Currently viewing the tag: "Election"

Transit Miami recently sent out a list of questions to City of Miami District 2 Commission candidates to get their views on the issues facing District 2. Representing one of the most important economic and urban centers in our region, the District 2 commission seat plays a central role in supporting regional and local transit, and ensuring walkable, pedestrian friendly streets for city residents. The area included in District 2 includes those parts of the city that are best poised to take advantage of existing premium transit and walkable urbanism. We’ve posted the answers in the order they were received  - so far only Michelle Niemeyer and Marc Sarnoff have responded.

How will you work toward the goal of expanding transit in District

I would determine where we stand, where we have the most urgent needs, and where we should have improvements into the future, and then I would work with private resident and stakeholder organizations, the City, the County, State and Federal agencies together to be sure to get the greatest impact without duplication of effort.

Do you support the South Florida East Coast Corridor project to expand local and express rail service to downtown? Do you support a Tri-Rail option or a Metro-Rail option?

Yes, we badly need public transit that goes into downtown. This should be a priority rather than over spending on public projects that are not needed.

Do you support a MetroRail Baylink connection?

Absolutely. I think its crazy we don’t have a connection from the airport to downtown to Miami Beach.

How will you ensure that upcoming mega developments, like the Genting casino, contribute to pedestrian friendly street frontage?

Special area plans need to be approved by the commission, and the commission needs to strongly negotiate that they are outward facing community oriented properties as oppposed to the inward facing business model which is typical of desitination resorts  and casinos.

The Transit Miami led coalition to improve pedestrian and cyclist conditions on Brickell led to the temporary lowering of the speed limit by the Florida Department of Transportation, but only a change in the design of the street toward a true pedestrian boulevard will impact  driving habits. TM sent the FDOT a list of over 20 missing crosswalks and recommendations for travel lanes that will encourage lower travel speeds, which have been ignored to date. Will you join our coalition and fight with us to ensure that Brickell is reconstructed with narrowed lanes, permanently reduced speeds, and more abundant crosswalks?

Yes. Every community in this district has a road which bisects its neighboood and is treated by the county and the state as a commuter highway. These roads include Main Highway, South Bayshore, Brickell, and Biscayne Boulevard. In order for us to have healthy outdoor environment and pedestrian friendly walking communities we need to place a heavy emphasis on creating public transportation which will decrease the volume of cars beig pushed through our neighborhoods because the existing infrastructure is already overburdened.

In the ongoing planning for the I395 reconstruction, the Florida Department of Transportation is pushing an elevated highway through Overtown that will dwarf the existing expressway that decimated the once vibrant Overtown community. Other alternatives include a tunnel option that will open up over 40 acres of prime downtown land, as well as an at grade boulevard option. Which alternative would you support as District 2 commissioner?

If we could afford it, I support the tunnel.

 

Transit Miami recently sent out a list of questions to City of Miami District 2 Commission candidates to get their views on the issues facing District 2. Representing one of the most important economic and urban centers in our region, the District 2 commission seat plays a central role in supporting regional and local transit, and ensuring walkable, pedestrian friendly streets for city residents. The area included in District 2 includes those parts of the city that are best poised to take advantage of existing premium transit and walkable urbanism. We’ll be posting the candidate responses in the order they are received. Our first respondent is sitting District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.

How will you work toward the goal of expanding transit in District 2?

We (the City) are ordering and implementing the Trolley project scheduled to commence in December for the north/south Brickell - Biscayne Blvd. corridor with an east/west connection down Flagler. There will be a circulator in the Health District. These two districts won grants from FDOT to operate and AARA money to purchase. In addition there will be special service to events Trolley in Downtown i.e. Heat games and the Performing Arts Center that will operate during the scheduling of those events. The fees have not been set - some Commissioners do not want to charge for this service but the Trolley’s will run out of money if we do not charge. I prefer a 6o day no fee trial period, then a $1.00 fee to allow the operation to continue for the next 15 years with Cap X for new trolleys and maintenance.

Do you support the South Florida East Coast Corridor project to expand local and express rail service to downtown? Do you support a Tri-Rail option or a Metro-Rail option?

I support the project but not to the exclusion of the North South link by FEC, as far as we have learned Metro Rail is far too expensive and will not be viable for more then 10 years while we could commence implementing the Tri Rail option.

What are your views on expanding MetroRail along the East/West corridor from western Miami-Dade through the Airport to Downtown?

Metro Rail going to the airport is what we all thought it should be. It now goes somewhere that many users can enjoy that are not commuting to work.

Do you support a MetroRail Baylink connection?

Yes this should have been part of the 5 year plan at MPO 10 years ago. The Beach should have no fear of us.

Critics of Miami21 contend that the parking provisions of the code are excessively high, precluding the sort of neighborhood scale development that the code was meant to support. How would you work to lower the parking requirements of Miami21 so that the benefits of the code are realized?

I continue to support Miami21 and its present parking provisions. Changes to peoples habits is not a light switch - it takes time and we can not burden neighborhoods with people who will park wherever and whenever they can. This must be viewed as a process.

How will you ensure that upcoming mega developments, like the Genting Casino Resort, contribute to pedestrian friendly street frontage?

Through the review process and by ensuring the impact fees are used to create the walkable downtown that we all envision. This process - if Gen Teng commences building - will allow us the opportunity to create not only an east west corridor but a north south connection to BicentennialPark. The Gen Teng process is very amorphous and will present many opportunities for walkability.

The Transit Miami led coalition to improve pedestrian and cyclist conditions on Brickell led to the temporary lowering of the speed limit by the Florida Department of Transportation, but only a change in the design of the street toward a true pedestrian boulevard will impact driving habits. TM sent the FDOT a list of over 20 missing crosswalks and recommendations for travel lanes that will encourage lower travel speeds, which have been ignored to date. Will you join our coalition and fight with us to ensure that Brickell is reconstructed with narrowed lanes, permanently reduced speeds, and more abundant crosswalks?

There is a plan in place for 19 cross walks that we are finalizing with FDOT. The cross walks will be raised to create friction and naturally slow drivers down. We have lowered the speed limit on the residential part of Brickell to 30 MPH with FDOT to review and determine if it goes to 35 MPH (it was 40 MPH). We have written more than 5200 traffic enforcement tickets on Brickell to slow traffic ….so it’s working.

In the ongoing planning for the I395 reconstruction, the Florida Department of Transportation is pushing an elevated highway through Overtown that will dwarf the existing expressway that decimated the once vibrant Overtown community. Other alternatives include a tunnel option that will open up over 40 acres of prime downtown land, as well as an at grade boulevard option. Which alternative would you support as District 2 commissioner?

The second one however FDOT is not listening to local in put into this project. I suspect they are hell bent on the raised highway project a misuse of its power and money.

I have been waiting patiently for either of the current mayoral candidates to come forward to champion better transportation choices for the residents of Miami-Dade County, but with election day around the corner it seems that we are going to have to continue to wait to see real leadership come out of County Hall. Neither of the two candidates, Julio Robaina (Hialeah) or Carlos Gimenez have made much of an effort to describe what they plan on doing to improve mobility in the region, apart from general comments on the recent transit scandal, and a promise to “shake things up.”

Gimenez is the favorite amongst the center and left leaning voters of Miami-Dade county, not because of what he says but because he isn’t Hialeah Julio. I for one can’t tell the difference between the two candidates. I had really hoped for a more forward thinking agenda from Gimenez - a statement on how dysfunctional our current system is and a concrete plan to improve it, but after his lackluster performance on transit issues over the past decade, I can’t say I’m surprised. His answers to the recent Green Mobility Network transportation candidate survey revealed nothing more than a continuation of the current highway building culture that perpetuates our transportation problems. On the question of whether to convert the South Dade Busway into an expressway, he said, “The South Dade Busway is currently underutilized and uses should be expanded.  We should look to the 95 Express lanes as a model.  Those lanes allow for both bus and automobile traffic and have increased commuter speeds in the non-express lanes by giving drivers another option.”  Yuck. Too bad.

Let me clarify - I don’t want to give the impression that Hialeah Julio is any better. His statements on transit read like the comments section of the Miami Herald - an emotional plea for more ‘oversight’, but no real substance.  “First and foremost, we must urgently reform the Transit Department and ensure that all public dollars are being spent judiciously and that the ½ cent tax that this community voted to tax itself for improved transportation is in fact being used to remedy transportation ills and not for more management or salaries.” Check out his blog to read more.

Suffice it to say that the current mayoral candidates don’t know what active transportation is, or how to improve mobility for the residents of Dade County, nor do they have any reason to care. This election has shown that the problem is not with the candidates, but with our current metropolitan system of government that pits an independent highway agency against a second-class county transit department. One has funding and can expand its system as necessary, while the other is left to the whim of the current director or mayor or Commission puppet master.  The debate is framed around questions of better oversight for transit, and expansion of our highway network   - not the other way around. Until we reform our system of transportation governance to establish an independent elected transportation director, we will not see a change in our mobility options.

Nuff said. Miami Beach residents should come out and vote in support of Gabrielle on the November 17th. She is a transit advocate and a good person all around.

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The Sun-Sentinel offers a voters’ guide for issues that will appear on Broward County’s ballot. While I am not familiar with many of the other issues, I would disagree with their recommendation to vote against Question 1, the creation of a Metropolitan Transit Authority. A letter to the editor of the Miami Herald sheds a little more light on the subject. Read it and consider carefully. I believe it would be in Broward County’s best interest to create a Metropolitan Transit Authority. The Sun-Sentinel thinks it is better to come up with a comprehensive plan first, then create the Transit Authority. I believe the Authority could help create a plan, however. Also, the first steps to creating a plan have been taken through the Transit Summits that Broward County has been having for about a year. Broward County Transit’s own headline says their purpose is to develop a Public Transportation Plan. So it’s not too early to create a Metropolitan Transit Authority. The time is right.

If anyone can come up with a better reason why we should not have a Metropolitan Transit Authority in Broward County, let us know. Otherwise, vote yes on Question 1.

Another important Broward County issue on the ballot is Question 5, amending the county charter to provide a regional focus. That way whenever the county commission considers something, they have to consider it at the regional level. This would help avoid fights with other counties such as the ongoing fight with Palm Beach county over the University Drive extension. Better yet, if this is incorporated with the transit authority, we might have some hope of providing a better regional transit network. So vote yes on Question 5.

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In what could only be judged as an effort to stymie opposition on the most contested land use issue in the region, the Miami-Dade Planning and Zoning department has scheduled a public hearing for November 3, regarding an application to amend the County’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP).  The hearing, of course, entails the expansion of the Urban Development Boundary for the development of a “new mixed-use community” on 961.15 acres, also known as the Parkland Development.  The likely horizontally mixed-use development (sprawl) would incorporate residential (cookie cutter houses), commercial (strip shopping centers), institutional (schools deemed necessary by county code requirements), and civic uses (streets?).

Besides the obvious detrimental ecological concerns posed by opening up further land outside the urban development boundary, I am troubled by the timing of this public hearing – only one day before the most hotly contested presidential race to date.  The timing is uncanny for such a hot buttoned issue within Miami-Dade’s local politics.  Moreover, amid the deepest economic recession in recent history, the precipitous decline of the local housing industry, and the tumultuous wake of the sub-prime lending mortgage crisis i must wonder why anyone would push for a public hearing.  Looks like its politics as usual in Miami-Dade…

Remember ShuttlePort? The FLL shuttle service that had problems with drivers crashing? This LA Times article points out that it was owned by the same company that employs Metrolink engineers. Yes, that’s the Metrolink that had the commuter rail crash earlier this month.

Streetsblog had a post last week with a link to a document outlining McCain’s and Obama’s respective positions on transportation. Well worth checking out.

Much closer to home, Broward County is cutting funding for the Tri-Rail feeder buses. As a shuttle stops at my workplace, and my employer just built a bus shelter for it, this is particularly upsetting. We may have more to say about this later.

With election season now in full swing, the time has come to decide which candidate we think will best lead us for the next four years. Here on Transit Miami, we’ll be taking a close look at the presidential hopefuls to determine which candidate is the strongest on smart growth and livable cities issues.
Without further ado, let’s break down the remaining presidential frontrunners:

The Republicans: Now while Transit Miami is a non-partisan blog, Republicans and Libertarians generally do not have a strong record for supporting smart growth or transit-oriented urban policy. The Republican candidates for this year’s election are no exception. All of the front-runners are soft on climate change, using the typical rhetoric of voluntary reductions on greenhouse gas emissions. Fred Thompson, who has fortunately dropped out of the race already, at one point even mentioned considering opening up the Everglades for oil exploration.

The Democrats: Though far from meeting our high standards, the leading Democratic front-runners are unquestionably more dedicated to livable cities issues than Republicans. Here’s a breakdown of where the top three candidates, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards stand on planning-related issues:

Hillary Clinton:
From “Powering America’s Future: Hillary Clinton’s Plan to Address the Energy and Climate Crisis”:

“Hillary’s big three goals: “Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 – the level necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. Cut foreign oil imports by two-thirds from projected levels by 2030. Transform our carbon-based economy into an efficient green economy, creating at least 5 million jobs from clean energy over the next decade.”

“Creating a market-based cap and trade program, and auctioning 100% of greenhouse gas permits. Hillary would raise fleet-wide fuel economy standards from the current level of 25 miles per gallon (mpg) to 40 mpg in 2020 and 55 mpg in 2030.

“Increased public transit usage is one of the best strategies for addressing the energy and environmental costs of transportation…As President, Hillary will increase federal funding for public transit, including buses, light rail and subways, by $1.5 billion per year. She will also link federal public transit funds to local land use policies that encourage residential developments that maximize public transit usage and discourage sprawl. She will also invest an additional $1 billion in intercity passenger rail systems. Intercity passenger rail is an environmentally efficient alternative to highway driving and short flights; it elieves congestion on roads and airports; reduces the emission of automotive pollutants; and it timulates economic growth by linking metropolitan areas.”

Barack Obama: From Obama’s “Plan to Make America a Global Energy Leader”:

“Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities: Over the longer term, we know that the amount of fuel we will use is directly related to our land use decisions and development patterns, much of which have been organized around the principle of cheap gasoline. Barack Obama believes that we must move beyond our simple fixation of investing so many of our transportation dollars in serving drivers and that we must make more investments that make it easier for us to walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives.”

“Reform Federal Transportation Funding: As president, Barack Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account. Obama will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks, and he will also re-commit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country. Building more livable and sustainable communities will not only reduce the amount of time individuals spent commuting, but will also have significant benefits to air quality, public health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Level Employer Incentives for Driving and Public Transit: The federal tax code rewards driving to work by allowing employers to provide parking benefits of $205 per month tax free to their employees. The tax code provides employers with commuting benefits for transit, carpooling or vanpooling capped at $105 per month. This gives drivers a nearly 2:1 advantage over transit users. Obama will reform the tax code to make benefits for driving and public transit or ridesharing equal.”

John Edwards: From Edward’s “Achieving Independence and Stopping Global Warming Through a New Energy Economy”:

“Transform the Auto Industry to Lead the World in Cars of the Future: Edwards believes that everyone should be able to drive the car, truck or SUV of their choice and still enjoy high fuel economy. American automakers have the ingenuity to lead the world in building the clean, safe, economical cars of the future.”

“Raise Fuel Economy Standards: American cars and trucks are less efficient than they were two decades ago, despite the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Standards in China, Japan, and the European Union are between 40 and 100 percent higher. Edwards will raise standards to 40 miles per gallon by 2016, a step that could single-handedly reduce oil demand by 4 million barrels per day. [Pew Center on Global Climate Change, 2004; Reicher, 2007]”

“Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled: Edwards will create incentives for states and regions to plan smart growth and transit-oriented development with benchmarks for reductions in vehicle miles traveled. He supports more resources to encourage workers to use public transportation and will encourage more affordable, low-carbon and low-ambient pollution transportation options.”

Transit Miami will not take the position to endorse any particular candidate at this point in time but we will however attempt to portray how the candidates stack up on the key issues. We believe Hilary Clinton has the best climate change policy and has the strongest ties to the type of people who will bring about positive environmental changes over the next four years. Barak Obama has the clearest development policy of the three democratic candidates and his platform specifically addresses the benefits of smart growth. Obama is endorsed by many bicycling groups and has even stated that he will push for better pedestrian and cycling oriented policy as president. John Edwards presents the most conservative approach, concentrating much of his policy of fuel efficiency and alternative fuels. We’re concerned about all of the candidates’ positions and emphasis on coal energy and alternative fuels and are disappointed to see that none adequately address better growth principles.

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