Transit Miami Films took a field trip to Brickell Avenue and Southwest 8th Street in Miami last week to have a look at the busy pedestrian conditions during an average workday.
Following our last film, 9 Minutes of Mayhem, a Transit Miami reader gave us the heads up on this brutal crossing in the heart of Miami’s business district.
It is quite something to see well-off professionals in Brickell treated with such indignity simply trying to cross a street. For a successful urban environment, walking needs to be the most attractive option - not the least.
Turn up your speakers and enjoy!
Is Miami a city of traffic corridors and highways or is it a city for people? At the latest FDOT public meeting, the message from the Florida Department of Transportation is clear: Miami is for cars. Everything and everyone else comes 2nd.
Last night, FDOT held a public meeting to review the details of a re-surfacing project for Coral Way, from SW 37th Avenue to SW 13th Avenue, scheduled to begin in March 2013. Unfortunately, not much is being done to improve pedestrian conditions on Coral Way in spite of the booming pedestrian life visible every day. While the road will get silky new pavement, some wider sidewalks, a few brighter colored signs and ‘sharrows’, overall Coral Way will remain the same traffic sewer that it is today. Apparently, the status quo of Coral Way is all roses to the FDOT.
Except it’s not.
One thing that has always struck me about Coral Way is how difficult it is to cross it as a pedestrian. The traffic lights are so spread out that they may as well be located in separate zip codes. The design of Coral Way is one that divides people and business, rather than connects them. The traffic zooms from signal to signal in a speed’n-stop fashion reminiscent of a video game. The restaurants, the shops, the homes and the residents - are all separated by an impenetrable barrier of vehicles and plantings. Go to any part of Coral Way between Douglas and 12 Ave and you will see plenty of pedestrians trying to cross wherever they can. The road is the antithesis of walkable - by design. It is a roadway that’s patently ill-suited for an urban environment - and FDOT wants to keep it that way.
The planted medians seldom have a mid-block crossing. Have you ever traversed a field of geraniums in a wheelchair? FDOT doesn’t really care.
The speed limit will remain a deadly 40 mph. Have you ever tried parallel parking with someone in an Escalade bearing down on you at 45mph? You’ll still have the chance the way FDOT is designing this road!
This project makes virtually no improvements to the comically tragic pedestrian experience of Coral Way, save for a few sections of wider crosswalks. The FDOT’s argument is that their own guidelines do not allow them to make additional safety accommodations, like signalized crosswalks, raised crosswalks, or anything else. Mind you, it’s those very same arcane guidelines that are the root cause of why Florida consistently holds the dubious distinction as the #1 deadliest state for pedestrians in the nation. Such improvements would also make notoriously dangerous Coral Way safer for motorists as well.
But things really hit home when I left the meeting at 2055 Coral Way and walked outside. I was with my bicycle and needed to cross the street. Look right: a traffic signaled crosswalk in the distance. (I measured it online - .25 miles. That would make it .5 miles total just to cross the street legally and safely) Look left: just a headlight-filled abyss. No crosswalk in sight. Someone from the FDOT had to explain this for me, so I went back inside.
I asked two of the project managers to come outside with me to experience first hand just how ridiculously divisive the configuration of this street is. I asked them, “where do I cross?” They pointed to the traffic light a quarter mile away. They simply don’t give a shit. Is that a realistic expectation? What ensued was classic traffic engineer speak. “A study didn’t show the number of pedestrians required to warrant more improvements,” I was told.
That’s because the pedestrian experience is so hostile and uninviting to begin with, rational people will avoid it if possible. “Studies” do not calculate human decision-making. It almost seemed as if I was actually speaking with a car, because the only responses were about accommodating the needs of motorists. In their eyes, I was the first person to ever walk out of that church and have to walk to the other side.
The FDOT representatives said that the speed limit can not be lowered, one reason being some of these drivers are going from Brickell to West Kendall and they need to be accommodated also. So there we have it folks. Creating the walkable conditions for businesses to succeed and all road users to be safe are not in the vocabularies of the FDOT. Coral Way is a road designed to whisk private automobiles as fast as possible through Miami. Everyone else be dammed. The ‘social world’ is of no importance. The ‘traffic world’ is the priority. Everything else is an obstacle to moving cars quickly. The ‘guidelines’ protect them. It’s perfectly acceptable to the FDOT to force a person, a mother with a stroller or a person in a wheelchair, to go .5 miles to legally cross a street.
It’s long-passed due that the FDOT revise their outdated guidelines with their own children and grandparents in mind. If their standards aren’t safe and effective for a 10 year old or a senior citizen, then they are failing. The proposed re-paving project of Coral Way is another missed opportunity for Miami to become an actual city instead of a collection of traffic corridors.
On February 9 a FDOT contractor damaged underground conduit and cable while performing work at the Brickell Avenue and SE 13th Street intersection. Mr. Robert Williams, from the County Public Works Department, Traffic Signals and Signs Division confirmed this in an email to Transit Miami.
My investigation indicates that the original underground conduit and cable damage occurred on 2/9/11 when a trencher being operated by FDOT’s prime contractor, Russell Engineering, accidentally dug through several critical signal cables. FDOT’s signal contractor responded the same day, spliced the cables, and returned the vehicle and ped signals to proper operation. However, it began raining soon thereafter and the signal went back into flash, indicating that the signal cables had been seriously damaged by the original encounter at unknown locations underground. The signal contractor then returned to the scene and ran temporary cables overhead to at least get the vehicular signals operational”.
It has become glaringly obvious that FDOT does not consider pedestrians a priority. They were quick to repair the damaged vehicle signals, but then turned a blind eye to the broken pedestrian crosswalk signals. This is a MAJOR intersection in the heart of the Brickell Financial District. Thousands of people use this intersection every week. I am certain the FDOT will be quick to point their finger at Russell Engineering, but the buck has to stop somewhere and it must stop with the FDOT. The FDOT should be solely held accountable as they are overseeing this project. Once again, they have failed to recognize that work is being performed in an urban environment that is densely populated. This is not the suburbs; the FDOT cannot simply ignore the needs of pedestrians for over a month. Their cavalier attitude and apathy towards pedestrians is negligent at best. I am surprised no one was seriously injured at this intersection this past month due to their willful blindness. The FDOT does not cease to amaze me with their callous indifference to all things non-motorized.
The FDOT’s mind-set is a slap in the face to everyone that walks on Brickell. To make matters worse, motorists are allowed to make a right turn on red at this intersection. Adding to the pedestrian-unfriendly character of this intersection, a right turn green arrow allows and encourages motorists to make right turns without having to slow or stop. Pedestrians were left to guess when they could cross this intersection safely. In addition, I have yet to see any “Yield to Pedestrian” enforcement around the Brickell area. These conditions, to say the least, create an environment of chaos for pedestrians, parents with strollers, the handicap, and bicyclists.
The pedestrian signals were finally repaired last night (3/14) around 9:00pm; 33 days after they were accidently disabled. Unfortunately, my call to 311 on February 24th was ignored by FDOT too. The repair came only after I wrote about this unfortunate situation when it was reported on Transit Miami. Again, why must we shame the FDOT to do the right thing? An obvious lack of initiative by the FDOT is evident when it comes to cultivating a pedestrian friendly environment in our urban core.
I would like to apologize to Mr. Robert Williams, from the County Public Works Department Traffic Signals & Signs Division. I incorrectly assumed the County PWD was responsible for maintaining the crosswalk signals in this situation. Ordinarily they are responsible for maintaining all traffic signals within the County. However, in this circumstance, since FDOT is performing work on Brickell Avenue it becomes their responsibility to maintain all traffic signals in the work zone.
All of the pedestrian crosswalk signals at the Brickell Avenue and SE 13th Street intersection are broken. It’s been a month. I’m not sure whom I need to speak to.
I first noticed that the crosswalks signals were out of order about a month ago. I decided to conduct an experiment to see how long it would take the County Public Works Department to fix the signals.
After witnessing a couple of scary close calls, I decide to end my experiment and dialed 311 to report the malfunction. It was just a matter of time before a car would hit a pedestrian. I was issued case # 1155595. About two weeks have passed since I called 311 and the crosswalk signals still remain broken.
This intersection happens to be the FDOT’s staging area for their autocentric resurfacing project that is currently underway. During the course of the past two months the FDOT employees and contractors have swamped the Brickell area. In addition, the County Public Works Department has been noticeably present as well.
I’m not sure who deserves the blame, but I’m left questioning…
- Was there a breakdown in communication between 311 and the County Public Works Department?
- Has no one from the FDOT or the County Public Works Department noticed that the pedestrian crosswalk signals are not functioning?
- Do my fellow citizens not know to call 311? If this is the case, the County is doing a poor job educating the public about 311.
- Or do my fellow citizens call 311 and get no results like I did?
This is a MAJOR intersection with a tremendous amount of pedestrian traffic. There is absolutely no reason why these crosswalk signals should remain broken for 4 weeks, jeopardizing the lives of thousands of people every day. Yet all of us are relegated to playing pedestrian frogger with our own lives in an attempt to get across the street. We shouldn’t have to guess when it’s safe to cross this pedestrian-unfriendly intersection. This is not a video game; it’s an embarrassment. It’s really just a matter of time before someone gets hit here.
It’s no wonder County Mayor Carlos Alverez’s job is on the line. If we can’t even get basic services like pedestrian crosswalk signals fixed in a timely manner, I can only imagine what else is broken in County government.
The Florida Department of Transportation plans to rebuild a small section of Brickell Avenue to improve safety for cars in 2012. True to their autocentric focus, they are actually making conditions for those of us that walk on Brickell Avenue more dangerous. These so called “improvements” will include longer left-turn lanes and elimination of left turns at Southeast Sixth Street. Other “improvements” highlighted in a Miami Herald article include:
• Closing the median opening at Southeast Sixth Street, preventing left turns at this “high crash spot”
• Increasing the lengths of the left-turn lanes on Brickell Avenue for northbound traffic at Fifth and Seventh Streets
• Increasing the lengths of the left-turn lanes on Brickell Avenue for southbound traffic at Seventh and Eighth Streets
• Converting the northbound outside lane at Eighth Street from an exclusive right-turn only lane to a through and right-turn lane
• Installing new signs and traffic signals, and optimizing signal timing
The FDOT fails to recognize that by closing the median opening at Southeast Sixth Street they are reducing intersection density. Reducing intersection density does not calm traffic; in fact it has the opposite effect. It will only encourage more speeding on Brickell Avenue. This is the last thing we need.
The closure of the median at Southeast Sixth Street also eliminates the opportunity for an additional crosswalk. We need more crosswalks on Brickell Avenue. So far FDOT has committed to adding 2 or 3 additonal crosswalks on Brickell, this isn’t nearly enough. We have identified nearly two dozen locations that badly need crosswalks on Brickell Avenue.
According to an FDOT study there were least 82 accidents on this segment in 2008, including 62 sideswipes and rear-end collisions. Twenty were caused by northbound cars making left turns without yielding to southbound traffic. Lost in this study is the fact that a pedestrian was killed in this very same area several years ago. This statistic is not highlighted in the FDOT study and nothing is being done by FDOT to calm traffic and improve pedestrian safety here or anywhere else on Brickell. Safety conditions for pedestrians in this area are obviously not a FDOT priority.
Meanwhile, our local elected officials have promised more safety improvements for Brickell Avenue. We here at Transit Miami have high expectations from FDOT and our elected officials. Please do not disappoint us. We don’t consider this a safety improvement. Nice try.
You can find the preliminary, non-finalized FDOT drawings for this project here.
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