Currently viewing the tag: "Metrobus"

TransitMiami can’t help but give a great neighborhood bar, The DRB, some unsolicited praise for its ingenious selection of an otherwise neglected downtown office building for its new location.

By choosing to site its new bar in the part of downtown dominated by boring institutional land-uses, The DRB chose to bring some vibrancy and character to an otherwise lifeless part of downtown. The very phrase itself — “lifeless part of downtown” — is an unfortunate contradiction, an oxymoron of a poorly planned urban milieu.

The building in question — situated on NE 5th Street and 1st Ave. — is surrounded almost exclusively by  institutional land-uses (occupied by, e.g., federal courthouses, a community college, a church, etc.) and lots of shamefully vacant and/or completely undeveloped, prime-for-mixed-use-development downtown parcels.

When New Urbanists and other community design-oriented folks refer to the evils of homogeneous land-use configurations, the image most typically invoked is that of miles upon miles of single-family residential land-use. Indeed, monolithic residential land-use embodies the notion of ‘urban sprawl’.

Elected officials, planners, and developers must also recognize, though, that large areas of homogeneous institutional land-use in the downtown core is at least as toxic (if not more so) for our city as sprawling single-family cookie-cutter houses along the periphery.

We need more transit-oriented development (TOD) in Miami’s de facto government-institution district. That area already has a great combination of Metrorail, Metromover, and Metrobus access. We must augment this healthy transportation configuration with a healthier land-use configuration.

And we must certainly continue to push our elected officials to expand the public transit network. However, we must also push them to better incentivize more commercial in-fill near the highly viable sections of public transit we already have, especially in downtown. It’s the hustle and bustle of downtown that build’s a city’s personality.

Kudos to you, Democratic Republic of Beer, for selecting a site so wonderfully accessible by transit, foot, and bicycle. Now all those bureaucrats and college students have a nice neighborhood spot in which to enjoy one of your exotic specialty brews from one of the corners of the globe.

(This author recommends the Sri Lankan Lion Stout.)

I sincerely love riding our community’s Metrobuses. They’re generally clean, safe, and comfortable. Mind you, it really depends on which route you ride: some buses, and the people you find on them, are a bit more pleasant than others. Nevertheless, for the most part, there is an underlying sense of camaraderie and a tacit respect for one’s fellow passengers which pervades the public bus-riding experience.

Public transit brings people together and engenders cohesiveness. Unspoken bonds are formed between strangers of all races, socio-economic statuses, and walks-of-life during the shared passage to their respective destinations. In a city as diverse and socio-ethnically/socio-economically segregated as Miami, we need more transit-facilitated social capital.

Sometimes, though, I can’t help but be overcome by indignation when encountering people on the buses (or trains) who seem to have no sense of basic transit etiquette.

You know who I’m talking about: those star-crossed lovers who want the whole bus to endure the loud, profanity-ridden telephone drama they’re having with their significant others; that obnoxious group of young, want-to-be rappers free-styling (poorly) to beats blasting out of their Smartphones; the girl who spills her soda and indifferently moves to a different seat to avoid the mess she just created; that sad homeless guy in unwashed clothes who, saturated by the smell of cigarettes and stale urine, just can’t resist to strike-up a halitosis-filled conversation about his past lives (only to then ask for money from any sympathetic listener) . . . the list goes on.

Among the very worst violations of transit etiquette, though, is the most common to find, and that’s what makes it the most infuriating. Some people just don’t understand the principle of one-seat per person. On packed buses, this is intolerable.

You’ve already taken up more than one full seat for your body, must your bags take the other two next to you?! Where’s the basic transit etiquette?

So please, when you have a bag — or two, or three, or four — with you on transit, please volunteer to remove it from the seat. Place the item(s) on your lap, under the seat, or, when available, in the overhead luggage rack.

Nobody should bear the burden of actually having to ask permission to occupy a seat covered by bags, or your extended feet, or your left-over slice of pizza, etc. The burden shouldn’t fall on the person looking for a seat. The seat(s) should be graciously offered by the person whose articles occupy it by removing them invitingly as those in need of a seat board the bus.

Please occupy only one seat until you’re absolutely sure you’re not denying any other passenger a place to sit. It makes the whole public transit experience better for all . . .

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Today was the first time I used one of the bike racks mounted on the MDT buses, as I did a bike-bus commute from South Beach to FIU Biscayne Bay. I boarded the 93 bus at Omni station and loaded my bike onto the rack closest to the driver. I should note that I ride a steel city bike with a pair of panniers – this is a heavy bike with an even heavier rear wheel area. But I got it on and locked it into place following the instructions on the MDT website. It still felt wobbly so I asked the driver if I’d done it correctly, to which she responded with a non-committal sound I took to mean yes.

Long story short (the longer version was posted to my blog), the locking mechanism slipped off the front wheel and the bike fell off the rack at my stop on 135 St & Biscayne Blvd, being hit by the bus into the next lane. It wasn’t run over, thankfully, but it was damaged so I couldn’t ride it. The driver reported it but did nothing else, shifting the blame entirely onto me and then leaving without even saying sorry. I filed a complaint via the MDT website but I fully expect them to blow their nose with it. I accept it was partly my fault because I may not have locked it properly, but I also asked for confirmation from the driver and received none. The driver also obviously was not paying attention to the bike otherwise she would have noticed when the locking arm slipped off.

I see bikes on the bus racks every day and I assume these reach their destination fine and dandy. But while I realize my case may be out of the ordinary, I cannot be the only person who has used these racks for the first time and did not know if they were used correctly. The buses should have better signage explaining the proper operation of the locking mechanism, and the drivers should be trained (and frankly required) to make sure that bikes are properly secured, especially when people ask them explicitly. While MDT may not make itself responsible for every single bike that goes on one of their bus bike racks, it cannot be good for business (to appeal to the basest denominator) if cases like mine happen more often.

Has anyone else out there had a problem with the MDT bus bike racks?

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Heard on the C bus from the Beach to Downtown this afternoon, 5 o’clock:

English tourist: “I am trying to get to downtown Miami, will this bus take me there.”

Bus Driver: “Oh honey, there ain’t no reason for you to go there after 5pm. There isn’t anything to see!”

While I slightly disagree with the well-intentioned driver, is this the kind of downtown we want, the one where the bus driver discourages anyone from going?

Brickell has made great improvements in nightlife of late, however downtown still lags behind. What type of nightlife would you like to see in downtown Miami?

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Pedestrians, bicyclists, bus riders, and motorists be warned: the easternmost bridge of Venetian Causeway will be closed for construction from May 1 – May 30. While it is understood that maintenance is essential to keeping the bridge safe, the loss of this major east-west link presents several challenges for all of its users, especially  pedestrians, bicyclists, and moped operators who depend daily upon the Venetian for a safe link between the City of Miami and Miami Beach.

According to a Miami-Dade County construction fact sheet I obtained from a toll booth operator, all traffic will be diverted to the MacArthur Causeway for the duration of the bridge closure. While the detour is  inconvenient for all of the above, the detour is potentially life threatening for the aforementioned groups, those who do not depend on enclosed motor vehicles for their daily transportation.  Since the fact sheet mentions obstruction to motor vehicles only, and nothing for all other users, it is extremely unlikely that the County will take any additional steps in ensuring any viable options for pedestrians or bicyclists to travel in a manner to which they are accustomed.

Certain MetroBus lines will likely enjoy some overcrowding as a result, but will likely be the safest alternative for those traveling between  Miami and Miami Beach. However, the monthly cost and inconvenience of traveling by such a mode will further impede many Venetian Causeway users.

Thus, please join Transit Miami in asking the County to protect both shoulders of the MacArthur Causeway with some type of temporary barrier so that bicyclists and pedestrians may proceed without immediately fearing for their lives. While such a provision will surely not appeal to every user, it will do much to alleviate the temporary convenience.  and allow people to travel more safely.

To make this simple request, please contact Delfin Molins, Public Information Officer for Miami-Dade County Public Works, with this simple request. Delfin may be reached at 305-375-1682, or delfin@miamidade.gov. As always, phone calls tend to be more direct and effective.

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Miami worships parking. Indeed, we can’t seem to build an urban building without smothering it with suburban parking requirements. Usually this comes in the form of parking as base or parking as appendage. The garage under construction above — an appendage if I have ever seen one — is located at Northwest Third Street, directly across the street from the new US Federal Courthouse. Currently at 10 stories, this latest garage is ostensibly being built to serve the needs of Courthouse employees and visitors. There are  three glaring problems with this development.

1) The Courthouse was finished long in advance of the garage, which believe it or not means that employees and visitors are miraculously finding parking, despite the non-existence of this new garage.  What, with the acres of surface parking lots, street parking, and other garages in the immediate vicinity, how could they not?

2) One block to the southwest of this new garage is Government Center, where Metrorail, Metromover, and Metrobus all converge. If there was just one location in downtown Miami able to reduce its parking requirements, this would be it.

3) The garage is being built with ramped floors, meaning that conversion to another use, say  office building or residential with retail on the ground floor, will remain nearly impossible. A better parking garage would have flat floors and floor to ceiling heights that allow for the conversion to a higher and better land use,  as dictated by the market.

By requiring and building so much parking, Miami will continue to develop an auto-oriented downtown,  make development more expensive than it has to be, and keep the transit that we have from reaching its potential. Sure, some parking is needed when building high intensity downtown uses, but implementing a more creative shared parking approach, along with reducing overall parking requirements, especially when in proximity to transit –as proposed in Miami 21–would make a far more efficient, transit-oriented, and walkable downtown. Until we do that, Miamians should expect that their downtown will never reach its full potential.

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The Miami-Dade County Commission Agenda for March 3 is out and it is full of fun items…here are some that I found interesting:

  • Improvements along Old Cutler based on the Old Cutler Charrette including roundabouts at 87th and 97th avenue, along with pedestrian/bike path upgrades and facilities from Cocoplum Circle to 224 Street.
  • Commissioner Jordon wants to tinker with the Citizens Independent Transportation Trust this time to ensure that the Trust reviews and recommends award contracts within 45 days and that it meet with the Commission at least quarterly. Interesting…
  • Approving $37 Million in additional FDOT funding for MIA’s people mover, connecting the MIC with the Airport (this is the much needed connection between Metrorail and the Airport.)
  • The City of Doral is expanding its free trolley service.
  • This is a biggy (and another Barbara Jordon sponsored item): Officially allowing transit surtax dollars to be spent on the system maintenance and operations, while increasing General Fund contributions by 3.5% every year, and dedicating 10% of the surtax yearly to capital expansion. Wasn’t all of the surtax to be used for expansion?  Sorry, but these numbers are still off….seems like more should be put aside from the General Fund, and for expansion (7% and 25%?)
  • Developing an elderly TOD at the Okeechobee Metrorail site.
  • The County is looking to cut 20% of its energy consumption (estimated at 1.17 million-megawatt-hours..wow)
  • Awesome:  MDT is updating its bus-tracking software to allow for real-time infomation to be sent to wireless devices.  MDT is also deploying a real-time bus tracking system on the new Kendall BRT pilot project, scheduled for May 2012. This line will extend from 166 street and Kendall Drive to Dadeland Station, and include 27 stations that will connect with the GPS based tracking system.
  • A resolution urging the President to rethink Federal transit funding when Congress looks at the surface transportation spending act later this year – specifically allowing for use of the funds for operations.  This would finally move the Orange line forward.
  • Implementation strategy for Miami-Dade Parks Masterplan. Also awesome. (Noted in this item is a growing program me and some collegues started called the Native Carbon Cure – a carbon tax that mitigates our business’ carbon footprint through local habitat restoration projects.)

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This news is a few days old, but we wanted to post it in case anyone didn’t see the article in the Miami Herald. A bus driver hit a bicyclist and didn’t even bother to stop, ignoring the cries of his passengers.

The bicyclist escaped with some scrapes as an early Christmas present. Fortunately for him and the rest of us, the driver has been suspended, so we have one less bus driver out there trying to maim bicyclists. He’s still getting paid, though. MDT wouldn’t want to let him miss that hefty salary paid by your sales tax.

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If you’ve been too distracted by elections and Vice Presidential nominations this week, maybe you haven’t heard yet that Miami Dade Transit may be cutting bus routes. Larry Lebowitz at the Miami Herald has the details on the routes that could be cut. These are routes with plenty of ridership, so nothing to be taken lightly.

We are sorry we didn’t get this news out before Mayor Carlos Alvarez won reelection by a landslide. It seems these cuts are being proposed by him and County Manager George Burgess. Lebowitz says that they would be returning the total miles of bus service “close to the pre-sales tax levels of 2002.” That would just prove that the sales tax initiative has failed. I believe that Miller-McCune magazine was justified in putting the Metrorail expansion and the sales tax inititiative on their list of “The World’s Biggest Boondoggles.”

The county commission will be voting on this issue Sept. 2., along with the vote on the proposed fare increase. We urge them to clean up this mess by seeking new sources of income for existing transit service, and coming up with a solid plan to expand Metrorail and bus transit—not by cutting existing service or putting extreme burden on the riders. The Herald offered some suggestions in a follow-up editorial, and we agree with most of their points. Especially the one suggesting to stop handing out free rides before raising fares or cutting service.

MDT is underfunded, and the county has been using this expansion sales tax to make up the difference. Commissioners need to find another dedicated funding source to keep the trains and buses moving, and then get the expansion back on track with the originally committed funding source. How about raising property taxes to fund the budget deficit? If you have a better idea, let us know.

Larry Lebowitz, Miami Herald Transportation reporter, wrote last night in breaking news that the Miami-Dade Commissioners delayed their vote for a $0.50 hike in bus and train fares for Miami-Dade Transit.  According to Lebowitz, the deferral puts more pressure on the mayor and the transit agency to find solutions to the current cash crunch faced by the agency, as well as to determine what promises can be salvaged from the 2002 People’s Transportation Plan campaign.

Also, in the article, Bruno Barreiro, the chair of the Commission, indicated that he is not against bringing a repeal of the $0.005 surtax, if any plans that would be forthcoming from the mayor and the transit agency were devoid of concrete plans on how to expand Metrorail as indicated in the original ballot initiative.

While the delay may mean a short-term gain for the increasing numbers of consumers of these services, it only puts off the pain of balancing the books into the future – if, in fact, this increase will balance them.

Unfortunately for those of us who do use transit, the demand elasticity just usually isn’t there for us to be able to choose an alternate means of conveyance.  Especially with gasoline and diesel approaching, in some areas, $5.00 per gallon, many of us who use transit will take the fare hike in stride, and continue to use the services.  $2.00 a ride, depending on length, isn’t all that bad, and it is in line with the single-rider fare of other major metropolitain areas.

Where the commission should watch out, however, is with the price of the Metropass.  A fare hike from $75 to $100 will put the price of the pass out of reach of many of those who buy it, and might discourage companies that currently pay for part or all of their employee’s commute from keeping this benefit.  Also of note here is that a $100 monthly pass will put the cost of this pass at or near the top of the list nationwide.

We apologize for being slow to comment on the recent Herald series about the People’s Transportation Plan disaster. Everyone at Transit Miami has been extremely busy as of late, but we’ll definitely have several pieces in the coming days and weeks discussing many of the elements referenced by Larry Lebowitz’s multi-part series.

Stay tuned!

Image: Miami-Dade.gov

The County Commission decided to delay its vote Tuesday on the proposed transit hikes. I commend Carlos Jimenez and others for seeing that the issue had to be reconsidered. As Gabe mentioned earlier in the week, the monthly pass really needs to be consistent with the size/reach of our transit system (not higher than NYC). Not to mention that the last thing you want to do when ridership is up is to increase fares, but the fact is that the system needs to be funded. Unfortunately I think that this discussion is just the latest in a series of bad management and planning decisions that keep our holding our transit back.

It has been a tumultuous time for Miami-Dade transit recently. The result of poor vision, bad management, and professional incompitance, the transit system is currently on life support. (This all with record high transit ridership on Tri-Rail reported today!).

The recent allocation of PTP tax dollars for the refurbishment of existing cars (and purchase of new ones) is indicative of the state of our transit. If the Trust hadn’t stepped in and bailed out MDT there would not have been anywhere to get the money from. In other words once the metro cars reached their lifespan they would have been tossed and we would have a really expensive piece of civic art. By not rehab-ing the cars some time back (as Baltimore did with its metro cars) the Commission basically put itself in a position where they had to buy new cars or close up shop. Not to mention the message it sends to Washington: that we aren’t serious about competing for transit dollars.  As if the Orange Line didn’t have enough funding problems, this just adds to how disorganized the MDT is. When the feds look at our existing system and see that it is mismanaged, what incentive do they have to give us money when there are plenty of other cities out there that are serious about mass transit.

The Orange Line debacle is yet another indication of how flawed our system is. We are eligible for lots of free money to help build this line, and we are at risk of losing it because we don’t know if we can maintain the line for the next 30 years? Really?? Lets not even mention that the Feds are already miffed that we are going to downgrade our Tri-Rail service after giving us nearly half a billion dollars for track upgrades.

Whew. Where does that leave us with oil closing in on $150/barrel (and soon thereafter $200, and $250. and $300…)? We need our transit system more than ever. We need a successful transit system now, not under the 50 year plan, but the five year plan.

Truth is if our planners and elected officials were as serious about transit as they were about highway and road building we would already have a really great transit system. I think it would be a surprise to many here in our car-centered culture that plenty of other post-war suburban cities have developed amazing transit systems over the past fifteen years.

Incidentally, I had lunch with a buddy of mine named Dave who happily takes the bus everyday from his house in Kendall to work in Coral Gables. He tried to explain to me why transit works for him but not for his dad (who won’t take the bus to save his life). “Its really easy for me. It’s mostly a straight shot with one transfer. But my dad works five minutes away from his house. It’s easier for him to just get in the car and go. Transit can’t take us everywhere.” Now Dave is my friend so I didn’t reach over the table and smack him around, but that’s exactly the attitude that pervades our culture and is bred from policy decisions made at the top.

Our elected officials need to understand:

We NEED transit alternatives to the car.

We DESERVE multiple forms of transit that are safe, frequent, and far reaching without having to get into the car.

We need transit NOW.

First, I want to thank everyone who has shared their thoughts regarding the Metrorail Train Tracker. It is precisely this kind of input/involvement that is so critical to helping improve mass transit and livability in Miami-Dade County.
Judging by comments and emails, it sounds like many Miamian choice-riders would opt for riding Metrobus at least once in a while if the schedule was much more predictable. I very much agree and feel strongly that GPS tracking for buses is the future in coach transit. Just to get an idea of how a system in Miami-Dade might function, check out this link that shows a live map of GPS-tracked buses in Boulder, CO (it even shows the live speed of each bus!).

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Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez has concluded his nationwide search for a venerable replacement for Roosevelt Bradley by selecting none other than interim director Harpal Kapoor. Harpal Kapoor, who first began working for MDT in 1985, was appointed by Bradly in 2006 as the deputy director of operations.

Although I wished that Alvarez had tapped an outside source to lead the agency, I sincerely hope that Kapoor can begin steer (pun intended) the agency in the right direction. MDT is in dire need of some proper guidance to end the squandering of PTP money which has occurred for the past five years. I have composed a short list of issues we would like to see MDT take up over the next few beginning months of Kapoor’s Tenure (not including the obvious expansion of transit options):
  • Expansion and Improvement of TOD- Transit Oriented Development is critical in such an auto-centric city such as Miami. By placing a greater developmental emphasis on our existing transit line and actively expanding the amenities within easy walking distance of existing stations, our area transit will become more accessible to a greater portion of our population. It is imperative that MDT works together with surrounding developments to ensure safe, easy pedestrian access as well as higher density multi-use projects.
  • System wide Farecards- MDT has to modernize our transit system- Quick. Token machines are outdated and the cash system is primitive. Users must be able to quickly and easily purchase flexible farecards at convenient locations using credit cards. Farecards should be integrated with the surrounding tri-county area transit systems and should facilitate the use of transit for locals, not just visitors.
  • GPS Integration- MDT is currently working to install a system along metrorail which would provide users with upcoming train statuses and times. We need to move this technology along to every station platform, major bus transfer station, and most heavily used bus stops. Nearly every London Municipal stand alerts passengers of the wait time for the next bus, why can’t we? Plus, the new system would allow users to track transit using mobile or hand held devices.
  • Car/Bicycle Sharing Program- This should certainly be higher on the list. We can’t expect citizens to fully abandon car use, that’s unreasonable and absurd. Therefore a reliable and reasonable car sharing program such as Flexcar should be sought to partner with MDT to provide service to the greater Miami area. Flexcar could park cars at every Metrorail station or major transfer facility providing more flexibility for Miami residents. The car program would allow residents who can solely rely on public transit for daily needs to do so, but will provide them with flexibility of regular car use (without the burden of ownership, of course.) A bike rental/sharing program could similarly be instituted along every station, allowing resident and tourist rental of bicycles from electronic stands. The idea here being that MDT needs to expand from a system of buses and trains, it should encompass all forms of local transit. Bike rental facilities could one day be found along the river walk, Museum Park, or Midtown, giving residents greater choices of mobility…
  • Better Transit Facilities/Amenities- Take a ride along the NYC, Boston, or any other major cities subway system and each station will feature a newsstand, coffee shop, or lunch stand. MDT’s stations are barren and hostile by comparison. NYC is currently working on a citywide plan to update and standardize all newsstands and public toilets. MDT needs to work to bring such amenities to our local users. Some cities even feature buses and trains which display news, weather, and transit updates to users on televisions…
Kapoor has suddenly adopted the enormous responsibility of managing the 14th largest transit system in the country. We hope that the enthusiasm and energy he has displayed thus far to Burgess continues and continues to propel our blighted transit agency in new directions. Transit Miami looks forward to working with Mr. Kapoor to provide him with an outside point of view and to continue to spread the voice of transit in Miami-Dade County…

Miami…it’s time to admit that you have a problem, and you need to get some help.

In my opinion, a recent Zoning Board meeting exemplified a) just how obsessed the City is with parking requirements; and b) how the City just flat out does not understand the connection between parking requirements, urban land use, induced vehicular demand, or how these elements factor into building a sustainable city.

This last Monday, the Miami Zoning Board oversaw a resolution on its agenda calling for a reduction in parking requirements for a proposed affordable housing building in the Lummus Park/South Overtown area. The resolution sought a special exemption from an already excessive parking requirement to allow 58 spaces instead of 103 for a building to be located on NW 4th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues. So, what’s the big deal, other than the fact that this building is located a block outside of downtown and is a 6-7 minute walk from Government Center Station? It’s a “very” affordable housing project courtesy of Camillus House designed to house the ex-homeless.

So in review, this proposed building will be 1) located one block from downtown; 2) short walk to City’s transit hub; 3) very affordable housing for the recently-homeless. Despite these characteristics, there was still substantial deliberation over whether or not to exempt this project from already excessive parking requirements. Never mind the fact that recently homeless folks likely will not (and shouldn’t feel obliged to) own a car, given their financial situations.

In particular, one Board member Ron Cordon, questioned the likelihood of recent homeless folks getting executive office jobs downtown, saying “Jobs in downtown are not typically offered to these people…instead, they will seek out small shops to gain employment…and for that, they will need a car because the transportation is inadequate”. In fairness, one Board member, Brett Berlin, did state that this location is “perfect for someone without a car”.

With the first statement above, I’m guessing Mr. Cordon drives from his house to a parking garage, rarely setting foot on the downtown streets. If he did, he would notice that downtown actually has a high concentration of “small shops”. Also, there are countless job opportunities all along the Metrorail line, which residents of this building would have easy access to without a car. Moreover, this location is just blocks from Little Havana, which may have the highest concentration of “small shops” in the whole metropolitan area. This is easily accessible by multiple Metrobus lines. Also, what about all of the low-skilled service jobs offered by hotels and restaurants, which are highly concentrated nearby in downtown, Brickell, and South Beach? This sounds to me like another example of City Board/Commission members using gut instinct and intuition rather than supporting facts and research. Sadly, these are the same people who make critical decisions that will affect our quality of life now and for the distant future.

Bottom line: Even with multiple reasons to justify a reduction in required parking spaces, the resolution only passed by a 5-4 vote.

Perhaps it’s time to bring in parking guru Donald Shoup to lead an intervention.

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