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Panorama of new red pedestrian bridge, Coral Gables Waterway, Miami, Florida

Panorama of new red pedestrian bridge, Coral Gables Waterway, Miami, Florida (Via: ImageMD)

Around Miami:

  • Opposition building to South Dade expressway. Our question is, can it build soon enough? (Miami Herald)
  • Signs to alert Broward drivers to conditions, travel times on six major roads. $9M to know the existing conditions seems steep considering the advent of crowdsourced alternatives such as Waze or Roadify. To us, the notion that more information to drivers provides the “opportunity to choose alternate routes instead of finding yourself stuck in traffic jams” is downright delusional. (Sun-Sentinel)
  • Miami Beach Mayor Bower comments on sea level rise. It’s easy to talk the talk but Miami Beach has a nasty history of anti-climate change planning under its belt. We think Baylink, enhanced cycling facilities, and reduced parking minimums would go a long way in showing that Miami Beach is ready to do it’s part in this global system. (South Florida Business Journal)
  • Failed street design. Our own Craig Chester puts the FDOT on notice regarding the failures of Biscayne Boulevard. (Miami Herald)
  • South Florida transit schedules added to Google Maps. Welcome to the 21st Century South Florida Transit – perhaps real-time transit data isn’t an illusion after all. (South Florida Business Journal)
  • Metrorail extension eases commute from airport. (The Miami Hurricane)

Around the Sphere:

  • Miami Dade Transit hard at work. Miami-Dade Transit has made some laudable improvements around Douglas Road. (South Florida Bike Coalition)
  • TRI-Rail From FLL Makes for a Long Morning. Matt Meltzer’s harrowing 3 hour journey from FLL to MIA via public transit. Bottom line: “…in Miami, and especially in Ft. Lauderdale, if you don’t have a car public transport is just not an option.” Ouch. We can do better South Florida. (Miami Beach 411)
  • Inside Al Capone’s Fabulous Palm Island Estate, On Video! (Curbed Miami)
  • Miami Metrorail | New Vehicle Replacement. This seems to be flying under the radar a bit, though ExMiami reports that the vendor (AnsaldoBreda) has a bit of a problem history with clients in meeting delivery and vehicle specs. This should be interesting. (ExMiami)
  • An SFDB Call To South Florida Bloggers. SFDB is looking for editors. (SFDB)

Elsewhere:

  • Bloomberg: NYC Bike Share Delayed Until Spring. The much awaited phase 1 launch of NYC’s Bike share program which is set to include 7,000 bikes at 420 stations has be delayed until March 2013 due to software issues. (Transportation Nation)
  • Times Poll Confirms: 66 Percent of New Yorkers Like Bike Lanes. Bikes as transportation: Good Policy. Good for cities. Good for your health. Good for local business. Now, good for NYC. (Streetsblog NYC)
  • A Separated Bike Lane Commute. We can attest, Separated Bike Lanes are AWESOME. (LGRAB)
  • Remaking Union Station: Do we have what it takes? With Public Transit use and Amtrak use on the rise in DC, calls to expand capacity at Union Station are growing. (Greater Greater Washington)
  • There’s a Lot Riding on U.S. DOT’s Definition of “Congestion” (Streetsblog DC)
  • OpenPlans aiming for Kickstarter-funded transit app. With Apple’s iO6 eliminating Google Maps from i-devices, Open Plans begins a campaign to develop a crowd-funded transit app. (Second Avenue Sagas)

Stay connected with Transit Miami! Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter  for up to the minute Transit news and discussions. Got a tip, story, or contribution? Email us: MoveMiami@gmail.com

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The bond sale will be done through the Building Better Communities project, a $2.93 billion capital improvements program approved overwhelmingly by voters back in 2004… Commissioner Carlos Gimenez said that while the projects are laudable, he opposed the measure because it relies on a commission move last September to raise the property-tax rate that goes to pay for county debt, to 44.5 cents per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.

Check out the list of projects and see what you think. The list lacks details, but includes a couple of bike projects, lots of park projects, and an slew of other water/sewer, public service, community, and safety facilities.

Recently, all Bike Miami assets were transferred back to the City of Miami for their management, including all social media components, like the Facebook page and the @BikeMiami Twitter account. For a while I managed the Twitter account as a volunteer, stepping down once I started university classes back in January (though always still helping out with relevant tweets here and there). Being part of the bicycling advocacy community is something I hold very dear, so I decided to continue the work I was doing with @BikeMiami with a new account.

To that end I launched @BikeMIA, an independent source of bicycling commentary, news and advocacy for Miami and South Florida in general. BikeMIA is a primarily-Twitter source; it has a blog attached to it at BikeMIA.org, but it’s there to serve as support to the Twitter feed, not to supplant it.

Follow @BikeMIA on Twitter today and chat bikes with all the enthusiasts around. Not on Twitter yet? What are you waiting for, sign up for a free account today.

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  • Commissioner Sarnoff realizes that being green makes green:

“A recent report by the Earthday Network ranked Miami 71 out of 72 major American cities based on environmental policies, the benefits of taking part in a Container Deposit Program, both financially and environmentally are too great to ignore,” says Commissioner Sarnoff. “The City currently spends more than $4 million dollars per year to clean storm drains which are full of bottles and cans, this would dramatically reduce that cost.”

Well when I was living in Toronto I was living downtown and I could walk pretty much anywhere. There was a nice homeopathic shop on the boulevard I used to walk to and that was nice. Right where I lived there was a lot good restaurants. There was a good Tai food place. Across the street was a little corner store where people were really nice. And our neighbors became really close friends. So kind of just miss the community feel and all the great people that I got to meet that lived around where I got to live.

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  • Changing the practice of architecture: A group of Scottish scientists have invented a 3-d laser modeling device that produces ultrafine images of structures.   “The drawings and computer simulations long cooked up by developers and architects will be replaced by more detailed, easier-to-comprehend, more objective views, in essence democratizing knowledge.” (NY Times)
  • Still truckin’: The rally for SunRail is gaining momentum as various civic groups and elected officials back the rail plan. (Winter Park Observer)
  • Congratulations Miami, your political landscape has changed dramatically. What will that mean for transit, walkability and cycling? Only time will tell. (Herald)
  • Why aren’t we doing this:  Check out this great article from the Transport Politic about Tampa’s plans to fund a light rail expansion with a penny sales tax. “The local Metropolitan Planning Organization incorporated the rail project into its long-term plans and has completely reversed course in favor of transit funding; current spending is tilted 83% to highways, while the long-term plan, with almost $12 billion in expenditures earmarked by 2035, provides for a 50-50 split between transit and roads.” This is exactly the sort of shift that needs to happen with our own MPO. It is time to dramatically alter the funding formula of the MPO in favor of mass transit and non-motorized transportation. (Transport Politic)
  • Good News/Bad News: The commission adopted a series of bus service cuts/adjustments, increasing headways in most instances. The good news is that they abolished bus to bus transfers. (Miami Dade County)

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  • Daniel Shoer Roth interviews a tril-rail rider about his views on FPL executives commuting via helicopter:

Edward Quiles, production manager of a company that produces bulletproof vests, commutes from Doral to Deerfield Beach. His wife drops him at Miami International Airport’s Tri-Rail station. An hour and a half later he walks from the Deerfield station to his workplace.

“I’m upset because I’m paying for his luxuries while I depend on public transportation,” said Quiles, whose monthly electric bill amounts to about $110. (Herald)

  • Two Marion County residents are waging their own battle against sprawl using the ‘demonstrated need’ test. Now it’s up to Governor Christ and the Cabinet to reject the new 500 unit subdivision. (Herald)
  • Woohoo: American oil consumption hit its peak in 2007. We may never reach 400 million gpd again. (Barrons)
  • Conflict of interest: County lobbying firm and attorney Greenberg Taurig is requesting a waiver of conflict of interest regulations that prevent it from representing the county and another client in the same case. Duh. Why do we even have conflict of interest laws if the commission is just going to ignore them?? (Miami-Dade)

Sorry for the hiatus folks, lots goin’ on.  Hope everyone is having a happy and relaxing Easter weekend. Some interesting bits of news flying around, thought I would share…

The County Manager’s office has released its grant application for 2009 Federal Transit dollars (not stimulus related). MDT is requesting approximately $87 Million dollars for a variety of projects including metrorail maintenance ($80 Million) and bus-related improvements ($7 Million).  I’m happy to see that they are not just raiding the CITT again, although it doesn’t address the basic funding problem MDT has which is that it doesn’t get its fair share of General Fund dollars.

The Transit Committee and the full Commission get these silly monthly Orange Line reports that don’t say anything substantive. Not to mention that a new plan for using the CITT dollars still hasn’t been created, and the only thing we taxpayers have to show for our half-cent contribution is a proposal for monthly or quarterly transit ‘summits’. Greaaaaat. Now they can tell remind us on a regular basis how they are mismanaging the transit system and wasting our money. I can’t wait.

I was happy to read that the County Manager is not going to renew Wackenhut’s contract to patrol transit stations (ahem, what ever happened to the police?) I was also happy to read that some of our criticisms of MDT, the MPO and the commission are finally being recognised:

Some critics have called for creation of a transit authority, removing the county government’s control of the transportation system.

Read here and here for more commentary on what should be done with MDT and our transit system. That should give commissioners something to talk about at their quarterly transit summits.

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  • What a coincidence: seems like transit financing is a problem in NY where a combination of dropping real estate tax, sales tax, and state tax revenues are putting the MTA in the red. The conclusion reached in the article: we need more government subsidy to make up the difference.
  • President Obama is moving to undo Bush era changes to weakening enforcement of the Endangered Species Act. I thought this was interesting, considering our own problems with ignorant state legislators trying to do away with growth laws in the name of commerce“But in a statement, Bill Kovacs, the vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, condemned the action as an unreasonable interference with needed projects.”
  • Marlins Stadium Update: A new bill is on the floor of the state legislature that would require a county referendum on the use of tourist dollars for the stadium, even as City and County leaders shuffle meetings and complain about  each other. Mayor Alvarez is pissed about the way negotiations have been going….join the club dude. Then there is the reappearance our friend Glenn Straub who is offering the old Miami Arena site as an alternative. I like it. This would allow the city to reduce its investment in parking by relying on its existing downtown parking supply. And don’t forget there will already be a neighborhood growing up around the Park West thanks to the Miami WorldCenter project. And it has transit connections. And it frees up the Orange Bowl site for other purposes (can anyone say Manny Diaz Memorial Park?) BUT we still don’t know all the details, and you know what they say about details…
  • Miami-Dade is getting serious about skate parks. Cool.
  • Those state legislators – what schizophrenia. While trying to undo growth laws (a bad move) they go and push ahead with the recently named Sunrail (a really good move).  “He pegs the price of SunRail at close to $1billion. But that is a bargain, SunRail enthusiasts say, when compared to the estimated $7billion it would cost to add one lane in either direction to Interstate 4 for the 61.5 miles covered by the train.” Sounds convincing to me. This is really cool, and will hopefully coincide with the Obama administration’s push for a national intercity railway network. Tamiami trail here we come.
  • The FTA just released the Federal Register Notice describing the allocation of the $8.4 Billion transit stimulus. More on this later….

  • www.Recovery.gov is up and running. Nuff said.
  • President Obama talks with the Washington Post, and discusses the upcoming transportation reauthorization bill, to be taken up by Congress later this year.

…I think there should be some way for us to — just think how can we rationalize the process to get the most bang for the buck, because the needs are massive and we can’t do everything, and if it’s estimated that just on infrastructure alone it would cost a couple trillion dollars to get our roads, bridges, sewer systems, et cetera, up to snuff, and we know we’re not going to have that money, then it would be nice if we said here are the 10 most important projects and let’s do those first, instead of maybe doing the 10 least important projects but the ones that have the most political pull.

  • Great analysis on the high speed rail stimulus funds from Matthew Yglesias and Politico reports on the last minute inclusion of $9 Billion worth of high speed rail into the Stimulus Package and what that means for Obama’s legacy.
  • In local news…The City Commission will take up the Marlins vote on Wednesday, March 4, but it may still be a no go with a 4/5 vote required to waive the no-bid  contract.
  • Save some Metrorail tokens as souvenirs because they won’t be here for much longer. MDT is prepping for the switch to automated fare collection – welcome to the 21st century, woo hoo!
  • Both City of Miami and Miami-Dade county are refining their  stimulus project wishlists. Interesting, more on these later…

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(Image Source: Fate the Magnificent’s Flickr)

  • Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower is calling to move forward with a plan to build a new convention center rather than the 50,000 SF addition proposed back in 2004.  (Miami Today)
  • After three years and $7 Million worth of renovations, Miami Beach’s historic City Hall (pictured above) is finally set to reopen.  The refurbished building will house Miami Beach Police offices, the Miami design preservation league’s offices, and the MB Branch Court.  (Miami Herald)
  • Despite the huge economic downturn, MDM partners have secured a $250 million loan for the construction of MET 2 – a 750,000 SF office building rising in the heart of the CBD.  (Globe Street)
  • Contractual delays in the port of Miami tunnel could likely set back that project’s opening date to 2013.  (Miami Today)

Elsewhere:

  • NIMBYs try (and Fail) to keep a bus route from passing by their suburban Toronto home.  Their arguments, typical of the NIMBY mindset, included: noise, pollution, added traffic, and a threat to children playing in the streets… (The Star)
  • Surprise, surprise, apparently Sprawl may be the reason for a lack of civic involvement in Central New Jersey.  (Princeton Packet)
  • Voters in Minnesota will be deciding whether to spend $10 million to purchase a golf course in Eagan in order to prevent a developer from building more suburban homes.  (Minesota Public Radio)

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Remember ShuttlePort? The FLL shuttle service that had problems with drivers crashing? This LA Times article points out that it was owned by the same company that employs Metrolink engineers. Yes, that’s the Metrolink that had the commuter rail crash earlier this month.

Streetsblog had a post last week with a link to a document outlining McCain’s and Obama’s respective positions on transportation. Well worth checking out.

Much closer to home, Broward County is cutting funding for the Tri-Rail feeder buses. As a shuttle stops at my workplace, and my employer just built a bus shelter for it, this is particularly upsetting. We may have more to say about this later.

Lots went on this week in transit and I for one am exhausted. I know we have been silent these past few weeks on what has been happening, and speaking for myself, I didn’t have anything new to add to the discussion that I had not already said before. MDT is having problems, ridership is up, and the people in charge are asleep at the wheel. Does that sum it up? Not to be frivolous, but if we don’t laugh about this we’ll go crazy.

There are no quick fixes. We are fast approaching a time when people realize that not having a transit system in place is the same as not having adequate sewers or electricity. We are living up to our image as a Banana Republic, and unfortunately some of those so-called Banana Republic’s down south are much better off transit-wise than we are.

This morning on NPR Houston Mayor Bill White talked about the challenges facing his city. In light of the Mayor’s Conference going on today, I thought it appropriate to show how another car-centered modern city is dealing with not having adequate mass transit:

“We need to reorder the way we live. … Mass transit is critical. More people are using mass transit in our community, it’s up sharply this year. We’re going to be the most aggressive builder of light rail lines of any community in the United States in the next three years. …. We don’t have to encourage people, they get it. There’s a tremendous demand for people who want ot give up that car, or go from two cars to one, and live near that transit line. … We really don’t have to channel what consumers want (as far as density), but we do have tools such as where we put our infrastructure …. Some communities that have had zoning are trying to dismantle it because it segregates (uses) … We’ve had large changes in behavior. No question about it, we’ll be bigger, we’ll be denser. There’s a new attitude cropping up every day when somebody fills up their tank.”
This is from this morning. Mind you loyal readers, Houston is not a bastion of urban living, but to hear their mayor say these things gives me hope. Our leadership needs to take their cue from Mayor White, or any of the other US cities that have renewed their commitment to transit by investing in new lines (Charlotte, Denver, Atlanta..etc)
Our leaders are to blame for this debacle. No question. The Commission has repeatedly made bad choices. This week they finally came to their senses (and took some Transit Miami advice) by restoring some independance and credibility to the People’s Trust. This is a good first step.
Lets review what else those crazy commishes said these past few weeks:
Chairman Bruno said that he wants to repeal the half cent tax. Are you crazy? Why are you even talking about repealing the half cent tax when it is helping fund our system. Just because you “prognosticated” (his word) that the half cent would not be enough to deliver on the promises, doesn’t mean that you should toss the baby with the bathwater.
Commissioner Souto played silly politics with the changes in bus routes. Thanks to Larry L. for researching how much those routes were costing us. It is that sort of cost/benefit analysis that will lead to a functional system. Commissioner Souto: you are just like the other posturers on the Commission: you talk the big talk, but when it comes time to it you don’t care about transit at all. Your choices reveal that much and more (like when you voted against refurbishing our metro cars ten years ago only to have it cost three times as much now).
Commissioner Jordan, I believe you have your constituents interests at heart. Unfortunately, where good planning and budgeting has been replaced with stopgap measures and half hearted attempts at compromise, your constituents are the ones who suffer. Our friends at “Eye on Miami” recently posted a letter you wrote about the UDB controversy. Your vote for moving the UDB shows how as a commissioner you have supported the faulty planning that has put us in this situation. I for one don’t think that the Orange Line North is a good idea. That line misses most pockets of density we have in Dade County. Next time there is a UDB vote think about the density you should be supporting along corridors like 27th Avenue, rather than expanding the limit of county services.
Remaining Commissioners: wake up! When are you going to take a positive position. I applaud Chairman Bruno for at least making a suggestion, however unpopular. I don’t think that another half cent would be bad, but the Commission’s credibility is shot right now.
My biggest disappointment has been Mayor Alvarez’s total absence from this discussion. Where is the strong mayor that you lobbied so intensely for? I know you inherited a big problem, but you convinced me and a lot of fellow citizens that you were the man for the job. Where are you now?
Listen up: we need transit. Multiple lines need to be built at the same time. The only way this is going to happen is if we float a bond dedicated to building these lines. This will be unpopular, but someone needs to take the lead…
PS. Looks like Tri-Rail is here for another year! Thank You Palm Beach for not killing our only success story. Woo hoo! More on this later…

A lot happened this week behind the scenes and between the lines. Here is a review:

Kudos to this editorial today from El Nuevo Herald columnist Daniel Shoer Roth. I think he did an excellent job in highlighting how mismanaged our transit system is. Accountability goes out the window when ten different departments and municipalities are ‘responsible’ for certain aspects of mass transit. I’m always talking about how our system is ‘mismanaged’ but that really isn’t the case at all. It’s a question of priorities, and transit has not historically been one of them.

Our planning priorities were on full display this past weekend in an insert produced by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) that the Herald included in its Sunday edition. The insert describes work done to date and future projects. If you are not familiar with the MPO, it is a County run organization that is charged with coordinating the various transportation projects around Miami-Dade, as required by Federal Department of Transportation rules. Their mandate is described on their website is:

…to have a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive transportation planning process that results in plans and programs that consider all transportation modes and support metropolitan community development and social goals. These plans and programs shall lead to the development and operation of an integrated, intermodal transportation system that facilitates the efficient, economic movement of people and goods.” (emphasis added)

Many worthy goals, but unfortunately their focus is more on expressway and road building projects than on balancing roads with mass transit. My favorite part of the insert is titled “Miami-Dade: Urban Travel Trends” which utilizes graphs, bright colors, and a lot of traffic engineer lingo (vehicle miles traveled, peak period speeds, etc), with only a brief mention of transit under a graph called ‘Transit Mode Share’. The text accompanying the graph states, “the countywide transit mode share in 2005 was approximately 2.5%” It goes on to say that share will grow, “albeit modestly.” Ok. I find it disillusioning that the organization supposedly responsible for coordinating our transit system is not very optimistic about the future growth of MDT.

Truth be told, after this week’s political farce concerning tranist fares and another half cent tax, I might tend to agree with the MPO. Our future transit does not look so good because the people responsible are alseep at the wheel. Commisioners Bruno and Barbs: wake up!! You have have been reaching in the dark these past few weeks trying to placate your constituents. I know this issue gets heated and personal. Let me be clear: this is not a personal attack. It makes it difficult for those of us who are transit advocates and who supported the first tax increase to justify anything you ask for now because of how the money has been squandered. Surely you can understand that. Next week I am going to work on a series of posts on how the People’s Transportation Tax has been spent to bring to light how that opportunity has been, and continues to be, botched.
If you really care about transit, and Commissioner Jordan I think you care about getting the Orange Line built, here are a few recommendations that can serve as confidence building measures that might make any fare or tax increase palatable:

  • Make the Citizens Independent Transportation Trust the sole entity responsible for deciding what happens to that money. Give it back its teeth, and allow it to do its job.
  • Charge veterans and the elderly. We can’t give away transit that doesn’t exist yet. Until MDT gets its house in order, they should be charged, albeit at a reduced rate that should be revisited when MDT’s finances get better. MDT needs income, and the Trust shouldn’t be responsible for giving it an allowance every month.
  • Charge for the Metromover. Same reasons as above.
  • Have MDT work with the Trust. Recent reports from Miami Today describe how the Trust is having a tough time getting cooperation from MDT with regard to budget issues. How is the Trust supposed to operate if it doesn’t know how much the system costs to maintain?? This is silly.

Note to Mayor Carlos Alvarez: the strong mayor powers you wanted came with responsibilities, ie. get MDT organized. How can they run the business of Miami-Dade Transit without a budget. Helloo?? Not to put all the blame on you though, as you’ve only really been in charge for a short while.

  • Tie the 20% Municipal Transportation Plan funding to transit specifically, not transportation which has become synonymous with roads and expressways. A majority of payments to municipalities have been spent on roads, resurfacing, and other road related infrastructure. The PTP was marketed primarily as a transit plan. Spend money on rail, buses, and the infrastructure related to these much needed systems. Our roads are in fine shape. That way projects like the Coral Gables Trolley continue to get funding, while other money is free to be spent on, oh, I don’t know, maybe a few bus shelters (around International Mall maybe)?
  • Increase fares to be consistent with our how efficient our system is. Don’t over do it. We want to pay for our transit, but we want to get something in return.

You need to rebuild our confidence in your ability to provide us with a functional and growing transit system. Very soon public perception of transit in this community is going to turn from being a nonessential ‘social good’ to an indispensable and basic part of the infrastructure of the city. When that happens, when people start to feel like they have no choice but to get in their cars at $8.00 a gallon, watch out Commissioners and company. The mob will be ruthless, and the storming of the Bastille will seem like a trip to Disneyworld in comparison to your worth in the public eye.

Three Great articles I highly recommend.

An entire generation of Americans has grown up thinking public faucets equal filth, and the only water fit to drink comes in plastic, factory sealed. It’s time to change that perception with public fountains in the city’s busiest quadrants, pristine bubblers that celebrate the virtues of our public water supply, remind us of our connection to upstate watersheds and reinforce our commitment to clean water for all.

Oil fueled our ambitions and dreams. The more we drank, the happier we felt, the bolder we acted. We believed in the eternity of oil, the everlasting cheapness of it; we looked askance at anyone who questioned our faith.

In all of this, we had enablers, politicians who supported our habit, told us not to worry, that there was more cheap oil to be found somewhere — in another country, perhaps, if not our own. They said they would fix whatever needed fixing.

It is one thing to meet with an Amtrak worker for a photo-op. It is another to get on board for the rail service America needs for a green economy, less urban congestion, and a more civilized future. Obama says, ‘‘Detroit won’t find a better partner than me in the White House.’’ In the past, that has also meant making a pariah out of Amtrak. Nothing would symbolize a break from this past more than a whistlestop tour in the presidential campaign, to promote trains themselves.

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