With that said, I’d like to walk you through (pun intended) some of my observations and experiences that both illuminate Montreal’s successes and Miami’s potential.
Montreal’s subway system was very clean, efficient, and took us most places we wanted to go. I took a couple trips on the “Green line” that runs between Angrignon and Honore-Beaugrand. Levels of service were high based on my experience, whereas I never waited more than five minutes for a train even on Saturday and Sunday. At $2.75 per one-way trip, the fares were a little steep, though I’m assuming that would be mitigated if I had bought a 3-day unlimited or monthly unlimited ride pass.
Though it’s not transit per se, I was thrilled to see separated bike lanes at least a few major boulevards. Not only are they protected from traffic, they’re bidirectional unlike most Class II striped bike lanes and even some Class I separated lanes, like on 9th Ave in Manhattan.
Ah, my favorite part. I’m a firm believer that it’s the quality of a city’s public spaces that make it a truly great place to live, which is why Montreal scores so high on my livability scale. The city is loaded with really nice parks and plazas that serve as social and civic gathering magnets. As far as plazas go, Place Jacques Cartier and Place d’Armes were my favorites, though several others could easily make the cut.
However, my runaway favorite public space in Montreal is the city’s namesake park, Mont Royal. When I first heard about Montreal’s “mountain”, I have to admit I was pretty skeptical. I figured it was a series of rolling hills at best, with just enough of an incline to force cyclists into a medium-to-low gear.
Was I ever mistaken.
Looking from downtown, which the park roughly abuts, it actually appears that the city abruptly stops up against a mountain on one side. To add to the effect, several bouts of snowfall from a long Canadian winter remained draped across Mont Royal’s landscape not unlike that of a small snowcapped mountain in Vermont or Upstate New York.
The park is beautiful. It was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. If you want to climb it, you can either follow winding paths at a moderate grade, or you can take the shortcut and go straight up. About halfway up the views of the downtown skyline are already spectacular, but at the top you have incredible panoramic vistas of most of the city and the St. Lawrence River.
Sadly, Miami doesn’t really have a grand park that is centrally located and easily accessible to bicyclists and pedestrians. I consider Crandon Park to be pretty great, but it’s an isolated island and not a centrally located grand urban park. The beaches of South Beach and North Beach are adjacent to high density areas and are high quality public spaces, but they are in a different category and serve different purposes than a centrally located urban park. Museum Park has the potential to be great, but it’s limited size and extreme easterly location may keep it from fulfilling that role.
Montreal’s urban design was of high quality. The density of most neighborhoods is relatively high thanks to rowhouses and apartment buildings that helped define street space. Downtown was full of high-rises, but most of them were designed well to fit with human scale and the pedestrian realm. The architecture of both old and modern buildings was of high quality. Moreover, most streets were well in tact and had not given way to curb cut mutilation and excessive off-street parking.
Even the newly developed neighborhoods on the fringe of the city consisted of modern-looking rowhouses and apartment buildings, which was very encouraging to see. Overall, the streets were very clean and comfortable as well. Interestingly, the streets were pretty quiet with automobile traffic, drivers drove safely and courteously, and very little congestion was present.
What’s the lesson for Miami? Montreal serves as just one more example of a major city full of neighborhoods with medium-to-high density that is extraordinarily livable. Because buildings are built right up to the sidewalk and are often attached, they do a great job defining street space and making the pedestrian experience a pleasant one. You can walk all day in Montreal, in inclement weather no less, and not get tired or anxious because space is well defined and you always feel like you’re somewhere. Without these characteristics in most of Greater Miami, it often feels like even short walks take forever and go from nowhere to nowhere. Miami 21 will probably be our best opportunity this century to improve this condition.
Stay tuned for additional lessons from Montreal.
CategoriesAccident Airport bicycles bike lanes Bike Miami Days biking Biscayne Boulevard Brickell bus Climate Change Coconut Grove complete streets Congestion Density Downtown FDOT High Speed Rail MDT Metrorail Miami Miami-Dade County Miami-Dade Transit Miami 21 Miami Beach Museum Park News NIMBY Parking Parks Pedestrian Pedestrians Pic o' the Day Public Transit Rickenbacker Causeway Sprawl Streetcar Traffic Transit Transitography Transit Oriented Development Transportation Tri-Rail Uncategorized Urban Design Urban Planning
South Florida Transportation
- Emerge Miami
- Florida Bicycle Association
- Florida Department of Transportation
- Florida Greenbook Roadway Design Manual
- Green Mobility Network
- Miami Bike Report
- Miami-Dade BPAC
- Miami-Dade Expressway Authority
- Miami-Dade Transit
- Slow Bike Miami
- Spokes 'n' Folks
- State of Florida Bike/Ped Laws
- TACOLCY Bicycle Club
- The M-Path to Enlightenment
- The Miami Bike Scene
- Transit to MIA
- Tri-Rail (South Florida Regional Transportation Authority)
Transit Blogs and Resources
- Metro Library and Archive Transportation Headlines
- The Transport Politic
- public transit
- Midwest High Speed Rail
- Portland Transport
- Spacing Wire • understanding the urban landscape
- Buildings and Food
- The Overhead Wire
- Welcome to the FastLane: The Official Blog of the U.S. Secretary
- Human Transit
- Transit In Utah
- Greater Greater Washington
- Off the Kuff
- CTA Tattler
- City Transit Advocates
- JACKSONVILLE TRANSIT
- CoolTown Studios
- Design New Haven
- Trains For America
Planning and Design Resources
- Eddie Suarez on County, BPAC Propose Immediate Improvements for Rickenbacker Causeway
- sharon on County, BPAC Propose Immediate Improvements for Rickenbacker Causeway
- howie on County, BPAC Propose Immediate Improvements for Rickenbacker Causeway
- Brooke on The Demeaning Experience of Being a Coral Way Pedestrian
- Devin on The Demeaning Experience of Being a Coral Way Pedestrian
- Brooke on The Demeaning Experience of Being a Coral Way Pedestrian
- Can The U.S. Really Become Energy Independent? March 7, 2012The short answer is yes, according to this NPR report that includes interviews with energy experts. The boom in shale fracking for oil and natural gas and the zeal of small energy companies is to credit. But UC Berkeley's Don Kammen has his doubts. read more […]
- The Doctor Is In: How Medicalization Effects Contemporary Planning and Architecture March 7, 2012Giovanna Borasi & Mirko Zardini examine the state of pervasive anxiety afflicting the urban populations of the West and how "medicalization" and an ambition for total well-being are effecting architecture and urban planning. read more […]
- Rolling the Dice on Atlantic City's Future March 7, 2012Caren Chesler reports on Atlantic City's efforts to reinvent itself as a seaside resort, as recently unveiled in a master plan developed by Jones Lang LaSalle with the Jerde Partnership. read more […]
- Texas Confronts the Cost of Its Green Dreams March 7, 2012Matthew Tresaugue reports on the difficulties Texas cities such as College Station are having in living up to their green commitments in the down economy, reflecting a nationwide pattern. read more […]
- From Landscape to Soundscape in Urban Placemaking March 7, 2012Chuck Wolfe outlines the importance of soundscapes to cities past, present and future, and describes efforts to both document urban sounds and use sound as a planning tool. read more […]
- SmartSpace: A Look Inside San Francisco's Newest Microapartments March 7, 2012Kirsten Dirksen reports on one housing developer's 160-square-foot vision for San Francisco singles. read more […]
- Starbucks Reinvents Itself, in Amsterdam March 7, 2012Perhaps it's appropriate that Starbucks has chosen a city known for self-exploration and experimentation to unveil a new concept store that offers a glimpse of the cafe of the future. read more […]
- In a Distressed Philadelphia Neighborhood, Art Brings Hope March 7, 2012Kia Gregory reports on a mural program implemented in the West Philadelphia neighborhood of Mantua over the last year, that has transformed the area into a work of art. read more […]
- Senate Transportation Saga Continues March 7, 2012A much anticipated cloture vote on the Senate's proposed two-year transportation bill once again failed to win enough votes on Tuesday. Better news may be on the horizon however, reports Ed O'Keefe. read more […]
- Born of Transit, a Young D.C. Neighborhood in Full Bloom March 7, 2012Seven years after a celebrated public-private partnership, NoMa proves a smart growth success, write Rachel MacCleery and Jonathan Tarr. read more […]
- Can The U.S. Really Become Energy Independent? March 7, 2012
- Greenway Bike Festival February 22, 2012This fully-supported ride promotes the Biscayne-Everglades Greenway, which will loop through the historic city of Homestead. There'll be routes of 62 miles, 42 miles, and 25 miles -- with darned good food at the finish. You can register at Active.com. You'll certainly want to be at Losner Park for the demonstration parachute jump by the Army's […]
- Many call for safer streets February 19, 2012Board member Suzanne Kores captured the scene at yesterday's rally on the Rickenbacker Causeway for greater street safety. Tom Evental made available this stirring video. The voice you hear at the beginning is our co-founder Hank Sanchez-Resnik, who played a big role with allied groups in organizing the event. We appreciate the chance to share this wit […]
- Climb the bridge for safer streets February 17, 2012All road users are invited to the tall bridge on the Rickenbacker Causeway this Saturday at 9 a.m. to call for safer streets and recognize cyclist Aaron Cohen, who died Thursday of a hit-and-run driver's injuries. The bicycling community put this event together, working in parallel efforts from varying points of view. We have one message, though: Everyo […]
- Greenway Bike Festival February 22, 2012