Currently viewing the tag: "Everglades"

At last year’s Citizen’s Independent Transportation Trust (CITT) Transportation Summit, Maurice Ferré, former City of Miami Mayor and current Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) Chair, pointed to a map of his agency’s current and future projects and declared that it was MDX’s “dream” — yes, that’s a quote — to realize the proliferating highway vision embodied by that map.

A major feature of MDX’s so-called dream includes expanding the Dolphin Expressway (SR 836) down through the far southwest reaches of Miami-Dade County. One of the competing versions of the dream would put the newly expanded tolled highway along the Miami-Dade County urban development boundary (UDB).

SR-836-Southwest-1-Kendall-Extension-map

 

Miami-Dade County’s Urban Development Boundary (UDB) in 2013. Source: Miami Geographic / Matthew Toro. 2014.

Miami-Dade County’s Urban Development Boundary (UDB) in 2013. Source: Miami Geographic. 2014.

Tolled highways are generally great, as they create an economic disincentive to single-occupant automobile use. People often respond to the price triggers of tolled highways by turning to more affordable, more accessible public transportation (bus, train, etc.), active mobility (biking, walking, etc.), and alternative mobility (car-pooling, short-distance car-sharing (Car2Go), real-time ride-sharing (Uber, Lyft), etc.) options.

In the metropolitan context of Miami-Dade County, though, these options are either underdeveloped or are just now getting started in earnest.

The Metrorail system, for instance, serves a very limited corridor.

Metrorail System 1-Mile Network (“Along-the-Street-Network”) 2014 Land-Use Corridor. Source: Matthew Toro. Miami Geographic. 2014.

Metrorail System 1-Mile Network (“Along-the-Street-Network”) 2014 Land-Use Corridor. Source: Matthew Toro. Miami Geographic. 2014.

An extensive bus system traverses most major arterial roads moving north-south and east-west, but buses carry a stigma of being either unreliable or unpleasant, or both.

Miamians are increasingly realizing that cycling and walking to their destinations isn’t as hard as our automobile-dominated culture would have us otherwise believe. Still, we’re many years away from realizing the active mobility utopia Miami has the potential to be.

In light of this shortage of viable mobility alternatives, then, one might think that the toll revenues generated by Miami’s highway dystopia would be directed toward investment in better public transportation infrastructure and streetscape amenities (e.g., wider sidewalks, proper bike lanes, etc.).

The problem with MDX, though, is that the toll monies it collects are used for increased highway development and an unwarranted expansion of roadway jurisdiction, not for the sorts of investments that would move greater Miami away from its automobile dependence.

As one of many cases in point: MDX is actively seeking to convert the only bus route in Miami-Dade County even remotely resembling true bus rapid transit, the South Miami-Dade Busway, into a highway falling under its jurisdiction, complete with overpasses and all.

Dumping more money into highways is tantamount to our community collectively signing a 50-100-year contract of servitude to stop-and-go highway hell. And that’s not to mention all of the broader economic and environmental ramifications: subsidizing the air-choking, global warming oil and gas industries; the financial crisis-inducing, and obesity-encouraging single-family real estate sprawl sector; the deforestation-promoting rubber sector in the tropics; the list goes on.

Miamians don’t have to accept this fate, though. We don’t have to sign away our city to this chain of corporate profiteers who refuse to adapt to the innovations in transportation infrastructure and human life demanded by 21st century urbanism.

The very first “Open House: Public Kick-off Meeting” for MDX’s Southwest Highway Expansion “dream” will be held in less than two weeks. This is Miami’s first real opportunity to voice its concerns about the project’s short-, medium-, and long-term impacts.

At the risk of sounding (even more?) cynical, I dare posit that these sorts of meetings are intended primarily to fulfill certain state and federal requirements to maintain minimum transparency levels, as well as to offer just enough opportunity for public input so that any future complaints made when the real impacts of such projects are felt can be expediently dismissed with the standard bureaucratic “We offered the public the chance to speak, and no such concerns were brought up then.” By then, it’s simply too little, too late.

The point is that the time to speak is now — during this preliminary Project Development & Environment (PD&E) Study — not when this study materializes into an actionable plan and the construction crews are out there at the edge of the Everglades laying out a new highway.

Don’t let MDX’s highway dream become Miami’s prolonged highway nightmare. Be there and speak up!

 

MDX SR 836 / Dolphin Expressway Southwest Extension

Open House Public Kickoff Meeting

Thursday, September 4, 2014

6:00pm - 9:00pm

Miami Baptist Church

14955 SW 88th Street

Miami, FL 33196

The bond sale will be done through the Building Better Communities project, a $2.93 billion capital improvements program approved overwhelmingly by voters back in 2004… Commissioner Carlos Gimenez said that while the projects are laudable, he opposed the measure because it relies on a commission move last September to raise the property-tax rate that goes to pay for county debt, to 44.5 cents per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.

Check out the list of projects and see what you think. The list lacks details, but includes a couple of bike projects, lots of park projects, and an slew of other water/sewer, public service, community, and safety facilities.

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…

Despite widespread opposition, our state legislators are moving forward with a plan that would privatize alligator alley for the next 75 years.  The state would “reap” the short term benefits of privatization, gaining about a billion dollars in these “tough economic times” with which to infuse money into our fledgling roadway/transit infrastructure (with a heavy emphasis on roadways…) The Transportation budgetary shortfalls, a national problem as well, is the result of an antiquated, unsustainable gas tax, which has taken a serious hit with the recent hikes in gas prices (combined with the highly subsidized nature all roadways demand.)

The potential lease of Alligator Alley is part of a larger trend toward privatizing major infrastructure assets in the United States.

The federal highway trust fund, which pays for roads, bridge repairs and mass transit, is running multi-billion dollar deficits and on the verge of bankruptcy.

The orgy of Congressional earmarking politics has drained billions from needed construction and maintenance jobs toward lesser priority pork.

Gas taxes haven’t kept pace with inflation. Nobody in Washington was willing to raise taxes when gas was $1.50 or $2 a gallon; they certainly won’t do it when prices are closer to $4.

But $4 a gallon gas has actually accelerated the funding issues. People are driving less. Less gas consumption equals less money for highway construction and mass transit.

”Our approach to funding transportation is broken,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said during a recent visit to South Florida. “It is time for a better approach.”

The privatization of a profitable roadway in Florida is worrisome and extremely short sided.  Even more troubling perhaps, is the way in which our government has gone about this privatization plan – holding interest group meetings in places as far away as Orlando.  As a planner, I too have had professional difficulties establishing the role of public input when it comes to policy issues, but what can be said when our policymakers not only defy the voice of the overwhelming majority but go so far as to complicate the public involvement process?  Could this perhaps be the work of a governor who is trying to make a name for himself on a more national stage?

FDOT will be hosting focus groups on the privatization plan on September 16th and 17th at the Hyatt Bonaventure, 250 Racquet Club Rd., Weston.

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Amid all the talk about the County Commission’s massive transit failure, comes a little bit of happy news. Last week the Commission approved the purchase of approximately 100 acres of land beyond the UDB to be placed under the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program. While 100 acres is not a lot, every little bit contributes to a green belt around the County that will perpetually hold development and buffer the Everglades from existing developed areas.

To date, the County in partnership with the South Florida Water Management District, the State of Florida, & other funding partners have aquired approximately 18,190 Acres of land throughout Dade County since the inception of the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program.

Apparently we were having an HTML error due to the recent wordpress software upgrade.  We apologize for the inconvenience and incomplete emails that were sent out this morning.

Let me see if I am reading this sequence of events correctly:

  1. Miami-Dade County commissioners allowed development to occur adjacent to Kendall-Tamiami Airport.
  2. Thousands of cookie cutter homes were built, some in locations far too close to the airport boundary (you all remember how certain developers took certain commissioners on fishing trips to Mexico  because they are so kind in exchange for a reduction in the airport buffer zone…)
  3. Knowing of the airport’s existence, families still moved into these houses.
  4. Residents are now complaining of the noise caused by the airport and want restrictions placed on flights.

I don’t know about you, but I’m left scratching my head on this one.  How stupid are we?  One of the proposed “solutions” is to move more of the training flights out to the Dade-collier transition facility in the middle of the everglades. In case you aren’t aware, in the late 1960’s some of our legislative geniuses laid the foundation to create the world’s largest airport (Everglades Jetport) in the middle of the Florida Everglades.  Luckily, only one of the airports proposed 6 runways (a 10,500 ft behemoth nonetheless) was actually constructed before environmentalists (rather the cancellation of the SST aircraft, the main reason why the airport was conceived from the beginning) convinced the government that the airport would cause irreparable harm to the ecosystem.

I digressed as usual, but am I the only one in complete disbelief?  This reminds me of the other geniuses in Kendall who never realized that existing rail rights-of-way like the CSX or FEC corridor could actually once again be used for regular rail service…

But residents are worried about the dangers associated with testing equipment in such a highly populated area.

It has even led homeowners to question whether it’s time for the Federal Aviation Administration to revisit airport guidelines now that the landscape around the airport has significantly changed from mostly empty fields to hundreds of homes.

Once again, this chain of events is the result of developers controlling our land-use regulations.  Land-use planning is pro-active, why is it that in Miami-Dade County we’re always left cleaning up other people’s messes?

The swath of land centered in the image below was a former airfield in Pinecrest, forced to close due to encroaching development, could Kendall-Tamiami experience this fate one day?  How about Homestead General Aviation Airport or even Dade-Collier?

The Herald is reporting that the county commission overturned Mayor Alvarez’s veto in favor of moving the Urban Development Boundary for a Lowe’s at 8th St and 137th Ave and a retail center at Kendall Drive and (gulp), 167th Avenue (i.e. the Everglades). More sprawl, more self-interests, more incompetence. We’ll have lots more on this later.


Natacha Seijas, Pepe Diaz and crew want more of this…

Photo: Flickr

Does anyone even care anymore? With all this talk about global warming, alternative fuels, and the trimming of every government budget due to major financial cutbacks, you’d think the community would be up at arms about an approval to build even yet more development on our western fringes. Ecosystem destruction? Check. Vehicular-oriented development? Check. Massive unnecessary infrastructural strains on the County? Check. This approval falls in line with every single reason why living in South Florida has become extraordinarily difficult for the average middle-income family.

I’ll tell you this much, I’m fed up and Transit Miami is going to do something about it.

For those of you who are still out in the dark, the County Commission moved the UDB boundary again last week in order to accommodate some projects in the name of the community saving special interests. Disgustingly, the 9-4 super majority vote is enough to override the impending veto by Mayor Carlos Alvarez. In doing so, our incredibly intelligent elected officials have defied the opinion of local planning experts (not just us), most County residents, and State growth management officials.

But the county commission overlooked those pleadings Thursday when it approved two controversial applications to build outside the UDB — one for an office complex, another for a home improvement center, which includes plans to build a new high school. The state, mayor and planning and zoning board’s pleas also were ignored.

Big box retail and absurdly placed office complexes (with plenty of parking), just what nature called for along the edge of our shrinking everglades ecosystem. 600,000 square feet of office space in a river of grass would equate to something like this:

Miami Everglades UDB Expansion

The county planner said construction outside the UDB isn’t necessary because there is enough space available inside the boundary for several decades.

Sorenson stopped her colleagues before the final vote, warning of a long fight in the courts if the state finds the county didn’t comply with growth management law. Addressing Assistant County Attorney Joni Armstrong Coffey, Sorenson asked what would happen if the county was not in compliance with state growth laws.

”We will be in litigation,” Coffey said.

Where is Norman Braman when you really need him?

Let the lawsuit begin (Note: yet another strain on the public financial capacity…)

  • Tri-Rail carried more passengers in 2007 than in 2006. The overall system ridership is up 31% since march 2006…
  • City of Miami is working on identifying vacant lots to be used for park space…
  • The County Commission is trying to get the state and federal government to kick in hundreds of millions of dollars for metrorail expansion, everglades restoration, river dredging, pedestrian overpasses, and a regional homeland security hub among other projects… We’ll cover this in more depth later today…
  • Office vacancy rates continue to decline
  • Bike Blog presents a comprehensive wish list for 2008 Bike facilities…

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We some how bypassed this article last week, but, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez vetoed commission recommendations to approve a number of projects outside of the UDB. The veto will likely stand given that the commission lacks the 2/3 majority to override the mayor, presuming that none of the commissioners switch sides…


“If Miami-Dade moves outside the UDB, it will affect our delivery of services and strain already taxed resources,” Alvarez wrote. “Police and fire rescue services would be spread over a greater area, resulting in longer response times due to greater distances and road congestion.”

Meanwhile, on the losing end of the veto, Lowes’ attorney Juan Mayol laments about not having short drives to buy plywood:


“We are hopeful that the county commissioners will continue to recognize that these hard-working families are tired of overcrowded schools and long drives to buy such simple things as plywood or a garden hose.”

How often are people in Kendall buying plywood or garden hoses? Are these necessary commodities in suburbia? Does anyone else appreciate how he combined critical issues (traffic and education) with such an asinine comment? In any case, I’m glad to see the line will be held till 2009 at the earliest, expanding the UDB, contrary to Mayol’s belief, will further strain our transit infrastructure, water resources, and economy to impermissible levels.

Energy and oil is the dominant theme this week, however the articles about the Everglades and affordable housing in Miami are very troubling.

  • NY Times: Efforts to save the everglades are faltering
  • Newsday: Gas prices affecting community, car use
  • NY Times: Rising demand for oil provokes new energy crisis
  • KITV Honolulu: Gas prices have reached $5 per gallon in parts of Cali
  • Miami Herald: Housing crunch (lack of affordable housing) hitting low-income residents hard
  • NY Times: High gas prices and long commutes having an impact on the sprawl market

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Local News:
  • Palm Beach County is looking to expand water Taxi service throughout the county to create multiple water transit hubs at key coastal communities. I can’t really foresee a water taxi service solving any traffic problems in any of the three counties until considerable advances are created on land-borne transit services first. As it is the existing service serves mainly as a sight-seeing tour, accomplishing little for our daily traffic woes…
  • The Everglades Restoration plan is behind schedule and quickly rising in cost, now estimated at nearly $20 Billion. Meanwhile, development continues to encroach as we keep decimating our novel ecosystem…
  • Merrett Stierheim has the right idea, Miami-Dade severely needs a reputable higher-learning research institution. Problem is, who is going to show the initiative to get such a monumental project moving?
  • One word: Recentralization. It’s happening and it is severely needed. Forget the suburban office digs in Doral, Blue Lagoon, or BFE (Ryder.) The time to create an urban, vibrant, and useful CBD is now…
  • Bids will be accepted soon to find a contractor to build the US Southern Command’s 700,000 square foot expansion in Doral. We’re working on finding a rendering of the new facility, designed by the local office of Leo Daly Architects.
  • New seats coming soon to the Gusman…
Blog News:
  • SOTP addresses the lame ordinance which bars limo companies and private car services from picking up passengers within an hour of their initial request…
  • Miami-Forum shows some “love” for the imbecilic public works department of Miami Springs…
  • Riptide 2.0 discusses the integration of Bikes with Miami 21…
National News:
  • How do you stop Sprawl? You Sue the cities which don’t comply with smart growth patterns, that’s how…
  • MARTA Plans a system wide review and possibly overhaul to make daily transit operations run smoother…

Herald: Suburban sprawl threatens Lake Okeechobee.

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An article in the Herald today brings to light a very serious issue that has significant consequences for Miami-Dade’s future. According to insiders and the Herald, it is looking like the recommendations from the South Miami-Dade Watershed Study and Plan, which include holding the Urban Development Boundary and encouraging most development along the US-1 corridor to stop further sprawl, may be ignored by officials who either think they are experts or who just don’t care about anyone but themselves.

Vice-Chairman Dennis Moss was quoted, “It’s not an easy situation and folks are not going to give in in terms of their philosophies”.

Here’s a philosophy: We’re all screwed if the recommendations from the watershed study are ignored. Why? According to the study:

  • The South Miami-Dade Watershed region is expected to nearly double in population by 2050, going from 791,000 in 2000 to approximately 1, 500,000 in 2050.
  • The Watershed cannot continue to grow as expected without substantial consequences to its water and natural resources, quality of life, and community characteristics
  • The Watershed Plan calls for a Smart Growth (which we’ve preached for over a year ad nauseam) approach to accommodating future population growth; however, if the the alternative (sprawl or current) approach continues the watershed area will negatively and irreversibly be changed
  • The waters of Biscayne Bay will be subject to substantial increases in water pollution
  • 3/4 of our agricultural areas will be lost to sprawling, low-density residential subdivisions
  • Traffic congestion will increase significantly
  • The effectiveness of the $8 billion Everglades restoration program will be greatly reduced
  • It is estimated that the “sprawl scenario” will cost nearly $8 billion more for infrastructure than the recommended Watershed Plan between now and 2050, which does not even include substantial environmental costs (who’s going to be funding most of this unnecessary, unsustainable infrastructure? Mostly taxpayers.)
As you can see, the alternative to the Watershed Plan is wholly unsustainable. How could any politician unequivocally dismiss such an obvious and significant plan to accommodate future growth? Look no further than our County Commission and the Governmental Operations and Environment Committee (GOEC), chaired by none other than sprawl-champion Natacha Seijas.

Seijas, easily the worst of all the county commissioners (and that is really saying something), who is lucky to even have a job after threatening a fellow commissioner’s life during session in the County Chambers, is leading the charge to foil implementation of the watershed study. It shouldn’t be of much surprise to citizens, given that she is profoundly connected to developers and pro-sprawl interests as evidenced by her consistent voting record to move the UDB line and quotes like “I don’t see why we need to be creating an environment for them (Manatees) to continue”.

Her opposition is significant because she is the chairwoman for the GOEC, which oversees urban growth policies and monitors the utilization of our natural resources. What’s she saying?

“I don’t think this study should be used to do anything (involving major land-use decisions)”.

OK, so nearly $4 million, six years of research, and perhaps the future of our region may be down the drain if she gets her way. Some Commissioners are talking about potentially adopting some aspects of the Plan but ignoring the land-use aspects. Duh. It doesn’t work like that. ALL OF THESE ASPECTS ARE INTERCONNECTED.

This is the type of business that makes my blood pressure boil because the incompetence and special interest pandering is so blatantly obvious, shameless, and completely detrimental to the area’s future. This is the same type of incompetence and slipshod politics that has sadly become standard practice for many of our elected officials. It has become obvious that expert opinion, research, and administrative work are almost entirely irrelevant in this county, because our elected officials instead use their own pet theories, intuition, and self-interest to make decisions that will negatively affect the area for many generations to come. Frankly, it is not only unprofessional, but completely embarrassing.

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