8/31/07

MDT Transit Pass Conundrum

Transit Miami reader/contributor Dave sent me an excellent price comparison he composed on the cost of transit:
Listed are the comparable monthly passes (basic all purpose pass for busses, trains and transfers) and what the single cash fare would be for one trip. The number of trips listed is how many trips you would have to make in a month for the pass to be worth while for simple round trips.

Miami monthly metropass: $75, single fare $1.50 (50 trips)
Boston monthly metropass: $59, single fare $2 (29.5 trips)
New York monthly metropass: $76, single fare $2 (38 trips)
Chicago monthly metropass: $75, single fare $2 (37.5 trips)
San Francisco (Muni&some; Bart stations) metropass: $45, single fare $1.50 (30 trips)

Maybe its because Miami-Dade's transit thinks we need to pay more than other cities for our monthly pass because we use the transit system so much more often than these other cities do (sarcasm)?

News From around the Globe

Via klm_md11's Flickr...
The Vatican has launched an airline of sorts offering passengers (on a chartered aircraft similar to the one above) seats to key pilgrimage sites. Initial plans call for flights to Spain, Poland, and the Middle East, however talks are in the works to fly to Mexico.
  • Beijing's plan to limit driving in the capital city during the Olympics to curb air pollution, turned out be a big flop last week during the three day trial period. It goes to show that there is no "quick fix" to the detrimental effects of our oil addiction.

Bike-Sharing: Revealed


We've spent considerable time talking about the merits of bike-sharing programs, offering particularly high praise for Paris's Velib. However, it may seem like a fantasy as most of these programs are only available overseas. Fortunately, here is a great video that shows bike-sharing in Paris is very real. It explains how it works, from security to maintenance and everything in between.

I definitely recommend checking it out, so you have a better understanding of the system and can clearly describe it at planning/bike workshops.

8/30/07

<--- Sidebar Woes

Not Exactly sure what caused the Speaking Out! sidebar widget to lock up on us, but, I'll be spending some time today pretending that I know how to edit the CSS to fix it... Till then, stay tuned, there's a bunch of news out there for us to cover including Kirk Nielsen's comparison between our sad bike infrastructure and that of Copenhagen's....

8/29/07

Let's go for a Ride on the Mumbai Subway

Continuing Flawed Miami Mentality on urban living and the needs of downtown:
"But if Downtown Miami develops into a thriving retail hub as local leaders and stakeholders plan, the parking authority, as well as private operators, she said, are "going to have to step up to the plate to create more parking facilities."
Even now, merchants have "expressed concerns about the lack of enough customer parking," she said."

8/28/07

Beijing Aims to One-Up Paris


When Paris unveiled its massive bike-sharing program earlier this month, it was the largest in the world, proving to be the envy of other global cities.


Not for long.

Beijing recently announced its plan to have 50,000 bikes available for share by 2008, when they will be hosting the Summer Olympics. The bike-sharing program is expected to take a bite out of traffic congestion and air pollution, which are becoming increasingly damaging problems as more people drive in the city.

Fifty-thousand bikes in a city of 17 million may seem insignificant, but it's all part of a larger transportation strategy, which includes expanding the subway system to be one of the world's greatest. It may also include odd-even day driving privileges, where license plates would be divided by odd and even numbers so that only half of the city's motorists could legally drive each day. This hinges on the success of a four-day pilot program that was completed with mixed results earlier this month.

According to experts, eliminating 1.3 million cars from the streets of Beijing would translate into a 40% cut in carbon dioxide emissions. How does this relate to Miami? Well, beside serving as another example of a another city implementing bike-sharing, it's very important in the global context of climate change. If China, which per capita only emits a tiny fraction of carbon dioxide that the United States does, continues to rapidly increase vehicle miles traveled, it will make it almost impossible to stabilize global CO2 levels at 550ppm (the largely agreed upon threshold for stemming the worst effects of climate change). Given the geography of South Florida, we should be very much concerned about Chinese emissions and sustainability.

It's all interconnected.

Renderings of the new Kobi Karp designed towers soon rising at the Miami Airport Marriott Complex:

MIA South Terminal

Miami International Airport’s new South Terminal (H & J) is slated to begin opening for travelers tomorrow, beginning what will become a two month transition process for 19 of the airport’s airlines. This terminal is state of the art, a masterfully designed showpiece in an otherwise outdated airport. If there is ever a time to use that ridiculous phrase that seems to be constantly misused, some would say this terminal is “world class.” Yes folks, it could be that impressive. For once, it seems that MIA will no longer sit high among the worst airports in the Nation list. The $1.1 Billion terminal is designed to process 2,000 passengers an hour through 3 security checkpoints and advanced (post 9-11 security measures) baggage handling and receiving stations. It will also feature $9.4 million of art and 49 new retail/dining facilities.

See it for yourself:South Terminal Baggage Claim Area.Art:Everglades floor art (Mysterious how they keep disappearing as we continue to pave over them isn't it?)

Also, the Iconic MIAMI wall...
  • Meanwhile, Aeromexico, one of the South Terminal's new inhabitants, recently announced it would end its Ft. Lauderdale service...
  • Emirates Airlines will be visiting MIA on September 6th...Miami-Dubai Service coming soon?
Update: Alex's View, though he clearly hasn't visited the disaster known as Heathrow or walked the infinite corridors throughout Barajas...Not two of the airport's we'd use to compare ourselves to...

8/27/07

Marlins at OB, Another Bad Idea

There is a great read today up on the MiamiHerald by Larry Lebowitz titled: Why OB is a Lousy Site for Marlins. Take a second a check it out, he voices many of the same positions we've been pushing here on Transit Miami... An excerpt:

Tri-Rail isn't much of an option. It's a pain to get from the Miami Airport Station to the Orange Bowl today. Even if Miami-Dade Transit created a straight-shot, game-day shuttle from the Tri-Rail station to the OB, how many baseball fans to the north would use it?

Metrorail will only appeal to hard-core urban dwellers. It's a little over a mile -- too far to walk for most pampered, crime-fearing locals -- from the closest Metrorail stations on the north side of the river to the Orange Bowl.

Barring some unlikely seismic political changes at County Hall, no one will be trying to shift billions of transit dollars to expand Metrorail near the OB in the near future.

What about a streetcar that could shuttle fans from downtown transit hubs?

Right now, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz can't muster a three-vote majority of commissioners to support a streetcar in downtown, Wynwood, the Design District and Allapattah -- all on the opposite side of the river from the stadium.

A ballpark in downtown would be closer to I-95, Metrorail, Metromover, and a proposed light-rail system on the Florida East Coast corridor that one day could shuttle fans from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

The economics and politics might be tougher, but an accessible, pedestrian-friendly downtown stadium makes the most sense.

-Larry Lebowitz

8/26/07

Via Mariuspopvici's Flickr...

8/23/07

Lessons From Portland

Whenever you are involved in planning, one of the best tools you can use is benchmarking. By benchmarking, I mean examining how other planners and cities have implemented successful policies that align with your own local goals (hopefully a sustainable city). After studying enough places, it makes it possible to conclude what the "best practice" in your field is, which should translate to better success with local implementation. Of course, this concept has been entirely foreign to Miami for decades.

So how does this relate to urban planning in Miami? Well, believe it or not, some American cities that used to rival Miami with auto dependence and unsustainability have been able to make critical transformations with the help of good planning and an educated, caring public demanding more livable streets. Probably the poster-child for such transformation is Portland, Oregon. Through transit-oriented policy (see: streetcars and light rail) and willingness to accept more intensive land-uses (see: higher density and mixed-use neighborhoods), Portland has gone from a typical auto-centric American city to one that is now defined by livable streets, transit, and quality public spaces.

Miami certainly has a lot it can learn from Portland, and there's absolutely no reason we cannot make similar transformations. So, because it's never a good idea to completely rely on planners and officials to make the right decisions, and citizen advocacy is easily as important a part of the equation for change as planning, I highly recommend watching this video on Portland. I think it does a wonderful job showing how the city has made their transformation. If nothing else, it gives us some idea of what is possible when we demand change. It's very encouraging, so check it out when you have a few minutes.

Thanks to Streetsblog for the video!

8/22/07

A Letter from Donna Shalala

August 21, 2007

To the University Community:

We have an extraordinary history and tradition at the Orange Bowl: The players running through the smoke tunnel. “Touchdown Tommy” and his cannon. The Ring of Honor. An incredible winning streak of 58 consecutive home wins. And three of our five national championships were won on that field. I love the Orange Bowl—we all do!

As many of you are aware, the University has been working closely with the City of Miami to assess the feasibility of making much-needed renovations to the Orange Bowl. It has long been our goal to have a first-class football stadium.

The City of Miami has been a wonderful partner with us at the Orange Bowl for many years, and they understand how hard we have wrestled with a very difficult decision. Mayor Manny Diaz has been heroic in his efforts to meet our future needs. After much thought, analysis, and discussions with many, many of our trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and fans, we have concluded that we must move our football games to a better facility. The more than $200 million in renovations that the city has proposed would only provide basic and mostly infrastructural upgrades. A part of those funds are not in hand and may or may not be determined until after the proposed construction would be well underway. Overall, the renovations clearly would not address the long-term needs of our athletes and our fans.

The Orange Bowl chapter of our history—in which we can all take great pride—will never close, and we are confident that the legacy of Miami Hurricanes football will live on and thrive as we move to a new location. After an assessment of all options available to us, we have decided reluctantly and painfully to move to Dolphin Stadium for the 2008 season.

Dolphin Stadium is one of the premier football stadiums in the country. At our new home, our student-athletes will have the opportunity to compete in a first-class facility that plays host to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, the FedEx Orange Bowl, BCS National Championship Game, and that has been the site of recent and upcoming Super Bowls.

Our fans will experience outstanding amenities including one of the world’s largest plasma TV displays, high-definition video boards, club seating and suites, chairbacks on every stadium seat, approximately 14,000 parking spaces, and a large variety of concessions and restaurants.

The end zones will be redone so that our shared home will reflect both Miami teams’ pride. The Dolphins are actively pursuing a corporate sponsor so that by 2010 the stadium will have a neutral name.

I want to assure all members of our University community—students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, donors, friends—and the tens of thousands of fans who regularly cheer us on, that we looked exhaustively into every aspect of the choices in front of us, and that your needs figured prominently in our final decision. The quality of your experience at our games is of the utmost importance to us.

As always, we would like to hear from you. Please contact us at an e-mail address we have established for your comments: umfootball@miami.edu. If you have any further questions, please go to the Official Athletic Department Web site at hurricanesports.com or call 1-800-GO-CANES.

Thank you, and Go ’Canes!

Sincerely,
Donna E. Shalala

Loss of the Hurricanes - Not Just Disengaging a City, but a Community

While Gabe did a great job lamenting the loss of the Hurricanes from Miami, I felt compelled to add a few things, being dually a Canes fan and a fan of the City.

Let me start by saying, while I suppose it's justifiable from the perspective of Shalala and the University, as they will be making more money, playing in a nicer, more modern stadium, and perhaps even helping recruiting, the impact of leaving the OB is tough to quantify in numbers.

For one, Gabe mentioned how the OB is special, almost because of its grit. It was miserable for players and fans because it was old, hostile, and fundamentally "Miami".

Also, for so long football Saturday (and don't forget Sunday) was known for the marriage between this part of Little Havana and the OB. The tradition we all speak of is certainly not confined to the smoke-filled tunnel entrance or the wide-right mystique. It's also just as much the tastes, sounds and smells of the neighborhood that made it special.

Unlike going to some far-flung suburban stadium in "could-be-anywhere-ville", when fans and opposing teams came to the Orange Bowl they were entering the heart and soul of inner-city Miami. There was no mistaking where you were - Latin styled sidewalk BBQ, Spanish signage and street names, block after block of pre-game parties - you were in Miami. It was this authentic local neighborhood character that inspired so much tradition, which will now be lost.

Now, the Canes are being outsourced to the banal suburbs, where everything that made playing at the OB so unique, so quintessentially Miami, will now be relegated to traffic jams, $20 parking fees, and sipping beers in a giant sea of asphalt. If it wasn't for signs, you could cut and paste the Dolphins Stadium area and be just about anywhere where there's expressways, uber parking lots, and cookie-cutter stadiums.

Alas, talk about an identity crisis. The University of Miami Hurricanes, based in Coral Gables, whom play football in Miami Gardens. Is this not emblematic of Miami's hyper-fragmentation?

Can we call them the Miami-Dade Hurricanes, now?

Forecast: Hurricanes Downgraded to Tropical Waves

It’s a sad day for Miami; a loss for our sports history, the loss of a national icon, it’s the end of an era. The University of Miami has committed a grave miscalculation today. Giving up the Orange Bowl for the sake of what will ultimately become a pittance in increased revenue will prove catastrophic. You don’t trade in years of tradition on a whim (they don’t come back so quickly either.) I’m not a hurricane, in fact far from it, I’ll be there at Joe Robbie (I’m going back to its original name seeing that Huizenga announced an upcoming name change again) in 2008 cheering on my beloved Gators. But if there is one piece of advice I could extend to the University of Miami, it’s that you should never underestimate the power of tradition and the home-field advantage of a raucous crowd. The stands of Joe Robbie will barely quiver. The 76,500 seat stadium will appear cavernous and the once venerable Miami Hurricane Venue will no longer serve as a source of agony for opponents.

What’s more, with the loss of the UM presence at the Orange Bowl, the venue will no longer serve a useful purpose since its inception in 1936. Already discussions are underway to tear down the legendary stadium and construct a new home for the Marlins. I cannot begin to explain how terrible of a location this would be for such a demanding scheduled sport such as baseball. Conveniently isolated from urban transit and existing downtown parking facilities, the new ballpark would be secluded in a predominantly residential neighborhood. Close enough to entice downtown workers to want to attend games, but just far enough from preventing them from walking down the street or hopping on the Metromover. Plans aren’t even on the drawing boards to bring reliable transit into the area anytime soon and I can imagine any further Miami Streetcar plans would be sabotaged. We’ll be left with a massive new stadium for the Marlins, accessible only by vehicle and surrounded by suburban like structures. Continuing our legacy of urban planning disasters built by politicians with no legitimate foresight…

8/21/07

Scottish Transport

Some people wonder whether I go on vacation to relax or experience foreign public transit systems; I like to think it’s a little of both. Utilizing foreign transit and witnessing other city’s approaches to some of our similar problems captivates me and drives me to try and bring about some of these changes in Miami. The small nation of Scotland is entwined in a network of rail and regional bus routes, guaranteeing regular access to even some of the most remote towns and villages.In Edinburgh, you queue. Not to place an order in the drive-thru, but to wait for the bus. Scottish residents queued for the bus and boarded in the order which they arrived in a most uncanny display of civilized behavior. Lines stretched down blocks a few yards, allowing continuous pedestrian passage along sidewalks. Bus shelters were even designed longer than American shelters to allow for greater covered queuing space and typically featured electronic displays of routes and approximate wait times.

We rented a car to experience both the joys and hazards of driving on the wrong side of the road and headed north to witness the natural beauty of Glen Coe. While driving along a precarious single lane road (with a few haphazard passing bays) which serviced only two small (~500 people) towns, we pulled off the road to allow the daily public transit bus to pass. Remarkable! This wasn’t the only instance where we encountered this, in fact every town we passed through had a bus stop with schedules attached listing the daily regional bus service which passed through the area, even in towns where sheep seemingly outnumbered people 50 to 1.

Glasgow is the only city in Scotland which currently has rail public transportation, although Edinburgh will soon begin work on a streetcar system (see sign below.) The Glasgow subway runs in a circular path around the city center and has never been expanded since its opening in 1896, making it the third oldest metro system in the world. It’s a most unusual subway train, just 4 carts long and barely tall enough for me to stand up straight in. The limited 6.5 Mile system is interconnected with several (7, I believe) suburban train lines which arrive at the central station as well as the city’s vast bus network. Plans are in the works to also bring streetcars or guided busways to the city.

It was August in Glasgow and a chilly 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It was drizzling all day (heck, all week) and the wind was kicking, yet the city was alight with activity, pedestrian activity that is. With weather conditions that would typically render walking along Lincoln Road improbable, Glasgow’s main pedestrian mall was buzzing with pedestrian activity, shopping, and dining along Buchanan Street.

8/20/07

A Precursor of Sorts

Having recently attended the Richard Serra exhibit at MoMA, I wanted to talk briefly about what is possible for Museum Park. I realize I have discussed this topic in some detail and I have been very interested in our reader input. The exhibit at MoMA was spectacularly attended, despite being mid morning on a weekday. The well designed museum, however, was able to accommodate the throngs of visitors quite well. Miami Art Museum will obviously never be the MoMA, but the visit did re-affirm my belief that the museums belong in Museum Park. Unlike MoMA, where there is only the crowded sculpture garden for attendees to recover from museum fatigue, without ending their visit, in Miami visitors will have all of the beautifully re-designed park green space. I fully expect the park to become gloriously utilized.

The energy and vibration of the crowds was astounding. The exhibit continued on the second floor where the sculptures, weighing literally hundreds of tons, seemingly a threat to the structural soundness, were safely on display because even that detail was pre-analyzed and managed by the thorough design team led by Terence Riley. He was not the architect, and he was certainly not the sole force behind the new MoMA, however, I believe that he is largely responsible for the overwhelming success of the construction of the new facility, and the presentation of it, to the world and is now bringing all of that experience to the project at hand, MAM. I think we who love Miami are in for a great civic experience.

8/19/07

Planning Miami Around People and Not Cars


Over the weekend, the Herald shed light on an encouraging trend beginning to take hold downtown - developers are finally building projects WITHOUT ANY ON-SITE PARKING. As we've been saying since practically the inception of TM, minimum parking requirements have been cancerous in virtually every part of Miami, particularly downtown. These minimum parking requirements mandate developers to spend tens-of-thousands-of-dollars per space, which serves only to reinforce Miami's harmful, unlivable, unsustainable auto-centric culture. It induces driving demand, which clogs streets and pollutes our air. It fractures urban continuity with retched surface lots and massive, monolithic garage pedestals. It makes it very difficult to improve transit and walkability.

However, we all win when projects are built with little or no parking, especially in the urban core and near transit stations. It allows developers to save money, which translates to much more affordable housing, which is badly needed throughout Miami and South Florida. It allows for a more cohesive urban block structure, which with proper planning translates to much better pedestrian environments. It also encourages people to walk, bicycle, and take transit, which drives demand for enhancements in these sectors. And, fewer cars on the road means safer, more livable streets, less road rage, less pollution, less noise, and more attention paid to our public spaces.

According to the Herald piece, the parking-free buildings recently constructed downtown (Loft 1 and Loft 2) have been so successful, the Related Group is now planning two more (Loft 3 and Loft 4), even in a slowed condo market. Moreover, another developer, Keystone Holdings, is also planning to construct parking-free condos downtown.

"Urban housing should not have parking on-site, especially work-force housing...Every great city has shared parking. But people in Miami have to be educated that that's the way it should be."

- Miami Real Estate Analyst Michael Cannon

It's true. If Miami is ever destined to become a world-class city, characterized by great public spaces and livable streets, it must amend its traditional parking philosophies. While it's traffic congestion that always ranks at the top of concerns for planners and residents alike, it's vehicle storage that shapes urban life as much if not more than movement through space.

The important thing here is education. Most Miamians and South Floridians have preconceived notions about parking that are totally backwards. If we ever want to move in a new direction, we must not be afraid to educate others in our community that may not understand some of the counterintuitive principles of urban parking supply.

To better understand this topic, I highly recommend reading People, Parking, and Cities, by UCLA urban planning professor and renowned parking scholar, Donald Shoup. If you still want to know more, then I recommend The High Cost of Free Parking, by Shoup.

photo courtesy of www.miamiinvest.com

8/17/07

Why Parks are Important


Here at TransitMiami, we're always preaching about the importance of strong public spaces, particularly high quality parks. It's high quality public spaces that make living in dense urban settlements very appealing, for several reasons.

A recent editorial in the Toronto Star addresses the importance of parks and public spaces, which I recommend reading. As Miami continues toward a denser, more urban future, it's important we understand the important role of parks and public spaces.

Check out the editorial here.

8/16/07

Community Workshop Info

Anyone interested in improving cycling conditions on Miami Beach, mark your calendars for Thursday, August 30th. From 6-8pm at the Miami Beach Police Department, there will be an excellent opportunity to learn about the Atlantic Greenway Network (AGN) and the Dade Boulevard Bike Path Project. From the press release:

The AGN Master Plan is being developed to promote alternative transportation and community enhancement in the North, Middle and South Beach neighborhoods of Miami Beach. The objectives are to increase safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, diminish gaps while improving network connectivity, and establish future bikeways.

The Dade Boulevard Bike Path project will run adjacent to Dade Boulevard from Bay Road to 23rd Street and will be designed to extend the existing Venetian Causeway bikeway to destination points within Miami Beach.

Again, this workshop will be held Thursday, August 30th, from 6-8pm at the Miami Beach Police Department. The MBPD is located at 1100 Washington Ave (11th & Washington).

For more information, check out Spokes n' Folks, this nice SunPost editorial, or contact Christine Leduc @ 305-673-7080 or via email at cleduc@miamibeachfl.gov

Photo courtesy of www.Miamitours.com

8/14/07

UNQUESTIONABLY WORTHY OF PRESERVATION


It seems that once again, the debate on whether or not to restore or destroy the Marine Stadium at Virginia Key, is alive and well. As a big supporter of architectural preservation, it seems to me that the answer is clear. The building is so profoundly unique, all lovers of modernism would insist on it's restoration. The mind boggling structure, visually defies the laws of physics with its incredible cantilevered roof. While many other such buildings met with the wrecking ball shortly before the resurgence of interest in mid century modern, this outdoor public venue, due in part to its non-central location, has remained in disrepair. It seems to me that if a proper restoration could be executed, this unique setting would be a big draw for a number of varied performances.

With so many amazing 20th century masterpieces, Miami is once again an example of a particular originality not found anywhere else in the U.S. This collection of buildings should be preserved at all costs. There is an active community striving to see to this. The recent declaration of Miami Modern, or MiMo historic districts, both along Biscayne Boulevard in Miami and in North Beach, in the city of Miami Beach, brought a collective sigh of relief..

There are however many worthy historical buildings that do not fall within any of these historic districts. Bay Harbor Islands is home to an extensive collection of such jewels, and it seems as if the city officals will not declare them protected, despite the vocal preservationists doing their best. By virtue of its massive scale and futurist beauty the Marine Stadium of Virginia Key is arguably the most significant of all these buildings. I will continue to keep all who are interested, informed as to how they can contribute to the struggle to honor South Florida's architectural heritage.

Quantifying Our Disproportionate Contribution Toward Climate Change


Many of us hear, on a fairly consistent basis, how harmful our daily actions are to the environment and global warming. We drive too much, live in houses too big (that are poorly insulated), and expend way too much energy with a shmorgishborg of energy-gluttonous appliances. However, I find it's very rare that any of us can actually quantify these outputs.

I find this very troubling. It serves to distance ourselves from the realities our consumption. It's like swiping a credit or debit card and never looking at the receipt - it's much less painful that way because we don't see the numbers were spending, and thus do not feel the full weight of the transactions. Similar to money management and cutting one's budget, if we never see (or know) how much carbon dioxide we're responsible for emitting each year, how will we know where to make cuts? The answer is, we probably won't.

Fortunately, however, the EPA has done most of the legwork, creating an easy-to-use personal emissions calculator. It takes just a few minutes to fill out, and you'll have a fairly accurate projection of your personal annual emissions. Even better, once you've quantified your emissions, you can check out the EPA's thorough "What You Can Do" page, which breaks down how and where you can improve your energy efficiency, translating to carbon emissions cuts. There are links at the top and sidebar of the EPA's page to a few other calculators related to energy consumption or emissions, that are worth checking out as well.

I mean, it's a win-win to take advantage of these resources. If you care about making a difference and fighting climate change, then this tool will allow you to quantify your energy consumption and where you can make cuts. If you could care less about global warming, then this calculator will still point you in the direction of energy savings, which translates into more money in your pocket each month.

Edinburgh Transit

Edinburgh is covered by an intricate web of bus lines which keep things moving along the narrow city streets. Double Decker buses constantly flow in and out of central bus stations filled with locals and tourists alike. A couple of enclosed central transfer stations exist to handle several bus routes as well as to keep passengers out of the whimsical Scottish weather. A sign posted near the rail station informed me of upcoming plans to add streetcars...

8/12/07

27th Avenue Makeover Plan 90% Complete


This past Tuesday, the county presented its 90% completion for the proposed 27th Avenue makeover project. There has been little deviation from the 30% rendering, which calls for the following improvements:

  • Addition of bike lanes
  • Addition of on-street parking
  • Removal of most private, on-site parking
  • Addition of tree-planted median (and more shade trees for sidewalks)
  • Addition of oval-shaped traffic circle at the intersection of Day, Tigertail, and 27th

While earlier renderings more often centered around parking controversy, the newest lightning rod is the traffic circle. Several citizens and business owners still don't believe the traffic circle will work.

''You have to remember people don't like change, and this is something that's foreign to them,'' - Delfin Molins, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade County Public Works Department.

It's true - many Groveites are terrified of change. However, I'd be surprised if most are not fully supporting this project by the time the final draft is unveiled. I really think this project is quite progressive for Miami/South Florida standards in the way it focuses more on improving the pedestrian realm than making the street a traffic sewer.

As for the concern about the traffic circle, I'm pretty confident it will be beneficial to Center Grove residents and visitors alike. As long as it's engineered by the specs public works has planned, it should do a pretty good job mitigating congestion on 27th and Tigertail while not compromising easy pedestrian crossings. The shape and design of this "circle" should ensure that cars cannot speed through it. People shouldn't worry about it becoming a wild "free-for-all", because it is not designed to be a large rotary similar to the Cocoplum Circle at Le Jeune and Sunset in Coral Gables. Miami drives can be dumb...and crazy, but even they can handle a traffic circle this simple. Plus, Day Ave should not experience an appreciable increase in thru-traffic as long as it changes to one-way eastbound.

My biggest disappointment with this project, however, is that the intersection of 27th Ave and US-1 is being ignored. The sidewalk and bike lane improvements are great, but this intersection is one of the most hostile in all of Miami for pedestrians and cyclists. Without design upgrades to improve safety and aesthetics at this intersection, the Grove Metrorail station remains effectively alienated from the wonderful 27th Avenue improvements. It's a classic example of Miami's seemingly inextricable fragmentation - especially when it comes to transit and land-use planning.

Musings on Sun, Ocean and Sky


As politicians come and go. As towers rise and fall. The elemental qualities of a destination like Miami never cease to be a point of inspiration, desire and destiny for many global citizens. Regardless of the whims of of markets, and the pain of mistakes made along the way, Miami is so uniquely endowed it will perpetually blossom. It begs the opportunity to cause the best.

8/10/07

Scotland Bound

Heading off to Scotland today for the week. Hope to have some Internet access at some point throughout the week, otherwise Ryan and James will be conducting most of the activity on the site until I get back...

8/9/07

DESIGN DISTRICT-- LIVING UP TO A NAME

As Miami slowly emerges from the settling dust of this unprecedented building boom, one of it's greatest assets, the quality of design, becomes more and more evident. The DESIGN DISTRICT, in what is now known as the Midtown area is poised to become the poster child of sorts, for what is possible when carefully planned and designed neighborhoods are given the chance to consider all aspects of dynamic urbanism.

True to its name, the design district is, step by step, illustrating what will become a global model for excellence in contemporary architecture. Led by Craig Robins and his development company DACRA, this vision seems to be in very good hands. Robins first led a resurgence of Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road and transformed Allison island into the unique urban enclave today known as Aqua at Allison island. Robins' exciting choice to invite many different architects to design both single family homes as well as midrise condos seems to have been a precursor to his strategy for the Design District. With luminaries such as Hariri & Hariri, and local brilliant designers such as Alan Shulman and Alison Spear, it seemed a venture guaranteed success.

While the earlier achievements of DACRA played out on the fertile grounds of the absurdly underappreciated Miami Beach, in the early nineties, the task of reinventing the Design District still goes on now as the red hot real estate market has undeniably cooled. The tranformation has in truth been a long steady process. World class showrooms of furniture and interiors products have one by one re-located to the district. Recently some of the most significant purveyors of exceptional contemporary design, Luminaire, and Ligne Roset, have joined the longtime retail strongholds Kartell, Abitare and Fendi CASA.

Many architecture and design firms transplanted themselves several years ago, at the very beginning of the changes, urban design pioneers, including Shulman and Oppenheim Architecture + Design, who are now slated to have no less than three major mixed use towers rise in the district. It was with the revolutionary plans for the Design District that Oppenheim stepped in an entirely new direction for the firm with the projects, CASA, CUBE and COR. While it remains to be seen, when and if we will these buildings rise. They will most certainly contribute to the area truly becoming a haven for savvy aesthetes.
As is the signature of DACRA development, several lesser known, yet stellar firms design firms have been asked to contribute to the final vision for this exciting neighborhood. Keenan/Riley have contributed design for several smaller buildings, including a hotel and a two story building for galleries to be fronting Biscayne Boulevard as the gateway into the Design District.

K/R
As is often referred to here at transitmiami.com, the smaller, pedestrian friendly edifices, are one of the most essential elements to creating a thriving neighborhood. Geared to walking and moving in and out of several retail establishments, at a scale that is conducive to just such activities, and as the visual representation of the neighborhood, the interesting architects Robins selected and the buildings designed for these parcels give great promise to the area. These come following in the footsteps of the much heralded Oak Plaza, one of the recent major steps in the districts future plan.
Miami has always had a unique tradition of both experimentation and excellence in design. A quality that many find as gratifying as the beautiful beaches and climate, and sets Miami apart from anywhere else in the U.S. Where else could be better for this legacy to continue than the Design District. From it's earliest development to Art Deco. From Morris Lapidus' influence with the Fountainebleu through the International Style and Miami Modernism and right up through the present with Arquitectonica and Oppenheim. While the building boom of towering condominiums may have reached its peak this actually makes way for the other work that needs to take place to make the great city a reality For small infill projects that will be the thread to hold the fabric of the new skyline together and create a livable city, a city used by its citizens, with the backdrop of a stunning skyline. Any number of designs such as this beautiful, forward thinking building by Columbia school of architecture instructor Craig Konyk, that invite, even insist on the interaction of people with there urban environment is the way to go.

Stupid Legislators: Patrick McHenry

Republican Patrick McHenry, an ignoramus congressman from North Carolina is attempting to hamper efforts of other congressman who are writing a provision to encourage increase bicycle use. Apparently McHenry openly opposes the paltry $1 million proposition yet he openly favors wasting Billions more in Iraq, you know, "fighting the war on terror..."

The U.S. infrastructure is falling apart McHenry, quit wasting our money building a new one in Iraq...Bikes aren't a solution, but, they are part of the puzzle...Here is an e-mail I received word for word from a loyal TM reader:

Last Saturday the House of Representatives passed Energy Independence legislation that amends a section of the IRS code to include "bicycles" in the definition of transportation covered by the qualified transportation fringe benefit.

Introduced earlier this year by Congressman Earl Blumenauer as H.R. 1498, the provision calls for a $20 monthly benefit for riding a bike to work.

However, according to Blumenauer, even this modest amount sparked some heated opposition — even ridicule — from other House lawmakers.

Patrick McHenry, a republican from North Carolina stood alongside the poster above and said bicycles were an "antiquated" solution to our energy crisis. He posted the video of his speech on his website with the title, "Congressman McHenry Slams Democrats' Antiquated Energy Plan."

Here are excerpts from his statement on the House floor:

"A major component of the Democrats' energy legislation and the Democrats' answer to our energy crisis is, hold on, wait one minute, wait one minute, it is promoting the use of the bicycle.

Oh, I cannot make this stuff up. Yes, the American people have heard this. Their answer to our fuel crisis, the crisis at the pumps, is: Ride a bike.

Democrats believe that using taxpayer funds in this bill to the tune of $1 million a year should be devoted to the principle of: "Save energy, ride a bike."

Some might argue that depending on bicycles to solve our energy crisis is naive, perhaps ridiculous. Some might even say Congress should use this energy legislation to create new energy, bring new nuclear power plants on line, use clean coal technology, energy exploration, but no, no.

They want to tell the American people, stop driving, ride a bike. This is absolutely amazing.

Apparently, the Democrats believe that the miracle on two wheels that we know as a bicycle will end our dependence on foreign oil. I cannot make this stuff up. It is absolutely amazing.

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the Democrats, promoting 19th century solutions to 21st century problems. If you don't like it, ride a bike. If you don't like the price at the pumps, ride a bike.

Stay tuned for the next big idea for the Democrats: Improving energy efficiency by the horse and buggy."

8/8/07

Apologies/News Briefs

We here at Transit Miami, would like to issue a heartfelt, sincere apology to our dedicated readers for our less than stellar content contribution lately. Each of us is currently wound up in our personal affairs and have naturally failed to allocate enough time to writing comprehensive, detailed articles on the latest transit/development issues. Fortunately for us, the past few weeks have been tame on the news fronts in these areas. Transit Miami readers, things will get better, I can attest to that. Our dedication is still as strong as the day we started this blog and our continued effort will be a testament to that. We have some exciting articles on the way and are working hard to instill the ideals of Transit Miami into the lives of every Miamian…

Some latest worthwhile stories:

  • City of Miami Commissioners foolishly rejected a plan to fund their $50 Million share of the port of Miami tunnel. A plan that would remove thousands of daily trucks, buses, and cars from the congested downtown streets somehow isn’t seen as a valuable enough asset worth of community development money. A word of advice to the commissioner who voted against the plan: try walking along these streets or open a sidewalk café at one of the new high-rises along Biscayne Boulevard and you’ll quickly see what kind of benefit the tunnel will provide the neighborhood…
  • Max Tower on the Way? We certainly hope so…The proposed 31 story tower rising in the media and arts district would provide just that; Media and Arts. The tower would become a hub for local production providing ample recording studio space and other media oriented amenities. It may be too late to save NBC, ABC, or CBS from abandoning the district but, hey who knows maybe we can begin to recentralize ourselves again?
  • Finally! The hideous pink wall along US-1 and the Bay Heights is set to receive a worthy makeover…
  • What’s life like in downtown? The Herald profiles some residents happy about their lifestyles changes…
  • Samuel Poole III shares his thoughts on Miami 21 and you know what? He’s right on the money…

8/7/07

Newsweek: Global Warming Denial Industry Exposed


If you haven't read George Monbiot's Heat yet, you need to check out this week's Newsweek. In this week's edition, the news periodical does an excellent job exposing the shameful, yet intricate workings of the global warming denial industry. Click here to read the article.

This is significant, because as far as I know, this is the most mainstream and widely circulated piece of literature to date breaking down the tactics of climate change naysayers.

The article does a good job naming names, connecting the dots, and following the money trail. Let's hope this wakes up politicians and the general public, because we cannot afford to be paralyzed by pseudoscience while the world becomes increasingly destabilized by climate change.

Though I highly recommend reading this Newsweek piece in its entirety, regardless of how you feel about climate change, I've summarized some major tactics used by naysayers below, as mentioned in the article:
  • Exxon Mobile, the world's most profitable corporation, has been paying "scientists" $10,000 to write articles undercutting peer-reviewed climate change reports.
  • The deniers have been employing similar tactics used by the tobacco industry, such as relying on the notion that there is too much "scientific uncertainty"; to do this, they regularly print white papers and "studies" (not empirical research, but critiques of others' work).
  • Former employers from the coal/oil industries landing high-ranking government jobs related to environmental action, largely resulting from connections with Washington conservatives who feel action taken to fight global warming will harm business (and thus, those lining their campaign pockets), have been avoiding action, and even editing the research and reports of top climate scientists to portray "scientific uncertainty".
  • Constantly changing their story; for example, first they claimed the "world is not warming", then they claimed warming was occurring, but that it was natural instead of anthropogenic (caused by humans). Now, their most recent claim is that the world is warming, but the effects will be small and harmless.
  • Their main goal is not to argue global warming is good, or even neutral, but to create doubt among politicians and the general public that it poses a serious threat to global stability. This, they hope, will keep us from achieving the consensus and support necessary to act.
  • Making up "think tanks" and disguising them with names like "The Global Climate Coalition" and "Information Council on the Environment" (aka ICE - a not so subtle acronym).
  • The use of lists and petitions that aim to portray climate science as divided; funny thing is these "petitions" are mostly signed by a motley crew of folks who've never done any real climate research.

Though the Newsweek piece does a solid job exposing the global warming denial industry, I still recommend Monbiot's book, Heat. He does an even better, more comprehensive job articulating how the denial industry functions.

Miami Aerials

Alesh Profiles his recent flight back into Miami from Bogota...I couldn't see this photo and help thinking.........
With all that space at the port of Miami we still can't figure out a way to allot a few acres to some dedicated rail transportation...Ridiculous...

8/6/07

Miami-Dade has Abysmal Cycling Record

Click on the image for an enlarged, clearer view

I was recently looking through some old reports I have, when I discovered some depressing data that illustrates just how bad cycling conditions in Miami-Dade are. In the above graphic, the county's roads were graded A-F based on the presence (or lack thereof) of typical "bike-friendly"conditions. Of course, a grade of "A" indicates high-quality cycling conditions and "F" indicates the least favorable conditions.

Some main criteria:
  • Presence of a bike lane or paved shoulder
  • Proximity of the cyclist to vehicular traffic
  • Characteristics of the vehicular traffic
  • Pavement condition

According to the report:

"Of the over 1,500 miles analyzed, only 8.6 percent of roadway miles received an acceptable level of service score of "C" or better. Over 90 percent of the roadway miles received an unnacceptable LOS score of "D" or worse, with approximately 58 percent of all segments receiveing an LOS score of "E" and 5.7 percent an LOS of "F"."

Within the defined bicycle network, the County currently has less than 12 miles of on-road bicycle lanes meeting FDOT criteria for a bicycle lane. While there have been minor improvements in the overall number of county bike lane miles since 2001, they haven't even cracked the surface regarding necessary improvements.

I gathered this information from the Miami-Dade Bicycle Facilities Plan 2001. While there is some encouraging language in the document implying cycling is a legitimate, important form of urban transportation, little has come out of the report, as evidenced by similar cycling conditions six years later. If Charlie Crist is serious about being a "green" governor, he would mandate that by law all Florida municipalities must create bicycle master plans, as well as language requiring at least 40 percent of roadway miles to score an acceptable "C" grade or better within a specified time-frame. A measure like this would ensure cycling catapults to the forefront of transportation planning in every town and city in Florida, which is long overdue.

8/3/07

Bicycle Renting Stations from Around the Globe

Paris:Barcelona:San Francisco:Oslo:Kyoto:
Vienna:

8/1/07

Height isn't everything...

Building height isn't everything. A recent comment reiterated the importance of that statement in my mind today. Sometimes skyline and skyscraper enthusiasts (developers too, but their motivations are fueled by ego and profit) become so fixated on heights of buildings that they seem to forget about some of the finer qualities of the buildings we should want to have rising in our city. Forget thousand footers, we need quality designs, street level interaction (sidewalks, public spaces, foliage, shops, transit connectivity, etc.,) and most importantly no parking pedestals (which interestingly enough is contingent on the previous two...)For example, the Alhambra Towers, pictured above, is the latest recipient of the "City Beautiful Award." I can guarantee that it wasn't the Alhambra Towers' status as the tallest building in Coral Gables which garnered the praise, but rather its ingenious, unique design. The Alhambra Tower is dominant, purposeful, and iconic, all without becoming too imposing on the neighboring structures or the pedestrians below. It compliments the surroundings and creates a sense of semblance at the awkward five-point intersection created by Alhambra Circle, Ponce de Leon Boulevard and Alhambra Plaza. The structure falls in line with George Merrick's original intentions for the Coral Gables business district, tastefully resembling his first major structure, the Biltmore Hotel, which was itself inspired by the Sevilla Tower. Alhambra Tower was built by the Allen Morris Company and designed by ACI Architects of Winter Park, Fl. The front tower was built to resemble the Giralda Tower in Sevilla, Spain, pictured below. To read more, click here...

Miami 21 Meetings

I was going to retype them all out myself, but Alesh had a handy spreadsheet available...

The latest rounds of Miami 21 meetings begin tomorrow:

Date Location Address Time Net Area
Aug 2 Simpson Park 55 SW 17th Road 6pm Coral Way
Aug 7 West End Park 250 SW 60th Ave. 6:30pm Flagami
Aug 9 Police Benevolent Assc. 2300 NW 14th St. 6pm Allapattah
Aug 15 Curtis Park 1901 NW 24th Ave. 6pm Allapattah
Aug 16 Belafonte Tacolcy Center 6161 NW 9th Ave. 6pm Model City
Aug 20 St. Michael 2987 West Flagler St. 6pm West Flagler
Aug 21 Disabilities Center 4560 NW 4th Terr. 6pm Flagami
Aug 23 Orange Bowl 1501 NW 3rd St. 6pm Little Havana
Aug 27 Citrus Grove Elementary 2121 NW 5th St. 6pm Little Havana
Aug 28 Frankie S. Rolle Center 3750 S. Dixie Hwy 6pm SW Coconut Grove
Aug 29 Hadley Park 1350 NW 50th St. 6pm Model City
Aug 30 Shenandoah Park 1800 SW 21st Ave. 6pm Coral Way
Sep 4 Coral Way Elementary 1950 SW 13th Ave. 6pm Coral Way
Sep 5 LaSalle High School 3601 S. Miami Ave. 6pm NE Coconut Grove