Currently viewing the category: "Sprawl"

Dear Transit Miami  -

I was scratching around some MIC and Miami Central Station documents and came upon a curious piece of information: FDOT is negotiating with MDX to assume the governance of Miami Central Station. I find it curious that MDX, a road-building entity, would be charged with governing Miami Central Station - shouldn’t those responsibilities fall to Miami-Dade Transit or, given the regional implications, to SFRTA? I can see MDX running the Car Rental Center, after all  it’s sole purpose is to feed tourists onto MDX’s adjacent highways, the 112 and 836 - undermining the metrorail link to the airport and any longer-term plans for a direct rapid transit link to Miami Beach, but Central Station? Give me a break!

What’s most curious about the arrangement between FDOT and MDX is the transfer of a an 8 acre property east of Central Station for “Joint Development.” I didn’t realize MDX was now looking to jump into Miami’s crowded development market. Doesn’t this parcel seem ripe for Transit-Oriented Development? Shouldn’t a Public Private Partnership be the first alternative? I think so. MDX will apparently develop the property to help “offset” the costs of operating Central Station (as if their toll revenue couldn’t be spared in the first place) and will include a possible mix of Hotel, Conference Center, Office, Retail, oh - and parking, of course. 

Let’s not forget too that MDX had developed concepts for a future SR 836/ SR 112 connector and had floated the idea of a “Central Corridor” Highway that would be built above Tri-Rail.


Another Concerned Citizen against MDX’s Overreaches  


As the tired old arguments rear their ugly heads again on moving Miami-Dade’s Urban Development Boundary and incessant highway expansion, Miami Herald cartoonist Jim Morin’s piece below from 2007 is unfortunately just as relevant today in 2012.



“What this project would also do, is to reinforce exactly the growth pattern that failed Miami-Dade County, wrecked the Everglades, jeopardized thousands of acres of wetlands and farmland. You don’t get out of a ditch by digging the same ditch, deeper. But that is the kind of logic Miami-Dade lobbyists and appointees embraced, in the run-up to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Watch what they do, now.”

-Local blogging powerhouse GeniusofDespair from Eye On Miami on the proposed 5-year work plan of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority which would build expressways in far western parts of the county, exacerbating sprawl and traffic congestion. In the Transit Miami world, this plan has officially entered….the NO BS Zone! Have you sent your email letter requesting that they remove the 836 Extension project from the 5 year plan?

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The video below documents the struggles of a suburban Phoenix, AZ family as they try to cope with the high cost of transportation and a lack of alternatives to driving in their autocentric neighborhood. It’s amazing (and sad) to watch this family struggle to get by with just one operable vehicle and no public transit in sight. I have a feeling that a lot of households in the Miami area are experiencing similar difficulties as the Brosso family because they too live in communities that lack the presence of other quality transportation options beside motor vehicles.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

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  • On October 29, MDT celebrated the one year anniversary of the Easy Card - the automated fare collection system implemented to increase the usability of the transit system by automating payments and reducing the time needed to board MDT vehicles. The agency celebrated by awarding the rider who made the 42 millionth “tap” a full year of free ridership.  MDT also awarded the top five most frequent users of the EASY Card with a free month of transit. Not trying to hate on these lucky folks but, the picture released by MDT, above, isn’t particularly filled with joy.
  • Two  County armed guards, tasked with collecting the cash deposits used to recharge EASY cards at Metrorail stations were robbed early this morning at the Douglas Road station. The stolen vehicle was recovered about a block away from the station. Perhaps the county should review its policy of collecting the fare-box revenues at 2AM.
  • Margaret Pace Park, bolstered by the recent development boom has flourished recently thanks to the large influx of new residents. The once dilapidated park and neighborhood is now a shining example of urban life in downtown Miami.
  • Weston’s only bus route, #23 was spared from being axed completely last month by County Commissioners. Riders however, will face higher fares, reduced service, and a new route alignment in effort to reduce the cost of operating the underutilized route. Just another debilitating effect of urban sprawl - public transit becomes ineffective and difficult to operate.
  • Miami-Dade County public schools saved $6M in energy costs last year by implementing a district-wide campaign to conserve energy.

Across the blogosphere:

  • The Transport Politic provides a comprehensive analysis of FL Congressman John Mica’s likely transportation agenda. Mica will likely become the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and as such will have a big impact on the upcoming reauthorization bill and future Federal spending on transportation. Mr. Mica has previously expressed support for HSR in regions where it “makes sense” such as the dense Northeast corridor.
  • A recent report from MSNBC notes that younger folks today (those aged 18 - 35) are less likely to hold valid drivers licenses and own cars as compared to their counterparts in 1994. The article attributes the decline to the recent economic depression as well as a growing ambivalence about driving among younger generations.  (Via: Streetsblog)

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Back in July we alerted TM readers to Dwell Magazine’s ReBurbia competition. Well, the submissions are in, and unsurprisingly, the 20 finalists are filled with super creative, but fantastical, totally outrageous proposals.

We know suburbia needs retrofitting. The 20th century was about building the damn thing, but seeing the results, we have to use the 21st century to correct all of the  ills proffered by such an untenable way of organizing the built environment.  Indeed, retrofitting suburbia is likely to be  the biggest collective project for 21st century urban planners.

With that in mind, please considering visiting the Reburbia finalist site and voting for the Sprawl Repair Kit, designed by Galina Tahchieva and others at DPZ.  Simply click on the little red house in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Voting closes tomorrow night.

Your vote is important, as it will send the message to all Dwell readers and beyond that as fun as flying airships and treehouses are, we need practical and realistic solutions for a very serious 21st century problem.  As a side note, the techniques outlined in the preferred proposal above encompass those very same principles embodied by Miami 21.

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Dwell Magazine, a publication obsessed with the uber now, is holding a design competition called Re-Burbia, which encourages designers to take a fresh approach to suburbia.  Ironically, this is coming from a Magazine that has long supported the very school of thought that helped create sprawl in the first place. It seems the  growing trend (read necessity) to retrofit suburbia into a more sustainable-and one hopes-more attractive environment has proven to strong for even Dwell to resist.


Have at it!

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A: Cul-de-Sacs!

Or so asserts this excellent new video-polemic from the Congress for the New Urbanism. One has to agree, that in the least, that we should worry less about the single punctuated events, like swine flu, and pay a hell of a lot more attention to the sum of all the small-scale decisions we make on a day-to-day, town-to-town, city-to-city basis. After all, they all add up to this thing we call Global Warming.

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To celebrate the arrival of Earth Day, David M. Edward’s Sprawling From Grace: The Consequences of Suburbanization, an excellent new documentary, is available for free viewing until tomorrow at 11:59 pm. Click here for the trailer, and here to download the full film. Enjoy, and may it inspire you to do more in the war against sprawl.

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Clean Water Action is rallying the anti-sprawl troops. Click here to quickly tell your senator that you do not support repealing anti-sprawl legislation.

This bill would remove critical growth management authority by the state’s Department of Community Affairs; eliminate transportation concurrency and Development of Regional Impact review in some communities.

Strong growth management laws were established to protect our communities from overdevelopment. In tough economic times, it is smart to manage our tight financial resources in way that encourages long-term regional cooperation and planning. Water is an example of a finite resource we need to protect. Whether it is time wasted in traffic, dropping home values, increasing infrastructure deficits or decreasing quality of our life and water supply, in Florida - sprawl costs us all!

Developer over-speculation and not the regulation of Florida’s growth management process contributed to Florida’s economic collapse. Now those same developers are trying to use the financial crisis to eliminate oversight and limit public participation.

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The livable streets and smart growth blogosphere was set fire today when President Obama declared the end of sprawl in Fort Meyers, Florida — a poster child for the sprawl-induced mortgage meltdown.

The days where we’re just building sprawl forever, those days are over. I think that Republicans, Democrats, everybody… recognizes that’s not a smart way to design communities. So we should be using this money to help spur this sort of innovative thinking when it comes to transportation.

Note this comes in direct opposition to a sprawl proliferation project Obama talked up the day before in Indiana.

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According to this Miami Herald article, the Kendall Federation of Homeowners Associations is coming up mute on Lennar’s proposed Parkland Development, a 931-acre 7,000 home sprawlburg that requires yet another adjustment of Miami-Dade’s urban growth boundary. Perhaps the members of this Federation cannot bring themselves to be hypocrites. That is, the boundary was once moved for where they presently live. That, or like the Herald says, it is just plain apathy.

KFHA apathy notwithstanding, it seems the project is one step closer to coming to fruition, as the Miami-Dade Miami-Dade County Planning Advisory Board voted 7-3 today to recommend that commissioners move the urban development boundary further west.


Apparently these “advisors” want more sprawl.

Lennar corp., a well-known developer of suburban tract homes, has its sights on pushing the bounds of Miami-Dade’s controversial urban development Boundary (UDB). Today’s Miami Herald article explains the politics, players and issues at play. Perhaps the most notable comment is that the ignominiously named Parkland, a 900-acre UDB busting “sustainable” development in question, is nothing more than a political greenwash.

Transit Miami could not agree more.

These types of growth issues-UDB or not-are common across the country. Ultimately, as Rey Melendi, president for Lennar’s Miami-Dade division points out, suburban expansion is typically not about enforcing a planning tool, but about politics. Sadly, that may be the only issue we can agree upon.

Fortunately, politics these days also include a strong contingent of well-informed people who see through this type of development for what it really is-suburban sprawl, something Miami-Dade County already has in spades. Indeed, much of which is currently unable to be sold.

I have many a comment to make, but will restrain myself to three.

1. Melendi says, ”It will be like Coral Gables or Miami Lakes.” This could be true-I have not seen the physical design of the community and how it proposes to be “mixed use,” “walkable” and “bike-friendly”- but based on the developer’s past work I could at best imagine a horizontal mixture, i.e., not supportive of transit, urban intensity or even civic beauty. Not to mention that even if “Parkland” were another Coral Gables, it is a development intended to replace much needed farmland near the Everglades.


My thought is the County should enforce its little known Transfer of Development Rights program (TDR) created during the agriculture land preservation planning effort of the late 1990s. This way the development rights for thousands of homes and business could be transferred to the more urban part of Miami-Dade where growth should occur. To make this feasible, the County should work with those cities that contain Metrorail stations and many vacant or underutilized parcels to upzone properties, especially along Metrorail and Tri-Rail sites. If done well, Lennar could stand to make a killing and our precious environmental resources would be none the worse. I admit, this is likely to be wishful thinking.

2. The Herald article states “Parkland’s developers say it would be different from the suburban sprawl that has clogged roadways and produced isolated bedroom communities. The project is designed to be walkable and bike-friendly, a self-contained community with a mix of uses that would encourage less driving — and perhaps inspire reverse commutes to the 2,550 jobs developers hope to create within Parkland. Melendi said.”

Let me point out the inherent contradiction in this most favorable description. Any city, development, subdivision or what have you that is ‘self-contained’ most certainly does not plug into a framework of urbanism. That is to say, cul-de-sacs and strip malls are self-contained as well. Thus, I am not convinced by such a hollow sales pitch, as sustainable urbanism is complex, connected and vertically integrated, not closed off. Not to mention all completed studies state that current traffic capacity, water supply and environmental issues make this project a no-go.

3. This last one is fantastic.

“Pino, one of the largest home builders in the county, said he currently controls more than 700 acres on which he can build houses inside the UDB…” “…The developers challenge county calculations that it has an adequate supply of developable land within the UDB.”

”They are overstating their numbers,” said Melendi, who argues the county has largely reached its buildable limits within the UDB.

So, let me get this straight. Said developer has 700 acres within the UDB, but finds it essential to build on 941 acres outside of it first? I am sorry, but this is infuriating. All I see is greed here.

Finally, Melendi states “I don’t see a trend of people moving closer to urban centers.”

Does he have his head in the South Beach sand? Demographic research shows, time and time again, that urban centers continue to grow and revitalize, while new suburban areas, especially right now, are seeing the largest property devaluations.

To be sure, the timing of this vote is sneaky, as it is designed to slip by constituents a day before our national Presidential elections.

We at TM say no. Call or email your County Commissioners and tell them you support smart growth in the existing cities of Miami-Dade.

Clif Bar, the purveyor of well-known and quite tasty energy bars, has long been an eco-conscious company. However, they have taken their advocacy to a new level with the Clif Bar 2 Mile Challenge.

Their fantastic website gives you the facts about climate change, connects it to human behavior, allows you to build your bicycle (assuming you don’t already have one) and map out a two mile radius from where you live so that you may see all that is accessible within a relatively easy bicycle ride.

Why 2 miles? Well, if you visit the website you will learn that 40% of urban travel in America is two miles or less. 90% of such trips are undertaken with automobiles, which generate approximately 25% of our nation’s carbon emissions. Bottom line: American’s are lazy and we pollute.

However, as Clif Bar rightly asserts, such trips are easy to replace with a bicycle which in turn helps you get fit, connect to your neighborhood and city in a new way, and have little to no impact on the environment. If you take the challenge but once a week, your will be doing yourself, city and world a bit of good.

So go ahead Miami, Take the challenge!

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On the bike ride to work this morning I stopped to snap a couple of photos. The first displays the Miami Arena on its way out. The second, the once beautiful and ‘coulda been saved if the political will was there, ala Coppertone Girl and Marine Stadium,’ East Coast Fisheries building on the Miami River.

As I bicycle around downtown it sometimes seems this city has had almost as many buildings knocked down as put up in recent years. Some had to go, but others… alas, another day, another demo.

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