Archive for the 'Palm Beach' Category

When FDOT Transportation Funding = More Sprawl

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.

Mecca Farms = Mega Sprawl?

Remember the debacle which erupted in Palm Beach when attempting to identify a location for the massive Scripps Institute? Mecca Farms and Boca Raton were all suggested as alternative sites for the massive Bioresearch center, however in the end, a location in Jupiter near FAU’s campus was selected. In the end, here is why the Mecca Farms site fell apart:

The plan came to a halt two years later when a federal judge sided with environmentalists and ruled that the project’s potential environmental impacts hadn’t been adequately studied. Under deadline pressure, commissioners moved the Scripps Florida headquarters to a smaller, urban site at Florida Atlantic University’s MacArthur campus in Jupiter.

Somehow, the voice of reason prevails over absurd westward development, even if it was for a monumental institution; this project had absolutely no reason to pave over thousands of acres of farmland. Palm Beach County paid $60 million for the Mecca Farms complex and is now trying to figure out what to do with the rural designated land. Considering the reasons why the institution was blocked from building here, their “ideas” may surprise you:

More than four years after the county bought the 1,919-acre property with a sprawling Scripps Florida science campus in mind, commissioners are taking steps to usher in a new reality: suburban home development.

Suburban home development? How is this environmentally friendly? Well, it isn’t but they have some ideas which are actually worse:

County administrators want to use about 100 acres for a landfill, set aside land for water marshes and environmental improvements and package the rest for home builders.

Palm Beach County has the unique opportunity to conserve thousands of acres as farmland, able of producing enough goods to satisfy the needs of much of the South Florida area. This is a pristine opportunity to make our region sustainable, by actually producing food locally and Palm Beach County commissioners are looking to throw it away on yet another ridiculous sprawled out single family home compound. With oil recently reaching $100 a barrel, I am shocked to see still autocentric development mindset…

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…

Odds N Ends

  • Free Dunkin Donuts on Thursday if you participate in the Commuter Challenge Day by riding Tri-Rail…Or, you could just print this voucher and go to your nearest Dunkin Donuts, but I’d still recommend giving the train a try…
  • On that Note, with regards to Ryan’s Post on the absence of a regional farecard system, Larry Lebowitz, the transportation Guru at the Miami Herald, has informed me that MDT, BCT, Palm Tran, and the SFRTA are working together to implement such a system soon. Apparently the hold up is coming from the SFRTA. I’ll be working to obtain more information on the subject…
  • Great Ideas, now just agree to build the darn thing downtown…

Rail Transit along the Beeline, Further Congestion on 595

While plans move forward to expand I-595 in Broward, Palm Beach and Martin County commissioners are working on a plan to bring east-west Tri-rail service along the beeline expressway. The commissioners hope to one day use the existing CSX rail tracks to link research and biomedical facilities in the works in both counties. Unlike their Broward counterparts, these commissioners see the financial advantage of not widening roads and instead using our money wisely:

“Koons estimated that widening the road to accommodate development could cost $1 billion…”

“Many of those developments are running into traffic concerns because parts of SR 710 are getting congested. Future development could be prohibited if the highway isn’t widened. Using commuter rail could reduce the need for widening, Koons said, and help solve affordable housing problems.

“You can afford more housing if you have to spend less on transit,” he said.”

Nice to know someone sees it…

Looking North for Some Obvious Answers

Perhaps Miami should look north for some answers on how to regulate our urban sprawl. Central Florida community leaders are presenting 4 alternatives on the future growth patterns the area can choose to take for regional developments and are allowing area residents to choose which path the region should take from now till 2050. I think its exceptional thinking on the part of city planners to choose a plan of action for regional growth over the next 40 years while educating the public on the negative effects sprawl will have on their community if the corrective measures aren’t taken. The report is inclusive of urban growth and development patterns, environmental land conservation, area job opportunities, and public transportation. The plan proposes three better urban growth alternatives along with the typical “do-nothing” alternative which would continue the treacherous path of disruptive land use. Needless to say, the citizens are speaking out and are overwhelmingly deciding that the “do-nothing” alternative is not a reasonable plan of action and are instead opting to see denser, smarter developments in their community. Interestingly enough, the seemingly controversial streetcar is included in denser growth patterns, as is extended commuter rail and alternative transit (bike, bus, etc.)

Our region is in dire need of an area wide policy against current land usage patterns. Our neighbors to the north have realized this, why can’t we?

I found this on the myregion.org website, which has a wealth of information. One of their desired outcomes is something I have had a great deal of difficulty achieving with Miami residents since I started Transit Miami nearly a year ago:

Our Desired Outcomes:

  • Build a new regional mentality
  • Strengthen and create regional coalitions
  • Maximize opportunities and address challenges

Changing people’s minds will be the hardest objective for any visionary plan in this Country. The already disillusioned “American Dream” has morphed into an uncanny desire to lay claim to large tracts of land, repeatedly misuse resources, and generally live in an unsustainable manner. To attempt a reversal of this mindset would require a figurative amending of the constitution as well as widespread progressive leadership to reverse the suburbanization of American Culture witnessed over the prior six decades…

  • Heck, they even address the fragmentation which has occurred in the region…
  • Check out who is on board

A Lack of Unity…

Last week’s heat victory parade was not only an excellent celebration through the streets of Miami, but it was also a great opportunity for thousands of people to use public transportation to get downtown. Although I personally know several people who drove downtown (shame on you!) record numbers of people used tri-rail and metrorail. Tri-rail itself hit a new peak, with over 18,000 riders on Friday, the most in its 17 year history.


Here’s a touchy subject. Now, no offense to my Broward and Palm Beach readers, but I’m glad there was only one Heat parade, in Miami and here’s why: I’m sick of the “self-imposed segregation” we currently see in the Tri-county, Greater Miami Region. It’s a constant competition against each other, even for a victory ticker-tape parade which is supposed to unify the community not isolate the two regions. If the Mavericks had won the championship, they weren’t going to hold separate parades in Dallas and Ft. Worth, even though the two cities are also only separated by 30 miles. The Greater Miami region (a.k.a. South Florida) needs to come up with its own unified identity, quickly. Heck, our three airports and four seaports are constantly battling each other for no reason; why not unify them to compete with global markets rather than local ones. I understand the importance of every community having its own personal identity, but, we need to look at the bigger picture of what will benefit our region as a whole in the long-run. In the end, a parade up in Ft. Lauderdale would have been as smart as another one down in homestead, if not equidistant…

In the News…

  • Palm Beach is already reaping the benefits of the new Scripps Research Institute, the Burt Reynolds Museum is going elsewhere. Question: Why the hell is there a Burt Reynolds Museum to begin with?
  • Miami-Dade County has compiled a wonderful list of land that is suitable not suitable for affordable housing, they titled it very appropriately: “The Miami-Dade County Affordable Housing List.” Um, Whoops. And we all wondered why there aren’t enough new affordable housing units rising…
  • We need another strip shopping center like we need a hole in our heads. This one is being built by Ft. Lauderdale’s Paradise Development Group, which seems to build anything but projects you’d find in paradise. It’s Mediterranean-style! I wet myself in excitement!
  • After a trip to the finals, you’d think Micky Arrison and Co. would be rolling around in dough. Apparently the heat will be lucky if they break even…