7/31/07

One Bayfront Plaza Rising

One Bayfront Plaza is poised to become Miami's first super tall (1000') and truly iconic skyscraper. With the recent approval by the City Commission, the 2 million square foot office development is ready to proceed through the initial stage of pre-construction. The $1.8 Billion project will feature 2 million square feet of leasable office space, 120,000 square feet of exhibition or banquet space, 112,000 square feet of retail, and a 850 room hotel. The project is slated to break ground in 2011 and has attained preliminary approval to rise to 1,049 feet (roof) and 1,180 feet to the top of the spire...
One Bayfront Plaza is being developed by Florida East Coast Realty (Tibor Hollo) and was designed by Terra Group Architects. Frankly, I'm impressed by the eastern facade of the structure but dismally disappointed by the initial designs of the west side, pictured above. The two structures appear to be disjointed and fail to compliment each other accordingly. Hopefully, the west tower will be subject to further redesigns to make this a visually appealing structure from all angles, not just the east...

7/30/07

PBS Investigates Miami-Dade's Housing Agency Corruption

PBS has been investigating the endemic corruption and incompetence that has plagued the Miami-Dade Housing Agency. Now you can watch the new online video, "Money for Nothing", a three-part series reporting the recent history and actions of the Agency, detailing how everything went wrong. I highly recommend watching these videos.

The funny (and sad) thing is, this doesn't even mention the recent scandals regarding the unbuilt Biotech facility in Liberty City or the corruption at the City of Miami Community Development Department.

7/29/07

US Eagle visits Miami

I took some time today to pay a visit to one of the two unique ships sitting in Miami's harbor this weekend, the U.S. Eagle (watch the video), the United States' only active duty tall ship (the other ship, HSV 2 Swift, was not allowing tours.) The U.S. Eagle, moored in the cut of land between the AA Arena and Bicentennial Park, provided visitors with a free, unique tour all weekend long. Visiting the ship docked at the blighted and underutilized park facility, further solidified in my mind the vision plan for Museum park. anchored by the Museum of Science and MAM's likely iconic structures on the opposite end of the park, the cut where the U.S. Eagle was moored has also been envisioned to become the site of a floating museum (USS Barney Update: Guess Not), similar to the USS Intrepid in Manhattan but on a smaller scale. While visiting the iconic Coast Guard vessel, I was surrounded by an assortment of curious locals and tourists, all equally enjoying the experience, sights, and sunshine by the bay...

Riptide discusses plans for a possible Bay of Pigs Museum on Parcel B...
The steering mechanism of the ship requires the attention of six sailors:Meanwhile, the derelict park served well as a surface parking lot for US Eagle visitors. Aside from those of us visiting the Eagle, the only other park visitors consisted of some homeless individuals and a few people fishing in the bay...
Historical tidbits from the USCG:
"The Eagle is a three-masted sailing barque with 21,350 square feet of sail. It is home ported at the CG Academy, New London, Connecticut. It is the only active commissioned sailing vessel in the U.S. maritime services. She is one of five such training barques in world. Remarkably, her surviving sister ships include the Mircea of Romania, Sagres II of Portugal, Gorch Fock of Germany, and Tovarich of Russia.

Today's Eagle, the seventh in a long line of proud cutters to bear the name, was built in 1936 by the Blohm & Voss Shipyard, Hamburg, Germany, as a training vessel for German Navy cadets. It was commissioned Horst Wessel and served as a training ship for the Kriegsmarine throughout World War II. Click here to read a translated-diary from a German naval cadet who trained aboard the Horst Wessel in 1937.

Following World War II, the Horst Wessel, in the age-old custom of capture and seizure, was taken as a war prize by the United States. Initially, the Soviet Union selected Horst Wessel during the division of Nazi vessels by the victorious Allies. The four available sailing ships had been divided into three lots--two large merchant ships being grouped together. The Soviets drew number 1, Great Britain number 2, and the U.S. number 3. Before the results of the draw were officially announced, the U.S representative, through quiet diplomacy, convinced the Soviets to trade draws.

And so, on May 15, 1946, the German barque was commissioned into U.S. Coast Guard service as the Eagle and sailed from Bremerhaven, Germany to New London, Connecticut. On her voyage to the United States she followed Columbus's route across the mid-Atlantic. She rode out a hurricane during her trip and arrived in New London safely. She weathered another hurricane in September 1954 while enroute to Bermuda. She hosted OpSail in New York as part of the World's Fair in 1964. She again hosted OpSail in 1976 during the United States' Bicentennial celebration. She hosted the centennial celebration for the Statue of Liberty in 1986 as well.

One of the major controversies regarding the cutter was generated when the Coast Guard decided to add the "racing stripe" to her otherwise unadorned hull in mid-1976. She was the last cutter so painted and many in the sailing community decried the new paint job.

Eagle serves as a seagoing classroom for approximately 175 cadets and instructors from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Sailing in Eagle, cadets handle more than 20,000 square feet of sail and 5 miles of rigging. Over 200 lines must be coordinated during a major ship maneuver. The sails can provide the equivalent of several thousand through-shaft horsepower. The ship readily takes to the task for which it was designed. Eagle's hull is built of steel, four-tenths of an inch thick. It has two full length steel decks with a platform deck below and a raised forecastle and quarterdeck. The weather decks are three-inch-thick teak over steel."

7/27/07

1989 Metrorail Discussions

18 years later, tell me what's the difference...

"I'd Use it if it went in the direction I was going"

"The system is only Half of what they originally promised..."



"I'm just amazed at how virtually nothing has changed in the 18 years that this clip was filmed. It's as relevant now as it was back then."
-Rick, SOTP
Via: SOTP, Grambrunk

"I Love Paris on a Bus, a Bike, a Train and in Anything but a Car"

Serge Schmemann has written an excellent editorial in the New York Times, where the spotlight is on Paris again as an emerging global leader in livability and sustainability. It goes hand-in-hand with the cycling post from yesterday. Miami (and the U.S.) could learn a lot.

Click here to read it.

Photo courtesy of paytonc's flickr

7/26/07

An Economy Fueled By Sprawl

Image Via myuzishun's Flickr...

The alarms should have rung long ago, not today when the stock market plunged 300 points on the news of dismal results coming from the nation's top sprawl produces. It's pretty disappointing to see that so much of the US economy is based on the growth of these development groups which continue to produce nothing but atrocious housing developments on the outer fringes of nearly American city. Its also ironic that what we consider to be an economic engine in our communities is also responsible for degrading our lifestyles, increasing congestion, straining our resources and with that likely costing us as taxpayers more in infrastructure needs and upgrades than the economic benefit we receive in return:
"Disappointing results from home builders including Pulte Homes Inc. and D.R. Horton Inc. -- squeezed by a sluggish environment from home sales and continued defaults in subprime loans -- weighed heavily on the market."
An Excerpt from Suburban Nation, The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream:
"...The primary goal of the [housing] industry remains to build and sell individual houses as quickly and profitably as possible, to "blow and go," as they put it...Homebuilders, land developers, and marketing advisers are all constituents that must be won over if the campaign against suburban sprawl is to succeed. Their participation will be meaningful in the long run only if it is driven by the profit motive, because in America at the millennium, ideas live or die based upon their performance in the marketplace....A higher standard of development will become common place only if it offers greater profits to those who practice it."

Paris Sets a Global Precedent for Urban Transportation Policy

Paris has finally unveiled its highly anticipated bicycle sharing program, sending a global message that it's serious about reducing emissions and embracing sustainable urban transportation. Over 10,000 bikes are now available for rent at over 750 stations, with plans to double the fleet to 20,000 by years end.

Dubbed "Velib" (a play on words - Velo = bike & liberte = freedom), the system works like this:

A local or tourist who is interested in renting a bike goes to a high-tech docking station, swipes a credit or debit card at a meter (translated into eight languages), and a bike is yours for a nominal fee. A one-day pass costs only 1 Euro ($1.38), a weekly pass 5 Euros ($6.90), and a yearly pass only 29 Euros ($40.00). There are no surcharges, taxes, or other fees, so long as the bike is returned within 30 minutes. Over 30 minutes, you would be charged an incremental "late fee", which is designed to facilitate high turnover and ensure that bikes will be available for rent at each station. If you want to take out another bike after 30 minutes, go right ahead - for convenience, bikes can be returned to any of the docking stations, which are located an average of only 300 yards apart.

"This is about revolutionizing urban culture...for a long time cars were associated with freedom of movement and flexibility. What we want to show people is that in many ways bicycles fulfill this role much more today."

~ Pierre Aidenbaum, Mayor of Paris's Third District
According to the New York Times, early indications point toward success for Velib. Even before a single docking station was open, some 13,000 people had already purchased yearly subscriptions online.

Paris is definitely moving in the right direction. Bicycle-sharing on this scale is absolutely one of the most important urban planning developments to come along in sometime. There's no reason why Miami can't follow Paris' lead.

In fact, I challenge the City of Miami Beach, which I believe to be the most appropriate place for bike-sharing in South Florida, to strongly consider implementing its own version of Velib. It has the density and compactness that will allow this sort of program to thrive. It would be great for tourists, who no longer would feel obliged to rent cars. It would be great for locals, whom besides benefiting directly from the service, would benefit tremendously from fewer cars and VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled) in their communities. It's even more logical when you consider that Miami Beach lacks (unfathomably) quality transit.

Once the program manifests success on the beach, it could set a precedent for cycling/transportation policy elsewhere in Greater Miami. I mean, after all, Miami should be a national (and global) leader in cycling, given its phenomenal assets - climate and ecology.

The little improvements are nice, but it's time to step up and create cycling initiatives that will revolutionize urban transportation in Miami and South Florida.

Photos courtesy of Le Fil's & austinevan's flickr accounts

Opa-Locka Airport Development

New development should be coming to the extremely under-utilized Opa Locka Airport facility in the near future. Frankly, we would have liked to see Opa Locka resume some minimal commercial airline service (which was killed back in 2006) when talks surfaced to turn Opa Locka into the low-budget airline airport of Miami (similar to London's Gatwick, only domestic.)

7/25/07

Miami's Bursting Condo Bubble Should Equate to a Net Improvement for the City and its People

Michael Lewis, from Miami Today News, has written a nice essay on Miami's condo boom, including what it, and the inevitable bubble burst, means for the future of the city.

Check it out, here.

Miami Parks Update

We recently received some fan mail from loyal TM reader Chandler, asking (hoping, too) that the development occurring just north of the 836 on 27th Avenue and north of the 836 along 37th Avenue would be some sort of transit project or park-n-ride facility. He was kind enough to shoot a few pictures for us as he zoomed westbound along the Dolphin:

To answer his question, sadly, the two projects he referenced are not Transit related developments however, the two sites happen to be City of Miami parks undergoing extensive renovations and facility upgrades. The Park along 27th Avenue is Fern Isle Park, currently undergoing the addition of a Park building, two baseball fields, basketball courts, a play structure, and pavilions.

The Park along 37th Avenue, adjacent to the Melreese Golf Course is Grapeland Park, the subject of a more adventurous City of Miami Park reconstruction project. The first phase of construction brought about the refurbishment of the park’s baseball fields, facilities, and courts. Phase two, which began sometime early this year, will feature a municipal water theme park. The water theme park, designed by C3TS, will cost nearly $20 Million and will feature two water slides, a lazy river, and 800 seat community activities and banquet facility.

Taken from the C3TS Site:

“This project will take an underutilized and poorly planned tournament complex and transform it into a regional, needs-based park which will include a water theme park, an 800-seat community activity and banquet facility, as well as a state-of-the-art baseball tournament complex.

The needs for access and parking encroachment into the surrounding areas were identified as one of the principal complaints by the stakeholders as this program was developed. As such, the design of Grapeland Park, located adjacent to a densely populated urban neighborhood, will be able to accommodate both multi-modal transportation access and all required parking.”
For More information visit the Miami Parks Masterplan site...

Geo Tag

Port Funding Approved

Miami-Dade County Approved the funding for the Port of Miami Tunnel...

The 9-3 vote of approval wasn't without some misdirected and unwarranted criticism due to French construction giant Bouygues Travaux Publics' ties to Cuba. Of course, some of our elected officials had their priorities out of order, instead voting for what was best for Cuba than Miami:

''This project is morally wrong,'' said Miami attorney Nicolas Gutierrez, who represents the descendants of a Cuban family whose property was expropriated by the Castro regime. One of the resorts that the Bouygues affiliate helped construct is on the family property in eastern Cuba.

But in the end, only Commissioner Javier Souto, a Bay of Pigs veteran, specifically mentioned the firm's ties to Cuba in casting his vote against the deal. Also voting against the deal were Commissioners Natacha Seijas and Rebeca Sosa.

Last time I checked we elected our officials to do what was best for Miami-Dade, not Cuba, the US embargo is only applicable to US corporations, none of which were the low bidders for the port tunnel project to begin with. (Side note: last time I was in Europe, I drank from a Pepsi can which offering chances to win a "voyage for 2 to Cuba..." Where is the sense in that?) Their reservations about Bouygues Travaux are unwarranted when its a foreign company operating under foreign jurisdictions and policies and is further evidence that our commissioners tend to vote without knowing the pertinent facts...

7/24/07

AESTHETICS OF TRANSIT: MEMORY AND PLACE

As the new elements of Miami transit fall into place, driven in part by the forces of those committed to it, I am happy to see aesthetics playing a major role. The recent postings of the new cars for MetroMover and the this hybrid bus, represent for me, yet another important piece in the puzzle of the Miami of tomorrow. Clearly the issues of the environment, dependence on foreign oil, sustainability etc are the primary issues at hand, but I also feel that our visual relationship to transit , it's history and it's future, factor into our experience greatly.

The cutting edge design of the new Metromover cars and the additions to the fleet of buses create a distinct aesthetic emotion that, however subconciously, alter our perception of the world we live in. They indicate what is possible and what we are committed to. Futurism, responsibility and beauty to name a few.

Miami is a particularly modern city by the simple fact that it is such a young city. I remember my first visit to Miami in the 80's and the silent, sublime little cars of the MetroMover hovering overhead and the realization that this city was staking a claim for itself. While the MetroMover may not be without its problems, it represents an attempt at solutions and a unique expression of such in the U.S.

Of course all the elements encountered in the city contribute to this aesthetic emotion, but I for one think that advancements in transit bode well for both the citizens and the visitors to Miami. All of these elements influence the future of Miami, as business and development are greatly influenced by this perception, and every step toward the visual fruition of the promises Miami holds-- matter greatly.

Coming Soon: MDT Hybrid Buses

MDT will be purchasing 39 large Hybrid Buses (similar to the one pictured above) next year to come into service in 2009. There are also initial plans to buy 180 smaller Hybrid buses which would come into service by 2012.

Click here to watch the video...

Click here to learn more about NABI...

Thanks to the Reader who sent us the link to the article...

WHAT'S IN STORE

It has been announced, to the excitement of many, that the new design for Miami Art Museum will be announced during ART BASEL 07. This couldn't be more appropriate considering that the architects hometown is in fact Basel Switzerland.
I thought it would be a good time to consider just what we might be in for. Here are several images of recent projects by the duo of Pritzker Prize winning architects.Whether it be residential interiors in NYC, or a stadium in Germany one confounding truth is that their work is so varied and site specific, it is almost impossible to even attempt to forecast any design model for Miami.For those eagerly awaiting the unveiling, I hope this little taste helps.

GeoTag

7/23/07

Little Haiti Park Update

Good news for Little Haiti residents - it looks like the long wait for a promised new park is approaching an end. After more than nine years of promises, the new Little Haiti Park is set to open this October.

Amongst badly needed public green space, the park will feature a soccer field, a practice field, covered seating for 750, and a nearby cultural center, according to the Herald. The park will be located on 45 acres from 59th Terrace to 64th Street along NE 2nd Ave.

Some 200 parking spaces are planned for this small park, which I'm sure will screw up the urban design surrounding it. Sounds like another suburban solution to me - too bad we our transit in this corridor is still so poor and limited right now.

Though I do believe this park will be of benefit to the Little Haiti community, I also am afraid it will fail if it certain tried and true urban park design elements are missing.

There will be a public meeting on Monday, July 30th to exchange information and ideas regarding the park. It will be from 6-8 PM at the Notre Dame d'Haiti Catholic Church, located at 110 NE 62nd Street.

Photo courtesy of the City of Miami

Blog Update

I've spent the better part of the past 5 days traveling throughout New York and Canada, articles will reappear later today as soon I as I recover... Here is a view of one of my recent traveling delays at JFK. We taxied in line of jets for an hour, waiting for 40 planes to take off before we were given the go ahead. Looking back, these were just a fraction of the planes waiting behind:
On the plus side, I did eventually get a pretty nice aerial view of Manhattan:

7/19/07

Billboard Drama Update

The Herald has gotten involved...check it out.

Billboards of Lies

The Coconut Grove Billboard saga seems to have turned a new page with the latest advertisement recently posted on the corner of US-1 and 27th Ave. We took the liberty of creating the factual billboard shown above, in hopes that our message will get through to the next decision making committee. The actual billboard, shown below, misleads people once again into believing that the Grove is a sidewalk café oasis, a relaxation paradise of sorts, devoid of all the “hassles” of urban living. Aside from Greenstreet, Senor Frogs, and a couple of chains, this of quite a stretch. After all, we must not forget that it is the typical coconut grove resident mentality which prevents the area from reaching its true potential as a unique neighborhood characterized by lush tropical foliage, a rich history, and high quality sustainable urban living. Bottom line, Grand Ave is no Avinguda de Gaudi. Meanwhile, an arrow which is pointed 90 degrees in the wrong direction, alerts passerby’s of “whiners” up ahead:

A cheap shot from Tom Falco of the Coconut Grove Grapevine insinuates that we’re the “whiners” up ahead. For the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce to assert that the downtown is full of whiners is downright absurd. It’s actually comical that our area NIMBY’s have decided to complain about other people complaining...

“I know one purpose of the Metrorail was to have development around to allow people to use mass transit, but Metrorail really doesn’t go where people want to go,” Tom Falco, a blogger for CoconutGroveGrapevine.com, wrote in an e-mail to the SunPost. “The development will do nothing but add traffic and congestion to the area.”

That silly Metrorail line, the obvious way to incite people to use it is build as little as possible around the stations? Hmm.

What really irks us about this billboard and especially its predecessor is the way it takes advantage of a neighborhood within the same municipality. The cannibalization that the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce has committed with these billboards continues to dissect and fragment the City of Miami. A commenter on the CCG remarked:

“Very good marketing. It has led to comment, which is the goal of advertising.”

The billboard has met its objective, it has led us to comment and take notice of the fallacies portrayed through it, but it also begs the question: what is the objective of the CG Chamber of Commerce when so often residents mobilize against prospective urban commerce?

In closing, we should mention that we have no problem with Coconut Grove, or any other neighborhood for that matter, marketing itself with a positive message. We're all for that, and in fact, TransitMiami was designed as our platform to promote a more livable, sustainable Miami - all neighborhoods included. However, it will always be counterproductive and simply inappropriate for a neighborhood to market itself at the expense of another when the two share the same municipal boundaries. This is especially true, given that the City of Miami is already competing against 34 other municipalities in the same county.

7/18/07

"PEDESTRIAN POSSIBILITIES: Miami-Dade Transit is to hold a July 26 public meeting for discussion of a pedestrian overpass over US 1 at the University Metrorail Station. An overpass would be funded by the county's half-penny sales tax and would feature elevators, stairs and landscaping. The open house and presentation are set for 4-7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn University of Miami, Alhambra Meeting Room, 1350 S. Dixie Highway. Details: (305) 375-5453 or mdtoutreach@miamidade.gov."

Via -Miami Today News

Metromover Upgrades

The Metromover overhaul promised to voters in the 2002 PTP is finally scheduled for completion in March 2008. Some of the vehicles, in operation since 1986, are slated to be replaced by modern Bombardier vehicles, similar to the one pictured above. The remaining vehicles will be (have been) undergoing repairs in the downtown Metromover facility. To get a visual on the changes happening, check out this post by Lil’ Pony from back in March…

Apparently the problems with the escalators we covered back in April are nothing new. I noted then that it had been about 8 months since I witnessed the Brickell Metromover escalator in action, well it turns out some escalators have been out of service since 2005!

Rusted escalators at four Metromover stations were shut down in September 2005: Tenth Street, Brickell, Eleventh Street and Park West.

Just like the weathering of the Metromover system, apparently the escalators have been dealing with a particular rust problem:

The rust problem cropped up because the escalators were not properly designed for outdoor use, said Richard Snedden, assistant director for rail services at Miami-Dade Transit.

It’s impossible to believe that back in the 80’s and 90’s nobody had the common sense to install weather resistant escalators and if those weren’t available at least design a better protected station…

7/16/07

Pedestrians and Public Spaces, Part 1: Biscayne Boulevard

Before I begin, I’d like to thank all of our loyal readers who sent us copies of this article in the herald. Although we too had seen it, we’ve been busy working on investigating the new plan for Biscayne Boulevard and gathering as much information as possible to bring you the most comprehensive coverage. On that note, I’d like to thank everyone for their patience with our delinquent postings lately. Ryan, James, and I have a lot on our plates currently and we’re working hard to keep you well informed. With that said, if you have any comments, suggestions, or would like to apply to become a contributor on Transit Miami, feel free to contact us at movemiami@gmail.com. We will be working on introducing our newest writer over the next few weeks…

A plan is in the works to beautify and significantly enhance Biscayne Boulevard to make it a lusciously landscaped paradise for pedestrians. The initial phase of the plan calls for the re-alignment of Biscayne Boulevard south of the current phases of the Biscayne re-alignment project which has transformed the thoroughfare north of 5th street. The plan would move the Boulevard west, eliminating the current surface median parking, thus narrowing the street and creating approximately five acres of new park space along the western fringes of Bayside and Bayfront Park. This part of the plan is estimated to cost the city around $1 million, considering that FDOT would already be covering the re-alignment costs of the Boulevard.

A plan is already underway to beautify and realign the Boulevard from NE 5th Street to NE 13th Street. The Miller-Legg redesign is intended to better integrate a realigned Boulevard with the upcoming Museum Park project, providing better pedestrian access from the condominiums rising along the Biscayne Wall north to the promenade of the Carnival Center. The redesigned medians and curbs seen below feature an intricate brick design, abundant (we hope) foliage, and bus bays (perhaps streetcars, one day) fronting the new condominium developments:

The new proposed project further south, would mimic the successful design elements incorporated up north. The removal of the surface parking would significantly alter the width of the boulevard, making the menacing 8-lane behemoth a bit more manageable for pedestrians. Eliminating the useless (eyesore too, we might add) median parking will also provide about five extra acres of public space, which, if landscaped with shade trees will prove to be a boon to Bayfront Park and the River Greenway.

''This is as close to a no-brainer as you'll ever find,'' [Commissioner Marc Sarnoff] said. ``It's just wise and prudent for us to pursue this as quickly as possible.''

Other plans apparently appearing on an upcoming study of downtown Miami, includes a promising option of a joint-venture with a European company to construct an underground parking facility. This massive undertaking would reap large benefits for the Bayfront parks and whole downtown area. Allowing a private firm to construct and operate the parking facilities will allow the city to concentrate on other downtown area rehabilitation efforts. We’ll reserve judgment on this part of the project until more details are made public.

Via Homee's Panoramio...

''Now, people go to cities because they have an interest in seeing what the life of the city is like,'' he said. The problem with downtown today, [Bernard Zyscovich] said, is it's ``not the kind of place you'd ever want to come back to, by and large.''

The incorporation of more public green space and pedestrian friendly design elements is only the beginning of a much needed downtown overhaul which should be well in the works. Over the next two weeks, we’ll address how these improvements will spread west throughout the city’s central core, riverfront, and into the design district, creating a city that is navigable for people and more importantly creating abundant public spaces…Stay tuned, Miami’s pedestrian transformation is only one piece of the puzzle, which when combined with streetcar, bike, streetscape, and shading improvements, will make Miami’s urban core one of the most accessible (and desirable) places to live and visit...

Update: Critical Miami presents an excellent Overlay of Museum Park Plans...

Update: Eye on Miami and Bob:Miami discuss plans for parcel B...

GeoTag

7/15/07

My Favorite Street - Espanola Way

Though it often seems like TransitMiami is only critical of Miami's urban planning, transportation, land use, and urban design, we believe it is important to illustrate the bright points as well.

This brings me to today's post, where I want to showcase my favorite Greater Miami street - Espanola Way on South Beach.

From an urban design perspective, this street embodies all the incredible potential I see in Miami. Let's take a moment to address several of the elements that give Espanola Way its fantastic urban design:

  • Appropriate density for an urban environment; good physical urban continuity
  • Buildings are right up to the sidewalk; this defines urban space, in turn creating a much better sense of place than we see in most of Greater Miami
  • Narrow street; this minimizes the amount of valuable urban street space allotted to automobiles, which means less thru-traffic (none at all when it is blocked off for the Farmer's Market), noise, emissions, and lost street space
  • Presence of shade trees, awnings, and balconies offer a reprieve from the hot South Florida sun
  • Mixed use buildings
  • Moderately wide sidewalks (for Miami)
  • Architecture that reflects local culture and history
  • Facades that are open to the street, which engage pedestrians
Frankly, this is what a high-quality urban environment looks like. There is plenty of density, but it's built at human scale. Because the streets are narrow and parking spaces few, Espanola Way doesn't suffer from the noise, emissions, and lost street space that plagues so many other Miami streets.

While a lot of the shops are quirky, there is a decent mix of restaurants and cafes (I am a big fan of Hosteria Romana). The point is, however, that if many other Miami streets and neighborhoods were designed this way, the foundation would be set for an urban community that has a comprehensive set of urban amenities.

Photos: Mouffetard's, clarks aunt, & golbog's flickr

7/12/07

I-95 Motor Speedway Update

Here's a link to Miami's pitch for federal funding that would go toward I-95's new Lexus High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes.


New Urbanism on CBS

New Urbanism discussion on CBS, aired May 20, 2007...

Noteworthy Blog Entries

Twice a week or so, I like to scan through the blogroll to see what is going on on the other transit/development blogs around the nation. Here are some articles worth reading:

Tropolism:
The Guggenheim is cracking, its 12 layers of paint are chipping off and a new computer simulated model is here to show us what the facade really looks like.CitySkip:
The new era of Reality TV? Voyeurism, of course. The new HBO Voyeur program can be found here...
Streetsblog:
The effects of London's Congestion pricing:
  • In 2006, around 70,000 fewer vehicles entered the same area each day.
  • Before charging began, some 334,000 vehicles entered the original zone each day.
  • An increase in cycling within the zone of 43 per cent.
  • Congestion Charge generated provisional net revenues of £123m in 2006/07, which will be spent on further improvements to transport across London, particularly bus services.
The Overhead Wire:
Transportation costs get personal as TOW finds that Quicken lacks inputs for non-vehicular dependent transit costs. TOW goes on to confront the absurd cost of car ownership (on average, 18% of Americans' income) and our uncanny dependency on it...

Telstar Logistics:
The 787 Dreamliner was unveiled on July 8, 2007 on schedule...

Inhabitat:
"...the U.S. House of Representatives has unveiled a plan to become carbon Neutral by the end of its current term. Legislation has also been introduced to make the entire Capitol complex- all 23 buildings- carbon neutral by the end of 2020."
2020? So much for setting the example...

7/11/07

Extreme Urban Cycling

The video above shows a bunch of New York's infamous bike messengers racing through the streets of Manhattan, no holds barred. In no way am I advocating cycling like this in Miami (or any city for that matter), and in no way do I consider this safe or sane. I don't even condone their often hostile actions toward pedestrians. However, it does show just how fast you can get through a city on a bike - oh yeah and it's entertaining, too.

Note: Fast Forward to the 45 second mark for the beginning of the race.

7/10/07

MIC: Regional Transit Hub

This article has been brewing in my mind for quite some time; however, I kept putting off until I saw some sort of definite progress occurring over at the Miami Intermodal Center. With their new website up and running (finally!) we can get some better insight to some of my more pressing concerns, particularly the Florida regional transportation service.

The Miami Intermodal Center concept is fairly forward thinking for such an automobile dependent area such as Miami. It will link local transit (MDT, Tri-Rail, Taxi, etc.) with regional transit (Greyhound, Amtrak, etc.) with the international destinations serviced by MIA in a centralized, modern facility. I’ve had a growing concern, however, with regards to the regional transportation service which will be offered at the MIC and the efforts of the state (or county) to unify regional transportation links within Miami-Dade County. Given that Florida currently lacks a dependent and reliable statewide rail network, I have decided to concentrate on the interaction between the MIC and statewide bus service.

(Does anyone else find the amount of surface parking in the above two renderings alarming? There shouldn't be such a need for surface parking in such a central multi-modal transit facility...)

Intercity buses provide transportation between cities and rural areas, be it short or long distance. They usually offer limited stops making service faster and more efficient.

Greyhound is an example of a national intercity bus line, but regionally, all of South Florida's transit systems have come together to offer intercity service to all major cities and towns in the area, as well as the smaller communities that do not have accessible rail service via Tri-rail or Metrorail. It is envisioned that the MIC's Miami Central Station will accommodate intercity buses offering service into Miami-Dade County. Until then, visit the South Florida Regional Transit Trip Planner for more information.

Via Milliped's Flickr...

The excerpt above comes from the intercity bus page on the MIC website. While the site places great emphasis on bringing Greyhound into the facility, I could only hope (as a regular intercity bus user myself) that provisions were made to include space for competing intercity bus services. La Cubana, providing Miami-NYC and Atlanta service easily comes to mind. The popular bus service currently operates from its strip shopping center headquarters on 11 St and NW 22 Ave.

Florida bus services GMG, Miami Bus Service, and TMT, servicing the colleges in Gainesville, Tallahassee, and Orlando could also benefit from access to the centralized terminal. Currently these bus services transport passengers from a parking lot on the respective college campuses to the parking lot of the Mall of the Americas. This “parking lot transit” is a fitting representation of American culture and Urban Planning, we spend our lives commuting to and from parking lots in our own vehicles so it’s only natural that when a successful “mass transit” operation appears, we lack the infrastructure for it to ferry us to anything other than shopping malls. Hopefully the Key-West Shuttle and Jet-Set bus service, both of which already operate from the airport terminals, will be offered space in the new facility as well.

While touring through Spain I marveled at the efficiency and popularity of the bus network in that country. It goes to show that despite the widespread efficient rail system in Spain, alternatives are needed to offer citizens a greater variety of choices and competitive prices for land-based regional transit. We arrived in the central city bus terminal of Toledo, purchased tickets for any of the buses traveling between the small city and Madrid every half hour and were well on our way within a few minutes of boarding (fully booked too, no doubt.) Spain is entwined in a vast web of rail and bus networks, all of which terminate in the central city stations accessible by public transit, pedestrians, cyclists, etc.

Bottom Picture Via Robert A1's Flickr...

Regional public transit corridors are imperative to creating sustainable cities across Florida and the United States. The Miami Intermodal Center takes us a few steps closer to unifying our regional and local transit, making both systems accessible to a wider group of people and more importantly, accessible via local modes of public transit. I hope the necessary parties work to bring our regional bus and eventually rail transit into the Miami Intermodal Center to fully realize the potential the center has to offer...

7/9/07

News Briefs

Local News:
  • Palm Beach County is looking to expand water Taxi service throughout the county to create multiple water transit hubs at key coastal communities. I can't really foresee a water taxi service solving any traffic problems in any of the three counties until considerable advances are created on land-borne transit services first. As it is the existing service serves mainly as a sight-seeing tour, accomplishing little for our daily traffic woes...
  • The Everglades Restoration plan is behind schedule and quickly rising in cost, now estimated at nearly $20 Billion. Meanwhile, development continues to encroach as we keep decimating our novel ecosystem...
  • Merrett Stierheim has the right idea, Miami-Dade severely needs a reputable higher-learning research institution. Problem is, who is going to show the initiative to get such a monumental project moving?
  • One word: Recentralization. It's happening and it is severely needed. Forget the suburban office digs in Doral, Blue Lagoon, or BFE (Ryder.) The time to create an urban, vibrant, and useful CBD is now...
  • Bids will be accepted soon to find a contractor to build the US Southern Command's 700,000 square foot expansion in Doral. We're working on finding a rendering of the new facility, designed by the local office of Leo Daly Architects.
  • New seats coming soon to the Gusman...
Blog News:
  • SOTP addresses the lame ordinance which bars limo companies and private car services from picking up passengers within an hour of their initial request...
  • Miami-Forum shows some "love" for the imbecilic public works department of Miami Springs...
  • Riptide 2.0 discusses the integration of Bikes with Miami 21...
National News:
  • How do you stop Sprawl? You Sue the cities which don't comply with smart growth patterns, that's how...
  • MARTA Plans a system wide review and possibly overhaul to make daily transit operations run smoother...

7/8/07

TransitMiami Must Read - Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning

In the wake of the Live Earth concerts on Saturday, I want to take a moment to recommend a powerful book addressing climate change and what it will take to beat it.

In the book, titled Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning, by popular columnist for the UK's Guardian newspaper, George Monbiot, it is stated we must cut carbon dioxide emissions by 90% by 2030 in order to avoid reaching a catastrophic tipping point.

To read a good review by Streetsblog writer Aaron Donovan, click here.

There is also an excellent interview of Monbiot on YouTube, where he discusses elements from his book as well as some very well articulated insight on climate change.

One of the many moments during the interview that stood out to me was Mobiot's outlook regarding Africa and food a few decades from now. According to Monbiot, climate change as we currently know it has initiated a process leading to net global drying, which will be especially pronounced in Africa. In turn, this could lead to crop failures, ultimately creating a global food deficit as population continues to grow by the billions.
"It is beyond my powers of description to tell you what a world of 9 billion people in net food deficit would look like. It makes all previous human crises - wars, acts of genocide, famines, plagues - look like a side show at the circus of human suffering."
To see Part 1 of the interview, click here.
I highly recommend watching these interviews, at a minimum. The book will knock your socks off, and hopefully it will get you thinking about and comprehending the issue of climate change and the urgent action we must take. Perhaps the best thing about this book, though, is that you come away feeling energized by the "can do" tone of the book, instead of demoralized by the defeatist tone that many previous climate change books have emanated.

Click here to buy the book on Amazon.com

A Legacy of Lapidus

7/6/07

We're all Strangers Here

I just completed Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself and I came across a couple of quotes which are noteworthy:

“…Although the bookshop was no more than seventy or eighty feet away, I discovered that there was no way to get there on foot. There was a traffic outlet for cars, but no provision for pedestrians, and no way to cross on foot without dodging over six lanes of swiftly moving traffic. In the end, I had to get in our car and drive across. There was simply no other way. At the time it seemed ridiculous and exasperating, but afterward I realized that I was probably the only person ever even to have entertained the notion of negotiating that intersection on foot…”

Sound familiar? I can think of dozens of roads and intersections locally which could serve as the exact road Bill is describing. Try crossing Kendall, US-1, or any other stretch or road and you too will notice that pedestrian planning is an afterthought, at most.

“…You find it at Disneyland, where people flock to stroll up and down a Main Street just like the ones they abandoned wholesale in the 1950s. It happens at restored colonial villages like Williamsburg, Virginia and Mystic, Connecticut, where visitors drive long distances and pay good money to savor the sort of compact and tranquil atmosphere that they long ago fled for the accommodating sprawl of suburbs. I can’t begin to account for it, but it appears that in this country these days we really only want something when it isn’t really real…”

I get the feeling Bill Bryson gets “it.” I’ve long noticed the obsession with fakeness in this country. Celebration and Tradition, two newer Florida “towns” immediately come to mind, let alone Disney or any of the various “town centers” popping up across our landscape. More on this subject later, I get the feeling it’s a topic we’ll be addressing more often…

7/5/07

836 West Extension, Demystified

A recent CBS4 "investigation" supports our claims that road expansion simply isn't the solution to the traffic woes in our region. The report puts the new 836 west extension to the "test," with two vehicles racing to a central meeting point on Bird Rd and SW 137th ave. The results were disappointing to those hoping that the extension would provide western suburbanites with a speedier alternative to the turnpike (you know, because of that exorbitant toll.) What the CBS4 report and many natives fail to understand is just how traffic, roadway expansions, and arterials interact with each other.

To simplify, think of traffic as a fluid (water) and roadways as pipes. The obvious is that when there is a clogged pipe (accident) no water can pass through. Easy enough, right? Now, many people assume that by creating a new path for the water (836 extension) water will be able to flow quickly along this new path. But, given the existing saturated nature of the current western routes (Tamiami Trail, Bird, Flagler, etc.) the new extension alleviates a certain amount of traffic from each corridor, providing no specific time difference impact to any single corridor. If too many cars choose to use the extension, then it too becomes saturated and proves to be just as ineffective as the alternate street routes. In then end, the whole system balances out and our overall personal gain is negligible. Plus don't forget that any gains will be rendered useless once western expansion continues (you know, because of all that extra "capacity" we created) and more cars are found to fill in the gaps along each of the corridors... Good Luck!

7/4/07

Have a Happy, Safe, and Festive July 4th Holiday folks...

7/3/07

Climate Change News

Herald: Global warming blamed for vanishing lake

Kapoor in Charge

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez has concluded his nationwide search for a venerable replacement for Roosevelt Bradley by selecting none other than interim director Harpal Kapoor. Harpal Kapoor, who first began working for MDT in 1985, was appointed by Bradly in 2006 as the deputy director of operations.

Although I wished that Alvarez had tapped an outside source to lead the agency, I sincerely hope that Kapoor can begin steer (pun intended) the agency in the right direction. MDT is in dire need of some proper guidance to end the squandering of PTP money which has occurred for the past five years. I have composed a short list of issues we would like to see MDT take up over the next few beginning months of Kapoor's Tenure (not including the obvious expansion of transit options):
  • Expansion and Improvement of TOD- Transit Oriented Development is critical in such an auto-centric city such as Miami. By placing a greater developmental emphasis on our existing transit line and actively expanding the amenities within easy walking distance of existing stations, our area transit will become more accessible to a greater portion of our population. It is imperative that MDT works together with surrounding developments to ensure safe, easy pedestrian access as well as higher density multi-use projects.
  • System wide Farecards- MDT has to modernize our transit system- Quick. Token machines are outdated and the cash system is primitive. Users must be able to quickly and easily purchase flexible farecards at convenient locations using credit cards. Farecards should be integrated with the surrounding tri-county area transit systems and should facilitate the use of transit for locals, not just visitors.
  • GPS Integration- MDT is currently working to install a system along metrorail which would provide users with upcoming train statuses and times. We need to move this technology along to every station platform, major bus transfer station, and most heavily used bus stops. Nearly every London Municipal stand alerts passengers of the wait time for the next bus, why can't we? Plus, the new system would allow users to track transit using mobile or hand held devices.
  • Car/Bicycle Sharing Program- This should certainly be higher on the list. We can't expect citizens to fully abandon car use, that's unreasonable and absurd. Therefore a reliable and reasonable car sharing program such as Flexcar should be sought to partner with MDT to provide service to the greater Miami area. Flexcar could park cars at every Metrorail station or major transfer facility providing more flexibility for Miami residents. The car program would allow residents who can solely rely on public transit for daily needs to do so, but will provide them with flexibility of regular car use (without the burden of ownership, of course.) A bike rental/sharing program could similarly be instituted along every station, allowing resident and tourist rental of bicycles from electronic stands. The idea here being that MDT needs to expand from a system of buses and trains, it should encompass all forms of local transit. Bike rental facilities could one day be found along the river walk, Museum Park, or Midtown, giving residents greater choices of mobility...
  • Better Transit Facilities/Amenities- Take a ride along the NYC, Boston, or any other major cities subway system and each station will feature a newsstand, coffee shop, or lunch stand. MDT's stations are barren and hostile by comparison. NYC is currently working on a citywide plan to update and standardize all newsstands and public toilets. MDT needs to work to bring such amenities to our local users. Some cities even feature buses and trains which display news, weather, and transit updates to users on televisions...
Kapoor has suddenly adopted the enormous responsibility of managing the 14th largest transit system in the country. We hope that the enthusiasm and energy he has displayed thus far to Burgess continues and continues to propel our blighted transit agency in new directions. Transit Miami looks forward to working with Mr. Kapoor to provide him with an outside point of view and to continue to spread the voice of transit in Miami-Dade County...

7/2/07

Sorry about the delay folks. I've been trying to catch up on all the news I missed last week, while replying to a week's worth of e-mails, and recovering from some illness I contracted on the way back from Mexico City's disaster of an airport. Never again will I fly through Mexico City unless it happens to be my final destination. It's kind of screwy that with all the direct flights between Miami and Cancun that a 2 1/2 hour additional flight through Mexico City would somehow come out a couple of hundred dollars cheaper. Next time, I'll splurge and save myself the hassle...

In an unprecedented move which will most likely anger most car-commuting suburbanites across the state, a new law aims to tie tolls prices to the cost of living:
The new law requires that all tolls on highways operated by Florida's Turnpike Enterprise must be linked to the Consumer Price Index. This means that tolls on the turnpike and Sawgrass, plus other toll roads in Central Florida and bridges in the Panhandle, will automatically increase with the cost of living.
The law signed by Governor Christ last month allows for changes to be made automatically every five years or once a year by the state.

It's about time Floridian motorists started paying reasonable prices for their very unreasonable driving habits. We have to understand that our current growth model (sprawl) and dependence on the automobile simply isn't part of a sustainable lifestyle. By increasing taxes on motorists, we can further discourage vehicular dependent growth and likewise begin to levy a reasonable fee on the destruction caused by our automobile dependency. We have subsidized this destructive uncanny way of life for far too long, it's about time motorists began to pay their fair share...

See what the nuts have to say already on the Miami Herald's Comment section...

7/1/07

Causeway Shots

Two of my favorite local amateur photographers, James Good and Miami Fever, each recently took stabs at photographing hot cars under the MacArthur Causeway. You decide which shot is better:

James Good:
Miami Fever: