It’s not often that something leaves me without words in Miami. But this does it.
Yes, that’s the Rickenbacker Causeway bike lane. Yes, that’s a giant sign blocking it, forcing bicycle riders into fast moving traffic. This is also located on arguably the most dangerous existing segment of the Powell bridge, where cyclists traveling downhill at higher speeds must be aware of merging traffic on the right (and vice versa).
This picture is all the more appalling considering that in the past few weeks alone, safety concerns along the Causeway have become even more urgent. A number of local media outlets again reported on the issue following an ugly incident earlier this month in which a drunk driver struck multiple cyclists. These reports included editorials in the Miami Herald, a WPLG news segment highlighting the dangerous conditions, and a public response from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez only nine days ago.
How in the world can anyone believe that Miami-Dade County is taking this issue with any grain of seriousness? As one commenter on Transit Miami’s Facebook page said, “You can’t complain about the common sense in this town because there isn’t any.”
Our invitation is still on the table for Mayor Gimenez to come out with us for a ride and see the situation first-hand.
Special thanks to Transit Miami reader Ruben van Hooidonk for the picture. See something we should post? E-mail us or let us know on Facebook.
A pedestrian bridge above US-1 at the University MetroRail station was recently approved by Miami-Dade County and is currently moving closer to an agreement. Though a state and federally funded project of $6 million, the University Centre mall owner has raised some concerns and is refusing to allow the county to build the bridge on its property. The bridge to channel university students, middle school students, metrorail riders, and others to the popular strip mall has been in the works for several years, joining the other existing US-1 overpasses. The Pedestrian Safety Access Committee formed with the long-term goal to build the pedestrian bridge in direct response to 3 student fatalities at the intersection since 1990, along with several accidents.
Looking at this situation at face value, this project makes perfect sense: people are dying on the intersection, so take the people off the intersection. But I challenge you to stand back and examine the bigger picture of crossing US-1 at this intersection and every other one in Coral Gables, South Miami, and beyond. Is the problem uniquely at this intersection, or along the entire stretch of the fast-moving, 6-lane highway? Due to very high speeds, awkward street-level pedestrian crossings, unbuffered and narrow sidewalks, and poor street lighting, I think we can agree that this stretch is hostile to non-motorists. Michelle Simmon, public involvement coordinator for Miami-Dade Transit stated back in 2007 that ‘the main purpose of the long-term bridge project is to encourage pedestrian safety while making the Coral Gables community more “walkable.” Yes, ‘channeling’ pedestrians into a bridge does have the potential of keeping pedestrians safe, but does it encourage walkability?
Pedestrian Convenience. A walkable community is possible when the built environment is convenient to the pedestrian, bicyclist, student, parent with baby stroller, etc. Making decisions that inhibit pedestrian convenience such as narrowing sidewalks, reducing crosswalks, ‘forcing’ people to go up and over a street – then these decisions make the built environment inconvenient and therefore, less walkable. But if we redesign the street to discourage speeding, add wider sidewalks buffered from vehicular traffic, pedestrian street lighting, and common-sense street-level crossings (and using a lot less than the $6 million) we could achieve both safety and walkability for all road users.
Neighborhood Unity. Instead of creating a street that welcomes its neighbors, we are making decisions (like numerous pedestrian bridges) that add up toward creating an automobile sewer. This is the root of the problem, and the reason for these vehicular deaths in the first place – we are literally trying to put a highway into the middle of a community. Why are we surprised that pedestrians, students, children are trying to cross the street in their own neighborhood? Instead of encouraging to further dissect this area, we need to consider the potential to transform this massive right-of-way into the safe neighborhood center the university, middle school, and residents deserve.
Traffic Priorities. The problem in this dangerous intersection is not the pedestrians, but the unobservant drivers. But who are we punishing? the pedestrians. And who are we prioritizing for dominion over the street even more? the drivers, observant or not. A walkable neighborhood is not void of cars, drivers, and traffic, but rather re-prioritizes its road space to accommodate a full range of transportation choices. Slowing traffic down does not guarantee more congestion either. In fact, some of the most efficient roads in the world are in slow-speed, walkable environments. By humanizing the thoroughfare with better street-level crossings, lighting, wider sidewalks, street trees, narrower traffic lanes, and even on-street parking, we can effectively slow traffic, and persuade drivers to be more alert, attentive, and vigilant, fostering a safer atmosphere for all.
If building this University Station pedestrian bridge could save just one life, then yes, its construction is more than worth it. But what’s next in encouraging safety and walkability? Are we going to continue constructing pedestrian bridges at every intersection over Dixie Highway – and with whose funds? And does that leave the people who will still cross at street level with a more dangerous thoroughfare? I challenge this community, the Pedestrian Safety Access Committee, Miami-Dade County, FDOT, and others involved to improve the pedestrian experience on the street level. In many ways the easiest solution is to build the pedestrian bridge. However, six million dollars can provide a lot of funding for this community if our residents and leaders are brave enough to tackle the root of the problem. We should not take these deaths lightly, but we do need to consider the full range of options to improve the safety, convenience, and value of the US-1 corridor. Just as Michelle Simmon from Miami-Dade Transit stated, “A livable community has to be a safe community.” By humanizing this dangerous, dissecting thoroughfare, we can not only save lives, but also our community.
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.
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.)
From our friends over at Green Mobility Network:
Sept. 4 Resolution is Bad for Bicycling—Please Act Now!
Dear friends of bicycling,
We realize it’s the Labor Day Weekend and most of you are relaxing, but your immediate action is needed.
The Miami–Dade County Commission is being asked on Tuesday, Sept. 4, to help erode a progressive state law that requires accommodation for bicyclists and pedestrians on state roads in urban areas. There will be no opportunity for public comment during the commission meeting, so we’re asking Commissioner Rebeca Sosa to withdraw her resolution or postpone it until we can meet with her.
The law, section 335.065 of the Florida Statutes, provides that bike lanes and sidewalks be given full consideration in the planning and development of state roads in urban areas. When the state Department of Transportation (FDOT) repaves or redesigns an urban street, it must provide for walkers and bicyclists as well as for drivers — or show why cost or safety makes doing so impractical.
The law was virtually ignored in South Florida for most of a generation, and now that advocates have succeeded in getting FDOT to follow the law it’s meeting resistance — first in Miami Beach and now in the Sept. 4 resolution Commissioner Sosa, representing District 6. She’s responding to the upcoming repaving of SW 57th Avenue between 8th Street and Bird Road, where state engineers plan to include a bike lane and are encountering constrained road dimensions in some areas.
FDOT can choose from a variety of bike facilities on roads like 57th Avenue. This resolution will only hurt the cause of making Miami-Dade’s streets safer for all users. We strongly urge Commissioner Sosa to pull this item from the agenda and work collaboratively with the bicycle community to advance better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure throughout Miami-Dade County.
Please copy the following message and send it to the e-mail addresses below. Do it now! It’s not too late to stop this ill-advised resolution.
If you would prefer to register your concern by phone, please make two phone calls to request that the resolution be pulled from the agenda. You can call the following:
Mayor Carlos Gimenez: 305-375-5071
Commissioner Rebecca Sosa: 305-375-5696
BEGIN COPY-AND-PASTE–AND ADD YOUR NAME AT THE END OF THE MESSAGE
Re: Sept. 4, 2012, Agenda Item #121569–Bad for Bicycling–Please Pull From Agenda
To the Board of County Commissioners:
Agenda Item #121569 is bad for bicycling in Miami-Dade County and potentially the entire state of Florida. It would turn back the clock on significant progress in winning accommodation for bicyclists and pedestrians in urban roadways. It was placed on your agenda without public input. I urge you to pull it from the agenda and make time for public discussion of this important matter.
SEND TO THE INDIVIDUAL COMMISSIONERS–JUST COPY AND PASTE THE FOLLOWING E-MAIL ADDRESSES INTO THE “TO” LINE OF YOUR E-MAIL SOFTWARE.
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, District7@miamidade.gov, District8@miamidade.gov, DennisMoss@miamidade.gov, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, District12@miamidade.gov, email@example.com
Once you’ve written, how about letting us know at our Facebook page? Your example will be encouraging to others.
Meet the Douglas Road Corridor MetroRail Line.This 4.5 mile project would connect the MIC to Douglas Road Station and US1, with stops at NW 7 Street, SW 8 Street, and Coral Way. The line would service areas, like downtown Coral Gables, where land use already supports a high level of pedestrian activity. This should be a high priority for our leaders, and some are very supportive. Check out the 5 and ten minute walk sheds – this line would run through some of the densest parts of Miami and Coral Gables – pluggining thousands of residents who have already chosen apartment living into the ultimate urban amenity – rapid transit. (Not to mention creating another connection to the airport for those traveling to/from points south.)
Transportation advocate, friend of Transit Miami, and recent county Mayoral candidate Gabrielle Redfern posted this thoughtful response to my recent post about the Mayoral race (Lackluster Mayoral Candidates Promise More of the Same on Transportation). I thought it warranted an equally thoughtful response. Gabrielle writes:
I agree that we need a different approach to the oversight and planning of our transit ways, and perhaps going with an independently elected MPO, like we see in Oregon would help. However, with all of the dollars at stake, we would be fools to believe that the dark hand of the Miami Political process would not cast its shadow there as well.
I agree. I’m not trying to ‘solve’ for corruption or graft in our transportation culture – just trying to set transportation modes on steady footing. The key to the TM plan is that the agency would be independent (no commission involvement) AND be chartered with a mandate to provide all forms of transportation – with benchmark modeshare goals to guide policy makers along the way. The dark hand of Miami Politics will be present, but at least it will not mean the end of a worthy transit project.
I have had the honor and priviledge of spending a considerable amount of time in the close company of both mayoral candidates and know who each is getting their transit advice from. I have seen their positions and campaign rhetoric evolve over the days and weeks since the Green Mobility survey was returned. I am supporting Carlos Gimenez because I believe he is the most receptive and open to our views about our urban environment.
Hey, lets face it, Tony. We cannot expect either of them to be the transit geeks we are. But I know that Carlos has made a commitment to me, and to this County, to learning more and doing different. Way different. He realizes the importance to our transit system, of first removing the cloud we have with our partners, the Federal Government. He is committed to not only getting the fiscal house of MDT in order, but removing the political process from the backbone of the system, bus route planning. As a strong mayor, he can and will demand from his new Director a system that maximizes the rolling stock we have now and creates two different types of County bus service: one that is based on our natural grid to connect people to each other and the major County centers and services and one partnered with the municipalities to create circulation systems to reach employment, civic and social destinations inside the cities.
I’m all for learning more and doing different – but what Carlos has planned is more of the same. Lip service to real ridership expansion. He cannot take politics out of the system until both the Mayor and the commission have nothing to do with transportation. Gimenez is not going to fund any system expansion – on the contrary he is probably going to continue to decrease the size of our bus system, and will try to dismantle the few premium transit facilities we have in favor of managed lanes and other similar half measures.
And circulator buses? Really? This sounds like more of Suarez’s plan to implement 2000 trolleys around the County. Ridiculous. These are visible, short term ploys that will take as long to implement as they will be in service. Just long enough for elected officials to claim they are making progress on transit before leaving office, and handing this hot potato to someone else not willing to make the tough choices.
He is the first to tell you he voted himself for the half penny tax because he wanted the expansion of the Metro rail as much as anyone. At one of his first Commission meetings he flashed his now famous fire over the notion of “unification”. You remember that, that wonderful Burgess Buzzword to admit that they had not been putting the money from the tax away but spending the cash to prop up the maintenance and operation of the bloated and redundant system they had rolling? And that left us with what? Exactly two and a half miles of new Metro rail, not seventeen.
Carlos knows MDT must attract riders. He knows from his years of providing fire and rescue services that the service must be efficient and reliable. He will use smart technology to attract riders, enhance the experience and performance of the system. Many things that are out there now and easy to develop and implement quickly. He sees the opportunity to make a big difference in the lives of so many and fix a huge gaping hole in the budget by making transit more cost effective.
Transit is not cost effective. Period. Building transit costs money; transit operations cost even more. Any meaningful expansion of our transit system is going to have to be paid by our tax dollars. To play the, ‘I want to make transit cost effective’ card is more of the same politi-speak. You can’t expand transit service and talk about cost effectiveness in the same breath. (And what gaping hole in the budget? The county only spends $153 million from the general fund on transit – about $180 per year per household)
I hope your readers will realize that we have this opportunity and vote for Carlos Gimenez. Now is the time, and he is the linchpin, in the path we need to take to make our County great. Transit Miami readers know the key to our future is a more rational approach to moving Miami-Dade forward. Because, Tony, no how often you travel to the fabulous Big Apple, there is no place like The Magic City and South Beach.
Opportunity for what? More of the same? Transportation is one of the biggest challenges facing our community – and there is still no meaningful discussion about how to move us forward to more balanced – and economically sustainable – transportation network. The idea that this election is somehow different or a ‘linchpin’ in some predestined path to greatness is silly. Gabrielle, our county cannot become great when our leaders are mediocre. We will not become anything more than a sprawling suburban town until we invest in our transportation network.
Our leaders must be willing to make difficult choices (do I expand service and raise tax to pay for it?) in the name of better mobility for all. I hope that Carlos Gimenez is elected; but more than that I hope that he awakens to the fact that we need to aggressively invest in our transit infrastructure.
I have been waiting patiently for either of the current mayoral candidates to come forward to champion better transportation choices for the residents of Miami-Dade County, but with election day around the corner it seems that we are going to have to continue to wait to see real leadership come out of County Hall. Neither of the two candidates, Julio Robaina (Hialeah) or Carlos Gimenez have made much of an effort to describe what they plan on doing to improve mobility in the region, apart from general comments on the recent transit scandal, and a promise to “shake things up.”
Gimenez is the favorite amongst the center and left leaning voters of Miami-Dade county, not because of what he says but because he isn’t Hialeah Julio. I for one can’t tell the difference between the two candidates. I had really hoped for a more forward thinking agenda from Gimenez – a statement on how dysfunctional our current system is and a concrete plan to improve it, but after his lackluster performance on transit issues over the past decade, I can’t say I’m surprised. His answers to the recent Green Mobility Network transportation candidate survey revealed nothing more than a continuation of the current highway building culture that perpetuates our transportation problems. On the question of whether to convert the South Dade Busway into an expressway, he said, “The South Dade Busway is currently underutilized and uses should be expanded. We should look to the 95 Express lanes as a model. Those lanes allow for both bus and automobile traffic and have increased commuter speeds in the non-express lanes by giving drivers another option.” Yuck. Too bad.
Let me clarify – I don’t want to give the impression that Hialeah Julio is any better. His statements on transit read like the comments section of the Miami Herald – an emotional plea for more ’oversight’, but no real substance. ”First and foremost, we must urgently reform the Transit Department and ensure that all public dollars are being spent judiciously and that the ½ cent tax that this community voted to tax itself for improved transportation is in fact being used to remedy transportation ills and not for more management or salaries.” Check out his blog to read more.
Suffice it to say that the current mayoral candidates don’t know what active transportation is, or how to improve mobility for the residents of Dade County, nor do they have any reason to care. This election has shown that the problem is not with the candidates, but with our current metropolitan system of government that pits an independent highway agency against a second-class county transit department. One has funding and can expand its system as necessary, while the other is left to the whim of the current director or mayor or Commission puppet master. The debate is framed around questions of better oversight for transit, and expansion of our highway network – not the other way around. Until we reform our system of transportation governance to establish an independent elected transportation director, we will not see a change in our mobility options.
While Miami’s political attention is on County charter changes, Miami-Dade County residents should consider a change that would reduce our second-largest cost of living: transportation.
Our largest cost of living, housing – at least the portion directly determined by County government, i.e. property taxes – is overseen by an official that we recently decided that we should elect. Now any Property Appraiser must improve the lives of a majority of County residents in the area of property taxes in order to be re-elected.
This technique should by applied to the area of transportation, changing the County charter to create an elected County Transportation Director with the power and responsibility over all modes of transportation. This would insert into County government one person whose sole political interest is to move as many County residents to destinations that matter to us.
Any candidate for County Transportation Director would have to convince a majority of voters that he or she is best able to come up with plans, and implement them, for saving us time and money by extending facilities, increasing capacity, and reducing waste. An elected County Transportation Director would have to improve the lives of a majority of County residents in the area of transportation in order to be re-elected.
Creating an elected County Transportation Director would also address issues with the current system in which certain modes of transportation, or certain facilities, are overseen by separate County departments. For example, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, because it only deals with toll highways, has an interest in not losing revenue to rail or buses. Separate departments may act against such interests out of benevolence, but it would be better to remove temptation.
Transportation investment and maintenance decisions should be made on the basis of how many people could benefit, regardless of mode or facility. An elected County Transportation Director would have every incentive to make decisions in such a way, improving mobility for all County residents and reducing our cost of living.
Submitted by Andrew Frey.
This is not a joke. The Citizens Independent Transportation Trust is working (with the blessing of County Commissioner Moss) toward approving an $11 million road widening in an area of south Miami-Dade County that will only serve a few development interests. This will be yet another move that degrades our agricultural lands, leads to more suburban sprawl, and more depressed property values. One need only look at these two photos to note that widening these roads has nothing to do with ‘alleviating traffic’. Not now, not twenty years from now. The sprawl machine is not dead; its trying hard to get back to work, and we helping to pay for its recovery!
At a time when our County government should reflect on the amount of environmental and economic damage it has legislated over the last decade, decisions like this only serve to remind us that the same incompetent and corrupt people are still in office. To say nothing of the fact that these are PTP dollars that were meant for transit NOT projects that aim to keep the same old road-building/ developer/sprawl planning+engineering firms afloat. Shame on you CITT for not being stewards of our transit dollars.
Thanks to the ITeam for looking into the misuse of transit surtax revenues, but there were a few things missing from your report. While cities in Miami-Dade do have parochial and shortsighted transit planning spending patterns, it’s the system that is at fault; forcing cities to jockey for an insanely low amount of money to apply to a worthy ‘transit’ project which typically run in the hundreds of millions – leaving them far short of what they would need to run a credible system. Not to mention the anemic leadership at the County Commission and their decade long fleecing of the 1/2 Transportation Tax for anything but transit. Wider roads? Check. New intersection lights? Check. Road repaving? Check.
The report also chides the City of Miami for doing the smart thing and saving the money it gets from the trust (not hoarding it as the article states). The small payments the cities get based on their population should be saved. With most of the cities occurring along or around an existing or future major transit corridor (the South Dade Busway, Metro-Rail, or the future SFECC) these funds could amount to the all important operations and maintenance costs that plague investments in premium transit. The constant mantra of the County Commission is that it must bear the burden of these costs – but what if the cities were able to leverage their portion of the surtax against the future operating costs of the system. That would be a powerful bargaining chip for the 20-odd cities that occur around the SFECC in particular – especially at a time when the MPO is not likely to support continuation of the project for the foreseeable future.
A recently completed audit found that the cities have spent millions of dollars on projects that have nothing to do with transit or are specifically forbidden.
Miami Lakes spent part of their money for an on-demand taxi service. North Bay Village used the cash to build storm water drains. And Sweetwater used transit money to buy a garbage truck and pay police officers.
Charles Scurr is the executive director of the Citizens Independent Transit Trust, the agency which makes sure the money is spent appropriately. In cases where the money was misspent, the CITT can demand repayment.
The big missed story: what happened to the voter mandated (and legally required) independent trust that was to steward these funds through the morass of Miami-Dade County politics? It never materialized. The Citizens Independent Transportation Trust is a joke – and not because of a lack of effort on the part of its staff, but because it is not independent! To claim to be so is disingenuous, laughable, and probably illegal. We need a truly independent auditor to plan and implement a multimodal transportation network in Dade County. As long as the same tired politics play out in the County Commission chambers, transit will remain stagnant for years to come.
Speculated upon by Miami Bike Scene last week, yesterday I spotted the brand new bike lanes on SW 127th Avenue, stretching from Bird Road (42nd Street) to Miller Drive (56th Street). I’m told by a resident of the area that the road is used by a lot of people on bicycles, so hopefully the bike lane will make it safer for them to ride and make it more obvious to drivers that they need to watch out for bicycles sharing the road.
I don’t think anyone will argue with me when I say that Christopher Lecanne’s death last Sunday could have been avoided. There are a number of factors that contributed to that tragic event, starting with Carlos Bertonatti’s decision to inebriate himself and then drive back home under the influence. This was not an accident. Bertonatti may not have set out to kill Lecanne, but the moment he decided to drive under the influence he accepted, consciously or not, that he could be an instrument to death. And he was. But there was also an aspect to the event that has to deal with the bicycling infrastructure on which Lecanne transited, namely the bike lane that puts people on bicycles right next to cars on a road where drivers routinely overshoot the speed limit.
This event highlighted something that bicycle advocates in Miami have been telling those in positions of power for days, weeks, months and years prior: our roadways are not safe for people on human-powered vehicles. Key Biscayne is one of Miami’s premier cycling location, the place where, if anywhere, going beyond the strict requirements of the law would be worth it given the amount of people on bicycles that use it. And yet, as written by Esther Calas, P.E., Director of Miami-Dade County Public Works Department, the facilities there only meet the State and Federal requirements. That’s all they shot for, without consideration that this particular area could use some specifications that go beyond.
Key Biscayne is a microcosm of Greater Miami. The tragedy that took place on Key Biscayne last week can, and has, and will, happen elsewhere in Miami wherever bikes and car are forced to co-exist without the proper attention as to how that coexistence needs to happen for safety’s sake. Need proof? Look no further than October 2009 and the sad case of teenager Rodolfo Rojo, killed on Biscayne Boulevard.
How many more Rojos or Lecannes will it take before those people in positions of power, people put there by our very own votes, will finally get the message and take action to protect the bicycle-riding segment of the population they represent and serve?
As it is usually the case, the tragedy has acted as a catalyst and now we’re getting responses and promises from people like Commissioner Sarnoff and Miami Dade County Mayor Alvarez (still notably missing is Miami Mayor Regalado). I hope these lead to actual changes, I really do. Maybe this will make people realize that bicycle advocates are not just talking to hear themselves talk when we tell politicians over and over than more and better bicycling infrastructure can and does help keep people safe when on human-powered vehicles.
Bicycle riding isn’t a fad. It is an accepted, long-standing and continually-increasing form of transportation, one that has to be taken seriously and accounted for in current and future plans for the cities and county of Miami.
When it comes to Lecanne, could a separated bike lane have saved his life? We’ll never know for sure. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could figure it out before we have another such tragedy in our hands?
It’s been 24 hours since I dialed 311 to report that all the pedestrian crosswalk signals at the SE 13th Street and South Miami Avenue intersection were not working. This morning, I took the time to witness several parents trying to cross the street here with their young children on the way to South Side Elementary School. It was not an easy task for them or any of the other countless pedestrians that attempted to traverse at this very busy intersection during rush hour. Everyone had to wait and try to time exactly when it was safe to dart across.
I was optimistic that the problem was going to be fixed today. At 8:10am the electrical contractors were already on the scene as you can see below.
At around 12:30pm I headed home for lunch and for my daily 15 minute siesta. I was surprised to see that the pedestrian signals were still not working, but I had high hopes that the problem would be fixed today. The electrical contractors were still busy at work as you can see below.
I left work this afternoon around 5:30pm feeling pretty good that the crosswalks signals would be working, but to my chagrin they were not.
Last night I moderated attended a transportation panel that brought together highway folks with transit folks in the hopes that they would interact and teach each other a thing or two about how we can advance transit in our community. The panel included Alice Bravo (FDOT District 6 Director of Transportation Systems Development), County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez (District 7), Harpal Kapoor (Director of Miami-Dade Transit), and Javier Rodriguez (Director of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority).
My thinking was that there was some secret that the highway planners knew that could enlighten us transit advocates as to why transit consistently fails in our region, but I was wrong. There is no secret, just institutional malaise, lack of vision, and as one member of the audience described it, a ‘bubble’ mentality.
I was disappointed in myself on my way home because I came armed with a series of tough questions about why we don’t have transit, and how the panelists (as the responsible parties) could do something to change the status quot. But I didn’t ask my questions – I was too busy listening to the spin. Don’t get me wrong, I learned an awful lot about how things work, but it wasn’t because of anything that the panelists said. Their insulated and distant positions on the need and demand for transit was more revealing than any of their answers were. It was as if their opinions of what ‘works’ in Miami, after so many years of experience, had been calcified into facts. ‘This is the way it is in Miami-Dade County’ was the idea touted by some , with Commissioner Gimenez sharing with me in conversation that his apparent cynicism came from years of dealing with inept transit management (an understandable feeling considering his efforts to address the management of the PTP).
I abandoned my questions early on because of the enthusiastic and vocal audience of transit professionals, planners and interested citizens who came up with their own questions for the panel. I was happy to see such an interest in the subject, and thought it was a signal to the members of the panel that they need to get moving on providing creative transit solutions.
Funding dominated the conversation (as it will when discussing transit issues), and I was happy that Javier Betancourt (Miami DDA’s Manager for Urban Planning and Transportation) asked the panel why transit doesn’t get the same funding that highways do. No one could give a simple, straight answer, but I think the answer to this question is the key to solving our mobility problems (and no, I don’t think our highways are the solution).
Ysela Llort, Assistant County Manager in charge of transportation was in the audience, and she answered the question by describing the competitive and difficult Federal New Starts process for building transit infrastructure. Commissioner Gimenez described the problem as involving the operations and maintenance side of transit once the infrastructure is up and running. (Ysela also made this point.)
In conversation before and after both Commissioner Gimenez and Javier Rodriguez made interesting points about the funding conundrum. Why do roads and highways get funded over transit? Because government doesn’t have to get involved in the operations and maintenance side of the equation- that is largely the responsibility of the citizenry (you are responsible for maintaining and fueling your car).
Lack of density was also mentioned, but what was not mentioned was lack of demand. I said several times over the evening that we need to get people out of their cars by making driving less convenient, to which the Commissioner and Alice Bravo grimaced. What an un-American thing to force people out of their cars. I disagree. The point of my comment was not that we should make people abandon their cars, but to provide more alternatives. How can we justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars improving flow on the Palmetto – which is within the fiefdom of FDOT – while not providing a convenient alternative to people who don’t want to sit in traffic. We wouldn’t have to improve flow if we gave people an easier choice to make.
I heard many promising things as well, most notably from Javier Rodriguez, who really gets the bigger picture. I’ll write more about him and his thoughts tomorrow. All being said, I came away with the hope that we have things to look forward too.
PS. Harpal is awesome. If anyone wants a free EASY Metro card, send me your email.
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- Checking in on Seattle’s Ambitious Waterfront Park Plans March 10, 2014A recent article by Bill Lucia explains the reasons to be cautiously optimistic about a proposed park that will replace a demolished Alaskan Viaduct on Seattle’s waterfront.
- Dallas Warming Up to Complete Streets March 10, 2014A new Complete Streets Design Manual is under consideration in Dallas City Hall, but according to a recent article explaining Dallas' move toward walkable neighborhoods, the city has some work to do before the idea fully takes hold.
- First Transportation Plan Since 1940 Launches in Chicago’s Cook County March 10, 2014Cook County is in the early stages of public outreach for its first transportation plan since the 1940 “Highway Plan for Cook County.”
- Wisconsin Struggles with Interstate Tolling Option March 10, 2014State transportation leaders are scrambling to increase funding as MAP-21 draws to its expiration on Oct. 1. Interstate tolling is being eyed by more than a few. While the Wisconsin Assembly likes the idea, Gov. Scott Walker rejects it.
- Economically Successful Cities Favor Space-Efficient Modes March 10, 2014Cities are, by definition, places where many people and activities locate close together. Their economic success and livability benefits from policies that favor space-efficient modes (walking, cycling, ridesharing and public transit).
- Questioning the National Flood Insurance Program’s Repeat Payouts March 10, 2014The National Flood Insurance Program is unable to keep up with the pace of storms and sea level rise since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and is now $24 billion in debt. Why then, do the same houses receive repeated payouts?
- Obama Administration Proposes $1 Billion for Affordable Housing Fund March 10, 2014The $1 billion proposed by the Obama Administration for affordable housing would be the first allotment to the National Housing Trust Fund, created in 2008. Is $1 billion enough?
- Report: Low Income, Rural Drivers are Disproportionate Polluters March 9, 2014A new report points to the 10-15% of vehicles in California that cause half the smog caused by light duty vehicles. Rather than urban strategies such as transit or TOD, the authors support improving the vehicle retirement and replacement program.
- Does Downtown San Diego Measure Up as a 'Vibrant Downtown'? March 9, 2014Piggybacking on John Karras's article, "12 Strategies That Will Transform Your City’s Downtown" (posted in Planetizen as "12 Strategies for Revitalizing Downtowns" on 2/26/1014), Bill Adams takes a look at how downtown San Diego measures up.
- Is BBC's Architecture Mini-Series Biased Against Women? March 9, 2014The BBC is in hot water over alleged gender bias in its mini-series "The Brits Who Built the Modern World."
- Checking in on Seattle’s Ambitious Waterfront Park Plans March 10, 2014
- Transit Miami > Miami-Dade County