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Via DawnTown

AM poster

Recently, City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado declared March as Miami Bike Month. And why shouldn’t it?  Did you see the latest gathering this past Friday for Critical Mass?  Hundreds of people, including celebrity cyclists and NBA megastars Dwyane Wade and Lebron James, were in attendance for a 13 mile trek around Miami.  Cycling has become the latest “thing” in Miami.  However, it could be more than just a monthly ride.  Why not see cycling as a serious solution to the traffic congestion problems in and out of the city?  Cities like Amsterdam and Chicago seem to think of it as a real solution.  It doesn’t have to just be about bikes either, car sharing has become a major business as well and could also assist with making our streets safer.  What if there was a place in Miami, built infrastructure that helped promote these solutions?  Well there could be…..that’s where DawnTown needs your help.

 

We are officially launching our new architecture ideas competition for 2014, called Alternative Mobilities.  The competition is open to professionals and students of architecture and other design fields to come up with a new type of transportation hub. One that acts as a generator for new ways to move around downtown in a more sustainable fashion.

 

Included here is our competition brief:
Alternative Mobilities Competition Brief – FINAL

 

This time we around we are instituting a registration fee. Why you ask?  Many of you have alerted us that printing, mounting on foam core, and shipping your competition boards have cost you $100 to $150!  Instead, we’ve decided to reduce the amount of printed material by asking you only submit your projects digitally.  The fee allows us to do the printing for you.  It’s all explained in the brief above.
Currently, the registration fees are as follows:

 

EARLY BIRD………$25.00 US     (Register before March 27th)
REGULAR REGISTRATION……….$40.00 US  (After March 27th)

 

Act soon and take advantage of our early bird registration.  In order to do so visit our Eventbrite page:  https://dawntownmiami.eventbrite.com

 

GOOD LUCK!

 

 

There is a book launch event this Sunday, March 2, for STREET DESIGN: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns hosted by the City of Coral Gables and Books and Books. Selected streets from our very own Coral Gables, South Miami and Miami Beach are highlighted in the book to exemplify the true value of properly designed, pedestrian-friendly streets. This how-to guide is written by locally-based planner, Victor Dover, and NYC architect, John Massengale.

Coral Gables’ Director of Planning & Zoning, Ramon Trias, will make introductory remarks, followed by a short presentation by Victor Dover. The book will be on sale in the Museum gift shop.

STREET DESIGN cover

What: Reception, Talk & Book Signing with Victor Dover 

When: Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Where: Coral Gables Museum, Community Meeting Room located at 285 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables, Florida 33134

RSVP on Facebook

Santa Maria Street, Coral Gables

The South Florida Community Development Coalition will be hosting a discussion on

Complete Streets in Miami

Thursday, March 6

8:30am -10:30am

Complete Streets

The speaker line-up for the event should make for some good, substantive discussion. They’ve got:

  • Jose (“Pepe”) Diaz, Miami-Dade County Commissioner,
  • Cesar Garcia-Pons, Sr. Manager, Planning + Design at Miami Downtown Development Authority,
  • Tony Garcia, Principal at the Street Plans Collaborate and former TransitMiami.com Editor,
  • Joseph Kohl, Principal at Dover, Kohl & Partners, and
  • Marta Viciedo, Transportation Action Committee (TrAC) Chairperson

There is a fee ($20 in advance, $25 at the door) to attend, but the SFCDC will be using those proceeds for streetscape improvement projects, including tree planting and bike rack installation, on the 79th Street Corridor — a worthwhile investment of your Andrew Jackson.

Be sure to register for the event through the official registration page.

Five years after moving to Miami to start working at UM, it is a good time for a quick recap: the good and the bad. And while what happens (and crucially: doesn’t happen) on the Rickenbacker Causeway is important, it is symptomatic of much larger systemic issues in the area.

The Good

Let’s start with some of the good developments. They are easier to deal with as unfortunately they aren’t that numerous. Miami-Dade Transit has – despite some questionable leadership decisions and pretty awful security contractors – put into place some important projects such as a decent public transit connection from MIA and while the user experience leaves a number of things to be desired, it generally works; so do TriRail and the express buses to Broward and elsewhere; a number of cities have local trolley systems and while not a great solution in some places, it’s a start; Miami Beach has DecoBike and it seems that it is being used widely – and the service is slated to come to the City of Miami some time in 2014; Miami is finally becoming a city, albeit an adolescent one with a core that, while still dominated by car traffic, is more amenable to foot and bike traffic than it was five years ago (and there are plans for improvement); and at least there is now a debate about the value of transportation modes that do not involve cars only.

The Bad

Yet at the same time, it seems like Miami still suffers from a perfect storm of lack of leadership, vision and long-term planning, competing jurisdictions which makes for easy finger-pointing when something goes wrong, civic complacency and the pursuance of self-interest. Add to that a general disregard for cyclists, pedestrians and those taking public transit. All of this leaves the area as one of the most dangerous places to bike and walk in the country. And instead of actively working towards increasing the safety of those – in an area where many drivers are behaving in a dangerous manner – that do not have the protection of the exoskeleton of 4000 lbs of steel or aluminum, infrastructure is being built without regard for the most vulnerable.

impact-of-speed2 (1)

Poor Leadership and Lack of Political Will

At the top of the list is the rampant lack of genuine support for the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians as well as public transit. The area remains mired in car-centric planning and mindset. While other places have grasped the potential for improving the lives of people with walkable urban environments, we live in an area whose civic and political leadership does not appear to even begin to understand this value (and whose leadership likely doesn’t take public transit).

This starts with a mayor and a county commission (with some exceptions) whose mindset continues to be enamored with “development” (i.e. building housing as well as moving further and further west instead of filling in existing space, putting more and more strain on the existing infrastructure). How about building a viable public transit system on the basis of plans that have existed for years, connecting the western suburbs with the downtown core? How about finally linking Miami Beach to the mainland via a light rail system? How about build a similar system up the Biscayne corridor or, since the commission is so enamored with westwards expansion, connect the FIU campus or other areas out west? And while we’re at it, let’s do away with dreamy projects in lieu of achievable ones? Instead of trying to build the greatest this or greatest that (with public money no less), one could aim for solidity. What we get is a long overdue spur (calling it a line is pushing it) to the airport with no chance of westwards expansion.

Few of the cities do much better and indeed Miami consistently ranks among the worst-run cities in the country (easy enough when many city residents are apathetic in the face of dysfunctional city government or only have a domicile in Miami, but don’t actually live here). When the standard answer of the chief of staff of a City of Miami commissioner is that “the people in that street don’t want it” when asked about the installation of traffic calming devices that would benefit many people in the surrounding area, it shows that NIMBYism is alive and kicking, that there is no leadership and little hope that genuine change is coming.

Car-Centric, Not People-Centric, Road Design

One of the most egregious culprits is the local FDOT district, headed by Gus Pego. While the central office in Tallahassee and some of the other districts seem to finally have arrived in the 21st century, FDOT District 6 (Miami-Dade and Monroe counties) has a steep learning curve ahead and behaves like an institution that is responsible for motor vehicles rather than modern transportation. Examples include the blatant disregard of Florida’s legislation concerning the concept of “complete streets” (as is the case in its current SW 1st Street project where parking seems more important to FDOT than the safety of pedestrians or cyclists – it has no mandate for the former, but certainly for the latter) or its continued refusal to lower the speed limits on the roads it is responsible for, especially when they are heavily frequented by cyclists and pedestrians. All of this is embodied in its suggestion that cyclists shouldn’t travel the roads the district constructs. According to their own staff, they are too dangerous.

The county’s public works department – with some notable exceptions – is by and large still stuck in a mindset of car-centricism and does not have the political cover to make real improvements to the infrastructure. Roads are still constructed or reconstructed with wide lanes and with the goal of moving cars at high speeds as opposed to creating a safe environment for all participants. Yes, that may mean a decrease in the “level of service”, but maybe the lives and the well-being of fellow humans is more important than getting to one’s destination a minute more quickly (and if you have decided to move far away from where you work, that’s just a factor to consider). The most well-known example is the Rickenbacker Causeway which still resembles a highway after three people on bicycles were killed in the last five years and where speeding is normal, despite numerous assurances from the political and the administrative levels that safety would actually increase. Putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t make things much better and that is all that has happened so far. But even on a small scale things don’t work out well. When it takes Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami months to simply install a crosswalk in a residential street (and one entity is responsible for the sidewalk construction, while the other does the actual crosswalk) and something is done only after much intervention and many, many meetings, it is little wonder that so little gets done.

(Almost) Zero Traffic Enforcement

It continues with police departments that enforce the rules of the road selectively and haphazardly at best, and at least sometimes one has the very clear impression that pedestrians and cyclists are considered a nuisance rather than an equal participant in traffic. Complaints about drivers are routinely shrugged off, requests for information are rarely fulfilled and in various instances police officers appear unwilling to give citations to drivers who have caused cyclists to crash (and would much rather assist in an exchange of money between driver and victim, as was recently the case).

The above really should be the bare minimum. What is really required – given the dire situation – is for public institutions to be proactive. But short of people kicking and screaming, it does not appear that those in power want to improve the lives and well-being of the people that they technically serve. I view this issue as an atmospheric problem, one that cannot easily be remedied by concrete action, but rather one that requires a mindset change. A good starting point: instead of trying to be “the best” or “the greatest” at whatever new “projects” people dream up (another tall “luxury” tower, nicest parking garage [is that what we should be proud of, really?], let’s just try not to be among the worst. But that would require leadership. The lack thereof on the county and the municipal level (FDOT personnel is not elected and at any rate, is in a league of their own when it comes to being tone-deaf) means that more people need to kick and scream to get something done (in addition to walking and biking more). Whether this is done through existing groups or projects like the Aaron Cohen initiative (full disclosure: I am part of the effort) is immaterial. But if there is to be real improvement, a lot more people need to get involved.

 

This video is great. Please forward this video to Mayor Regalado and County Mayor Gimenez. There is no reason why we can’t do this in the 305, all we need is a little leadership and vision.  I’ll pay for the paint.

 

 

In a city where nearly everyone and everything is from somewhere else, inequality is Miami’s most native son. Like sunshine and sex appeal, inequality is stuffed into every corner of this city. We make little effort to hide it or avoid it, and in the case of one advertising campaign we even flaunt it. Along Southwest 2nd Avenue in Brickell, there’s a bus stop advertisement for Miami’s latest luxury development touting “Unfair Housing,” a play on the Fair Housing Act, which prohibited discriminatory housing practices in the United States*.

Photo credit: Jordan Nassar

Photo credit: Jordan Nassar

But this bus stop ad isn’t the only evidence of the gaps dividing our city; there’s the bus stop itself. It can be dirty and overcrowded, just like the buses themselves, which also run late, if they ever come at all. The sidewalks on blocks around the stop are narrow and they’re often obstructed either temporarily by construction or permanently by signage and utilities. It is the typical second-class experience of pedestrians and transit riders around the United States that results from minimal public investment in any form of transportation infrastructure that does not cater to cars.

This is a common condition around the world, and in a few cities it has received the attention that it deserves: as an inequality so flagrant that it offends our notions of democracy. In Bogotá, former mayor Enrique Peñalosa made this idea of transportation as a matter of democracy central to his governing philosophy. “If all citizens are equal before the Law,” Peñalosa is fond of saying, “then a citizen on a $30 bicycle has the same right to safe mobility as one in a $30,000 car, and a bus with 100 passengers has a right to 100 times more road space than a car with one.” Gil Peñalosa, who is Enrique’s brother and former Commissioner of Parks, Sport, and Recreation in Bogotá and is now Executive Director of Toronto-based 8-80 Cities, recently wrote, “Bus lanes are a right and a symbol of equality.” In Copenhagen, Mikael Colville-Andersen, photographer and founder of Copenhagen Cycle Chic and Copenhagenize, has argued that, “we have to re-democratize the bicycle.” In order words, we must recast cycling from a niche subculture for environmentalists and fitness buffs to a viable form of transportation for all citizens who value it because, as Colville-Andersen stresses, “it’s quick and easy.” Since the early 1990s, Vienna has embraced “gender mainstreaming,” the practice of ensuring that public works projects, including transportation, benefit men and women equally.

Carrera 15 in Bogotá before Peñalosa (left) and after Peñalosa (right)

Carrera 15 in Bogotá before Peñalosa (left) and after Peñalosa (right)

At its core, government by representative democracy, our chosen form, demands that our leaders pass laws and set policies based on the wishes, opinions, and needs of the citizens without sacrificing what Edmund Burke called their “enlightened conscience.” In other words, our leaders must govern in accordance with the will of the majority, the rights of the minorities, and their own judgment informed by their position as a representative of all citizens. When we examine the transportation policies under which we live, we can observe simply and clearly that Miami is not a transportation democracy.

In a transportation democracy, governed by notions of equality, resources are allocated so that all citizens no matter their form of transportation have equal access to safe, effective, dignified mobility. How we travel between point A and point B is a question as critical as any other to the functioning of society and how we answer that question speaks volumes about what we value and whose voice is heard.

Transportation resources are not allocated equally in Miami. Federal, state, and local funding for transportation projects in Miami-Dade County, aviation and port activity excluded, totaled roughly $1.7 billion during the 2011-2012 fiscal year**.  Of that amount, over sixty percent went to road, highway, and parking infrastructure. The remaining minority is split between sidewalks, buses, trains, bike lanes and racks, and other pedestrian and intermodal infrastructure.

It’s a grossly unequal distribution in light of how citizens travel in practice. Twenty percent of Miami-Dade residents are not eligible to drive based on age. Another 20 percent of residents age 18 and over live in poverty, making car ownership an impractical financial burden. Of Miami-Dade’s more than one million workers, eleven percent commutes to work by bus, train, bike, or on foot. Still another six percent have ambulatory disabilities that require use of a wheelchair, walker, or other assistive device. Surely there is some overlap among these and still other groups, but the lesson is that in excess of fifty percent of Miami-Dade residents have no or minimal direct need for or access to an automobile; yet the vast majority of our transportation spending at all levels of government goes to automobile infrastructure. Add to these totals the vast numbers of Miamians, both older and younger, who drive out of necessity but who would prefer to travel by transit, bike, or foot, and the balance of transportation spending becomes even more unequally skewed in favor of a privileged minority***.

We may not typically frame it this way, but what we have here in Miami with respect to our transportation is another instance of inequality, a failure of our democracy. This is a concern larger than the cleanliness of our buses or the scarcity of bike lanes. This is an example of a majority facing alienation and segregation to such a degree that they appear the minority; and this manufactured invisibility is used to justify vast, unequal expenditures in favor of a privileged class. If we are to reclaim our transportation democracy, we must begin with an honest discussion about how our citizens travel around our city; we must push back against an approach to transportation that adequately serves so few of us; and we must, as they’ve done in Bogotá, Copenhagen and Vienna, recognize transportation as an issue that extends deep into the heart of our democracy. Only then can we ensure that all voices are heard, all wishes considered, all rights protected, all interests acknowledged. It is a prerequisite to providing safe, effective, dignified transportation options to all and to staying true to our most inherent values of government. Only then can we ensure that Miami becomes a transportation democracy.

*The campaign has been successful, though; the development is nearly sold out before it has even broken ground.

**This is a rough estimate that includes budget figures from USDOT, FDOT, MDX, MDT, and 35 municipal governments, among others. Unsurprisingly, some figures are easier to come by and interpret than others.

***It is also worth noting the increases in housing prices that developers must charge to subsidize minimum parking requirements.

 

 
Cartoon designed by Juan Navarro www.FWACATA.com

Cartoon designed by Juan Navarro www.FWACATA.com

The very naughty Cone Fairy has done it again. Last night she mischievously placed 7 orange traffic cones down the center of NE 76 Street in an attempt to calm traffic to protect children, parents with strollers, cyclists and pets from speeding drivers.

For the past 5 months my neighbors and I have been trying to get the city and county to do something about the reckless drivers that come barreling down our street everyday. Unfortunately, true to form, neither the county nor city has acknowledged that the fundamental problem with this road, as with the majority of our streets in South Florida, is the actual design of our roads that encourages speeding. It shouldn’t take five months to find a solution to this problem; this isn’t rocket science, it just requires a little common sense.

Operation Belle Meade Storm: To liberate Belle Meade residents from the oppression of speeding cars

Operation Belle Meade Storm: To liberate Belle Meade residents from the oppression of speeding cars

Last I heard, the only thing the county is willing to do  is add a crosswalk and erect one of these signs on 76th Street.

A crosswalk and this sign is the best the County can do calm traffic.

A crosswalk and this sign is the best the County can do calm traffic.

This silly sign won’t do anything to calm traffic. If this is the only solution the county can come up with, I have a feeling we may see a whole lot more of the very sassy and sexy Cone Fairy. It’s worth mentioning that all of Transit Miami’s recommendations to calm traffic on this street have been rebuffed by the county. In the meantime, cars continue to speed down my street and it’s just a matter of time before someone is struck by a speeding car.

impact-of-speed2

By the way- we don’t know the true identity of the Cone Fairy and we cannot condone this type of behavior. So remember…

urbanism

 

 

 

Written by Peter Smith

Two summers ago, I attended a presentation on mobility at the Department of Transportation’s new headquarters in Navy Yard. My then-boss, Mariia Zimmerman, was speaking on our nation’s preparedness to deal with an aging population in an auto-centric culture, and she gave a startling statistic: eighty-five percent of Baby Boomers live in communities where the car is the only viable means of transportation – walking included – and when asked how they intend to complete activities of daily living – grocery shopping, doctors appointments, church services – when they’re no longer able to drive, nearly all of them chose a single response: my children will drive me. That. Is. Insane. It’s also really poor planning, but first and foremost it’s insane.

I was reminded of this mind-blowing stat this week when my parents moved from my childhood home in one of Baltimore’s shoulder-to-shoulder brick row neighborhoods to a mid-century planned community. Their new home is in the Village of Cross Keys, the first planned community ever built by James Rouse, the man who coined the term “urban renewal.” Past the community’s guard tower, the tree-lined residential streets, named for great Baltimore planners like Edward Bouton and Frederick Law Olmstead, abut shops and restaurants. There’s a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a hotel. It’s just outside of downtown, but feels like a small hamlet. It sounds like a great place to retire, and indeed, it is marketed as an ideal community for active retirees.

The Village of Cross Keys, for all its amenities though, is not without its shortcomings. For instance, it lacks a grocery store… and a pharmacy… and a church and synagogue… and a school. Cross Keys has also been sold as a great place to raise a family, which is even more bewildering. The closest bus stop is outside the community’s fence over a half-mile from the residential heart along roads that sometimes have sidewalks, but sometimes don’t. In short, its boutique shops and chic cafes may make it a great place for retirees to waste lazy afternoons, but they don’t necessarily make it a great place to grow old, or even a great place to just live.

As a society, we’re becoming increasingly aware, thanks to the efforts of the First Lady and others to tackle childhood obesity, of the challenges that our nation’s children face from un-walkable communities; less than five percent of American children now live in a community where they can walk or bike to school. We’re far less conscious, however, of the challenges presented to the older generations, those who will in time be unable to drive and will therefore more than anyone else benefit from walkable, not to mention inter-generational, neighborhoods.

Miami has its share of America’s aging population as well as its share of un-walkable communities. I set out to discover just how big the problem is that Miami will face; how many older Miamians live in communities that will increasingly fail to meet their needs as they grow older? To do this, I looked at population data from Miami-Dade’s 77 inhabited zip codes and stood it up against each zip code’s ratings from WalkScore.

A quick caveat – WalkScore is not a perfect measure of walkability by any means, but validation studies confirm that it’s pretty much as good a measurement as anyone has ever devised. If anything, many of its shortcomings, such as its failure to consider lack of sidewalks or hostile road environments, would mean scores in places like Miami are likely higher than they should be, but as you’ll see, Miami’s scores aren’t very high as it is.

WalkScore assigns a score to any address in the United States and elsewhere that is representative of the area’s walkability. It measures walkability by proximity to amenities, such as groceries, restaurants, parks, schools, etc. The final score falls along a scale of 0-100, which corresponds to the following five walkability categories:

  • Walker’s Paradise (90-100): Daily errands do not require a car.
  • Very Walkable (70-89): Most errands can be accomplished on foot.
  • Somewhat Walkable (50-69): Some amenities are within walking distance.
  • Car-Dependent (25-49): A few amenities are within walking distance.
  • Car-Dependent (0-24): All errands require a car.

Ideally, any individual, especially older Americans would be able to walk to at least the most basic necessities, but as it turns out, for many that’s not the case. There are 463,940 people in Miami-Dade County who are age 60 or older and a full one-third of them live in areas where almost nothing is accessible without a car. Here’s a pie chart with the county-wide breakdown:

 

Untitled1

 

One of the first things that you probably noted was that the percentage of older Miamians living in areas categorized as a “Walker’s Paradise” is zero. That’s because there is no zip code in Dade County that tops the required score threshold of 90; the highest is a respectable 85, achieved by zip codes in Coconut Grove and Little Havana. Once you get over the shock, or not, that Miami is no Walker’s Paradise, you’ll see that about 70 percent of the county’s older residents live in areas where approximately half or more of basic needs cannot be accomplished on foot.

The median WalkScore for older Miamians is 57, which is solidly in the lower-middle share of the Somewhat Walkable category. To give a sense of what a “somewhat walkable” community is like, consider zip code 33186, which includes the area where the Florida Turnpike intersects with Kendall Avenue and has a WalkScore rating of 60. It’s home to just shy of 10,000 Miamians age 60 and older. From a typical house inside the sub-development just off the Turnpike at Kendall Avenue, it’s over a mile roundtrip for groceries, and a mile-and-a-half for a cup of coffee or a trip to the park. The closest bus stop is a half-mile away. For an older person in the hot Miami sun, distances like those can be pretty isolating.

Now, consider that 52.4% of Miamians age 60 and over live in areas that are even less walkable than that. Indeed, nearly 40,000 older Miamians live in communities with a WalkScore of five or less. That’s a small city’s worth of people who cannot travel to any meaningful destination without a car and for whom the inability to drive would mean the inability to remain even minimally self-sufficient.

Anyone has who has lived with an aging relative can relate that perhaps the hardest part of getting old is coming to terms with the loss of independence and self-sufficiency. It’s also no secret that maintaining that independence and self-sufficiency can be the key to maintaining happiness and mental health long into old age. For the Baby Boomers in particular, for whom freedom and independence are central to the generation’s identity, addressing the mobility challenges presented by Miami’s built environment is critical. When answering surveys, Boomers may be amenable to the idea that they will relinquish all freedom of mobility to their children, but the reality will likely mirror other generations’ reluctance to forego independence.

Baby Boomers represent the largest generational cohort in the United States and they comprise twenty percent of Miami-Dade residents. Thanks to advances in health science, Boomers are expected to live longer than any other generation in human history so far, but current predictions are that they won’t necessarily be any healthier into old age than preceding generations.

Older people, for both health and financial reasons, are far less likely to be able to drive. And even if they can legally drive, we may wish to encourage another means of transportation. A study out of Carnegie Mellon and AAA found that drivers age 75 to 84 had similar driving safety records as teenagers with a year or less of driving experience. Once an individual reaches 85 years, his or her vehicular fatality rates jumps to nearly four times that of teenagers.

Now, consider how many Americans will reach those ages. According to projections by the U.S. Social Security Administration, the life expectancy of a man who turns 65 today is 83 years old; for a woman, her life expentancy is 85. And those are just the averages, so roughly half of people will live even longer. One out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past 90 years, and one in ten will see 95 years and beyond. What all this amounts to is that the number of Americans, in both raw numbers and as a percentage of the total population, who are unable to drive because of their age will likely grow over the coming decades.

Demographic tides travel slowly through history. If you look closely, you can see them coming from far and away, and if you plan accordingly, you can subvert their sometimes catastrophic legacies. We can see now with clarity that Miami, like much of America, is on the edge of a quality of life pitfall. Absent descisive, purposeful action, a greater share of Miamians will face isolation and dependence than at any other moment in our city’s history.

Whether we solve this issue by making all communities more walkable or by making walkable communities more affordable and accessible is for discussion, but what is unavoidable is the track that we’ve placed ourselves on. It’s a track to a problem that requires solutions that amount to more than developing “lifestyle communities” that define walkable as “100 feet from a Talbot’s, but 1.5 miles from a Publix.” Solutions must encourage neighborhoods where Miamians can live their lives by car if they choose, but continue to live their lives on foot when driving is no longer possible. Otherwise, be prepared to free up some time every Saturday to take Abuela to the foot doctor.

 

 

6th crash in three years at the same exact location. Brickell Avenue and 15th Road

6th crash in three years at the same exact location. Brickell Avenue and 15th Road

Here we go again… A few weeks ago there was another crash on Brickell Avenue and SW 15th Road.  This is the sixth incident in about 3 years that I have seen debris from crashes at the exact same location.  I’m not sure what FDOT and the city of Miami are waiting for, but apparently nothing will be done here until someone is killed. Sadly this will likely happen within the next three years.

Looks like the bench was launched about 50 feet.

Looks like the bench was launched about 50 feet.

The Echo Brickell project has just been announced and construction will begin soon at the very exact location where all these crashes have occurred.  This project will have 175 units with retail on the ground floor.  If the design of the road remains the same, we should expect a nasty accident with a lot of injuries once the project is completed. FDOT and the city of Miami have been put on notice. If nothing is done immediately both will have blood on their hands.

You can also send an email to FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego and Commissioner Marc Sarnoff to see if they plan to do anything to address the design speed on Brickell Avenue.  I think it is evident that we have a problem here.

 

Is the optimal place for bicyclists really between speeding traffic and swinging car doors or is bicycle planning in most cities still just an afterthought? Can it really be the case that major arterial roadways planned for reconstruction like Alton Road in Miami Beach which are between 100′ and 120′ really have no room for bicycles?

The plan for Alton Road which the City of Miami Beach approved is still the wrong one but neighborhood organizations are not accepting that the plan is set in stone until the concrete is poured and dry.

alton

Though Miami Beach is in the top 10 cities in the nation for biking to work according to the US Census, a perfect storm of Department of Transportation heavy-handedness, local bureaucratic impassivity, and ineptitude on the part of elected representatives has led to a hugely expensive design no one endorses. Alton Road, expected to become a showpiece of island multi-modalism, will instead become a wide-lane, high-speed, completely-congested Department of Transportation boondoggle say residents. If Miami Beach can’t get a multi-modal design with its committed and educated pedestrian and cycling advocates is there any hope for the rest of the country?

8701885064_8c8e3cd237

Thousands of major arterials around the country are in the process of reconstruction right now as the first roadways of the Highway Act of 1956 are being rebuilt. And despite the amazing strides made in a few exceptional places, the default design on the traffic engineer’s books is still the wrong one. The difference now is that residents know better. This is making the job of elected officials who have always trusted the DOT very difficult. Something’s got to give.

Residents are available to discuss this important issue further.

Click here to visit the official website for the initiative.

On Facebook: Alton Road Reconstruction Coalition.

On the web:

Thanks,
Jason King
Miami Beach Resident and Urban Planner

A pedestrian bridge above US-1 at the University MetroRail station was recently approved by Miami-Dade County and is currently moving closer to an agreement. Though a state and federally funded project of $6 million, the University Centre mall owner has raised some concerns and is refusing to allow the county to build the bridge on its property. The bridge to channel university students, middle school students, metrorail riders, and others to the popular strip mall has been in the works for several years, joining the other existing US-1 overpasses. The Pedestrian Safety Access Committee formed with the long-term goal to build the pedestrian bridge in direct response to 3 student fatalities at the intersection since 1990, along with several accidents.

Proposed Pedestrian Bridge - Rendering courtesy Miami-Dade County

Proposed Pedestrian Bridge at US-1 and University MetroRail Station: Note the bicyclist hugging the curb… (Rendering courtesy Miami-Dade County)

Looking at this situation at face value, this project makes perfect sense: people are dying on the intersection, so take the people off the intersection. But I challenge you to stand back and examine the bigger picture of crossing US-1 at this intersection and every other one in Coral Gables, South Miami, and beyond. Is the problem uniquely at this intersection, or along the entire stretch of the fast-moving, 6-lane highway? Due to very high speeds, awkward street-level pedestrian crossings, unbuffered and narrow sidewalks, and poor street lighting, I think we can agree that this stretch is hostile to non-motorists. Michelle Simmon, public involvement coordinator for Miami-Dade Transit stated back in 2007 that ‘the main purpose of the long-term bridge project is to encourage pedestrian safety while making the Coral Gables community more “walkable.” Yes, ‘channeling’ pedestrians into a bridge does have the potential of keeping pedestrians safe, but does it encourage walkability?

Pedestrian Convenience. A walkable community is possible when the built environment is convenient to the pedestrian, bicyclist, student, parent with baby stroller, etc. Making decisions that inhibit pedestrian convenience such as narrowing sidewalks, reducing crosswalks, ‘forcing’ people to go up and over a street – then these decisions make the built environment inconvenient and therefore, less walkable. But if we redesign the street to discourage speeding, add wider sidewalks buffered from vehicular traffic, pedestrian street lighting, and common-sense street-level crossings (and using a lot less than the $6 million) we could achieve both safety and walkability for all road users.

Neighborhood Unity. Instead of creating a street that welcomes its neighbors, we are making decisions (like numerous pedestrian bridges) that add up toward creating an automobile sewer. This is the root of the problem, and the reason for these vehicular deaths in the first place – we are literally trying to put a highway into the middle of a community. Why are we surprised that pedestrians, students, children are trying to cross the street in their own neighborhood? Instead of encouraging to further dissect this area, we need to consider the potential to transform this massive right-of-way into the safe neighborhood center the university, middle school, and residents deserve.

Traffic Priorities. The problem in this dangerous intersection is not the pedestrians, but the unobservant drivers. But who are we punishing? the pedestrians. And who are we prioritizing for dominion over the street even more? the drivers, observant or not. A walkable neighborhood is not void of cars, drivers, and traffic, but rather re-prioritizes its road space to accommodate a full range of transportation choices. Slowing traffic down does not guarantee more congestion either. In fact, some of the most efficient roads in the world are in slow-speed, walkable environments. By humanizing the thoroughfare with better street-level crossings, lighting, wider sidewalks, street trees, narrower traffic lanes, and even on-street parking, we can effectively slow traffic, and persuade drivers to be more alert, attentive, and vigilant, fostering a safer atmosphere for all.

If building this University Station pedestrian bridge could save just one life, then yes, its construction is more than worth it. But what’s next in encouraging safety and walkability? Are we going to continue constructing pedestrian bridges at every intersection over Dixie Highway – and with whose funds? And does that leave the people who will still cross at street level with a more dangerous thoroughfare? I challenge this community, the Pedestrian Safety Access Committee, Miami-Dade County, FDOT, and others involved to improve the pedestrian experience on the street level. In many ways the easiest solution is to build the pedestrian bridge. However, six million dollars can provide a lot of funding for this community if our residents and leaders are brave enough to tackle the root of the problem. We should not take these deaths lightly, but we do need to consider the full range of options to improve the safety, convenience, and value of the US-1 corridor. Just as Michelle Simmon from Miami-Dade Transit stated, “A livable community has to be a safe community.” By humanizing this dangerous, dissecting thoroughfare, we can not only save lives, but also our community.

Ladies and Gentlemen- Let’s get Ready to Rumble!

It’s the fight of the century. David vs. Goliath

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Legion Park

6447 NE 7th Ave
Miami, FL 33138

I have a feeling we may see a couple of Superfly Snukas from Upper EastSide residents and businesses at this event. FDOT better come prepared.

 
NE 79th Street.  Miami's worst urban street has a design speed of 40+mph. 3 lanes going west to east and 1 lane going east to west.

NE 79th Street. Miami’s worst urban street has a design speed of 40+mph. 3 lanes going west to east and 1 lane going east to west.

NE 79th is unequivocally Miami’s worst urban street. The street is awkwardly configured with 3 lanes going west to east and 1 lane going east to west. Sometime in 2013 FDOT will begin a resurfacing project from I95 to the Biscayne Bay.

NE 79th Street project will be resurfaced from I95 to Biscayne Bay.

NE 79th Street will be resurfaced from I95 to Biscayne Bay.

I’m plugged-in with what’s happening in my neighborhood and I happen to live 4 blocks away from 79th Street.  About two months ago I found out that FDOT would be resurfacing NE 79th Street and apparently the FDOT has been conducting a series of meetings with “neighborhood stakeholders” in the last year. I am on the board of the MiMo Biscayne Association.  Over the past two years we have met with FDOT officials on several occasions to discuss making safety improvements along Biscayne Boulevard. Not once during any of our meetings did FDOT mention that NE79th Street was due to be resurfaced. Where’s the community outreach? Why didn’t FDOT reach out to the MiMo Biscayne Association or Transit Miami?

With respect to Biscayne Boulevard, the MiMo Biscayne Association has been rebuffed by FDOT and they make every excuse not to make any safety improvement although I have documented over 15 crashes in less than a three-year period in which cars usually end up on the sidewalk.  Basically, FDOT officials have said to us is “ Biscayne Boulevard was just recently resurfaced, so speak with us again in 20 years when we resurface again”. FDOT officials have also said “ safety is matter of perception”.

So let’s put outside FDOT’s lack of community outreach for now. I’ve heard that the current resurfacing project is only a “temporary solution”.  WTF does “temporary solution” mean? Sounds exactly like the I395 “Bait and Switch” which FDOT just pulled with the “signature bridge” construction project. I’m very happy to see that Mayor Regalado and Commissioner Sarnoff have filed a lawsuit again FDOT.

My fear is that FDOT will pull the same “Bait and Switch”. They’ll do this resurfacing project with a promise to come back soon and we won’t hear from them again for another 20 years.  Meanwhile, 79th Street will likely see a new train station along the FEC corridor in the next 7 years.  There is a lot of new development happening in this area and pedestrian activity is increasing everyday, yet FDOT continues to design their roads as if it were 1960. They are clearly not planning for the future

My sources from within the city have informed me that FDOT has not conducted a traffic study or traffic count for 79th Street in 10 years. So I’m going assume that they haven’t conducted any pedestrians on cyclists counts either.  Not that it matters since FDOT plays by their own set of rules and standards; they have little regard for anyone not in a vehicle.

FDOT’s current proposal is the equivalent of putting “lipstick on a pig”.  Thanks to pressure from the North Palm Grove and Shorecrest neighborhood associations FDOT has agreed to add some lighting and 5 additional crosswalks in the scope of this project.  But this is not good enough. FDOT can and should do a lot more.

The MiMo Biscayne Association’s has adopted a resolution regarding NE 79th Street. Transit Miami fully supports this resolution:

 79th Street: Miami’s Worst Urban Street:

WHEREAS, the Florida Department of Transportation will begin
resurfacing 79TH Street beginning in August, 2014, and
 
WHEREAS, the FDOT Plan will do very little to improve safety for
pedestrians along this poorly design street, and
 
WHEREAS, 79TH Street from Biscayne Bay to I-95 has 3 lanes going west
to east and 1 lane going east to west, and
 
WHEREAS, little parking is available for the 79th Street small shop
owners aside from on-street spaces, and
 
WHEREAS, the eastbound lanes have a design speed of 45 MPH through
the heart of the city, and
 
WHEREAS, 79TH street is the focal point of the Upper Eastside
community, and
 
WHEREAS, the 79th Street merchants have joined with MiMo Boulevard
Association for support of their Urban Streets, and
 
WHEREAS, Both 79th Street and MiMo Boulevard merchants are
promoting the revitalization efforts taking place on those streets, and
 
WHEREAS, 79th Street and MiMo Boulevard are the two vital
commercial roadways that affect the economic redevelopment of the
Upper East Side, 
 
THEREFORE, THE MIMO BISCAYNE ASSOCIATION AND THE 79TH STREET
BUSINESS ASSOCIATION CALL FOR THE FOLLOWING CHANGES AND
ADDITIONS TO THE PROPOSED FDOT ROADWAY PLAN:
 
1. CHANGE THE 3/1 EAST/WEST LANES ON 79TH TO 2/2 LANES
GOING EAST AND WEST.
2. CREATE AN 8’ PARKING LANES ON BOTH SIDEs OF 79TH STREET (Off-SET PARKING)
3. PROVIDE MINIMUM SAFETY STANDARDS BY PLACING
CROSSWALKS AT EACH INTERSECTIONS OF 79TH STREET AS WELL
AS MID-WAY BETWEEN THE INTERSECTIONS AT 7TH AND 10TH
AVENUES
4. REDUCE THE DESIGN SPEED OF 79TH Street to 30 mph.

 

The FDOT will be presenting their plans to North Palm Grove Neighborhood Association on Wednesday March 27 at 7:00 PM at Legion Park.  This meeting is open to the public.  Whether you live in the area or not, please consider attending this meeting.  It’s important that Miamians take a stand against FDOT.  Miami’s worst street can very easily become one of Miami’s best signature streets.  FDOT will make every excuse in the book why they cannot make the improvements that are being recommended.  It all boils down to BS excuses.  If we can put a man on the moon, we can figure out a way to make our streets business and pedestrian friendly. Lack of will and vision from FDOT prevents any of this from happening.

Feel free to send an email to District 6 Secretary Gus Pego and let him know that FDOT’s current plan for 79th Street is not acceptable to anyone but FDOT.

 
Tactical Urbanism- I have taken it upon myself to calm my street. The orange traffic cones have resulted in a noticeable reduction of speed on my street.

Tactical Urbanism-Traffic calming on NE 76 Street using orange cones.

Last week I decided to place two orange traffic cones on my street in an attempt to calm traffic on NE 76 Street.  For several years my neighbors, many of whom have small children, have pleaded with the County and City to do something about the speeding cars on NE 76th Street in Belle Meade.  The traffic cones have worked remarkably well and my immediate neighbors seem to agree that cars have been moving noticeably slower since the traffic cones went up.

The speed limit in Belle Meade should be reduced to 20mph from 30mph.

The speed limit in Belle Meade should be reduced to 20mph from 30mph.

Sadly, there are too many haters in this world and one of my neighbors  happens to be a hater. This afternoon an anonymous neighbor foiled my Belle Meade complete streets conspiracy.  A few minutes ago a police officer knocked on my door and asked me to remove the traffic cones.  He was extremely polite, cordial and even sympathetic to my traffic calming strategy. The cones have been removed and my neighbors and I are back to square one: my street has become a residential racetrack once again.

The NE 76 Street 1/4 racetrack after a neighbor called to complain about the traffic cones. Don't hate, appreciate.

The NE 76 Street 1/4 mile racetrack after a neighbor called to complain about the traffic cones. Don’t hate, appreciate.

The City has tried enforcement; it has not worked.  The City erected electronic signs asking motorists to slow down; it has not worked. This should come as a surprise to no one but the City and County. As long 76th Street is designed to encourage speeding, drivers will continue to accelerate down my residential street at 45+mph an hour. The only thing that will discourage drivers from speeding is if the road is designed to do so. Enforcement, electronic signs, educational campaigns, none of these strategies will work until the street is properly designed to discourage speeding.

My neighbors have also requested from the County  that they erect stop signs at the NE 76th Street and NE 7th Court intersection in and attempt to slow down drivers. Last month the County conducted a traffic study and results of the study showed that there isn’t enough traffic to merit a 4-way stop sign at this intersection.

Last week I meet with County officials and they told me that the only traffic calming option available for this street is to build a $100,000 traffic circle.  I asked about installing a speed table and was told that my block was not long enough to accommodate a speed table.

Speed table. Not to be confused with speed bumps.

Speed table. Not to be confused with speed bumps.

After my meeting with the County last week I spoke with my Transit Miami colleagues and our recommendation is a raised intersection *or raised crosswalks * at the NE 76th Street and NE 7th Court intersection.  We believe this is the best option for Belle Meade and it would send a message to drivers that pedestrians are the priority in this residential neighborhood. It is also a much more economical solution. A raised intersections costs about $13,000 and a raised crosswalk costs about $4,000/crosswalk .We would also like to recommend that the speed limit be reduced to 20mph instead of the current 30mph speed limit. Belle Meade should strive to become Miami’s first Traffic-Calmed Neighborhood. People, not cars should be our first priority. I think a good argument can be made that if our streets are kid and people-friendly it would add value to our neighborhood by making it a much more desirable community to reside.

Can Belle Meade become Miami's first Traffic-Calmed Neighborhood?

Can Belle Meade become Miami’s first Traffic-Calmed Neighborhood?

 

Raised intersection

Raised intersection

 

 

Raised Crosswalk

Raised Crosswalks

 

*It should be noted that raised intersections and raised crosswalks were not discussed with County officials. 

 

TCNeighbourhoodsign_smaller

I live on wide collector residential street in a small neighborhood in the Upper East Side of Miami. Belle Meade is considered to be a “gated community” made up of about 450 homes. Many years ago the residents of Belle Meade decided to erect barricades and fencing along 6th Court in an attempt to curb crime. The barricading of the streets has resulted in only one ingress and egress for the community;  if you driving you can only access Belle Meade through NE 76th Street.

NE 77th Street barricade

NE 77th Street barricade

In other words, NE 72nd Terrace, 73rd, 74th, 75th, and 77th Streets are pedestrian access only. The effects of barricading these streets are felt throughout the community. NE 76th has become the collector road for the neighborhood and people just can’t resist speeding through this residential street. Last week one of my neighbors came barreling through at nearly 50 mph. (Silver Land Rover, you know who you are)

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My neighbors have complained about the situation for years, but no long-term fixes have been made. The City of Miami has tried enforcement and they have also erected temporary electric signs to warn motorists to drive carefully. Not surprisingly, neither of these two tactics have discouraged people from speeding. Last month the County Public Works Department conducted a traffic study and they found that there was not enough traffic to warrant a four way stop sign at NE 76th Street and NE 7th Court intersection.

Since no long-term solution has been found yet, I have decided to take it upon myself to calm the traffic on my street with orange cones. You would be surprised at how effective these traffic cones are. The introduction of traffic cones has noticeably calmed traffic on my street.

Tactical Urbanism- I have taken it upon myself to calm my street. The orange traffic cones have resulted in a noticeable reduction of speed on my street.

Tactical Urbanism- I have taken it upon myself to calm my street. Placing orange traffic cones in the middle of the street has resulted in a noticeable reduction of speed on my street.

Yesterday my neighbors, whom live in Palm Grove, invited me to attend a meeting with several County officials to discuss speeding on their street. They also happen to live on NE 76th Street, but they reside on the west side of Biscayne Boulevard. The fact that Belle Meade has barricaded its streets also affects the traffic patterns on the west side of Biscayne Boulevard as well. Palm Grove residents have to deal with increased traffic and people speeding on what has become a residential collector street for them as well.

The County officials were really nice and they genuinely wanted to find a solution to my neighbors’ speeding problem on their street. I believe the County was receptive to installing a speed table on NE 76th Street in Palm Grove in order to calm traffic.

I invited the County officials to Belle Meade to see what could be done for my street. Although it was almost 6:30pm they were happy to accommodate me and agreed to check out my street. We walked along NE 76th Street and the County’s recommendation was to erect a $100,000 traffic circle at the intersection of NE 76th and NE 7th Court. I suggested a speed table, but was told that the block was too short to accommodate a speed table. No other alternatives were given to me and in all fairness this was really the first conversation I’ve had with the County regarding traffic calming on my street. My hope is that they are open to other traffic calming solutions.

Speed table. Not to be confused with speed bumps.

Speed table. Not to be confused with speed bumps.

After my meeting with the County yesterday evening, I spoke with my Transit Miami colleagues and our recommendation is a raised intersection or raised crosswalks at the NE 76th Street and NE 7th Court intersection. We believe this is the best option for Belle Meade and it would send a message to drivers that pedestrians are the priority in this residential neighborhood. It is also a much more economical solution. A raised intersections costs about $13,000 and a raised crosswalk costs about $4,000/crosswalk .We would also like to recommend that the speed limit be reduced to 20mph instead of the current 30mph speed limit.

Raised intersections calm traffic and prioritizes pedestrians.

Raised intersection

Raised Crosswalk

Raised Crosswalk

Hopefully the County will agree with our recommendations.

 
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