Currently viewing the tag: "Florida"

It seems there is a new campaign to get the attention of Florida’s elected officials when it comes to public transportation.

IM4Transit is a campaign of the Board of the Florida Public Transportation Association to identify, recruit, and mobilize at least 100,000 pro-transit Floridians.

If you support public transportation in Florida, go to  www.im4transit.org/ and show your support.  It would be nice to have 100,000 people tell Rick Scott want more transportation options.  You can also go to Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/im4transit.

 

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The Florida state Supreme Court released its response to a lawsuit filed eariler in the week alleging Governor Rick Scott exceeded his authority in rejecting high speed rail money. The ruling states:

 The Court has reviewed the petition, response, and reply, has heard oral argument, and has considered the factual allegations and legal arguments. Based on the limited record before the Court and a review of the federal and state law relied on by the parties, the Court has determined that the petitioners have not clearly demonstrated entitlement to …. relief. Accordingly, the emergency petition is hereby denied.

Too bad.  Ray LaHood quickly responded by saying “I know that states across America are enthusiastic about receiving additional support to help bring America’s high-speed rail network to life and deliver all its economic benefits to their citizens.” No kidding.

Earlier in the day governor Rick Scott used ongoing state funding of Tri-Rail as an example of why HSR would leave the state on the hook for ongoing mantinenance of the system once built. Kudos to Politifact for calling bullshit on this one.  

If Scott were on a crusade to end public subsidies for all forms of transportation, that would be one thing. Transportation systems —including roads, buses, ports and trains — more than not require government help.

But Scott is trying to isolate the problem to trains when citing Tri-Rail’s revenue problems as a reason for nixing high-speed rail in Florida. It may be a convenient talking point, but the two systems are hardly alike. In the end, high-speed fail might fail and the projections for ridership might be too rosy. But people shouldn’t use Tri-Rail as evidence any more than they should cite any other form of mass transit. We rate this claim Barely True.

Well said.

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Two of Miami’s most priceless gems have been placed on the chopping block: the Barnacle State Historic Park and the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve.

The Barnacle was built by Ralph Munroe in the 1880s (long before the City of Miami existed, and ancient by local standards). The Commodore was a Pioneer, and much more. He was a genius in Naval Architecture. Biscayne Bay’s shallow waters shaped his thinking, and he defied the deep-draft keel-boat conventions of his era to design and build over 60 shallow-draft sailboats. Most were Sharpies with swing-keels. He literally changed the way that sailboats boats are designed world-wide, including many popular designs we take for granted today. I had the honor to help build a replica of Munroe’s Flying Proa at the Barnacle. This 30′ outrigger sailing canoe was the first multi-hull known to have sailed our Bay. It was 100 years ahead of its time, and is on display at the Barnacle today!

The house is just as unique. It was designed to draw air up from the cool limestone foundation, through the house, and out the copula. He harnessed the “lift” created by the wind to create natural air conditioning… in the 1880s! The shape that made this possible looks just like a Barnacle, hence the name.

Finally there is the Hardwood Hammock, the last remnant in an area that has been paved and built into downtown Coconut Grove. Preserved by the Commodore and his family, who donated it to the State for safekeeping, it is Nature’s last bastion, providing irreplaceable habitat and food for wildlife. The pungent funkiness of Stoppers announces that it still survives to passers-by on Main Highway. The original, much-larger property has been carved up and developed, and only a fraction remains.

The Boathouse, House and Grounds are packed with examples of how this “Miami Original” was shaped by Miami, and as a result shaped the world. Don’t allow those who don’t value Miami’s history and ecosystems to exclude you and your kids from discovering genius, and growing from the experience.

Biscayne Bay has been under assault for over a century during Miami’s development. For many decades it was a cesspool, a dumping area for raw sewage. Channels slashed its bottom, bleeding sediments that are still killing habitats. Once, Mangrove estuaries made Miami’s fishing legendary, and the waters churned with life. Many people wrote that during seasonal bait runs “it looked like you could walk on the fish”. Visitors flocked to Miami for fishing and eco-tourism. Today, marine life is a pale shadow. Sterile sea-walls have no safe-havens to grow seafood, game-fish. They also keep the Bay waters murky, contributing to the death of the remaining sea-grass beds and hiding the wonders of nature from children. These conditions drive away tourist dollars.

The Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve (BBAP) was established to protect the remaining habitats, and even heal the damage caused by greed and carelessness. Away from busy channels the shallow grasses usually manage to filter sediments, keeping the waters as gin-clear as Mother Nature intended. Manatees and fish raise young, protected by the shallows from boat propellers. Wading birds come at low tide, marching in a line across the flats to feed on slow or careless crabs, fish and shrimp.

These the amazing sea-grass beds are among Miami’s least-known treasures. Most drivers on
Rickenbacker and Julia Tuttle Causeways are oblivious, but they would only have to look north from the bridges for a glimpse of Paradise.

The BBAP serves as guardian and educator for all of Biscayne Bay that is not part of the National Park.
I grew up on Biscayne Bay. I have caught fish, and learned to skin-dive, spearfish, sail and waterski there. I wandered grass-flats, and searched mangrove forests for native orchids. Over the years I have been surrounded by sleeping Manatees, schooling Cutlassfish and mating Dolphins. If you want your children to experience these things, do not allow the BBAP to die.

These are just two of the 53 State Parks and Preserves threatened with Closure by the Florida’s new Governor. The others are just as valuable as the Barnacle and the BBAP, but it is for those who know them best to speak for them. Miami and Florida have the habit of throwing forgotten treasures under the bulldozers of development. The first stage is “Demolition by Neglect”, which is provided as “proof” that the public doesn’t care about them. This justifies their later sale or destruction. Don’t let this happen.

Stand up for what belongs to YOU and your kids. Remind your legislator, the governor, and this newspaper that you care. Do nothing, and these places that belong to every Floridian may be lost forever.

Sam Van Leer
Executive Director & Founder
Urban Paradise Guild
sam@urban-paradise.org

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Rick Scott, the businessman turned politician who is Florida’s governor-elect, is sure to bring big changes to the State’s transportation and growth management policies (and budgets). Armed with a super-majority republican State Legislature and a businessman’s anit-regulation/anti-tax instinct, Scott has made various statements indicating little support for initiatives like High Speed Rail (an issue he later went back on), and vowing to bring substantial changes to the State growth management agency, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). During the gubernatorial debates Scott commented:

You can go all across the state and developments have been killed by all the regulation, all the paperwork. In fact you have to go to three or four agencies…DCA has killed jobs all across this state. (Politifact Transcript)

Advocates and planners will have to wait and see what the governor-elect has in mind for existing Smart Growth and green transportation policies (to say nothing of his effect on environmental regulations), but the future does not look great. There is hope  that Scott will continue to soften his stance against spending any money for the first leg of High Speed Rail in Florida between Tampa and Orlando, especially given the range of support for the project from other republican leaders (and the fact that most of the funding is coming from the federal government).

On the future of HSR from Orlando to Miami, Scott can pass the buck to the feds who are ultimately responsible for the majority of the expense. The outgoing Sen. Lemieux had this to say:

We worked together to get [the first stimulus] money. I think we need to go to Miami, but it will be far more expensive (than the Tampa-Orlando route) and with our current financial crisis and pledge of no more stimulus I would not support more money. It’s not there.

Sun-Rail, Tri-Rail, the anticipated SFECC, and other State DoT funded bicycle/pedestrian transportation programs are likely to face scrutiny and drastically reduced funding unless they can show that they are ‘self-supporting’ (per the the Scott Seven Point Plan). And although highways are not self-supporting, that is not likely to stop Scott from funding roadway expansion, given that his only written statement of transportation policy is a letter of support to the Sate Transportation Builders Association (a road and bridge lobbing group). It sounds like governor-elect Scott wants to get the sprawl machine running again, building highways and subsidizing sprawl- all under the guise of job growth. Let’s hope that Scott sees the opportunity he has to put the nail in the coffin of  subsidized sprawl and the undermining economic effect it has on our existing developments.  

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A Message From Horizon 2060:

A Statewide Transportation Summit will be held August 19 and 20 in Orlando on the future of transportation in Florida.

     At this event, all interested partners and members of the public will have an opportunity to provide input on draft language for the 2060 Florida Transportation Plan and to help kickoff an update to Florida’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan. To help us plan and prepare accordingly, please click here to RSVP online.

     Thursday’s event will include roundtable discussions and electronic voting to build consensus on draft goals and objectives to be potentially included within the 2060 Florida Transportation Plan. A preliminary meeting agenda is posted online, and additional materials will be posted as soon as they become available. * Please note. If you are unable to attend the Summit, the draft goals and objectives will be posted online in survey form and available for comment. A reminder email will be sent the day of the event with links to these surveys.

When: Thursday, August 19 from 1pm to 6pm — with a focus on the draft 2060 Florida Transportation PlanFriday, August 20 from 9am to 3pm — with a focus on the update to Florida’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan
Where: Hyatt Regency Hotel, Orlando International Airport. There is no cost to attend and you may register the day of either meeting.
     For questions regarding the 2060 FTP please contact Huiwei Shen. For questions regarding the Safety Summit please contact Marianne Trussell of the Safety Office.

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Since December, The Florida Public Transportation Association has been conducting an online survey regarding statewide attitudes among Floridians regarding public transit. The surprising results of the survey were released recently:

  • 66% of respondents say that, during a trip in Florida within the last month, they consciously wished that they had a convenient public transit option as an alternative to the costs and hassles of traffic and parking.
  • 93% say that gas prices will rise or “skyrocket” in the next decades.
  • 79% agree that, “Florida needs to invest now in transit infrastructure to competitively attract jobs, tourists, retirees, and new business centers in the future”.
  • 93% think that public transit is becoming increasingly important to Florida’s future.
  • 52% of respondents identified themselves as “a business person”.
  • 42% say transit is so important to Florida’s future that they are willing to help spread the message to their elected officials and the community.

While there are a variety of reasons for Floridians to choose transit over driving, the top three benefits of transit according to the survey are:

  1. Transit is a good alternative to fighting traffic congestion.
  2. The cost savings of transit over driving are considerable.
  3. Transit decreases American dependence on foreign oil.

Wes Watson, Executive Director, said, “With gas creeping back up, with Florida’s population growing, and gridlock getting worse, Floridians clearly think that public transportation is increasingly important to Florida’s future”. He also expressed delight that 42% of respondents are willing to help spread the word and said, “Look for a major announcement coming soon about organizing transit supporters in Florida”.

The survey was available to Floridians online at FloridaTransit.org from Dec.-March 2010. The thousands of survey respondents included riders, elected officials, and business leaders.

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As the USDOT pares down the list of applicants to the final recipients for the $8 billion available for High Speed rail, we hope existing regional, and local connectivity plays a significant role in the final assessment – a decision which certainly wouldn’t bode well for Florida’s proposed Orlando-Tampa connection. The Transport Politic aptly notes the eastern terminus of the proposed Florida HSR is located in the southern exurbs or Orlando – far from the rapidly urbanizing downtown, far from the Lynx BRT, and far from any existing or planned transportation infrastructure. A suburban terminal for the Florida HSR, or any other HSR, would foster more experiences like the one profiled by NPR in this recent expose on one family’s Amtrak journey across North Carolina – stranded in a new city with few affordable mobility alternatives. While HSR could alleviate intraregional travel needs, it would just as easily prove ineffective without comprehensive transit infrastructure, linked to regional and local transit systems in order to make any significant impact on our daily routines.

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Alfonso Chardy of the Miami Herald writes that Florida transportation officials are “reviewing interim guidelines issued by the Federal Railroad Administration with a view to applying for a share of $8 billion in federal stimulus money for high speed rail.” However according to Florida Today, the Sunshine State is not a likely candidate. Instead, California and the midwest are cited as front runners. California, remember, has already committed $10 billion of bond money in pursuit of  800 track miles, while the midwest boasts an impressive amount of interstate regional cooperation.

Since giving up on regional high speed rail 10 years ago, thanks Jeb Bush, Florida has done nothing to push the agenda. This will likely not favor the state as the feds decide how to allocate the stimulus cash. As proposed, the line would connect Miami, Orlando and Tampa, with a possible extension to Jacksonville.

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Well, the awards just keep rolling in don’t they? What, with Miami’s 2008 ranking as one of three worst cities in America in which to bicycle, and now Florida climbing the ranks from the 2nd most deadliest to the most deadliest. While the City of Miami is working on their end of things, we can’t be so sure about the State.

The author of the linked article quotes Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists, who states, “Because it’s a warm weather southern state, chances are good that more people are riding year-round.” That may be partially true, but it doesn’t explain how California — also a warm weather state and far more densely populated — managed less deaths. One could chalk this up to a chance year and a lot of riders, but one could also make the argument that roadway design in Florida  is not well-tailored to cyclists or pedestrians, no matter the skill or age, and that the ubiquitous suburban land use patterns don’t help either.

Ride safe everyone. This is one #1 ranking we should be willing to quickly relinquish.

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Clean Water Action is rallying the anti-sprawl troops. Click here to quickly tell your senator that you do not support repealing anti-sprawl legislation.

This bill would remove critical growth management authority by the state’s Department of Community Affairs; eliminate transportation concurrency and Development of Regional Impact review in some communities.

Strong growth management laws were established to protect our communities from overdevelopment. In tough economic times, it is smart to manage our tight financial resources in way that encourages long-term regional cooperation and planning. Water is an example of a finite resource we need to protect. Whether it is time wasted in traffic, dropping home values, increasing infrastructure deficits or decreasing quality of our life and water supply, in Florida - sprawl costs us all!

Developer over-speculation and not the regulation of Florida’s growth management process contributed to Florida’s economic collapse. Now those same developers are trying to use the financial crisis to eliminate oversight and limit public participation.

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Transit Miami is honored to have been nominated in the Best Local Blog Category of the 2008 Netroots Awards.  Voting is online and open to anyone through June 1, 2008 (Click here to Vote).  Show us some support!

Via SFDB (One of our strongest “competitors”…)

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Anyone else left scratching their heads in disbelief over this:
“Desperate to generate more money for road projects across the state, Florida transportation authorities are moving ahead with a plan to lease Alligator Alley to a company that would have the power to set the tolls it charges.”

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Critical Mass Miami- Photo by The Universal Dilettante

The past year has been a great year for cycling around the world. High oil prices, an increased interest in the environment and the success of bike sharing programs in Europe have been some of the highlights. Here in Florida, Governor Charlie Crist has proclaimed March as Florida’s Bike Month. This opportunity should not be missed to help increase awareness of biking, not only as a recreational activity, but also as an alternative means of transportation. There are many activities planned throughout all South Florida.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Last Saturday, a 75-mile bike ride took place from Tequesta to Oleta River Park in Miami.
  • Pledge to bike to work, March 24-30.
  • Critical Mass Miami has bike rides planned throughout the month on South Miami, Coral Gables, Florida City.

Many more events planned throughout South Florida. Check out the full calendar here and here

We received this editorial recently from Alan Farago and after receiving his expressed written consent decided to republish it here for you to read. The original article appeared in the Orlando Sentinel on January 14, 2008

If there is a silver lining in the sharp contraction of housing markets across the nation, it is the impetus to reform a model for economic growth — suburban sprawl — that is fundamentally flawed.

The state investment pool — repository for taxpayer funds of municipalities in the state of Florida — sunk billions of dollars into leveraged financial products tied to suburban sprawl.

In other words, whether we like it or not — whether we are Democrat or Republican, environmentalists or developers — Florida invested in the dream, others profited from it, and now all taxpayers are at risk on the sprawl side of the ledger.

It’s time for some plain speaking: The financial system that underpins low-density, scattered development in Florida, most often viewed as platted subdivisions in wetlands or farmland, is bankrupt.

That is a problem because the sprawl model has been a big, if not the biggest, driver of Florida‘s economy.

When policies about growth for construction and development are discussed by government, they are organized around rules and regulations for zoning and permitting.

But the true parameters for suburban sprawl aren’t set by rules or regulations or even by public choices on land use and development: They are established by banks and what banks can finance.

Most consumers hear about it in terms of “subprime mortgages.” The reality is different. Those who benefited most from the “ownership society” don’t live on Main Street; they work on Wall Street and made huge fees and commissions on speculative leverage, the underpinning of suburban sprawl.

There are many intermediaries — praetorian guards to the field generals of sprawl, each reaping a host of legal, engineering and lobbying fees. But the end goal of Wall Street’s sprawl arrangement was to persuade distant investors, through the assurances of ratings agencies and insurers, that any particular development — based on demographics, proximity to markets and even architectural and design parameters — would deliver returns with the same reliability as a similar set of box retailers or platted subdivisions in, say, Las Vegas.

Thus, the passion for preserving a local spring, or the Everglades, was blocked out by fractions and formulas claimed to diversify risks while guaranteeing a predictable, high stream of income to investors.

Not only have we lost our springs and much of the Everglades, the banks lost, too.

The banks didn’t lose roseate spoonbills or swallow-tailed kites. Instead, they lost hundreds of billions for investors, many of whom have abandoned the market for leveraged debt related to housing.

In other words, the spoonbills will come back sooner than the markets tied to debt for suburban sprawl. So, it is a good time to consider alternatives to a status quo that lost whatever leverage it had to reality.

Although its advocates claim the contrary, subdivisions far from places of residents’ jobs are not what the markets want; the subdivisions are what Wall Street can finance to its maximum benefit.

Those benefits are defined by the degree of leverage. Conversely, if one puts limits on leverage, attached to particular locations and property, it is possible to choke off sprawl the same way cancer researchers are learning to limit the spread of tumors by cutting off their blood supply.

It is time for a new model for growth that puts brakes to sprawl, matching what investors can expect to earn and what developers can finance to the true cost of protecting aquifers, the environment, and infrastructure that serves existing taxpayers.

For this to happen, Congress has to connect banking regulations, governing the issuance of financial debt such as mortgage-backed securities and such, to land use and the environment.

It is a tall order, but there is no better time than the middle of a crisis to consider new solutions. In the United States, the work of bond ratings, insurance, public and private debt has been deemed off-limits to scrutiny to all but the financially competent who are rewarded, in turn, by tipping the scales of equity to private interests.

During the housing boom, this worked especially well because everyone was a winner (except the poor and the environment). In The New York Times, Floyd Norris captured the formula in part: “It was the greatest credit party in history, made possible by a new financial architecture that moved much of the activities out of regulated institutions and into financial instruments that emphasized leverage over safety.”

The other part of the formula is the one that matters most: So long as leverage fails to account for the safety of our communities, we will be at the mercy of Wall Street and the masters of suburban sprawl. It is time to get smart and put handcuffs on a financial system that has been golden to all but the people who have to pay for them. That would be you and me, Florida taxpayers.

Alan Farago of Coral Gables, who writes about the environment, can be reached at alanfarago@yahoo.com. He wrote this commentary for the Orlando Sentinel.

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I had the opportunity this past weekend to finally ride one the nation’s three downtown fully automated people mover systems in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville skyway, is the most recently completed of the three automated systems (the others being in Miami and Detroit) opening up fully to the public in November of 2000. Like the Miami and Detroit people mover systems the Jacksonville mover originated from a congressional movement in the 1970’s aimed to fund and research new urban transit systems.

“…Congressional pressure was increased on UMTA to show some positive results from their research and development expenditures. So, in 1975 UMTA announced its Downtown People Mover Program and sponsored a nationwide competition among the cities, offering them the federal funds needed to design and build such a system. Since UMTA was prepared to pay most of the costs of planning and building these systems as part of its demonstration program, the response from the cities was almost overwhelming…”

Free money to develop an urban transit solution in an age of increasing congestion, if it sounds too good to be true, that’s probably because it was; none of the “top” cities initially considered for people movers built them, leaving millions of dollars available to secondary cities like Miami and Detroit.

“…In 1976, after receiving and reviewing 68 letters of interest and 35 full proposals and making on-site inspections of the top 15 cities, UMTA selected proposals from Los Angeles, St. Paul, Minnesota, Cleveland and Houston. It also concluded that Miami, Detroit and Baltimore would be permitted to develop DPMs if they could do so with existing grant commitments…”

Needless to say, the people mover system was a botched, rushed, and half-hearted effort from the US Department of Transportation to fund and research reasonable transit solutions for the ever growing congestion problems of the 1970’s. Unlike Miami, the Jacksonville and Detroit systems have never been connected to larger urban transit systems and all three are largely considered to be failures. Miami and Detroit are currently experiencing urban renaissances which will surely provide the downtown residences and employment necessary to patronize such costly systems. Metrorail, Tri-Rail, BRT, and possible FEC rail transit will provide an even greater number of patrons and will increase the area in our city which is easily accessible without regular vehicular use.

In riding around on two of the three systems, I’ve come to identify their obvious shortcomings and deficiencies. Their failures can be attributed to a lack of supportive regional transit infrastructure as well as absurdly poor integration with their surroundings. The pictures below accurately depict most of these problems, turning the Jacksonville Skyway transit stations into inhospitable, inaccessible urban realms for pedestrians, like much of the rest of the city already is…

This evening picture depicts the surface parking lot (1 of 2) which I had to cross just to access the San Marco Station. This “neighborhood” contains a few of the ritzier hotels in Jacksonville, all of which are surrounded by surface lots, isolating the transit station in a sea of asphalt:

The Central Station was no exception either, bordered on the south side by not only a surface lot but also a free standing parking garage which towered above the station…

The Jefferson Station seen here is a the epitome of urban blight, surrounded by worn out grassy lots and blatant signs of urban neglect and decay…

As if parking were an issue, the space below the problem, highways, finds a new use…

The Prudential plaza is one of the few buildings built up close to the Skyway, its unfortunate that the other side of the station was crowded by a parking garage.

Twisting through the mess of interchanges…

Who rides the skyway when there is more than enough parking at Alltel Stadium?

A beautiful touch added to all the downtown streets, but someone failed to realize how transit, pedestrian access, biking, and urban planning all go hand in hand…

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