I recently attended one the public involvement sessions on the Long Range Transportation Plan at the Collins Park Public Library on Miami Beach. 17 members of the community, flanked by an equal number of consultants and staff, played with Lego blocks and ribbons to help formulate the plan for future transportation improvements and enhancements to the year 2030.

You see, the Miami Dade County Department of Planning and Zoning has forecast growth to be 323,000 households and 615,000 jobs by the year 2035.  To show this, the room was set with tables of identical county maps, and the two maps on the center tables had  “buildings” made of striped Lego blocks: one that represented jobs and households today and one in 2035.  The concentration of growth around the Costal Communities and Bay Shore was shocking:  as was the growth projected beyond the UEA (Urban Expansion Area). It was hard not to see the difference between now and then, based on these projections.

After a beautiful lite dinner of sandwiches and cookies, the focus group officially kicked off with a lightening speed definition of the MPO, its guiding mandate and geographical composition.  The program kept it’s fast pace through the opinion gathering portion of the evening: a survey of statements about “feelings” of  transit…”Do you agree it is safe to ride transit?”  “Do you agree the possibility of global warming should affect transit programming decisions?”  “Do you think building more roads will make traveling better?” The responses were recorded through hand held gizmos, and zapped to a data collection point, where in real time, the responses would be projected on the screen in numerical and graphical form, a la Who wants to be a Millionaire?

For those whose true feeling about transit could not be measured in lifeline questions, a longer comment/suggestion sheet of proposed goals and objectives of the LRTP was presented for feedback and filling out.  This two-page work-product, from the firm Gannett Fleming, featured eight categories and no less than 49 lofty concepts, ranging from “Reducing congestion” to  “Enhancing mobility for people and freight.”

Each table of participants was given bags of Lego’s; purple and orange ribbons; stickum; scissors; a tape measure and markers. They were told to work together, to make group decisions, by the table facilitator, who explained the exercise and recorded the results.  Groups were instructed how to “Build Out” the County, with the “Large-Scale Growth Scenario Base Map”.  The households were represented with 253 yellow Lego’s and 160 red Lego’s stood for employment, with one yellow piece representing 1, 280 households; The red, 3840 jobs. (These Lego’s represented new growth only)  The intensity of growth was portrayed by vertically stacking the Lego’s within each one-mile square grid on the six-foot map.  Next, folks were instructed to add purple for more roads and orange for transit improvements that would be needed.  The participants were encouraged to add as much as they thought was required.  As playtime came to a close, the groups were told to go on a diet, measure the length of orange and purple on the map and use no more than the allotted amount.

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16 Responses to LRTP 2035

  1. Niels says:

    Are there any pictures of these creations? It sounds like fun to see what people imagined.

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  2. Emperor Tomato says:

    I went to the one in the Gables about a month ago. It was very interesting, and I was the only person to ask a question during the question comment portion. My question was not understood by the hosts and that was frustrating.
    The way they set up the legos and the maps is based on estimated growth, but it leaves out current density. So when determining where to place lines one may be placing it based on planned growth not density.
    I asked that the next time they do this exercise it be based on future density rather than future growth. The cookies were really good.

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  3. Wild Style says:

    Have they said anything about getting business into central locations like the city core (downtown miami)? Did they talk about any plans to lure companies that are already in Miami to the business district in downtown Miami?

    Also have they spoken about what plans they may have for getting the existing population to move closer in to the city core?

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  4. Richard says:

    I follow the blog in my feed reader, first time poster.

    If possible, you should publish a calendar on here with upcoming events of interest to the transit-intrigued community.

    That way instead of 17 members of the community, perhaps there could be a phalanx of foot-powered activists!

    - Cyclist, pedestrian, motorcyclist

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  5. mike lydon says:

    Wild Style…all great ideas, although not the purview of the transit folks in the age of bureaucratic specialization.

    Richard, thanks for posting! I believe we are indeed working on a calendar. Look for it in the near future.

    Cheers,

    Mike

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  6. Wild Style says:

    Mike

    I just figured the two sort of went hand and hand. Seeing as how it becomes easier to move people once population density and shared points of interest are located in central areas.

    My wife’s co worker’s husband is one of the city planners in Hollywood Fl. He said they are working on mass transit solutions. He said the biggest problem is figuring out how to get people from far out west to the city center. He said their first challenge is getting people to pack in closer.

    Anyway, look forward to seeing the fruits of this labor.

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  7. mike lydon says:

    You are nothing but correct!

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  8. Tony Garcia says:

    That is always the ‘chicken vs. egg’ question about transit and density: which comes first. My guess is that they develop concurrently over time out of necessity. The big missing ingredient in our current situation is not lack of density, but a dysfunctional zoning code that creates anemic 20 story parking structures with 60 story buildings on top of that. The codes for most incorporated and unincorporated areas in the county are ruled by use-based zoning designations that separate work centers from housing centers. Miami 21, the Coral Gables code, & the Miami Beach code are a few exceptions.
    Even if we got all the transit lines that we wanted tomorrow, we would still have to deal with a really unfriendly pedestrian realm in most places around town. The density that planners forecast can be accommodated within some of our existing downtowns, but there will have to be new downtowns that spring up as well. Their long term success will depend as much on their form as their transit accessibility.

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  9. Wild Style says:

    Tony

    Here is my thing though. I have been researching Downtown Development Authority. It seems they have done f. all to get large corporations to relocate to downtown Miami. To me, it seems like they are building tons and tons of condos and retail down there and not luring large corporations. I guess me being a New Yorker, I expect cities to do better than this.

    In my discussions with my wife about moving back to NYC or remaining in S. Florida, I tell her the outlook for Miami is MUCH brighter than the rest of S. Florida. I mean, they already have a skeleton of a mass transit system i.e. metromover, metro rail and tri rail. Expanding the train system INTELLIGENTLY is doable. Until I started doing research, I didn’t realize the large number of corporations they have in Miami. They also have great waters and ports for which they could easily develop a first class fishing industry. Why not throw a Pike’s Market (ala Seattle) sort of place in Downtown Miami?

    Tons of promise but then I look at whats being done, and its a joke. They are not giving people the slightest reason to want to live close to the urban cores. Heck, if they invested all their money in building first class mass transit from Miami shores down to Coral Gables (all east of I-95) AND centered their corporations in the downtown areas, you don’t think the masses would get the picture? They would definitely move in closer, their wallets would tell them too.

    To me, Miami’s problem is. The powers that be want it to be some top notch play ground for the rich and famous and tourist. Lets throw up TONS of condos, bring in little to no jobs except those that service the wealthy. Problem with that is, you still need to have people who work and create goods and generate sizable incomes. Not these low wage service jobs either, I mean highly skilled jobs. But then you have the problem of to many unskilled low wage workers in Miami. You have to diversify your economy. This way, during downturns you can weather storms better. Reason being is your economy is diverse enough to have industries that will not be affected as much. Heck, they should even be promoting local farming (peak oil anyone).

    I can go on for days about what Miami should be doing!

    I think the chicken/egg issue boils down to voting out commissioners and mayors who do not have the head for business. Man, when Bloomberg finishes up in NYC people should beg him to move here and run lol.

    Sorry for veering off topic a bit, its the economist in me. It really disgust me to see such untapped potential go to waste because of corruption and ignorance.

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  10. Tony Garcia says:

    Wild Style,
    I agree…especially about local farming!
    The funny thing is that when Bloomberg came into power everyone was expecting him to tank in comparison to Rudy, and look at the job he has done. As a former New Yorker you should see the decentralized nature of NY’s workforce. Economic centers are spread throughout the Tri-state area (Hoboken, Stamford, Brooklyn, Long Island..etc), and were created using tax breaks, as you suggest. The same has happened here in Dade County. Doral is a city built out of sweet tax incentives for businesses (not to mention cheap land). We do need more corporations and businesses to move downtown, no question.

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  11. Wild Style says:

    Tony,

    I am not sure what you meant by decentralized, could you clarify? The city is still very centralized as far as its business districts go. Now, they did lose some corporations from Manhattan post 9/11 but that was because of the economic impact of that 9/11 tragedy. The biggest recepient of that mess was Charlotte N.C. Check out PLANYC if you have time. The smart growth in that city is unparalleled in the U.S. and it must be if mass transit is to be effective. I mean, the way S. FLorida is sprawled out, I dont really see a sensible solution to its current mass transit problems. You are going to have tons of inefficiencies and tons of half empty buses. The population trends need to change and clear and easily accisble business districts need to be developed. Not just in downtown Miami but even say a downtown coral gables or where ever else would be prudent.

    I could be wrong but I don’t think all of the present neighborhoods in South Florida are going to make it back from this economic downturn (which I predict will take a decade to over come). So I think, who ever comes to power needs to be strong willed and forward thinking enough to make the tough decisions. By this I mean they need to get corporations out of sprawlsville and into the urban core.

    As for Guliana, take it from someone born and breed in that city. People hated that so and so until 9/11. It was after 9/11 when he was some how transformed into a hero. Before then that, this guys policies were some of the most hated. He really crapped on the little guy in that city. One example is how he attacked and dismantled many community gardens. Another instance is when he was pushing the policy departments to hand out citations for the craziest and antiquated crap. One pregnant lady was given a ticket because she was taking up to much space on a public bench. Another guy was given a citation for sitting on a milk crate in front of HIS bodega. I remember this cop took out a ad in the NYTs that said “don’t blame us for these crack down, blame city hall” lol. This one artist painted caricature of rudy giuliani as Hitler. He did pave the way though. He came in and cleaned up a lot of crime and Bloomberg came in and made the city a bit better financially. I also appreciate his honesty (bloomberg). A year ago he came out and said NYC was facing one of the toughest periods it has faced since the 70s because of the economy.

    Either way, Miami needs a new approach. From what I have seen, the current mayor has done a lot but Miami needs a rudy giuliani to come in, clean up corruption, then they need a business man to guide that city toward prosperity.

    Again sorry for going a bit off topic. But this is one of my favorite subjects. Appreciate the discourse!

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  12. Tony Garcia says:

    When I talk about decentralization, I am talking about cities that are large enough to support several ‘downtown’ areas. In NY, even prior to 9/11, but certainly after that, you saw industries from the financial sector disperse all around the tri-state area (and mostly because of the lure of tax incentives). Similarly, here we have developed multiple downtown locations that support most of the workforce. In the case of New York, the PATH train, LIRR, and other commuter rail lines connect this large Mega-polis, whereas here we are lacking with just Tri-Rail.
    I happened to have lived under both Rudy and Bloomberg, so I know what you are talking about. I was thinking more about the business interests in the city more than the civic ones. He was not at all interested, as Bloomberg is, with making sure that NY is livable from a smart growth perspective. I think his positive influence (if any can be attributed to him) have to do with drops in crime and improving the business atmosphere of the city, and even these might have happened in spite of him and not because of him.

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  13. Wild Style says:

    Tony

    Ahh okay, I see what you mean now. I thought when you said decentralization, you meant a bunch of business all over the place with out any form of centralization. I agree with you and I am not implying that Miami can’t have a FEW downtown areas with centralized business areas. However, this isn’t the case now but something that most be done as I think you said in your first post.

    Have you seen ANY seen of business district centralization in Miami? I don’t mean just words but policies to really make this happen?

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  14. Semi says:

    Los Angeles is decentralized, assisted by geographical valleys. That city’s transportation system simply does not work. People believe you can recreate all services in one “community” and thus reducing the need to commute over long distances. It’s a theory that doesn’t work. Most companies are laid out across cities in random order. And these commercial locations are not always adjacent to an adequate residential community. LA’s inter-valley arterials are always congested.

    A centralized city like New York City has commercial and [formerly] industrial zones adjacent to residential zones (many of these residential/commercial mixed sites). The suburbs are mainly bedroom communities with barely no destination points to lure most city traffic.

    This creates routes, in and out of town, that are established and reliable for permanent placement of bus/rail lines. And it makes the dense core of the city open to mass transit treatments of any configuration. Which means you can place a rail or bus line virtually anywhere and it will get good ridership numbers.

    Miami-Dade is not doing this. County government pushes the outer boundaries then can’t figure out where rail and bus lines should go. It proposes a north corridor or a south Dade rail line but doesn’t have the density in those areas to support the line. The government then ignores its urban core where there density (even if it’s currently based on weekday business activities).

    Most people believe the urban core design to be obsolete. However, businesses continue to thrive downtown for 100 years. Proof that the traditional city layout is the only one that works consistently.

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  15. Tony Garcia says:

    Semi, I think you remain tied to the fallacy that the city is an aggregate of different ‘zones’ where people live, work, play, etc. Traditional cities don’t differentiate between these zones, and are based on neighborhoods and smaller commuting distances (no one assumes that all work will take place close to home, but close enough that you don’t commute for hours on end). It isn’t a theory as you put it, but a model based on a thousand years of traditional urban planning. A model that still works in traditional cities around the world.
    New York city, to be accurate, is all about mixed uses. Unfortunately, the surrounding centers (in New Jersey and Conn.) were designed using post-war dysfunctional Euclidean zoning. The same has happened here. It is a question of adopting codes that create walkable communities, not continue to separate uses.
    Wild style, I don’t really know of any policies to draw companies to any one specific area within Dade County. If you want to talk about the tri-county area, that’s a different story. Broward, West Palm and Dade are always competing for businesses with creative tax incentives and perks to retain or attract new companies.

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  16. David says:

    http://www.miamidade2035transportationplan.com/public.htm

    look at the videos to see the existing and projected housing and job locations.

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