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Somehow in all the posting Gabe and I have done over the past week, we failed to mention the recent developments regarding the Coconut Grove Transit Village project.

This last Wednesday, the Planning Advisory Board voted unanimously to recommend the City Commission not approve county-drafted zoning standards for the project. According to Chairwoman Arva Parks Moore, the standards for the project site were too general in that they did not include maximum limits for square footage or a minimum for residential units. Certainly the Grove NIMBYs were elated by the PAB’s vote, given their fervent contention that the two proposed mixed-use buildings were either way out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood at 19 stories, or missing key standards. While I am all in favor of high density development on this site, as well as adjacent to all metrorail stations, upon closer examination this project will be a disaster if built according to current specifications.

And no, I’m not referring to the height of these buildings - I’m referring to the massive amount of proposed parking. This project, proposed adjacent to a metrorail station and billed as a Transit Oriented Development infill project, is set to have a 611 space garage, 500 space garage, and 201 surface spaces. That’s over 1,300 parking spaces! Throw in the 204 surface spaces in the Grove Station’s park n’ ride lot, and you have over 1,500 parking spaces adjacent to a metrorail station that is two stops from downtown. Logistically, this is almost unfathomable. How can we expect anyone to ride transit in Miami when we keep building so car-oriented? Not only does this oversupply of parking induce travel to this location by automobiles and bastardize transit, it significantly increases the cost of the project and eliminates thousands of square feet that could have been used to build more affordable housing units.

It’s simple - as long as these kinds of projects keep getting built, especially next to transit stations, the likelihood Miami realizes its potential to become more sustainable, more pedestrian-oriented, and more transit-oriented is slim.

Tonight at 7:00 pm Miami-Dade County engineers will be presenting the most recent designs for the SW 27th Avenue improvement project to the Cocoanut Grove Village Council at City Hall. SW 27th Avenue should be one of Miami’s best streets, but it currently is in a sorry state. Come out and see whether or not the county has planned for a high quality urban avenue that will serve as a notable “Gateway to the Grove”, or if the avenue is doomed to an average future primarily catering to automobiles.

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The Miami-Dade MPO is considering an initiative which would bring waterborne commuter transportation soon to our shores. The 99 passenger catamarans would run every 30 minutes between the city of Miami and Haulover Marina in North Miami-Dade and Matheson Hammock in South Miami-Dade. A Miami terminal is planned for the dead end street just north of the Hotel Intercontinental, just one block away from the Bayfront Park Metromover Station. Catamaran acquisition as well as improvements to both Marinas is estimated to cost $18 Million.

I’ve heard this idea floating (pun intended) around for quite sometime now. Similar systems are already integral parts of other transportation networks including: New York, Boston, San Diego, Houston, San Francisco, Sydney, and even London. There are also plans to bring commuter ferries to Chicago along Lake Michigan and Washington D.C. along the Potomac River. Despite commuter ferry success elsewhere, I have many reservations about this project. The decentralization of our city makes such a project fairly difficult to attract sufficient riders. The given route also seems to be a bit redundant to existing public transportation (Tri-Rail and South-Dade Busway/Metrorail) which have thus far failed to successfully attract riders (likely due to the decentralization and inability to properly integrate transit with the surroundings.)

Now, I don’t want to completely discredit the idea either. The ferries would transport commuters from two fairly affluent neighborhoods, a concept which was recently proven to be successful with Metrorail station boarding statistics. The park and ride idea could also work well given that it doesn’t completely remove vehicular use from the commuter. I think the fare should be split between rides and parking however, to further encourage the reduced costs of carpooling or seeking alternative forms of arriving at the departure marinas. The commuter ferry should be a driving force for the city to vastly improve all of our waterfront space. Rather than creating a terminal by Bayfront Park as proposed, I believe the catamarans should berth in the cut just north of the American Airlines Arena alongside the upcoming museum park cultural center. The city should then work to bring the Miami-Key West Ferry from Key Biscayne to this same terminal essentially creating a local water transportation intermodal center which would be only one block from the Parkwest Metromover Station and easier to one day link with Baylink or a Miami Streetcar.

There are serious hurdles which need to be overcome, none of which can be solved by just the MPO or any other single branch of local government. In order to make our transit options successful we need to work to centralize our city while making commuting options as comfortable, seamless, and attractive as possible. Miami’s waterfront park space needs to become an integral part of our city, bustling with pedestrians and activity in order for this concept to succeed. Ferry service, if centralized, could one day offer locals and tourists alike easy affordable transit to our coastal cities, Key West, or even further abroad; after all we are the cruise capital of the world…

While Mayor Alvarez is talking about elevated HOT lanes on I-95 and the PTP adding bus routes in the State of the County address, I was thinking in another direction: it’s time to make our Metrorail stations more accessible and pedestrian-oriented. This is of primary concern for stations along US-1, which serves as a barrier to anyone trying to use Metrorail from the south side of Dixie Highway.

Take, for example, the Coconut Grove station. It should serve as one of the most important transit gateways in Miami-Dade County, but instead functions as an isolated entity. Countless times I have interacted with tourists at both ends of 27th avenue in the Grove, asking me where the Metrorail station is probably because a) it is effectively cut off from the neighborhood and b) there is little urban continuity between the station and Grand Avenue that is emblematic of a place where people walk and take transit. Check out the pictures below:

Besides having to wait at least two minutes for the light to change, the man crossing the street (in front of white truck turning left in this pic) had to dodge a car turning right-on-red from southbound 27th avenue, then step in front of this line of left turn traffic, and this is just to get to the median. Once he gets across the street, he is flanked by a very large gas station and chaotic stretch of merge-lane, followed by this.

The point is, better integration between Metrorail stations and adjacent streets and intersections is critical to the success of Metrorail, as well as realizing the pedestrian-oriented urban goals for Greater Miami. I guarantee there are people who would otherwise ride Metrorail but are turned off by either the prospect of crossing US-1 or the auto-centric environment of streets leading to the stations.

In posts from long ago, Gabe had mentioned the “ghost station” that can be seen looking west from the southbound platform at Government Center Station. This station platform was built long ago to serve inbound trains from the west, that is, before the original east-west line was canceled as a result of ridership numbers that did not meet illusory ridership estimates.

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Here’s another reason why rail transit expansion should take precedent over bus-favored alternatives. This afternoon I hopped on the #11 bus FIU-bound from Government Center via Flagler St at approximately 4:20pm; at 6:53pm, I arrived at FIU. It took the bus two and a half hours to go about 12 miles. If you’re counting at home, that’s an average speed around 5MPH. To put that into perspective, the average human walking speed is about 3.5MPH, meaning at a fairly brisk pace I could have rivaled the bus on foot. Furthermore, Metrorail travels its entire 22 miles in roughly 45 minutes, for an average speed of about 30MPH, or 600% faster than the bus. You would think Sweetwater would be begging for a Metrorail station (or two).

People talk about buses being advantageous to rail because of “flexible” routes, but nearly all routes are placed along arterial and connector roads that are the most susceptible to congestion (which, as we all should know, is expected to get much worse than it already is). Moreover, as we’ve mentioned a hundred times before, buses do relatively nothing to enhance the pedestrian realm, which is a major goal of the City of Miami, as well as Transit Miami. As Gabe said earlier, streetcars may not be guaranteed to significantly lessen traffic congestion, at least not immediately, but they are much more likely to do so than buses and they facilitate pedestrian-oriented surroundings so people have alternatives to driving everywhere.

Manhattan has the most comprehensive subway system in the world, but if you’ve ever driven there, you know that doesn’t preclude the borough from heavy congestion. The point is, they have many alternatives and we don’t - which is partly why NYC is a world-class city and Miami is still a far cry away.

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A forum member posted this picture recently depicting the new livery of the Miami Metromover Cars. I’ll try to get some better quality shots as soon as possible…

Update: Lil Pony on public transit, a new blog I discovered today, has the lowdown on the interior

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Miami-Dade Transit’s own consultants [Not me, however see below] are concluding that a rubber-tired automated people mover that would run from the airport to the Miami Intermodal Center is a better option, according to a draft report obtained Thursday by The Miami Herald.

It appears that my “Airtrain Solution Series” wasn’t such a bad idea to begin with. My main concern regarding this decision is whether it will be designed/built properly to accommodate most of the terminals rather than just one centralized station at the airport (you know, in an effort to cut project costs as usual.)

More info on the vehicle maker, Sumitomo Corp

Count them. Not one, or two, but three independent studies call for increased density along the US-1 rapid transit corridor.

Recent Miami 21 studies, Miami-Dade Watershed Studies, and Coconut Grove planning studies all encourage increased density along US1 and near Metrorail stations.

I don’t know about you, but there is nothing better than some cold hard facts to combat the closed minded NIMBY thought process:

“Rush hour is already a nightmare; this will make things even worse,” said Kenneth Newman at a recent meeting between the developer and Grove Residents. “A lot of people are saying that it’s not going to work because rich people don’t ride the Metrorail…they have nice cars and they want to drive them,” says one Grove activist [Mr. Nimby] who wishes to remain nameless.

Wrong!

However, studies conducted by the transit department reveal a pattern that seems to have less to do with income level and more to do with urban design.

We needed a study to reach that conclusion after 20 years!? You could have looked at just about any other city in the world to see that we were doing things backwards.

Dadeland South and Dadeland North, the two southernmost Metrorail stations recorded the seconded highest weekly ridership averages of more than 6,500 boardings each. These two stations are not located in high poverty areas.

I wonder, perhaps, by how much the daily use of metrorail is going to increase once the units at Downtown Dadeland, Toscano, Colonnade, and Metropolis come fully onto the market. Let’s not forget about the upcoming Town Center project (lame name, I know) and final Datran building which are slated to include up to six additional office high-rises in and around the Dadeland area.

As Ryan showed below, the city is planning on investing millions of dollars to transform the area along 27th avenue from the metrorail station to the CBD of the grove. The plan includes better urban planning than what we’ve seen in most Miami neighborhoods and is a great way to integrate metrorail with the coconut grove district. Grove Residents are always citing parking/traffic concerns, but, if only they would get out of their cars then perhaps they’d begin to understand what a better place the grove could be…

All is silent over at CGG

To wrap up the discussions on the new proposed plans for the MIC/Airport connection, I will focus on why a direct line to the airport is such a bad idea. Like I previously stated, a direct line partially negates the reason why we decided to construct the MIC to begin with. Given the shape of the airport, tight clearances around the terminals/parking garages, and numerous elevated walkways, I am left to assume that the only suitable location for metrorail and station would be between the parking structures or west of the new cooling tower by the new south terminal. I assume the current taxi parking lot could also be a viable option considering the cars will one day be stationed at the MIC instead. In any case, any of the above three options place metrorail just enough out of reach to make it convenient for all passengers at all terminals. Any of the above options would equate to more than a quarter mile walk (linearly, which we know will not be the case) for some of the farthest gates. A direct line will also only be able to service one location (the airport) rather than an Airtrain like concept which will be able to service every terminal, parking structure, and transfer station. Like most Airtrain systems, travel from terminal to terminal would be free and passengers looking to exit the Airtrain system at the MIC would pay the fare to disembark, effectively solving the ridiculous concept of an automated farecard system so rental car patrons can ride for free to the intermodal center, while anyone who stays on Metrorail will pay a regular fare. We don’t even have fare cards that can be purchased at any station, why are we dreaming up further problems!?

Going back to my previous post, I’d like to present some more evidence with regards to the confusion of the MDT decision makers. As I stated, metrorail is at best a commuter rail with several parking garage park-n-ride stations. The concept of a truly urban transit oriented development is, well, quite foreign around here to put it mildly. MDT somehow conceives that fewer transfers will equate to greater ridership numbers, which for an urban transit system can generally be true. What MDT fails to realize though is that metrorail riders are commuters, which means they have already used another form of transit (a car, likely, parked in one of the massive park-n-ride stations) to arrive at the station which will probably not have any long term parking for people who will be away for longer than a day. Where am I going with this? People who live near metrorail cannot walk to the station because we haven’t adapted the surroundings properly for this type of lifestyle and people who already use metrorail will not be able to ride it to the airport because they usually drive to metrorail to begin with. The problems are worse than we think! Had MDT pushed through some necessary urban train lines first (like baylink) then perhaps this wouldn’t be such a big issue because it could be perceivable that many people could walk a short distance to the nearest Miami Beach station and only have to make one transfer to get to the airport.

There is no clear-cut answer to the problems posed by the MIC-MIA connections. MDT needs to seriously analyze what they hope to accomplish as our transit agency and how they plan to create a transit system that effectively replaces vehicle use from a substantial portion of the population. MDT would also benefit greatly from studying the solutions other airports have concocted to this very issue, rather than continuing to do things the ineffective way…

The latest plans for the MIC/Earlington Heights Connection/East West corridor, immediately spurred a question back into my mind that I once asked a leading Miami-Dade County transit planner at a meeting last year: What is Miami-Dade Transit’s vision and goal for Metrorail? I went on to suggest that at times I feel that MDT isn’t sure itself of what it hopes to accomplish with regards to the rail transportation needs in the county and certainly isn’t aware of how public transportation is implemented in other progressive cities across the globe. Now, to understand my question fully, you have to understand the east-west corridor images which were being presented. The aerial photos showed the proposed corridor and stations. Superimposed around the stations were depictions of what is traditionally considered the reasonable walking distances passengers would be willing to make to access the system. Here in lies the problem: not only were the stations located alongside low density single family neighborhoods, but, the superimposed circular area was often times more than half composed of highway space, thus rendering at least 50% of the walking distance draw factor to be useless. To further compound the problem, the stations were being designed with commuter parking in mind while the maps alluded all into thinking otherwise. MDT doesn’t seem to realize that metrorail is at best a commuter rail train and does little to promote and enhance the urban concepts they are trying to incorporate. This is why the transit oriented developments around the current stations can generally be seen as complete failures, because they lack the basic integration of transit with the rest of the urban setting. Notice how every TOD sits upon a giant parking structure and integration with metrorail is typically seen as an afterthought covered walkway at most.


It appears that their confusion has gotten worse over the past months. The latest plans call for metrorail to run directly to the airport as either part of the east-west corridor project or the Earlington Heights Connection with the Miami Intermodal Center, which would in a sense render the whole concept of the intermodal center to be pointless. Now, some cities like Atlanta and Chicago use this sort of approach, however, it is typically incorporated at the end of a transit line, rather than an awkward, out of the way, non commuter friendly loop. The MIC was designed to be a hub linking all forms of area ground transit with the airport, similar to the Jamaica and Howard Beach stations cited on the Airtrain map of JFK. Notice the similarity between the keyhole shapes of JFK and MIA, the transfers to MTA subway and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) at Jamaica and Howard Beach Stations, and the rental car facility easily accessed at Federal Circle. Airtrain and JFK is the quintessential working model of what we are trying to accomplish, paralleling our glorified view of the MIC equating a “Grand Central Station” like terminal. The Airtrain solution seems way too obvious to me, perhaps this is why MDT has failed to see it.

About the transfer conundrum. I’d like to detail my most recent trip to NYC for you all so that you can see that transfers don’t have much to do with a desire to use the system, its more about incorporating transit with the urban spaces.

  • Walked 2 blocks to nearest subway station
  • After going down a flight of stairs and clearing the turnstiles, boarded a train bound for Penn Station (Ride time: <4mins)
  • Purchased LIRR ticket to JFK, although there are several LIRR routes all but one travel through the JFK station: hence you don’t have to wait long.
  • Boarded LIRR bound for JFK (Ride time < 15mins)
  • Exited LIRR and rode elevator up to Airtrain platform which left me right outside my terminal (Ride Time < 10mins)

Numerous transfers on trains and stations that weren’t equipped to handle luggage larger than carry-on in 40 degree weather and yet I wasn’t the only non-native using the system. I’d also like to add that the whole trip cost less than what any car or taxi would have cost…

Going back to my original point, I would like to point out a major difference. MTA has created in New York a public transit system which continues to blend in well with the urban fabric of the city. MDT has yet to figure out what they hope to accomplish with rail service in Miami, transporting people to hubs that no longer exist, failing to integrate rail well with our surroundings, and generally creating system that will one day be as confusing as the people who created it…

MIC “Progress”







Knowing that my day will be pretty complicated tomorrow, I’ve decided to provide you all with a photograph of NYC’s JFK airport’s Airtrain and an interesting recent article on MIA for you all to mull over until I can better analyze the situation catastrophe occurring in our Aviation/Transportation departments…

Other intelligent airport connectors: Newark, San Francisco, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai

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In dire need of some simple groceries, I decided today was a good day to begin my quest to minimize my daily impact on the local environment by biking around to accomplish my errands. Biking through my neighborhood, thankfully, is quite a breeze if you stay on the sidewalk. I ventured out into the street every so often only to be corralled back by a lumbering Escalade or whatnot. Crossing the new roundabouts recently installed by the city of Coral Gables as a pedestrian was interesting. They are fairly well designed, however, I think the signs which warn oncoming cars about the pedestrians should include a sign reading “Yield Here for Pedestrians” rather than just to watch out for us. I’ve realized Miami drivers fail to yield to anything unless specifically told to do so and even then you still see flagrant road sign abuse.


The ride was fairly smooth until I arrived at my local Publix. The bike rack was nowhere to be found. An employee informed me that there wasn’t enough space in the cramped parking lot to fit a bicycle rack.


I figured it was probably a waste of their money to try and accommodate other forms of transportation when visiting the store, even though it is less than half a mile from a transit station and I was likely going to be the only idiot who would bike over 2 miles to get some milk. I nonetheless left my bike attached to a railing, knowing full well that whoever wanted to steal my bike had to be pretty desperate considering the conditions and its’ appearance.


I made my way through the park with the greatest potential for urban greatness in the Coral Gables/South Miami area, which also happens to be across the parking lot from Publix and on my way to my next destination. With plenty of green space, on street parking, benches, and room to run around, Riviera Park is clamoring for some proper attention and better development to neighbor it.


Aside from me, there was one elderly and homeless looking lady enjoying the tranquility of our surroundings. I took a quick break to survey the surroundings which noticeably lack any uniform interaction with the park. The park could sorely benefit from denser residential development and more inviting facades of buildings other than the parking structures which currently front the west side.


I crossed several waterways along the way where I stopped to admire the ultimate private boat parking spaces. As you can see by the photograph below, pedestrian activity along the bridge was clearly an afterthought to the automotive needs, barely leaving me enough room to cross as cars zipped through.


Close encounters with cars: 1

Random pedestrians who said hello: 3

Errands Accomplished: 2

Total Distance: 4+ miles

Time: 45 minutes

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Ryan is back once again to talk about government center. I’m actually headed downtown soon myself and will check out what he’s talking about firsthand. I’ll be back later today to cover the Miami Orange Bowl renovations, Miami River Dredging, and Density…


The other day I happened to be on the Government Center Metrorail Station platform when I noticed I was almost completely surrounded by parking. Good thing I had my camera with me – check out all the parking and keep in mind this is the supposed to be one of the densest parts of city as well as one of its’ most prominent public spaces. This is definitely not something you want to have anywhere in the city, especially abutting the downtown transit hub. This ruinous land use has the following effects:


• Fractures urban continuity in densest part of city; alienates the station from the rest of the city’s urban framework
• Takes the place of valuable real estate
• Induces demand for more driving in Miami’s downtown core; gives the impression that transit is an afterthought in this community, thus stigmatizing transit as the not-so-sexy stepchild to private automobile travel, even in the densest part of the city’s urban core
• Serves as a morbid public space in an otherwise strategic location


This puts into perspective the lunacy of adding more parking adjacent to Government Center Station. Doing so would effectively surround Miami’s primary downtown station on at least three sides by parking, as well as displacing the downtown bus terminal (which needs a public space makeover itself – not displacement.)

In my next post, I’ll illustrate and describe a good example of what Miami transit stations should aspire for regarding integration of quality public spaces – especially at Government Center Station.


I was idling in traffic earlier today, heading south on US-1 when I noticed something had gone amiss. The first thing that tipped me off was that a crowd had gathered at the South Miami metrorail station platform, waiting for a train heading northbound. As I inched south, crawling through traffic on my way to the snapper creek expressway, I happened to see three news helicopters swirling near the intersection of US-1 (pictured above) and Kendall Dr. Metrorail derailment suddenly came to mind, listening intently to the WLRN traffic report, which mentioned nothing of the mess.

It turns out my gut instinct was indeed correct. A metrorail train carrying about 50 passengers derailed as it departed the dadeland south station heading northbound. No serious damages or injuries were reported. This is the first time a metrorail train has derailed.

Click here for video…

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