Currently viewing the tag: "Urban Planning"
As if the Marlins’ Stadium conundrum couldn’t get any more ludicrous, a few articles appeared in the Miami Today adding multiple new dimensions to the problems at hand. Where should I begin? As you may recall, the Marlins last week asserted their position that a downtown facility would be ideal; it would give the team the greatest chance of success in Miami and would make sense from an urban planning perspective given that it would be easily connected to metrorail, tri-rail, I-95, and the downtown businesses. It appears that our most asinine commissioner, Natacha Seijas, known for such wonderful remarks as: “I don’t see why we need to be creating an environment so they can continue…” when speaking about protecting manatees or “Today is the day that you might just leave here in a body bag if you keep it up…” which she remarked at a county Commission meeting, is once again the forerunner to speak out against the Marlins’ latest statements (Click here for a video of Seijas.) Here is what the Miami Today reported:
SELF-INFLICTED BEANBALL: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Natacha Seijas says the Florida Marlins hardly helped themselves over the weekend with their insistence that the team’s stadium be built downtown on a site designated for the county’s new juvenile-justice center. The team’s comments were a “completely and absolutely offensive” brushback of the county’s children, Ms. Seijas said Tuesday during a meeting of the commission’s Governmental Affairs and Operations committee. “The Marlins need to be more respectful when interviewed on TV. They need to be more respectful of the children’s courthouse.”

Ok, so Natacha Seijas has no clue what she’s talking about, right? Big Deal? Well, yes it is a big deal because she’s one of our Fab 13 who will be deciding where we will one day place the stadium in question. Given her take on the manatee, I’m sure she’d have no qualms with paving over everglades to accommodate anything…

In any case, like I mentioned above the stadium issue has gotten more complex. Now Michael Cannon, a “real-estate researcher” whatever that is, is declaring that the new Marlins’ stadium should be constructed on the Melreese Golf Course property. Sure, it would be next to the Miami Intermodal center, but, why complicate that project any further, FDOT has been constructing it since the late 90’s and we’ve yet to see any considerable progress. The Marlins’ stadium belongs in the city center which a new MLB drawing will soon depict, according to Miami Today:

COMING SOON: Major League Baseball is preparing a schematic of a stadium as it would appear in the proposed downtown location. “As soon as they have something formalized, they’ll bring it to us,” Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Joe Martinez said in a committee meeting Tuesday. The Florida Marlins want a retractable-roof ballpark with 37,000 seats and 60 suites to be built on nine acres of county- and city-owned land just north of the county government center north of Northwest Second Street, east of Interstate 95 and west of Metrorail. Commissioners have been reluctant to give full backing of the downtown location. “I know there are not seven votes here for this site,” Mr. Martinez said at a Tuesday meeting of the Government Affairs and Operations Committee. The favored plan is to replace the Orange Bowl with a ballpark.

Things can’t possibly get any worse, right? Try again. Plans also resurfaced at a recent commission meeting by Jose “Pepe” Diaz to analyze a “Bayfront” park idea. That’s Bayfront as in Bicentennial Park, the same park slated to for the new home of the MAM and Museum of Science, apparently chop liver and easily moved to sites elsewhere…Apparently it doesn’t matter if MAM has already contracted Herzog and DeMuron to design their new complex. The Millions spent thus far on plans to recreate Bicentennial into Museum Park also seem to be dispensable, after all, its only taxpayer money and there seems to be a never ending supply of it, why not keep wasting it? The Bayfront idea will never fly. We voted to create bonds to establish a cultural icon on the site, not another waterfront sports venue.

BACK TO THE BAY: Some formerly favored sites for a stadium haven’t been discarded, county commissioners say. Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz said he has asked County Manager George Burgess to give further study to putting the ballpark on the Biscayne Bay front. “I’ve asked him to look at it,” Mr. Diaz said, though he said he doubts a bayfront site is viable. The 29-acre Bicentennial Park, designated for a pair of museums, got a passing mention Tuesday. “If the city somehow has a change of mind, then that location would be back on the table,” Mr. Diaz said. Also back on the table, he said, would be the problem of parking. That’s been a major challenge for the bayfront Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, he said, and would be an even bigger one for planners of a ballpark on the bay.

Parking not the issue, not building any parking to along with the Carnival Center is the problem, which was under development since the 80’s…That’s the problem. Museum Park should feature underground parking, beneath the museum structure, with enough parking for some, but not all of the Museum Park visitors. The point is to provide some parking and some public transit, but just little enough to price people into not driving…

What is so incredibly difficult about agreeing on a single location for the Marlins’ stadium? Why can’t the Commission show some solidarity? One is discussing the orange bowl site while another asks for research on the Bayfront site and I’m sure someone else is still fixated on the Hialeah plan. There may very well be 13 different plans on 13 different sites floating around the Commission chambers. Heck, they’re not even sure of why it shouldn’t go in downtown. It’s amazing how hypocritical they are, somehow the Children’s courthouse poses as an insurmountable obstacle to placing the stadium downtown, but yet the two iconic museums and parks can be easily relocated elsewhere…Go figure!

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Vienna is a grand city, far more grandiose than most European Capitals due to its’ rich history with the Babenburg and then the Hapsburg family dynasties. Just walking around, the city exudes wealth, through its opulent architecture, gold-leafed trimming, and excessive sculpture. The Hapsburgs were rather generous with the citizens they presided over, as far as royalty goes, anyhow. Toward the end of their reign, they opened several parks for public use, constructed two massive museums, and dotted the city with various other cultural institutions. Seeing that Miami has recently concluded the construction of our opera house and is set to begin construction on two bayside museums, I believe we can and should look for the guidance of cities such as Vienna when establishing our new cultural havens. Noting that Miami completely lacks the history and wealth of the Austrian Capital, I think there are some interesting aspects which will broaden our horizons before we plan and design…

There isn’t much I can say about the Carnival Center, seeing that it is already built. I’ve walked through the area a couple of times and although the plaza and structure are pleasant, the surroundings are rather inhospitable; hopefully with some time the area might mature a little. The Vienna Opera House is situated at the end of the premier pedestrian thoroughfare in Vienna, which links it and the ring, with the center of Vienna and the Hofburg Imperial Palace. When walking by the Vienna State Opera House for the final time on our last night, I noticed an interesting element which caught my eye:

See it? I hope you do. Someone had the sense to retrofit the structure (built in the 1860’s) with parking. Genius. This brought about a small bout of laughter, as you would imagine, when I conjured images of the Carnival Center debacle I would be returning to the very next day. The interesting thing I later noted is that this was perhaps the only parking garage I saw anywhere near the city center. We seem to have done the opposite…

When approaching the Museums Quarter (Museumsquartier) I couldn’t help but think of endless possibilities for Bicentennial Park. Now, I know I am not an architecture critic, nor do I try to be, but the idea of a classical structure dotting our shoreline as either of the two Museum Park buildings bodes very well for me. I said it once to an art student, whose look should have silenced my architecture thoughts for eternity, but I actually think a modern Art structure juxtapositioned with a classical Museum of Science would add a great deal of depth to Miami’s architecture.

Back to my point. Standing between these hulking museums was impressive. I mean, here I was standing in awe of a couple of landlocked museums, just hoping that our new museums with the beautiful bay and beach backdrop could be just even one fifth as stimulating. Is it too much to ask for? We have the opportunity to showcase our architectural cultural talent to the world, quite literally, seeing that these museums will serve as the focal point of nearly every cruise passenger which departs from our harbor. And think, Miami, not Miami Beach, could perhaps for once be hailed for its beautiful waterfront architecture, luring boarding cruise passengers to extend their stay. We severely dropped the ball with the MCM, opting instead for a geometric display of retardation on Watson Island. Between the two museums stood a massive statue dedicated to Maria Theresia, it’s a rarity in Miami to find any recollection of our local history, let alone national history. Perhaps a statue of FDR would be fitting, considering he was nearly assassinated in nearby Bayfront Park…Just a thought…

Throughout all of my travels, I have always taken the time to compare the city I am visiting with my home town. I often think that Miami would be a much better city if we would just stop, think, and look around before coming up with decisions which will forever alter our urban landscape. We’ve had plenty of opportunities pass us by with failed or improperly managed projects: Metrorail, Miami Arena, Miami Marine Stadium, Miami Seaquarium, Orange Bowl, MIA, CCPA, etc. Plenty of chances to make our city just as marvelous to visit as say Paris, Chicago, or even ViennaWe’re number one right now in hotel occupancy and hotel rates nationally, but imagine how much more we can do to attract visitors to sites other than our shore…

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Ever get that feeling that your elected official is completely out of touch with your district, your city, or even our everyday surroundings? I do, and I have some irrefutable evidence to support my claims. I’ve had a hunch for sometime that our commissioners are the type of people who drive to work daily from sprawl-land in their cushy vehicles to government center. As we all know from their objections against the downtown Marlins’ Stadium venue, they have the reserved privilege of parking on a nearby surface parking lot (I honestly wouldn’t see that as privilege but more of a hassle.) I get the feeling they don’t ride metrorail much (even though the “central station” is right at their doorstep) and don’t wander out for lunch, at least not on foot. An article in last week’s Miami Today confirmed my suspicions; a rare moment in Miami history occurred when Commissioner Joe Sanchez went for a walkThrough downtown Alone… Ha, ha! Just Kidding about the last one, this was an all out publicity blitz

“It was very important for us to go out, talk to merchants, find out what’s going on downtown,” said Miami Commissioner Joe Sanchez, chairman of the DDA. “When you’re up on the 29th floor, you don’t see what’s happening in the streets. You don’t see the cracks in the sidewalks, you don’t see the lights out on a streetlight.”

You also can’t see much if your eyes are closed, but I thought that too was common sense… I’m sorry, but is anyone else taken aback by the fact that commissioners likely haven’t walked around our downtown (barring special occasions such as these,) taken a ride in anything other than a private car, or heck, been at least somewhat conscious of the decay that has blighted the CBD, Parkwest, and Overtown neighborhoods for the better part of the last few decades? Taking a stroll along Flagler seems to me like the best place to start before making any decisions to spend our $10 Million on “streetscape enhancements” or voting to make the thoroughfare more pedestrian friendly by switching it to a two-way street…

While he and authority officials were quick to note Flagler Street’s potted and hanging plants and the uniformed maintenance crew pressure-cleaning the sidewalk [Strategically Placed, I presume], Mr. Sanchez did not hesitate to gesture to graffiti, unleveled sewer covers and stagnant water in the streets.

What’s he going to do, ignore it? Given the media circumstances I’m surprised he didn’t call over Sherwin Williams…

“These are the things we don’t see from an office or a board meeting,” he said. “People want beautification, people want cleanup. That’s what the people deserve.”

To attract more upscale retailers, vital in elevating the status of downtown, “we need to look perfect,” he said. “We need to look sharp.” Marketing is also crucial, he said. “The DDA needs to help get these tenants. Let’s romance it. Bring out all the guns. When they come, seven other merchants come.” Improving the landmark Macy’s store would be a start, Mr. Alonso said. “I think we need to persuade Macy’s to invest $10 million to $20 million and refurbish their store.”

We need to look like any other city outside of the “developing world?” Macy’s has played a great hand thus far, we know they’re bluffing but we still need to come to the realization that a large sum of money needs to be invested in this area. The downtown retail industry should be giving ole Simon a run for its money. The city has the ultimate “lifestyle center” at its fingertips; hey, it could actually emulate real life elsewhere by becoming an actual city center. Who knows? Bob has some thoughts…

Also in the works are plans to improve area transportation. Because bus service on Flagler Street was eliminated when it became two-way, the county will offer a new shuttle bus on Flagler Street beginning May 21 that will connect to Metrorail, the Port of Miami and Bayside, said Bob Pearsall, manager of service planning for Miami-Dade County Transit.
That kind of convenience along with cleanliness and safety will revitalize downtown, Mr. Sanchez said.

You remember that plan to make the area more pedestrian friendly and was endorsed by the same people who later complain about downtown congestion? Well had they known that the conversion to a two-way facility would actually inhibit traffic flow and make congestion worse I think the vote would have come out a little bit different- In any case, I’m not complaining…

“The whole downtown experience, the whole success for downtown, is people need to feel safe, keep coming back,” he said. “They need to have a pleasant experience.”

Pure genius. And all this time we were thinking that allowing homeless individuals to run amuck with our downtown was the right way to go…What were we thinking?

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One of our dedicated readers, Carolyn, informed me of an interesting lecture coming up in Miami:
The U.S. Green Building Council South Florida Chapter and University of Miami School of Architecture present:

MARCH 21
MIAMI STREET CAR UPDATE
7 pm. Refreshments at 6:30 pm, Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center Stanley and Jewell Glasgow Lecture Hall, Dickinson Drive, University of Miami, Coral Gables Campus. and open to the public.

Mary Conway, P.E., Chief of Operations, City of Miami

In recent years, the City of Miami has seen an unprecedented wave of urban infill and redevelopment in a compressed downtown core area, and in adjacent neighborhoods. Miami Streetcar Project has emerged as one essential component of a transportation network that will entice Miami motorists out of their cars, into convenient mass transit, and onto city (and County) streets. Miami Streetcar Project is a direct response to the challenge to provide improved mobility options for users of the transportation network throughout the downtown core. This presentation provides an update on the Miami Streetcar Project, and an overview of the roles that streetcar systems play in shaping cities, by fostering pedestrian-friendly urban environments, and re-invigorated downtowns across the United States. This affordable mode of mass transit is emerging as an increasingly popular application, because of its cost-effective and time-efficient construction, its financial affordability, and its ready adaptability to active pedestrian-focused environments. City of Miami has responded to the local mobility challenge by pursuing multi-agency partnerships and innovative project delivery methods to build the single transit investment that could make a profound difference in re-shaping downtown Miami, in record time.

Mary H. Conway, P.E., currently serves as the Chief of Operations for the City of Miami and is a prominent Civil Engineer and Project Manager with more than 18 years of experience in the industry. studied briefly at Harvard University and the United States Naval Academy before earning a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Miami. was the recipient of the “Most Outstanding Civil Engineering Graduate” award from University of Miami as well as a member of Tau Beta Pi and Chi Epsilon, engineering honor societies. Prior to joining the City, Mary worked with the Florida Department of Transportation for over 10 years, where she oversaw major transportation projects in Miami-Dade County as well Broward to Indian River Counties. She also worked with FPL as a service planner and Beiswenger, Hoch and Associates as a production and project manager. served as Director for the City of Miami Capital Improvements and Transportation (CIT) Department for approximately two years. Mary’s hard work and results were recognized and she was promoted to Chief of Operations and is now responsible for overseeing the following Departments: Parks and Recreation, Solid Waste, General Services Administration (GSA), Public Works and CIT. Mary has also continued her involvement with CIT,responsible for overseeing the planning, coordination,implementation and monitoring of all construction related capital projects and transportation projects in the City of Miami. projects include street infrastructure and flood mitigation; park improvements; public facilities including fire stations, police and other city buildings; marinas; the Orange Bowl; and a state of the art urban streetcar transit circulator project. City’s current Capital Improvement and Multi-year plan encompasses over 1100 projects valued at over $675,000,000 through the year 2010 and will certainly increase as Miami continues to grow. experience, professionalism, dedication and drive have earned her the respect of her peers in the City, with other government agencies and within the engineering community at large.

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Alright, I couldn’t allow such a monumental city resolution to pass by unnoticed any longer. The city commissioners of Hialeah should be commended (yeah, I never thought I’d say that either) for their recent decision to reurbanize and re-zone five key districts, incorporating denser mixed-use development while keeping in line with better urban design principles. The plan calls for the establishment of five key business districts which would require mixed-use buildings (commercial on the ground floor with residential above) in higher density format and up to 7 stories in height. I have not been able to dig up any more information on the plan to find out if greenspace, parking, transit, sidewalks, building heights, etc. will be incorporated into the plan. The city website (mainly in Spanish) hasn’t been updated since September 2006 and the Herald article digressed to cover some of the more amusing aspects of politics in Hialeah:

Business owner Robert Morell called for Spanish-speaking residents to learn English — and was booed by the crowd.

”I am a little bit appalled because if you travel to any other city it looks like they’re going into the future. Some of us still want to live in the past,” Morell said. “I speak Spanish, even though my whole family is American. I don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t learn the [English] language.”

Tomas Martinez, a regular at council meetings, where he addresses members in Spanish, approached Morell as he left the podium and an argument ensued.

As the men stared each other down, Robaina and City Council President Esteban ”Steve” Bovo threatened ejection from the meeting or arrest for anyone causing a major disturbance.

Ignoring Morell’s suggestion, resident Randy Carter said he would address the council in Spanish.

”I am going to speak in Spanish because when you do your political campaigns you do them in Spanish,” Carter told council members in Spanish.

Members of the audience laughed and applauded.

Despite the fact that this plan is perhaps the best thing that could happen to the zonal mess of Hialeah (this city must have invented spot zoning and strip malls while completely ignoring any sane citywide development plan,) many residents attended the meeting last week to protest the decision:

Some residents said they feared being displaced from their trailer homes or that historic landmarks would be dwarfed by seven-story buildings.

I find it amusing that the largely Cuban audience (who typically spends time lamenting over how great a city Havana was) would try to defeat a plan which could potentially bring some of Old Havana’s urban planning charm (by charm I clearly mean the old Spanish, walkable, non-autocentric, dense, ground floor commercial with residences above, covered walkways, etc.) to the city of Hialeah… Like the photo above/below, minus the decay of the past sixty years…

Some of you may have read about the recent debacle caused by the FDOT and Biscayne Boulevard preservationists over the removal of nearly all of the Royal Palms along the streetscape. Here’s the abridged version of the recent events:
  • FDOT planned to remove most of the palms on Biscayne Boulevard to replace them with shade trees such as Oaks, in order to enhance the pedestrian experience along the boulevard and to improve “safety” along the corridor in a new ROW acquisition.
  • The FDOT plan was met by stiff activist resistance, opposing the removal of any trees and opposing the plans by the FDOT.
  • To date, 135 palms have been removed, approximately 2/3 of the palms along the corridor which were planted over 80 years ago to commemorate the Veterans of all Wars.
  • Trees continued to fall, as recently as February 6.
  • On February 7th, the FDOT agreed to stop further destruction of the Royal palms, claiming that the trees removed the day before were either sick or part of the ROW acquisition.
  • Today, after the lobbying of Commissioner Sarnoff and Mary Conway, the FDOT has finally agreed to end the destruction. The Biscayne Boulevard corridor will now feature much more foliage than had been previously planned, including more Royal Palms and various other shade trees.

It’s difficult to swallow the “pedestrian enhancement” bull the FDOT is throwing at us when the trees are being removed to further enhance the traffic flow along the corridor. As the herald article noted, Miami’s tree canopy is an abysmal 10% (compared to 30-40% in other denser, pedestrian-minded cities) and yet, the solution to improve our tree canopy dysfunction involved the removal of existing trees. I guess we’re trying to maintain it at 10%, rather than improve upon it.

The bigger picture I’d like to point out is while one local agency works to make our streets more pedestrian friendly, our city commission is out approving a monstrous structure with 1,700 parking spaces in the immediate area. Note above: the pedestrian friendly streets of yesteryear featured not only pedestrian friendly foliage but streetcars as well. The approval of 2222 Biscayne is a dark reminder of how far we still have to go to improve the urban culture of our city. Any structure on an existing or planned public transit route should feature far less parking than the city code currently calls for and certainly far less than the 1 space/250 square feet offered by this eyesore…

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

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

More info on the vehicle maker, Sumitomo Corp

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

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

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

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

Wrong!

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

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

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

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

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

All is silent over at CGG

Perhaps Miami should look north for some answers on how to regulate our urban sprawl. Central Florida community leaders are presenting 4 alternatives on the future growth patterns the area can choose to take for regional developments and are allowing area residents to choose which path the region should take from now till 2050. I think its exceptional thinking on the part of city planners to choose a plan of action for regional growth over the next 40 years while educating the public on the negative effects sprawl will have on their community if the corrective measures aren’t taken. The report is inclusive of urban growth and development patterns, environmental land conservation, area job opportunities, and public transportation. The plan proposes three better urban growth alternatives along with the typical “do-nothing” alternative which would continue the treacherous path of disruptive land use. Needless to say, the citizens are speaking out and are overwhelmingly deciding that the “do-nothing” alternative is not a reasonable plan of action and are instead opting to see denser, smarter developments in their community. Interestingly enough, the seemingly controversial streetcar is included in denser growth patterns, as is extended commuter rail and alternative transit (bike, bus, etc.)

Our region is in dire need of an area wide policy against current land usage patterns. Our neighbors to the north have realized this, why can’t we?

I found this on the myregion.org website, which has a wealth of information. One of their desired outcomes is something I have had a great deal of difficulty achieving with Miami residents since I started Transit Miami nearly a year ago:

Our Desired Outcomes:

  • Build a new regional mentality
  • Strengthen and create regional coalitions
  • Maximize opportunities and address challenges

Changing people’s minds will be the hardest objective for any visionary plan in this Country. The already disillusioned “American Dream” has morphed into an uncanny desire to lay claim to large tracts of land, repeatedly misuse resources, and generally live in an unsustainable manner. To attempt a reversal of this mindset would require a figurative amending of the constitution as well as widespread progressive leadership to reverse the suburbanization of American Culture witnessed over the prior six decades…

  • Heck, they even address the fragmentation which has occurred in the region…
  • Check out who is on board

The Miami Streetcar isn’t a screwy idea created by corrupt Miami politicians to further cushion the pockets of area developers as some of our community activists and commissioners would like to believe. The Miami Streetcar can and will provide many intangible benefits to the city and all residents. I think it’s well worth reprinting today’s opinion by the Miami Herald here on the subject:


Take the trolleys to avoid gridlock

OUR OPINION: MIAMI TRANSIT PROJECT SORELY IN NEED OF LEADERSHIP

If there is any hope of avoiding downtown gridlock, it will depend on Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and the City Commission leading the charge for improving the plan for, and then building, the proposed trolley system once championed by former City Commissioner Johnny Winton. Since Mr. Winton’s suspension after a drunken fracas with police, the trolley plan has become a City Hall orphan. The city could finance half of the $200 million construction cost with state dollars, but only if the mayor and commissioners soon show state officials that they are committed to relieving congestion in and around downtown.

Hook up to Metrorail

The 10-mile trolley system’s two routes would carry riders to museums, the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts and the office core. The routes would circulate between downtown and the Design District and from Wynwood to the edge of the Jackson Memorial Hospital Medical District. Therein lies one of the problems. The westward route stops far short of the Metrorail station at the Civic Center. In fact, under the current plan, the trolley would link up with only one Metrorail station — Government Center. That isn’t sensible. While the plan includes circulator buses to feed the trolley, hookups with Metrorail and the planned Baylink to Miami Beach are necessary to effectively integrate Miami-Dade County‘s mass transit systems in the future.

Tracks for the trolley would be built at grade level, meaning the project could be completed much sooner than elevated rail systems. Cars would be powered by overhead electric lines. If the city approves the project now, trolleys could be carrying riders by 2011.

Some critics complain about the cost. But the city has funding sources, including proceeds from the countywide half-cent sales tax for mass transit. The city already has invested $5 million in an environmental study, engineering and survey work, and ridership studies showing that more people are willing to ride trolleys than buses.

Take the long view

Probably the riskiest aspect is that the city would hire a private vendor to build, maintain and operate the system. Such public-private ventures are common in Europe and only beginning to catch on in the United States. The city would pay the vendor $8 million annually for operations and upkeep. Structured properly, the joint agreement would include incentives that would encourage the builder to avoid cost overruns and delays that hamper many public projects.

Elected officials sometimes focus too much on short-term issues that can be completed during their time in office.

Taking the long view doesn’t always bring quick political benefits. But 2011 — the projected finish date — is not so far off. The choice is trolleys or gridlock. The time to decide is now.

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


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

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

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

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

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

MIC “Progress”


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.

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…

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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…

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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.

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