Currently viewing the tag: "Public Involvement"

At last year’s Citizen’s Independent Transportation Trust (CITT) Transportation Summit, Maurice Ferré, former City of Miami Mayor and current Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) Chair, pointed to a map of his agency’s current and future projects and declared that it was MDX’s “dream” — yes, that’s a quote — to realize the proliferating highway vision embodied by that map.

A major feature of MDX’s so-called dream includes expanding the Dolphin Expressway (SR 836) down through the far southwest reaches of Miami-Dade County. One of the competing versions of the dream would put the newly expanded tolled highway along the Miami-Dade County urban development boundary (UDB).

SR-836-Southwest-1-Kendall-Extension-map

 

Miami-Dade County’s Urban Development Boundary (UDB) in 2013. Source: Miami Geographic / Matthew Toro. 2014.

Miami-Dade County’s Urban Development Boundary (UDB) in 2013. Source: Miami Geographic. 2014.

Tolled highways are generally great, as they create an economic disincentive to single-occupant automobile use. People often respond to the price triggers of tolled highways by turning to more affordable, more accessible public transportation (bus, train, etc.), active mobility (biking, walking, etc.), and alternative mobility (car-pooling, short-distance car-sharing (Car2Go), real-time ride-sharing (Uber, Lyft), etc.) options.

In the metropolitan context of Miami-Dade County, though, these options are either underdeveloped or are just now getting started in earnest.

The Metrorail system, for instance, serves a very limited corridor.

Metrorail System 1-Mile Network (“Along-the-Street-Network”) 2014 Land-Use Corridor. Source: Matthew Toro. Miami Geographic. 2014.

Metrorail System 1-Mile Network (“Along-the-Street-Network”) 2014 Land-Use Corridor. Source: Matthew Toro. Miami Geographic. 2014.

An extensive bus system traverses most major arterial roads moving north-south and east-west, but buses carry a stigma of being either unreliable or unpleasant, or both.

Miamians are increasingly realizing that cycling and walking to their destinations isn’t as hard as our automobile-dominated culture would have us otherwise believe. Still, we’re many years away from realizing the active mobility utopia Miami has the potential to be.

In light of this shortage of viable mobility alternatives, then, one might think that the toll revenues generated by Miami’s highway dystopia would be directed toward investment in better public transportation infrastructure and streetscape amenities (e.g., wider sidewalks, proper bike lanes, etc.).

The problem with MDX, though, is that the toll monies it collects are used for increased highway development and an unwarranted expansion of roadway jurisdiction, not for the sorts of investments that would move greater Miami away from its automobile dependence.

As one of many cases in point: MDX is actively seeking to convert the only bus route in Miami-Dade County even remotely resembling true bus rapid transit, the South Miami-Dade Busway, into a highway falling under its jurisdiction, complete with overpasses and all.

Dumping more money into highways is tantamount to our community collectively signing a 50-100-year contract of servitude to stop-and-go highway hell. And that’s not to mention all of the broader economic and environmental ramifications: subsidizing the air-choking, global warming oil and gas industries; the financial crisis-inducing, and obesity-encouraging single-family real estate sprawl sector; the deforestation-promoting rubber sector in the tropics; the list goes on.

Miamians don’t have to accept this fate, though. We don’t have to sign away our city to this chain of corporate profiteers who refuse to adapt to the innovations in transportation infrastructure and human life demanded by 21st century urbanism.

The very first “Open House: Public Kick-off Meeting” for MDX’s Southwest Highway Expansion “dream” will be held in less than two weeks. This is Miami’s first real opportunity to voice its concerns about the project’s short-, medium-, and long-term impacts.

At the risk of sounding (even more?) cynical, I dare posit that these sorts of meetings are intended primarily to fulfill certain state and federal requirements to maintain minimum transparency levels, as well as to offer just enough opportunity for public input so that any future complaints made when the real impacts of such projects are felt can be expediently dismissed with the standard bureaucratic “We offered the public the chance to speak, and no such concerns were brought up then.” By then, it’s simply too little, too late.

The point is that the time to speak is now — during this preliminary Project Development & Environment (PD&E) Study — not when this study materializes into an actionable plan and the construction crews are out there at the edge of the Everglades laying out a new highway.

Don’t let MDX’s highway dream become Miami’s prolonged highway nightmare. Be there and speak up!

 

MDX SR 836 / Dolphin Expressway Southwest Extension

Open House Public Kickoff Meeting

Thursday, September 4, 2014

6:00pm - 9:00pm

Miami Baptist Church

14955 SW 88th Street

Miami, FL 33196

TransitMiami_MiamiNewTimes_BestBlog2013The word is out! TransitMiami was declared best blog in The Miami New Times’ annual “Best of Miami 2013″ feature: “The Sunshine Strikes Back”.

We were fortunate to learn of this late last week, when The New Times published it’s Best of Miami preview, which just happened to highlight the winner of the best blog category only: TransitMiami!

Our fearless leader and slave-master, TransitMiami founder and editor-in-chief,  Gabriel Lopez-Bernal, wrote a piece evoking in all of us lowly contributors a spurt of happiness and pride for what he claims to be “volunteer” work (before immediately whipping us back to our unpaid servitude!).

We’re also smitten with what The Miami New Times had to say about us too:

In most towns, a blog about transportation would be a snore, but this is Miami. Our shared frustration over the simple task of getting from point A to point B makes our blood boil and unites us all in common ire, for our inane transport system might be the single biggest hurdle preventing the Magic City from becoming a truly world-class town.

Surprisingly, it’s an issue that often finds itself on the back burner among Miami’s media. Thankfully there’s Transit Miami, which has been churning out posts on everything from crosswalks to major Department of Transportation projects since 2006. It’s transportation-activist talk made accessible to the average man, and its multiple contributors take into account the perspectives of everyone from drivers to pedestrians.

In a world where blogging is now dominated by the need for traffic (the profitable web variety), it’s nice to know there’s a blog out there more interested in vehicular traffic.

This sort of recognition reinvigorates our efforts and reminds us of our reason for existing in the first place.

With — and only with — your continued readership and support, we’ll strive to continue fighting the good fight and writing the good write! The future of our beloved community depends on it.

Truly, thanks again, Miami!

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…

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