Currently viewing the tag: "Miami-Dade County"

Lennar corp., a well-known developer of suburban tract homes, has its sights on pushing the bounds of Miami-Dade’s controversial urban development Boundary (UDB). Today’s Miami Herald article explains the politics, players and issues at play. Perhaps the most notable comment is that the ignominiously named Parkland, a 900-acre UDB busting “sustainable” development in question, is nothing more than a political greenwash.

Transit Miami could not agree more.

These types of growth issues-UDB or not-are common across the country. Ultimately, as Rey Melendi, president for Lennar’s Miami-Dade division points out, suburban expansion is typically not about enforcing a planning tool, but about politics. Sadly, that may be the only issue we can agree upon.

Fortunately, politics these days also include a strong contingent of well-informed people who see through this type of development for what it really is-suburban sprawl, something Miami-Dade County already has in spades. Indeed, much of which is currently unable to be sold.

I have many a comment to make, but will restrain myself to three.

1. Melendi says, ”It will be like Coral Gables or Miami Lakes.” This could be true-I have not seen the physical design of the community and how it proposes to be “mixed use,” “walkable” and “bike-friendly”- but based on the developer’s past work I could at best imagine a horizontal mixture, i.e., not supportive of transit, urban intensity or even civic beauty. Not to mention that even if “Parkland” were another Coral Gables, it is a development intended to replace much needed farmland near the Everglades.

Dig?

My thought is the County should enforce its little known Transfer of Development Rights program (TDR) created during the agriculture land preservation planning effort of the late 1990s. This way the development rights for thousands of homes and business could be transferred to the more urban part of Miami-Dade where growth should occur. To make this feasible, the County should work with those cities that contain Metrorail stations and many vacant or underutilized parcels to upzone properties, especially along Metrorail and Tri-Rail sites. If done well, Lennar could stand to make a killing and our precious environmental resources would be none the worse. I admit, this is likely to be wishful thinking.

2. The Herald article states “Parkland’s developers say it would be different from the suburban sprawl that has clogged roadways and produced isolated bedroom communities. The project is designed to be walkable and bike-friendly, a self-contained community with a mix of uses that would encourage less driving — and perhaps inspire reverse commutes to the 2,550 jobs developers hope to create within Parkland. Melendi said.”

Let me point out the inherent contradiction in this most favorable description. Any city, development, subdivision or what have you that is ‘self-contained’ most certainly does not plug into a framework of urbanism. That is to say, cul-de-sacs and strip malls are self-contained as well. Thus, I am not convinced by such a hollow sales pitch, as sustainable urbanism is complex, connected and vertically integrated, not closed off. Not to mention all completed studies state that current traffic capacity, water supply and environmental issues make this project a no-go.

3. This last one is fantastic.

“Pino, one of the largest home builders in the county, said he currently controls more than 700 acres on which he can build houses inside the UDB…” “…The developers challenge county calculations that it has an adequate supply of developable land within the UDB.”

”They are overstating their numbers,” said Melendi, who argues the county has largely reached its buildable limits within the UDB.

So, let me get this straight. Said developer has 700 acres within the UDB, but finds it essential to build on 941 acres outside of it first? I am sorry, but this is infuriating. All I see is greed here.

Finally, Melendi states “I don’t see a trend of people moving closer to urban centers.”

Does he have his head in the South Beach sand? Demographic research shows, time and time again, that urban centers continue to grow and revitalize, while new suburban areas, especially right now, are seeing the largest property devaluations.

To be sure, the timing of this vote is sneaky, as it is designed to slip by constituents a day before our national Presidential elections.

We at TM say no. Call or email your County Commissioners and tell them you support smart growth in the existing cities of Miami-Dade.

In what could only be judged as an effort to stymie opposition on the most contested land use issue in the region, the Miami-Dade Planning and Zoning department has scheduled a public hearing for November 3, regarding an application to amend the County’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP).  The hearing, of course, entails the expansion of the Urban Development Boundary for the development of a “new mixed-use community” on 961.15 acres, also known as the Parkland Development.  The likely horizontally mixed-use development (sprawl) would incorporate residential (cookie cutter houses), commercial (strip shopping centers), institutional (schools deemed necessary by county code requirements), and civic uses (streets?).

Besides the obvious detrimental ecological concerns posed by opening up further land outside the urban development boundary, I am troubled by the timing of this public hearing – only one day before the most hotly contested presidential race to date.  The timing is uncanny for such a hot buttoned issue within Miami-Dade’s local politics.  Moreover, amid the deepest economic recession in recent history, the precipitous decline of the local housing industry, and the tumultuous wake of the sub-prime lending mortgage crisis i must wonder why anyone would push for a public hearing.  Looks like its politics as usual in Miami-Dade…

We filled you in recently on the North Bayshore Drive Bicycle lanes - from what we have heard, the city is working to adapt this project to include the lanes.  No official word yet, but we will keep you posted as we hear more.

It has come to our attention that another critical bicycle access point will be entering a design phase in the coming months.  This time it is South Bayshore Drive in Coconut Grove, one of the busiest Bicycling corridors in all of Miami-Dade County.  South Bayshore Drive is a critical stretch of roadway for recreational and commuter cyclists, linking up with the highly used Commodore Trail and Rickenbacker Causeway.  Since this a County maintained roadway and project, we’ll be posting up a new set of contacts in the coming weeks.

Amid all the talk about the County Commission’s massive transit failure, comes a little bit of happy news. Last week the Commission approved the purchase of approximately 100 acres of land beyond the UDB to be placed under the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program. While 100 acres is not a lot, every little bit contributes to a green belt around the County that will perpetually hold development and buffer the Everglades from existing developed areas.

To date, the County in partnership with the South Florida Water Management District, the State of Florida, & other funding partners have aquired approximately 18,190 Acres of land throughout Dade County since the inception of the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program.

We missed this one when it came out, but in case you haven’t heard Leah Fleming’s WRLN-FM piece on “the Miami bicycle surge,” listen here.

Thanks to Miami Bike Scene for hosting the link.

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I recently attended one the public involvement sessions on the Long Range Transportation Plan at the Collins Park Public Library on Miami Beach. 17 members of the community, flanked by an equal number of consultants and staff, played with Lego blocks and ribbons to help formulate the plan for future transportation improvements and enhancements to the year 2030.

You see, the Miami Dade County Department of Planning and Zoning has forecast growth to be 323,000 households and 615,000 jobs by the year 2035.  To show this, the room was set with tables of identical county maps, and the two maps on the center tables had  “buildings” made of striped Lego blocks: one that represented jobs and households today and one in 2035.  The concentration of growth around the Costal Communities and Bay Shore was shocking:  as was the growth projected beyond the UEA (Urban Expansion Area). It was hard not to see the difference between now and then, based on these projections.

After a beautiful lite dinner of sandwiches and cookies, the focus group officially kicked off with a lightening speed definition of the MPO, its guiding mandate and geographical composition.  The program kept it’s fast pace through the opinion gathering portion of the evening: a survey of statements about “feelings” of  transit…”Do you agree it is safe to ride transit?”  “Do you agree the possibility of global warming should affect transit programming decisions?”  “Do you think building more roads will make traveling better?” The responses were recorded through hand held gizmos, and zapped to a data collection point, where in real time, the responses would be projected on the screen in numerical and graphical form, a la Who wants to be a Millionaire?

For those whose true feeling about transit could not be measured in lifeline questions, a longer comment/suggestion sheet of proposed goals and objectives of the LRTP was presented for feedback and filling out.  This two-page work-product, from the firm Gannett Fleming, featured eight categories and no less than 49 lofty concepts, ranging from “Reducing congestion” to  “Enhancing mobility for people and freight.”

Each table of participants was given bags of Lego’s; purple and orange ribbons; stickum; scissors; a tape measure and markers. They were told to work together, to make group decisions, by the table facilitator, who explained the exercise and recorded the results.  Groups were instructed how to “Build Out” the County, with the “Large-Scale Growth Scenario Base Map”.  The households were represented with 253 yellow Lego’s and 160 red Lego’s stood for employment, with one yellow piece representing 1, 280 households; The red, 3840 jobs. (These Lego’s represented new growth only)  The intensity of growth was portrayed by vertically stacking the Lego’s within each one-mile square grid on the six-foot map.  Next, folks were instructed to add purple for more roads and orange for transit improvements that would be needed.  The participants were encouraged to add as much as they thought was required.  As playtime came to a close, the groups were told to go on a diet, measure the length of orange and purple on the map and use no more than the allotted amount.

Click here to submit your own thoughts on the Miami-Dade LRTP…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned!

Image: Miami-Dade.gov

BPAC

Tonight was the Miami-Dade MPO BPAC committee meeting in Miami’s City Hall.  For those of you who didn’t make it, you didn’t miss anything earth shattering except that we all agreed that we have a long way to go before we have a sensible bicycle network in this county.  If you have any suggestions, comments, or ideas for possible bike related projects, feel free to email them over to us (Movemiami@gmail.com) and we’ll be sure to get them over to David Henderson (Pictured above giving the main presentation of the night…)

  • Today: June 3, 2008 from 6-8pm there will be a Miami-Dade Bicycle/Pedestrian Action Committee Meeting in Miami’s City Hall…
  • Tomorrow: June 4, 2008 there will be a Miami River Commission meeting at 10 AM in the Miami River Inn (118 South River Drive.)

This video provides us with a glimpse of Miami’s first Transit Oriented Development, conceived in the 80s at the Kendall Station of the southern terminus of the metrorail system. This video kicks off a series of articles which will be aimed at discussing TOD…

A lot happened this week behind the scenes and between the lines. Here is a review:

Kudos to this editorial today from El Nuevo Herald columnist Daniel Shoer Roth. I think he did an excellent job in highlighting how mismanaged our transit system is. Accountability goes out the window when ten different departments and municipalities are ‘responsible’ for certain aspects of mass transit. I’m always talking about how our system is ‘mismanaged’ but that really isn’t the case at all. It’s a question of priorities, and transit has not historically been one of them.

Our planning priorities were on full display this past weekend in an insert produced by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) that the Herald included in its Sunday edition. The insert describes work done to date and future projects. If you are not familiar with the MPO, it is a County run organization that is charged with coordinating the various transportation projects around Miami-Dade, as required by Federal Department of Transportation rules. Their mandate is described on their website is:

…to have a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive transportation planning process that results in plans and programs that consider all transportation modes and support metropolitan community development and social goals. These plans and programs shall lead to the development and operation of an integrated, intermodal transportation system that facilitates the efficient, economic movement of people and goods.” (emphasis added)

Many worthy goals, but unfortunately their focus is more on expressway and road building projects than on balancing roads with mass transit. My favorite part of the insert is titled “Miami-Dade: Urban Travel Trends” which utilizes graphs, bright colors, and a lot of traffic engineer lingo (vehicle miles traveled, peak period speeds, etc), with only a brief mention of transit under a graph called ‘Transit Mode Share’. The text accompanying the graph states, “the countywide transit mode share in 2005 was approximately 2.5%” It goes on to say that share will grow, “albeit modestly.” Ok. I find it disillusioning that the organization supposedly responsible for coordinating our transit system is not very optimistic about the future growth of MDT.

Truth be told, after this week’s political farce concerning tranist fares and another half cent tax, I might tend to agree with the MPO. Our future transit does not look so good because the people responsible are alseep at the wheel. Commisioners Bruno and Barbs: wake up!! You have have been reaching in the dark these past few weeks trying to placate your constituents. I know this issue gets heated and personal. Let me be clear: this is not a personal attack. It makes it difficult for those of us who are transit advocates and who supported the first tax increase to justify anything you ask for now because of how the money has been squandered. Surely you can understand that. Next week I am going to work on a series of posts on how the People’s Transportation Tax has been spent to bring to light how that opportunity has been, and continues to be, botched.
If you really care about transit, and Commissioner Jordan I think you care about getting the Orange Line built, here are a few recommendations that can serve as confidence building measures that might make any fare or tax increase palatable:

  • Make the Citizens Independent Transportation Trust the sole entity responsible for deciding what happens to that money. Give it back its teeth, and allow it to do its job.
  • Charge veterans and the elderly. We can’t give away transit that doesn’t exist yet. Until MDT gets its house in order, they should be charged, albeit at a reduced rate that should be revisited when MDT’s finances get better. MDT needs income, and the Trust shouldn’t be responsible for giving it an allowance every month.
  • Charge for the Metromover. Same reasons as above.
  • Have MDT work with the Trust. Recent reports from Miami Today describe how the Trust is having a tough time getting cooperation from MDT with regard to budget issues. How is the Trust supposed to operate if it doesn’t know how much the system costs to maintain?? This is silly.

Note to Mayor Carlos Alvarez: the strong mayor powers you wanted came with responsibilities, ie. get MDT organized. How can they run the business of Miami-Dade Transit without a budget. Helloo?? Not to put all the blame on you though, as you’ve only really been in charge for a short while.

  • Tie the 20% Municipal Transportation Plan funding to transit specifically, not transportation which has become synonymous with roads and expressways. A majority of payments to municipalities have been spent on roads, resurfacing, and other road related infrastructure. The PTP was marketed primarily as a transit plan. Spend money on rail, buses, and the infrastructure related to these much needed systems. Our roads are in fine shape. That way projects like the Coral Gables Trolley continue to get funding, while other money is free to be spent on, oh, I don’t know, maybe a few bus shelters (around International Mall maybe)?
  • Increase fares to be consistent with our how efficient our system is. Don’t over do it. We want to pay for our transit, but we want to get something in return.

You need to rebuild our confidence in your ability to provide us with a functional and growing transit system. Very soon public perception of transit in this community is going to turn from being a nonessential ‘social good’ to an indispensable and basic part of the infrastructure of the city. When that happens, when people start to feel like they have no choice but to get in their cars at $8.00 a gallon, watch out Commissioners and company. The mob will be ruthless, and the storming of the Bastille will seem like a trip to Disneyworld in comparison to your worth in the public eye.

Major Breaking News – Contrary to our report last week regarding the increase of transit fares, a couple of Miami-Dade County Commissioners (Bruno Barriero and Barbara Jordan) are proposing an additional ½ penny sales tax hike which would eliminate all MDT fares for all riders. The sales tax hike would require a public vote in November.

The proposal, floated Tuesday morning by two county commissioners, would ask voters to choose between higher taxes and higher fares.

The commission is scheduled to vote next month to raise fares by 50 cents and automatically raise fares in the future as the system’s costs increase, but those hikes would be moot if fares are eliminated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our elected officials need to understand:

We NEED transit alternatives to the car.

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

We need transit NOW.

  • A Judge has thrown out part of Norman Braman’s lawsuit against the inter-local agreement which among other things enabled the construction of the Marlins’ Ballpark, funded the Port of Miami Tunnel, and expanded the Omni/Overtown CRA district.  Hopefully now the Sunpost will stop touting Braman as a local hero…  It’s no surprise that a car salesman would be against a plan that would enable urban life and create viable public transportation.
  • What goes up, must come down: The Miami Skylift has filed for bankruptcy.  Really?  Now can we please stop turning Bayfront Park into a cheap carnival?  What’s wrong with some usable green space?
  • Michael Lewis hits this one dead on:

But out past Northwest 22nd Avenue, the Miami River is far different — it’s a fast-paced economic engine that carries ships from 26 international terminals out to the Caribbean and back again, floating $4 billion worth of goods a year on its narrow, twisting back.
Much of that river, which handles as much shipping as the busy Port of Tampa and is Florida’s fourth largest seaport, lies within the district of Miami Commissioner Angel Gonzalez.
“That river is dead,” Mr. Gonzalez told the commission last week as he voted to remove marine industry protections along the river from the city’s land-use plan. He’d rather develop condos and mixed-use projects there to help the area’s economy.
What is it about $4 billion a year that Mr. Gonzalez doesn’t understand?
Does he think developers will pump that much into condo towers and dump enough jobs into his district to replace all those that river shipping supports?
Does he think banks will scramble to finance towers while tens of thousands of condo units are still rising and planned projects near the river are handing their land over to lenders because they can’t repay their loans?
Does he think that removing the “Port of Miami River” designation from city plans won’t push marine terminals to sell out to future high-rises that might never get built, killing river shipping in the process?
Does he care? Do his fellow commissioners?
Anyone paying attention knows that the Miami River is a working river — even though the commission refused to allow that phrase in its plans.

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