Value Engineering. What does the term mean to you?
Think about it. Let’s decompose the term before seeking out a formal definition. To us, the concept of value engineering when applied to transportation projects, includes the pursuit of cost-effective methods to achieve a desired end result. It includes a suite of tools that would enable project managers to work with engineers and architects to lower the overall cost of the project without sacrificing a particular end goal. In more obscure words, the FDOT defines value engineering as:
“…the systematic application of function-oriented techniques by a multi-disciplined team to analyze and improve the value of a product, facility, system, or service.”
So, if we were to tell you that FDOT was actively seeking to value engineer the structure that will soon replace I-395, how would you feel? Let’s take a look back at the designs presented last year before we dive into our argument on why we shouldn’t cut corners on such a critical piece of infrastructure.
For the unacquainted, over the past several years FDOT initiated the process to replace the 1.5 mile structure that links SR 836 east of I-95 to the MacArthur Causeway. As the main artery between MIA, the Port of Miami, and South Beach, millions of visitors traverse this scenic stretch annually on the way to a cruise or the beaches. The byproduct of 1960’s urban renewal, I-395 ripped apart neighborhoods and displaced thousands from historic Overtown, today the structure continues to thwart efforts to unite our major public institutions including: The Arsht Center, Art and Science Museums (both currently under construction), and the AA Arena. As such, FDOT’s plans for I-395 will play a critical role in Miami’s ability to reshape the urban core and reunite Downtown, Parkwest, Omni, and Overtown districts.
Side note: Imagine what could become of the corner of N. Miami Avenue and 14th Street if the neighborhood were united with Downtown to the South or the Arsht Center to the east? The Citizens Bank Building (above), built during Miami’s boom years in 1925 could serve as a catalyst for growth in a neighborhood that has largely remained abandoned since urban renewal gutted Overtown.
In this context, the concept of value engineering contradicts the livable, “sense of place” we’re working to achieve in Downtown. As it currently stands, I-395 and all the other roadways that access our barrier islands are utilitarian structures, serving little purpose other than to move vehicles from one land mass to another.
The challenge with I-395 is that it must satisfy numerous conflicting needs. I-395 isn’t just a bridge (or tunnel, or boulevard). It should serve as an icon; a figurative representation of Miami’s status as the Gateway to the Americas. A new I-395 will, should once and for all, eliminate the physical barrier that has long divided Downtown Miami from the Omni and Performing Arts Districts, encouraging more active uses below while maintaining the flow of traffic above. Not an easy feat. While the DDA and City of Miami recognize the economic value in designing an iconic structure at this site, our experience tells us that FDOT is more likely to think in the terms of dollars and LOS rather than the contextual and neighborhood needs. Simply put, this isn’t an ordinary site where a no-frills structure will suffice.
Cities all across the nation are eliminating derelict highways that for the past 40-50 years have scarred, divided, and polluted neighborhoods. Boston’s big dig for example submerged a 2-mile stretch of I-93 that had cut off the North End and Waterfront neighborhoods from downtown and the rest of the city. The Rose Kennedy Greenway, a 1.5 mile public park now stretches its length. Where the highway tunnel ends, an iconic structure, the Leonard P. Zakim Memorial Bridge takes over, leading traffic over the Charles River to points north. Adjacent to the TD Garden (home of the Celtics & Bruins) the Zakim Bridge is now synonymous with the Boston Skyline. Other notable examples include:
- San Francisco’s Embarcardero Freeway
- Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct
- Hartford’s I-84 Viaduct
While no decision has been made on what final shape I-395’s replacement structure will take, our sources inform us that FDOT is beginning to explore more “cost effective” alternatives. We’ll keep eye on this project as it unfolds and will reach out to the City of Miami, DDA, and FDOT to ensure that Miami receives a replacement structure at this site worthy of its location in the heart of our burgeoning urban core. Moreover, we’ll remind FDOT that their third proposed objective for this project (3. Creating a visually appealing bridge) includes considering the aesthetics of the structure from all perspectives, especially the pedestrians and cyclists we’re trying to lure back into downtown streets.
What can we learn from the Miami of the past?
With some extra ‘indoor time’ over the past few days due to tropical storm Isaac (when I wasn’t bike riding or taking photos of the devastation), I spent a good deal of time looking at old photos of Miami on FloridaMemory.com. It’s fascinating to observe the evolution of Miami and it’s environs; how some areas drastically transformed while others stay remarkably similar though the years. What’s also captured here is the insidious destruction the automobile wrought on downtown Miami through the 50’s and 60’s after the streetcars were town out, historic buildings were razed and parking lots sprouted like mushrooms after a spring rainfall.
I’ve been posting a few photos on our Facebook page, but without further adieu, here is a collection of my favorites.
Which are yours?
With all the hype about how many ‘units’ have sold and how much ‘inventory’ is left in downtown, it’s hard to overlook how these ‘dense’ developments are nothing more than vertical suburbs. Why walk around the city when you can live in a “lushly landscaped gated waterfront community”? Gag. The PR machine is in full swing touting recent condo sales as part of the revitalization of downtown…but you only have to look to the nearest bus shelter (like the one below) to see the reality.
Imagine walking out of the Metromover station at Biscayne and East Flagler Street and stepping out onto a linear park that runs under the elevated tracks, and continues north between the travel lanes of Biscayne Boulevard. Parking lots replaced with park space where people are sitting, having coffee, or even doing their morning yoga routine.
Great cities have great parks. What is left of our great downtown waterfront park (after taking out the excessive number of buildings cluttering the landscape -read Museums, Bayside….etc) is underutilized by local residents; separated from area residents and businesses by FDOT’s 8 lane highway design for Biscayne Boulevard. What should be an easy five minute walk for folks living across the street is distorted by excessively wide travel lanes, speeding motorists, and a few crosswalks to get to the park. What Biscayne Boulevard needs is a road diet that reallocates car space, both in the form of travel lanes converted to on-street parking and parking lots converted to park space. This will not only provide a natural expansion of Bayfront Park – at a time of shrinking park budgets and ever growing needs for park space, it will also help traffic calm the street and bridge the distance between the park and the growing population of residents and businesses along Biscayne from I395 to SE 1 Street.
For five days Miamians will be able to get to experience what this space would be like if it were permanently converted into a park. From Tuesday February 29 to Sunday March 4, we will take over the parking lot between Flagler and NE 1 Street, and convert it into a grass covered park with moveable seating, food trucks, exercise equipment and more. There will be street performances throughout the five days, from spoken word to jazz shows, sponsored by Miami-Dade College. Our goal is simple – to activate this space as much as possible with the everyday activities of a typical park.
Please join us for your lunch hour, or stop by after work. We want to show you how great it will be – Bayfront Parkway!
Visit the project website at: http://bayfrontparkway.com/index.php for more information.
I happened to be looking at the transit reports the other day and I noticed that the Metromover had its best month ever this past March (2011). I might be wrong, but I went pretty far back and found no other month above the 848,970 recorded this past March.
The Metrorail as well had one of its best months ever at 1,673,175.
You can find the reports at: http://www.miamidade.gov/transit/news_technical_reports.asp
I have done my fair share of traveling around the world, and one thing I have noticed about great cities is the use of wide and beautiful boulevards, pedestrian malls, and public spaces. Unfortunately though, while Downtown Miami would like to claim world class status, the public realm is far behind the reality on the ground.
Downtown Miami is currently awash in Heat mania, but no matter how many Lebron’s, Bosh’s, or Wade’s Miami brings down, the reality is right there on the ground. Dangerous streets, few public spaces, autocentric design, missing crosswalks, yawning parking lots, and the list goes on. Unfortunately Miami likes to dwell in its own hype a bit too much.
Biscayne Boulevard, the front porch of Miami, is a giant parking lot. With speeding vehicles on 4 lane streets in each direction, an ocean of surface lots, and enough concrete to fill a river. With Flagler Street, what should be the equivalent to Lincoln Road on this side of Biscayne Bay, officials have been too shy to close the street and create a real attraction worthy of the beautiful South Florida weather. Instead, they have relegated it to a clogged and polluted street, not worthy of the historic character it’s architecture and name carries. As Morris Lapidus, the brains behind Lincoln Road once said: “A car never bought anything” – and boy was he right.
In Brickell, the story is much the same. Brickell Avenue and its massive intersections are uncomfortable and dangerous, a far cry from the world class status officials always describe it as. It is quite ridiculous (and embarrassing) that crosswalks are 3 or 4 blocks apart and one has to see business professionals jaywalking and trudging through bushes along medians in the dense and urban Banking District of Miami. Luckily though, Brickell Avenue is getting a little love after much activism.
My travels have shown me that great cities are built from the public realm up – not by millionaire basketball players and the wealthy fans that visit them. It’s amazing how much weight the city has given to the Miami Heat. One day these players will be gone, and what will we have? The same dangerous, ugly, and unwalkable streets we had before. Great cities are built to benefit the generations to come – not to dwell in the hype of the temporary present, but to look into the future.
In Barcelona, you have Las Ramblas, a spectacular pedestrian boulevard comparable to Biscayne Blvd or Brickell Ave in size. In Rome, the Coliseum was closed off to vehicular traffic and transformed into a magnificent public space many decades ago. The story is much the same throughout most of the great cities of Europe, Asia, and South America. From Istanbul to Tokyo or Columbia to Mexico, the facts are on the ground – beautiful and majestic public thoroughfares and spaces are important components of any world class city. Great cities create a great quality of life, and this attracts talented people, culture, arts, businesses, and tourists.
Even Miami Beach has shown greater sensibility to the positive impacts of pedestrianization (as I would like to call it). Lincoln Road is arguably one of the most successful pedestrian malls in the United States (sales per square foot). If this isn’t a sign of what should happen in downtown Miami, I do not know what is. Ocean Drive as well is a spectacular mixture of architecture, humanity, and nature. A marvelous place to people watch.
Mexico City, a “third world” city, has shown an amazing ability to integrate wonderful public spaces, promenades, and pedestrians malls into the chaotic city of 25 million people.
Paseo de La Reforma, a street not unlike Biscayne Boulevard and Brickell Avenue in terms of density and traffic, boasts a wonderful promenade along the median covered with beautiful flowers and foliage. It also has something that most major cities have and downtown Miami lacks, many (and consistent) crosswalks.
Horacio Street in Mexico is another beautiful example, located in the densely populated neighborhood of Polanco. The street boasts a wide and beautiful median, with occasional fountains, parks, flower stands, and roundabouts. Amazingly, their are no traffic lights on Horacio Street and during my time here, I have felt perfectly safe. Why? Because the speed limit is no more than 15 miles an hour, creating a calm and pleasant environment along the entire street for both cars and pedestrians. In many ways Horacio is more than a street, rather, it is a long linear park covering more than three dozen blocks.
Even in the “Centro” of Mexico, which is the chaotic and historic downtown, officials have begun making improvements towards the pedestrian realm that other great cities have made. Francisco I Madero St, which leads into the Zocalo (the second largest public square in the world), is currently being converted into a pedestrian mall. Other neighborhoods throughout the city have also transformed various streets into pedestrian malls and today they are FULL of people enjoying the city.
If the City of Miami truly wants to make downtown Miami a destination, they need to get past the hype and the Miami Heat, and realize that great cities are created from great public spaces. And not just one for that matter, but rather, an integrated network of connected public spaces and thoroughfares.
They could easily start by converting the parking lots on Biscayne Blvd into a pedestrian promenade worthy of the location it has. Biscayne in downtown Miami as it stands now is a pedestrians worst nightmare. Missing crosswalks, massive streets with speeding cars, 8-10 blocks of concrete lots, and more. It truly is ridiculous when the entire (beatiful) waterfront of downtown Miami and its attractions are isolated from the city by 150+ feet of roadways and surface lots – one can count the crosswalks across the entire waterfront of downtown with one hand.
Parking could easily be replaced in one (yes one) parking garage (perhaps even underground). Street parking could also be used along the blocks, to buffer the traffic from the promenade, but also to make up some of the lost parking – thereby reducing the speed down Biscayne Blvd through design. Imagine a linear park and slower traffic complementing the beautiful skyscrapers, parks, and attractions already there. One could easily argue that this could become one the most beautiful places in the city.
In Brickell, the redesign of Brickell Avenue needs to take into account the drastic density increase over the last (and next) few years and create a more pleasant landscape for residents and tourists. One crosswalk every three or four blocks is absolutely ridiculous, so is the current speed limit, and massive intersections. Again, luckily (and after much activism) some of this is being taken into consideration during the current redesign of Brickell Avenue. Nevertheless, enough is not being done.
Another great improvement would be the transformation of historic Flagler Street into a pedestrian mall. With historic architecture, cheap rents, great public transportations, and a fabulous location, Flagler has the potential to become one of downtown’s most popular attractions. I have often heard the argument that Flagler cannot be transformed because there are no alleys behind the buildings for the service trucks. This is true rubbish. Many pedestrian malls around the world allow service vehicles (and only service vehicles) to drive through at very slow speeds (5 mph). Just because the occasional service vehicle needs to come in, it does not mean we should relegate Flagler to ugly and undeserving conditions it faces today. Cross streets could also be used as staging ground for delivery trucks and such.
It is truly a shame that the City of Miami does not see the large tourist potential of downtown Miami. Miami has unbelievable weather that makes a well designed outdoor space a “hot” commodity. Miami Beach understood this many years ago, and now it is arguably one of the coolest urban environments in the Unites States.
The unbelievable development that occurred over the last few years is just the beginning of a transformation that will happen over the next few decades. With millions of tourists descending on Miami Beach every year, the City of Miami should take care to create the type of environment travelers have come to expect – it wouldn’t be hard to pull some of those tourists to this side of the bay. In fact, some have already started crossing over, as is evident by the growing numbers of tourists on the streets of downtown and Brickell. Nevertheless, more must be done if we expect the to come back in greater numbers.
The private realm has done its part in the last few years to bring masses to downtown Miami, the city and the state nevertheless, have done very little to adjust the streets and public spaces that must accompany the massive redevelopment of the last few years.
The City of Miami must take ownership over Biscayne Blvd and Brickell Avenue, and force the Florida Department of Transportation to listen to the needs of residents, businesses owners, and city officials. I am tired of local and state officials “passing the buck”. They must take Flagler Street and create an attraction from the most historic street in South Florida. Brickell Ave, Biscayne Blvd, and surrounding streets must accommodate and integrate with the urban setting they inhabit. The city must create a cohesive pedestrian environment throughout the entire downtown area and beyond. The current fractioned landscape is a far cry from what is needed.
I will not accept the argument that the City of Miami is a world class city when the facts on the ground say something very different. Don’t believe the hype!
A special thanks to the Adrianne Arsht Center for organizing the first annual Fall for the Arts festival. After today’s success this event will now become a yearly occurrence meant to kick-off the the season for Miami’s burgeoning arts scene. Downtown Miami came alive today as thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds showed up for this free concert. Ozomatli rocked the Magic City and several other bands had everyone dancing and in good spirits. Events like this are great for our city and really bring our diverse community together. Over 100 community groups and cultural organizations participated to make this event an overwhelming success.
We would also like to thank the Green Mobility Network for providing a much needed free bicycle valet service. It was very much appreciated.
Perhaps next year we could coordinate this event with Bike Miami Days? Just throwing it out there…
Many of our readers have suggested that Flagler Street in Downtown Miami should be converted into a pedestrian mall. There are many arguments for and against such a move. During the 70’s and 80’s many cities in the United States tried to convert a portion of their central business district to a pedestrian only mall. Unfortunately, most of these projects failed for different reasons. One of the biggest reasons, I believe, is that Americans were leaving the city in droves to seek the suburban American dream. Although many cities had good intentions and vision, their timing could not have possibly been any worse. A perfect storm for pedestrian mall failure had already been set in motion by the suburbanization of America.
Today we find the suburbanization trend reversing itself. People are now choosing to live a more urban lifestyle, tired of long commutes and expensive gas, urbanization is now creating conditions to potentially develop successful pedestrian malls.
Last year I created a Flagler Street Transit Mall presentation for an Urban Revitalization Strategies class. My proposal was to develop a transit mall similar to the 16th Street Mall in Denver. The proposed Flagler Street Transit Mall would only allow buses to drive up and down Flagler Street with 5 minute intervals between buses. All other motor vehicles would be prohibited from using Flagler Street with the exception of delivery and emergency vehicles. All current on street parking would be removed and the sidewalks would be widened.
A good first step would be to temporary close Flagler Street to motor vehicles during a one week period before Christmas. This short experiment would give the Miami DDA, local businesses, and residents a feel for what could become of historic Downtown Miami.
Do you think Flagler Street could use some sort of pedestrianized mall or do you think it’s just fine as is? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments section.
Last night my wife and I took the Metromover from the 10th Street Station in Brickell to the Omni Station to check out Mama Mia at the Adrienne Arshet Center. As is usually the case when we ride the Metromover, we had to help several people make sense of the Metromover.
Transit needs to be user-friendly in order for it to work well. Unfortunately we make it difficult on ourselves when we can’t keep the Metromover maps consistent. The maps at Metromover stations are clearly marked with 3 distinct colors (blue, orange, pink); each color distinguishes the three different routes (Omni, Brickell, and Inner loop).
However, once you enter the Metromover car the colors of the map change completely. The easily distinguishable blue, orange, and pink routes become less discernible shades of grayish/blue. I can’t think of a good reason why we have two different maps; we need to have one easily understood map, not two.
One of our readers, TM Reader, suggested identifying each of the Metromover cars more clearly too. I’d like to take this good idea a step further. The Metromover cars should be painted blue, orange, or pink to reflect the color of each route. This would make transit easy to use.
All downtown developers should be required to put up protective pedestrian scaffolding around their work site. Most large downtown development projects usually take over the sidewalks and pedestrians are left to fend for themselves. This picture was taken on Brickell between 6th and 7th Street. Kudos to the developer for taking this precautionary step and ensuring the safety of pedestrians. We should enact an ordinance that requires developers to make temporary provisions for pedestrians if the work site infringes upon the pedestrian’s right of way.
Last night, after several bottles of wine the conversation turned to the Metromover. At the table were several colleagues from my office. We all have at the minimum college degrees, so I think it’s fair to assume that we are of at least average intelligence. Dario, a Londoner, explained to me that the first time he rode the Metromover he ended up where he started from. Issiac, a New Yorker, also got lost the first time he used it. He figured out something was very wrong after he passed the same building twice. Mind you, he has ridden the subway in New York his entire life and has never gotten lost!
Most every time I use the Metromover, I find a lost soul seeking directions. Even as a veteran of the Metromover, I often have to study the map before getting on to ensure that I get off at the right transfer station. Or I have to strategically think about which station I need to walk to in order to avoid riding the Metromover aimlessly.
I do like the Metromover, it works for me. However, it is poorly designed. You need a Phd. in order not to get lost. Transit should not be complicated; the Metromover is. In order for transit to work efficiently, a first time user should have a clear understanding of how the system works right off the bat. So this got me thinking last night, maybe we need to abandon the Metromover?
However, before we abandon the Metromover, we need to replace it with a well thought-out streetcar. So what to do with the elevated infrastructure from the Metromover once it is replaced with a proper streetcar? Well, it should not be torn down. Instead we should consider converting it to an elevated bicycle path, a greenway in the middle of the city, much like the New York City High Line. In many ways it would become a bicycle highway in the middle of our city. Imagine the possibilities. What do you think?
Our little cold snap will last through the weekend, so keep those sweaters handy and head out to Bayfront Park with a bottle of red after work this Friday.
The DWNTWN Miami Concert Series Season 2 kicks off 2010 with a little Latin funk. PALO! takes the stage with their Latin sound and funk beats this Friday. The group formed in 2003 as an improvised experiment to see how some classic Cuban music could mash up with the deep funk, beats and keyboard sounds found in the club scene. The result is a sort of magical, totally danceable, ‘Made in Miami’ sound that group leader Steve Rothstein calls Afro-Cuban-Funk.
January 8, 2010 @ 5:30pm
This is a fantastic free monthly event that is sponsored by the Miami DDA
Or for more information check out the facebook page
Over the past couple of weeks I have noticed electrical work being done on traffic lights and pedestrian crosswalk signals around the Brickell Area. Unfortunately, the contractors don’t seem to think that the pedestrian crosswalk signals are all that important. Last week the pedestrian crosswalk signals on Brickell Ave. and SE 14th Street did not work for almost an entire week. Two days ago they started working again.
Today around 12:30pm I noticed contractors doing some work on the traffic lights on SE13th Street and South Miami Avenue. On my way back from work, at around 5:30pm, I noticed that all the pedestrian crosswalk signals at this intersection were not working.
At around 6:00pm I called 311 and reported the problem. The operator was very helpful and he told me that it could take up to 30 days to fix the problem, but that he would flag it as an emergency.
My fingers are crossed that the pedestrian crosswalk signals are working by tomorrow morning. It just so happens that an elementary school sits about half a block away from this intersection. I see a lot of parents with children crossing this already dangerous and poorly designed intersection every weekday morning. I think that if we can keep our traffic lights working we can keep our pedestrian crosswalk signals working too.
I also think that the city could do a much better job of promoting the 311. Unless you are a Transit Miami reader you probably don’t know about it. Perhaps the city could start a public service announcement campaign by putting the 311 phone number somewhere above crosswalk buttons throughout Downtown and Brickell? This can be done very cheaply with something as simple as a sticker.
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