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By: Eli Stiers, Esq. and Leah Weston, J.D.

We were disappointed by dismissive statements of Miami-Dade County Commissioner and Chair of the Finance Committee, Esteban Bovo, at the recent public meeting on the County’s annual budget.  Bovo’s comments have been memorialized in a YouTube video posted by Ms. Weston.  In response to a request that the Commission prioritize funding for better public transit, Commissioner Bovo displayed an outdated perspective that is out of sync with the needs of our ever-growing community.

While acknowledging his own frustration with the paucity of our transit options, compared to cities like Paris and Washington, D.C., Commissioner Bovo lamented that living without better access to transit is a “sad reality about Miami.”  We could not agree more. We further contend that lack of better public transit is preventing Miami from joining the roster of world-class cities.

Where we strongly disagree with Commissioner Bovo is with his indifference to the status quo.  His statements that Miami’s “car culture” is “in our DNA,” and that it would be difficult for people to leave their cars and “stand in the hot sun” to wait for a bus are problematic.  We think that Miamians choose to sit in cars for hours on crowded interstates because they lack other options.  Indeed, when the only option is to wait for a bus in the Miami heat, most will choose a car.  Those who cannot afford a car, on the other hand, are left to cope with our chronically underfunded and underperforming transit system.

Commissioner Bovo’s comprehension of how transit inadequacies affect immigrants and retirees is similarly flawed.  The Commissioner dubiously claimed that immigrants and retirees come to Miami seeking the freedom of the open road after leaving other parts of the world that usually have better transit options than we have in Miami.  To the contrary, immigrants and retirees, frequently of low and moderate incomes, are more dependent on transit than any other demographic.  This is bad news for Miami – an area recently documented by the Center for Housing Policy to be the least affordable place in the country for middle-to-lower income families, due to combined housing and transportation costs, which account for a whopping 72% of income!

Offer the public something better, like an expanded Metrorail service that truly links our community, and our guess is that many Miamians will abandon the stress of the daily commute on I-95, US-1, 826, and 836 for the comfort of an air-conditioned train car, and the chance to read a book, answer e-mails, or take a nap on the way to work or school. It is not a “small segment” asking for better transit in our community. To the contrary, Miamians are desperate for better transit. Don’t blame the culture and concede defeat—find a way to move this city forward.

In his final comments on the video, Commissioner Bovo segued into a discussion about road construction, undoubtedly to allocate more millions from the budget for an ever-expanding morass of highways, which are antiquated and overcrowded from the moment they are opened.  This kind of thinking is outdated, and this method of addressing transportation in our rapidly-expanding metro area is unsustainable.

We agree with the Commissioner: our transit woes stem from a lack of leadership and vision for our community.  We are frustrated, however, that despite recognizing the problem, and being uniquely situated to address it, he seems unwilling to fix it.  We challenge Commissioner Bovo and the rest of the County Commission (who also make up the majority of the MPO Board) to change their thinking about public transit in the County.  With better leadership and vision, Miami-Dade County can have a real mass transit system in Commissioner Bovo’s lifetime, contrary to his belief.  As an elected official, you cannot throw hands up and claim that the dreadful status quo will never change.  You must be the impetus for that change.

Eli Stiers is a Miami attorney with Aronovitz Law, Director of Safe Streets Miami, and Board Member with Green Mobility Network.

Leah Weston in a founding Board Member of TrAC and a recent graduate of UM School of Law who is currently studying for the Florida Bar.

 
Watch Commissioner and Chair of the County Finance Committee, Mr. Esteban Bovo, blame the lack of better public transportation options in Miami-Dade County on everything from the hot sun to immigrants who come to Miami because they crave the freedom of the open road (what!?!?), then segue into a discussion about the hundreds of millions being spent on highway expansion in MDC. Unreal. We can do better, Miami. This worldview belongs in the 1950′s and this chronic lack of vision is failing us all.
Prepare to get roasted Commissioner…. Let the comments begin. Feel free to send him an email too.

 


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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.

 

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

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

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

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

No More Seats for You!

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

 

We received the following press release.  Hope to see some of you this Thursday.

Miami’s new Transit Action Committee — or TrAC for short — a citizen-organized political action committee, is proud to announce its formation and official launch this week.

TrAC was founded in response to the lack of political will in Miami behind transit improvement, resulting in limited transit options, inadequate bus and rail systems, unsafe bike and pedestrian infrastructure. TrAC seeks to shift how voters in Miami think about development, traffic, and growth — moving away from a car-centric mentality toward a long-term vision for a city planned and designed for people and communities.
 
On Thursday, September 5th at 6 pm, TrAC will officially kick off with a launch party at Blackbird Ordinary. Guest speakers include & speakers Katy Sorenson, President & CEO of the Good Government Initiative, and Carol Coletta, new Vice President for Community & National Initiatives at Knight Foundation.
 
The party is free to attend, and contributions to help launch TrAC are welcomed. Contributions can be made online here: www.tracmiami.org/contribute.
 
The first organization of its kind in Miami, TrAC, a non-partisan committee, will support candidates, elected officials, and policy initiatives dedicated to improving the quality and safety of our transit and planning choices, as well as the expansion and growth of our public transportation options.
 
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TrAC believes the development of transportation options is key to Miami’s future growth and viability.  Improved mobility options will in turn benefit a variety of factors: access, opportunity, environment, quality of life, health, community growth, economic development and the building of social capital. TrAC envisions a city where transportation is based on choice and convenience; where residents are not encumbered under one dominant and limited mobility option, but instead enjoy ‘Freedom in Movement’.

Microsoft Word - TrAC Launch Party Flyer_Final.docx

 

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.

 

 

MDT_TDP_FactSheet

 

From the Miami-Dade County Transit Development Plan website:

A 10-Year Vision

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

  • Annual Performance
  • Service Operations
  • Capital Program
  • Funding

Transit Development Plan Facts at a Glance

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

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

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

Can Miami Develop Now with Less Parking

From Miami Urbanist:

Miami’s excessively high minimum parking requirements can prevent a great project from moving forward. A developer may have a brilliant idea for a site, but if he or she cannot accommodate parking within the footprint of the site the project will likely not break ground. The sad truth is that parking dictates development in Miami and minimum parking requirements have a significant negative impact on the development of our city.

Livable Places gives a great summary of the problems created with minimum parking requirements.  Below you will also find some of their suggested “Smart” solutions for dealing with parking.

The Problems with Minimum Parking Requirements

Creates excess parking
Minimum parking requirements are usually set arbitrarily by city planners from standardized transportation planning manuals, which typically measure parking and trip generation rates in suburban areas at peak periods with ample free parking and no public transit. These parking standards can cause an oversupply of parking – taking up valuable land and lowering the price of parking below cost.

Promotes automobile use
Providing plentiful and free parking encourages automobile use and discourages walking, cycling and transit use. Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA recognized as a leading scholar on parking issues, compares minimum parking requirements that mandate excessive off-street parking to “fertility drugs for cars.” By generating more car trips, inefficient parking requirements contribute to increased air pollution and reduced physical activity.

Increases the cost of development
Requiring developers to provide large amounts of off-street parking significantly adds to the cost of new development, especially in urban areas where land costs are high. These costs are typically passed to consumers, through higher housing prices and rents. 

Average development cost of parking (excluding land)

Type of parking facility

Cost/space

Surface lot $2,000
Multi-level above ground $10,000
Subterranean $20,000

 

“Smart” Solutions for Dealing with Parking

Reduce minimum parking standards
Urban planners need to re-examine parking demand in urban areas where land and parking costs are higher, and transportation alternatives exist. Reducing minimum parking requirements will help to create more livable communities by reducing the abundant supply of free parking and encouraging transit use.

Establish maximum parking requirements near major transit stops
In areas well served by transit, planners should consider the use of maximum parking requirements to limit the amount of off-street parking built. These requirements prevent auto-oriented uses from occupying land near rail and bus stations, and encourage the creation of transit-oriented districts, or transit villages.

Unbundle the cost of parking in residential projects
Typically, the cost of parking is included in the home price or rent of a condominium or apartment. Unbundling the cost of parking from housing costs allows off-street parking to be priced in response to the actual demand for parking, and lets consumers pay the cost of their transportation choices.

Shared parking
Shared parking is an effective tool for reducing the number of parking spaces needed for a project or neighborhood. Shared parking strategies can be implemented within a new mixed-use development, through simple agreements between adjacent, or through a parking management district. Parking districts can also encourage pedestrian activity by encouraging people to park once and walk from destination to destination.

Car Sharing
Car sharing programs allow many individuals to share access to a vehicle. Located within a housing development, car sharing can lower the average household vehicle ownership rate, reducing the demand for parking. Several car sharing companies are starting to partner with housing developers to include car sharing programs within their new developments.

Thankfully ULI will host an event on July 19th to discuss this very important issue that  affects all of us and the future development of our city. Please forward this event notice to your city commissioners and your developer friends. It’s really important that they attend this event. Click here to signup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Transit Dave in response to Metrorail to FIU: Transit in the start-up city:

“Don’t Forget that the orange line was supposed to link MIA, FIU and Miami Dade College North Campus as well. Johnny Remigo, The PTP alone raises upwards of 175 Mil a year. It is an adequate funding source, if we had politicians who were committed to delivering the transit system the voters wanted when we voted for the PTP. Alas, 11 years later, we’re still waiting. As has been written on this forum by others including me, we won’t have a reform of the PTP until we have reform at the county government level. The shame of it is that we could have another 20 or 30 miles of Metrorail built or under construction if we had the local leadership to go along with honest management of the PTP funds.”

We could not have said it any better Transit Dave. You can read more about Miami’s embarrassing lack of leadership- “Miam’s Lack of Leadership

 

Written by Peter Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TransitMiami_MiamiNewTimes_BestBlog2013The word is out! TransitMiami was declared best blog in The Miami New Times’ annual “Best of Miami 2013″ feature: “The Sunshine Strikes Back”.

We were fortunate to learn of this late last week, when The New Times published it’s Best of Miami preview, which just happened to highlight the winner of the best blog category only: TransitMiami!

Our fearless leader and slave-master, TransitMiami founder and editor-in-chief,  Gabriel Lopez-Bernal, wrote a piece evoking in all of us lowly contributors a spurt of happiness and pride for what he claims to be “volunteer” work (before immediately whipping us back to our unpaid servitude!).

We’re also smitten with what The Miami New Times had to say about us too:

In most towns, a blog about transportation would be a snore, but this is Miami. Our shared frustration over the simple task of getting from point A to point B makes our blood boil and unites us all in common ire, for our inane transport system might be the single biggest hurdle preventing the Magic City from becoming a truly world-class town.

Surprisingly, it’s an issue that often finds itself on the back burner among Miami’s media. Thankfully there’s Transit Miami, which has been churning out posts on everything from crosswalks to major Department of Transportation projects since 2006. It’s transportation-activist talk made accessible to the average man, and its multiple contributors take into account the perspectives of everyone from drivers to pedestrians.

In a world where blogging is now dominated by the need for traffic (the profitable web variety), it’s nice to know there’s a blog out there more interested in vehicular traffic.

This sort of recognition reinvigorates our efforts and reminds us of our reason for existing in the first place.

With — and only with — your continued readership and support, we’ll strive to continue fighting the good fight and writing the good write! The future of our beloved community depends on it.

Truly, thanks again, Miami!

The Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is hosting the following workshops to solicit public feedback on the future of transportation in Broward County. For more information on Commitment 2040 watch this video. You can also submit feedback online by following this link to a survey.
Broward MPO Commitment 2040 LRTP Update Workshops

 
Standing room only, but the 305 is not in the house. No elected officials from Miami Dade County attended this event.

Standing room only, but the 305 is not in the house. No elected officials from Miami Dade County attended this event.

Last Wednesday morning over 250 people gathered for a ULI sponsored panel discussion about development opportunities along the FEC in Ft. Lauderdale. For years the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority has been trying to bring commuter rail service along the FEC corridor from Palm Beach County to Downtown Miami. Shamefully, not a single elected official from Miami Dade County attended this event; nor did any officials from Miami Dade Transit or the Miami Dade County Metropolitan Planning Organization .

I’m not sure in what bubble world our Miami Dade elected officials live in, but this is not acceptable. Events like this should be well attended by Miami politicians as well as by Miami Dade Transit and  MPO officials. It seems like our South Florida neighbors in Broward County and Palm Beach County “get it”; there was solid representation by elected officials from Broward and Palm Beach County.

It’s time for Miami to start taking a more regional approach to public transit with our neighbors in Palm Beach County and Broward County.  This “go-it-alone” strategy doesn’t cut it. In fact, it’s embarrassing.

FEC Program-April 17

 

1frontPurpleLine

2backPurpleLine

The long awaited Purple Transit Line has finally come to Miami, significantly expanding the public’s access to critical hubs within the city. The completion of this line has been possible due to unprecedented collaboration and cooperation between community stakeholders and local and state government. Increasing public transit infrastructure is of vital concern to all in Miami for a multitude of reasons. Currently we sit at over 2.5 million in population and are expected to grow to a city of 2.7 million in just 8 short years; our streets are already over-burdened by cars, so efficient, reliable public transportation is a must.

Over the course of time, community leaders, citizen, and local business owners have made clear to the local and state governments the many reasons why increased public transportation is necessary. It will provide more equitable transportation opportunities, increased business activity via foot traffic, a reduction of our shared carbon footprint, and encouragement for a more active lifestyle amongst Miamians. Our hard work and persistence has paid off and we are pleased to launch the opening celebration for the Purple Line on March 8th and 9th at its first station, right under the overpass at NE 2nd Ave and 36th Street.

Join the celebration at the opening of the Purple Transit Line. Cafes, vendor stands, and all the businesses normally associated with transit stations will be open and ready for business; musicians, artists and other street performers will also be present. You will have the opportunity to learn more about what increased public transportation will do for you and our city. This transit line is but a first step in providing a forward thinking public transit system that puts Miami on the map as a truly modern, global city.

 
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