By: Eli Stiers, Esq. and Leah Weston, J.D.

We were disappointed by dismissive statements of Miami-Dade County Commissioner and Chair of the Finance Committee, Esteban Bovo, at the recent public meeting on the County’s annual budget.  Bovo’s comments have been memorialized in a YouTube video posted by Ms. Weston.  In response to a request that the Commission prioritize funding for better public transit, Commissioner Bovo displayed an outdated perspective that is out of sync with the needs of our ever-growing community.

While acknowledging his own frustration with the paucity of our transit options, compared to cities like Paris and Washington, D.C., Commissioner Bovo lamented that living without better access to transit is a “sad reality about Miami.”  We could not agree more. We further contend that lack of better public transit is preventing Miami from joining the roster of world-class cities.

Where we strongly disagree with Commissioner Bovo is with his indifference to the status quo.  His statements that Miami’s “car culture” is “in our DNA,” and that it would be difficult for people to leave their cars and “stand in the hot sun” to wait for a bus are problematic.  We think that Miamians choose to sit in cars for hours on crowded interstates because they lack other options.  Indeed, when the only option is to wait for a bus in the Miami heat, most will choose a car.  Those who cannot afford a car, on the other hand, are left to cope with our chronically underfunded and underperforming transit system.

Commissioner Bovo’s comprehension of how transit inadequacies affect immigrants and retirees is similarly flawed.  The Commissioner dubiously claimed that immigrants and retirees come to Miami seeking the freedom of the open road after leaving other parts of the world that usually have better transit options than we have in Miami.  To the contrary, immigrants and retirees, frequently of low and moderate incomes, are more dependent on transit than any other demographic.  This is bad news for Miami – an area recently documented by the Center for Housing Policy to be the least affordable place in the country for middle-to-lower income families, due to combined housing and transportation costs, which account for a whopping 72% of income!

Offer the public something better, like an expanded Metrorail service that truly links our community, and our guess is that many Miamians will abandon the stress of the daily commute on I-95, US-1, 826, and 836 for the comfort of an air-conditioned train car, and the chance to read a book, answer e-mails, or take a nap on the way to work or school. It is not a “small segment” asking for better transit in our community. To the contrary, Miamians are desperate for better transit. Don’t blame the culture and concede defeat—find a way to move this city forward.

In his final comments on the video, Commissioner Bovo segued into a discussion about road construction, undoubtedly to allocate more millions from the budget for an ever-expanding morass of highways, which are antiquated and overcrowded from the moment they are opened.  This kind of thinking is outdated, and this method of addressing transportation in our rapidly-expanding metro area is unsustainable.

We agree with the Commissioner: our transit woes stem from a lack of leadership and vision for our community.  We are frustrated, however, that despite recognizing the problem, and being uniquely situated to address it, he seems unwilling to fix it.  We challenge Commissioner Bovo and the rest of the County Commission (who also make up the majority of the MPO Board) to change their thinking about public transit in the County.  With better leadership and vision, Miami-Dade County can have a real mass transit system in Commissioner Bovo’s lifetime, contrary to his belief.  As an elected official, you cannot throw hands up and claim that the dreadful status quo will never change.  You must be the impetus for that change.

Eli Stiers is a Miami attorney with Aronovitz Law, Director of Safe Streets Miami, and Board Member with Green Mobility Network.

Leah Weston in a founding Board Member of TrAC and a recent graduate of UM School of Law who is currently studying for the Florida Bar.

 
Watch Commissioner and Chair of the County Finance Committee, Mr. Esteban Bovo, blame the lack of better public transportation options in Miami-Dade County on everything from the hot sun to immigrants who come to Miami because they crave the freedom of the open road (what!?!?), then segue into a discussion about the hundreds of millions being spent on highway expansion in MDC. Unreal. We can do better, Miami. This worldview belongs in the 1950′s and this chronic lack of vision is failing us all.
Prepare to get roasted Commissioner…. Let the comments begin. Feel free to send him an email too.

 

Pedestrians in Miami Beach jaywalk. You see them crossing intersection guerilla-style, ignoring red lights, ignoring oncoming traffic, ignoring all traffic laws that clearly state that “pedestrians may not cross between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation.” Here are some jaywalkers I have caught in the act, strutting their smug pedestrians selves surly across the street. You can clearly see the red light is showing for them.

 

Pedestrians Jaywalking Miami Beach

Pedestrians Jaywalking Miami Beach


Why do they do this?

Are they in such a rush that they cannot wait for “their turn” to cross the street? They are walking, so they cannot be *that* concerned about reaching their destination quickly. Is it to piss off drivers? To make them slow down, inconvenience them in their arduous commute home or to the office by having to slightly tap their break pedal?  Are they trying to educate Miami drivers to look up from their cell phones, set aside their mascara, and be more alert to their surroundings?If so, they are doing this at the risk of their own life. Is educating South Florida drivers really worth paying for…with your life? Why are these pedestrians stepping into traffic, dangerously exposing themselves to oncoming motor vehicles?

IMAG1971

 

The Answer.

A little bit of context goes a long way at explaining what is really happening. At both intersections pictured above (Alton RD & 13th St and Lincoln & West, respectively), pedestrians have to wait 3 minutes to get a green sign. Then, they get 20 (!) seconds to cross. Now, 3 minutes may not seem like a lot. But these are 3 minutes of loud, smelly, stinky traffic zooming by you. And after you diligently waited for your turn, the countdown for you to rush over starts a few second after you set foot into the street. To put it in perspective, you have to wait 9 times as long as the time you are allotted to cross. How’s that for making a pedestrian feel like an equal participant in the road usage? The answer is, and very clearly to the pedestrian, that the pedestrian is NOT as important as the vehicle traffic passing by. That the pedestrian is an inconvenience that needs to be begrudgingly dealt with, and removed as soon as possible.

So there, since we are such an inconvenience, we efface ourselves from these streets as fast as we can. We run across intersections. We don’t want to force a red light on anyone so we take our chance and rush. I have never seen as many running, nervous pedestrians as in the USA. And I lived in Paris. But it’s here, in the US, where pedestrians truly feel like they should not be here. Because that is how these streets, these traffic signals make us feel. They tell us, you’re not worth it. Go away. You’re stopping traffic. So, we jaywalk.

And just for fun, term “jaywalking” originated in Chicago. It is “a derogatory slang word that was coined, in part, by local auto clubs and dealers, which was an attempt to redefine streets as places where pedestrians do not belong. Automotive interests used these propaganda campaigns to put the blame on pedestrians who walked in the streets and crossed them whenever and wherever they wished, which was the same way they had done for centuries before the automobile became popular.” (Source: http://www.coyelawaccidentcenter.com/jaywalking-laws-in-florida.html)

 

It’s easy to understand how bike sharing services like Decobike can help reduce congestion, improve air quality and be a fun way to get around town. But data is beginning to reveal that bike sharing provides a significant economic boost to local economies as well.

Lately, the Miami News Times has been on a kick insisting that Miami Beach officials wound up in a rotten deal with Decobike – and taxpayers are getting shafted as a result. The premise of the recent stories is despite an agreement between Decobike and Miami Beach to pay a portion of their profits back to the city government as an ‘operating fee’ of sorts for using public land, Decobike does not share enough of their profits under a revised agreement, especially given the service’s wildly high ridership numbers.

For a few reasons, I did not agree with the premise that Miami Beach taxpayers are getting screwed – even if the revenue sharing figures are less than originally negotiated. Most bike sharing systems around the country operate as a taxpayer-funded service, viewed as a component of a city’s transit network. Decobike however, is privately-operated and funded at no cost to taxpayers aside from the use of public space the kiosks occupy within the city, including 86 formerly metered parking spaces. These spaces are estimated to bring in $258,000 worth of parking revenue each year, while Decobike only shared about $190,000 of their revenue with Miami Beach. That suggests a ‘net loss’ of $67,795 for Miami Beach under the revised agreement, for which taxpayers are on the hook for.

On the surface, it might seem like a bad deal – except for one key point. It completely ignores the observed and proven economic impacts of bike sharing beyond the simple balance sheet.

“The city expected to make money off the service, But that was only half the argument in bringing DecoBike to Miami Beach. The other half — the promise that the city would make money on the deal — has fallen by the wayside.” (DecoBike Currently Costs Miami Beach Money, But City Is on Pace To Break Even)

The New Times argument misses the forest for the trees here. The fact is, Decobike’s sky-high ridership numbers suggest the city is already making plenty of money from the service indirectly – but to understand that requires a deeper level of study than just looking at forgone parking revenues.

Minneapolis NiceRide members spent an additional $150,000 in the city's local economy.

Minneapolis NiceRide members spent an additional $150,000 in the city’s local economy.

Data is beginning to emerge from around the country that bike sharing services have a not-so-insignificant boost on their local economies. While this data isn’t so readily available for Miami Beach, studies from around the world can inform us what popular bike sharing systems do for their cities. A few examples:

  • Respondents to a Capital Bikeshare (DC) study found that nearly two-thirds of respondents would not have made their trips without the bikeshare program because it was too far to walk, bringing in customers who would have otherwise stayed away (2011-2012 Capital Bikeshare Member Survey).
  • A recent study in Melbourne found that bike parking spaces are better at generating revenue than car parking spaces. In part, this is simply because bicycles take up so little space, and parking can provide more opportunities for paying customers to park right at a business’s front door.
  • Minneapolis bike share members spent an extra $150,000 at nearby businesses over the course of one season. A University of Minnesota study found that users of NiceRide in the Twin Cities make more trips to nearby businesses than before bike share was available. Bike share users especially frequent restaurants, coffee shops, bars, nightclubs, and grocery stores.(Catalyst July 2012: Nice Ride spurs spending near stations).
  • One million rides in [DC’s] first year have accrued nearly 890,000 miles. At 39 cents per potential vehicle miles prevented, Capital Bikeshare gave DC taxpayers a maximum net savings of almost $350,000 in its first year.

And regarding the metered street parking spaces, many cities around the country are voluntarily removing some metered-on street parking spaces in favor of bicycle parking because of the positive impact it has on local business – which is the original intent of metered parking in the first place. (Think: Parking for 12 customers in the same space as 1) It is entirely possible that Decobike kiosks generate more tax revenue than a metered parking space, and could be measured by a survey of tax receipts from businesses with kiosks nearby to see the change in sales tax revenue from before vs. after Decobike.

Cites turn more car parking into bike parking because it's good for local business.

Cites turn more metered car parking into bike parking because it’s better for local business.

Facts like these suggest that fiscal profitability should be welcomed, but as a side-benefit. The number one metric in determining bikeshare success for a city should be ridership, e.g. vehicle miles prevented. And by that measure, Decobike is off the charts.

Now, if you want to make an argument for who is getting screwed, there are other places to look first. You could start with the Decobike riders, who pay the highest user fees of any bicycle sharing service in the USA. An annual membership for the service is would run $180 for a Miami Beach resident (even though memberships are only available in 3-month increments). In comparison, annual memberships in other cities are a comparative bargain:

Miami Beach: $180
NYC: $95
San Francisco Bay Area: $88
Boston: $85
Denver: $80
Chicago: $75
Washington, DC: $75
Minneapolis: $65
Fort Lauderdale: $45

(It’s important to remember Decobike and Citibike in New York City do not receive taxpayer funding which helps keep user fees down in other cities.)

Decobike could also make an argument that they are in fact getting screwed. As the New Times mentions, they only brought in $40,200 from advertising. This is because until recently, the city of Miami Beach tightly restricted how and where advertisements could be displayed, mainly limiting ads to a small basket on the front of the bicycles and forbidding them on the station kiosks themselves. I can imagine this limited their revenue generating potential for a while.

I understand Miami Beach expects to make some money off Decobike given its popularity and how the original deal was negotiated. But suggesting taxpayers are getting ‘stiffed’ while not recognizing the hosts of economic benefits is missing the forest for the trees and fails to recognize the long-term economic advantage of the service to local government, residents, visitors and businesses.

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The following post comes from a new TransitMiami-partner blog initiative I started last month: Miami Geographic.

The Editors here at TM were kind enough to give this new Miami Geographic initiative a boost and permit me to re-post the article here.

One can find the original article “Understanding Miami’s Metrorail Land-Use” on Miami Geographic.

Thanks for the support, TM!

Miami’s rapid transit Metrorail train system currently consists of 23 stations running along a nearly 25-mile elevated, heavy-rail, dual-track corridor.

Opened in May 1984, Metrorail is operated and maintained by Miami-Dade Transit (MDT), an agency of the Miami-Dade County administration.

Miami's Metrorail System and Traversed Municipalities. Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.
Miami’s Metrorail System and Traversed Municipalities. Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

With Metrorail turning 30 years old this very month, Miami Geographic will be celebrating the anniversary with an in-depth look at how the system works.

Toward that end, I’ll be starting here today with what is arguably the single-most important feature of any major public transportation system: land-use.

Land-use is simply the economic purpose for which land resources are utilized, or, stated even more simply, the way humans use land.

Land-use represents the geographic anatomy of a region. It determines the spatial structure and performance of human settlement systems.

To understand the way Miami’s Metrorail train system works — in terms of its capacity to move people throughout the metro region and connect them to the various destinations required for them to make a living and sustain their lives — it’s critical to understand the land-use configurations surrounding and served by the train corridor.

We’re talking about places where people live, work, and play.

A bit more specifically, we’re talking about origins and destinations like homes; places of employment; schools, colleges, and universities; grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, and other retail locations; churches, mosques, and temples; parks, open-, and green-spaces; sites of extraction, manufacturing, production, and waste management and disposal; and government buildings such as city and county halls, courthouses, and other facilities administering public services; etc.

So let’s imagine that the Metrorail transit corridor is actually a large artery for distributing the life blood of the city (people) to Miami’s organs (the city’s various land-use amenities), each of which contributes to the system’s urban metabolism.

Which land-use organs are most supported by flow of people through the Metrorail artery? How well connected are the different organs of the urban system?

Before we jump right into it, let’s quickly go over how Metrorail land-use was assessed.

I delineated 1-mile areas surrounding each of the 23 Metrorail stations in two ways:

  1. Euclidean (“As-the-Pigeon-Flies”) Area: regularly-shaped circular areas defined by Euclidean, absolute distances from each Metrorail station, uninterrupted by the on-the-ground impedance realities like disconnected streets, water bodies, and buildings, etc.; in other words, areas defined by distances “as-the-pigeon-flies”
    Metrorail System 1-Mile Euclidean ("As-the-Pigeon-Flies") 2014 Land-Use Corridor. Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.
  2. Network (“Along-the-Street-Network”) Area: irregularly-shaped areas defined by the design and pattern of a particular network, in this case the street network, which more accurately reflects on-the-ground impedance realities like disconnected streets, water bodies, and buildings, etc.; in other words, areas defined by distances “along-the-street-network”
    Metrorail System 1-Mile Network ("Along-the-Street-Network") 2014 Land-Use Corridor. Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

The graphic below illustrates the very different geometric outcomes produced when each of these two area-delineation methods is employed. Metrorail’s Government Center Station, in the heart of downtown Miami, was used in this example.

1-Mile Euclidean ("As-the-Pigeon-Flies") & 1-Mile Network ("Along-the-Street-Network") Area-Delineation Methods. Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Land-uses in Miami-Dade County were reclassified into the following 11 generalized classes:

  • Agricultural
  • Commercial
  • Industrial
  • Institutional
  • Multi-Family Residential
  • Office
  • Park
  • Single-Family Residential
  • Transportation & Utilities
  • Undeveloped
  • Water

Land-use data for 2014 came from the Miami-Dade County Land-Use Management Application (LUMA), accessible from the Miami-Dade County GIS Self Services platform.

Within each of the two 1-mile area-delineation types – as-the-pigeon-flies and along-the-street-network – the proportion of each of these 11 land-use classes was calculated.

In the station-by-station descriptions below, I make reference only to the along-the-street-network land-use proportions, although those for the as-the-pigeon-flies areas are reported in the maps too.

Let’s start at Metrorail’s southern terminus.

Dadeland South is the second busiest station after Government Center. The Datran office complex, along with the other offices in the downtown Dadeland area, is represented within the 4.9% of office use. Dadeland Mall, as well as the various other retail and restaurant sites within downtown Dadeland, account for the 13.3% in commercial use. Single-family residential dominates at 31.9%, while multi-family apartments and condominiums occupy 15.6%.

Dadeland South Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Dadeland North station shares in much of the same land-use amenities as its moniker-sharing counterpart to the south. However, the share of single-family residences is nearly 10% greater. Multi-family residences correspondingly decrease, and despite the presence of the Dadeland Station shopping center, commercial use remains slightly less in Dadeland North than in Dadeland South. Interesting to note is the small, less than 1% agricultural land-use here, as well as the slightly larger proportion of undeveloped parcels.

Dadeland North Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

South Miami station is surrounded predominantly by residential use: 37.7% for single- and 7.9% for multi-family. The City of South Miami’s downtown business core is found just across US-1 from the South Miami Metrorail station. Boutique clothing shops, pleasant restaurants offering a range of tastes and price-points, and some popular bars are found adjacent to the Sunset Place open-air shopping center. Even with all that, commercial use comes in at just 6.6%. Offices amount to 4.6%. Assessed at both absolute (as-the-pigeon-flies) or relative (along-the-street-network) 1-mile distances, South Miami station includes the western edge of the City of Coral Gables, including a sizable chunk of the University of Miami’s primary campus. That, along with some public, charter, and private schools in area, account for the more than 10% of institutional use.

South Miami Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

University station is dominated by two land-use types: residential (especially that of the single-family variety: 33.2%) and institutional (primarily for the University, schools, and religious buildings).

University Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Douglas Road probably has one of the best distributions of land-uses of any Metrorail station south of the downtown core. This part of the urban region, where the City of Miami meets the City of Coral Gables, is one of its most transformative pockets. It’s dynamism comes not only from its land-use mix, but also the rapidly transforming real estate and streetscape realities. Construction crews are actively building new condominium/apartment buildings in the area. Currently undeveloped land sits at 3.3%, but that number will be reduced significantly within this year. The immediate proximity to the ultra-luxurious, elite-endorsing Village of Merrick Park outdoor shopping mall has made the neighborhood an increasingly attractive site of investment. This commercial plaza hosts, among other high-end shops, The Collection, where the super-rich can purchase Ferraris and Aston Martins. Commercial accounts for 5.2% of the land-use composition. Coral Gables Senior High School is also within the vicinity, accounting for part of the the 6.9% of institutional use.

Douglas Road Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Coconut Grove station is over 55% residential (single-family: 29.5%; multi-family: 27.4%). The near even split of single- versus multi-family homes is remarkable to witness along SW 27th Avenue. On the ground, one can find residential structures on both sides of the avenue. However, on the west side of SW 27th, there are large numbers of one- and two-story duplexes. The City of Miami’s City Hall on Dinner Key is just within the as-the-pigeon-flies 1-mile area, making the share of institutional use at that geographic unit over 1%  higher than for the network-based unit.

Coconut Grove Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Vizcaya station is adjacent to the single-family neighborhood known as The Roads, the historic mansions along the bay and in south Brickell, some high-rise condos, the soon-to-be-relocated Miami Museum of Science, gorgeous City of Miami Alice Wainwright park and, of course, lovely and historic Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

Vizcaya Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Brickell is one of three Metrorail stations serving the downtown core of the Miami megalopolis (the others being Government Center and Overtown). Don’t be too alarmed by that 6.0% of undeveloped land; much of that is actively being eaten-away by the rising, city-redefining juggernaut that is to be Brickell City Center. Multi-family, office, and commercial space will increase as the phased project continues to materialize before our eyes (and to our collective wonderment). With Brickell serving as the financial business district of our urban core, it’s no surprise to find significant commercial (9.6%) and office (7.8%) space. It’s an increasingly residential area too, with nearly 20% dedicated to condos and apartments, comprising the largest land-use class in the area: multi-family residential.

Brickell Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Government Center is the station most people know, even those who have rarely ridden the train, if ever. As its name suggests, it’s where one can find, well, government. The Miami-Dade County courthouse is there; the US Federal District Courthouse is there; lots of a little court houses and related legal agencies are in the vicinity; all of these government or quasi-government buildings account for the 8.8% of institutional use. Requiring comment is the nearly 10% of undeveloped land in the area, in this, the very heart of the Miami region, the core of the core. That amount of undeveloped land in the center of one of the United States’ most important cities, and perhaps the most important city for intra-hemispheric relations, is astounding. However, just as with the current and on-going transformation of undeveloped land surrounding the Brickell station just to the south, most of that surrounding Government Center station is already, or will soon be, undergoing major development.

Government Center Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Overtown is the third Metrorail station offering passage to and from Miami’s core downtown, where the distribution of land-uses is about as equal as you’ll find anywhere else along the system. Here institutional use (11.3%) occupies slightly more space than multi-family residential (9.5%) and commercial (8.0%). Refreshingly, parks become a bit more significant (6.9%), but one wonders if that’s a sufficient amount of public recreation and leisure space for the heart of downtown. For the first time since moving our way through the Metrorail corridor, we start to see Miami’s industrial space (3.0%) emerge.

Overtown Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Culmer is an under-utilized gem of a station. Its land-use configuration is also dominated by institutional use (20.9%), most of it being the various medical-educational facilities comprising the de facto and increasingly formalized Miami Health District.

Culmer Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Civic Center station defines the center of, and is most readily associated with, the Health District. The Health District hosts such staples of the community health and local medical industries as Miami-Dade County-operated Jackson Memorial Hospital, the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, as well as the UM-owned “UHealth” brand of medical care, not to mention the UM Life Science & Technology complex to further advance UM’s aggressive pursuit of a medical and biotechnology empire. The Veteran’s Affairs (VA) hospital as well as the Miami-Dade College Medical campus are also both located in the Health District, among many other health-related institutes and organizations. Important to note about the Health District is that it also serves as a secondary government and legal district, second only to that found nearest to Government Center station. Still, significant multi-family units dominate the spaces surrounding these institutional uses. The industrial side of Miami — in the form of solid waste processing, factories, and especially fruit import warehouses — begins to become more apparent as one moves toward the Santa Clara station to the north.

Civic Center Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Santa Clara station can be used to access the industrial sector of Allapattah. This station also seems to be the preference for many Miami-Dade Medical Students whose campus is found just off of NW 20th Street.

Santa Clara Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Allapattah station is a Metrorail system node serving the residential heart of the Allapattah neighborhood, whose single- versus multi-family residential split (24.1% versus 18.4%) isn’t too drastic. Standard Miami, along-the-arterial commercial use applies; in this case accounting for 5.7%.

Allapattah Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Earlington Heights station is surrounded by a land-use arrangement very similar to that of Allapattah. Notable, though, is the relatively high percentage of undeveloped space: 5.5%.

Earlington Heights Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Brownsville station has an even greater excess of undeveloped land: 7.7%. Continuing with the line of medical analogies: one questions whether an urban system is as healthy as can be when significant pockets of it’s space are left unproductive, effectively contributing nothing to the well-being of the system. Undeveloped land so near the heart of the city, and so well connected (via the Metrorail artery) to other urban organs, virtually begs for investment (either public, in the form of say, parks, or private, in the form of business and economic stimulation).

Brownsville Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. station is where we begin to see more clearly that the notion of a purely service sector economy for supposedly post-industrial Miami is a myth. Industrial land-use occupies an even 12% at the 1-mile network unit. The amount of undeveloped space here is also striking at 7.8%.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Northside station is just over 20% industrial. Another fifth is allocated for commercial use (9.0%) and to, well, essentially nothing (in the form of undeveloped land: 10.%). Yet another fifth is allocated for the people living in the single-family homes (21.8%) in the area.

Northside Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Tri-Rail station is surrounded by industrial (21.1%) and single-family residential (29.6%).

Tri-Rail Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Hialeah station is located just south of the Hialeah Park Race Track & Casino, which accounts for the bulk of the 15.6% commercial use in the area. Otherwise, it’s mostly single- and multi-family residential (24.5% and 18.4% respectively). Industrial use (5.1%) remains significant up in these northwest reaches of the Metrorail line.

Hialeah Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Okeechobee station is surrounded by still more industrial use (18.1%) and the standard Hialeah mix of single- and multi-family residences.

Okeechobee Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Palmetto station brings us to the end of the Metrorail line, at least the end of the Green Line. Industrial use is overwhelmingly highest here at a whopping 49.6%.

Palmetto Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Miami International Airport station, the newest station in the Metrorail system, is dominated by transportation-based uses of land (i.e., the Miami International Airport and associated facilities). There is indeed a significant percentage of greenspace, which is classified as park (15.5%), but its important to note that this open greenspace is actually a large golf course and country club.

Miami International Airport Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

So what can be taken away from these maps and pie charts?

Well, for one, there is a strikingly high percentage of single-family residential space surrounding many Metrorail stations, especially those south of the urban core.

There’s also a less-than-expected share of commercial use immediately surrounding the region’s primary rapid transit train system.

Park space isn’t as abundant, or accessible via Metrorail, as one would expect in a city as predisposed to outdoor recreational activities as Miami.

As the Metrorail system deviates from its primary north-south orientation through Miami and begins it’s more east-west movement in the northern sections of the line, we see very high percentages of industrial land-use, not the type of use that is most amenable to facilitating the movement people through an urban system to connect them to their destinations.

While industrial spaces can and do serve as important sites of employment, they don’t generate the necessary flow of people needed to optimize major investments in public transportation infrastructure.

The Transportation & Utilities category of land-use is consistently the most, or among the most, dominant land-use classe surrounding each of the 23 Metrorail stations. This is reflective, of course, of the fact that the Metrorail train system is itself categorized as a transportation-based use of land.

However, it also reflects an undeniable land-use reality for the entire region, not just those areas surrounding Metrorail: streets (i.e., impermeable paved roadways, designed, in Miami’s case, primarily for automobiles) consume a disproportionate amount of all space in Miami’s land-use mosaic.

Again, thanks goes to TransitMiami Editors for permission to re-post this piece from my new partner blog Miami Geographic!

- Matthew Toro

A long, long time ago…
I can still remember
How living in Miami Beach used to make me smile…

That was – until FDOT took control of Alton Rd, hijacked West Avenue, a formerly quiet residential Boulevard, and dumped thousand of trucks, busses, taxis, and motorcycles right in front of our homes for the duration of over 1 year, turning it into an urban superhighway.
Cars, exhaust, pollution. Welcome to West Ave.

Cars, exhaust, pollution. Welcome to West Ave.

Act 1

March 2013.

As soon as the mega-project was announced, I contacted the City of Miami Beach and FDOT to inquire about what their plans were to mitigate all the traffic and what their plans were for pedestrian safety. The aide to then-mayor Matti Bower, Gabrielle Redfern, took the time to respond.

The mayor is also concerned about how this construction will effect traffic. The City has done its best to work with FDOT to make the project as painless to the residents as possible. Please continue to share your thoughts with the mayor. Your feelings are very important to her.”

I felt emboldened and encouraged that the mayor cared about my feelings. But what was their plan for pedestrian safety?

Act 2

November 2013.

When FDOT started reconfiguring West Ave to 2 Southbound lanes in late 2013 I reported several noise complaint to the City. For some reason FDOT thought it was a good idea to tear open the street to remove those traffic lines in the middle at 4am. I sent a few angry emails about the nighttime noise to Heather Leslie, FDOT’s Public Information Specialist. Her answer went,

The current nighttime work is to restripe West Avenue from 17 Street to 6 Street in order to prepare for the next phase of work on Alton Road. The contractor is completing this work at night because the striping operation requires lane closures and potential detours. We understand the ongoing work has been difficult, and the team will continue to do its best to mitigate the inconveniences.

Where apparently, “mitigating the inconveniences” means “occasionally answering your emails”.  The city never answered to these complaints.
It turns out, that nighttime noise was going to be the least of our problems. As soon as the traffic was re-routed to West Ave that November, it was as though the gates of hell had opened and unleashed previously unknown amounts of nightmarish traffic, noise, and pollution onto West Ave. At the same time, there was no enforcement of speed limits of any sort or any kind of traffic calming for pedestrians. We were left to fend for ourselves. The residents of my condominium quickly gathered at the face of this danger. We contacted the City and FDOT again. A neighbor sent the following email:

I live at 13th and West Avenue.  I am a Senior Records Clerk for a local Police Department and my wife is employed a a local Hospital as a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit.  We have two daughters under the age of 2.  We have lived at the same address for over 10 years.  West Avenue is not the same roadway as when we first began living here.   There have been so many occasions where my family have sat at the crosswalk on West Ave and 14th Street as car after car passes us by, not so much as giving us a glance.  Recently, I entered the crosswalk and an oncoming vehicle southbound did not slow down.  I had to throw my daughter behind me and scream at the top of my lungs for a car to stop in the far left lane.  When he did, he actually gave me the finger and told me to get out of the way.  My wife and I no longer cross West Avenue at all.  It is not the same for my family, let alone the other many families who live in the area, or the many elderly citizens who frequent this intersection.  I watch from my balcony as cars fly by, not yielding whatsoever to pedestrians who have the right of way.  Now that southbound West Avenue has been increased to two lanes it is more dangerous than ever.  Without a stoplight, or a speed bump of some kind, it is without question that it is a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed at that intersection.

This seemed to have gotten FDOT’s attention. A meeting was scheduled for December. Heather Leslie, Enrique Tamayo,  Amanda Shotton, and Ivan Hay from FDOT as well as Lynn Bernstein from the City met us in front of our building on West Ave. Ivan remarked how he could never live here (no wonder). That day they actually witnessed a girl nearly getting hit that morning at the intersection. They all agreed it was unsafe. FDOT then conducted a traffic study and determined that a stop light was needed on 14th and flashing lights were needed on 9th and 12th Streets. After this was determined a whole lot of nothing happened for a whole lot of time.

Act 3

May 2014.

I keep emailing Heather once every month to ask for updates. And then, just 6 months after meeting FDOT….
BAM! We have FLASHING PEDESTRIAN CROSSING SIGNS!!
Pedestrian Signs! Flashing!

Pedestrian Signs! Flashing!

I feel as excited about this basic safety improvement as I would for the fanciest Birthday gift! Finally, our concerns were heard and the powers that be show that they actually care…or do they?

Still nothing has happened on 13th Street or 14th Streets. Ms Leslie has informed me that “The final design plans for the temporary signal at 14 Street have been completed and the materials are currently being procured. The light will be installed once the materials arrive. As discussed, these pedestrian features require engineering plans, as well as the coordination with the various agencies.“) . I emailed FDOT a link to some traffic calming devices on Amazon, for $1600 and asked why they couldn’t just buy one of those but I guess they were not amused by that suggestion.

 

Epilogue

I never heard from the newly elected mayor Mr. Levine, but judging from his Facebook account he is busy meeting celebrities or running in Washington DC.
I’ve never seen police give tickets for nearly running over pedestrians on West Ave. And yet, this happens all day, every day. There is a police officer parked on 17th St and West which is great but that is just one intersection of many on West, and in my opinion not the busiest one for pedestrians.
We have an older lady in our building who leaves the house with a little walking stick so she can threaten cars who do not cede to her passing.
When I cross I am usually wave like a lunatic at those cute little “Stop for Pedestrians” sign in the hope of getting drivers to look up from their cell phones, into my face.
Why is it that we cannot have some adequate traffic enforcement and traffic calming to ensure people do not DIE on the streets of our “world-class” city?

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 10.38.42 AMMinimum parking requirements are killing good urban development in Miami. Luckily, there has been a push to eliminate parking requirements for small urban buildings (<10,000 sq ft) in recent months.  This is a good first step in the right direction if Miami really aspires to become a walkable and less autocentric city.

Minimum parking requirements perpetuate more automobile use and it also makes housing less affordable since the cost of building and maintaining required parking is passed on to renters and buyers. Two weeks ago Zillow released ahousing report  that cited Miami as the 2nd most expensive city for renters.  The average Miami resident spends 43.2% of their income on rent.\

Combine expensive housing with lack of public transit and minimum parking requirements that only serve to perpetuate the use of the automobile; its no wonder why Miami is one of the most expensive car dominated cities in the US.

Eliminating parking requirements would do the following things:

1) Allows small developers to choose how many parking spaces are needed based on what fits and what buyers or tenants want.
2) Replaces parking with denser development that generates more property and sales tax for the county and city.
3) Allows small property owners to keep their property and develop themselves.
4) Levels the playing field for small Miami property owners.
5) Allows for the creation of more walkable and denser urban neighborhoods.

Below are the details for the reduced parking requirements that are being sought for small urban buildings.  This is currently being advocated for at the commission level, so stay tuned for the resolution.

The proposed text for T4, T5, and T6 is underlined below.  The non-underlined text already exists in Miami 21, a TOD/transit corridor parking reduction that does not apply within 500 ft of single-family/duplex areas (T3).  The proposed text does not change that, it does not apply within 500 feet of T3.  Below is a map of where the proposed text would apply: orange areas around rail stations, purple areas along transit corridors, but not yellow areas within 500 ft of T3.  

“Parking ratio may be reduced within 1/2 mile radius of TOD or within 1/4 mile radius of a Transit Corridor by thirty percent (30%) by process of Waiver, or by one hundred percent (100%) for any Structure that has a Floor Area of ten thousand (10,000) square feet or less, except when site is within 500 feet of T3.”.

Let’s hope City of Miami Commissioners can come to their senses and eliminate parking requirements entirely, not just for small urban buildings.

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 3.46.20 PM

 

Some of you may have heard that the Venetian Causeway will be shut down for an extended period of time. Head on over to the Belle Isle Blog for more background information.

The upshot is that due to lack of maintenance (before you place blame fully at the people at Public Works and Waste Management, consider that the political leadership in Miami continues to push for lower taxes and this is pretty much what you end up getting), the westernmost part of the bridge must be demolished and replaced. The problems surfaced when a Miami Dade County bus crossed the Venetian Causeway and got stuck and a hole opened up. After a brief closure, new weight limits mean that County buses are unable to cross the Causeway, leading to a increases in travel times for those working on the islands.

The bridge won’t be closed for another four to six months and will then be shut down to all traffic for about six to nine months. This report was confirmed at a recent meeting with Public Works and Waste Management department staff. And given the track record of recent projects, things must be going well. Residents, visitors and workers (some of whom may not have another means of transport) use the Venetian Causeway as the only viable – as in not completely unsafe – option to access South Beach. The other two options – the MacArthur Causeway and the Julia Tuttle Causeway managed by the Florida Department of Transportation – are not recommended routes, despite FDOT having put bike lanes on them (we have asked FDOT District 6 head Gus Pego to bike those routes with us to show that he considers them safe, so far he hasn’t taken us up on the offer). Add the current construction project on the MacArthur and the convoluted access to the sidewalk that leads to the bike lane on the mainland side as well as our usual crazy Miami drivers and making the trip by bike increases your chances of serious injury or fatality to an unacceptable degree (as if the current situation wasn’t already bad enough).

We suggest that the County do the following:

  • provide options for those unable to get to Miami Beach by increasing bus service to Miami Beach and the islands by way of Miami Beach;
  • consider adding trailers to buses so that those needing to go to Miami Beach do not have expose themselves to the dangers of either the Tuttle or the MacArthur Causeway (for examples, look here, here and here - and yes, being able to lock bikes would be good, this is Miami after all); and
  • keep the public informed on the progress of the construction and the available transportation options.

We would like to find out what other – serious – ideas you have that the County could take up. Please feel free to add comments or send us an email.

 

 

Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking and distinguished professor of urban planning at UCLA, will give a talk on Monday, April 21 from 8 to 10 AM at AIA’s Miami Center for Architecture & Design, 100 NE 1 Ave, Miami, FL 33132.

Shoup is the godfather of the scientific study of parking, and has spoken widely about the benefits of eliminating required parking for mobility and urbanism.  Shoup writes: “This doesn’t mean, however, that developers won’t provide off-street parking. It simply means that urban planners won’t tell developers exactly how many parking spaces they must provide before they can get a building permit. Developers will provide the parking spaces they think buyers demand.”

Capacity is limited, RSVP at shoupmiami.eventbrite.com and send to all your contacts, followers, members, students, etc.  Continental breakfast will be served.  Supported by the Knight Foundation, AIA Miami, APA Gold Coast Section, and Townhouse Center.

Shoup Flyer

 

Some TransitMiami readers have expressed a desire to see ‘mixed’ use mapped out. Well, here it is:

'Mixed' Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida -- 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

‘Mixed’ Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida — 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

Yes; the results are drastic. At this scale, one almost needs a magnifying glass to even locate the ‘mixed use’ sites.

Removing the street network helps a bit, but it only makes the disappointing results that much clearer.

'Mixed' Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida with Streets Removed -- 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

‘Mixed’ Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida with Streets Removed — 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

Mind you, I’ve kept the recent series of Miami-Dade County land-use maps at a relatively small cartographic scale to show the relatively large geographic scale area of the entire county.

You can find the related Miami-Dade land-use maps at the links below:

‘Mixed’ land-use was defined as those subsets of commercial use categories with the following descriptions:

  • “Office/Business/Hotel/Residential. Substantial components of each use present,    Treated as any combination of the mentioned uses with a hotel as part of development.”
  • “Office and/or Business and other services (ground level) / Residential (upper levels). Low-density < 15 dwellings per acre or 4 floors.”
  • “Residential predominantly (condominium/ rental apartments with lower floors Office and/or Retail.  High density > 15 dwelling units per ac, multi-story buildings  (Generally more than 5 stories).”

Now, one must consider the difference between ‘mixed’ land-use, and the general land-use mix of an area. The latter concept can also be referred to as the diversity of land-use in a given area.

So, while there is obviously very little ‘mixed’ use throughout Miami-Dade County, there are significant areas where there is a healthy land-use mix, or diversity of land-uses.

One must also consider the difference between use and zoning, or the difference between the current economic function of the land versus the future or intended purpose of the land.

We’ll get into these issues later . . .

Tagged with:
 

v0

Last night County Commissioners voted in favor of Vision Zero 305. Much like NYC’s Vision Zero NYC, Vision Zero 305 is a set of comprehensive policies developed in Sweden and aimed at a future in which no one is killed or seriously injured by traffic.

Miami is the 3rd most deadly metropolitan area in the nation for cyclists and pedestrians. Vision Zero 305 will be based on the refusal to accept that human death or lifelong suffering from injury is an acceptable result of road traffic. In order to achieve this vision, our traffic systems must be designed with the understanding that people make mistakes and that traffic crashes cannot be avoided completely. Roads should be designed so that when crashes do occur, they do not result in serious injury or death.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez had this to say:

“My fellow commissioners and I have finally come to recognize that Miami is about 2 decades behind other so-called “world class cities” when it comes to pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. We have a public safety crisis unfolding on our streets and we need to make our streets safer for everyone; we need to design our streets for people, not cars. There clearly has been no leadership or vision from anyone on the County Commission when it comes to preventing traffic deaths, but that is about to change. We will no longer strive to become the deadliest metropolitan area in the nation for cyclists and pedestrians.  Instead we will strive to have the safest streets in the country.”

According to Commissioner Xavier Suarez, “the County will implement a complete streets policy and we will hold police accountable when it comes to doing their job; we actually expect them to enforce traffic laws.”

This is a big step in the right direction.  Let’s just hope this is just not the same old political posturing that we’re tired of hearing.

 

Dead End

 
Driver hit cyclists from behind.  Notice the windshield. How fast was the driver going?

Driver hit cyclists from behind. Notice the windshield. How fast was the driver going?

I’m really tired of writing this same old story. On Friday morning another cyclist was critically injured on Bear Cut Bridge, the very same bridge where Chistopher Lecanne was killed nearly 4 years ago when a driver hit him from behind.

Crashes like these are preventable if only our elected officials could get their act together and address the public safety crisis that is happening in front of their very own eyes.

impact-of-speed2 (1)

The Rickenbacker Causeway is a microcosm for the greater ills of the county. Case in point: In the past 7 years at least 3 cyclists have been killed and countless other have been critically injured, yet the existing conditions on the Rickenbacker Causeway are getting more dangerous (i.e. Bear Cut Bridge), not safer.  Virtually nothing has been done to make the Rickenbacker less dangerous.  How many people need to die before something is done?

Miami Dade County is the 3rd most dangerous metropolitan area in the country for pedestrian and cyclists, yet our elected officials are dragging their feet when it comes to making our streets safer.  All I hear is political grandstanding that changes are coming and in the meantime pedestrians and cyclists continue to be slaughtered on our streets. The entire situation is disgraceful and shameful and collectively Miami Dade County elected officials need to be held accountable.

Click here to send an email to all of our County Commissioners and Mayor Gimenez and let them know what an awful job they are doing when it comes to pedestrian and cyclist safety throughout the County.  This is not just a Rickenbacker Causeway issue, this is a county wide problem that has turned into a public safety crises.

The situation has reached a point that is beyond embarrassing.
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 

Today we’re looking at those spaces that breathe life into a city: parks.

Park Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida -- 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

Park Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida — 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

I kept it simple: only beaches, municipal-operated, and county-operated parks were included. These criteria effectively excluded the following uses, which are part of Miami-Dade County’s default “Park” category:

  • Recreational Vehicle Parks/Camps
  • Private Recreational Facilities Associated with Private Residential Developments
  • Private Recreational Camps/Areas
  • Cemeteries
  • Golf courses
  • Other Nature Preserves and Protected Areas, which, for the most part, are completely inaccessible for public recreation/leisure
  • Marinas

And, significantly, this map doesn’t show Biscayne National Park, our local, primarily aquatic national park covering the bulk of central and southern Biscayne Bay.

What do you think? Where are more parks needed in our community?

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