I recently attended one the public involvement sessions on the Long Range Transportation Plan at the Collins Park Public Library on Miami Beach. 17 members of the community, flanked by an equal number of consultants and staff, played with Lego blocks and ribbons to help formulate the plan for future transportation improvements and enhancements to the year 2030.
You see, the Miami Dade County Department of Planning and Zoning has forecast growth to be 323,000 households and 615,000 jobs by the year 2035. To show this, the room was set with tables of identical county maps, and the two maps on the center tables had “buildings” made of striped Lego blocks: one that represented jobs and households today and one in 2035. The concentration of growth around the Costal Communities and Bay Shore was shocking: as was the growth projected beyond the UEA (Urban Expansion Area). It was hard not to see the difference between now and then, based on these projections.
After a beautiful lite dinner of sandwiches and cookies, the focus group officially kicked off with a lightening speed definition of the MPO, its guiding mandate and geographical composition. The program kept it’s fast pace through the opinion gathering portion of the evening: a survey of statements about “feelings” of transit…”Do you agree it is safe to ride transit?” “Do you agree the possibility of global warming should affect transit programming decisions?” “Do you think building more roads will make traveling better?” The responses were recorded through hand held gizmos, and zapped to a data collection point, where in real time, the responses would be projected on the screen in numerical and graphical form, a la Who wants to be a Millionaire?
For those whose true feeling about transit could not be measured in lifeline questions, a longer comment/suggestion sheet of proposed goals and objectives of the LRTP was presented for feedback and filling out. This two-page work-product, from the firm Gannett Fleming, featured eight categories and no less than 49 lofty concepts, ranging from “Reducing congestion” to “Enhancing mobility for people and freight.”
Each table of participants was given bags of Lego’s; purple and orange ribbons; stickum; scissors; a tape measure and markers. They were told to work together, to make group decisions, by the table facilitator, who explained the exercise and recorded the results. Groups were instructed how to “Build Out” the County, with the “Large-Scale Growth Scenario Base Map”. The households were represented with 253 yellow Lego’s and 160 red Lego’s stood for employment, with one yellow piece representing 1, 280 households; The red, 3840 jobs. (These Lego’s represented new growth only) The intensity of growth was portrayed by vertically stacking the Lego’s within each one-mile square grid on the six-foot map. Next, folks were instructed to add purple for more roads and orange for transit improvements that would be needed. The participants were encouraged to add as much as they thought was required. As playtime came to a close, the groups were told to go on a diet, measure the length of orange and purple on the map and use no more than the allotted amount.
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