As reported earlier this month by our friends over at Curbed Miami, the long-anticipated, long-stalled Brickell Flatiron Park has finally materialized.
Curbed Miami has extensive coverage of the park, with multiple images provided by Transit Miami’s own Craig Chester.
Here are a few more shots of the newly materialized public space. This section of Brickell now has a nice little wedge of accessible park space from which to peacefully gaze and reflect upon the dynamic urban morphology surrounding it.
With the incipient rise of Brickell CitiCenter just to the north of Mary Brickell Village, this northwest section of the Brickell neighborhood is truly becoming the new hallmark of Miami urbanism.
Now all that’s left is making sure Brickellite yuppies — for so long bereft of such an open public space to call their own — know what to do with their new neighborhood amenity.
Transit Miami’s advice: just sit back and enjoy the growing spectacle your city has to offer.
The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority approved a plan yesterday to move forward with a local and express commuter rail along the famed corridor that once carried Flager’s train to Key West. The decision by the board will advance a “fast start” plan proposed by Tri-Rail administrators to leverage existing administrative costs and recently purchased locomotives to run service along the FEC line from Jupiter to Miami within 3-5 years.
The plan is an answer to FDOT officials who had previously proposed giving the concession to run trains directly to the FEC company in an effort to privatize the system. Tri-rail planners, though, say this is not necessary as they are already 80% privatized and can run the service for half the price as the proposed FEC plan. “For the same [capital] cost as the FEC- FDOT plan, we can provide 56 trains on the FEC between downtown Ft Lauderdale and downtown Miami, while also providing connectivity with the rest of the region,” said Joe Quinty, Transportation Planning Manager with the SFRTA.
Under the “fast track” proposal, which will now go to the tri-county MPO’s for approval and further cost feasibility, trains would use the FEC line from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami, with 7 stops in Miami-Dade County. Stops include 163 Street, 125 Street, 79 street, 54 Street, 36 Street, 11 Street/Overtown, and Government Center. As currently envisioned the plan would cost Tri-Rail an extra $15 million a year in operations costs by expanding existing contracts with Bombardier and Veolia. The FDOT plan would have cost $25 million a year and provided fewer stops in Miami-Dade County.
The project was approved 6-1, with the lone exception being FDOT District 6 representative Gus Pego. The plan envisions several types of service along the line, beginning with direct service between Ft. Lauderdale and downtown Miami. Regional service beyond Ft.Lauderdale will be established at Atlantic Boulevard, where a line connects the existing Tri-Rail tracks with the FEC service.
FDOT has been studying rail service along the FEC for years, with the latest SFECC Study looking at an integrated service, similar to what is being proposed, at a cost of over $2billion for the tri-county area. This plan hit a wall this spring when the Miami-Dade County MPO balked at moving forward with the study because of concerns over cost.
Tri-rail planners say that the fast track project is a way to get service running on the line as the South Florida East Coast Corridor study advances and addresses the MPO concerns. As currently planned, the service would not require any county or federal funds for operations or construction.
One third of the additional operational costs will come from farebox revenue from the new line, while the rest will come from a combination of Tri-Rail service adjustments, and yearly contributions from each of the 17 cities that will have stations of between $350,000 – $550,000. The capital cost to build the line is approximately $270 million, which will come from the Florida Department of Transportation.
Quinty went on to say, “We believe this new SFRTA is superior to FDOT’s approach, as it can be implemented quickly (by avoiding the Federal project development process), provides better regional service coverage, and will not require any additional county or FDOT operating funds.”
Come join the ULI Southeast Florida Young Leaders of Miami-Dade County to network, meet new people and build invaluable relationships.
Attendees to include professionals in the real estate development, brokerage, management, planning, architectural, engineering, construction, legal, and public sectors. Learn about the Urban Land Institute’s Young Leaders Group and upcoming ULI events.
Non-members are encouraged to attend.
FREE for All! Registration required – One free drink and light appetizers will be provided.
Date and Time August 23 5:30-7:30
840 1St Street
Miami Beach, FL
Register by phone:
- Call: 1-800-321-5011 between
9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday;
Online registration for this event is closed, but you may still be able to register. Please call 800-321-5011 for more information.
Register by mail or fax:
- Download a registration form
- Fax to: 800-248-4585 (credit card payments only); or
- Mail to: ULI, Department 304, Washington, D.C., 20055-0304 (for check or credit card payments).
On Tuesday night I attended a ULI Young Leaders steering committee meeting at the Wynwood Kitchen and Bar with about two-dozen local real estate professionals. Transit Miami friend Andrew Frey has organized this group in an effort to bring together forward-looking professionals with diverse backgrounds.
Some of the industries present at the meeting were land use and real estate attorneys, urban planners, developers, architects, commercial real estate brokers, private bankers, and an FEC representative. As diverse as the backgrounds were, there was a common trait among these professionals: They all want to see their city develop into a transit-friendly, mixed-use and walkable metropolis. They also want to see Miami grow-up to become a non-auto centric world-class city that attracts businesses and entrepreneurial professionals alike.
This group will continue to meet once every couple of months and in the very near future will organize panels (as well as a networking happy hours) to discuss topics such as:
- Streetscapes; why they should be improved and their economic benefits
- The effect of gambling and casinos on Miami
- The link between jobs and transportation
Elected officials and developers should take note and tap into the resources that this highly energized, educated, and entrepreneurial group has. They are not living in the Miami of yesteryear and they want to help build a more competitive city that will encourage businesses to relocate to the Magic City.
Miami-Dade Transit will be taking comments on their annual recently released their Transit Development Plan 2011 update. You can find the document here. The Transit Development Plan is required by State Law to, “present the operational and capital improvement needs of Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) and also serve as a planning tool to project future MDT needs for the implementation and operation of transit service.”
The Transit Development Plan is an important planning tool as it provides a complete picture of funding sources, revenues, and expenses (on the operations side), while also describing the existing transit network, demographics and planned service changes. It is the closest document we have to a ‘People’s Transportation Plan’.
In the years following the demise of the Orange Line MetroRail extension, the TDP has been focused on reducing the operating budget and squeezing efficiency from the existing system, while not really providing a clear framework for increases in ridership. The October 2009 update described its budgetary strategy as, “an avoidance of any major service expansion except for the MIC-Earlington Heights Metrorail connector service.”
Two years later, the TDP doesn’t paint a rosier picture for premium service expansions; none are envisioned in the near term. But what the document does reveal is a department that is trying to do more with its existing infrastructure, both through increased efficiencies in the network and improved passenger amenities.
Several new ‘enhanced’ bus routes are also discussed, including the North Corridor Enhanced Bus project, and the SR 836 Express Bus Project. We’ll talk more about those later. What we can say now is that the service expansions envisioned by this latest TDP are very modest – and incremental – improvements to service around the county as an alternative to the ambitious and extensive PTP.
Aside from some new routes, MDT has been working on implementing improved passenger amenities, such as real-time bus tracking and WiFi access. MDT began rolling it its popular Wi-Fi service in 2010, and currently provides service in all Metro-Rail trains, and approximately 20% of the bus fleet. The coming year will see the program expanded to the entire fleet of MetroBuses and all station platform areas. Future service expansions, such as the NW 27 Enhanced route, will also come equipped with Wi-Fi as a standard feature.
MDT is also moving forward with implementing a new AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location) software system that will replace the current system (which dates from the late 90’s). The new system will provide for real-time tracking, and transit signal prioritization – elements that should help MDT make modest ridership gains using existing infrastructure. The real-time tracking will allow full integration with smart phones, and will also be a standard feature in future service expansions. This improvement will finally give the South Dade Busway the signal priority it was designed for, and shorten commute times along this heavily used transit corridor. MDT plans to issue an RFP for the system this year, with a launch scheduled for mid-2012.
Kudos to MDT for advancing these needed technological improvements – they will pay for themselves and then some. One need only look at the EasyCard system and Automatic Passenger Counters (APCs), implemented in 2009, which MDT has been using its to make targeted improvements to service schedules. The efficiencies created by using this data (adjusting/eliminating empty routes) has allowed MDT planners to use infrastructure more wisely.
This year’s TDP includes numerous service changes that involve adjusting routes using the APC data, along with staff recommendations, according to MDT Planner Maria Battista. Among the data used to make service changes, Battista said, “administrators have held monthly meetings with the drivers and superintendents that let us know what is going on in their routes.” The adjustments in service respond to the current ridership demands. Some routes are being reduced by 15-20 minutes at non-peak hours (prior to the morning rush, or during evening hours) based on data that showed no usage during these times. These surgical adjustments will help ensuring that MDT facilities are being used when and where they are needed most.
The TDP 2011 shows an agency working with what it has. No premium service expansions, but important improvements to existing service. This all comes against the backdrop of an agency – it would seem by the media- in disarray. No Director, serious FTA funding problems, a lackluster commission directive, and a newly installed Mayor whose commitment to transit involves converting a transit corridor into a highway. The changes proposed by the TDP 2011 set the stage for premium expansions sometime in the future. The incremental ramp-up of ridership in new enhanced bus routes, along with the improved passenger amenities, and GPS tracking abilities will allow our elected officials to take hold of the agency and provide the premium service expansion that this community demanded almost a decade ago.
Suggestions and comments on the annual TDP update can be sent to BPB@miamidade.gov.
Charter reform: the latest issue du jour. Term limits, easier citizen petitions, new at large districts - these are some of the possible changes facing voters in May, and depending on the details theycould be revolutionary or they could be useless. Mayoral candidates like Commissioner Carlos Gimenez and others on the County Commission are trying to advance sweeping changes to county government. Kudos to them for trying, but without considering sweeping changes to transportation planning and funding, charter reform will not mean much to the residents of Miami-Dade County.
A truly comprehensive charter reform plan must address the inadequacies of our existing system of transportation planning and governance. Multiple overlapping and competing agencies are responsible for planning and financing roads, highways, and transit, with no coordinated, unified vision. Transit capacity is not being expanded, while roadway congestion cost Miami-Dade County residents $3.2 billion in 2009 according to the Texas Transportation Institute “National Congestion Report.”
Among the policy changes advocated by folks like Commissioner Gimenez is a change to county UDB expansion policy – making it more difficult to expand the urban development boundary, as listed in his ‘Blueprint for Charter Reform’. (Gimenez clarified his position at a Latin Builders Association luncheon last week saying he would not rule out moving the line). While Gimenez’ position on the UDB is in flux, one thing is clear: holding the UDB and encouraging infill development must be coordinated with expanded premium transit options within the urban service area. The challenges presented by growth management are intimately tied to local transit options: the two cannot be disconnected.
Voters in 2002 saw the need for the creation of a premium transit network, and passed the visionary People’s Transportation Plan and ½ cent sales tax, mandating the creation of a Citizens Independent Transportation Trust to oversee the tax and act as stewards of the PTP. Though the CITT was created, it was never truly independent, and the plan remains an unfulfilled mandate.
Charter reform is one of our best opportunities to finally take control of our transportation future – through the creation of an independent authority responsible for all transportation planning and expansion in Miami-Dade County. Led by an elected executive transportation professional, the authority would be responsible for setting policy and implementing a plan that works for allcitizens of Miami-Dade County – transit users, cyclists, pedestrians and motorists alike.
With gas prices certain to continue their upward rise, Mayoral candidates like Commissioner Gimenez need to be bold in addressing the imbalance of transportation options in this community. They may want to start by looking at charter reform as part of the answer.
As Miami politicians struggle with decisions like whether to fund the area’s second commuter rail line or how to provide adequate bicycle infrastructure, it may be worthwhile to look at how other American cities approach the challenges related to regional transportation planning and decision-making.
The Portland Area Metro has emerged as a model for sustainable regional governance as it pursues aggressive reductions in vehicle miles traveled, by drastically expanding its bikeway network, making investments in mass transit and encouraging transit oriented development. These decisions are made by a regional governing body: Metro, “an elected regional government, serving more than 1.5 million residents in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties and the 25 cities in the Portland region.”
Metro is the agency responsible for planning the region’s five light rail lines (52.4 miles), a commuter rail line (14.7 miles), a 651 bus fleet, an aerial tram, and, since 2009, the only American streetcar system with cars made in the USA. The entire system logs an estimated 350,000 weekday rides.
Comparatively, Miami-Dade County has a population of 2.5 million residents, has a heavy rail line (22.4 miles), a downtown people mover (4.4 miles), a strained fleet of 893 buses, and one ailing commuter rail line (70.9 miles) - representing just over 400,000 daily rides, and run by competing agencies.
Metro’s transit expansion is only part of its successful mode shift. The region has seen the number trips made by bike double since 1997 . Approximately six percent of Portland commuters now take their bikes to work, the highest percentage in America and about 10 times the national average.
While Miami has made preliminary steps to advance a mode shift toward active transportation, a quick search of the Transit Miami archives testifies to the growing pains Miami has experienced and the work that remains undone. Miami-Dade County can learn from the example set by Metro’s institutional framework – a model for how regional government can take responsibility for transit expansion and smart growth planning.
Decisions related to transit and regional planning are separate from the other functions of government – allowing County officials to advocate for projects region-wide. In addition, the Metro Auditor is an elected seat that serves as the executive watchdog of Metro’s operation.
The seven members of the Metro Council are directly elected, which makes it the “only directly elected regional government in America,” according to Chris Myers, a policy assistant at the organization. On the other hand, the Miami-Dade MPO is composed of a comparative hodge-podge of county commissioners, municipal representatives, and a representative from the highway building lobby, MDX.
The members of the Metro Council hold no other political office, and while they do consult with elected members of the region’s 25 cities, they are elected by large districts (the three-county area is divided into six total districts), forcing the councilors to focus on regional issues.
The desire for a regional focus was made explicit in Metro’s charter:
We, the people of the Portland area metropolitan service district, in order to establish an elected, visible and accountable regional government that is responsive to the citizens of the region and works cooperatively with our local governments; that undertakes, as its most important service, planning and policy making to preserve and enhance the quality of life and the environment for ourselves and future generations; and that provides regional services needed and desired by the citizens in an efficient and effective manner, do ordain this charter for the Portland area metropolitan service district, to be known as Metro.— preamble of the Metro Charter, November 1992
As the steward of regional land-use decisions, Metro has had a hand in ensuring walkable, urban land use patterns that are another driving factor in the relative success of Portland’s mode shift. More than one-third of the 1.5 million residents in the Metro service area are concentrated around the city of Portland. Metro coordinates planning policies that encourage conservation on the suburban fringe, while accommodating population growth in compact, infill development.
In comparison, as people flocked to South Florida over the past decade, the Miami-Dade County Commission allowed developers to push growth to the north, west and south; expanding suburban sprawl and ignoring the benefits of compact, walkable neighborhoods. These developments simultaneously demand more roads, and make mass transit less effective.
Portland began its shift toward more transportation options in the 1970s when area leaders elected not to build a new eight-lane highway to the suburbs, putting the money toward transit development. Later, the Portland Transit Mall opened downtown, followed by the area’s first light rail line. Now the Portland area ranks 8th in America in transit ridership, even though it ranks 23rd in population. Transit use is growing faster than the area’s population while vehicle miles traveled are steadily declining.
The question for Miamians and their leaders is, what’s next? More roads? More traffic? Or, is it time to make bold changes in anticipation of a better future?
You will remember that back in January, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the changes to the guidelines that govern federal investments in transit. While not as comprehensive as the anticipated changes to the 2005 SAFETEA-LU Bill, the new rules were a welcomed and long overdue change to transit funding rules.
“Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it,” said Secretary LaHood. “We want to base our decisions on how much transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities and how it makes our communities better places to live.”
The change will apply to how the Federal Transit Administration evaluates major transit projects going forward. In making funding decisions, the FTA will now evaluate the environmental, community and economic development benefits provided by transit projects, as well as the congestion relief benefits from such projects. (FTA)
Locally we hoped for the best, but on Monday the President released his list of projects that are moving forward with federal funding. While other cities are big winners, our own beleaguered Orange Line Phase 2 remains a weak funding candidate. The projects are all rated based on a variety of criteria, and for a project to receive funding it needs to be at least Medium rated. Previously, the rating was based on cost effectiveness, but the new rules give other criteria greater weight. You can read the report here (look for information on Miami on page 14).
For us the changes would be great news, if not for the continued lack of political will to provide permanent sources of operation and maintenance funding. The overall project is rated Medium-low in the Preliminary Engineering phase. We score medium-high and medium on the majority of categories, except for our Local Financing Commitment for Operations and Maintenance. In other words, the feds know we can build the system (partially using our PTP dollars) but we still do not have a permanent way of paying for the O & M that will result from the construction of the line.
Until the County Commission steps up and identifies how they intend to fund the future operations of Orange Line , we will not receive FTA New Starts funding.
Unfortunately, this is not a problem that is specific to the Orange Line or with the cost heavy rail technology. The cost of O & M is going to be a problem for whatever technology is used to expand the transit system, whether it be BRT, LRT or Metrorail. Running mass transit is expensive. Our current ‘go it alone’ attitude in pursuing BRT lite is only going to cost us more in the long term without actually increasing ridership.
A few mornings every week I have breakfast with my grandfather. We shoot the shit, talk about what’s going on at work, and argue/discuss issues from the morning headlines. (To give you an idea of our respective demographic groups, he reads the paper version of el Nuevo Herald, while I read a bunch of online papers/blogs/magazines.) As we had our cafesito this morning, the shitstorm that will become Mayor Carlos Alvarez’s week remaining time in office dominated our conversation.
Now, my grandfather and I don’t see eye to eye on a wide variety of issues (i.e. he was a two time Bush voter, I was not), but we had the same reaction to Matthew Haggman and Jack Dolan’s excellent article on compensation in the Mayor’s office: Se jodió la bicicleta! Literally translated this means “The bicycle is f#*!&d”, but in the common parlance of our times it means that the proverbial pooch has been screwed. We were in complete agreement that this was not good government, and that the Mayor had made a big mistake in cutting the budget of ‘feel good’ programs (my grandfather’s words) while bloating his staff’s salaries. If my grandfather feels betrayed/pissed, then I can only imagine what the rest of the population of Dade County feels (I take him to be a typical Dade County voter if there is such a person).
I don’t care whether the pay increases have merit or not. I’m positive that the jobs performed by the Mayor’s staff are difficult and worthy of high salaries, but the County is not flush with money. When times are tough you slim down. These raises are unacceptable, and undermine the important work that these folks do. I don’t want to get into specifics, but I will recount an interesting exchange I had with Miami-Dade Communications Director Vicki Mallette a few weeks back regarding the Dade County Budget, as she is one of the main characters of this drama.
Let me start by saying that Vicki has been a great partner in communicating with us on a variety of issues. I might not agree with her on every issue, but I do appreciate her regular contributions to this site. She recently contacted me to inquire if I had any ‘questions’ regarding the budget. We scheduled a phone call and I proceeded to study the budget in anticipation of our conversation. I noticed the cuts to Parks and Rec, Cultural Grants, and most notably, Transit. In our conversation, she made it clear that the lack of a 3.5% increase to the transit budget (as passed by the County Commission in March) was one of the most painful ‘cuts’ to make (totaling $4.2 million).
I made a point of voicing my disappointment over the lack of transit funding, but assured her (and Matthew Pinzur, who was also on the call) that I was not going to make a point of writing about the budget because it was a dog and everyone was affected. While transit is the main focus of this site, it is not the only important part of the budget – and ‘everyone’ has supposedly been impacted. I thought that a 5% salary cut across the board was reasonable and that it didn’t make much sense for me insist that transit be spared when everyone was slimming down.
Fast forward to this morning. I can’t describe how upset I was to read that the Mayor’s staff had been given such ridiculous (and retroactive!) raises in face of the cuts made to transit and other departments. During our conversation I made it clear that transit needed significantly more funding, to which she replied that transit already had a sizable general fund contribution at $143 million (I informed her that it was actually considerably less than other metropolitan regions) and that restoring the cuts to transit would have to be made up with cuts in other places. (Something I don’t necessarily agree with either. A minor increases in property tax, amounting to $20 per house, could make up a big part of the budget shortfall.)
As we learned last week, the 3.5% increase in the general fund contribution legally has to be reinstated or MDT will face even greater problems, but if that were not the case the $4.2 million could have come from not raising salaries at the top, including your salary Vicki. Not to mention cutting more than 5% from the salaries of those in the ‘inner circle’ (starting with the Mayor and Manager and working down – say 15%). I wonder what other aspect of public safety, culture, or community outreach is being compromised because of this sort of mismanagement. As chief executive, and ‘strong mayor’, of Miami-Dade County the buck stops with Mayor Alvarez. He wanted to be ‘stong mayor’, and now he is going to feel the political repercussions of that responsibility. I hope he is ready.
I had to post the complete text of this great editorial by DDA Urban Planning Manager Javier Betancourt:
Last month’s court ruling halting the planned development of a Lowes superstore outside Miami-Dade County’s Urban Development Boundary was an important victory in the ongoing battle against westward sprawl in our community. But the more pressing issue going forward is whether residential development outside the boundary should proceed.
The answer to this question is a resounding “No.”
Now that new commercial development on the fringe of the Everglades has been rejected, urban planners along with developers and business and civic leaders should turn their attention to the chief challenge facing Miami-Dade: how to create a sustainable community without expanding our geographic footprint.
By focusing our collective efforts on revitalizing and expanding existing communities through infill development, we will make better use of our land supply, reduce congestion and preserve our region’s valuable natural resources. At the same time, we will realize a number of economic and urban planning benefits, including better connectivity between businesses and the labor force, more efficient use of our existing infrastructure and across-the-board increases in property values.
Miami was planned and developed after the advent of the automobile, so sprawl became a way of life in South Florida. Only now we are witnessing a reversal of this trend, as residents and businesses inject new life into urban centers that were long overlooked.
Some of the most desirable neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County — Downtown Miami, Coral Gables, South Miami, Miami Lakes and Downtown Dadeland, to name a few — have been home to condensed growth that combines residential, commercial and retail development. Each of these communities offers opportunities for continued investment, and each is taking shape within the confines of the UDB.
Nowhere have the benefits of infill development been more evident than in Downtown Miami, home to our state’s largest employment center, an existing public transit system and commercial base, and a population that has grown by more than 50 percent since 2000.
The mixed-use development that has taken shape in our urban core has accelerated Downtown Miami’s evolution as a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly district. New businesses are opening, people are moving in, cultural and entertainment institutions are thriving, and street activity is picking up after hours. These trends speak to a growing demand for the convenience and lifestyle offered by urban communities and to a dramatic shift away from sprawl.
The court’s decision in May supported the need for sustainable growth. Now the business and civic communities need to act by advocating against expanding the UDB and evaluating how to maximize our investments in the emerging urban centers within the boundary.
PS. This was posted in the business section.
If you have not already check out the Train Tracker by visiting www.miamidade.gov/transit and click “Where is the Train?” in the left navigation bar under “Rider Tools.” If using a mobile device, visit www.miamidade.gov/transit/mobile/.
Good, but belated news: The Green Mobility Network is reporting a win with the County regarding much needed funding for the M-Path. Read all the news here, or an excerpt below.
We are celebrating today after the Miami-Dade Commission’s vote to transfer $700,000 in order to repair the bone-jarring damaged pavement along parts of the M-Path. This money may also cover planning new signals at one or more of the troublesome street crossings near U.S. 1 between Vizcaya and South Miami.
Do indeed contact your County Commissioners and let them know you support the M-Path and appreciate their decision to fund its improvement.
I think I am having deja vu, another pedestrian was struck and killed by a Miami-Dade Police officer in Southwest Dade yesterday. Details have not been released, reports the Herald. Because this involves a police officer, and not an NFL player, we may not hear anything more aboutthe incident.
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade School Police are enforcing the school area speed limit, at least in a few select locations. In just five days, officers in the Agressive Drivers unit handed out 642 tickets. While this is an important step for creating more livable streets and safe routes to schools for our children, one wishes that these periodic crackdowns would become routine. Civilizing the streets of Miami-Dade will remain a challenge until motor vehicle laws are consistently enforced. Perhaps we should start with those who are suppossed to be setting an example and following these laws: the police.
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