12/28/06

Miami's Multiple Personality Disorder


I saw this today on sale at Publix. Can someone tell me when Dolphin Stadium was moved out of Miami and into South Florida? I’m sick of this identity crisis we have in the Greater Miami area. South Florida is such a cheesy term. Why is it that we have to lump together all the local municipalities for the sake of inclusion (Ex: Super Bowl Merchandise, Local News, etc.) but, when it comes down to actual government everyone wants to be independent (Village of (Insert Stupid Town Center-like name here))???

12/27/06

Let's Drive to Government Center!

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.


12/26/06

Snowed in at Denver

Here is a letter I received from Miami businessman Frank Rollason to the Miami Herald regarding his recent experience snowed in at Denver's Airport. Looks like Tancredo shouldn't throw stones...

Letter to the Miami Herald Editor:

After just spending three miserable days and two nights in the Denver International Airport, I would suggest that Congressman Tom Tancredo spend a little time at home visiting his own “reservation” to see what “Third World” is really like. First, we have an airline domiciled in Denver (United/TED) which flew us into the Denver Airport from Miami knowing full well that the airport was being shut down because of the blizzard; they should have alerted those in Miami whose final destination was not Denver so that other arrangements could be made. In our case, the stop in Denver was for a connecting flight to Honolulu for a 10-day holiday cruise which we did not make. We spent two nights in the airport with virtually no assistance from the airline and absolutely no assistance from the Airport Administration. The outside temperature was well below freezing and the air conditioning on the inside was kept very cold pouring out very cold air starting about 4:00am each day. They also kept all the bright ceiling lights on and the TV blasting all through the night - sort of like being in jail, I would imagine. An extra goodie was the every half hour announcement on the PA system that the airport was closed because of the blizzard. I guess this was for the benefit of the Denver residents who are too stupid not to move out of this frozen tundra state to say like a tropical oasis like Miami. On the first day, we were able to get a very light blanket from the plane as well as a little pillow and those were our provisions for the first night. The food court did stay open and that was great. Many of their employees were stranded, too, and they had to flop on the floor the same as the travelers which tells me their management does not care too much about their employees. In addition, as hundreds of people were sleeping on the floor at the gates and several thousand more in the main terminal, we were pretty much on our own to figure out what to do. No one came to visit during the evening hours from the airline or the airport. On the second night, the airport provided some folding cots for those who were elderly or handicapped - a good thing. These cots take a lot of storage room. What they should consider is stocking up on the slim foam workout mats which could be stacked by the hundreds in relatively small spaces for such an occurrence; I would think if the Airport Administrator spent one night on the concrete or commercial carpet over concrete floor, he or she would recognize the problem. I know, in Miami, we have made provisions for people stranded in both the airport and the sea port, so I would say that Miami is not Third World in this respect and I would not consider Denver Third World, either. Instead, Denver is Bush League which is not even up to the level of Third World! So, Congressman Tancredo, I suggest you remove your head from your posterior and see what you can get done in your own state when problems arise; after all, who would ever expect a blizzard in Denver or people being stranded at the airport? It’s like Miami not being prepared for a Hurricane - we are and Denver is not and that just about sums it up. By the way, please don’t anyone invite me to Denver - the weather sucks and the people in charge of things are not too bright!

Frank Rollason

12/21/06

The Miami-Dade County Planning Department Conundrum

While the commissioners bicker like a group of school girls over an impending public vote to boost the power of the mayor, the ineptitude of their previous decisions is shining brighter than ever this holiday season.

After severely fumbling with cost over-runs and years of delays at the Carnival Center, the County is still rushing to put together a plan to create parking for the new center (you know, before the land becomes expensive…whoops...) Even I, the biggest advocate of public transit, believe that the center should have contained a small percentage of parking spaces, preferably underground, similar to the American Airlines Arena (or Lincoln Center, or the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A., or any other city with logical people in charge.) Now, it seems like we’re looking to add enough parking for every visitor in array of equally hideous parking garages surrounding the venue. I am befuddled that an unsightly parking garage is favored alongside the Carnival Center rather than some illuminated billboards, but that’s beside the point. So what’s one of the County’s solutions to get some parking? They plan on trading the downtown bus terminal for another “more suitable” piece of land. That’s right, sacrificing our already less than stellar public transit for more space to park your vehicle. Who is making these decisions? How is this remotely in our best interests? Read the article, I got lost somewhere in the 1,600, 700, or 1,000 parking space number garages any of which will have some spaces available for PAC use.

“If the northside deal goes through, Mr. Carlton said, the bus terminal would be moved to the MetroMover's western station.”

Out of sight, out of mind…

Oh, and I forgot to mention, the county is so inept that one of the “solutions” for the cost over-runs over on the airport’s north terminal involves canceling the project. I can see the signs: “Welcome to MIA, please pardon our dust as we never complete anything we begin.” I hate to ask, but, then how much longer will we be paying for that train we’re “exercising” in Japan which was supposed to travel throughout the terminal?

Perhaps we would be able to afford some of these cost over-runs if we weren't paying 50% of the tuition costs of an untold number of County employees annually ($2.6 Million Last Year.) Apparently, we're funding the educations of Acupuncturists, Doctors, Lawyers, etc., even students abroad! Anyone majoring in Urban Planning or Economics? No, that would be too practical...

Macy’s One Day Sale: 22 E. Flagler St. Retail Building



As if renaming the legendary downtown department store to “Macy’s” wasn’t bad enough, now Federated Department Stores is also considering closing the downtown store which opened originally in 1912.

The move, from an economic standpoint, is the nuttiest idea I’ve heard come out Miami’s frenzied development boom. As people finally move into the downtown core, after decades of neglect and decay, the chain is looking to move elsewhere, away from the people. The Macy’s store, the recently opened La Epoca and American Apparel stores, are the basic backbone of worthy retailers in the downtown core (yes, I’m aware there is a Marshalls and Ross as well.) Rather than fiddling with plans to build big box retail with enough parking to house every car in the hood, our city should be rigorously acting to revitalize the Flagler corridor with something other than half-planned streetscapes and two-way streets! Flagler Street could and should be the most prominent pedestrian corridor within the downtown core, home to a variety of street-level retail and sidewalk cafes with offices and residences above. The street should be bustling with life and activity at all hours and should be an inviting district for all sorts of business seeing that it is the geographical spine and largest east-west boulevard in the city. The headline reads Macy’s is leaving, I see much deeper problems nestled within…

12/20/06

Metro-De-Rail


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...

I'm Sluggin It

Rick of SOTP fame led me to this informative page on the concept of “slugging.” Slugging is basically carpooling, enjoying the benefits of using the HOV lanes, with one minor exception: your passengers are complete strangers. The site claims that slugging began over 30 years ago, during the oil embargo of the 1970’s. It’s amazing how quickly we turn to easy alternatives once economics come into play. In any case, slugging puts HOV lanes into good use, requiring that vehicles traveling in the lanes have a minimum of 3 occupants, the DC area laws were written and enforced to move the greatest amount of people. Slug-Lines provides a wealth of information on slugging, including; pick-up/drop-off locations, etiquette (amazing list of rules can be found here), slug groups, and a message board. Once again, it is evident that Miami is way behind the times. Lately, I’ve heard too many complaints about HOV and how inefficient the “wasted lane” is or better yet: “solutions” on how to turn our HOV lanes in to pay as you go lanes. The HOV can be one of our best tools to combat the gridlock on our major highways daily because it is not only easy to implement but will actually reduce vehicles (and our unnatural dependency on them.) You can scream and shout about riding with strangers, the cost of building a rail system, or the ridiculous traffic, but, you can’t knock a concept that won’t cost taxpayers a cent unless you’ve actually tried it…

12/19/06

Myth Busted: Density is an evil prospect of greedy developers that ruins Neighborhoods

Ryan, a good friend of mine and regular contributor to Transit Miami, has finally returned to tackle one of the greatest fears of many Miami neighborhoods: Density. This inherent fear towards density (particularly in those communities along US-1) has led many of these municipalities to lower the maximum allowable density, further solidifying sprawl and preventing city centers from ever evolving properly. Decreased density along US-1 in particular will lead to further growth west of the UDB as well as further underutilization of the maximum potential of metrorail. We need to embrace density key areas, while preserving the identity of our communities in other parts of the city...

I must say, I am so tired of listening to people in Miami-Dade County talk about density as if it is the devil reincarnated. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people are concerned that density in or around their neighborhood will somehow lower their quality of life, perhaps by increasing traffic, “overcrowding”, or blocked views. Or, many others fear density because they are afraid of the lifestyle changes that are associated with density (i.e. a less car-dependent lifestyle, less suburban lifestyle, etc.). Perhaps more unfortunately, I think many of the “keep density downtown” advocates are either xenophobic, delusional, or both, sincerely wishing they didn’t live in a major, diverse city like Miami. Never fear - with this post I’ll be briefly pointing out why as citizens of Miami, we should embrace quality density as a friend, not an enemy.

First of all, density is necessary to combat our affordable housing crisis. How is this the case, you ask? Well, density allows developers to allocate a share of units in new buildings/townhouses to people and families lying within middle class and working class income brackets. A form of this policy is already being used by the County, which provides a density bonus to developers who allocate a portion of their units for affordable housing. Regrettably, the potential of such policy thus far has not yielded the intended results, and it appears that a mandate allocating a given percent of EVERY new multi-unit residential building to affordable housing would be the best way to attack the affordable housing crisis and create more socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods (an opportunity squandered recently by the County.) It is up to us citizens to put the pressure on planners and officials to enforce the density bonuses and develop better affordable housing policy instead of continuing to allow most new developments to be of the luxury nature. Believe me; this policy has been very successful in cities throughout North America, Europe, and Australia.

Additionally, by creating more compact communities, density is the precursor to upgrading mass transit. Possibly the most popular scapegoat for local anti-transit advocates around is that “Miami is too spread out for transit to ever work well here” (also another myth.) Regardless, more compact communities will increase the feasibility of transit in many areas, which would eventually lead to enhanced mobility and even increased property values.

Density is also one of the answers to global warming and our oil crises. Miami's car-dependent culture is definitely not sustainable in the long term. NASA scientist, and perhaps the most renowned researcher on global warming in the world, James Hansen, has proclaimed that “man has just 10 years to reduce greenhouse gases before global warming reaches a tipping point and becomes unstoppable...." Here’s a stat; with only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. consumes 26% of global energy. When you consider that of the 20 million barrels of oil used per day in America, 40% is used by passenger vehicles, we have a problem. Frankly, we are way behind when it comes to instituting the necessary land use changes and sound urban planning practices that result in lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Much of Europe and Japan are light years ahead when it comes to building sustainable cities, which definitely puts us at a competitive disadvantage. Moreover, oil production has peaked, meaning from now on production will begin to decline while prices will steadily rise. When it comes to economic competitiveness, this reality puts auto-centric cities, states, and countries at a marked disadvantage. The reality is, if we don’t begin to acclimate ourselves to lifestyles that don’t revolve around cars, we’ll be faced with very abrupt, painful changes in the next few decades. Also, when we begin to consider where much of the remaining oil reserves are located (Middle East, Venezuela, etc.), we need to ask ourselves, do we really want to be held economically hostage to unstable countries that don’t particularly care for us?

Another very important issue I want to bring up is the link between compact inner city development and urban fringe development. Growth estimates in Miami-Dade County (currently eighth most populous county in America) project an increase of approximately 600,000 people by 2025, totaling over 3,000,000 residents. The reality is there is no slowing down the population growth in the Greater Miami area, which leaves us with two choices: embrace density and compact communities within the urban growth boundary to help accommodate population growth, or continue sprawling development along the urban fringe, further threatening the Everglades, agricultural land, and the entire metropolitan region’s water supply.

Density even makes our neighborhoods safer. Compact, mixed-use communities put more eyes on our streets. Consequently, this will generally make our streets safer as criminals need be much bolder to commit crimes in a public space where people are watching. It’s a lot scarier walking down poorly lit, deserted streets flanked by parking and building setbacks than it is walking down well-traveled sidewalks on well designed streets.

Density even has a positive impact on public health. Compact communities, as a compliment of density, promote more physical activity within the community, which has the effect of combating obesity and lessening stress. Dense, mixed-use communities in which amenities are typically within walking or biking distance could lead to a dramatic decrease in necessary car trips per person, which could save you a lot of money, too. On a related note, according to renowned community activist Robert Putnam in his seminal book on social capital, Bowling Alone, “every 10 minutes of commute time equates to 10% less participation in the local community”, thus exhibiting the deleterious effect low-density, car-dependent development has on social capital.

In leaving, I should mention that it is important that we advocate for quality density, which is often overlooked because of absolutist fights between developers and NIMBYs. Good urban design is the key to a communities and cities realizing the full potential of density. Subsequent posts will focus on some simple areas of urban design to look for when examining the effect a building will have on its surroundings.

12/18/06

Miami State of Mind

I'm back from New York and had a great time experiencing the beautiful architecture and cultural sites without the hassle of driving/parking to get everywhere or anywhere. Walking and using the public transit was absolutely fantastic (as always) and continued to reinforce in my mind what Miami should ultimately be working to become. I wasn't planning on writing anything so soon, until I opened today's herald and saw a letter that seems to sum up everything I've learned about Miamians thus far. It's amazing that public transit is seen here as a detriment to the progress we could be making inching along in our vehicles, rather than the solution to many of our societal problems. In any case, I'd like to take time today to salute Roderick Moffett, for personifying the Miami mentality which has and will continue to degrade our way of life...
Did you ever wonder why so many looney politicians are named Joe?

Joe Stalin, Joe McCarthy, Joe Gersten, Joe Carollo and now Joe Martinez?

His proposed CSX commuter train will run at ground level and cross 25 of the 27 East-West traffic arteries from Miami International Airport to the Metrozoo, all at speeds of 60 miles per hour. These leviathans will run every eight minutes during rush hour, every 15 minutes during other times and are planned to attract only a handful of riders. All vehicle traffic will be brought to a halt over and over at the very worst times.

Joe Martinez's idea that the way to speed up commuter traffic is to stop it every eight minutes to let an empty train go by is not thinking outside the box. It is thinking inside the looney bin!

RODERICK MOFFETT


12/15/06

Managed growth, we should control our destiny

Here is a letter I received from Joe Corradino, of the Pinecrest Village council. Pardon the formatting errors, internet use time is limited...Enjoy...
A decade ago Pinecrest incorporated as a municipality. As a result the Village was required, by the State of Florida to develop a Comprehensive Plan, and subsequent Land Development Regulations. The Comprehensive Plan sets forth the Goals, Objectives, and Policies that the Village lives by. The Land Development Regulations and Zoning Code are the legal implementation of the plan. One of the most important results of our incorporation was that control over zoning and land use was vested in the Village. In the coming months and years we will need to reach out to our neighbors to maintain that control, and implement positive change in our area of the County.

Since 1996, we have come to live in one of the fastest growing, most desirable regions, and cities in the nation. Some estimate more than 30,000 people each year move in to South Dade County. Today we share the US-1 Corridor with over ½ million people living in South Miami, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Homestead, Florida City, and Miami Dade County. All of which impact Pinecrest. The issues we face are diverse and stretch well beyond our boundaries. They are regional in nature. Skyrocketing property values have limited the ability of young middle class families to move in, and the ability of senior citizens to downsize, so that our community may continue its normal, healthy growth cycles. Hurricanes and their results have further burdened tax payers. The tremendous regional growth coupled with separated residential and commercial land use patterns have created highly congested roadways. We often lack critical supporting infrastructure. The environment, relative to water quality and quantity may be degrading, and we have limited land on which to expand. Additionally our economy has shifted and has become largely dependant on this growth.

As a result of these issues, it is being suggested through a coming study that an entity other that Pinecrest control the land uses and densities in Pinecrest. As such, we face serious challenges over the next several years. To protect our rights, we must not only be concerned with our local government and how it functions internally, but we should coordinate with our surrounding municipal neighbors and stakeholders groups in order to understand and address the economic, transportation, land use and environmental consequences that come as a product of living in an extremely desirable location. By displaying the leadership and vision to study, understand, and react to these issues in a holistic and coordinated manner, we have the opportunity of protecting our interests, limiting the unintended consequences of poor planning decisions, and maintaining the right to control our land use and zoning. As part of a symbiotic, sub-regional group of cities in South Dade, our best opportunity for success is to work together to examine and address these issues in a rational manner, so that we can manage our growth consistent to our comprehensive plans and visions. By working to together to develop coordinated responses that not only are reflective of what is in the best interests of Pinecrest, but our neighbors and region as a whole, will assure that we protect our assets and maintain our high quality of life well into the future.

Joe Corradino

Pinecrest Village Council

Seat 4

12/13/06

Metrocarding...


Well, I’m off again for my annual winter break trip up to NYC. I won’t be leaving you all empty handed though, seeing as I should have some ample time to write some new articles, but, just in case I have a couple of guest articles prepared to share with you as well. I attended today’s first Coastal Communities workshop on Miami Beach. I’ll share the results and my thoughts on the whole project with you all soon…

If there is a single thing I’d like MDTA to learn from MTA in NYC, it’s the Metrocard pictured above. The MTA metrocard is quite possibly the best tool MDTA could adapt to facilitate the use of public transit, more streamlined, and somewhat technologically advanced. The Metrocard allows riders to purchase fares using either paper currency or credit cards and provides an array of purchasing options including: single fares, full day, weekend, 7-day, and month long passes. It’s such an easy concept but yet we’re still fumbling around with machines which serve no better purpose than to iron our dollars bills…

12/12/06

The Shops at Wasted Space


Alas, with the demise of the Bakery Center in South Miami over a decade ago, the then proposed Shops at Sunset Place were to serve as the urban catalyst for the city South Miami. Now, eight years after Sunset Place opened, we have been able to see the less than stellar transformation the neighborhood has experienced along with the generally lackluster performance of the new mall.


The Shops at Sunset Place was designed as a mall in transition. The sprawling suburban mall concept was just beginning to fade away from the American landscape while the “lifestyle center” concept had yet to fully take off. Having witnessed the failure of the Bakery Center, Simon Malls was careful to not retrace the same steps, but by the same token, was reluctant to fully pioneer a new urban and real “lifestyle center.” Unlike its predecessor, Sunset Place was designed to be an open-aired Mediterranean community, incorporating former mall aspects like big boxed anchor tenants with street-level restaurants, faux cityscapes, and even a few residential units. The center was originally envisioned to be an entertainment center, but the quick failure of some of the theme restaurants and IMAX Theater, quickly changed intended target use. Since its inception, the mall has struggled to maintain a strong and lasting business base. This can perhaps be attributed to its awkward design, as I said earlier, as a mall in transition: too few apartments, too big of a parking garage for an urban center, but too small for a mall, near isolation from the surrounding urban area, and a terrible incorporation into the South Miami neighborhood and nearby public transit.

The Shops at Wasted Space Sunset Place has served as a catalyst for South Miami: bringing the worst urban planning ideas to an area that was once brimming with potential. The area will soon become the biggest conglomeration of public parking facilities I’ve ever witnessed. I walk through this area nearly everyday, somehow avoiding every Benz and Beemer which comes careening through the area in search of parking and jarringly unconscious of any pedestrian laws which might exist. Despite the area’s proximity to public transit, I have never seen such obstinate disregard for incorporating the metrorail with the urban area.


Now, rising in the heart of the area are two developments which will continue the neighborhood’s transformation from urban center to urban disaster. The map above shows the existing public parking garage structures in the area (Red circles.) The first catastrophic development, highlighted by the yellow circle is the upcoming Plaza San Remo (Where's the Plaza?) with over 100,000+ square feet of office space and a 65,000 square foot Whole Foods Market. The complex, which is being advertised as: “A first-class Medical & Professional Condominium where South Miami, Coral Gables, and Pinecrest Meet” is rising just east of the most uninviting pedestrian façade of Sunset Place. The inhospitable surroundings of the blank walls of Sunset Place, Wendy’s drive-thru, and near chaotic activity along Red Rd. will almost guarantee that this complex will only be accessible by vehicle, so don’t let the pretty red awnings fool you, they aren’t there for anything other than looks. Most disturbing though, Plaza San Remo will contain: “Generous covered parking for owners and visitors - five spaces per 1,000 feet.” A lot of good those 825 spaces will do the area when the local streets area already at or near capacity and the building is less than a quarter-mile from the nearest transit station…


Highlighted by the blue circle on the map and about one tenth of a mile away from the transit station is the upcoming catastrophic restaurant/public parking garage facility. The 435 parking spot garage will sit above 36,000 square feet of restaurants including a Carrabas, Outback Steakhouse, and a “sport themed” restaurant according to city documents (Note the public concerns: "He felt that key points about safety in the garage were addressed such as proper turning radiuses for cars...") Give me a break! What about the fact that the area can't handle another 435 patrons cars or that a parking garage isn't exactly part of the urban design South Miami should be looking for for the city center, all the public cares about is whether they will be able to drive their Hummer or Navigator through without getting a scratch...It looks like the only wait for a table for two will be on the two lanes of 73rd St

The Green lines on the map indicate streets which contain on-street parallel parking spaces. The orange circles highlight the local existing surface parking lot facilities. Aside from parking and food themed retail, the urban center is lacking any sort of residential identity. The city and County have completely neglected the fact that transit was originally intended to be incorporated into the urban center, a fact which will soon be realized as the South Miami streets become choked by the very traffic they were originally intended to attract…

12/11/06

Capital at Brickell


What could possibly be considered the most important architectural contribution to Miami’s skyline in the latest high-rise boom, has finally begun construction. The Capital at Brickell towers will rise to 53 and 57 stories at 1421 S. Miami avenue. The mixed-use buildings will contain residences, office space, and ground level retail which should interact well with the existing street activity in the area. Most importantly, both towers will be capped by a beautiful spire which resembles that of the Chrysler Building

12/8/06

Broken News

I’m back in town and am very glad to be here especially with all the activity going on over the next few days. I plan on stopping by some Art Basel activities this weekend among other things. I will also be attending some community workshops, particularly the Coastal Community workshops; I’ll fill you all in with the times/locations so that you too can attend.

For some reason the local news has decided to work together to write the worst articles on the urban situation in Miami. These are the top three:

  • This article, upon reading it left me with only one reaction: Duh!
  • Miami is trying to attract the 2% of the population with 50% of the wealth. Give me a break, developers are catering to a successful market, you can’t blame them for wanting to profit. It’s our fault that our city code doesn’t account for a type of development that would actually be beneficial to our area, not the developers. Now, given our dearth for land we should continue condo growth in an intelligent manor which will add density to key parts of our city…
  • Um, you’ve got to be kidding me: Study warns that Florida must curb growth or be overwhelmed by sprawl, gridlock. First off it took a “study” to realize this? Second, of course we need to monitor our growth, but, better yet maybe need to build properly across the state. Even smaller cities in this state are using 200% more land that what is necessary for the population growths they are experiencing. With an incoming governor who has already stated: “Floridians Love their cars” what kind of growth can we expect over the next upcoming years? It’s not going to suddenly change, that’s for sure. The state MPO’s don’t have a goal for our cities, the FDOT has no clue what its doing, there’s no plan to link the state with some sort of reliable rail system, our leadership has no clue of how to solve the problem, we have major funding issues, etc…

"We are trying to get some development now because we are in dire need of homes and jobs," Sasser said. "We absolutely need growth out here just to survive."

We don’t need to stop growth; we just need to stop sprawling out in every direction with homes on half acre lots surrounded by gold courses and strip shopping centers…

12/6/06

Mercy Aerial


Earlier today, Adam wrote:

I'd really like to see some aerial views with the proposed buildings in relation to the existing hospital and neighborhood. My feeling from riding my bike through that neighborhood is that it is pretty institutional-feeling already. It's hard for me to see the bid difference between 15-20-and-35 story buildings. Anything over 5 or 6 stories is on a whole separate scale. Other than traffic/transit concerns, the skyrises might not be too out of place next the giant hospital.

Using Google Earth, I obtained an aerial view of the so-called peninsula where the buildings would rise. The article does a poor job differentiating that the entire Mercy Hospital complex is located on what could technically be considered a peninsula rather than the actual location of the buildings themselves. I believe that the three buildings would rise where the three blue dots are located, on the Southwestern part of the Mercy property. They would in fact be sandwiched between the central Mercy Hospital complex and the buildings on Grove Isle (Circled in red.) I highlighted in green the principal route that would be impacted by the traffic created by these buildings (South Bayshore Drive) and placed a yellow dot on the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens complex which abuts the Mercy Hospital land. The buildings would be located approximately 1.08 miles from the southernmost building along Brickell Avenue and 1.25 miles from the first tower in Coconut Grove, the SBS tower.

Mercy, Mercy Me



Mercy Hospital is pressing ahead with plans to sell a few acres of land to the Related Group in order to finance hospital improvements. The Grove residents are already mounting an opposition group (Gasp!) to fight the three 26-36 story residential buildings which would rise on site. The three towers will hold approximately 300 high end condominiums which as the developer points out, would likely be purchased by wealthy out-of-towners as second and third homes. As the Herald points out, the project has already won the preliminary support of the two nearest homeowners associations, begging the question if the developer successfully paid for the support of the groups. This leads me to an added question in my never ending attempt to understand how public input should be valued when considering neighborhood developments: How much should proximity to development weigh when analyzing the concerns of area residents?

I haven’t seen the plans or traffic impact analysis of the Mercy project yet and have therefore not taken a stance on the development. In any case, I do see them as out of place with the given surroundings but not entirely out of context when you consider the existing 3 tower Grove Isle project which would be immediately South of this development...

12/5/06

It's Not Easy Being Green


Tomorrow, one of the most advanced and ecologically friendly buildings will break ground in Miami; marking the beginning of construction on our first official LEED designated building. The 13 story, green glassed office building will rise alongside Douglas road, adjacent to the metrorail station. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.

The rating level a project achieves is based on a points system which looks at six categories: sustainable sites; water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials and resources; indoor environmental quality; and innovation and design process.

I do have some reservations about this LEED designation. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think that it is beneficial to the whole community to construct buildings which are extremely efficient and good for the environment considering that buildings account for 40% of our energy usage, but, shouldn’t the LEED certification take the way people will interact with the building into account? What I’m getting at is that a building that is adjacent to a mass transit station should not have a huge parking component built into the structure, period.

The green glass building will feature a unique L-shaped design allowing each office to have window space, while providing ample parking on the interior of each floor.

I mean, seeing that the average vehicle in the United States pumps out 19.4 Pounds of Carbon Dioxide per gallon of gas burned, shouldn’t the LEED certification take this into account when the building will include sufficient parking for every tenant despite the easy public transit access? I think LEED certification should be contingent on the fact that the building will also “green” the daily lives and habits of a building’s occupants…

12/4/06

Oh Miami 21, Miami 21. Wherefore art thou Miami 21?

Miami 21 is behind schedule which isn't much of a surprise to most of us here; however, it is actually understandable for a concept of this magnitude to have all sorts of delays considering how many different aspects of zoning laws will be affected...

''My concern is that the city may be giving us the run-around,'' said newly elected City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who attended Thursday's presentation at City Hall.

''I don't see the public having opportunity for input but when that occurs, I don't see their input reflected in changes to the code,'' he said.

I hate to break the news, but, you're technically part of that "city run-around" now. I wasn't aware that Miami's residents were certified professional engineers, architects, and urban planners, all teeming full of great ideas on how to suddenly fix Miami's decrepit urban infrastructure. Just because a suggestion is made by a constituent, why should a professional consulting group automatically include their ideas? Let's let the hired consultants do their job, otherwise, we could have left the urban planning to the average Joe resident and saved the city millions...Oh snap, I forgot, we've already tried that...

12/3/06

Miami Marine Stadium

   

    Miami Marine Stadium, the topic of a recent article by the Miami Herald profiling 3 forgotten athletic venues in the area...What do you think should be done with the Marine Stadium?

    Image from ImageMD's Flickr...

12/1/06

Transit Miami Growth


Though I haven't had a 10,000 hit day like Alesh recently had, Transit Miami visits and activity has been growing quite steadily for the past few months. November visitor numbers grew remarkably quick. Transit Miami has now been in existence for over 8 months. I look forward to the continued growth of the site and will continue doing my best to bring you the highest quality content and information as soon as possible. Thanks Everyone!

Time Credo Loves Miami, Revisited

After reading Stephen's comment with regards to my Time Credo Loves Miami article, I realized that perhaps I may have been painting a bit of a rosy portrait of my beloved city. My issues from the Time article come from the fact that Time failed to correctly differentiate between National, State, and Local issues which plague Miami. I could care less what Time Magazine thinks; I was inherently irked though that such a negative piece could make it into the magazine without focusing any attention on the positive changes which have recently come about in Miami. In any case I provided Stephen's statement below, before my own response (This is not intended as a personal attack on Stephen, but rather I used his contrasting opinion to certify my position against the article):

Stephen wrote:

Gabriel--I trust you may be overreacting to the criticism of Miami.
It is time to see things as they are and there are some very cogent issues in the TIME article that would be hard to deny right now:

"least affordable metropolitan area in the U.S.", "one of America's lowest household median incomes", "ethnic tensions", a dysfunctional school board and school system, lack of minimal public health services, "third worst poverty rate in the nation", "weak government oversight of development", disorderly urban development, not to mention the Miami-Dade Housing Authority's massive corruption, huge cost overruns and political manipulation at MIA, cost overruns at the Carnival Center, absolute lack of public transportation and traffic management, out of control property taxes and property insurance. I know of no other place called "paradise" that has these terrible indicators.

Certainly, this is not a third world country, but unfortunately, we do have some third world habits.

This is a great place to live too, if you have enough money to afford your taxes and insurance(or have lived here a long time and have a homestead exemption--a strong incentive against near arrivals), a good job or retirement income, are multilingual, enjoy the food, art, music, etc. Otherwise, the quality of the jobs and the salaries paid here are not up to national standards and many young professionals are well advised to move north as they are doing now.

All of these and many other issues have been raised in numerous studies of the region that are politicians are well advised to read. I assume that they have no ambition to change things as they are.

Stephen:
Not at all, I understand Miami has its share of problems and it is a shame that the majority of the problems you list can be attributed to the elected officials chosen to represent the citizens of the area. The development concerns span across the country, Miami is no better or worse designed than most of the cities across the country or even the state. Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Ft. Lauderdale, etc, are all experiencing the same terrible growth problems as Miami on an equal or even greater scale. The absolute lack of public transportation is a national issue; our entire country’s infrastructure is vehicular dependant due to decades of neglect on other means of transportation. We have very few alternatives and little emphasis is placed on alternative transportation. The racial segregation is no more prevalent in Miami than in any other major city. Sure the disparity between black and white neighborhoods may still exist but Miami is far better racially integrated across all races than most of the cities in the United States. The abundant homeless population is the result of a migration of homeless people to warmer climates (Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico have a very disproportionate amount of homeless people migrating into the cities, yet I’m sure funding for homeless issues is distributed equally nationally.) Our property taxes are by no means out of control, they actually decreased the millage rate in most cities recently and property values are at a premium because, well face it, the law of supply and demand controls the real estate market. Notice how the so called collapse of the real estate bubble has barely influenced prices in some of the most desired neighborhoods, like Miami Beach. Florida’s population keeps growing annually, so as long as the demand to live in the state is still prevalent, land costs will simply keep rising. Property insurance is spiraling out of control across the state, but, it is by no means the fault of Miami citizens and is a lame argument for the purposes of the Time Magazine article.

Are there problems in Miami, yes, I full heartedly agree with you, but, the Time Magazine article did a pretty poor job of summarizing the real issues we face in Miami placing much of the blame of national and state issues on the municipality. I started this website to address many of your concerns, I agree, Miami’s infrastructure is terrible, but, what do you expect when our state DOT is willing to spend billions to widen avenues in the western part of the county but won’t spend a cent on public transit? When our incoming governor sees nothing wrong with widening the UDB when the southern part of the state is already on the verge of an infrastructure and water crisis? What can be expected of a county commission which is paid a paltry sum for their public work? The education system is dreadful locally, but, our teachers are now faced with a terrible standardized test (F-Can’t) imposed by the state which does little to actually improve the fundamental education our kids our receiving. Now outgoing Governor Bush is also leaving us with the terrible plan of incorporating “majors” into high schools thereby forcing 8th graders (um, 13 year olds) to choose an area of intended study for the next four years of their lives. All these factors should be taken into account when you analyze the problems which affect Miami and may be extremely evident of some major deficiencies, but, it was incorrect of Time Magazine to solely place the blame for such issues on our municipality.

11/30/06

$2 Billion Widening Spree

What a way to waste $2 Billion. Widening Krome? Don't be fooled, our basic transit infrastructure fell apart long ago. FDOT simply doesn't understand the social ramifications of doing this. They claim the widening is necessary to create a safer facility for motorists; however, it will only open a floodgate to more pointless housing developments. When I spoke to some FDOT officials recently, they informed me that the money is designated for improvement on Miami-Dade roads only, if the project isn't completed within a designated time frame, the money is simply funneled to another county in the state for a similar project. I was initially inquiring to find out the possibility of using the money for something that would benefit a wider range of people within the county, say Public Transit? No, that would be intelligent...

11/29/06

In the News...

  • Today at 9 am, Miami-Dade Transit will be determining just how large a proposed Transit Oriented Development may be at the Coconut Grove Metrorail station. Grove Nimby’s have promised to be out in force fool heartedly opposing any significant density in from the proposed project. A decrease in density would be a severe detriment to all Miami-Dade residents not just the people who would benefit from the transit development. The site needs to be built to maximize its potential and provide the greatest benefit to the greatest amount of people within in the county rather than the special needs of a vocal minority group. The local community cites traffic issues as their main concern along the intersection; however, they fail to realize that any development which occurs on the site will likely adversely impact traffic. The development would not only be able to maximize the use of our only urban transit system, but would begin to add some much needed density along two major corridors; US-1 and 27th Ave.
  • Kendall residents are at a virtual standstill in traffic deciding what transit options to pursue for their neighborhood. As development continues westward (like the bright idea of building homes west of Tamiami Airport) area traffic will only continue to get worse. Fearing that trains will only “exacerbate” the commutes of many drivers, the CSX rail corridor isn’t seen as a great alternative by many (who likely live along the corridor and fear a decrease in their home’s value.) Here’s a bright idea: Ride the train along the CSX corridor and you too won’t be exacerbated. Residents are also pulling for a proposed rail link down Kendall drive; however, they insist that the train must not remove any lanes of traffic. So, going by the mentality of the majority of Miami residents, they too would like transit in their areas so that other people may use it, while freeing up space for their own vehicular commutes. Good Luck. A train down Kendall drive would be disastrous unless we quickly change the way we develop the major thoroughfare. An elevated train down the median would prove to be a gigantic failure, leaving would-be passengers with at least three hectic lanes of traffic to cross before traversing the parking lots of an assortment of strip shopping centers.
  • Traffic cameras are coming to a city residential community near you. That’s right; the commuter village of Pembroke Pines in Broward is going forward with plans to install a network of intersection cameras to catch red light runners. Need I remind them though, that entering an intersection on a yellow light is legal in the state of Florida and that the driver may complete his maneuver even if the light has turned red so long as it did so after the vehicle completely passed the white markings of the intersection. As long as they cite people for the right thing and don’t abuse the camera policy, I’m all for the eyes in the sky.
  • Miami-Dade Commissioners unanimously approved the final step in the Island Gardens debacle. Flagstone development has now been given the green light by the county to begin dredging along Watson island to support the city’s first mega yacht marina.
  • Keep an eye on Transit Miami for all the latest news on Transit/Development issues in the Greater Miami area. I will be changing up the site soon as I switch to a better blogging software. As always, If you have any stories, news, or information you would like to share, please e-mail TransitMiami at MoveMiami@gmail.com...

Time Credo Loves Miami


I got home last week and ironically one of the first things I reached for was the most recent edition of Time magazine which happened to be lying around. I thumbed through the pages when a striking image of a beach I recognized caught my eye. After reading the article There's Trouble--Lots of It--in Paradise, I tossed the magazine aside in utter disgust that such a prominent news organization could foolishly paint such a bleak and inaccurate portrait of my home city. It felt like a personal assault. I decided not to blog about the article that evening to not further publicize the rubbish. However, recently some bloggers have shared their own sentiments on living in the Greater Miami region, most notably; Rick of SOTP. Rick plans on leaving for Denver as soon as a job becomes available in the area in order to be closer to the rural surroundings where he plans on retiring. I don’t question his choice on places for retirement, I’m sure the Rocky Mountain crisp air and wilderness are just as ideal as the beautiful warm beaches across our state, but, I do doubt the widespread belief that Denver or any other major US city will prove to be a better temporary alternative home. Now, it’s not just Denver, or Rick’s case, but, many of the sentiments shared as reasons to leave Greater Miami are just as prevalent in nearly every American city across the country. Let’s start with traffic. With the exception of a couple major metropolitan regions in the country with excellent public transit, traffic is just as bad if not worse as in Miami (Although, yes, the drivers may not be as bold.) Cost of Living. That’s easy, if you live near a major metropolitan area, you are likely going to pay for the convenience the only way this can be avoided is by moving to the rural parts of the country or to a smaller town or municipality. Business week (via SOTP) references the most affordable suburbs of 2006 all of which I am sure are plagued with the traffic, living costs, etc. They noted Weston as an affordable suburb of Ft. Lauderdale which is ironically itself a suburb of Miami; I can only imagine the traffic headache face Weston residents face on a daily commute. I digressed, but, there was a point in there that I wanted to make: Due to the way our cities have been built over the past few decades, we are all likely to face the same set of poor development hassles associated with city living.

Going back to the Time Magazine article, I find it extremely unprofessional for the author and editor of the magazine to portray such a biased and generally inaccurate story about any municipality. The article focuses on rising insurance premiums and a terrible education system in Miami, both of which are problems which face our entire state rather than solely our community and are the result of terrible guidance by the state and national lawmakers. The article fails to include how Miami’s crime rate has decreased significantly since its all time highs in prior decades. How about the fact that Miami is still the bustling hub for Latin-American business in the United States, second only to New York City in International Banking and Diamond trade, is experiencing a boom unlike no other American city, and is the site to one of the largest global modern art showcases when Art Basel visits. A recent article in the New York Times highlights the recent growth of Wynwood arts district and how the event has changed the once blighted neighborhood. As Bob:Miami points out, this article appears nearly 25 years after to the date of another Time article which began like this: “South Florida is hit by a hurricane of crime, drugs and refugees…” yippee! Let's not forget their masterpiece published in 1996 titled Gloom Over Miami. As a reader also wisely noted, Tim Padgett, the author of the most recent anti-Miami tirade, wrongfully interchanged statistics between the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County throughout the article. Just bad journalism.

As if a blow by Time magazine wasn’t enough for one week, one of our Senators, Tom Tancredo, publicly stated from a conservative rally at the Breakers in Palm Beach that “Miami has become a Third World country. You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you're in the United States of America. You would certainly say you're in a Third World country.” Don’t hold back Tancredo, tell us how you really feel. Certainly he’s visited a third world Country and must speak from his wise experiences. (Note: Tancredo hasn’t ever visited the Miami area and would be willing to do so if he could stay at a five star hotel, just the kind of guy we need making national decisions, a pork barrel spender who makes decisions based on circumstantial evidence, cough, cough, Iraq.) So, I guess Tancredo is the type of guy that would find even the most accommodating Marriott Resort as “roughing it.” I hate to break the news to you, but Miami is haven for Cuban-Americans, most of which are considered legal US citizens due to the policies of the oppressive government back in their homeland. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was quick to defend our city (well sort of, just because they’re in the same party I’d never refer to someone who flat out insults my hometown and district as a “friend”) by inviting Tancredo to visit beautiful Miami and experience our hospitality firsthand. Jeb Bush also quickly came to the defense of the city he will soon once again be calling home and called the senator naïve. I think he’s just an ignorant out-of-touch politician who is just looking to get some sort of approval from his conservative base and clearly fails to realize that like New York and Boston were once havens to Irish Immigrants, Miami is today’s haven to Hispanic culture.

Read Tancredo’s reply to Gov. Bush (The opening statement begins with the notion that Jeb has the “…desire to create the illusion of Miami as a multiethnic all American city…”)

As I search for some sort of reasonable conclusion for this article, I am compelled to remind people that running away from the issues which plague our city is simply not the right solution (No, I don’t accuse Rick, or Tere of running away…Rick is retiring and Tere is likely part of the middle-class that is being squeezed nationally.) Miami, like every major metropolitan city across the nation has its share of problems, but, they will not get better unless we collectively decide to do something about it. Traffic is a uniform problem across the United States, from major cities down to small towns because of the way we have chosen to live and build our municipalities. If we don’t stand up to these problems today, our past will repeat itself and Miami will forever become synonymous with criminal activity, drugs, and a haven for Latin-American culture…



Updates:

Michael Lewis of Miami Today News has a great reply to the Time Article...

Time Magazine affiliates HBO and AOL (all under the Time-Warner Umbrella, local office in Doral) have offices in Miami, Oh the irony...

The company which engineered the exterior cladding of the AOL/Time-Warner headquarters in NYC, is based in Miami...Permasteelisa...

Sorry Time Magazine and Tommy Tancredo, Miami ditched the statewide slump in Tourism...Guess people like to visit third world cities...

26th Parallel, Riptide, and Flablog all chime in...

11/28/06

The Pesky Pedestrian Issue

A few months ago, while covering the opening of the Carnival Center, Alesh of Critical Miami led me to an interesting article on the concept of second generation traffic calming. The basic concept behind second generation traffic calming is that alternative traffic calming devices are implemented within a given street years after it was originally built. Such alternatives include the adaptation of a pedestrian zone along the street (as Alesh pointed out on Biscayne Boulevard), removing the strict order of the lanes which separate traffic, lax traffic laws, etc.

Reversing decades of conventional wisdom on traffic engineering, Hamilton-Baillie argues that the key to improving both safety and vehicular capacity is to remove traffic lights and other controls, such as stop signs and the white and yellow lines dividing streets into lanes. Without any clear right-of-way, he says, motorists are forced to slow down to safer speeds, make eye contact with pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers, and decide among themselves when it is safe to proceed.

The article cites several cities where the traffic rules are: “There are no rules.” Drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians are essentially free to do as they please along some of the most congested cities of the world. It forces drivers to be more aware of their surroundings rather than on an autopilot mode, attempting to stay between the guidelines. It’s definitely an interesting concept and is apparently pretty effective in cities where such practice is considered the norm. In fact, many of these cities have lower pedestrian fatality rates than cities with extremely rigid streets and driving laws. Now, I’m not advocating switching Miami streets into this wild free-for-all (although at times I feel like we already have), but, I do believe we must begin to look at new concepts to minimize the almost daily pedestrian fatalities which appear in the news headlines nightly.

I came across the above video to demonstrate how traffic flows when there aren’t stringent traffic laws, signals, or markings along the street. It’s extremely chaotic, but, notice how seamlessly traffic flows through the intersection in India

Won’t you be my neighbor?




Coral Gables
has a new resident moving in soon. That's right, soon to be former governor Jeb Bush will be moving into the Segovia tower along Granada's Golf course (leftmost building.)

Rent is $5,500 per month for the 3,949 square foot unit. The condo has three bedrooms, three baths plus a powder room, overlooks Granada Golf Course and is walking distance to Miracle Mile.

(And buddy Armando Codina's office HQ...)

11/27/06

Coral Way: A Real Urban Scene


Coral Way has the greatest potential in Miami to become one of the best pedestrian oriented and truly urban streetscapes in the area. With the beautiful shade provided by the banyan trees and abundant on-street parking, the thoroughfare is just pleading for the appropriate development to create a new vibrant neighborhood. Coral Way was once considered the major link between the downtown areas of Miami and Coral Gables. Up until a hurricane struck in November of 1935 (Technology has changed considerably since, Marc), a streetcar (operated by Coral Gables Municipal Transit) used to service the route through the street median.

Today, the area is begging for the type of development that would turn the street into one of the best pedestrian neighborhoods, similar to the vibrant activity on La Gran Via (Madrid), Champs Elysees (Paris), or even Newbury St. (Boston). Miami is notably missing a major pedestrian center, a real urban avenue if you will, where people can actually live, work, and take care of their daily needs within a reasonable walking distance and all under the cover of the shade provided by banyan trees and some properly designed porticos.

There has been a hint of new activity along Coral Way in the recent construction boom. Most notably: Blue on Coral Way, Gables Marquis, and The Emerald Plaza. A recent drive along the street though, led me to a condominium which was constructed recently. This particular building happened to have the most hideous tenant parking entrance occupying the majority of the usable ground level area of the building. The city needs to desperately curtail such terrible development and needs to steer growth to include ground level retail, covered porticos, on street parking, and easy access to public transit. We need to integrate the existing ground level tenants (supermarkets, pharmacies, medical offices, restaurants) with the new construction in order to improve the activity which will soon follow. The area parks also need to be expanded and restored to seamlessly integrate with the activity along the boulevard. Otherwise, the area restaurants are already teeming with nightime activity along with the cultural events and varied religious centers.

The city should also seriously evaluate a streetcar option (similar to the Miami Streetcar Initiative) through this neighborhood, in order to once again link the two city centers and provide a much needed alternative to an area with incredible potential. Image of my proposed route:

Images from: eniomart, Snarky Dork, and Prezzi's Flickr...

11/23/06

The Modern Turkey Transit

It only seemed appropriate to share this picture with you all today. Taken by a transit security camera in New Jersey at the Ramsey train station, it shows a flock of wild turkeys seemingly waiting for a train to arrive…Happy Thanksgiving…

Image from Lopez1's (No relation) Flickr...

11/21/06

Tom: "MDTA Butchery for December 2006"

A loyal reader and transit user, Tom, led me to this document containing the latest adjustments in MDTA service. There are many cutbacks due especially to a lack of ridership (20% of the adjustments listed), including Tom’s typical late night ride home; Overnight 40. He writes:

“I'm a little miffed that they're killing the overnight 40 service which I always use to get home late at night... but that isn't the least of the absurdity!”

Other, more notable changes include the addition of the route 34 “flyer” an express coach bus which will travel from Florida City along the busway to the Dadeland south stations making a limited number of stops (Express Fare: $1.85.)

If you have a story, article, or anything you'd like to contibute, feel free to forward it along to me at movemiami@gmail.com... I'll be back soon with some thoughts on the district 2 runoff and the Miami Streetcar Initiative which is seemingly hanging in the balance of this election...

11/20/06

North American Transit Cartography


I found these interesting maps of North America over on RadicalCartography. This innovative site is dedicated to finding new ways of mapping the Earth. The image above depicts the public mass transit systems of all the major cities in North America (Tampa's Trolley didn't seem to qualify.) It includes all heavy rail metro systems (and busways?) except commuter rails. Also pictured above is a map of the current and very underutilized rail network which spans our continent…

11/17/06

Density in the CG CBD

If all goes well, the City of Coral Gables will soon be approving the above mixed-use development in the city’s core. Designed by Fullerton-Diaz Associates, this mid-rise exemplifies the kind of Mediterranean styled architecture which has been rising in the city beautiful lately. Not all has gone smoothly however, in gaining city commission approval. Commissioners initially balked at the project due to the added traffic it would cause as well as its obviously excessive 97 foot height. Give me a break. Unlike buildings elsewhere across the county, Fullerton (along with the Coral Gables city code) paid great attention to the street/pedestrian interaction with the building; the porticos further solidify that much of the city’s streets will remain accessible to pedestrian activity in all types of weather. The height claims border on the ridiculous, especially considering the building would be over 200 ft shorter than the tallest building in the city...

11/15/06

I-95: A Rail Solution



So, the highway we built to relieve congestion on the boulevard is now a parking lot during the peak rush hour periods, what do we do? Well, we revert to the rail solution, after we removed much of the rails and likely allowed people to move into developments alongside whatever relic was left. The picture above shows the former reaches of the FEC rail corridor in the heart of the CBD. Yes, that is four lanes of track you see.

Sadly, most people still tend to see tri-rail as the “rail to nowhere” rather than a possible solution to the aggravation they face daily in bumper to bumper traffic on I-95. Although, I agree Tri-rail isn’t the solution for everyone, there is still a large percent of daily commuters which could depend on the service for their daily commuting needs or to easily access the regional airports. I know a recent excursion by Ryan on Tri-Rail to Ft. Lauderdale Airport saved his wallet a bunch in parking, gas, and tolls.

Recently, Tony Ortega of the Broward-Palm Beach New Times took us along to experience his personal daily experiences on Tri-Rail. Tony’s experience, unlike the accounts of many other journalists I’ve read, accurately displays the sentiments and experiences I’ve heard since the double tracking of Tri-Rail was completed. An obvious sign that the service has improved is the 36% increase in daily passengers seen over the past year.

“But lately, the success of Tri-Rail is getting a little out of hand. We're going to be sitting in each others' laps soon.”

Tony’s take on the reliability of Tri-rail begs the question: Why aren’t more I-95 commuters willing to give the service a shot?

“Since I began keeping detailed records in July, only six northbound trains I've taken were more than 15 minutes late, and only one was more than 20 minutes behind schedule (last week, some idiot's truck broke down on the tracks in Hialeah, and by the time it was hauled off, my train was an hour late). The morning southbound, since I pick it up nearly at its start, is almost never late at all.”

He describes how the train travels through some of the more uninviting areas of our region, a grim reminder that perhaps we haven’t done enough to steer the right kind of developments within easy access of each station.

“On the way, the "train to nowhere," as it's often been derisively called, takes riders through a South Florida landscape that doesn't make the travel brochures. The rail corridor cuts through industrial parks and warehouse farms. If you look out the west-facing windows, you get glimpses inside the back bay doors of machine shops and other manufacturing plants. It's an ugly if honest view of South Florida's harder industries, where no business would waste the money to put up a pretty façade to face a railway.”

If anything though, Tony’s article and daily commute shows us that there are useful alternatives available which are effective for daily use. The system can be built to serve the needs of many more people in a manner which will become both reliable and convenient for all commuters. Vital links are still missing to move passengers from tri-rail to the daily business centers, but, at least we are now seeing the passenger traffic that could warrant east-west expansions.

“My morning Tri-Rail leg ends at the Broward Boulevard station, where I disembark and begin the best part of my day, flying downtown in the bike lane past cars stuck in traffic.”

Like, I’ve mentioned before, the growing popularity of Tri-rail will force us to use either the CSX or FEC rail corridor to a greater extent. I still hope that the FEC corridor can be developed into a tri-county LRT system, finally interconnecting the three main municipalities like never before (or at least since the tracks in the picture above were reduced and negated.)

"The FEC line Seeburger is helping to develop would place stops only a mile or two apart, in downtowns and near other attractions. It's the one tourists would be more likely to use or folks on their lunch hour. Commuters would find it too slow."

"They have to be complementary," he says. "And if they're not, there are a lot of things that go south on us... It doesn't make sense to have two commuter systems a mile apart from each other."

Amen to that.

11/14/06

I-95: Disaster in the Making


Today, we switch gears (pun, you decide) over to I-95. The above photograph was found on a forum which I frequent and was originally posted/hosted by FTLBeachBum. The image was taken sometime in the 60's, evidenced by the construction of the disastrous I-95 project occurring at the top of the frame. As you all may already know, I-95 was constructed haphazardly in the mid 1960's as the first main North-South arterial. It was built to relieve congestion on Biscayne Boulevard and the few other streets which offered N-S routes. In its construction, I-95 destroyed the overtown community, displacing thousands of African-American residents and physically dividing a community. The effects of the highway on the planning in our city are still being felt today. Many things have changed since this picture was taken; the Library for example is no longer found in Bayfront Park, Surface Parking lots no longer comprise such a great proportion of our downtown land use, and apartments no longer sit above the neglected Miami Circle along the South Bank of the River...

The upcoming posts will focus on the latest proposals to enhance the traffic flow along the behemoth as well as the alternatives we can use to avoid the very congested highway...

I-95: The Liquid Plumber Solutions


Well, I-95 has grown vastly since its terrible inception in the 1960’s. Today, the arterial remains a vital part of the economy and local infrastructure, but, much like Biscayne Boulevard was in the late 50’s it is also plagued with a crippling amount of congestion. Rather than expand the highway further (a method which has been proven to be ineffective and not cost efficient for projects of this size) the Florida Department of Transportation is turning to more innovative ways of improving the existing traffic flow.



If you’ve driven along I-95 recently in Miami-Dade County, you may have noticed a system of signals installed at all on ramps in both directions from Ives Dairy rd. to NW 62 St. The signals are part of a comprehensive and controversial plan to reduce the number of conflict points which could disrupt the flow of traffic along the highway. Ramp meters, as they are known, are designed to limit the flow of additional vehicles onto the highway if congestion is imminent (the breakdown of traffic from acceptable to congested occurs very quickly.) The signals will prevent cars from entering the highway in this 11 mile segment, until the flow of traffic along the highway has stabilized and is able to accept additional vehicles. On-ramps are one of the major causes of congestion along all major highways. Ramp meters remove the “right” of vehicles to continuously enter the highway, giving priority to the vehicles which are already on the highway. By controlling the amount of vehicles which are allowed on I-95 at any given time, we will be able to ensure that the interstate is always operating as close to its peak capacity as much as possible. A real-time data analysis and camera system will relay live feeds and statistics to a traffic center which will constantly monitor the highway’s progress.

A downside to ramp metering is the addition of cars to other neighborhood streets which may have otherwise been able to enter the highway. Ramp Meters in a sense give priority to the highways. Logically, they will ultimately benefit the greatest number of motorists daily and will minimize the travel times for most motorists. Here is a list of Ramp Meters accross the Country.

A recent Herald article speaks of another method which is currently being used in California and Utah, among other parts of the country. The plan would involve converting lanes (probably HOV lanes) to Pay as you go lanes. The lanes would allow motorists to pay an additional heftier fee to access a dedicated lane during the heaviest congestion. Many, including me, see this as a great benefit to only those who can afford to pay the larger fee on a regular basis. Proponents argue however, that everyone benefits because cars are removed from the “public” lanes. True, but HOV can provide the same if not better benefit, if we just learned how to use it properly (See Slugging.)

11/13/06

Same Ole Sweetwater

The reoccurring theme lately has become centralized on the opinion of the public with regards to community projects. Community involvement opposition recently has driven many projects in directions that most city planners/urban developers would not necessarily agree with and Sweetwater is no exception. The architecture department at Florida International University has created a master plan to help transform Sweetwater from just another suburban residential enclave to a self sustainable college town that together with the university can continue to grow mutually to serve all area residents needs. Needless to say, the city opposes any change, especially change that could involve bringing the metrorail into their area.

Given the ridiculous opposition, one would assume that the FIU architecture department proposed to integrate mammoth sized buildings in the single family home neighborhood. However, the FIU plan would begin to slowly transform Sweetwater to better suit it and the college, by providing a sort of center where denser housing, government jobs, public services, and parks would be located. The growth would help to sustain the city tax base and would be a boon to the local residents by drastically improving the connection between the school and the city. It would also help minimize the impact of metrorail on the surroundings by creating a more densely urbanized area where the train would arrive.

The fact of the matter is that Miami residents seem very opposed to change. Understandably, most people do not trust the local government entities to make sound decisions on growth and development in the area given the track record of abuse by developers and city/county officials. I’m certain, however, that with the aide of the University’s school of Architecture, the city residents could work together with planners to lay a better foundation and identity for their city...

11/10/06

Savviest Party


Sorry about the infrequency of the posts lately, I’ve been caught in the middle of a very hectic week. I spent the better part of my day yesterday discussing some transit issues with some of the top minds in the county. We were brainstorming of some ideas to get TransitMiami more involved in community education and planning. Some new things will be happening around here very soon including a software (finally, yes, Alesh) to something other than this terrible software I currently use.

Last night, I attended the Miami’s 50 Savviest Singles party at Bricks (amazing sound and light system), hosted by The Miami New Times and Hope Center of Miami. I was a honoree at the event and had the opportunity to mingle with some of Miami’s most progressive and unique individuals. I spent most of the night conversing with Dr. Sean Kenniff of “Survivor” fame, Jennifer Santiago, and Adam Saban (Shuster and Saban, LLC.) The proceeds of the evening went to the Hope Center of Miami, a wonderful organization that has been in Miami since 1955 and is dedicated to needs of special individuals in our region.

I’m about to embark on another cross-state expedition. This time, I’m headed across the alley and over the sunshine skyway into Tampa. I’ll snap a few picks depending on what the day looks like and I’ll try to write some transit related material later today (Kendall Corridor, Ramp Metering, Port of Miami Tunnel, Pay lanes on I-95, etc.) Speaking of Kendall Corridor, word on the street is telling me that the community involvement at the local meetings have been pushing to keep trains off of the CSX corridor as well as above grade along the Kendall Dr. corridor. I’ll share my thoughts later, but, as many of you may already know, I’ll likely share why this is such a terrible idea…

11/8/06

My Two Cents

It’s nice to be back in Miami, albeit for just a couple of days. I’ve kept my opinions on the recent elections as quiet as possible but hope that all my readers took it upon themselves to vote on Tuesday, I did. I’m fairly pleased with most of the results except for a particular Florida amendment which passed; number three. You know the one which will allegedly “protect” our state constitution by making amendments pass by a 60% margin rather than the typical majority. What exactly are we protecting the constitution from? The opinion of a clear majority? Floridians have yet to realize the serious implications which come with the passing of this law. It’s a huge win for big businesses in Florida and huge loss for the rest of us. With 58% of the people voting in favor of it, I wish its own rules had been applied to the amendment.

While I’m at it, we also fumbled in voting in favor of wasting millions of dollars on tobacco education. It’s been proven that some of the anti-smoking efforts of this new campaign are a completely ineffective. Now, I’m in favor of educating people on the health risks of smoking, but, there’s only so much intervening we’ll be able to achieve successfully with this new program.

Nationally, it’s interesting to see that Americans have voted for a whopping 50+ Billion dollars of bond initiatives to improve our floundering and neglected infrastructure. Across the nation, people are looking to improve public spaces and facilities, just so long as the improvements didn’t come in the form of an additional tax. Meanwhile, Broward residents rightfully rejected a proposed transit tax which would have effectively done little to address the county’s transit infrastructure. With such terrible planning and little vision of what BCT hoped to accomplish, it’s no wonder the additional tax was rejected.

11/7/06

At the Town Center




An unprecedented two town centers were announced yesterday in
Broward County. The County will now feature several of these false city centers as the mall concept continues to decline in popularity nationally. The Margate town center will be located at the former site of The Swap Shop, while the Village at Gulfstream Park will serve as an Entertainment Center in Hallandale. I didn't know you could place villages in the middle of counties with millions of people. What really irks me about these things isn't the concept, but rather the actual execution by developers who see them as the next trend for sales. Making them trendy, typically negates everything that makes them actual Town Centers and gives them a fake charm rather than some actual substance...

11/6/06

Make a Donation, get some Legislation

There is something fishy (Pun Intended) going on between developer Sergio Pino and the County Commission. Pino has nearly secured the ability to build 500 homes on land bordering the Tamiami Executive Airport and has even been able to get lawmakers to reduce the airport “buffer zone,” effectively placing homes closer to the runways. Planes will now be able to fly as low as 148 ft over some of the proposed houses.

What a terrible project. Talk about an effective way of curbing future airport and airport related growth. I wonder how long it will take after residents move in, to complain about excessive airport noise. It reminds me of the people living behind railroad tracks which never expected to see trains running along them. But, don’t worry about planes crashing on houses:

“The Century Gardens project includes 24 town houses and a strip mall at the end of a runway. In the middle is a small park requested by county officials -- where they said pilots could aim in the event of a crash.”

You know, because that is why we create park space in the County to begin with, for planes to crash land.

Here are some notable parts of the Herald article:

Pino's group has also convinced the airport that a buffer zone surrounding the airport -- where new homes are banned -- should shrink. Almost all of the 68-acre Century Gardens project falls within this buffer zone, now zoned for industrial or business use.

Mayol, Pino's lawyer, successfully argued that the buffer zone was designed to limit neighborhood complaints about noise, and had nothing to do with public safety.

Pino is no stranger to the commission. This year, he and his companies donated $29,000 to the reelection campaigns of five commissioners, records show.

Pino's companies also donated $25,000 to a political committee challenging a recall effort against Commissioner Natacha Seijas.

In 2004, Pino took Commissioner Jose ''Pepe'' Diaz on his private jet for a fishing vacation in Cancún, Mexico. Diaz never listed the trip as a gift in financial disclosure forms he is required to file.

Though the County Commission vote won't take place until Thursday, bulldozers already have been spotted at work on the land.

11/3/06

City of Fools

We’ve got issues folks. Big ones. We have to find a way of lowering our ranking on this list, while raising our ranking on this list. That’s right Miamians are apparently a very uneducated breed of individuals when compared to other major cities across the country. As I like to refer to it, lack of education is the big elephant sitting tucked away in some nondescript part of the city. Nobody likes to bring up the subject although we all know it’s there and it’s the likely source of many of our regional problems. Perhaps things like this (or this) wouldn’t be so commonplace in our city if our literacy rate, graduation rate, or higher education percentages were all higher.

The recent education rankings don’t even mention Miami. In fact I had to search here, to find our measly 16% of adults aged 25 and older with Bachelors Degrees. 16%? That’s half what NYC has and more than three times less thank Seattle, the highest ranked city. It’s also no coincidence that the cities with higher levels of educated citizens also have more major companies headquartered in their respective regions and higher median household incomes than Miami. It’s a catch 22; should we be concentrating on educating our citizens to attract better and bigger industry to our region or should we entice and provide incentives for companies to move to our region and hope that the better educated masses follow? Either way, things have got to change or else we’ll continue to see the city’s middle and lower classes continue to be priced out of the area.

With regards to the crime: I’m glad our ranking has fallen in recent years, but, if you look at all 371 cities, way too many greater Miami area cities are also ranking fairly high on this list. I assume if our educated population base was higher, our rank on this list would decrease substantially.

Florida cities as a whole are at a grave disadvantage in attracting large corporate headquarters to our region. Our entire state education system also ranks somewhere near the bottom, alongside Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Gov. Jeb Bush has done little to nothing throughout his tenure to improve our national education rankings and thus improve our state’s appeal to major employers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t attribute Miami’s education woes to the state’s education deficiencies, but, it is definitely a contributing factor.

According to national figures, Florida's graduation rate was 55.7 percent in 2002, putting it at No. 48 nationally, ahead of only Georgia and South Carolina.

As MVB also points out, our local government agencies and organizations in charge of recruiting and enticing companies to relocate to our area is ineffective to say the least. The inter-county/municipality competition alone is terrible.

Anyone have any education reform/business generation/crime reducing solutions?

11/2/06

Bird Rd. Train Accident


Good luck if you are trying to get anywhere from west Kendall this morning. At 3:15 this morning a car collided with a train on Bird Rd. and 72nd Avenue. It isn’t certain what occurred that would cause this car to go careening into the locomotive of the 9 car train, causing the train to derail. I can safely assume however, that this is another instance of a Miami driver not knowing how railroad crossings work…

Image from Miami Herald

Video Link…

It’s Official; I’m Savvy

I’m elated and equally stunned to announce that I have been named one of Miami’s 50 Savviest Singles by the Miami New Times. I feel incredibly honored to have been nominated by a peer of mine for this award and hope that I can continue to contribute to my community. I live for this city, as many of you might already know, and genuinely always have my community’s best interests in mind. It's motivating to see my name appear alongside doctors, lawyers, and other established individuals in the Miami business community, considering that I have yet to graduate from the University of Florida.

I’d like to personally thank Maria A.K.A. Manola Blablablahnik of Sex and the Beach fame, who nominated me for the award. Having met Maria only once, she determined that my dedication to my site and my community involvement merited a nomination. Thank You.

To see the article/photograph and other 49 Savviest Singles, please pick up today’s edition of the Miami New Times. There will also be a celebration of sorts next Thursday at Bricks in Miami from 7-10 pm which I likely will be attending. Tickets, I believe, are $60 and proceeds go to the Hope Center in Miami. I also uploaded the article here and reprinted the bio below for those curious readers who live outside the state. It’s the first time I mention anything so personal on the site, enjoy.

Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal, 21, was born and raised in Miami, Florida. He is currently studying Transportation Engineering at The University of Florida, but, still manages to remain active in the Greater Miami region. He is the creator and author of TransitMiami.com, a local website dedicated to discussing the transportation and urban planning problems that face our region. He uses the site to inform fellow citizens about the developments happening in their area, while offering his professional suggestions in an open forum discussion. He is also an active member in the United Citizens for South Link, a political action committee dedicated to educating citizens about the advantages of public transportation in the South Dade region. In his spare time, Gabriel attends public seminars to address the upcoming public transit projects of the people’s transportation plan and is working with researchers to create a new method for analyzing congestion along Florida’s highways.

11/1/06

Ryder/Arza/Shoma Homes, Recipe for a Doral Disaster

I just came across an old article in the Miami New Times, which discusses one of my most despised developments in Miami; the Ryder Systems Headquarters off of the turnpike expressway, on the edge of the everglades and civilization. I despise this project not only because of its location but because of what it is home to. The fact that one of the largest companies in the area and the nation would choose this site as its corporate headquarters is sickening. Its shows how little Ryder systems is concerned about Miami and how fickle its intentions to contribute positively to the urban fabric of our city really are.

It appears, much to my suspicions, that some sort of fishy land deal occurred, which allowed Ryder to sell their Doral digs and move west. The involved parties include no other than our own racial slurring state representative Ralphy Arza, as well as Shoma Homes Employees. The original plan was to develop the Ryder 45 acre parcel into, well, what would you know; a “Town Center” styled development. On top of being a complete load of BS, the development was slated to be “pedestrian friendly.” I guess these guys planned on attracting many of the pedestrians which walk from parking lot to parking lot in Doral.

Even more sickening is the way Masoud Shojaee, president of Shoma Development Corp., was able to pay off Ralph Arza $20,000 up front and an additional $30,000 once the zoning change was complete. So, now not only is Arza a racial slurring, voice mail leaving dirty politician, but, apparently his services can be purchased to influence the way our city is redeveloped. I propose we overturn the zoning changes and tear down the buildings which continue to push the development boundary westwards…

Bye, Bye, Ralph…

US Flight Patterns


Ever wonder what the thousands of flights which take place daily over the American skies look like digitally? Aaron Koblin, of UCLA, using some digital media and statistics from the FAA, was able to recreate a time-lapse sort of digital video of all the flights which take place in the United States daily. Combined with some nifty music and color coded flight paths, it makes one of the most interesting studies to watch…

Click Here for Video…

Via An Affair with Urban Policy…

Welcome BOB:Miami

I've come across another site dedicated to the reurbanization of Miami; Boom or Bust: Miami. Here is the website's description, taken straight from their page:
Here you can find all sorts of information relating to Miami’s historic urban transformation. When the word “historic” is used here, it is done so with utmost care and concern for what is factual. Miami’s developers, projects, architects, and neighboorhoods are all spotlighted, and issues such as transportation, culture, and the local economy are addressed in full. The goal is to seperate speculation from fact so that the big picture of Miami’s growth can unravel. Maps and illustrations provide a big picture analysis. Select the “Articles” option in the Categories listing for all BOB: Miami articles. The “Pieces to the Puzzle” category showcases Miami’s transforming urban neighborhoods. The rest of the categories are self explanatory. Uncover the truth behind Miami’s urban transformation, here. Enjoy!

Welcome to the Blog Community BOB:Miami, the reshaping of our city is a momentous and often arduous subject to follow. Another voice on some of the most important happenings in our community is definitely welcomed by Transit Miami


10/31/06

Plan to Fail or Fail to Plan? Who Decides?

Commuter trains in Kendall? The tri-rail of the South can and should be a reality, if you ask me. But, gathering support for such an easy solution to the congestion in southern Dade may prove to be more challenging than just retrofitting some old cargo tracks for passenger DMUs. A potential firefight will likely evolve, as residents living along the corridor fight to keep the tracks in their backyards as underutilized as possible to benefit their pocketbooks.

As this saga begins to unfold, a reoccurring question keeps arising: At what point does community involvement in planning become a limiting factor for the benefits said project can deliver to the community? Or in laymen terms, how much community involvement is too much? We’ve seen it countless times; Baylink, West Corridor meetings in Sweetwater, Miami streetcar, etc. The list goes on and on. Countless projects cease to provide benefits to a majority of the population for the sake of pleasing a few. Who will finally step up and lead transportation initiatives in the right direction? MDT has proven to be ineffective in pushing projects into the community (evidence: Baylink, which was despised initially by Miami Beach residents, although this project would have likely improved the county’s transit system the greatest economically and in passenger figures.) Local politicians are too feeble to take a politically incorrect stance which could hurt their reelection bids (Metrorail, west corridor, Transit Oriented Development in the Grove and Pinecrest.)

Going back to what seems like the impending argument against a southern extension of tri-rail; why should homeowners along the railroad tracks have the right to deny a greater portion of the population an easier logical route for public transit? The tracks were likely there before anyone moved into the area, heck, the FEC corridor has existed as longer than any municipalities have, did it not occur that these tracks might be used once again? Will property values decrease? Well, perhaps, but probably not as much as if we continue to build westward, without accounting for public transit needs.

The problems lie in one of my main underlying causes: lack of vision. MDT doesn’t know where we’re headed. City planning is inexistent. Politicians could care less. Development runs rampant. Chaos ensues. There isn’t a uniform plan on how to redevelop the county. There isn’t a plan to reduce congestion. And there certainly isn’t a plan to control our county’s growth, just a mobilized and politically connected group of developers, eager to continue adding to the mess which initially placed single family developments alongside a rail corridor…

10/30/06

Life on MDT



Today, The Miami Herald chronicles the daily life of Luis Lopez Flores, a Peruvian Immigrant in
Miami who relies on public transportation to get from his north-Miami Beach residence to class in downtown, work in western Dade, and back home again. It’s a touching story about the struggles this man has to endure on a daily basis just to get around town. His cross-county trips often take upwards of one and half hours, with many bus transfers, walks through seedy neighborhoods, and a great deal of patience when relying on public transit in Miami-Dade county. The story highlights not only the personal struggles of this hardworking individual, but also the inefficiency of the Miami-Dade transit system. It’s well worth the read...

Image From Iseeantwan's Flickr...

10/27/06

Golden Glades Toll Redesigned



I found the images above on a Forum which I frequent, they were originally posted there by Rx727sfl2002. They are planned views of what the new Golden Glades interchange toll plaza may soon look like. I believe they are the work of Arquitectonica...


10/26/06

Only In Miami




''Some people got angry and just walked back to the station..."



What Ridiculous behavior. I can't recall the last time I was riding on public transit in another city where a power outage occured and people ventured out into the subway tunnel (past the electrified third rails) and walked to their destination...

Quote and Image from The Miami Herald

Snazzy Gas Part II

For those of you who visited the site yesterday and were taken back to April 2006, I apologize on behalf of the terrible blogging software that I use. I also apologize for the sporadic posts this week; I have a ton of information to pass on to you all but have been out of commission due to some stupid cold that has been going around recently.

I recently received a digital telegram from a very loyal reader, Erin, in Washington D.C. in response to the Snazzy Gas article and comments. In any case, I think her reply will better inform us about where our gas comes from and will probably stir up some interesting conversation:

Hi Gabriel,

I work for Edelman and do online public relations for Shell, and I recently came across your post “Snazzy Gas” at the Transit Miami blog. I applaud your interest in testing a variety of fuels for better gas mileage - it’s certainly a worthwhile experiment.

I’m just writing to clarify a point made by one of your readers in a comment. Dave remarked about gas stations essentially offering all consumers the same product. I understand where Dave’s thinking comes from, but the reality is that all gasoline is not the same.

Here are the basics on “why”: Gasoline that comes out of the fuel dispenser at a service station is composed of two primary components - the base fuel and the additive. While the base fuel may be similar between two or more brands, the additive - in Shell’s case, a proprietary formula -- may be different for each brand.

While all gasolines contain minimum levels of detergents as required by government standards, several companies - like Shell - use additives that feature higher levels of cleaning agents which help prevent harmful deposits from forming on critical engine parts. (More info at Shell’s website:
www.shell.com/us/vpower)

Also, if you’d like to know more about high detergency, better quality fuels, check out Top Tier Detergent Gasolines:
http://www.toptiergas.com/

At any rate, I hope that information is helpful. Feel free to let me know if you have any more questions!

Best,
Erin