Currently viewing the category: "Congestion"

The FDOT (The Department of Streets and Highways) is seeking approval of transportation planners in Broward and Palm Beach Counties to approve five-year plans for road and “transit” projects. The Sun-Sentinel reports:

“A total of $2.37 billion will be spent in Broward County and $916 million in Palm Beach Countyfrom 2012 through 2016.”

Wow, pretty cool, eh? With over $3 Billion in spending we’ll surely be zipping along the FEC corridor from Miami to Jupiter in no time. Perhaps we’ll be able to ride the Ft. Lauderdale Wave Streetcar from my downtown office to the Broward General Medical Center. Heck, maybe we’ll be commuting on some new flashy BRT routes throughout both counties. Nope. This is FDOT we’re talking about - there is only one right way to blow $3.3 Billion.

“Major highway projects in Broward and Palm Beach counties are moving from the top of wish lists to reality.”

Oh Joy! Christmas has come early!

“State officials are including money in the latest plan to build an interchange for FAU’s new stadium in Boca Raton, widen State Road 7 in southern Broward County and expand the last two-lane section of Andrews Avenue in Pompano Beach.

It’s a dramatic turnaround from two years ago when the state had to delay numerous projects because of a decline in gas tax revenues and other resources. The state couldn’t keep up with the rising cost of land and materials to build roads.”

That’s right, we need more interchanges and lanes. Silly me. How could I forget how effective incessantly widening highways to meet ever growing congestion needs has been? For all their faults, the FDOT will be investing some money in Transit. Just what exactly? I’m so glad you asked:

“The county will study improving mass transit on its busiest routes — Broward Boulevard, Oakland Park Boulevard, State Road 7 and U.S. 1. The improvements could range from pull-outs so buses don’t hold up traffic to special equipment that allows buses to pre-empt traffic signals so they stay green longer so they can get through intersections.

Another study will look at improving State Road 7 from northern Broward into southern Palm Beach County, by improving mass transit and adding lanes.”

Wouldn’t want those buses to get in the way of all those cars now would we? Now, let’s get this straight. FDOT suddenly has $3.3B more to spend between 2012 and 2016 in Broward and Palm Beach. So the logical solution is to pump the money into projects already underway? And, for safe measure, to cover their asses and pretend to be serving the best interest of all transit modes, they decided to invest a pittance into transit studies?

“The new projects are in addition to work that already is started or will begin next year, such as the extension of the I-95 express lanes to Fort Lauderdale that will begin next year, the I-595 construction and I-95 widening in northern Palm Beach Countyunderway and construction of a new Eller Drive overpass connecting I-595 to Port Everglades that will start in 2011.”

I know what you’re all thinking. C’mon, 95 Express - dude its a transit project, kinda - we’re getting buses to use those routes and whisk passengers across highways to their destinations quickly and effectively. After all, one of the main selling points of the 95 Express HOT Lanes was the ability for transit buses to access the tolled lanes free of charge, providing transit riders with a cheap alternative to driving alone and simultaneously improving the commute time of “regional” service buses. In theory this plan works. In theory. But we lack the sufficient density to make BRT along our highways effective; and, congestion hasn’t reached the point to justify the time it would take users to park-and-ride.  Plus, BCT and MDT lack the funds to keep these buses operating:

“The Broward County Commission will hold a public hearing at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, December  14, 2010, at the Broward County Governmental Center, Room 422, 115 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, for public input on proposed changes to the 95 Express Bus Service.  The proposed changes would become effective on Monday, January 10, 2011.”

The proposed service changes are:

  • Discontinued service to the Golden Glades Park & Ride stop
  • Discontinued reverse commute trips from Miami during the morning peak hours
  • Discontinued reverse commute trips from Pembroke Pines during the afternoon peak hours

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The Miami Herald reports today the Mayor Matti Bower has set an “Economic Summit” for December 18, 2008. We hope that Her Honor will include on her panel experts who will speak to the importance of The Beach implementing a mass transit system that serves the City’s residents and tourists, the mainstay backbone of our “Worlds’ Playground” economy.

From this Summit, the City should press the County to provide a fast, efficient, and attractive way to bring visitors from the air and seaports to the Beach that does not involve multiple bus transfers or a single passenger automobile. The Beach needs to demand transit respect. We shouldn’t be just the turn around point for a dozen bus routes that follow each other up and down the two most congested streets in the City. We need a rational, circulator system that facilitates mobility and is more cost effective per passenger mile.  We should take a cue or two from Disney, and look at our 7 square miles as the tropical attraction it is, and exploit it to its highest potential by bringing 10 times as many folks in half the number of cars to the Beach each day for leisure or work. We should promote our historic seaside communities tranquil offerings by designing better uses of our limited right of ways to make them safer for pedestrians and non-motorized transport.

Panelists should all read “Growth or Gridlock? The Economic Case for Traffic Relief and Transit Improvement for Greater New York “, published by the Partnership for New York City and see how not addressing our growing parking and transportation crisis in our City today will undermine any hopes for an economically sustainable Miami Beach tomorrow.

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Via: Reconnecting America:

Next time you’re stuck going 20 mph in the fast lane, waiting forever to get through a traffic light, or trying to find your way out of a giant concrete parking structure, remember that it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time for America to rediscover the human scale. It’s time to build communities for people, not cars.

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If you’ve ever been driving along the highway and suddenly everything comes to a dead stop or a slow down for no apparent reason you’ve been caught up in a shockwave traffic jam. The Mathematical Society of Traffic Flow in Japan has created this video to illustrate the shockwave phenomenon. In Miami, you’ll typically find yourself in one of these heading on US-1 southbound just after I-95 (a spot where you should likely be riding metrorail instead…)

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Tri-Rail Commuter Train, originally uploaded by jmdspk.
Due to the volume of e-mails, I know when we are running behind on a given topic (sorry!) but hey, you can always count on us to cover every transit/development related story sometime within the given week.

This week’s topic is how FDOT, like every other DOT across the country (I guess the Feds set the precedent here), is trying to raid the public transit funds for more road expansion projects in the Greater Miami Area (get used to it folks, we don’t fly with the “South Florida” nomenclature around here.)

On one end is the Florida Department of Transportation, or DOT, trying to keep money it uses to build and improve state roads. At the other is Tri-Rail, struggling to find money to fund the commuter train’s operations and pay for new projects.

Let us analyze this statement briefly. The Florida Department of TRANSPORTATION (not too aptly named, eh?) is trying to raid the nation’s fastest growing public transportation system (tri-rail) of hundreds of Millions of Dollars over the next 5 years for various road widening schemes? Jeff Koons of the Palm Beach MPO and Tri-Rail governing board has the right idea:
“I wish we had more dollars, but by [giving Tri-Rail] the $2, I hope they realize this is a crisis,” he said. “The state needs to take a look at adding some funding sources for regional mass transit.”
Without this dedicated funding source, Tri-Rail, like all of the sprawl inducing road projects, would be dead in the water. The Agency would have until October to come up with $17 million or else shut down in the midst of 2 years of solid growth, capacity expansion, and recent train dispatch control.
If Tri-Rail doesn’t get a dedicated funding source and if the three counties cut their funding next year as expected, Tri-Rail officials say they’ll have to drastically reduce service. Under that scenario, Tri-Rail could default on a $334 million federal grant used to construct a second track because the money was awarded based on the agency’s pledge to operate at least 48 trains a day weekdays.

The troubling aspect of this issue is not only how we continue to heavily subsidize our roadways at an uncontrollable rate, but that our state transportation agency is attempting to financially dismantle our commuter rail system in order to expand congestion. The State continues to battle itself, by working on projects that contradict themselves: Tri-Rail, Road expansion, HOT Lanes, etc. The FDOT epitomizes a transportation agency and policy that is anything but; eager to shift resources away from reasonable solutions and further legitimizing the misconceptions often encouraged by people like Gregg Fields:

But is it streetcars we desire? The mass transit message is decidedly mixed. One day earlier this month, Tri-Rail celebrated ridership hitting a whopping 15,000. There are Burger Kings with more traffic at their drive-thru windows — and they serve food.

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This picture illustrates the typical lane designations busways receive across the world. The vast majority of busways, bus lanes, and BRT lanes are dedicated solely for Bus and emergency vehicle use (ie. no private vehicles.) This bus lane in Jakarta demonstrates how bus only lanes should be implemented in urban areas…

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This week’s Streetwise Column by Herald Reporter Larry Lebowitz, presented an “innovative” new use for Miami-Dade’s Busway program. We’ve taken some time to mull over the basics of the plan over the past few days (apparently so have a number of you based on the number of emails I received) and have prepared an analysis of the project based on the data Larry provided in the article.

Imagine widening the Busway from two lanes to four and giving buses and carpoolers with at least three passengers a free ride.

It is a stretch of my imagination, that is for sure, but from the looks of it, this does not seem like a promising solution for South-Dade commuters. Granted, the Busway is far from perfect, but adding lanes, albeit managed lanes, is hardly the solution to an ever-growing congestion problem.

Instead of encountering dozens of incredibly looooooong lights at the busy cross streets on today’s Busway, imagine flying over all the major intersections as the government guarantees a reliable 50-mph journey from Dadeland to Florida City or the turnpike interchange near Southwest 112th Avenue.

The sad part about this is that some sort of “benefit” has to be presented for motorists in order to shore up the funds to marginally improve the transit infrastructure. I guess that is one of the major issues we have to deal with when we have a President who in his next financial deficit (that is not a budget) wants to reduce an already anemic transportation fund by $3.2 billion. One major question remains: What is going to happen to all of those cars not going to Dadeland or the Palmetto when they merge back onto a US-1? We cannot honestly expect all these folks to suddenly abandon their cars and hop on Metrorail, can we? Or will the lanes be extended north into downtown, continuing to undermine the reason why Metrorail was constructed along US-1 to begin with - to get people out of their cars.

A similar variably priced tolling plan is about to be introduced on a 24-mile segment of Interstate 95 between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. They are also planned for the expanded Interstate 595 in Broward.

True. However, I do not think drawing comparisons between US-1 and limited access highways is fair. HOT lanes are a novel concept for the highway scenario, but not along a corridor where driveways and intersections all interfere.

Not only could it provide a little relief to the normal wall-to-wall madness on the overburdened South Dixie corridor, but it could also finally fulfill the Busway’s original promise: real rapid transit.

Once again, see our unrelated qualms above on transportation spending as a whole in this country. It’s deplorable!

”Without a strong transit component, this doesn’t work,” said Javier Rodriguez, executive director of the expressway authority.

Amen!

Elevated intersections will incite plenty of sturm und drang from communities along the Busway. The neighbors must be mollified, especially if Transit is forced to relocate its stations away from the intersections to maintain easy street-level access for riders.

Wow, you can say that again. Most of these communities have already reduced the allowable density along US-1 making Mr. Rodriguez’s point listed above extremely difficult to accomplish. Transit needs to treat any further upgrades to this project as a rail project, bringing with that the power to enact land-use changes for the corridor that will continue to prepare it for future rail transit, increase bus ridership, and lay a foundation for preventing future westward and southern sprawl. Without a massive overhaul of the land around the Busway, this corridor will never realize the transit ridership necessary to fund such a project.

Besides noise walls and landscaping, some must-dos:

Whoa, noise walls are a definite must-do-not. This project needs to entwine the Busway (future railway) as much as possible with the surroundings, not create an inhospitable environment for those walking, biking, or using transit.


All plans must leave a pocket for future light rail or Metrorail within the 100-foot corridor as the Busway was originally intended. It might take 30 to 50 years to get trains there, but that’s what the people were promised and the bulk of the growth is already occurring down there.

Definitely! Can’t stress this point enough.


The plan must set aside money to re-time all of the signals for cross-street traffic trying to get onto and across U.S. 1 under the elevated intersections.

This is something MDT/MPO should do now to give the 15,000 daily transit riders a surefire benefit to riding the Busway. Which reminds me, what exactly is MDT up to these days?

An expanded Busway must mesh with the community charettes aimed at future redevelopment of Princeton, Naranja and Goulds into transit-oriented development villages.

Ditto for preserving the existing bike path and enhancing pedestrian access to and from the Busway.

Once again, we cannot stress how important this is. These details will ultimately make or break a project like this. Take Metrorail for example, it is a great transit system but the surroundings are beyond lousy.

The point of this article was not to criticize Streewise or Larry Lebowitz - after all he’s just the messenger - but rather to condemn a plan which is seemingly being hailed as the golden ticket for fixing congestion. The fact of the matter is, for any real change to come of any of these plans (Metrorail, Bay Link, Miami Streetcar, Busway included) we need to push for land use changes more favorable to living lifestyles which are not automatically governed by the necessity of owning a vehicle.

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Ah, the 1950′s, a time when the US economy was rebounding from the stresses of World War II and federal money was freely flowing every which way to rebuild a struggling economy. The most notable “achievement” which evolved from this hasty federal spending was the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (Dwight Eisenhower Interstate System) of 1956.

As this documentary illustrates well, the 1950′s was also a time for extreme naivety, clearly shown through the future independence personal vehicles will bring to our cities. The ideas range from absurd construction techniques (an atomic reactor which creates tunnels with extreme heat) to far more absurd “new dimensions for the American highway.”

If there is one statement where the show was actually spot on, I’d say it’s this one:

“The shape of our cities will change, as expanded highway transportation decentralizes our population centers into vast urban areas. With the advent of wider, faster expressways the commuter’s radius will be extended many miles”

You can say that again…

The official video description:

An excerpt from the 1958 “Disneyland” TV Show episode entitled “Magic Highway USA”. In this last part of the show, an exploration into possible future Transportation technologies is made. It’s hard to believe how little we’ve accomplished on this front since 1958, and how limited the scope for imagining such future technologies has become. Witness an artifact from a time where the future was greeted with optimism. Note the striking animation style here, achieved with fairly limited animation and spectacular layouts.

Today’s Metro Monday come to us from our loyal reader James Good.

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The conclusion to the three part story on Auckland, New Zealand’s car addiction. This part concentrates on the sustainable and economic benefits of upgrading to alternative transit. They accurately rip apart the notion of cars, highways, and the expanded option of “personal independence” contributing an “economic benefit” to society…

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It somehow always seems that when Transit/Development news flares up, so do events in our personal lives. In any case, here are some of the top news stories this week, some of which we’ll get around to commenting on:

Local:

  • The next phase of the Metrorail extension hasn’t even broken ground and already the cost overruns have begun. This time Parson’s is looking for an additional $13 million in “Consultant fees.” I’m not specifically implicating that Parsons has something to do with this, but, I find it intriguing that nearly every project they’ve worked on locally (Miami Intermodal Center, MIA North Terminal, MIA South Terminal, PAC, Boston’s Big Dig, etc.) has come in way over budget. Is there something we don’t know, or is it really that easy to bilk the county out of money once you’re hired to do contracting/engineering/management work? I guess choosing the French construction giant Bouygues Travaux Publics, wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
  • Top issues for Kendall this year? Forget Cityhood, how about congestion, lots of it. It’s only getting worse too as years pass and opportunities for real transit come and go (Tri-Rail Kendall link anyone?) If the Kendall community fears Tri-Rail trains traveling down an existing ROW behind their houses or an “unsightly” elevated rail down Kendall drive is going to lower their property values, just wait and see the nose dive congestion will cause. At least the recent efforts have paused (momentarily) foolish FDOT hopes of expanding Killian to 6 lanes west of 137th Avenue. Perhaps Kendall residents are beginning to realize that the car isn’t a viable solution…
  • Like him or not, Manny Diaz has a Vision. We’ll dig into this much more in depth soon…
  • I’m liking the looks of a final panel report on the UDB. Key part of this would require 3/4 of commissioners to move the line for projects and would bring in an outside firm to redraw the line.
  • Live Nation is set to bring yet more events to Bayfront Park. Can’t a Park just be a Park? I’m not arguing against the Museums, those are neccessary, but why does Bayfront need so many attractions to make it successful? I think the park would induce more local use if there was less cement and far more shade trees, just a thought…
  • The Federal DOT has given MDT a grant to purchase 16 hybrid express buses for the new HOT lane project on I-95. The buses will travel from downtown Miami to Ft. Lauderdale. Now can we please modernize the system and implement farecards (and new machines) that are transferable on all 3 local agencies?
  • Don’t ride Transit, Buy a BMW…No seriously, Norman Braman wants you to buy a BMW and skip out on urban life…Oh, more on this soon…However, please follow this link for some laughable signs of hypocrisy…
  • Gasp! This first paragraph says it all: “The [Palmetto Bay] Village Council approved a special permit allowing a new commercial development to put all of its parking spaces on the street at a zoning hearing Monday.” Note: A special permit. I know this is a young, incorporated bedroom community and all, but seriously, can we get some logical planning oversight around there? (In Case you missed it, we’re glad to see the use of on street parking in this and other bedroom communities…This shouldn’t be a special instance, but, rather the norm….)
  • Watering rules in effect now till forever. Green lawns aren’t a necessity folks…
National:
  • Cape Cod wind farm moves one crucial step closer to disturbing a bunch of rich folks’ “pristine” views…
  • Northern Virginia (and Atlanta) is getting closer to funding a new streetcar. Not enough BMW dealers in the area I guess…

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We haven’t learned from our mistakes, that’s for sure. Henry Ford launched the model T, in an effort to make vehicles affordable to more people. Recently, Indian carmaker Tata Motors launched the world’s most affordable car, whatever that is, with a base price tag of just $2500. Shocking, I know. Ratan Tata touts the Tata Nano, pictured above, as “The People’s Car” and as MSN said, it is bringing “car ownership into the reach of millions.” There is a fundamental problem here: we are continuing down a path of unsustainable practices and living. There are clear lessons that still have not been learned from our past mistakes and will only become further compounded with vehicles that facilitate car ownership. This statement, an excerpt from a Forbes article, really irks me most:

“Most of all, it would give millions of people now relegated to lesser means of transportation the chance to drive cars.”

No Comment.

“The potential impact of Tata’s Nano has given environmentalists nightmares, with visions of the tiny cars clogging India’s already-choked roads and collectively spewing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air.

Industry analysts, however, say the car may soon deliver to India and the rest of the developing world unprecedented mobility.”

I would like to ask these industry analysts what sort of mobility do they expect if India’s roads are already overburdened and suffering from extreme congestion.

The car culture of the United States has sadly been exported to nearly every developing nation. The devastating effects this will undoubtedly cause cannot be quantified economically or ecologically for the world as a whole…

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Despite having recently spent hundreds-of-millions of dollars to widen and extend the Dolphin Expressway, there is already a new effort to try and squeeze even more capacity on the perpetually congested highway. According to MDX, the eastbound shoulder between the 826 interchange and the NW 72nd Ave on-ramp is being converted into a new travel lane in a futile attempt to keep up with traffic demand. To account for the elimination of breakdown lanes, the speed limit will be permanently lowered to just 45 mph along this stretch. There goes another $800,000 in a desperate move to reduce congestion and justify millions spent on highway construction that will never do anything to fix Miami-Dade’s long-term mobility crisis.

Photo: Wikipedia

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Off-street parking requirements [imposed by a city for new developments] and cars…present a symbiotic relationship: the requirements lead to free parking, the free parking leads to more cars and more cars then lead to even higher parking requirements. When 3 spaces per 1,000 square feet [of new building] no longer satisfy the peak demand for free parking, a stronger dose of 4 spaces per 1,000 square feet can alleviate the problem, but not for long because cars increase in numbers to fill the new parking spaces. Every jab of the parking needle relieves the local symptoms, but ultimately worsens the real disease — too much land and capital devoted to parking and cars. Parking requirements are good for motorists in the short run but bad for cities in the long run.

- Donald Shoup, The High Cost of Free Parking

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The Coral Gables Gazette recently published a troubling article on a trolley study conducted by the University of Miami’s Industrial Engineering department. Troubling not because of the results of the study but because of how ridiculously logical the conclusions were. The simplicity can be summed up best by the CGG’s article title: New study: Trolley saves 712 parking space per day. You don’t say? Transit actually reduces the number of parking spaces needed in an urban area, what’s next, you’re going to suggest transit reduces congestion?

Engineering, calculates that the trolley saves the city 712 parking spaces a day and reduces the amount of vehicle traffic along the route by 1.2 million miles a year.

Gasp! Obviously we’re floored that this can still be considered newsworthy and is typically not common knowledge. Coral Gables commissioners are considering affixing a charge to ride the system which is currently free. Not all city commissioners appear to be happy with the success:

[Commissioner Ralph] Cabrera also reiterated past complaints that the trolley system had evolved from its original purpose as a downtown circulator into more of a connector between county mass transit systems.

Who cares as long as the system effectively reduces congestion in the Coral Gables Downtown Core? Since the city is unwilling to reduce the parking requirements for buildings to begin with, we might as well reduce the need for all the parking being built anyway. Although I agree MDT should do more to help the city transit service, axing the project would cause too many problems. At least someone sees the benefits brought forth by the system:

[Vice Mayor William] Kerdyk said that the independent study, which he points out that he didn’t even commission, should erase any doubts to the effectiveness and importance of the system although he wasn’t sure that questions regarding budgeting for the trolley system would go away as a result of the study.

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First we brought you the incredibly useful Walk Score, a program geared to determining how navigable neighborhoods are for people

Today I’d like to introduce Drive Score, the anti-walking, pro-sprawl, and guaranteed laziness application which uses incredibly flawed methods to create a map of vehicle accessible areas. One would think if you ranked poorly on Walk Score, you’d rank high on drive score, right? Not necessarily. Just for fun, I entered a highly walkable Manhattan address to see how “drivable” this program claims the city to be and came up with an 88! You know, never mind the bumper to bumper traffic, lack of dedicated parking, or any sane analysis, this program spews out pure gibberish…

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