This article was originally published on ULI’s website. It’s worth mentioning that not one elected official in Miami attended this event. I personally sent out invitations twice to all of Miami’s elected officials. I know others also sent invitations to them as well.
Once again the private sector is leading the public sector and clearly there is no leadership in Miami when is comes to this very important issue. The disconnect is pretty sad and not encouraging for Miami’s future.
“Can Miami Develop with Less Parking?” panel discussion organized by our ULI Young Leaders Group and held at FIU’s Hollo School of Real Estate in Downtown Miami was an overwhelming success with a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 real estate and industry professionals.
The event was moderated by outgoing ULI Young Leaders Chair Andrew Frey and the panel comprised of development and parking experts including: Bernardo Fort-Brescia, FAIA, Principal, Arquitectonica; Joseph Furst, Managing Director Wynwood, Goldman Properties;Harvey Hernandez, Chairman & Managing Director, Newgard Development Group; and Dr. Ruth L. Steiner, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Florida.
A number of exciting issues were discussed throughout the morning that varied from easing the criteria to allow greater access to the City’s shared parking credit, to replacing the required parking minimum with a parking maximum, even a recommendation to do away with parking requirements altogether and allow the market to decide. Some of the more dynamic discussion surrounded the suggestion that current minimum parking requirements have had unintended consequences on development such as:
- encouraging developers to build larger, more expensive multi-bedroom units in order to make the cost of parking feasible (same number of parking spaces required per unit regardless of number of bedrooms)
- discouraging development of small urban infill sites by necessitating assemblage of parcels and construction of larger buildings (parking ramps and circulation can only be accommodated within a certain minimum building/site footprint)
- codifying for too many, underutilized parking spaces by requiring spaces at workplaces, residences and commercial areas (even with the shared parking credit this leaves many empty spaces at different times throughout the day and night).
Overall it was a lively conversation that addressed the question, “Can Miami develop with less parking?” According to the panel, the answer is a qualified, “yes”. How much less parking? That’s a topic for the next panel.
The very naughty Cone Fairy has done it again. Last night she mischievously placed 7 orange traffic cones down the center of NE 76 Street in an attempt to calm traffic to protect children, parents with strollers, cyclists and pets from speeding drivers.
For the past 5 months my neighbors and I have been trying to get the city and county to do something about the reckless drivers that come barreling down our street everyday. Unfortunately, true to form, neither the county nor city has acknowledged that the fundamental problem with this road, as with the majority of our streets in South Florida, is the actual design of our roads that encourages speeding. It shouldn’t take five months to find a solution to this problem; this isn’t rocket science, it just requires a little common sense.
Last I heard, the only thing the county is willing to do is add a crosswalk and erect one of these signs on 76th Street.
This silly sign won’t do anything to calm traffic. If this is the only solution the county can come up with, I have a feeling we may see a whole lot more of the very sassy and sexy Cone Fairy. It’s worth mentioning that all of Transit Miami’s recommendations to calm traffic on this street have been rebuffed by the county. In the meantime, cars continue to speed down my street and it’s just a matter of time before someone is struck by a speeding car.
By the way- we don’t know the true identity of the Cone Fairy and we cannot condone this type of behavior. So remember…
A 10-Year Vision
The Transit Development Plan represents a 10-year strategic vision for Miami-Dade Transit to promote the operation of an efficient, responsive and financially sustainable transit system. Major components of the Transit Development Plan include:
- Annual Performance
- Service Operations
- Capital Program
Transit Development Plan Facts at a Glance
The Transit Development Plan process provides an opportunity for Miami-Dade County citizens to identify mobility needs and transportation issues. Your input is valuable and needed to facilitate public concensus and provide direction for the development of the Transit Development Plan.
You can participate by attending one of the many outreach forums throughout the community. Ideas, suggestions and comments related to the Transit Development Plan can also be submitted to Miami-Dade Transit at email@example.com
Ideas, suggestions and comments will be accepted through August 17, 2013.
Dear Transit Miami -
I was scratching around some MIC and Miami Central Station documents and came upon a curious piece of information: FDOT is negotiating with MDX to assume the governance of Miami Central Station. I find it curious that MDX, a road-building entity, would be charged with governing Miami Central Station – shouldn’t those responsibilities fall to Miami-Dade Transit or, given the regional implications, to SFRTA? I can see MDX running the Car Rental Center, after all it’s sole purpose is to feed tourists onto MDX’s adjacent highways, the 112 and 836 – undermining the metrorail link to the airport and any longer-term plans for a direct rapid transit link to Miami Beach, but Central Station? Give me a break!
What’s most curious about the arrangement between FDOT and MDX is the transfer of a an 8 acre property east of Central Station for “Joint Development.” I didn’t realize MDX was now looking to jump into Miami’s crowded development market. Doesn’t this parcel seem ripe for Transit-Oriented Development? Shouldn’t a Public Private Partnership be the first alternative? I think so. MDX will apparently develop the property to help “offset” the costs of operating Central Station (as if their toll revenue couldn’t be spared in the first place) and will include a possible mix of Hotel, Conference Center, Office, Retail, oh – and parking, of course.
Let’s not forget too that MDX had developed concepts for a future SR 836/ SR 112 connector and had floated the idea of a “Central Corridor” Highway that would be built above Tri-Rail.
Another Concerned Citizen against MDX’s Overreaches
FYI, here is some information on an issue that Transit Miami has covered in the past.
The contract for the widening of SW 157th Ave. from SW 184 St. to SW 152 St., an unneeded development on the Urban Development Boundary, is surely going to be approved at the meetings July 17 of the CITT Project and Financial Review Committee (4 p.m. 10th Floor CITT Conference Room, 111 NW 1 Street) and of the full CITT (6 p.m., Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners’ Chambers).
Tomorrow, in the citizens’ comment time of the Project and Financial Review Committee, I intend to raise questions related to the Urban Development Boundary and environmental issues.
Once again the supporting documents for this contract make no mention that the entire road segment in question is bordered on its western side by the UDB and agricultural land.
However, while the current road is within the UDB, a portion of the expanded road will be outside to the west of the current UDB. Does all this intended construction outside the UDB require special legal approval to move the UDB westward or to permit this intrusion within the area projected by the UDB?
Are there any plans to mitigate the environmental impact of the construction and of the completed widened road?
And a third question: If the contractor needs new hiring, will the contractor be complying with the Miami-Dade First Source Ordinance requiring receipt and consideration of qualified applications provided by South Florida Workforce?
Theodore Wilde, former CITT member
You can register here. By the way, I ‘ve reached out to all our City Commissioners about this event. Let’s see how many of them actually show up. Yes, we are keeping tabs.
“To enter out into that silence that was the city at eight o’clock of a misty evening in November, to put your feet upon that buckling concrete walk, to step over grassy seams and make your way, hands in pockets, through the silences…”
In 1951, author Ray Bradbury wrote a short story titled The Pedestrian. Set in 2053, the story’s protagonist is Leonard Mead, a man who walks alone at night, seemingly for the pure joy of it. He never meets anyone else on these nocturnal walks. His neighbors are all inside – watching television. In fact, so few people are ever out in the public realm that the city’s police force had been reduced to a single car. The act of walking in a place where no one else ever walks is viewed as suspicious by the local authorities, who stop, question, and arrest him, incredulous to his explanation that he simply likes to walk. “Walking for air, walking to see,” as Mead puts it.
Bradbury of course is best known for his fantasy stories and science fiction. But as it turns out, Bradbury’s dystopian vision was not so farfetched; imagining a country where something as innocuous as walking someplace could be viewed as suspicious, as it typically is in today’s gated ‘chemlawn hinterlands’ of suburban sprawl. To not have an automobile in such environments is to exist as a societal outcast worthy of suspicion. So what do Trayvon Martin and Leonard Mead have in common? Was the built environment of gated suburbia (and gated mindset) a factor in the tragedy? To me, both Martin and Mead represent the criminalization and stigma of walking; of being a pedestrian.
Roger Steutville from Better Cities and Towns weighed in and pondered the same:
“In all of this agitation, the physical environment that discriminates against, and focuses suspicion on, anyone who doesn’t drive should not be forgotten. It’s hard to imagine this kind of tragedy playing out today in the same way on the block of a walkable city or town.”
In Bradbudy’s Pedestrian, substitute ‘Leonard Mead’ for Trayvon Martin and the year 2012 instead of 2053. The eerie similarities to that fateful evening last February in Sanford are uncanny.
He turned back on a side street, circling around toward his home. He was within a block of his destination when the lone car turned a corner quite suddenly and flashed a fierce white cone of light upon him. He stood entranced, not unlike a night moth, stunned by the illumination, and then drawn toward it. A metallic voice called to him: ”Stand still. Stay where you are! Don’t move!”
The reindeer games continue between the County and City and as usual the taxpayer ends up getting cheated and we are all left with a really dangerous street, which apparently the County and City both find acceptable.
Here’s an email I received from Transit Miami friend Wendy Stephan.
I’m writing to you about a problem here in Buena Vista East/Design District. I’ve attached a letter I sent below about the problem. After residents sent about 100 letters, the City of Miami (particularly the Mayor’s office) was responsive, but our understanding is that the County is in charge of the project. The latest twist is that the County says they handed the project off to the City at some point (?!). It seems the project just stalled out halfway done. I am sure you’ve noticed how dangerous NE 2nd Avenue is these days – potholes, angled light poles, and no street markings!! This seems to be a good issue for your blog. Thanks.
Here’s the email sent to city, county neighbors, etc., on June 10:
Dear Commissioner Edmonson,
I would like to add my voice to the chorus of District 3 residents and business owners concerned about the unsafe situation and lack of progress on the street improvements on NE 2nd Avenue in the Buena Vista/Design District area. Because the street improvement project seems to be stalled with work halfway done — old lighting removed, street surface damaged, striping not visible — the situation that currently exists is very dangerous, and one young woman was killed crossing the street on a dark night in March.
This area has recently seen the wonderful development of several businesses, some owned by residents, that cater to our broader community. These businesses have generated both car and pedestrian traffic along this corridor. County buses pick up passengers along this road. Students have been crossing this street daily on their way to DASH, Miami Arts Charter and Archbishop Curley Notre Dame schools. We need the long-promised improvements to the street completed to improve safety, functionality and the appearance of this street. The project, already funded and initiated, includes multiple safety features, including:· Adequate sidewalks
· Parking lanes
· Bike lanes
· Clear street striping
· Functional street lighting
· Maintenance for the large swale trees, additional trees/green where possible.
What happened to this project? We demand answers and a clear timeline for its completion. Residents and patrons of our businesses should not be placed at such high risk. Thank you for your prompt response.
What a disgrace.
From Miami Urbanist:
Miami’s excessively high minimum parking requirements can prevent a great project from moving forward. A developer may have a brilliant idea for a site, but if he or she cannot accommodate parking within the footprint of the site the project will likely not break ground. The sad truth is that parking dictates development in Miami and minimum parking requirements have a significant negative impact on the development of our city.
Livable Places gives a great summary of the problems created with minimum parking requirements. Below you will also find some of their suggested “Smart” solutions for dealing with parking.
The Problems with Minimum Parking Requirements
Creates excess parking
Minimum parking requirements are usually set arbitrarily by city planners from standardized transportation planning manuals, which typically measure parking and trip generation rates in suburban areas at peak periods with ample free parking and no public transit. These parking standards can cause an oversupply of parking – taking up valuable land and lowering the price of parking below cost.
Promotes automobile use
Providing plentiful and free parking encourages automobile use and discourages walking, cycling and transit use. Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA recognized as a leading scholar on parking issues, compares minimum parking requirements that mandate excessive off-street parking to “fertility drugs for cars.” By generating more car trips, inefficient parking requirements contribute to increased air pollution and reduced physical activity.
Increases the cost of development
Requiring developers to provide large amounts of off-street parking significantly adds to the cost of new development, especially in urban areas where land costs are high. These costs are typically passed to consumers, through higher housing prices and rents.
|Average development cost of parking (excluding land)|
Type of parking facility
|Multi-level above ground||$10,000|
“Smart” Solutions for Dealing with Parking
Reduce minimum parking standards
Urban planners need to re-examine parking demand in urban areas where land and parking costs are higher, and transportation alternatives exist. Reducing minimum parking requirements will help to create more livable communities by reducing the abundant supply of free parking and encouraging transit use.
Establish maximum parking requirements near major transit stops
In areas well served by transit, planners should consider the use of maximum parking requirements to limit the amount of off-street parking built. These requirements prevent auto-oriented uses from occupying land near rail and bus stations, and encourage the creation of transit-oriented districts, or transit villages.
Unbundle the cost of parking in residential projects
Typically, the cost of parking is included in the home price or rent of a condominium or apartment. Unbundling the cost of parking from housing costs allows off-street parking to be priced in response to the actual demand for parking, and lets consumers pay the cost of their transportation choices.
Shared parking is an effective tool for reducing the number of parking spaces needed for a project or neighborhood. Shared parking strategies can be implemented within a new mixed-use development, through simple agreements between adjacent, or through a parking management district. Parking districts can also encourage pedestrian activity by encouraging people to park once and walk from destination to destination.
Car sharing programs allow many individuals to share access to a vehicle. Located within a housing development, car sharing can lower the average household vehicle ownership rate, reducing the demand for parking. Several car sharing companies are starting to partner with housing developers to include car sharing programs within their new developments.
Thankfully ULI will host an event on July 19th to discuss this very important issue that affects all of us and the future development of our city. Please forward this event notice to your city commissioners and your developer friends. It’s really important that they attend this event. Click here to signup.
This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Better! Cities & Towns. It was reprinted on TransitMiami.com with expressed written consent from the Author and the Editor of Better! Cities & Towns.
Miami Beach takes Infrastructure Beyond Gray
Claudia Kousoulas, Better! Cities & Towns
When cities invest in infrastructure, it’s often the gray stuff like roads and bridges. Or it’s hidden away like water and sewer pipes. Not to say that infrastructure isn’t interesting and vital to a city’s success, but it’s hard to get excited about.
But in Miami Beach, where everything seems to be more colorful and dramatic than most American cities, the latest round of infrastructure investments combine flamboyance and function. The city’s parking garages are featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lebron James is a fan of its bikeshare system, and the expanding network of streetscape and trail improvements weave the city together, from beach to bay.
“It is a coordinated effort,” says Richard Lorber, acting planning director. “Decobike has become a part of the city and we’ve incorporated it into our transportation thinking.” Likewise with streetscape improvements; despite initial concern about losing on-street parking spaces, residents recognize that the curb bump-outs, streetscaping, and landscaping add value to their properties.
High-style parking garages
Miami Beach has gotten the most press coverage for its public and private parking garages and in fact has set a new standard for not only garage design, but their integration with streets and city life. Architects whose names are usually attached to symphony halls and art museums are undertaking what used to be a pretty dull commission.
Herzog and deMeuron’s 1111 Lincoln Road garage functions equally as a party space, a retail anchor, and parking garage. Enrique Norten’s refined Park @420 pulls Lincoln Road’s retail activity around the corner, while Arquitectonica’s Purdy Avenue garage is also a retail anchor for Sunset Harbor, an emerging mixed-use neighborhood. Frank Gehry’s public garage, sheathed in steel mesh recalling his signature chain link, is lit to drift through a color palette that mirrors Miami sunsets. Zaha Hadid is proposing a structure that will swoop over a street and create a pedestrian plaza.
The trend toward high style garages began in 1995 with Arquitectonica’s Ballet Valet garage. The client, developer Tony Goldman who would go on to develop the Wynwood Arts District, spotted an opportunity on this neglected stretch of Collins Avenue. One block in from the beach and surrounded by clubs and hotels, the garage’s retail base kick-started redevelopment. Popularly known as the Chia Pet garage, Arquitectonica’s screen of plants became a local landmark.
Unlike the usual approach to garage design, which seeks to hide parking behind a liner building or false front, newer garages celebrate their position in our lives and communities. Most use texture, color, and pattern to create visual elegance. Herzog and De Meuron’s garage uses the drama of space and movement. Views shift and drop; every floor creates a different experience. From the outside, the blade-edged concrete slabs hover over dramatic skies and palm trees. Hadid’s proposed design is a modernist approach to the experience of moving through space.
Roger Howie of Hadid’s office says, “A simple premise of how to bring the street into the building guided our initial studies which then progressed into an expressed, continuous vehicular circulation path which provides a unique, even fun, experience for the user.”
But the designs also mediate between the car and the pedestrian. From an urban point of view, their relationship to the street is most important. Some, like Park@420, rely on a simple retail base, others like 1111 draw pedestrians in to experience the space. As well as retail, Hadid’s design includes an urban plaza and features stairs to create a gateway along the Collins Park axis. This sounds more like urban design than transportation engineering.
As well as experiments with screen and structure, the function of these garages is part of their design and economics. They are not places you would park and leave. You could spend the whole evening at 1111—from a sunset drink at the rooftop restaurant, on to dinner, then shopping and people watching in the plaza. Likewise, Arquitectonica’s Purdy Avenue seeks to combine design and function to transcend typical parking garage. “The idea was to create a hub of activity for residents and locals, a place to eat, exercise, and shop—with parking,” says Wendy Chernin of the Scott Robins Companies who worked with the city in a public-private partnership to build the project.
Decobike Cruises In
Miami Beach has added 2,741 new spaces with these garages, but the city’s approach is also multi-modal. Decobike has been operating in the city since 2011. In 2012 it expanded north to the Town of Surfside and is poised to cross the Biscayne Bay causeways into the City of Miami. On the beach, Decobike has achieved the best bike-to-resident ratio in North America, with the highest station distribution per square mile nationally. Each of the 1,000 bikes is used four to five times a day, one of the highest use rates in the country.
Decobike founders Colby Reese and Bonifacio Diaz first experienced bikeshare in Paris and Barcelona.
“We were amazed by the amount of usage on the systems. From there, it became a “green business concept that we fell in love with,” said Reese.
When the City of Miami Beach issued a request for proposals, Decobike responded with proposed locations based on their business model and use estimates. Lorber says that the city worked with them to approve the proposed locations or find appropriate alternatives. He points out that the system was initially approved without advertising on the bikes or docks, but Decobike has since requested to place ads.
“We’re not thrilled with the ads, but worked with them again to find appropriate locations,” says Lorber. “Decobike is so well loved and so important, we want them to have a healthy financial viability.”
There were initial reservations about use. Why would anyone use this service if they already owned a bicycle? But as Reese points out, with bikeshare there are no worries about theft or maintenance. And a well-distributed and stocked bike dock network makes Decobike convenient. Reese notes that once the docks were installed, they also adjusted rental and membership options to meet the demands of residents and visitors.
There was also some concern about turning over on-street parking spaces to bike docks, but the popularity of the system and a slew of new parking garages calmed those concerns. As Reese notes, using a parking space for 20 bikes that turn over four to five times a day is a more efficient use of public space.
Reese and Diaz recount these sensible planner answers, but neglect to mention just how much fun Decobike can be. Miami Beach is a flat city, with great weather and ocean views. A grid street pattern provides plenty of routes for commuting or sightseeing.
And just as the parking garages are a system designed to provide access, so is Decobike. Its expansion north into Surfside was the next step in expanding farther north to Haulover Park and west into the Town of Bay Harbor Islands. Duncan Tavares, planner for the Town of Surfside, says residents and businesses supported bikeshare from the start, and after smoothing some concerns about liability and location, so did elected officials.
Expanding Streetscape and Trails
Even within its street grid, the city is upgrading its network of trails and street paths for efficiency, safety, and pleasure. The city’s 2007 Atlantic Greenway Network Plan strived to establish routes that make local and regional bicycle and walking connections. Now that the State of Florida no longer allows wooden structures on the beach, each redevelopment or capital improvement completes another link. The overall effort re-engineers walking and cycling into car-oriented streets and public spaces.
While the Atlantic Greenway Network Plan makes beach to bay connections and runs along the beachfront, the City also considers neighborhood function and aesthetics in its streetscape improvements. The South Pointe Master Plan identifies 13 neighborhoods for a planned progress program of streetscape improvements. The plan works from eight typologies that include curb bump-outs, tree grates, lighting, shade trees, and what everyone wants to see when they come to Miami—palm trees.
As the city works its way through each neighborhood, citizens help develop a “basis of design” report that identifies designs and applications unique to each neighborhood. The resulting improvements, says Lorber, encourage people to walk by creating safe and comfortable streets for pedestrians and by corralling cars, but also include stormwater and drainage improvements.
While many of these designs take on a particular tropical style, they are also lessons for other communities. Garages that become landmarks and destinations, a continuing commitment to transportation alternatives and trail connections, and streetscape that adds value on every corner don’t need palm trees to be successful.
Claudia Kousoulas is a freelance writer and an urban planner with the Montgomery County Maryland Planning Department, where she blogs on The Straight Line.
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.
Subscribe via Email
Find us on Facebook
- John Gamble on El Portal Councilperson Presses CITT on Rail
- Jacob on Movement for Miami’s First On-Street Bicycle Parking Corral Gaining Traction
- Anonymous on El Portal Councilperson Presses CITT on Rail
- Anonymous on El Portal Councilperson Presses CITT on Rail
- ajozz on Florida Turnpike Expansion “Open House”
- Mark Rampion on El Portal Councilperson Presses CITT on Rail
CategoriesAccident Architecture bicycles bike lanes Bike Miami Days biking Biscayne Boulevard Brickell bus Climate Change Coconut Grove complete streets Downtown Miami FDOT High Speed Rail Metrorail Miami Miami-Dade County Miami-Dade Transit Miami 21 Miami Beach Museum Park News Parking Parks Pedestrian Pedestrians Pic o' the Day Planning Real Estate Development Rickenbacker Causeway Sprawl Streetcar Traffic Transit Transitography Transit Oriented Development Transportation Tri-Rail Uncategorized Urban Design Urban Development Boundary Urban Growth Urban Planning Walkability
- Is BBC's Architecture Mini-Series Biased Against Women? March 9, 2014The BBC is in hot water over alleged gender bias in its mini-series "The Brits Who Built the Modern World."
- Removing a Vehicle Lane? It’s Not the End of the World March 9, 2014Most members of the public are still very skeptical that removing a vehicle lane won’t cause terrible congestion—especially on already busy streets. A recent articles details some of the counter arguments to those concerns.
- Dallas Housing Department Scrutinized March 9, 2014A recent federal investigation into civil rights violations has given way to calls for a reorganization. A recent editorial examines the ways the Dallas Housing Department is failing.
- Historic Examples of 'Urbanism Without Government' March 8, 2014We’ve all heard the question “but who will build the roads?” put to libertarians. In a recent article, Emily Washington examines historic examples of urban settings that developed without the guidance of a government.
- How Can Los Angeles Fix its Broken Sidewalks? Shared Responsibility March 8, 2014City leaders have been in a struggle to come up with a viable solution to fix its buckling sidewalks for the past 50 years. Real estate developer Michael P. Russell takes a look at the work that needs to be done and outlines a plan for a fix.
- San Francisco Enacts Plastic Water Bottle Ban March 8, 2014First came plastic bags, then styrofoam cups, and now, plastic water bottles—though the ban is not as far-reaching as the former two in that it is restricted to sales on city property, including street fairs.
- Record Fine for Coal Company March 8, 2014The largest ever fine for polluting waterways, $27.5 million plus $200 million in clean-up costs was assigned to a coal company. NewsHour co-anchor Gwen Ifill interviews Dina Cappiello of The Associated Press to discuss water pollution from coal.
- Note to 'Best Workplace' List-Makers: The Commute Matters March 8, 2014Baltimore Magazine’s annual “Best Places to Work” list factors in in salaries, benefits, and workplace perks—but not commuting. In the Washington, DC metro area, that’s no small thing.
- Denver Planning Board Steamrolls Opposition in Rezoning Controversy March 7, 2014In news that will come as either refreshing or frightening depending on your perspective, the Denver Planning Board recently ignored public opposition and voted to recommend rezoning in the University Park neighborhood.
- Bus Rapid Transit on Track in Albuquerque March 7, 2014Following three years of study, Albuquerque Mayor RJ Berry declared a “tipping point” in the city’s BRT plans. The city will require a federal matching grant to proceed.
- Is BBC's Architecture Mini-Series Biased Against Women? March 9, 2014
- Transit Miami