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Recall the post where I had the opportunity to interview Miami Beach chief of Staff AC Weinstein? Good, because here are some thoughts I drew up on the conversation, many of which I commented directly to AC throughout our first of many discussions on the future of Miami Beach…

Now, the first question on development, I fear, may have been interpreted a little bit too literally, but that is what happens when you try to be so precise with the wording of questions. The intention was never to correlate the cranes in Miami ensure economic vitality, but rather insinuate how in such a difficult market would Miami Beach continue to grow in order to ensure a steady tax revenue stream and thus guaranteeing the future economic vitality of Miami Beach industry. I was also hinting that height restrictions and true urban density should not be so interconnected with increased congestion on the Beach and that absurd limitations would only hamper future economic options for Miami Beach.

I was disappointed (not surprised) upon hearing Mr. Weinstein’s reply regarding Baylink, but was utterly dismayed when discussing the reasoning behind it. The basic arguments presented against Baylink (by the Beach) have been: Hurricanes, Washington Avenue, the Flexibility of Buses, and now apparently Historic Character. Hurricanes, we’ve addressed, this is a moot point considering all wires and structures will be built to hurricane standards and underground wires are not out of the realm of possibilities. Coincidentally, the reconstruction of Washington Avenue occurred at time when Miami Beach officials were beginning to object to Baylink (remember the famous quote around then: “Baylink will further enable those people to readily access the beach?“) Baylink would only further enhance the Washington Avenue streetscape, requiring only insertions of tracks while leaving much of the rest alone. My Favorite: “Flexibility of buses.” Miami Beach is like what, 11 blocks wide where most of the streetcar will be traveling? I doubt selecting any of these two streets will pose a problem when the streetcar will be virtually within a 4 block walk of nearly every address South of the Bass Museum. You really can’t go wrong. As for the Historic City comment, please look below at the Miami Beach Streetcar Map in 1928, or click here for some solid video evidence.
My qualm with the whole Baylink discussion was that the office of the mayor has yet to provide a legitimate alternative transit solution to handle the city’s current and upcoming demand. The reports I’ve seen both indicate that congestion will reach unbearable levels by 2011 (the economic vitality I was hinting at earlier would certainly suffer) all but promoting the idea of a longer termed solution. The office mentioned no plans to improve (or green) bus capacity, build transfer stations, or work with MDT to enable better signal prioritization along key corridors.

We’re pretty excited the Mayor’s office created the Green committee, however we’re not quite sure what tasks the committee will be tackling or what the stated goals of the committee are. There aren’t any plans, yet, to push for mandatory LEED certification on new construction or considerations for alternative fuels, car sharing, or other equally progressive programs.

The Bikeways and expanded bike lanes were a breath of fresh air. It’s reassuring to see the city take the necessary steps to move in a bike-oriented direction and even require bicycle parking. I hope the city (and perhaps the green committee) see that the addition of transit will only further enhance the cycling options while creating a much cleaner environment along the beach.

All in all, my conversation with Mr. Weinstein proved to be beneficial to us here at Transit Miami, as well as with many of the Miami Beach constituents. Mr. Weinstein provided us with a glimpse of the mentality issues we’ll have to face in the coming years in order to see real public transportation options come into fruition while providing a fresh, new perspective on the bicycle/pedestrian improvements the Beach hopes to make.

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I had the opportunity recently to sit down an speak with Miami Beach Chief of Staff AC Weinstein, who on Mayor Bowers’ behalf, was kind enough to answer some critical questions for us on the future of Miami Beach. I’ll post the questions/Answers below and follow up with some commentary tomorrow:

TM: The greater Miami area is awash with development, cranes, and construction, a sign of prosperous economic times, without permitting overdevelopment in Miami Beach, what will you do to continue to ensure the economic vitality of one of our strongest engines?

AC: All the development in Miami Beach does not ensure economic vitality; rather the economic vitality will continue to be the proper balance of reasonable development and respect for our residential neighborhoods. Overdevelopment does not ensure economic vitality of Miami Beach.

Referendum questions in height variance above 3 feet must go to the voters.

TM: Recent studies conducted by various planning experts suggests that Miami Beach will be ready (from a congestion standpoint) for an effective public transportation system around 2011. What is your position on improving public transportation on Miami Beach, particularly concerning the Baylink proposal? If you are against the proposal, please share your concerns, reservations, and alternative plans you suggest.

AC: MPO committee member informed the subcommittee will not see baylink in our lifetime. The Mayor has always leaned against the baylink system, because residents want to remove overhead wires. The shuttle buses are more compatible with our historic city and are more reliable than streetcars. The city recently completed a Washington Avenue Streetscape and would not want to tear up the roadway to install tracks.

TM: The environment has become a hot topic both locally and across America. This issue is obviously a concern to Miami Beach due to the possibility of rising seas, extensive beach erosion, and loss of vital fish habitat. What plans do you have to push Miami Beach in a more ecologically friendly direction? (I am specifically referencing LEED certification, reduced vehicle demand, and water conservation.)

AC: The Mayors office has created a green committee to specifically research this issue and looks forward to the recommendations of this committee.

TM: Given the fact that approximately 50% of Miami Beach residents do not rely on a vehicle as a primary means of transportation, what improvements can you foresee evolving to make the city more hospitable to pedestrians and cyclists?

AC: The Mayor has established a Bikeway committee to address this question and with commission approval new bike lanes and greenways will be moving forward. Greenway could be possible along Indian Creek, however, we need ROW from property owners.

TM: How do you feel about a Bicycle sharing program similar to the Velib recently installed in Paris

AC: It is an interesting program that I think would work well with our city. New construction will be required to include bicycle racks.

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