I came across the Earth Day Network’s Urban Environment Report which took the time to score and rank 72 major urban areas in the United States based on environmental policy and sustainability principles. Needless to say, Miami came in a spot better than I anticipated; 71st place.

View City results

About Earth Day Network…

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The above photograph came from the airplane mounted camera of local photographer James Good. Although certainly not one of his most creative pictures, this picture gives us an excellent aerial view of the realignment of Biscayne Boulevard along Bicentennial (Museum) Park. The beautiful design in the median with new wider sidewalks on either side, will allow the new residents of the condos emerging behind to easily access the Carnival Center and all destinations along the Boulevard easily by foot. The initial conceptual drawings included images of sidewalk cafes, tree canopies, and streetcars running along the new more pedestrian friendly corridor. Of particular interest is the small building in the bottom center; a water treatment pumping facility which emits a foul odor and isn’t planned to move elsewhere anytime soon…

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  • Rick and Alesh lament over a dead proposed bill which would have required slow drivers in the left lane to move out of the way of faster drivers. We saw a similar measure reach Jeb Bush last year, where it was vetoed, citing that there was already an existing law to cover such measures. Once again, it all boils down on better driver education and more enforcement of existing statues by our understaffed Highway Patrolmen.
  • Balloons floated 400 ft over the Mercy Hospital site where three high-rises are slated to rise, to simulate the visual effect the buildings would have on the surroundings if erected. Nonetheless the simulation proved all of our worst fears about this project:
    “It’s worse than even my most horrible thoughts, which were pretty horrible,” Miami historian Arva Moore Parks said while watching the balloons hover over Vizcaya.

  • The Miami-Dade MPO voted unanimously in favor of building the Everglades Skyway Bridge through an eleven mile segment of the Everglades in order to properly restore water flow. This is a great project, aimed to finally correct decades of destruction caused by the Tamiami Trail, however, I must contest the MPO claim that the $300 million project would prove to be a “tourist attraction.”

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While Mayor Alvarez is talking about elevated HOT lanes on I-95 and the PTP adding bus routes in the State of the County address, I was thinking in another direction: it’s time to make our Metrorail stations more accessible and pedestrian-oriented. This is of primary concern for stations along US-1, which serves as a barrier to anyone trying to use Metrorail from the south side of Dixie Highway.

Take, for example, the Coconut Grove station. It should serve as one of the most important transit gateways in Miami-Dade County, but instead functions as an isolated entity. Countless times I have interacted with tourists at both ends of 27th avenue in the Grove, asking me where the Metrorail station is probably because a) it is effectively cut off from the neighborhood and b) there is little urban continuity between the station and Grand Avenue that is emblematic of a place where people walk and take transit. Check out the pictures below:

Besides having to wait at least two minutes for the light to change, the man crossing the street (in front of white truck turning left in this pic) had to dodge a car turning right-on-red from southbound 27th avenue, then step in front of this line of left turn traffic, and this is just to get to the median. Once he gets across the street, he is flanked by a very large gas station and chaotic stretch of merge-lane, followed by this.

The point is, better integration between Metrorail stations and adjacent streets and intersections is critical to the success of Metrorail, as well as realizing the pedestrian-oriented urban goals for Greater Miami. I guarantee there are people who would otherwise ride Metrorail but are turned off by either the prospect of crossing US-1 or the auto-centric environment of streets leading to the stations.

Alright, I couldn’t allow such a monumental city resolution to pass by unnoticed any longer. The city commissioners of Hialeah should be commended (yeah, I never thought I’d say that either) for their recent decision to reurbanize and re-zone five key districts, incorporating denser mixed-use development while keeping in line with better urban design principles. The plan calls for the establishment of five key business districts which would require mixed-use buildings (commercial on the ground floor with residential above) in higher density format and up to 7 stories in height. I have not been able to dig up any more information on the plan to find out if greenspace, parking, transit, sidewalks, building heights, etc. will be incorporated into the plan. The city website (mainly in Spanish) hasn’t been updated since September 2006 and the Herald article digressed to cover some of the more amusing aspects of politics in Hialeah:

Business owner Robert Morell called for Spanish-speaking residents to learn English — and was booed by the crowd.

”I am a little bit appalled because if you travel to any other city it looks like they’re going into the future. Some of us still want to live in the past,” Morell said. “I speak Spanish, even though my whole family is American. I don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t learn the [English] language.”

Tomas Martinez, a regular at council meetings, where he addresses members in Spanish, approached Morell as he left the podium and an argument ensued.

As the men stared each other down, Robaina and City Council President Esteban ”Steve” Bovo threatened ejection from the meeting or arrest for anyone causing a major disturbance.

Ignoring Morell’s suggestion, resident Randy Carter said he would address the council in Spanish.

”I am going to speak in Spanish because when you do your political campaigns you do them in Spanish,” Carter told council members in Spanish.

Members of the audience laughed and applauded.

Despite the fact that this plan is perhaps the best thing that could happen to the zonal mess of Hialeah (this city must have invented spot zoning and strip malls while completely ignoring any sane citywide development plan,) many residents attended the meeting last week to protest the decision:

Some residents said they feared being displaced from their trailer homes or that historic landmarks would be dwarfed by seven-story buildings.

I find it amusing that the largely Cuban audience (who typically spends time lamenting over how great a city Havana was) would try to defeat a plan which could potentially bring some of Old Havana’s urban planning charm (by charm I clearly mean the old Spanish, walkable, non-autocentric, dense, ground floor commercial with residences above, covered walkways, etc.) to the city of Hialeah… Like the photo above/below, minus the decay of the past sixty years…

The Sun-Sentinel published a rather ho hum article today concerning the possible use of the FEC corridor for local commuter rail traffic. Basically restating everything we already knew about the study being conducted to alleviate traffic on I-95, local developers paving over our way of life, Henry Flagler and the oranges, blah, blah, blah, the whole nine yards… The article confirmed my recent estimates placing the start of construction on a best possible scenario at 2015 (oddly enough the same year Baylink will be reconsidered for funding by the MPO.) As usual, the comments on the Sun-Sentinel’s site proved to be an everlasting source of entertainment for me. Here is one of the more ridiculous replies which just about sums up why we need to focus on changing mentalities around here first…

Here are some of Bob from Boca’s deep and well thought out ideas:

Finally, my first reaction:

Yep, I wanna give up my Lexus to ride with the vermin of the world.

Let me take my lovely family and sit among people from nations where personal hygeine is a dark mystery associated with the like of the full moon and witch-craft. Oh sorry, did I say other nation? I meant Hialeah.

Let’s have a “chat” with the hip-hoppers who can’t say 3 words straight without an F-Bomb, or the others who can’t say 3 words in English.

Even better, I want to give up the luxury of personal transportation in order to roll in the filth left by the previous passengers. Gum stuck in chairs, overflowing toilets (if they even bothered to enter) and the associated residue of society all stuck to my seat, and now my pants all at one time.

Snob? Perhaps…Dude, I’ll simply say it’s not technology that kills public transporation. It’s the public.

American’s golden days passed when manners and social grace were put aside in favor of personal gratification and the current selfish, boorish behavior that seems to be a norm among so many.

So yeah, raise our taxes even higher and strangle our economy to death. Chase out and destroy the middle class and build the train. We’ll have extremely wealthy and those so poor they are tax exempt. At least the latter will have a train. All they need is a reason to use it. What are the chances that will be for work?

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  1. Well, I don’t know if anyone has noticed or not, but, I’ve gone about the arduous task of importing all of the previous blog entries (one by one due to blogger’s lack of an import feature…) This process is going rather slow, but, the archives should be back up within the next few weeks…
  2. Also, you may wish to update your links; seeing that Transit Miami is now fully accessible through www.TransitMiami.com. Yeah, I cut the blogspot back out of the domain again. However, you may notice (IE users) that you can’t access the page by typing in just http://transitmiami.com (minor glitch I’m working to fix) unless you are using firefox which will add the www in for you…
  3. E-mail service will be returning soon, once I resolve an issue behind the fact that Ryan’s Posts do not get sent out via e-mail for some odd blogger reason or another…
  4. The sidebar has been updated with new links, Transit websites, Blogs, Feeds, and a new headline bar bringing the latest news from the Planetizen Page…

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Miami-Dade Transit Honors Rosa Parks for Black History Month:

“A permanent memorial to Rosa Parks will be on display above a designated seat behind the bus driver’s position, to honor Park’s refusal to give up her seat to another person. The decal reads, “Seat dedicated in honor of Rosa Parks” and is written in three languages.”

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In posts from long ago, Gabe had mentioned the “ghost station” that can be seen looking west from the southbound platform at Government Center Station. This station platform was built long ago to serve inbound trains from the west, that is, before the original east-west line was canceled as a result of ridership numbers that did not meet illusory ridership estimates.

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Some of you may have read about the recent debacle caused by the FDOT and Biscayne Boulevard preservationists over the removal of nearly all of the Royal Palms along the streetscape. Here’s the abridged version of the recent events:
  • FDOT planned to remove most of the palms on Biscayne Boulevard to replace them with shade trees such as Oaks, in order to enhance the pedestrian experience along the boulevard and to improve “safety” along the corridor in a new ROW acquisition.
  • The FDOT plan was met by stiff activist resistance, opposing the removal of any trees and opposing the plans by the FDOT.
  • To date, 135 palms have been removed, approximately 2/3 of the palms along the corridor which were planted over 80 years ago to commemorate the Veterans of all Wars.
  • Trees continued to fall, as recently as February 6.
  • On February 7th, the FDOT agreed to stop further destruction of the Royal palms, claiming that the trees removed the day before were either sick or part of the ROW acquisition.
  • Today, after the lobbying of Commissioner Sarnoff and Mary Conway, the FDOT has finally agreed to end the destruction. The Biscayne Boulevard corridor will now feature much more foliage than had been previously planned, including more Royal Palms and various other shade trees.

It’s difficult to swallow the “pedestrian enhancement” bull the FDOT is throwing at us when the trees are being removed to further enhance the traffic flow along the corridor. As the herald article noted, Miami’s tree canopy is an abysmal 10% (compared to 30-40% in other denser, pedestrian-minded cities) and yet, the solution to improve our tree canopy dysfunction involved the removal of existing trees. I guess we’re trying to maintain it at 10%, rather than improve upon it.

The bigger picture I’d like to point out is while one local agency works to make our streets more pedestrian friendly, our city commission is out approving a monstrous structure with 1,700 parking spaces in the immediate area. Note above: the pedestrian friendly streets of yesteryear featured not only pedestrian friendly foliage but streetcars as well. The approval of 2222 Biscayne is a dark reminder of how far we still have to go to improve the urban culture of our city. Any structure on an existing or planned public transit route should feature far less parking than the city code currently calls for and certainly far less than the 1 space/250 square feet offered by this eyesore…

All dressed up for the occasion, we can always count on the Bank of America Tower to be shining bright…

Via Unkledan’s Flickr

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Noting that the traditional enclosed shopping mall concept has dwindled within American Culture, we have seen the rapid rise of lifestyle centers modeled around the “Town Center” concept. Aside from various fake streetscapes and generally navigable streets within the complexes, these centers will continue to ravage the urban fabric of our cities in a fashion similar to that of the mall. The “Town Center” concept has taken off over the recent years and is designed with automotive access and developer’s pockets in mind. The recently approved Davie Commons retail and office center is no different. Sprawling out over 150 acres, this complex will certainly do little to centralize Davie and will only compound the traffic problems in the whole South Florida region. If fully approved by the city commission, this will signal a complete reversal of general urban planning principles, placing yet another massive development on the western fringes of the county’s sprawl, abutting the Everglades. Broward County traffic will be further disrupted by reverse commutes for people working in the 800,000+ square feet of office space or the Million+ square feet of retail.
Developers downplayed the potential traffic impact, claiming it would add fewer cars to local roads than a new housing subdivision.

The Davie city commission swallowed this load of crap, recently giving the project an initial first round approval, despite widespread opposition from the community. The complex will continue to exemplify the type of construction we need to stop in our region. Suburban office complexes and expansive shopping centers which are only accessible by vehicle in the western parts of the county equate to an ecological, immoral, and urban planning catastrophe for the whole region. The city commission is likely clouded by the massive tax benefit the city would reap:

In exchange for the town’s approval, developers will ask that the agricultural exemption on the 152-acre property be lifted beginning in 2008. The change would increase the taxable value of the land from less than $100,000 to about $20.1 million, creating a windfall for the town, Siegel said.

In addition, if the land-use change receives final town approval, developers have agreed to pay $3.5 million per year to guarantee that Davie receives the amount of revenue the project is estimated to generate.

Join the Opposition!

More Pictures:

Main Street! Main to what, the Everglades? (Wow, they got people to walk…)

The Bustling urban Town Fountain (Look at the water flow…)

Mosquito Park

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New Miami-Key West Ferry Service

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Here’s another reason why rail transit expansion should take precedent over bus-favored alternatives. This afternoon I hopped on the #11 bus FIU-bound from Government Center via Flagler St at approximately 4:20pm; at 6:53pm, I arrived at FIU. It took the bus two and a half hours to go about 12 miles. If you’re counting at home, that’s an average speed around 5MPH. To put that into perspective, the average human walking speed is about 3.5MPH, meaning at a fairly brisk pace I could have rivaled the bus on foot. Furthermore, Metrorail travels its entire 22 miles in roughly 45 minutes, for an average speed of about 30MPH, or 600% faster than the bus. You would think Sweetwater would be begging for a Metrorail station (or two).

People talk about buses being advantageous to rail because of “flexible” routes, but nearly all routes are placed along arterial and connector roads that are the most susceptible to congestion (which, as we all should know, is expected to get much worse than it already is). Moreover, as we’ve mentioned a hundred times before, buses do relatively nothing to enhance the pedestrian realm, which is a major goal of the City of Miami, as well as Transit Miami. As Gabe said earlier, streetcars may not be guaranteed to significantly lessen traffic congestion, at least not immediately, but they are much more likely to do so than buses and they facilitate pedestrian-oriented surroundings so people have alternatives to driving everywhere.

Manhattan has the most comprehensive subway system in the world, but if you’ve ever driven there, you know that doesn’t preclude the borough from heavy congestion. The point is, they have many alternatives and we don’t – which is partly why NYC is a world-class city and Miami is still a far cry away.

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A forum member posted this picture recently depicting the new livery of the Miami Metromover Cars. I’ll try to get some better quality shots as soon as possible…

Update: Lil Pony on public transit, a new blog I discovered today, has the lowdown on the interior

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