Currently viewing the category: "Brickell"

Manhattanization is a term we’ve become accustomed to in Miami. It‘s existed since at least the 1960s to describe cities from San Francisco to Santiago, but it became a prominent buzzword in the 2000s to describe the rapid transformation of downtown Miami and Brickell. Now that the building boom is back in full swing, so is the term. And along with it comes the debate about whether what we’re seeing unfold in Miami is actually a step towards a Manhattan-esque urban environment.

Whether downtown Miami is beginning to resemble Manhattan is debatable. Certainly, our skyline is growing. It may not be as tall, as dense, or as diverse as the Manhattan skyline, but it is taking shape as an expanse of skyscrapers that stretches for miles. Our love affair with the skyscraper has built a skyline that is far larger than those of cities twice our size and it has become a point of pride for us. We’re also seeing more amenities typical of other great urban metropolises: more restaurants and cafes, parks and shops, museums and galleries, etc. Granted, the differences between a Brickell streetscape and just about anywhere in Manhattan are still pretty stark, but the increased options and vibrancy are important steps towards a more urban Miami.

But there’s one area where Miami has unequivocally achieved Manhattanization: cost of living. It now costs as much to live in many parts of downtown Miami as it does to live in Manhattan. I’m not referring to Miami’s luxury condo market. In fact, that is one segment where we’re not yet like Manhattan – Miami condo prices can reach $10 million or more; it’s high, but it doesn’t begin to nip at the heels of New York’s $100 million market. Rather, downtown Miami is becoming as expensive as Manhattan is for the everyday citizen. Manhattan still has far higher housing costs than downtown Miami and Brickell, but that gap is closed when factoring in Miami’s much higher transportation costs.

This point is now more clearly made thanks to the new Location Affordability Index (LAI). The LAI, unveiled earlier this month, is the work of a joint venture between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation. It’s a tool that allows the public to calculate what it costs to live where they live, and how they could possibly save money by moving or by changing their transportation habits. The LAI is based on the philosophy known as “Housing + Transportation” or “H+T.” H+T asserts that knowing just the cost of housing isn’t enough to get a full picture of cost of living. You also need to know how much it costs to get from your home to other places, like your workplace and your family and friends. In other words, you need to know the cost of transportation.

Cost of transportation is harder to calculate and harder to keep track of in our heads when we think about how much we spend. For most people, housing expenditures occur in one monthly payment, either a rent check or a mortgage payment. Those amounts may include a variety of costs, like loan principle, interest, taxes, insurance, etc., but it’s still just one payment, one amount. Transportation is different, particularly if you drive a car. There’s the purchase price of a car, which may occur in monthly payments or if you paid up front, would need to be prorated over the life of the car. Insurance is paid separately, either monthly, annually, or biannually. Gas and parking costs are paid sporadically. The result is that most people never think about the full cost of transportation, and when they do, they usually underestimate.

AAA estimated that the average cost of car ownership in the United States in 2012 was roughly $9,000 for all cars and as much as $11,000-$12,000 for larger cars and SUVs. But that’s the average for the entire country. Costs can be far greater in places like Miami where insurance rates and parking costs are higher. The difference between a couple owning two cars and a couple that commutes by train or bicycle can be over $20,000 per year. That’s an additional $1,500-$2,000 per month that can go towards rent or a mortgage. And that’s the reason why living in downtown Miami and Brickell can be as costly as living in Manhattan.

To demonstrate the point, I put some addresses into the LAI:

  • A typical household living in West Brickell owns 1.2 cars      (average), drives 11,000 miles, and takes 350 transit trips each year.      They spend just shy of $23,000 annually on housing and transportation.      That’s 47 percent of their total income. Housing costs account for $17,000      approximately; transportation costs amount to $7,000.
  • Meanwhile, a typical household on the Upper West Side in      Manhattan owns 0.3 cars, drives 2,000 miles, and takes 2,000 transit trips      each year. They spend just over $27,000 annually on housing and      transportation. That’s 43 percent of their total income (the LAI factors      in average wage differences between metro areas. On average, wages in NYC      are 30 percent higher than in Miami). Housing costs account for $23,000      approximately; transportation costs amount to less than $4,000.

One more:

  • A typical household in the heart of downtown Miami owns      1.1 cars, drives 11,000 miles, and takes 250 transit trips each year. They      spend $19,000 annually on housing and transportation. That’s 38 percent of      their total income. Housing costs account for $12,000 approximately;      transportation costs amount to $7,000.
  • Meanwhile, a typical household in the East Village in      Manhattan owns 0.5 cars, drives 3,500 miles, and takes 1,500 transit trips      each year. They spend just shy of $20,000 annually on housing and      transportation. That’s 31 percent of their income. Housing costs account      for $16,000 approximately; transportation costs amount to $4,000.

New York City is the embodiment for unaffordable living, but that’s largely based on an incomplete picture. The extra amounts that New Yorkers spend on housing are made up for by cost savings from cheaper transportation options. Miami, on the other hand, has relatively cheaper housing, but getting from place to place means additional costs stemming from car ownership.

There are a lot of implications here. Most obvious is that we can decrease cost of living and improve quality of life for Miamians by investing in better transportation options. One cause for optimism is that housing costs and transportation costs are only indirectly linked. Decreasing transportation costs by building more transit and better bike lanes will not directly increase housing costs (although, countless studies show that such infrastructure increases property values because it makes neighborhoods more desirable), so we can make real reductions in the cost of living.

There are also implications here for the brain drain and the future of our economy. When Miami competes with Manhattan for talent, it cannot make the argument that downtown Miami has a lower cost of living than New York. Lower cost of living has traditionally been the truest arrow in the quiver of cities seeking to steal talent from New York, but when we consider H+T, we see that for many cities, including Miami, that’s actually not the case. There isn’t much money to be saved, if any at all, by choosing downtown Miami over Manhattan. And for those who decide to look outside of New York because Manhattan is just too expensive, they’ll likely find that downtown Miami and Brickell are too expensive as well. Rather, they may end up in cities that offer a true lower cost of living with similar urban amenities, like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. That talent is now revitalizing those cities the way it revitalized Manhattan in the 1990s when lower cost of living – from cheaper housing AND cheaper transportation – allowed thousands of educated young professionals to flood the city.

But all of this changes if we take the automobile out of the equation. If you can manage a car-free life, suddenly Miami becomes really affordable. The difference is that Manhattan is expensive because it has to be (although zoning changes under Bloomberg may help mitigate these high costs by generating more supply). But Miami is expensive because we’ve made it that way. The takeaway should be this: We can fix it and we know how to fix it. The average Miamian need not cough up half of her income on housing and transportation. As housing costs continue to rise, we must make extra efforts to reduce transportation costs by offering better options. We must give Miamians the same options that New Yorkers have: to own a car if we want one, but to live comfortably and with dignity without one.

For more reading, check out this article from last year on Streetsblog, which reviewed data from the Center for Neighborhood Technology and determined Miami to be the least affordable metropolitan area for moderate-income renters and homeowners. The most affordable? Washington, DC.

 

 

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

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

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

Looks like the bench was launched about 50 feet.

Looks like the bench was launched about 50 feet.

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

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

 

We received this  letter last week which was addressed to City Commissioner Sarnoff, County Commissioner Barreiro and FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego. You can also send an email to them by clicking here.

Dear Commissioners Sarnoff and Barreiro and Mr. Pego,

I am writing to you this morning regarding a matter that is very troubling to me and one that I hope you will consider as part of your agenda: PEDESTRIANS IN THE URBAN CORE. As you are well aware, Miami is trying to become an urban city where people live, work and play– like Chicago or New York. In so doing, it needs to be an urban center that is thoughtfully planned so people can walk safely any time of the day or night. We should be able to walk our dogs, go to the market, or take a stroll to dinner. When you live in an urban core, like Brickell, where my family lives, you cannot be expected to take your car out for every little errand or just to go a few blocks. However, being that walking in the Brickell area is so difficult and dangerous to navigate, I feel like I must do so–compounding the traffic problem and the pedestrian problem. I am sure you agree that we need to make our urban center a place where all can feel safe to walk the streets. However, this is not the case at this point in time. Since I moved to Brickell I have been dismayed at the lack of attention and care given to pedestrians by drivers, construction workers, and city planners. 

Walking from Brickell to Downtown. The other day I was walking to downtown from Brickell where we live. A group of us crossed the bridge, then were challenged to cross the street using two cross walks where cars dart at you around the curve where Brickell becomes Biscayne. We need better signals for pedestrians there. A cross walk is not enough; we need bright lights that signal when a pedestrian needs to cross (like is found in front of the FRESH MARKET in Coconut Grove on S Bayshore Drive). Even though we have the walk signal, cars still feel they can turn right on red without stopping. I have observed people run across that cross walk because cars were coming at them so quickly. Then as you continue to walk on 2nd ave and (a) there is no side walk because of construction of the Whole Foods–we actually had to walk on the street between downtown distributor and SE 2nd Street, and (b) there is no cross walk at the intersection of 2nd ave and SE 2nd Street!!! You literally run for it so you don’t get hit by a car. Enough is enough! This is one example of many. I invite you to walk along Brickell Ave and see how challenging it is to walk in a straight line (like you do in NY or Chicago) and feel safe, without having to navigate barricades and other obstacles in what is really an obstacle course.Transitmiami.com has done a wonderful job of highlighting what they called the Brickell “deathwalk” : http://www.transitmiami.com/category/places/miami/brickel    

With the taxes we pay to live in the Brickell area, we must have the pedestrian walkways we deserve and have paid for–ones that you would want your grandmother or children to walk down. We need representatives like you to stand up for us and think creatively about ways we can emulate cities like Chicago, where I previously lived and always felt safe as a pedestrian. As the Brickell area becomes more populated with CitiCenter and other developments, this will become more and more of a   moral imperative.  People are getting hurt and people’s lives are at stake here. As citizens and taxpayers, we should be able to walk the streets–elderly, children, groups, etc– without fear of tripping on obstacles or being hit by a car. This is a very serious matter or moral proportions that deserves your immediate attention.I will be forwarding this email to Felipe Azenha of Transit Miami.com and will also bring up the issue at the board meeting of Icon Brickell.I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to hearing about the ways you can alleviate this dangerous problem.

Sincerely,

Carlos Abril

 

The FDOT has managed to do it again- leading cattle to slaughter.  In this case the cattle are pedestrians.

Transit Miami took the FDOT to task about two years ago before they began their current resurfacing project on Brickell.  After shaming the FDOT to make improvements for pedestrians they conceded and included a few more crosswalks on Brickell.  This is one of the crappy crosswalks we got on SE 14th Terrace and Brickell.

There is no traffic calming whatsoever along Brickell  Avenue and the travel lanes are very wide and encourage speeding. Two blocks away we documented 4 accidents in less than two years on Brickell and 15th Street.  Clearly speeding is a problem here and the mere presence of crosswalk isn’t going to slow down drivers.  To make matters worse, the “Yield to Pedestrian” sign is hidden behind a tree.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A driver doing 40 mph will not see this sign behind this tree; nor will they slow down for pedestrians.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The FDOT just earned themselves and F-.

 

Why can’t we get these on Brickell Avenue?  Is it because Brickell Avenue is controlled by the State?

These would be a great addition to Wynwood. They are effective and help calm traffic.

 

You can let Gus Pego, FDOT District 6 Secretary, know how bad of a job they are doing by sending him an email.

 

Last week I posted an article showing unacceptable conditions for pedestrians around Brickell. Twenty-four hours later the conditions improved slightly.

It took a week, but eventually this sidewalk was temporarily repaired after we wrote about it…

Voilà! Things seem to only get done in this town through the shaming process…

Why does it take a blog to get things done in this city? Shouldn’t the City, County and the FDOT do these types of things on their own volition?

We don’t have leadership in Miami when it comes to complete streets or public transit for that matter.  Not at the City, County, or State (the FDOT District 6) level. Unlike visionary Mayors Michael Bloomberg, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Rahm Emanuel not one of our elected officials is taking charge to make our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists or think of alternative plans for our neglected ½ penny transit tax.  The leadership that we have is entirely reactive- hardly anything seems to get done until we begin shaming government to do its job or someone is killed or critically injured. (i.e. Brickell Avenue, Coral Way, South Miami Avenue, Rickenbacker Causeway, Biscayne Boulevard- Transit Miami has been at the forefront of advocacy for improvements. Sadly it seems like we are the leaders and our politicians simply react).

Those of us that write for Transit Miami have full time jobs and we write for this blog because we are unsatisfied with the current status quo of complacency that is so pervasive in South Florida and we know things could be much better-we won’t tolerate mediocrity. We don’t have the time or the resources (we don’t get paid) to shame our elected officials to design every street so that they are suitable for people to walk and bike.

We shouldn’t have to make these demands-government should unconsciously make streets safer for everyone. Instead County elected officials are wasting their time creating an online registry for dangerous dogs. Meanwhile Miami Dade County averages about 75 pedestrian fatalities and 10 cycling fatalities a year.  An additional 1500 pedestrians and another 500 cyclists are injured every year.

I’m throwing down the gauntlet; I challenge any elected official to champion a complete streets campaign. Our community is begging for safer streets and better public transit, yet our elected officials don’t grasp either concept-they simply turn a blind eye. Leadership is clearly lacking in Miami Dade County. Miami will never become a “World Class City” until both of these issues are adequately addressed.

 

 

Today the Miami Herald published this editorial:

I commute from Fort Lauderdale to Miami every day on I-95 which, as most of us know, is one of the most dangerous highways in America. I’m an excellent driver and don’t take chances. But, every single time I become a pedestrian anywhere around Brickell Avenue the ante is upped. I seriously fear for my life.

A woman in an SUV roared north around the bend south of me looking straight at me, but ignoring the fact that I was in the pedestrian crosswalk. I put my arm out to alert her to my crossing, but she didn’t slow until the very last moment — and then she flipped me off, angry that I had the audacity to impede her progress.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had to literally run out of clearly marked crosswalks to escape being hit, like the time a woman who was busy texting nearly smashed into me as I crossed at the same location, or the time I ran from the path of a Brinks armored truck near Mary Brickell Village. The scene created quite a stir among other pedestrians, who asked if I was OK.

It’s utterly ridiculous that somebody can’t do something. Where are the police? Where is the notion that keeping people safe has some importance in urban planning? Flesh and bones are no match for several thousand pounds of steel going well over the speed limit. Lowering the speed limit has been suggested, but won’t have an impact on Miami’s drivers, who are aggressive and, essentially, autonomous. There are no funds for hiring cops to enforce the law, remember? It’s a free-for-all out here, with tragedy literally right around the corner.

If Miami cops can hand out 47 tickets in just over one hour, on just one Brickell intersection to drivers ignoring the rights of pedestrians as reported in the May 30 article, Miami cops crack down on Brickell motorists who won’t yield to pedestrians, then doing a lot more of the same throughout the Brickell financial district just seems to make good financial, and common, sense — at least to this shell-shocked pedestrian!

Laura Parker, Oakland Park

 

Non-Existent Brickell Sidewalks

Why is it so difficult to put down a temporary piece of plywood so that women in heels, mothers with strollers and handicap people in wheel chairs don’t need to go off-roading in the Brickell Financial District? This is embarrassing. Actually it’s pathetic.

 

And Miami is a “World Class” city right?

Invisible Crosswalks

SE 1st Avenue must be one of the worst roads for pedestrians in the Brickell Financial District. SE 1st Avenue is a two lane, one-way road where cars move uninterrupted for 5 blocks from SE 8th Street all the way to SE 13th Street in excess of 40 mph. Needless to say the deck is stacked against pedestrians crossing to and from the Brickell Metrorail Station. It is also worth mentioning that there is an elementary school just a few blocks away and I see parents with children trying to cross this death trap on a daily basis.

Please help us identify the invisible crosswalks on this street. Why is it so difficult to get some paint in this town?  All we are asking for is the most basic level of safety and service for pedestrians-proper crosswalks.
This is a City of Miami Street

What crosswalk?

A recipe for disaster.

Between the lack of enforcement and planning and a growing Brickell population conditions are getting worse for pedestrians with each passing day.

Under construction for over a week? How are parents with strollers and the disabled expected to navigate safely through Brickell. This is not a third world country!

Please send Commissioner Sarnoff an email and ask him if he thinks these are acceptable standards for a “World Class City”.

 

With all the hype about how many ‘units’ have sold and how much ‘inventory’ is left in downtown, it’s hard to overlook how these ‘dense’ developments are nothing more than vertical suburbs. Why walk around the city when you can live in a “lushly landscaped gated waterfront community”? Gag.  The PR machine is in full swing touting recent condo sales as part of the revitalization of downtown…but you only have to look to the nearest bus shelter (like the one below) to see the reality.

 

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