami.com


6/12/07

All Eyes on Downtown

With the attention garnered on the appalling state of our downtown by Macy's Florida CEO Julie Greiner last week, it appears that rehabbing downtown (with that, many of our street wanderers) is the hot conversation topic these days. Downtown is deplorable. We all know it; we’ve stated it countless times. The question is does anyone know what should be done?

Sometimes I get the feeling the Herald understands the problems which face our city, other times not. An article posted Saturday June 9, sought to address the issue, but instead began to paint a picture of how parking was the main reason why our downtown was in such a state of disarray.
“Parking is scarce and expensive, and by many accounts, vulnerable to vandals.”

Scarce and expensive parking also confounds turnaround efforts, limiting the appeal to upscale businesses. ''Parking is a headache,'' said Carlos Narvaez, who works at the Radio Shack outlet on Flagler Street. ``They broke into my car twice.''
Decentralization of our city’s urban core brought upon by sprawl has lead to the demise of our (and nearly every city in the U.S.) downtown, a problem which was in part induced by our addiction to the automobile. Suburbanites fail to realize that abundant, cheap (free), and traffic free parking are not sustainable in any urban core and efforts to increase any of these would only make matters worse along the sidewalks. The article fails to note in its quest for parking solutions, that the city recently completed a streetscaping project which added valuable on street parking throughout the Flagler corridor.

The more we isolate ourselves in our own “protective” vehicular cocoons, the worse the situation will become along the already desolate streets of downtown. A proven and successful method to combat downtown crime is to improve our street use, pedestrian activity, and with that public spaces/transportation. Radio shack and all downtown employees (especially lower wage workers) should reap the financial benefits that Metrorail and Metromover offer users compared to daily vehicular use.


Things get worse when the only mention of transit includes an armed robbery incident:
Nancy Blount, a family law attorney who was walking down Flagler near the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, recalled being ''robbed at gunpoint four or five years ago'' when she took Metrorail.
It was obviously a life changing experience for Nancy, she couldn’t even remember the year…It’s beside the point and contributed nothing to the quality of this article other than to reiterate a negative stance against public transit in the minds of the readers.

How can we combat the Miami mentality if even our news stories are showing bias towards ineffective ways of thought? I believe the Herald should take it upon itself to not only inform readers of the problems downtown but should also offer well reasoned and educated solutions to the problems we face, instead of the typical half truths offered by everyday citizens…

Key Word Use:
  • Business (6)
  • Parking (5)
  • Homeless (4)
  • Traffic (2)
  • Filthy (2)
  • Pedestrian (1)
  • Metrorail (1)
  • Planning (0)
  • Transit (0)
  • Metromover (0)

What is your Ecological Footprint?

Click here to gauge how sustainable your lifestyle is.

6/11/07

SOBE Aerial Video

We're all used to the stunning aerial footage generously provided to us by local amateur photographer/RC Pilot James Good, but I'm afraid he's outdone himself this time with some amazing video footage shot from South Beach's South Pointe:



Click here for the classic still frames...

What a "Complete Street" Looks Like in West Philadelphia


(Click on the photo for a larger image)
  • Appropriate density w/rowhouses
  • Quality architecture and urban design
    • Front porches
    • Short setbacks
    • Beautiful ornamentation
    • Designed to interact with people and not cars
  • Bike Lanes
  • Real Trolleys (aka Streetcars)
  • No Curb Cuts/Driveways - On-street parking ONLY
It's very straightforward - we could have this in Miami, too.

photo courtesy of freekpowerticket's flickr account

6/8/07

Oppenheim, Diamonds and Donald Judd

The first thing I always want to talk about, when I talk about Miami, is Chad Oppenheim. Be forewarned, I may gush. Ever since this young architect appeared on the scene we have had the pleasure of one exciting building after another being proposed and built by this edgy, self-expressed talent. The level of achievement of both built and conceptual projects, by an architect so young, is nearly unprecedented.Among his first built structures in Miami Beach was the boutique building Ilona. Tucked away on a secluded street south of fifth street, and having seen renderings of several projects it was a strange experience to happen upon the completed building by mistake. Oppenheim's work began intimately connected to the tropical modernist precedents set forth by the MiMo school. After what was clearly a profound analysis of the period, Oppenheim set out to create a new, more minimal, purist and luxurious interpretation. Simply put, he created a housing for all of the most beautiful and unique properties of South Florida life: light, color, air...sea and sky, the passing of the day. Stopped in my tracks as the building came into view, I felt that I could see the future of design in Miami, and it was good. As with much of his work to date, the design is at first quiet, restrained, and yet continues to reveal itself and its subtle beauty.Another South Beach jewel is yet another small residential building, Ilona Bay. Here we began to see the sophisticated relationship to the sculptor Donald Judd and his minimalist repetition of form. The geometric white grid enclosures that make up the balconies, are an apparent foreshadowing to the series of skyscrapers in store for downtown Miami. Judd's complicated study of a numerous identical shapes, and the richness of such, based on perspective and light were the inspiration for the period in Oppenheim's work that included Ice, Ice 2, and Ten Museum Park, as well as Sky and Space 01 in North Bay Village. As in the past, what seems at first, quite simple, is in truth an analysis of order and sublime proportion. That Oppenheim is able to achieve this in the face of program (number of units, required square footage, balconies etc.) and budgets is almost unbelievable.

To the great loss of Miami urbanists and art lovers, several of Oppenheim's projects have been mired in difficulty with developers and the erratic whims of the real estate market, and may never come to fruition. Several of the above mentioned structures may never be realized, as well as the dynamic Park Lane Tower. Perhaps the greatest surprise, and disappointment is the recent news that 3 Midtown may not be built. This building, is what I believe to be, the most beautiful of the recent boom. Illustrating his sensitivity to each individual site and his desire to deliver to the future residents, an extraordinary experience of Miami, the building is brilliantly twisted and torqued out of the site lines of the two neighboring buildings. The resulting trapezoidal tower creates exciting relationships with the other portions of the buildings, the mews and the low-rise. The structural exoskeleton is a constantly evolving composition of obscuring elements and reveals. This exercise is even carried out on the roof, wrapping the top of the tower in an artful camouflage of the buildings service features, a feature sadly absent in most contemporary building designs. The fenestration on the exposed sides develops into a massive abstract canvas of light absorbing concrete and light reflecting glass, hence blackness in opposition to emitting light after dark. I sincerely hope that the cancellation of this project is a misrepresentation.While the very lofty conversation of Donald Judd and architecture may be to abstruse for the taste of some, it seems that another parallel can easily be drawn with the discussion of the very nearly finished Ten Museum Park. Like a diamond, that on one hand seems only to be a white shape of a stone, the 50 story tower on Biscayne Boulevard, towers above us as a simple gleaming white shape. Upon closer examination of the stone, the facets inside emit an ever shifting, evolving show of extraordinary shadow and brilliant light, that is undeniably hypnotic. So too, as the South Florida sun rises and illuminates the many complicated facets of the tower's design, there is a most enjoyable, ever transforming display of darkness and luminosity, straight through til the sun sets, and reflects off of the vastly contrasting, elegantly proportioned back facade. Check it out.

Dowtown Thoughts

I can't resist publishing some of the more notable comments on the Herald's site regarding the state of downtown Miami...

The Good:
"All buildings downtown should be required to have awnings. The city needs to improve the condition and appearance of the streets and sidewalks, including landscaping where possible. Street lighting at night is horrendous. Businesses and people will not be attracted to downtown if it's ugly and poorly lit at night. People don't feel safe."
-David

"It's a MESS. Dingy, dirty, smelly and rat infested. Let's take pride in our city and get it cleaned up now not wait for the usual red tape and politics."
-Katherine

" I enjoyed the Macy's CEO's comments and I am glad the Herald gave her some ink. I like downtown. True, it is a bit of a dump, relatively speaking, but it is Miami, and Miami is a poor city. What never ceases to amaze me is that city fathers know exactly what it takes to refurbish the area but they haven't the will to act. Condo towers, performing art centers, new waterfront museums, you can choke the area with expensive, exclusive and garish embellishments but without investment in infrastructure it will continue to be poor, underemployed and at times unsightly. I frequent downtown often and love workday and weekend mornings when it is abuzz with work-a-day or tourist/local activity. But when I jump on the metrorail to the metromover and ride from Government Center to Omnistation for the occasional Carnival Center event, my spirit sinks. So much soul, so much potential, and so much waste. Gentrifying and more cops will not address the matter. We need to work with the beauty already there."
-305tillidie
The Bad:
"Last January I asked a police officer where the nearest public restroom was and he pointed to a Metro Bus and we both laughed for a minute or two and went on our different paths. After he turned a corner, I urinated on a New Times dispenser. I figured the officer was joking about the bus."
-Daniel Rothstein

" We need mor cats downtawn to eet all the ratz."
-Javier J
The Absent Minded:
"Thats what you get when you build up and not out. It creates a perminet shadowscape for pestilence and riff-raff. Let me put this way so Paris Hilton can understand it: "Like, no duh.""
-Anonymous

"Why are there homeless people still around Miami-Dade when we are paying a half penny of sales tax?It was just another socialist scam that produces nothing."
-JAV

"Ever since Mayor Manny Diaz became mayor,we never hear negative criticism of his administration.He appears to be the darling of the Herald,etc.If Mayor Carollo were in office they would be wanting his head.This man has done nothing,but get richer.He is a dolittle that the media just loves."
-JAV

What Green space?

It’s an eyesore, one of the greatest wasted public spaces in the city (a dubious achievement in a city already notorious for wasting public space,) and a derelict haven for homeless and illicit activity, yet groups are forming at an alarming rate to “preserve” this swath of land for what it is. It’s Bicentennial Park and the controversy has evolved around the idea of consuming just a fraction of the parks’ acreage to construct new iconic structures for two museums. The fact that MNU and members of the Urban League of Miami have spoken up against the Museum Park plan is appalling if not downright horrendous. I quote from the UEL’s Vision statement:

“We see preserved natural resources, increased density in urban areas with sufficient existing infrastructure and along mass transportation corridors within the urban development boundary. There are more greenways, water access, pedestrian friendly parks, improved historic neighborhoods and landmarks still recognizable and protected.”

The Museum Park plan falls in line with everything UEL “stands” for. The Museum Park plan centralizes the museums, within the urban core. They will be located with easy access of public transit and within the region of the city most likely to continue witnessing densification and a renewal in urban life. Most importantly, the museums will present an actual use for the park, making it safe, actually usable, and a destination within its own right. They claim to be fighting for a preservation of green space, but I can’t help ask myself which park they are talking about, take a look at its current state and decide for yourself:

The Plan:

For High Resolution images and a full detail plan of the park, click here... More on this issue later...

6/7/07

MIC Construction

Say it ain't so! The Miami Intermodal Center is slated to begin construction this month!?!? Something (history) tells me that I'll believe it when I see it...The anticipated opening date is set for Spring 2010 and the estimated cost is $400 Million, we'll keep tabs on both as well as HNTB's progress...

Blog/News Updates

Blog Updates
  • For those of you who haven't visited the site in a while due to the convenience of the automatic daily e-mails, you may not have noticed the addition of James Wilkins to the Transit Miami staff (more to come soon, too.) James will be primarily writing about architecture and Urban Design here on a weekly basis. His first post appeared on Monday and discussed what could/should be Miami's most prominent waterfront structures at Museum Park. As always, if you have any news, stories, or general feedback for any of us three, please drop us an e-mail: movemiami@gmail.com...
  • The site will be temporarily out of commission for part of the weekend, sorry for any inconvenience which this may cause...
  • New Sidebar Miami Blogs: Hallandale Beach Blog, South Beach Hoosier
News
  • Broward Commissioners approved a new 8,000 ft. south runway for Ft. Lauderdale on Tuesday night before a crowd of over 1,000 (mostly opponents) at the Convention Center. The new runway will allow FLL to meet expected demand over the next few decades and will provide the airport with another runway capable of handling most domestic aircraft. The $600 Million runway will likely require the purchase or soundproofing of 2,500 nearby residences and will be elevated over US-1, similar to Atlanta's runway, pictured below...
  • Meanwhile, the state denied FPL's most recent bid to build a "clean" coal power plant in Glades County. "...the company lost its bid to build the coal plant, in part, due to risks the facility would contribute to Everglades and other environmental pollution..." (Via CM)
  • If you build it, they will come...Now, can we just start doing it properly?
Miami Blog Updates
  • I've accidentally neglected TM's Friend Rebbecca Carter of GreenerMiami for too long. Back in May she covered the Commuter Challenge, which this year featured two Mercy Hospital employees "racing" from SW 152 ST. The commuter who used the busway and metrorail won by 19 minutes! Here is her take on the I-95 HOT lanes too...
  • The 836 West extension opens next month and with that, more tolls! Rick says its best: "One More Reason Not To Live In Kendall..." but I find that hard to swallow coming from a Pembroke Pines Suburbanite... In any case, the West extension from the Turnpike to 137th Avenue will be available to SunPass users only...
Headlines From Around the World

6/6/07

Is Miami Becoming a Park n’ Walk City?

Although I have been generally pleased with Miami’s growth patterns of the last few years, I have always been concerned about the outcome. I am afraid Miami is building a completely novel urban environment, perhaps unlike anywhere else on Earth. What do I mean by this? Partially due to the lack of comprehensive transit and the region’s obsessive car culture, nearly all of the City’s new development is being designed for people to drive to, park in a garage, and walk in only the very immediate area to arrive at their destination.

This is exacerbated by the excessive minimum parking standards set by the City Code. Miami’s urban central business district has always had way too much parking for an urban core, but with the addition of all these new buildings as many as 100,000 more parking spaces are being added to the area. What a disgusting waste of valuable urban space. This is what I mean by Miami creating a novel urban environment - I can’t think of another major city in the history of the world that has simultaneously added so much core density and so much more parking. Or, put another way, I can’t think of another major city in the history of the world that has added so much more dense urban infrastructure without substantially curbing driving demand.

Perhaps even more worrisome is that people won’t even do the little bit of walking I mentioned above. They often may not need to. If you’re living in a high-rise in Brickell, you surely have a large parking garage pedestal. Say you want to go shopping at a downtown building with ground floor retail. It’s highly likely, especially if the building is new, that it will also have plenty of on-site parking. All you would have to do, in this case, is take the elevator to the parking garage (or valet), pull out and drive to the on-site garage at your destination. In many instances, there may even be direct access from the parking garage to the ground-floor retail. The same is true if you’re planning on visiting a friend in another building; just drive from one garage to another without ever setting food outdoors.

To see if this is happening, I went downtown and to Brickell to do some qualitative observation to gauge the ratio of pedestrian-to-automobile traffic coming and going from various buildings. I started at the One Miami building, where one of my friends resides. First of all, it doesn’t help that the building is almost entirely designed to interact with automobiles, not the pedestrian realm (seen here on the left), as Gabe pointed out in a recent post. Unfortunately, just as I suspected, one car after another came and went from the building’s massive parking garage. As for pedestrians? I was one of only a handful during about a 45 minute stretch between 1:45 pm and 2:30 pm.

Next, I took the Metromover down to Brickell so I could survey another building where a friend resides - the Club at Brickell Bay. It should be noted that this building felt rather hostile to pedestrians as well, due to the half-circle valet area and columns out front at the building’s only pedestrian entrance. At first, however, it seemed like there was more pedestrian interaction in this area. However, upon closer observation, almost all of the pedestrian activity was from people coming from and going to their cars which were parallel parked within about a two block radius of the Club. Meanwhile, car after car rode down Brickell Bay Drive looking for on-street parking, or entering and exiting the garage from the side of the building. Same went for the building next door. An occasional pedestrian or two could be seen coming from a distance every now and then, but they were far outnumbered by those driving.

Some of my friends have told me to relax, that things will improve a lot once the area matures and more retail is added nearby. This may be true to some degree, especially downtown, where pretty much everything is closed by 8:00 pm. However, I don’t think we can rely upon the major proposed retail projects to help a whole lot. For example, City Square is planning on providing a whopping 4,052 parking spaces! Same goes for Bayview Market (2,360). Same goes for Midtown Miami (2,900), regardless of the proposed Streetcar that would serve it.

Furthermore, we can’t blame a lack of transit for people deciding to drive everywhere in downtown and Brickell. These two locales are served by multiple modes of transit including taxi cabs, pitting them among the best transit-served areas in the southeastern United States. Everything, from groceries, retail, medical care, schools, jobs, banks, parks, restaurants, cafes, and nightlife are all accessible from short Metrorail, Metromover, or taxi rides (I’m not even going to include Metrobus in this piece).

In fairness, I know there are many people who have moved downtown or to Brickell so they could leave the car at home (or behind). We’ve even had commenters on TransitMiami mention their delight for being able to walk or take transit to most destinations. However, I believe these people are still very much in the minority.

Miami 21 aims to solve these problems. Due to fervent public outcry, parking will still be over mandated, but not quite as much as under current ordinances. Moreover, Miami 21 will force new buildings to have habitable space on nearly all building facades, aiming to significantly improve interaction with the pedestrian realm. The Streetcar proposal aims to improve north-south transit between downtown and midtown. A Bicycle Master Plan is still desperately needed. I sincerely hope that these actions improve the current situation in our urban core.

I don’t want Miami to become infamous for its dubious distinction as a park n’ walk city.

top photo courtesy of James Good's flickr account

Via James Good's Flickr...

6/5/07

It's Time to Cut the Bureaucratic Fat Miami

I’m glad Representative Julio Robaina stepped up today and finally declared that through consolidation of city services, Miami-Dade taxpayers could save $50 Million Dollars. Although Robaina was speaking of only consolidating one branch of various municipal governments, it’s a step in the right direction- the direction that would consolidate all local municipalities under one effective roof. We have to stop undermining the power established by the Miami-Dade Home Rule Charter in 1957 and need to start using it to become a more efficient municipal entity. What do I mean? No more Surfside, Pinecrest, Miami Gardens, El Portal, Key Biscayne, etc. Sure the neighborhoods will still exist, but the municipal authority will be absent, consolidating their governing authority in the hands of an expanded and qualified (better paid too, obviously) county government. The majority of these municipalities are going to feel the crunch of the property tax reform anyway, bringing many of them to the brink of bankruptcy, seeing that the greater part of them are just bedroom communities without any real commerce or industry sectors. Heck, Imagine what it would look like if every census designated place became its own municipality...

It’s an idealistic situation, I’ll admit, but the fact that there isn’t a comprehensive governing body with the authority to draft area-wide planning/zoning, transit, development, greenways, etc. is pretty archaic.

Example 1:
MDT and county planning has had a plan to maximize density along the US-1 corridor (as they should) to maximize the overall system benefit of metrorail and the busway, allow for less westward growth, etc. However, each city along the corridor has final say on the TOD along their particular portion of the corridor. MDT and TOD developers have to therefore seek planning/density/zoning approval from whichever city their project resides as well as the county. It’s redundant! To make matters worse, every city has its own agenda: Pinecrest for example, has reduced density along their portion of the corridor (in a futile attempt to “prevent” further traffic.) Newsflash kids, the growth south and westward will cause far worse traffic through Pinecrest than any expanded development along US-1.

Example 2:
After the passage of the PTP in 2002, one of the first rail projects to come under consideration was the Miami-Miami Beach connection: Baylink. Despite the overall benefit (tourism, local access, etc.) the transit system would have provided to a greater proportion of the local population, Miami Beach politicians derailed the project, pushing back its earliest date for county consideration to 2015! MDT and the county could have pushed ahead without Miami Beach approval, but the elected governing body of the time lacked the political will to force the Beach agenda aside.

Neighborhoods have incorporated into proper municipalities to escape the corruption, abuse, or neglect that evolved in Miami’s County politics over time (Yes, I am aware that 25 of the 34 Municipalities were formed prior to the 1957 Charter.) Instead of adjusting the system to provide better public oversight, neighborhoods have been uniting and adding yet other layers to the local bureaucracy. Nowadays we’re looking to cut taxes, not services, why not cut the fat?

6/4/07

Museum Park Now!

A recent article in The Biscayne Times discussed the possibility of Museum Park going back to the drawing boards, at least to a certain extent. I find it hard to believe that the debate over Bicentennial Park/Museum Park still goes on as some of the greatest architects in the world are currently designing museums for the space.
The complaint over rising expenditure will only be exacerbated by this continuous bait and switch over the future of the city's greatest park, long since a derelict shame for the great city of Miami. There is a constant grousing over the lack of public waterfront access, and yet one of the proposed solutions would be to infill the waterway adjacent to the park, diminishing the waterfront footage by as much as fifty percent. The idea of using landfill from the tunnel project will push the execution of Museum Park back by years.
The park as it is designed now is a stunning example of dynamic urban planning. The structures of the two museums occupy only a small fraction of the green space of Bicentennial Park and will create a vibrant cultural intersection for this valuable piece of publicly held real estate. The current design gives the parkgoer many, many, diverse options to experience the waterfront and green space in a thrilling new downtown of exceptional design quality.

The selection of Swiss architects Herzog and De Meuron to design the new Miami Art Museum is a coup of historical scale. One only has to look at the success of the new DeYoung Museum, in the middle of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, to leave themselves craving the realization of such a park for Miami, now.The cultural campus being created by the trifecta of the Carnival Center and the two new museums will be absolutely world class. The fulfillment of which defines true great urban environments. I have walked by this park hundreds of times, mourning its potential and wondering if we will all live to see it come to its fruition.

Furthermore, as pointed out in a recent SSC posting by Rx727sfl2002, the park is to0 deep (distance from waterfront to Biscayne Boulevard) to ensure the security of parkgoers. The museums would provide lighting and security that would render the park much more user friendly even into the evening hours.As several of the exciting elements of the new downtown near completion it is unfortunate that Museum Park is still a distant reality. There will soon be a decisive moment in the growth of Miami and it's perception by people around the globe. It would be a disservice not to have the greatness of this Museum Park as part of that moment, particularly when the process has very carefully come this far, under the watchful eye of those most qualified.

Terence Riley being named the director of the Miami Art Museum was yet another coup, whose enormous benefits cannot be understood at this early date. His time as the architecture and design director of MoMA in NYC and his overseeing the complete redesign and construction of that institution clearly show we are in for greatness in Miami.

As a member of the community who treasures the unique natural wonders of Miami, I can only hope that we honor and highlight those qualities with Museum Park and its museums as a scintillating backdrop.

Photo Credits: JamesGood, Marshall Astor/Life of the Edge, Kevotravel, The Tables Have Turned

6/3/07

Vancouver - A City That Just Gets "It"


If there is one city in North America that truly understands good urban planning, it would have to be Vancouver, British Columbia. This Southwestern Canadian city of nearly 590,000 has been utilizing smart growth principles for decades, helping make it one of the most livable cities on the continent.

A recent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about the city really illustrates how Vancouver operates on a different plane than most U.S. cities. Below are several excerpts and quotes from the article, which I feel illustrate my point well:

  • For starters, Vancouver residents waged a 10-year battle to keep freeways from its urban core in the 1970s, eventually defeating a plan that would have placed a highway right through its Chinatown and adjacent its downtown waterfront.
    • "We are the only North American city of any significance without an interstate at its core," said Gordon Price, an urban affairs professor at Simon Fraser University, who used to serve on Vancouver's City Council.
  • However, instead of the city drying up economically and becoming inaccessible and unlivable, Vancouver’s core has become one of the most thriving urban areas in North America.
  • Density has been a trademark of Vancouver’s success. “The greater the density, the better it is for transit. But density must be sensitively designed so it welcomes people at street level. ‘Once you get the street right — the first 30 feet of a building — how high you go is not important,’ Price said.”
    • "Density is good", says Larry Beasley, former city planning director for Vancouver, who has been recognized worldwide as helping create a new urban model
  • City leaders readily admit that their Vancouver model is counter-intuitive.

Note: We are always mentioning on TransitMiami how many aspects of smart growth, like higher densities and less parking, are very counter-intuitive.

    • "We are building cities we don't actually like," Price said. "Everyone can drive everywhere for everything. But if it's the only game in town, it doesn't even work for the car."
  • However, in building a wide pedestrian and bicycle path around downtown, it created an environment free from cars.
    • "There's no better alternative to the car than walking," Beasley said. "We have been doing everything in our power to make walking comfortable. We actually have fewer cars coming into the downtown area than we had 10 years ago."
  • The city also has invested strongly in transit, including rapid rail, commuter rail, electric buses, streetcars and ferries.
    • "We like that it's hard to get in and out of downtown (by automobiles)…We have a policy to not even expand one lane of roads coming in and out of our city."
  • One agency in Greater Vancouver — TransLink — oversees all transportation, including roads. Transportation projects and operations are largely financed through gas taxes, which total nearly $1.60 a gallon compared to 25.9 cents in Georgia. And TransLink has total flexibility on how it can spend its money, meaning gas taxes subsidize transit and other modes of travel.
Wow. Let's review some of these points. Vancouver is very much pro-transit and anti-expressway (especially through its core and by its waterfront). Even better, the city utilizes a hierarchy of rail, including streetcars, much to the chagrin of Miami NIBMYs. The city strongly embraces higher densities, viewing such as the key to livable, sustainable neighborhoods instead of an evil prospect. Furthermore, Vancouver's urban policy is designed largely around the pedestrian opposed to the automobile, seeing walking as an efficient, legitimate, and comfortable way of getting around. Even bicycles are put on a pedestal.

Alas, what I find very exciting is that only one agency, TransLink, oversees all transportation including roads. This allows for transportation planning to be much smoother and cohesive, especially in comparison to our terribly fragmented system with several competing entities. This also makes it much easier for planners and administrators to enhance and maintain transit. And, what I really love is that TransLink isn't afraid to rise gasoline prices even higher through gas taxes - something unfathomable for most U.S. cities.

photo courtesy of clashmaker's flick account

6/1/07

Friday Headlines

  • The Related Group of Florida is planning the Loft 4 Affordable Housing Condo for downtown Miami. The 404 units in the 35 story tower would be priced starting at $130,000! The best part yet? The building would feature no parking. Truly Urban Living is coming to the heart of the CBD for a change...
    • “If not for this type of concept, you wouldn’t be able to build because you can’t build parking” cost effectively, said Oscar Rodriguez, who heads Related’s affordable division. “That lends itself to more competitive pricing.”
  • Say goodbye to the HOV lanes on I-95. FDOT is working to bring "express" toll lanes to I-95 by 2008. Instead of the one HOV lane, the already gargantuan highway will be repainted to feature narrower 11 foot lanes, two of which will be designated for "express" toll use only. This plan allows users to buy themselves out of the hassles of finding people to carpool with. It's a total cop out for FDOT and a massive waste of money. Never mind the fact that we wasted $17 Million to install a ramp metering system that was never used, let alone properly analyzed before it was installed. On the plus side, express buses will now run smoother along the corridor, question is, will anyone use them?
  • A US Senate committee rejected Homestead as a possible site for the US Southern Command HQ, currently stationed in Doral. SoCom will remain in Doral in an expanded facility for the next 50 years, at least...
  • Paddy Wagons and Cyclists, you know there is a critical mass happening when you see them together. Despite their best efforts, Miami's second critical mass, wasn't exactly too massive: 15 cyclists. Even with the low turnout, Miami Police decided to harass the cyclists, following their every move along the streets of downtown and keeping their beams on them until the group dispersed...
  • Inaccessible Parks. Enough Said. Most local parks are rendered useless to most of us anyway because of their poor designs, maintenance, and integration with their surroundings, so it doesn't come as a surprise to me to see that they aren't even ADA accessible...
  • Check out what some properly designed bus benches, news stands, and restrooms do for the public spaces of NYC. Designed by Grimshaw Architects, the same firm hired to design Miami's new Science Museum, the new citywide structures are built out of 95% recycled material...
  • Congratulations to Alesh for winning the Miami New Times' best website of 2007 and Rick/Alex for winning Broward/Palm Beaches Best Blog Awards...
  • HSR...Where is the US? Touting an Acela Express that averages less than 60 mph...Pathetic...

3D MDC Wolfson Campus Proposal

For those of us who can't get enough of Chad Oppenheim's possible tower rising at MDC, here is a Video clip of the tower in 3D:


Via Mileageman on SSC...