The MPO is looking for public input concerning future transit options in the Kendall area. Proposed options include an extension of metrorail, BRT, or extending tri-rail further south through the existing CSX tracks…

Sorry for the short notice, but, the meetings are today and tomorrow:

Tuesday-
6-8 PM @ Kendall Village Center

Wednesday-
6-8 PM @ Country Walk Homeowners Association Clubhouse

For more information on the project, click here. I will not be able to attend, but, if anyone can make it out and would like to share what happened and what the most common residents concerns were, please e-mail us: movemiami@gmail.com.

I’m convinced that bicycles will play a major role in Miami’s transportation future. Why? Because biking can act as a major facilitator bridging the gap between driving and walking, especially within moderate proximities to transit. Biking is much faster than walking, but non-motorized. However, I have not seen the vision to make this happen yet.
On my way to Coconut Grove station recently, I noticed a flyer promoting a forum for county residents to come comment on a proposed enhancement project to the southern tier of the “M-Path”. I immediately thought this was a horrible idea, and regret that my frenetic schedule did not allow me to attend this forum. This is the kind of project that should be pursued only after you have a thriving, comprehensive mass transit system, city-wide latticework of bike lanes/greenways, and an outstanding pedestrian realm. Not only do I believe this project lacks vision, but it is redundant. Instead of encouraging people to ride bikes under the metro’s only rapid transit line, emphasis should be on connecting neighborhoods and thoroughfares to transit stations.

A good example for realizing such a system can be found within the 27th Avenue beautification project, which should be finalized in the next couple months. I find this to be one of the most encouraging, visionary projects in a long time in Miami. The concept is simple: implement bike lanes on 27th Avenue, between US-1 and South Bayshore Drive, giving bicyclists a dedicated right-of-way from the bay to the Metrorail. Of course the improvements in the pedestrian realm are also much needed and will certainly enhance the corridor from that aspect; however, the biking infrastructure will make the prospect of riding transit much greater for those living near 27th Avenue and >0.5 miles to a transit station.

With the bike lanes, cyclists could get from Tigertail Ave to US-1 in five or six minutes riding at a leisurely 10MPH pace. From near the Bird Ave intersection it could be even quicker. With additional bicycle parking at Coconut Grove station (and of course, at all stations), someone living in the South Central Grove could be on the platform waiting for the train in just 7-10 minutes, consistently, without ever having to worry about traffic, parking, or gas. Moreover, during rush hour trains run about every six minutes and the ride from Grove station to Government Center is less than 10 minutes (only 6 minutes to Brickell.)

This model should be adapted for the following streets, at a minimum:

  • SW/NW 27th Avenue
  • SW 37th Avenue
  • SW 57th Avenue
  • SW 72nd Street
  • SW 88th Street
  • SW 67th Avenue
  • SW/NW 12th Avenue
  • NW 20th Street
  • NW 79th Street
  • Coral Way
  • If a plan like this was to be implemented, thousands more citizens would have easy, fast access to Metrorail stations. With ample bicycle parking available at each station, riders would have the option of bringing the bike aboard and using it after they reach their destination, or they could park it for free and not have to worry about lugging it around the office.

    This also has the potential to significantly reduce congestion on these thoroughfares, especially during rush hours . Under the current system, massive park-n’-ride lots are designed to encourage people who want to use Metrorail, but cannot easily (or quickly) get there by walking, to drive to stations. Then, they are faced with $4.00 parking fees. Biking to the stations instead would eliminate these issues.

    Furthermore, if Mayor Diaz really wanted a world-class Green Policy, he would embrace this plan by requiring all new commercial buildings in the CBD and Brickell to provide bicycle parking and locker rooms with showers so riders could clean up before work if necessary. Toronto has amended its zoning laws to require that new large-scale developments provide storage and showering facilities for bikers. Given the excessive parking requirements currently mandated by the City, I don’t think it would be too much to ask to provide these bike-friendly facilities – at least if you really care about sustainable transportation and traffic reduction.

    Lastly, providing the bike infrastructure has inherent benefits even without everyone using it to connect to transit. Biking presents a fast, efficient, dirt cheap transportation alternative to the automobile. If you use 10MPH as an average biking speed, one could go from Downtown Coral Gables to Downtown Miami in just 20 minutes; it would take just seven minutes to travel one mile. This is significant, given that nearly two-thirds of trips under one mile are taken by the automobile.

    This is part II in a series on biking in Miami. Part III will look more specifically at some potential routes…

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    I started my trip as usual at the UM metrorail station. The station severely needs a pedestrian overpass to connect it with the already disjointed surroundings. Notice, any attempt to connect the station with its eastern surroundings will at best connect pedestrians with any of the many available parking lots of the strip shopping centers.

    I arrived at the Brickell station in full view of some “urban design malpractice,” to quote Ryan’s previous post on the subject. The following pictures were taken either from the Metrorail platform or from the train just as we entered the station (I’m disappointed that Beethoven’s 5th No longer plays when the train arrives, what gives?) The first picture depicts the new Infinity at Brickell high-rise with its’ hideous massive blank wall left exposed facing the west. The next two pictures are of buildings adjacent to the metrorail platform. Notice the wide entrance to the parking garage in the first building (Brickell Station Villas designed by Alberto Otero) on the west side fronting the station. The third picture below depicts another new condo with an absurdly huge parking structure below making up more than half the size of the building. These designs are sad and pathetic considering their proximity to mass transit. A parking garage entrance shouldn’t front the station and their designs should be required to consider pedestrian activity. I don’t blame the architects or developers; this is clearly a regulatory issue and the result of a commission who approves nearly anything which comes before them…

    The last time I passed by the Brickell metrorail station (nearly 8 months ago) the brickell metromover escalator was out of service. I was dismayed to see that this was obviously still the case. Great job Bradley!

    I got off the mover by Mary Brickell Village, the disastrously planned retail center in the heart of Brickell which has been under construction for a few years now. I was dismayed however to see that this station’s escalator was too out of commission (that’s 0/2 for all of you keeping score.) Great job Bradley!

    Pictured below is the site of the Brickell Financial Centre, which as I mentioned earlier was slated to officially break ground on Thursday. Despite the continued demolition of the mid-rise previously located on the site, an area with project plans and descriptions was set up on the former back parking lot.

    When I arrived at the 5th street station, just beside the new Brickell on the River Condominium, I looked down to find two separate paths leading from the Station to the river-walk. One was apparently the “commoners” path while the one on the right side of the wrought iron fence was for the residents of the condo. Fenced in or gated condominiums severely detract from their urban surroundings and should not be allowed to rise in such central and prominent locations of our city. These tend to isolate residents from the surroundings, complicating building access for pedestrians and disconnecting them from the closely located transit and public river-walk…

    Looking back inland, the beautiful rear end of 500 Brickell kept staring at me, asking why the developer had left such a plain wall facing the metromover station. A short walk around the building later demonstrated that the front end had been properly designed, with balconies and plenty of glass, it’s a shame the back side couldn’t have been granted the same architectural considerations.

    Although the whole downtown has been morphed into a full scale construction zone, I was surprised to see adequate consideration taken for the area sidewalks. Although I appeared to be the only person walking around, the construction worker turned crossing guard was kind enough to halt passing street activity for me to cross.

    From the Brickell Avenue Bridge looking west I saw further signs of a very disjointed river-walk taking shape. The newly completed Brickell on the River was sectioned off from the neighboring Riverview Complex which is apparently the docking point for some Miami PD boats (this is probably done as a local measure of (in)security…)

    The CBD as we knew it has finally witnessed the removal of the last surface parking eyesores as the Metropolitan Miami Complex rises. In the foreground we see piles being driven for the most important tower rising in the CBD since the Bank of America Tower was completed in the 80’s, MET 2. MET 2 is our newest office skyscraper which will feature 600,000 square feet of office space in one tower and Miami’s first Marriot Marquis in an adjacent tower. Most importantly, MET 2 will dwarf the abysmally lackluster height and design of MET 1 (Center, under construction,) with a glass facade and parabolic glass shape similar to the Esprito Santo Bank tower on Brickell.

    Pedestrian activity already disturbed along the river area due to the EPIC and MET construction is permanently obstructed by the pilings of the metromover.

    One Miami can essentially be credited with being the project which started the latest vertical boom in Downtown Miami. Constructed by the Related Group of Florida and designed by local architect Arquitectonica (like most Related Group projects,) these twin 45 and 44 story towers were the first to test the downtown residential condo market in several decades. The real estate revival launched by this development since has been phenomenal. I was highly unimpressed by the entrance to the towers which obviously caters to vehicular movements while pedestrian access is relegated to a thin walkway alongside the tower entrance.

    One Miami’s contribution to the public river-walk however, was highly impressive and one of the high points of my walk. The area was beautiful, providing ample seating along the tranquil north shore of the Miami River and overlooking Brickell Key. The One Miami river-walk contained various works of art, including a sculpture by Jose Bedia among others. Big Brother was noticeably present as was adequate lighting and access for One Miami residents. Hopefully Epic and the other buildings rising along the river will continue the precedent already established by One Miami.

    Part one of my tour concludes with a view of the unfinished One Miami River-Walk leading into Bayfront Park. The dock on the right is the proposed station for any future ferry commuter boats traveling between the CBD and Aventura/South Dade. Part two of my walk will continue through Bayfront Park as I tackle the changes currently transforming what should be our most prominent urban park…

    I’m in town and I decided to take a trip downtown (as usual) using transit and my own two feet. Unlike our elected officials, I see the need to periodically take the trip around leisurely to experience things first hand and see where things are going wrong (or right.) Today’s trip was filled with urban issues, many random people, and an encounter with a US Marshall for photographing the Federal courthouse complex, so it should be a good read…I’ll be back soon with the story and pictures…

    1450 Brickell, the newest office building in Brickell since the Espirito Santos Plaza, broke ground last week. The 33 story glass tower will feature over 500,000 square feet of office space and is aiming for Silver LEED certification.

    Meanwhile, just up the avenue today will be the official ground breaking ceremony on the Brickell Financial Center office buildings at 600 Brickell. The 40 story, 600,000 square foot office building is set to be complete in 2009 and is also seeking LEED certification.

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    Tonight Miami 21 goes before the Planning Advisory Board at City Hall. This is a big step forward in the Miami 21 process, so show up at City Hall tonight at 6:00 PM to get involved and sit in on the hearing.

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    Can’t wait to see how quickly this house falls in value when the owners realize they built under a TV Tower…

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    What is taking Miami so long to embrace bicycle-oriented policies? Given the area’s fantastic year-round weather, terrible traffic congestion, underdeveloped mass transit, and fairly dense urban core (i.e. Miami proper, Miami Beach, downtown Gables), one would think Miami would be at the forefront of developing bicycle-oriented infrastructure. This certainly hasn’t been the case, however. As of this day, there are only a handful of bicycle lanes in all of Miami-Dade County, and they are located primarily in the suburbs of Coral Gables and Key Biscayne.
    Mayor Diaz’s Green initiatives provide an excellent foundation for sustainability in Miami, I find that a bicycle-boosting initiative is conspicuously missing. If you google “Miami” and “bike”, you’ll sadly get more results for bike-related activities in Ohio’s Miami Valley then in America’s southernmost metropolis. Doing some quick research, the only mention of bicycle projects was at the MPO’s website. However, there are only a very small number of bike projects being considered, and all of them are either fragmented suburban routes or recreational trails. It appears there is very little direction or leadership for improved bicycle policy in Miami. Meanwhile, many cities across the county and around the world are pedaling full speed ahead (pun intended) with their own initiatives to promote bicycling as a popular, sustainable, safe, and effective means of transportation.

    • New York, NY: An elaborate city website exhibits all the bike information you could ever need, including maps. The City already has several hundred miles of bike lanes cris-crossing all five boroughs, yet plans to implement another 900 lane miles of bike lanes and greenways. NYC even has a bicycle master plan, which, if I am not mistaken, is completely foreign to any municipal body in Miami-Dade.
    • Louisville, Kentucky: The City is in the process of implementing a citywide system of bike lanes and paths. Mayor Jeffrey Abramson, who keynoted the 2007 National Bike Summit in Washington, has adopted a “complete streets” policy that requires bike lanes as apart of all major road improvements.
    • Seattle, Washington: Creating safer cycling conditions is the City’s top priority. The City is about to implement its own Bicycle Master Plan, a 10-year strategy to create 200+ miles of bike lanes citywide.
    • Portland, Oregon: A national leader in urban bicycle policy, the City’s fantastic website has extensive biking information. Everything from maps, guides, and brochures – it’s on the website.
    • Copenhagen, Denmark: Perhaps the most bicycle-friendly city on Earth, 32% of residents bike to work. This is despite being a city with a climate that is cool, wet, and dreary for much of the year – the antithesis of Miami (so much for all those lame weather excuses Miamians use to drive everywhere). So 32% of residents bike to work…fantastic, right? Not good enough for Copenhagen. The City has set a goal to increase this percentage to 40%.
    Photo courtesy of Flickr account: vj_pdx

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    And the unprecedented growth continues…

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    I went to Knaus Berry Farm recently in the Redlands to savor Miami’s best milkshake and to buy some fresh, locally grown produce. Although the drive is long, the tastes and sweets are well worth the effort. I’m no longer as phased as I used to be about the amount of new development I encounter along the way. Our land use is absurd and we’re swallowing precious farm land (and the whole Miami-Dade farming industry) at an alarming rate. Part of becoming a sustainable city includes retaining enough farmland so that a considerable amount of our produce can be grown locally. As it pertains to agriculture, sustainable describes farming systems that are “capable of maintaining their productivity and usefulness to society indefinitely (Definition via National Agricultural Library.) The costs (and tastes) of locally grown produce are far superior to that of any import and the energy wasted in transportation is much less than conventional methods, making the whole process greener for our local economy. I’ve digressed…
    So, we’re managing to pave over our precious farm land at an astonishing rate. Cut-rate houses are rising on lots far too small for the house size and whole neighborhoods are springing up around a road network better designed to handle cattle and tractors rather than soccer moms and minivans. The whole thing is quite a mess really and it’s rather disappointing to experience. The lack of infrastructure is incredible and the fact that so much development has already occurred or has been approved is quite disturbing. It’s only a matter of time before strip shopping centers prevalent in America as Suburban eyesores begin to dot the landscape, bringing with them total chaotic growth and congestion.

    I was most in shock to see the size of the houses rising beneath the massive NBC radio guyed mast tower. These houses make the houses built in the 1970’s in cocaine alley look like shacks (no, I’m not implying that these houses too are funded by illegal activities.) The fact that anyone would spend the kind of money to construct these multiple thousand square feet houses miles from nowhere was shocking. I took a few pictures which failed to capture the magnitude of these houses, but luckily I found an ebay listing for the lots next door, selling for over $800k and touting the absurd immense houses rising in full view of the property. Here are some pictures and quotes from the listing:

    BUILD YOU DREAM MANSION OR TWO ON THIS 5 ACRE PARCEL OFFERED AT $819,000.00, LOCATED IN MIAMI (REDLAND), FLORIDA. INVESTOR’S DREAM! OWNER FINANCING AVAILABLE

    MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR MANSIONS ON EVERY CORNER! THIS VACANT AND FLAT 5 ACRE LOT IS ZONED AGRICULTURE AND YEARLY TAXES ARE $244.00. INCOME FROM PROPERTY CAN EARN $250,000/YEARLY IF USED AS A NURSERY, ACCORDING TO NEIGHBORING NURSERY OWNERS. THE LOT ALSO ALLOWS ZONING FOR TWO HOMESITES TO BE BUILT, AS SEEN IN NEIGHBORING PROPERTIES. PROPERTY IS LOCATED MINUTES FROM EXECUTIVE AIRPORT, PRIVATE GOLF&COUNTRY CLUB, MIAMI-HOMESTEAD MOTORSPORTS SPEEDWAY & THE FLORIDA KEYS.
    The first of several hideous houses which initially caught my eye, I believe the architecture style is more commonly referred to as gaudy Miami or just plain ugly. This house rests just yards away from the base of the guyed mast and seemingly straddled between two of the anchoring cables. These people will be in shock the day they decide to sell this house and realize it isn’t worth anything near what they expected…
    This was just the entrance to the house across the street. King Louis the XIV can be found somewhere in the chateaus (yes plural) in the background… Some of the surroundings, just waiting to be bulldozed and have some more McMansions or “affordable housing” built upon them…Another house, designed in the gaudy Miami style, still under construction…McMansions piled upon each other despite the amount of land available nearby… The ebay listing was far too childish and poorly written to be taken seriously, “Oh, Mansions!” but the construction occurring in this part of the county is undeniably genuine. The area will continue to explode if growth continues to be unchecked, bringing it with it more of the same suburban sprawl that plagues most of our city. The county will have to fund massive overhauls in the area to deal with the influx of residents while damage to the everglades ecosystem nearby and the disappearance of Miami’s farming will continue at an alarming rate unless we pro actively take measures to heed the advancement of greedy development…

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    • The Developer Billionaire partnership Leviev Boymelgreen composed by Lev Leviev and Shaya Boymelgreen, known in Miami for Marquis and Vitri, have decided to split their partnership, citing a difference of opinions towards future development. Boymelgreen sees a formidable future in the Miami market, opted to stay with the Miami land holdings concentrated around the Carnival center, while Leviev maintained ownership of the NYC properties. Besides the developers’ optimistic stance on Miami’s market, it interesting to note that he is considering developing rental units or workforce housing in the CBD, a stance we have long advocated to help alleviate Miami’s recent housing shortages…
    • Miami is ranked 63 in the top 100 most liveable cities by Business Week, down a notch from last year. In browsing through the list I was compelled to notice that all but one of the top 15 cities have Streetcars, Trams, or LRT running through the city streets. Coincidence? I think not…(Via: Spacing Wire)
    • Open Road tolling is coming to a highway near you…
    • Jersey City is quickly becoming the model of the urban future according to this article in today’s USA Today. I should note, on top of existing transit, the city recently completed a light rail transit line to continue to facilitate transit use for the more than 40% of its residents who ride regularly…
    • Blog Update: I’ve somehow neglected to add a link to Cyburbia to the website. Cyburbia was founded in 1994, and is the Internet’s oldest continuously operating planning-related Web site; it functions today as a portal and busy social networking site for planners and others interested in the built environment. Check it out…

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    I got some of the latest shots of the proposed retail center slated to rise on 5th street and Alton Rd. on Miami beach, just across from the up and coming Vitri Lofts. The retail center will feature some of the principles I am always advocating for the buildings rising in the design district and other parts of Miami. If just some of these concepts were required on all of the buildings in Miami, I guarantee we would have a far better pedestrian friendly atmosphere and a much easier time implementing public transit infrastructure and use. For example, a bus station will be integrated into the project, bringing the beach’s many transit users right into the front doors of the complex:Covered sidewalks and tree landscaping are an integral part of creating and maintaining vibrant pedestrian activity, particularly in Miami due to the heat and frequent summer showers. 5th and Alton will feature cover porticoes, palms, and public artwork, similar to that of many of the buildings on Miami Beach:Some of you think we’re against vehicles, which simply isn’t true. We’re against planning for vehicles as the priority of any project. Buildings should be designed to primarily interact with people rather than cars. 5th and Alton will likely feature enough parking for most of its visitors, but the parking garage won’t be the focal point of the structure and neither will its’ unsightly entrance. The entrance is relegated to a back street, Lenox Ave, where the traffic impact will be minimal and the pedestrian and transit entrances will remain uninhibited:
    Update: Fifth and Alton is being developed by the Berkowitz group in conjunction with the Potamkin Family. The project is slated to be 170,000 square feet and will contain a Staples, Best Buy, and Publix among others. The City of Miami Beach will be purchasing parking spaces from the retail center for public use at a cost of $9.5 Million. The Berkowitz group created the Dadeland Station mall in Kendall as well as the Kendall Village Shopping complex in west Kendall, which both also featured large Romero Britto sculptures…

    During a casual lunchtime stroll along the Miami River, I happened to catch a moment that all too often legitimizes Miami’s superficial export image. The SW 2nd Avenue drawbridge, in the heart of downtown Miami, was raised to allow this luxury yacht (with only one visible person on board). Even worse, the yacht would have fit if it weren’t for it’s unnecessarily long spires. It’s ridiculous how the City allows luxury private vessels to have precedent over the public realm – especially in the heart of downtown. This issue will surely be magnified in the near future with all the new development downtown and along the river. Residents need to speak up – this is not something that happens in quality public spaces.

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    I was featured again today by the Independent Florida Alligator’s Opinion column in response to an article written by the newspaper on Wednesday. As some of you may recall, a few weeks ago, Jeb Bush was snubbed by the UF Faculty senate for an honorary alumni status. Now, Representative David Rivera, R-Miami, is pushing a plan through the Florida State Senate to name the UF college of Education after the former governor.

    I, naturally have issues with this. I think we need to stop rewarding people for doing average jobs, doing what they were elected or hired to do. Roosevelt Bradley touted how he purchased so many buses for MDT under his tenure, but then again, that’s what we expected him to do when we passed the PTP. Under Jeb Bush, Florida’s education system suffered. We’re ranked 47th among the 50 states and our high school graduation rates, teacher pay, and standards are deplorable. Jeb was a strong advocate for the student school voucher program, which was a considerable dis to the Florida Public education system. Naming the UF College of Education after a governor who failed to accomplish any educational advancement would be a disgrace to our Public Education system, UF, and the Faculty Senate who was in the right to snub him in the first place…

    To read my reply, click here

    Some other noteworthy editorials: Gordon Van Owen, Lee Dykxhoorn

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    Drought Could Cripple Everglades’Life… You don’t say… As the drought continues (yes, despite today’s downpour and hail storm there is still a drought) our ecosystem will continue to feel the pressure of our encroachment and insatiable thirst for more land. It’s easy to surmise that as water levels continue to recede (partly due to our absurd water use) typical everglades’ natives will begin to explore their once former habitat (your backyard) in search of water, food, and other necessities.

    It’s funny how things happen. After reading this article by the Herald this morning, I went for a drive to run a couple of errands. Along a two lane street nearby, I encountered a few cars, stopped in the middle of the road for no particular reason. No particular reason happened to be a fairly large Florida Cooter (Turtle) trying to cross the street. So, being the animal lover that I am, I pulled over and darted across the road to move the little guy along (I have a couple of turtles of my own, so that helped.) Standing on the grass looking around, once the traffic flow had resumed, I noticed his retention pond home had dried out and he was crawling along in another direction in search of some new watering hole, which I knew didn’t exist. So, I did the next best thing and put the dry turtle in a box and drove to a nearby lake where I released him, back into some relative safety…

    Animal encounters such as these are going to become more common place. Alligators will soon flock to the rock quarries many South Florida sprawl-land houses are built around in search of better conditions and more space. Meanwhile, people will likely wonder what these critters are doing in their backyards. They will be seen as nuisances, yet few people seem to understand that we encroached on their land and not vice versa…

    The water restrictions in place are long overdue and are finally becoming even more stringent. Our region has had an insatiable, virtually unrestricted use of our water resources for far too long. We should not be squandering one of our most precious resources on lawn watering (30 MGM, for a Golf Course, are you kidding me?) or other similar petty activities. Sprawl can be partially attributed to this careless use of our resources, with its larger concrete footprint; water runoff doesn’t circulate into the aquifer like it should. Many home owners in sprawl-land, in search of that delusional “American Dream” feel the need to keep their lawn green. Water restrictions aren’t new; it’s just a blatant signal that we need to recreate a truly sustainable community…

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