Archive for the 'New York' Category

Paley Park in Miami?

Great news, Miami — we’re getting an old gem of a park back in the heart of downtown! That’s right, the former Paul Walker Park, which was hairbrainishly allowed to be taken over by a restaurant back in the 90’s, will be completely transformed into a 4,200 square ft. pocket park at 46 W. Flagler St (W. Flagler & NW Miami Ct).

The park will be designed as a passive open space for downtown workers or other residents to enjoy a moment of relaxation while in the area. According to Commissioner Sarnoff, who has championed this project both vocally and with special commission financing, the park will resemble Paley Park in Manhattan, which is a lovely pocket park lauded by William Whyte in the Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. It is set to have a waterfall, walkways, picnic tables, and seating areas, potentially with a wireless hot spot on sight.

The park project will be funded by the Miami Downtown Development Authority and money from Commissioner Sarnoff’s “quality of life” bond. According to Capital Improvement Projects director Ola Aluko, construction on the park could begin as early as this March.

Miami-Dade’s Future: Choose Your Own Adventure

If you picked up the Herald this morning, there’s a good chance you read this article.

I think my jaw literally hit the floor when I read it. It appears the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority is using the Reason Foundation and their misguided, obsolete, and flawed road-based transportation planning schemes to “craft a vision” for 30-year expansion of MDX expressways. For the vast majority of urban planners, particularly those with any understanding of best practice in growth management, transportation planning, and sustainability, this little “road party” is laughable. It’s almost like a bunch of insurance agents, smokers, and Big Tobacco lobbyists in a room together trying to envision a future of less lung disease without any real doctors present in the room. If this is what politics and planning have come to in Miami-Dade County, I see little hope for an improved, sustainable future.

Oh yeah, and $8 billion dollars? Everyone is always talking about how hard it is to fund transit projects, especially with the deplorable amount of federal aid and massive national demand. Yet it’s funny how it always seems like billions are quickly and easily available for the (road) projects that make the least sense. Eight billion would certainly go along way toward improving transit in the county. Instead, it seems like those in power are either still living in the “the vacuum” themselves, completely oblivious to consensus best practice planning and sustainability, or they’re sprawl industry insiders/backers, or they’re NIMBYs in power suits…or perhaps a combination of all three.

So, while Miami-Dade wastes its time snuggling up with the Reason Foundation and all but ensuring a self-fulfilling prophecy of congestion, pollution and sprawl into perpetuity, New York has recently hired international urban planner extraordinaire Jan Gehl as a consultant. This is a man who is primarily responsible for turning Copenhagen around from a congested, auto-centric city into one of the world’s most livable, pedestrian-oriented, and bike-friendly cities — in just 40 years. In just a short period of time since being hired by the City, plans have already been unveiled for NYC’s first Euro-style physically separated bike lane right on a busy avenue in Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg is touring Europe as of this moment discussing environmentally-friendly solutions to urban traffic, such as Paris’ Velib bike-sharing program and London’s Congestion Pricing.

It’s simple — Miami-Dade can easily choose this path and begin to move in a new and vastly improved direction. However, if we continue down the current path, it will soon be too late.

* Correction: The original posting wrongly mentioned the MPO instead of MDX as the conductor of the 30-year road plan. However, the MDX 30-year road plan will be submitted to the MPO for inclusion in the 2035 Long-Range Plan.

Photo courtesy of http://www.pritchettcartoons.com

MDT Transit Pass Conundrum

Transit Miami reader/contributor Dave sent me an excellent price comparison he composed on the cost of transit:
Listed are the comparable monthly passes (basic all purpose pass for busses, trains and transfers) and what the single cash fare would be for one trip. The number of trips listed is how many trips you would have to make in a month for the pass to be worth while for simple round trips.

Miami monthly metropass: $75, single fare $1.50 (50 trips)
Boston monthly metropass: $59, single fare $2 (29.5 trips)
New York monthly metropass: $76, single fare $2 (38 trips)
Chicago monthly metropass: $75, single fare $2 (37.5 trips)
San Francisco (Muni&some Bart stations) metropass: $45, single fare $1.50 (30 trips)

Maybe its because Miami-Dade’s transit thinks we need to pay more than other cities for our monthly pass because we use the transit system so much more often than these other cities do (sarcasm)?

Blog Update

I’ve spent the better part of the past 5 days traveling throughout New York and Canada, articles will reappear later today as soon I as I recover… Here is a view of one of my recent traveling delays at JFK. We taxied in line of jets for an hour, waiting for 40 planes to take off before we were given the go ahead. Looking back, these were just a fraction of the planes waiting behind:
On the plus side, I did eventually get a pretty nice aerial view of Manhattan:

Extreme Urban Cycling

The video above shows a bunch of New York’s infamous bike messengers racing through the streets of Manhattan, no holds barred. In no way am I advocating cycling like this in Miami (or any city for that matter), and in no way do I consider this safe or sane. I don’t even condone their often hostile actions toward pedestrians. However, it does show just how fast you can get through a city on a bike - oh yeah and it’s entertaining, too.

Note: Fast Forward to the 45 second mark for the beginning of the race.

What the Heck is a Green City, Anyway?

Judging by qualitative experience and from comments on this blog and in other local print media, it seems there is some confusion about what it really means to be a “Green City”. Frankly, when people who claim to be pro-green are still referring to Mayor Diaz as “Concrete Manny” with derogatory undertones, it means many of us still don’t get it. Today I was going to wax on about the counter-intuitive nature of the Green City, but instead I strongly recommend reading an essay written in the New Yorker a couple of years ago that does an outstanding job explaining why New York is actually the greenest city in the U.S. Click here to download it.

top photo courtesy of Scott Foy’s Flickr account

The Future of Biking in Miami

What is taking Miami so long to embrace bicycle-oriented policies? Given the area’s fantastic year-round weather, terrible traffic congestion, underdeveloped mass transit, and fairly dense urban core (i.e. Miami proper, Miami Beach, downtown Gables), one would think Miami would be at the forefront of developing bicycle-oriented infrastructure. This certainly hasn’t been the case, however. As of this day, there are only a handful of bicycle lanes in all of Miami-Dade County, and they are located primarily in the suburbs of Coral Gables and Key Biscayne.
Mayor Diaz’s Green initiatives provide an excellent foundation for sustainability in Miami, I find that a bicycle-boosting initiative is conspicuously missing. If you google “Miami” and “bike”, you’ll sadly get more results for bike-related activities in Ohio’s Miami Valley then in America’s southernmost metropolis. Doing some quick research, the only mention of bicycle projects was at the MPO’s website. However, there are only a very small number of bike projects being considered, and all of them are either fragmented suburban routes or recreational trails. It appears there is very little direction or leadership for improved bicycle policy in Miami. Meanwhile, many cities across the county and around the world are pedaling full speed ahead (pun intended) with their own initiatives to promote bicycling as a popular, sustainable, safe, and effective means of transportation.

  • New York, NY: An elaborate city website exhibits all the bike information you could ever need, including maps. The City already has several hundred miles of bike lanes cris-crossing all five boroughs, yet plans to implement another 900 lane miles of bike lanes and greenways. NYC even has a bicycle master plan, which, if I am not mistaken, is completely foreign to any municipal body in Miami-Dade.
  • Louisville, Kentucky: The City is in the process of implementing a citywide system of bike lanes and paths. Mayor Jeffrey Abramson, who keynoted the 2007 National Bike Summit in Washington, has adopted a “complete streets” policy that requires bike lanes as apart of all major road improvements.
  • Seattle, Washington: Creating safer cycling conditions is the City’s top priority. The City is about to implement its own Bicycle Master Plan, a 10-year strategy to create 200+ miles of bike lanes citywide.
  • Portland, Oregon: A national leader in urban bicycle policy, the City’s fantastic website has extensive biking information. Everything from maps, guides, and brochures - it’s on the website.
  • Copenhagen, Denmark: Perhaps the most bicycle-friendly city on Earth, 32% of residents bike to work. This is despite being a city with a climate that is cool, wet, and dreary for much of the year - the antithesis of Miami (so much for all those lame weather excuses Miamians use to drive everywhere). So 32% of residents bike to work…fantastic, right? Not good enough for Copenhagen. The City has set a goal to increase this percentage to 40%.
Photo courtesy of Flickr account: vj_pdx