Currently viewing the category: "Downtown"

Transit Miami recently sent out a list of questions to City of Miami District 2 Commission candidates to get their views on the issues facing District 2. Representing one of the most important economic and urban centers in our region, the District 2 commission seat plays a central role in supporting regional and local transit, and ensuring walkable, pedestrian friendly streets for city residents. The area included in District 2 includes those parts of the city that are best poised to take advantage of existing premium transit and walkable urbanism. We’ll be posting the candidate responses in the order they are received. Our first respondent is sitting District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.

How will you work toward the goal of expanding transit in District 2?

We (the City) are ordering and implementing the Trolley project scheduled to commence in December for the north/south Brickell - Biscayne Blvd. corridor with an east/west connection down Flagler. There will be a circulator in the Health District. These two districts won grants from FDOT to operate and AARA money to purchase. In addition there will be special service to events Trolley in Downtown i.e. Heat games and the Performing Arts Center that will operate during the scheduling of those events. The fees have not been set - some Commissioners do not want to charge for this service but the Trolley’s will run out of money if we do not charge. I prefer a 6o day no fee trial period, then a $1.00 fee to allow the operation to continue for the next 15 years with Cap X for new trolleys and maintenance.

Do you support the South Florida East Coast Corridor project to expand local and express rail service to downtown? Do you support a Tri-Rail option or a Metro-Rail option?

I support the project but not to the exclusion of the North South link by FEC, as far as we have learned Metro Rail is far too expensive and will not be viable for more then 10 years while we could commence implementing the Tri Rail option.

What are your views on expanding MetroRail along the East/West corridor from western Miami-Dade through the Airport to Downtown?

Metro Rail going to the airport is what we all thought it should be. It now goes somewhere that many users can enjoy that are not commuting to work.

Do you support a MetroRail Baylink connection?

Yes this should have been part of the 5 year plan at MPO 10 years ago. The Beach should have no fear of us.

Critics of Miami21 contend that the parking provisions of the code are excessively high, precluding the sort of neighborhood scale development that the code was meant to support. How would you work to lower the parking requirements of Miami21 so that the benefits of the code are realized?

I continue to support Miami21 and its present parking provisions. Changes to peoples habits is not a light switch - it takes time and we can not burden neighborhoods with people who will park wherever and whenever they can. This must be viewed as a process.

How will you ensure that upcoming mega developments, like the Genting Casino Resort, contribute to pedestrian friendly street frontage?

Through the review process and by ensuring the impact fees are used to create the walkable downtown that we all envision. This process - if Gen Teng commences building - will allow us the opportunity to create not only an east west corridor but a north south connection to BicentennialPark. The Gen Teng process is very amorphous and will present many opportunities for walkability.

The Transit Miami led coalition to improve pedestrian and cyclist conditions on Brickell led to the temporary lowering of the speed limit by the Florida Department of Transportation, but only a change in the design of the street toward a true pedestrian boulevard will impact driving habits. TM sent the FDOT a list of over 20 missing crosswalks and recommendations for travel lanes that will encourage lower travel speeds, which have been ignored to date. Will you join our coalition and fight with us to ensure that Brickell is reconstructed with narrowed lanes, permanently reduced speeds, and more abundant crosswalks?

There is a plan in place for 19 cross walks that we are finalizing with FDOT. The cross walks will be raised to create friction and naturally slow drivers down. We have lowered the speed limit on the residential part of Brickell to 30 MPH with FDOT to review and determine if it goes to 35 MPH (it was 40 MPH). We have written more than 5200 traffic enforcement tickets on Brickell to slow traffic ….so it’s working.

In the ongoing planning for the I395 reconstruction, the Florida Department of Transportation is pushing an elevated highway through Overtown that will dwarf the existing expressway that decimated the once vibrant Overtown community. Other alternatives include a tunnel option that will open up over 40 acres of prime downtown land, as well as an at grade boulevard option. Which alternative would you support as District 2 commissioner?

The second one however FDOT is not listening to local in put into this project. I suspect they are hell bent on the raised highway project a misuse of its power and money.

Share

I happened to be looking at the transit reports the other day and I noticed that the Metromover had its best month ever this past March (2011).   I might be wrong, but I went pretty far back and found no other month above the 848,970 recorded this past March.

The Metrorail as well had one of its best months ever at 1,673,175.

You can find the reports at: http://www.miamidade.gov/transit/news_technical_reports.asp

 

Share
Tagged with:
 

I have done my fair share of traveling around the world, and one thing I have noticed about great cities is the use of wide and beautiful boulevards, pedestrian malls, and public spaces.  Unfortunately though, while Downtown Miami would like to claim world class status, the public realm is far behind the reality on the ground.

Downtown Miami is currently awash in Heat mania, but no matter how many Lebron’s, Bosh’s, or Wade’s Miami brings down, the reality is right there on the ground. Dangerous streets, few public spaces, autocentric design, missing crosswalks, yawning parking lots, and the list goes on. Unfortunately Miami likes to dwell in its own hype a bit too much.

Biscayne Boulevard, the front porch of Miami, is a giant parking lot.  With speeding vehicles on 4 lane streets in each direction, an ocean of surface lots, and enough concrete to fill a river.  With Flagler Street, what should be the equivalent to Lincoln Road on this side of Biscayne Bay, officials have been too shy to close the street and create a real attraction worthy of the beautiful South Florida weather.  Instead, they have relegated it to a clogged and polluted street, not worthy of the historic character it’s architecture and name carries. As Morris Lapidus, the brains behind Lincoln Road once said: “A car never bought anything” – and boy was he right.

In Brickell, the story is much the same.  Brickell Avenue and its massive intersections are uncomfortable and dangerous, a far cry from the world class status officials always describe it as. It is quite ridiculous (and embarrassing) that crosswalks are 3 or 4 blocks apart and one has to see business professionals jaywalking and trudging through bushes along medians in the dense and urban Banking District of Miami.  Luckily though, Brickell Avenue is getting a little love after much activism.

My travels have shown me that great cities are built from the public realm up – not by millionaire basketball players and the wealthy fans that visit them. It’s amazing how much weight the city has given to the Miami Heat. One day these players will be gone, and what will we have? The same dangerous, ugly, and unwalkable streets we had before.  Great cities are built to benefit the generations to come – not to dwell in the hype of the temporary present, but to look into the future.

In Barcelona, you have Las Ramblas, a spectacular pedestrian boulevard comparable to Biscayne Blvd or Brickell Ave in size.  In Rome, the Coliseum was closed off to vehicular traffic and transformed into a magnificent public space many decades ago.  The story is much the same throughout most of the great cities of Europe, Asia, and South America.  From Istanbul to Tokyo or Columbia to Mexico, the facts are on the ground – beautiful and majestic public thoroughfares and spaces are important components of any world class city.  Great cities create a great quality of life, and this attracts talented people, culture, arts, businesses, and tourists.

Even Miami Beach has shown greater sensibility to the positive impacts of pedestrianization (as I would like to call it).  Lincoln Road is arguably one of the most successful pedestrian malls in the United States (sales per square foot).  If this isn’t a sign of what should happen in downtown Miami, I do not know what is.  Ocean Drive as well is a spectacular mixture of architecture, humanity, and nature.  A marvelous place to people watch.

Mexico City, a “third world” city, has shown an amazing ability to integrate wonderful public spaces, promenades, and pedestrians malls into the chaotic city of 25 million people.

Paseo de La Reforma, a street not unlike Biscayne Boulevard and Brickell Avenue in terms of density and traffic, boasts a wonderful promenade along the median covered with beautiful flowers and foliage.   It also has something that most major cities have and downtown Miami lacks, many (and consistent) crosswalks.

 

Paseo de La Reforma in Mexico City

Paseo de La Reforma in Mexico City

Crosswalk on Paseo de La Reforma in Mexico City

Crosswalk on Paseo de La Reforma in Mexico City

Horacio Street in Mexico is another beautiful example, located in the densely populated neighborhood of Polanco.  The street boasts a wide and beautiful median, with occasional fountains, parks, flower stands, and roundabouts.  Amazingly, their are no traffic lights on Horacio Street and during my time here, I have felt perfectly safe.   Why?  Because the speed limit is no more than 15 miles an hour, creating a calm and pleasant environment along the entire street for both cars and pedestrians.  In many ways  Horacio is more than a street, rather, it is a long linear park covering more than three dozen blocks.

Horacio Street in Mexico City

Horacio Street in Mexico City

Horacio Street in Mexico

Horacio Street in Mexico

Even in the “Centro” of Mexico, which is the chaotic and historic downtown, officials have begun making improvements towards the pedestrian realm that other great cities have made.  Francisco I Madero St, which leads into the Zocalo (the second largest public square in the world), is currently being converted into a pedestrian mall.  Other neighborhoods throughout the city have also transformed various streets into pedestrian malls and today they are FULL of people enjoying the city.

New Pedestrian Mall on Francisco I Madero St in downtown Mexico

New Pedestrian Mall on Francisco I Madero St in downtown Mexico under construction.

 

If the City of Miami truly wants to make downtown Miami a destination, they need to get past the hype and the Miami Heat, and realize that great cities are created from great public spaces.  And not just one for that matter, but rather, an integrated network of connected public spaces and thoroughfares.

They could easily start by converting the parking lots on Biscayne Blvd into a pedestrian promenade worthy of the location it has.  Biscayne in downtown Miami as it stands now is a pedestrians worst nightmare.  Missing crosswalks, massive streets with speeding cars, 8-10 blocks of concrete lots, and more.  It truly is ridiculous when the entire (beatiful) waterfront of downtown Miami and its attractions are isolated from the city by 150+ feet of roadways and surface lots - one can count the crosswalks across the entire waterfront of downtown with one hand.

Parking could easily be replaced in one (yes one) parking garage (perhaps even underground). Street parking could also be used along the blocks, to buffer the traffic from the promenade, but also to make up some of the lost parking – thereby reducing the speed down Biscayne Blvd through design.  Imagine a linear park and slower traffic complementing the beautiful skyscrapers, parks, and attractions already there.  One could easily argue that this could become one the most beautiful places in the city.

In Brickell, the redesign of Brickell Avenue needs to take into account the drastic density increase over the last (and next) few years and create a more pleasant landscape for residents and tourists.  One crosswalk every three or four blocks is absolutely ridiculous, so is the current speed limit, and massive intersections.  Again, luckily (and after much activism) some of this is being taken into consideration during the current redesign of Brickell Avenue.  Nevertheless, enough is not being done.

Another great improvement would be the transformation of historic Flagler Street into a pedestrian mall.  With historic architecture, cheap rents, great public transportations, and a fabulous location, Flagler has the potential to become one of downtown’s most popular attractions.  I have often heard the argument that Flagler cannot be transformed because there are no alleys behind the buildings for the service trucks.  This is true rubbish.  Many pedestrian malls around the world allow service vehicles (and only service vehicles) to drive through at very slow speeds (5 mph).  Just because the occasional service vehicle needs to come in, it does not mean we should relegate Flagler to ugly and undeserving conditions it faces today.  Cross streets could also be used as staging ground for delivery trucks and such.

It is truly a shame that the City of Miami does not see the large tourist potential of downtown Miami.  Miami has unbelievable weather that makes a well designed outdoor space a “hot” commodity.  Miami Beach understood this many years ago, and now it is arguably one of the coolest urban environments in the Unites States.

The unbelievable development that occurred over the last few years is just the beginning of a transformation that will happen over the next few decades. With millions of tourists descending on Miami Beach every year, the City of Miami should take care to create the type of environment travelers have come to expect - it wouldn’t be hard to pull some of those tourists to this side of the bay.  In fact, some have already started crossing over, as is evident by the growing numbers of tourists on the streets of downtown and Brickell.  Nevertheless, more must be done if we expect the to come back in greater numbers.

The private realm has done its part in the last few years to bring masses to downtown Miami, the city and the state nevertheless, have done very little to adjust the streets and public spaces that must accompany the massive redevelopment of the last few years.

The City of Miami must take ownership over Biscayne Blvd and Brickell Avenue, and force the Florida Department of Transportation to listen to the needs of residents, businesses owners, and city officials.  I am tired of local and state officials “passing the buck”.  They must take Flagler Street and create an attraction from the most historic street in South Florida.  Brickell Ave, Biscayne Blvd, and surrounding streets must accommodate and integrate with the urban setting they inhabit.  The city must create a cohesive pedestrian environment throughout the entire downtown area and beyond.  The current fractioned landscape is a far cry from what is needed.

I will not accept the argument that the City of Miami is a world class city when the facts on the ground say something very different.  Don’t believe the hype!

Share

Tagged with:
 

A special thanks to the Adrianne Arsht Center for organizing the first annual Fall for the Arts festival.  After today’s success this event will now become a yearly occurrence meant to kick-off the the season for Miami’s burgeoning arts scene. Downtown Miami came alive today as thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds showed up for this free concert.  Ozomatli rocked the Magic City and several other bands had everyone dancing and in good spirits. Events like this are great for our city and really bring our diverse community together. Over 100 community groups and cultural organizations participated to make this event an overwhelming success.

We would also like to thank the Green Mobility Network for providing a much needed free bicycle valet service. It was very much appreciated.

Perhaps next year we could coordinate this event with Bike Miami Days?  Just throwing it out there…

Share

Many of our readers have suggested that Flagler Street in Downtown Miami should be converted into a pedestrian mall. There are many arguments for and against such a move. During the 70’s and 80’s many cities in the United States tried to convert a portion of their central business district to a pedestrian only mall. Unfortunately, most of these projects failed for different reasons. One of the biggest reasons, I believe, is that Americans were leaving the city in droves to seek the suburban American dream. Although many cities had good intentions and vision, their timing could not have possibly been any worse. A perfect storm for pedestrian mall failure had already been set in motion by the suburbanization of America.

Today we find the suburbanization trend reversing itself.  People are now choosing to live a more urban lifestyle, tired of long commutes and expensive gas, urbanization is now creating conditions to potentially develop successful pedestrian malls.

Last year I created a Flagler Street Transit Mall presentation for an Urban Revitalization Strategies class. My proposal was to develop a transit mall similar to the 16th Street Mall in Denver.  The proposed Flagler Street Transit Mall would only allow buses to drive up and down Flagler Street with 5 minute intervals between buses. All other motor vehicles would be prohibited from using Flagler Street with the exception of delivery and emergency vehicles. All current on street parking would be removed and the sidewalks would be widened.

A good first step would be to temporary close Flagler Street to motor vehicles during a one week period before Christmas. This short experiment would give the Miami DDA, local businesses, and residents a feel for what could become of historic Downtown Miami.

Do you think Flagler Street could use some sort of pedestrianized mall or do you think it’s just fine as is?  Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments section.

Share

Last night my wife and I took the Metromover from the 10th Street Station in Brickell to the Omni Station to check out Mama Mia at the Adrienne Arshet Center. As is usually the case when we ride the Metromover, we had to help several people make sense of the Metromover.

Transit needs to be user-friendly in order for it to work well.  Unfortunately we make it difficult on ourselves when we can’t keep the Metromover maps consistent. The maps at Metromover stations are clearly marked with 3 distinct colors (blue, orange, pink); each color distinguishes the three different routes (Omni, Brickell, and Inner loop).

Metromover station maps are clearly marked with 3 distinct colors (blue, orange, pink) for each route

However, once you enter the Metromover car the colors of the map change completely. The easily distinguishable blue, orange, and pink routes become less discernible shades of grayish/blue. I can’t think of a good reason why we have two different maps; we need to have one easily understood map, not two.

 Maps in the Metromover cars are use different colors; the grayish/blue colors that are less discernable for the transit user.

Maps in the Metromover cars use different colors than station maps; the grayish/blue colors are less discernible for the transit user.

One of our readers, TM Reader, suggested identifying each of the Metromover cars more clearly too.  I’d like to take this good idea a step further. The Metromover cars should be painted blue, orange, or pink to reflect the color of each route.  This would make transit easy to use.

Share
Tagged with:
 

Streetsblog is reporting that over the past decade London has been reducing speed limits from 30 mph to 20 mph throughout the city.  Today London has over four hundred 20 mph zones. As s result, Londoners have benefited from a 46% decline in fatalities and serious injury within the 20 mph zones during the past decade according to British Medical Journal.

A 2008 map of London's 20mph zones. Image: London Assembly.

The high speed limits within our densest population pockets discourage people from walking or riding a bicycle. Brickell Avenue has a 35 mph speed limit and Biscayne Blvd. has a 30 mph speed limit. However, the design speed of both of these roads often encourages drivers to travel at speeds of 40-45 mph.  The first step to making our roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians would be to reduce speed limits throughout Miami Dade County. The second step would be to introduce self-enforcing traffic calming measures such as: raised junctions, raised crosswalks, chicanes, road humps and roundabouts.

Source: peds.org/2009/01/

So what’s it gonna take for us to step up to 20 mph speed limits?  Can you imagine how much more livable our streets would be if speed limits were reduced on our city streets?  The results of the London experiment were so glaringly obvious after 4 years that in 2004 the World Health Organization endorsed 20 mph speeds as an essential strategy to save lives.

Share

Come check out this free concert which is sponsored by the Miami Downtown Development Authority. Bring a blanket, a  bottle of wine and that special someone.

Tagged with:
 

All downtown developers should be required to put up protective pedestrian scaffolding around their work site.  Most large downtown development projects usually take over the sidewalks and pedestrians are left to fend for themselves. This picture was taken on Brickell between 6th and 7th Street. Kudos to the developer for taking this precautionary step and ensuring the safety of pedestrians.  We should enact an ordinance that requires developers to make temporary provisions for pedestrians if the work site infringes upon the pedestrian’s right of way.

Share

Last night, after several bottles of wine the conversation turned to the Metromover. At the table were several colleagues from my office. We all have at the minimum college degrees, so I think it’s fair to assume that we are of at least average intelligence.   Dario, a Londoner, explained to me that the first time he rode the Metromover he ended up where he started from.  Issiac, a New Yorker, also got lost the first time he used it. He figured out something was very wrong after he passed the same building twice. Mind you, he has ridden the subway in New York his entire life and has never gotten lost!

Most every time I use the Metromover, I find a lost soul seeking directions.  Even as a veteran of the Metromover, I often have to study the map before getting on to ensure that I get off at the right transfer station.  Or I have to strategically think about which station I need to walk to in order to avoid riding the Metromover aimlessly.

I do like the Metromover, it works for me.  However, it is poorly designed. You need a Phd. in order not to get lost. Transit should not be complicated; the Metromover is. In order for transit to work efficiently, a first time user should have a clear understanding of how the system works right off the bat. So this got me thinking last night, maybe we need to abandon the Metromover?

However, before we abandon the Metromover, we need to replace it with a well thought-out streetcar. So what to do with the elevated infrastructure from the Metromover once it is replaced with a proper streetcar? Well, it should not be torn down. Instead we should consider converting it to an elevated bicycle path, a greenway in the middle of the city, much like the New York City High Line.  In many ways it would become a bicycle highway in the middle of our city. Imagine the possibilities. What do you think?

Share

Our little cold snap will last through the weekend, so keep those sweaters handy and head out to Bayfront Park with a bottle of red after work this Friday.

The DWNTWN Miami Concert Series Season 2 kicks off 2010 with a little Latin funk. PALO! takes the stage with their Latin sound and funk beats this Friday.  The group formed in 2003 as an improvised experiment to see how some classic Cuban music could mash up with the deep funk, beats and keyboard sounds found in the club scene. The result is a sort of magical, totally danceable, ‘Made in Miami’ sound that group leader Steve Rothstein calls Afro-Cuban-Funk.

January 8, 2010 @ 5:30pm
This is a fantastic free monthly event that is sponsored by the Miami DDA

Or for more information check out the facebook page

Map

Tagged with:
 

Over the past couple of weeks I have noticed electrical work being done on traffic lights and pedestrian crosswalk signals around the Brickell Area. Unfortunately, the contractors don’t seem to think that the pedestrian crosswalk signals are all that important.  Last week the pedestrian crosswalk signals on Brickell Ave. and SE 14th Street did not work for almost an entire week.  Two days ago they started working again.

The pedestrian crosswalk signals didn’t work for nearly a week at this busy crosswalk on Brickell Avenue and  SE14th Street.

The pedestrian crosswalk signals didn’t work for nearly a week at this busy crosswalk on Brickell Avenue and SE14th Street.

Today around 12:30pm I noticed contractors doing some work on the traffic lights on SE13th Street and South Miami Avenue. On my way back from work, at around 5:30pm, I noticed that all the pedestrian crosswalk signals at this intersection were not working.

Pedestrian crosswalk signal not working on SE13th Street and South Miami Avenue. South Side Elementary School is ½ a block away.

Pedestrian crosswalk signal not working on SE13th Street and South Miami Avenue. South Side Elementary School is ½ a block away.

Pedestrian crosswalk signal not working on SE13th Street and South Miami Avenue. South Side Elementary School is ½ a block away

Pedestrian crosswalk signal not working on SE13th Street and South Miami Avenue. South Side Elementary School is ½ a block away

At around 6:00pm I called 311 and reported the problem. The operator was very helpful and he told me that it could take up to 30 days to fix the problem, but that he would flag it as an emergency.

My fingers are crossed that the pedestrian crosswalk signals are working by tomorrow morning.  It just so happens that an elementary school sits about half a block away from this intersection.  I see a lot of parents with children crossing this already dangerous and poorly designed intersection every weekday morning.  I think that if we can keep our traffic lights working we can keep our pedestrian crosswalk signals working too.

I also think that the city could do a much better job of promoting the 311. Unless you are a Transit Miami reader you probably don’t know about it. Perhaps the city could start a public service announcement campaign by putting the 311 phone number somewhere above crosswalk buttons throughout Downtown and Brickell? This can be done very cheaply with something as simple as a sticker.

Share
Tagged with:
 

Yesterday I posted a blog regarding the lack of crosswalks in Downtown.  I took it upon myself during lunchtime today to count the number of pedestrians that crossed the street on SE 3rd Avenue and SE 1st St. were a crosswalk currently does not exist. If there was ever any doubt whether a crosswalk is needed, today’s results overwhelmingly favor pedestrian demand for a crosswalk. Within a 5 minute time span, 60 pedestrians crossed the street where there isn’t a crosswalk!  If a pedestrian were to get hit here, some would blame the jaywalker. I wouldn’t, I’d hold those that designed this intersection responsible.

SE 3rd Avenue and SE 1st Avenue. Intersection without a crosswalk.

SE 3rd Avenue and SE 1st St. Intersection without a crosswalk.

Share

FDOT just recently repaved a section of Biscayne Boulevard in Downtown.  I’m not sure why, but several major intersections were left without a pedestrian crosswalk. I really can’t think of a reason as to why FDOT did not take this opportunity to include 4 crosswalks at every intersection.  There is enough density and pedestrian activity to justify 4 crosswalks at every intersection.  Aside from helping pedestrians cross three lanes of fast moving traffic, crosswalks serve as traffic calming devices as well.

To make matters even worse, the intersection on Biscayne Blvd and NE 4th street had an existing crosswalk and crosswalk signal, but not anymore, FDOT decided to remove them. Check out the old crosswalk and signal right here: View Larger Map

Here are just a few examples of intersections without crosswalks:

Biscayne Blvd and NE 4th Street

Biscayne Blvd and NE 4th Street. Crosswalk and pedestrian signal were recently removed.

Biscayne Blvd and NE 1st St.

Biscayne Blvd and NE 1st St.

Biscayne Blvd. and SE 1st Street. This intersection is less than half a block away from a busy Metro Mover station.

Biscayne Blvd. and SE 1st Street. This intersection supports a busy Metro Mover station.

SE 3rd Avenue and SE 1st Avenue. Please notice the electric turn arrows, this only encourages cars to move faster through downtown.  I'm not sure if FDOT or the County PWD is reponsible for this intersection, but need a crosswalk and pedestrian signals.

SE 3rd Avenue and SE 1st St. Please notice the electric turn arrows, this only encourages cars to move faster through downtown. I'm not sure if FDOT or the County PWD is responsible for this intersection, but it needs a crosswalk and a pedestrian signal urgently.

Share