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Omni Redevelopment Plan: Kudos!

Kudos to Zyscovich and team for producing a forward thinking document in the Omni Redevelopment Plan. Commissioners will vote today in the CRA meeting to send the document to City Commission for approval. The Plan has many good elements, some of which are under discussion by Commissioner Sarnoff for removal (such as the reduced parking requirement and the streetcar). Commissioner, these are important parts of supporting a vibrant and pedestrian friendly downtown. If the streetcar is not being funded, it is up to you to find a way to make it happen - not defeat it by taking it out. In addition, raising parking requirements is a bad idea in our most dense and transit served areas. You said at the Miami 21 meetings that you don’t believe that reducing parking is a good tactic without adequate transit, but this area is served by transit, and would be even better served with the streetcar. As future head of the DDA, and the representative of the most urban part of our tri-county region, I urge you to reconsider your position on these items. You have to plan for the city you want, not settle for the city you have.

From the report:

As part of this redevelopment plan, the following transportation improvements are being proposed:
1) Miami Streetcar (Project 19)
2) 17th Street / FEC Crossing (Project 20)
3) 2nd Avenue Reconstruction (Project 21)
4) 2-way Conversion of One-way Streets (Project 22)

In addition to these improvements and consistent with the approved Miami Downtown Transportation Master Plan the following improvements should also be considered:
1) Free-fare Transit Zone – the zero out-of-pocket cost is certainly an incentive for users to ride transit.
There are also intangible benefits such as user’s convenience and elimination of delays by not having fare box.
2) Improve Transit Amenities – amenities for transit users are a key element of an effective transit system. Elements contributing to a high quality environment include; comfortable shelters, protection from the elements, adequate lighting, as well as clean and safe vehicles.
3) Develop Pedestrian Corridors - a systematic effort should be arranged to not only “accommodate” but actively enhance pedestrian safety and promote a pleasant walking environment. [awesome]
4) Develop a Baywalk – Margaret Pace Park presents an opportunity to create a baywalk that connects
the park with Bicentennial Park to the south. The baywalk will provide recreational opportunities,
increase connectivity between other areas of Downtown and provide an alternative for walking trips.
5) Reconstruct NE 2nd Avenue, NE/NW 14th Street, NE 17th Street and NE 17th Terrace.

My biggest criticism of the report is its relative lack of bike infrastructure. While it was made before the City’s Bicycle Master Plan effort, it should included as an addendum that takes into account the recommendations of the Bike Master Plan, and the currently funded bike improvements to NE 2nd Avenue and elsewhere in the CRA. These need to be reflected in the future plans of the CRA and will help create a truly multi-modal downtown.

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15 Comments

  1. Camilo Payan says:

    Is the final Bicycle Master Plan available for viewing? Also, I really agree with the statement “You have to plan for the city you want, not settle for the city you have.” Spot on.

  2. Felipe Azenha says:

    Camilo,
    We are going to try to post it on Transit Miami. Or email us and we’ll send you a copy.

  3. brody says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with these suggestions. More than anything, the Streetcar to Midtown, is so, so important, we need that to get done ASAP.

  4. Richard R-P says:

    What about - instead of the streetcar - extending MetroMover by bringing it down to street level? Wouldn’t that achieve the same goal and perhaps be less costly? It would also create a seamless link to points as far south as Brickell on one system.

  5. Tony says:

    Good question. I wonder.

  6. Dave says:

    As I pointed out in another thread, the metromover is a County-run system and these redevelopment plans and the street car are all City of Miami projects. The County (think Kendall, Miami Beach, Aventura..etc residents) has no real interest in extending the metromover a little further around the core of Miami. Its been more interested in grander projects on a more county-wide scale such as metrorail expansions and such.

  7. Adam O. says:

    lol, I was in New Orleans last weekend and I took the famous St. Charles streetcar and we actually hit a car turning left in front of it. It was super fun and all the passengers started heckling the automobile driver, like “Oh HONEY, you’re going to want to come get your bumper!”

    It was quite entertaining, and the streetcar was eventually moved from the tracks and we got on another car, but I can imagine this type of thing being a real problem with miami drivers.

  8. Tony says:

    I’m not sure that is true, Dave. Commissioners have mentioned the extension of the metromover around brickell as a possible project with ptp dollars. Mostly because they argue that’s it costs only $2-3/passenger in this area as opposed to less dense areas. I don’t see why upper biscayne would be any different. We should look to cities in other countries (such as Brasil) where transit expansion happens on a much smaller scale than what we envision. I think small imcrements of growth are a smarter way of packaging and funding projects.

  9. Richard R-P says:

    An expansion of MetroMover to cover more of the urban core seems perfectly sensible to me. Again, maybe they could save on construction costs by not elevating the tracks.

  10. Brad K. says:

    Unfortunatly despite all of the good elements in the new plan, most will most likely not be implemented. Most of the elements from the 1986 Redevelopment Plan have yet to be implemented so the track record of failure is there.

    The stated purpose of the modifications to the OMNI Redevelopment Plan and the rush to do it (look at the transcript from the Sept 29th meeeting) is to expand the boundaries of the OMNI CRA so as to allow the redevelopment funds to be spent on the Port Tunnel, Museum park, and the streetcar as well as developing the Miami Herald and Schoold Board properties.

    Without getting into the merits of each individual project, it is morally wrong and potentially a violation of Florida law to divert redevelopment funds meant to redevlop and create economic opportunities in poor neighborhoods to fund projects that the City of Miami cannot affort to pay for on its own. How do we explain to poor residents that their opportunities for a pedestrian friendly neighborhood with jobs and thriving businesses are now going to the port tunnel? How do we explain to OMNI taxpayers that they will be disproportionatly pay for Port Tunnel, Museum Park, and the streetcar? - both regional and City-Wide projects.

    If we really want to get serious about redeveloping Miami, we need to ensure and monitor that the plans are implemented, not modifed every couple of years to accomodate pet projects against the wishes of the community!

  11. Tony says:

    Brad I agree with you, specifically about the use of cra funds for the port tunnel. This funds would be better spent on projects like the streetcar and Fecc that would actually impact the area. Your assertion about the funding fir the streetcar is way off though. If you read the CRA docs related to the streetcar, they are only on the hook for several million dollars- not disproportionate at all. The steetcar would be a major benefit to the residents of the omni and overtown cra’s because it will connect them with major employment centers (like Jackson). Now if only we could get the fecc to provide light rail (not commuter rail) that extended to the port we would be in much better shape.

  12. Tony says:

    Btw, I saw the meeting yesterday on tv and thought you did a great job in making these points to the commissioners. I have a lot to say about Commish Sarnoffs diatribe about the importance of the port tunnel. How about using rail?!? Not even mentioned. So much for being the green commissioner.

  13. Brad K. says:

    Sorry but on page 128 of the final version, $18,360,000 is allocated to direct funding of the Streetcar project. On top of this, the NE 2nd avenue streetscape project ($17,323,200 allocated) compared to improving the streetscapes of the entire rest of the OMNI area($18,856,800) may be due specifically to the streetcar (relocation of utilities, installation of overhear wires, etc) and it is possible that some of the work required by the streetcar is lumped into this project.

    I’m sorry but we have to agree to disagree here. $18 million and potentially another $17 million ARE disproportional for an area that only runds from 13th street to 22nd street North South and currently only generates about $15 Million in TIFF revenues. On top of this, the streetcar does not have the support of the area commissioner and is generally regasrded and the last of the boodnoggle projects of the current adminstration. We have contended that a project with similar benefits can be implemeted for $30-40 million, thereby saving the City and County more than $250 million! We really need to be cost effective and intelligent in our public spending, making sure the maximum benefit reaches the largest amount of people, especially given the economic and budgetary climate.

    However, the most important thing in all of this is the lack of public participation and debate in these issues. Your comments are well thought out and can be discussed rationally and professionally if there is the proper forum. How do you think the residents and taxpayers feel receiving an e-mail notice for a brand new 200 page redevelopment plan that was passed at a special CRA Bioard meeting at 4:30 in the afternoon, September 28th - less than 24 hour notice before the special meeting? Or the City commission reatifying the CRA plan at a secret meeting at 12:00 AM only six hours after the final modifications to the plan? If the City would listen to the legitimate concerns of residents who truly care about psotive change, Miami could become the City we all envision!

  14. Tony says:

    Brad the streetcar is not a ‘boondoggle’. I have yet to see any real mass transit project that can be implemented for 20-30 million. Show me please. The routes and populations served by the streetcar need transit- no other project suggested has shown the ridership and headways made by the streetcar. The FECC will provide an entirely different service and not include and east/west connections. The lack of support of the district commissioner is lamentable, and shows his basic lack of knowledge of what it will take to provide more transit solutions.
    In reference to your calculation about the streetcar funding: you can’t attribute the streetscape improvement funds to the steetcar- that’s a misrepresentation of what those funds are for (not the streetcar!) Additionally, the 20 million contribution from the CRA amounts to less than 10% of the cost of the streetcar- again not disproportionate. I’m scratching my head why you would not advocate for more modal options rather than less. Transit is expensive we need to be willing to pay for it.

  15. Brad K. says:

    Tony - great discussion! We really should have a forum to discuss this. Again the major point here is the lack of proper discussion and debate about transit systems in Miami. There are a lot of qualified and motivated people that can contribute, but the people in the offices continue to decide without community input. Unfortunately we continue to feel that a small group of taxpayers should not bear the funding for a project with City-wide benefits, especially when the funds are intended for housing and job creation.

    On the cost - I don’t pretend to be an expert but its not hard to research best demonstrated practicees around the country. Commuter rails CAN be built for much less money than a streetcar simply because they use existing tracks. The Nashville Star, a 32 mile commuter rail project, was implemented for $40 Million. Rail Runner Express, a 51 mile system was built in Albequerque, NM for $135 million, of which $75 Million was purchasing the right of way. If, say the FEC leases the tracks for $1-2 m / yr, we purchase several Diesel MTU’s for $5M each and then construct stations for $10 M, we could have a system for much less money than constructing new tracks and overhead wires two blocks away from an existing rail line. it is also important to note that FEC railways is open to this and are currently searching to generate revenues on this line.

    In terms of the east / west connectivity, you are correct. But there is an existing metrorail line connecting overtown with Jackson and the rubber streetcar will also complement this. A rational analysis would question the value of an extra $250 million to acheive connectivity from overtown to Jackson when we already hae options. What we don’t have is North South connectivity, which is sorely needed.

    True transit is expensive, but there are innovative, cost effective solutions that have been implemented all around the world. Why do we, in a City on the verge of bankruptcy, decide to go with the most expensive option imaginable? Whast I want to see is a solution implemnted ASAP, and if using the existing rails is the solution, not perfect but gets results, lets do it instead of continuing to dream about something that may never get implemented due to lack of funds.

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