Turnout at MDX’s highway open house last Thursday night was generally healthy.
I’d estimate a solid 80-100 people came through the doors of the West Kendall Baptist Church, eager to learn more about the big new highway project MDX is seeking to sell them on. (I didn’t stick around for the whole three hour event, so my count is unofficial at best. Let’s hope the numbers were more around 150-200 people.)
The layout of the public meeting was informal, and MDX should be commended for conducting the event in a way that maximized the people’s interaction with project staff: Good job on facilitating some community face-time, MDX — sincerely.
Four loosely-grouped information stations were set-up.
- Station 1: “Purpose & Need”
- Station 2: “Process & Schedule”
- Station 3: “Natural Environment”
- Station 4: “Physical & Socio-cultural Environment
Each station had two or three MDX staff members (or staff from one of MDX’s contracted consultant firms, e.g., Stantec) on-hand to solicit residents’ thoughts and provide (typically diversionary) responses to their questions.
Staff were generally friendly. All good salespeople are.
My underlying concern is that when I asked even the simplest of questions, or when my questions were apparently perceived as not ‘softball’ enough, I persistently got some variant of the following response: “Oh, this project is just in the planning stage. It’s way too early to be making those considerations.”
A couple of basic questions to which I received no real response.
- Considering all alternatives, from the least to the most expansive, what is MDX estimating the costs of this highway expansion to be?
- Considering all alternatives, how much does MDX consider the total cost of the tolls to be from the southwest to downtown Miami?
Any response that wasn’t overly deflective still didn’t register as sufficient justification for a new highway. For example:
- Me: If the underlying problem is that nearly all of Miami’s suburbanites commute from the west to the east, why would people want to lengthen their commute by driving farther west, just to ultimately go east again?
- MDX (paraphrased): Well . . . some people already go west onto Krome [SW 177th] Avenue to go back east again.
- Me: Yes, a handful do, but Krome Avenue is currently set to be widened by FDOT, and that will accommodate the relatively few who do.
- MDX (paraphrased): Yes, that’s true; Krome is to be widened; but we need to look into whether widening Krome will be enough.
- Me: . . .
MDX was clearly more concerned with selling its message than informing the people of that highway’s impact on their quality of life.
That message is clear: “Miami: You need another highway at the far edge of the city, either along, or somewhere beyond, the Urban Development Boundary.”
While MDX staff weren’t eager to give out any information that could jeopardize their chances of advancing their highway “dream”, they were eager to give out free Sunpass receptors (electronic toll collection devices). The way MDX sees it, we’ll be needing them.
Many attendees, myself included, made their opposition to the project known via the comment cards distributed by the agency.
Still, more voices will be needed to stop MDX from moving forward with its plans to build more highways in Miami, further constraining our city’s ability to liberate itself from its dependence on automobiles.
What: Second Public Meeting on South Bayshore Drive Improvement Project
Where: Miami City Hall Chambers, 3500 Pan American Drive
When: Monday, September 15, 2014, 6 pm
Scope: Widening and reconstruction of roadway with drainage improvements, traffic signalization, designated bike lanes and landscape improvements from Mercy Way to Darwin Street.
These are some basic facts about the project. To give some more context, the following may be helpful. It should be clear that this meeting is an important one to attend if you care about improvements to the bike / ped infrastructure in the area. The City of Miami has an opportunity to get a lot of things right this time around – let’s see whether they live up to the challenge.
The project concerns an area that forms part of the connection between Coconut Grove and the Brickell / downtown area. Given that there really is no safe route for pedestrians and cyclists to get from Coconut Grove to Brickell / downtown or the Key Biscayne bridge, it is important that the City of Miami get this project right. The route suffers from a large number of commuters that use it in the morning and the evening instead of US 1. There will likely be discussions about the extent to which level of service not being sacrificed in order to create a safe streetscape. If that doesn’t happen, it would be a pleasant surprise. If it does, it is no longer an acceptable argument, especially given the high risks for pedestrians and cyclists in the third most dangerous metropolitan area in a highly used corridor by pedestrians and cyclists.
Make your voice heard and ask or demand (whatever you prefer) that the entire project receive contiguous bike lanes and sidewalks, the latter of which (ideally some parts of the bike lane as well) is not at grade with the road so as to avoid crashes that have in the past almost cost a jogger his life.
From the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) website:
Visitors who arrive to PAMM by Metromover on September 1 will receive FREE museum admission. A PAMM visitors services staff member will be at Museum Park Station with museum passes, good for Monday, September 1, 2014, only.
In observance of Labor Day, Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) will offer free exhibition tours at 11:30am and 2:30pm. The tours are led by trained museum guides and last 45 minutes.
At last year’s Citizen’s Independent Transportation Trust (CITT) Transportation Summit, Maurice Ferré, former City of Miami Mayor and current Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) Chair, pointed to a map of his agency’s current and future projects and declared that it was MDX’s “dream” — yes, that’s a quote — to realize the proliferating highway vision embodied by that map.
A major feature of MDX’s so-called dream includes expanding the Dolphin Expressway (SR 836) down through the far southwest reaches of Miami-Dade County. One of the competing versions of the dream would put the newly expanded tolled highway along the Miami-Dade County urban development boundary (UDB).
Tolled highways are generally great, as they create an economic disincentive to single-occupant automobile use. People often respond to the price triggers of tolled highways by turning to more affordable, more accessible public transportation (bus, train, etc.), active mobility (biking, walking, etc.), and alternative mobility (car-pooling, short-distance car-sharing (Car2Go), real-time ride-sharing (Uber, Lyft), etc.) options.
In the metropolitan context of Miami-Dade County, though, these options are either underdeveloped or are just now getting started in earnest.
The Metrorail system, for instance, serves a very limited corridor.
An extensive bus system traverses most major arterial roads moving north-south and east-west, but buses carry a stigma of being either unreliable or unpleasant, or both.
Miamians are increasingly realizing that cycling and walking to their destinations isn’t as hard as our automobile-dominated culture would have us otherwise believe. Still, we’re many years away from realizing the active mobility utopia Miami has the potential to be.
In light of this shortage of viable mobility alternatives, then, one might think that the toll revenues generated by Miami’s highway dystopia would be directed toward investment in better public transportation infrastructure and streetscape amenities (e.g., wider sidewalks, proper bike lanes, etc.).
The problem with MDX, though, is that the toll monies it collects are used for increased highway development and an unwarranted expansion of roadway jurisdiction, not for the sorts of investments that would move greater Miami away from its automobile dependence.
As one of many cases in point: MDX is actively seeking to convert the only bus route in Miami-Dade County even remotely resembling true bus rapid transit, the South Miami-Dade Busway, into a highway falling under its jurisdiction, complete with overpasses and all.
Dumping more money into highways is tantamount to our community collectively signing a 50-100-year contract of servitude to stop-and-go highway hell. And that’s not to mention all of the broader economic and environmental ramifications: subsidizing the air-choking, global warming oil and gas industries; the financial crisis-inducing, and obesity-encouraging single-family real estate sprawl sector; the deforestation-promoting rubber sector in the tropics; the list goes on.
Miamians don’t have to accept this fate, though. We don’t have to sign away our city to this chain of corporate profiteers who refuse to adapt to the innovations in transportation infrastructure and human life demanded by 21st century urbanism.
The very first “Open House: Public Kick-off Meeting” for MDX’s Southwest Highway Expansion “dream” will be held in less than two weeks. This is Miami’s first real opportunity to voice its concerns about the project’s short-, medium-, and long-term impacts.
At the risk of sounding (even more?) cynical, I dare posit that these sorts of meetings are intended primarily to fulfill certain state and federal requirements to maintain minimum transparency levels, as well as to offer just enough opportunity for public input so that any future complaints made when the real impacts of such projects are felt can be expediently dismissed with the standard bureaucratic “We offered the public the chance to speak, and no such concerns were brought up then.” By then, it’s simply too little, too late.
The point is that the time to speak is now — during this preliminary Project Development & Environment (PD&E) Study — not when this study materializes into an actionable plan and the construction crews are out there at the edge of the Everglades laying out a new highway.
Don’t let MDX’s highway dream become Miami’s prolonged highway nightmare. Be there and speak up!
MDX SR 836 / Dolphin Expressway Southwest Extension
Open House Public Kickoff Meeting
Thursday, September 4, 2014
6:00pm – 9:00pm
Miami Baptist Church
14955 SW 88th Street
Miami, FL 33196
Minimum 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. A few months ago Zillow released a housing 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.
Come prepared to get your TOD on…
By: Harry Emilio Gottlieb
How many more cyclists need to be sliced and diced on
cheese grater surface before FDOT is motivated
to improve safety with nonslip bike lane?
So you wake up this morning and decide to great the day with an enjoyable and healthy bike ride. You determine today’s destination and plot your rout. It will to take you over the Miami River and Intercoastal. There is light traffic, the wind is in your favor and there is enough cloud coverage to make it comfortable. You have ridden across that drawbridge many times before. But this time it will be just a little different. A few hours ago there was dew in the air or perhaps a drizzle of rain. The moisture has mixed with the fuel residue from cars, trucks and boats. The surface of the metal grate at the crest of the drawbridge is now covered in a slippery film that may be a challenge to most cyclists, especially those on Road and TriBikes, out for a bit of exercise. All of a sudden you sense something is very wrong. Your bike is sliding and perhaps even fishtailing. Your priority is now to keep calm, your deal with the new tense situation, adrenaline is kicking in. Your immediate goal is to avoid falling on the “Cheese Grater”. You pray there is no car, truck or bus behind you and will somehow safely reach the solid road ASAP.
Needless to say some cyclists have not been so lucky. They were unable to control the slippery surface and crashed upon the metal grate. Some have received the worst road rash of their bike riding lives and others have experienced fractured ribs, wrists and collarbones. Rising up from the terrible fall one tends to quickly inventory the quantity of healthy fingers remaining in one piece.
There have been numerous cases of cyclists slipping and falling on our drawbridges. Many have been seriously hurt, endured pain, suffering, costly medical bills and damaged or totaled bikes.
So you may ask…
Why hasn’t FDOT taken steps to make drawbridges safer for all cyclists?
Why have they not installed designated bike lanes?
Why have they not installed a no-slip surface?
Why is there not a sign that advises bridge users of whom to contact when an issue arises?
FDOT has not seen a need to do so, because they claim they have no record of anyone reporting a drawbridge cycling accident. The fact is that many cyclists just pick themselves up, go home or seek medical treatment on their own. Unless the accident is very serious in which case the paramedics will be called and a report is filed.
Transit Miami inquired with its readers about their drawbridge concerns and suggested solutions. These include the use of anti-slip metal plates or the filling in of the space with solid material (weight considerations will certainly be an issue). This information was shared with Broward and Miami New Times and they also championed the issue.
Now it is up to the local FDOT office to recognize the need to “Do The Right Thing” and improve the safety of our drawbridges. Its sister office in Broward has previously installed a smaller diameter metal grate in a designated bike lane on the A1A drawbridge just north of Commercial Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale as have other agencies around the country.
Photos courtesy of Yamile Castella.
Another solution would be to designate a bike lane with paint and fill in the dangerous grates with concrete or rubber.
Your help is required to help improve drawbridge safety. Share your concerns and suggestion with TransitMiami in the comments below and while you’re at it, let FDOT personnel know what you think of their inaction. Just as important, report serious accidents to police so that FDOT can no longer claim that they are unaware of doing the right thing, which should be utterly uncontroversial.
Ride safely, especially over drawbridges.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
San Francisco Bay Area: $88
Washington, DC: $75
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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