Currently viewing the tag: "Miami-Dade County"

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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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.

Bike Lane on SW 127 Ave - photo by Daniel M. Perez

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.

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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.

Father and son waited at least 4 minutes to cross this street today.

Father and son waited at least 4 minutes to cross this street today.

As soon as they started to cross, the light turned green for this car.

As soon as father and son darted across the intersection, the light turned green for this car.

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.

8:15am

8:15am

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.

12:30pm

12:30pm

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.

5:30pm

5:30pm

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.

The Miami Herald ran a story today regarding the Venetian closure and the effects it will have on pedestrians and bicyclists. Featured in the story is Felipe Azenha, a regular Transit Miami reader and a dedicated bicycle activist. From the article:

But some cycling advocates don’t think that is enough. The MacArthur is dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, they say.

‘I think it’s really an accident waiting to happen” said Felipe Azenha, who used to ride his bike over the Venetian daily to work. Azenha pointed to recent causeway calamities. In March, NFL wide receiver Donte Stallworth ran over a pedestrian on the MacArthur, killing him. In August, a cab driver plowed into almost a dozen cyclists out on a leisurely ride on a Sunday morning. None of the bicyclists died.

‘They have to put safety barriers out on the MacArthur and make it more clear that there will be bicycles and pedestrians,’ said Azenha, who also suggested a lower speed limit on the MacArthur during the month of May.

Molins said he could not address the concerns because the causeway is a state road controlled by the Florida Department of Transportation.

Of course, we all know that FDOT has said the County can do something by working with the statewide agency to ensure safe passage between the two cities for bicyclists and pedestrians.  Well, May 1 has come and nearly gone.  There is no telling if action will be taken.  Regardless, life goes on for the intrepid, as I saw four other bicyclists and two runners out on the MacArthur at 8:30 this morning. If the County and FDOT were wise, they would work together to figure out a solution before someone gets hurt.

If you do decide to head out there, please take extreme caution.

The Miami Herald reports 67-year old Jose Munoz was struck and tragically killed by a Miami-Dade Police Officer while trying to cross Southwest 344th Street. Munoz heroically pushed his wife out of the way but was unable to avoid the oncoming car.

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The Miami-Dade MPO wants to know. Please  click here to complete their quick survey.

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If you build it - Traffic will consume the neighborhood, taxpayers will fund 73% of 2000 temporary construction jobs, Jeffery Loria will cash out in a few years, the Little Havana neighborhood will be revitalized disenfranchised, The Marlins will stay in Miami (for 35 years, guaranteed), etc…

This Friday, the Miami-Dade Commission will meet to determine the fate (maybe - they will likely postpone the vote) of the Marlins’ Ballpark at the Orange Bowl.  As we noted earlier, from a strictly urban policy perspective – the current site plan (and funding scheme) is a calamity.

In addition to bilking taxpayers for 73% of stadium costs, we will also find ourselves footing the bills for at least $100 million dollars worth of parking.  Then, in the not too distant future, we’ll realize we built the stadium too far away from existing transit, and we’ll need to fund a reasonable solution (like a streetcar west from downtown to the MIC) or our elected officials will think up of a $180 million scheme to create a people-mover extension from the Culmer station.  By this point, I’m sure most rational people would then agree that it would have been better to save the hundreds of millions in parking and transit costs and just build the damned thing in downtown, near existing parking and transit to begin with…  But hey, this is Miami, right?  We can’t do anything right…

To reiterate – the current site plan will have deleterious effects on the surrounding community.  In its current state, the site will act as a vacuum – sucking in traffic while providing few benefits to little Havana.

Central to the Marlins’ and public officials’ pitch to taxpayers was a promise that, in exchange for $450 million in public subsidies, the $609 million stadium project would propel redevelopment in the surrounding area, luring commerce, jobs, amenities and foot traffic to an area that sorely lacks them.

But the stadium site plan released this month suggests that the city of Miami’s approach might best be summed up as “build it and hope.”

Contrary to Andres Viglucci’s thoughts, to me, the current site plan evoke more of a “build it and to hell with the surroundings.”

In reading the article last weekend, I was curious if anyone caught onto the glaring contradiction posed by the political proponents of the stadium plan and the city planners.

On one hand, political proponents claim the park will serve as a catalyst, bringing commercial and retail activity to the community at least 80 days a year.  This activity is confined to the “mixed-use” garages (FYI – parking/retail mix does not constitute mixed use) that provide scarce retail space along the base of the garages.  This space, of course, is supposed to be sufficient to create a vibrant district around the stadium, regardless of the season.

Then the truth comes out we have the city planner’s take on the garages surrounding the stadium:

City planners say the size and shape of the garages were dictated largely by the Marlins’ need for 6,000 spaces and quick exit times.

My question remains, if we were planning a vibrant district around the stadium, wouldn’t we want to complicate the exit procedure so that people would linger around the stadium longer?  It appears that is what the Seminole Hard Rock Casino did (rather well, I might add) in Hollywood (from what I’m told: just try leaving there in a timely manor on a Saturday night after a concert…) From a planning perspective, I would agree that this idea is convoluted, but it illustrates that the entire site plan is being designed so that drivers can come and leave as efficiently as possible on game day – not as it should be – a structure built to compliment a community.

As our own Tony Garcia aptly noted, ”Why are people going to come to this area?  What’s going to make it a destination, and not just for baseball games?…You need a better mix of uses here, not just parking garages.”

Below are a few images of some other successful baseball parks around the country.  These stadiums, particularly San Diego’s Petco Park, exemplify what a Baseball stadium should look like, how it should fit in with the surroundings, and how people interact with these spaces not just during baseball season, but 365 days a year. Compare these parks to the rendering above.

The Development Around Petco Park

The Development Around Petco Park (Image Via: docsplatter)

New Development Around Petco Park

New Development Around Petco Park (Image Via: Oh Snap)

Development Around AT&T Park

Development Around AT&T Park (Image Via: Gedawei)

Wrigley Field as Seen From the EL

Wrigley Field as Seen From the EL (Image Via: straightedge217)

Fenway Park's Entrance (Image Via: Ally85)

Fenway Park's Entrance (Image Via: Ally85)

Fellow TM writer Tony Garcia’s cogent thoughts on the new stadium plan and design were published in today’s Herald. Click through the link to read the whole response.

Tony says:

The type of development that this site deserves is too big for the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County — they are not in the business of developing land. Elected officials must be better stewards of public coffers. If they cannot do what is responsible now, then they need to wait until the time is right. As for the Marlins, if they want to leave, call their bluff. If they don’t want to stay, then we don’t want them.

The Miami Herald reports that in response to the recent killing of 11-year old Ashley Nicole Valdes, Miami-Dade officials are crafting an initiative that “will let residents know about ‘significant incidents that involve local law enforcement.'” With little other detail at this point, who knows what that actually means.

Call me cynical, but what Miami-Dade needs is a proactive approach to engineering and designing our streets for safety so that incidents like this, and the many like it, are  avoided in the first place-not a communication strategy quickly detailing how another Miami-Dade resident has been maimed  by a speeding motorist, along an over-sized four-lane road, where there isn’t adequate lighting.

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Thousands of bicyclists, roller bladers, runner, and walkers came out on Saturday to enjoy yet another car-free event in Miami. Riding the Rickenbacker sans automobiles was indeed a truly enjoyable event. Andres Viglucci of the Miami Herald covered the event, highlighting the City and County bicycle infrastructure expansions plans, the new bicycle parking ordinance,  and our own Bike Miami Days-next event schedule with an expanded route for January 18.

Although I missed the official rally-Critical Mass had a late start-I heard enthusiasm for the politicians on hand-especially Commissioner Sanchez- and of course from attendees about the event. Let’s keep pushing them to make Miami-Dade more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

Thanks to our friend Rydel over at  Bike Miami Scene for providing us with yet another great video.


Ride the Rickenbacker - Miami, FL. from rydel high on Vimeo.

As for the new bicycle lanes-the reason Ride The ‘Rick occurred-they certainly improve the safety and visibility of bicyclists riding the Causeway. Of particular note is the new toll booth lane supposedly dedicated to bicyclists only, except during periods of intense traffic.  That unexpected improvement will make the transition form mainland to causeway a whole lot smoother and safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, who currently use a sidewalk to narrow for sharing.

However, I do think the County missed a key opportunity with the actual bridge portions of the causeway. Known as the most exhilarating, but dangerous part of the ride, one has to wonder why each bridge is without signage or on-pavement markings. Unless there is some asinine  traffic law or some reasoning that I am missing, it seems the bridges would have been perfect for not only the aforementioned signage, but a real signature bicycle infrastructure solution. Colored lanes to improve visibility as well as bollards or curbing to physically protect cyclists on the bridge immediately come to mind.

In addition, where the parallel shared use pass crosses the bicycle lanes and four lanes of traffic, it may have been wise to add a blinking yellow light to complement the “Pedestrians Crossing” sign.  We all know motorists move at speeds upwards of 65mph along the causeway, so any and all precaution at grade crossings should have been taken-especially for those pedestrians and bicyclists traveling at night.

Otherwise, the lanes seem to be well-signed, marked and detailed at all intersection crossings. I certainly liked the “Wrong Way” signs on the back of the “Bicycle Lane” signs, alerting bicyclists to their wrongdoing if traveling in the wrong bicycle lane direction.

More pictures to come…Let’s hope the momentum continues…

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The  County is asking for public input on their LRTP. You can’t complain unless you participate. Put this one on the calendar. Let your voice be heard that people of Miami-Dade need and desire better transportation options and demand that there be no more squandering of funds set aside for transit!

You are invited to attend a Public Meeting to review and comment on the draft Needs Alternative of the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). The LRTP is being developed to guide federal, state, and local transportation funding allocations through the Year 2035 and the Needs Alternative is a list of needed improvements to the County’s transportation system that will form the basis for the LRTP.  This comprehensive plan will consist of highway, transit, bicycle, pedestrian, and other types of improvements for maximizing local and regional mobility of people and goods. Solutions will include new, creative, and innovative approaches to current transportation challenges.  The final draft of the LRTP will be presented for approval to the MPO Governing Board in late 2009.

Who:Miami-Dade MPO

What: 2035 LRTP Public Meetings

When and Where: The following meetings will be held from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM:

· January 29 - Miami Beach Regional Library, 227 22nd Street, Miami Beach, FL  33139

· January 29 - West Kendall Regional Library, 10201 Hammocks Blvd. Miami, FL 33196

· February 3 - Homestead Branch Library, 700 N Homestead Blvd. Homestead, FL 33030

· February 3 - Coral Gables Library, 3443 Segovia St. Coral Gables, FL 33134

· February 5 - Gwen Margolis Center, 1590 NE 123rd St. North Miami, FL 33161

· February 5 - Miami-Dade College West Campus, 3800 NW 115th Ave. Room 1121 Doral, FL 33178

Why: To encourage citizens to become familiar and get involved with the transportation planning            process.

For more info: www.miamidade2035transportationplan.com.

(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

You may have heard that last Friday morning thousands of used sneakers were dumped along the Palmetto Expressway, delaying  traffic for hours while crews were forced to clean up the kicks.

With no one stepping forth to claim the shoes and no signs of an accident,  rumors are afloat that they were dispensed in protest of Miami’s car culture.

Officials are now looking for a charity that might accept thousands of sneakers. If you have a suggestion, let the Miami State Police know.

Fact or fiction?

We can’t be sure, but let us all work towards a more walkable 2009.

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