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Five years after moving to Miami to start working at UM, it is a good time for a quick recap: the good and the bad. And while what happens (and crucially: doesn’t happen) on the Rickenbacker Causeway is important, it is symptomatic of much larger systemic issues in the area.

The Good

Let’s start with some of the good developments. They are easier to deal with as unfortunately they aren’t that numerous. Miami-Dade Transit has – despite some questionable leadership decisions and pretty awful security contractors – put into place some important projects such as a decent public transit connection from MIA and while the user experience leaves a number of things to be desired, it generally works; so do TriRail and the express buses to Broward and elsewhere; a number of cities have local trolley systems and while not a great solution in some places, it’s a start; Miami Beach has DecoBike and it seems that it is being used widely – and the service is slated to come to the City of Miami some time in 2014; Miami is finally becoming a city, albeit an adolescent one with a core that, while still dominated by car traffic, is more amenable to foot and bike traffic than it was five years ago (and there are plans for improvement); and at least there is now a debate about the value of transportation modes that do not involve cars only.

The Bad

Yet at the same time, it seems like Miami still suffers from a perfect storm of lack of leadership, vision and long-term planning, competing jurisdictions which makes for easy finger-pointing when something goes wrong, civic complacency and the pursuance of self-interest. Add to that a general disregard for cyclists, pedestrians and those taking public transit. All of this leaves the area as one of the most dangerous places to bike and walk in the country. And instead of actively working towards increasing the safety of those – in an area where many drivers are behaving in a dangerous manner – that do not have the protection of the exoskeleton of 4000 lbs of steel or aluminum, infrastructure is being built without regard for the most vulnerable.

impact-of-speed2 (1)

Poor Leadership and Lack of Political Will

At the top of the list is the rampant lack of genuine support for the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians as well as public transit. The area remains mired in car-centric planning and mindset. While other places have grasped the potential for improving the lives of people with walkable urban environments, we live in an area whose civic and political leadership does not appear to even begin to understand this value (and whose leadership likely doesn’t take public transit).

This starts with a mayor and a county commission (with some exceptions) whose mindset continues to be enamored with “development” (i.e. building housing as well as moving further and further west instead of filling in existing space, putting more and more strain on the existing infrastructure). How about building a viable public transit system on the basis of plans that have existed for years, connecting the western suburbs with the downtown core? How about finally linking Miami Beach to the mainland via a light rail system? How about build a similar system up the Biscayne corridor or, since the commission is so enamored with westwards expansion, connect the FIU campus or other areas out west? And while we’re at it, let’s do away with dreamy projects in lieu of achievable ones? Instead of trying to build the greatest this or greatest that (with public money no less), one could aim for solidity. What we get is a long overdue spur (calling it a line is pushing it) to the airport with no chance of westwards expansion.

Few of the cities do much better and indeed Miami consistently ranks among the worst-run cities in the country (easy enough when many city residents are apathetic in the face of dysfunctional city government or only have a domicile in Miami, but don’t actually live here). When the standard answer of the chief of staff of a City of Miami commissioner is that “the people in that street don’t want it” when asked about the installation of traffic calming devices that would benefit many people in the surrounding area, it shows that NIMBYism is alive and kicking, that there is no leadership and little hope that genuine change is coming.

Car-Centric, Not People-Centric, Road Design

One of the most egregious culprits is the local FDOT district, headed by Gus Pego. While the central office in Tallahassee and some of the other districts seem to finally have arrived in the 21st century, FDOT District 6 (Miami-Dade and Monroe counties) has a steep learning curve ahead and behaves like an institution that is responsible for motor vehicles rather than modern transportation. Examples include the blatant disregard of Florida’s legislation concerning the concept of “complete streets” (as is the case in its current SW 1st Street project where parking seems more important to FDOT than the safety of pedestrians or cyclists – it has no mandate for the former, but certainly for the latter) or its continued refusal to lower the speed limits on the roads it is responsible for, especially when they are heavily frequented by cyclists and pedestrians. All of this is embodied in its suggestion that cyclists shouldn’t travel the roads the district constructs. According to their own staff, they are too dangerous.

The county’s public works department – with some notable exceptions – is by and large still stuck in a mindset of car-centricism and does not have the political cover to make real improvements to the infrastructure. Roads are still constructed or reconstructed with wide lanes and with the goal of moving cars at high speeds as opposed to creating a safe environment for all participants. Yes, that may mean a decrease in the “level of service”, but maybe the lives and the well-being of fellow humans is more important than getting to one’s destination a minute more quickly (and if you have decided to move far away from where you work, that’s just a factor to consider). The most well-known example is the Rickenbacker Causeway which still resembles a highway after three people on bicycles were killed in the last five years and where speeding is normal, despite numerous assurances from the political and the administrative levels that safety would actually increase. Putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t make things much better and that is all that has happened so far. But even on a small scale things don’t work out well. When it takes Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami months to simply install a crosswalk in a residential street (and one entity is responsible for the sidewalk construction, while the other does the actual crosswalk) and something is done only after much intervention and many, many meetings, it is little wonder that so little gets done.

(Almost) Zero Traffic Enforcement

It continues with police departments that enforce the rules of the road selectively and haphazardly at best, and at least sometimes one has the very clear impression that pedestrians and cyclists are considered a nuisance rather than an equal participant in traffic. Complaints about drivers are routinely shrugged off, requests for information are rarely fulfilled and in various instances police officers appear unwilling to give citations to drivers who have caused cyclists to crash (and would much rather assist in an exchange of money between driver and victim, as was recently the case).

The above really should be the bare minimum. What is really required – given the dire situation – is for public institutions to be proactive. But short of people kicking and screaming, it does not appear that those in power want to improve the lives and well-being of the people that they technically serve. I view this issue as an atmospheric problem, one that cannot easily be remedied by concrete action, but rather one that requires a mindset change. A good starting point: instead of trying to be “the best” or “the greatest” at whatever new “projects” people dream up (another tall “luxury” tower, nicest parking garage [is that what we should be proud of, really?], let’s just try not to be among the worst. But that would require leadership. The lack thereof on the county and the municipal level (FDOT personnel is not elected and at any rate, is in a league of their own when it comes to being tone-deaf) means that more people need to kick and scream to get something done (in addition to walking and biking more). Whether this is done through existing groups or projects like the Aaron Cohen initiative (full disclosure: I am part of the effort) is immaterial. But if there is to be real improvement, a lot more people need to get involved.


A Transit Miami shout-out to the Village of Miami Shores and the Miami Shores Police Department. Everyday should be bike to school day if only the County and the FDOT could get their act together and design streets that are safe for children to ride on.  Unfortunately, they only way to ride safely is with a police escort.



Open Transit: Transit Design for Urban Living

By studying transit landmarks like Grand Central Terminal, visited by 750,000 commuters, diners, and shoppers daily, and Rockefeller Plaza, essentially a large subway transit concourse, guest speaker Peter Cavaluzzi shares his Key Principles of Open Transit.

  • Learn what’s essential to successful contemporary urban design and redevelopment.
  • What makes successful iconic urban spaces and discover how to apply these principles to any building development.
  • Leverage and position transit facilities and infrastructure to create iconic designs without dominating the view.



A white BMW hit a cyclist going out of Key Biscayne at Bear Cut Bridge this morning. The driver didn’t stop. Fortunately, the cyclist was not seriously injured. This is the sixth cyclist in a week that has been hit on the Rickebacker Causeway.

Click here to send Mayor Carlos Gimenez an email and let him know that the Rickenbacker Causeway needs to be made safer for everyone.

Here are our recommendations to improve safety on the Rickebacker Causeway:

Short Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway
• Enforcement of the 45 mph speed limit and regular DUI checkpoints
• Reduce speed limit to 35 mph
• Close the right lane of traffic in both directions on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6:00 am to 10:00am.
• Better signage
• Motorist and bicyclist education campaign

Long Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway
A major capital improvements project needs to happen and all users must be considered. Below are a few of the major improvements that need to occur:
• Paint bicycle lanes green (see below: intersections should include peg-a-traking and Chevron arrows)
• Create a 3 foot unprotected buffer between the roadway and the bicycle lane
• Major road diet. Narrowing of traffic lanes to discourage speeding (11 foot lane)
• Proper crosswalks, with stop lights, that can be activated by pedestrians.
• A separate path for pedestrians (pedestrians and bicyclist should not coexist)
• Consider physical separation as a feature in dangerous areas such as bridges and marked buffers along trajectory of bike lane
• Motorist and bicyclist education campaign

impact-of-speed2 (1)


A total of five cyclists were injured in two separate incidents on December 31-both incidents involved cyclists being struck by cars.

Before we go any further the buck stops with MAYOR CARLOS JIMENEZ- we are holding him accountable for the existing unsafe cycling conditions on the Rickenbacker Causeway. There have been too many broken promises by the County and he needs to be held responsible.

The first incident occurred on the William Powell Bridge at 6:05 am . A group of about 20 cyclists were riding up the bridge when a drunk driver struck 4 of the cyclists from behind. Luckily no one was killed, however one of the cyclist suffered two broken ribs. The driver admitted to drinking and driving and was arrested at the scene. He was so drunk that he was throwing up at the scene. See picture below.

Driver was drunk and throwing up.

Driver was drunk and throwing up.

About two hours later another cyclist was struck in front of Mast Academy according to CBS4. Fire Rescue took the cyclist to the hospital and there is no word on the cyclist’s condition. The driver stayed on the scene.

As many of you know, we have been advocating for safer cycling condition on the Rickenbacker Causeway for the better part of half a decade and the County has done virtually nothing to make it safer. There have been at least 3 deaths on the Rickenbacker Causeway and countless other serious injuries that have not garnered any media attention whatsoever, such as this incident involving the drunk driver.

Every time someone is killed on the Rickenbacker, the County comes up with some half-baked idea (i.e. placing mile markers, rumple strips) in a failed attempt to say they have done something to make this urban highway safer; all  the so-called “safety improvements” have proven to be a  complete failure. Quite frankly, I’m tired of all political grandstanding that happens every time a cyclist is killed. I don’t want more bike summits, meetings and broken promises of improvements to come.  How many more cyclists need to be killed before Mayor Gimenez does something to make the Rickenacker Causeway safer for everyone?

Once again, here are our recommendations. They were made nearly 4 years ago:

Short Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway
• Enforcement of the 45 mph speed limit and regular DUI checkpoints
• Reduce speed limit to 35 mph
• Close the right lane of traffic in both directions on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6:00 am to 10:00am.
• Better signage
• Motorist and bicyclist education campaign

Long Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway
A major capital improvements project needs to happen and all users must be considered. Below are a few of the major improvements that need to occur:
• Paint bicycle lanes green (see below: intersections should include peg-a-traking and Chevron arrows)
• Create a 3 foot unprotected buffer between the roadway and the bicycle lane
• Major road diet. Narrowing of traffic lanes to discourage speeding (11 foot lane)
• Proper crosswalks, with stop lights, that can be activated by pedestrians.
• A separate path for pedestrians (pedestrians and bicyclist should not coexist)
• Consider physical separation as a feature in dangerous areas such as bridges and marked buffers along trajectory of bike lane
• Motorist and bicyclist education campaign

Speeding is clearly an issue that has not been adequately addressed by the County as is clearly demonstrated by this video:

As long as the design speed of the Rickenbacker Causeway exceeds 35 mph we can expect many more deaths and injuries.


btw: Several months ago friend of Transit Miami, June Savage,  invited both Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Commissioner Xavier Suarez to join her for a bike ride after she met with them because she was nearly run over on Bear Cut Bridge and threatened to sue. Both agreed to ride, but so far have not.  I double-dog dare them to ride and I would invite them to bring their children and grandchildren to join them. After the ride, I’d like to see them to tell the cycling community that the Rickenbacker Causeway is safe for biking and that they would encourage parent’s to bring their children along with them. As an experienced cyclist, husband and father, I no longer ride the Rickenbacker Causeway because I feel it’s too dangerous.

Miami Dade County is  the 3rd most dangerous metropolitan area in the US for pedestrians and cyclists and our elected officials are doing virtually nothing to make conditions safer;  in fact the County is doing the opposite-they are doing an excellent job of discouraging even seasoned cyclists like myself from riding. The whole situation is just embarrassing. There is no leadership at the County level when is comes to making our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

My last suggestion:  Call former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  He just launched an urban consulting firm, Bloomberg Associates, which will dish out free advise to communities looking to make their streets safer. We can use all the help we can get.

According to the NYT:

“The organization, to be called Bloomberg Associates, will act as an urban SWAT team, deployed at the invitation of local governments to solve knotty, long-term challenges, like turning a blighted waterfront into a gleaming public space, or building subway-friendly residential neighborhoods.”


Click here to send Mayor Carlos Gimenez an email and let him know that the Rickenbacker Causeway needs to be made safer for everyone.




FDOT Collins

When the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) announced that they were simultaneously performing major road work on Miami Beach’s two main thoroughfares, Collins Ave and Alton Road, most beach residents shook their heads in disbelief. Was it really wise to shut down half of Collins Ave from summer 2013 – 2014 (1 year) and also detour all of Alton Road’s southbound traffic to West Ave during the same time and beyond (2013 – 2015)? After all, these are the main roads that allow tourists, trucks, busses, and locals to navigate Miami Beach from it’s Southern tip towards the Middle and North areas. Not to mention, there are major events happening during the winter months, from Art Basel, South Beach Wine and Food Festival, the Boat Show to NYE, something is always happening that requires people to, well, drive to the beach since there is no public transportation to Miami Beach to speak of. Some locals worried about a “carmaggedon” and started pressuring the city government and FDOT to provide some better alternatives for those who need to get in and out of Miami Beach.

Little did those worriers know about FDOT’s master scheme. You see, FDOT is not simply blind to the traffic gridlock that hit Miami Beach since the construction started. Neither are FDOT’s engineers and project managers insensitive to local’s concerns over pollution and congestion. In fact, FDOT is simply helping us out by finally providing ample parking spaces that were badly needed. Everyone knows that parking in Miami Beach is a mess. Now, you no longer need to hunt around the beach looking for that elusive spot, only to find that it’s in a Tow Away Zone (don’t mess with Beach Towing). Simply drive to Miami Beach, and conventiently park your car right on West Ave.

FDOT West Ave

Convenient Parking right on Miami Beach thanks to FDOT

FDOT West Ave

Safe during day and night, just park and go











From here, you can explore the area, dine in one of our neighborhood restaurants, and take a pleasant walk (don’t mind the smell of exhausts, or do like Sarah Palin and learn to simply love the smell of it).

If you like, you could also park right on Venetian Causeway (as mentioned in yesterday’s post), this comes in handy during those busy weekends when you just cannot wait to get to your event and simply need to park right away.

FDOT Miami Beach

Ample Parking on the Venetian Causeway

The great thing is that your car will be in the exact same spot even hours later.

Best of all? The parking is completely FREE of charge! (Residents agreed to chip in a bit by putting up with a the extra noise and pollution, but what is that compared to FREE PARKING in Miami Beach??)

Isn’t that something to be grateful for? Little by little, FDOT is not only fixing our streets, but is also addressing our parking problem without the need to hire any starchitects at all, just using our existing, previously underused, streetscape. Now, if that was not a stroke of genius, I don’t know what is. Thank You, FDOT!


Although no pedestrians have died or been critically injured on the Brickell Avenue “Death Curve”, it’s just a matter of time before someone is.  These pictures and commentary come via a Transit Miami reader. The crash happened several weeks ago. I’ve lost count on the number of crashes that have occurred here, but there have been at least 7 crashes in the past 4 three and a half years.

“Yet another one last night or early today. The new streetlight in front of Echo site was hit straight on and is very damaged, also lots of smaller car parts littered immediate area today.

Also there was one large fender piece in median in front of St Jude’s

PS: as of last night that light pole does NOT work, so corner is now dark”




The Echo Brickell project has recently been announced and construction will begin soon at the exact location where all these crashes have occurred.  This project will have 175 units with retail on the ground floor.  If the design of the road remains the same, we can expect a nasty crash with a lot of injuries once the project is completed. FDOT and the city of Miami have been put on notice. If nothing is done immediately both will have blood on their hands.

You can also send an email to FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego and Commissioner Marc Sarnoff to see if they plan to do anything to address the design speed on Brickell Avenue.  I think it’ pretty evident that we have a problem here.


One year ago, I moved away from Miami to Washington, DC. Just last week, I took my first trip back to the Magic Ciy – and here’s what I saw.

When I arrived at MIA around 5pm on Monday, an Orange line train was already waiting to depart the new Metrorail Station. After an unintelligible announcement over the loudspeaker, the train pulled away from the station with my car completely empty aside from me. A quick glance around confirmed that no 50 State Security guards were on board, so I managed to snap this picture without getting Carlos Miller’d and taken off the train. (Reminder: photography is legal on the Metrorail despite what some security guards think)

From Government Center, I hopped into a nearby Car2Go and was sitting at one of my favorite bars, The Corner, within minutes. The total travel time from the airport to downtown barstool was less than 30 minutes. Pretty terrific considering those options didn’t exist only a few months ago, but where is Decobike for the city of Miami already?

Here’s a makeshift bus station bench downtown I passed. Not sure this qualifies as a tactical urbanist street seat intervention.

The rest of my trip consisted of a smattering of pan con bistec, cortadito, bicycling and walking around. Of course, there were the demeaning reminders of Florida’s auto supremacy. Like at this new mid-block crossing on NW 36th Street dividing Midtown and the Design District, where FDOT reminds us to Thank the Driver.

Thank the driver? For what, exactly? Not running me over? Following the law? Perhaps they should include direction #5: Call 911.

Oh hear ye royal motorists of Miami! Allow me to offer my sincere gratitude for permitting me to cross your streets!

After a few minutes of watching pedestrians try and use this crosswalk, I’ll concede it’s definitely an improvement over nothing. Some drivers actually did stop for the flashing beacon. But it was mid-afternoon and traffic was relatively light. I can imagine it’s a different story during a weekday rush hour where a bonafide traffic signal would work better.

Most people go to the beach on their vacation to Miami. I watched people trying to cross a street. Sad, I know.

Most people go to the beach on their vacation to Miami. I watched people trying to cross a street. Sad, I know.

Friday evening, I rode the monthly Miami Critical Mass ride though Little Havana, Downtown and Coral Gables with about 2,500 other bicyclists, tricyclists, skaters and wheeled riders of all sorts. The rain kept the numbers down a bit but the pace was slow and the group stayed together. It was one of the better rides I’ve been a part of.


The next day, the eastbound car traffic on the Venetian Causeway was so heavy, I must have passed over 200 idling cars on my way to the beach. The bicycle traffic on the other hand, was not an issue.

Whizzing by so many people entombed inside giant climate-controlled SUV’s while it’s a perfect 78 degrees outside with gentle on-shore breeze always makes me feel a bit sad and a bit smug at the same time. The only real downside is having to breathe in the fumes from all of these clumsy machines on what is otherwise a pleasant, scenic and relatively safe route to the beach.

Below is a picture of arguably Miami Beach’s most famous building.

I’ve expressed my disdain for Miami Beach’s ‘starchitect’ parking garage addiction on here before, which serve as narcotics for cars that only encourage more driving and more traffic, degrading the experience on Miami Beach for everyone. Former TM writer and author Mike Lydon adds it’s “another lauded building destined to be reviled.” At least DecoBike is a viable way to simply opt-out of the motordom.

Newsflash: We’ve been trying to build our way out of traffic congestion for almost 100 years now. Guess what? It’s never worked – and it’s time for a different approach.

A visitor from New York that I follow on Twitter, the Newyorkist, also noticed that Miami Beach has their priorities all out of whack when it comes to making space for people over cars.

He even spoke to a few local residents on the street about the issue…

Newyorkist also noticed that we don’t have many parks and suggested some underused parcels be transformed.

It’s a valid observation, considering Miami is losing more parks than it’s gaining. Miami is already ranked #94 out of the top 100 US cities for acres of parkland per resident – and that number is set to fall. A number of city parks have been closed due to toxic contamination and the temporary lease for downtown’s Grand Central Park expired this week as well.

Speaking of Grand Central Park, I rode by this tragic scene on Saturday morning…

Like the band that played on the deck of the Titanic until the ship went down, the skaters stayed until the last remaining pavement was ripped up from under their wheels.

Ah Miami. For all of it’s problems and weirdness, a sublime breakfast at Casablanca along the Miami River is the perfect place to forget about it all and just enjoy the moment.

Until you pull up the news on your iPhone and find out this happened the night before…

I was soon off to the airport, where I deftly avoided taking one of Miami’s infamous taxi cabs in favor of another Car2Go trip.

Soon I was 10,000 feet in the air snapping this picture – thanks to the new American Airlines policy allowing electronic devices at takeoff.

¡Hasta Luego, Miami! Until next time…when hopefully there will be some new bike lanes.


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YL Toro Toro Notice 12.12


This video is great. Please forward this video to Mayor Regalado and County Mayor Gimenez. There is no reason why we can’t do this in the 305, all we need is a little leadership and vision.  I’ll pay for the paint.



Manhattanization is a term we’ve become accustomed to in Miami. It‘s existed since at least the 1960s to describe cities from San Francisco to Santiago, but it became a prominent buzzword in the 2000s to describe the rapid transformation of downtown Miami and Brickell. Now that the building boom is back in full swing, so is the term. And along with it comes the debate about whether what we’re seeing unfold in Miami is actually a step towards a Manhattan-esque urban environment.

Whether downtown Miami is beginning to resemble Manhattan is debatable. Certainly, our skyline is growing. It may not be as tall, as dense, or as diverse as the Manhattan skyline, but it is taking shape as an expanse of skyscrapers that stretches for miles. Our love affair with the skyscraper has built a skyline that is far larger than those of cities twice our size and it has become a point of pride for us. We’re also seeing more amenities typical of other great urban metropolises: more restaurants and cafes, parks and shops, museums and galleries, etc. Granted, the differences between a Brickell streetscape and just about anywhere in Manhattan are still pretty stark, but the increased options and vibrancy are important steps towards a more urban Miami.

But there’s one area where Miami has unequivocally achieved Manhattanization: cost of living. It now costs as much to live in many parts of downtown Miami as it does to live in Manhattan. I’m not referring to Miami’s luxury condo market. In fact, that is one segment where we’re not yet like Manhattan – Miami condo prices can reach $10 million or more; it’s high, but it doesn’t begin to nip at the heels of New York’s $100 million market. Rather, downtown Miami is becoming as expensive as Manhattan is for the everyday citizen. Manhattan still has far higher housing costs than downtown Miami and Brickell, but that gap is closed when factoring in Miami’s much higher transportation costs.

This point is now more clearly made thanks to the new Location Affordability Index (LAI). The LAI, unveiled earlier this month, is the work of a joint venture between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation. It’s a tool that allows the public to calculate what it costs to live where they live, and how they could possibly save money by moving or by changing their transportation habits. The LAI is based on the philosophy known as “Housing + Transportation” or “H+T.” H+T asserts that knowing just the cost of housing isn’t enough to get a full picture of cost of living. You also need to know how much it costs to get from your home to other places, like your workplace and your family and friends. In other words, you need to know the cost of transportation.

Cost of transportation is harder to calculate and harder to keep track of in our heads when we think about how much we spend. For most people, housing expenditures occur in one monthly payment, either a rent check or a mortgage payment. Those amounts may include a variety of costs, like loan principle, interest, taxes, insurance, etc., but it’s still just one payment, one amount. Transportation is different, particularly if you drive a car. There’s the purchase price of a car, which may occur in monthly payments or if you paid up front, would need to be prorated over the life of the car. Insurance is paid separately, either monthly, annually, or biannually. Gas and parking costs are paid sporadically. The result is that most people never think about the full cost of transportation, and when they do, they usually underestimate.

AAA estimated that the average cost of car ownership in the United States in 2012 was roughly $9,000 for all cars and as much as $11,000-$12,000 for larger cars and SUVs. But that’s the average for the entire country. Costs can be far greater in places like Miami where insurance rates and parking costs are higher. The difference between a couple owning two cars and a couple that commutes by train or bicycle can be over $20,000 per year. That’s an additional $1,500-$2,000 per month that can go towards rent or a mortgage. And that’s the reason why living in downtown Miami and Brickell can be as costly as living in Manhattan.

To demonstrate the point, I put some addresses into the LAI:

  • A typical household living in West Brickell owns 1.2 cars      (average), drives 11,000 miles, and takes 350 transit trips each year.      They spend just shy of $23,000 annually on housing and transportation.      That’s 47 percent of their total income. Housing costs account for $17,000      approximately; transportation costs amount to $7,000.
  • Meanwhile, a typical household on the Upper West Side in      Manhattan owns 0.3 cars, drives 2,000 miles, and takes 2,000 transit trips      each year. They spend just over $27,000 annually on housing and      transportation. That’s 43 percent of their total income (the LAI factors      in average wage differences between metro areas. On average, wages in NYC      are 30 percent higher than in Miami). Housing costs account for $23,000      approximately; transportation costs amount to less than $4,000.

One more:

  • A typical household in the heart of downtown Miami owns      1.1 cars, drives 11,000 miles, and takes 250 transit trips each year. They      spend $19,000 annually on housing and transportation. That’s 38 percent of      their total income. Housing costs account for $12,000 approximately;      transportation costs amount to $7,000.
  • Meanwhile, a typical household in the East Village in      Manhattan owns 0.5 cars, drives 3,500 miles, and takes 1,500 transit trips      each year. They spend just shy of $20,000 annually on housing and      transportation. That’s 31 percent of their income. Housing costs account      for $16,000 approximately; transportation costs amount to $4,000.

New York City is the embodiment for unaffordable living, but that’s largely based on an incomplete picture. The extra amounts that New Yorkers spend on housing are made up for by cost savings from cheaper transportation options. Miami, on the other hand, has relatively cheaper housing, but getting from place to place means additional costs stemming from car ownership.

There are a lot of implications here. Most obvious is that we can decrease cost of living and improve quality of life for Miamians by investing in better transportation options. One cause for optimism is that housing costs and transportation costs are only indirectly linked. Decreasing transportation costs by building more transit and better bike lanes will not directly increase housing costs (although, countless studies show that such infrastructure increases property values because it makes neighborhoods more desirable), so we can make real reductions in the cost of living.

There are also implications here for the brain drain and the future of our economy. When Miami competes with Manhattan for talent, it cannot make the argument that downtown Miami has a lower cost of living than New York. Lower cost of living has traditionally been the truest arrow in the quiver of cities seeking to steal talent from New York, but when we consider H+T, we see that for many cities, including Miami, that’s actually not the case. There isn’t much money to be saved, if any at all, by choosing downtown Miami over Manhattan. And for those who decide to look outside of New York because Manhattan is just too expensive, they’ll likely find that downtown Miami and Brickell are too expensive as well. Rather, they may end up in cities that offer a true lower cost of living with similar urban amenities, like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. That talent is now revitalizing those cities the way it revitalized Manhattan in the 1990s when lower cost of living – from cheaper housing AND cheaper transportation – allowed thousands of educated young professionals to flood the city.

But all of this changes if we take the automobile out of the equation. If you can manage a car-free life, suddenly Miami becomes really affordable. The difference is that Manhattan is expensive because it has to be (although zoning changes under Bloomberg may help mitigate these high costs by generating more supply). But Miami is expensive because we’ve made it that way. The takeaway should be this: We can fix it and we know how to fix it. The average Miamian need not cough up half of her income on housing and transportation. As housing costs continue to rise, we must make extra efforts to reduce transportation costs by offering better options. We must give Miamians the same options that New Yorkers have: to own a car if we want one, but to live comfortably and with dignity without one.

For more reading, check out this article from last year on Streetsblog, which reviewed data from the Center for Neighborhood Technology and determined Miami to be the least affordable metropolitan area for moderate-income renters and homeowners. The most affordable? Washington, DC.




I arrived at 5 pm on a Sunday at MIA and decided to take the train home in Coconut Grove. This should be a simple proposition. The system is new, so one expects it to be clean. No bonus points for that. Connecting the airport with the rest of the area is a no-brainer and should have been a long time ago.

I tried tracking the train over MDT’s app, but got nowhere (it’s generally good). No exact times to be found. I proceeded to the station at any rate. Once there it would have been good to have a central information point that listed the different departure times for buses and trains. No information to be found.

I decided to check the train platform and paid to do so without knowing when a train would depart. No information to be found

I tried the station personnel of which there were plenty and they had nothing to do. No information to be found and no willingness to seek it.

At some point a train came. No one knew when it would leave.

I like public transit. I grew up with it. But public transit needs to make it easy for users and here is where MDT fails. You could give people information about the available options so that they can choose.  But MDT doesn’t. Transportation systems in “world class cities” (which so many Miami politicians like to compare themselves to) do.

If this is how Miami greets it’s visitors then Miami fails epicly.

PS: To top it all off, while waiting on the train the public announcements were nonsensical and the most unprofessional I have ever witnessed anywhere in the world. It was as if the person on the microphone had a conversation with another person. Visitors on the train rolled their eyes. Locals just assume that this is how we roll in Miami.


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Via Andrew Frey from the Townhouse Center:

You are invited to a presentation of free plans for a Miami building prototype on Tue, Nov 19 from 6 to 8 PM at Mansini’s Pizza House in Little Havana.  The goal is to help small property owners and builders imagine how they can profit from a small site, and save money on design costs.  The plans are by award-winning architecture firm ISA (in collaboration with Townhouse Center and supported by the Knight Foundation) and will be presented by ISA founder Brian Phillips.  The brief presentation will be followed by a panel — featuring Fernando Arencibia of RE/MAX, Jeanette Blanch of Continental Bank, Hernando Carrillo of HacArchitects, and Gavin McKenzie of McKenzie Construction – and audience Q&A to discuss the plans and opportunities and challenges of small projects.  The plans can be downloaded at

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The free event is open to the public, especially non-developers, but please register in advance by email to 

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