If you think walking and biking in Miami is risky, dangerous, and perhaps even a bit of a suicide mission…then you can probably imagine what it would be like to navigate our nightmarish streets with a baby in a stroller in tow. Oh!, you exclaim, certainly our famously rude drivers would change their nutty ways at the sight of a cute little one peeping out of it’s carriage, right? Sure, they may not stop for a regular annoying pedestrian who is waiting to cross a “STOP for pedestrians – It’s the Law” intersection … but they must stop for a baby!
Well, in short: Nope. After having high hopes for my pedestrian future with a newborn, picturing polite drivers waving me across the street, I have had a rude awakening that stroller or not…to Miami drivers, I’m still just an annoying pedestrian not really worth stopping or even slowing down for. It’s become a nearly perverse enjoyment for me to stare down drivers at a marked intersection, looking right into their faces, brandishing the baby in front of me as if to say – what’s it going to be? Your car, or our lives? Who has the stronger will, who will give up first? Will you stop, or will I step out of your way to let you speed by on your extremely important mission to reach the next (red) stoplight 1 block down the road?
Unfortunately, it’s not just Miami’s drivers who make walking with a stroller a bit of a risky proposition in this town. Check out this sidewalk on Venetian Causeway, and answer me this question: in which side do you pass with a stroller? (Hint: there is no correct answer. There is no way to pass with a stroller here as the sidewalk is too narrow at all openings).
Let’s say you somehow manage to navigate past this obstacle and made it onto Venetian Causeway. Here is the next nerve-tingling adventure awaiting you on the bridge. Please have a look at this sidewalk.
Now, you better focus! Because just 1 little step in the wrong direction…perhaps during a moment of sightseeing while a mega luxury yacht cruises by…and your stroller is off of that tiny little sidewalk, on the road, which is very heavily traveled by cars flying by at high speed…not a nice thought at all! Oh, and if some unlucky other mom wants to pass you by here with her stroller? Let’s just say that is Mission Impossible Miami style.
Too bad the Venetian Causeway Toll cash cannot be used to make this road with it’s pleasant sea breeze and breath-taking views more accessible to non-motorized, stroller-rized traffic.
It’s no secret that TransitMiami is opposed to the expansion of highways in our community.
Still, we like to understand how they work, and the applied engineering science that goes into measuring their structural performance.
Florida International University produced a fascinating video describing the work of some of its faculty and students from the Lehman Center for Transportation Research.
FIU professors and graduate students talk about their efforts to monitor MDX’s under-construction 836 (Dolphin) / 826 (Palmetto) highway interchange with specially-designed sensors measuring the shrinkage and strain on the concrete over time.
Just imagine if we invested the same kind of money and science into expanding and improving our public transportation rail network!
From Transit Dave in response to Metrorail to FIU: Transit in the start-up city:
“Don’t Forget that the orange line was supposed to link MIA, FIU and Miami Dade College North Campus as well. Johnny Remigo, The PTP alone raises upwards of 175 Mil a year. It is an adequate funding source, if we had politicians who were committed to delivering the transit system the voters wanted when we voted for the PTP. Alas, 11 years later, we’re still waiting. As has been written on this forum by others including me, we won’t have a reform of the PTP until we have reform at the county government level. The shame of it is that we could have another 20 or 30 miles of Metrorail built or under construction if we had the local leadership to go along with honest management of the PTP funds.”
We could not have said it any better Transit Dave. You can read more about Miami’s embarrassing lack of leadership- “Miam’s Lack of Leadership“
Written by Peter Smith
Writing in the Pacific Standard, geographer Jim Russell made a claim that would have been unthinkable to most a year ago. “Portland is dying,” he wrote, and “Pittsburgh is thriving.” The economy of Portland, Oregon, the darling of the creative class-fueled urban renaissance, has stagnated from its inability to create jobs and tackle high unemployment. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh, a poster case for Rust Belt decline, even as it hosted the 2009 G-20 Summit, has notched employment records month after month. The difference, Russell notes, essentially boils down to this: Carnegie Mellon University.
It’s a tale of talent attraction versus talent creation. Portland doesn’t create much of its own talent; it has to attract it from elsewhere, and in that regard, it must compete with San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Chicago, and LA. It’s a losing battle. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, home of Carnegie Mellon, Pitt, and Duquesne, pumps out more talent than it can accommodate. Many may not remain in Pittsburgh – a few may even end up in Portland – but many will stay. Their ties to the area are too strong to break, and they’re the ones who are fueling the comeback. The tag line of Russell’s blog, Burgh Diaspora, poses the following challenge, “Since education makes a person more likely to leave your region, how do you justify your investment in human capital?” Asked another way, how do you get your best and brightest to stay? How do you prevent a brain drain? It’s a question Miami is familiar with. Miami is currently fighting a brain drain while simultaneously seeking to cultivate a start-up, entrepreneurial culture.
On the West Coast, San Diego offers an answer. In the 1990s, when city officials set out to expand the city’s light rail network, the Trolley, for the first time in nearly twenty years, they considered a novel approach. None of the city’s major universities were connected to the transit system, so planners sought to remedy that. The blue line, which opened in 2005, has stops at the University of San Diego and San Diego State University. The silver line, which is gearing up to break ground in a year, will link UCSD to the system. In total, nearly 60,000 students from top universities who had no transit access a decade ago will be connected to the Trolley.
One rationale for this approach is that it cultivates transit ridership. College students tend to be flexible and open to trying new things, and experience shows that if we can acclimate students to using transit during their college years, they’ll be much more likely to use transit at other times in their lives.
Perhaps more importantly, and more germane to our purpose here, transit builds and reinforces the bonds that individuals have with their cities. It also connects people and ideas with each other in ways that other forms of transportation struggle to do. The premise underlying San Diego’s planning decisions is that transit links its riders to the city’s residents, its cultural offerings, and its business communities. It creates bonds between individuals and their city, and builds the social capital that encourages students to put down roots and thrive. Pittsburgh is succeeding because life at Carnegie Mellon is so entwined with life at Pitt and Duquesne and the rest of downtown Pittsburgh and its business community that by the time students graduate they’re already so connected to business opportunities and to entrepreneurial peers and to the city itself that it becomes easy and natural to stay put. San Diego is on the way to accomplishing the same phenomenon by building social and professional connections through building physical transportation infrastructure.
Turning to Miami, our city deserves some credit for having the foresight to build Metrorail to UM. Much has changed since 1985, though, and UM is not the only major university in South Florida anymore. FIU is now the seventh largest university in the United States. It enrolls over 50,000 students and is approved to expand to 63,000 in the coming years. It is roughly five times larger than UM by enrollment. It has all the hallmarks of a world-class institute of higher education: a medical school, a law school, a top-ranked business school, and all the traditional liberal arts and sciences that standard fare at the best schools. There’s still one common feature that it does not share with other great universities in major metropolitan areas: a transit connection.
San Diego may have been the first city in recent years to map its transit system around universities, but it’s not alone. Nearly all mass transit system expansions in the United States over the past decade have included new stops serving universities. Here’s a sample:
Phoenix: In 2008, service began on Phoenix’s METRO light rail system. It connects downtown Phoenix with Arizona State University. ASU is the largest university in the United States at 63,000 students and is the model that newer large public research universities, like FIU, follow.
Denver: No city in the United States has expanded its transit system in recent years as much as Denver. Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) has opened five new light rail lines since 2002, bringing the total number of lines in operation to six. Under RTD’s $6.5 billion FasTracks initiative, the system will add as many as six new light rail and commuter rail lines, in addition to extensions of existing lines, between 2013 and 2016. Every one of the system’s lines serves the city’s Auraria campus, a multi-school mega-campus that houses the University of Colorado-Denver, Metropolitan State University, and the Community College of Denver. Approximately 60,000 students, nearly one-fifth of all Colorado college students, attend classes on the Auraria campus. In 2006, RTD began service on the E, F, and H lines, which also connects with the University of Denver and its more than 11,000 students. FasTracks will ultimately include a commuter rail line, as well, connecting to the University of Colorado at Boulder and its nearly 30,000 students. Under FasTrack’s highly praised $1.67 billion predecessor, T-REX (Transportation Expansion), RTD succeeded in connecting downtown Denver and its Auraria campus with the Denver Tech Center, the region’s second largest employment center and home to many technology and finance firms.
Minneapolis: In late 2010, Minneapolis’s METRO began work on the system’s second light rail line, the Green Line. The Green Line will connect the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities with downtown Minneapolis and downtown Saint Paul. The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is the nation’s sixth-largest university with nearly 52,000 students. The Green Line is currently under construction and service is expected to begin in 2014. It will have two stations on the University of Minnesota campus.
Seattle: In 2009, Seattle opened the first leg of the Central Link light rail system. Before service even began, the city’s Sound Transit started construction on the University Link extension. The University Link will connect the University of Washington with downtown Seattle. The University of Washington is one of the largest universities in the nation with approximately 43,000 students. The University Link will open for service in 2016.
Houston: When Houston’s METRO opened its first light rail line in 2004, it placed the line’s northern terminus at University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) and sent the line straight through Rice University and the Texas Medical Center. UHD is the University of Houston system’s second largest campus with nearly 13,000 students. Rice University is home to over 6,000 students. Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world, is home to academic branches, including three medical schools, from countless universities, including Baylor University, Rice University, the University of Texas, and the University of Houston, among others. In total, approximately 49,000 students study at the Texas Medical Center. METRO broke ground on a second light rail line, the Purple Line, in 2009. The Purple Line, which will begin service in 2014, will have three stations serving the University of Houston’s (UH) main campus and one station serving the campus of Texas Southern University (TSU). The University of Houston is home to over 40,000 students and Texas Southern University enrolls over 10,000 students. In addition to the Purple Line, METRO is also planning the University/Blue Line, which will connect UH and TSU with the southern end of downtown, near Rice University and the Texas Medical Center. The University/Blue Line will have two stations serving TSU and two stations serving UH. In total, in excess of 100,000 students in Houston who did not have transit access a decade ago, will have transit links to the rest of the city.
Charlotte: Construction on Charlotte Area Transit System’s LYNX light rail extension to the Blue Line will begin in January 2014. The extension will connect the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to the Blue Line through Uptown Charlotte. UNC Charlotte enrolls over 26,000 students. The Blue Line extension is expected to begin service in 2017.
These examples do not just show that cities are expanding their transit systems to reach their universities; they show that cities are making it a priority to do so. Nearly every transit expansion of the past decade in the United States has included a link to a college or university. The advantages are substantial. College students are among the most likely to use and benefit from mass transit. Transit also helps in answering the question, how can cities encourage their best and brightest to put down roots and keep their talents at home? It is difficult the overestimate the role that transit can play in cementing bonds between citizens and the places they call home. A survey by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for example, found that transit riders were as much as twice as likely as non-transit riders to say that they felt a “strong connection” with their city. Transit is the physical infrastructure that connects citizens with each other, with business opportunities, and with cultural amenities. These things make people more productive and happier, and therefore more likely to stick around.
Miami is part of a shrinking ring of cities with transit systems that do not connect with the region’s major universities. FIU is part of a shrinking ring of major urban universities lacking transit connections with their regions’ employment and cultural centers. The revived expansion plans from the early 2000s to extend Metrorail out to FIU once again seem to have fizzled out. As a city struggling to tackle a brain drain while working to build a sustainable economy, Miami must find better ways to leverage its anchor institutions to produce, retain, and cultivate human capital. Arguably, perhaps no institution is more prolific in these respects than FIU. FIU graduates over 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students every year and has over 200,000 alumni, over half of which live in South Florida. Yet FIU’s main campus is geographically isolated just a few miles from downtown. It sits trapped between three highways – 836, 826, and the Turnpike – that cut it off from every major employment and cultural center in South Florida. Students, as weak as the excuse may be, routinely miss class because of traffic and parking difficulties, and students often schedule classes to avoid 8th Street rush hour. We know that long commutes in traffic make us less productive, less creative, less healthy, and less happy. We know that highways have an historical legacy as insurmountable barriers that block the spread of ideas and prosperity. If we’re serious about developing Miami’s twenty-first century economy, we must better connect the city’s economic engines and human capital centers – FIU, UM, downtown, Brickell, Wynwood, etc. One component to this must include improving the physical infrastructure connections that link these sites, which means Metrorail expansion must be returned to the region’s agenda. Without the bonds between people and their city that transit ridership helps build, as it has in places like Pittsburg and San Diego, Miami’s highly skilled residents will continue to be likely to leave for greener pastures. And unless we are able to keep our best and brightest here and leverage their talents, Miami’s vision for a thriving twenty-first century economy will remain off in the distance just down the track.
For those of you attending tomorrow’s Miami Heat Parade, MDT, SFRTA, BCT, and Transit Miami all strongly suggest that attendees take the train! MDT will be upping Metrorail service to a 5 minute frequency (we wish that were permanent) south of the Earlington Heights station and will be running extra vehicles on the MetroMover between 8AM and 2PM. Alternatively, you could be like our own hometown heroes and Bike to/from the parade route…
To accommodate the large crowds expected to attend the Miami Heat victory parade on Monday, June 24, 2013, Miami-Dade Transit will be enhancing its Metrorail and Metromover service, and making it easier for patrons to pay their Metrorail fare by providing ‘express pay’ lanes at Metrorail stations.
Due to road closures in the downtown Miami and Brickell areas, several Metrobus routes will be detoured, including routes 3, 6, 8, 11, 24, 48, 77, 207, 208, C and S.
Tri-Rail will be operating 4-car trains in the morning and on the return from the parade to increase train capacity. Tri-Rail will operate an additional southbound train in the morning, which will leave the Fort Lauderdale Station at approximately 10:15 a.m. Passengers are encouraged to take southbound trains P611 or P613 to ensure arrival prior to the start of the parade.
The 595 Express Miami/Brickell bus departs at 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. from the BB&T Center in Sunrise and travels to Brickell Plaza along the parade route. The first return trip on the 595 Express bus back to the BB&T Center departs from the Brickell Metrorail Station at 3:05 p.m. with service every 30 minutes up until 6:45 p.m.
In this morning’s Sun Sentinel:
The I-95 Express Buses get a lock of flack for their unreliable transmissions that leave riders “late for work” and feeling like they’ve been “held hostage.” This sounds just like my car! My station wagon doesn’t make it into the Sun Sentinel, though.
When my car’s transmission fails (frequently, despite a recent, costly rebuild and lifetime warrantied parts), I don’t really have anyone to complain to. I wish it was easier, but I still think it’s pretty lucky to have the 95 Express. It’s a pain being late to work regardless of whose transmission just died. BUT when it’s your car, you are looking at 3-5 days with no back-up car with which to get to work plus another bill in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Public transit has some real benefits over driving. #1 being that I can get work done on the bus (yay, Free Wi-fi!) or catch up with Words with Friends. Texting is both legal and safe! #2 meeting interesting people or just people-watching helps me feel charged up at the start of the day, rather than frustrated. #3 $2.35 each way is probably what 35+ minutes in my station wagon costs these days, excluding taxes, title, insurance and all that stress. I‘m sure it’s miserable sitting on the side of the road waiting for someone to come fix your ride or pick you up with another bus. I promise you, it’s more miserable when the bus doesn’t automatically come and you have to pay for your trouble.
Of course, the bus takes longer. Here is my very multi-modal commute from Midtown Miami to north Downtown Fort Lauderdale:
- CAR: to the bus stop in Downtown Miami that is NOT on SE 1st and 1st.(If you wait there, the driver will pass you and point to where you need to run.) I get a ride, but otherwise, I could use my Car2Go membership. $0
- WAITING for a bus that says “to Downtown Miami.” You MUST ask the driver which Express they are driving, or you will end up in the Everglades. I mean, Miramar. (True story). $0. or $1.25 for a cortadito.
- BUS: Very comfortable. Wifi is dependable. Northbound means a practically empty bus. Pro Tip: Bring a sweater or sit in the front. $2.35
- SHUTTLE: Free shuttle from the Broward Blvd Tri-rail down Broward, south on Andrews, around the Courthouse. $0
- BIKE SHARE: From the Courthouse, I pick up a B-cycle and head to work. About 2 miles in 10 minutes. $0 (membership is $45 a year)
This commute takes over an hour. However, at every point, I’m interacting positively with people around me and can take calls from the office. The biggest problem for me is not having a car at work – and Fort Lauderdale doesn’t have Car2Go. My job usually requires a lot of driving from Hallandale Beach to Pompano Beach and everywhere in between. If it wasn’t for bike sharing and some help from colleagues, I’d really be in a bind.
The Express Buses would benefit from improvements, but not the ones I keep seeing on the TransitMiami facebook page.
- Better Wayfinding. There are so many bus stops in Downtown Miami and around the Tri-Rail station. Make it easier to find the Bus!
- Better Signage on the bus. Yes, I ended up in Miramar. I’m not proud of it. I think that as soon as the bus gets to Downtown, even if it has more pick up points within Downtown, it should be marked with its final destination. No one in their right mind picks up an Express bus to go 2 blocks.
- Later hours! I work 8:30am-6pm. I have to leave early to catch the bus home. No bueno.
- Same pick up and drop off stops. I don’t understand why the bus picks up at SE 1st & 1st and drops off at NW 8th and 1st, 12 blocks away. Can anyone explain this to me? Does the Corner Bar subsidize this? They should…
TM Readers, have you taken the Express Bus? What do you think?
From our community’s superb historical museum, HistoryMiami, comes a new exhibit: Opa-Locka: Mirage City
June 28, 2013 – September 08, 2013
Opa-locka: Mirage City explores one of South Florida’s most unique architectural communities. Based on stories and names of characters from the Arabian Tales, Opa-locka presents itself as both eccentric dream; an exotic Middle-eastern urban oasis in a subtropical paradise, and tourist’s kitsch; an architectural conceit more akin to a Hollywood film set. Founded in the 1920s in an undeveloped area of northwest Miami-Dade, the city is a highly romanticized interpretation of an exotic cultural milieu popularized by Hollywood films and archeological discoveries of its time. The exhibition presents original drawings and architectural models that reintroduce the original fabled vision, aiming to rouse interest in the city’s iconic structural design and encourage efforts to preserve its endangered architectural heritage.
Curated by Jose R. Vazquez, Associate Professor of Architecture at Miami Dade College. Presented in conjunction with the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives at Miami Dade College and the University of Miami Libraries, Special Collections.
Sponsored by by the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, the Cultural Affairs Council, the Mayor and the Board of County Commissioners.
The decisive role of the highways in determining the fate of Overtown a half century ago is not lost upon City of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.
The southern part of Ms. Spence-Jones’ District #5 (marked in pink the map below) covers Overtown, and she’s clearly had a history lesson or two on the role of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) in her historic, predominantly black, socio-economically disadvantaged, yet eager-to-reemerge district.
As we’ve extensively noted over the past few days, Resolution #13-00581 (as originally written) would have transferred control of Brickell Avenue from FDOT to the City of Miami.
Referring to Brickell as the “Park Avenue of Miami”, Sarnoff made a compelling case for the resolution, further emphasizing the potential for better speed control and safety provisions on the financial business district’s most critical artery. He continued:
Now we have the opportunity to own Brickell. This is a very, very big piece for the City of Miami — to take ownership and control of its own Park Avenue. And I just don’t want this opportunity to slip.
On these points, TransitMiami couldn’t agree more with Sarnoff.
Critical to understand, though, is that (in its original form) Resolution #13-00581 would have required the City of Miami to give up control of a handful of important streets in the Historic Overtown / Downtown Miami District. In fact, FDOT was actually trying to take more roadway length than it was actually relinquishing.
Fortunately, FDOT’s desperate grab for Overtown’s historic streets met with a ferocious defense from Commissioner Spence-Jones, demonstrating her thorough understanding of the agency’s highway history in Overtown.
Read closely — this one’s a classic!
Unfortunately, FDOT gets an ‘F’ for our community in Overtown.
They have been responsible for not only destroying a very prevalent African-American community, but also displacing many of them, many of the people that live there. [...]
I am very uncomfortable with giving up any anything in Overtown — in any way — until they handle what they promised they’d handle. There’s things that FDOT has said that they’re going to do [...]. They say one thing, and then it’s a totally different thing.
They haven’t done anything that they committed to do. So, you know, for me to give up something or allow them to take one thing over the other and not have them live up to their responsibility to the residents of Overtown — I have an issue and a concern with it.
So all I asked was for [City of Miami Assistant Manager Alice Bravo] and [City of Miami Manager Johnny Martinez] to set-up a meeting with FDOT and let’s go through all these items that the residents of Overtown have asked for that they have not complied with. [...]
It’s amazing that in the midst of getting [Resolution #13-00581] negotiated, my district [District #5] was considered in it without even having a discussion with me . . . because I would have told you then, that anything that FDOT is doing in Overtown — we got issues! [...]
And then, not only that; beyond that: They promised that they would not take anybody’s property. The next thing I know, they’re taking people’s property!
Then I’m hearing again — without us even having a conversation — you know, the properties that we’re building in Overtown, or trying to create in Overtown . . . now they want to take that side of 14th Street and 3rd Avenue from the businesses that we just put money into . . . so — I got issues with FDOT!
It don’t have anything to do with Brickell [...]. [...]
So all I’m asking is that I would like to have a meeting with FDOT to make sure that our issues get resolved. [...]
If you’re talking about giving them something in OT — Yes! The District 5 Commissioner has a big issue and big problem with it. I’m not saying you can’t get [the transfer of Brickell to the City of Miami done ...]
But Overtown — when it comes to I-95, roadways, highways, anything that sounds like that — it’s a problem for us in Overtown.
It destroyed a community. [...]
TransitMiami has one word for Comissioner Spence-Jones: Righteous!
Resolution #13-00581 was ultimately passed (3 commissioners in favor; 0 opposed) at the most recent Commission meeting on June 13. Fortunately, though, the Resolution was amended to exclude at least parts of the streets in the Overtown / Historic Downtown Miami District. TransitMiami will follow-up with more details soon.
As for now, though, just try to bask in a bit of the glory of Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones’ passionate words in defense of her district and the people of Overtown, and our community at-large. Kudos to you, Commissioner Spence-Jones!
Our local public radio station, WLRN, published a fantastic, must-hear/must-see piece this morning on “How I-95 Shattered the World of Miami’s Early Overtown Residents”.
In it, reporter Nadege Green of WLRN / The Miami Herald makes some excellent inquiries into the glorious past that was once thriving Colored Town.
As narrated in the radio piece:
Overtown was known as the Harlem of the South. [Jazz legends] Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, and Billie Holiday performed in Miami Beach. But because of segregation, they weren’t allowed to stay there. They’d stay in Overtown . . . at hotels like the Sir John and the Mary Elizabeth. And they jammed late into the night with locals.
As decried by 70 year-old, long-time Overtown resident, General White:
Well there’s nothing but a big overpass now!
He’s referring to Interstates 95 and 395, which Nadege Green explains were built in the 1960s. After that:
Overtown was never the same. [Mr. General White] and thousands of other people here were forced out to make room for the highway.
Be sure to listen and read that eye-opening WLRN piece on the tragic history of the once glorious heart of Miami called Overtown, and the role of the highway in tearing it out.
The City of Miami’s Office of Communications released yesterday a short video on the Citizen’s Independent Transportation Trust’s (CITT) 2013 Miami-Dade Transportation Summit.
The elevator music and 1980′s electric guitar riff can be a little hard to endure, but it’s nonetheless interesting to have a glimpse at the City’s perspective on the Summit.
Featured in the video are the City’s Assistant Manager, Alice Bravo, who describes the role and responsibility of the CITT. Also featured is the City’s Special Project Assistant, Thomas Rodrigues, who talks about the City’s Trolley(-bus) routes.
Take a gander!
The City of Miami will be voting today on Resolution #13-00581.
This resolution would formalize the transfer of Brickell Avenue — arguably the most economically important thoroughfare in Miami — from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to the City of Miami, from the State to the City.
Under whose jurisdiction do Miami’s downtown streets belong?
Your voice matters! Cast your vote!
At last week’s 2013 Transportation Summit, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 6 Secretary, Mr. Gus Pego, was in attendance.
This was my first encounter with Mr. Pego in person and, despite the criticism we tend to launch at his district, he seemed like a really nice guy.
He was extremely diplomatic during the Summit. He didn’t seem to get defensive when audience members highlighted the contradictory and misguided actions of his agency. Generally, it appeared as if he has developed rather thick skin to cope with the criticisms launched at his agency (many of which have admittedly come from TransitMiami).
Mr. Pego’s demeanor reminded me of a political figure: an approachable, laid-back kind of guy who would be entertaining to have a beer with, but probably not one with whom you’d want to get into anything even slightly resembling a discussion of philosophy.
Nonetheless, you have to give the man credit. His job cannot possibly be easy.
I was among the (surprisingly few) private citizens who questioned Mr. Pego on the role FDOT plays here in Miami.
I asked him specifically about the proposed swap between FDOT and the City of Miami for some downtown Miami streets.
The core of my question was simple: “Why does FDOT want our streets?”
His answer was deceptively reassuring to me; it went something along the lines of:
- Typically when there’s a transfer of road jurisdiction, the municipality [in this case the City of Miami] will try to offset the costs of taking over control and maintenance.
- To offset the costs of controlling and maintaining new streets, the municipality will typically forfeit control of other streets.
- The municipality will typically request that FDOT assume responsibility of these other streets to avoid the extra financial burden.
All right . . . so . . . the City can’t carry the supposedly heavy costs of running its own streets, so it goes to FDOT asking for help. FDOT generously helps them out by taking new streets off their hands. Hmm . . .
It seemed to make sense (for about 11 seconds). But something still didn’t sit right with me. FDOT seemed way too gung-ho about the whole thing.
The last part of Pego’s response was the real doozy:
- If the City of Miami determines that they wish to keep jurisdiction of those streets [as opposed to exchanging them for jurisdiction over Brickell Avenue], then FDOT would be fine with that.
At that point, I thought to myself: Man, this guy’s not the transportation megalomaniac those weirdos over at TransitMiami often try to make him out to be. He’s just a good, straight-talking guy. That’s all. . . .
Ah, but then I found FDOT’s official position on the proposed swap. Then I realized that us summit attendees had been duped. Those words were spoken just to appease those in the crowd who applauded the question.
The truth of the matter is that FDOT does indeed want our streets.
The [Florida Department of Transportation] has recently completed a countywide analysis of potential roadway transfers [...]. The proposed roadway transfers should prove to be beneficial for the City and the State. We look forward to working with the City of Miami in a mutually beneficial relationship to effect these transfers.
Or, here’s the formal City of Miami piece of legislation in the form of a resolution. It also demonstrates how FDOT isn’t the selfless hero Mr. Pego wanted to portray it as:
Whereas, the [Florida Department of Transportation] has determined that it would be beneficial to the State of Florida to assume jurisdictional responsibility for [all the roads listed in the table below].
So . . . FDOT is not, in fact, coming nobly to the City of Miami’s financial rescue as Mr. Pego would like to have us think. Quite the contrary, FDOT is in it for it’s own good, not the well-being of the community.
We can be sure that FDOT does indeed want our streets. The real question persists, though: Why?
They’ve studied our streets, and they’ve targeted the ones they want most. They have plans for them.
What those plans are, I do not know. Mr. Pego, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter . . .
This article was edited for content on 6/13/13 from it’s original format.
Tomorrow, on Thursday, June 13, the City of Miami City Commission will consider Resolution #13-00581.
This resolution would formalize the transfer of virtually all of downtown Miami’s Brickell Avenue from the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to the jurisdiction of the City of Miami.
Think about that: Brickell Avenue. It’s the core of our financial business district and a burgeoning residential and commercial area.
One wonders why FDOT ever had control of one of our city’s most important thoroughfares in the first place.
It’s great news. Our city’s streets belong in the hands of our own local municipalities. They don’t belong in the hands of techno-bureaucrats up in Tallahassee, nor in any other one of FDOT’s just-as-detached satellite offices.
While far from perfect, our local public officials and planners are more sensitive to the day-to-day realities on our streets; they are more aware of land-use dynamics and current and pending real estate developments; they are more conscious of existing long-range and master planning documents (including plans for special districts, public transit corridors, bicycles and greenways, waterfronts, ecologically-sensitive areas, etc.); they typically have deeper, more productive working relationships with other locally-based jurisdictions; they better understand the on-the-ground interplay of bicycle, pedestrian, and motor traffic; they are more sincerely invested in the well-being of the local community of which they themselves are a part; and, most importantly, our local planners and politicians are comparatively far more accessible and accountable to us, the people to whom the streets belong.
So all is well in the Magic City, right? FDOT is beginning to realize that its role in 21st century Miami is growing smaller and smaller and we’re more than capable of running our own streets.
The state transportation juggernaut is starting to return our city streets to the local government authorities because it’s reached the undeniable conclusion that local municipalities and counties can run their own streets better than some gigantic, geographically-disconnected government bureaucracy . . . right?
In exchange for relinquishing Brickell Avenue to the City (where it belongs), FDOT wants something — quite a lot, actually — in return. Specifically, FDOT wants several streets running through the Downtown Miami Historic District (see the table below).
In total, FDOT is trying to take 2.4 center lane miles from the City of Miami in exchange for about 1.9 center lane miles.
(A “center lane mile” is the length of the actual road, from point A to point B. A standard “lane mile” takes into account the number of lanes on that same stretch from point A to point B.)
FDOT wants to take = 2.40 miles
FDOT wants to give = 1.92 miles
Thus, not only is FDOT pursuing streets it really has no right to and should have no interest in to begin with, but it’s actually trying to take more street length from the City than it is offering!
The City Commission will be voting on this around 2:00pm on Thursday, June 13.
Mr. Mayor and City Commissioners: Take what belongs to the people of the City of Miami. Bring Brickell Avenue under our local jurisdiction.
But do not, under any circumstances, forfeit those streets in the Historic Downtown District to the State.
FDOT should give = 1.92 miles
City of Miami should give = 0.00 miles
The real question is: Why does FDOT want control of our local streets to begin with?
We were fortunate to learn of this late last week, when The New Times published it’s Best of Miami preview, which just happened to highlight the winner of the best blog category only: TransitMiami!
Our fearless leader and slave-master, TransitMiami founder and editor-in-chief, Gabriel Lopez-Bernal, wrote a piece evoking in all of us lowly contributors a spurt of happiness and pride for what he claims to be “volunteer” work (before immediately whipping us back to our unpaid servitude!).
We’re also smitten with what The Miami New Times had to say about us too:
In most towns, a blog about transportation would be a snore, but this is Miami. Our shared frustration over the simple task of getting from point A to point B makes our blood boil and unites us all in common ire, for our inane transport system might be the single biggest hurdle preventing the Magic City from becoming a truly world-class town.
Surprisingly, it’s an issue that often finds itself on the back burner among Miami’s media. Thankfully there’s Transit Miami, which has been churning out posts on everything from crosswalks to major Department of Transportation projects since 2006. It’s transportation-activist talk made accessible to the average man, and its multiple contributors take into account the perspectives of everyone from drivers to pedestrians.
In a world where blogging is now dominated by the need for traffic (the profitable web variety), it’s nice to know there’s a blog out there more interested in vehicular traffic.
This sort of recognition reinvigorates our efforts and reminds us of our reason for existing in the first place.
With — and only with — your continued readership and support, we’ll strive to continue fighting the good fight and writing the good write! The future of our beloved community depends on it.
Truly, thanks again, Miami!
Transit Miami is honored to have been named the best blog in Miami for 2013 by the Miami New Times. We’re privileged to be recognized by our peers and the community as a leading voice on urban development and transportation issues in South Florida. This distinction provides us with a natural opportunity to reflect upon how far this site has progressed since its inception in 2006:
Initially conceived as an outlet to incite and encourage discussion concerning the challenging problems facing South Florida, Transit Miami has evolved into a loosely knit organization of individuals who strongly advocate for a balanced transportation system. Today, our vision includes one where all members of our community will have the opportunity to choose the mode of transportation that is optimal for their needs, lifestyle, or preferences. To achieve this vision we’ve taken it upon ourselves to expose the potential for intelligent growth in a community that has been consumed by urban sprawl; a community where imprudent development around key transit nodes has evolved into an unfortunate standard; and a community where congestion persistently erodes the quality of life. To us, the status quo is no longer acceptable; we know Miami can do better. As practicing transportation engineers, urban planners, and real estate advisors, we hope that our opinions serve as a starting point for discussion and present alternative views based on our professional experiences.
I wish to extend my gratitude to Transit Miami’s dedicated editors and contributors (both past and present) who volunteer their time in the interest of enhancing the mobility of our community. I have never met a more passionate and talented group of individuals working together to achieve a common goal: to foster a livable, accessible, and sustainable Miami for generations to come.
In addition to the support we receive locally, we’re also grateful for the recognition we receive from our partners across the nation, particularly our friends at the Streetsblog Network. Our national partners are also working tirelessly to transform our cities by reducing dependence on private automobiles and advocating for improved conditions for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders.
Above all, we are grateful for our readers who so often provide us with meaningful and insightful discussions on what most would consider rather pedestrian topics. We pledge to continue our advocacy and to continue to hold our elected officials accountable.
-Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal
Founder & Editor-in-Chief, TransitMiami.com
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