One of our dedicated readers, Carolyn, informed me of an interesting lecture coming up in Miami:
The U.S. Green Building Council South Florida Chapter and University of Miami School of Architecture present:

7 pm. Refreshments at 6:30 pm, Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center Stanley and Jewell Glasgow Lecture Hall, Dickinson Drive, University of Miami, Coral Gables Campus. and open to the public.

Mary Conway, P.E., Chief of Operations, City of Miami

In recent years, the City of Miami has seen an unprecedented wave of urban infill and redevelopment in a compressed downtown core area, and in adjacent neighborhoods. Miami Streetcar Project has emerged as one essential component of a transportation network that will entice Miami motorists out of their cars, into convenient mass transit, and onto city (and County) streets. Miami Streetcar Project is a direct response to the challenge to provide improved mobility options for users of the transportation network throughout the downtown core. This presentation provides an update on the Miami Streetcar Project, and an overview of the roles that streetcar systems play in shaping cities, by fostering pedestrian-friendly urban environments, and re-invigorated downtowns across the United States. This affordable mode of mass transit is emerging as an increasingly popular application, because of its cost-effective and time-efficient construction, its financial affordability, and its ready adaptability to active pedestrian-focused environments. City of Miami has responded to the local mobility challenge by pursuing multi-agency partnerships and innovative project delivery methods to build the single transit investment that could make a profound difference in re-shaping downtown Miami, in record time.

Mary H. Conway, P.E., currently serves as the Chief of Operations for the City of Miami and is a prominent Civil Engineer and Project Manager with more than 18 years of experience in the industry. studied briefly at Harvard University and the United States Naval Academy before earning a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Miami. was the recipient of the “Most Outstanding Civil Engineering Graduate” award from University of Miami as well as a member of Tau Beta Pi and Chi Epsilon, engineering honor societies. Prior to joining the City, Mary worked with the Florida Department of Transportation for over 10 years, where she oversaw major transportation projects in Miami-Dade County as well Broward to Indian River Counties. She also worked with FPL as a service planner and Beiswenger, Hoch and Associates as a production and project manager. served as Director for the City of Miami Capital Improvements and Transportation (CIT) Department for approximately two years. Mary’s hard work and results were recognized and she was promoted to Chief of Operations and is now responsible for overseeing the following Departments: Parks and Recreation, Solid Waste, General Services Administration (GSA), Public Works and CIT. Mary has also continued her involvement with CIT,responsible for overseeing the planning, coordination,implementation and monitoring of all construction related capital projects and transportation projects in the City of Miami. projects include street infrastructure and flood mitigation; park improvements; public facilities including fire stations, police and other city buildings; marinas; the Orange Bowl; and a state of the art urban streetcar transit circulator project. City’s current Capital Improvement and Multi-year plan encompasses over 1100 projects valued at over $675,000,000 through the year 2010 and will certainly increase as Miami continues to grow. experience, professionalism, dedication and drive have earned her the respect of her peers in the City, with other government agencies and within the engineering community at large.

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Well folks, I’m off again to explore another stunning European city. This week I’m headed to Vienna, Austria, the former home of the Hapsburg Empire. As usual, I’ll be sure to report about my experience on the city’s public transportation which boasts a network of streetcars in addition to its subway, suburban rail, and high speed airport train (CAT.) I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to take the CAT which whisks you from a central city terminal to the airport in less than 16 minutes. Get this; people who ride the cat don’t have to wait for their luggage on the carousel, it’s automatically loaded onto the train so that you can retrieve it at the station. How innovative is that?
I will have net access and do plan to post from Vienna, but Ryan will be picking up much of the slack while I’m away…
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Looks like the new home of the New World Symphony will reach its $200 Million fund raising goal ahead of schedule:
Someone has given the New World Symphony $90 million toward the Frank Gehry-designed complex the orchestra is planning on Miami Beach. It’s one of the largest single donations ever to an American arts organization.

To put it in perspective, Carnival Cruise Lines founders Ted and Lin Arison’s $40 million gift to New World in 1996 — 1.3 million shares of Carnival stock — was the largest private donation ever to a U.S. orchestra.

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Leave it to the County Commission to screw things up but then again, why should this surprise me, they’ve always had the knack for such dreadful decision making skills. Major League Baseball has been working closely with all parties to create a new home for the Marlins in downtown, in the heart of the city- where it belongs. Like I’ve stated before, Baseball is an urban sport. With the grueling 82 home game schedule, baseball stadiums have to be placed within the densest populations of any city in order for them to succeed. Downtown is the obvious choice for MLB to seek for a new home for the Marlins because it follows the model used in nearly every other circumstance across the country. Marlins games are so poorly attended now because of the stadium location (on the way home for Broward residents who work in Miami-Dade and too far out of everyone else’s way to make the daily trip, regardless of how good or bad the team is playing and once the novelty of the idea wore off after 1993.) Baseball would thirve in the CBD, not out in Pompano, Hialeah, or out by the Orange Bowl. The public transportation already exists; coupled with the downtown daytime population, makes the Government Center site ideal for the needs of Marlins, MLB, and all of us Miami residents.

Just as we thought the pieces were starting to come together, our urban planning geniuses over at the county commission step in to screw things up. Their three reasons to oppose the downtown location include: loss of parking, new site for the children’s courthouse, and the closing of a couple of minor streets. I think they are against losing their cushy surface parking lot spaces just outside the 500 ft Stephen P. Clark Center. Instead they propose reverting to last year’s failed plan of placing a stadium next to the Miami Orange Bowl. No current or future plans to link this area with public transit exist. The immediate area lacks parking and necessary entertainment infrastructure. No easy highway link. What exactly is it that the commission sees in this alternative location for the stadium? Is it that Mayor Alvarez spoke in favor of the downtown location and they are still pouting about his recent power surge and are just choosing to go against his every thought?

Seriously, this is why we have issues in this County. This is why projects are never completed on time. Everything is a disaster when the fab 13 on the county commission step in to make a decision. Placing the public funding issue aside, why not place the stadium in a location which has been proven to work for Major League Baseball since the early 1900’s- in downtown, urban parks. Any venue outside the CBD and without convenient access to highways and existing public transportation will be destined to be a failure and will serve as the next “white elephant” to further remind us of the injustices caused by the members of the County Commission

Update: Benji and BOB share their thoughts…

I attended the Cocoanut Grove Village Council meeting at City Hall last night, and was pleasantly surprised by the county’s renderings for the beautification of SW 27th Avenue in the Grove. Although it is only in the 30% completion phase, it appears to be moving in a positive direction. Unfortunately, I do not currently have pictures of the proposal, but I’ll share a few of the major tenets of the project:

  1. Sidewalks: It appears that after years of embarrassing pedestrian-infrastructure, the county is planning on implementing sidewalks on both sides of 27th avenue in a uniform manner along the entire stretch of road south of US-1. It’s sad that I have to even mention sidewalks, given that they are as fundamental a part of a city as any piece of infrastructure, but in Miami this is never a given. I am a little disappointed that the new sidewalks are only proposed to be six feet wide; I would like to see 10-12 feet sidewalks throughout the avenue.
  2. Bike Lanes: Groveites, as well as any Miamian who frequents the neighborhood, should be very happy to learn that bike lanes are proposed for both sides of 27th Avenue south of US-1. This will be one of the first avenues anywhere in Miami or Miami Beach to get real bike lanes, which is quite a mystery given the fantastic riding conditions year-round. Now bicyclists who ride transit will have dedicated lanes to get to and from Grove Station and the neighborhood’s business district.
  3. Traffic Circle: One of the most contentious aspects of the plan is the proposed traffic circle at 27th, Tigertail, and Day Ave. The county is proposing an irregularly shaped traffic circle for this intersection, which would allow for the removal of traffic lights. Predictably, Day Avenue residents were concerned that traffic would increase significantly on their street. However, the county is planning on changing Day Avenue from one-way westbound to one-way eastbound, meaning one cannot enter Day Avenue from the 27th Avenue traffic circle. This will be ensured by a continuous portion of curb that will jut out just enough to make the turning angle onto Day Ave from the the circle impossible without going over the curb. I like this idea, because it will force cars to slow down considerably at this awkward and dangerous intersection. It will eliminate the need to wait for red lights to cross, as well as also making pedestrian crossings shorter.
  4. On-Street Parking: It looks like 27th Avenue will finally get on-street parking. The county plans on implementing 90 on-street spaces along this segment of the avenue, which would look similar to the set-up on Grand Avenue. The plan would have called for more on-street parking, but it wasn’t possible due to the ridiculously large number of driveways on the avenue. These on-street spaces are of the “cut-out” variety, meaning no current capacity will be taken by parking as the spaces are “carved” out of the sidewalk.
  5. Right-of-Way-Acquisition: Perhaps my favorite part of the plan was the proposed elimination of many parking swales (or parking lagoons) that line the avenue on both sides. These swales equate to such bad urban design for so many reasons, hence my appreciation for their removal. For one, they are just ugly to look at. A high quality pedestrian environment is certainly not define by any space flanked by automobiles. Also, these spots are small, so often times cars are parked on segments of the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians to slalom the cars (sometimes requiring movement into the road) to traverse the swales. Also, this provides way too many free parking spaces along what should be a transit-oriented thoroughfare. As long as an abundance of free parking is available throughout the city, especially in close proximity to transit stations, induced automobile demand will remain high and transit ridership will not realize its ultimate potential. Moreover, these swales are just dangerous. They often require backing into the road, or other maneuvering within the swale that breaches the sidewalk. Lastly, these swales have always been located within the county’s right-of-way, and therefore people were parking for free within illegal zones. Therefore, the county is only retaking what is already theirs.
Those are the major portions of the project that were discussed at the meeting. Other factors such as landscaping and shade/sidewalk trees will certainly be implemented, but the specifics are still under consideration. So in conclusion, this project exceeded my expectations for the avenue. I’ll continued to post any updates on this project as I learn of them.

  • As most of you already know, Ryan and I are working hard to bring you the latest Urban Planning and Development news. Our goal is to bring about change in Miami through educated discussion on the various planning issues which concern our region. We’d like to hear what you have to say either through comments or by emailing us:
  • I’ve been working to expand the site to something bigger than just a blog with better content, further regional support/involvement, and greater community discussion. I’ll fill you in on the added pages or content as it comes online over the next few months. The new pages will be accessible via links from the main blog, under the “Transit Miami Pages” subsection of the sidebar. The first available section is a historical photo archive I established to depict Miami’s growth since the early 1900′s. We’ve come a long way in our short 110 year existence. I think its important to see where we’ve been before we continue planning for the future…
  • The posts have changed to now include Technorati tags (look below.) E-mail will be available once I finish importing all the archived posts from last year. So far I’ve completed August 2006. You’ll notice the archived files will be lacking photographs due to the change in server and the formatting will likely look horrendous; I’ll also be working to clean this up.
  • A new Miami Planning blog has surfaced…Benji’s Planning World is now sharing thoughts on Urban Planning from Miami and around the world…
  • Kingofrance shared this in the comments section; I’m surprised there hasn’t been much publicity on the subject:
    “…this is “Bike to Work Week” for the City of Miami Beach. There’s even some places (Pizza Rustica, Miss Yip) that will give you a 10% discount if you ride your bike there. Also, on Wednesday, you can ride the bus for free if you have your bike with you.”

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Tonight at 7:00 pm Miami-Dade County engineers will be presenting the most recent designs for the SW 27th Avenue improvement project to the Cocoanut Grove Village Council at City Hall. SW 27th Avenue should be one of Miami’s best streets, but it currently is in a sorry state. Come out and see whether or not the county has planned for a high quality urban avenue that will serve as a notable “Gateway to the Grove”, or if the avenue is doomed to an average future primarily catering to automobiles.

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Awhile back (January 5, 2007) I first read about an accidental meeting between a famous Chinese architect (Xing Tong) and a pair of Art Deco preservationists (Don and Nina Worth) from Miami Beach in the South Florida Business Journal and Miami Sunpost. It’s an interesting story which remarkably led to the Shanghai designation of the Art Deco weekend back in January. I somehow didn’t report on it back then, but, follow the links above to get an idea on the background story.

Apparently both Shanghai and Mumbai (Bombay) have architecturally significant and Art Deco districts, both of which are in peril due to impeding construction and modernization efforts. The Asian delegation arrived in January to not only experience the South Beach deco district but to also learn how to preserve their own buildings while establishing them into bustling pivotal parts of the city. In a sense similar to the preservation efforts along Miami Beach in the 1970’s, Shanghai’s officials are working hard to protect what is left of their Art Deco buildings, seeing that already countless have been lost. Deke Erh, a Shanghai photographer for the past 20 years, has been documenting the destruction; he recently published a book Shanghai Art Deco to bring greater attention to architectural treasures of Shanghai in the 20’s and 30’s before the rise of Mao Zedong.

Mumbai like many other cities in the 20’s and 30’s witnessed unprecedented growth along its waterfront. Many of the building in this time period were designed in the Art Deco style thanks to the initial efforts of the Maharajah of Indore who commissioned some of the leading European architects of the time to construct his palaces: The Manik Bagh and Umaid Bhawan (pictured above.)

“Just as the “Miami Vice” television series had a hand in illuminating certain qualities of Miami Beach‘s Deco heritage, Professor Mehrotra made it clear that the pop culture might of Bollywood is helping to preserve whole stretches of beloved buildings in Bombay. Still awaiting “historic district” status, a process begun by Mehrotra and others over ten years ago, the Back Bay and Marine Drive buildings have appeared in so many movies and music videos that developers wrecking ball dare not attack. The inertia is helped along by an antiquated regime of rent control that has frozen both investment and necessary improvements.”

To continue reading on the Miami Beach-Mumbai-Shanghai efforts, read the Slatin Report: Far East of South Beach

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Gas Prices are rising…Since we’ll soon be priced out of driving, we need to start working on the reasonable alternatives which are clearly more efficient than sub 20 MPG SUVs…More on this later…

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From the lens of ImageMD…

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What’s the minimum requirement to have your name plastered on a street sign in Miami? I haven’t quite figured it out yet, if you do, please let me know. The list isn’t exclusively dead people, influential people, or extraordinary people, so what is it exactly that makes some of these people qualify? 16th St. morphed into Jose Canseco St. forever immortalizing the juiced Coral Park graduate into a Miami direction. I can’t imagine telling people I live at 10523 Jose Canseco St. I understand naming streets after important or influential people: Brickell, Tuttle, Collins, Lummus, Douglas, Flagler, LeJeune, Curtiss, etc. Somehow a guy who gets 1.1% of the votes to not make it into the MLB hall of Fame just doesn’t cut it for me. Perhaps it was the two counts of aggravated battery he received after pummeling two California Tourists which earned him the honor of forever leading vehicles into the East entrance of FIU.

Now, I don’t intend to pick on Canseco, it just happens to be the first unworthy street which comes to mind. There are some signs like the one pictured above: Orlando Urra Blvd of the Americas/NW 20th St./Teofilo Babun Dr./N. River Dr. Pick a name! Notice: all names do not apply in all directions… Orlando Urra must have owned the Boulevard of the Americas, at least that’s the impression I’m getting. Has the street naming department gone mad? It’s almost like: “Hey! You have a face; want a street named after you?” These aren’t even memorable street names. What’s even more absurd is the amount of names they have tried to tack onto a single sign; I’ve seen worse than the one above but, just couldn’t whip out my camera quickly enough. Frankly, I’d like to see what will get printed on the new lit street signs currently replacing all the other perfectly good non-lit variety…

Oh look, a Cuban Exile website compiled a list of streets in Miami renamed to honor Hispanics…

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This Saturday, March 3rd, the proposed Miami Parks and Public Spaces Master Plan will be unveiled to the public at Jose Marti Park located between SW 2nd Street and SW 4th Street on SW 4th Avenue (on the Miami River). The event will last from 10:00am to noon. Below I’ve posted directions via transit:

1) Metrorail to Government Center
2) Transfer to #11 bus (FIU-bound or Mall of Americas-bound) at the plaza on NW 1st St.
3) Get off at first stop over the Miami River bridge (SW 6th Ave.) and cross the street
4) Walk two blocks south on SW 6th Ave. to SW 2nd St.
5) Turn left onto SW 2nd St. and walk two blocks east to South River Drive – Jose Marti Park will be right in front of you

To Get Back:

1) Pick up the #11 bus (Downtown-bound) at SW 5th Ave. & SW 1st St., and exit at the Downtown Bus Terminal
2) Walk two blocks north to Government Center @ NW 1st St. & NW 1st Ave.

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I was just reading Neither Here Nor There, Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson, when I came across a marvelous passage I’d like to share with you all (excellent book and author, well worth the read…)

“…but I just hate the way architects, city planners, and everyone else responsible for urban life seem to have lost sight of what cities are for. They are for people. That is obvious enough, but for half a century we have been building cities that are designed for almost anything else: for cars, for businesses, for developers, for people with money and bold visions who refuse to see cities from ground level, as places in which people must live and function and get around. Why should I have to walk through a damp tunnel and negotiate two sets of stairs to get across a bust street? Why should cars be given priority over me? How can we be so rich and so stupid at the same time? It is the curse of our century-too much money, too little sense…”

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Here at TransitMiami, we often are very critical of Miami’s auto-oriented planning legacy. However, while Miami has recently made strides toward a denser, more sustainable, more pedestrian-oriented city (Streetcar, Miami 21, countywide efforts such as metrorail expansion), the Phoenix-Tempe-Mesa metro area continues its pursuit to be the King of Sprawl. Tempe council members and Mayor Hugh Hallman are pressuring the Arizona Department of Transportation to expedite a proposal to widen a section of I-10 to 24 lanes! The fact that city planners anywhere would take this proposal seriously is unfathomable. Perhaps they attended the University of Wendell Cox, the (un)Reason(able) Foundation, or some other group that advocates for unsustainable, climate-destroying sprawl through pseudo-science and selective data that leads to inaccurate and misleading conclusions.

Countless studies have concluded that widening highways is almost always an exercise in futility. One report uses a creative analogy to illustrate the ineffectiveness of widening highways:

“Consider the role laxatives should play relieving constipation. Laxatives are sometimes appropriate, but it is generally best to address constipation by changing diet (more fiber and liquids) and exercise (take a walk), because laxatives’ effectiveness declines with frequent use, they can hide more severe diseases, and they can exacerbate other medical problems. A physician who prescribes laxatives without investigating why the patient is constipated or considering other solutions is guilty of malpractice.

Similarly, chronic traffic congestion is often a symptom of more fundamental community design problems, such as inadequate mobility options that force people to drive for every trip, and dispersed land use patterns that increase travel distances. Where this is true, expanding roads may reduce short term symptoms but exacerbate long term problems. “

Click here to read the rest of the study.

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The Miami-Dade MPO is considering an initiative which would bring waterborne commuter transportation soon to our shores. The 99 passenger catamarans would run every 30 minutes between the city of Miami and Haulover Marina in North Miami-Dade and Matheson Hammock in South Miami-Dade. A Miami terminal is planned for the dead end street just north of the Hotel Intercontinental, just one block away from the Bayfront Park Metromover Station. Catamaran acquisition as well as improvements to both Marinas is estimated to cost $18 Million.

I’ve heard this idea floating (pun intended) around for quite sometime now. Similar systems are already integral parts of other transportation networks including: New York, Boston, San Diego, Houston, San Francisco, Sydney, and even London. There are also plans to bring commuter ferries to Chicago along Lake Michigan and Washington D.C. along the Potomac River. Despite commuter ferry success elsewhere, I have many reservations about this project. The decentralization of our city makes such a project fairly difficult to attract sufficient riders. The given route also seems to be a bit redundant to existing public transportation (Tri-Rail and South-Dade Busway/Metrorail) which have thus far failed to successfully attract riders (likely due to the decentralization and inability to properly integrate transit with the surroundings.)

Now, I don’t want to completely discredit the idea either. The ferries would transport commuters from two fairly affluent neighborhoods, a concept which was recently proven to be successful with Metrorail station boarding statistics. The park and ride idea could also work well given that it doesn’t completely remove vehicular use from the commuter. I think the fare should be split between rides and parking however, to further encourage the reduced costs of carpooling or seeking alternative forms of arriving at the departure marinas. The commuter ferry should be a driving force for the city to vastly improve all of our waterfront space. Rather than creating a terminal by Bayfront Park as proposed, I believe the catamarans should berth in the cut just north of the American Airlines Arena alongside the upcoming museum park cultural center. The city should then work to bring the Miami-Key West Ferry from Key Biscayne to this same terminal essentially creating a local water transportation intermodal center which would be only one block from the Parkwest Metromover Station and easier to one day link with Baylink or a Miami Streetcar.

There are serious hurdles which need to be overcome, none of which can be solved by just the MPO or any other single branch of local government. In order to make our transit options successful we need to work to centralize our city while making commuting options as comfortable, seamless, and attractive as possible. Miami’s waterfront park space needs to become an integral part of our city, bustling with pedestrians and activity in order for this concept to succeed. Ferry service, if centralized, could one day offer locals and tourists alike easy affordable transit to our coastal cities, Key West, or even further abroad; after all we are the cruise capital of the world…

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