Go Miami-Dade, the People’s Transportation Plan newsletter, is offering the opportunity for transit riders to be profiled in the next issue of the newsletter. This month’s newsletter states:

“How would you like to be profiled in the next issue of Go Miami-Dade? If you’re a regular transit rider, we’d like to share your story about why you take the bus or train. Passenger profiles will feature a photo and brief interview. To find out how to be the subject of a passenger profile, please contact us at Gomiamidade@miamidade.gov or 305-375-1278″.

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APTA (American Public Transportation Association) just came out with a report citing 2006 ridership figures. Among the findings:
  • More than 10 billion trips taken on bus and rails in 2006 nationwide
  • 2.9% increase over 2005
  • Highest levels of ridership since 1957
  • Ridership nationally has increased by 28% over the last decade
This is great news and again proves that even without first-class transit systems in every city, people still are willing to ride transit. Just imagine the ridership gains if all of our major cities did have first-class transit systems.

APTA president William Millar stated in the article, “Certainly a lot of the growth last year was with the high gas prices”. This offers more support to raise our gas taxes. This may be especially necessary for the future of South Florida transit, given cutbacks in funds the region could see if the proposed property tax rollback bill is passed. Raising gas taxes will better represent the true cost of oil, encourage more people to ride transit, and generate millions of dollars to improve transit.

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I thought it would be a good idea to provide a visual of how auto-centric land use destroys the urban continuity of a neighborhood. The above picture is an aerial photograph of Manhattan’s Upper West Side between 83rd and 86th streets, while the bottom picture is an aerial of Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood between NW 23rd and NW 27th St. It is amazing how much land is wasted to provide parking in the Miami photo – you’re looking at almost a 1:1 ratio of square footage allocated for parking to square footage allocated for housing. Much of this land could have been used to build more affordable housing units, which is obviously in high demand throughout Miami-Dade. And, before you cry foul, this development is located only five blocks from the Santa Clara metrorail station.

Also, notice how the compact nature of the New York neighborhood saves massive numbers of acres to be allocated to parks and open spaces nearby (Central Park). If the Upper West Side, as well as the other other neighborhoods that surround Central Park, were designed in a similar form as the Allapattah development, Central Park would not be possible as we know it, because the land just would not be available.

Moreover, the density in the Upper West Side affords small, independent, non-chain retail to thrive. So many people live within one square mile that it becomes possible to have several stores offering similar categories of merchandise within the same block, as well as on every block. Consequently, residents can find everything they need on their own block, in turn cutting down on demand for long distance trips and sustaining small businesses versus regional retail as in Miami.

Throughout most of Miami-Dade County, densities are too low to support this kind of small business on every block. As a result, regional retailers (often big box or chain) stand alone catering to populations within multiple-mile-radii. Of course, this requires most people to access these regional retail centers by automobile, which leads to bad city codes requiring the kind of auto-oriented land use in the picture above. This leads me to my final point…

The Upper West Side, a rather high-income neighborhood, affords people to eschew car ownership (over 75% of residents in the Upper West Side don’t own cars), which easily leads to savings of several thousands of dollars a year, while the low-income residents of Allapattah continue to be compelled to an auto-centric paradigm.

I could go on foreover about the positives of density, given quality urban design of course. However, for this post I wanted to focus on the visual.

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Somehow in all the posting Gabe and I have done over the past week, we failed to mention the recent developments regarding the Coconut Grove Transit Village project.

This last Wednesday, the Planning Advisory Board voted unanimously to recommend the City Commission not approve county-drafted zoning standards for the project. According to Chairwoman Arva Parks Moore, the standards for the project site were too general in that they did not include maximum limits for square footage or a minimum for residential units. Certainly the Grove NIMBYs were elated by the PAB’s vote, given their fervent contention that the two proposed mixed-use buildings were either way out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood at 19 stories, or missing key standards. While I am all in favor of high density development on this site, as well as adjacent to all metrorail stations, upon closer examination this project will be a disaster if built according to current specifications.

And no, I’m not referring to the height of these buildings – I’m referring to the massive amount of proposed parking. This project, proposed adjacent to a metrorail station and billed as a Transit Oriented Development infill project, is set to have a 611 space garage, 500 space garage, and 201 surface spaces. That’s over 1,300 parking spaces! Throw in the 204 surface spaces in the Grove Station’s park n’ ride lot, and you have over 1,500 parking spaces adjacent to a metrorail station that is two stops from downtown. Logistically, this is almost unfathomable. How can we expect anyone to ride transit in Miami when we keep building so car-oriented? Not only does this oversupply of parking induce travel to this location by automobiles and bastardize transit, it significantly increases the cost of the project and eliminates thousands of square feet that could have been used to build more affordable housing units.

It’s simple – as long as these kinds of projects keep getting built, especially next to transit stations, the likelihood Miami realizes its potential to become more sustainable, more pedestrian-oriented, and more transit-oriented is slim.

  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg of NYC was in Miami yesterday to experience our Bus Rapid Transit system. Our is nothing like what NYC is looking to build, with dedicated ROW’s and ridiculous fragmentation from local development, but I hope Mayor Bloomber was able to see what can be accomplished alongside expansive roadways which don’t exist in NYC. In any case, I see this as something kind of momentous for MDT and yet none of our news outlets covered the story…
  • No surprises here: Miami came in ranked at 98th for the Nation’s 100 most walkable cities. As CNN likes point out: Madison — 1,300 miles north of Sunny Miami came in first place. “Number of beaches versus frozen lakes apparently was not a factor. Crime rate, unfortunately for Miami, was.” Those Time Warner Companies are really out to do us in, aren’t they?
  • The FDOT has received three proposals to construct the Tunnel which would link watson Island/I-395 with the Port of Miami. The $1.2 Billion project is essential for improving the truck traffic connection between our highways and the port, not to mention should also make our downtown a more pleasant place to walk around. Without the tunnel, our port will choke on its own success, making the movement of goods in and out the biggest port in the state virtually impossible…
  • Oh, whoops we’re you trying to ride Tr-rail to get to work in a timely manner? CSX plans to disrupt Tri-rail for the next month. It’s things like this that makes people think that transit can’t work down here.
  • Miami City Commissioners voted to endorse the Marlins’ stadium plan within the city. Like their inept fellow commissioners in the County, they too decided to endorse the Orange Bowl Venue instead. I guess protecting out surface lots in downtown really is a priority for everyone around here, otherwise there is no logical reason to not place this this in downtown. “Criticisms of the downtown site have included its relatively small size…” but, nonetheless it fits, so, how is this a valid argument again?
  • MVB reports on Miami 21. Apparently the new building codes will be unveiled on March 24th.
  • GreenerMiami is working on Eathfest: WaterFest Gone Green…
  • BOB Reports on Rail Volution coming to Miami next Fall…

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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:

MARCH 21
MIAMI STREET CAR UPDATE
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: MoveMiami@gmail.com.
  • 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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