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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Beginning this Friday, Tri-Rail will now traverse Fort Lauderdale’s New River on a new train bridge. This is a big step within Tri-Rail’s expansion, allowing SFRTA to start running 40-50 trains per day by the end of this month. This means that within Tri-Rail’s new schedule, service will improve to much more manageable 20-30 minute headways. Hopefully more regional commuters will at least consider giving Florida’s only regional rail line a chance now that service is improved.

Photo courtesy of Flickr account: Andrew M Butler

While Miami doesn’t even have car sharing yet, Paris is about to implement a massive bike sharing program. This is yet another indicator of how far behind Miami is in terms of being a truly sustainable, pedestrian-oriented city. Following a similar model used in Lyon, France, Paris will be implementing over 20,000 bikes for rent at 1,450 stations citywide.

Jean-Louis Touraine, Paris’ Deputy Mayor, says the program was meant “not just to modify equilibrium between modes of transportation and reduce air pollution, but also to modify the image of the city where humans occupy a larger space”. Wow – you won’t find any language like that in city codes and master plans around here. The closest echoing would be the objective of “balancing vehicular needs with pedestrian needs”, which invariably means a built environment where cars rule.

Why are we always preaching compact urban form and mixed-use? Because that kind of environment allows a program like this to flourish. Consequently, most trips for bike renters will be free because they only have to travel a short distance. In Lyon, France’s third largest city, 95% of approximately 20,000 daily bike rentals are free because of the short nature of most trips there. Moreover, Lyon’s 3,000 rental bikes have logged about 10 million miles since May 2005, helping to eliminate roughly 3,000 tons of CO2 emissions. Also, vehicle travel has decreased by four percent. Officials are estimating that each rental bike in Paris will be used 12 times per day, which equates to 250,000 trips per day and 91 million per year. Just imagine what could be accomplished with a program like this in Miami (or most American cities, for that matter) when you consider that most car trips in this country are within one mile from origin.

Rental fees will be free for the first half hour and then will double every half hour thereafter to facilitate faster turnover, making a 2 hour 30 minute rental $9.10. Membership would be $38 per year. To release the bikes, riders would use a prepaid card or a credit card at a computerized console. To discourage theft, each rider must leave a credit card or refundable deposit of about $195 along with personal information. Also, each bicycle rack will have a computer that can tell where the bikes are as well as their condition.
JCDecaux, outdoor advertising giant, will fund and operate the program for 10 years, including start up costs of approximately $115 million. All revenue from the program will go to Paris’ coffers, including an additional $4.3 million per year. In return Paris is giving JCDecaux exclusive rights to all city-owned billboards, including revenues.

I think Miami is a long way off for a citywide program like this to be feasible. However, there are sections of the city and county (Downtown, Brickell, Coconut Grove, South Beach, North Beach, Little Havana, Downtown Coral Gables, Midtown area) where small bike stations could be located. As the program increased in popularity, it would increase pressure on planners and politicians to allocate more space to bicyclists in the form of bike lanes and greenways. Gradually, more stations could be added based on demand. This is the kind of program that could help bridge the gap between driving and walking, decrease automobile trips, decrease pollution, and even make people healthier.

Photos courtesy of Flickr accounts: DennisWorld & mknely

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As if the Marlins’ Stadium conundrum couldn’t get any more ludicrous, a few articles appeared in the Miami Today adding multiple new dimensions to the problems at hand. Where should I begin? As you may recall, the Marlins last week asserted their position that a downtown facility would be ideal; it would give the team the greatest chance of success in Miami and would make sense from an urban planning perspective given that it would be easily connected to metrorail, tri-rail, I-95, and the downtown businesses. It appears that our most asinine commissioner, Natacha Seijas, known for such wonderful remarks as: “I don’t see why we need to be creating an environment so they can continue…” when speaking about protecting manatees or “Today is the day that you might just leave here in a body bag if you keep it up…” which she remarked at a county Commission meeting, is once again the forerunner to speak out against the Marlins’ latest statements (Click here for a video of Seijas.) Here is what the Miami Today reported:
SELF-INFLICTED BEANBALL: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Natacha Seijas says the Florida Marlins hardly helped themselves over the weekend with their insistence that the team’s stadium be built downtown on a site designated for the county’s new juvenile-justice center. The team’s comments were a “completely and absolutely offensive” brushback of the county’s children, Ms. Seijas said Tuesday during a meeting of the commission’s Governmental Affairs and Operations committee. “The Marlins need to be more respectful when interviewed on TV. They need to be more respectful of the children’s courthouse.”

Ok, so Natacha Seijas has no clue what she’s talking about, right? Big Deal? Well, yes it is a big deal because she’s one of our Fab 13 who will be deciding where we will one day place the stadium in question. Given her take on the manatee, I’m sure she’d have no qualms with paving over everglades to accommodate anything…

In any case, like I mentioned above the stadium issue has gotten more complex. Now Michael Cannon, a “real-estate researcher” whatever that is, is declaring that the new Marlins’ stadium should be constructed on the Melreese Golf Course property. Sure, it would be next to the Miami Intermodal center, but, why complicate that project any further, FDOT has been constructing it since the late 90’s and we’ve yet to see any considerable progress. The Marlins’ stadium belongs in the city center which a new MLB drawing will soon depict, according to Miami Today:

COMING SOON: Major League Baseball is preparing a schematic of a stadium as it would appear in the proposed downtown location. “As soon as they have something formalized, they’ll bring it to us,” Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Joe Martinez said in a committee meeting Tuesday. The Florida Marlins want a retractable-roof ballpark with 37,000 seats and 60 suites to be built on nine acres of county- and city-owned land just north of the county government center north of Northwest Second Street, east of Interstate 95 and west of Metrorail. Commissioners have been reluctant to give full backing of the downtown location. “I know there are not seven votes here for this site,” Mr. Martinez said at a Tuesday meeting of the Government Affairs and Operations Committee. The favored plan is to replace the Orange Bowl with a ballpark.

Things can’t possibly get any worse, right? Try again. Plans also resurfaced at a recent commission meeting by Jose “Pepe” Diaz to analyze a “Bayfront” park idea. That’s Bayfront as in Bicentennial Park, the same park slated to for the new home of the MAM and Museum of Science, apparently chop liver and easily moved to sites elsewhere…Apparently it doesn’t matter if MAM has already contracted Herzog and DeMuron to design their new complex. The Millions spent thus far on plans to recreate Bicentennial into Museum Park also seem to be dispensable, after all, its only taxpayer money and there seems to be a never ending supply of it, why not keep wasting it? The Bayfront idea will never fly. We voted to create bonds to establish a cultural icon on the site, not another waterfront sports venue.

BACK TO THE BAY: Some formerly favored sites for a stadium haven’t been discarded, county commissioners say. Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz said he has asked County Manager George Burgess to give further study to putting the ballpark on the Biscayne Bay front. “I’ve asked him to look at it,” Mr. Diaz said, though he said he doubts a bayfront site is viable. The 29-acre Bicentennial Park, designated for a pair of museums, got a passing mention Tuesday. “If the city somehow has a change of mind, then that location would be back on the table,” Mr. Diaz said. Also back on the table, he said, would be the problem of parking. That’s been a major challenge for the bayfront Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, he said, and would be an even bigger one for planners of a ballpark on the bay.

Parking not the issue, not building any parking to along with the Carnival Center is the problem, which was under development since the 80′s…That’s the problem. Museum Park should feature underground parking, beneath the museum structure, with enough parking for some, but not all of the Museum Park visitors. The point is to provide some parking and some public transit, but just little enough to price people into not driving…

What is so incredibly difficult about agreeing on a single location for the Marlins’ stadium? Why can’t the Commission show some solidarity? One is discussing the orange bowl site while another asks for research on the Bayfront site and I’m sure someone else is still fixated on the Hialeah plan. There may very well be 13 different plans on 13 different sites floating around the Commission chambers. Heck, they’re not even sure of why it shouldn’t go in downtown. It’s amazing how hypocritical they are, somehow the Children’s courthouse poses as an insurmountable obstacle to placing the stadium downtown, but yet the two iconic museums and parks can be easily relocated elsewhere…Go figure!

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James Good is finally garnering some widespread attention for his beautiful (and creative) aerial shots of downtown Miami. The Herald published a wonderful article today on the 34 year old software engineer, discussing his passion for flying his model aircraft (strapped with a camera) over Bicentennial Park to capture images of the bay, skyscrapers, and port. Congratulations James, we look forward to your continued success and creativity when flying over the Miami

skyline…

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Like I mentioned previously, the port of Miami tunnel appears to be a botched solution to the accessibility problems facing the port; designed to purely benefit the routes of the trucking industry. As some of you concluded, I believe some of the congestion issues we now face could have been alleviated earlier with the use of the at-grade FEC tracks which run directly into the port. A freight train could easily haul many containers out of the port to an inland port facility (Hialeah rail yards, ROW exists and is owned and operated by the FEC.) The inland port facility would then transfer the containers to trucks, placing the truck distribution closer to many of the warehouse destinations and reducing the number of trucks traveling along our highways and downtown. As someone duly noted, the train tracks also traverse the downtown, which would likely cause a great deal of congestion if these trains were to be operated during rush hour. Therefore, the trains would serve a more limited role, with travel times scheduled after downtown activity subsides but before the morning commute (ideally from Midnight to 5 am or so.) A point I’d like to emphasize is that the rail option should have been considered, heck used on a trail basis for part of the past two decades while a more permanent solution was found, at a mere fraction of the cost of what we’re going to face with the tunnel. The port is now looking at the idea of floating barges up the river with containers to be unloaded at the river facilities. I’d like you to take note of the traffic tie-ups which will be caused as a result of the more frequent use of the drawbridges under this scenario…

Meanwhile, the city of Los Angels is currently working on a plan to use existing tracks to transport goods from the port to an inland facility. The plan is projected to remove a large percentage of the 22,000 daily trips caused by the seaport daily. The $1.7 Billion project aims to revitalize a neglected airport for cargo uses, while creating an inland intermodal cargo facility.

After writing the first article, I obtained a copy of the latest MPO Freight Access report produced in February 2007 by Cambridge Systematics. In looking through the report briefly, the study covers all alternatives including: Port Truck Tunnel, Freight Train Tunnel, at grade train crossing, 6th street highway viaduct, and River option. The study also analyzes the aforementioned LA port inland facility currently underway. Before I can draw any further conclusions on the Port Tunnel Project or the feasibility of rail or water options, I will review the study and report my findings back at a later time…

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It’s back! Email, that is. Thanks to the reminder I received from Walter, I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon (5 hours) importing all the old blog posts from the previous site. I had to complete the imports in order to not disrupt the regular email function. The emails are powered by feedburner and I’ve been using them myself for the past few months. I should note however, that readers will receive a daily digest which is sometimes a day or so behind schedule. In other words, you may still want to visit the site for the most recent news or to leave us some much appreciated comments! I’ve also taken the liberty of adding everyone from the former list to the new one, as well as some of you regular readers…

On that note, after reaching a plateau from November through February, Transit Miami witnessed unprecedented growth last March with our best readership and user involvement ever. I hope we can continue to grow, spreading the word of intelligent urban planning principles and the benefits of Public Transit in Miami.

While we have reached an all time high for daily visitors, remarkably our Technorati ranking has dipped severely. If anyone perhaps can think of a reason why, let me know. It’s important for our message to reach as many people as possible through many links to the website. If anyone has any ideas on how to promote Transit Miami further or would like to contribute any information or material to the site, please email me at movemiami@gmail.com. I look forward to many more productive months of bringing you the latest transit news while working to make Transit Miami the premier Miami Blog…

Regards,
Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal

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CGG has issues with a new pedestrian crosswalk installed along one of the most dangerous parts of Bayshore Drive. I drove past it this weekend and couldn’t pull out my camera quickly enough to snap a picture but luckily they had a picture posted. I bike through the area often and it sometimes seems like I’m walking alongside the track of the Indy 300. The enhancements enable pedestrians to press a button which sets off a number of strobe lights to warn oncoming cars. I think its a great idea, seeing that Florida is the capital of pedestrian deaths and the path links the waterfront parks with a number of prominent hotels. If this is what has to be done to encourage people to walk around without risking life and limb, I’m all for it. Sooner or later, Miami drivers will become conscious of those “pesky” pedestrians and hopefully we’ll see a substantial decrease in pedestrian deaths…

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It’s hard to believe that the Marlins’ stadium saga could get even more bizarre (well, maybe not that hard to believe). Now Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has come out opposing the Orange Bowl site, saying that a downtown site is the team’s sole focus and the only viable location for a new stadium in South Florida. From the Herald’s article on Saturday:
  • Loria: A downtown setting “would be much more beneficial to the franchise and fans…it’s very easy to get to…we must get it done”.
  • Team President David Sampson: “Our sole focus is completing a deal downtown.”
Wow. First of all, I’m a little curious as to why it took so long for Loria to come out publicly in support of the downtown site, especially given the adamant tone of his language. Secondly, if he felt this way all along, which is how it sounds, then this likely means the county commission has not only gone against good urban planning, history, and common sense in pushing for the Orange Bowl site, but they’ve also been pushing a site the team owner is not even interested in.

Predictably, the county commission reacted to Loria’s and Sampson’s statements with concern. Commission Chairman, Bruno Barreiro, stated “We’re just trying to get money from the state…we can’t get distracted by the site issue.” Oh, really? Well, if I had a vote on whether or not to allocate state funds to the construction of a new baseball stadium, I would certainly be more inclined to vote yea if I knew specifically where the building site was located, especially if it was in downtown Miami. But don’t take it from me. State Representative David Rivera, who ultimately controls the flow of legislation for House Speaker Marco Rubio, said “There might be a lack on consensus to build at the Orange Bowl.” Rivera then offered his support for a downtown stadium.

The really disconcerting piece form the article actually came from a commissioner who is now in support of the downtown site. “Commissioner Carlos Gimenez…was one of the strongest proponents of the Orange Bowl site (last month). Now, after studying transportation issues, he says it’s no longer his first option. ‘For me, I think baseball would work better in an urban, downtown site, he said’.” Holy cow! So apparently we have commissioners advocating for a Marlins’ stadium at the Orange Bowl without even studying the project’s transportation issues! That is just unacceptable. It’s pretty tough to debate the merits of a downtown Miami site versus an Orange Bowl site for a new stadium without studying, comprehending, or even considering transportation issues, for that matter. If the Herald piece is accurate, we have county commissioners making major decisions and guiding policy without even examining some of the most important, relevant details. At least he had it in him to change his mind. We’re still waiting for the rest of the commission to stop going against the grain (and logic, and history, and urban planning, and best practice, etc.).

I took some time out of my weekend to give a Miami Native a first-time tour of Vizcaya. I often find that many Miamians have never ventured into Vizcaya, so I always volunteer to visit Miami’s most beautiful estate and give them my own personal tour. I was also interested in capturing some photographs of the view from the estate which soon may forever be altered if the City of Miami approves 300 Grove Bay residences, a project by The Related group, slated for a section of land just south of Mercy Hospital.
Personally, I’d have to agree that the buildings are out of context with their surroundings, but then again so are Mercy Hospital and the Grove Isle trio of towers. The traffic impact has likely been grossly miscalculated seeing that this is the equivalent of placing a skyscraper in suburbia, the only reasonable link between it and the surroundings will be vehicular. As for the visual impact, I think Vizcaya’s views will be pretty much unhampered. Mercy Hospital is currently visible from the grounds, as are the buildings on Brickell and Key Biscayne and yet they don’t seem to adversely impact the tranquility of the Gardens.
Since the last time I wrote on the Mercy Project, I still haven’t been able to come up with an valid enough stance either in favor or against the project. I lean against the project mainly because it continues the decentralization of skyscrapers that is so prevalent in Miami. Ultimately, I believe the towers would be better suited elsewhere, either north in the Brickell area or south in the Coconut Grove Business district, rather than in the Mercy site where they will forever be relegated as suburban towers only accessible by vehicles and disjointed from the bustling hubs to the north and south…

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While plans move forward to expand I-595 in Broward, Palm Beach and Martin County commissioners are working on a plan to bring east-west Tri-rail service along the beeline expressway. The commissioners hope to one day use the existing CSX rail tracks to link research and biomedical facilities in the works in both counties. Unlike their Broward counterparts, these commissioners see the financial advantage of not widening roads and instead using our money wisely:

“Koons estimated that widening the road to accommodate development could cost $1 billion…”

“Many of those developments are running into traffic concerns because parts of SR 710 are getting congested. Future development could be prohibited if the highway isn’t widened. Using commuter rail could reduce the need for widening, Koons said, and help solve affordable housing problems.

“You can afford more housing if you have to spend less on transit,” he said.”

Nice to know someone sees it…

Vienna is a grand city, far more grandiose than most European Capitals due to its’ rich history with the Babenburg and then the Hapsburg family dynasties. Just walking around, the city exudes wealth, through its opulent architecture, gold-leafed trimming, and excessive sculpture. The Hapsburgs were rather generous with the citizens they presided over, as far as royalty goes, anyhow. Toward the end of their reign, they opened several parks for public use, constructed two massive museums, and dotted the city with various other cultural institutions. Seeing that Miami has recently concluded the construction of our opera house and is set to begin construction on two bayside museums, I believe we can and should look for the guidance of cities such as Vienna when establishing our new cultural havens. Noting that Miami completely lacks the history and wealth of the Austrian Capital, I think there are some interesting aspects which will broaden our horizons before we plan and design…

There isn’t much I can say about the Carnival Center, seeing that it is already built. I’ve walked through the area a couple of times and although the plaza and structure are pleasant, the surroundings are rather inhospitable; hopefully with some time the area might mature a little. The Vienna Opera House is situated at the end of the premier pedestrian thoroughfare in Vienna, which links it and the ring, with the center of Vienna and the Hofburg Imperial Palace. When walking by the Vienna State Opera House for the final time on our last night, I noticed an interesting element which caught my eye:

See it? I hope you do. Someone had the sense to retrofit the structure (built in the 1860’s) with parking. Genius. This brought about a small bout of laughter, as you would imagine, when I conjured images of the Carnival Center debacle I would be returning to the very next day. The interesting thing I later noted is that this was perhaps the only parking garage I saw anywhere near the city center. We seem to have done the opposite…

When approaching the Museums Quarter (Museumsquartier) I couldn’t help but think of endless possibilities for Bicentennial Park. Now, I know I am not an architecture critic, nor do I try to be, but the idea of a classical structure dotting our shoreline as either of the two Museum Park buildings bodes very well for me. I said it once to an art student, whose look should have silenced my architecture thoughts for eternity, but I actually think a modern Art structure juxtapositioned with a classical Museum of Science would add a great deal of depth to Miami’s architecture.

Back to my point. Standing between these hulking museums was impressive. I mean, here I was standing in awe of a couple of landlocked museums, just hoping that our new museums with the beautiful bay and beach backdrop could be just even one fifth as stimulating. Is it too much to ask for? We have the opportunity to showcase our architectural cultural talent to the world, quite literally, seeing that these museums will serve as the focal point of nearly every cruise passenger which departs from our harbor. And think, Miami, not Miami Beach, could perhaps for once be hailed for its beautiful waterfront architecture, luring boarding cruise passengers to extend their stay. We severely dropped the ball with the MCM, opting instead for a geometric display of retardation on Watson Island. Between the two museums stood a massive statue dedicated to Maria Theresia, it’s a rarity in Miami to find any recollection of our local history, let alone national history. Perhaps a statue of FDR would be fitting, considering he was nearly assassinated in nearby Bayfront Park…Just a thought…

Throughout all of my travels, I have always taken the time to compare the city I am visiting with my home town. I often think that Miami would be a much better city if we would just stop, think, and look around before coming up with decisions which will forever alter our urban landscape. We’ve had plenty of opportunities pass us by with failed or improperly managed projects: Metrorail, Miami Arena, Miami Marine Stadium, Miami Seaquarium, Orange Bowl, MIA, CCPA, etc. Plenty of chances to make our city just as marvelous to visit as say Paris, Chicago, or even ViennaWe’re number one right now in hotel occupancy and hotel rates nationally, but imagine how much more we can do to attract visitors to sites other than our shore…

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It’s official; France’s bullet train, the V150, set a record yesterday for fastest speed ever by a rail train. How fast, you ask? Only 357.2 MPH! For some perspective, at that speed someone could go from Miami to Jacksonville in about an hour. Only the Japanese mag-lev trains have gone faster, but they utilize different technology with much less resistance. The fastest train the U.S. has put on the table…the Amtrak’s Acela Express, which tops out about 1/3 as fast as France’s bullet train.

Check out how fast this thing whips by the folks on the overpass.

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Alright, It’s about time we got back on Track with some Transit News:
  • Transit Miami is now regularly featured as part of the Planetizen Radar. To access the radar, there is a link in the blog technology section of the sidebar on the lower right hand side.
  • It some how slipped passed me, but our sly commissioners approved a plan to build 940 homes west of Florida City. The project aims to encroach on the Everglades further, induce further sprawl, and build useless homes which are completely nonfunctional to the working class of Miami. The project claims it will be building “work force housing” priced from $160,000 to $220,000 yet it will be situated far from business centers, public transit, public health and education infrastructure, and other necessary functions typically found near true affordable housing development. So far the only people this project has been affordable for are the developers, which likely purchased the land at reduced costs…Good luck with the daily traffic…
  • Jeffrey Bradley, a Transit Miami reader and supporter and member of the Alliance for Reliable Transport has started a new blog: Bus Stop. Bus Stop will cover “All things Transit on the Beach and Beyond.”
  • Next time your looking to take a cruise, skip out on the Royal Caribbean or Carnival and hop aboard a freighter. Yes you read correctly, apparently its a growing trend to ride along with Maersk and Sea Land Containers in near isolation…

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Ok, nothing to do with Transit, but here are some Florida (titletown) celebration shots for all my Gator Fans:Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

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