Posts by: Community Commentary

Source: forums.mtbr.com

This morning a dusted off my mountain bike and made my way to Virginia Key to check out the new mountain bike trails.  The former landfill now has four miles of single-track and the Virginia Key Bicycle Club seem to be expanding the trails; I saw a small army of volunteers working with chainsaws today.  The trails are simply spectacular. I can’t express how great this is for Miami.

There were at least 30 cars parked at the trailhead. I saw a bunch of families with young children riding the trails. It is safe to say that this urban park is a total success and very unique.  How many other cities have a mountain bike park in the middle of the city? I can’t think of very many…

We need to send a Transit Miami shout-out to John Voss.  Mr. Voss was incredibly persistent and without this vision and resolution Miamians would not have this gem of a park in their back yard.

Now if we could only get the County Public Works Department to make the Rickenbacker Causeway more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly, perhaps it would encourage more people to ride their bicycles to the Virginia Key mountain bike trails, rather then drive.  A big first step would be to put a roundabout or crosswalk at the entrance to Virginia Key in order to calm traffic so that cyclists and pedestrians aren’t get killed while trying to cross a 6 lane highway just to get to the park.  Just a thought.

VIRGINIA KEY MTB TRAILS from LAKS on Vimeo.

As Miami politicians struggle with decisions like whether to fund the area’s second commuter rail line or how to provide adequate bicycle infrastructure, it may be worthwhile to look at how other American cities approach the challenges related to regional transportation planning and decision-making.

The Portland Area Metro has emerged as a model for sustainable regional governance as it pursues aggressive reductions in vehicle miles traveled, by drastically expanding its bikeway network, making investments in mass transit and encouraging transit oriented development. These decisions are made by a regional governing body: Metro, “an elected regional government, serving more than 1.5 million residents in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties and the 25 cities in the Portland region.”

Image Courtesy of Human Transit

Metro is the agency responsible for planning the region’s five light rail lines (52.4 miles), a commuter rail line (14.7 miles), a 651 bus fleet, an aerial tram, and, since 2009, the only American streetcar system with cars made in the USA. The entire system logs an estimated 350,000 weekday rides.

Comparatively, Miami-Dade County has a population of 2.5 million residents, has a heavy rail line (22.4 miles), a downtown people mover (4.4 miles), a strained fleet of 893 buses, and one ailing commuter rail line (70.9 miles) -  representing just over 400,000 daily rides, and run by competing agencies.

Metro’s transit expansion is only part of its successful mode shift. The region has seen the number trips made by bike double since 1997 . Approximately six percent of Portland commuters now take their bikes to work, the highest percentage in America and about 10 times the national average.

While Miami has made preliminary steps to advance  a mode shift toward active transportation, a quick search of the Transit Miami archives testifies to the growing pains Miami has experienced and the work that remains undone. Miami-Dade County can learn from the example set by Metro’s institutional framework  - a model for how regional government can take responsibility for transit expansion and smart growth planning.

Decisions related to transit and regional planning are separate from the other functions of government - allowing County officials to advocate for projects region-wide. In addition, the Metro Auditor is an elected seat that serves as the executive watchdog of Metro’s operation.

The seven members of the Metro Council are directly elected, which makes it the “only directly elected regional government in America,” according to Chris Myers, a policy assistant at the organization. On the other hand, the Miami-Dade MPO is composed of a comparative hodge-podge of county commissioners, municipal representatives, and a representative from the highway building lobby, MDX.

The members of the Metro Council hold no other political office, and while they do consult with elected members of the region’s 25 cities, they are elected by large districts (the three-county area is divided into six total districts), forcing the councilors to focus on regional issues.

The desire for a regional focus was made explicit in Metro’s charter:

We, the people of the Portland area metropolitan service district, in order to establish an elected, visible and accountable regional government that is responsive to the citizens of the region and works cooperatively with our local governments; that undertakes, as its most important service, planning and policy making to preserve and enhance the quality of life and the environment for ourselves and future generations; and that provides regional services needed and desired by the citizens in an efficient and effective manner, do ordain this charter for the Portland area metropolitan service district, to be known as Metro.
preamble of the Metro Charter, November 1992

As the steward of regional land-use decisions, Metro has had a hand in ensuring walkable, urban land use patterns that are another driving factor in the relative success of Portland’s mode shift. More than one-third of the 1.5 million residents in the Metro service area are concentrated around the city of Portland. Metro coordinates planning policies that encourage conservation on the suburban fringe, while accommodating population growth in compact, infill development.

In comparison, as people flocked to South Florida over the past decade, the Miami-Dade County Commission allowed developers to push growth to the north, west and south; expanding suburban sprawl and ignoring the benefits of compact, walkable neighborhoods. These developments simultaneously demand more roads, and make mass transit less effective.

Portland began its shift toward more transportation options in the 1970s when area leaders elected not to build a new eight-lane highway to the suburbs, putting the money toward transit development. Later, the Portland Transit Mall opened downtown, followed by the area’s first light rail line. Now the Portland area ranks 8th in America in transit ridership, even though it ranks 23rd in population. Transit use is growing faster than the area’s population while vehicle miles traveled are steadily declining.

The question for Miamians and their leaders is, what’s next? More roads? More traffic? Or, is it time to make bold changes in anticipation of a better future?

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WASHINGTON - U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today issued the following statement on High Speed Rail in Florida. 

 This morning I met with Governor Rick Scott to discuss the high speed rail project that will create jobs and economic development for the entire state of Florida. He asked me for additional information about the state’s role in this project, the responsibilities of the Florida Department of Transportation, as well as how the state would be protected from liability. I have decided to give Governor Scott additional time to review the agreement crafted by local officials from Orlando, Tampa, Lakeland and Miami, and to consult with his staff at the state Department of Transportation. He has committed to making a final decision by the end of next week. I feel we owe it to the people of Florida, who have been working to bring high speed rail to their state for the last 20 years, to go the extra mile.

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Two of Miami’s most priceless gems have been placed on the chopping block: the Barnacle State Historic Park and the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve.

The Barnacle was built by Ralph Munroe in the 1880s (long before the City of Miami existed, and ancient by local standards). The Commodore was a Pioneer, and much more. He was a genius in Naval Architecture. Biscayne Bay’s shallow waters shaped his thinking, and he defied the deep-draft keel-boat conventions of his era to design and build over 60 shallow-draft sailboats. Most were Sharpies with swing-keels. He literally changed the way that sailboats boats are designed world-wide, including many popular designs we take for granted today. I had the honor to help build a replica of Munroe’s Flying Proa at the Barnacle. This 30′ outrigger sailing canoe was the first multi-hull known to have sailed our Bay. It was 100 years ahead of its time, and is on display at the Barnacle today!

The house is just as unique. It was designed to draw air up from the cool limestone foundation, through the house, and out the copula. He harnessed the “lift” created by the wind to create natural air conditioning… in the 1880s! The shape that made this possible looks just like a Barnacle, hence the name.

Finally there is the Hardwood Hammock, the last remnant in an area that has been paved and built into downtown Coconut Grove. Preserved by the Commodore and his family, who donated it to the State for safekeeping, it is Nature’s last bastion, providing irreplaceable habitat and food for wildlife. The pungent funkiness of Stoppers announces that it still survives to passers-by on Main Highway. The original, much-larger property has been carved up and developed, and only a fraction remains.

The Boathouse, House and Grounds are packed with examples of how this “Miami Original” was shaped by Miami, and as a result shaped the world. Don’t allow those who don’t value Miami’s history and ecosystems to exclude you and your kids from discovering genius, and growing from the experience.

Biscayne Bay has been under assault for over a century during Miami’s development. For many decades it was a cesspool, a dumping area for raw sewage. Channels slashed its bottom, bleeding sediments that are still killing habitats. Once, Mangrove estuaries made Miami’s fishing legendary, and the waters churned with life. Many people wrote that during seasonal bait runs “it looked like you could walk on the fish”. Visitors flocked to Miami for fishing and eco-tourism. Today, marine life is a pale shadow. Sterile sea-walls have no safe-havens to grow seafood, game-fish. They also keep the Bay waters murky, contributing to the death of the remaining sea-grass beds and hiding the wonders of nature from children. These conditions drive away tourist dollars.

The Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve (BBAP) was established to protect the remaining habitats, and even heal the damage caused by greed and carelessness. Away from busy channels the shallow grasses usually manage to filter sediments, keeping the waters as gin-clear as Mother Nature intended. Manatees and fish raise young, protected by the shallows from boat propellers. Wading birds come at low tide, marching in a line across the flats to feed on slow or careless crabs, fish and shrimp.

These the amazing sea-grass beds are among Miami’s least-known treasures. Most drivers on
Rickenbacker and Julia Tuttle Causeways are oblivious, but they would only have to look north from the bridges for a glimpse of Paradise.

The BBAP serves as guardian and educator for all of Biscayne Bay that is not part of the National Park.
I grew up on Biscayne Bay. I have caught fish, and learned to skin-dive, spearfish, sail and waterski there. I wandered grass-flats, and searched mangrove forests for native orchids. Over the years I have been surrounded by sleeping Manatees, schooling Cutlassfish and mating Dolphins. If you want your children to experience these things, do not allow the BBAP to die.

These are just two of the 53 State Parks and Preserves threatened with Closure by the Florida’s new Governor. The others are just as valuable as the Barnacle and the BBAP, but it is for those who know them best to speak for them. Miami and Florida have the habit of throwing forgotten treasures under the bulldozers of development. The first stage is “Demolition by Neglect”, which is provided as “proof” that the public doesn’t care about them. This justifies their later sale or destruction. Don’t let this happen.

Stand up for what belongs to YOU and your kids. Remind your legislator, the governor, and this newspaper that you care. Do nothing, and these places that belong to every Floridian may be lost forever.

Sam Van Leer
Executive Director & Founder
Urban Paradise Guild
sam@urban-paradise.org

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Dear Transit Miami Readers,

The recently released budget proposal from the Republican Study Committee cuts federal funding for transit. And it doesn’t stop there. Amtrak gets cut to zero.

It eliminates New Starts, the transportation program that funds all new transit projects in the country, and slashes high-speed rail funding — the same program touted by President Obama to great fanfare in last week’s State of the Union.

It even chops all federal funding for Washington DC’s transit authority, the very transit system that legislators’ staff and neighbors rely on every day to get to and from work.

This budget is a trial-balloon for the budget fight to come. We need to waste no time making it clear that these kinds of cuts are short-sighted and unacceptable.

Sign our petition objecting to this assault on public transportation funding. We’ll deliver the petition with your signature along with a letter from us and our partners to lawmakers.

The plan from the Republican Study Committee, which represents 165 of the 242 Republican members of Congress, calls for eliminating the $1.5 billion annual payment for Amtrak, $2.5 billion in high-speed rail grants and $150 million in annual funding for Metro.

The lawmakers who crafted this budget clearly aren’t aware that millions of Americans – including their own constituents – rely on passenger rail and the types of transit projects these programs fund.

These are also the very projects that pay far-reaching dividends. Study after study has shown that every dollar spent on public transportation generates more jobs than any other form of transportation spending. This proposed budget cuts the investments that create the most jobs – an especially poor decision in the face of a recovering economy.

We can keep this proposal from becoming law if we speak up now and make it clear that Americans aren’t going to sit by as federal investments in transit are gutted.

Sign our petition to protect federal support for transportation and jobs!

Thank you, once again, for all you do.

Sincerely,

Stephen Lee Davis
Deputy Communications Director

Transportation for America

I try to recycle as much as possible in order to minimize unnecessary garbage going into landfills. On any given week I tend to fill-up my puny 35-gallon recycling bin to capacity.  When the bin begins to overflow I place the recyclables in cardboard box and cross my fingers that it will be picked too.  Unfortunately, most times it does not get picked- up. Only the stuff in the recycling bin is taken away.

Today, I decide to request a larger recycling bin from Miami –Dade County 3-1-1. I was told that larger bins were not available for Miami residents and that additional bins were not available to purchase for $50.  They only had bins available for residents which had their bins stolen or damaged. I was left with no other option but to lie.  I told the very nice customer service lady from 3-1-1 that my bin had been stolen.

Why is it so difficult to recycle in this town?  Why don’t we have larger bins? Why don’t we have extra bins available for purchase to encourage recycling? It should not be difficult to do the right thing.  We need to facilitate the recycling process, not make it complicated.

We need larger recycling bins. If this is not possible, residents should get at least two recycling bins per household at no additional cost. If it costs $50 to do the right thing, many will not pay the additional cost.  Effectively Miami-Dade County is encouraging people to dump recyclables in our landfills.  This is not good.

 

Even before Congress has reentered session, a dispute between incoming House Republicans and transportation organizations has erupted over changes to rules that limit how the Highway Trust Fund can be used in spending bills.  The transportation industry claims the new rules will “sever the user-financed basis of the Highway Trust Fund” while Republican leadership says they are about limiting spending on transportation projects to the money that is available.

The keystone-premise common to both of these arguments relies on the gas-tax as a user fee.  A new report by Florida Public Interest Research Group shows that this premise is a fallacy.  

The amount of money a particular driver pays in gasoline taxes bears little relationship to his or her use of roads funded by gas taxes. Drivers pay gasoline taxes for the miles they drive on local streets and roads, even though those proceeds are typically used to pay for state and federal highways. At its inception, the gas tax was originally intended for debt relief.  Since then, the norm has been for gas taxes to fund other purposes in addition to roads.

The report buries the myth that building roads is fiscally conservative and that they “pay for themselves.” Highways do not – and, except for brief periods in our nation’s history, never have – paid for themselves through the taxes that highway advocates label “user fees.” According to a Pew study, user fees in 2007 covered only half the cost of building and maintaining the nation’s network of highways, roads and streets.

Since 2008, the nation’s Highway Trust Fund has been bailed out four times with $35 billion from general funds.  The percent of roads paid for by gas taxes will only continue to drop as people drive less due to increased gas prices and as cars become more fuel efficient.  Even if the gas tax keeps up with inflation, it will cover a dwindling fraction of surface transportation costs.

To make the right choices for our transportation future, the state and the nation need to weigh the full costs and benefits of its investments and then allocate the costs fairly.  Florida needs to make difficult choices about how to fund our state’s troubled transportation system, and as today’s report makes clear, the first task is to discard common myths about how roads are paid for.

Patrick Gittard, Transportation Associate, Florida Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)

We would like to recognize the Miami Herald for running a very important story regarding the broken leadership at Miami-Dade Transit. If you care about the future of public transit in Miami you must read this article. Unfortunately, the future of transit in Miami does not look bright if we continue with the status-quo leadership that claims to be running this agency.  Miami-Dade Transit is dysfunctional at best, with no clear leadership. Heads should have rolled at this agency yesterday; it would have been a Christmas present to everyone that uses public transit.  Miami-Dade County needs to start getting serious about public transit. Enough is enough.

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Brickell Station: Thursday October 7, 8:20am

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When: Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Time: 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Location: Holiday Park - Social Center, 1150 G Harlond Martin Drive, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Please contact Elizabeth Chang @ echang@hollywoodfl.org for more information.

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My morning commute takes me from Brickell to Hialeah.  For the past  6months, I’ve been watching the new Metrorail extension to the airport  being built overhead.  Its Impressive to watch this huge project being
put together like giant Lego’s.  This is a huge step for Miami and I’m  proud to finally see it coming together.

Unfortunately, what happens above sometimes comes at the expense of  those below.

Every day, as I exit to 27th Ave from the 112 Airport Extension, I’ve  noticed an increasing amount of construction debris on the sides of the  road. Every day, week, month is gets worse and worse.  A few items I’ve  noticed….a leaning Yield sign, a knocked over barricade in the lane  of traffic,  an orange safety cone next to the barricade, several large nuts & bolts, a wrench, and so on. These are not articles that have  fallen off passing cars. These items are littering the exit ramp, as a  result of construction, a disaster waiting to happen.  Even the storm  drain is clogged with debris and a huge pool of water forms every time  it rains, which is basically every day, because the water has no where  to go.


Someone should be responsible for the removal of debris caused by the  construction. If not daily, at least weekly, or monthly.  This situation at this exit has gotten to the point where it poses a safety  issue. What if it was night time and someone runs over that knocked  over barricade? What if a truck tire kicks up that wrench and it hits a
car traveling behind it?  What if……

A couple of weeks ago, I got 2 flat tires as I was navigating through  the minefield of debris.  I had enough!

I made a call to Miami Dade Transit Authority…spoke to a gentleman that  was responsible for the construction oversight.  I explained the  situation and my concerns.  It was explained to me that the contractor is responsible for cleaning the construction related debris.  It  doesn’t matter who is responsible, the debris is there, its dangerous  and should be cleaned immediately. I feel, someone was not doing their  job. I was informed that MDTA was going to look into it.

The next day after my discussion with MDTA, as I was driving to work and  taking the 27th Ave exit, I noticed the exit was completely cleared of  ALL debris, the Yield sign was upright and 5 men were working to clear  the storm drain.

We often use this forum to gripe about what is wrong in our communities  and the city.

This time, I want to use this forum to publicly say THANK YOU!!!

THANK YOU to MDTA for returning my calls promptly.
THANK YOU MDTA for taking prompt action.
THANK YOU MDTA for being efficient.

I was born in this city and I’m proud to call Miami my home!

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The following letter was written by Sam Van Leer in response to the Miami Herald story, “Bike-trail project a lot tougher than expected,” Miami Herald, Sept. 12, 2010.

The Virginia Key Master Plan approved by the City of Miami in July 2010 is based largely on the Consensus reached at the Virginia Key Coalition’s Charrette of September 2009. On Northpoint it protects the unique Nature Preserves and re-creates lost habitats inland, creating new opportunities for recreation within conservation. The very modest monetary investments are wise considering the stench that sometimes comes from the Sewage Treatment facility next door, and seasonal Mosquito and No-See-Um conditions.

A Public Beach is shared by people during the day, and nesting sea turtles at night. Multi-use paths may be enjoyed by all. North Ridge is planted with native vegetation selected to preserve the stunning views of the Bill Sadowski Wildlife Area, Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve and the City of Miami beyond. A large area is reserved for Mountain Biking. Picnic areas are along the Beach and the North Ridge. Walking paths allow people to explore the different Native Habitats found in coastal and inland areas. The campground is on high ground, with exposure to cooling and bug-abating breezes. Services are near the already-developed Sewage Treatment area.

Buffers between major human uses are absolutely essential to provide visitors with more personal experiences. Quiet nature hikers and wildlife won’t be startled by fast bikers. Campers can enjoy peace without intrusion. Mountain bikers can ride challenging paths free of walking explorers. Mountain Bikers were well represented at the Charrette’s Northpoint planning sessions, and were part of the consensus. The City Planning Department assures me that 30 yard buffers will be in all final plans. 

Oleta River State Park is frequently mentioned as an example of great mountain bike trails, and it is true that they are fun to ride. What is less understood is that bikers built trails under Australian Pines, and expect that the big trees that shade their riding will be preserved. These Destructive Exotic trees actually kill Native Habitats, and the wildlife that depend on them. In addition, Oleta trails often wind so tightly that there is very little room for Native Habitat. The land use is so intense that it is a form of development, and is not an example to follow for Virginia Key. Fortunately, there are environmentally sensitive layouts that allow for shared use between bikers and nature. 

The 2009 Charrette Plan should be followed, and Northpoint should never be used as a dumping ground again. How many public meetings must we attend to defend it?  Listen to the will of the public, and please get on with it! 

We want to be your facebook friend.

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Please join the Brickell Homeowners Association as they host FDOT District 6 on Wednesday September 15 @ 7:00pm at the Metropolitan Condominium located at 2475 Brickell Avenue. It would be a good idea to encourage as many people as possible to attend this meeting. If you live, work, play or visit the Brickell area this meeting is a must.

FDOT will begin a major resurfacing project in a few months on Brickell Avenue. Unfortunately, FDOT does not believe that lowering the speed limit or changing the design speed of Brickell Avenue to discourage speeding is a good idea.  They also don’t believe that adding crosswalks or cultivating a more pedestrian-friendly environment would be better for one of the most densely populated areas in all of Florida. Quite the contrary, they believe that all is fine and dandy on Brickell Avenue and that speeding is not a problem. They do not share our belief that our roads are for people, bicycles and cars and they are meant to be shared safely.

Transit Miami sources have informed us that FDOT would not consider changing the speed limit if they found that 85 percent of all cars are currently traveling at or below the already much too high 35/40mph speed limit. The dynamic of Brickell has changed substantially over the last 5 years and therefore FDOT should consider this as well. You can find a list of some of our recommendations for improvements here.  You can also find a list of some very excellent suggestions from new Transit Miami contributor Adam Mizrahi at What Miami. (Please welcome Adam!)

If you can’t make it, please send an email to Gus Pego, District 6 Secretary and let him know we deserve a better Brickell Avenue.

Just an FYI: The following organizations all support a lower speed limit and a more pedestrian-friendly environment on Brickell Avenue:

Brickell Avenue Homeowners Association

Green Mobility Network

Miami Bicycle Action Committee

South Florida Bicycle Coalition

Miami DDA

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