Author Archive for Sean Bossinger

One alternative to transit…

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The Miami Herald’s website is reporting that Florida International University is adopting four-day work weeks for most of its employees this summer, in order to save money on electricity by closing many of its buildings one day per week.  Employees will still be required to work the requisite 40 hours each week, but will do so over four days, rather than five, thus allowing buildings to idle for three consecutive days rather than two.  The move, Modesto Maidique, FIU’s president suggests, will save the university $250,000.

Because they are my employer, I can state unequivocally that not all employees are happy with this arrangement; however, many of us are happy that we won’t be spending some of our hard-earned money on gas for our commute for that fifth day of the week. 

It would be interesting to see what might happen to the price of gasoline if this work calendar were adopted by employers across the board.  To be sure, the resulting price drop wouldn’t be 20% (the theoretical amount of gas saved, if everyone were to merely stay home on that day), but it would be interesting, would it not, to see what the oil companies would do were the typical commuter’s consumption reduced instantaneously by 20%?

(My) First $4.00+ Gas Sighting…

I’ve been waiting for this moment, probably for too long; it arrived rather uncerimoniously as I passed the Chevron at 72nd Av. on SW 24th Street in the unincorporated neighborhood of Westchester.  Now, I’ve seen diesel being sold at $4.25 or so for at least the last month, but until this morning, I had not seen gasoline selling at more than $4.00 per gallon.  That all came to an end as I noted the price of self-service premium at $4.09.  I, on the other hand, paid a paltry $3.859 per gallon for self-service regular.  It still cost $72.00 to fill up the tank on my mini-van.

Has anyone else out there experienced this soon-to-be usual sighting?

Is an Increase in Waterfront Property on the Horizon?

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The Miami Herald is reporting that County Commissioners, today, will hear a report from the “Miami-Dade County Climate Change Task Force,” in which data point to nothing less than a dramatic rise in sea levels on the horizon.

What does this have to do with transportation in Miami? Some of the suggestions for improvement from the task force are interesting:

  • Phasing out “gas-guzzler” taxis by 2008
  • Burning bio-fuels in county fleet vehicles

While the article points out that there are zoning changes that are also part of the recommendations, the article does not point out the impact the daily commute has on our atmosphere here, and worldwide. It seems to take a bleak look overall at the scenario, without the proper focus on anything except pie-in-the-sky suggestions such as the aforementioned, which suggestions are all-but-certain to be obliterated by lobbyists before they see even a pilot implementation.

What is clear (and this is also presented by the article) is that Everglades restoration needs to be the first and foremost on everyone’s mind right now, as this will at least delay the salt water invasion some of our water well fields are already experiencing. Next, since this looks like it will happen sooner, rather than later, perhaps it’s time to start looking at some of the flood protection that has been implemented in coastal areas of mainland Europe, and on the British Isles.

Finally, while the county had the forethought to actually implement this sort of task force, bringing their ideas to fruition may take a lot longer than we have. What incentive is there to implement? The water isn’t lapping at our feet yet.

Welcome to TransitMiami’s New Platform…

For our regular readers, you will definitely notice the changes.  For those who may be joining us for the first time, you’re looking at an evolution in progress.  TransitMiami has left Blogger as its platform for communicating with you, and has moved to WordPress.  WordPress offers a bit more flexibility, more stability, and loads more opportunity for managing the information we want to provide to you, our members.

As we continue to expand more into WordPress, to start using more of its capabilities, we may experience some growing pains.  For example, right now, some of our members are unable to see that we’re back up and running after a short break.  Problems like these should iron themselves out as the domain registrar change that just went through ripples through the Internet Blogosphere.

After these somewhat minor issues do work themselves out, and the lights come back on for all of our readers, our bloggers will soon learn that they have more tools at their hands that will enhance their experience of writing.  This should allow us to deliver the transit and urban development news to you faster, clearer, and in a format that is easy to read!

 

Pay-as-you-Drive? Insurance to Improve the Environment…

On Public Radio International’s “The World,” today, there was a report that insurance companies are looking at creating products based on various aspects of environmental risk. One risk being evaluated for potential profit is global warming based on carbon emissions. One of the leading causes of these emissions, of course, is transportation by private vehicle.

The current American auto insurance policy is based on various factors: past driving history, type of automobile, even credit ratings. Few policies are evaluated based on how far one drives in a particular year. Whether you drive 1,000 miles, 10,000 miles, or 50,000 miles, typically you will pay the same rate for your auto insurance policy. While the companies do keep general tabs on how much one drives, this is mostly for determining the value of the vehicle vis-a-vis the comprehensive and collision coverage carried.

Evolving theory in the insurance industry appears headed in a direction that may alter the way policies are built to include some component for distance traveled in a year. The thought is that this could provide some market-based incentive for people to get out of their cars and onto public transit.

As if $4-a-gallon gas isn’t enough to do that already!

Traffic jams a thing of the past?

In their March 13th edition, the Economist magazine published this article in which it was written that a company in Washington state, spun off from Microsoft, will be compiling and analyzing real-time satellite transponder and cell phone data from delivery vehicles. The company, INRIX, then will provide this real-time traffic analysis to companies like Tom-Tom, Garmin, and ClearChannel (I guess for their currently lackluster traffic reports), to push to their devices to alert customers of current traffic conditions along various corridors.

On the plus side, it is reported that this information can also be used by emergency authorities to guide them around traffic blockages to provide faster response times. Additionally, this might be able to get us closer to a smarter highway concept, reducing fuel consumption and toxic emissions, and increasing the time we have to spend getting to know our neighbors out there in the sprawl that has become our substitute for small-town America.

Where’s Big Brother again?

Photo Courtesy k2d2vaca at Flickr

Public Meeting on Metrorail Expansion - March 25

Miami-Dade Transit has set March 25 as the date of the next public meeting to discuss plans for the new Metrorail line connecting the Earlington Heights station with the Miami Intermodal Center under construction near the Miami International Airport. The actual meeting will start at 7:00 p.m., with an open-house being held before, at 6:00 p.m. The location of the meeting will be at the Sheila Winitzer Central Administration Building Auditorium: 3300 NW 32 Ave.

Several items of interest regarding this particular segment of Metrorail:

  • It will be the first extension of the train since the extension to Palmetto station;
  • This segment will not be constructed with federal funds, but solely from the half-cent transportation tax implemented in Miami-Dade county, along with state funding;
  • Once opened, this segment will provide a much-needed alternative for transport into the airport both by tourists using the airport’s facilities, and for workers providing services.

Further information can be found at this link to Miami-Dade Transit’s website.

Celebration of Disconnectedness

On the Tomorrowland Transit Authority this past week, I passed a model of Walt Disney’s original plan for an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT). I got to thinking: “I wonder how many people passing this model on a daily basis know that the Walt Disney Company actually tried their own hand at an experimental community, albeit on a smaller scale?”
Celebration sits on roughly 5,000 acres at the southern end of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the same parcel of land on which the Walt Disney World resort is built. While billed as small-town americana, Celebration is actually considered a census-designated place (CDP): It is an unincorporated master-planned community with slightly under 10,000 residents, as of 2004 American Community Survey data.

Walk through the streets of Celebration and you’ll enjoy a very clean, crisp atmosphere. Everything is in its place, all of the shops and homes are freshly painted, lawns are manicured, and yes, those apartments above the shops are real apartments. There’s a small “downtown” core of shops, restaurants, a movie theater, schools… inhabitants of the community are encouraged to use their NEVs (Neighborhood Electric Vehicles… think, golf carts) to get around town. Just about everything has been thought of.

Forget, though, about affordable housing in this “mixed” community: two bedroom, two bathroom condo-style homes go for $400,000. The nearest mainline transit links are the route 55 and 56 Lynx buses that run on US 192, approximately two miles to the north, too far to be walked on a regular basis. These are quite possibly the fundamental explanations for why there are no people milling about the center of the community.

While the Walt Disney World company wasn’t trying to recreate Walt Disney’s vision of EPCOT with the founding of Celebration, they were definitely reaching back to try to recapture the small-town feeling of pre-1950s America. While they made a valiant effort, like so many of these new, master-planned communities, they’ve missed their mark. Without a connection to some sort of mainline transit, and without affordable housing, the Walt Disney Company excluded a huge portion of America that wants to live this quintessentially American dream: living, working, and playing all within walking distance of one’s home.

-Photo courtesy of Picasa Web Photos

Unity is definitely unique…

Robert Samuels, along with other staff writers of the Miami Herald has been writing this week about Unity Boulevard, perhaps better known as 27th Avenue. This thoroughfare traverses four of the most culturally and economically diverse areas of South Florida.
While the article delves into detail on the neighborhoods of Miami Gardens, Opa-Locka, Liberty City, Little Havana, and Coconut Grove, Samuels and his team wrote a particularly poignant description of the one-two punch that killed a once-vibrant, if still economically-challenged, 35-block stretch of the boulevard:
“Liberty City’s not like it was,” said Edwina Howard, 68, who was waiting for a bus near 79th Street. To her left was the Northside Shopping Centre, the neighborhood’s decrepit crown jewel of retail, now undergoing a $14 million renovation. In front of her was a burned-out hair supply store.

“Things were much better,” Howard said. “There were much better shops and they kept the place clean. I’d go to Sears or J.C. Penney at that mall. Now, I have to go to Dadeland Mall or one in Pembroke Pines.”

The area never recovered from 1980. Blacks erupted in riots that year, after an all-white jury acquitted white police officers charged with beating to death a black man named Arthur McDuffie.

Past Northside, more empty lots appear. One small matchbox house advertises collard greens. Another offers barbecue ribs. Both are locked up.

If you ask why the businesses disappeared, some say that all you have to do is look up.

You’ll see the Metrorail.

The neighborhoods beneath it — from Northwest 76th Street, the northern end of Liberty City, to 41st Street, in Brownsville — are the poorest on Unity Boulevard.

“The Metrorail decimated this neighborhood,” community activist Kenneth Kilpatrick said. “This place used to have a lot of business, a lot of good things. And then Metrorail came, and they all left.”

But why would something that was billed as the be-all end-all transit system destroy a neighborhood, rather than provide the enhancement intended? Samuels writes simply that according to Kilpatrick, the stores along this portion of the Avenue couldn’t stand the dearth of customers due to the length of construction of Metrorail through this corridor.

Having ridden the train through this area countless times, I’ve often wondered the same thing. On occasion, I’ve wanted to exit at Brownsville, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or Northside stations, and walk along the 27th Avenue corridor myself, to see if I could figure out what I might be able to do to help bring this community alive. But as sure as the train kept moving down the line, my thoughts soon turned to other items - typically my upcoming transfer to Tri-Rail.

Nonetheless, Samuels’s article, especially the part on Liberty City in which he interviews James Brimberry on becoming owner of the last remaining Royal Castle, has reignited that flame. It makes me want to drop everything and go there for one of their burgers. Perhaps that can refuel me and my once-perpetual thoughts of helping redevelop the neighborhoods the train was supposed to bring people to. This desolate space, once teeming with individually-owned and operated businesses, has so much potential to become one of the most livable neighborhoods in the county.

Robert Samuels’s six-day series, which began running Monday, concludes tomorrow with a write-up of 27th Avenue’s southern terminus, in Coconut Grove.

… Sean Bossinger is a new writer for Transit Miami. He manages the UTS Call Center at Florida International University, where he is a Ph. D. student in the Public Management program. In his copious spare time, he enjoys playing with his sons, Donovan and Logan, and spending time with his wife, Tracy. Living in Coral Gables, he frequently finds himself reading a book on the 24 Bus on Coral Way.