Currently viewing the category: "Public Transit"

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part series.

I was in San Francisco recently and aside from riding every form of urban transit imaginable (cable car, light rail, subway, bicycle, and commuter rail) I took the opportunity to explore a few of the city’s up-and-coming neighborhoods particularly, South of Market (SOMA), Mission Bay, and South Beach. Of particular interest on this visit was the urban development sprouting up along the China Basin, home of AT&T Ballpark where the San Francisco Giants have played since 2000. AT&T Ballpark and the new Muni Metro transit line which accompanied the stadium have served as catalysts for new urban development.

AT&T Ballpark

Having visited a number of America’s Baseball stadiums, what really strikes me about AT&T Ballpark is its connectivity with the surroundings. From the boardwalk along the famed McCovey Cove to the King Street Walk of Fame, this ballpark was designed to be as much of destination during the off-season as it is when the Giants are in town (Note: when I visited the Giants were on the road). This is a true urban ballpark; warm and inviting with some restaurants and bars within the ballpark opening up to Willie Mays Plaza. The Plaza, of course not only pays homage to one of baseball’s greatest players, but creates a sense of space and grand entrance to the ballpark. It’s important to note that AT&T Ballpark was the first privately financed ballpark in Major League Baseball since 1962. Noticeably absent from the area surrounding the stadium is parking, a good segway into a brief discussion of the transit service that was built to connect the region.

T Third Street Line (Via: RTK Vision)

The T third street line is a modern light-rail system completed in 2007 at a cost of $648 Million. The 5.1 mile transit line is the newest addition to the SFMTA in 50 years and connects the existing Muni Metro system and AT&T Ballpark with some long neglected neighborhoods including Potrero Hill, Bayview, Hunters Point, and Visitacion Valley. Today, new development dots the landscape around the T third street line including the Mission Bay Development, an emerging bioscience hub anchored by the UCSF Mission Bay campus as well as an abundance of dense, urban, development (see: Avalon, Edgewater, and Strata). It’s also important to note that the T third street line was funded largely through the city of San Francisco’s Proposition B, a ½% sales tax levied to support transit projects.

TOD at 4th & King Streets, SOMA, San Francisco (Via: LA Wad)

Visiting AT&T Ballpark (and the surrounding neighborhoods) allowed me to more fully comprehend the shortcomings of the Marlins new Ballpark currently rising in the heart of Little Havana. The new Marlins Stadium is beautiful feat of engineering; it is sleek, shiny, and futuristic, much like Miami itself. Once inside, watching the home team play will be a pleasure, no doubt, but its interaction with the surrounding host community is, like much of Miami’s development, designed with a certain air of indifference for neighboring land uses.

Former Orange Bowl Site; The new Home of the Florida Marlins (Via: Javier Ortega Figueiral)

Constructed at a taxpayer cost of $360M, one would think that we’d be unveiling a trophy piece of civic infrastructure next season; one whose public investment would outweigh the costs by spurring new urban growth, tourism, and economic development in the heart of the Magic City. One would also think that the additional $100M of public investment in transportation infrastructure would be designed to alleviate an already stressed infrastructure rather than exacerbate the problem, right? Wrong. This is Miami, here we spend $100M building four massive, structurally deficient parking garages.

Marlins Ballpark (Via: Thehoorse24)

Having visited AT&T Ballpark and the surrounding neighborhoods it’s difficult not to think of what a $100M down payment for a new transit line akin to the T third street line could have looked like. It could have linked EXISTING parking in downtown or the civic center urban centers with the Ballpark. Think of the opportunity lost to spur new development and provide a reasonable modal alternative to the residents of a largely lower-middle class neighborhood. Think of the pedestrian-scale development that could have risen alongside the stadium instead of parking garages. Imagine paying a nominal $2 transit fare to access the ballpark rather than shelling out upwards of $30 for parking (there are, after all, only 5,700 spaces available).

It’s an interesting juxtaposition in my eyes:

  • AT&T Ballpark was built without a single cent of public financing and is one of the most inclusive, consciously designed stadiums in all of major league baseball. Coupled with a sound investment in sustainable transit, the stadium has spurred ongoing economic development in the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • On the other hand, the heavily subsidized Marlins Ballpark is beginning to look like a full-blown assault on Little Havana, replete with the loss of public open space, parking structures which isolate the stadium from the surrounding community, and a guarantee that at least 81 days of the year the congestion in this area will be a nightmarish hell with little, if any, net positive impact to local businesses.

This is part one of a two part series. Part two will be published over the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

 

Image via: lukewho's Flickr

A look down San Francisco’s Third Street line (T) - a preview of an upcoming post next week where we look at the successes of AT&T Ballpark and surrounding development with an eye on the completion of the new Marlins’ Ballpark later this year.

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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

 

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It seems there is a new campaign to get the attention of Florida’s elected officials when it comes to public transportation.

IM4Transit is a campaign of the Board of the Florida Public Transportation Association to identify, recruit, and mobilize at least 100,000 pro-transit Floridians.

If you support public transportation in Florida, go to  www.im4transit.org/ and show your support.  It would be nice to have 100,000 people tell Rick Scott want more transportation options.  You can also go to Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/im4transit.

 

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Who said public transportation isn’t fun?

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Street harassment is one major reason why more women do not take public transit, walk or bicycle. Cat-calling, the ‘holla’, whistling and beeping horns are reasonable expectations for any woman walking or bicycling down a Miami street. Who wants to put up with that?

As an advocate for both bicycling and walking, I hear a lot about what needs to be done to get more people out into the public space. Bike lanes, well-lit paths, access to dependable and well-connected modes of transportation are all good and well. However, just over one half of our city’s population has the very specific threat of street harassment to deal with and behavior is not fixed with white paint or street cars.

Street harassment varies widely from the more benign (whistle) to the downright frightening (groups of men, in or out of cars, following you for blocks at a time). All of it, however, is an unfair invasion of a woman’s right to some personal space. One generally accepted definition, from Cynthia Grant Bowman’s 1993 paper, “Street Harassment and the Informal Ghettoization of Women” is as follows:

“Street harassment occurs when one or more strange men accost one or more women . . . in a public place which is not the woman’s/women’s worksite. Through looks, words, or gestures the man asserts his right to intrude on the woman’s attention, defining her as a sexual object, and forcing her to interact with him.”

Street harassment makes me feel that, just because I’m a woman, I forfeit an otherwise reasonable expectation to not be vocally judged for my appearance or the mode of transportation that I choose when I enter the street. It feels like streets are not for everyone; they belong to men on street corners, in cars or who, like me, are walking or bicycling from one place to another.

Who Does Our Public Space Belong To?

I live in the heart of my beloved City of Miami, and I am happy that distance or weather does not keep me from biking or walking to galleries, restaurants, my work or shops. Riding my bicycle all around Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, I am used to hearing misinformed comments from motorists, pedestrians and even bicyclists when I ride safely and legally. I have almost been hit by cars more times than I can count (knock on wood). I certainly don’t let offensively maladjusted men convince me to grab the car keys. In fact, I used to think that I was immune to street harassment, having grown almost numb to it after years as, well, a woman.

Then this afternoon, while crossing Biscayne Boulevard at a particularly difficult intersection on my bicycle (the street is a mess of holey concrete, lumpy asphalt, massive steel planks and construction debris), some construction worker pierced my intense focus with a cattle-call. I looked just in case there was something urgent, some reason for extra caution or maybe a need to stop suddenly. But there, laughing at their buddy’s success, was a group of construction workers and a police officer. I kept my cool as I said, ‘Hey Officer, that wasn’t safe! Hey, isn’t it against the law to do that?’ The response? ‘What’s your problem? We were just…’ I didn’t catch the rest. I was consumed by something else:

It is not against the law to intentionally distract the driver of a vehicle without cause or to make a woman feel unsafe in public space.

As I rode back towards my office, I thought about all the women who tell me they don’t ride because they don’t feel safe. It’s not cars they are afraid of, it’s the men who drive them, following women on foot or bicycle, calling out to them with words unwelcomed. Who wants to take the bus to work when they have to wait at a bus stop at night to get home? I know what they are talking about but I just accept it. Most men are not mean. Interacting with people who are different than I is one my top reasons for riding or walking! I do not want to accept this anymore. More and more, studies are showing that it is not all in our heads. Many men do this because they feel it is culturally and legally acceptable but studies show that this behavior is connected to rape and other forms of physical violence towards women.

I think there should be a law against street harassment. There are movements to take action, like HollaBackDC, Back Up!, Blank Noise and others. Where is the movement in Miami? If we are serious about equal access to transit and transportation options, public safety has to take a more prominent and publicly supported role. Women are 50% of the population. If we could get just 1 out of 10 of Miami-Dade women to take public transit, bicycle or walk, we could take 125,000 cars off the road. Would you support a law protecting women from street harassment?

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Today’s quote of the day comes from FDOT spokeswoman Barbara Kelleher.  She spoke to the Miami Herald about a recent report issued by the Daily Beast which designated I-95 in Florida as the most deadly highway in the nation.

It’s no longer possible to add lanes.  We don’t have the money to buy all those homes and all that right-of-way in order to add lanes to what’s already there.”

Kelleher goes on to say:

“What can be done, has been done already: Installing express lanes in Miami-Dade — and eventually in Broward — to separate long-haul drivers from short-range commuters, and using signals at on-ramps so motorists don’t crowd onto the expressway at once.”

Ummm….how about public transit?  Is that not an option? I’m glad FDOT does not have the money to purchase all the homes and all the right-of-way necessary to expand 1-95.  They would be delaying the inevitable- we would be in the same predicament 20 years from now. Then what? Buy more homes and more right-of-way?

I’d like to remind FDOT that the “T” in FDOT stands for Transportation. Transportation is not limited to motor vehicles and highway expansion. Rail, bicycling and walking are considered transportation too!

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Likely path of the oil for four months following the spill. The colors represent the concentration of the oil. 0.20 (dark red) means the oil is 20% as concentrated as it is directly over the spill site. (Source:cnn.com)

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill will most likely make its way to South Florida and directly affect South Floridians in one way or another. It’s easy to point the finger at BP, but the truth is that this oil company is simply providing a resource to satisfy a market demand. This is the essence of capitalism. Yes, they certainly share in the responsibility of the oil spill, but the biggest accomplice to the oil spill is the American lifestyle. I’m hoping this tragedy may be the long overdue wake up call for all Americans; we cannot have our cake and it eat too. We all share the blame for this oil spill.

As long as we have an economy and a lifestyle which is lubricated by cheap oil and a transportation system that depends on fossil fuels, we can only blame ourselves for this and future oil spills. Obama’s talking points on the oil spill generally focus on the need for alternative and renewable energy, yet he is mute on energy conservation, an increase of the gas tax, and the need to expand public transit. The administration is missing out on a golden opportunity here, particularly to increase the gas tax.

An increase of the gas tax and energy conservation work hand in hand. Let’s make gas more expensive and watch consumption plummet. Americans would then think twice about buying a house in the far exburbs or take that unnecessary trip by car just to pick up a gallon of milk at the store a mile away from their homes. Public transit would also look more appealing with higher gas prices.

I’d like to hear more rhetoric from Obama that focuses on allocating more dollars to public transit, particularly rail. The gulf oil spill dialogue should also encompass the development of more pedestrian and bike friendly communities with increased density. It’s so easy to point the finger at BP, but we all share culpability for this oil spill in one way or another. Conservation needs to be our focus, not alternative energy. We need a national strategy and policy that focuses on conservation. This, however, will require a sacrifice by all Americans.  The question is are we up for this challenge and are we willing to spend the money to build a national public transit system which is less dependent on oil?

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In the April 3rd-9th 2010 issue of the Economist, the conservative British periodical ran a special report on Rebalancing the American Economy. In the article titled “Time to Rebalance” the Economist had this to say:

America’s economic geography will change too. Cheap petrol and ample credit encouraged millions of American to flock to southern states and to distant suburbs (“exurbs”) in search of big houses with lots of land.  Now the housing bust has tied them to homes they cannot sell. Population growth in the suburbs has slowed. For the present this rise of knowledge-intensive global industries favors centers rich in infrastructure and specialized skills. Some are traditional urban cores such as New York and some are suburban edge cities that offer jobs along with affordable houses and short commutes.”

Just to clarify, by “rich in infrastructure”, the Economist means diversified infrastructure and that includes public transit. FDOT District 6 may interpret “rich in infrastructure”, to mean “expensive” such as the nearly $5 billion dollars we are spending on 3 megaprojects in South Florida; none of which really includes public transit.

If South Florida is serious about becoming a knowledge-intensive region, we need to build proper infrastructure to attract a populace with specialized skills, which also happens to be educated. Educated people are usually more mobile, and therefore can be more selective when choosing a city to call home. Most will choose a city that provides a good quality of life for their families and that includes cities that have good public transit, short commutes, and compact development.

On another note, Miami 21 was officially implemented today. Implementation of Miami 21 is the first step in the right direction.

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The American Public Transportation Association released figures Monday on third quarter growth in public transportation. Tri-Rail ranked as the second fastest growing commuter rail system in the country with a whopping 32.9%. Public transit use overall jumped 6.5% between July and September across the country, while automobile use shrunk by a much larger 4.6%. More people reduced their driving because the actual number of vehicle-miles is much higher to begin with than the passenger-miles for public transit. So these 4.6% who reduced driving are not all switching to public transit, but also carpooling and combining or eliminating trips. Few bothered to point out that aspect of our new transportation habits, as the released figures don’t include those changes. Personally, I know many coworkers who have started carpooling this year.

Read the Miami Herald article on the subject here. One phrase in the article that nearly makes me shiver with delight is that “meanwhile, the U.S. auto industry is on the verge of collapse…” While I wish it were the case, the statement is rather sensationalist. If they declare bankruptcy they will not be collapsing, just restructuring.

Meanwhile, gas prices continue to drop, so we can only hope these changes last.

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The Sun-Sentinel offers a voters’ guide for issues that will appear on Broward County’s ballot. While I am not familiar with many of the other issues, I would disagree with their recommendation to vote against Question 1, the creation of a Metropolitan Transit Authority. A letter to the editor of the Miami Herald sheds a little more light on the subject. Read it and consider carefully. I believe it would be in Broward County’s best interest to create a Metropolitan Transit Authority. The Sun-Sentinel thinks it is better to come up with a comprehensive plan first, then create the Transit Authority. I believe the Authority could help create a plan, however. Also, the first steps to creating a plan have been taken through the Transit Summits that Broward County has been having for about a year. Broward County Transit’s own headline says their purpose is to develop a Public Transportation Plan. So it’s not too early to create a Metropolitan Transit Authority. The time is right.

If anyone can come up with a better reason why we should not have a Metropolitan Transit Authority in Broward County, let us know. Otherwise, vote yes on Question 1.

Another important Broward County issue on the ballot is Question 5, amending the county charter to provide a regional focus. That way whenever the county commission considers something, they have to consider it at the regional level. This would help avoid fights with other counties such as the ongoing fight with Palm Beach county over the University Drive extension. Better yet, if this is incorporated with the transit authority, we might have some hope of providing a better regional transit network. So vote yes on Question 5.

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Check out the Twitter sidebar for updates on my progress in tomorrow’s Summer Transit Challenge.

If you or someone you know would like to share their transit story with us, feel free to comment or send us an email: movemiami@gmail.com

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That’s right Miami, we are doing it again.  The Transit Miami Summer Transit Challenge is back and we are looking for participants.  This Thursday I along with several coworkers will go car-free to experience Miami-Dade Transit at its finest.  We will be commuting from our homes (Coral Gables, Miami Beach, and West Kendall) to our Doral offices solely using public transportation.  We will be documenting the whole trip (Twitter, hopefully) and discussing the difficulties we encountered along the way.We want to hear from you too.  We invite our readers to participate and send us their stories and images.  All feedback will be transmitted over to MDT.

To make our commute even more challenging, we have imposed a 9 AM arrival time as our deadline, at which point we will convene to discuss the problems we each encountered.

To plan your commute we recommend Google Transit

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  • The State growth management planners have officially drafted a report recommending Miami-Dade County commissioners to reject the most recent bids to move the Urban Development Boundary further west. The issue will now head back to county commissioners who will vote again based on the state’s recommendations.
    • We really did not see this going any other way, considering the state has repeatedly warned County Commissioners on the devastating consequences our area would face should the UDB be extended west. We hope that Sally Heyman stays true to her word and reverts to her original vote against the expansion and are perplexed that this issue will somehow only narrowly be defeated. When it comes to the UDB, much of the county commission does not vote in the best interest of constituents. We’ll keep you posted as to when the County will be meeting, but in the meantime e-mail your county commissioner
  • Miami-Dade County Commissioners gathered in Washington D.C. this week to meet with Federal Transit Administrator James Simpson to discuss the fate of the upcoming N/S and E/W metrorail extensions. The N/S extension was recently downgraded due to financial uncertainty within MDT. Simpson urged the county officials to work together and put an end to the racial bickering which has plagued much of the county’s projects since the 1970s.
    • We hope that the County administration comes back home with a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished in order to see these projects come to fruition. MDT and the Commission should be ashamed that these critical projects were downgraded because of poor management however, given the poor management of previous projects and ridiculous cost overruns, this really shouldn’t surprise us. Transportation options shouldn’t become the center of a cultural war, on the contrary, transit should unite our neighborhoods and make county-wide mobility easier for all.
  • The city of Coral Gables is looking into creating plan that would provide free parking to the drivers of electric vehicles. The plan is being considered after a recommendation by the city’s economic development board altered Commissioner Ralph Cabrera’s initiative to provide more downtown bicycle parking. Meanwhile, some within the city were looking to expand the initiative to provide reduced parking fees for owners of hybrid vehicles.
    • We commend Commissioner Cabrera for introducing some greener initiatives and for the city’s support in making Coral Gables a bicycle friendly community. Free parking for electric vehicles may be ahead of its time, considering that few electric vehicles are available on the market today, but the city is headed in the right direction in providing the local infrastructure to even make this technology possible. The exclusion of hybrid vehicles from this proposition is recommended by Transit Miami due to the varied nature of hybrid vehicles (20 mpg Yukon Hybrid - 50 mpg Prius.) We believe the city needs to continue in the green direction by subsidizing only virtually zero emission projects (Bicycle, EV, Trolley, Pedestrian, etc.)

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