A busy holiday weekend reminds me that Miami is trying to be a “real” city – but is it yet? I’m sure we all wish it could be as easy as a Pinocchio fairytale of making a wooden puppet into a “real” boy with just the touch of a wand. But in reality, our city needs a whole lot more than just some magic stick. We host all these weekend events – Coconut Grove Arts Festival, Miami Boat Show, and other President’s Day weekend activities – to showcase our Magic City to our visitors. And yet what we end up with are packed busses with long headways; clogged highways; and other congestions making our city, well, far from magical to our visitors.
Its not the events, its the experience. Despite a little rain on Friday and Saturday, this weekend’s events were a success – attracting people from all over the state and country. But how was their time actually in our city? Special events are a reason to come to the city, but the experience is what attracts people back. We need to offer reliable transportation options so they can really experience all of Miami.
Its not the funding amount, its the investment. We all know times are rough, and money is tight. But yet its obvious that we are still focusing our funds into tired highway transportation that literally gets us no where. Of course we don’t have the funds to plop NYC subway system on Miami – but we can start our smart investments incrementally.
Its not the mode, its the freedom of choice. Transportation, transit, transport, or whatever you want to call it is a broad category – as are the choices it should provide. The priority shouldn’t be on one particular mode of transportation, rather a priority to provide a wide variety of options. Its about the freedom of choosing bus, rail, bike, car, walk, skate, etc to get around.
Not that we need to put up a false front for our brave visitors on special weekends, nor care more for our tourism than our own livability – because we already know these are facts that we have been discussing for years. Its about revisiting our city from another viewpoint. Just think how many visitors we could transport between Miami Beach and downtown if Baylink existed; or the improved bus experience if we had shorter headways at least on event weekends; or the number of DecoBike rentals if the M-Path was cohesive; or the successful storefronts and valuable real estate if the streets were more pedestrian-friendly.
Is Miami ready to be a “real” city and cradle a wide-mix of diverse groups. If so, lets see the real investment in multiple transportation options – or where is that fairy with the magic wand when you need her?
Value Engineering. What does the term mean to you?
Think about it. Let’s decompose the term before seeking out a formal definition. To us, the concept of value engineering when applied to transportation projects, includes the pursuit of cost-effective methods to achieve a desired end result. It includes a suite of tools that would enable project managers to work with engineers and architects to lower the overall cost of the project without sacrificing a particular end goal. In more obscure words, the FDOT defines value engineering as:
“…the systematic application of function-oriented techniques by a multi-disciplined team to analyze and improve the value of a product, facility, system, or service.”
So, if we were to tell you that FDOT was actively seeking to value engineer the structure that will soon replace I-395, how would you feel? Let’s take a look back at the designs presented last year before we dive into our argument on why we shouldn’t cut corners on such a critical piece of infrastructure.
For the unacquainted, over the past several years FDOT initiated the process to replace the 1.5 mile structure that links SR 836 east of I-95 to the MacArthur Causeway. As the main artery between MIA, the Port of Miami, and South Beach, millions of visitors traverse this scenic stretch annually on the way to a cruise or the beaches. The byproduct of 1960’s urban renewal, I-395 ripped apart neighborhoods and displaced thousands from historic Overtown, today the structure continues to thwart efforts to unite our major public institutions including: The Arsht Center, Art and Science Museums (both currently under construction), and the AA Arena. As such, FDOT’s plans for I-395 will play a critical role in Miami’s ability to reshape the urban core and reunite Downtown, Parkwest, Omni, and Overtown districts.
Side note: Imagine what could become of the corner of N. Miami Avenue and 14th Street if the neighborhood were united with Downtown to the South or the Arsht Center to the east? The Citizens Bank Building (above), built during Miami’s boom years in 1925 could serve as a catalyst for growth in a neighborhood that has largely remained abandoned since urban renewal gutted Overtown.
In this context, the concept of value engineering contradicts the livable, “sense of place” we’re working to achieve in Downtown. As it currently stands, I-395 and all the other roadways that access our barrier islands are utilitarian structures, serving little purpose other than to move vehicles from one land mass to another.
The challenge with I-395 is that it must satisfy numerous conflicting needs. I-395 isn’t just a bridge (or tunnel, or boulevard). It should serve as an icon; a figurative representation of Miami’s status as the Gateway to the Americas. A new I-395 will, should once and for all, eliminate the physical barrier that has long divided Downtown Miami from the Omni and Performing Arts Districts, encouraging more active uses below while maintaining the flow of traffic above. Not an easy feat. While the DDA and City of Miami recognize the economic value in designing an iconic structure at this site, our experience tells us that FDOT is more likely to think in the terms of dollars and LOS rather than the contextual and neighborhood needs. Simply put, this isn’t an ordinary site where a no-frills structure will suffice.
Cities all across the nation are eliminating derelict highways that for the past 40-50 years have scarred, divided, and polluted neighborhoods. Boston’s big dig for example submerged a 2-mile stretch of I-93 that had cut off the North End and Waterfront neighborhoods from downtown and the rest of the city. The Rose Kennedy Greenway, a 1.5 mile public park now stretches its length. Where the highway tunnel ends, an iconic structure, the Leonard P. Zakim Memorial Bridge takes over, leading traffic over the Charles River to points north. Adjacent to the TD Garden (home of the Celtics & Bruins) the Zakim Bridge is now synonymous with the Boston Skyline. Other notable examples include:
- San Francisco’s Embarcardero Freeway
- Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct
- Hartford’s I-84 Viaduct
While no decision has been made on what final shape I-395’s replacement structure will take, our sources inform us that FDOT is beginning to explore more “cost effective” alternatives. We’ll keep eye on this project as it unfolds and will reach out to the City of Miami, DDA, and FDOT to ensure that Miami receives a replacement structure at this site worthy of its location in the heart of our burgeoning urban core. Moreover, we’ll remind FDOT that their third proposed objective for this project (3. Creating a visually appealing bridge) includes considering the aesthetics of the structure from all perspectives, especially the pedestrians and cyclists we’re trying to lure back into downtown streets.
The Bear Cut Bridge connects the island Village of Key Biscayne to the Miami mainland via the Rickenbacker Causeway.
The following public message just came to TransitMiami from Jimmy Martincak, the Road & Bridge Maintenance Superintendent for Miami-Dade County’s Department of Public Works & Waste Management:
Emergency lane restrictions have been implemented on the Bear Cut Bridge along the Rickenbacker Causeway. The Public Works and Waste Management Department is routing vehicular traffic in a counter flow manner on two lanes of the current eastbound portion of the bridge (toward Key Biscayne).
One lane will be used for eastbound vehicular traffic and the other will be used for westbound vehicular traffic (leaving Key Biscayne). This will reduce traffic flow to one vehicular lane in each direction over the Bear Cut Bridge.
Eastbound bicyclists in the bike lane are being directed onto the off road path. Westbound bicyclists in the westbound bike lane are unaffected [emphasis added].
Should you have any questions or concerns, kindly contact our office.
Thank You, Jimmy
James Martincak, Road & Bridge Maintenance Superintendent
Miami-Dade County – Public Works And Waste Management
4299 Rickenbacker Causeway, Key Biscayne, Florida – 33149
Be sure to contact Mr. Martincak with your thoughts on the matter.
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 . . .
RIDE . . . METRORAIL
Early last month, a seemingly pro-bicycle legislative item was introduced to the Board of County Commissioners. It goes up for vote this Thursday. The resolution appears well-intended. However, upon closer examination, one finds it saturated with contradictions that could actually harm the community.
On August 3, Rebeca Sosa, County Commissioner for District #6, introduced Miami-Dade Legislative Item #121569. Its extremely long title sums-up the ostensibly well-intended gist of the proposal:
“Resolution urging the Florida Department of Transportation [FDOT] to Work Cooperatively with Local Governments When Installing Bicycle Lanes on State Roads; Urging the Florida Legislature to Amend Applicable Statutes to Require Such Cooperation and Provide Greater Flexibility to the Florida Department of Transportation Related to Bicycle Lanes”
Sounds great, right? Indeed. Upon reading the resolution’s title appealing for a more cooperative, more flexible, trans-agency approach to planning for and implementing bike lanes on state roads, how could one not support this county resolution?
The body of the resolution goes on to highlight the myriad benefits of bicycle-based active transportation (including, among others, saving money and reducing ecological footprints). It emphasizes how long-standing, and on-going, planning efforts have been made to harness the power of bicycle ridership to improve the livability of our community. It even reminds the commissioners of the increasing price of gasoline (being driven even higher due to the closure of Gulf Coast refineries precipitated by Hurricane Issac), and how non-fossil-fuel-consuming modes of transportation are the ways toward a sustainable future. Importantly, it also reminds the county commissioners of FDOT’s legal obligations to improve bicycle facilities wherever possible on the roads they manage.
All of this language is extremely encouraging and is exactly how such a resolution should be written. The problem, though, starts with how this resolution reads after all that good stuff. Beyond those points, the proposed resolution is littered with nonsense that would — with no far stretch of the imagination — actually curtail the expansion of bicycle facilities throughout our community.
Four specific bike lanes, intended to exemplify inappropriately located bike lanes, come under attack in the current language of the resolution. This is where it implodes, demonstrating the detachment of many of our elected officials to the non-automobile reality on the streets. Let’s have a look at some of the underlying complaints against these facilities:
“[the bicycle lanes conflict with] many storefront businesses with parking that requires vehicles to back out onto [the road]”
“[the bicycle lanes conflict with] vehicles travel[ing] at a high rate of speed, with a speed limit between 45 and 55 mph”
“[the bicycle lanes conflict with] curbside parking, limited space and considerable traffic”
Unbelievable! There’s so much to say here — too much! I’ll keep it short:
- A huge part of bike facilities is about raising the profile of cyclists as legal street vehicles. In addition to the more functional purpose of giving cyclists a physical space on the road, bike lanes also serve the function of raising awareness that cyclists belong (practically, ethically, legally) on the road.
- Local storefront businesses should be catering to cyclists for all of the business they bring and revenue they create.
- By allocating just one or two automobile parking spaces for bicycle parking, you could fit far more bikes and bring-in far more business.
- It’s the responsibility of the motorists backing-out of the (oft-excessive) on-street parking to exercise caution to not hit cyclists. All road-users must watch-out for negligence, negligence by any type of road-user.
- The point of bike lanes is to give cyclists a safe, separate space apart from motorists on the road, especially at roads where motorists drive quickly (i.e., “45-55 mph”).
- If the roads weren’t so fast (35 mph or less), FDOT and the cities would try to get away with just painting some sharrows, giving themselves a pat on the back, and calling it a day. (As noted in a recent TransitMiami post, sharrows just aren’t cutting it for true bicycle network connectivity.)
- “Considerable traffic”?! Has the steady expansion of the monthly Miami Critical Mass movement taught you nothing? WE ARE TRAFFIC!
Now, there are some very valid concerns embodied in the language of this proposed resolution. They hit at the irrefutable reality of many of our community’s bike facilities, even the most well-intended ones — many bicycle facilities in South Florida are sub-par. A bike facility is useless if it’s not actually designed to be used.
We all understand why many riders completely avoid the bike lane on the 50mph MacArthur Causeway and opt for the Venetian Causeway instead. We all know why some riders still ride on sidewalks, even when freshly-painted sharrows or bike lane stripes are on the road. These facilities weren’t properly designed for bicycle safety and accessibility. We’ve allowed FDOT and the cities to rest on their laurels by increasing the quantity of facilities while paying little regard to the quality of the facilities. Quantity is not quality.
Many lanes in our community adhere to the bare minimum design standards. They often provide the absolute minimum width, and rarely offer any sort of buffering between the bike lane and non-bike lane.
Rather than simply create more bike lanes, we must create better bike lanes! We need buffered bike lanes, cycle tracks (segregated bike facilities), and shared-use paths. We need to make the process of planning and designing bike facilities more participatory. And, most importantly, we need to stop designing bike facilities as lower tier or secondary to automobile facilities. We must emancipate ourselves from our auto-centric notions of how our streets should function.
The proposed County Commission resolution is not the path (pun unavoidable) to improving bikeability in Miami. As it currently stands, the language in the item would reverse the little progress we’ve thus far made.
Commissioners: A change of language is needed in Miami-Dade Legislative Item #121569. Please do not support any resolution that would allow FDOT and the municipalities to get even more slack on bicycle network safety, connectivity, and accessibility.
Citizens: Please contact your district’s commissioner and let her/him know how you feel about this seemingly innocuous, yet potentially detrimental, resolution. They’ll be voting on it September 6. You can find your district and commissioner at this interactive County Commission District map.
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“There’s a Car2Go fever going around right now. Those of us who are already members are raving about it; and those who aren’t yet members don’t want to be left out.”
The voice brimming with optimism about Miami’s newest, green transportation alternative is that of Rodrigo Galavis, co-owner of FilmMia, a local Motion Picture Production Management Company. Galavis and a colleague, Cigarra Expressions’ Arturo Perez, were recently opining at the inexorably with-it Panther Coffee about the brand new car-sharing company called Car2Go. Coincidentally, the two had just arrived in one of Car2Go’s very vehicles, and took but a nanosecond for both to show how ga-ga they’d become over benefits of car-sharing.
For the uninitiated, Car2Go is Miami’s latest mobility alternative: a car-sharing service that affords its members all the comforts and conveniences of vehicle ownership without the hassles, costs, or burdensome search for parking. At just $0.38/minute, Car2Go members have access to 240 blue and white SMART cars which are conveniently scattered throughout the City of Miami. Through a partnership with the Miami Parking Authority, Car2Go drivers can end their one-way journeys in most non-restricted curb side parking spaces, any Residential Parking Restricted Neighborhoods and all parking meter/paystation locations without having to pay in the City of Miami.
“…it’s an easy and affordable way to get you from point A to B,” noted Galavis.
“It’s also a great and efficient alternative between taking the train/bus or a taxi,” adds Perez.
Of course it takes more than a couple early adopters and an accommodating company to prove that a concept’s time has come; it also takes a certain wherewithal, and the capacity to deliver on what’s promised. To twist Gertrude Stein’s infamous precept, there needs to be a there there, and therein lies C2G’s genius.
Car2Go’s sudden appearance in Miami isn’t a coincidence. A number of factors have made car-sharing viable including the recent urban renaissance, the rising costs of car ownership and maintenance, increased congestion, and the economic recession. Together, these factors create an environment favorable to car-sharing programs that provide car-free residents with the freedom they seek in our otherwise autocentric cities.
Unlike other car-sharing programs (See: Zipcar or RelayRides), Car2Go’s one-size fits most approach gets down to the basics: providing simple, efficient vehicles to enhance mobility. A big difference between Car2Go and its competitors is the ability to use the vehicles for one-way journeys.
For a limited time, the company is waiving the initial $35 registration fee (promo code “HEAT”). Once registered, you’ll find that getting in and going about is as easy as operating an ATM. There’s no gas to buy (though an on board gas card is available should it be needed), and, because of C2G’s deal with the Miami Parking Authority, parking is included as well within the home base, an area that stretches from the Grove to 79th Street, the Bay to beyond the Marlins Stadium.
In a city where parking is at a premium, traffic is notoriously snarled, a woeful transit network, and taxis are too often hard to come by, Car2Go is a cinch. With the added myriad costs associated with car ownership the argument is over — the clear winner is Car2Go.
I don’t think anyone will argue with me when I say that Christopher Lecanne’s death last Sunday could have been avoided. There are a number of factors that contributed to that tragic event, starting with Carlos Bertonatti’s decision to inebriate himself and then drive back home under the influence. This was not an accident. Bertonatti may not have set out to kill Lecanne, but the moment he decided to drive under the influence he accepted, consciously or not, that he could be an instrument to death. And he was. But there was also an aspect to the event that has to deal with the bicycling infrastructure on which Lecanne transited, namely the bike lane that puts people on bicycles right next to cars on a road where drivers routinely overshoot the speed limit.
This event highlighted something that bicycle advocates in Miami have been telling those in positions of power for days, weeks, months and years prior: our roadways are not safe for people on human-powered vehicles. Key Biscayne is one of Miami’s premier cycling location, the place where, if anywhere, going beyond the strict requirements of the law would be worth it given the amount of people on bicycles that use it. And yet, as written by Esther Calas, P.E., Director of Miami-Dade County Public Works Department, the facilities there only meet the State and Federal requirements. That’s all they shot for, without consideration that this particular area could use some specifications that go beyond.
Key Biscayne is a microcosm of Greater Miami. The tragedy that took place on Key Biscayne last week can, and has, and will, happen elsewhere in Miami wherever bikes and car are forced to co-exist without the proper attention as to how that coexistence needs to happen for safety’s sake. Need proof? Look no further than October 2009 and the sad case of teenager Rodolfo Rojo, killed on Biscayne Boulevard.
How many more Rojos or Lecannes will it take before those people in positions of power, people put there by our very own votes, will finally get the message and take action to protect the bicycle-riding segment of the population they represent and serve?
As it is usually the case, the tragedy has acted as a catalyst and now we’re getting responses and promises from people like Commissioner Sarnoff and Miami Dade County Mayor Alvarez (still notably missing is Miami Mayor Regalado). I hope these lead to actual changes, I really do. Maybe this will make people realize that bicycle advocates are not just talking to hear themselves talk when we tell politicians over and over than more and better bicycling infrastructure can and does help keep people safe when on human-powered vehicles.
Bicycle riding isn’t a fad. It is an accepted, long-standing and continually-increasing form of transportation, one that has to be taken seriously and accounted for in current and future plans for the cities and county of Miami.
When it comes to Lecanne, could a separated bike lane have saved his life? We’ll never know for sure. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could figure it out before we have another such tragedy in our hands?
Okay, this one was sent to me from Dave Hull, via the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals’ listserv. The University of Minnesota’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute has released a “Gridlock Buster” traffic game, which helps students understand the “fundamentals” of controlling gridlock. Says the Institute of its new product:
“Gridlock Buster” is a traffic control game that incorporates tools and ideas that traffic control engineers use in their everyday work. Players must pass a series of levels while acquiring specific skills for controlling the traffic and ensuring that delays don’t get out of hand. For example, a player might need to manage a high volume of traffic passing through an intersection, where long lines form if vehicles don’t get enough green-light time. The more drivers are delayed, the more frustrated they get—causing the game’s “frustration meter” to rise. Sound effects and animation simulate cars honking and drivers’ fists shaking to illustrate the realistic results of backed-up traffic queues.
Of course, the sole focus of this hyper annoying and stressful game is to move as many cars as possible through the grid so that one may obtain an acceptable score and move to the next round–where one is expected to move even more cars through the grid. With no options to actually decrease the traffic with mobility options such as bicycle facilities, transit, or infill the blatantly exposed surface parking lots–a pockmark on any potentially walkable street– I am left with one question: what’s so intelligent about that?
I don’t know much about the ITS or the University of Minnesota’s traffic engineering curriculum, but if this game is any indication of it ethos, then it is clear that we livable streets advocates need to infiltrate the education system too.
Using data collected from 2005-2007, Floridaroads.org is a new website that visually displays whether traffic congestion is increasing or diminishing along major thoroughfares. Click the hyperlink to see how a street near you is performing. For livable streets advocates, those roadways experiencing a decrease in congestion may be candidates for future “road diets.” Similarly, the data could be used to fight expansions along roadways that are not experiencing significant increases in congestion. One good example: Miami’s Lower Biscayne Boulevard, like other streets in downtown, have seen a significant decrease in traffic (14%). This may be attributed to construction, higher gas prices, transit behavior changes, and likely, the slow influx of new residents who no longer have to drive to their place of employment.
As you read this, congress is working to put together a $800 Billion+ Stimulus package to revive the nation’s economy. As JM noted earlier this week, the stimulus is more of the same bureaucratic stupidity we’ve all grown accustomed to – tax incentives for vehicle purchases, at least $30 Billion for Highways, and a paltry $12 Billion for real transit. Apparently some senators believe the transit allocation isn’t small enough and are trying to raid the transit allocations for increased highway spending. Apparently our senators have a short memory – already forgetting the woes of this past summer when our gasoline powered economy began to crumble under $4+ gas prices.
Together with T4America, we urge our readers to contact their US senators and let them know that this is unacceptable. Click here to find your Senator’s email address. Follow this link or the link on our new sidebar –>
According to the memo, they hope to cut $3.4 billion from public transit, but at the same time, are adding in more money for “additional transportation funding.” Presumably, if they’re cutting transit, that additional funding would go to roads. (It might be airports, I suppose, but I doubt it.)
They’re also cutting such items as Head Start, food stamps, child nutrition, firefighters, COPS hiring, NASA, and the CDC, while adding funding for defense operations and procurement.
The Senators reportedly in the room are Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Begich (D-AK), Tom Carper (D-DE), John Tester (D-MT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Jim Webb (D-VA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Michael Bennett (D-CO), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Udall (D-CO), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Mel Martinez (R-FL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and George Voinovich (R-OH). We don’t know if all of them support these cuts or not (Carper is a big rail advocate, for example).
It gets worse. Earlier today, the U.S. Senate voted to accept, by a vote of 73-24, an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) which states, “None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.”
Update: Via Bike Portland:
Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) introduced an amendment last night that would prohibit funding of “bicycle routes” and paths from the economic stimulus package that’s working its way through Capitol Hill right now.
This Disney cartoon from 1950 (!) places Goofy in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario whereas Mr. Walker (pedestrian) is perpetually threatened by Mr. Wheeler ‘s (driver) quest for roadway supremacy.
Sadly, not much has changed…
Thanks to Felipe Azenha for the tip.
Via: Reconnecting America:
Next time you’re stuck going 20 mph in the fast lane, waiting forever to get through a traffic light, or trying to find your way out of a giant concrete parking structure, remember that it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time for America to rediscover the human scale. It’s time to build communities for people, not cars.
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