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
Miami is undergoing one of the most magnificent metamorphoses in its history.
One of the impetuses of this transformation is the Florida East Coast Industries’ (FECI) corridor project called All Aboard Florida. The project will link Miami and Southeast Florida to Orlando and Central Florida.
It’s a very big deal.
The fine folks at All Aboard Florida have been kind enough to share with TransitMiami a good aerial view of its 9-acre holdings in the west-central part of our downtown, that drab, de facto government-institutional land-use district in serious need of some transit-oriented development.
We’re hoping the development of the downtown train station — the tentatively named “Miami Grand Central Station” — might just do the trick for this lifeless, barren sea-of-asphalt section of downtown.
All Aboard Florida passed through its first evaluation gauntlet by receiving a formal “Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)” from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). According to our contacts over at All Aboard, the project is “still in the environmental process for the entire corridor”.
Things are a-changin’!
On that note, a few weeks back, we here at TransitMiami encouraged you to support the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s effort to have a multi-use trail added to the planned railway. While the official window for public commentary has closed, we’d still like to hear your thoughts!
Cast your vote in the poll below!
The Middle River Neighborhood in the City of Fort Lauderdale is considering three options for their section of North Dixie Highway, including rejecting $2.3 million is MPO funding that would include a road diet, new and improved crosswalks and a solid green bike lane that would continue along the section to the north (into Wilton Manors).
Neighbors and local business owners packed a public meeting tonight and some argued for paving the swale on one side with a 12 ft wide shared use path (sidewalk) instead of accepting funding for the green lanes. Why would they want to do this?
Some arguments made for the “shared-use path” option:
- Even if the speed is 30mph, I drive 40mph, at least, so cyclists should ride on the sidewalk for their own safety. [Response: that’s why city is recommending multiple traffic calming measures, including speed tables at crossings.]
- No one has ever been killed by a car reversing out of a driveway while they were riding a bike on a sidewalk. [Response: You’re lucky. Many people are not.]
- Narrowing the travel lanes to 10’ will slow down traffic too much and how can that be legal when trucks can be 8 ½ ‘ wide. [The purpose of this project, even the shared use path option, is to discourage tractor trailers from this roadway.]
- Why do we need any of this? Can’t we just leave everything the way it is? [Response: Well, yes on both. If we don't use it, another city project in the LRTP pipeline will.]
- Is there any proof that bike lanes increase property values? The local economy?
My response, of course, is there are several. Here are a few that come to mind:
- In 2010, rents along NYC’s new Times Square-area green bike lanes increased 71% – the greatest rise in the city.[APTA]
- When San Francisco put its own 4-lane Valencia Street through a project similar to the one proposed for Dixie Highway (road diet, adding bike lanes and better pedestrian crossings], nearly 40% of local business owners reported increased sales and 60% reported more area residents shopping locally due to reduced travel time and convenience. Two-thirds said business improved overall. [San Francisco Bicycle Coalition]
- Across American cities, houses located in areas that are particularly bicycle and/or pedestrian friendly are worth as much as $34,000 more than comparable houses with just average walkability/bikeability. [CEOs for Cities]
- Toronto merchants surveyed in 2009 reported that patrons who came by bike or on visit not only stopped in their stores more often, but spent more money per month than those who came by car. [Clean Air Partnership]
- Find more stats in this article: Want to make money? Build Your Business on a Bike Lane (FastCo.exist)
There are more reasons to support the “green bike lanes” option:
- It has secured funding. Changing the concept negates the funding approval years in development and would leave the city to find money elsewhere.
- The bike lane concept includes funding for bio-swales, a critically needed and environmentally sound flood mitigation tool.
- Continuity. The lanes are planned for the contiguous section directly to the north. It is unfortunate the local politics and funding challenges have lead to so many sidewalks that end and bike lanes/trails/paths to nowhere. I hope that doesn’t happen here.
- People who ride for transportation are not required to ride on sidewalks, no matter how wide they are. Those who do, put themselves at risk at every driveway and reduce to safety of the path for kids and those walking their dogs.
- Road treatments like this reduce speeds and therefore improve safety for everyone. [NYC DOT]
There was a time when city officials and engineers were the ones fighting the bike facilities here in South Florida. The times are changing – will a different kind of local politics prevent our governments from doing the right thing in favor of cars and trucks?
Looks like we finally have a developer in the 305 that understands the importance of mobility options for urban dwellers. Newgard Development Group will soon begin construction of Centro in downtown Miami and they are marketing the building to potential buyers as a project that provides transportation choices for future residents. Not only will Centro be located in the heart of downtown, just blocks away from premium transit, but the developer has partnered with car2go to provide a car-share service at the building’s doorstep. In addition, Centro will have a bike share program for its residents as well.
Harvey Hernandez, Chairman and Managing Director, of the Newgard Development Group is clearly thinking out of the box and understands the importance of offering transportation options to urbanites. Last week I sat down with Mr. Hernandez to discuss his new project. Below is the interview I did with him for Miami Urbanist.
Newgard Development Group Chairman and Managing Director Harvey Hernandez sat down with me to discuss his two Miami projects that are currently under development in Brickell and Downtown. BrickellHouse is under construction and Centro will break ground later this year in the heart of Downtown Miami. The partners of Newgard Development Group have spent 15 years in the South Florida real estate market. Founded by Harvey Hernandez, Newgard’s management team brings 40 years of combined experience in development, design and construction. Newgard’s approach to development includes innovative luxury buildings in desirable, centrally located neighborhoods, pedestrian-oriented lifestyles with cutting-edge amenities.
Miami Urbanist: Miami and Orlando will soon be connected by rail thanks to All Aboard Florida. Hopefully, commuter rail will soon follow. What opportunities do you see for transit-oriented development in South Florida?
Harvey Hernandez: We see great opportunity here. One of the main reasons we chose the Centro site was its proximity to transit. We believe in density and that having premium transit within walking distance is an attractive alternative to the car. Our consumers don’t necessarily own two cars; many are able to live comfortably with one or no car. In fact we have teamed up with car2go and they will have a designated Parkspot hub on the ground floor of our building.
Miami Urbanist: What are the strongest characteristics of the Centro site?
Harvey Hernandez: It’s in the middle of everything! It’s close to Brickell and within walking distance of mass transit. Whole Foods and Brickell CityCentre will soon open a couple of blocks from Centro.
Miami Urbanist: Please explain the parking situation at Centro, there seems to be a few misconceptions about parking.
Harvey Hernandez: Zoning allows us to provide parking offsite; therefore we don’t have to build parking. The parking garage is within 100 yards of Centro. We have entered into an agreement with the Miami Parking Authority to provide parking. We also provide 24-hour valet service and there is always the car2go hub at our doorstep.
Miami Urbanist: Has the parking situation discouraged people from buying at Centro?
Harvey Hernandez: We don’t see it at all. The buyers are coming from all segments of the market; whether they are young professionals, retirees, or 2nd home consumers they have one thing in common—less reliance on the car. All of our buyers want the urban living experience—they want to walk to restaurants, bars, the arts and other amenities. Many of our buyers are coming from suburbia; they don’t want to deal with long drives and the cost associated with maintaining a car.
Miami Urbanist: There is also a bike share component to Centro, would you please elaborate on this?
Continue reading »
Are Miami’s proliferating pedestrian overpasses transforming the city into a hamster’s paradise?Cities should be built for people, not cars. It’s an irrefutable, almost cliché maxim that still, despite the seeming consensus around the notion, somehow gets lost in the city design and development process.
Greater Miami is a city whose incipient design and development occurred during the apex of the automobile era, an era which is slowly, but surely, dissipating. Our city’s auto-centric legacy thus predisposes planners and engineers to maintain that eroding model of spatial form and function.
The underlying fallacy comes from their failure to recognize the dynamism moving through the city, the revolutionary societal forces changing the way Miamians and metro-dwellers across the planet wish to live in, and interact with, their urban habitats.
Rather, these designers of dystopia look to the increasingly obsolete conditions of the past and — instead of embracing the change around them with innovative design solutions — seek to merely perpetuate the already expired status quo.
To our collective detriment, this status quo expresses itself with bipedal human beings relegated to the bottom of the mobility food chain. In Miami, and with a bit of irony, this demotion often manifests itself upward, where people wishing to get around on their own two feet are forced to ascend up to and move through so-called pedestrian overpasses.
In essence, though, these overpasses are really nothing short of hamster tunnels designed to accommodate and un-impede the movement of cars at the expense of people.
These overpasses reify the misguided mid-20th century notion that the automobile reigns supreme. All other modes of transport must make way for, and bow their heads to, the tyrannical king of the road.
Through these pedestrian overpasses, the built environment is effectively screaming at people who choose to use their own energy to get around the city: Step aside, petty pedestrians! Out of the way, bumbling bicyclists! The automobile is coming through!
These are not the messages we should be physically inscribing into the nature of our city. This is not the infrastructure needed to support a socially, economically, and ecologically thriving urban geography.
As our children and grandchildren inherit from us this little bit of Earth called Miami, they’ll be far more grateful to gain a livable place where they can enjoy the pleasures of the city on their own two feet at the ground level, rather than surrendering to the oppression of the automobile by scurrying through elevated mazes and tunnels.
You want to keep the streets safe for pedestrians? There’s only one real solution: Make the streets safe for pedestrians!
Be on the look-out for a follow-up article where TransitMiami looks at some of the broader social implications of building the proposed pedestrian overpass at US-1 and Mariposa in Coral Gables. Also, be sure to read TransitMiami’s previous piece on that particular proposal, written by TM writer and professional architect Jennifer Garcia.
Everyone knows that Miami has a serious problem with pedestrian injuries and fatalities; not a week goes by without reading an article about another pedestrian struck by a car. Miami is the 4th most dangerous city for pedestrians and cyclists in the Country right now.
This must change!
We live in one of the most beautiful, perfect climates in the world, yet stepping out our doors for a walk can be fatal. With Emerge Miami, I began organizing walks for pedestrian safety last year in response to this ongoing crisis. The concept is simple, during the time that pedestrians are legally allowed to enter the crosswalk, we have people with educational signs and statistics about pedestrians injuries and fatalities walk back and forth through the crosswalk. We also have educational materials to hand drivers and pedestrians.
Our next walk is in Little Havana on June 29th, a lovely neighborhood that should be safe and walkable, yet speeding cars and infrequent crosswalks make it a extremely dangerous for walkers, especially the many more elderly residents who live there.
As part of our walk we are asking that pedestrians who have been injured, and their families, to come out and join our walk to help put a personal face on this epidemic of injury and death.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words. This particular photo speaks to the state of pedestrian safety in Miami — beat-up and run-down!
According to Keith Lawler, the Brickell denizen who submitted this photo, this well-intended, yet seemingly ineffective, pedestrian safety signage is now, as of May 29, gone completely . . .
Something’s got to give . . .
My neighbors and I have been trying for several months to get the County and the City to do something about the out-of-control speeding problem on our street, but sadly the County and City have been dragging their feet and nothing has been done to address this very serious issue. Meanwhile drivers continue to speed on this residential street, at times hitting speeds of nearly 50mph.
Last week, the “Cone Fairy” swopped into Belle Meade in the middle of the night, and placed three traffic cones on NE 76th Street in an attempt to calm traffic on my street. Apparently the Cone Fairy is also sick and tired of the lack of progress by the County and City and she has taken it upon herself to place cones in the middle of the street in order to calm traffic. It appears that a small minority of my neighbors are not pleased with the cones nor do they seem to think that speeding is enough of a concern to properly address this very important issue.
A couple of weeks ago the Belle Meade HOA decided to take a vote on what to do:
This is the direction they choose to take:
1. Continue on-going process to have stamped asphalt (brick look) to all the crosswalks presently in Belle Meade. This will add some aesthetics to the streetscape plus make the crosswalks more prominently visible to vehicle operators.
2. Further pursue the installation of stop signs on 76th Street at NE 7th Court – both east and west bound – in an effort to slow traffic as it makes its way between 7thand 8th Avenues. The County recently conducted a traffic study of this location to determine the eligibility for these signs and concluded that they were not warranted based on traffic flow. Those in attendance last night requested that the HOA Board pursue the installation anyway through the political process based upon wanting to slow traffic. The next step is to contact our County Commissioner, Edmonson, since traffic signage is under the county and get direction from her on how we should proceed.
3. Initiate a public awareness/education program in Belle Meade to bring attention to the increased number of children in our neighborhood and the need to obey all the traffic regulations when driving through the neighborhood.
Yesterday my neighbor, Jenny Page sent the below email to Commissioner Edmonson and Commissioner Sarnoff in a desperate attempt to get the County and City to do something.
Dear Mr. Sarnoff,
I am a voter and we met one day at our house for a campaign visit. We were delighted to meet you in person and believe you have done well by Miami and particularly in Belle Meade. I am writing to ask you if you could help make our neighborhood safer by installing 2 stop signs on the intersection where we live, at NE 76th Street and 7th Court. I am attached a visual map illustrating the exact location and surrounding families.
This is one of the only intersections in Belle Meade without a stop sign and people are speeding like crazy – like 40-50mph sometimes – up and down 76th because of it. As you probably know it is the street with the guard gate and so many cars are using this street. There are other, quieter streets/intersections with stop signs so it seems odd that there would not be one here.
Our neighborhood has met about this but there is some discord about what to do, many expensive options came about like a traffic circle, raised sidewalks etc.
It seems to me that a simple stop sign would at least slow drivers down. This option is inexpensive and causes little inconvenience.
We live right on the NE corner of this intersection and within the 2 blocks of 76th that are affected by the speeders are at least 5 dogs, and 12 children. The constant speeding of cars puts all people walking, biking, playing in our neighborhood in jeopardy.
Please advise if this is a possibility and what our block could do to move this concern forward.
Dear Ms. Edmonson and Staff,
I am a voter and taxpayer residing on NE 76th Street in Belle Meade. We send our kids to the lovely public Morningside K-8 Academy and love the fact that we can walk there. Though on our street we experience excessive speeding which makes it more dangerous than it has to be.
I am writing to ask you if you could help make our neighborhood safer by installing 2 stop signs on the intersection where we live, at NE 76th Street and 7th Court. I am attached a visual map illustrating the exact location and surrounding families with kids and grandkids.
This is one of the only intersections in Belle Meade without a stop sign and people are speeding like crazy – like 40-50mph sometimes – up and down 76th because of it. This is the entrance/exit street for the neighborhood and so many cars are using this street. There are other, quieter streets/intersections with stop signs so it seems odd that there would not be one here, where there is the most traffic.
Our neighborhood has met about this but there is some discord about what we can do, many expensive options came about like a traffic circle, raised sidewalks etc.
It seems to me that a simple stop sign would at least slow drivers down. This option is inexpensive and causes little inconvenience and the tradeoff for a safer community is important.
We live right on the NE corner of this intersection and within the 2 blocks of 76th that are affected by the speeders are at least 5 dogs, and 12 children. The constant speeding of cars puts all people walking, biking, playing in our neighborhood in jeopardy.
Please advise if this is a possibility and what our block could do to move this concern forward.
Many thanks for all your help with our Miami Community!
We here are Transit Miami have been advocating for raised crosswalks, raised intersections or a speed tables. Although we don’t think a stop sign is the ideal solution to calm traffic in the long term, at this point we are willing to compromise with a stop sign if the County were to allow it.
As for the stamped brick crosswalks, it is a complete waste of money and will not calm traffic. I really hope the city does not agree to waste more money on silly infective urban planning in Belle Meade. Urban planning by majority rule clearly has not worked thus far: i.e. the Belle Meade fence. (see video below)
This leads me to ask a question- Why isn’t the City of Miami Planning Department involved in any of these decisions? This department has some wonderful professionals. Instead the city’s Capital Improvement Projects Department and the County Public Works Department is involved in all of these decisions.
Something needs to give and City and County need to stop dragging their feet asap before a child is killed in my neighborhood.
If something isn’t done asap I have a feeling that the Cone Fairy will be back with a vengeance. After all she is just looking out for children, parents with strollers, cyclists and pets. It’s really a shame that some of my neighbors can’t appreciate the good intentions of the Cone Fairy.
As we described back in December 2012, the three models are:
Each comes with its own distinctive livery. (Note that there’s also a variant, predominantly yellow, livery for the “RING” model that can be seen in the original post.)
We also want to bring your attention to AnsaldoBredo’s spiffy little 3-minute computer-animated video giving a cordial (albeit far from riveting) view of how these potential new train cars might look on the inside.
SHIELD is the train model featured in the video . . . Have a look! Share your thoughts!
Date: May 23, 2013
Location: Titanic Restaurant and Brewery, 5813 Ponce de Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33146
Ride your bike or walk to Titanic Brewery and get drink specials and free appetizers! Bike valet will be provided by Green Mobility Network. Click here to RSVP:http://urbanhp.wufoo.com/
Multiple facets of our community are abuzz with transportation- and mobility-related talk.
Now we’ve got yet another transportation-/mobility-related event scheduled for a week after the summit, on June 12. It seems the transportation debate in greater Miami is really heating up . . .
The Good Government Initiative (GGI) at the University of Miami is hosting a luncheon called “Can We Conquer Congestion? Mobility for 21st Century“.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
11:30am – registration | 12:00pm — lunch | 12:30pm — conversation
Northern Trust | 700 Brickell Avenue | Miami, Florida 33131
For your Average-José, there’s some good news and bad news. It’s always best to serve the bad news first:
Bad News: This is NOT a free event, which is something that would generally, under most circumstances, discourage me from posting here on TransitMiami. There’s an elaborate fee schedule for various types of groups:
- $35 — Individual Ticket (standard/default)
- $30 — GGI Member
- $50 — GGI Contributor (Individual Ticket + $15 donation)
- $500 — Sponsor Table for 10
- $20 — Student / Concerned Citizen
Good News: The Good Government Initiative has graciously agreed to offer readers of TransitMiami a special registration discount of $5, hence the reason it’s being posted. Thank you Good Government Initiative — sincerely!
That’s right! Just as you always hoped and knew it would, your TransitMiami readership is finally beginning to pay off! To get your crisp Abraham Lincoln knocked-off the registration price, be sure to enter the following promo code into the electronic form when registering as a “Student / Concerned Citizen” ($20): TRANSITMIAMI .
After the $5 discount, that $15 bucks will cover your lunch (hey, lunch!) and presence at the discussion. Note: the actual level of participation permitted by the public in this “discussion” is to yet to be determined/witnessed. . . . Read on for the justification of my admittedly skeptical disposition . . .
The more ambiguous news — toward which you should be correspondingly ambivalent — is that an event titled “Can We Conquer Congestion? Mobility for 21st Century” is featuring the Executive Director of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX), Mr. Javier Rodriguez, as one of its main speakers (?!).
Let’s be clear here: TransitMiami has absolutely nothing against Mr. Rodriguez on a personal level.
Professionally, though, we do take issue with the agency whose reins he controls: MDX.
Around here, MDX holds the un-honorably earned reputation of being one of the main progenitors of suburban sprawl and endless highway construction. It’s these forces that underlie congestion and diminish quality of life in our community. MDX is a tenacious antagonist of true urban mobility in the Miami of the 21st century.
So, please understand that our dissemination of this event comes with a healthy dose of caution and skepticism, probably even an unfortunate hint of cynicism too.
On the other hand, though, there’s also going to be representation by some organizations whose missions and and on-the-ground operations actually reflect the pursuit of our community’s well-being.
Other speakers include the likes of former Miami-Dade County Commissioner, Ms. Katy Sorenson, President and CEO of The Good Government Initiative, as well as people like Ms. Anamarie Garces de Marcilla, Executive Director of Urban Health Solutions and current chair of the Consortium for Healthier Miami-Dade’s Health & Built Environment Committee.
[***Full disclosure: this author serves on, and is a supporter of, that volunteer committee.***]
Other anticipated speakers include Mr. Joe Giulietti, Executive Director, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (the agency which manages Tri-Rail) and Mr. Mark Lesniak, Executive Director of Omni Parkwest Redevelopment Association.
So, if you have the time and the $15 bucks to spare for lunch where people will be talking about transportation and mobility, go for it! And don’t forget to tell them that TransitMiami sent you with that promo code.
Let’s just hope that after sharing all of these critical — but well-intentioned — sentiments, the kind folks from GGI still uphold their $5 discount to TransitMiami readers! After years of your blood, sweat, and tears, TM readers, you definitely deserve it!
Written by Peter Smith
Two summers ago, I attended a presentation on mobility at the Department of Transportation’s new headquarters in Navy Yard. My then-boss, Mariia Zimmerman, was speaking on our nation’s preparedness to deal with an aging population in an auto-centric culture, and she gave a startling statistic: eighty-five percent of Baby Boomers live in communities where the car is the only viable means of transportation – walking included – and when asked how they intend to complete activities of daily living – grocery shopping, doctors appointments, church services – when they’re no longer able to drive, nearly all of them chose a single response: my children will drive me. That. Is. Insane. It’s also really poor planning, but first and foremost it’s insane.
I was reminded of this mind-blowing stat this week when my parents moved from my childhood home in one of Baltimore’s shoulder-to-shoulder brick row neighborhoods to a mid-century planned community. Their new home is in the Village of Cross Keys, the first planned community ever built by James Rouse, the man who coined the term “urban renewal.” Past the community’s guard tower, the tree-lined residential streets, named for great Baltimore planners like Edward Bouton and Frederick Law Olmstead, abut shops and restaurants. There’s a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a hotel. It’s just outside of downtown, but feels like a small hamlet. It sounds like a great place to retire, and indeed, it is marketed as an ideal community for active retirees.
The Village of Cross Keys, for all its amenities though, is not without its shortcomings. For instance, it lacks a grocery store… and a pharmacy… and a church and synagogue… and a school. Cross Keys has also been sold as a great place to raise a family, which is even more bewildering. The closest bus stop is outside the community’s fence over a half-mile from the residential heart along roads that sometimes have sidewalks, but sometimes don’t. In short, its boutique shops and chic cafes may make it a great place for retirees to waste lazy afternoons, but they don’t necessarily make it a great place to grow old, or even a great place to just live.
As a society, we’re becoming increasingly aware, thanks to the efforts of the First Lady and others to tackle childhood obesity, of the challenges that our nation’s children face from un-walkable communities; less than five percent of American children now live in a community where they can walk or bike to school. We’re far less conscious, however, of the challenges presented to the older generations, those who will in time be unable to drive and will therefore more than anyone else benefit from walkable, not to mention inter-generational, neighborhoods.
Miami has its share of America’s aging population as well as its share of un-walkable communities. I set out to discover just how big the problem is that Miami will face; how many older Miamians live in communities that will increasingly fail to meet their needs as they grow older? To do this, I looked at population data from Miami-Dade’s 77 inhabited zip codes and stood it up against each zip code’s ratings from WalkScore.
A quick caveat – WalkScore is not a perfect measure of walkability by any means, but validation studies confirm that it’s pretty much as good a measurement as anyone has ever devised. If anything, many of its shortcomings, such as its failure to consider lack of sidewalks or hostile road environments, would mean scores in places like Miami are likely higher than they should be, but as you’ll see, Miami’s scores aren’t very high as it is.
WalkScore assigns a score to any address in the United States and elsewhere that is representative of the area’s walkability. It measures walkability by proximity to amenities, such as groceries, restaurants, parks, schools, etc. The final score falls along a scale of 0-100, which corresponds to the following five walkability categories:
- Walker’s Paradise (90-100): Daily errands do not require a car.
- Very Walkable (70-89): Most errands can be accomplished on foot.
- Somewhat Walkable (50-69): Some amenities are within walking distance.
- Car-Dependent (25-49): A few amenities are within walking distance.
- Car-Dependent (0-24): All errands require a car.
Ideally, any individual, especially older Americans would be able to walk to at least the most basic necessities, but as it turns out, for many that’s not the case. There are 463,940 people in Miami-Dade County who are age 60 or older and a full one-third of them live in areas where almost nothing is accessible without a car. Here’s a pie chart with the county-wide breakdown:
One of the first things that you probably noted was that the percentage of older Miamians living in areas categorized as a “Walker’s Paradise” is zero. That’s because there is no zip code in Dade County that tops the required score threshold of 90; the highest is a respectable 85, achieved by zip codes in Coconut Grove and Little Havana. Once you get over the shock, or not, that Miami is no Walker’s Paradise, you’ll see that about 70 percent of the county’s older residents live in areas where approximately half or more of basic needs cannot be accomplished on foot.
The median WalkScore for older Miamians is 57, which is solidly in the lower-middle share of the Somewhat Walkable category. To give a sense of what a “somewhat walkable” community is like, consider zip code 33186, which includes the area where the Florida Turnpike intersects with Kendall Avenue and has a WalkScore rating of 60. It’s home to just shy of 10,000 Miamians age 60 and older. From a typical house inside the sub-development just off the Turnpike at Kendall Avenue, it’s over a mile roundtrip for groceries, and a mile-and-a-half for a cup of coffee or a trip to the park. The closest bus stop is a half-mile away. For an older person in the hot Miami sun, distances like those can be pretty isolating.
Now, consider that 52.4% of Miamians age 60 and over live in areas that are even less walkable than that. Indeed, nearly 40,000 older Miamians live in communities with a WalkScore of five or less. That’s a small city’s worth of people who cannot travel to any meaningful destination without a car and for whom the inability to drive would mean the inability to remain even minimally self-sufficient.
Anyone has who has lived with an aging relative can relate that perhaps the hardest part of getting old is coming to terms with the loss of independence and self-sufficiency. It’s also no secret that maintaining that independence and self-sufficiency can be the key to maintaining happiness and mental health long into old age. For the Baby Boomers in particular, for whom freedom and independence are central to the generation’s identity, addressing the mobility challenges presented by Miami’s built environment is critical. When answering surveys, Boomers may be amenable to the idea that they will relinquish all freedom of mobility to their children, but the reality will likely mirror other generations’ reluctance to forego independence.
Baby Boomers represent the largest generational cohort in the United States and they comprise twenty percent of Miami-Dade residents. Thanks to advances in health science, Boomers are expected to live longer than any other generation in human history so far, but current predictions are that they won’t necessarily be any healthier into old age than preceding generations.
Older people, for both health and financial reasons, are far less likely to be able to drive. And even if they can legally drive, we may wish to encourage another means of transportation. A study out of Carnegie Mellon and AAA found that drivers age 75 to 84 had similar driving safety records as teenagers with a year or less of driving experience. Once an individual reaches 85 years, his or her vehicular fatality rates jumps to nearly four times that of teenagers.
Now, consider how many Americans will reach those ages. According to projections by the U.S. Social Security Administration, the life expectancy of a man who turns 65 today is 83 years old; for a woman, her life expentancy is 85. And those are just the averages, so roughly half of people will live even longer. One out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past 90 years, and one in ten will see 95 years and beyond. What all this amounts to is that the number of Americans, in both raw numbers and as a percentage of the total population, who are unable to drive because of their age will likely grow over the coming decades.
Demographic tides travel slowly through history. If you look closely, you can see them coming from far and away, and if you plan accordingly, you can subvert their sometimes catastrophic legacies. We can see now with clarity that Miami, like much of America, is on the edge of a quality of life pitfall. Absent descisive, purposeful action, a greater share of Miamians will face isolation and dependence than at any other moment in our city’s history.
Whether we solve this issue by making all communities more walkable or by making walkable communities more affordable and accessible is for discussion, but what is unavoidable is the track that we’ve placed ourselves on. It’s a track to a problem that requires solutions that amount to more than developing “lifestyle communities” that define walkable as “100 feet from a Talbot’s, but 1.5 miles from a Publix.” Solutions must encourage neighborhoods where Miamians can live their lives by car if they choose, but continue to live their lives on foot when driving is no longer possible. Otherwise, be prepared to free up some time every Saturday to take Abuela to the foot doctor.
May is National Bike Month. Biking is seeing a nationwide resurgence due to aggressive policies aimed to promote cycling, and as cities and towns in South Florida join the fold by increasing bike infrastructure, now is a particularly good time to bike in the Miami area. If you have a bike that needs a tune up or have been thinking about buying a two-wheeler for a while May is the perfect month to do so!
The bike is up there with man’s greatest inventions. It extends the range one can travel considerably, all while burning no fuel and providing excellent cardiovascular and exercise benefits. In urban traffic conditions, the bike is comparable with cars and public transportation on short/medium trips. One can usually bike around 5 miles in half an hour, which compares quite well with driving that distance under normal traffic conditions, and certainly with taking public transportation (particularly when having to walk to and wait for the bus).
All buses in Miami Dade and Broward County are outfitted with bike extensions. This opens up the possibility of using the bicycle as part of a multimodal trip. If you take multiple rides on your commute, consider biking to replace part of the trip, saving time, money, and enjoying the many exercise benefits of riding.
Of course, going from theory to practice can take some work, so here are some things to consider before hitting the road.
Things you’ll need to bike on the road:
A helmet: it’s not required for those older than 16, it’s usually not comfortable, but it is worth it. Most serious injuries and bike fatalities can be prevented by the simple use of a helmet.
Lights: White for the front, red for the back. Try to get removable ones so they don’t get stolen.
Bell: A loud bell will come in handy, particularly if you are biking on a mixture of roads and sidewalks.
In most places, these common sense accessories are legally required.
If you have never biked in traffic there are easy ways to ease into it. Always stay on the right side of the road. While riding your bike you are legally considered a car and need to obey all traffic laws, stop signs, and lights. Take advantage of the grid and bike down calmer less trafficked streets where possible. Familiarize yourself with the areas in which you want to bike and test out different routes.
One of the frustrating things about biking in the area is that most good bike lanes come to an end at major thoroughfares or ends of towns. But, with a few exceptions, most municipalities in South Florida allow for biking on the sidewalk. Google maps now has an option for bike directions, and smartphone users can use maps to figure out where they are and see which minor trafficked and low speed-limit streets they can take to reach their destinations.
If you don’t have a bike, you can take advantage of low-cost subscriptions to cycle hires like DecoBike in Miami Beach, and B-cycles in Broward County. I would still suggest taking a helmet with you if you plan to use one on the road. These bike systems also make use of smartphone GSP apps, with the deco bike app allowing you to see where you can rent/return bikes. The beauty of this is the short utility trip to the grocery store or other quick stop that would be too short for a car trip but a bit too far to walk. The bike serves as a great equalizer between walking and transit. So if you have been thinking of exercising, cutting down on car/transportation costs, and see the bike as an option I highly suggest giving it a try during this National Bike Month.
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