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Sorry about the delay, I have been addressing the streetcar issue with several individuals via e-mail. With the permission of Frank Rollason, I will share my discussions with him over the issue here on the website. Here were his initial thoughts on the streetcar initiative, my thoughts will follow later today:

Gabriel,

I am contacting you just to give another perspective on the proposed streetcar project. I was an unsuccessful candidate for the commission office that Marc Sarnoff now occupies. We both opposed the streetcar project as part of our campaign platforms. My position has not changed. Previous to running for office, I was the Executive Director for two City CRAs through which a large portion of the system would run and from which the City was looking for funding. There is a huge anti-development mentality presently existing in the residential communities of Miami especially in the Upper Eastside. The proposed streetcar project would do exactly what you speak of – encourage additional development along the streetcar corridor. It’s not an issue of whether the streetcar is needed or not; it is an issue of future development and the community has said enough is enough. On top of this, one must recognize that more and more the CRAs’ funds are being siphoned off for projects deemed for the well-to-do and having no benefit for the affordable housing group. One cannot take this project out of context from the other projects for which CRA funds are being sought – increasing commitment to the new Performing Arts Center, a seaport tunnel, improvements to a park slated to house two museums, and a new baseball stadium. All of these cause huge community opposition for the use of CRA funds when affordable housing goes largely ignored. You speak in the pure scheme of planning for development and here, in the City of Miami, the development has already run amuck with little or no planning and no concern for traffic and infrastructure needs. Now, to suggest a streetcar project that mostly serves underdeveloped areas instead of already existing hi-rise residential units is looked at as another example of poor planning and will cause only what you suggest – more hi-rises along the streetcar corridor.

Nothing is as simple as you lay it out because there are always other issues which are impacted, Frank.

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Tri-rail scored a touchdown this past weekend, attracting record setting numbers of passengers for weekend ridership. How so you ask? Likely because Chicagoans have effective public transportation back home and they probably figured we did too…

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Shankrabbit is among the many people arriving and chronicling their weekend visit to Miami for the Super Bowl, they were lucky enough to arrive on a chartered United 777 and are traveling to their hotel via motorcade. I’ll be down in the mayhem soon and I’ll try to bring you the responses of some of our visitors…

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The Miami Streetcar should only be the beginning of a visionary transportation master plan to transform the City of Miami. Part 1 of this multiple part series aims to explain the map pictured above. Later, I will go in depth to explain the specifics behind route choice, design, and the benefits each will bring to the city and all residents.

Pictured above (Click to enlarge) is a rough aerial sketch of possible streetcar routes that I envisioned in a city transportation plan. Using the basis of the current streetcar plan, I extended rail networks south, west, and east in the corridors where such transportation efforts would fit well with future, proper urban growth patterns.

The red streetcar line follows the basic path already presented. The train would head east on 1st or Flagler St, heading towards Biscayne Boulevard, where the route would turn north. At NE 11th St, Baylink would merge onto the Macarthur Causeway and head towards the beach while the Design District Route would continue North on the boulevard until NE 14th St. I chose 14th street to not overlap with the metromover on 15th and to bring riders as close as possible to the Carnival Center. The streetcar would head west to N Miami Avenue, intersecting with the FEC tracks (highlighted in Black) where a transfer would occur to the LRT which would travel from Miami through Jupiter, easily accessing every major city in between. This transfer station will also grant FEC riders with a station to easily transfer to the Health district Streetcar which would travel west from this point along NW 20th St. The Design District Streetcar route would turn left at NE 29th Street before entering Midtown Miami (Note: this is Midtown Miami, our newest neighborhood, not a development, there is no need to spite our newest urban dwellers to make a point to a developer.)

The other routes could receive funding at a later point in time, once the overwhelming success of the Miami Streetcar is evident. The Blue route would exit the Brickell station heading west on SW 10th street to SW 3rd Avenue where it would turn South. SW 3rd avenue merges with Coral Way, which will guide the streetcar to the Coral Gables CBD. At 37th Avenue, the Coral Way Streetcar could head into the Gables via Merrick Way or Miracle Mile, and later head either north or south along Ponce, further into the CBD.

The Yellow or Flagler route would also terminate at Government Center, solidly defining the central core transfer station for the city. Routes would head west along Flagler to Beacom Blvd. At Beacom the Flagler route would head southwest to Eighth Street where it would continue west. The return route for this route would travel along SW 1st St.

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I’m excited to see such debate occurring on the previous land usage post. As evidenced by the discussions you all brought up, the area and statistics of the greater Miami region are very debatable, a problem we’ve compounded by the fractioning of municipalities in the region. What is important is to analyze the density of the regions highlighted in the map. A city may have a large population, but have hundreds or thousands of miles or urbanized sprawl. What is important though however is that we address our density, building up properly on our urbanized land to create sufficient density for public transit options to actually work. This brings us to the next point in this discussion: The Miami Streetcar.

Amidst an unprecedented building boom and surge in urban dwellings and living, the Miami streetcar could possibly serve as the catalyst to properly link some of the densest regions of the city, making the urban lifestyle a reality for a greater portion of our population. The time to incorporate such a significant piece of the urban lifestyle puzzle would be now; before the condos are completed, before the urban dwellers move in, and to serve as a guide for further dense development. Unfortunately, some city commissioners are blinded, rather flat out ignoring, the true benefits of the streetcar along Miami’s most promising neighborhoods:

Sarnoff said the Streetcar was too expensive and would be used to fuel more overdevelopment in areas already overwhelmed by high-rise residential condos. He argued that a fleet of environmentally friendly circulator buses would better serve the city at a much cheaper price.

Is this guy joking? Areas overwhelmed? I’m sorry we might disrupt the calm village like quality that every CBD is supposed to embody. This is what happens when we continue to allow ignorance to exist in our local government. It’s not about providing a benefit to local developers; it’s about creating an urban lifestyle that area residents are craving. The environmentally friendly bus idea is beyond ridiculous. Let’s spend $600,000 a pop on a hybrid “circulator” bus which will a) do nothing to enhance the urban fabric of the community or route b) realize far less ridership numbers than the streetcar could easily guarantee c) make urban life next to impossible for everyone not living within a few blocks of the metromover d) be a gigantic waste of money e) be the worst idea I’ve ever heard and f) continue the terrible parking garage pedestal and further increase area traffic because countless studies always conclude that there is a permanent negative stigma towards buses in the United States.

What irks me is the desire to kill a project even before the facts have been heard. This guy is a lawyer, not a transit planner, engineer, or urban planner. He’s behind ecologically friendly construction in the city but knows little of how to actually create a greener city (here is a hint: it involves making the city denser, easier to walk, and has abundant public transit.) He ran against bad government but is suddenly the epitome of the bad government decisions we are trying to fight. Now, don’t get me wrong this isn’t a tirade against Sarnoff, but rather against the thought process, given the real facts, on the Miami streetcar…

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Well, it’s official. Miami has seceded from South Florida. Yeah, that’s right, we’re no longer part of the lump which masses together unknown suburban municipalities into a family friendly destination. That is according to the Sun-Sentinel which recently happened to removed Miami-Dade County from its news channel listings. Apparently South Florida ends at the Dade-Broward line, anything south of that is uncharted waters or a separate friendly nomenclature; perhaps South South Florida, or North of Cuba will do the trick for the rest of us down here to have a geographical identity too. I never really cared much for the Sun-Sentinel’s coverage anyway. Aside from some facts, their articles have always had a pungent distaste for Miami on top their spotty and lack luster coverage. Take their upbeat take on the opening of the Carnival Center for example. I hope if anything, the Sun-Sentinel can continue to serve us one purpose: to continue giving us the bad news of what’s happening in the land South of South Florida…

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The County’s zoning and planning department must not have too much urban planning experience. The board blatantly does not understand the transit oriented development concept and instead chose to bow down to the heeds of the Coconut Grove NIMBY force. In case you aren’t aware, the CCG NIMBY Coalition is against density, height, and growth, but typically still wonders why the Coconut Grove Central shopping/business district is nearly vacant and not bustling with activity. (Note: they are also against expanding the UDB for further sprawl, but refuse to allow such development that would prevent it from happening in the first place.) In an effort to prevent further traffic, the NIMBY Coalition of the Grove sought to severely scale down the density of a proposed transit oriented development at the Grove metrorail station, opting instead for shorter buildings with more parking spaces. So let’s get this straight, in order to combat further traffic issues they are fighting to bring more parking to a new development that will be adjacent to a transit station? Sheer stupidity. The US-1 corridor is primed for denser development with fewer parking spaces to force use of alternative means of transportation throughout our neighborhoods including walking. Just in case you were wondering here is the definition of a transit oriented development:

Transit Oriented Development is the exciting new fast growing trend in creating vibrant, livable communities. Also known as Transit Oriented Design, or TOD, it is the creation of compact, walkable communities centered around high quality train systems. This makes it possible to live a higher quality life without complete dependence on a car for mobility and survival.

Hence my initial remarks on the zoning department’s actual planning experience. Below is a copy of the story from the Miami Today:

HEIGHT FIGHT: A developer’s plan to build a 250-foot, 25-story residential and commercial tower on 5 acres next to the Coconut Grove MetroRail station at US 1 and Southwest 27th Avenue is being scaled down by the county’s planning and zoning department. County officials were expected to detail their proposal to limit Coconut Grove Station Development’s tower to 19 stories and 200 feet at the Rapid Transit Developmental Impact Committee Wednesday (11/24). The county also wants to reduce density and increase parking for the project, which has triggered seven years of debate.

At least this comment is right on the money. Too bad reason goes in one ear and out the other over there:

Anonymous said…

Fifteen story buildings are way too short for a parcel next to a transit stop. You’re not using the land efficiently. The mixed-use towers sounds like a much better plan. Having the retail conveniences so close to the station will be excellent for ridership, not to mention curbing urban sprawl and building responsibly. Dense urban infill is the way to go.

January 23, 2007 9:38 PM

I came across an interesting comment posted on The Miami Herald in response to the strong mayor victory. Apparently we’re not the only ones dissatisfied with the leadership over at Miami-Dade Transit.

Hopefully, now the escalators along the Brickell Avenue route will be fixed after more than one year out of service for “upgrades”. Got a nice reply about this matter from Mr. Bradleys office after a couple of months, but still, no solution to the problem.

  • Posted by: Silvie

Perhaps if they hadn’t wasted our money replacing perfectly good trash receptacles we would have escalators and elevators for patrons to use…

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Riding around on metrorail recently, I couldn’t help but wonder which public coffer was plundered to pay for the replacement see-through trash cans along every station. Look, I’m not against keeping the city secure from reasonable threats, but, I don’t think any terrorist is looking to bomb one of the most underutilized transit systems in the nation- it’s just not happening. As Rebecca noted earlier, the old trash receptacles were even removed for quite some time before the new ones had arrived. It’s quite humorous actually, while standing around waiting for the northbound train, I realized where our half-penny tax was headed; straight to the trash…

Great Success!!!

Today, I would like to introduce to you a new weekly section titled Transit in the Tropics. I hope this weekly section can come to address some of the more basic transit needs within our county and shed light on some of the more pressing issues.

What better way to kick off this new section than addressing yesterday’s streetwise article by herald columnist Larry Lebowitz. The Citizens Independent Transportation Trust was designed to allow for public oversight of the half-penny referendum approved back in 2002. As Larry points out, the Trust is not serving in the best interests of the constituents because it is not independent of county administrators and isn’t, well, particularly trustworthy.

A citizen’s oversight board is essential whenever new taxes are to be imposed; it maintains the integrity of the process and ensures that our dollars are put to the uses we originally intended. The fact that a county administrator is chairman of the trust should rouse more than just suspicions and it definitely speaks volumes of the injustices occurring in our county commission. The dysfunctional state of the independent trust is a great place to begin when analyzing the little transit progress that has been made since its’ inception. Five years have passed since the creation of the half-penny sales tax and yet county-wide transit has yet to substantially gain from any of it. I don’t know, but shiny new bus benches on suburban streets weren’t what I had in mind when the tax was imposed. If corrected now with proper oversight, budget allocation, and basic foresight the half-penny sales tax can valiantly attempt to live up to the transit corridors which were included with original proposals. Otherwise, the CITT and half-penny tax will go down as further examples of why our county government cannot be trusted…

From the CITT Website:

Who can serve on the CITT?

CITT members must be registered voters of Miami-Dade County who possess an outstanding reputation for civic involvement, integrity, and experience or interest in the transportation, mobility improvements or land use planning. They are appointed by the County Mayor, the members of the Board of County Commissioners, and the Miami-Dade County League of Cities.

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It’s rare that I get very political nowadays on the website, but, I think it is important that we take some time out today to speak of the implications that tomorrow’s election will have on all the residents of Miami-Dade county. I decided to write this after asking someone if they were planning to vote on Tuesday to which they replied, “How can I vote, it doesn’t concern my Mayor?” Come again? What county do we all live in, he is your mayor. The ridiculous confusion that has been caused by every neighborhood incorporating to escape the typical political tyranny in our county is absolutely absurd. Palmetto Bay, Doral, Pinecrest, Coral Gables, Aventura, Sunny Isles, El Portal, Medley, Florida City, etc, you get the point; they are all blips on the radar, ask most people from these municipalities where they live and I guarantee the majority declare Miami home. Nowhere else can you find such a clutter of municipalities all bunched upon each other direly seeking to create a name for themselves in the local and even global marketplace.

Unfortunately, we’re all to blame for this mess, not because we live in Kendall or Sweetwater or some other godforsaken suburb with a cutesy name that is desperately seeking to escape the abuse of local corrupt politicians, but, for electing most of them in the first place to positions that they were wholly unqualified or just too incompetent to hold. The strong mayor reform seeks to correct the injustices caused by the political scene in Miami basically since the Miami-Dade County Home Rule Charter was drafted in 1957. Ok, so you’re wondering how exactly this is going to solve the problem? The strong mayor referendum is a win-win for all the citizens in Miami-Dade County, both in the unincorporated areas and swath of independent municipalities because it allows all of us to have greater oversight over our county government. Think about it this way: the way it is now, hypothetically, if the commish over in district 11 is a bumbling idiot who is accepting loads of money from developers to approve a mega project in a your district, there isn’t a damned thing you can do about it. You can send them a letter, yippee. At best you can hope that said commissioner will be recalled by the constituents in his/her own district, which as we all witnessed recently is highly unlikely. With the strong mayor, yes we place all the power in the hands of a single person, but we are all within the boundaries of his mayoral rule. Also, consider the salary differences between mayor and commissioners, we’re also likely to see some qualified and dedicated individuals running for office, given that it is a full time job unlike the county commission’s 12k annual salary which essentially requires all members to seek “consulting” jobs in fields where they quite often have zero to no experience. In the end, I’m all for removing the power from the unnecessary and proven to be inept county commission. We’ve all had enough with the current state of affairs, evidenced by the recent surge of individual municipalities, it’s time to vote for a change and hold our elected officials accountable for their actions.

The next best step in fixing the mess we have created thus far would be to- dare I say it- abolish all the municipalities within the county, bringing us all under one umbrella of local government. Essentially revert to what the Miami-Dade County home rule charter was originally intended to accomplish. Now, I’m not suggesting that this needs to occur, but, if managed properly (yeah, fat chance) a solitary county government could operate more efficiently than the insane bureaucracy that exists today. Cities would gain independent councils, capable of pressing for the interests of the neighborhood only. Transit wise, the agency would be able to make better decisions for the benefit of the whole county preventing bureaucratic debacles from occurring such as when Miami Beach politicians derailed (pun intended) plans to bring streetcars to the area.

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To wrap up the discussions on the new proposed plans for the MIC/Airport connection, I will focus on why a direct line to the airport is such a bad idea. Like I previously stated, a direct line partially negates the reason why we decided to construct the MIC to begin with. Given the shape of the airport, tight clearances around the terminals/parking garages, and numerous elevated walkways, I am left to assume that the only suitable location for metrorail and station would be between the parking structures or west of the new cooling tower by the new south terminal. I assume the current taxi parking lot could also be a viable option considering the cars will one day be stationed at the MIC instead. In any case, any of the above three options place metrorail just enough out of reach to make it convenient for all passengers at all terminals. Any of the above options would equate to more than a quarter mile walk (linearly, which we know will not be the case) for some of the farthest gates. A direct line will also only be able to service one location (the airport) rather than an Airtrain like concept which will be able to service every terminal, parking structure, and transfer station. Like most Airtrain systems, travel from terminal to terminal would be free and passengers looking to exit the Airtrain system at the MIC would pay the fare to disembark, effectively solving the ridiculous concept of an automated farecard system so rental car patrons can ride for free to the intermodal center, while anyone who stays on Metrorail will pay a regular fare. We don’t even have fare cards that can be purchased at any station, why are we dreaming up further problems!?

Going back to my previous post, I’d like to present some more evidence with regards to the confusion of the MDT decision makers. As I stated, metrorail is at best a commuter rail with several parking garage park-n-ride stations. The concept of a truly urban transit oriented development is, well, quite foreign around here to put it mildly. MDT somehow conceives that fewer transfers will equate to greater ridership numbers, which for an urban transit system can generally be true. What MDT fails to realize though is that metrorail riders are commuters, which means they have already used another form of transit (a car, likely, parked in one of the massive park-n-ride stations) to arrive at the station which will probably not have any long term parking for people who will be away for longer than a day. Where am I going with this? People who live near metrorail cannot walk to the station because we haven’t adapted the surroundings properly for this type of lifestyle and people who already use metrorail will not be able to ride it to the airport because they usually drive to metrorail to begin with. The problems are worse than we think! Had MDT pushed through some necessary urban train lines first (like baylink) then perhaps this wouldn’t be such a big issue because it could be perceivable that many people could walk a short distance to the nearest Miami Beach station and only have to make one transfer to get to the airport.

There is no clear-cut answer to the problems posed by the MIC-MIA connections. MDT needs to seriously analyze what they hope to accomplish as our transit agency and how they plan to create a transit system that effectively replaces vehicle use from a substantial portion of the population. MDT would also benefit greatly from studying the solutions other airports have concocted to this very issue, rather than continuing to do things the ineffective way…

I’ve shared my discontent on the people’s transportation plan (PTP) on more than one occasion on this site. I’ve also spoken of the nimby-like behavior of the grove residents who oppose any project which crosses their path but at the same time complain about a dearth of parking in their area. Today, I’ve decided to combine the two issues somewhat and present a set of alternative plans that I believe would benefit our community and would satisfy the delicate aesthetic needs of coconut grove residents. Below are three quick renderings I created (please pardon the terrible quality) of the region with possible public transit routes superimposed.


  1. This plan is the simplest, least intrusive, and cheapest alternative. The plan calls for the dismantling of the Omni loop of the people mover system in downtown once the Miami Streetcar becomes operational. I’m figuring that the omni loop will be rendered useless once the streetcar is completed seeing that they essentially cover the same part of the city. The salvageable tracks, vehicles, and station components can then be used to create a new Coconut Grove Loop People Mover system. The CG loop would be approximately 1.65 miles long, just slightly longer than the current 1.45 mile Omni Loop. The loop would be able to transport people quickly and effectively from the Coconut Grove Metrorail station along US-1 to the more pedestrian friendly areas of the grove, office buildings along South Bayshore Dr., City Hall, and the vast network of bay front parks. This option would be good for bringing people into the Grove from other parts of the county, but would not prove as useful for the majority of Grove residents. The plan also concentrates the public transit on the densest part of the grove and along the bustling 27th Ave. corridor.
Key Stops: Coconut Grove Metrorail Station, City Hall at Dinner Key, Shops at Mayfair


  1. This plan focuses more on a public transit system which would service the Coconut Grove community as the southern terminus for a North-South 27th Ave. Streetcar or LRT. The proposed system would be far more useful than the 9 mile northern extension which is currently planned and underway for Metrorail because it invites better urban growth to occur at the street level along the avenue. The Northern terminus for this transit line would be at Joe Robbie Stadium (Dolphin Stadium) and would travel through Opa Locka, West Little River, Brownsville, Little Havana, and Coconut Grove neighborhoods. It would provide two links to the Metrorail (CG and Brownsville.) This plan would allow for greater development to occur along the 27th Avenue corridor bringing some much needed density to the area. The much debated and contested Carlos Rua project at the Coconut Grove Metrorail station would be one such example of the type of development we would want to encourage (with less parking.) Transit Oriented Developments such as the Rua project are essential to make our transportation networks succeed. Situated along the primary N-S route in the city (US-1), a major avenue (27th Ave.), and our only form of public transportation, this project is hardly out of context with its surroundings and what we can expect of the region in years to come (Perhaps the height is excessive, but the density is of critical importance.)
Key Stops: Coconut Grove Metrorail Station, Dinner Key, Dolphin Stadium, MDC Inter-American Campus, Opa Locka, Coral Way Corridor

  1. The last plan focuses on implementing a streetcar or LRT which would travel through Coconut Grove from the Brickell Metrorail station. This plan focuses its attention on the needs of the Coconut Grove area, bringing pedestrian traffic and growth to the areas which can support it best. It would also best serve the needs of the area residents in getting to their local town center which is already facing major parking issues. Traveling through South Bayshore Drive, the streetcar would service areas we designate as pedestrian friendly. It services the dense housing units in the area, waterfront offices, shopping areas, Hospital, and parks. A project like this would greatly benefit from further dense (not necessarily tall) growth to occur along the corridor (perhaps the Related Group’s Mercy project wouldn’t seem like such a far fetched idea.) The streetcar would service both east and west grove and create a center for the community (at Mayfair) which is easily accessible to most via the public transportation. Heading westward, the line could travel through the Village of Merrick Park before terminating at the Douglas Road Metrorail station.

Key Stops: Mercy Hospital, Dinner Key, Shops at Mayfair, West Grove, Brickell Metrorail Station, Southern Brickell, Village at Merrick Park, Douglas Road Metrorail Station

I created this above analysis to show that there are a multitude of public transportation concepts which could be implemented in the Coconut Grove area which would not only serve the needs of the area residents but would benefit the entire community. Grove residents should open their minds to development which will enhance their community (I’m not saying to fully accept the Related Group, Home Depot, or Carlos Rua projects) but they need to take a different approach when considering the type of development that will occur in their area. Bringing density to their town center and major thoroughfares like 27th Ave, Grand Ave, and South Bayshore Dr. will keep the charm of the grove intact while also providing a support nucleus which will keep places like Mayfair up and running. This will help reduce the demand for area parking once we recreate a community which is even more navigable for pedestrians rather than vehicles.

As for the PTP, I can only say that we are headed in the wrong direction. Metrorail is an antiquated and extremely costly form of public transportation. We need to embrace a cheaper form of public transit in order to be able to compete with the handful of other US cities which are also vying for federal funding. At the same time, we need to create a system which will satisfy the needs of as many citizens as possible and provide the greatest amount of uses for the community and area re-development.

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