Alrighty folks, I think I’ve started to crack the Miami-Dade County Commission’s playbook for planning and it’s not pretty; looks like the Dolphin’s offense, running in 20 different directions and effectively getting us nowhere. The best choreographed transportation network couldn’t support the kind of cross county movement commuters will likely be doing once 600,000 square foot office compounds are completed on the western fringes of the county (keep in mind the recently approved Kendall project is one of many, others are “planned” further north along the turnpike around Doral.) It appears that our makeshift planners on the commission (in addition to believing that bridges over avenues in sprawl ridden neighborhoods will alleviate traffic congestion) are deciding to essentially sandwich residential development between two opposite commercial “hubs”, one vertical and on the coast, the other sprawled out and mosquito ridden over former wetlands in the west.

It’s interesting to see such a dramatic commercial development juxtaposition occur within such a confined region. While the equivalent of 3 600,000 square foot, LEED certified office skyscrapers (Met 2, 600 Brickell, and 1450 Brickell) rise in our transit accessible downtown core, our commissioners believe it is sound planning to offset them with at least 1 sprawling complex.

West Kendall Baptist Hospital plans…

What irks me most is the marketing ploy to promote the Kendall complex as a commercial center. Central to who exactly when it’s located on Kendall and 167th is beyond me, but I’m assuming that pretty soon the commute from Naples will be quicker than from within some other parts of the county.

Martinez fought for the plan — arguing that developer David Brown promised to build a long-sought road connecting Kendall Drive to a nearby residential complex. It was a job, Martinez said, that the county couldn’t complete.

Sorenson took exception: “Should we make policy decisions based on what developers are going to do for us? Seems to me we ought to be making the policy.”

Forget what is in the best interests of Citizens let’s fight for developer’s rights to exploit our land, water, and natural resources to make a quick buck!

West Kendall Center will likely resemble this aerial from a complex in Birmingham. You can spot the telltale signs of sprawl easily. 1) Squat, warehouse-like buildings covering near acres of land each. 2) Enough surrounding surface parking to accommodate the one day of the year where parking might become an issue. 3) Like a tree, all branches of the sprawl connect to one main arterial road, forcing all visitors to the “mixed use” development to enter and exit through this one opening. 4) A highway nearby (bottom right) to accommodate the hordes of vehicles coming off from the already clogged arterials roads. 5) Trees are confined to medians not sidewalks because the sidewalks (if they exist) won’t be used anyway.

Obviously, Lowes is a good fit for the Sprawl environment with its massive horizontal structure and acres of parking…

The Lowe’s vote commanded the most attention. Twice since 2003 representatives of the home improvement giant have tried to convince commissioners to let them build outside the UDB; both times they were denied.

Tuesday they cracked through — even as dozens of people lined up to speak against the plan to build on 52 acres at Southwest Eighth Street and 137th Avenue.

Said Julie Hill: “Further sprawl will exacerbate climate change in South Florida.”

Added John Wade: “We should have a water recycling program working before there’s any attempt to move the UDB.”

But Humberto Sanchez, who lives about 25 blocks from the proposed Lowe’s site, told the story of a recent shopping venture to buy light bulbs. “It took me an incredible amount of time to buy light bulbs at Home Depot.”

Oh Boohoo…

Interesting side note: you would not believe how difficult it is to find pictures of Sprawl and suburban office complexes despite how common they are in the American Landscape. Just further proof that we keep building places that aren’t photographic, let alone even livable. Finding a decent picture of a Lowes parking lot was just as difficult because as common as they are, who the heck would want to photograph one?

MVB’s Thoughts

7 Responses to The Sprawl Gameplan: You Idle West, I’ll Ride the Rails East

  1. Steven says:

    I was just reading through the 137th avenue plans the other day and was laughing as I remembered the Kendall Link meetings where people envisioned tree lined grassy bussways going down the middle of 137th instead of an “unsightly” metrorail extension down the turnpike. Now the county is actually considering putting in overpasses (as you mentioned in the post) over several of the more major intersections to handle the traffic load before the busway option was even suggested.

    Instead of turning our streets into highways and superhighways, we should be developing our neglected downtown areas and push to improve what we already have. I just have a sneeking idea that there is some form of kickback going on behind closed doors.


  2. Verticus S. Erectus says:

    Thanks for the plug. It’s so disappointing to see the dearth in leadership here. Why not graduate, return to your hometown and run for office. I’d vote for you- once you give up your cockamamied idea about the viability of streetcars. What the heck is UF teaching you up there?


  3. JM Palacios says:

    UF is teaching some good sound transportation engineering. It’s not for nothing that we have ranked in the top ten civil engineering programs nationwide. Ironically, though, their research focus is primarily on highway engineering and less on mass transit. So they’re not putting streetcar ideas into our heads, just giving us the right principles. From there a good engineer can see that highways alone are not sufficient to solve our congestion problems. “Streetcars” (Light Rail), heavy rail (subway or elevated), and automated people movers are all good transportation alternatives that take cars off the road. Feel free to voice any reason why you think streetcars or mass transit systems are not viable and we will address it.


  4. Verticus S. Erectus says:

    I have no problem with mass transit- the more, the merrier. I have problems with streetcars. If they are part of the grid, they are part of the problem. To solve the problems of traffic in our cities, the system that works best is one that is either above the grid or below it. Subways won’t work here because of our high water table. Monorails would and should be considered a viable alternative to just about everything. Spending $200 million on a streetcar system for Miami lacks vision. We had them once- before you and even I were born- but they didn’t work then and won’t work now. I’d rather see the $200 million diverted to building a BayLink monorail between Miami and Miami Beach. BayLink right now is built around streetcars sharing limited lanes of traffic on narrow streets and in our humble opinion just won’t work. Hopefully someone with real vision will be graduating from that noteworthy UF program who will see the light- as we see it.


  5. serial catowner says:

    Nobody is arguing- and transit advocates least of all- that streetcars are a total solution in transit.

    The fact is, when you had streetcars in Miami before, they worked pretty well. They improved mobility (and urban hygiene by removing horses), paved a lot of streets (under the terms of their franchises) and helped the town (that’s what it was in those days) prosper. The streetcars did not fail, they were superseded by cars and buses, which worked better under the conditions of that time- a time which is past.

    As for spending $200 million, read Seattle’s Monorail sob story and weep. Then build a streetcar system, not as a mass transit system, but as a transit system.

    To get a little deeper into how streetcars and light rail can function as rapid transit or mass transit, check out how SF uses the Muni system as light rail, streetcar, and subway. It’s a subway on Market, the fastest way to travel 3-5 miles as light rail, and a streetcar system the further out you go.

    Considering that changing conditions left the streetcars in the dustbin, it should come as no surprise that changing conditions could bring them back.


  6. Ryan Sharp says:

    Very good analysis, catowner.

    We’re not saying that streetcars should comprise the majority of Miami’s rail transit, not at all. Streetcars fill an important niche within a multimodal transit system that most definitely includes light rail, heavy rail, and even buses.

    We’re avid supporters of BayLink, but streetcars should also play a valuable role within the future of Miami’s transit.


  7. Anonymous says:

    About photographing Lowe’s:
    It’s urbanists like you an me that photograph places like Lowe’s to bring sobering reminders of how ugly suburban sprawl is.
    I took photographs of a major suburban commercial corridor to make a study of how to turn it into a walkable, public transit-oriented, urban district. I’m still coming around to create computer renderings.


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