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Will our City commissioners finally come to their senses and realize we cannot evolve into a world-class city if we continue to require developers to adhere to minimum parking requirements that decrease affordability and perpetuate automobile use?

This discussion is long overdue, but finally the City Commission has agreed to conduct a public hearing on this issue.

The City will conduct a public hearing on this item on Thursday, October 23rd, 11:30 am at the City of Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive, Miami, FL 33131.

Below is a link to sign the petition and pledge to speak at the Commission meeting. Also if you sign up through this site, you will be sent updates, post your comments and see articles about this issue.

https://www.causes.com/campaigns/84406-exempt-miami-small-buildings-from-required-parking

Click on this link to send Miami Commissioners an email to voice your support for this parking exemption.

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Here’s a little more background at to why you should support the elimination of minimum parking requirements.

Minimum parking requirements are killing good urban development in Miami. Luckily, there has been a push to eliminate parking requirements for small urban buildings (<10,000 sq ft) in recent months.  This is a good first step in the right direction if Miami really aspires to become a walkable and less autocentric city.

Minimum parking requirements perpetuate more automobile use and it also makes housing less affordable since the cost of building and maintaining required parking is passed on to renters and buyers. A few months ago Zillow released a housing report  that cited Miami as the 2nd most expensive city for renters.  The average Miami resident spends 43.2% of their income on rent.

Combine expensive housing with lack of public transit and minimum parking requirements that only serve to perpetuate the use of the automobile; its no wonder why Miami is one of the most expensive car dominated cities in the US.

Eliminating parking requirements would do the following things:

1)     Allows small developers to choose how many parking spaces are needed based on what fits and what buyers or tenants want.

2)      Replaces parking with denser development that generates more property and sales tax for the county and city.

3)     Allows small property owners to keep their property and develop themselves.

4)      Levels the playing field for small Miami property owners.

5)      Allows for the creation of more walkable and denser urban neighborhoods.

6)     Provides greater opportunity to build additional homes within proximity to mass transit corridors – which works to reduces auto traffic on congested roadways.

7)     Works toward retaining housing affordability, by allowing previously undevelopable lots – or lots with limtied development potential – to be built upon,  to meet the future housing needs of all residents.

Below are the details for the reduced parking requirements that are being sought for small urban buildings.  This is currently being advocated for at the commission level, so stay tuned for the resolution.

The proposed text for T4, T5, and T6 is underlined below.  The non-underlined text already exists in Miami 21, a TOD/transit corridor parking reduction that does not apply within 500 ft of single-family/duplex areas (T3).  The proposed text does not change that, it does not apply within 500 feet of T3.  Below is a map of where the proposed text would apply: orange areas around rail stations, purple areas along transit corridors, but not yellow areas within 500 ft of T3.  

“Parking ratio may be reduced within 1/2 mile radius of TOD or within 1/4 mile radius of a Transit Corridor by thirty percent (30%) by process of Waiver, or by one hundred percent (100%) for any Structure that has a Floor Area of ten thousand (10,000) square feet or less, except when site is within 500 feet of T3.”

Let’s hope City of Miami Commissioners can come to their senses and eliminate parking requirements entirely, not just for small urban buildings.

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Following in the footsteps of others such as the University of Miami, Florida Atlantic University will soon be hosting Zipcar car sharing service on campus. In an email to students today, the university wrote the following announcement:

Wednesday, September 24 marks the University’s annual Campus Sustainability Day and this year will be special in that Zipcar, the car-sharing service, will officially launch for the entire FAU community.

Zipcar, an alternative to bringing a car to school, gives members 24/7 access to vehicles parked right on the Boca Raton campus. Low hourly ($7.50/hr) and daily ($69/day) rates include gas, insurance and 180 miles per day to go wherever you want to go. Members can reserve cars online or with a smart phone for as little as an hour or up to seven days. More information can be found at zipcar.com/fau

Campus Sustainability Day will include demonstrations and exhibits featuring many initiatives supported by FAU. Come visit the Mission Green Student Association, the Green Team Leaders, Dirt Pros, South Florida Commuter Services, Housing and Residential Life, Chartwells and Zipcar to learn how you can lower your carbon footprint.

Please join us on Wednesday, Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the Boca Raton Student Union to celebrate and to see what Zipcar is all about.

World War II Car-sharing ad.

Zipcar should really resurrect these old World War II ads. Photo by Flickr user John December.

Who will use the new Zipcars being put into place? Car sharing systems work best for people who are getting around without their personal vehicle. For those willing to live without owning their own car, a car sharing service is a great tool that allows use of a car for those occasional trips that require it. FAU’s Boca Raton campus is actually well connected multimodally. The Boca Raton Tri-Rail station is about 2 miles from the FAU campus, with options to get to campus either by bike or bus. The El Rio Canal Trail ducks underneath I-95 in a great route that’s completely separate from the road. Palm Tran offers a connecting bus service with a fairly direct route that’s only a bit slower than biking.

Despite this solid connectivity, FAU still generates a lot of auto trips—enough to warrant the new interchange that is under construction at Spanish River Blvd. Let’s look at the things that encourage people to drive instead of getting to campus without a car. As a student at FAU for the past few years, I have taken the train, ridden my bike, and driven my car to campus on many occasions, so some of these insights are from personal experience.

  • It’s quicker to drive.
    From where I live in Oakland Park, I can drive to campus in 30 minutes, even in 6 PM traffic. Riding my bicycle to the train station takes 20 minutes, taking the train to the Boca station takes 15 minutes, and riding from the Boca station to campus takes 10 minutes. This is typical of public transit, but one of the tradeoffs is the ability to work on something else during your commute. But in my case, and no doubt many others, you could drive and get there early enough to still have extra time to study.
  • Tri-Rail stops running too early.
    We had a good conversation on this subject on our Facebook page when Sunrail riders put out a petition for night and weekend service. Tri-Rail is not much better. Some classes (all of the ones in my grad school program) get out at 10 PM, and the last southbound train through Boca Raton campus is at 9:17 PM. So some people could take the train to class and get stuck trying to figure out some other way to get home. For me, that has always been biking 15 miles home at 10 PM at night. Not something for everyone.
  • You pay for parking already.
    You can be an online only student, but at FAU you’re still required to pay a “Transportation Access Fee” which is basically a parking fee. I even dropped an entire semester, got the university to drop all my other course fees–but they refused to drop the Transportation Access Fee for that semester. They sent it to collections, but ultimately I had to pay it before I could register for classes after I re-enrolled two years later. While FAU officially states that this fee goes towards all the transportation infrastructure, it’s worth mentioning that there is not a single designated bike lane on campus, and the only new bike racks going in have been useless “wave” style bike racks that are bolted to the concrete. So I could risk my bike getting damaged in a poorly designed rack or getting stolen by someone with a wrench, or I can use a railing that was not paid for by the Transportation Access Fee if I want my bike truly safe and secure. Also, even though Tri-Rail offers a student discount pass that can apply to FAU students, FAU funnels no funding their way to cover this.
    Other universities, such as the University of Florida, structure their fees so that a parking permit is optional, paid for only by those who want to drive to campus. Their parking fee might be higher, but basic economics tells you that if you want to encourage multimodal transportation, you need to pass along the costs of parking as well as the savings from not parking. If this fee were only for an optional parking permit, I would never drive to FAU. I didn’t for a year while I had no car.
  • It costs more to take transit.
    This one may or may not be true. Depends on your situation. But if you take Tri-Rail, you have to pay the fare for the train, then if you don’t have a bicycle with you, pay the transfer fare to get on the Palm Tran route to FAU. Then pay the Palm Tran fare on the way back. If you got a convenient round-trip Tri-Rail ticket, you get no discount on the trip back, either. Tri-Rail fares are all over the place, but round trip from Cypress Creek to Boca Raton is normally $6.25. A 50¢ transfer fare applies if you remember to get a pass after getting off the train, otherwise you’re stuck paying the full $2. Then it’s another $2 for the trip back to Tri-Rail. So, with regular fare, it will cost you at least $8.75 to go a 15-20 mile distance. With most cars that’s less than a gallon of gas, which I bought a few of yesterday for $3.19. That doesn’t account for the other expenses (car maintenance, insurance, payments, doctor bills from getting fat), but it’s all most people look at. Wait, you say there’s a student discount? Let’s look at that.
  • Student discounts are hard to get.
    With Tri-Rail, you have to get a special Easy Card, available only in person at the Metrorail transfer station, the Pompano Beach station, the Fort Lauderdale Airport station, or the West Palm Beach station–but only during normal business hours. If you commute early in the morning or only to evening classes, good luck trying to find one of these open. I went to one class a week in Boca for an entire semester without being able to get the discount card. It’s $2 for the Easy Card, BTW. Of course you brought your student ID with you, right? That’s not enough. You have to print out a current class schedule and bring it with you to prove that you’re really and truly a student. Then they’ll snap your photo and all your Tri-Rail tickets for the rest of your life are half off. Well, OK. Until the card expires, anyway–but I have no clue when that happens as it doesn’t say on my card. Required reading here and here.
    OK, you got your Tri-Rail discount card. What about Palm Tran? Well, theoretically, you just need to show student ID and your bus fare is only $1. I’ve never gotten to try this one because it’s limited to those under 21. If you’re an upperclassman or a grad student, you’re probably out of luck. Required reading here.
    University of Florida actually tacked on a fee to tuition to help fund Gainesville’s transit system, and all students ride the bus free just by showing their student ID. No hoops to jump through, and a big incentive to use the bus.
  • It’s hot.
    OK, this one is a normal part of Florida life. Sitting out at a bus stop or riding a bicycle always makes you sweat more than if you drive in your air conditioned car. The proper response is to embrace the sweat (I wear breathable polo shirts) and remember that you need the exercise.Crowded Tri-Rail racks
  • There’s no room for bikes on the train.
    The new Tri-Rail trains have only two awkward bike racks, and 4 or 5 bikes are usually crammed into this area. Your bike might fall over, or the conductor might tell you to get another car because his already has two—even though he doesn’t see that the other car has six bikes crammed into that spot. The pic on the right is a typical sight for bikes being crammed in and shuffled around.
  • I don’t know where to go.
    Wayfinding is a definite concern getting around FAU. I took a class in 2007 before the El Rio Canal trail was open underneath I-95, and got lost a couple times riding my bike from the Tri-Rail station to FAU, meandering through the nearby neighborhoods. It’s better now, except for construction ocassionally blocking the trail. The El Rio Trail between Spanish River and Glades Rd. has only one real connection to the large, sprawling, campus–the crossing at NW 20th St. You ride right by the soccer fields, where a sidewalk taunts you by coming within 5 feet of the path—but offering a drop off of several inches as well as a distinct lack of curb ramps to get onto the road. You’d have better luck cutting across the grass onto a gravel-strewn asphalt parking lot slightly north of there. No drop-offs, but lots of stop signs and opportunities to get lost on campus. Neither of these are real connections, but rather just gaps in the fences. If you want to get to the east side of campus, it’s more direct to get on Spanish River Blvd and enter the campus there on the roads, riding in their undesignated “bike lane.”

This is probably not an exhaustive list, but it should be enough to give the executives at Zipcar pause. Why would you want to invest in an area that would discourage use of your system? We don’t have information yet on the particulars of the Zipcar deal. Perhaps FAU is seeding them funds. But if I worked at Zipcar, I wouldn’t invest in a system at FAU without asking them to change those factors that the university can control—get rid of the flat transportation access fee and replace it with an optional parking permit fee. Now, the launch of Zipcar is good news. But without changes at and around the university, it will not last. Anyone who drives to FAU all the time will not be using Zipcar.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 10.38.42 AMClick on this link to send Miami Commissioners an email to voice your support for this parking exemption.

Minimum parking requirements are killing good urban development in Miami. Luckily, there has been a push to eliminate parking requirements for small urban buildings (<10,000 sq ft) in recent months.  This is a good first step in the right direction if Miami really aspires to become a walkable and less autocentric city.

Minimum parking requirements perpetuate more automobile use and it also makes housing less affordable since the cost of building and maintaining required parking is passed on to renters and buyers. A few months ago Zillow released a housing report  that cited Miami as the 2nd most expensive city for renters.  The average Miami resident spends 43.2% of their income on rent.

Combine expensive housing with lack of public transit and minimum parking requirements that only serve to perpetuate the use of the automobile; its no wonder why Miami is one of the most expensive car dominated cities in the US.

Eliminating parking requirements would do the following things:

1) Allows small developers to choose how many parking spaces are needed based on what fits and what buyers or tenants want.
2) Replaces parking with denser development that generates more property and sales tax for the county and city.
3) Allows small property owners to keep their property and develop themselves.
4) Levels the playing field for small Miami property owners.
5) Allows for the creation of more walkable and denser urban neighborhoods.

Below are the details for the reduced parking requirements that are being sought for small urban buildings.  This is currently being advocated for at the commission level, so stay tuned for the resolution.

The proposed text for T4, T5, and T6 is underlined below.  The non-underlined text already exists in Miami 21, a TOD/transit corridor parking reduction that does not apply within 500 ft of single-family/duplex areas (T3).  The proposed text does not change that, it does not apply within 500 feet of T3.  Below is a map of where the proposed text would apply: orange areas around rail stations, purple areas along transit corridors, but not yellow areas within 500 ft of T3.  

“Parking ratio may be reduced within 1/2 mile radius of TOD or within 1/4 mile radius of a Transit Corridor by thirty percent (30%) by process of Waiver, or by one hundred percent (100%) for any Structure that has a Floor Area of ten thousand (10,000) square feet or less, except when site is within 500 feet of T3.”

Let’s hope City of Miami Commissioners can come to their senses and eliminate parking requirements entirely, not just for small urban buildings.

Click on this link to send Miami Commissioners an email to voice your support for this parking exemption.

 

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Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 10.38.42 AMMinimum parking requirements are killing good urban development in Miami. Luckily, there has been a push to eliminate parking requirements for small urban buildings (<10,000 sq ft) in recent months.  This is a good first step in the right direction if Miami really aspires to become a walkable and less autocentric city.

Minimum parking requirements perpetuate more automobile use and it also makes housing less affordable since the cost of building and maintaining required parking is passed on to renters and buyers. Two weeks ago Zillow released ahousing report  that cited Miami as the 2nd most expensive city for renters.  The average Miami resident spends 43.2% of their income on rent.\

Combine expensive housing with lack of public transit and minimum parking requirements that only serve to perpetuate the use of the automobile; its no wonder why Miami is one of the most expensive car dominated cities in the US.

Eliminating parking requirements would do the following things:

1) Allows small developers to choose how many parking spaces are needed based on what fits and what buyers or tenants want.
2) Replaces parking with denser development that generates more property and sales tax for the county and city.
3) Allows small property owners to keep their property and develop themselves.
4) Levels the playing field for small Miami property owners.
5) Allows for the creation of more walkable and denser urban neighborhoods.

Below are the details for the reduced parking requirements that are being sought for small urban buildings.  This is currently being advocated for at the commission level, so stay tuned for the resolution.

The proposed text for T4, T5, and T6 is underlined below.  The non-underlined text already exists in Miami 21, a TOD/transit corridor parking reduction that does not apply within 500 ft of single-family/duplex areas (T3).  The proposed text does not change that, it does not apply within 500 feet of T3.  Below is a map of where the proposed text would apply: orange areas around rail stations, purple areas along transit corridors, but not yellow areas within 500 ft of T3.  

“Parking ratio may be reduced within 1/2 mile radius of TOD or within 1/4 mile radius of a Transit Corridor by thirty percent (30%) by process of Waiver, or by one hundred percent (100%) for any Structure that has a Floor Area of ten thousand (10,000) square feet or less, except when site is within 500 feet of T3.”.

Let’s hope City of Miami Commissioners can come to their senses and eliminate parking requirements entirely, not just for small urban buildings.

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Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking and distinguished professor of urban planning at UCLA, will give a talk on Monday, April 21 from 8 to 10 AM at AIA’s Miami Center for Architecture & Design, 100 NE 1 Ave, Miami, FL 33132.

Shoup is the godfather of the scientific study of parking, and has spoken widely about the benefits of eliminating required parking for mobility and urbanism.  Shoup writes: “This doesn’t mean, however, that developers won’t provide off-street parking. It simply means that urban planners won’t tell developers exactly how many parking spaces they must provide before they can get a building permit. Developers will provide the parking spaces they think buyers demand.”

Capacity is limited, RSVP at shoupmiami.eventbrite.com and send to all your contacts, followers, members, students, etc.  Continental breakfast will be served.  Supported by the Knight Foundation, AIA Miami, APA Gold Coast Section, and Townhouse Center.

Shoup Flyer

 

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.

 

 

parking-panel-pic-300x224

This article was originally published on ULI’s website.  It’s worth mentioning that not one elected official in Miami attended this event. I personally sent out invitations twice to all of Miami’s elected officials.  I know others also sent invitations to them as well.

Once again the private sector is leading the public sector and clearly there is no leadership in Miami when is comes to this very important issue. The disconnect is pretty sad and not encouraging for Miami’s future.

“Can Miami Develop with Less Parking?” panel discussion organized by our ULI Young Leaders Group and held at FIU’s Hollo School of Real Estate in Downtown Miami was an overwhelming success with a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 real estate and industry professionals.

The event was moderated by outgoing ULI Young Leaders Chair Andrew Frey and the panel comprised of development and parking experts including: Bernardo Fort-Brescia, FAIA, Principal, Arquitectonica; Joseph Furst, Managing Director Wynwood, Goldman Properties;Harvey Hernandez, Chairman & Managing Director, Newgard Development Group; and Dr. Ruth L. Steiner, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Florida.

A number of exciting issues were discussed throughout the morning that varied from easing the criteria to allow greater access to the City’s shared parking credit, to replacing the required parking minimum with a parking maximum, even a recommendation to do away with parking requirements altogether and allow the market to decide. Some of the more dynamic discussion surrounded the suggestion that current minimum parking requirements have had unintended consequences on development such as:

  • encouraging developers to build larger, more expensive multi-bedroom units in order to make the cost of parking feasible (same number of parking spaces required per unit regardless of number of bedrooms)
  • discouraging development of small urban infill sites by necessitating assemblage of parcels and construction of larger buildings (parking ramps and circulation can only be accommodated within a certain minimum building/site footprint)
  • codifying for too many, underutilized parking spaces by requiring spaces at workplaces, residences and commercial areas (even with the shared parking credit this leaves many empty spaces at different times throughout the day and night).

Overall it was a lively conversation that addressed the question, “Can Miami develop with less parking?” According to the panel, the answer is a qualified, “yes”. How much less parking? That’s a topic for the next panel.

 

 

This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Better! Cities & Towns. It was reprinted on TransitMiami.com with expressed written consent from the Author and the Editor of Better! Cities & Towns. 

Miami Beach takes Infrastructure Beyond Gray

Claudia Kousoulas, Better! Cities & Towns

When cities invest in infrastructure, it’s often the gray stuff like roads and bridges. Or it’s hidden away like water and sewer pipes. Not to say that infrastructure isn’t interesting and vital to a city’s success, but it’s hard to get excited about.

But in Miami Beach, where everything seems to be more colorful and dramatic than most American cities, the latest round of infrastructure investments combine flamboyance and function. The city’s parking garages are featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lebron James is a fan of its bikeshare system, and the expanding network of streetscape and trail improvements weave the city together, from beach to bay.

“It is a coordinated effort,” says Richard Lorber, acting planning director. “Decobike has become a part of the city and we’ve incorporated it into our transportation thinking.” Likewise with streetscape improvements; despite initial concern about losing on-street parking spaces, residents recognize that the curb bump-outs, streetscaping, and landscaping add value to their properties.

High-style parking garages

Miami Beach has gotten the most press coverage for its public and private parking garages and in fact has set a new standard for not only garage design, but their integration with streets and city life. Architects whose names are usually attached to symphony halls and art museums are undertaking what used to be a pretty dull commission.

Zaha Hadid’s proposed parking garage with swooping overhang atop a pedestrian space typifies Miami Beach’s stylish and fun approach to infrastructure

Herzog and deMeuron’s 1111 Lincoln Road garage functions equally as a party space, a retail anchor, and parking garage. Enrique Norten’s refined Park @420 pulls Lincoln Road’s retail activity around the corner, while Arquitectonica’s Purdy Avenue garage is also a retail anchor for Sunset Harbor, an emerging mixed-use neighborhood. Frank Gehry’s public garage, sheathed in steel mesh recalling his signature chain link, is lit to drift through a color palette that mirrors Miami sunsets. Zaha Hadid is proposing a structure that will swoop over a street and create a pedestrian plaza.

The trend toward high style garages began in 1995 with Arquitectonica’s Ballet Valet garage. The client, developer Tony Goldman who would go on to develop the Wynwood Arts District, spotted an opportunity on this neglected stretch of Collins Avenue. One block in from the beach and surrounded by clubs and hotels, the garage’s retail base kick-started redevelopment. Popularly known as the Chia Pet garage, Arquitectonica’s screen of plants became a local landmark.

Ballet Valet garage, designed by Arquitectonica

Unlike the usual approach to garage design, which seeks to hide parking behind a liner building or false front, newer garages celebrate their position in our lives and communities. Most use texture, color, and pattern to create visual elegance. Herzog and De Meuron’s garage uses the drama of space and movement. Views shift and drop; every floor creates a different experience. From the outside, the blade-edged concrete slabs hover over dramatic skies and palm trees. Hadid’s proposed design is a modernist approach to the experience of moving through space.

Roger Howie of Hadid’s office says, “A simple premise of how to bring the street into the building guided our initial studies which then progressed into an expressed, continuous vehicular circulation path which provides a unique, even fun, experience for the user.”

But the designs also mediate between the car and the pedestrian. From an urban point of view, their relationship to the street is most important. Some, like Park@420, rely on a simple retail base, others like 1111 draw pedestrians in to experience the space. As well as retail, Hadid’s design includes an urban plaza and features stairs to create a gateway along the Collins Park axis. This sounds more like urban design than transportation engineering.

As well as experiments with screen and structure, the function of these garages is part of their design and economics. They are not places you would park and leave. You could spend the whole evening at 1111—from a sunset drink at the rooftop restaurant, on to dinner, then shopping and people watching in the plaza. Likewise, Arquitectonica’s Purdy Avenue seeks to combine design and function to transcend typical parking garage. “The idea was to create a hub of activity for residents and locals, a place to eat, exercise, and shop—with parking,” says Wendy Chernin of the Scott Robins Companies who worked with the city in a public-private partnership to build the project.

The varying floor heights, almost invisible steel cable fencing, and concrete slabs of 1111 Lincoln Road upend the notion of the parking garage as something to be hidden.

Decobike Cruises In

Miami Beach has added 2,741 new spaces with these garages, but the city’s approach is also multi-modal. Decobike has been operating in the city since 2011. In 2012 it expanded north to the Town of Surfside and is poised to cross the Biscayne Bay causeways into the City of Miami. On the beach, Decobike has achieved the best bike-to-resident ratio in North America, with the highest station distribution per square mile nationally. Each of the 1,000 bikes is used four to five times a day, one of the highest use rates in the country.

Decobike founders Colby Reese and Bonifacio Diaz first experienced bikeshare in Paris and Barcelona.
“We were amazed by the amount of usage on the systems. From there, it became a “green business concept that we fell in love with,” said Reese.

When the City of Miami Beach issued a request for proposals, Decobike responded with proposed locations based on their business model and use estimates. Lorber says that the city worked with them to approve the proposed locations or find appropriate alternatives.  He points out that the system was initially approved without advertising on the bikes or docks, but Decobike has since requested to place ads.

“We’re not thrilled with the ads, but worked with them again to find appropriate locations,” says Lorber. “Decobike is so well loved and so important, we want them to have a healthy financial viability.”

There were initial reservations about use. Why would anyone use this service if they already owned a bicycle? But as Reese points out, with bikeshare there are no worries about theft or maintenance. And a well-distributed and stocked bike dock network makes Decobike convenient. Reese notes that once the docks were installed, they also adjusted rental and membership options to meet the demands of residents and visitors.

There was also some concern about turning over on-street parking spaces to bike docks, but the popularity of the system and a slew of new parking garages calmed those concerns. As Reese notes, using a parking space for 20 bikes that turn over four to five times a day is a more efficient use of public space.

Reese and Diaz recount these sensible planner answers, but neglect to mention just how much fun Decobike can be. Miami Beach is a flat city, with great weather and ocean views. A grid street pattern provides plenty of routes for commuting or sightseeing.

And just as the parking garages are a system designed to provide access, so is Decobike. Its expansion north into Surfside was the next step in expanding farther north to Haulover Park and west into the Town of Bay Harbor Islands. Duncan Tavares, planner for the Town of Surfside, says residents and businesses supported bikeshare from the start, and after smoothing some concerns about liability and location, so did elected officials.

Expanding Streetscape and Trails

Even within its street grid, the city is upgrading its network of trails and street paths for efficiency, safety, and pleasure. The city’s 2007 Atlantic Greenway Network Plan strived to establish routes that make local and regional bicycle and walking connections. Now that the State of Florida no longer allows wooden structures on the beach, each redevelopment or capital improvement completes another link. The overall effort re-engineers walking and cycling into car-oriented streets and public spaces.

The Atlantic Greenway Network path runs north-south along the beach as a poured concrete path with a trademark wave pattern paving, providing recreation and transportation connections.

While the Atlantic Greenway Network Plan makes beach to bay connections and runs along the beachfront, the City also considers neighborhood function and aesthetics in its streetscape improvements. The South Pointe Master Plan identifies 13 neighborhoods for a planned progress program of streetscape improvements. The plan works from eight typologies that include curb bump-outs, tree grates, lighting, shade trees, and what everyone wants to see when they come to Miami—palm trees.

As the city works its way through each neighborhood, citizens help develop a “basis of design” report that identifies designs and applications unique to each neighborhood. The resulting improvements, says Lorber, encourage people to walk by creating safe and comfortable streets for pedestrians and by corralling cars, but also include stormwater and drainage improvements.

The blocks south of Fifth Street now include a mix of housing, from single-family to high-rise, fronting walkable streets made pedestrian-friendly with landscaping, paving, curb bumpouts, and crosswalks.

While many of these designs take on a particular tropical style, they are also lessons for other communities. Garages that become landmarks and destinations, a continuing commitment to transportation alternatives and trail connections, and streetscape that adds value on every corner don’t need palm trees to be successful.

Claudia Kousoulas is a freelance writer and an urban planner with the Montgomery County Maryland Planning Department, where she blogs on The Straight Line.

 

This email was sent to us this morning by a  Transit Miami reader…

 

Hello, fellow riders! I am an avid reader of your blog. It makes me feel more connected to the town, more aware of what’s going on in terms of being green, helping the environment, and being safe as a bicycle rider.

I try to do my part and try to limit the use of my car, so I ride my motorcycle to work every day (much better gas mileage!). Today I did an experiment and rode my bicycle to work. While the ride was very pleasant and took only 5 minutes more than my regular commute (I live 20 blocks away), when I arrived at my work building (Miami Center, 201 S Biscayne Blvd), I found a very resistant, rude attendant at the loading dock, which is the only place of entry I could find someone, since the garage is off limits.

The woman went on to ask me what I was doing there, which I replied, ” I work here”. Then she asks, ” Are you new?”  To which I replied, “No, I just decided to come to work in my bicycle today.”  After looking at me as if I was an alien, she went on to say that I was not allowed in the loading dock, that they do not have places to park bicycles, that I could put it next to a rail in the back, but they were not responsible for it.  Super nice experience!

I have tried in the past sending emails to the building management, to my general manager, asking him to request that we have a place for motorcycles in the building, to no avail. All the building management replies is that right now they don’t have plans to give tenants that type of facility.

I have worked at the One Biscayne Tower, where they did have a place for bikes and motorcycles, and now I resort to park my motorcycle at the 200 S Biscayne Blvd building (Wells Fargo), where they also have a reserved placed for bikers, with very nice and cordial full time security guards. I park there by using social engineering and telling them I work in their building.

Here at Miami Center we used to be able to park outside, and then one day they decided we couldn’t anymore, started threatening all of us with tow notices, and never gave an alternative.

It would be great if you could give us a voice and make management get with the program, and help their tenants be green!

Thanks

Christian

 

“There’s a Car2Go fever going around right now. Those of us who are already members are raving about it; and those who aren’t yet members don’t want to be left out.”

The voice brimming with optimism about Miami’s newest, green transportation alternative is that of Rodrigo Galavis, co-owner of FilmMia, a local Motion Picture Production Management Company. Galavis and a colleague, Cigarra Expressions’ Arturo Perez, were recently opining at the inexorably with-it Panther Coffee about the brand new car-sharing company called Car2Go. Coincidentally, the two had just arrived in one of Car2Go’s very vehicles, and took but a nanosecond for both to show how ga-ga they’d become over benefits of car-sharing.

For the uninitiated, Car2Go is Miami’s latest mobility alternative: a car-sharing service that affords its members all the comforts and conveniences of vehicle ownership without the hassles, costs, or burdensome search for parking. At just $0.38/minute, Car2Go members have access to 240 blue and white SMART cars which are conveniently scattered throughout the City of Miami. Through a partnership with the Miami Parking Authority, Car2Go drivers can end their one-way journeys in most non-restricted curb side parking spaces, any Residential Parking Restricted Neighborhoods and all parking meter/paystation locations without having to pay in the City of Miami.

Car2Go - Via Miami Parking Authority

Car2Go – Via Miami Parking Authority

“…it’s an easy and affordable way to get you from point A to B,” noted Galavis.

“It’s also a great and efficient alternative between taking the train/bus or a taxi,” adds Perez.

Of course it takes more than a couple early adopters and an accommodating company to prove that a concept’s time has come; it also takes a certain wherewithal, and the capacity to deliver on what’s promised. To twist Gertrude Stein’s infamous precept, there needs to be a there there, and therein lies C2G’s genius.

Car2Go’s sudden appearance in Miami isn’t a coincidence. A number of factors have made car-sharing viable including the recent urban renaissance, the rising costs of car ownership and maintenance, increased congestion, and the economic recession. Together, these factors create an environment favorable to car-sharing programs that provide car-free residents with the freedom they seek in our otherwise autocentric cities.

Unlike other car-sharing programs (See: Zipcar or RelayRides), Car2Go’s one-size fits most approach gets down to the basics: providing simple, efficient vehicles to enhance mobility.  A big difference between Car2Go and its competitors is the ability to use the vehicles for one-way journeys.

For a limited time, the company is waiving the initial $35 registration fee (promo code “HEAT”). Once registered, you’ll find that getting in and going about is as easy as operating an ATM. There’s no gas to buy (though an on board gas card is available should it be needed), and, because of C2G’s deal with the Miami Parking Authority, parking is included as well within the home base, an area that stretches from the Grove to 79th Street, the Bay to beyond the Marlins Stadium.

In a city where parking is at a premium, traffic is notoriously snarled, a woeful transit network, and taxis are too often hard to come by, Car2Go is a cinch. With the added myriad costs associated with car ownership the argument is over — the clear winner is Car2Go.

Welcome to Miami – a city where civic advocacy and forward thinking can land you in jail if you’re not careful. Friday’s TransitMiami Park(ing) Day 2011 was a huge success; hundreds of visitors came out throughout the day to enjoy downtown Miami’s newest temporary pop-up park. Working in collaboration with the Miami Parking Authority, we transformed 10 on-street parking spaces into a tree-lined, shaded park, complete with moveable chairs, and a solar-powered mobile wifi hot- spot where folks were hard at work.

Railroad ties refashioned as bollards, and native trees in moveable planters formed the street edge, causing a noticeable shift in driving patterns along the 3 lane, southbound street. “North Miami Avenue usually feels like a highway,” said local resident Rosa Gutierrez, “people routinely go 60 mph here – you never see traffic this calm.” Local food truck vendors, artists and musicians were also there to celebrate the grassroots effort to reimagine the streetscape with something other than on-street parking, and numerous neighborhood and political figures stopped by throughout the day.

Local Artists

Park(ing) Day Miami 2011 a success

Transit Miami was the main co-sponsor of the event along with Brad Knoefler, local activist and entrepreneur. In anticipation of Park(ing) Day, Brad developed a new strategy – called weed bombing – to add to the Tactical Urbansim toolbox. Confronted by deadbeat landlords around his neighborhood who don’t maintain their properties, Knoefler decided to address the problem head on by spray painting the overgrown vegetation with bright colors. The result is a charming transformation of blight inducing weeds into something more. We had an excellent time on Park(ing) Day, and look forward to doing it again next year. Unfortunately, the City of Miami might have something to say about it.

As you might have read, the Police Department has faced a number of challenges this year, including a fiasco with the Chief of Police that has made Miami a laughingstock of the country, and a string of high-profile shooting deaths, perpetuating the notion that Miami is a backwater, banana republic. As if they didn’t already have enough on their plate, enter Officer Rodriguez who decided that the Park(ing) Day cleanup (the following day) was not going fast enough and decided to arrest co-sponsor Brad Knoefler for failing to obey a lawful command (read: police harassment). “Officer Rodriguez called me several times on my cell demanding that I come down and finish cleaning immediately,” said Knoefler, “I told him that not cleaning up 100% after an event is not an arrestable offense, at worst it’s a code violation or solid waste ticket.” The City of Miami police, and all citizens of Miami, should be embarrassed that this happened. How can we expect to attract and keep the creative middle-class that contributes to a healthy economy, if the police harass and intimidate citizens as they trying to enrich their communities? Shame on you Officer Rodriguez for embarrassing your police force and your city; of the 850 Park(ing) Day events around the world, Miami was the only one to see someone arrested as a result of laying sod on a parking space for a day. Only in Miami.

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Parking spaces around the globe to be temporarily reclaimed for people

Miami, FL September 16, 2011 — In cities around the globe today, artists, activists and citizens will temporarily transform metered parking spaces into public parks and other social spaces, as part of an annual event called “PARK(ing) Day.”

Originally invented in 2005 by Rebar, a San Francisco-based art and design studio, PARK(ing) Day challenges people to rethink the way streets are used and reinforces the need for broad-based changes to urban infrastructure. “In urban centers around the world, inexpensive curbside parking results in increased traffic, wasted fuel and more pollution,” says Rebar’s Matthew Passmore. “The planning strategies that generated these conditions are not sustainable, nor do they promote a healthy, vibrant human habitat. PARK(ing) Day is about re-imagining the possibilities of the urban landscape.”

Locally, a group of organizations such as OPRA, Transit Miami, the Street Plans Collaborative, and the Urban Environmental League have partnered with the City of Miami Parking Authority to transform ten metered parking spaces in one of Downtown Miami’s least green neighborhoods into a park. The event will take place at 700 N. Miami Avenue, directly in front of the old Miami Arena, demolished in 2008. The Old Arena site is also the future site of Grand Central Park (www.grandcentralpark.org), an OPRA project to convert five acres of rocks on the former arena site into a three year temporary park.

Since 2005, the project has blossomed into a worldwide grassroots movement: PARK(ing) Day 2010 included more than 800 “PARK” installations 180 cities around the world. This year, the project continues to expand to urban centers across the globe.

PARK(ing) Day is an “open-source” user-generated invention created by independent groups around the globe who adapt the project to champion creative, social or political causes that are relevant to their local urban conditions. More information regarding local PARK(ing) Day activities can be found and a global map of all participating cities are available on the PARK(ing) Day website, at parkingday.org.

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Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part series.

I was in San Francisco recently and aside from riding every form of urban transit imaginable (cable car, light rail, subway, bicycle, and commuter rail) I took the opportunity to explore a few of the city’s up-and-coming neighborhoods particularly, South of Market (SOMA), Mission Bay, and South Beach. Of particular interest on this visit was the urban development sprouting up along the China Basin, home of AT&T Ballpark where the San Francisco Giants have played since 2000. AT&T Ballpark and the new Muni Metro transit line which accompanied the stadium have served as catalysts for new urban development.

AT&T Ballpark

Having visited a number of America’s Baseball stadiums, what really strikes me about AT&T Ballpark is its connectivity with the surroundings. From the boardwalk along the famed McCovey Cove to the King Street Walk of Fame, this ballpark was designed to be as much of destination during the off-season as it is when the Giants are in town (Note: when I visited the Giants were on the road). This is a true urban ballpark; warm and inviting with some restaurants and bars within the ballpark opening up to Willie Mays Plaza. The Plaza, of course not only pays homage to one of baseball’s greatest players, but creates a sense of space and grand entrance to the ballpark. It’s important to note that AT&T Ballpark was the first privately financed ballpark in Major League Baseball since 1962. Noticeably absent from the area surrounding the stadium is parking, a good segway into a brief discussion of the transit service that was built to connect the region.

T Third Street Line (Via: RTK Vision)

The T third street line is a modern light-rail system completed in 2007 at a cost of $648 Million. The 5.1 mile transit line is the newest addition to the SFMTA in 50 years and connects the existing Muni Metro system and AT&T Ballpark with some long neglected neighborhoods including Potrero Hill, Bayview, Hunters Point, and Visitacion Valley. Today, new development dots the landscape around the T third street line including the Mission Bay Development, an emerging bioscience hub anchored by the UCSF Mission Bay campus as well as an abundance of dense, urban, development (see: Avalon, Edgewater, and Strata). It’s also important to note that the T third street line was funded largely through the city of San Francisco’s Proposition B, a ½% sales tax levied to support transit projects.

TOD at 4th & King Streets, SOMA, San Francisco (Via: LA Wad)

Visiting AT&T Ballpark (and the surrounding neighborhoods) allowed me to more fully comprehend the shortcomings of the Marlins new Ballpark currently rising in the heart of Little Havana. The new Marlins Stadium is beautiful feat of engineering; it is sleek, shiny, and futuristic, much like Miami itself. Once inside, watching the home team play will be a pleasure, no doubt, but its interaction with the surrounding host community is, like much of Miami’s development, designed with a certain air of indifference for neighboring land uses.

Former Orange Bowl Site; The new Home of the Florida Marlins (Via: Javier Ortega Figueiral)

Constructed at a taxpayer cost of $360M, one would think that we’d be unveiling a trophy piece of civic infrastructure next season; one whose public investment would outweigh the costs by spurring new urban growth, tourism, and economic development in the heart of the Magic City. One would also think that the additional $100M of public investment in transportation infrastructure would be designed to alleviate an already stressed infrastructure rather than exacerbate the problem, right? Wrong. This is Miami, here we spend $100M building four massive, structurally deficient parking garages.

Marlins Ballpark (Via: Thehoorse24)

Having visited AT&T Ballpark and the surrounding neighborhoods it’s difficult not to think of what a $100M down payment for a new transit line akin to the T third street line could have looked like. It could have linked EXISTING parking in downtown or the civic center urban centers with the Ballpark. Think of the opportunity lost to spur new development and provide a reasonable modal alternative to the residents of a largely lower-middle class neighborhood. Think of the pedestrian-scale development that could have risen alongside the stadium instead of parking garages. Imagine paying a nominal $2 transit fare to access the ballpark rather than shelling out upwards of $30 for parking (there are, after all, only 5,700 spaces available).

It’s an interesting juxtaposition in my eyes:

  • AT&T Ballpark was built without a single cent of public financing and is one of the most inclusive, consciously designed stadiums in all of major league baseball. Coupled with a sound investment in sustainable transit, the stadium has spurred ongoing economic development in the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • On the other hand, the heavily subsidized Marlins Ballpark is beginning to look like a full-blown assault on Little Havana, replete with the loss of public open space, parking structures which isolate the stadium from the surrounding community, and a guarantee that at least 81 days of the year the congestion in this area will be a nightmarish hell with little, if any, net positive impact to local businesses.

This is part one of a two part series. Part two will be published over the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

The video below documents the struggles of a suburban Phoenix, AZ family as they try to cope with the high cost of transportation and a lack of alternatives to driving in their autocentric neighborhood. It’s amazing (and sad) to watch this family struggle to get by with just one operable vehicle and no public transit in sight. I have a feeling that a lot of households in the Miami area are experiencing similar difficulties as the Brosso family because they too live in communities that lack the presence of other quality transportation options beside motor vehicles.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

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Transit Miami welcomes former writer (and my partner in The Street Plans Collaborative) Mike Lydon as he gives a lecture about parking and parking policy reform in South Miami this coming Wendesday, December 1, 2010. Mike served as a member of the City of Miami’s Bicycle Action Committee, where he helped spearhead the creation of the city’s first Bicycle Action Plan, and contributed to the creation of the first cyclovia in Miami, Bike Miami Days. He currently serves on an Executive Committee for Transportation Alternatives–one of the country’s leading active transportation advocacy organizations, and is a board member for the CNU New York Chapter. 

Location: South Miami City Hall, 6130 SW 72nd Street (Sunset Drive)

Presentation followed by questions

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