Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part series.
I was in San Francisco recently and aside from riding every form of urban transit imaginable (cable car, light rail, subway, bicycle, and commuter rail) I took the opportunity to explore a few of the city’s up-and-coming neighborhoods particularly, South of Market (SOMA), Mission Bay, and South Beach. Of particular interest on this visit was the urban development sprouting up along the China Basin, home of AT&T Ballpark where the San Francisco Giants have played since 2000. AT&T Ballpark and the new Muni Metro transit line which accompanied the stadium have served as catalysts for new urban development.
Having visited a number of America’s Baseball stadiums, what really strikes me about AT&T Ballpark is its connectivity with the surroundings. From the boardwalk along the famed McCovey Cove to the King Street Walk of Fame, this ballpark was designed to be as much of destination during the off-season as it is when the Giants are in town (Note: when I visited the Giants were on the road). This is a true urban ballpark; warm and inviting with some restaurants and bars within the ballpark opening up to Willie Mays Plaza. The Plaza, of course not only pays homage to one of baseball’s greatest players, but creates a sense of space and grand entrance to the ballpark. It’s important to note that AT&T Ballpark was the first privately financed ballpark in Major League Baseball since 1962. Noticeably absent from the area surrounding the stadium is parking, a good segway into a brief discussion of the transit service that was built to connect the region.
The T third street line is a modern light-rail system completed in 2007 at a cost of $648 Million. The 5.1 mile transit line is the newest addition to the SFMTA in 50 years and connects the existing Muni Metro system and AT&T Ballpark with some long neglected neighborhoods including Potrero Hill, Bayview, Hunters Point, and Visitacion Valley. Today, new development dots the landscape around the T third street line including the Mission Bay Development, an emerging bioscience hub anchored by the UCSF Mission Bay campus as well as an abundance of dense, urban, development (see: Avalon, Edgewater, and Strata). It’s also important to note that the T third street line was funded largely through the city of San Francisco’s Proposition B, a ½% sales tax levied to support transit projects.
Visiting AT&T Ballpark (and the surrounding neighborhoods) allowed me to more fully comprehend the shortcomings of the Marlins new Ballpark currently rising in the heart of Little Havana. The new Marlins Stadium is beautiful feat of engineering; it is sleek, shiny, and futuristic, much like Miami itself. Once inside, watching the home team play will be a pleasure, no doubt, but its interaction with the surrounding host community is, like much of Miami’s development, designed with a certain air of indifference for neighboring land uses.
Constructed at a taxpayer cost of $360M, one would think that we’d be unveiling a trophy piece of civic infrastructure next season; one whose public investment would outweigh the costs by spurring new urban growth, tourism, and economic development in the heart of the Magic City. One would also think that the additional $100M of public investment in transportation infrastructure would be designed to alleviate an already stressed infrastructure rather than exacerbate the problem, right? Wrong. This is Miami, here we spend $100M building four massive, structurally deficient parking garages.
Having visited AT&T Ballpark and the surrounding neighborhoods it’s difficult not to think of what a $100M down payment for a new transit line akin to the T third street line could have looked like. It could have linked EXISTING parking in downtown or the civic center urban centers with the Ballpark. Think of the opportunity lost to spur new development and provide a reasonable modal alternative to the residents of a largely lower-middle class neighborhood. Think of the pedestrian-scale development that could have risen alongside the stadium instead of parking garages. Imagine paying a nominal $2 transit fare to access the ballpark rather than shelling out upwards of $30 for parking (there are, after all, only 5,700 spaces available).
It’s an interesting juxtaposition in my eyes:
- AT&T Ballpark was built without a single cent of public financing and is one of the most inclusive, consciously designed stadiums in all of major league baseball. Coupled with a sound investment in sustainable transit, the stadium has spurred ongoing economic development in the surrounding neighborhoods.
- On the other hand, the heavily subsidized Marlins Ballpark is beginning to look like a full-blown assault on Little Havana, replete with the loss of public open space, parking structures which isolate the stadium from the surrounding community, and a guarantee that at least 81 days of the year the congestion in this area will be a nightmarish hell with little, if any, net positive impact to local businesses.
This is part one of a two part series. Part two will be published over the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
A look down San Francisco’s Third Street line (T) – a preview of an upcoming post next week where we look at the successes of AT&T Ballpark and surrounding development with an eye on the completion of the new Marlins’ Ballpark later this year.
Leave it to citizen advocates to be at the forefront of progressive city planning. A citizen advocacy group in New York City called Vision 42 is proposing to close 42 street to cars and construct an east/west light rail line, connecting one side of Manhattan with the other.
Vision 42 would like to turn the full length of 42nd Street into a pedestrian mall, while adding a light rail line that would connect the 39th Street ferry terminal on the Hudson River, near the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on the West Side Highway, with the 36th Street ferry terminal on the East River, near the undeveloped Con Edison sites on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive.
The light rail system, which would cost an estimated $500 million, would run from terminal to terminal in about 20 minutes, half the time that the current bus system takes.
Sounds good to me. Why aren’t we doing to $200 million streetcar again? Seems that in New York, real estate developers are catching on to the idea that walkablility increases value.
“Real estate people should take a look at what’s happened with real estate values in other cities where there are these walking streets,” said Mr. Durst, who visits pedestrian-friendly Copenhagen frequently, as his wife is Danish. “They’ve increased tremendously.”
Vision 42 advocates said light rail lines in Dallas had stimulated more than $1 billion worth of development. In Portland, Ore., light rail has catalyzed about $1.2 billion worth of development. In Jersey City, about 33.3 million square feet of development is under way, Mr. Haikalis said.
An economic study commissioned by Vision 42 with grant money and done by the consulting firm Urbanomics of New York, projected that about 398 office properties along 42nd Street would have an average increase in lot value of $188 a square foot because of the time saved with a light rail line, a combined increase in value of 4 percent. Jeffrey Gural, the chairman of Newmark Knight Frank, a real estate company that manages office buildings along 42nd Street, said it would make sense to connect the Javits Center to the United Nations, which currently has no subway stop.
According to Urbanomics’ study, completely closing 42nd Street to cars and adding light rail would increase the pedestrian volume by about 35 percent, producing a proportional annual increase in sales of about $380 million for the street’s 126 retail outlets, Mr. Haikalis said.
It’s what I keep on saying: plan for the type of city you want. If you plan for pedestrians and transit, that is who will inhabit the city. If you plan for cars, well, we all know what happens when you plan for cars.
Streetcars, Trams, Light Rails. Call them what you may, but these devices resolve the simple task of effectively moving people around densely populated urban centers. In the spirit of keeping the Miami streetcar alive (which I assure you will not resemble the picture below) this week with a swift defeat of Norm’s frivolous lawsuit against the Miami mega plan, we bring you today’s Pic o’ the Day. Can anyone name this city?
This is the first of our new Guest articles section on Transit Miami…
London’s Docklands Light Rail System
Riding a transit system does more than give you a feel for the city you’re in; If you’re a transit buff, you also notice things about the system itself, and compare it to other systems you’ve ridden in other cities, and, naturally, to the one in your hometown. Sometimes, one even gets to compare 2 very different modes of Transit operating in tandem.
Miami’s Metrorail and metro mover systems provide such an opportunity for Transit buffs, but London’s Underground and the Docklands light rail system provide another, more intense comparison, for while Miami’s transit systems are arguably under-utilized, London’s are anything but.
London’s Underground and DLR also represent perhaps the 2 most innovative transit systems in the world, operating with great connectivity with one another, Yet it’s important to note the distinctions between the two systems, because they so closely reflect the different environments in which they operate, and it’s a reminder of why it’s a good thing to see such systems in action, rather than simply read specifications and surf the web looking at pictures and route maps.
The London Underground, a workhorse (mostly) underground heavy rail rapid transit system, is built for speed and moving massive amounts of people across a sprawling, densely populated metropolitan area. When the underground was built in the 1870’s, it was the world’s first urban rapid transit system, and London was already the world’s largest and most densely populated city. Then as today, investment in public infrastructure tended to lag behind population growth.
The Docklands Light Rail, or DLR as it is referred to, was a major investment conceived in the 1980’s to help stimulate the re-development of the Docklands region, the centerpiece of which was, and is the Canary Wharf financial district, which has grown to one of Europe’s finest and most modern business districts. The DLR provides a direct link to Central London from The Docklands region, which straddles the River Thames, and curves southeast of City of London, the oldest and most historic part of Central London.
The Docklands is a world away from the fashionable west end and stately neighborhoods and parks of Victorian London. It’s an area of many Riverfront Warehouses and factories, relics of England’s industrial age. It’s also an area which bore the brunt of the Blitz in World War II, and deteriorated for many years after as factories closed, and trade via the Thames dwindled. As Canary Wharf has grown into a shining, modern business district, the docklands area has seen many old riverfront factories and warehouses adaptively re-used for residential and commercial uses, and that process is far from finished.
Commuting on the DLR
As a veteran subway rider, I was already very familiar with the London Underground, it being the first subway I ever rode, and have ridden it extensively on a half dozen trips to London over the years. Last September I spent 6 days near Canary Wharf, and got to see and ride the Docklands LRT for the first time, commuting to Central London and connecting to the Underground on several occasions, and also to Canary Wharf from my hotel near the Excel Convention center.
In riding the system I marveled at it’s high ridership, which averages 200,000 commuters per day, impressive numbers for a light rail system by US standards, yet a small percentage of the overall ridership for Greater London. Even so, contrasting the Docklands area to other areas of densely populated central London, the DLR is very well suited for it’s lighter, but no less important share of London’s Transit load. To put it’s scale in perspective, the system length totals only 31 KM, with 38 stations, 8 of which transfer to Underground stations, 2 of which are northern terminus stations at Bank and Tower Gate, a short walk to the Tower of London. The system’s growth continues, however, and the Docklands area will be the site of many Olympic venues when the Olympics
come to London in 2012.
The DLR serves a smaller and less-densely populated area then the Underground, but with more frequent stops, and at necessarily lower speeds. It also utilizes existing freight railway rights of way to a large extent, often operating on at-grade-seperated railbeds, with station walkways straddling the DLR and Freight tracks.
The trains themselves automated 4-car trainsets, with compact 4 car platforms, and completely dedicated rights of way, mostly elevated, some at grade, and small sections of underground, most notably at the northern Tower Gate terminus.
Stations are unattended for the most part, with automated ticketing machines, and a modern, if slightly utilitarian appearance, in contrast to the victorian-era feel and appearance of the average underground station.
In it’s brief 20 year history, the Docklands light rail has grown from a single line into 4 seperate corridors, with additional infill stations added, and 6 additional transfer stations to the underground in addition to the original two, which also reflect the continuing growth of the Underground into southeast London as well.
The evolution of the DLR can be shown to pararell the re-development of the Docklands area, and as such, it provides a model for how a modern transit sytem can evolve and grow as a city grows, and serve as a stimulus for a highly urbanized area’s redevelopment. This lesson has many applications in North America, but the FEC corridor comes immediately to mind when visualizing how a similar system might work in a South Florida setting.
Tuesday at noon, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the city commission will meet in City Hall to discuss funding. The Sun-Sentinel seems to be the only source of information on this meeting. If I didn’t have to work I would be there.
Perhaps it’s worth noting that there is at least one representative from a car dealership on the DDA Board, Gale Butler from AutoNation. Since the DDA is responsible for this project, it looks like the auto dealerships are more inclined to see this project happen than Miami’s streetcar. Let’s do The Wave!
The Seattle streetcar apparently does not use signal preemption. It has to stop at all traffic lights just like a bus would. This is rather ridiculous, as even Bus Rapid Transit usually calls for signals to change to give priority to the bus. An effective Miami streetcar needs to have signal preemption.
Bicyclists don’t like it and organized a protest. Seattle put the tracks on the right side of the road, precariously close to the bicyclists’ paths. Rails in the road parallel to a bicycles direction of travel are a recipe for disaster. As a bicyclist myself, I share their concerns. Streetcars like Seattle’s carry a lot more people than bicycles, and that should give them at least a slightly higher priority. At the same time, streets need to accommodate as many modes as possible–especially if we ever hope to implement a decent bike sharing program. The needs of bicyclists, pedestrians, transit, and auto all need to be considered carefully in the design of Miami’s streetcar. One alternative that has been used before is to put the rails down the middle of the street.
Seattle’s streetcar is expected to help retail business. That’s probably an accurate expectation, but we’ll have to wait and see the numbers. Most rail transit systems have increased local business, and we could probably expect the same in Miami.
There’s one unique issue that Miami will have to worry about. Every time there is a hurricane, the overhead electric lines will have to be repaired. We all know how often that happens! This makes it worthwhile to consider alternate technologies such as Innorail, which have the added benefit of removing unsightly overhead wires.
It sounds like Seattle’s streetcar was packed the first day, just new like light rail systems. Charlotte’s Lynx light rail is exceeding projections in its first weeks. Surely Miami’s streetcar would do the same.
- Can’t believe we let this one pass under our radar for so long, but, the Caribbean’s second urban transit system is currently under construction in Santo Domingo. The 9 mile system will feature 16 stations, 10 of which will be subterranean. The system is set to open February 27, 2008 at a cost of nearly $700 Million…
- The Eurostar set a new Paris-London record recently, completing the journey under the Chunnel in 2 hours and 3 minutes. The upgraded service is due to the completion of 68 miles of British high speed rail, stretching from the tunnel to the recently restored Victorian styled St. Pancras International Station.
- The Charlotte Light Rail system hasn’t even opened yet and it is already spurring Transit Oriented Development, 10 years ahead of planners’ forecasts. The development will offer 2,500 dwellings in mixed high density apartments, condominiums, and town homes will offer residents the ease of urban living just outside the city center.
- How to curb LA’s growing parking problems? Eliminate parking requirements in new developments, of course. The best remedy to a downtown cores parking problem is to only make it more scarce.
- The most accessible U.S. Airports. Notice how they are all linked to their respective cities by Public Transportation. Coincidence, we think not…
- MDX to place Sunpass on Sale again. The transponders will be selling for $8.36 instead of their usual $25 price. Discounting a tolling device isn’t exactly the best way to reduce congestion, especially when the toll money is reinvested in highways rather than public transit…
- Confusion on the 836…
- BoB has some exclusive pics of the Miami Skylift being placed in Downtown Miami…
- DWNTWN Miami will do nothing to solve any of the tangible problems facing our downtown. Unlike most of the materialistic or cosmetic fixes people in this city tend to turn to, removing O’s and coming up with some catchy phrase will not solve Downtown’s woes. Can we get some real ideas now?
The U-Bahn (Subway) is a relatively new form of transportation in
The city and its immediate surroundings also contain over 380 kilometers of track for the Schnellbahn, a suburban commuter rail train similar to our tri-rail, only its efficient, vast, reliable, and electrically powered. As I mentioned previously, we used the schnellbahn to connect from the airport to the U-Bahn. There is also a small light rail transit system located within city limits (I know these people are so lucky to have all different forms of rail transit) known as the Lokalbahnen. I’m not familiar with the Lokalbahnen, seeing that we never had the opportunity to use it, but I often saw its trams arriving at the Karlsplatz station, where passengers could connect with U-Bahn, Schnellbahn, or bus transit options along the Ringstrasse. Notice how every site I’ve linked contains maps, schedules, routes, tickets, etc. in English in an easy to find format…
The city is also covered by over 80 different bus routes some of which operate 24 hours a day. The Nighlines provide service once the metro systems close for the night, at 1 am and run until they reopen at 5:30. The Nighline runs every 30 minutes and is just as prompt and easy to use as the Strassenbahns and no less popular among the locals or even us visitors. Using the bus system was no less of a breeze to connect us with the nearest U-Bahn station. The buses also lack the stop signal system found on most U.S. buses, instead a button near the exits serves as a dual use button to trigger doors to open and to signal the bus driver to stop. All buses (thanks to GPS devices) also announce upcoming stops and Strassenbahn and U-Bahn connections.
After experiencing yet another efficient and effective public transportation system, I am forced to realize that
The picture below depicts the middle level of one of my favorite transfer stations in Vienna, Schottentor. This station is a major transfer point for at least 10 different Strassenbahn lines, including the 1 and 2 trams which traverse the inner stadt. Trams arrive on the ground and mid level of the station, one level below ground. From the mid level the Votivkirche (church) provides a beautiful backdrop for the arriving trams. One level below, passengers can access the U2 line of the U-Bahn. Note: None of the stations feature parking, parking garages, or anything to accommodate ridiculous vehicular usage.
- More than 10 billion trips taken on bus and rails in 2006 nationwide
- 2.9% increase over 2005
- Highest levels of ridership since 1957
- Ridership nationally has increased by 28% over the last decade
APTA president William Millar stated in the article, “Certainly a lot of the growth last year was with the high gas prices”. This offers more support to raise our gas taxes. This may be especially necessary for the future of South Florida transit, given cutbacks in funds the region could see if the proposed property tax rollback bill is passed. Raising gas taxes will better represent the true cost of oil, encourage more people to ride transit, and generate millions of dollars to improve transit.
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