You can say that the urban fabric of Paris (and indeed  all great cities) is composed of some basic elements: first are the famous civic buildings from the travel book checklist: Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre; and second, the townhouses and small scale urban buildings in between, typically with cafes and stores at street level. Then there are the variations on public space, ranging in character from the monumental green gardens of Luxemborg and the hardscaped plaza at the entrance of the Louvre, to more intimate spaces, as in the lively outdoor rooms of the Latin Quarter. Finally, lets not forget to count the great pedestrian streets: avenues for dining and shopping like Champes Elysee, the bridges that receive the breeze of the Seine, the continuous sidewalk connections between one’s front door and the day’s daily coffee and bread.

The four elements of all great cities: fabric buildings, civic monuments, great pedestrian streets, & public spaces.

What if Paris could only keep one of these elements? Which is the more essential to Paris’ identity? Which is more important to the visitors who make Paris a top travel destination in the world? Imagine that the French Ministry of Transportation was to reduce either the great monuments or the great neighborhoods to parking lots to accommodate increasing auto ownership. Imagine that Corbusier’s plan for Paris had been taken seriously.

My guess is that even the ever-present Eiffel Tower is actually a small part of the lives of the millions of resident Parisians. My guess is that newlyweds would still go to Paris from throughout the world to sit in cafes and wonder upward at the cast iron balconies considering what life was like in one of the world’s most liveable cities — even if Paris lacked the Arc D’Triumph.

To choose between public spaces and streets is more difficult, but I doubt that the parks and plazas of Paris would be used as much, or at all, if they required a freeway commute to reach.

Paris does not have to choose between its dignified urban residences, inspiring civic buildings, great streets and cherished public spaces. Even secondary elements such as the subway system or bicycle network, are in place and the city is committed to them. But as urbanists in Miami we must prioritize. To achieve high-quality urbanism of this kind, as has not been built as the norm in the US in one hundred years, requires an education process, a reprioritisation of public funding, a hundred instructive meetings with both the public and the responsible agencies.

The latest economic downturn is making us choose between these four elements of great cities, not because we haven’t any longer the resources to build them all, but because the budgets that would otherwise be spent on planning, education, and involvement, on the dialogue about urbanism as a choiceworthy endeavor, has been reduced, and we must focus our energies. Consider this ranking: great streets, dignified fabric buildings, proud public spaces, and monumental civic buildings.

The popular dialogue in Miami concerning these four elements seems to value the reverse order. Starchitect new buildings (the stadium, Arsht Center, etc.) and experimental forms of landscape architecture (Bicentennial Park) are most likely to be on the minds of the city and county commisioners. But the streets and buildings of our daily routine need, if only by virtue of being more plentiful items than the other two, far more consideration than they are currently given. If I take just one point home as an urbanist visiting Paris, it is that we should focus our effort to make Miami a truly liveable city by building high-quality, walkable, multi-modal streets with urban infill buildings that define the street as a place of shared activity — in the way of Paris.

Jason King, AICP is a Town Planner at Dover, Kohl and Partners Town Planners and has worked on numerous award winning city and regional plans . 

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This afternoon I witnessed a pedestrian get hit on Brickell Avenue and SW 14th Street.  As I was crossing with about 10 other pedestrians (we had the right of way with crosswalk signaling “Walk”) from the East to West side of Brickell Avenue in the south crosswalk.  A driver was attempting to turn left (south) onto Brickell from SW 14th Street. I watched in disbelief as the she turned and hit a pedestrian about 5 feet in front of me. She literally tried to “thread the needle” between the sea of pedestrians that were trying to cross the street.

I instinctively kicked her door in an attempt to warn her that she had just hit a pedestrian (I wasn’t sure if she realized she had just hit someone).  I admittedly lost my temper and started yelling at her as well.  I was in complete disbelief that she did not yield. I’m not sure how she could have missed all the pedestrians that were crossing. The guy she hit was about 6’2” and luckily for him he was OK. Here’s were the story gets interesting…

About 10 seconds after the pedestrian was hit a City of Miami Police officer (will remain nameless) pulls up and asks me for my ID and he told me I could be arrested because I was causing a disturbance. I told the officer that a car had just hit a pedestrian and then he proceeds to ask the pedestrian that was hit for his ID. I don’t think he ever asked the driver for her ID.

The pedestrian that was hit said he was OK and did not want to file an accident report. I asked the officer if he would issue a ticket for “failure to yield to a pedestrian” and he said, “No, I didn’t witness the accident.” I pointed out to him that there were 5 witnesses still at the scene, but he refused and he proceeded to threaten to charge me with Road Rage. There is clearly no will to enforce “failure to yield to pedestrian violations” even when there are witnesses. Very sad.

Did I overreact?  Probably, but at the end of the day there is no enforcement on Brickell Avenue for this type of infraction and I’m kind of tired of it. I see this crap day in and day out and nothing is being done to make things safer for pedestrians. This officer had no desire to investigate the accident any further or to file an accident report.

You can see video from this very same intersection which I posted a few months ago where hours before a cyclist was hit by a car. It’s just a matter of time before someone else gets hit here.

 

Last night I attended a meeting at Legion Park with representatives from the FEC and about 50 residents and business owners from the Upper East Side. Also present were Commissioner Sarnoff, a representative from the FDOT and a representative from the Port of Miami. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the upgrades to the FEC rail line which are currently underway and the establishment of a “quiet zone” from the port north to NE 71st Street. In order to qualify as a “quiet zone” the FEC will upgrade the rail crossings which will make blowing the train horn unnecessary. The FEC is also replacing the rail line with a quieter track in order to reconnect service to the Port of Miami in anticipation of the port expansion and dredging to accommodate the larger Panamax ships which are expected to significantly expand its cargo business.

Most resident where supportive of the FEC’s plans, but the conversation quickly turned to passenger rail. The majority of those in attendance wanted to know why passenger service was not moving forward. Commissioner Sarnoff was quick to point the finger at the Miami Dade County MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization). He mentioned that both the Broward and Palm Beach County MPOs had already passed resolutions in support of passenger rail service. The FDOT representative confirmed this as well and she actually made it sound like her department was on board with passenger rail service on the FEC. (I was very happy to hear that the FDOT was supportive).

Why can’t our Miami Dade County elected officials get their act together and actually do something that is in the public’s best interest for once? They need to stop playing politics and do what is best for the South Florida community. Last night’s meeting clearly showed that residents and businesses desire passenger rail. Providing passenger rail service on the FEC is really a no-brainer and will make the South Florida region more competitive. For some reason, that is beyond my understanding, our Miami Dade elected officials can’t seem to figure this one out.

Passenger rail is fundamental to our economic success. Young, talented and educated job seekers (as well as employers) are in search for cities that provide a better quality of life. They are not interested in spending countless hours commuting in bumper to bumper traffic. Passenger rail will spur development opportunities for real estate developers to break ground on walkable, mixed-use, transit oriented developments. This is progress, not futile road expansion projects that destroy communities rather than making them stronger.

Safety Issues for Pedestrians Along the FEC

Wendy Stephan, former president of the Buena Vista Homeowners Association, asked the FEC representative if they intended to make the area surrounding the tracks more pedestrian friendly. In particular she cited the area from NE 39th- 54th Street along Federal Highway which does not have any pedestrian crossings. She pointed out that people cross these tracks (including her mother-in-law in her pearls, lol) to get to the Publix and Biscayne Boulevard from Buena Vista and the surrounding neighborhoods because there aren’t any proper crossings for 15 blocks.

One of the FEC representatives then began to refer to the people crossing the tracks as “trespassers”. I took issue with his statement and I quickly pointed out to him that the FEC cannot possibly expect for people to walk 15 blocks out of their way just to cross the tracks to catch a bus on Biscayne Boulevard or purchase food at Publix. Further north we find the same problem from NE 62nd –NE 79th Street where we there is only one crossing at NE 71st Street which the FEC has asked the County to close, but the County so far has denied this request. Its worth mentioning that I see small children crossing the train tracks from Little Haiti every morning on their way to Morning Side Elementary School on NE 66th Street. There are numerous schools along the FEC corridor from downtown north to NE 79th Street and nearly not enough pedestrian crossings. An FEC representative basically said this was not their problem. Commissioner Sarnoff said his office would look into building bridges or tunnels for pedestrians to get across the tracks safely. Instead, I think we should look into at-grade pedestrian crossings (see below) rather then spending big bucks on tunnels or bridges which will most likely not be used by anyone besides drug addicts.

No need to be gimicky; we don't need bridges or tunnels to get across the rail line safely. Proper pedestrian rail crosswalks are less expensive and more effective.

How about an FEC Greenway?

Friend of Transit Miami Frank Rollason asked the FEC representative about their responsibility of being a good neighbor and properly maintaining the right of way (ROW). He pointed out that there were homeless people living on the FEC ROW, people using drugs as well has hiding stolen goods in the overgrown shrubbery. The FEC representative snubbed Frank and said, “We do maintain it”. (Yeah right).

I told the FEC representative that the FEC could be a good neighbor by including an FEC Greenway into their plans. An FEC Greenway would root out homelessness and drug use as joggers, walkers, parents with strollers and bicyclists would discourage undesirable activities with their presence. I was also snubbed by the FEC representative and was basically given a look that said “yeah right kid, good luck with that, looks like you are smoking crack with the crack heads on the FEC line, there is no chance we are putting a greenway on the FEC.”

Overall the meeting was very positive. The FEC and the City of Miami need to work together to find solutions to add more crossings for pedestrians. Pedestrians shouldn’t be forced to walk 15 blocks to cross the tracks. The City of Miami should also press the FEC to incorporate a greenway into their plans. A greenway would deter crime and improve the quality of life for everyone that lives near the train tracks. That being said, rail is the priority. The FEC has 100ft of ROW; if they can somehow safely squeeze in a 10-12 ft greenway they should.

Lastly, we must all write a quick email to our County Commissioners and tell them to stop playing politics with our future economic prosperity. We need local and commuter passenger rail service today, not in 15 years. You can find our recommendations for passenger rail service on the FEC here. Let’s make this happen South Florida!

Welcome to Miami – a city where civic advocacy and forward thinking can land you in jail if you’re not careful. Friday’s TransitMiami Park(ing) Day 2011 was a huge success; hundreds of visitors came out throughout the day to enjoy downtown Miami’s newest temporary pop-up park. Working in collaboration with the Miami Parking Authority, we transformed 10 on-street parking spaces into a tree-lined, shaded park, complete with moveable chairs, and a solar-powered mobile wifi hot- spot where folks were hard at work.

Railroad ties refashioned as bollards, and native trees in moveable planters formed the street edge, causing a noticeable shift in driving patterns along the 3 lane, southbound street. “North Miami Avenue usually feels like a highway,” said local resident Rosa Gutierrez, “people routinely go 60 mph here – you never see traffic this calm.” Local food truck vendors, artists and musicians were also there to celebrate the grassroots effort to reimagine the streetscape with something other than on-street parking, and numerous neighborhood and political figures stopped by throughout the day.

Local Artists

Park(ing) Day Miami 2011 a success

Transit Miami was the main co-sponsor of the event along with Brad Knoefler, local activist and entrepreneur. In anticipation of Park(ing) Day, Brad developed a new strategy – called weed bombing – to add to the Tactical Urbansim toolbox. Confronted by deadbeat landlords around his neighborhood who don’t maintain their properties, Knoefler decided to address the problem head on by spray painting the overgrown vegetation with bright colors. The result is a charming transformation of blight inducing weeds into something more. We had an excellent time on Park(ing) Day, and look forward to doing it again next year. Unfortunately, the City of Miami might have something to say about it.

As you might have read, the Police Department has faced a number of challenges this year, including a fiasco with the Chief of Police that has made Miami a laughingstock of the country, and a string of high-profile shooting deaths, perpetuating the notion that Miami is a backwater, banana republic. As if they didn’t already have enough on their plate, enter Officer Rodriguez who decided that the Park(ing) Day cleanup (the following day) was not going fast enough and decided to arrest co-sponsor Brad Knoefler for failing to obey a lawful command (read: police harassment). “Officer Rodriguez called me several times on my cell demanding that I come down and finish cleaning immediately,” said Knoefler, “I told him that not cleaning up 100% after an event is not an arrestable offense, at worst it’s a code violation or solid waste ticket.” The City of Miami police, and all citizens of Miami, should be embarrassed that this happened. How can we expect to attract and keep the creative middle-class that contributes to a healthy economy, if the police harass and intimidate citizens as they trying to enrich their communities? Shame on you Officer Rodriguez for embarrassing your police force and your city; of the 850 Park(ing) Day events around the world, Miami was the only one to see someone arrested as a result of laying sod on a parking space for a day. Only in Miami.

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Come join us at Grand Central Park (The old Miami Arena Site) from 12-8 today for park(ing) day, where we will take part in a worldwide event and transform metered parking into a public park for a day. There will be live music as well as food trucks Mac n Go and Frazier’s ribs, so come hang out and take part in what’s sure to be a great, fun event. For more information on park(ing) day visit http://my.parkingday.org/

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Managers of Biscayne National Park are seeking public comment on proposals that could have dramatic impacts on how visitors can use park waters, including a no-fishing zone in shallow reefs off Elliott Key as well as larger no-motor and slow-speed zones across the park.

The first of three meetings will be held in Miami from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Miami, 950 NW 42nd Ave. Others follow on Wednesday at Florida City Hall, 404 W. Palm Dr., and on Thursday at Holiday Inn Key Largo, 99701 Overseas Hwy.

The public also can comment through a National Park Service website detailing the alternatives or by mailing written comments by Oct.

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We love trains and bicycles here at transit Miami. Since the FEC is currently making improvements to the existing rail line that will connect the port of Miami to an inland port in Hialeah, why not add a patch of gravel and create a greenway from midtown to downtown? This can be done very inexpensively.

Wouldn't this make a great greenway to connect midtown to downtown?

Come on FEC help us out on this one! Let’s make this happen together.

Friend of Transit Miami Brad Knoefler jumpstarted this idea a couple of years ago, but the momentum subsided. We should not allow this idea to die.

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Parking spaces around the globe to be temporarily reclaimed for people

Miami, FL September 16, 2011 — In cities around the globe today, artists, activists and citizens will temporarily transform metered parking spaces into public parks and other social spaces, as part of an annual event called “PARK(ing) Day.”

Originally invented in 2005 by Rebar, a San Francisco-based art and design studio, PARK(ing) Day challenges people to rethink the way streets are used and reinforces the need for broad-based changes to urban infrastructure. “In urban centers around the world, inexpensive curbside parking results in increased traffic, wasted fuel and more pollution,” says Rebar’s Matthew Passmore. “The planning strategies that generated these conditions are not sustainable, nor do they promote a healthy, vibrant human habitat. PARK(ing) Day is about re-imagining the possibilities of the urban landscape.”

Locally, a group of organizations such as OPRA, Transit Miami, the Street Plans Collaborative, and the Urban Environmental League have partnered with the City of Miami Parking Authority to transform ten metered parking spaces in one of Downtown Miami’s least green neighborhoods into a park. The event will take place at 700 N. Miami Avenue, directly in front of the old Miami Arena, demolished in 2008. The Old Arena site is also the future site of Grand Central Park (www.grandcentralpark.org), an OPRA project to convert five acres of rocks on the former arena site into a three year temporary park.

Since 2005, the project has blossomed into a worldwide grassroots movement: PARK(ing) Day 2010 included more than 800 “PARK” installations 180 cities around the world. This year, the project continues to expand to urban centers across the globe.

PARK(ing) Day is an “open-source” user-generated invention created by independent groups around the globe who adapt the project to champion creative, social or political causes that are relevant to their local urban conditions. More information regarding local PARK(ing) Day activities can be found and a global map of all participating cities are available on the PARK(ing) Day website, at parkingday.org.

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Yesterday morning the construction zone at the intersection of SE 13th Street and Brickell Avenue was a pedestrian’s nightmare.  Pedestrians can’t see the crossing signal therefore they don’t know when they should cross. Once they do cross they are forced out of the crosswalk, around the construction zone and into traffic coming from three different directions. Really? This is the best we can do?

Click to enlarge: SE 13th Street and Brickell Avenue

Please send an email to Commissioner Mark Sarnoff and the FDOT district 6 Secretary Gus Pego and ask them and their families to join Transit Miami for lunch on Brickell Avenue. We will be happy to walk them through the pedestrian experience of the area.  Lunch is on us.

 

 

Remember the Virginia Key Masterplan? Work has progressed over the past year on implementing the plan, but much more needs to be done. The UEL will convene a morning discussion with Virginia Key Coalition stakeholders to discuss the ongoing implementation of the Masterplan and next steps. Speakers will discuss the recent completion of the North Point Bike Trails, planned improvements to the Rickenbacker Causeway, ongoing Marine Stadium preservation efforts, and the still unfulfilled mandate for a Virginia Key Oversight Board.

Saturday, September 24, from 10 am – 12 pm
@ the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

visit www.uel.org soon for more details

 

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A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the lack of initiative the CPWD showed during a recent resurfacing project on South Miami Avenue from SW 14th Street to SE 13th Street. After the CPWD finished resurfacing the intersection on SW14th Street they only replaced the one and only existing crosswalk instead of painting all 4 crosswalks at this intersection.  County Public Works Department Director Esther Calas responded to Transit Miami:

The Miami-Dade Public Works Department (PWD) had an ongoing drainage, milling and resurfacing and striping and signage project on South Miami Avenue, which was interrupted at the request of the neighborhood merchants with the City’s concurrence due to the Florida Department of Transportation reconstructing Brickell Avenue North of SE 15 Road. Although both projects had non-overlapping maintenance of traffic vehicular routing, the merchants were concerned with the combined traffic impacts.

When we halted our drainage project, only one block was completed, between S 13 Street/Coral Way and S 14 Street. The project began on that block because it had the worst roadway drainage conditions. As a part of work stoppage, the contractor only replaced the single crosswalk at 14 Street that was originally present. The City has offered to continue the drainage work on Miami Avenue in coordination with their drainage project for the intersecting neighborhood streets.

We agree that additional crosswalks will improve Miami Avenue. Therefore, in the interim before drainage work is reinitiated on Miami Avenue, we will resume our effort to stripe crosswalks, stopbars, bicycle lanes and shared use “Sharrow” markings along this corridor between S 15 Road and S 6 Street without further delay.

We appreciate your bringing these concerns to our attention.

We are happy to report that the CPWD not only painted three additional crosswalks at the South Miami Avenue and SW14 Street intersection, but also in the process added bike lanes on South Miami Avenue from SW 13th Street up to SW 15th Street.  The CPWD has also taken the extra step to add crosswalks at other intersections on South Miami Avenue. Needless to say we are extremely pleased, but there is still room for improvement. Please see the below photographs for our praise, critiques and suggestions for improvement.

Sweet!

Awesome!

Kick Ass!

Nice bike lane!

 

The SW 12th Street/SE1st Avenue/ South Miami Avenue intersection a complete clusterfuck (Pardon my French). Serious attention needs to be given here.

New zebra crosswak on SW 12th Street South Miami Avenue. I love zebra crosswalks. Every crosswalk in the urban core should be a zebra crosswalk.

The SW 12th Street/SE1st Avenue/ South Miami Avenue intersection gets a new zebra crosswalk. Did I mention how much I love zebra crosswalks?

The boys at the CPWD hard at work. Thank you gentlemen!

SE 11th Street and S. Miami Avenue. Not sure if CPWD is finished here, but this intersection must have four crosswalks. Let's give the CPWD the benefit of the doubt.

SE 11th Street and S. Miami Avenue. The new stop bar must extend the entire width of SE 11th Street. A second stop sign must also go up. The manager at Rosinella told me today that he has been managing this restaurant since 1998 and sees on average 5 accidents per year at this intersection. More must bee done to calm traffic on South Miami Avenue. Too many idiots speed down S. Miami Avenue on this stretch. Enforcement isn't the solution. We must design a complete street that discourages speeding.

 

SE 10th Avenue and S. Miami Ave. Looks like the CPWD is putting zebra crosswalks here too. I think the rain stopped them from finishing the job.

 

Mary Brickell Village. Is a raised mid-block zebra crosswalk to much to ask for? Probably. We can only dream.

SW 9th and S. Miami Ave. Hopefully the CPWD will put zebra crosswalks here as well. Please give them the benefit of the doubt, I don't think they're done yet!

Well done Ms. Calas and CPWD!  Your department singly handedly just made the Brickell area safer for those of us that walk and bike in the area.  Let’s make it even safer!

You can find the Bicycle/Pedestrian Mobility Plan For the Miami Downtown Development Authority Area here: http://bit.ly/rsVYEb. There are plenty of great ideas in this document. The Miami DDA has also developed a streetscape plan for South Miami Avenue. You can find the study here:http://www.miamidda.com/pdf/South%20Miami%20Avenue%20Master%20Plan%20FINAL%209-17-10.pdf

Please send Esther Calas, Director of the County Public Works Department, an email thanking her and her department for their effort thus far. (ecalas@miamidade.gov). 

The FDOT continues to turn a blind eye to all the crashes that we have documented in the Upper Eastside on Biscayne Boulevard over the past year. The below scene must have occurred in the past 24 hours or so on Biscayne Boulevard and 48th Street. Another day and another light pole on Biscayne comes crashing down as the FDOT does nothing to make Biscayne Boulevard safer for those of use that walk, bike, shop, use transit or drive on this street. When will the FDOT actually acknowledge that there is a fundamental design problem with the way Biscayne Boulevard was constructed and actually do something about it? With at least 9 accidents in the past year the evidence is very clear.  Are they waiting for some to die before they fix Biscayne? The design speed needs to be commensurate with the 35 mph speed limit. Currently the design speed is about 45 mph.

9th light pole this year; 2nd in four days

Debris field spreads out about 75 feet from point of impact. Speeding is clearly a problem.

 

The FDOT needs to stop playing with people’s lives. I have lived in the MiMo neighborhood for about a year and I am aware of at least 8 crashes involving motor vehicles taking out light poles/bus shelters/store fronts. I have documented most of them here.

Adding insult to injury our local elected officials, City Commissioner Sarnoff and County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson along with the FDOT, have done nothing to address the design speed on Biscayne Boulevard. The design speed on this street throughout the Upper East Side is about 45 mph.  Although the speed limit is 35 mph it has become glaringly obvious that we have a speeding problem along this COMMERCIAL and RESIDENTIAL neighborhood.

A bus stop on a narrow sidewalk with cars flying by at 45+mph is a recipe for disaster.

Aside from a 1 day enforcement crackdown about a month ago on Biscayne and 45th  Street, our elected officials aren’t doing nearly enough to make Biscayne Boulevard safer for those of us that are walking, biking, or waiting for a bus.  Enforcement is not the solution. We need to design our roadways in order to achieve the speed we desire people to drive. In the case of Biscayne Boulevard the design speed should not exceed 35 mph.  The FDOT (and our elected officials) must stop practicing wishful thinking and begin designing roads that discourage speeding that don’t require enforcement. Properly designed streets enforce themselves. Biscayne Boulevard is essentially a highway that cuts through commercial and residential neighborhoods; there are also several schools in this area. I cannot think of a good reason for a 45 mph design speed. You can find recommendations to make Biscayne Boulevard more pedestrian and business friendly here.

Commissioner Sarnoff has offered to pay for a $70,000 fence surrounding Belle Meade from the Quality of Life funds which will do nothing to improve the quality of life for anyone on the Upper East Side.  I’d rather see the $70,000 used to make Biscayne Boulevard safer for those of us that walk and do business on the Boulevard. Pedestrian and business friendliness go hand-in-hand.

Please send Commissioner Sarnoff an email and ask him what he plans to do about this very serious issue.  You could also send an email to County Commissioner Edmonson.

This situation is out of control and no one is being held accountable. The 8 documented crashes could have very easily involved 8 lost lives.

 
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