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We often hear that Miami is becoming a world-class city, but the sad truth is that Magic City is quickly becoming the country’s first gated city. What’s even worse is our elected officials are championing and using public funds to build walls and fences along the public right-of way, reducing mobility options for the general public and dividing communities in a futile attempt to reduce crime.  This type of reactive urban planning is being used by elected officials to appease their constituents, but the truth is there is no evidence that gated communities are any safer than non-gated communities.

Meanwhile, Miami has one of lowest police–to-residents ratios of any major city in the United States.  I’ve lost count, but we’ve had at least 2 or 3 police chiefs in the last four years.  The city has failed to provide enough officers to patrol the streets of Miami and now the city is scrambling to add 33 officers to the police force this year.

A few years ago, the city coughed up about $1,700,000 to build a wall for the Coral Gate community.  Here are the pictures of our elected officials celebrating their ugly tax-payer funded wall.  What’s even worse is that these pictures are posted on the city of Miami’s website as if this is something to be proud of; it’s not. Quite frankly, it is an embarrassment. A world-class city should not support gated communities, much less pay for them.

Sorry fellas, but celebrating a wall that divides communities and reduces mobility options is nothing to be proud of.

Sorry fellas, but celebrating a wall that divides communities and reduces mobility options is nothing to be proud of. Especially when the city foots the bill.

About 6 months ago Commissioner Sarnoff ponied up another $50,000 for Belle Meade to build a fence. See for yourselves how ridiculous and infective this fence is:

Now Morningside residents are considering a fence around the perimeter of their neighborhood as well. No word yet if the city will pay for Morningside’s fence too.

No elected official should be proud of this piecemeal ineffective urban planning strategy.  Quite the contrary, the city should not even allow walls or fences to be built.  I’m not sure why the city’s Planning Department allows this to happen.

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Ladies and Gentlemen- Let’s get Ready to Rumble!

It’s the fight of the century. David vs. Goliath

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Legion Park

6447 NE 7th Ave
Miami, FL 33138

I have a feeling we may see a couple of Superfly Snukas from Upper EastSide residents and businesses at this event. FDOT better come prepared.

 

We received this  letter last week which was addressed to City Commissioner Sarnoff, County Commissioner Barreiro and FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego. You can also send an email to them by clicking here.

Dear Commissioners Sarnoff and Barreiro and Mr. Pego,

I am writing to you this morning regarding a matter that is very troubling to me and one that I hope you will consider as part of your agenda: PEDESTRIANS IN THE URBAN CORE. As you are well aware, Miami is trying to become an urban city where people live, work and play- like Chicago or New York. In so doing, it needs to be an urban center that is thoughtfully planned so people can walk safely any time of the day or night. We should be able to walk our dogs, go to the market, or take a stroll to dinner. When you live in an urban core, like Brickell, where my family lives, you cannot be expected to take your car out for every little errand or just to go a few blocks. However, being that walking in the Brickell area is so difficult and dangerous to navigate, I feel like I must do so-compounding the traffic problem and the pedestrian problem. I am sure you agree that we need to make our urban center a place where all can feel safe to walk the streets. However, this is not the case at this point in time. Since I moved to Brickell I have been dismayed at the lack of attention and care given to pedestrians by drivers, construction workers, and city planners. 

Walking from Brickell to Downtown. The other day I was walking to downtown from Brickell where we live. A group of us crossed the bridge, then were challenged to cross the street using two cross walks where cars dart at you around the curve where Brickell becomes Biscayne. We need better signals for pedestrians there. A cross walk is not enough; we need bright lights that signal when a pedestrian needs to cross (like is found in front of the FRESH MARKET in Coconut Grove on S Bayshore Drive). Even though we have the walk signal, cars still feel they can turn right on red without stopping. I have observed people run across that cross walk because cars were coming at them so quickly. Then as you continue to walk on 2nd ave and (a) there is no side walk because of construction of the Whole Foods-we actually had to walk on the street between downtown distributor and SE 2nd Street, and (b) there is no cross walk at the intersection of 2nd ave and SE 2nd Street!!! You literally run for it so you don’t get hit by a car. Enough is enough! This is one example of many. I invite you to walk along Brickell Ave and see how challenging it is to walk in a straight line (like you do in NY or Chicago) and feel safe, without having to navigate barricades and other obstacles in what is really an obstacle course.Transitmiami.com has done a wonderful job of highlighting what they called the Brickell “deathwalk” : http://www.transitmiami.com/category/places/miami/brickel    

With the taxes we pay to live in the Brickell area, we must have the pedestrian walkways we deserve and have paid for-ones that you would want your grandmother or children to walk down. We need representatives like you to stand up for us and think creatively about ways we can emulate cities like Chicago, where I previously lived and always felt safe as a pedestrian. As the Brickell area becomes more populated with CitiCenter and other developments, this will become more and more of a   moral imperative.  People are getting hurt and people’s lives are at stake here. As citizens and taxpayers, we should be able to walk the streets-elderly, children, groups, etc- without fear of tripping on obstacles or being hit by a car. This is a very serious matter or moral proportions that deserves your immediate attention.I will be forwarding this email to Felipe Azenha of Transit Miami.com and will also bring up the issue at the board meeting of Icon Brickell.I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to hearing about the ways you can alleviate this dangerous problem.

Sincerely,

Carlos Abril

 

TransitMiami can’t help but give a great neighborhood bar, The DRB, some unsolicited praise for its ingenious selection of an otherwise neglected downtown office building for its new location.

By choosing to site its new bar in the part of downtown dominated by boring institutional land-uses, The DRB chose to bring some vibrancy and character to an otherwise lifeless part of downtown. The very phrase itself — “lifeless part of downtown” — is an unfortunate contradiction, an oxymoron of a poorly planned urban milieu.

The building in question — situated on NE 5th Street and 1st Ave. — is surrounded almost exclusively by  institutional land-uses (occupied by, e.g., federal courthouses, a community college, a church, etc.) and lots of shamefully vacant and/or completely undeveloped, prime-for-mixed-use-development downtown parcels.

When New Urbanists and other community design-oriented folks refer to the evils of homogeneous land-use configurations, the image most typically invoked is that of miles upon miles of single-family residential land-use. Indeed, monolithic residential land-use embodies the notion of ‘urban sprawl’.

Elected officials, planners, and developers must also recognize, though, that large areas of homogeneous institutional land-use in the downtown core is at least as toxic (if not more so) for our city as sprawling single-family cookie-cutter houses along the periphery.

We need more transit-oriented development (TOD) in Miami’s de facto government-institution district. That area already has a great combination of Metrorail, Metromover, and Metrobus access. We must augment this healthy transportation configuration with a healthier land-use configuration.

And we must certainly continue to push our elected officials to expand the public transit network. However, we must also push them to better incentivize more commercial in-fill near the highly viable sections of public transit we already have, especially in downtown. It’s the hustle and bustle of downtown that build’s a city’s personality.

Kudos to you, Democratic Republic of Beer, for selecting a site so wonderfully accessible by transit, foot, and bicycle. Now all those bureaucrats and college students have a nice neighborhood spot in which to enjoy one of your exotic specialty brews from one of the corners of the globe.

(This author recommends the Sri Lankan Lion Stout.)

Transit Miami friend, Bricen, sent us the following email:

As a mother of 2 young children that needs to be heard, I look to you Transit Miami for help.  We live in a quaint neighborhood right smack dab in the middle of US1 and Tigertail Ave.  When you are here roaming the residential streets of the North Grove you don’t even feel as if you are surrounded by the bustle of an urban city.  Living here we are very blessed to have Marjory Stoneman Douglas Mini Park in our backdoor.  The park is a Miami Dade public park (playground really) that is frequented by many.  There are kids EVERYWHERE in this hood.  Enter 22nd Ave connecting US1 and Tigertail Ave.  You would think this small strip of street was part of the Indy 500.  Crossing 22nd Ave to enter the park has become a very scary game of red rover red rover.  There is a ancient stop for pedestrian in crosswalk sign that NO ONE sees or much less pays any attention.  In the 8 months that we have been living here, we have been to the park nearly everyday, sometimes twice a day.  On two occasions, yes TWICE, have I had a car actually stop to let me cross with the kids.  The real fat kicker:  BOTH of these times that we were waved across, here comes maniac driver PUNCHING the gas to quickly go around the stopped car letting us cross!  Hello SCREAMS, FREAK OUT, FREEZ IN SHOES WHICH WAY DO I PULL THE WAGON, SLAM ON BREAKS, KIDS CRYING, WE ALMOST DIED moment.  What the heck is wrong with people.  Seriously.  Long gone are the days when people actually pause, enjoy the scenery, and just wait.  Wait for a mother, father or nanny with kids, babies and strollers to safely cross the road.  Just last week someone stopped to let a nanny and baby by and that act of goodness ended in a 3 car accident!  God forbid a child actually escape the arms of a caretaker and run right out into this death trap. It is something very scary that we encounter daily.  Please City of Miami  a speed hump or two is all we ask for.  If you could throw in a flashing yellow cross light that would be icing but come on, this is a neighborhood, these are our kids, and probably up to 30 kids that reside here walk to that park daily. The 22nd Ave crosswalk is somebody’s nightmare waiting to happen.  I pray to God every single day that it’s not mine.

 

Although the City of Miami owns this road, we are being told by Transit Miami sources within the city that any time the city adds signs, pavement markings or change to traffic patterns they must get approval from the County.  The reindeer games between the County and the City needs to come to an end.  The County and the City must to do what is right for the all the residents. You can send City Commissioner Sarnoff and County Commissioner Xavier Suarez an email by clicking here.

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A few weeks ago we wrote about the abysmal pedestrian conditions along SE 1st Avenue.  We met with William Plasencia from Commissioner Sarnoff’s office after we posted this article and he promised us that the Commish would respond. Well it looks like Commissioner Sarnoff has delivered some small improvements.

Inexpensive, but effective traffic calming.

Just this past weekend I saw these “Yield to Pedestrian” signs in the middle of the road along SE 1st Avenue. The impact of these signs can be felt immediately.  On Saturday I witnessed dozens of cars moving more slowly along this street and drivers even stopped for pedestrians in the crosswalks. This is a perfect example of inexpensive traffic calming, that can be easily implemented and will save lives.

This is a big first step, but there is plenty of work yet to be done on this street. There should be crosswalks at every intersection of this road.  There are still intersections where the crosswalks are non-existent.  We’ll give Commissioner Sarnoff a solid “C+” for effort and a Transit Miami Shout-Out. Well done Mr. Sarnoff, but there is plenty of room for improvement still.

We are still trying to get Commissioner Sarnoff to commit to a Brickell field trip with us. Hopefully he will take us up on our offer.

Please send Commissioner Sarnoff an email thanking him and his office for being proactive. We need to give credit where credit is due.

 

Last week I posted an article showing unacceptable conditions for pedestrians around Brickell. Twenty-four hours later the conditions improved slightly.

It took a week, but eventually this sidewalk was temporarily repaired after we wrote about it…

Voilà! Things seem to only get done in this town through the shaming process…

Why does it take a blog to get things done in this city? Shouldn’t the City, County and the FDOT do these types of things on their own volition?

We don’t have leadership in Miami when it comes to complete streets or public transit for that matter.  Not at the City, County, or State (the FDOT District 6) level. Unlike visionary Mayors Michael Bloomberg, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Rahm Emanuel not one of our elected officials is taking charge to make our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists or think of alternative plans for our neglected ½ penny transit tax.  The leadership that we have is entirely reactive- hardly anything seems to get done until we begin shaming government to do its job or someone is killed or critically injured. (i.e. Brickell Avenue, Coral Way, South Miami Avenue, Rickenbacker Causeway, Biscayne Boulevard- Transit Miami has been at the forefront of advocacy for improvements. Sadly it seems like we are the leaders and our politicians simply react).

Those of us that write for Transit Miami have full time jobs and we write for this blog because we are unsatisfied with the current status quo of complacency that is so pervasive in South Florida and we know things could be much better-we won’t tolerate mediocrity. We don’t have the time or the resources (we don’t get paid) to shame our elected officials to design every street so that they are suitable for people to walk and bike.

We shouldn’t have to make these demands-government should unconsciously make streets safer for everyone. Instead County elected officials are wasting their time creating an online registry for dangerous dogs. Meanwhile Miami Dade County averages about 75 pedestrian fatalities and 10 cycling fatalities a year.  An additional 1500 pedestrians and another 500 cyclists are injured every year.

I’m throwing down the gauntlet; I challenge any elected official to champion a complete streets campaign. Our community is begging for safer streets and better public transit, yet our elected officials don’t grasp either concept-they simply turn a blind eye. Leadership is clearly lacking in Miami Dade County. Miami will never become a “World Class City” until both of these issues are adequately addressed.

 

 

Today the Miami Herald published this editorial:

I commute from Fort Lauderdale to Miami every day on I-95 which, as most of us know, is one of the most dangerous highways in America. I’m an excellent driver and don’t take chances. But, every single time I become a pedestrian anywhere around Brickell Avenue the ante is upped. I seriously fear for my life.

A woman in an SUV roared north around the bend south of me looking straight at me, but ignoring the fact that I was in the pedestrian crosswalk. I put my arm out to alert her to my crossing, but she didn’t slow until the very last moment — and then she flipped me off, angry that I had the audacity to impede her progress.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had to literally run out of clearly marked crosswalks to escape being hit, like the time a woman who was busy texting nearly smashed into me as I crossed at the same location, or the time I ran from the path of a Brinks armored truck near Mary Brickell Village. The scene created quite a stir among other pedestrians, who asked if I was OK.

It’s utterly ridiculous that somebody can’t do something. Where are the police? Where is the notion that keeping people safe has some importance in urban planning? Flesh and bones are no match for several thousand pounds of steel going well over the speed limit. Lowering the speed limit has been suggested, but won’t have an impact on Miami’s drivers, who are aggressive and, essentially, autonomous. There are no funds for hiring cops to enforce the law, remember? It’s a free-for-all out here, with tragedy literally right around the corner.

If Miami cops can hand out 47 tickets in just over one hour, on just one Brickell intersection to drivers ignoring the rights of pedestrians as reported in the May 30 article, Miami cops crack down on Brickell motorists who won’t yield to pedestrians, then doing a lot more of the same throughout the Brickell financial district just seems to make good financial, and common, sense — at least to this shell-shocked pedestrian!

Laura Parker, Oakland Park

 

Non-Existent Brickell Sidewalks

Why is it so difficult to put down a temporary piece of plywood so that women in heels, mothers with strollers and handicap people in wheel chairs don’t need to go off-roading in the Brickell Financial District? This is embarrassing. Actually it’s pathetic.

 

And Miami is a “World Class” city right?

Invisible Crosswalks

SE 1st Avenue must be one of the worst roads for pedestrians in the Brickell Financial District. SE 1st Avenue is a two lane, one-way road where cars move uninterrupted for 5 blocks from SE 8th Street all the way to SE 13th Street in excess of 40 mph. Needless to say the deck is stacked against pedestrians crossing to and from the Brickell Metrorail Station. It is also worth mentioning that there is an elementary school just a few blocks away and I see parents with children trying to cross this death trap on a daily basis.

Please help us identify the invisible crosswalks on this street. Why is it so difficult to get some paint in this town?  All we are asking for is the most basic level of safety and service for pedestrians-proper crosswalks.
This is a City of Miami Street

What crosswalk?

A recipe for disaster.

Between the lack of enforcement and planning and a growing Brickell population conditions are getting worse for pedestrians with each passing day.

Under construction for over a week? How are parents with strollers and the disabled expected to navigate safely through Brickell. This is not a third world country!

Please send Commissioner Sarnoff an email and ask him if he thinks these are acceptable standards for a “World Class City”.

 

From our friends over at Green Mobility Network:

Action Alert

Sept. 4 Resolution is Bad for Bicycling—Please Act Now!

Dear friends of bicycling,

We realize it’s the Labor Day Weekend and most of you are relaxing, but your immediate action is needed.

The Miami–Dade County Commission is being asked on Tuesday, Sept. 4, to help erode a progressive state law that requires accommodation for bicyclists and pedestrians on state roads in urban areas. There will be no opportunity for public comment during the commission meeting, so we’re asking Commissioner Rebeca Sosa to withdraw her resolution or postpone it until we can meet with her.

The law, section 335.065 of the Florida Statutes, provides that bike lanes and sidewalks be given full consideration in the planning and development of state roads in urban areas. When the state Department of Transportation (FDOT) repaves or redesigns an urban street, it must provide for walkers and bicyclists as well as for drivers — or show why cost or safety makes doing so impractical.

The law was virtually ignored in South Florida for most of a generation, and now that advocates have succeeded in getting FDOT to follow the law it’s meeting resistance — first in Miami Beach and now in the Sept. 4 resolution Commissioner Sosa, representing District 6. She’s responding to the upcoming repaving of SW 57th Avenue between 8th Street and Bird Road, where state engineers plan to include a bike lane and are encountering constrained road dimensions in some areas.

FDOT can choose from a variety of bike facilities on roads like 57th Avenue. This resolution will only hurt the cause of making Miami-Dade’s streets safer for all users. We strongly urge Commissioner Sosa to pull this item from the agenda and work collaboratively with the bicycle community to advance better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure throughout Miami-Dade County.

Please copy the following message and send it to the e-mail addresses below. Do it now! It’s not too late to stop this ill-advised resolution.

If you would prefer to register your concern by phone, please make two phone calls to request that the resolution be pulled from the agenda. You can call the following:

Mayor Carlos Gimenez: 305-375-5071
Commissioner Rebecca Sosa: 305-375-5696

BEGIN COPY-AND-PASTE–AND ADD YOUR NAME AT THE END OF THE MESSAGE

Re: Sept. 4, 2012, Agenda Item #121569–Bad for Bicycling–Please Pull From Agenda

To the Board of County Commissioners:

Agenda Item #121569 is bad for bicycling in Miami-Dade County and potentially the entire state of Florida. It would turn back the clock on significant progress in winning accommodation for bicyclists and pedestrians in urban roadways. It was placed on your agenda without public input. I urge you to pull it from the agenda and make time for public discussion of this important matter.
END COPY-AND-PASTE

SEND TO THE INDIVIDUAL COMMISSIONERS–JUST COPY AND PASTE THE FOLLOWING E-MAIL ADDRESSES INTO THE “TO” LINE OF YOUR E-MAIL SOFTWARE.

mayor@miamidade.gov, officeofthechair@miamidade.gov, bjordan@miamidade.gov, district2@miamidade.gov, district3@miamidade.gov, district4@miamidade.gov, district5@miamidade.gov, district6@miamidade.gov, District7@miamidade.gov, District8@miamidade.gov, DennisMoss@miamidade.gov, district10@miamidade.gov, district11@miamidade.gov, District12@miamidade.gov, district13@miamidade.gov

Once you’ve written, how about letting us know at our Facebook page? Your example will be encouraging to others.

Whoever said, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” probably had the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners in mind. As if the recent real estate market crash was not enough of a wakeup call for our elected leaders, commissioners recently voted to expand the Urban Development Boundary – the line that separates agricultural and environmentally sensitive land from urbanized areas – for a 9.9 acre commercial development that adds to the existing stock of vacant and undeveloped land in Miami-Dade County. Apparently, some county commissioners didn’t get the memo that their love for suburban sprawl over the past decade led to the real estate market tanking, and to the bloated county government that they now seek to reign-in.

The transportation connection: UDB expansions are being closely coordinated with an upcoming massive highway expansion along the western border of the county being proposed by MDX. The pink box in the middle titled 'Ferro' is the subject of this latest application. Thanks to Genius of Despair for the image.

They must have overlooked the 2010 EPA report, “Growing for a Sustainable Future” that described an inventory of 16,140 acres of undeveloped land within the boundary. That amounts to 6% of the land within the urbanized area of Miami-Dade County - currently vacant. With so much land within the boundary unused why are commissioners adding more land to existing capacity? Is it that they want to further depress land values and our economic recovery?  Some cite the need for jobs – oh jobs! The latest excuse for any project to be shoved down our collective throats is the promise of jobs. Want jobs? Here’s a stadium. Jobs you say? How about a humongous resort casino?

But, when it comes to the UDB amnesia sets in about the 16,140 acres of empty land within the UDB waiting for development.  Let’s put this in perspective– 16,140 acres is approximately 25 square miles. The island of Manhattan – from Battery City Park to 218 street - is only 22.96 square miles. I would say that we have more than enough development capacity to last the next 100 years and beyond without having to touch the UDB – and that’s just with our undeveloped land. Take into account underdeveloped land and we should never expand the UDB again.

Critics argue that the line was never meant to be a solid boundary – but a flexible delineation between the reach of county services and the agricultural and environmental lands beyond. There may be 16,000 acres of undeveloped land in the city– but what about the residents of this suburban neighborhood? Don’t they deserve access to strip malls and warehouses and outparcels within close proximity? What if they need closer services? This particular property is already surrounded by developed residential land – what is 9 more acres of commercial land? Attorney for the project Miguel Diaz de la Portilla said, “You’re not talking about some land that’s out in the middle of nowhere. It’s contiguous with the UDB.” Of course this argument ignores an undeveloped 40 acre tract designated for commercial development, currently within the UDB, as well as the existing Hammocks mall, both within ½ mile of this site and with enough commercial capacity to serve the surrounding community for the next 30 years.

Commissioners might argue that they shouldn’t dictate where development happens. If a willing developer wants to build a Publix on what is currently farmland – so be it. Except they overlook the fact that in expanding the extent of county services, they put us all on the hook to provide those new areas with infrastructure, police, and life safety services. That single story Publix surrounded by a parking lot uses the same services as the 8-story mixed-use building in the urban core – only it provides a fraction of the tax base forcing commissioners to make a choice between two evils: reduce services for the rest of the county, or raise tax rates.

Last week County Commissioner Xavier Suarez wrote a column for the Huffington Post that critiqued Mayor Gimenez’ latest county budget saying that “absolutely nothing changed in the way the county does business.” The same day that column was published he voted to expand the UDB for an application that has been repeatedly criticized as unnecessary, and for which the County’s own professional planning department recommended denial because of the reasons noted above. Our leaders cannot simultaneously seek to reduce the bloated bureaucracy of county government and at the same time expand the extent of the county services. If Suarez and other commissioners want to break the business as usual attitude in county hall they should start with the UDB.  The application has to come back to the commission for a final vote in the spring – let’s hope commissioners come to their senses and hold the line – indefinitely.

 

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’ve posted the answers in the order they were received  - so far only Michelle Niemeyer and Marc Sarnoff have responded.

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

I would determine where we stand, where we have the most urgent needs, and where we should have improvements into the future, and then I would work with private resident and stakeholder organizations, the City, the County, State and Federal agencies together to be sure to get the greatest impact without duplication of effort.

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?

Yes, we badly need public transit that goes into downtown. This should be a priority rather than over spending on public projects that are not needed.

Do you support a MetroRail Baylink connection?

Absolutely. I think its crazy we don’t have a connection from the airport to downtown to Miami Beach.

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

Special area plans need to be approved by the commission, and the commission needs to strongly negotiate that they are outward facing community oriented properties as oppposed to the inward facing business model which is typical of desitination resorts  and casinos.

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?

Yes. Every community in this district has a road which bisects its neighboood and is treated by the county and the state as a commuter highway. These roads include Main Highway, South Bayshore, Brickell, and Biscayne Boulevard. In order for us to have healthy outdoor environment and pedestrian friendly walking communities we need to place a heavy emphasis on creating public transportation which will decrease the volume of cars beig pushed through our neighborhoods because the existing infrastructure is already overburdened.

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?

If we could afford it, I support the tunnel.

 

Transit Miami Publisher Tony Garcia was featured this week in the Miami Herald (Via:  Open Media Miami) posing some questions to get a better understanding of how the City of Miami Commission Candidates view transportation through their own daily routines.

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.

Members of Miami Neighborhoods United and the Urban Environment League hosted a debate between District 7 candidates Julio Robaina and Xavier Suarez. We were pleased to have Stephen Stock from the CBS4 news moderate the debate, and had a wide range of questions for the candidates.

On the big issue du jour of smaller government these candidates took similar positions, but a closer look at their responses to the questions reveal the differences in how they perceive the problems facing our community- especially with regard to Miami-Dade’s land-use and transportation challenges.

Question: If elected Commissioner, how would you address land-use challenges to the urban development boundary?

On this issue, Robaina scored big points by describing his past work fighting to hold the UDB and his state legislative opposition of the dismantling of the Department of Community Affairs. Suarez also made the case to hold the line - for now. “With today’s demographics - hold the UDB.” He went on to say that that the county’s  planning department tracks demographics better than most people give them credit for, and that expansion should be allowed to occur with proper demographic data to support it.

Question: At present, there are some legal challenges to the Marlins Stadium.  If the matter were to come back to the County Commission and you are one of the Commissioners, what changes to the Agreement with the Marlins would you introduce for consideration by the Commission as a whole?

On the Marlins stadium both were in agreement that the Global Agreement was no good, with Suarez also going after the Miami Streetcar, which was a very minor part of the deal that created the Marlins Stadium and the Port Tunnel. (What does the Streetcar have to do with the Global Agreement you ask? Look Here..) Robaina said that if the opportunity presented itself he would seek to amend the contract with the Marlins so that any cost overruns are not paid by the county; Suarez also made a similar comment.

Question: What is your position as far as using county tourist bed-tax dollars to fund renovations for the Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium?

Robaina took the position that tourist bed tax dollars should be spent on improving the Miami Beach convention center, not going to sports franchises. Suarez supported giving money to Sun Life, noting that the tourist bed tax was an industry approved tax for the purpose of building stadiums.

Question: This coming year’s County budget promises to be another very challenging one in very tough economic times for our community.  What do you propose to do to keep taxes down and maintain County services ?

Both candidates are in favor of eliminating discretionary spending and the ending the practice of reallocating carryover funds from previous years. Suarez announced that “draconian measures must be taken to streamline the budget,” and that he would seek to reduce the number of county departments from 64 to 25, with salary caps for non-constitutional officers. Robaina also advocated a reduced number of departments.

Question: How will you work toward the goal of expanding mass transit to reach 20 % of the citizens of Miami-Dade County by 2020 (from a 6 2% baseline)?

Suarez showed some transit acumen when he corrected a statistic referenced in this question. He correctly noted the transit mode-share was much lower than 6%. His plan for addressing large gains in ridership was to expand on the trolley system that is currently being implemented by the City of Miami. His vision is for a fleet of 2000 ’trolleys’, minibuses and jitney’s that are privately run in some cases and that do not cost taxpayers anything.

Robaina had more concise, long term vision for premium Metro-rail expansion, starting with the East/West line  . He made the case that while Metro-rail is not perfect, it is only part of a network. He spoke of building a transit network, re-examining the rate structure, and encouraging more Transit Oriented Development.

Question: Do you support true charter reform, including two-eight year terms, easier citizen petitions, and other recommendations made by the Charter Review Task Force?

Both candidates support the 2- 4 year term maximum, applied retroactively, with Robaina pledging to only seek one 4-year term. (Refreshing news to voters still in the process of purging establishment candidates. ) Suarez made a good point that real charter reform should be made on the ballot in a general election when more citizens are likely to vote. He also said that one reform that was missing from the current discussion was to require competitive bidding rather than the current selective procurement process.

Question: What is your platform on reducing CO2 emissions?

Both candidates talked a good talk on this one, with Suarez noting that CO2 emissions would be best addressed by “getting people out of their cars and onto mass transit.” He also said that the managed lanes are counter productive (surprising  given his vague answer about the Busway).  Robaina went back to the issue of expanding the local passenger rail system as the key.

Question: If elected Commissioner, would you support a restructuring of County government to allow for a truly independent transportation authority?

Robaina strongly supported the idea of an independent transportation authority, noting it would allow for a streamlining of the transportation planning process, and contribute to the reduction in municipal responsibilities currently overseen by the County. Both candidates criticized the tolls, and made statements in favor of abolishing MDX. Robaina made the connection between abolishing MDX and creating a Transportation Authority, while Suarez did not see the need for it.

Question: What is your view on converting the South Dade Busway into a limited access expressway?
Robaina skirted the issue, saying “we need to do a charrette to decide what to do in the area.” Suarez said that he believed the buses to be ineffective, but did not give a clear answer on the issue.

Question: Are you in favor of phasing out the Unincorporated Municipal Service Area? What roles should the county play in government (question asked by former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre)

Suarez gave a quick recap on what UMSA means and its implications. Anything in Dade County that is not within one of the 35 municipalities is under the responsibility of the Miami-Dade County. In these areas, the County serves as the local government, offering zoning, permitting, public works, and other local - and necessary - government functions. Both candidates agreed that either by annexation or by incorporation, the UMSA should be phased out. Suarez made the case to “remove the classic municipal functions” from the county, while Robaina  wants “the county to get out of the UMSA business.”

Thanks to the two candidates for the great dialogue. Both candidates showed their experience and knowledge of the issues. Suarez talked a good talk on the connection between cars and CO2, but his trolley plan left a lot to be desired. Robaina was very clear about his desire to expand the transit network, and supports the creation of an independent transportation authority. Two worthy candidates, but Robaina wins for his solid support of Metro-Rail expansion and transportation governance reform.

 
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