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The following post comes from a new TransitMiami-partner blog initiative I started last month: Miami Geographic.

The Editors here at TM were kind enough to give this new Miami Geographic initiative a boost and permit me to re-post the article here.

One can find the original article “Understanding Miami’s Metrorail Land-Use” on Miami Geographic.

Thanks for the support, TM!

Miami’s rapid transit Metrorail train system currently consists of 23 stations running along a nearly 25-mile elevated, heavy-rail, dual-track corridor.

Opened in May 1984, Metrorail is operated and maintained by Miami-Dade Transit (MDT), an agency of the Miami-Dade County administration.

Miami's Metrorail System and Traversed Municipalities. Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.
Miami’s Metrorail System and Traversed Municipalities. Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

With Metrorail turning 30 years old this very month, Miami Geographic will be celebrating the anniversary with an in-depth look at how the system works.

Toward that end, I’ll be starting here today with what is arguably the single-most important feature of any major public transportation system: land-use.

Land-use is simply the economic purpose for which land resources are utilized, or, stated even more simply, the way humans use land.

Land-use represents the geographic anatomy of a region. It determines the spatial structure and performance of human settlement systems.

To understand the way Miami’s Metrorail train system works — in terms of its capacity to move people throughout the metro region and connect them to the various destinations required for them to make a living and sustain their lives — it’s critical to understand the land-use configurations surrounding and served by the train corridor.

We’re talking about places where people live, work, and play.

A bit more specifically, we’re talking about origins and destinations like homes; places of employment; schools, colleges, and universities; grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, and other retail locations; churches, mosques, and temples; parks, open-, and green-spaces; sites of extraction, manufacturing, production, and waste management and disposal; and government buildings such as city and county halls, courthouses, and other facilities administering public services; etc.

So let’s imagine that the Metrorail transit corridor is actually a large artery for distributing the life blood of the city (people) to Miami’s organs (the city’s various land-use amenities), each of which contributes to the system’s urban metabolism.

Which land-use organs are most supported by flow of people through the Metrorail artery? How well connected are the different organs of the urban system?

Before we jump right into it, let’s quickly go over how Metrorail land-use was assessed.

I delineated 1-mile areas surrounding each of the 23 Metrorail stations in two ways:

  1. Euclidean (“As-the-Pigeon-Flies”) Area: regularly-shaped circular areas defined by Euclidean, absolute distances from each Metrorail station, uninterrupted by the on-the-ground impedance realities like disconnected streets, water bodies, and buildings, etc.; in other words, areas defined by distances “as-the-pigeon-flies”
    Metrorail System 1-Mile Euclidean ("As-the-Pigeon-Flies") 2014 Land-Use Corridor. Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.
  2. Network (“Along-the-Street-Network”) Area: irregularly-shaped areas defined by the design and pattern of a particular network, in this case the street network, which more accurately reflects on-the-ground impedance realities like disconnected streets, water bodies, and buildings, etc.; in other words, areas defined by distances “along-the-street-network”
    Metrorail System 1-Mile Network ("Along-the-Street-Network") 2014 Land-Use Corridor. Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

The graphic below illustrates the very different geometric outcomes produced when each of these two area-delineation methods is employed. Metrorail’s Government Center Station, in the heart of downtown Miami, was used in this example.

1-Mile Euclidean ("As-the-Pigeon-Flies") & 1-Mile Network ("Along-the-Street-Network") Area-Delineation Methods. Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Land-uses in Miami-Dade County were reclassified into the following 11 generalized classes:

  • Agricultural
  • Commercial
  • Industrial
  • Institutional
  • Multi-Family Residential
  • Office
  • Park
  • Single-Family Residential
  • Transportation & Utilities
  • Undeveloped
  • Water

Land-use data for 2014 came from the Miami-Dade County Land-Use Management Application (LUMA), accessible from the Miami-Dade County GIS Self Services platform.

Within each of the two 1-mile area-delineation types – as-the-pigeon-flies and along-the-street-network – the proportion of each of these 11 land-use classes was calculated.

In the station-by-station descriptions below, I make reference only to the along-the-street-network land-use proportions, although those for the as-the-pigeon-flies areas are reported in the maps too.

Let’s start at Metrorail’s southern terminus.

Dadeland South is the second busiest station after Government Center. The Datran office complex, along with the other offices in the downtown Dadeland area, is represented within the 4.9% of office use. Dadeland Mall, as well as the various other retail and restaurant sites within downtown Dadeland, account for the 13.3% in commercial use. Single-family residential dominates at 31.9%, while multi-family apartments and condominiums occupy 15.6%.

Dadeland South Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Dadeland North station shares in much of the same land-use amenities as its moniker-sharing counterpart to the south. However, the share of single-family residences is nearly 10% greater. Multi-family residences correspondingly decrease, and despite the presence of the Dadeland Station shopping center, commercial use remains slightly less in Dadeland North than in Dadeland South. Interesting to note is the small, less than 1% agricultural land-use here, as well as the slightly larger proportion of undeveloped parcels.

Dadeland North Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

South Miami station is surrounded predominantly by residential use: 37.7% for single- and 7.9% for multi-family. The City of South Miami’s downtown business core is found just across US-1 from the South Miami Metrorail station. Boutique clothing shops, pleasant restaurants offering a range of tastes and price-points, and some popular bars are found adjacent to the Sunset Place open-air shopping center. Even with all that, commercial use comes in at just 6.6%. Offices amount to 4.6%. Assessed at both absolute (as-the-pigeon-flies) or relative (along-the-street-network) 1-mile distances, South Miami station includes the western edge of the City of Coral Gables, including a sizable chunk of the University of Miami’s primary campus. That, along with some public, charter, and private schools in area, account for the more than 10% of institutional use.

South Miami Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

University station is dominated by two land-use types: residential (especially that of the single-family variety: 33.2%) and institutional (primarily for the University, schools, and religious buildings).

University Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Douglas Road probably has one of the best distributions of land-uses of any Metrorail station south of the downtown core. This part of the urban region, where the City of Miami meets the City of Coral Gables, is one of its most transformative pockets. It’s dynamism comes not only from its land-use mix, but also the rapidly transforming real estate and streetscape realities. Construction crews are actively building new condominium/apartment buildings in the area. Currently undeveloped land sits at 3.3%, but that number will be reduced significantly within this year. The immediate proximity to the ultra-luxurious, elite-endorsing Village of Merrick Park outdoor shopping mall has made the neighborhood an increasingly attractive site of investment. This commercial plaza hosts, among other high-end shops, The Collection, where the super-rich can purchase Ferraris and Aston Martins. Commercial accounts for 5.2% of the land-use composition. Coral Gables Senior High School is also within the vicinity, accounting for part of the the 6.9% of institutional use.

Douglas Road Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Coconut Grove station is over 55% residential (single-family: 29.5%; multi-family: 27.4%). The near even split of single- versus multi-family homes is remarkable to witness along SW 27th Avenue. On the ground, one can find residential structures on both sides of the avenue. However, on the west side of SW 27th, there are large numbers of one- and two-story duplexes. The City of Miami’s City Hall on Dinner Key is just within the as-the-pigeon-flies 1-mile area, making the share of institutional use at that geographic unit over 1%  higher than for the network-based unit.

Coconut Grove Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Vizcaya station is adjacent to the single-family neighborhood known as The Roads, the historic mansions along the bay and in south Brickell, some high-rise condos, the soon-to-be-relocated Miami Museum of Science, gorgeous City of Miami Alice Wainwright park and, of course, lovely and historic Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

Vizcaya Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Brickell is one of three Metrorail stations serving the downtown core of the Miami megalopolis (the others being Government Center and Overtown). Don’t be too alarmed by that 6.0% of undeveloped land; much of that is actively being eaten-away by the rising, city-redefining juggernaut that is to be Brickell City Center. Multi-family, office, and commercial space will increase as the phased project continues to materialize before our eyes (and to our collective wonderment). With Brickell serving as the financial business district of our urban core, it’s no surprise to find significant commercial (9.6%) and office (7.8%) space. It’s an increasingly residential area too, with nearly 20% dedicated to condos and apartments, comprising the largest land-use class in the area: multi-family residential.

Brickell Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Government Center is the station most people know, even those who have rarely ridden the train, if ever. As its name suggests, it’s where one can find, well, government. The Miami-Dade County courthouse is there; the US Federal District Courthouse is there; lots of a little court houses and related legal agencies are in the vicinity; all of these government or quasi-government buildings account for the 8.8% of institutional use. Requiring comment is the nearly 10% of undeveloped land in the area, in this, the very heart of the Miami region, the core of the core. That amount of undeveloped land in the center of one of the United States’ most important cities, and perhaps the most important city for intra-hemispheric relations, is astounding. However, just as with the current and on-going transformation of undeveloped land surrounding the Brickell station just to the south, most of that surrounding Government Center station is already, or will soon be, undergoing major development.

Government Center Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Overtown is the third Metrorail station offering passage to and from Miami’s core downtown, where the distribution of land-uses is about as equal as you’ll find anywhere else along the system. Here institutional use (11.3%) occupies slightly more space than multi-family residential (9.5%) and commercial (8.0%). Refreshingly, parks become a bit more significant (6.9%), but one wonders if that’s a sufficient amount of public recreation and leisure space for the heart of downtown. For the first time since moving our way through the Metrorail corridor, we start to see Miami’s industrial space (3.0%) emerge.

Overtown Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Culmer is an under-utilized gem of a station. Its land-use configuration is also dominated by institutional use (20.9%), most of it being the various medical-educational facilities comprising the de facto and increasingly formalized Miami Health District.

Culmer Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Civic Center station defines the center of, and is most readily associated with, the Health District. The Health District hosts such staples of the community health and local medical industries as Miami-Dade County-operated Jackson Memorial Hospital, the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, as well as the UM-owned “UHealth” brand of medical care, not to mention the UM Life Science & Technology complex to further advance UM’s aggressive pursuit of a medical and biotechnology empire. The Veteran’s Affairs (VA) hospital as well as the Miami-Dade College Medical campus are also both located in the Health District, among many other health-related institutes and organizations. Important to note about the Health District is that it also serves as a secondary government and legal district, second only to that found nearest to Government Center station. Still, significant multi-family units dominate the spaces surrounding these institutional uses. The industrial side of Miami — in the form of solid waste processing, factories, and especially fruit import warehouses — begins to become more apparent as one moves toward the Santa Clara station to the north.

Civic Center Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Santa Clara station can be used to access the industrial sector of Allapattah. This station also seems to be the preference for many Miami-Dade Medical Students whose campus is found just off of NW 20th Street.

Santa Clara Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Allapattah station is a Metrorail system node serving the residential heart of the Allapattah neighborhood, whose single- versus multi-family residential split (24.1% versus 18.4%) isn’t too drastic. Standard Miami, along-the-arterial commercial use applies; in this case accounting for 5.7%.

Allapattah Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Earlington Heights station is surrounded by a land-use arrangement very similar to that of Allapattah. Notable, though, is the relatively high percentage of undeveloped space: 5.5%.

Earlington Heights Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Brownsville station has an even greater excess of undeveloped land: 7.7%. Continuing with the line of medical analogies: one questions whether an urban system is as healthy as can be when significant pockets of it’s space are left unproductive, effectively contributing nothing to the well-being of the system. Undeveloped land so near the heart of the city, and so well connected (via the Metrorail artery) to other urban organs, virtually begs for investment (either public, in the form of say, parks, or private, in the form of business and economic stimulation).

Brownsville Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. station is where we begin to see more clearly that the notion of a purely service sector economy for supposedly post-industrial Miami is a myth. Industrial land-use occupies an even 12% at the 1-mile network unit. The amount of undeveloped space here is also striking at 7.8%.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Northside station is just over 20% industrial. Another fifth is allocated for commercial use (9.0%) and to, well, essentially nothing (in the form of undeveloped land: 10.%). Yet another fifth is allocated for the people living in the single-family homes (21.8%) in the area.

Northside Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Tri-Rail station is surrounded by industrial (21.1%) and single-family residential (29.6%).

Tri-Rail Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Hialeah station is located just south of the Hialeah Park Race Track & Casino, which accounts for the bulk of the 15.6% commercial use in the area. Otherwise, it’s mostly single- and multi-family residential (24.5% and 18.4% respectively). Industrial use (5.1%) remains significant up in these northwest reaches of the Metrorail line.

Hialeah Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Okeechobee station is surrounded by still more industrial use (18.1%) and the standard Hialeah mix of single- and multi-family residences.

Okeechobee Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Palmetto station brings us to the end of the Metrorail line, at least the end of the Green Line. Industrial use is overwhelmingly highest here at a whopping 49.6%.

Palmetto Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

Miami International Airport station, the newest station in the Metrorail system, is dominated by transportation-based uses of land (i.e., the Miami International Airport and associated facilities). There is indeed a significant percentage of greenspace, which is classified as park (15.5%), but its important to note that this open greenspace is actually a large golf course and country club.

Miami International Airport Metrorail Station Land-Use, 2014. Data Source: MDC Land-Use Management Application (LUMA). Map Source: Matthew Toro. 2014.

So what can be taken away from these maps and pie charts?

Well, for one, there is a strikingly high percentage of single-family residential space surrounding many Metrorail stations, especially those south of the urban core.

There’s also a less-than-expected share of commercial use immediately surrounding the region’s primary rapid transit train system.

Park space isn’t as abundant, or accessible via Metrorail, as one would expect in a city as predisposed to outdoor recreational activities as Miami.

As the Metrorail system deviates from its primary north-south orientation through Miami and begins it’s more east-west movement in the northern sections of the line, we see very high percentages of industrial land-use, not the type of use that is most amenable to facilitating the movement people through an urban system to connect them to their destinations.

While industrial spaces can and do serve as important sites of employment, they don’t generate the necessary flow of people needed to optimize major investments in public transportation infrastructure.

The Transportation & Utilities category of land-use is consistently the most, or among the most, dominant land-use classe surrounding each of the 23 Metrorail stations. This is reflective, of course, of the fact that the Metrorail train system is itself categorized as a transportation-based use of land.

However, it also reflects an undeniable land-use reality for the entire region, not just those areas surrounding Metrorail: streets (i.e., impermeable paved roadways, designed, in Miami’s case, primarily for automobiles) consume a disproportionate amount of all space in Miami’s land-use mosaic.

Again, thanks goes to TransitMiami Editors for permission to re-post this piece from my new partner blog Miami Geographic!

- Matthew Toro

Today we’re looking at those spaces that breathe life into a city: parks.

Park Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida -- 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

Park Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida — 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

I kept it simple: only beaches, municipal-operated, and county-operated parks were included. These criteria effectively excluded the following uses, which are part of Miami-Dade County’s default “Park” category:

  • Recreational Vehicle Parks/Camps
  • Private Recreational Facilities Associated with Private Residential Developments
  • Private Recreational Camps/Areas
  • Cemeteries
  • Golf courses
  • Other Nature Preserves and Protected Areas, which, for the most part, are completely inaccessible for public recreation/leisure
  • Marinas

And, significantly, this map doesn’t show Biscayne National Park, our local, primarily aquatic national park covering the bulk of central and southern Biscayne Bay.

What do you think? Where are more parks needed in our community?

Our Urban Development Boundary (UDB) constrains the encroachment of real estate development — typically in the form of single-family residential sprawl — into our precious agricultural and other environmentally-sensitive lands, such as the wetland and terrestrial ecosystems of Everglades National Park.

The agriculture sector contributes significantly to the local economy. As recently explained in WLRN’s excellent series “The Sunshine Economy”:

Agriculture generates a direct $700 million dollars a year in Miami-Dade County alone. The economic impact of the plowing, growing and picking of those crops is much larger.

Agricultural Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida -- 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

Agricultural Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida — 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

Agricultural land-uses in Miami-Dade County are found primarily in the southwest, in what’s known as the Redland Agricultural Area (often referred to as the “Redlands”).

One can also find plenty of fruit stands selling tropical and sub-tropical delights, fruits and vegetables that are sometimes virtually impossible to grow in any US region outside of South Florida.

Significant horticultural industries can be found out there too, including processing and packaging facilities for orchids and other ornamental plants.

If you haven’t already, visit the agricultural periphery of Miami-Dade County. It’ll change your whole perspective of what “Miami” truly is . . .

Even in primarily financial- and service-sector cities like Miami, industrial use of land is a critical component of the urban economy.

Industrial Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida -- 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

Industrial Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida — 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

Yes; Miami is a ‘post-industrial’ city, having carved its niche in the world economy after other metropolitan centers had carved their own on the foundation of manufacturing and production, but significant pockets of industrial land-use do exist in the county.

For some, the industrial space is closer than for others.

Just think about your own neighborhood: Is it near one of Miami’s industrial clusters, or far-removed where the illusion of a production-free world is more easily accepted?

This industrial land-use map includes spaces used for activities classified as:

  • [limestone/concrete] extraction, excavation, quarrying, and rock-mining,
  • heavy and light manufacturing,
  • industrial office parks,
  • industrial-commercial condominiums, and
  • junk yards.

If you’ve never been to one of the junk yards along the Miami River, or in Hialeah, it’s time you took a field trip. The industrial side of Miami’s economy will become much more apparent than you’ve ever imagined . . .

We posted a map of residential land-use in Miami-Dade last week. Here’s one illustrating commercial use throughout the county.

Commercial Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida -- 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

Commercial Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida — 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

What patterns, if any, do you see here? Where would you like to see more commercial development take place?

It’s not often that something leaves me without words in Miami. But this does it.

It's hard to believe, but someone at Miami-Dade County has managed to find a way to make the Rickenbacker Causeway even less safe for cyclists. Photo by Ruben van Hooidonk.

It’s hard to believe, but someone at Miami-Dade County has managed to find a way to make the Rickenbacker Causeway even less safe for cyclists. Photo by Ruben van Hooidonk.

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.”

Sigh.

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.

Proposed Pedestrian Bridge - Rendering courtesy Miami-Dade County

Proposed Pedestrian Bridge at US-1 and University MetroRail Station: Note the bicyclist hugging the curb… (Rendering courtesy Miami-Dade County)

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.

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.)

As we prepare to commence a new year, let us never forget, friends: our city is the Magic City.

Let us always remember to treat it as such.

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From our friends over at Green Mobility Network:

Action Alert

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.
END COPY-AND-PASTE

SEND TO THE INDIVIDUAL COMMISSIONERS–JUST COPY AND PASTE THE FOLLOWING E-MAIL ADDRESSES INTO THE “TO” LINE OF YOUR E-MAIL SOFTWARE.

mayor@miamidade.gov, officeofthechair@miamidade.gov, bjordan@miamidade.gov, district2@miamidade.gov, district3@miamidade.gov, district4@miamidade.gov, district5@miamidade.gov, district6@miamidade.gov, District7@miamidade.gov, District8@miamidade.gov, DennisMoss@miamidade.gov, district10@miamidade.gov, district11@miamidade.gov, District12@miamidade.gov, district13@miamidade.gov

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.

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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.

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