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To honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) will offer free exhibition tours featuring the theme of social justice at 11am and 2pm. The tours are led by trained museum guides and last 45 minutes.

The new Museum Park MetroMover station is awesome, and the new Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) is truly a sight to behold. It'll remind of you how lucky we are to live in the best city on the planet.

The new Museum Park MetroMover station is awesome, and the new Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) is truly a sight to behold. It’ll remind of you how lucky we are to live in the best city on the planet.

Visitors who arrive to PAMM by Metromover on January 20 will receive FREE museum admission. A PAMM visitors services staff member will be at Museum Park Station with museum passes, good for Monday, January 20, only.

We’re supposed to have a sunny and cool (72 degree F) day.

Go out, honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and contributions to civil rights and social justice, and visit our city’s spectacular new art museum on a gorgeous January day.

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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.

 

Miami-Dade Public Transit “solves” homeless “problem” by removing the seats on the Metromover. 

As with every opportunity to engage on local transit issues, TrAC Miami is urging the public to come to the CTAC meeting on Wednesday, October 23 at 5:30pm to let them know what you think. (Government Center, 18th floor)

Is MDT is cutting off their nose to spite their face? One 2-person seat remains on each car for ADA compliance, but what if there are three people who actually need to be able to sit down? Like your mom, your grandpa or a pregnant woman and her children.  An employee attempted to explain the new policy as follows: MDT  has “struggled” to reduce use of the free public MetroMover by people who take up excessive space with their personal belongings. A number of users have complained about the mess and odor that some, likely homeless, people bring to our public transit. So what if said problem person takes the whole seat? What does MDT consider “struggling” to resolve this and improve the quality of our transit. Are the not concerned this could reduce ridership?

So…why not enforce a restriction of seats to one per person? There’s already funded security in the MetroMover cars. 

No More Seats for You!

One alternative that has been considered and rejected includes charging something minimal to ride the MetroMover – something that would be financially impossible. Time will tell if no seating becomes politically impossible.

 

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.

 

 

This is my first post as an official Transit Miami contributor, but this post is actually a follow-up to an earlier piece that I wrote but which was published under Felipe’s name. In that post, which appeared earlier this summer, I made a case for extending Metrorail out to FIU. That case was essentially this: two intertwined, near-term policy priorities announced by Miami leaders are to solve the problem of the region’s brain drain and to establish Miami as a prominent player for technology start-ups. By better integrating FIU into a comprehensive transit system, we’ll be building the physical infrastructure to cultivate greater personal and professional connections between the university community and the broader South Florida region, particularly its business community; these connections, I argue, will be instrumental in reversing Miami’s brain drain and catalyzing the entrepreneurial culture necessary for a start-up scene.

In that piece, I discussed the nearly universal trend in the United States over the past ten years of cities connecting their colleges and universities to their transit systems. That trend is founded upon two crucial propositions of economic development. Those propositions are:

  1. City centers and universities represent two of the most productive hubs of innovation, and by improving the physical connections between them, we can facilitate connections between the people, ideas, and resources of each.
  2.  When people, ideas, and resources are well connected, economies thrive.

It is these propositions that have influenced transit planning and economic development in cities throughout the United States, and which I believe should also influence transit planning and economic development in Miami. The transportation case for mass transit stands on its own; mass transit is unquestionably the most efficient technique for transporting people and any serious transportation policy has mass transit as its backbone. Yet, there is also the economic case for mass transit, represented in part by the propositions outlined above. This post will address some of the data that back up those propositions and the assertion that building transit connections to universities like FIU can foster business start-up activity and mitigate and reverse brain drains.

 

Downtowns and universities represent a disproportionately high share of start-up activity. The days where suburban landscapes, such as Silicon Valley and Route 128, dominate the start-up scene are unsurprisingly over. According to data from the National Association of Venture Capitalists, downtown San Francisco now produces more tech start-ups than Silicon Valley. In the New York metro area, among the ten zip codes that received the highest amounts of venture capital dollars, nine of them were in Midtown or Lower Manhattan. In the Boston area, seven of the ten zip codes receiving the most VC investment are in downtown Boston or downtown Cambridge; only three are in the Route 128 corridor. In all, urban areas received three-fourths of all VC investment in New York, seven-tenths of all VC investment in Boston, and two-thirds of all VC investment in Washington, DC.

In addition to downtowns, universities represent the other major generator of start-up activity. According to data from the Association of University Technology Managers, universities generated 705 spin-off companies in 2012. That number was up from 671 spin-offs in 2011. In 2011 and 2012, 73 percent and 79 percent, respectively, of these spin-offs retained their primary place of business in the university’s home state. This is significant in that is shows that not only to universities generate new businesses, but those businesses tend to stay in that community and remain a long-term contributor to the local economy. Four schools – MIT, Harvard, Tufts, and Boston University – accounted for 35 (or twenty percent) of the 179 start-ups established in Boston last year. In Philadelphia, university spin-offs represented over forty percent of all start-ups.

 

High transit ridership and low car usage correlates with increased start-up activity in metropolitan areas. Using the PricewaterhouseCoopers MoneyTree Report, the most well-known quarterly study on venture capital investment activity in the United States, and the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, I compiled data on all 123 metropolitan areas in the United States that recorded at least a single dollar of VC investment in 2011.

On the graph below, I plotted the percentage of residents commuting to work by public transit along the X axis and the total value of venture capital investment activity along the Y axis for each of the 123 metropolitan areas. Because the graph gets rather cluttered with 123 data points, for aesthetic reasons I removed the individual data points and just left the trendline. The resulting graph shows that higher transit ridership is correlated with higher VC investment.

TR2VC

Here’s the same graph with the trendline calculated using only those mid-sized metropolitan areas, like Miami, with a population between two million and eight million people. We can see that the correlation is similar even when just looking at similarly size metro areas.

TR2VC2-8

When we compare venture capital investment activity to the percentage of residents commuting to work by automobile, we find the reverse correlation to be true. Here’s the data once again from all 123 metropolitan areas. The resulting graph shows that higher car usage correlates with lower VC investment.

CU2VC

And for just mid-sized metro areas of two million to eight million people as well. Again, the correlation is similar among similarly sized metro areas.

CU2VC2-8

 

High transit ridership and low car usages correlates with higher start-up activity at universities. In addition to looking at the amount of venture capital investment, there are other ways to measure start-up activity. It makes sense to look at these other ways, as well, because venture capital investment does not always tell the whole story. Often times, for example, start-ups are launched in one location, but they move to another location, particularly the Bay Area and New York, once they are ready to begin seeking larger investments. For this reason, it makes sense to look at other metrics, and at the university level, there are a few good ones. We can look at the number of start-ups that a university generates, for example. We can also look at the licensing income that a university receives. Fortunately, the Association of University Technology Managers maintains a robust database of all this information. Comparing data from the AUTM’s annual survey from 2012 with zip-code data from the American Community Survey, we can get a sense of the relationship between commuting habits and the start-up activity at 141 American colleges and universities.

For the first cluster of graphs below, I plotted the percentage of residents in each university’s zip code area who commute to work by public transit along the X axis. Along the Y-axis in the first graph is the total value of licensing income received by each university for each of the 141 universities. Again, I cleared the individual data points and kept just the trendlines. What we see is that as transit ridership rates increase so does university licensing income.

TR2LI

Along the Y-axis in this graph is the number of start-ups generated by each university. Likewise, as transit ridership rates increase, the number of start-ups generated by a university increase as well.

TR2SU

Once again, when we compare the same variables to the share of car commuters, we find a negative correlation. Here’s the share of car commuters to each university’s licensing income. Increased car usage correlates with decreased licensing income.

CU2LI

And here’s car commuters to the number of start-ups generated by each university. Likewise, increased car usage correlates with fewer start-ups generated.

CU2SU

 

The data here are not a grand slam – these are just correlations – but they begin the paint a picture that supports our central premise: that transit can play a role in building the professional and social connections that are essential to a robust, productive entrepreneurial landscape.

Entrepreneurship is as much a culture as it is a single act. Developing policy to facilitate entrepreneurship requires recognition that more is involved than simply the isolated decision to establish an enterprise. It must also consider the multitude of conscious and unconscious factors that make such decisions possible and likely as well as those factors influencing rates of success. Those include, of course, establishing economic incentives such as subsidized incubators, mentoring programs, and tax benefits for business owners. But these are only helpful once a prospective entrepreneur has made a relatively firm commitment to pursue his or her own business. They do not offer much in the way of giving people the ideas and resources that prompt them to make such a commitment in the first place. Entrepreneurs are not created overnight, just as cultures are not fostered overnight. Cultures are layered and complex and sophisticated, and building an entrepreneurial culture requires more than a few well-targeted incentives packages. It necessitates approaching entrepreneurship from a wide array of directions, including immigration policy, education policy, and even transportation policy. The correlations presented in the charts above should not come as a surprise to anyone who understands how the flow of people and ideas bring about economic innovation and opportunity. And they offer evidence in support of the vital propositions that downtowns and universities are key drivers of our economies, and that by connecting downtowns, universities, and entire regions by transit, we foster greater entrepreneurship.

For Miami, this would be a game changer. We are facing a brain drain and we have the opportunity to reverse that trend and create economic growth by building a technology sector in South Florida. We’ve identified the problems and potential solutions, but without a comprehensive, long-term path for reaching those goals, we won’t succeed. We must recognize that while we cannot centrally plan entrepreneurship from a command tower, we can and must put in place the supports that encourage organic entrepreneurship. This includes developing the infrastructure that facilitates connections between people, ideas, and resources, particularly at hubs of innovation, such as city centers and universities. What we see from the data above is evidence that supports that mass transit is a piece of this infrastructure puzzle.

Special thanks to Jodi Talley from the Association of University Technology Managers for providing me with access to AUTM’s robust database without which this piece would not have been possible.

 

MDT_TDP_FactSheet

 

From the Miami-Dade County Transit Development Plan website:

A 10-Year Vision

The Transit Development Plan represents a 10-year strategic vision for Miami-Dade Transit to promote the operation of an efficient, responsive and financially sustainable transit system. Major components of the Transit Development Plan include:

  • Annual Performance
  • Service Operations
  • Capital Program
  • Funding

Transit Development Plan Facts at a Glance

The Transit Development Plan process provides an opportunity for Miami-Dade County citizens to identify mobility needs and transportation issues.  Your input is valuable and needed to facilitate public concensus and provide direction for the development of the Transit Development Plan.

You can participate by attending one of the many outreach forums throughout the community. Ideas, suggestions and comments related to the Transit Development Plan can also be submitted to Miami-Dade Transit at cartayn@miamidade.gov

Ideas, suggestions and comments will be accepted through August 17, 2013.

Dear Transit Miami  -

I was scratching around some MIC and Miami Central Station documents and came upon a curious piece of information: FDOT is negotiating with MDX to assume the governance of Miami Central Station. I find it curious that MDX, a road-building entity, would be charged with governing Miami Central Station – shouldn’t those responsibilities fall to Miami-Dade Transit or, given the regional implications, to SFRTA? I can see MDX running the Car Rental Center, after all  it’s sole purpose is to feed tourists onto MDX’s adjacent highways, the 112 and 836 – undermining the metrorail link to the airport and any longer-term plans for a direct rapid transit link to Miami Beach, but Central Station? Give me a break!

What’s most curious about the arrangement between FDOT and MDX is the transfer of a an 8 acre property east of Central Station for “Joint Development.” I didn’t realize MDX was now looking to jump into Miami’s crowded development market. Doesn’t this parcel seem ripe for Transit-Oriented Development? Shouldn’t a Public Private Partnership be the first alternative? I think so. MDX will apparently develop the property to help “offset” the costs of operating Central Station (as if their toll revenue couldn’t be spared in the first place) and will include a possible mix of Hotel, Conference Center, Office, Retail, oh – and parking, of course. 

Let’s not forget too that MDX had developed concepts for a future SR 836/ SR 112 connector and had floated the idea of a “Central Corridor” Highway that would be built above Tri-Rail.

Best,

Another Concerned Citizen against MDX’s Overreaches  

 

Written by Peter Smith

Writing in the Pacific Standard, geographer Jim Russell made a claim that would have been unthinkable to most a year ago. “Portland is dying,” he wrote, and “Pittsburgh is thriving.” The economy of Portland, Oregon, the darling of the creative class-fueled urban renaissance, has stagnated from its inability to create jobs and tackle high unemployment. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh, a poster case for Rust Belt decline, even as it hosted the 2009 G-20 Summit, has notched employment records month after month. The difference, Russell notes, essentially boils down to this: Carnegie Mellon University.

It’s a tale of talent attraction versus talent creation. Portland doesn’t create much of its own talent; it has to attract it from elsewhere, and in that regard, it must compete with San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Chicago, and LA. It’s a losing battle. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, home of Carnegie Mellon, Pitt, and Duquesne, pumps out more talent than it can accommodate. Many may not remain in Pittsburgh – a few may even end up in Portland – but many will stay. Their ties to the area are too strong to break, and they’re the ones who are fueling the comeback. The tag line of Russell’s blog, Burgh Diaspora, poses the following challenge, “Since education makes a person more likely to leave your region, how do you justify your investment in human capital?” Asked another way, how do you get your best and brightest to stay? How do you prevent a brain drain? It’s a question Miami is familiar with. Miami is currently fighting a brain drain while simultaneously seeking to cultivate a start-up, entrepreneurial culture.

On the West Coast, San Diego offers an answer. In the 1990s, when city officials set out to expand the city’s light rail network, the Trolley, for the first time in nearly twenty years, they considered a novel approach. None of the city’s major universities were connected to the transit system, so planners sought to remedy that. The blue line, which opened in 2005, has stops at the University of San Diego and San Diego State University. The silver line, which is gearing up to break ground in a year, will link UCSD to the system. In total, nearly 60,000 students from top universities who had no transit access a decade ago will be connected to the Trolley.

One rationale for this approach is that it cultivates transit ridership. College students tend to be flexible and open to trying new things, and experience shows that if we can acclimate students to using transit during their college years, they’ll be much more likely to use transit at other times in their lives.

Perhaps more importantly, and more germane to our purpose here, transit builds and reinforces the bonds that individuals have with their cities. It also connects people and ideas with each other in ways that other forms of transportation struggle to do. The premise underlying San Diego’s planning decisions is that transit links its riders to the city’s residents, its cultural offerings, and its business communities. It creates bonds between individuals and their city, and builds the social capital that encourages students to put down roots and thrive. Pittsburgh is succeeding because life at Carnegie Mellon is so entwined with life at Pitt and Duquesne and the rest of downtown Pittsburgh and its business community that by the time students graduate they’re already so connected to business opportunities and to entrepreneurial peers and to the city itself that it becomes easy and natural to stay put. San Diego is on the way to accomplishing the same phenomenon by building social and professional connections through building physical transportation infrastructure.

Turning to Miami, our city deserves some credit for having the foresight to build Metrorail to UM. Much has changed since 1985, though, and UM is not the only major university in South Florida anymore. FIU is now the seventh largest university in the United States. It enrolls over 50,000 students and is approved to expand to 63,000 in the coming years. It is roughly five times larger than UM by enrollment. It has all the hallmarks of a world-class institute of higher education: a medical school, a law school, a top-ranked business school, and all the traditional liberal arts and sciences that standard fare at the best schools. There’s still one common feature that it does not share with other great universities in major metropolitan areas: a transit connection.

San Diego may have been the first city in recent years to map its transit system around universities, but it’s not alone. Nearly all mass transit system expansions in the United States over the past decade have included new stops serving universities. Here’s a sample:

Phoenix: In 2008, service began on Phoenix’s METRO light rail system. It connects downtown Phoenix with Arizona State University. ASU is the largest university in the United States at 63,000 students and is the model that newer large public research universities, like FIU, follow.

Denver: No city in the United States has expanded its transit system in recent years as much as Denver. Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) has opened five new light rail lines since 2002, bringing the total number of lines in operation to six. Under RTD’s $6.5 billion FasTracks initiative, the system will add as many as six new light rail and commuter rail lines, in addition to extensions of existing lines, between 2013 and 2016. Every one of the system’s lines serves the city’s Auraria campus, a multi-school mega-campus that houses the University of Colorado-Denver, Metropolitan State University, and the Community College of Denver. Approximately 60,000 students, nearly one-fifth of all Colorado college students, attend classes on the Auraria campus. In 2006, RTD began service on the E, F, and H lines, which also connects with the University of Denver and its more than 11,000 students. FasTracks will ultimately include a commuter rail line, as well, connecting to the University of Colorado at Boulder and its nearly 30,000 students. Under FasTrack’s highly praised $1.67 billion predecessor, T-REX (Transportation Expansion), RTD succeeded in connecting downtown Denver and its Auraria campus with the Denver Tech Center, the region’s second largest employment center and home to many technology and finance firms.

Minneapolis: In late 2010, Minneapolis’s METRO began work on the system’s second light rail line, the Green Line. The Green Line will connect the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities with downtown Minneapolis and downtown Saint Paul. The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is the nation’s sixth-largest university with nearly 52,000 students. The Green Line is currently under construction and service is expected to begin in 2014. It will have two stations on the University of Minnesota campus.

Seattle: In 2009, Seattle opened the first leg of the Central Link light rail system. Before service even began, the city’s Sound Transit started construction on the University Link extension. The University Link will connect the University of Washington with downtown Seattle. The University of Washington is one of the largest universities in the nation with approximately 43,000 students. The University Link will open for service in 2016.

Houston: When Houston’s METRO opened its first light rail line in 2004, it placed the line’s northern terminus at University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) and sent the line straight through Rice University and the Texas Medical Center. UHD is the University of Houston system’s second largest campus with nearly 13,000 students. Rice University is home to over 6,000 students. Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world, is home to academic branches, including three medical schools, from countless universities, including Baylor University, Rice University, the University of Texas, and the University of Houston, among others. In total, approximately 49,000 students study at the Texas Medical Center. METRO broke ground on a second light rail line, the Purple Line, in 2009. The Purple Line, which will begin service in 2014, will have three stations serving the University of Houston’s (UH) main campus and one station serving the campus of Texas Southern University (TSU). The University of Houston is home to over 40,000 students and Texas Southern University enrolls over 10,000 students. In addition to the Purple Line, METRO is also planning the University/Blue Line, which will connect UH and TSU with the southern end of downtown, near Rice University and the Texas Medical Center. The University/Blue Line will have two stations serving TSU and two stations serving UH. In total, in excess of 100,000 students in Houston who did not have transit access a decade ago, will have transit links to the rest of the city.

Charlotte: Construction on Charlotte Area Transit System’s LYNX light rail extension to the Blue Line will begin in January 2014. The extension will connect the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to the Blue Line through Uptown Charlotte. UNC Charlotte enrolls over 26,000 students. The Blue Line extension is expected to begin service in 2017.

These examples do not just show that cities are expanding their transit systems to reach their universities; they show that cities are making it a priority to do so. Nearly every transit expansion of the past decade in the United States has included a link to a college or university. The advantages are substantial. College students are among the most likely to use and benefit from mass transit. Transit also helps in answering the question, how can cities encourage their best and brightest to put down roots and keep their talents at home? It is difficult the overestimate the role that transit can play in cementing bonds between citizens and the places they call home. A survey by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for example, found that transit riders were as much as twice as likely as non-transit riders to say that they felt a “strong connection” with their city. Transit is the physical infrastructure that connects citizens with each other, with business opportunities, and with cultural amenities. These things make people more productive and happier, and therefore more likely to stick around.

Miami is part of a shrinking ring of cities with transit systems that do not connect with the region’s major universities. FIU is part of a shrinking ring of major urban universities lacking transit connections with their regions’ employment and cultural centers. The revived expansion plans from the early 2000s to extend Metrorail out to FIU once again seem to have fizzled out. As a city struggling to tackle a brain drain while working to build a sustainable economy, Miami must find better ways to leverage its anchor institutions to produce, retain, and cultivate human capital. Arguably, perhaps no institution is more prolific in these respects than FIU. FIU graduates over 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students every year and has over 200,000 alumni, over half of which live in South Florida. Yet FIU’s main campus is geographically isolated just a few miles from downtown. It sits trapped between three highways – 836, 826, and the Turnpike – that cut it off from every major employment and cultural center in South Florida. Students, as weak as the excuse may be, routinely miss class because of traffic and parking difficulties, and students often schedule classes to avoid 8th Street rush hour. We know that long commutes in traffic make us less productive, less creative, less healthy, and less happy. We know that highways have an historical legacy as insurmountable barriers that block the spread of ideas and prosperity. If we’re serious about developing Miami’s twenty-first century economy, we must better connect the city’s economic engines and human capital centers – FIU, UM, downtown, Brickell, Wynwood, etc. One component to this must include improving the physical infrastructure connections that link these sites, which means Metrorail expansion must be returned to the region’s agenda. Without the bonds between people and their city that transit ridership helps build, as it has in places like Pittsburg and San Diego, Miami’s highly skilled residents will continue to be likely to leave for greener pastures. And unless we are able to keep our best and brightest here and leverage their talents, Miami’s vision for a thriving twenty-first century economy will remain off in the distance just down the track.

 

In this morning’s Sun Sentinel:

Some of Broward County’s new express buses are breaking down, struggling to make it over railroad tracks and carrying commuters at a 10 mph crawl down Interstate 95.

The I-95 Express Buses get a lock of flack for their unreliable transmissions that leave riders “late for work” and feeling like they’ve been “held hostage.”  This sounds just like my car! My station wagon doesn’t make it into the Sun Sentinel, though.

When my car’s transmission fails (frequently, despite a recent, costly rebuild and lifetime warrantied parts), I don’t really have anyone to complain to. I wish it was easier, but I still think it’s pretty lucky to have the 95 Express. It’s a pain being late to work regardless of whose transmission just died. BUT when it’s your car, you are looking at 3-5 days with no back-up car with which to get to work plus another bill in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Public transit has some real benefits over driving. #1 being that I can get work done on the bus (yay, Free Wi-fi!) or catch up with Words with Friends. Texting is both legal and safe! #2 meeting interesting people or just people-watching helps me feel charged up at the start of the day, rather than frustrated. #3 $2.35 each way is probably what 35+ minutes in my station wagon costs these days, excluding taxes, title, insurance and all that stress. I‘m sure it’s miserable sitting on the side of the road waiting for someone to come fix your ride or pick you up with another bus. I promise you, it’s more miserable when the bus doesn’t automatically come and you have to pay for your trouble.

Of course, the bus takes longer. Here is my very multi-modal commute from Midtown Miami to north Downtown Fort Lauderdale:

  1. CAR: to the bus stop in Downtown Miami that is NOT on SE 1st and 1st.(If you wait there, the driver will pass you and point to where you need to run.) I get a ride, but otherwise, I could use my Car2Go membership. $0
  2. WAITING for a bus that says “to Downtown Miami.” You MUST ask the driver which Express they are driving, or you will end up in the Everglades. I mean, Miramar. (True story). $0. or $1.25 for a cortadito.
  3. BUS: Very comfortable. Wifi is dependable. Northbound means a practically empty bus. Pro Tip: Bring a sweater or sit in the front. $2.35
  4. SHUTTLE: Free shuttle from the Broward Blvd Tri-rail down Broward, south on Andrews, around the Courthouse. $0
  5. BIKE SHARE: From the Courthouse, I pick up a B-cycle and head to work. About 2 miles in 10 minutes. $0 (membership is $45 a year)

This commute takes over an hour. However, at every point, I’m interacting positively with people around me and can take calls from the office.  The biggest problem for me is not having a car at work – and Fort Lauderdale doesn’t have Car2Go. My job usually requires a lot of driving from Hallandale Beach to Pompano Beach and everywhere in between. If it wasn’t for bike sharing and some help from colleagues, I’d really be in a bind.

The Express Buses would benefit from improvements, but not the ones I keep seeing on the TransitMiami facebook page.

  1. Better Wayfinding. There are so many bus stops in Downtown Miami and around the Tri-Rail station. Make it easier to find the Bus!
  2. Better Signage on the bus. Yes, I ended up in Miramar. I’m not proud of it. I think that as soon as the bus gets to Downtown, even if it has more pick up points within Downtown, it should be marked with its final destination. No one in their right mind picks up an Express bus to go 2 blocks.
  3. Later hours! I work 8:30am-6pm. I have to leave early to catch the bus home. No bueno.
  4. Same pick up and drop off stops. I don’t understand why the bus picks up at SE 1st & 1st and drops off at NW 8th and 1st, 12 blocks away. Can anyone explain this to me? Does the Corner Bar subsidize this? They should…

TM Readers, have you taken the Express Bus? What do you think?

 

 

TransportationSummit2013

Nearly six months ago, TransitMiami was proud to offer the broader public an exclusive first glimpse of the renderings for some of the potential designs for our new Metrorail train cars.

As we described back in December 2012, the three models are:

  • SPOON
  • RING
  • SHIELD
Vehicle: Spoon  |  Livery: Neon  |  Interior: Blue/Magenta

Vehicle: Spoon | Livery: Neon | Interior: Blue/Magenta

Vehicle: Ring  |  Livery: Shark  |  Interior: Yellow, Grey-Blue

Vehicle: Ring | Livery: Shark | Interior: Yellow, Grey-Blue

Vehicle: Shield  |  Livery: Status  |  Interior: Red, White

Vehicle: Shield | Livery: Status | Interior: Red, White

Each comes with its own distinctive livery. (Note that there’s also a variant, predominantly yellow, livery for the “RING” model that can be seen in the original post.)

We also want to bring your attention to AnsaldoBredo’s spiffy little 3-minute computer-animated video giving a cordial (albeit far from riveting) view of how these potential new train cars might look on the inside.

SHIELD is the train model featured in the video . . . Have a look! Share your thoughts!

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Right when we needed it, the good folks at The Miami Foundation are sponsoring a “Pre-Summit Summit” titled Transit Talk in advance of the Miami-Dade County 2013 Transportation Summit.

Wednesday, May 29 — 6:00pm

Avenue D Jazz and Blues Lounge

8 S. Miami Avenue

Flyer_TT2_lo

[Avenue D is another relatively new downtown bar/lounge representing bar owners' understanding of TOD better than politicians. By far the best way to get there is via the Metromover. Just get off at the Miami Avenue station using the northwest stairway. Avenue D is immediately below the station.]

A panel of of transportation planners and advocates will be on-hand to moderate and stimulate the discussion, including Kelly Cooper, Strategic Planner at the Miami-Dade County Office of the Citizen’s Independent Transportation Trust (CITT), the primary entity organizing the Summit. At least one official Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) should be present too.

One can also expect to hear commentary from Marta Viciedo, primary organizer of the successful TransportationSummit2013Purple Line | U + Transit pop-up transit station which recently attracted a lot of attention to our community’s public transportation lacuna. A representative from the Move Miami-Dade transportation reform initiative, a project of TransitMiami alumnus Tony Garcia should also be present.

We confess that here at TransitMiami we very rarely provide reminders for the many events we post. Here’s one posted a couple weeks back that especially warrants a reminder. Save the date: June 6!!!

TransportationSummit2013

To register for the event, please visit the registration website at:

http://www.miamidade.gov/citt/transportation-summit.asp

The Summit is scheduled to take place at:

Miami-Dade College – Wolfson Campus

Chapman Conference Center 3210

300 NE 2 Ave
Miami FL 33132-2296

There are going to be four break-out sessions in total, with attendees having to choose between one of two topics for the morning and the afternoon sessions. The two morning topics participants have to choose from are as follows (taken directly from the registration website):

Morning Session Topics

Morning Session A: Innovative Financing Opportunities: Transportation projects utilize a wide variety of revenue and funding from federal, state, local, and private sources. With funding for planning and projects becoming increasingly tighter, transportation agencies are employing innovative strategies to finance capital costs.

Morning Session B: State-of-the-Art Transit Technologies and Mode Choice: A key transportation issue for our community is weighing the trade-offs among the various fixed route alternatives. Discover solutions that offer diverse ways to efficiently develop Miami-Dade’s transportation network through ways including bus rapid transit, rail systems, system design, automated guide-ways, etc.

Afternoon Session Topics

Afternoon Session C: Establishing Public Private Partnerships: Understand the importance of new partnership efforts between the private sector and the various levels of government in the state. Also hear about innovative programs in several states and share your experiences.

Afternoon Session D: Corridor and Priorities Planning: The planning and development of multi-modal corridors — “the next big thing project” — starts with consensus among many stakeholders in a region, including the walking, riding, and driving public, private sector, government, and non-governmental organizations. Prioritization involves many considerations ranging from design and construction of infrastructure to community values in areas such as mobility needs and desired land uses. These themes cut across bus (bus rapid transit, exclusive bus lanes, etc.) and rail systems (underground, elevated, and surface alignments), as well as stations, etc.

MiamiDadeTransportationSummit_2013_ReminderLastly, there will be a “Community Visioning Forum” from 4:30pm to 6:30pm.

The County seems to be taking this event quite seriously too. This could be it, folks! This could be the year that we start to build a broad, diverse, determined coalition of the progressive to finally push for an environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, and economically vibrant set of mobility solutions. It’s time we brought Miami into the 21st century. This Summit could be our chance!

Needless to say, then, our community needs your participation!

To register for the event, please visit the registration website at:

http://www.miamidade.gov/citt/transportation-summit.asp

The Summit is scheduled to take place at:

Miami-Dade College – Wolfson Campus

Chapman Conference Center 3210

300 NE 2 Ave
Miami FL 33132-2296

For the future of Miami, let’s make this event bigger and more momentous than any of us could hope . . .

Forty years since the publication of a visionary transportation planning document, the shortcomings of Miami-Dade County’s transportation reality suggest that we lost our vision somewhere along the highway, literally.

TransitMiami invites you to take brief trip through time . . .

THE PAST

The year is 1973. The Dade County Public Works Department has just released its State Transportation Programs Proposal for Dade County 1973-74.

In it, a chapter titled Mass Transit (pp. 72-98) makes declarations of a new “beginning on development of a true multi-modal transportation system in Dade County, in which “non-highway elements” are stressed to be at least part of the solution to Dade County’s burgeoning population and economy.

Indeed, there seems to be a fundamentally new consciousness — dare I say, a paradigm shift — reorienting the urban planning and public policy realms away from highways and toward mass transit.

StateTransportationProgramsProposedForDadeCounty_1973_1974

Around 1973, this is the vision the County had for University Metrorail Station. Note the dedicated busway right along US-1. Note the wide sidewalks and crosswalks. Note the number of pedestrians. Note the relative “completeness” of the streets, save for the absence of bicycle facilities, etc. Compare this with this same site (US-1 and Stanford Drive, Coral Gables) today, especially in light of recent considerations to build an elevated pedestrian bridge crossing US-1.

The beginning of that Mass Transit chapter reads:

Metropolitan Dade County and the Florida Department of Transportation in recent years have become increasingly active in planning the improvement of mass transit facilities. With less emphasis on highways alone, programming efforts have been broadened to multi-modal transportation facilities, including airports, seaports, rapid transit, terminals for truck, rail and bus companies, as well as the highway and street system that serves them and provides local traffic needs.

There’s a sense that perhaps the mid-20th century notion of highways being the transportation panacea has finally begun to lose potency. A more holistic, more enlightened view has apparently begun to gain traction, one which posits that transportation corridors and corresponding land-uses perform best when designed to serve the myriad means and purposes of mobility, as well as the urban environment’s diversity of functions.

Here are some of the major mass transit proposals from the report:

  • 53.7 miles of high-speed transit served by 54 stations,
  • bus routes operating on expressways and arterial streets,
  • feeder bus routes to complement other bus routes and rapid transit,
  • mini-systems at selected transit terminals to provide local circulation and link traffic generating areas with rapid transit.

THE PRESENT

Fast-forward 40 years into the future. The year is 2013.

FDOT and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) — and the construction, automobile, and petroleum lobbies — actively and aggressively seek to expand highways.

Tax payers are being charged $560,000,000 (that’s right: more than half a billion!) for the highway expansion mega-project at the SR 826 (Palmetto Expressway) and SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway) Interchange.

826_836_ProjectRendering_North

826_836_ProjectRendering_Southeast

Real estate developers eager to cash-in on building single-family cookie-cutter homes along the urban periphery in the west and south of the County lobby to transgress the Urban Development Boundary (UDB). Residential sprawl continues to lower the quality of life on the edges of the city.

Eager to keep its agency coffers growing, MDX writes hyperbolic reports emphasizing inflated demographic growth projections on these suburban outskirts, thereby seeking to further justify its southwestward expansion of SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway). MDX advocates for expanding tolled highways in order to generate increased revenues aimed at the perpetual expansion of highways in greater Miami.

SR-836-Southwest-1-Kendall-Extension-map

Those same city-destroying developers-of-sprawl back MDX — as do all others in the broader network of profiteers — because they perceive as far too lucrative to forego the opportunity to cash-in on pushing the boundary of Miami further into the Everglades and into our fresh water supplies.

Even on roads that have long exhausted their traditional function as “highways”, MDX pursues measures to retrofit them so as to restore their obsolete highway-performing characteristics. This is epitomized by MDX’s “US-1 Express Lanes”, whereby the agency hopes to reduce the dedicated South Dade busways to accommodate new tolled arterial travel lanes for private motorists, as well as, most notoriously, create elevated overpasses (that is, create more “HIGH-ways”).

US1_Elevated_expresslane

MDX_US1expressway_ShareFacilityPlan

FDOT, in collusion with MDX, actively seeks to expand the tolled Florida Turnpike in far south Miami-Dade County.

Meanwhile, our mere 23-station elevated heavy-rail Metrorail system traverses a very linear (and thus limited), virtually-non-networked 25 miles, including the recently added, yet long-overdue, Miami International Airport / Orange Line extension. This is literally less than half the of the 54 stations and 53.7 miles of rail network envisioned in the planning document from 40 years earlier.

Miami Transit in Perspective. Image courtesy of Leah Weston.

Miami Transit in Perspective. Image courtesy of Leah Weston.

Planned expansions to the Metrorail intended to create a true network have been scrapped due to a lack of political will to secure dedicated funding sources, along with an over-abundance of administrative incompetence and corruption.

Taken_for_a_Ride_MetrorailCorridors_MiamiHerald

Source: “Taken for a Ride”. Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/multimedia/news/transit/

After decades of false starts, broken promises, gross mismanagement of public funds, and outright political apathy, the time is now to regain the vision put forth four decades ago. The time is now to withdraw ourselves from our toxic addiction to the 20th century model of single-occupancy vehicles congested on highways. We must stop supporting those who seek to destroy our collective public spaces for personal gain through the incessant construction of highways.

The time of the highway is over. The time for “a true multi-modal transportation system in Dade County  is now.

Has Miami-Dade County lost its vision for public transit over the last 40 years? — most definitely. However, one can find solace in the fact that this is not the Miami of 1973, nor of ’83, ’93, or ’03. We are no longer the Miami of the past.

This is the Miami of 2013. This is our time. It is up to us to set forward — and bring to fruition — the vision for the Miami of 2053 . . . and beyond.

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Your writer is a slight woman, sometimes confused for a minor, who dreams of a South Florida where everyone feels safe crossing the street. Friends, family, and in these videos, my boyfriend, would clearly prefer I keep myself away from traffic. I hate to stress them but – when pro-pedestrian/pro-safety traffic modifications are installed, I just can’t help but try them out.

So, for today’s transit humor (because no one was hurt), here are two videos of myself and my wary significant other, trying (and failing) to cross the street at 48th & Biscayne Blvd.

FDOT: Thank you! It’s an important first step. City of Miami Police: where are you??

Interesting note: Found this Florida attorney’s webpage on ‘Penalties After Violating Pedestrian and Crosswalk Law’:

“If there is a person attempting to cross a road while in a marked crosswalk you are required to stop until the person has cleared the crosswalk. Most crosswalks are marked by painted lines and a yellow sign with an image of a person walking… The rules here are pretty obvious, and most drivers wouldn’t move their vehicles through a crosswalk if a pedestrian was there.”

As the voice asks in Part 1: “They just don’t see the sign, love. They… can’t… possibly…”

This lane marking is approved by the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration and is part of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

 
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