Currently viewing the category: "Transit"

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

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

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

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

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

World War II Car-sharing ad.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Commissioner Sosa,

In response to MDT’s monetary challenges, we can still find ways to increase service opportunities on Metrorail over the next 10 years. I have included the article below as a reference. Chicago, Washington, and Boston have all added new stations on existing rail lines recently to increase service to residents along existing tracks at lower costs than rail line expansions.

“Yonah Freemark writes of the value of infill stations—new transit stations built on existing lines—for increasing transit ridership. Somerville, outside of Boston, will provide the latest example when it opens a station on the Orange Line next week. Yonah Freemark wants to let readers in on a secret: adding infill stations is “[one] of the best ways to increase transit ridership at a reasonable price [and] requires little additional service. It requires no new line extensions. And it can be done to maximize the value of existing urban neighborhoods.”
The article provides a chronology of recent infill station projects from around the country, like in Washington D.C., Chicago, and the East Bay Area, as well as making the financial case for the cost-per-rider benefit of such projects.”

 
 Unfortunately, the final MDT 10 ahead plan for transit’s next 10 years final draft not only does not include light rail to the beach or any Metrorail expansions; It actually specifically excludes these items by saying “No expansion of rail facilities will occur”. My suggestion of looking into whether CRAs or other special taxing districts and developments on transit sites could help pay for future expansions WAS NOT identified as even an item to STUDY. Another suggestion to STUDY the implications of infill stations also WAS NOT included. It is clear that Transit/ MDX/ FDOT are only interested in busses, Lexus lanes, and more sprawl moving the UDB southwest. 
 
As an infill example, I think a new rail station could be placed near Miami Jai Alai on the existing Orange Line.
 
Please look into the apparent disconnection between Local Transportation Policies and voters desires for MORE RAIL OPPORTUNITIES, NO UDB EXPANSION, LESS water/sewer infrastructure expansions = costs? I don’t understand it. Thank you Commissioner Sosa for allowing me to serve on the MDT steering committee. A majority of the public on the committee does not agree with the goals, strategies or policies in the Final Draft MDT 10 yr plan.
 
BTW: District 6/7 also lost the planned SW 37th Av- Douglas Road Express Bus service in the 10 yr plan’s final draft. Incredible!

Regretfully,

Alexander Adams, AICP, CNU-A, LEED-Green Associate
ALPHA plan-develop-invest
www.alphapdi.com

 

Via CNBC

 

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.

 


AAF Mobility

REGISTER ONLINE

72-hour cancellation notice required

For more information contact: Tania Valenzuela

305-577-5491 | tvalenzuela@miamichamber.com

 

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.

 
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