Marlins need to step up to the plate and encourage healthy transportation.
The Miami Marlins won two games over the Colorado Rockies earlier in May, but they’re taking us to school out in Denver on encouraging healthy ways to get to the ballpark.
Below is an e-mail from the Colorado Rockies announcing their “Bike to the Game” event. Fans that bike to Coors Field this Sunday will enjoy free, attended bicycle parking and can enter a drawing for fun prizes which include a chance to take batting practice with the Rockies before a game. The rest of the e-mail highlights other initiatives the Rockies undertake to improve their community, including a season-long program in which the team plants a tree for every home run hit.
The Rockies aren’t alone in their active transportation initiatives. Other teams like the Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and others offer free bicycle valet and other benefits for those that leave the car at home.
Contrast these programs with the Miami Marlins idea of “bike friendliness” which includes bicycle racks in the middle of car-clogged parking garages and a few hitches around the stadium. The list pretty much ends there.
If you are curious on how to get to Marlins Park by bicycle or on foot, prepare to dig through the team website to find any helpful information. Bicycle and pedestrian directions are buried at the very bottom of their “Parking at Marlins Park” page. This begs the question - why would pedestrian directions be under the parking information? By putting this information last, it makes walking or biking seem like the least attractive option. This of course, is pretty misguided - The Miami New Times already proved that biking is the fastest way to get there.
The included area map is also tremendously disingenuous, as it includes routes labeled as “funded greenways”, “funded sharrows” and “funded bicycle lanes” which don’t exist yet. The Marlins also consistently brushed off requests from the City of Miami to assist in making the area more bicycle friendly. The team did widen a few sidewalks immediately adjacent to the ballpark.
The bicycle racks the Marlins installed are like putting a dollar bill inside a wasps nest. Your average Joe probably isn’t going to stick their hand inside. Despite some quiet Little Havana streets around the stadium that are easily navigable and pleasant for riding, many fans are unfamiliar with them. The arterials of NW 7th St and NW 17th Ave are downright hostile and nasty - for motorists as well. The Marlins do absolutely zero to encourage riding to the game like other teams do, including the Rockies.
Even more bewildering is that despite the new stadium being recently awarded a LEED Gold certification, the Marlins have no active transportation programs for their fans. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction) is a rating system designed by the United States Green Buildings Council to guide newly constructed, high-performance buildings that minimize their impact on the environment, are operated in a more efficient manner and are healthier for those who use the building.
But how the majority of fans are arriving to the park is anything but “green”. Attendance at the park is already waning. The Marlins should step up to the plate, follow the lead of other teams and encourage more active transportation to the ballpark.
The cost is minimal and the greater Miami community will appreciate the outreach from a team in desperate need of improved public relations. Bicycling isn’t a fringe activity in Miami any longer and the Marlins should take notice.
(Updated 5:05 pm) The Marlins can show their interest by supporting the upcoming Green Mobility Network Marlins Stadium Ride. Working together with City of Miami Bicycle Coordinator Collin Worth, GMN will be identifying the best routes to the stadium, and will be having a kickoff ride June 30 to “show residents of Miami that it is possible to bike to the Marlins stadium,” according to organizer Eli Stiers. Time for the Marlins to step up to the plate.
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part series.
I was in San Francisco recently and aside from riding every form of urban transit imaginable (cable car, light rail, subway, bicycle, and commuter rail) I took the opportunity to explore a few of the city’s up-and-coming neighborhoods particularly, South of Market (SOMA), Mission Bay, and South Beach. Of particular interest on this visit was the urban development sprouting up along the China Basin, home of AT&T Ballpark where the San Francisco Giants have played since 2000. AT&T Ballpark and the new Muni Metro transit line which accompanied the stadium have served as catalysts for new urban development.
Having visited a number of America’s Baseball stadiums, what really strikes me about AT&T Ballpark is its connectivity with the surroundings. From the boardwalk along the famed McCovey Cove to the King Street Walk of Fame, this ballpark was designed to be as much of destination during the off-season as it is when the Giants are in town (Note: when I visited the Giants were on the road). This is a true urban ballpark; warm and inviting with some restaurants and bars within the ballpark opening up to Willie Mays Plaza. The Plaza, of course not only pays homage to one of baseball’s greatest players, but creates a sense of space and grand entrance to the ballpark. It’s important to note that AT&T Ballpark was the first privately financed ballpark in Major League Baseball since 1962. Noticeably absent from the area surrounding the stadium is parking, a good segway into a brief discussion of the transit service that was built to connect the region.
The T third street line is a modern light-rail system completed in 2007 at a cost of $648 Million. The 5.1 mile transit line is the newest addition to the SFMTA in 50 years and connects the existing Muni Metro system and AT&T Ballpark with some long neglected neighborhoods including Potrero Hill, Bayview, Hunters Point, and Visitacion Valley. Today, new development dots the landscape around the T third street line including the Mission Bay Development, an emerging bioscience hub anchored by the UCSF Mission Bay campus as well as an abundance of dense, urban, development (see: Avalon, Edgewater, and Strata). It’s also important to note that the T third street line was funded largely through the city of San Francisco’s Proposition B, a ½% sales tax levied to support transit projects.
Visiting AT&T Ballpark (and the surrounding neighborhoods) allowed me to more fully comprehend the shortcomings of the Marlins new Ballpark currently rising in the heart of Little Havana. The new Marlins Stadium is beautiful feat of engineering; it is sleek, shiny, and futuristic, much like Miami itself. Once inside, watching the home team play will be a pleasure, no doubt, but its interaction with the surrounding host community is, like much of Miami’s development, designed with a certain air of indifference for neighboring land uses.
Constructed at a taxpayer cost of $360M, one would think that we’d be unveiling a trophy piece of civic infrastructure next season; one whose public investment would outweigh the costs by spurring new urban growth, tourism, and economic development in the heart of the Magic City. One would also think that the additional $100M of public investment in transportation infrastructure would be designed to alleviate an already stressed infrastructure rather than exacerbate the problem, right? Wrong. This is Miami, here we spend $100M building four massive, structurally deficient parking garages.
Having visited AT&T Ballpark and the surrounding neighborhoods it’s difficult not to think of what a $100M down payment for a new transit line akin to the T third street line could have looked like. It could have linked EXISTING parking in downtown or the civic center urban centers with the Ballpark. Think of the opportunity lost to spur new development and provide a reasonable modal alternative to the residents of a largely lower-middle class neighborhood. Think of the pedestrian-scale development that could have risen alongside the stadium instead of parking garages. Imagine paying a nominal $2 transit fare to access the ballpark rather than shelling out upwards of $30 for parking (there are, after all, only 5,700 spaces available).
It’s an interesting juxtaposition in my eyes:
- AT&T Ballpark was built without a single cent of public financing and is one of the most inclusive, consciously designed stadiums in all of major league baseball. Coupled with a sound investment in sustainable transit, the stadium has spurred ongoing economic development in the surrounding neighborhoods.
- On the other hand, the heavily subsidized Marlins Ballpark is beginning to look like a full-blown assault on Little Havana, replete with the loss of public open space, parking structures which isolate the stadium from the surrounding community, and a guarantee that at least 81 days of the year the congestion in this area will be a nightmarish hell with little, if any, net positive impact to local businesses.
This is part one of a two part series. Part two will be published over the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
A look down San Francisco’s Third Street line (T) - a preview of an upcoming post next week where we look at the successes of AT&T Ballpark and surrounding development with an eye on the completion of the new Marlins’ Ballpark later this year.
The new Marlins stadium is set to be the first LEED-silver certified baseball stadium in the USA. As criteria for this certification, the stadium’s design incorporates an impressive array of environmentally sound measures. As reported in this NBC story on April 19th, the stadium will also feature “2,000 spaces for bicycles”. After an inquiry to the Marlins via the team’s website, FanFeedback@Marlins.com replied, “We will have 536 spots reserved for bicycles all around the stadium for those whom do not commute by car.” However, we at TransitMiami wonder if that simply means unattended bicycle racks spread around the stadium, or a secure valet/bicycle check like that of San Francisco’s AT&T Park as seen in this clip (via Streetfilms.org). While there is a discrepancy in the number of spaces and questions regarding security, it is encouraging news for cyclists at the ballpark either way. TransitMiami will continue to look into the details of these accommodations.
But what about getting to the new stadium by bicycle? The site is less than 3 miles from the heart of Downtown and Brickell. It would make complete sense to connect these two dense residential areas and the stadium with a safe bike route for a multitude of obvious reasons. TransitMiami is calling on the Miami-Dade Public Works Department, the City of Miami and the Marlins to be pro-active in this regard.
Personally, I rode from Brickell to the stadium site this weekend via NW South River Drive and NW 4th street. It is mostly a pleasant ride of less than 20 minutes through leafy residential areas of Little Havana. Of course, there are a few perilous intersections with little consideration given to pedestrians or cyclists along the route. But overall, a designated bike route seems entirely feasible on a variety of roadways to link the densest areas of Miami with the stadium. I can even envision a Marlins ambassador leading a group ride from Downtown/Brickell during day games. What a perfect way for the Marlins to promote the LEED certification of the new ballpark as well as provide a fun and hassle-free way for their local fans to get to the game!
Commuting to baseball stadiums by bicycle is wildly popular in cities like Denver, San Francisco and Washington DC as those stadiums make significant accommodations for cyclists. In an age of soaring gas prices, traffic congestion and expensive parking, Miami needs to ‘step up to the plate’ and provide cyclists a safe route to the game.
As said in the baseball movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, he will come.”
The new Marlins stadium planned for the Orange Bowl site in Little Havana has been approved by the Miami City Commission. County Commissioners will cast their votes early next week. While we have been quite vocal about the stadium’s design and its lack of transit service, I have been told that it is planned to be the country’s first LEED certified stadium, replete with both outdoor and indoor valet bicycle parking.
(CORRECTION: The planned Marlin’s stadium will actually be the 2nd LEED certified stadium, but is the first time Major League Baseball has pledged its own money ($1 million) towards certifying a stadium as LEED.)
However, the needed greenwash certainly does not assuage the issues of siting, overall poor design, and the lack of mass transit service. LEED certification does little to squelch auto-dependency (there are LEED certified Wal-Marts ), but it at least raises the bar so that citizens of other cities should expect, if not demand, that their next stadiums meet or surpass LEED building standards.
Stay tuned as this development meets its real test next week.
- What a coincidence: seems like transit financing is a problem in NY where a combination of dropping real estate tax, sales tax, and state tax revenues are putting the MTA in the red. The conclusion reached in the article: we need more government subsidy to make up the difference.
- President Obama is moving to undo Bush era changes to weakening enforcement of the Endangered Species Act. I thought this was interesting, considering our own problems with ignorant state legislators trying to do away with growth laws in the name of commerce. “But in a statement, Bill Kovacs, the vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, condemned the action as an unreasonable interference with needed projects.”
- Marlins Stadium Update: A new bill is on the floor of the state legislature that would require a county referendum on the use of tourist dollars for the stadium, even as City and County leaders shuffle meetings and complain about each other. Mayor Alvarez is pissed about the way negotiations have been going….join the club dude. Then there is the reappearance our friend Glenn Straub who is offering the old Miami Arena site as an alternative. I like it. This would allow the city to reduce its investment in parking by relying on its existing downtown parking supply. And don’t forget there will already be a neighborhood growing up around the Park West thanks to the Miami WorldCenter project. And it has transit connections. And it frees up the Orange Bowl site for other purposes (can anyone say Manny Diaz Memorial Park?) BUT we still don’t know all the details, and you know what they say about details…
- Miami-Dade is getting serious about skate parks. Cool.
- Those state legislators - what schizophrenia. While trying to undo growth laws (a bad move) they go and push ahead with the recently named Sunrail (a really good move). “He pegs the price of SunRail at close to $1billion. But that is a bargain, SunRail enthusiasts say, when compared to the estimated $7billion it would cost to add one lane in either direction to Interstate 4 for the 61.5 miles covered by the train.” Sounds convincing to me. This is really cool, and will hopefully coincide with the Obama administration’s push for a national intercity railway network. Tamiami trail here we come.
- The FTA just released the Federal Register Notice describing the allocation of the $8.4 Billion transit stimulus. More on this later….
Fellow TM writer Tony Garcia’s cogent thoughts on the new stadium plan and design were published in today’s Herald. Click through the link to read the whole response.
The type of development that this site deserves is too big for the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County — they are not in the business of developing land. Elected officials must be better stewards of public coffers. If they cannot do what is responsible now, then they need to wait until the time is right. As for the Marlins, if they want to leave, call their bluff. If they don’t want to stay, then we don’t want them.
My name is Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal; I am a transportation engineer, urban planning student, and local sustainable planning advocate from transitmiami.com. I am here today to voice my unconditional support for the plan sitting before you; a plan that will revolutionize the city of
and will make urban life a real possibility for more county residents. Miami
streetcar will serve a vital role in the future development of our city. It will serve as an economic catalyst for the entire county by guaranteeing mobility where it is needed most; our downtown core. Contrary to the suburban sprawl most of this commission voted in favor of a few weeks prior, the streetcar will allow the county and city to continue growing in an ecologically and financially sustainable manner for years to come. I cannot begin to quantify the economic benefits our entire community will experience through this measure. Most importantly, the streetcar provides the means with which to construct some truly affordable housing, located within easy reach and facilitating life not governed by the economic constraint of owning a vehicle for personal independence. Miami
The benefits the
tunnel will provide are twofold: providing direct easy access to and from our second largest economic engine and perhaps more importantly, ridding our newly emerging downtown urban center of the traffic, smog, and noise pollution produced by these vehicles daily. The reduction of these nuisances in our city center will foster a hospitable urban environment. portof Miami
An unprecedented resolution sits before you today aimed at simultaneously solving some of the transit, infrastructure, and societal needs of this community. As is the case with most plans of this size, it isn’t without its share of flaws; however, the economic and intangible benefits these upgrades will produce should be enough to outweigh any of your reservations. I ask that the commission take the necessary steps today to propel
into a new, sustainable future. Miami
An ambitious plan from City of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz . What answer will the commission deliver?
Posted on Thu, Dec. 13, 2007
Financing plan would bypass votersBy LARRY LEBOWITZ AND MICHAEL VASQUEZMiami city and county leaders have forged a multibillion-dollar public-works bonanza that could alter the face of the downtown core — affecting everything from a baseball stadium to a port tunnel to museums.
The plan, coming together with rare speed in the world of governmental red tape, envisions a holiday bounty of projects aimed at garnering support from constituencies ranging from sports fans to arts patrons.
Announced late Wednesday by Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, the deal would cover everything from a $914 million tunnel leading to the Port of Miami to finally transforming fallow Bicentennial Park into a waterfront jewel with new art and science museums.
By also shoring up the shaky finances at the fledgling Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, the plan’s framework would free up additional tax monies that could be used to build a $525 million retractable-roof ballpark for the Florida Marlins.
”This is a great opportunity for all of us — all of us — to create an incredible legacy for the urban core,” Diaz said following a long day of negotiating the multi-party pact — and then selling it to individual commissioners.
While Diaz and others in the city embraced the so-called ”global” agreement with the county, many questions remain.
One is whether a deal this complex can actually come to fruition. With so many parts forming the larger whole, it’s possible that criticism of one piece of the blueprint could derail others.
Secondly, the intricate financing has been crafted in a way to sidestep a potential voter referendum — which could embolden critics.
COMMISSIONS TO VOTE
Selling it is key, and the first test comes Thursday when Miami commissioners decide whether to move the multilayered plan forward.
County commissioners would then begin their review of key pieces of the ballpark financing and redevelopment plans Dec. 18.
The framework — hashed out over several weeks of behind-the-scenes talks with city and county managers — centers on expanding the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency to include Bicentennial Park and Watson Island.
CRAs are federally mandated special taxing districts that generate extra cash for areas targeted for revitalization. By aiming to expand the key Omni district, Miami leaders envision new infusions of money that would be doled out for multiple big-ticket projects.
The biggest beneficiaries of this new Omni CRA would be the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts and a proposed new ballpark for the Marlins at the soon-to-be-demolished Orange Bowl.
Diaz said the county would essentially receive up to $400 million in CRA revenue over the next 30 years to cover debt service on the arts center.
This will free up somewhere between $160 million and $200 million in tourist taxes from the PAC — that the county and city could then use for the ballpark in Little Havana.
Less certain: whether the will, and the money, exist to build a 6,000-space parking garage and one of Diaz’s personal projects — a 25,000-seat soccer stadium also proposed for the 40-acre Orange Bowl site.
By expanding the CRA boundaries over the MacArthur Causeway to Watson Island, the city believes it can also use $50 million in CRA money to pay its share of the $914 million Port of Miami Tunnel over the next 35 years.
Florida transportation officials had vowed to move their $457 million share of the tunnel deal to other parts of the state if the city didn’t put up its $50 million piece by Monday.
”I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, no pun intended,” said City Commissioner Joe Sanchez, who represents the Orange Bowl area.
Miami property owners would also benefit from the expanded Omni CRA, city leaders say.
Diaz said the city would pay off its outstanding debt on the troubled Jungle Island construction loans from the expanded CRA instead of general revenues.
By expanding the boundaries into Bicentennial Park, the city would also use $68 million in new CRA revenue for the development of Museum Park — including a planned underground parking garage. The CRA money would not be used to build the museums.
Another question mark: whether city officials will be legally permitted to spin another $2 million a year out of the CRA to pay for ongoing capital improvements inside the park.
A second, more hard-pressed, special tax district would also benefit under the city-county pact.
The Southeast Overtown/Park West CRA, which generates considerably less revenue than the Omni, would be extended to year 2030 and its boundaries expanded to 20th Street on the north and Northwest Seventh Avenue on the west.
The city would spend up to $80 million for affordable housing, infrastructure, parks and job programs in the economically depressed Overtown neighborhood, and it would set aside $35 million for the city’s struggling streetcar plan.
Diaz said Miami planned to adopt a pay-as-you-go approach when spending the CRA money on these big-ticket items over the next 30 years, rather than floating bonds to bankroll the projects.
The unstated reason: The projects wouldn’t have to face voter approval.
In previous years, the city had contemplated issuing CRA bonds that could net perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars up front, to be used on large public-works projects.
But the Florida Supreme Court ruled in September that any bond issue local governments do with CRA money needs voter approval. Miami responded by abandoning its bond-issue plans.
This plan would sidestep those concerns.
As in every public project, the key is in the details, and literally hundreds of them still need to be hashed out.
First: Does Diaz have the three commission votes to pass the plan when the body meets this morning?
”God willing, [Thursday] we will approve possibly the most exciting — largest, certainly — package of projects in city history,” Diaz said late Wednesday.
Commissioner Sanchez said of the ”global” agreement: “So far, it looks good. . . . It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
Herald staff writers Charles Rabin, Andres Viglucci and Matthew I. Pinzur contributed to this report.
Apparently, Marlin’s owner Jeffrey Loria still isn’t isn’t pleased with the Orange Bowl site, and is threatening to reduce his funding contribution for a stadium to be built on that site. From the Herald:
Hernandez said the club is looking to cut its contribution out of concern that building a new stadium on the site of the Orange Bowl — a plan that has gathered support recently among city and county leaders — would not be as profitable as the downtown site that the team prefers.
Some people (including myself) feel that Loria has been stingy with his proposed funding contributions, but in this case he’s right to be concerned about the shortcomings of the Orange Bowl site.
To further complicate matters, construction costs are steadily rising due to the increasingly small window available to finish construction for the new stadium by 2011, when the Marlins hope to be moved in. If all this isn’t enough, it is now being estimated that “road improvements” slated for the area surrounding the Orange Bowl could cost as much as $12 million.
As commissioners lose patience with the stadium deal, Vice Chairman Sanchez sponsored a resolution Thursday calling for an updated stadium plan by a December 13th deadline. He even wants the team to go public before then to announce their commitment to the Orange Bowl site. This ought to be very interesting (as if most political/capital decisions in Miami aren’t).
Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald
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