Archive for the 'Conservation' Category

Transitography 10


Bonneville Salt Flats, originally uploaded by gm_blogs.

In the spirit of Miami catching up with the rest of the country today with the opening of our first E85 Fueling Station…

Ryan will be back later today to discuss why E85 really isn’t all it’s cut out to be…

News Briefs

Local News:
  • Palm Beach County is looking to expand water Taxi service throughout the county to create multiple water transit hubs at key coastal communities. I can’t really foresee a water taxi service solving any traffic problems in any of the three counties until considerable advances are created on land-borne transit services first. As it is the existing service serves mainly as a sight-seeing tour, accomplishing little for our daily traffic woes…
  • The Everglades Restoration plan is behind schedule and quickly rising in cost, now estimated at nearly $20 Billion. Meanwhile, development continues to encroach as we keep decimating our novel ecosystem…
  • Merrett Stierheim has the right idea, Miami-Dade severely needs a reputable higher-learning research institution. Problem is, who is going to show the initiative to get such a monumental project moving?
  • One word: Recentralization. It’s happening and it is severely needed. Forget the suburban office digs in Doral, Blue Lagoon, or BFE (Ryder.) The time to create an urban, vibrant, and useful CBD is now…
  • Bids will be accepted soon to find a contractor to build the US Southern Command’s 700,000 square foot expansion in Doral. We’re working on finding a rendering of the new facility, designed by the local office of Leo Daly Architects.
  • New seats coming soon to the Gusman…
Blog News:
  • SOTP addresses the lame ordinance which bars limo companies and private car services from picking up passengers within an hour of their initial request…
  • Miami-Forum shows some “love” for the imbecilic public works department of Miami Springs…
  • Riptide 2.0 discusses the integration of Bikes with Miami 21…
National News:
  • How do you stop Sprawl? You Sue the cities which don’t comply with smart growth patterns, that’s how…
  • MARTA Plans a system wide review and possibly overhaul to make daily transit operations run smoother…

Dump The Pump!

The day is dedicated to raising awareness that public transportation helps improve the environment and conserve fuel. It also offers the opportunity for people to beat the high price of gasoline and support public transportation as an important travel option that helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
-Via APTA

Locally:

What Green space?

It’s an eyesore, one of the greatest wasted public spaces in the city (a dubious achievement in a city already notorious for wasting public space,) and a derelict haven for homeless and illicit activity, yet groups are forming at an alarming rate to “preserve” this swath of land for what it is. It’s Bicentennial Park and the controversy has evolved around the idea of consuming just a fraction of the parks’ acreage to construct new iconic structures for two museums. The fact that MNU and members of the Urban League of Miami have spoken up against the Museum Park plan is appalling if not downright horrendous. I quote from the UEL’s Vision statement:

“We see preserved natural resources, increased density in urban areas with sufficient existing infrastructure and along mass transportation corridors within the urban development boundary. There are more greenways, water access, pedestrian friendly parks, improved historic neighborhoods and landmarks still recognizable and protected.”

The Museum Park plan falls in line with everything UEL “stands” for. The Museum Park plan centralizes the museums, within the urban core. They will be located with easy access of public transit and within the region of the city most likely to continue witnessing densification and a renewal in urban life. Most importantly, the museums will present an actual use for the park, making it safe, actually usable, and a destination within its own right. They claim to be fighting for a preservation of green space, but I can’t help ask myself which park they are talking about, take a look at its current state and decide for yourself:

The Plan:

For High Resolution images and a full detail plan of the park, click here… More on this issue later…

Miami, See it like Anything but a Native; Brickell and Riverwalk

I started my trip as usual at the UM metrorail station. The station severely needs a pedestrian overpass to connect it with the already disjointed surroundings. Notice, any attempt to connect the station with its eastern surroundings will at best connect pedestrians with any of the many available parking lots of the strip shopping centers.

I arrived at the Brickell station in full view of some “urban design malpractice,” to quote Ryan’s previous post on the subject. The following pictures were taken either from the Metrorail platform or from the train just as we entered the station (I’m disappointed that Beethoven’s 5th No longer plays when the train arrives, what gives?) The first picture depicts the new Infinity at Brickell high-rise with its’ hideous massive blank wall left exposed facing the west. The next two pictures are of buildings adjacent to the metrorail platform. Notice the wide entrance to the parking garage in the first building (Brickell Station Villas designed by Alberto Otero) on the west side fronting the station. The third picture below depicts another new condo with an absurdly huge parking structure below making up more than half the size of the building. These designs are sad and pathetic considering their proximity to mass transit. A parking garage entrance shouldn’t front the station and their designs should be required to consider pedestrian activity. I don’t blame the architects or developers; this is clearly a regulatory issue and the result of a commission who approves nearly anything which comes before them…

The last time I passed by the Brickell metrorail station (nearly 8 months ago) the brickell metromover escalator was out of service. I was dismayed to see that this was obviously still the case. Great job Bradley!

I got off the mover by Mary Brickell Village, the disastrously planned retail center in the heart of Brickell which has been under construction for a few years now. I was dismayed however to see that this station’s escalator was too out of commission (that’s 0/2 for all of you keeping score.) Great job Bradley!

Pictured below is the site of the Brickell Financial Centre, which as I mentioned earlier was slated to officially break ground on Thursday. Despite the continued demolition of the mid-rise previously located on the site, an area with project plans and descriptions was set up on the former back parking lot.

When I arrived at the 5th street station, just beside the new Brickell on the River Condominium, I looked down to find two separate paths leading from the Station to the river-walk. One was apparently the “commoners” path while the one on the right side of the wrought iron fence was for the residents of the condo. Fenced in or gated condominiums severely detract from their urban surroundings and should not be allowed to rise in such central and prominent locations of our city. These tend to isolate residents from the surroundings, complicating building access for pedestrians and disconnecting them from the closely located transit and public river-walk…

Looking back inland, the beautiful rear end of 500 Brickell kept staring at me, asking why the developer had left such a plain wall facing the metromover station. A short walk around the building later demonstrated that the front end had been properly designed, with balconies and plenty of glass, it’s a shame the back side couldn’t have been granted the same architectural considerations.

Although the whole downtown has been morphed into a full scale construction zone, I was surprised to see adequate consideration taken for the area sidewalks. Although I appeared to be the only person walking around, the construction worker turned crossing guard was kind enough to halt passing street activity for me to cross.

From the Brickell Avenue Bridge looking west I saw further signs of a very disjointed river-walk taking shape. The newly completed Brickell on the River was sectioned off from the neighboring Riverview Complex which is apparently the docking point for some Miami PD boats (this is probably done as a local measure of (in)security…)

The CBD as we knew it has finally witnessed the removal of the last surface parking eyesores as the Metropolitan Miami Complex rises. In the foreground we see piles being driven for the most important tower rising in the CBD since the Bank of America Tower was completed in the 80’s, MET 2. MET 2 is our newest office skyscraper which will feature 600,000 square feet of office space in one tower and Miami’s first Marriot Marquis in an adjacent tower. Most importantly, MET 2 will dwarf the abysmally lackluster height and design of MET 1 (Center, under construction,) with a glass facade and parabolic glass shape similar to the Esprito Santo Bank tower on Brickell.

Pedestrian activity already disturbed along the river area due to the EPIC and MET construction is permanently obstructed by the pilings of the metromover.

One Miami can essentially be credited with being the project which started the latest vertical boom in Downtown Miami. Constructed by the Related Group of Florida and designed by local architect Arquitectonica (like most Related Group projects,) these twin 45 and 44 story towers were the first to test the downtown residential condo market in several decades. The real estate revival launched by this development since has been phenomenal. I was highly unimpressed by the entrance to the towers which obviously caters to vehicular movements while pedestrian access is relegated to a thin walkway alongside the tower entrance.

One Miami’s contribution to the public river-walk however, was highly impressive and one of the high points of my walk. The area was beautiful, providing ample seating along the tranquil north shore of the Miami River and overlooking Brickell Key. The One Miami river-walk contained various works of art, including a sculpture by Jose Bedia among others. Big Brother was noticeably present as was adequate lighting and access for One Miami residents. Hopefully Epic and the other buildings rising along the river will continue the precedent already established by One Miami.

Part one of my tour concludes with a view of the unfinished One Miami River-Walk leading into Bayfront Park. The dock on the right is the proposed station for any future ferry commuter boats traveling between the CBD and Aventura/South Dade. Part two of my walk will continue through Bayfront Park as I tackle the changes currently transforming what should be our most prominent urban park…

Can’t wait to see how quickly this house falls in value when the owners realize they built under a TV Tower…

Close Encounters with the Turtle Kind

Drought Could Cripple Everglades’Life… You don’t say… As the drought continues (yes, despite today’s downpour and hail storm there is still a drought) our ecosystem will continue to feel the pressure of our encroachment and insatiable thirst for more land. It’s easy to surmise that as water levels continue to recede (partly due to our absurd water use) typical everglades’ natives will begin to explore their once former habitat (your backyard) in search of water, food, and other necessities.

It’s funny how things happen. After reading this article by the Herald this morning, I went for a drive to run a couple of errands. Along a two lane street nearby, I encountered a few cars, stopped in the middle of the road for no particular reason. No particular reason happened to be a fairly large Florida Cooter (Turtle) trying to cross the street. So, being the animal lover that I am, I pulled over and darted across the road to move the little guy along (I have a couple of turtles of my own, so that helped.) Standing on the grass looking around, once the traffic flow had resumed, I noticed his retention pond home had dried out and he was crawling along in another direction in search of some new watering hole, which I knew didn’t exist. So, I did the next best thing and put the dry turtle in a box and drove to a nearby lake where I released him, back into some relative safety…

Animal encounters such as these are going to become more common place. Alligators will soon flock to the rock quarries many South Florida sprawl-land houses are built around in search of better conditions and more space. Meanwhile, people will likely wonder what these critters are doing in their backyards. They will be seen as nuisances, yet few people seem to understand that we encroached on their land and not vice versa…

The water restrictions in place are long overdue and are finally becoming even more stringent. Our region has had an insatiable, virtually unrestricted use of our water resources for far too long. We should not be squandering one of our most precious resources on lawn watering (30 MGM, for a Golf Course, are you kidding me?) or other similar petty activities. Sprawl can be partially attributed to this careless use of our resources, with its larger concrete footprint; water runoff doesn’t circulate into the aquifer like it should. Many home owners in sprawl-land, in search of that delusional “American Dream” feel the need to keep their lawn green. Water restrictions aren’t new; it’s just a blatant signal that we need to recreate a truly sustainable community…

Transit Tuesday

Alright, It’s about time we got back on Track with some Transit News:
  • Transit Miami is now regularly featured as part of the Planetizen Radar. To access the radar, there is a link in the blog technology section of the sidebar on the lower right hand side.
  • It some how slipped passed me, but our sly commissioners approved a plan to build 940 homes west of Florida City. The project aims to encroach on the Everglades further, induce further sprawl, and build useless homes which are completely nonfunctional to the working class of Miami. The project claims it will be building “work force housing” priced from $160,000 to $220,000 yet it will be situated far from business centers, public transit, public health and education infrastructure, and other necessary functions typically found near true affordable housing development. So far the only people this project has been affordable for are the developers, which likely purchased the land at reduced costs…Good luck with the daily traffic…
  • Jeffrey Bradley, a Transit Miami reader and supporter and member of the Alliance for Reliable Transport has started a new blog: Bus Stop. Bus Stop will cover “All things Transit on the Beach and Beyond.”
  • Next time your looking to take a cruise, skip out on the Royal Caribbean or Carnival and hop aboard a freighter. Yes you read correctly, apparently its a growing trend to ride along with Maersk and Sea Land Containers in near isolation…

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Miami Environmental Policy, Striving for Last Place

I came across the Earth Day Network’s Urban Environment Report which took the time to score and rank 72 major urban areas in the United States based on environmental policy and sustainability principles. Needless to say, Miami came in a spot better than I anticipated; 71st place.

View City results

About Earth Day Network…

FDOT Plan to Pave Over Palms is Finally Nixed

Some of you may have read about the recent debacle caused by the FDOT and Biscayne Boulevard preservationists over the removal of nearly all of the Royal Palms along the streetscape. Here’s the abridged version of the recent events:
  • FDOT planned to remove most of the palms on Biscayne Boulevard to replace them with shade trees such as Oaks, in order to enhance the pedestrian experience along the boulevard and to improve “safety” along the corridor in a new ROW acquisition.
  • The FDOT plan was met by stiff activist resistance, opposing the removal of any trees and opposing the plans by the FDOT.
  • To date, 135 palms have been removed, approximately 2/3 of the palms along the corridor which were planted over 80 years ago to commemorate the Veterans of all Wars.
  • Trees continued to fall, as recently as February 6.
  • On February 7th, the FDOT agreed to stop further destruction of the Royal palms, claiming that the trees removed the day before were either sick or part of the ROW acquisition.
  • Today, after the lobbying of Commissioner Sarnoff and Mary Conway, the FDOT has finally agreed to end the destruction. The Biscayne Boulevard corridor will now feature much more foliage than had been previously planned, including more Royal Palms and various other shade trees.

It’s difficult to swallow the “pedestrian enhancement” bull the FDOT is throwing at us when the trees are being removed to further enhance the traffic flow along the corridor. As the herald article noted, Miami’s tree canopy is an abysmal 10% (compared to 30-40% in other denser, pedestrian-minded cities) and yet, the solution to improve our tree canopy dysfunction involved the removal of existing trees. I guess we’re trying to maintain it at 10%, rather than improve upon it.

The bigger picture I’d like to point out is while one local agency works to make our streets more pedestrian friendly, our city commission is out approving a monstrous structure with 1,700 parking spaces in the immediate area. Note above: the pedestrian friendly streets of yesteryear featured not only pedestrian friendly foliage but streetcars as well. The approval of 2222 Biscayne is a dark reminder of how far we still have to go to improve the urban culture of our city. Any structure on an existing or planned public transit route should feature far less parking than the city code currently calls for and certainly far less than the 1 space/250 square feet offered by this eyesore…

Davie Commons; We have Nothing in Common

Noting that the traditional enclosed shopping mall concept has dwindled within American Culture, we have seen the rapid rise of lifestyle centers modeled around the “Town Center” concept. Aside from various fake streetscapes and generally navigable streets within the complexes, these centers will continue to ravage the urban fabric of our cities in a fashion similar to that of the mall. The “Town Center” concept has taken off over the recent years and is designed with automotive access and developer’s pockets in mind. The recently approved Davie Commons retail and office center is no different. Sprawling out over 150 acres, this complex will certainly do little to centralize Davie and will only compound the traffic problems in the whole South Florida region. If fully approved by the city commission, this will signal a complete reversal of general urban planning principles, placing yet another massive development on the western fringes of the county’s sprawl, abutting the Everglades. Broward County traffic will be further disrupted by reverse commutes for people working in the 800,000+ square feet of office space or the Million+ square feet of retail.
Developers downplayed the potential traffic impact, claiming it would add fewer cars to local roads than a new housing subdivision.

The Davie city commission swallowed this load of crap, recently giving the project an initial first round approval, despite widespread opposition from the community. The complex will continue to exemplify the type of construction we need to stop in our region. Suburban office complexes and expansive shopping centers which are only accessible by vehicle in the western parts of the county equate to an ecological, immoral, and urban planning catastrophe for the whole region. The city commission is likely clouded by the massive tax benefit the city would reap:

In exchange for the town’s approval, developers will ask that the agricultural exemption on the 152-acre property be lifted beginning in 2008. The change would increase the taxable value of the land from less than $100,000 to about $20.1 million, creating a windfall for the town, Siegel said.

In addition, if the land-use change receives final town approval, developers have agreed to pay $3.5 million per year to guarantee that Davie receives the amount of revenue the project is estimated to generate.

Join the Opposition!

More Pictures:

Main Street! Main to what, the Everglades? (Wow, they got people to walk…)

The Bustling urban Town Fountain (Look at the water flow…)

Mosquito Park

Transit Challenge 2007

Alrighty folks, it’s that time of year again: time to create our New Years’ Resolutions…

I have a proposition for my readers to take up my New Years’ Resolution: to minimize my daily impact on the environment by consuming less natural resources and living a healthier lifestyle by walking and using more public transit. Similar to the Summer Transit Challenge I laid down this past summer, I am pleading that all my readers to once again give alternative forms of transportation a try, once a week at a minimum, especially now in the cooler months when being outside is rather pleasant. It’s not just about riding an underutilized transit system; it’s about reducing your oil consumption and carbon dioxide emission, walking and exercising more on a daily basis, and living a lifestyle that I guarantee you will be socially healthier for you. I want to hear from everyone, all experiences: positive or negative, local or abroad…

This year, I plan to not only rely less on my automobile, but, I also plan to work to actively reduce my daily impact on all our natural resources. Recycling is just the beginning; Miami is reaching a critical point in our water consumption, trash generation, and ridiculous demand for oil.

It’s Not Easy Being Green


Tomorrow, one of the most advanced and ecologically friendly buildings will break ground in Miami; marking the beginning of construction on our first official LEED designated building. The 13 story, green glassed office building will rise alongside Douglas road, adjacent to the metrorail station. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.

The rating level a project achieves is based on a points system which looks at six categories: sustainable sites; water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials and resources; indoor environmental quality; and innovation and design process.

I do have some reservations about this LEED designation. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think that it is beneficial to the whole community to construct buildings which are extremely efficient and good for the environment considering that buildings account for 40% of our energy usage, but, shouldn’t the LEED certification take the way people will interact with the building into account? What I’m getting at is that a building that is adjacent to a mass transit station should not have a huge parking component built into the structure, period.

The green glass building will feature a unique L-shaped design allowing each office to have window space, while providing ample parking on the interior of each floor.

I mean, seeing that the average vehicle in the United States pumps out 19.4 Pounds of Carbon Dioxide per gallon of gas burned, shouldn’t the LEED certification take this into account when the building will include sufficient parking for every tenant despite the easy public transit access? I think LEED certification should be contingent on the fact that the building will also “green” the daily lives and habits of a building’s occupants…

Who Plans our Cities?

We recently took the above photograph on a drive east from Naples on I-75. Amidst the beautiful views of the everglades grass and pristine wildlife (That we erroneously paved a road across in the 1920s to disrupt the flow of water in the Everglades in order to facilitate automobile movement) we come across the very large and disturbing view of the Bank Atlantic Center and rising TAO Condos, just on the water’s edge (or swamp, whatever). Honestly, whose bright idea was it to build dense population structures in suburbia on the edge of a pristine sanctuary? Its just bad urban planning…