The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, by William Whyte, discusses principles in urban planning and human interaction that if/when applied would be revolutionary in
The short 125 page book, tackles the socioeconomic complexities of planning large, useful, urban public spaces. His analysis includes practical issues such as sitting space, atmospheric conditions, street interaction, and even food vending activity and addresses the important balance between each characteristic found in the most successful urban spaces in
Upon reading, you’ll soon come to realize the significance of such strict guidelines when designing urban spaces in
“But zoning is certainly not the ideal way to achieve the better design of spaces. It ought to be done for its own sake. For economics alone it makes sense. An enormous expenditure of design expertise, and of travertine and steel, went into the creation of the many really bum office building plazas around the country. To what end? As this manual will detail, it is far easier, simpler to create spaces that work for people than those that do not- and a tremendous difference it can make to the life of a city.”
We’ll use the principles outlined in the Social Life of Urban Spaces this month as we incorporate the message of William Whyte into many of our posts. We’ll discuss why two story parking garages behind the AA Arena on parcel B are such a terrible idea and will address the problems of some of the existing urban spaces.
Tri-Rail isn’t much of an option. It’s a pain to get from the Miami Airport Station to the Orange Bowl today. Even if Miami-Dade Transit created a straight-shot, game-day shuttle from the Tri-Rail station to the OB, how many baseball fans to the north would use it?
Metrorail will only appeal to hard-core urban dwellers. It’s a little over a mile — too far to walk for most pampered, crime-fearing locals — from the closest Metrorail stations on the north side of the river to the Orange Bowl.
Barring some unlikely seismic political changes at County Hall, no one will be trying to shift billions of transit dollars to expand Metrorail near the OB in the near future.
What about a streetcar that could shuttle fans from downtown transit hubs?
Right now, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz can’t muster a three-vote majority of commissioners to support a streetcar in downtown, Wynwood, the Design District and Allapattah — all on the opposite side of the river from the stadium.
A ballpark in downtown would be closer to I-95, Metrorail, Metromover, and a proposed light-rail system on the Florida East Coast corridor that one day could shuttle fans from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
The economics and politics might be tougher, but an accessible, pedestrian-friendly downtown stadium makes the most sense.
It’s a sad day for
What’s more, with the loss of the UM presence at the Orange Bowl, the venue will no longer serve a useful purpose since its inception in 1936. Already discussions are underway to tear down the legendary stadium and construct a new home for the Marlins. I cannot begin to explain how terrible of a location this would be for such a demanding scheduled sport such as baseball. Conveniently isolated from urban transit and existing downtown parking facilities, the new ballpark would be secluded in a predominantly residential neighborhood. Close enough to entice downtown workers to want to attend games, but just far enough from preventing them from walking down the street or hopping on the Metromover. Plans aren’t even on the drawing boards to bring reliable transit into the area anytime soon and I can imagine any further Miami Streetcar plans would be sabotaged. We’ll be left with a massive new stadium for the Marlins, accessible only by vehicle and surrounded by suburban like structures. Continuing our legacy of urban planning disasters built by politicians with no legitimate foresight…
The latest rounds of Miami 21 meetings begin tomorrow:
|Aug 2||Simpson Park||55 SW 17th Road||6pm||Coral Way|
|Aug 7||West End Park||250 SW 60th Ave.||6:30pm||Flagami|
|Aug 9||Police Benevolent Assc.||2300 NW 14th St.||6pm||Allapattah|
|Aug 15||Curtis Park||1901 NW 24th Ave.||6pm||Allapattah|
|Aug 16||Belafonte Tacolcy Center||6161 NW 9th Ave.||6pm||Model City|
|Aug 20||St. Michael||2987 West Flagler St.||6pm||West Flagler|
|Aug 21||Disabilities Center||4560 NW 4th Terr.||6pm||Flagami|
|Aug 23||Orange Bowl||1501 NW 3rd St.||6pm||Little Havana|
|Aug 27||Citrus Grove Elementary||2121 NW 5th St.||6pm||Little Havana|
|Aug 28||Frankie S. Rolle Center||3750 S. Dixie Hwy||6pm||SW Coconut Grove|
|Aug 29||Hadley Park||1350 NW 50th St.||6pm||Model City|
|Aug 30||Shenandoah Park||1800 SW 21st Ave.||6pm||Coral Way|
|Sep 4||Coral Way Elementary||1950 SW 13th Ave.||6pm||Coral Way|
|Sep 5||LaSalle High School||3601 S. Miami Ave.||6pm||NE Coconut Grove|
A local or tourist who is interested in renting a bike goes to a high-tech docking station, swipes a credit or debit card at a meter (translated into eight languages), and a bike is yours for a nominal fee. A one-day pass costs only 1 Euro ($1.38), a weekly pass 5 Euros ($6.90), and a yearly pass only 29 Euros ($40.00). There are no surcharges, taxes, or other fees, so long as the bike is returned within 30 minutes. Over 30 minutes, you would be charged an incremental “late fee”, which is designed to facilitate high turnover and ensure that bikes will be available for rent at each station. If you want to take out another bike after 30 minutes, go right ahead - for convenience, bikes can be returned to any of the docking stations, which are located an average of only 300 yards apart.
“This is about revolutionizing urban culture…for a long time cars were associated with freedom of movement and flexibility. What we want to show people is that in many ways bicycles fulfill this role much more today.”
~ Pierre Aidenbaum, Mayor of Paris’s Third District
According to the New York Times, early indications point toward success for Velib. Even before a single docking station was open, some 13,000 people had already purchased yearly subscriptions online.
Paris is definitely moving in the right direction. Bicycle-sharing on this scale is absolutely one of the most important urban planning developments to come along in sometime. There’s no reason why Miami can’t follow Paris’ lead.
In fact, I challenge the City of Miami Beach, which I believe to be the most appropriate place for bike-sharing in South Florida, to strongly consider implementing its own version of Velib. It has the density and compactness that will allow this sort of program to thrive. It would be great for tourists, who no longer would feel obliged to rent cars. It would be great for locals, whom besides benefiting directly from the service, would benefit tremendously from fewer cars and VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled) in their communities. It’s even more logical when you consider that Miami Beach lacks (unfathomably) quality transit.
Once the program manifests success on the beach, it could set a precedent for cycling/transportation policy elsewhere in Greater Miami. I mean, after all, Miami should be a national (and global) leader in cycling, given its phenomenal assets - climate and ecology.
The little improvements are nice, but it’s time to step up and create cycling initiatives that will revolutionize urban transportation in Miami and South Florida.
Photos courtesy of Le Fil’s & austinevan’s flickr accounts
So what do you all think? I’ll be working on updating the site some more over the next few weeks, but I’d like to hear what our dedicated users think of the changes. Any suggestions? Comment or send ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org…
An open letter reply to the East Kendall Homeowners Organization (EKHO):
It is disheartening to see such a motivated and presumably progressive group of individuals that comprise the East Kendall Homeowners Organization speak out so adamantly against a plan that would provide better access to most of the Kendall community. If we are to remain an economically viable community, we must embrace transit growth and the urban living that comes with it, rather than shun it with half-baked objections and trepidation towards drastic lifestyle changes.
The inability to embrace alternative forms of effective transit is disconcerting, particularly in a region currently choking on the congestion induced by its own unchecked growth and sprawl. It is typical of the mentality fostered in this particular region and has been cultivated by our addiction to the automobile. The mentality is further compounded by the opposition to the CSX corridor alternative, presented by Ed Levinson (Community Council 12) last week, which declared that transit along the corridor would only hamper vehicular traffic. This mentality will soon become our prime obstacle in creating a truly urban and sustainable metropolis.
Miami has to sever its addiction to the automobile. Public transit has failed in Miami not because a lack of effort, but because of a widespread opposition to change in community planning efforts and lifestyle changes on the part of our citizens. With regards to concerns on property value, studies conducted by the APTA (particularly in Miami) showed an “assertion that rail transit imparts value to residential property in districts where the population values the access provided by that transit service the most, regardless of the income of the district.”
A less troubling notion is that MDT continues to push costly suburban commuter rail lines, further justifying our city’s unremitting sprawl. MDT should scrap these plans to spread Metrorail across the county to citizens who obviously won’t even use it and should instead work to bring less costly Streetcars and LRT to our urban core. How can we justify suburban commuter trains when we lack the necessary mobile infrastructure in our densest regions?
It is of paramount importance that our citizens educate themselves on the benefits of proper public infrastructure and urban planning before they take up such a bold position against reasonable measures which would help steer the future growth of our community. It is with all due respect that I therefore ask the members of the East Kendall Homeowners Organization to think about what is best for the future of our community rather than themselves.
Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal
“Parking is scarce and expensive, and by many accounts, vulnerable to vandals.”
Scarce and expensive parking also confounds turnaround efforts, limiting the appeal to upscale businesses. ”Parking is a headache,” said Carlos Narvaez, who works at the Radio Shack outlet on Flagler Street. “They broke into my car twice.”
Decentralization of our city’s urban core brought upon by sprawl has lead to the demise of our (and nearly every city in the U.S.) downtown, a problem which was in part induced by our addiction to the automobile. Suburbanites fail to realize that abundant, cheap (free), and traffic free parking are not sustainable in any urban core and efforts to increase any of these would only make matters worse along the sidewalks. The article fails to note in its quest for parking solutions, that the city recently completed a streetscaping project which added valuable on street parking throughout the Flagler corridor.
The more we isolate ourselves in our own “protective” vehicular cocoons, the worse the situation will become along the already desolate streets of downtown. A proven and successful method to combat downtown crime is to improve our street use, pedestrian activity, and with that public spaces/transportation. Radio shack and all downtown employees (especially lower wage workers) should reap the financial benefits that Metrorail and Metromover offer users compared to daily vehicular use.
Things get worse when the only mention of transit includes an armed robbery incident:
Nancy Blount, a family law attorney who was walking down Flagler near the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, recalled being ”robbed at gunpoint four or five years ago” when she took Metrorail.
It was obviously a life changing experience for Nancy, she couldn’t even remember the year…It’s beside the point and contributed nothing to the quality of this article other than to reiterate a negative stance against public transit in the minds of the readers.
How can we combat the
Key Word Use:
- Business (6)
- Parking (5)
- Homeless (4)
- Traffic (2)
- Filthy (2)
- Pedestrian (1)
- Metrorail (1)
- Planning (0)
- Transit (0)
- Metromover (0)
A recent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about the city really illustrates how Vancouver operates on a different plane than most U.S. cities. Below are several excerpts and quotes from the article, which I feel illustrate my point well:
- For starters,
Vancouverresidents waged a 10-year battle to keep freeways from its urban core in the 1970s, eventually defeating a plan that would have placed a highway right through its Chinatownand adjacent its downtown waterfront.
- “We are the only North American city of any significance without an interstate at its core,” said Gordon Price, an urban affairs professor at
Simon Fraser University, who used to serve on ‘s City Council. Vancouver Vancouver’s core has become one of the most thriving urban areas in North America.
- Density has been a trademark of
’s success. “The greater the density, the better it is for transit. But density must be sensitively designed so it welcomes people at street level. ‘Once you get the street right — the first 30 feet of a building — how high you go is not important,’ Price said.” Vancouver
- “Density is good”, says Larry Beasley, former city planning director for
, who has been recognized worldwide as helping create a new urban model Vancouver
- City leaders readily admit that their
model is counter-intuitive. Vancouver
Note: We are always mentioning on TransitMiami how many aspects of smart growth, like higher densities and less parking, are very counter-intuitive.
- “We are building cities we don’t actually like,” Price said. “Everyone can drive everywhere for everything. But if it’s the only game in town, it doesn’t even work for the car.”
- However, in building a wide pedestrian and bicycle path around downtown, it created an environment free from cars.
- “There’s no better alternative to the car than walking,” Beasley said. “We have been doing everything in our power to make walking comfortable. We actually have fewer cars coming into the downtown area than we had 10 years ago.”
- The city also has invested strongly in transit, including rapid rail, commuter rail, electric buses, streetcars and ferries.
- “We like that it’s hard to get in and out of downtown (by automobiles)…We have a policy to not even expand one lane of roads coming in and out of our city.”
- One agency in Greater Vancouver — TransLink — oversees all transportation, including roads. Transportation projects and operations are largely financed through gas taxes, which total nearly $1.60 a gallon compared to 25.9 cents in
. And TransLink has total flexibility on how it can spend its money, meaning gas taxes subsidize transit and other modes of travel. Georgia
Alas, what I find very exciting is that only one agency, TransLink, oversees all transportation including roads. This allows for transportation planning to be much smoother and cohesive, especially in comparison to our terribly fragmented system with several competing entities. This also makes it much easier for planners and administrators to enhance and maintain transit. And, what I really love is that TransLink isn’t afraid to rise gasoline prices even higher through gas taxes - something unfathomable for most U.S. cities.
photo courtesy of clashmaker’s flick account
Let’s hope a true visionary is hired to fill the position, because county planning efforts have been misguided for decades. We need a leader who isn’t afraid to take risks and make unpopular decisions. We need someone who is very knowledgeable about smart growth and planning, especially with cutting edge research. We need someone who will plant the seeds for a cultural revolution here in Miami-Dade that will forever change the way we live and build cities.
This is truly a pivotal moment in our history, and it is critical that our next planning and zoning director steers Miami-Dade County along a sustainable growth paradigm that sets a generational precedent for smart growth.
I was driving west on Sunset recently and was rather pleased to see the addition of a Bike lane to a meager 2 block stretch of Sunset Dr. East of 57th Ave. Although the Bike lane isn’t considerably long, its a decent inroad to getting our local drivers and streets accustomed to sharing the right of way with alternative forms of transportation. The whole South Miami Business district should be repainted to include bike lanes. The inclusion of such alternatives would make the South Miami downtown a more pleasant place for people to navigate.Then I stumbled upon the largest eyesore the South Miami commission could have approved in the heart of its newly found business district: a parking garage. The commission foolishly bypassed the residential requirement for this mixed-use structure, meaning we’ll see one of the oddest combinations in mixed-use structures: Ground-Level Retail with a multi-story parking deck above. When walking around South Miami or Sunset Place, one is always quick to notice the amount of traffic in the area and the little amount of nearby residences. The South Miami business district would be a much more vibrant part of the city and community if some proper dense housing was finally incorporated into one of these projects. Side note: from where I took this picture, I was surrounded by empty parking lots, plenty of on-street parking, and the new HSBC parking Garage, looming in the distance were the also massive Sunset Place Parking Structure and the few hundred spaces incorporated into the whole foods market. Think getting to South Miami is difficult now? Just wait till these two projects come online…
For those of you that didn’t know, today was national boycott gas stations day, an ill-conceived plan to deal a financial blow to the oil industry for the steady increase in gas prices. Let me begin by clearly stating why this will not work:
National boycott gas stations day was a short-sighted band-aide-like attempt to solve one of our most critical national problems. I say band-aide because like many of our “solutions” if failed to adequately address the real underlying issue (like the solutions for the “property insurance crisis,” but I’ll touch on that subject at a later point), instead the boycott focused on the rising cost of oil and its effect on our economy rather than concentrating on our addiction to a limited natural resource and viable alternatives to keep our economy vibrant and people mobile.
We’re too focused on the rising cost of gas and its effect on our pocketbook to realize that we’ve dug ourselves an enormous suburban grave. Many of our neighborhoods are un-navigable to anything but vehicles, often missing sidewalks in some of the newer communities in west-Dade. Should gas prices rise sharply further beyond the affordable realm for many, the effects of our unchecked, unplanned growth will place a greater economic strain on our lives as we search for yet another quick fix to our mess…Someone better call J&J quick, because we’re going to need some more Band-aides…
MDT has gained federal approval to begin land acquisition for the next branch of the metrorail line. No, I’m not talking about the much needed east-west extension, but the north extension, rising along
I am obviously disturbed that the North extension is proceeding before the even more crucial east-west corridor is constructed. What irks me most is that MDT is spending millions of PTP money to construct yet another N-S rail link, even though the line would essentially parallel the existing Tri-Rail route. At the same time, the SFECC is working to provide a third N-S rail link, funded by the FDOT, along the FEC corridor, while the USDOT is working on a plan to add managed lanes to I-95, despite a multi million dollar unused FDOT project which sought to add a controversial yet proven Ramp Metering system. Seems unreasonable? I think so, especially when it becomes apparent that our layers of government are effectively working against each other to solve a common problem.
I hate to see things in such a grim manner, but I can’t foresee the north corridor garnering enough riders to justify its’ construction. With competing government entities working to improve existing rail and road routes, the north corridor is seemingly becoming the next white elephant of the metrorail system. On the plus side, it will connect Dolphin stadium with a direct transit source which should garner us at least 7 weekends of extensive use (twice that when UM finally heads North too.) Aside from the northern 2 stations, however, the southern five are awkwardly placed at best, running across mainly industrial and single family home neighborhoods; areas generally not geared to handle the addition of such a major transit line.
My main concern is the $800 Million we’re working to receive from the
Update: Speaking of funding issues…
Update: Fifth and Alton is being developed by the Berkowitz group in conjunction with the Potamkin Family. The project is slated to be 170,000 square feet and will contain a Staples, Best Buy, and Publix among others. The City of Miami Beach will be purchasing parking spaces from the retail center for public use at a cost of $9.5 Million. The Berkowitz group created the Dadeland Station mall in Kendall as well as the Kendall Village Shopping complex in west Kendall, which both also featured large Romero Britto sculptures…
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