Wynwood Walking Tour - March 1st

 

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Value Engineering. What does the term mean to you?

Think about it. Let’s decompose the term before seeking out a formal definition. To us, the concept of value engineering when applied to transportation projects, includes the pursuit of cost-effective methods to achieve a desired end result. It includes a suite of tools that would enable project managers to work with engineers and architects to lower the overall cost of the project without sacrificing a particular end goal. In more obscure words, the FDOT defines value engineering as:

“…the systematic application of function-oriented techniques by a multi-disciplined team to analyze and improve the value of a product, facility, system, or service.”

So, if we were to tell you that FDOT was actively seeking to value engineer the structure that will soon replace I-395, how would you feel? Let’s take a look back at the designs presented last year before we dive into our argument on why we shouldn’t cut corners on such a critical piece of infrastructure.

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For the unacquainted, over the past several years FDOT initiated the process to replace the 1.5 mile structure that links SR 836 east of I-95 to the MacArthur Causeway. As the main artery between MIA, the Port of Miami, and South Beach, millions of visitors traverse this scenic stretch annually on the way to a cruise or the beaches. The byproduct of 1960’s urban renewal, I-395 ripped apart neighborhoods and displaced thousands from historic Overtown, today the structure continues to thwart efforts to unite our major public institutions including: The Arsht Center, Art and Science Museums (both currently under construction), and the AA Arena. As such, FDOT’s plans for I-395 will play a critical role in Miami’s ability to reshape the urban core and reunite Downtown, Parkwest, Omni, and Overtown districts.

Side note: Imagine what could become of the corner of N. Miami Avenue and 14th Street if the neighborhood were united with Downtown to the South or the Arsht Center to the east? The Citizens Bank Building (above), built during Miami’s boom years in 1925 could serve as a catalyst for growth in a neighborhood that has largely remained abandoned since urban renewal gutted Overtown. 

In this context, the concept of value engineering contradicts the livable, “sense of place” we’re working to achieve in Downtown. As it currently stands, I-395 and all the other roadways that access our barrier islands are utilitarian structures, serving little purpose other than to move vehicles from one land mass to another.

The challenge with I-395 is that it must satisfy numerous conflicting needs. I-395 isn’t just a bridge (or tunnel, or boulevard). It should serve as an icon; a figurative representation of Miami’s status as the Gateway to the Americas. A new I-395 will, should once and for all, eliminate the physical barrier that has long divided Downtown Miami from the Omni and Performing Arts Districts, encouraging more active uses below while maintaining the flow of traffic above. Not an easy feat. While the DDA and City of Miami recognize the economic value in designing an iconic structure at this site, our experience tells us that FDOT is more likely to think in the terms of dollars and LOS rather than the contextual and neighborhood needs. Simply put, this isn’t an ordinary site where a no-frills structure will suffice.

Cities all across the nation are eliminating derelict highways that for the past 40-50 years have scarred, divided, and polluted neighborhoods. Boston’s big dig for example submerged a 2-mile stretch of I-93 that had cut off the North End and Waterfront neighborhoods from downtown and the rest of the city. The Rose Kennedy Greenway, a 1.5 mile public park now stretches its length. Where the highway tunnel ends, an iconic structure, the Leonard P. Zakim Memorial Bridge takes over, leading traffic over the Charles River to points north. Adjacent to the TD Garden (home of the Celtics & Bruins) the Zakim Bridge is now synonymous with the Boston Skyline. Other notable examples include:

  • San Francisco’s Embarcardero Freeway
  • Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct
  • Hartford’s I-84 Viaduct

While no decision has been made on what final shape I-395’s replacement structure will take, our sources inform us that FDOT is beginning to explore more “cost effective” alternatives. We’ll keep eye on this project as it unfolds and will reach out to the City of Miami, DDA, and FDOT to ensure that Miami receives a replacement structure at this site worthy of its location in the heart of our burgeoning urban core. Moreover, we’ll remind FDOT that their third proposed objective for this project (3. Creating a visually appealing bridge) includes considering the aesthetics of the structure from all perspectives, especially the pedestrians and cyclists we’re trying to lure back into downtown streets.

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1The following is a guest post by Matthew González, a pedestrian, cyclist, and in-denial vegetarian who blogs his adventures at mgregueiro.com. He formerly worked in Miami with Teach For America and now lives in Spain doing research as a Fulbright Fellow. He launched mgregueiro.com as a place to discuss great ideas with the many great minds hiding throughout the wrinkles and corners of the interwebs. Check out his blog, or follow him at @mgregueiro to join the conversation.

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In 2010, 4,280 pedestrians and 618 cyclists were killed by motor vehicles in the United States. The most dangerous state? Florida, with 4.40 pedalcyclist fatalities per million population. Though some states have worked to lower this number by painting bike lanes and posting “Share The Road” signs, it is time American cities move from this temporary solution to a more permanent one: designing streets that serve motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists.

The problem with “Share The Road” signs is that they pin cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians against each other by making them responsible for outcomes, i.e., when a cyclist gets hit by a car it must be the cyclist’s or motorist’s fault. This thinking, however, doesn’t go deep enough and will not bring the much needed solutions.

These fatalities are caused by a systemic failure of our city infrastructure to provide safe spaces for pedestrians and cyclists. Legislators must understand that “Share The Road” signs are no more than construction signs: they represent the need for work to be done on our city’s roads, not the outcome. Cycling and jogging/running are the two most popular outdoor activities among Americans and it is time our city infrastructure reflect it.

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The History of “Share The Road”

Living in cities designed for and around the car, it is easy to forget that walking and cycling predate the automobile as primary modes of transportation. In fact, crosswalks and bike lanes were a consequence of automobile companies lobbying for changes in street design to make traveling by automobile more practical and lessen the hatred of motorists. (For a brief history on this shift in city design, check out this great TEDx talk by Mikael Colville-Andersen: Bicycle Culture by Design)

By the early 1960s, cyclists had lost the battle for America’s streets: roads were for motorists. But in 1967, cyclists won a major victory with the creation of the first modern bike lane in Davis, California. And twenty years later, the now iconic “Share The Road” sign was adopted by the North Carolina Board of Transportation – now the Department of Transportation Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation (A tip of the helmet to the Tar Heel state).

Unfortunately, more than twenty years later, cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians are still fighting to share the road. And looking at the number of pedestrian and cycling deaths caused by motorist each year, pedestrians and cyclists are losing.

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Looking Past “Share The Road”

The solution to these unnecessary deaths is no secret. Denmark and The Netherlands boast the highest number of cyclists per capita. According to a 2011 study published in Injury Prevention, “27% of Dutch trips are by bicycle, 55% are women, and the bicyclist injury rate is 0.14 injured/million km. In the USA, 0.5% of commuters bicycle to work, only 24% of adult cyclists are women, and the injury rate of bicyclists is at least 26 times greater than in the Netherlands.”(Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus in the street)

What is the difference between the US and these countries? Our streets.

The Netherlands has more than 1,800 miles of cycle tracks: bicycle paths that are separated from the street by a physical barrier. Meanwhile American cyclists are still fighting for bike lanes, that are easily ignored by motorist.

To bring an end to these unnecessary deaths, America’s cities need complete streets: roads designed to serve the needs of motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. This approach to city infrastructure is not imaginary, it has proven itself to be successful in The Netherlands, Denmark, and many other nations. Moreover, looking at the drastic paradigm shift that swept the nation after the car, it is clear that the US can again change the way our cities approach road design.

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A team of urban designers and architects, led by Miami based firm PlusUrbia*, were among the finalists for their design concept of ‘Port-Side’, Miami’s World Trade Center’s future commercial destination.

The team developed a concept coined “Port-Side Miami” to become the city’s new commercial district on the west end of the Port’s Dodge Island, which was designated by the “PortMiami 2035 master plan” to be developed into office space, retail, restaurants and a number of high-end hotels.

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In an invitation-only RFQ for a master plan, the designers were given a set of parameters that dictated an intricate solution by means of phasing the project over time in order to minimize the effect on the port’s functions and to retain the existing buildings until the last phase. In addition, PlusUrbia’s team, following the RFQ’s guidelines, refrained to design specific buildings and maintained a generic/volumetric look to the design with the intention of later engaging other architects to provide the architecture.

Endowed with a privileged location, the site affords its buildings with outstanding views of Miami, Key Biscayne and South Beach. As such, Port-Side was designed to become a key upscale destination for residents and visitors alike, including retail, office and hotels that would provide round the clock activity as well as supporting one of the busiest cruise ship and cargo terminals in the US. The project aimed to transform Port Miami into an anchor for South Florida as well as setting a new standard for waterfront development.

The master plan’s building disposition was designed to emphasize its iconic nature while using downtown Miami’s scale and intensity as reference. Port-Side’s master plan is envisioned as an immediate extension of downtown while maintaining its identifiable urban island feel.

The proposal would become a destination by simply its physical attributes, engaging the water’s edge in a variety of ways (pedestrian and vehicular promenades, plazas and waterfront parks) supported by shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants on the water.

The new district retrofits and extends existing infrastructure (Caribbean Way) as its pedestrian and bicycle access extending the City of Miami’s plans for its river-walk that connects the river to Bayside Marketplace, Bayfront Park and proposed future plans that may possibly include other means of public transportation.

 

*PlusUrbia Design in collaboration with GSHstudio, OskiStudio and studioLFA

 

This article was written by Peter Smith

Tuesday marked the culmination of the Carnival season, celebrated as Mardi Gras in the French-speaking world and Carnival in the rest of Continental Europe and throughout Latin America. Our Brazilian neighbors throw the world’s largest Carnival celebrations and other festivals dotting the Caribbean are an impressive show, to be sure. It would make sense then for Miami, home to so many Brazilians, Jamaicans, Trinis, Colombians, etc., to have a noteworthy Carnival celebration of our own. But we don’t. Instead, we take our cues from the rest of the United States and the Anglo world in being among the only places in the West, save for New Orleans and a few Midwest locales, not joining in on the party.

Admittedly, there are enviably grandiose Carnival celebrations in London and Toronto, but these were re-imported by Trinidadian and Jamaican immigrants. I say “re-imported,” of course, because the English-speaking world used to celebrate a variation of Carnival along with the rest of the Christian world. So what happened to our party?

Dating back to the 12th century, towns in the British Isles celebrated Shrove Tuesday on the final day of Shrovetide just before the start of the Lenten season. The word “shrove” is the past-tense of “shrive,” meaning to confess. Christians prepared for Lent by engaging in one final round of indulgence and succumbing to temptation before confessing their sins on the eve of Ash Wednesday. Shrove Tuesday is actually still celebrated today in much of the English-speaking world, but in a form much different than its original tradition. Today, Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Tuesday and is celebrated with a pancake dinner, often in church basements or around dining room tables.

There used to be more to Shrove Tuesday than just pancakes, however. There used to be street festivals, music, dancing, and drinking, all centered around a mob football match held in the village streets and town squares. These festivities date back as far as the 1100s and, although they evolved independently from the Carnival traditions of Continental Europe, they closely resembled those celebrations. After all, if you’re preparing for forty days of fasting, abstinence, sacrifice, and penance, how else would you spend your final days of freedom if not by engaging in lecherous debauchery?

All the fun came to a halt in 1835 when the British Parliament passed the Highway Act. The Highway Act prohibited, among other things, playing football on public highways. In today’s context, this seems like a fair request: don’t play soccer on the highway, but it carried a slightly different meaning in those days. Highways referred to any public roads, of which there may have only been one or two in smaller towns. Highways almost always went straight through a town’s center and sometimes even included the village square. Playing football on public highways was quite common, as common as playing in a public park is today. Public highways were also likely the only space available to accommodate the large mob football matches and their accompanying festivities that characterized the Shrovetide season.

So when the Highway Act of 1835 banned football on public highways, it effectively also killed Shrove Tuesday.

The Highway Act became the law of the land in England, Scotland, Wales and all of Ireland. It also took effect in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. A decade after its passage, the Great Famine struck in Ireland, prompting nearly four million Irish to immigrate to the United States. They did not bring with them their Shrovetide traditions, which had been destroyed years earlier by the Highway Act, and so, as Irish culture shaped American life in the second half of the nineteenth century, there was no tradition of Shrovetide or Carnival or Mardi Gras left to build on. It never took hold in the United States.

There is still a smattering of nostalgia-laden Shrovetide celebrations throughout England, and they’re mostly in small villages so remote that public highways did not reach them in 1835. They’re a world away from Miami, but they offer an insight into what Carnival in Miami may have looked like if the Highway Act had not killed Shrovetide in the English-speaking world. To be fair, they probably by now would have been remolded in the image of Latin American Carnival. But instead, when immigration from Latin America and the Caribbean transformed Miami beginning in the 1950s, the new arrivals found no Shrove Tuesday here to mold.

Miami is billed as the Gateway to Latin America and the Capital of Latin America. It is a bilingual city: Spanish and English, often in that order. Yet, we do not participate in the single most important date on the social calendar of Latin America and the Spanish-speaking world.

Perhaps the new settlers of Miami will one day establish a Carnival tradition here or maybe those of us already here will finally say that enough is enough and we want in on the fun too. Until then, when your friends and families are sharing Carnival photos from around the world on Twitter and Instagram, remember to quietly curse the British Parliament and their Highway Act for our absence from what clearly looks to be a very fun time.

 

Until the 1960s Miami’s African American teens attended high school at segregated facilities. Join the History Miami community for a discussion featuring students from Miami’s five historically black high schools. Learn how they experienced segregation and how integration impacted their lives and their schools.

Saturday, February 23 @ 2:00pm

101 West Flagler Street, Miami, FL 33130

FREE TO THE PUBLIC

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Panelists:

  • Dr. Wilbert “Tee” Holloway, Northwestern HS, Class of 1966
  • Dr. Mona Bethel Jackson, George Washington Carver Sr. HS, Class of 1965
  • Ms. Frederica Simmons Brown, Booker T. Washington HS, Class of 1950
  • Ms. Wesley Dallas, Mays HS, Class of 1966
  • Mr. Alvin Miller, North Dade Sr. HS, Class of 1964

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This article by Adam Schachner originally appeared in the February issue of The Biscayne Times

A show of pedestrian force in Brickell. Photo by Philip Picaza.

A show of pedestrian force in Brickell. Photo by Philip Picaza.

The Foot Soldiers: Pedestrian Activists Reclaiming Miami’s Crosswalks, One Intersection at a Time
By Adam Schachner

Miamians rarely find common ground on most topics. Even more rare are public demonstrations of any kind. Collectively speaking, we’d much rather spend our time at the mall or the beach. Which makes what recently happened at a Brickell intersection all the more powerful.

Responding to an outcry for proper roadway conduct, on Monday, January 21, no fewer than 25 concerned locals declared the crosswalks at Brickell Avenue and SE 15th Road a “pedestrian safety walk zone.” Marchers occupied the crosswalks and demanded increased civility from motorists. They even distributed booklets on Florida’s traffic laws to drivers, many of whom, because they lack civility, simply flung the booklets back at the activists with a curse and a rude gesture.

Still, the walkers asserted their rights to safety, braved hostile stares and abuse, and celebrated the motorists who gave approving honks and thumbs-up.

The takeaway? Conscientious drivers, concerned about who might be hurt by their carelessness, do exist in Miami, but they are in the minority, spread thin through the ranks of traffic, and pressured to keep moving by honking tailgaters.

Read the rest of the story here via The Biscayne Times.

 

This just in from a very reliable Transit Miami tipster:

Just tried to cross here and had to dodge 2 cop cars blocking crosswalks and ramps. Strollers did not have a chance. Typical horrifying scenario but made worse by the police. There looked to be a minor fender bender north of 9th. No need for any crosswalks to be blocked especially at this already hectic area.

There was an officer near and I pointed out a stroller trying to maneuver the curb and cop car scenario and suggested it was dangerous to have a car there. Maybe they could move off the ramp area or help strollers and elderly by directing traffic since there seemed to be an inordinate number of officers there. I counted at least 9. She proceeded to scream at me. Calling me stupid at one point even. I calmly walked away and she continued to berate me. Asking my age for some reason and threatening to arrest me for interfering with her investigation. Ridiculous. Her info is below. I took pics but wished I had filmed the officer go nuts.  It would go viral I am sure. Not sure if you can or should do anything with this info but here it is. http://cops.heraldtribune.com/Officer/Details/52406

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One teriffic video response to the Dodge ad that implied that ‘real Americans’ are truck-owning farmers. (We did the research, 1.8% of American families are involved in farming or ranching. Meanwhile, around 60% of the US population lives in ‘urbanized’ area of over 200,000 people.)

 

 
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New crosswalks on NW 2nd Avenue and 25th in Wynwood.

 

Everyone seems to be talking about the new crosswalks in Wynwood which Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez just designed at the intersection of NW 2nd Avenue and 25th Street. These crosswalks are all the rage these days. They are the first of 15 crosswalks that will be painted through out Wynwood by Carlos.

Don’t get me wrong, the crosswalks look great and I fully support Carlos’s initiative, but these new crosswalks will do very little, if anything, to make the streets of Wywood any safer for pedestrians.

About a year ago, I wrote an article for Miami Urbanist about the lack of crosswalks on NW 2nd Avenue in Wynwood:

The County Public Works Department just completed a resurfacing project on NW 2nd Avenue from NW 20th Street to NW 36th Street. Sadly pedestrians only have 4 intersections where they can safely cross NW 2ndAvenue for these 16 blocks. The crosswalks are located at NW 20th Street, NW 29th Street, NW 31st Street and NW 36th Street.”

A couple of months ago I wrote a follow-up post to my first article about NW 2nd Avenue for Transit Miami. In the past year County Public Works and Waste Management Department has added 4 crosswalks at the intersection of NW 2nd Ave and 25th Street.  They have also added sharrows to this street. Sharrows have now officially become the County’s default bicycle treatment so that they can claim they are doing something for cyclists, even if it means encouraging cyclists to ride on dangerous roads with design speeds in excess of 35 mph. So, basically the County has done next to nothing in the past year except drag their feet.

Please send an email to Mayor Gimenez and County Public Works and Waste Management Department Director Kathleen Woods-Richardson by clicking here.  Ask them what their excuse is for not putting crosswalks at every intersection along NW 2nd Avenue.

In addition to installing more crosswalks, the county should also consider raised crosswalks as well as narrowing the travel lanes to calm traffic. Currently NW 2nd Avenue is designed to encourage speeding. There are little, if any, redeeming qualities about this road.  The County should prioritize pedestrian safety over moving vehicles as quickly as possible on NW 2nd Avenue. The whole situation is just awful and quite embarrassing just like this video. The County is still living in the 1970’s…

 

Your writer is a slight woman, sometimes confused for a minor, who dreams of a South Florida where everyone feels safe crossing the street. Friends, family, and in these videos, my boyfriend, would clearly prefer I keep myself away from traffic. I hate to stress them but – when pro-pedestrian/pro-safety traffic modifications are installed, I just can’t help but try them out.

So, for today’s transit humor (because no one was hurt), here are two videos of myself and my wary significant other, trying (and failing) to cross the street at 48th & Biscayne Blvd.

FDOT: Thank you! It’s an important first step. City of Miami Police: where are you??

Interesting note: Found this Florida attorney’s webpage on ‘Penalties After Violating Pedestrian and Crosswalk Law’:

“If there is a person attempting to cross a road while in a marked crosswalk you are required to stop until the person has cleared the crosswalk. Most crosswalks are marked by painted lines and a yellow sign with an image of a person walking… The rules here are pretty obvious, and most drivers wouldn’t move their vehicles through a crosswalk if a pedestrian was there.”

As the voice asks in Part 1: “They just don’t see the sign, love. They… can’t… possibly…”

This lane marking is approved by the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration and is part of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

 

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.)

Please Register Online by:
February 8, 2013
Online at seflorida.uli.org
Phone: 800-321-5011
(reference #8135-1344) 

YL Haven Notice Feb 12 (2)

 

The former City of Miami Mayor, Manny Diaz, will be speaking at the University of Miami on his new book,

Miami Transformed:Rebuilding America One Neighborhood, One City at a Time.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013 @ 6:00pm

Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center, Glasgow Hall

1215 Dickenson Drive

Coral Gables, Florida

Manny Diaz: Miami Transformed

 

 
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