Currently viewing the tag: "Hurricanes"

The Miami Herald is reporting that County Commissioners, today, will hear a report from the “Miami-Dade County Climate Change Task Force,” in which data point to nothing less than a dramatic rise in sea levels on the horizon.

What does this have to do with transportation in Miami? Some of the suggestions for improvement from the task force are interesting:

  • Phasing out “gas-guzzler” taxis by 2008
  • Burning bio-fuels in county fleet vehicles

While the article points out that there are zoning changes that are also part of the recommendations, the article does not point out the impact the daily commute has on our atmosphere here, and worldwide. It seems to take a bleak look overall at the scenario, without the proper focus on anything except pie-in-the-sky suggestions such as the aforementioned, which suggestions are all-but-certain to be obliterated by lobbyists before they see even a pilot implementation.

What is clear (and this is also presented by the article) is that Everglades restoration needs to be the first and foremost on everyone’s mind right now, as this will at least delay the salt water invasion some of our water well fields are already experiencing. Next, since this looks like it will happen sooner, rather than later, perhaps it’s time to start looking at some of the flood protection that has been implemented in coastal areas of mainland Europe, and on the British Isles.

Finally, while the county had the forethought to actually implement this sort of task force, bringing their ideas to fruition may take a lot longer than we have. What incentive is there to implement? The water isn’t lapping at our feet yet.

Unfortunately, there are still some opponents of the Miami Streetcar who believe (or at least are arguing) that the overhead catenary wires won’t be able to hold up under hurricane-like conditions. As a result, they claim, the whole streetcar system is volatile to destruction and costly, time-consuming repairs. Some have even gone so far as to claim that the overheard wires would be hazardous during a hurricane. Well, today I’m happy to bust these myths once and for all.
First of all, it’s important to note that unlike historic trolleys and streetcars from the early twentieth century, which had complex webs of catenary wire strung above the streets, modern streetcars only need one, yes one, catenary wire on each street. With that in mind, there are much fewer wires to even consider when addressing hurricane compatibility concerns.

Without further ado, here’s a quote from the Miami Beach-sanctioned report for Bay Link, created by urban planning/engineering consultant firm Henningson, Durham, and Richardson (HDR):

“In places with LRTs and Streetcars that experience hurricanes (e.g., Houston, Tampa, San Juan), there has not been an incident where live catenary wires have injured anyone during high winds. The protocol is to turn the power systems off when winds reach sustained gusts of 50 mph, and the poles holding the wires in place withstand hurricane winds of 110 mph, nearly twice the design standard for most light poles, telephone poles, street poles, etc.”

Keep in mind that HDR was hired by Miami Beach so the city could basically get a second opinion about the Bay Link corridor, since a select group of officials were so upset that world-renowned firm Parsons Brinckerhoff advocated an LRT option in the original Bay Link corridor report.

Now let’s take it a step further; here is a quote from the Miami Streetcar website FAQ section concerning fears about hurricanes and overhead catenary wires:

The streetcar infrastructure is subject to the hurricane code requirements required for roadway utilities. In the event of a hurricane that might impact the overhead catenary system, damaged cables will need to be replaced or repaired. Repairs of isolated breaks in the wire can be made within a couple of hours by splicing the two broken ends. Replacement of damaged hardware or wire can take longer depending on the extent of the damage. The City’s future Operations & Maintenance contractor’s compensation will be linked to streetcar system performance requirements intended to minimize and avoid service outages.


So there you have it. All streetcar infrastructure, including overheard wires, are required by law to be built to hurricane code for roadway utilities. If the streetcar wires go down, it’s a good bet that telephone wires did as well. Moreover, most often repairs can be easily fixed within a few hours. Sure, one could make the case that a category 5 hurricane could cause much more severe damage to the overhead wires, but a storm of that magnitude will also wipe out your home. The threat of catastrophic natural disasters is always present, but instead of succumbing to fear and a fortress-like mentality, we should design our infrastructure to be able to sustain mother nature’s blow and bounce back fast. The threat of an imminent major earthquake has certainly not stopped San Francisco from using trolleys.

Lastly, I want you to think about one more thing. Can you remember the last time that a hurricane squarely hit Miami, and didn’t wreak havoc on auto-oriented infrastructure (i.e. traffic lights, stop signs, road signs, etc - the critical and basic elements to a functional roadway system)?

Photos: HDR

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August 21, 2007

To the University Community:

We have an extraordinary history and tradition at the Orange Bowl: The players running through the smoke tunnel. “Touchdown Tommy” and his cannon. The Ring of Honor. An incredible winning streak of 58 consecutive home wins. And three of our five national championships were won on that field. I love the Orange Bowl—we all do!

As many of you are aware, the University has been working closely with the City of Miami to assess the feasibility of making much-needed renovations to the Orange Bowl. It has long been our goal to have a first-class football stadium.

The City of Miami has been a wonderful partner with us at the Orange Bowl for many years, and they understand how hard we have wrestled with a very difficult decision. Mayor Manny Diaz has been heroic in his efforts to meet our future needs. After much thought, analysis, and discussions with many, many of our trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and fans, we have concluded that we must move our football games to a better facility. The more than $200 million in renovations that the city has proposed would only provide basic and mostly infrastructural upgrades. A part of those funds are not in hand and may or may not be determined until after the proposed construction would be well underway. Overall, the renovations clearly would not address the long-term needs of our athletes and our fans.

The Orange Bowl chapter of our history—in which we can all take great pride—will never close, and we are confident that the legacy of Miami Hurricanes football will live on and thrive as we move to a new location. After an assessment of all options available to us, we have decided reluctantly and painfully to move to Dolphin Stadium for the 2008 season.

Dolphin Stadium is one of the premier football stadiums in the country. At our new home, our student-athletes will have the opportunity to compete in a first-class facility that plays host to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, the FedEx Orange Bowl, BCS National Championship Game, and that has been the site of recent and upcoming Super Bowls.

Our fans will experience outstanding amenities including one of the world’s largest plasma TV displays, high-definition video boards, club seating and suites, chairbacks on every stadium seat, approximately 14,000 parking spaces, and a large variety of concessions and restaurants.

The end zones will be redone so that our shared home will reflect both Miami teams’ pride. The Dolphins are actively pursuing a corporate sponsor so that by 2010 the stadium will have a neutral name.

I want to assure all members of our University community—students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, donors, friends—and the tens of thousands of fans who regularly cheer us on, that we looked exhaustively into every aspect of the choices in front of us, and that your needs figured prominently in our final decision. The quality of your experience at our games is of the utmost importance to us.

As always, we would like to hear from you. Please contact us at an e-mail address we have established for your comments: umfootball@miami.edu. If you have any further questions, please go to the Official Athletic Department Web site at hurricanesports.com or call 1-800-GO-CANES.

Thank you, and Go ’Canes!

Sincerely,
Donna E. Shalala

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While Gabe did a great job lamenting the loss of the Hurricanes from Miami, I felt compelled to add a few things, being dually a Canes fan and a fan of the City.

Let me start by saying, while I suppose it’s justifiable from the perspective of Shalala and the University, as they will be making more money, playing in a nicer, more modern stadium, and perhaps even helping recruiting, the impact of leaving the OB is tough to quantify in numbers.

For one, Gabe mentioned how the OB is special, almost because of its grit. It was miserable for players and fans because it was old, hostile, and fundamentally “Miami”.

Also, for so long football Saturday (and don’t forget Sunday) was known for the marriage between this part of Little Havana and the OB. The tradition we all speak of is certainly not confined to the smoke-filled tunnel entrance or the wide-right mystique. It’s also just as much the tastes, sounds and smells of the neighborhood that made it special.

Unlike going to some far-flung suburban stadium in “could-be-anywhere-ville”, when fans and opposing teams came to the Orange Bowl they were entering the heart and soul of inner-city Miami. There was no mistaking where you were - Latin styled sidewalk BBQ, Spanish signage and street names, block after block of pre-game parties - you were in Miami. It was this authentic local neighborhood character that inspired so much tradition, which will now be lost.

Now, the Canes are being outsourced to the banal suburbs, where everything that made playing at the OB so unique, so quintessentially Miami, will now be relegated to traffic jams, $20 parking fees, and sipping beers in a giant sea of asphalt. If it wasn’t for signs, you could cut and paste the Dolphins Stadium area and be just about anywhere where there’s expressways, uber parking lots, and cookie-cutter stadiums.

Alas, talk about an identity crisis. The University of Miami Hurricanes, based in Coral Gables, whom play football in Miami Gardens. Is this not emblematic of Miami’s hyper-fragmentation?

Can we call them the Miami-Dade Hurricanes, now?

Photo Source: Miami Herald via Green Peace, AP File 2006

Our global warming crisis continues to become more foreboding. Today the Herald reported findings from a recent study that predicts serious local climate change in South Florida’s future. According to the study, which is one of the first to predict local climate change stemming from global warming, by 2100 South Florida will likely have a novel climate that is warmer, drier, and unlike any other on Earth. Among the findings:

  • Mean temperatures in South Florida could rise by 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer/wet season (+ 3 ½ degrees in the winter/dry season)
  • High temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90’s can be expected during the summer/wet season
  • Much drier conditions: 3 ½ fewer inches of rainfall during the wet season (Note: Drier does not mean less humid)
  • Even if worldwide action reduces greenhouse gas emissions, 4-20 percent of the world’s land could experience novel climates
These findings have grave implications for South Florida. As I noted above, a “drier” climate does not mean a less humid climate. High temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s coupled with high humidity would make it feel like 110-120 degrees based on heat indexes. Also to consider, the 5-7 degree rise is in mean temperature, which is the average temperature over a 24-hour period. For the last 30 years, Miami’s mean temperature has averaged about 83 degrees during the peak of the summer/wet season. If the predictions are true, then our average daily temperatures could be as high as 90 degrees! Imagine stifling days with highs of 95 and lows of 85. Factor in humidity, and even our nights would feel as warm as 100 degrees!

All of this does not even consider the potentially catastrophic effects of rising sea levels, increased frequency of major hurricanes, drought, and the decimation of the Everglades. It is now critical that we begin making major changes in the way we live and the way our cities function. Given the implications of climate change in South Florida, you would think that our region would be on the leading edge of sustainable urban planning. Sadly, as we all know, this is not currently the case. Yes, Mayor Diaz should be complemented for his green building proposal, Miami 21, and the Miami Streetcar initiative, but this barely scratches the surface of sustainability. We need a progressive, regional effort to significantly reduce our dependence on the automobile, boost alternative transportation modes, and design sustainable, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods. We cannot wait any longer to act.

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