Currently viewing the tag: "Sustainability"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are invited to attend the ***FREE*** alternative fueled vehicle roadshow event in Miami.

A statewide vehicle showcase tour and series of presentations on the economics and practicality of implementing alternative fuel transportation solutions for industry and government, using natural gas, propane, biofuels, and electric vehicles.

Registration is required for this free event:

http://www.afvroadshowmiami.eventbrite.com

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 — 9:00am-noon

701 NW 1st Court

Miami, Florida 33136

 

 

 

In the blinding brightness of the east-facing morning, trapped in our metallic boxes of rage, impatience, and anxiety, the truth called out to us . . .

It called, not as an answer, but as a question . . . a question whose simplicity made a mockery of all those willing to confront it . . .

Out of the blinding light, for that fleeting moment of honesty concealed by the shadows, the truth taunted all those brave enough to accept it . . .

From the blinding light, the truth dared us to regain our vision . . .

WHY DRIVE?

RIDE . . . METRORAIL

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Great Green Places: Columbia Heights from National Building Museum on Vimeo.

Gas Price Equivalents in The Netherlands

New York Times columnist and foreign policy expert Thomas Friedman has written another gem about our oil addiction. He’s long advocated for higher gas and oil prices over the long term to force us to drive less and live more sustainably.

Here are a couple snippets from his most recent column, which I highly recommend reading in its entirety, titled Truth or Consequences:

Cynical ideas, like the McCain-Clinton summertime gas-tax holiday, would only make the problem (America’s oil addiction) worse, and reckless initiatives like the Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep offer to subsidize gasoline for three years for people who buy its gas guzzlers are the moral equivalent of tobacco companies offering discounter cigarettes to teenagers

…What our mythical candidate would be proposing, argues the energy economist Phillip J. Verleger Jr., is a “price floor” for gasoline: $4 a gallon for regular unleaded, which is still half the going rate in Europe today. Washington would declare that it would never let the price fall below that level. If it does, it would increase the federal gas tax on a monthly basis to make up the difference between the pump price and the market price.

Photo: Paul Garland’s Flickr

I know we have already mentioned this topic this week, but considering the Herald continues its negative spin campaign against the zoning rewrite I thought a healthy counterpoint was in order. Herald columnist Ana Mendez writes in her column today that she thinks that the code is a little too complicated for a layperson to understand.

She writes, “Its true zoning codes are difficult to write. And no one wants to minimize the important role that government plays in assessing the public’s needs and translating them into hopelessly complicated, impenetrable legal gobbledygook. But there has to be a better way.”

Now, as an urban planner and architect I agree that the language can be difficult at times, but the fact is that anyone with a high school education can figure it out (not to mention that all of the terms used are defined in the first chapter). Part of the problem is that we have to translate good urban design (which is a field that lends itself to drawing more than writing) into legal ‘gobbledygook’ so that land-use attorneys and developers don’t find loopholes in otherwise straightforward regulations.

Codes (Miami 21 or any other land use code) have to be written in language that is not simplistic, and that will hold up to scrutiny in court. Menendez quotes from the code:


Lots facing streets on more than one (1) side shall have designated Principal Frontage(s) and may have Secondary Frontage(s). Unless otherwise designated by a Special Area Plan, a Principal Frontage shall be that facing the street of higher pedestrian importance or intensity (i.e., traffic volume, number of lanes, etc.)

Which is another way of saying that you define the front of a corner lot as the one that faces the busiest street, but you can’t say that in a legal document because if you did then you would have all sorts of follow-up questions like:

  • How do you define which street is most important?
  • What do you call the other less important front?

Unfortunately, I think that this criticism of Miami 21, along most others, is less about the code than about blaming it for things that are beyond its control.

Here are a few of the arguments against Miami 21 that I have read both on the Miami 21 website and in various articles over the past two years:
–> “Miami 21 is the first urban application of a smart code in the US. It is an experiment that has never been tested.”

Actually, Miami 21 is not the first form based code to be applied to a major urban center, Philadelphia is in the process of passing a form based code, and I think we would all agree that as far as successful urbanism is concerned Miami pales in comparison. Form based codes have actually been around for a long time. Think of any good city (Chicago, New York, Philly, Boston) and their downtowns were developed with codes that were form based (as opposed to use based).

–> “Miami 21 is hated by architects and urban planners.”

Actually, having been written by urban planners and architects this one is not really true. The Herald loves to point out that architects dislike the plan, but really only a vocal minority of self-crowned celebrity architects dislike the code as a matter of ego than of substance. One architect in particular (whose name will remain anonymous except to say that it begins with Z and ends with h) says that the code infringes on his creativity by imposing height restrictions. Without going into some lengthy discussion on aesthetics and philosophy, lets just say that where this designer is concerned, creativity is overrated. Miami 21 holds faithful to some pretty basic premises (active street fronts, eyes on the street, etc.) and allows a lot of latitude after that. If you need your building to stand out like a huge phallic symbol, go to Dubai. Never mind that the the latest draft of the code has all but relaxed the height restrictions in certain T-Zones to be what they are in the existing code.

–> “Miami 21 will not allow me to rebuild my house if it gets destroyed.”

First of all, as with any zoning rewrite there will be nonconformities. The whole point of the code is that the existing code is allowing some pretty awful stuff to get built, and the new code will make some of that illegal. That’s the nature of any zoning code. I live in a 1940′s med style house that is illegal by today’s code because its too close to the sidewalk. Go figure. At any rate, the new draft of the code explicitly states that nonconformities in R1 zones will be grandfathered in. Period.

–> “Developers hate Miami 21.”

This one is my favorite. Developers love Miami 21 because it gives them greater development rights than they had before. The code was drafted using the existing regulations as a base. That means that all of the development rights have been preserved or augmented. All the code does is say that you have to meet the street in a way that will promote healthy urbanism. It’s not complicated.

–> “Miami 21 will allow tall buildings next to single family residences along Biscayne in the NE part of town.”

This one is true much to the chagrin of community activists such as Elvis Cruz who have long protected the area. Unfortunately they aren’t entirely using their thinking caps as to what they get in return for this extra height. Along parts of Biscayne you can build a 3 story building that would reach a height of 50′+ that would be adjacent to 30′ homes.

There are two parts to this that people need to understand.

1) We are trying to encourage pedestrian friendly development along in this part of Biscayne and part of that involves defining the street as a public space. With a street as large as Biscayne is, you need something more than two stories to make that happen. I don’t think that 50′ is all that egregious a transition to a single family neighborhood (especially in comparison to what is allowed now).
2) We need to start thinking of our eastern edge as the place where more intense development needs to happen. We cannnot hold the UDB line and be NIMBY’s at the same time. Saving the Everglades means that growth has to be in someone’s backyard. Biscayne Boulevard deserves buildings that are more than 3 stories.

Remember this: Miami 21 is a lot better than the existing code, and if we let this opportunity pass we are the ones who suffer. This is not some abstract concept in a book, this is about the kind of city in which we want to live and raise our families. I for one will not give up.

This is part II of a three-part series on Auckland, New Zeland’s struggle toward a more sustainable transport system. There are a lot of parallels with Miami, so it’s definitely worth taking a look.

In case you missed part I (or if you loved it so much you want to see it again), click here.

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With election season now in full swing, the time has come to decide which candidate we think will best lead us for the next four years. Here on Transit Miami, we’ll be taking a close look at the presidential hopefuls to determine which candidate is the strongest on smart growth and livable cities issues.
Without further ado, let’s break down the remaining presidential frontrunners:

The Republicans: Now while Transit Miami is a non-partisan blog, Republicans and Libertarians generally do not have a strong record for supporting smart growth or transit-oriented urban policy. The Republican candidates for this year’s election are no exception. All of the front-runners are soft on climate change, using the typical rhetoric of voluntary reductions on greenhouse gas emissions. Fred Thompson, who has fortunately dropped out of the race already, at one point even mentioned considering opening up the Everglades for oil exploration.

The Democrats: Though far from meeting our high standards, the leading Democratic front-runners are unquestionably more dedicated to livable cities issues than Republicans. Here’s a breakdown of where the top three candidates, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards stand on planning-related issues:

Hillary Clinton:
From “Powering America’s Future: Hillary Clinton’s Plan to Address the Energy and Climate Crisis”:

“Hillary’s big three goals: “Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 – the level necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. Cut foreign oil imports by two-thirds from projected levels by 2030. Transform our carbon-based economy into an efficient green economy, creating at least 5 million jobs from clean energy over the next decade.”

“Creating a market-based cap and trade program, and auctioning 100% of greenhouse gas permits. Hillary would raise fleet-wide fuel economy standards from the current level of 25 miles per gallon (mpg) to 40 mpg in 2020 and 55 mpg in 2030.

“Increased public transit usage is one of the best strategies for addressing the energy and environmental costs of transportation…As President, Hillary will increase federal funding for public transit, including buses, light rail and subways, by $1.5 billion per year. She will also link federal public transit funds to local land use policies that encourage residential developments that maximize public transit usage and discourage sprawl. She will also invest an additional $1 billion in intercity passenger rail systems. Intercity passenger rail is an environmentally efficient alternative to highway driving and short flights; it elieves congestion on roads and airports; reduces the emission of automotive pollutants; and it timulates economic growth by linking metropolitan areas.”

Barack Obama: From Obama’s “Plan to Make America a Global Energy Leader”:

“Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities: Over the longer term, we know that the amount of fuel we will use is directly related to our land use decisions and development patterns, much of which have been organized around the principle of cheap gasoline. Barack Obama believes that we must move beyond our simple fixation of investing so many of our transportation dollars in serving drivers and that we must make more investments that make it easier for us to walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives.”

“Reform Federal Transportation Funding: As president, Barack Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account. Obama will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks, and he will also re-commit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country. Building more livable and sustainable communities will not only reduce the amount of time individuals spent commuting, but will also have significant benefits to air quality, public health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Level Employer Incentives for Driving and Public Transit: The federal tax code rewards driving to work by allowing employers to provide parking benefits of $205 per month tax free to their employees. The tax code provides employers with commuting benefits for transit, carpooling or vanpooling capped at $105 per month. This gives drivers a nearly 2:1 advantage over transit users. Obama will reform the tax code to make benefits for driving and public transit or ridesharing equal.”

John Edwards: From Edward’s “Achieving Independence and Stopping Global Warming Through a New Energy Economy”:

“Transform the Auto Industry to Lead the World in Cars of the Future: Edwards believes that everyone should be able to drive the car, truck or SUV of their choice and still enjoy high fuel economy. American automakers have the ingenuity to lead the world in building the clean, safe, economical cars of the future.”

“Raise Fuel Economy Standards: American cars and trucks are less efficient than they were two decades ago, despite the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Standards in China, Japan, and the European Union are between 40 and 100 percent higher. Edwards will raise standards to 40 miles per gallon by 2016, a step that could single-handedly reduce oil demand by 4 million barrels per day. [Pew Center on Global Climate Change, 2004; Reicher, 2007]”

“Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled: Edwards will create incentives for states and regions to plan smart growth and transit-oriented development with benchmarks for reductions in vehicle miles traveled. He supports more resources to encourage workers to use public transportation and will encourage more affordable, low-carbon and low-ambient pollution transportation options.”

Transit Miami will not take the position to endorse any particular candidate at this point in time but we will however attempt to portray how the candidates stack up on the key issues. We believe Hilary Clinton has the best climate change policy and has the strongest ties to the type of people who will bring about positive environmental changes over the next four years. Barak Obama has the clearest development policy of the three democratic candidates and his platform specifically addresses the benefits of smart growth. Obama is endorsed by many bicycling groups and has even stated that he will push for better pedestrian and cycling oriented policy as president. John Edwards presents the most conservative approach, concentrating much of his policy of fuel efficiency and alternative fuels. We’re concerned about all of the candidates’ positions and emphasis on coal energy and alternative fuels and are disappointed to see that none adequately address better growth principles.

We haven’t learned from our mistakes, that’s for sure. Henry Ford launched the model T, in an effort to make vehicles affordable to more people. Recently, Indian carmaker Tata Motors launched the world’s most affordable car, whatever that is, with a base price tag of just $2500. Shocking, I know. Ratan Tata touts the Tata Nano, pictured above, as “The People’s Car” and as MSN said, it is bringing “car ownership into the reach of millions.” There is a fundamental problem here: we are continuing down a path of unsustainable practices and living. There are clear lessons that still have not been learned from our past mistakes and will only become further compounded with vehicles that facilitate car ownership. This statement, an excerpt from a Forbes article, really irks me most:

“Most of all, it would give millions of people now relegated to lesser means of transportation the chance to drive cars.”

No Comment.

“The potential impact of Tata’s Nano has given environmentalists nightmares, with visions of the tiny cars clogging India’s already-choked roads and collectively spewing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air.

Industry analysts, however, say the car may soon deliver to India and the rest of the developing world unprecedented mobility.”

I would like to ask these industry analysts what sort of mobility do they expect if India’s roads are already overburdened and suffering from extreme congestion.

The car culture of the United States has sadly been exported to nearly every developing nation. The devastating effects this will undoubtedly cause cannot be quantified economically or ecologically for the world as a whole…

Artist Michel de Broin, presented a shared propulsion vehicle as part of his exhibition at the Mercer Union Gallery in Toronto. An ’86 Buick was stripped of it engine, transmission, and interior among other parts and outfitted with 4 pedal and gear mechanisms. The result is a vehicle capable of approximately 10 mph speeds which runs on nothing more than human power. They debuted the vehicle on the streets of Toronto and were quickly apprehended by Police:

Alrighty folks, I think I’ve started to crack the Miami-Dade County Commission’s playbook for planning and it’s not pretty; looks like the Dolphin’s offense, running in 20 different directions and effectively getting us nowhere. The best choreographed transportation network couldn’t support the kind of cross county movement commuters will likely be doing once 600,000 square foot office compounds are completed on the western fringes of the county (keep in mind the recently approved Kendall project is one of many, others are “planned” further north along the turnpike around Doral.) It appears that our makeshift planners on the commission (in addition to believing that bridges over avenues in sprawl ridden neighborhoods will alleviate traffic congestion) are deciding to essentially sandwich residential development between two opposite commercial “hubs”, one vertical and on the coast, the other sprawled out and mosquito ridden over former wetlands in the west.

It’s interesting to see such a dramatic commercial development juxtaposition occur within such a confined region. While the equivalent of 3 600,000 square foot, LEED certified office skyscrapers (Met 2, 600 Brickell, and 1450 Brickell) rise in our transit accessible downtown core, our commissioners believe it is sound planning to offset them with at least 1 sprawling complex.


West Kendall Baptist Hospital plans…

What irks me most is the marketing ploy to promote the Kendall complex as a commercial center. Central to who exactly when it’s located on Kendall and 167th is beyond me, but I’m assuming that pretty soon the commute from Naples will be quicker than from within some other parts of the county.

Martinez fought for the plan — arguing that developer David Brown promised to build a long-sought road connecting Kendall Drive to a nearby residential complex. It was a job, Martinez said, that the county couldn’t complete.

Sorenson took exception: “Should we make policy decisions based on what developers are going to do for us? Seems to me we ought to be making the policy.”

Forget what is in the best interests of Citizens let’s fight for developer’s rights to exploit our land, water, and natural resources to make a quick buck!

West Kendall Center will likely resemble this aerial from a complex in Birmingham. You can spot the telltale signs of sprawl easily. 1) Squat, warehouse-like buildings covering near acres of land each. 2) Enough surrounding surface parking to accommodate the one day of the year where parking might become an issue. 3) Like a tree, all branches of the sprawl connect to one main arterial road, forcing all visitors to the “mixed use” development to enter and exit through this one opening. 4) A highway nearby (bottom right) to accommodate the hordes of vehicles coming off from the already clogged arterials roads. 5) Trees are confined to medians not sidewalks because the sidewalks (if they exist) won’t be used anyway.

Obviously, Lowes is a good fit for the Sprawl environment with its massive horizontal structure and acres of parking…

The Lowe’s vote commanded the most attention. Twice since 2003 representatives of the home improvement giant have tried to convince commissioners to let them build outside the UDB; both times they were denied.

Tuesday they cracked through — even as dozens of people lined up to speak against the plan to build on 52 acres at Southwest Eighth Street and 137th Avenue.

Said Julie Hill: “Further sprawl will exacerbate climate change in South Florida.”

Added John Wade: “We should have a water recycling program working before there’s any attempt to move the UDB.”

But Humberto Sanchez, who lives about 25 blocks from the proposed Lowe’s site, told the story of a recent shopping venture to buy light bulbs. “It took me an incredible amount of time to buy light bulbs at Home Depot.”

Oh Boohoo…

Interesting side note: you would not believe how difficult it is to find pictures of Sprawl and suburban office complexes despite how common they are in the American Landscape. Just further proof that we keep building places that aren’t photographic, let alone even livable. Finding a decent picture of a Lowes parking lot was just as difficult because as common as they are, who the heck would want to photograph one?

MVB’s Thoughts

Uh Oh, apparently there is a UDB vote today

”If we’re starting to get serious about water, climate and environmental issues, the most important thing we can do is prevent urban sprawl,” [Katy Sorenson] said.

The debate will surely pit opponents to further development in Florida’s most populous county against business interests that say the projects are needed.

One applicant wants to build a Lowe’s retail store near Southwest 138th Avenue and Eighth Street; another plans to create office and industrial space in an area in Doral near Beacon Lakes; two others aim to convert agricultural patches off Kendall Drive near Southwest 167th Avenue to business and office space.

These projects are needed? How you justify business and office space along the western fringes of civilization when you have a CBD that mainly looks like the picture below is beyond me. Commissioner Sorenson is right, we simply cannot continue to grow west and expect to become a sustainable, ecologically conscientious community, but then again, why should we expect the business interests coming up with these projects to give a damn in the first place? The Commission needs to force the greedy developers trying to push the line further west to reinvest their efforts in our blighted neighborhoods…Just look at all the empty lots sitting within our allegedly dense urban environment…

But then again, who are we trying to kid when the ideology of the commission is:

But Martinez, the county commissioner who oversees a large portion of Kendall, believes some of the applicants have an upside. Though the Lowe’s would be built just outside his district, he said the company has promised to build a bridge over Southwest 139th Avenue that will actually “alleviate traffic.”

Alleviate traffic? Thanks Martinez! we weren’t aware of your experience in traffic engineering, do you care to elaborate how sprawl will reduce congestion throughout the county?

Via CM

Green Alleys coming soon to Chicago…

In a green alley, water is allowed to penetrate the soil through the pavement itself, which consists of the relatively new but little-used technology of permeable concrete or porous asphalt. Then the water, filtered through stone beds under the permeable surface layer, recharges the underground water table instead of ending up as polluted runoff in rivers and streams.

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Apparently Turnpike planners have missed the boat on established best practice metropolitan transportation policy. According to the Herald, they will be discussing their preliminary ideas to decongest the Turnpike, including a plan to expand the expressway to 10 lanes between 836 and 874, and possibly all the way to Homestead. I guess they want to do everything in their power to justify sprawl and make South Florida as unsustainable as possible.

When are these people going to learn that a “predict and provide” approach to building highways is both counter-productive and unsustainable? It’s been addressed over and over and over again by researchers that widening highways such as the Turnpike, especially at its current capacity, does little but induce more driving demand while simultaneously justifying the auto-dependent sprawl it serves.

Lest we forget that such a project also takes years to finish and usually costs hundreds-of-millions of dollars — money that could be much better spent on transit improvements and maintenance of existing roadway facilities. Such policy is even more appalling within the context of climate change (especially with South Florida’s geography) and a threatened Everlgades ecosystem.

So, I encourage anyone who would like attend the open house tomorrow to go and voice your displeasure with any plan that will widen the Turnpike. Even better if you bring with you the studies I hyperlinked above to support your claims. Let these planners know that South Floridians are tired of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on futile roadway projects that justify sprawl, do nothing to improve quality of life for Miami-Dade residents, and continue to leave commuters with little alternative to driving. Tell them you want to see sustainable alternatives that are transit-based.

The meeting information:

Thursday, September 27
5:30-7:30pm
Florida Dept. of Transportation District Six Auditorium
1000 NW 111th Ave, Miami

The winds of change are blowing. Here is yet another interesting proposal to harness the energy expended by the burning of fossil fuels. Wind turbines incorporated into highway dividers will reclaim the energy of cars racing by, which will then be used to power public rail transportation.

While it remains to be seen where and how quickly such technologies will be exploited, it gives some sense of comfort to the mind knowing that this kind of thinking, and planning for the future, is in play. Of course it can happen none to soon. It also addresses the concerns of those who find wind farms unsightly. Personally however, I think a wind farm as a border between development and the everglades could be a beautiful and poetic commentary on the transition between man and nature.

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