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The recently released Miami-Dade Transit Development Plan 2011 Update,  (along with the October 2010 MPO Near Term Plan) lays out a vision for the next few years of transit service and expansion. Unfortunately, this year’s TDP (like many before it) still maintains a freeze on premium service expansion (generally described by mode as Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail, or Heavy Rail).

We need to return to the core PTP projects - Douglas Avenue, Baylink, FEC

 

This year’s TDP is specific on the ‘Plan B’ for the Orange Line and other parts of the People’s Transportation Plan that never materialized. The projects are described as ‘enhanced bus service’, which for now doesn’t mean very much. The Near Term Plan described the ultimated goal as Bus Rapid Transit, but more on that later.

Phases 2 and 3 of the Orange Line  will now become two separate projects. The Orange Line Phase 2 is now the NW 27 Avenue Max, a 13 mile enhanced bus service, to be implemented in two phases, and Orange Line Phase 3 is now the SR 836 Enhanced Bus. The SR836 Bus will be implemented in collaboration with the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (more on this project later).

The two phase approach for the NW 27 Avenue Max is a pragmatic solution to the transit needs of the area that enhances ridership and sets the stage for more intense transit later on. Phase one will use 5 new 40′ diesel-electric hybrid buses, with transit signal priority, on-board wi-fi , real time tracking information, and 12 minute peak/ 30 minute mid-day headways. This phase is fully funded and scheduled to be online in 2012.

Phase 2 will improve headways to 10 min peak/20 min mid-day by using 11 new 60‘articulated diesel-electric buses, ‘robust’ stations, and branding of buses and stations. The current plan shows a 5 year horizon (2016) and $27 million dollar price-tag, of which $5 million is currently unfunded. This incremental investment in the corridor as it builds ridership is a responsible use of transit dollars, allowing infill development (and increased densities) to take root at important nodes to help ensure a successful route. Many critics of the MetroRail Orange Line North Corridor cited low population densities and poor land use along the corridor as reasons why MetroRail was an inappropriate facility choice for this location. The current proposal seeks measurable, yet incremental growth in ridership along the corridor at a modest expense.

Near-Term Transportation Plan for Miami-Dade County 2012-2015, NW 27 Ave Enhanced Bus

According to the 2012-2015 MPO Near Term Transportation Plan, NW 27 Avenue is currently served by 2 bus routes.

At 9,500 average daily riders Route 27 is the fourth heaviest utilized route in the system. Route 97 performs well within the MAX and the KAT services, as well, at 1,300 boardings. Ridership in this corridor is surpassed by Miami Beach, Flagler, Biscayne, the South Dade Busway and NW 7th Avenue.

Comparatively, the MetroRail ridership projection was 19,000 initial daily rides (about double the current bus ridership) at a yearly expense of $70 million dollars (the Route 27 and 97 combined cost $8.1 million a year). In the case of the Orange Line, and indeed our entire mass transit network, the spending strategy should not be to stretch expensive premium transit facilities to every corner of the county, but to focus investments in those locations where the surrounding land use already supports transit ready development (also known as transit oriented development) AND where those investments will create a complete transit network.

While there are other better candidates for MetroRail funding (like Baylink or Douglas Road), NW 27 Avenue is still a worthy candidate for premium transit investment, as the Near Term Plan points out, few other lines are as utilized. The North Corridor did not happen because of bad land use patterns, but because Miami-Dade Transit has been chronically underfunded by county administrators.

The FTA New Start rankings showed that MDT had a committed source of revenue for the project, receiving a ‘High’ ranking for ‘Committed funds’ (FDOT and PTP dollars), but the overall MDT operating budget (funded by the County Commission) showed a ongoing deficit (in years 2004-2006), thus garnering a ‘low’ ranking for ‘Agency Operational Condition.’ The final nail in the coffin was a ‘low’ ranking in the ‘Operating Cost Estimates and Planning Assumptions’ category because, according to a November 2007 report, “Assumptions on the growth in fare revenues are optimistic compared to historic trends.  The financial plan assumes significant, frequent fare increases.  In addition, it assumes significant fare revenue increases resulting from installation of automated fare collection systems which reduce fare evasion.”

In spite of the tumultuous history of this project, the Near Term Plan concludes that,

Although the County has decided to officially withdraw from the FTA New Starts Process, the County continues to work on the NW 27th Avenue Corridor. It has chosen to improve service incrementally until such time that the construction of heavy rail in the corridor is deemed feasible.

While it might not have seemed a good business deal to county leaders, this was a project in the PTP, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters – and is exactly what the surtax money was to be used for. Not to mention that transit infrastructure is an investment in our city that can result in clear increases in tax revenue and land value when coordinated with dense, pedestrian-oriented urban fabric and employment centers.

With the anticipated service improvements along NW 27 Avenue, it would seem that MDT’s current service expansion strategy continues to be one of small scale improvements that bide the time waiting for leaders to deliver on premium transit.

 

Dear Commissioner Sarnoff,

As a resident of Belle Meade I am opposed to the use of $70,000 from the Quality of Life funds to erect a fence surrounding my community. I wholeheartedly believe that the use of these funds is a waste of money that will not make Belle Meade any safer. I think these funds could be used more effectively to address “Quality of Life” issues that affect the ENTIRE Upper East Side community and not just Belle Meade.

I propose that these funds should be used for an Upper East Side charrette. An intensive 7-10 day charrette that brings the community together to address our concerns and collectively plan for the future of the Upper East Side will do more to improve the quality of life for ALL residents then a fence excluding my neighbors from outside my Belle Meade community from entering Belle Meade.

The SINGLE most important thing that we should do as a community is encourage redevelopment in the area with more density.  The more density we have, the more active our streets become and thus our community becomes safer. I have spoken to developers and they have informed me that the current 35′ designation along Biscayne Boulevard discourages them from investing and bringing the needed density to this commercial corridor.  This is just one of the items that should be discussed during an Upper East Side charrette.

The SECOND most important thing that we could do as a community is design and engineer a streetscape that is business and pedestrian friendly. To achieve this we must:

  • Add parallel parking
  • Reduce travel lanes to calm traffic and discourage speeding
  • Add crosswalks at every intersection

The MiMo BID has met with the FDOT on several occasions, and the FDOT has confirmed that the ideas proposed in a recent MiMo Streetscape Vision Plan produced by Chuck Bohl and Jaime Correa from the University of Miami are feasible.

Retailers need accessible parallel parking in order to thrive.  Reducing the travel lanes and adding parking will naturally reduce the design speed of Biscayne Boulevard to the 35 mph it should be.  As it stands now the current design speed is 45 mph. The MiMo Historic District is a commercial corridor, not a highway. Ten miles-per-hour would make an enormous impact in terms of economic development and pedestrian friendliness.

Many community stakeholders know and believe that in order to reduce crime we need more density and a business and pedestrian friendly streetscape design. Building a porous $70,000 fence will not achieve the desired reduction in crime.  With $70,000 ALL the neighborhoods from the Upper East Side could come together in a charrette and work towards a safer and more prosperous community. I believe this is a far better use of the Quality of Life funds that are meant to improve the quality of life for the ENTIRE Upper East Community and not just Belle Meade.

Respectfully,

Felipe Azenha

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This morning I sat down with Tony Cho, President and Founder, of Metro I Properties to chat about his on going projects in Wynwood and the Design District. His company is a full-service real estate brokerage and investment firm that focuses on infill redevelopment of the urban core.  Metro 1 focuses on properties east of I-95 from downtown Miami to NE 54 Street.  What about the MiMo District in the Upper East Side, I asked? Tony Cho’s response:

I believe an anti-development climate exists in the Upper East Side, which makes it difficult for businesses and economic development and continues to further depress real estate values. I think the MiMo BID can help, but ultimately development will bring investment and density and more businesses to the area.

I live on the Upper East Side and I must admit  that the truth hurts. The T3 (2 Stories) designation is stifling redevelopment. I have to agree with Tony and say that 35′  T3  lobby has effectively suppressed property values in the area and will not make our neighborhood any safer because it does not encourage density. The few developments that are in the process of being permitted are all 1-story buildings that DO NOT add enough pedestrians to Biscayne Boulevard. Why are these developers choosing to build only one story? My guess is that it is not economically worthwhile to build a second floor or developers may choose to sell their density bonuses. If the Upper East Side Biscayne Boulevard corridor were to be designated T5 (5 stories) I think we would see developers building 5 stories and not choosing to build less or sell their density bonuses.

We need density, not bad density (10 stories), but GOOD density (5 stories). The 35-foot height limit restricts density in our neighborhood, removing an important motive for developers to invest in the area. On the other hand T5 zoning is attractive to developers, and with Miami 21′s pedestrian friendly zoning, it will bring a good scale of density and development to the area.  T5 zoning allows developers to build structures like the Balans Café building on Biscayne Boulevard and NE 68th Street.  This building is not out of scale and is sensitive to the surrounding single-family homes.

Balans Cafe. Building on Biscayne Boulevard taller than 35'.

This building is an example of good density; retail on the bottom floor with residents living on the floors above. This type of development provides for a symbiotic relationship between businesses and residents. It also helps reduce auto-dependency.

Wake up Upper East Side! If you want your property values to rise and you want your neighborhood to become safer you should support higher intensity infill development.  On the other hand, if you want the neighborhood to stay the same (crime, drugs, prostitution) then let’s keep the 35-foot height limit and not encourage development in the area.  No fence or wall will keep you safe as long as Biscayne Boulevard remains a cesspool of crime, drugs and prostitution.  In order to change the reality of Biscayne Boulevard we need people living and doing business (not turning tricks) on Biscayne Boulevard.  We need to support mixed-use development and the only way this can be done is if the height limit on Biscayne is increased to actually allow five stories.

Not all development is bad, nor are all developers evil. There are plenty of good developers with good intentions in Miami. As a community we need to support more intense development if we want our property values to rise and reduce crime. There is plenty of research out there to support that walkable neighborhoods have higher property values and are safer; the more eyes on the street the less crime. We shouldn’t allow the voice of the few who lobbied for 35′ height limit to further allow our neighborhood to fall into decay.

Please send Commissioner Mark Sarnoff an email and let him know that you support pedestrianizing Biscayne Boulevard in the Upper East Side. Also, please ask him to apply pressure on FDOT to re-stripe Biscayne Boulevard. Biscayne Boulevard needs to be business and pedestrian friendly.  It’s all about economic development. We need density, a street people can actually cross, and parallel parking so businesses can thrive.

 

I shot this video last Sunday around 1:00 PM. The video speaks for itself.  The County Pubic Works Department recently installed 4 Permanent “Vehicle Speed” Information Signs” at a cost of $ 80,000. What a waste of money. That’s $320,000 that could have gone to restriping and traffic calming on the Rickenbacker Causeway.  Instead we got these “Vehicle Speed Information Signs” that are completely worthless.  Watch as dozens of cars travel in excess of the posted 45mph speed limit during this 5-minute video. I would also like to add that last Sunday I saw about a half dozen Miami Dade County PD cruisers on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Between the enforcement and these ineffective signs it is obvious that speeding continues to plaque the most popular cycling route in South Florida. Note to CPWD: Stop wasting money and design and engineer the roadway to discourage speeding.  THIS IS THE ONLY WAY YOU WILL REDUCE SPEEDING.

Watch and see for yourself…

If a cyclist or pedestrian is hit by a car traveling in excess of 45 mph, they are almost guaranteed to die.  Speed kills CPWD, you still have done nothing to that effectively address the speeding issue we have on Rickenbacker Causeway. Enforcment isn’t working, nor are “Vehicle Speed Information Signs”.

If you believe that the design of the Rickenbacker Causeway needs to be improved please send Esther Calas, Director of the County Public Works Department, an email and ask for a safer Rickenbacker Causeway for all users. (ecalas@miamidade.gov).  Tell her that the “Vehicle Speed Information Signs” aren’t working.

 

Image via: lukewho's Flickr

A look down San Francisco’s Third Street line (T) – a preview of an upcoming post next week where we look at the successes of AT&T Ballpark and surrounding development with an eye on the completion of the new Marlins’ Ballpark later this year.

Commissioner Sarnoff invited the Belle Meade community to Legion Park earlier this evening to discuss the on-going saga of the Belle Meade fence.  Earlier this year the County Public Works Department said that erecting a fence would be considered illegal if the public right-of-way were severed.

The issue of the fence first came up last year after an armed home invasion in Belle Meade. Commissioner Sarnoff listened to the concerns of Belle Meade residents and said he would support and pay for the fence.

After the County Public Works Department issued their statement Commissioner Sarnoff looked for a compromise. The proposed $70,000 fence now includes ADA approved gates at all intersections and will also allow  pedestrian and bicycle ingress and egress to and from the Belle Meade community.

What a waste of money. This fence will do nothing to deter crime. Even if the fence didn’t have a gate it wouldn’t make Belle Meade any safer. Commissioner Sarnoff was very careful to say that “for now” the gates must remain unlocked and that State law could possibly be changed if pursued. Sounds like if the fence does go up, the next step would be to put Belle Meade on lockdown.

The $70,000 to pay for the fence would come from some Quality of Life/Homeland Security Bond. What a joke.  How can we possibly justify spending 70k on a fence that will do nothing to improve our quality of life in District 2. How about working with the FDOT to allocate this money to restriping Biscayne Boulevard? Let’s add parallel parking and make the Boulevard a true commercial corridor where people can actually cross the street safely. The more businesses that thrive on Biscayne Boulevard, the safer Belle Meade becomes.   That’s how you improve quality of life, not throwing up a 6-foot fence that will do absolutely nothing to make us safer.  This is government waste at its finest.

Please email Commissioner Sarnoff and let him know that he should allocate this money to more worthy projects that will actually improve the quality of life for District 2 residents.

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Miami-Dade Transit will be taking comments on their annual recently released their Transit Development Plan 2011 update. You can find the document here. The Transit Development Plan is required by State Law to, “present the operational and capital improvement needs of Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) and also serve as a planning tool to project future MDT needs for the implementation and operation of transit service.”

The Transit Development Plan is an important planning tool as it provides a complete picture of funding sources, revenues, and expenses (on the operations side), while also describing the existing transit network, demographics and planned service changes. It is the closest document we have to a ‘People’s Transportation Plan’.

In the years following the demise of the Orange Line MetroRail extension, the TDP has been focused on reducing the operating budget and squeezing efficiency from the existing system, while not really providing a clear framework for increases in ridership. The October 2009 update described its budgetary strategy as, “an avoidance of any major service expansion except for the MIC-Earlington Heights Metrorail connector service.”

Two years later, the TDP doesn’t paint a rosier picture for premium service expansions; none are envisioned in the near term.  But what the document does reveal is a department that is trying to do more with its existing infrastructure, both through increased efficiencies in the network and improved passenger amenities.

Several new ‘enhanced’ bus routes are also discussed, including the North Corridor Enhanced Bus project, and the SR 836 Express Bus Project. We’ll talk more about those later. What we can say now is that the service expansions envisioned by this latest TDP are very modest – and incremental – improvements to service around the county as an alternative to the ambitious and extensive PTP.

Aside from some new routes, MDT has been working on implementing improved passenger amenities, such as real-time bus tracking and WiFi access. MDT began rolling it its popular  Wi-Fi service in 2010, and currently provides service in all Metro-Rail trains, and approximately 20% of the bus fleet. The coming year will see the program expanded to the entire fleet of MetroBuses and all station platform areas. Future service expansions, such as the NW 27 Enhanced route, will also come equipped with Wi-Fi as a standard feature.

MDT is also moving forward with implementing a new AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location)  software system that will replace the current system (which dates from the late 90’s). The new system will provide for real-time tracking, and transit signal prioritization – elements that should help MDT make modest ridership gains using existing infrastructure. The real-time tracking will allow full integration with smart phones, and will also be a standard feature in future service expansions. This improvement will finally give the South Dade Busway the signal priority it was designed for, and shorten commute times along this heavily used transit corridor. MDT plans to issue an RFP for the system this year, with a launch scheduled for mid-2012.

Kudos to MDT for advancing these needed technological improvements – they will pay for themselves and then some. One need only look at the EasyCard system and Automatic Passenger Counters (APCs), implemented in 2009, which MDT has been using its to make targeted improvements to service schedules. The efficiencies created by using this data (adjusting/eliminating empty routes) has allowed MDT planners to use infrastructure more wisely.

This year’s TDP includes numerous service changes that involve adjusting routes using the APC data, along with staff recommendations, according to MDT Planner Maria Battista. Among the data used to make service changes, Battista said, “administrators have held monthly meetings with the drivers and superintendents that let us know what is going on in their routes.” The adjustments in service respond to the current ridership demands. Some routes are being reduced by 15-20 minutes at non-peak hours (prior to the morning rush, or during evening hours) based on data that showed no usage during these times. These surgical adjustments will help ensuring that MDT facilities are being used when and where they are needed most.

The TDP 2011 shows an agency working with what it has. No premium service expansions, but important improvements to existing service. This all comes against the backdrop of an agency – it would seem by the media- in disarray. No Director, serious FTA funding problems, a lackluster commission directive, and a newly installed Mayor whose commitment to transit involves converting a transit corridor into a highway. The changes proposed by the TDP 2011 set the stage for premium expansions sometime in the future. The incremental ramp-up of ridership in new enhanced bus routes, along with the improved passenger amenities, and GPS tracking abilities will allow our elected officials to take hold of the agency and provide the premium service expansion that this community demanded almost a decade ago.

Suggestions and comments on the annual TDP update can be sent to BPB@miamidade.gov.

Tallahassee – Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Ananth Prasad announced today that Governor Rick Scott has authorized the Department on behalf of the State of Florida to sign the pending Full Funding Grant Agreement for the SunRail project in Central Florida.

On Tuesday, Secretary Prasad spent the day meeting with citizens across Central Florida and the SunRail funding partners to discuss the framework of the SunRail project.

“The local officials told me they strongly support SunRail and will work with the State and businesses to ensure its success. Furthermore, they clearly understand that the local governments will cover cost overruns,” said Secretary Prasad. “Be assured, I will hold the local officials and the private businesses to their commitments to make SunRail succeed.”

SunRail is a commuter rail transit project that will run along a 61-mile stretch of existing rail freight tracks in Central Florida. The major funding partners for the project are FDOT, the Federal Transit Administration, Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Osceola counties and the city of Orlando.

The 31-mile first phase of SunRail will serve 12 stations, linking DeBary to Orlando. Phase II will serve 5 additional stations, north to DeLand and south to Poinciana. Service is expected to begin service in late 2013- early 2014.

For all the SunRail materials, please visit our website at www.dot.state.fl.us and click “Secretary Prasad announces SunRail decision.”

Secretary Prasad’s SunRail remarks as prepared are below.

As Prepared

Good morning, thank you for joining me today.

As you all know, SunRail is a project that the Department, previous governors, legislatures, local elected officials, and tens of thousands of Floridians have spent years working on to move forward.

At the federal level, Florida Congressman John Mica chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has been the most vocal champion of SunRail and commuter rail in Central Florida for nearly twenty years.  He has supported this project by securing funding and he has held numerous hearings and public meetings throughout Florida and in Washington.

Most recently, on Tuesday I spent the day meeting with citizens across Central Florida and the five major SunRail funding partners to discuss the framework of the SunRail project.

I laid out the details of the project and I asked them all if there were any new facts or information about SunRail – since they last voted on the project – which they felt should have a bearing on the decision of whether or not to proceed.

This was important because SunRail is a partnership between local, state and federal governments – along with private sector entities – and it has been years in the making.

With longtime advocates in Congress and the Florida Legislature, it has been championed as a much-needed transportation alternative in Central Florida.

The state’s participation in this contractual partnership has been contingent on local government commitments, federal appropriations, and promises by private sector companies.

My recent tour of Central Florida provided an opportunity for any of these groups to explain if they no longer intended to live up to these promises.

They did not, and I have reported this back to Governor Scott.

The partners told me they still support the commuter rail system, and they clearly understand that the local governments will participate in covering any cost overruns.

I spent most of my time listening. I listened to the elected officials, but, most importantly, I listened to the public comments.

I listened to all sides of this debate, and I must tell you that the overwhelming majority of opinion expressed in each of the meetings I attended was in favor of moving forward.

This was extremely helpful and I want to again state that I appreciate everyone’s participation in the meetings this week.

I then spent nearly two hours with Governor Scott on Wednesday to brief him on the meetings and to once again review the history and legal framework of SunRail.

This was the latest in ongoing meetings with the Governor and his staff to present research and opinions from a wide variety of experts.

As many of you know, the SunRail agreement was approved by a previous legislature.

At the conclusion of the 2009 Special Session on the SunRail project, the Florida House voted 84 to 25 to create the current framework of the project. In the Florida Senate the vote was 27 to 10.

These votes, cast by legislators from all across Florida, include affirmative votes by current House Speaker Dean Cannon, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, and CFO Jeff Atwater who presided over the Senate at that time.

SunRail was also supported by former Governors Bush and Crist.

Money from both the federal government and here in Florida has already been appropriated for the project.

Details of those appropriations are in the additional information packets that will be made available after my remarks.

Included is a letter from Chairman John Mica, of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, dated just days ago, reaffirming the federal commitment to have funding immediately available for SunRail.

With all due diligence complete, it is time for a decision.

Because of all these previous actions and legal commitments spanning several years, today I am announcing that the Governor has authorized the Department on behalf of the State of Florida to sign the pending Full Funding Grant Agreement.

This will culminate in SunRail’s construction and operation.

This decision was made after a long deliberative process, and the result is that all stakeholders and partners will be held accountable as the project moves forward.

As I mentioned, the SunRail project includes a number of specific commitments from private sector supporters.

The additional information packet has a more complete listing of these entities and their promised actions, but here are a few examples:

  • In exchange for the purchase of rail track, CSX has committed to investments in railways all over the state. These investments will support other infrastructure such as helping make Florida’s ports more accessible for trade.
  • Walt Disney World has committed to partially subsidize Commuter Bus Transit Service throughout Central Florida to its property.
  • Florida Hospital has committed to pay $3.5 million for its own rail stop and to market and subsidize ridership for all its 17,000 employees.
  • Tupperware Brands Corporation has committed to donate 10 acres of land to serve as the site for the proposed Osceola Parkway station and to establish a shuttle service to carry employees and others to encourage ridership.

In conclusion, today I will call Peter Rogoff – the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration – and tell him we will sign the Full Funding Grant Agreement once it clears the 60-day review period in Congress and is transmitted to the State.

I will now take your questions.

 

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The following letter was sent to Gus Pego,  District 6 Secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation, from Scott Timm, outgoing Executive Director of the MiMo Business Improvement Committee. Scott and other MiMo stakeholders like Barabara Gimenez and Nancy Liebman have been vocal proponents of improving pedestrian conditions on Biscayne Boulevard, recognizing the connection between successful commercial frontage, and vibrant pedestrian culture.

Mr. Pego,

As you know, the MiMo Business Improvement Committee (BIC) has been advocating modifications to the current design of Biscayne Boulevard, especially the section between 61st and 77th Streets. I understand that at the time the project was being presented to the community, there were competing interests and requests that resulted in the current design. And I certainly understand that budgets are tight, and would not advocate needlessly spending taxpayer dollars.

But the current design of Biscayne Boulevard is a disaster, and it is only a matter of time before someone is killed or seriously injured along this stretch. Your office says that more enforcement is the solution to the problem. Do parents with small children rely on enforcement only to protect their youngsters from danger, say from toxic chemicals under the sink? No, they add easy-to-install cabinet locks to make the environment safer, so that 24/7 enforcement is NOT required. Why insist we spend millions of taxpayer dollars on ongoing enforcement solutions when the roadway could be designed once to enforce safe speeds and conditions?

This item recently posted to the TransitMiami blog illustrates the all-too-common problem – speeding cars flying off the road and smashing streetlight poles and bus shelters. This has been a ongoing occurrence in this neighborhood, and yet all of our meetings with your staff end with the apology that “there’s nothing we can do.”

We think there is something you can do. The MiMo BIC has proposed a re-striping scenario to restore parallel parking to Biscayne Boulevard, creating safer sidewalks for pedestrians and safer speeds for motorists. We’re told that FDOT can do nothing until Biscayne Boulevard is identified as a priority, specifically in the City of Miami’s Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan (MCNP).

Interestingly enough, we are in the MCNP. Policy TR-1.4.5 defines the “Urban Street” as “a pedestrian and vehicular way whose primary function is to serve adjoining residential neighborhoods and the businesses that serve them.” The policy identifies some city roadways as prime examples of Urban Streets, and Biscayne Boulevard is the first one listed. Quoting further from the MNCP: “Principles that will guide the design process will include, as appropriate: lower design speeds and control of traffic volumes utilizing traffic calming devices including but not limited to modification of lane widths consistent with lower design speeds; wide sidewalks; medians; roundabouts; landscaping; attractive lighting; creative and informative signage; on-street parking; and other design features and amenities as appropriate.”

All we want is a neighborhood that is safe for motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. A neighborhood that will encourage pedestrian activity as a way to revitalize the local businesses. A neighborhood where the historic roadway serves as a point of pride. Unfortunately, the current design of Biscayne Boulevard is flawed, and for the sake of safety – if not esthetics –  it needs to be repaired before someone else is injured or killed.

I would also encourage you to become a regular reader of the TransitMiami blog. There you will learn about problem spots throughout Miami-Dade County where pedestrians and cyclists are forced to fight for their lives; spots that could be made safe with simple roadway design changes.

For personal and family reasons, I am leaving my position at the MiMo BIC, to return north. But know that the BIC, and scores of local residents, business owners, and property owners, will continue to advocate for safer streets and sensible design. We hope that FDOT will partner with us in that journey.

Thank you,

Scott Timm, Executive Director of the MiMo Business Improvement Committee

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In two separate instances this week two large light poles were hit along Biscayne Boulevard in the Upper East Side.  One of the accidents is located on Biscayne Boulevard and 60th Street; the other was on Biscayne and 55th Street.

Biscayne Boulevard and NE 60th Street. This light pole has been here for at least 1 week.

Two light poles in 1 week have been hit on Biscayne Boulevard. There is clearly an issue with the design speed.

The design speed of Biscayne Boulevard 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 Boulevard.  I have lived in this neighborhood for a little less than a year and I am aware of at least 7 accidents that have involved motor vehicles taking out light poles/bus shelters/store fronts. I have documented most of them here.

Before someone mentions enforcement as the solution, please allow me to preemptively say that 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 must stop practicing wishful thinking and begin designing roadways that discourage speeding and do not 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. There is no good reason for a 45 mph design speed.

Adding insult to injury it has taken more then a week for our government to take action and pick up the light pole. Why is that? Since there is yellow tape surrounding the damaged light pole, government must be aware that there was an accident. Where’s the workflow?  Do the police not inform the County Public Works Department, the FDOT and the city of Miami that this pole needs to be picked up from the sidewalk? Last time a light pole was knocked down it took nearly two weeks to remove the debris.  What a joke.

How many more accidents need to occur before the FDOT acknowledges that the design speed of Biscayne Boulevard is too high? Maybe they are waiting for a few more deaths before they do something about Biscayne Boulevard.

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Transportation advocate, friend of Transit Miami, and recent county Mayoral candidate Gabrielle Redfern posted this thoughtful response to my recent post about the Mayoral race (Lackluster Mayoral Candidates Promise More of the Same on Transportation). I thought it warranted an equally thoughtful response. Gabrielle writes:

I agree that we need a different approach to the oversight and planning of our transit ways, and perhaps going with an independently elected MPO, like we see in Oregon would help. However, with all of the dollars at stake, we would be fools to believe that the dark hand of the Miami Political process would not cast its shadow there as well.

I agree. I’m not trying to ‘solve’ for corruption or graft in our transportation culture – just trying to set transportation modes on steady footing. The key to the TM plan is that the agency would be independent (no commission involvement) AND be chartered with a mandate to provide all forms of transportation – with benchmark modeshare goals to guide policy makers along the way. The dark hand of Miami Politics will be present, but at least it will not mean the end of a worthy transit project.

I have had the honor and priviledge of spending a considerable amount of time in the close company of both mayoral candidates and know who each is getting their transit advice from. I have seen their positions and campaign rhetoric evolve over the days and weeks since the Green Mobility survey was returned. I am supporting Carlos Gimenez because I believe he is the most receptive and open to our views about our urban environment.

Hey, lets face it, Tony. We cannot expect either of them to be the transit geeks we are. But I know that Carlos has made a commitment to me, and to this County, to learning more and doing different. Way different. He realizes the importance to our transit system, of first removing the cloud we have with our partners, the Federal Government. He is committed to not only getting the fiscal house of MDT in order, but removing the political process from the backbone of the system, bus route planning. As a strong mayor, he can and will demand from his new Director a system that maximizes the rolling stock we have now and creates two different types of County bus service: one that is based on our natural grid to connect people to each other and the major County centers and services and one partnered with the municipalities to create circulation systems to reach employment, civic and social destinations inside the cities.

I’m all for learning more and doing different – but what Carlos has planned is more of the same. Lip service to real ridership expansion. He cannot take politics out of the system until both the Mayor and the commission have nothing to do with transportation. Gimenez is not going to fund any system expansion – on the contrary he is probably going to continue to decrease the size of our bus system, and will try to dismantle the few premium transit facilities we have in favor of managed lanes and other similar half measures.

And circulator buses? Really? This sounds like more of Suarez’s plan to implement 2000 trolleys around the County. Ridiculous. These are visible, short term ploys that will take as long to implement as they will be in service. Just long enough for elected officials to claim they are making progress on transit before leaving office, and handing this hot potato to someone else not willing to make the tough choices.

He is the first to tell you he voted himself for the half penny tax because he wanted the expansion of the Metro rail as much as anyone. At one of his first Commission meetings he flashed his now famous fire over the notion of “unification”. You remember that, that wonderful Burgess Buzzword to admit that they had not been putting the money from the tax away but spending the cash to prop up the maintenance and operation of the bloated and redundant system they had rolling? And that left us with what? Exactly two and a half miles of new Metro rail, not seventeen.

Carlos knows MDT must attract riders. He knows from his years of providing fire and rescue services that the service must be efficient and reliable. He will use smart technology to attract riders, enhance the experience and performance of the system. Many things that are out there now and easy to develop and implement quickly. He sees the opportunity to make a big difference in the lives of so many and fix a huge gaping hole in the budget by making transit more cost effective.

Transit is not cost effective. Period. Building transit costs money; transit operations cost even more. Any meaningful expansion of our transit system is going to have to be paid by our tax dollars. To play the, ‘I want to make transit cost effective’ card is more of the same politi-speak. You can’t expand transit service and talk about cost effectiveness in the same breath. (And what gaping hole in the budget? The county only spends $153 million from the general fund on transit – about $180 per year per household)

I hope your readers will realize that we have this opportunity and vote for Carlos Gimenez. Now is the time, and he is the linchpin, in the path we need to take to make our County great. Transit Miami readers know the key to our future is a more rational approach to moving Miami-Dade forward. Because, Tony, no how often you travel to the fabulous Big Apple, there is no place like The Magic City and South Beach.

Opportunity for what? More of the same? Transportation is one of the biggest challenges facing our community – and there is still no meaningful discussion about how to move us forward to more balanced – and economically sustainable – transportation network. The idea that this election is somehow different or a ‘linchpin’ in some predestined path to greatness is silly. Gabrielle, our county cannot become great when our leaders are mediocre. We will not become anything more than a sprawling suburban town until we invest in our transportation network.

Our leaders must be willing to make difficult choices (do I expand service and raise tax to pay for it?) in the name of better mobility for all. I hope that Carlos Gimenez is elected; but more than that I hope that he awakens to the fact that we need to aggressively invest in our transit infrastructure.

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This is the EyeStop Bus Stop developed by MIT’s Senseable Lab.

The EyeStop is partially covered with touch-sensitive e-INK and screens, and features state-of-the art sensing technologies and a variety of interactive services. Riders can plan a bus trip on an interactive map,  surf the Web, monitor their real-time exposure to pollutants and use their mobile devices as an interface with the bus shelter. They can also post ads and community announcements to an electronic bulletin board at the bus stop, enhancing the EyeStop’s functionality as a community gathering space.

 

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In the fall of 2008, Tri-Rail was running near record ridership corresponding to higher gas prices. They never beat the record of over 18,000 riders from Miami Heat’s victory parade in 2006, though. While we came close to another Heat victory this year but didn’t quite make it, Tri-Rail still scored a ridership victory. On June 16, with free Tri-Rail rides for Dump the Pump day, Tri-Rail smashed their all time record. 19,731 people rode the commuter rail yesterday. Check their press release here. Let us hope many will continue to ride even when they have to pay the fare.

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