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.

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

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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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Are the mega-condos of Brickell the key to urban vitality and innovation or are they just cul-de-sacs in the sky? In a keynote speech during the 20th Congress for New Urbanism in West Palm Beach, author Richard Florida challenged the idea that the “rush to density” will unlock and release the potential of our cities.

“This rush to density, this idea that density creates economic growth,” is wrong, Florida said. “It’s the creation of real, walkable urban environments that stir the human spirit. Skyscraper communities are vertical suburbs, where it is lonely at the top. The kind of density we want is a ‘Jane Jacobs density.’”

Vertical cul-de-sacs? Photo courtesy of Paul Morris.

In her influential book, Death and Life of American Cities (1961), Jacobs objected to neighborhoods that were made up exclusively of high-rises and instead preferred neighborhoods with buildings that are a mix of different building ages and types – Greenwich Village in New York City, for example. When you consider cities around the world, it is in those types of neighborhoods where you will often find the arts districts, the best music venues, the creatives, the authentic, the local businesses, the innovators, the vitality – and a sense of place and community.

I live in Brickell, in a rented condo on the 23rd story of building built in 2007. It soars for ten more stories above me and sits atop an 8-level parking pedestal where every car has a happy home. It’s surrounded by other residential towers of similar stature. Now, I enjoy Brickell primarily because I can walk for nearly all of my basic human needs – groceries, a barber, a slice of pizza etc. It’s also well-served by MetroRail and Metro Mover, both accessible from my doorstep. It’s a rare Miami neighborhood in that regard. But increasingly, I find myself questioning if Brickell is a “walkable environment that stirs the human spirit” or merely just a semi-walkable streetscape in the shadows of impersonal towers functioning as suburbs in the sky.

No mega-towers needed - "Jane Jacobs" density in Greenwich Village is plenty vibrant.

In many ways, the mega-condos of Brickell share several of the undesirable characteristics of a suburban gated community – despite being the densest neighborhood south of NYC along the east coast. It’s largely impossible to know more than few people in a 50-story building, if you know any at all. The “inclusion” of a parking space (which can drive up the cost of a unit anywhere from 15-30% according to parking expert Jeffrey Tumlin) acts as an incentive to drive, therefore damaging the pedestrian realm. The buildings and their residents, by nature, are segregated by income. The anonymity does not encourage civic engagement – in the recent city commission elections, the Brickell zip codes recorded an 8% turn-out.

That means 92% did not vote.

Meaningful public space in Brickell is severely lacking. With no central plaza, no signature park, no outdoor public room, no farmers market or gathering place, most of the “public” realm is centered around commercial “third places” (Starbucks) or reduced to the street and sidewalks. The latter is problematic because Brickell’s sidewalks are terribly neglected and the streets full of maniacal drivers. (Sometimes you’ll even see a maniacal driver on the sidewalk).

Portions of Brickell, especially Brickell Avenue, are dark and full of uninviting blank walls and underpasses. The “pedestrian shed” in Brickell is actually quite small. Aside from disjointed commercial sections of South Miami Avenue, a walk around Brickell is a particularly unrewarding experience. (Crumbling sidewalks, perpetual construction with worker disregard to pedestrians, dark streets, curb cuts galore, bullying motorists, busy arterials with scant crosswalks, the desolation of vacated office towers after business hours)

Brickell Green Space is a project to lobby for a new park in the neighborhood. (Courtesy of BrickellGreenSpace.com)

The businesses attracted to Brickell are beginning to look a lot like those implanted in suburban shopping malls – national franchises like Blue Martini, Fado, P.F. Chang’s – which would be acceptable if there were actually some other businesses opening besides restaurants. The 800-lb gorilla in the room no one seems to be talking about is the future Brickell CitiCentre, a 4,600,000 square foot retail, hotel and condo behemoth and the largest private construction project in the United States at present.

For better or worse, this project will fundamentally transform the neighborhood, if not the entire city. On one hand, it will mitigate the retail deficit that exists in Miami’s urban core. On the other, we can expect plenty of national franchises, thousands of parking spaces and plenty more traffic on the dangerous and uninviting “urban arterials” of SW 8th and SW 7th streets. Ultimately, it may be a series of towers that function more like a suburban shopping mall rather than a seamlessly integrated edifice into the urban fabric with an active pedestrian realm.

Rendering of the Brickell CitiCentre. Courtesy of BrickellInfo.com

It’s obvious that areas like Wynwood, Midtown and the Design District are the emerging centers of Miami’s arts and creative community. Brickell is beginning to seem like a stark contrast to those neighborhoods; identified as a weekend playground for suburbanites, wealthy South Americans on vacation to their second homes and disengaged young professionals. As the housing stock continues to increase in those aforementioned neighborhoods, the divide will become ever more apparent.

The longer term prospects for the Brickell megatowers are arguably quite bleak, as flimsy homeowners associations will face massive maintenance costs and liabilities in an era of expensive energy in their giant-scaled buildings – an increasingly urgent situation that smaller, human-scaled buildings will have an easier time confronting. When these towers require broad renovations, the limitations of their enormity will truly be exposed.

The key to long-term vitality in a neighborhood is whether it’s inhabitants are truly fulfilled with their surroundings. 

To quote Richard Florida, “The quality of a place itself is the single most important factor in people’s fulfillment. There are four parts to this: the degree to which a community: values its history; is walkable and mixed-use; values arts, both street art and high art; and integrates the built and natural environment.”

Aside from Brickell’s walkability, it seems to be failing on the other fronts Florida mentions. Valuing history? Entitled residents are using an ancient burial ground as a toilet for their dogs. Street art and high art? There are no art galleries in Brickell and the only “street art” is the incessant sidewalk spray paint indiscriminately spewed by utility and construction companies. Integrates the built and natural environment? Another fail – all that exists in Brickell is the built environment. (The Miami Riverwalk project would be nice if completed in my lifetime)

There are some improvements on the way – Triangle Park, if ever completed, will be a welcomed, albeit small, neighborhood plaza. There are plans to overhaul South Miami Avenue and 1st St to be more pedestrian and bicycle friendly in the coming years. However, it’s relatively unlikely these projects will significantly change the underlying social construct of a skyscraper-burdened place.

I increasingly find myself leaving Brickell on my bicycle in search of more authentic urban experiences found elsewhere in the city. Actually, I need to leave Brickell just to go to a bookstore or bicycle shop….

….usually found in “Jane Jacobs” density.

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This picture was taken this morning on South Miami Avenue and 11th Street in Brickell – the same intersection I reported on previously on November 23rd.

I did not personally witness the crash, but given the significant damage to the car and the way the debris was scattered, it’s safe to assume a high rate of speed was a factor.

Brickell’s new ‘Triangle Park’ is under construction just to the right of the picture. Let’s add some basic traffic calming measures around the park so we can all enjoy it without having to dodge flying shards of plastic, glass and metal on our way there.

Additional Traffic Calming Needed ahead of Park Opening

Over the past few weeks, Miami-Dade County Public Works has begun to upgrade the streetscape on South Miami Avenue through the heart of Brickell, specifically from Broadway to SW 8th St. As reported earlier on TransitMiami, these upgrades include ‘zebra’ crosswalks, additional signage and lane striping.

Recently, a bicycle lane and ‘sharrows’ were added to South Miami Avenue on this segment, as well as ‘sharrows’ on Brickell Plaza and through Mary Brickell Village.  Additionally, the chaotic and confusing intersection at SW 12th St. and S. Miami Avenue has been slightly reconfigured with bollards to prevent ‘soft left’ turns.

Re-configured intersection at SW 12th st. and S. Miami Ave. The bollards prevent the 'soft left' turn that was the scene of numerous crashes.

 

Newly striped bike lane headed south on S. Miami Ave. through Brickell

As the new Triangle Park nears it’s completion, a need for additional traffic calming in the area is painfully obvious to allow residents a safe way to access the park. Presently, with a green light at the intersection of SW 13th Street and S. Miami Avenue, it is possible for a motorist to continue unimpeded from the Broadway roundabout all the way to SW 10th street. Such a long stretch with no stop signs allows motorists to gain unsafe rates of speed through Brickell. There are no traffic calming mechanisms  (raised crosswalks, stop signs, sidewalk bulb-outs, etc.) to alert drivers that they are entering an area with dense pedestrian traffic and speeds of 45mph+ are dangerous and unacceptable.

Just a block down S. Miami Ave from the park, in Mary Brickell Village, no mid-block crosswalk exists to connect the two sides of the street. Understandably, pedestrians frequently weave through parked (and moving) cars to cross the street. The need for a safely marked midblock crossing is so obvious it’s almost comical that it does not exist.

I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for Brickell’s new ‘Flatiron Park’ in October. During Commissioner Sarnoff’s speech, cars were flying down S.  Miami Avenue at ridiculous speeds, completely inappropriate for a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood. No motorists were yielding to pedestrians. Mothers with strollers, people walking their pets, individuals in wheelchairs were all having difficulty crossing the street. Watching SUV’s hurl themselves at the intersection outside Baru Urbano and aggressively brake just in time for the crosswalk was unnerving. Unfortunately, this is an everyday occurrence.

This hazardous situation could be mitigated with a stop sign at SW 11th street, pictured below. As reported earlier on TransitMiami, the manager of Rosinella has personally witnessed an average of 5 accidents a year at this intersection.

How will we get to the park? Need to slow the cars down here.

This only scratches the surface of the improvements to make the area truly ‘pedestrian-friendly’. A walk down SE 1st Avenue by the busy MetroRail and bus stations will show you that. (No pavement marking, no crosswalks, no stop signs – only speeding vehicles) Currently, there is a plan for a complete streetscape overhaul of South Miami Ave. that is scheduled for 2014.

How many more accidents and close calls will we see before then?

This afternoon I witnessed a pedestrian get hit on Brickell Avenue and SW 14th Street.  As I was crossing with about 10 other pedestrians (we had the right of way with crosswalk signaling “Walk”) from the East to West side of Brickell Avenue in the south crosswalk.  A driver was attempting to turn left (south) onto Brickell from SW 14th Street. I watched in disbelief as the she turned and hit a pedestrian about 5 feet in front of me. She literally tried to “thread the needle” between the sea of pedestrians that were trying to cross the street.

I instinctively kicked her door in an attempt to warn her that she had just hit a pedestrian (I wasn’t sure if she realized she had just hit someone).  I admittedly lost my temper and started yelling at her as well.  I was in complete disbelief that she did not yield. I’m not sure how she could have missed all the pedestrians that were crossing. The guy she hit was about 6’2” and luckily for him he was OK. Here’s were the story gets interesting…

About 10 seconds after the pedestrian was hit a City of Miami Police officer (will remain nameless) pulls up and asks me for my ID and he told me I could be arrested because I was causing a disturbance. I told the officer that a car had just hit a pedestrian and then he proceeds to ask the pedestrian that was hit for his ID. I don’t think he ever asked the driver for her ID.

The pedestrian that was hit said he was OK and did not want to file an accident report. I asked the officer if he would issue a ticket for “failure to yield to a pedestrian” and he said, “No, I didn’t witness the accident.” I pointed out to him that there were 5 witnesses still at the scene, but he refused and he proceeded to threaten to charge me with Road Rage. There is clearly no will to enforce “failure to yield to pedestrian violations” even when there are witnesses. Very sad.

Did I overreact?  Probably, but at the end of the day there is no enforcement on Brickell Avenue for this type of infraction and I’m kind of tired of it. I see this crap day in and day out and nothing is being done to make things safer for pedestrians. This officer had no desire to investigate the accident any further or to file an accident report.

You can see video from this very same intersection which I posted a few months ago where hours before a cyclist was hit by a car. It’s just a matter of time before someone else gets hit here.

 

Yesterday morning the construction zone at the intersection of SE 13th Street and Brickell Avenue was a pedestrian’s nightmare.  Pedestrians can’t see the crossing signal therefore they don’t know when they should cross. Once they do cross they are forced out of the crosswalk, around the construction zone and into traffic coming from three different directions. Really? This is the best we can do?

Click to enlarge: SE 13th Street and Brickell Avenue

Please send an email to Commissioner Mark Sarnoff and the FDOT district 6 Secretary Gus Pego and ask them and their families to join Transit Miami for lunch on Brickell Avenue. We will be happy to walk them through the pedestrian experience of the area.  Lunch is on us.

 

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the lack of initiative the CPWD showed during a recent resurfacing project on South Miami Avenue from SW 14th Street to SE 13th Street. After the CPWD finished resurfacing the intersection on SW14th Street they only replaced the one and only existing crosswalk instead of painting all 4 crosswalks at this intersection.  County Public Works Department Director Esther Calas responded to Transit Miami:

The Miami-Dade Public Works Department (PWD) had an ongoing drainage, milling and resurfacing and striping and signage project on South Miami Avenue, which was interrupted at the request of the neighborhood merchants with the City’s concurrence due to the Florida Department of Transportation reconstructing Brickell Avenue North of SE 15 Road. Although both projects had non-overlapping maintenance of traffic vehicular routing, the merchants were concerned with the combined traffic impacts.

When we halted our drainage project, only one block was completed, between S 13 Street/Coral Way and S 14 Street. The project began on that block because it had the worst roadway drainage conditions. As a part of work stoppage, the contractor only replaced the single crosswalk at 14 Street that was originally present. The City has offered to continue the drainage work on Miami Avenue in coordination with their drainage project for the intersecting neighborhood streets.

We agree that additional crosswalks will improve Miami Avenue. Therefore, in the interim before drainage work is reinitiated on Miami Avenue, we will resume our effort to stripe crosswalks, stopbars, bicycle lanes and shared use “Sharrow” markings along this corridor between S 15 Road and S 6 Street without further delay.

We appreciate your bringing these concerns to our attention.

We are happy to report that the CPWD not only painted three additional crosswalks at the South Miami Avenue and SW14 Street intersection, but also in the process added bike lanes on South Miami Avenue from SW 13th Street up to SW 15th Street.  The CPWD has also taken the extra step to add crosswalks at other intersections on South Miami Avenue. Needless to say we are extremely pleased, but there is still room for improvement. Please see the below photographs for our praise, critiques and suggestions for improvement.

Sweet!

Awesome!

Kick Ass!

Nice bike lane!

 

The SW 12th Street/SE1st Avenue/ South Miami Avenue intersection a complete clusterfuck (Pardon my French). Serious attention needs to be given here.

New zebra crosswak on SW 12th Street South Miami Avenue. I love zebra crosswalks. Every crosswalk in the urban core should be a zebra crosswalk.

The SW 12th Street/SE1st Avenue/ South Miami Avenue intersection gets a new zebra crosswalk. Did I mention how much I love zebra crosswalks?

The boys at the CPWD hard at work. Thank you gentlemen!

SE 11th Street and S. Miami Avenue. Not sure if CPWD is finished here, but this intersection must have four crosswalks. Let's give the CPWD the benefit of the doubt.

SE 11th Street and S. Miami Avenue. The new stop bar must extend the entire width of SE 11th Street. A second stop sign must also go up. The manager at Rosinella told me today that he has been managing this restaurant since 1998 and sees on average 5 accidents per year at this intersection. More must bee done to calm traffic on South Miami Avenue. Too many idiots speed down S. Miami Avenue on this stretch. Enforcement isn't the solution. We must design a complete street that discourages speeding.

 

SE 10th Avenue and S. Miami Ave. Looks like the CPWD is putting zebra crosswalks here too. I think the rain stopped them from finishing the job.

 

Mary Brickell Village. Is a raised mid-block zebra crosswalk to much to ask for? Probably. We can only dream.

SW 9th and S. Miami Ave. Hopefully the CPWD will put zebra crosswalks here as well. Please give them the benefit of the doubt, I don't think they're done yet!

Well done Ms. Calas and CPWD!  Your department singly handedly just made the Brickell area safer for those of us that walk and bike in the area.  Let’s make it even safer!

You can find the Bicycle/Pedestrian Mobility Plan For the Miami Downtown Development Authority Area here: http://bit.ly/rsVYEb. There are plenty of great ideas in this document. The Miami DDA has also developed a streetscape plan for South Miami Avenue. You can find the study here:http://www.miamidda.com/pdf/South%20Miami%20Avenue%20Master%20Plan%20FINAL%209-17-10.pdf

Please send Esther Calas, Director of the County Public Works Department, an email thanking her and her department for their effort thus far. (ecalas@miamidade.gov). 

The below article come from the spring issue of the Brickell Homeowners Association newsletter:

Residents and business owners who have heard of plans to close the left turn from Brickell Avenue to Southeast Sixth Street are not pleased with the notion. FDOT is steadfast in their intent to close the median, despite the objections raised by many who live and work in the area. Residents of 500 Brickell already have problems with motorists cutting through their valet area under their building to make a quick exit from Brickell and head west. For those at 600 Brickell, the proposed median closure at Southeast Sixth Street looks disastrous.

No one has been successful at influencing this FDOT decision — and no one has authority over FDOT locally —despite citizens’ objections and support from our local officials.

“Our position continues to be that FDOT has to listen to residents on closing Sixth Street,” Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said. FDOT representatives reported in June, however, that after studying potential alternatives and conferring with their Central office, the recommendation for the median remains unchanged. Those outside of FDOT had not seen the traffic studies leading to that decision; FDOT agreed to make the studies public.

Ever since the Brickell Avenue construction project began, Downtown Development Authority has been facilitating regular meetings with Florida Department of Transportation, Miami-Dade County and City officials and other interested parties to discuss construction issues. The goal of the meetings is to bring the different government entities around the table regularly since the roads have overlapping authorities. Each agency has their own construction and rehab projects going on in the area, but there was no coordinating body.

Stakeholders asked FDOT about the potential impact to Fifth Street as a result of the median closure. FDOT said it was not in their jurisdiction or part of the project scope to consider or study that, however, they said they would “consider” the request. The only concession by FDOT was that their plan to lengthen the Brickell median cut in for left turns at Fifth Street was scrapped. The plan had created a public uproar as they were planning to remove a mahogany tree, considered a Brickell landmark.

For now, commencement of these Phase II changes is on hold, targeted for December 2012.“Clearly differences of opinion remain, such as the closure of the median onto Sixth Street, that may have to be resolved by other means,” said Javier Betancourt, deputy director of the DDA.“We did get FDOT to agree to provide their traffic studies to all interested parties, and to continue to work with our agency in resolving obstacles to the DDA-funded decorative crosswalks all along Brickell Avenue.” BHA will continue to follow the progress of these projects and report on the latest developments.

 

Two weeks ago, Miami Today News quoted Brickell Area Association President Mr. Randy Olen as saying:

“Most Recently the Brickell Area Association joined the crusade to reduce the speed limit on Brickell Avenue.  Partially as a result of its joint efforts with the DDA and Commissioner Sarnoff’s office, the FDOT agreed to permanently lower the speed limit from 40 to 35 mph along the southern end of Brickell Avenue.”

In addition the transportation department conceded to the addition of crosswalks at several intersections as well as sharrow markings to encourage road sharing with cyclists.

Lastly, the department agreed that all of Brickell Avenue will now get modern fixtures that compliment the architecture of the neighborhood.”

 

We submitted the below response to the Editor of Miami News Today, unfortunately our letter was not published. So here you have it…

Dear Editor,

In last week’s article “Brickell Area Assoication events to look behind the headlines”, Mr. Brickell Area Association President Randy Olen correctly mentioned “the BAA joined the crusade to reduce the speed limit on Brickell Avenue partially as a result of its joint venture with the DDA and Commissioner Sarnoff’s office.” Although the concessions which were made by FDOT could not have been made possible without the support of the DDA and Commissioner Sarnoff, we think it is important to note that the “crusade” to reduce the speed limit and calm traffic on Brickell Avenue was initiated by Transit Miami and not the DDA or Commissioner Sarnoff’s office.

When Transit Miami caught wind of the resurfacing project in late July 2010 we took the initiative to meet with representatives from the FDOT to discuss the project. After discovering that the FDOT did not have any plans to improve safety for pedestrians or cyclists, Transit Miami began a grassroots campaign to make Brickell safer for everyone that lives, works and plays on Brickell. Working with the South Florida Bike Coalition and the Green Mobility Network we organized a coalition of stakeholders that included the Brickell Homeowners Association, the Brickell Area Association, Mayor Regaldo, Commissioner Sarnoff, the Miami DDA, and State Representative Luis Garcia. Thanks to the Transit Miami-led coalition, a conversation about pedestrian safety on Brickell Avenue has finally begun – but more can and should be done.

The FDOT is not doing nearly enough to promote a safer – and more beautiful – Brickell Avenue. Reducing the speed limit alone will not have the desired effect of speed reduction unless the roadway is designed to discourage speeding. In addition, while we applaud FDOT for adding 7 additional crosswalks to the project, this effort falls far short of the nearly twenty crossings that Transit Miami identified as currently missing from the one and a half mile stretch of roadway. Absent from the plans are any pedestrian crossings between SW 26 Road and 17 Road, while the median along the entire avenue is devoid of pedestrian amenity despite heavy pedestrian volumes and one of the highest residential population densities in the county.

Brickell Avenue is one of our premier streets – isn’t it time that we designed it that way?

Felipe Azenha

Writer, Transit Miami

Vice President South Florida Bike Coalition

 

Tony Garcia

Publisher, Transit Miami

Board of Directors, Green Mobility Network

 
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