9/30/07

Transitography 23


The 20:29 to Aix-en-Provence, originally uploaded by milliped.

9/28/07

Transitography 22


Trapped, originally uploaded by SF buckaroo.

9/27/07

Mary Brickell Village; Under Construction til the Next Boom

I went to Rosa Mexicano the other day at Mary Brickell Village for dinner and was extremely disappointed to witness the state of the complex (very satisfied by the food, however.) This place is a disaster! The pictures below really don't do it justice. I was more than appalled to see what should have been one of our premier pedestrian areas in such a state of disrepair. Besides the obvious vacancy, missing condominium tower, and abandoned Publix space, most of the western half of the complex has been ripped apart to fix some piping. The whole complex's air conditioning was out of order and supplanted by temporary portable units.

9/26/07

Misguided Transportation Policy is Still Popular in South Florida


Apparently Turnpike planners have missed the boat on established best practice metropolitan transportation policy. According to the Herald, they will be discussing their preliminary ideas to decongest the Turnpike, including a plan to expand the expressway to 10 lanes between 836 and 874, and possibly all the way to Homestead. I guess they want to do everything in their power to justify sprawl and make South Florida as unsustainable as possible.

When are these people going to learn that a "predict and provide" approach to building highways is both counter-productive and unsustainable? It's been addressed over and over and over again by researchers that widening highways such as the Turnpike, especially at its current capacity, does little but induce more driving demand while simultaneously justifying the auto-dependent sprawl it serves.

Lest we forget that such a project also takes years to finish and usually costs hundreds-of-millions of dollars -- money that could be much better spent on transit improvements and maintenance of existing roadway facilities. Such policy is even more appalling within the context of climate change (especially with South Florida's geography) and a threatened Everlgades ecosystem.

So, I encourage anyone who would like attend the open house tomorrow to go and voice your displeasure with any plan that will widen the Turnpike. Even better if you bring with you the studies I hyperlinked above to support your claims. Let these planners know that South Floridians are tired of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on futile roadway projects that justify sprawl, do nothing to improve quality of life for Miami-Dade residents, and continue to leave commuters with little alternative to driving. Tell them you want to see sustainable alternatives that are transit-based.

The meeting information:
Thursday, September 27
5:30-7:30pm
Florida Dept. of Transportation District Six Auditorium
1000 NW 111th Ave, Miami

Miami 21 Update


Originally, Miami 21 was scheduled to go before the Commission tomorrow, September 27th, for its final hearing. However, due to a scheduling conflict on the Planning and Zoning agenda, this will no longer be the case. From the Miami21.org website:
The City of Miami City Manager is working on establishing a date in October, possibly for a special meeting to hear the item. The final date has not been established, but will be posted as soon as it is scheduled.
I've been looking for a mainstream media announcement of the date change, but I have yet to find anything. We'll post any updates as we receive them.

In the meantime, if you haven't seen DPZ's latest Miami 21 presentation, I recommend checking it out here.

Transitography 21

1963:2007:

9/25/07

Pawning our roads for cash

Pawning our roads out to the highest bidder, increased gambling statewide, and cuts to police and fire services are just some of the adverse effects of our legislative efforts to reduce the state of Florida’s expenses. Is this really the price we’d like to pay in exchange for some barely noticeable tax decreases? The cuts are already taking its toll on cash strapped bedroom communities (incorporated neighborhoods who lack all the economical qualities of a sustainable city, typically lacking the commercial, agricultural, and industrial taxing districts which keep real municipalities afloat) and will continue to wreak havoc, if not totally bankrupt other municipalities in the coming years (which may not be such a bad thing, given the agglomeration identity crisis also underway.) Point of the matter is, this tax cut will hurt Floridians more than it helps us, instead shifting tax burdens onto sales tax receipts, increased tolls (which the state would only collect a portion of, if we lease them out to businesses,) and gambling.

Any company with the capital to lease a Florida toll road would be stupid to not jump at the opportunity, and we, the Floridians, would be even stupider if we relinquished control of such a powerful asset. See, like most of the US, Florida lacks a venerable option to the toll road given that our rail “network” is close to inexistent (an 11 hour ride on Amtrak to Jacksonville, doesn’t cut it.) The few billion we’ll reap now certainly won’t be used to institute and widespread changes and the company who buys them will be virtually guaranteed business.

Now, we’d like to reiterate that here at Transit Miami we aren’t in favor or against tax cuts; we’re behind more intelligent use of the economic resources we have now, before deciding what can be done to alter the budget (which clearly has not occurred.) We’re all for eliminating government waste in a well thought out manner that will help reduce our expenses while still providing our residents with the police, fire, and educational, and transit services they deserve…

9/24/07

Transitography 20

National Park(ing) Day 2007, West Palm Beach...

Metro Monday: San Francisco 1905-1906

In 1905, an unknown cameraman filmed a streetcar trip along San Francisco's Market Street. The following year, the Great Earthquake struck, and he filmed the trip again. This is a five-minute silent film that edits together excerpts of his two films.

9/23/07

Transitography 20

Can anyone name the artist and title of this classic modernist sculpture in Chicago? The title certainly lends to the possibility that it would be ideal in Miami. The middle of the 20th century saw great and numerous public art erected, a repeat performance that could be pivotal in the transformation of DWNTWN Miami.

9/22/07

Transitography 19

The winds of change are blowing. Here is yet another interesting proposal to harness the energy expended by the burning of fossil fuels. Wind turbines incorporated into highway dividers will reclaim the energy of cars racing by, which will then be used to power public rail transportation.

While it remains to be seen where and how quickly such technologies will be exploited, it gives some sense of comfort to the mind knowing that this kind of thinking, and planning for the future, is in play. Of course it can happen none to soon. It also addresses the concerns of those who find wind farms unsightly. Personally however, I think a wind farm as a border between development and the everglades could be a beautiful and poetic commentary on the transition between man and nature.

9/21/07

Friday News


  • Miami's highly touted Community Partnership for the Homeless program is going national.
  • Vermont ruling on automobile emissions standards is a small victory in fight against climate change.

Recruiting all Automotive Engineering and Transportation System professionals

Miami's premier local recruiting blog, Recruit Miami has a job posting up for all of those familiar with the transit engineering recruiting fields.

Click here for the job posting...

9/20/07

Transitography 18


Seattle metro tunnel, originally uploaded by Adam Holloway.

The newly renovated Seattle Transit tunnel will reopen to the public next Monday. After a $94 Million renovation and retrofitting, the final phase of the tunnel will be complete in 2009 when the Sound Transit LRT begins to fully utilize the tunnel instead of the current buses. Due to the reconstruction, a revolutionary precedent was set along Seattle's downtown third avenue:

"Meanwhile, Third Avenue, which became a bus-and-bike street at peak hours during the two-year tunnel closure, will remain that way. More than 20 downtown surface routes will be shifted to Third Avenue, replacing 18 bus routes that will enter the tunnel."

Announcement: National Park(ing) Day 2007

Tomorrow is an exciting day for sustainable city advocates, or for that matter anyone who cares about parks and public space. Tomorow is National Park(ing) Day 2007, where cities across the U.S. will be taking back parking spaces and converting them to park space. An organization known as the Trust for Public Land (TPL) is spearheading the national effort to reclaim public space taken over to store private automobiles.

"The organizers plan to focus attention on the need for more parks while encouraging people to rethinking how urban space is used...these efforts are designed to highlight the need to integrate accessible and functional parks and green spaces into urban environments and lifestyles - and hopefully prompt passersby to seek opportunities to roll up their sleeves and roll out the green themselves." (Planetizen)

Most people participating are simply taking strips of Astroturf and rolling them out into parking spaces, then putting some pot plants and seating on top for a quick and easy space conversion. Some people are taking it a bit further, where design groups are challenging one another to create the best temporary park(ing) space. I've even seen some put ping pong tables in the space. It's all about creativity.


In Miami-Dade, there are two known locations participating in National Park(ing) Day. TPL and the City of Coral Gables will be rolling out a park in front of Houston's on Miracle Mile to celebrate the city's downtown park system and promote more community green space.

In Miami, a collaboration of several arts groups will be rolling out a park in Wynwood's Art District. The park will feature art pieces inspired by nature and made from sustainable, eco-friendly materials.

I also encourage anyone else out there to get involved and create your own park out of parking space. This is something to be done in metered spaces, so I'm talking to you in South Beach, North Beach, Coconut Grove, Downtown, Brickell, Design District, South Miami, downtown Coral Gables, etc. Don't forget to feed the meters, though, because taking over public parking spaces without doing so is illegal (unfortunately).

Anyone willing to send us pictures of a parking squat, we'd love to post 'em!

Photos: National Park(ing) Day 2006 in Midtown Manhattan (courtesy of Streetsblog)

9/19/07

News Updates

Global:

  • A Town in Germany has decided to handle its traffic problems by removing all the traffic signals. The plan is to remove all signals in the city center to make life easier for pedestrians, evening the playing field and forcing traffic to no longer dominate the roads.
"The idea of removing signs to improve road safety, called "Shared Space," was developed by Dutch traffic specialist Hans Monderman, and is supported by the European Union."

Meanwhile Columbia, Missouri Business owners and a local developer are upset that the federally funded PedNet program will hamper vehicular traffic in favor of friendlier pedestrian and bicycle options. Who knew?
"The concern for the business owners and anyone who lives in the area is that the intersection will be less friendly," Lindner said. "And vehicular traffic is always going to be the major mode of transportation in Columbia, so you can’t ignore the impact on it. We should be trying to alleviate congestion, not do things to make it worse."
  • Discussions are underway about possibly merging the metropolises Hong Kong and Shenzhen into one Mega-City. The plan is being considered to make the region more competitive in the global market and to better link the existing cities.
  • Burj Dubai has officially surpassed Toronto's CN tower, making it the tallest free standing structure in the world at 555 meters and 150 stories. Like most things in Dubai, the buildings' final height is a closely kept secret, but it is expected to rise between 750 and 800 meters...
National:
  • They say everything is bigger in Texas, but Arlington's Public Transit system is the smallest for cities with 350,000+ inhabitants. Actually, Arlington doesn't even have a Public Transit System, garnering it the distinction of the largest American city without one.
"Arlington residents have voted down a public bus system three times in the last 27 years, worried about big buses lumbering down their quiet suburban streets, as well as the cost of a service that many believe would benefit only a few. But advocates say the city's growing population, coupled with the pain of higher gasoline prices, make buses an easier sell now."

Sell? You shouldn't have to sell anyone a public transit system. If they want to choke in their own congestion and sprawl then so be it. Let them degrade their own quality of life rather than spend money on a transit system in a city where people clearly don't get "it."
  • The D.C. Council is working on some legislation which would make Bicycle parking a requirement at all apartment buildings with more than 8 units and 10% of automotive parking capacity at commercial establishments.
  • This excerpt speaks for itself:
"The Minneapolis bridge collapse on Aug. 1 led Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters to publicly reflect on federal transportation spending priorities and conclude that those greedy bicyclists and pedestrians, not to mention museumgoers and historic preservationists, hog too much of the billions of federal dollars raised by the gas tax, money that should go to pave highways and bridges. Better still, Peters, a 2006 Bush appointee, apparently doesn't see biking and walking paths as part of transportation infrastructure at all."

Click here for the full article...
Local:
  • FAU trustees approved plans to build a 30,000 seat, $62 Million stadium for the Owls' football team on the Boca Raton campus. Construction is set to begin in 2009.
  • More reasons why converting every neighborhood into its own municipality is such a bad idea: identity crisis. The suburban bedroom community of Davie has been struggling to find itself for the past few years amid all the other South Florida "cities."
"With all of the cuts, Transit will be down to 34 million annual miles of service. That's seven million more miles, a 26 percent increase, that have been delivered since late 2002 when Miami-Dade County voters approved a half-cent sales-tax increase for transportation.

But it's a whopping 10 million miles short of the 44 million miles that former Mayor Alex Penelas promised by 2008 during the campaign. The agency never got close, peaking at 38 million miles in December 2005 and paring back in three subsequent lineups.

In Transit's defense, ridership has remained steady as the miles have been cut -- an indicator that the planning and scheduling gurus aren't sacrificing riders."

Transitography 17


miami traffic jam, originally uploaded by noway.

If the view above seems familiar, its probably because you've been sitting in traffic for 50 extra hours per year.

"Americans sat in traffic 4.2 billion hours, or 38 hours per driver, in 2005, up from 4 billion in 2004, according to the transportation research center at Texas A&M University."

9/18/07

Transitography 16

Ridership on the passenger rail system is up 6% so far this year, the biggest jump since the late 1970s. On the Acela Express, trains that run at higher speeds between Washington, New York and Boston, the number of riders has surged 20% over the past 10 months. That's enough new passengers to fill 2,000 Boeing 757 jets.

-Wall Street Journal

The Ecology of Concrete Conference

THE ECOLOGY OF CONCRETE: Environmental Best Practices for Design and Construction in Concrete

October 13, 2007
Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center
University of Miami School of Architecture
1215 Dickinson Drive, Coral Gables
Starting at 10am
Keynote Address by Susan Szenasy, Metropolis Magazine, 6:30, reception to follow

This all-day event will introduce designers, contractors, building officials and the general public to the role of concrete in the environment and provide practical knowledge about how concrete’s impact can be mitigated using the most up-to-date techniques. Lectures will provide overviews of the problems that can be solved with Green Design as well as the specification and construction information needed to follow up in real world applications. 6.5 CEC for Landscape Architects. 7.5 CEU for Architects. General Public $175, USGBC SF and ASLA Members $125 ($175 after October 1), Emerging Green Builders $75. Sponsored by Hanson Slag Cement.

Go to www.southfloridagreenevents.com for more information and to register on-line.

Kendall Transit Clarification

In a post I published last week on the transit options available to the Kendall residents, our message may have been presented unclearly and biased towards the CSX rail option. I’d like to clarify this position and reiterate the true stance of Transit Miami on this hotly contested issue.

The CSX corridor was never meant to serve as a replacement to the Kendall Metrorail, LRT, or BRT, but rather operate in conjunction with the east-west option. The belief stems from our knowledge of the low upstart cost of the CSX rail, along with the increased benefit citizens in the Southern part of the Kendall region would experience, an area currently overlooked by all presented alternatives.

Now, we don’t fully support plans to bring transit to the Kendall Dr. corridor unless some drastic measures are taken to ensure that the area adjacent to the corridor is reestablished and rebuilt in a more accessible manner. Revitalizing the strip shopping centers, vast swaths of parking lots, Malls, and dwellings along the corridor will all be keys to its’ success and should not be overlooked in the planning stages. We would not want the transit system to be considered, approved, or funded unless preemptive measures are taken to ensure that Kendall Dr. itself will be transformed into a true urban area that is more hospitable to transit oriented needs.

Similar measures should be set into place for the CSX corridor at key intersections and stations, creating accessible nodes or urban life. The CSX corridor should be limited to a southern terminus at Metrozoo to prevent “justification” of UDB expansion. UDB line movement will be critical to the success or failure of all transit oriented redevelopment in the Kendall region.

We support the use of the CSX corridor to serve as a complimentary system with a rapid transit system along Kendall drive as long as effective measures are put into place which would transform the suburban landscapes into transit oriented communities.

I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise to any of us but the list of "Best Tailgating Cities" came out recently and was topped mostly by the worst autocentric cities across America. Among the top ten were Miami at number 6 with Tampa right behind us at Number 7. Although parking availability wasn't the only criteria, it was one of the key factors examined by Joe Cahn, a "Tailgating Expert."

9/17/07

Transitography 15


Harborcreek Mall, originally uploaded by maniwa_pa.

We often times refer to the automobile as the culprit behind much of our congestion and sprawling woes when perhaps we should attribute more of our attention simply to the amount of parking made available in our cities. Like cars, parking lots degrade our cities on two fronts: contributing to congestion (due to their "availability") and adversely affecting our local climate change.

"The problem with parking lots is that they accumulate a lot of pollutants—oil, grease, heavy metals and sediment—that cannot be absorbed by the impervious surface," Engel says. "Rain then flushes these contaminants into rivers and lakes."

And we haven't even begun discussing the "urban heat island" effect that parking lots contribute to, which can raise temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius, according to Indiana state climatologist Dev Niyogi.

Metro Monday: The Tragedy of Suburbia

The Tragedy of Suburbia is a 20 minute presentation by James Howard Kunstler which just about sums up everything we are trying to achieve with this website. His witty presentation is thorough and identifies many of the main problems facing every American city. It goes hand in hand with many of the issues addressed in our book of the month: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces; and will provide you with some great visual evidence on our planning deficiencies.

Now, you'll notice this video is marked under our weekly Metro Monday feature but clearly lacks any mention of public transit. We'd like to emphasize that this is done on purpose. Our message is that transit is far more than trains, buses, and automobiles; it's a comprehensive study of these systems and their interactions with our urban landscapes and people. It includes our buildings, their uses, and the way people interact with them on a daily basis...

Is Corn-Based Ethanol a Sham?


Politicians are hyping corn-based ethanol as a major industry that South Florida should embrace. In June, the Senate all but announced that America's future is going to be powered by biofuels, mandating the production of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022. According to ethanol boosters, this is the beginning of a much larger revolution that could entirely replace our 21-million-barrel-a-day oil addiction. In light of these developments, I thought it was necessary to take a closer look at corn-based ethanol.

So, is it really the magic bullet that will provide clean fuel, allow us to sever ties with oil-rich terrorist nations, and save American farmers, all while not asking anyone to even think about changing their driving habits?

Of course not.

While there are several sources that outline the limitations of of corn-based ethanol, I think a recent article by Jeff Goodell does a particularly thorough job articulating the issue. Click here to check out his article, "The Ethanol Scam: One of America's Biggest Political Boondoggles".

A second source that I like is Robert Rapier's energy blog, R-Squared. The information here can get rather technical, but it nonetheless serves as an alternative voice to Big Corn insiders, who are the ones doing most of the studies and making most of the claims regarding corn-based ethanol's "merits" (reminds me of the oil industry).

It's critical that as citizens, we don't allow Big Corn and its crony politicians to conspire to swindle us with another "magic bullet" energy fix that won't even require use to alter our driving/consumption habits.

9/16/07

Transitography 14



What urban museum is illustrated here? Showing the qualities that many of our readers find to be the most important for a museum in an urban park. Lots of green space. Structure not imposing of the natural elements, but vice versa. Design ingenuity. Walkability. To name just a few.

9/15/07

Transitography 12


Transit and transportation are almost never issues that come stress free. Public art is one remedy to alleviate that stress. Check out this somewhat representational and yet somewhat abstract large scale outdoor sculpture to be erected at the intersection of two main highway arteries in Missouri. The selection is based on a visibility issue as well as any therapeutic value, however, art, anywhere, is always a good thing. We shouldn't forget the visually soothing phenomenon of water, so abundant in Miami. How could it be further capitalized upon?

9/14/07

US-1 Overpass Updates

I was driving by the Douglas Road pedestrian overpass last weekend when I noticed that the fence designed to "force" people into using the overpass still hadn't been fixed after an accident partially destroyed it last summer. Interestingly enough, a new path has formed in the grass and once again there are people darting across this treacherous stretch, rather than climbing the flight of stairs or using the elevator. We analyzed this particular overpass a year ago.

Meanwhile plans to build a third US-1 pedestrian overpass adjacent to the UM Metrorail station are currently underway. The Miami Today News Reports:
The meeting is 4-7:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Holiday Inn University of Miami, 1350 S. Dixie Hwy in Coral Gables. Free hotel parking is available.
Free Hotel Parking? Yes, let's drive to a planning meeting designed to build better facilities for walking. This doesn't make any sense... I came up with a visual as to how close this meeting will be to the Metrorail:

Transitography 11


nightwalks, originally uploaded by fubuki.

9/13/07

Transitography 10


Bonneville Salt Flats, originally uploaded by gm_blogs.

In the spirit of Miami catching up with the rest of the country today with the opening of our first E85 Fueling Station...

Ryan will be back later today to discuss why E85 really isn't all it's cut out to be...

9/12/07

West Kendall Residents Remain Misinformed about Transit

Here we go again folks. The special interest groups of Kendall are working hard to make sure the area never builds any reasonable transit options to deal with their congestion. You may recall my previous open letter to the EKHO and Edward Levinson. We'll I began writing them (and the Herald) a new letter today in response to this article and found myself repeating much of my previous sentiments...

Here's the quote by Ed which really inspired me to write to them again:
''This is the worst thing I've ever seen. It's total insanity,'' said Kendall Community Council member Edward Levinson of what he believes will become a traffic nightmare at the intersection of Kendall Drive and 97th Avenue.
That's right folks...We're going to scrap the cheaper LRT on existing tracks and ROW, because of possible traffic tie-ups along Ed's commute.
You wouldn't trust a gambling chimpanzee with your life savings, so why would you allow special interest groups and homeowners associations to plan a transit system around their vehicular needs? Sound foolish? I hope so. But that's precisely what's happening at the Citizen's Transportation Advisory Committee's Subcommittee meetings in Kendall where plans are underway to design new public transit for area residents.

Various homeowners associations, backed by Kendall Community Council member Edward Levinson, are working to garner public opposition to a plan that would make the Kendall community more accessible to area residents by using the existing CSX rail corridor.

The group opposes the proposed light rail transit because of possible congestion the at-grade crossings could create for vehicular commuters such as themselves. Not to mention, many of them believe that their homes (built along the previously existing rail corridor) will decrease in value due to added rail transit; this belief has been disproved statistically nationwide (Source: APTA.)

The Kendall community is at a crossroads. The inability to embrace alternative forms of effective transit is disconcerting, particularly in a region currently choking on the congestion induced by its own unchecked growth and sprawl. It is typical of the mentality fostered in this particular region and has been cultivated by our addiction to the automobile.

It is of paramount importance that our citizens educate themselves on the benefits of proper public infrastructure and urban planning before they take up such a bold position against reasonable measures which would help steer the future growth of our community.

Transitography 9


Athens LRT 2, originally uploaded by qbanaso86.

Today's Transitography comes from one of our own readers (Join and add your own photos.) The Athens LRT, is one of the city's more modern transit lines, opened in 2004.

Transit systems like this will become impossible to construct in the US if Federal funding is switched to also include HOT lanes.

9/11/07

News Alert

This information comes direct to us from The Overhead Wire, whose author was kind enough to e-mail us regarding this critical situation. Here is what's going on with our lawmakers:

The Federal Transit Administration(FTA) has issued a notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) for the New and Small Starts program that provides funding for major fixed guide way capital projects such as Light Rail, Heavy Rail, and Bus Rapid Transit. The proposed rules are alarming on a number of levels. Most notably in that they downgrade the importance of land use and economic development despite congressional direction to the contrary, and they propose to redefine the definition of fixed-guide way to include transit funding for highway lanes that use tolling schemes.

The fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill moving through congress is an opportunity to formally weigh in and stop or alter the proposed FTA rule. If finalized, the new rule making policy will hamper the ability to build new transit lines for the next 5 years!!!

Why is this important? Because some of FTA'S proposed rules would entrench policy issues advocated by folks from the libertarian Reason Foundation and the O'Toole/Cox cabal. The proposed rule ignores current transportation law regarding required project justification criteria and adds new Federal intervention into the local decision making process.

More issues With the new rules after the jump:

1. It would allow High Occupancy Toll lanes to qualify for New Starts funding -

This would diminish the ability of cities to get funding from an already crowded grant program. HOT Lanes qualify for funding from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and we all know there is a lot of funding there. Over 300 New Starts Projects(Light Rail, Heavy Rail, Commuter Rail, Bus Rapid Transit)were authorized by the SAFETEA LU transportation bill and the argument by the FTA as to why they have such an intensive scrutiny of proposals is because of the high demand for limited funding. Adding High Occupancy Toll freeway lanes to the list of eligible projects further strains the ability to fund new transit projects.

2. It would make the dreaded cost effectiveness INDEX the primary factor in deciding the fate of funding for New Starts projects -

This is the same measure that is killing the Tyson's Corner Metro extension and has killed light rail plans in Columbus Ohio. Almost every city that is looking to build new transit projects is worried about this measure, and now its being made even stronger. This measure is the reason why Minneapolis' Central Corridor light rail project might not be able to tunnel under The University of Minn and the reason why locally backed expansion of light rail is now BRT in Houston.

3. The rule making pushes cheap not completely dedicated guide way bus projects -

The irony of the cost effectiveness index is that in reality, it fails to capture the full benefits and cost effectiveness of a project. The index evaluates the cost effectiveness of a light rail project versus corridor improvements such as bus rapid transit or improved local bus service. What this does is force cities to choose bus rapid transit projects over citizen -backed light rail projects that may have greater community benefits but also a higher initial price tag. Also, the measurements for the Very Small Starts program are set using the Southtown rapid bus project in Kansas City and not rail or fixed guide way BRT projects such as the Orange Line.

4. The importance of Land Use and Economic Development measures are reduced or ignored by the FTA -

Congress elevated land use and added economic development as project justification criteria in SAFETEA-LU. The US Department of Transportation (DOT), however, ignores this and has combined them into one measure with a combined weight of 20% in the overall rating process. The FTA states that it is too costly to implement the economic development measure but the cost and burden to grantees such as cities and transit agencies is not considered when local jurisdictions are required to adopt the FTA's travel demand models which have many issues. The fact that they use those models to determine the Cost Effectiveness rating which decides who gets funding is a problem in itself as it can't address all the benefits of fixed guide way transit. Furthermore, FTA argues that is too difficult to separate land use from economic development and that the increase in property values associated with proximity to transit is merely a result of improved time savings alone. I'm sure many zoning offices and developers would be surprised to have it categorized so simplistically.

5. Could lower ratings for cities who are trying to address future rather than current congestion issues -

The FTA would like to measure the New Starts program by the benefits to highway users but ignores the idea of induced demand which means when you build a new transit project, the space from cars that are taken off the road by transit is filled by new cars. The want for transit opponents to push money from the transit program into congestion pricing schemes and not so rapid bus projects would result in less useful transit projects in corridors that might have real future need.

Contact Your Congressman or Senators
--Ask them to stop the proposed rule and give the Department of Transportation a clear directive that the FTA Must:

1. Comparably wight all 6 project justification criteria(including: Environmental Benefits, Land Use, Economic Development, Mobility Improvements, etc) recognizing the importance of transit-supportive land use and economic development to fostering successful and sustainable projects rather than just the cost of the project.
2. Maintain the current definition of Fixed-Guide way transit
3. STOP RAIDING THE TRANSIT PROGRAM FOR ROAD PRICING SCHEMES

9/10/07

Transitography 8


in an ideal world, originally uploaded by thisisforever.

Speaking of the vast improvements needed to upgrade Miami's substandard biking facilities...

Not Exactly practical, but it emphasizes our point that some drastic measures need to be taken to right the vehicular imbalance in our region...

Seeing Miami From a Bike


Last night I was perusing through various planning news sources, when I came across an excellent Planetizen blog entry by Mike Lydon, a planner at Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ). In the blog entry, Lydon uses photographs and captions to describe his bike commute from his South Beach apartment to the DPZ office in Little Havana.

Mike is spot-on with his commentary and captions. The pictures do a nice job illustrating the duality of Miami. Almost the whole time I was navigating Mike's column, I was nodding my head and thinking, "this sounds exactly like how I would've described it".

I highly recommend checking it out here.

Photo courtesy of Mike Lydon via Planetizen

Metro Monday: Future Santo Domingo Subway

News Briefs

Global:
  • Can't believe we let this one pass under our radar for so long, but, the Caribbean's second urban transit system is currently under construction in Santo Domingo. The 9 mile system will feature 16 stations, 10 of which will be subterranean. The system is set to open February 27, 2008 at a cost of nearly $700 Million...
  • The Eurostar set a new Paris-London record recently, completing the journey under the Chunnel in 2 hours and 3 minutes. The upgraded service is due to the completion of 68 miles of British high speed rail, stretching from the tunnel to the recently restored Victorian styled St. Pancras International Station.
National:
  • The Charlotte Light Rail system hasn't even opened yet and it is already spurring Transit Oriented Development, 10 years ahead of planners' forecasts. The development will offer 2,500 dwellings in mixed high density apartments, condominiums, and town homes will offer residents the ease of urban living just outside the city center.
  • How to curb LA's growing parking problems? Eliminate parking requirements in new developments, of course. The best remedy to a downtown cores parking problem is to only make it more scarce.
  • The most accessible U.S. Airports. Notice how they are all linked to their respective cities by Public Transportation. Coincidence, we think not...
Local:
  • MDX to place Sunpass on Sale again. The transponders will be selling for $8.36 instead of their usual $25 price. Discounting a tolling device isn't exactly the best way to reduce congestion, especially when the toll money is reinvested in highways rather than public transit...
  • Confusion on the 836...
  • BoB has some exclusive pics of the Miami Skylift being placed in Downtown Miami...
  • DWNTWN Miami will do nothing to solve any of the tangible problems facing our downtown. Unlike most of the materialistic or cosmetic fixes people in this city tend to turn to, removing O's and coming up with some catchy phrase will not solve Downtown's woes. Can we get some real ideas now?

Design Excellence-Low Budget-On Time


This intriguing new structure by Thom Mayne/Morphosis can help to clear up any misgivings about great architecture and limited budgets. The San Francisco Federal building is an 18 story building and was brought in under budget at 144 million dollars, about $249 / square foot. This very reasonable price for such a major structure shows that with careful planning and innovative conscious designers anything is possible.

Transitography 7


DART, originally uploaded by RBWright.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion project which will stretch the green line a total of 27 miles with 20 stations.

9/9/07

Transitography 6



Here is an interesting proposal?! As commuters expend energy through fuel consumption the energy released by the automobiles will then be harnessed by turbines. The poetics of no energy ever being created, but simply transferred, is satisfyingly embraced in this concept. Not to mention the benefit of a constant visual mantra of the global warming crisis being ever present while driving.

9/8/07

Transitography 5


In the name of challenging our understanding of global visual cues, can anybody identify this museum? It should be noted that there is little parking anywhere nearby and the building was built within a very reasonable budget. Interesting design does not require a great deal of money, just great designers and there are many who work for reasonable compensation. Many who need and deserve the opportunity to do so, as well. The main volume seems to levitate over the glass enclosed first floor. Nearly the entire main volume is sheathed in very inexpensive (with very little weight) translucent 'cow wall'. Requirements to light the building are diminished greatly with the entire building being translucent. I realize this material is probably not suitable for hurricanes, but there are always creative solutions.

9/7/07

How?

The Santiago Calatrava building in Milwaukee is certainly a good example for what Miami must aspire to for Parcel B. How can Miami officials not see more clearly the power which they have to tip the scales of mediocrity, to make Miami it's greatest. How can they fail to comprehend the significance of a site such as Parcel B. It seems that the blessing of this city's unique geography is so undervalued, taken for granted, probably by virtue of the fact that while most cities only dream of a waterfront site with such beauty and dynamism, Miami has many. Very precious few remain and this fact must be fully considered by the city and county before rushing blindly into developing.

I have always been a stong supporter of Museum Park, arguing it will remain largely green. This proposal for Parcel B however is exactly what many have feared, an inappropriate use of public space and an unacceptable ratio of development to park.

The proposed building is far from the level of quality that this significant piece of land deserves. The urban planning issues discussed previously detail how inappropriate the current plan is. So much so in fact, that I cannot even fully process the new proposal and promise to further address this, truly, crisis of urban planning as it unfolds.

Transitography 4


The 395 Highway, originally uploaded by darkroom.

I-395 Update...Coming Next week...

I'll be on the road most of today, Have a safe and Happy weekend...I will, It's my Birthday...

Pig on Our Bay, Pt II


Is it me, or is Miami on the fast track to epic surreality?

Yesterday, Gabriel opined about how ridiculous the commission-initiated plan was to construct a Bay of Pigs museum on Parcel B behind the American Airlines Arena. Though he did a great job illustrating the bad urban design and architecture of the project, I felt compelled to write about just how preposterous this whole idea is. I'm sure I won't say much that hasn't already been said, but I don't care.

Where do we begin? How about this beauty from Chairman Bruno Barreiro:
"I think we might hamper and will hamper the arena if we do not really consider an additional parking structure with amenities on that site.''

It's hard for me to imagine any educated person saying this with a straight face. I certainly don't think the AAA, or the Miami Heat organization, has been hampered thus far. Plus, with new parking facilities seemingly going up by the month downtown, it's even more unrealistic to think the AAA or the Miami Heat is being "hampered" by a lack of parking. And don't use the excuse that Metrorail and Metromover are already at capacity during AAA events - add more train cars (Metrorail), increase frequency, or both during games and concerts.

Then Chairman Barreiro, implying that such a museum could still be "park-like", says:
"You could design these things nowadays with a lot of greenery around the edges and borders, a very friendly pedestrian use."
Now, look, it's understandable that the Chairman, a Cuban-American, or someone like Javier Souto, a Bay of Pigs vet, would offer their strong support for such a museum, even using transparent language like this. But com'n, another waterfront Museum, on top of a parking garage? It's bad enough as it is don't try to sell this as "park-like" or "pedestrian-friendly".

The third quote that caught me off guard, courtesy of Commissioner Sosa:
"It's (the museum) going to be very close to the water, and the history of Cuba is so close to the water."
Wow. Do I even need to explain why this statement is completely asinine? That's no reason to put a museum on top of a parking garage on prime downtown waterfront property!

Furthermore, voters were promised real park space on Parcel B. If anything, this Parcel should be incorporated with the Museum Park Master Plan. After all, the goal has been to connect Museum/Bicentennial Park with the piece of land occupied by the AAA using a pedestrian bridge. Why not go the extra mile and finally make this Parcel into a high quality waterfront public space?

Let me close by saying I'm not at all opposed to a Bay of Pigs museum. There are other locations and designs, however, that much more appropriate than on Parcel B. I just get the feeling that the county Commission is forcing this one down our collective throats...because they can. It's a cheap shot proposing this museum on the waterfront, because no one in their right political mind is going to denounce this. The sad truth is that it would be political suicide in Miami. If citizens didn't take it personally (which I'm sure many would), fellow commissioners would find a way to make anyone opposing it out to be racist, hostile to war vets, or out of touch with the Cuban-American community.

Typical Miami politics.

9/5/07

Transitography 3


Milwaukee Skyline, originally uploaded by njbrusk.

Milwaukee Art Museum. Because if you are going to build an iconic structure in a prominent waterfront location, choose a design the world will remember...

Pig on Our Bay, Part 1

As we promised earlier, let's discuss the recently approved commission plans to build an above ground parking structure and Bay of Pigs Museum on the parcel of land behind the AA Arena otherwise known as Parcel B. As Alex of SOTP noted earlier today let's disect some of the finer parts of Tuesday's Miami-Dade Commission meeting:

''This is a very beautiful thing that will look good on the bay,'' said Commissioner Natacha Seijas, who said it could compare to Sydney's signature Opera House in Australia.

Let's Compare:

Sydney:
Parcel B, Miami:

The Resemblance is uncanny...

Evidently Natacha has never visited, let alone seen what the Sydney Opera House looks like. The preliminary designs by Chisholm Architects more likely resembles a cheap imitation Mies van der Rohe house, on steroids. Even then, remotely comparing this thing to any Mies van der Rohe structure is glorifying it far too much; this thing is HIDEOUS folks. What's more, it's boxy shape apparently tries its best to pave over the full 4.5 acre park (like most Cuban-American homes in Hialeah...)

''Obviously, the area has changed dramatically from what it was in the past,'' said Chairman Bruno Barreiro, fretting that nearby development was leaving the arena without sufficient parking. ``I think we might hamper and will hamper the arena if we do not really consider an additional parking structure with amenities on that site.''
The parking conundrum abnormality has spread to the County commission as well, despite abundant parking structures nearby and- dare I say it- easy Metrorail access. Apparently those unfamiliar with intelligent planning principles still think that the solution to Downtown Miami's woes will be to fill the streets with more cars, rather than pedestrianizing and conducting critical improvements which will make our downtown more accessible to people. Hamper the Arena? Who are you trying to kid? Who has ever heard of mixed use parking garage/museums on prime waterfront real estate?
Some said it could maintain a park-like atmosphere with the right landscaping. ''You could design these things nowadays with a lot of greenery around the edges and borders, a very friendly pedestrian use,'' Barreiro said.

AKA: We'll skimp out due to cost overruns and plant some Queen Palms...

Now, let's apply some of the principles learned by the studies conducted by William Whyte on successful urban spaces in the late 1970's and portrayed in this Month's BoM.

Blue Circle: First and foremost a successful Urban Park is no more than 3 ft above or below the surrounding pavement, thus making the two flights of stairs necessary to enter the only open space left in the 4.5 acre park and immediate physical and sociological drawback to the urban space. An excerpt:

"Circulation and sitting, in sum, are not antithetical but complimentary. It is to encourage both that the zoning stipulates the plaza not be more than three feet above or below the street level. The easier the flow between street and plaza, the more likely people are to move between the two- and to tarry and sit."

Red Circle: Large concrete open spaces do not bode well in the Miami sunlight. See those little people walking around in the plaza? Their a figment of someone's imagination because nobody, in their right mind will be attracted into an unshaded, concrete park, two flights of stairs above street level, and in an area whose eastern bay view is completely obstructed by a blank concrete wall...It's just not happening. An Excerpt:

"In summer, [people] will generally sit in the sun as well as the shade; only in very hot weather- 90 degrees or more- will the sunny spots become vacant."

Yellow Circle: Street interaction? Inexistent. There is some foliage provided as Barriero suggested, but its only in place to cover up the monstrous parking garage this building will sit atop. The site is foreboding to pedestrians and the on street parking depicted is highly unlikely, given that a garage is being constructed...

Green Circle: Look at the public access to the Bay. Also Inexistent. It appears that the Museum has taken advantage of the beautiful vistas and has wholly blocked off the easter views to the non-paying public. The covered breezeways on the east side of the building provide cover only to museum patrons.

Heck, we'd do anything to revert to the original plans which included an apartment building attached to an entertainment complex...Anything but an above ground parking structure on prime public waterfront land...Are these people even thinking?

More Foolish Ideas Surface to Solve Downtown Parking "Crisis"

In my post last week regarding the absurd comments on the parking situation in downtown, I somehow skimmed over the rest of the article (likely due to the nausea induced by the aforementioned quotes) and missed even more (I'm going to go ahead and make up my own word to really put this into context) Ridiculaiety... If bad planning and stupid ideas make you ill, you may want to stop reading now:

To expand downtown parking, authority officials are getting creative, exploring the idea of building a park-and-ride garage in Brickell as a joint venture on privately owned land, Mr. Noriega said.

Can’t say I didn’t warn you but let’s analyze, shall we? “…getting creative…” is an obvious disguise for being oblivious to standard urban planning principles, hence why the revolutionary idea has never been considered before; point blank its just plain stupid. Park-and-ride…In Brickell? To serve exactly who? The People who inched on US-1 alongside Metrorail? It certainly can’t serve Brickell residents, no; they have easy access to Metromover already. And forget the Roads and Grove Nimbys; their against everything. Are we building it for the folks who drive from Pinecrest, a town which by the way recently rejected their own Park-and-Ride service which would have more effectively served residents with service to the Busway and Metrorail. No. It’s a “joint venture,” or in laymen’s terms an opportunity for yet another developer to hoodwink the public and for another corrupt official to receive a gratuitous kickback. Nobody, in any right mind, would jump at the opportunity to build a parking lot/garage in Brickell which would serve primarily as a Park-and-Ride lot- Its just not happening…

Transitography 2


Originally uploaded by sampos.

We've turned today's Transitography into a quiz. Can anyone guess what urban park this is and what exactly makes it so appealing to hundreds of visitors everyday? Check back this afternoon for the answer and to see how this park relates to the findings outlined by William Whyte...

9/4/07

The Federal Government Stacks the Deck Against Transit


As planners, advocates, and community groups, we can condemn poor localized planning to our heart's content. Heck, we may even win a few battles now and again. However, if we want to win the war, we must carefully examine how federal policy affects transportation and planning.

With this in mind, let's take a look at the Federal Department of Transportation's budget for project funding in Fiscal Year 2008. Using completely backward, archaic philosophies, DOT has set aside $42,000,000,000 for highway projects, and a trifling $1,400,000,000 for transit projects. That's right - $42 billion for highways and $1.4 billion for transit. We can certainly see where DOT's priorities still lie.

How on earth are we supposed to improve inner city and regional transit, with the feds only dolling out $1.4 billion for transit projects? How are cities supposed to improve sustainability, reduce congestion, and improve mobility? Plus, when you consider all the money going towards highway building/expansion, it makes it even more difficult for transit systems to compete.
"There's still a lack of understanding how fundamentally broken the transit program is. The demand for transit has never been higher...at the same time, the federal government substantially underfunds transit, so it's very competitive to get those funds", says Brookings Institution fellow Robert Puentes.

The Washington Post elaborates:

Unlike federal highway funds, which states receive based on a formula and may spend as they wish, money for new transit projects is awarded at the discretion of the FTA. The agency doesn't have much to dole out. The FTA has proposed spending about $1.4 billion on new transit projects next fiscal year, compared with $42 billion that states will receive for highway maintenance and construction, according to federal figures. More than 100 transit projects across the country are expected to compete for federal money in coming years, according to a federal report.

In deciding which projects deserve funds, FTA officials consider primarily which would attract enough riders and save them enough time to be worth the investment. They also consider the state and local governments' ability to help pay for construction, maintenance and operating costs. Other considerations include impact on air quality, development around stations and the ability to move lower-income workers to jobs.

FTA evaluations can take years, because it rates a project -- and grants permission for it to move forward -- at several different points, controlling it from preliminary engineering through construction.
So there you have it. This is what Miami is up against; this is what America is up against. It goes to show that our federal government is not serious whatsoever about curbing driving demand, pursuing sustainability, or fighting climate change. Until this gross discrepancy is corrected, we cannot expect any appreciable improvement in transit, traffic congestion, or the quality of our urban environments.

How do we fix this? It comes down to politics. We need to help elevate smart growth to the forefront of political issues for subsequent election campaigns. These planning issues are so important, so critical to millions of people, it's unfathomable that they have not commanded more press time. I mean, after all, smart growth lumps together so many classic issues like the environment, energy, oil (gas prices), climate change, health care, and poverty. The trick will be finding a way to consolidate these issues, which will require a unified effort by leaders of each sub-issue.

Sooner or later it will happen, so let's do what we can to make it sooner.

BoM September: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

Today, we begin another new series here on TransitMiami.com, our Book of the Month. We’ve started compiling a list of recommended reading on the left sidebar which we’ll be referencing from time to time depending on the book/month. The Book of the month for September is The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, by William Whyte, available for only $33 on Amazon.

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, by William Whyte, discusses principles in urban planning and human interaction that if/when applied would be revolutionary in Miami. Given the fact that the book was published in 1980 and was based on findings from his innovative Street Life Project, a study partly incorporated by New York City in the 70's and 80's, you can quantitatively see how far behind Miami really is.

The short 125 page book, tackles the socioeconomic complexities of planning large, useful, urban public spaces. His analysis includes practical issues such as sitting space, atmospheric conditions, street interaction, and even food vending activity and addresses the important balance between each characteristic found in the most successful urban spaces in New York City. The research identifies clear guidelines for foliage, useable sitting space, openness to the public, and importance of such spaces in urban settings.

Upon reading, you’ll soon come to realize the significance of such strict guidelines when designing urban spaces in Miami. Our few public spaces feature blatant design flaws which make them unappealing to visitors, ultimately becoming barren concrete wastelands. The void of public spaces in all our urban areas is even more troubling but can likely be easily justified by the suburban lives we all tend to live. The book even address security harassment issues (I’m familiar with) and methods with dealing with so called “undesirables” in public places, a problem we know all too well along our downtown streets. An excerpt from the introduction:

“But zoning is certainly not the ideal way to achieve the better design of spaces. It ought to be done for its own sake. For economics alone it makes sense. An enormous expenditure of design expertise, and of travertine and steel, went into the creation of the many really bum office building plazas around the country. To what end? As this manual will detail, it is far easier, simpler to create spaces that work for people than those that do not- and a tremendous difference it can make to the life of a city.”

We’ll use the principles outlined in the Social Life of Urban Spaces this month as we incorporate the message of William Whyte into many of our posts. We’ll discuss why two story parking garages behind the AA Arena on parcel B are such a terrible idea and will address the problems of some of the existing urban spaces.

Transitography 1


Barcelona, originally uploaded by So Cal Metro.

We're beginning a new daily segment here on TransitMiami.com which will feature daily photos of all mode of transportation from all over the world. We've created a Flickr group for interested members to join to share their photos with us, which hopefully will one day be featured here on the site.