Currently viewing the tag: "Urban Planning"

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!

With all the hype about how many ‘units’ have sold and how much ‘inventory’ is left in downtown, it’s hard to overlook how these ‘dense’ developments are nothing more than vertical suburbs. Why walk around the city when you can live in a “lushly landscaped gated waterfront community”? Gag.  The PR machine is in full swing touting recent condo sales as part of the revitalization of downtown…but you only have to look to the nearest bus shelter (like the one below) to see the reality.

 

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Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part series.

I was in San Francisco recently and aside from riding every form of urban transit imaginable (cable car, light rail, subway, bicycle, and commuter rail) I took the opportunity to explore a few of the city’s up-and-coming neighborhoods particularly, South of Market (SOMA), Mission Bay, and South Beach. Of particular interest on this visit was the urban development sprouting up along the China Basin, home of AT&T Ballpark where the San Francisco Giants have played since 2000. AT&T Ballpark and the new Muni Metro transit line which accompanied the stadium have served as catalysts for new urban development.

AT&T Ballpark

Having visited a number of America’s Baseball stadiums, what really strikes me about AT&T Ballpark is its connectivity with the surroundings. From the boardwalk along the famed McCovey Cove to the King Street Walk of Fame, this ballpark was designed to be as much of destination during the off-season as it is when the Giants are in town (Note: when I visited the Giants were on the road). This is a true urban ballpark; warm and inviting with some restaurants and bars within the ballpark opening up to Willie Mays Plaza. The Plaza, of course not only pays homage to one of baseball’s greatest players, but creates a sense of space and grand entrance to the ballpark. It’s important to note that AT&T Ballpark was the first privately financed ballpark in Major League Baseball since 1962. Noticeably absent from the area surrounding the stadium is parking, a good segway into a brief discussion of the transit service that was built to connect the region.

T Third Street Line (Via: RTK Vision)

The T third street line is a modern light-rail system completed in 2007 at a cost of $648 Million. The 5.1 mile transit line is the newest addition to the SFMTA in 50 years and connects the existing Muni Metro system and AT&T Ballpark with some long neglected neighborhoods including Potrero Hill, Bayview, Hunters Point, and Visitacion Valley. Today, new development dots the landscape around the T third street line including the Mission Bay Development, an emerging bioscience hub anchored by the UCSF Mission Bay campus as well as an abundance of dense, urban, development (see: Avalon, Edgewater, and Strata). It’s also important to note that the T third street line was funded largely through the city of San Francisco’s Proposition B, a ½% sales tax levied to support transit projects.

TOD at 4th & King Streets, SOMA, San Francisco (Via: LA Wad)

Visiting AT&T Ballpark (and the surrounding neighborhoods) allowed me to more fully comprehend the shortcomings of the Marlins new Ballpark currently rising in the heart of Little Havana. The new Marlins Stadium is beautiful feat of engineering; it is sleek, shiny, and futuristic, much like Miami itself. Once inside, watching the home team play will be a pleasure, no doubt, but its interaction with the surrounding host community is, like much of Miami’s development, designed with a certain air of indifference for neighboring land uses.

Former Orange Bowl Site; The new Home of the Florida Marlins (Via: Javier Ortega Figueiral)

Constructed at a taxpayer cost of $360M, one would think that we’d be unveiling a trophy piece of civic infrastructure next season; one whose public investment would outweigh the costs by spurring new urban growth, tourism, and economic development in the heart of the Magic City. One would also think that the additional $100M of public investment in transportation infrastructure would be designed to alleviate an already stressed infrastructure rather than exacerbate the problem, right? Wrong. This is Miami, here we spend $100M building four massive, structurally deficient parking garages.

Marlins Ballpark (Via: Thehoorse24)

Having visited AT&T Ballpark and the surrounding neighborhoods it’s difficult not to think of what a $100M down payment for a new transit line akin to the T third street line could have looked like. It could have linked EXISTING parking in downtown or the civic center urban centers with the Ballpark. Think of the opportunity lost to spur new development and provide a reasonable modal alternative to the residents of a largely lower-middle class neighborhood. Think of the pedestrian-scale development that could have risen alongside the stadium instead of parking garages. Imagine paying a nominal $2 transit fare to access the ballpark rather than shelling out upwards of $30 for parking (there are, after all, only 5,700 spaces available).

It’s an interesting juxtaposition in my eyes:

  • AT&T Ballpark was built without a single cent of public financing and is one of the most inclusive, consciously designed stadiums in all of major league baseball. Coupled with a sound investment in sustainable transit, the stadium has spurred ongoing economic development in the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • On the other hand, the heavily subsidized Marlins Ballpark is beginning to look like a full-blown assault on Little Havana, replete with the loss of public open space, parking structures which isolate the stadium from the surrounding community, and a guarantee that at least 81 days of the year the congestion in this area will be a nightmarish hell with little, if any, net positive impact to local businesses.

This is part one of a two part series. Part two will be published over the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Check out this video from 1966 about EPCOT City.  Walt Disney was a true visionary and an urban planner at heart. He goes as far as saying “The pedestrian will be king” in EPCOT. I sure hope we can unfreeze Uncle Walt so he can help us redesign our cities. Walt Disney-you da man.

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A month ago or so I had the opportunity to visit Dublin an old city that in recent years has reinvented itself as a modern, cosmopolitan metropolis. While I didn’t have the opportunity explore the country by rail (somewhat thankfully considering that a bridge collapsed the week after my visit) I was able to experience Dublin’s new transport system. Some highlights are presented below.

LUAS Red Line

LUAS Red Line

Ireland, like the United States, once boasted a relatively complete rail network. Today, Ireland national rail network is about 1/3 the size it was in its peak in the 1920’s. Like many US cities, Dublin once boasted an extensive tram network, with over 30 routes along 60+ miles of track. The fully electrified system, one of the largest in the world, was dismantled and fully replaced by bus service by 1949. The map below depicts Dublin’s tram system at its peak in 1922.

Dublin Tram Network (c. 1922) - Via Wikipedia

Dublin Tram Network (c. 1922) - Via Wikipedia

Today, Dublin features five suburban rail lines, the most famous of which has been branded the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit), and operates with near Metro-like frequency (15-20 minutes off peak.) The first light-rail/Tram line of the system dubbed LUAS, opened in June 2004, providing local service from St. Stephen’s Green to Sandyford (10km). In September of 2004 the second LUAS line, the red line, commenced operation linking Connolly Station to central Tallaght, a 15km route. The two lines operate independent of each other and feature minimal intermodal connectivity with the suburban rail. As such, the tram system still garners 90,000 daily riders while DART attracts approximately 80,000 more.

LUAS Green Line at St. Stephen's Green

LUAS Green Line at St. Stephen's Green

It’s important to note that Dublin’s Transport system is privately operated and fully profitable. The city’s former growth, dense and mixed use, is well suited for public transportation. Meanwhile, the city is working to curb sprawl and the destructive growth that has taken place since the dismantling of the tram network. Highlighted below are some of the new municipal planning initiatives that have been undertaken to revive Dublin. You’ll notice that much of the work is oriented towards reclaiming street space by curtailing the vehicular environment.

Traffic Calming Measures

Traffic Calming Measures

Above, notice the traffic calming measures implemented along this street. The use of chicanes lowers vehicular speeds in pedestrian areas. A truncated street serves dual purposes, opening up street space for pedestrians and as a loading zone in the early morning hours. The painted pavement (under the delivery truck) serves as a reminder to motorists of the pedestrian zone.

Dublin's Temple Bar Neighborhood

Dublin's Temple Bar Neighborhood

Above, a perfect example of how traffic flow should be restricted by truncating streets to divert traffic from a popular pedestrian thoroughfare. The end benefits are twofold: Traffic is slowed in pedestrian spaces and public space are established in neighborhoods without vacant land on which to work with.

A typical Main Avenue

A typical Main Avenue

A typical  avenue in Dublin allots tight space to a number of modes. Dublin’s extensive bus network operates largely along a dedicated bus lane system throughout the city center. While the sidewalk space is narrower than what would be ideal, bollards are utilized to protect pedestrians from motorized activity.

Cyclists at St. Stephen's Green

Cyclists at St. Stephen's Green

Dublin's New Bicycle Sharing Service

Dublin's New Bicycle Sharing Service

Slated to open this month, I was able to get a “sneak peak” at many of the new bicycle sharing facilities popping up all over the city. The city already has a decent bicycle lane network a requisite compliment for any sharing system.

Dublin's Black Gold

Dublin's Black Gold

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As the USDOT pares down the list of applicants to the final recipients for the $8 billion available for High Speed rail, we hope existing regional, and local connectivity plays a significant role in the final assessment – a decision which certainly wouldn’t bode well for Florida’s proposed Orlando-Tampa connection. The Transport Politic aptly notes the eastern terminus of the proposed Florida HSR is located in the southern exurbs or Orlando – far from the rapidly urbanizing downtown, far from the Lynx BRT, and far from any existing or planned transportation infrastructure. A suburban terminal for the Florida HSR, or any other HSR, would foster more experiences like the one profiled by NPR in this recent expose on one family’s Amtrak journey across North Carolina – stranded in a new city with few affordable mobility alternatives. While HSR could alleviate intraregional travel needs, it would just as easily prove ineffective without comprehensive transit infrastructure, linked to regional and local transit systems in order to make any significant impact on our daily routines.

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Elected Officials of the City of Miami:

The City of Miami is at a crossroads, poised with an opportunity to transpose the status quo from municipal mediocrity into a vibrant, livable community for generations to come. At a time when cities have reemerged at the forefront of urban innovation, Miami’s indolent city commission is struggling with the decision to approve a zoning code that will merely bring us in step with modern planning theory.

Miami 21 is a justified proposition – evidence of its future impact abounds. Our streets are congested and dangerous. Transit is ineffective. Development adheres to suburban zoning codes, promoting unsustainable lifestyles. Our tree canopy is nonexistent. Condominium towers loom high over single family neighborhoods, and our industrial lands are being transformed as jobs are shipped out of Miami. The bottom line is that Miami 21 is not a luxury; it has become a necessity.

Now is the time to act. As Miami recovers from the recent onslaught of development, we must take proactive measures to ensure that any future development in this city heed sound planning principles. The painful recession, caused in part by speculative overdevelopment, should be viewed as our opportunity to regulate market inefficiency through sensible planning for a healthy future.

The truth is Miami 21 isn’t perfect – no plan is. Every planning initiative will face its fair share of detractors; this is the essence of a democratic planning system. Planning is a conciliatory process between community, business, and municipal needs. Grove residents learned this firsthand in the protracted big box saga and are now living with the consequences of a failed zoning and redevelopment policy. To deride Miami 21 for its shortcomings is to throw the baby out with the bath water.

The Facts

Miami 21 is about establishing urban conformity and regulating development to match community needs. Miami 21 establishes a level of predictability into our zoning code, ensuring that future growth heed constraints set forth by a sound citywide plan. Transect zoning establishes human-scale development, designing spaces around people, not vehicles. It stipulates that future development create safe, healthy, sustainable neighborhoods – oriented to residents – with an added emphasis on green public spaces, multi-modal solutions, and creating a sense of place. Miami 21 also ties together a number of congruent city initiatives namely the Master Plans for Parks and Open Spaces, Coconut Grove, Museum Park, and Virginia Key; the redevelopment of the Orange Bowl site; and transit solutions including the proposed trolleys and streetcar. Together, these initiatives will help reduce traffic, improve livability, and serve as economic engines for future municipal growth.

Contrary to the public misconceptions, proliferated by an ill-informed vocal minority, Miami 21 will change the rules by which developers will abide in our favor. Moreover, the primary source of professional opposition (namely the architects responsible for the most recent slue of dreary edifices dotting the skyline), kindly reminded us that Miami 21 would inhibit innovation and diversity. Not such an appalling proposition when you scrutinize the bland structures that rose when creativity wasn’t “inhibited.” Twenty story parking garages compound our congestion issues, do little to make our streets safer, and promote unsustainable, unhealthy lifestyles.

The Stakes

The City of Miami has spent $2.2 million of taxpayer money directly on Miami 21 and millions more on indirect costs. Millions of hard earned taxpayer dollars – spent in vain if this item is not voted upon by the city commission. There have been over 60 public hearings over the past four years, more than enough time for residents and commissioners to become intimately familiar with the new code. If ever a decision should be made it is today!

Time is of the essence. We cannot sit back and allow such a pivotal proposal wither away because of political differences. Miami residents and businesses will not sit for such costly inaction. The time for more input and clarification has long passed – it is now time to set aside self-interests and enact measures that will help our wonderful community flourish for generations to come. In trying times, successful leaders take action. Only the timid hedge their political futures on inaction.

Regards,
Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal

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pedestrians1

courtesy of B(ridge and T(unnel) Crowd

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If you build it - Traffic will consume the neighborhood, taxpayers will fund 73% of 2000 temporary construction jobs, Jeffery Loria will cash out in a few years, the Little Havana neighborhood will be revitalized disenfranchised, The Marlins will stay in Miami (for 35 years, guaranteed), etc…

This Friday, the Miami-Dade Commission will meet to determine the fate (maybe - they will likely postpone the vote) of the Marlins’ Ballpark at the Orange Bowl.  As we noted earlier, from a strictly urban policy perspective – the current site plan (and funding scheme) is a calamity.

In addition to bilking taxpayers for 73% of stadium costs, we will also find ourselves footing the bills for at least $100 million dollars worth of parking.  Then, in the not too distant future, we’ll realize we built the stadium too far away from existing transit, and we’ll need to fund a reasonable solution (like a streetcar west from downtown to the MIC) or our elected officials will think up of a $180 million scheme to create a people-mover extension from the Culmer station.  By this point, I’m sure most rational people would then agree that it would have been better to save the hundreds of millions in parking and transit costs and just build the damned thing in downtown, near existing parking and transit to begin with…  But hey, this is Miami, right?  We can’t do anything right…

To reiterate – the current site plan will have deleterious effects on the surrounding community.  In its current state, the site will act as a vacuum – sucking in traffic while providing few benefits to little Havana.

Central to the Marlins’ and public officials’ pitch to taxpayers was a promise that, in exchange for $450 million in public subsidies, the $609 million stadium project would propel redevelopment in the surrounding area, luring commerce, jobs, amenities and foot traffic to an area that sorely lacks them.

But the stadium site plan released this month suggests that the city of Miami’s approach might best be summed up as “build it and hope.”

Contrary to Andres Viglucci’s thoughts, to me, the current site plan evoke more of a “build it and to hell with the surroundings.”

In reading the article last weekend, I was curious if anyone caught onto the glaring contradiction posed by the political proponents of the stadium plan and the city planners.

On one hand, political proponents claim the park will serve as a catalyst, bringing commercial and retail activity to the community at least 80 days a year.  This activity is confined to the “mixed-use” garages (FYI – parking/retail mix does not constitute mixed use) that provide scarce retail space along the base of the garages.  This space, of course, is supposed to be sufficient to create a vibrant district around the stadium, regardless of the season.

Then the truth comes out we have the city planner’s take on the garages surrounding the stadium:

City planners say the size and shape of the garages were dictated largely by the Marlins’ need for 6,000 spaces and quick exit times.

My question remains, if we were planning a vibrant district around the stadium, wouldn’t we want to complicate the exit procedure so that people would linger around the stadium longer?  It appears that is what the Seminole Hard Rock Casino did (rather well, I might add) in Hollywood (from what I’m told: just try leaving there in a timely manor on a Saturday night after a concert…) From a planning perspective, I would agree that this idea is convoluted, but it illustrates that the entire site plan is being designed so that drivers can come and leave as efficiently as possible on game day – not as it should be – a structure built to compliment a community.

As our own Tony Garcia aptly noted, ”Why are people going to come to this area?  What’s going to make it a destination, and not just for baseball games?…You need a better mix of uses here, not just parking garages.”

Below are a few images of some other successful baseball parks around the country.  These stadiums, particularly San Diego’s Petco Park, exemplify what a Baseball stadium should look like, how it should fit in with the surroundings, and how people interact with these spaces not just during baseball season, but 365 days a year. Compare these parks to the rendering above.

The Development Around Petco Park

The Development Around Petco Park (Image Via: docsplatter)

New Development Around Petco Park

New Development Around Petco Park (Image Via: Oh Snap)

Development Around AT&T Park

Development Around AT&T Park (Image Via: Gedawei)

Wrigley Field as Seen From the EL

Wrigley Field as Seen From the EL (Image Via: straightedge217)

Fenway Park's Entrance (Image Via: Ally85)

Fenway Park's Entrance (Image Via: Ally85)

Yesterday’s Miami-Dade County Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meeting was filled with interesting news. As Spokes n’ Folks reported, much attention was given to a couple of urban infill projects in Coral Gables, located adjacent to the M-Path.

Dadeland Station developer Jeff Berkowitz is moving forward with plans to redevelop the Deel Ford parcel, the larger of the two parcels outlined in orange below.

Due to high traffic volumes on S. Dixie Highway, Berkowitz’s current plans seek to bisect the M-Path on the north side of the site with an easement allowing motor vehicle access to the development’s parking garage.  BPAC members have previously asked the developer to include several safety measures in the site design to mitigate the effects of  of motor vehicle traffic. Yet, the “sketchy” drawings presented yesterday did not detail the required safety measures, which caused BPAC to table the approval.

Additionally, a proposed 30,000 square foot office development is slated for an old Shell station located at nearby, at the corner of S. Dixie Highway and LeJeune Road (small parcel, above). The developer of that property has also asked for an easement that would bisect the M-Path.

While the BPAC is right to ask for safety measures, they are setting a very dangerous precedent. After all, the M-Path is already compromised by numerous heavily trafficked streets without any commensurate design or safety measures to help pedestrians and bicyclists through the intersections.  Allowing two more easements will further interrupt the Path’s function, and could plant the seed for future development to follow suit.

Ultimately, Miami-Dade Transit  (MDT) will have to approve the easements, with the mitigations suggested by the BPAC.  If you ride  or walk/run the M-Path consistently, you know this directly threatens you. Please call and write MDT, Coral Gables City  Commissioners, and Miami-Dade County Commissioners to let them know that safety upgrades or not, these developments do not need easements into the M-Path, but rather a little more creative site design.

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In related BPAC news, an FDOT representative announced plans for bicycle lanes along the MacArthur Causeway. Yes, you read that correctly.

My initial reaction to this proclamation was that the encouragement of bicycling on what is effectively a high-speed highway, where bicycles are normally not allowed for good reason, is sheer lunacy — unless commensurate redesign of the roadway would significantly reduce lane width and motor vehicle speed. Well, it seems the lanes will be shrunk to 11′ from 14′, which will indeed slow motorists down and provide ample room for bicycle lanes.

Full plans have not been reaveled, however. As always, the devil will lie in the details. How will the proposed lanes work with the Biscayne Boulevard on-ramps and off-ramps? Will these lanes be physically protected with bollards or curbs? How far will FDOT go in calming one of the most heavily trafficked roads in South Florida?

We’ll be tracking this one.

If you keep up with the local or national news you have probably heard that president-elect Barack Obama will create an Office of Urban Policy when he takes office in January. You have probably also heard that none other than our very own Mayor Manny Diaz is being bandied about as a potential candidate to lead the office. My gut feeling is that Barack may go someone like Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institute, but we shall see.

Regardless of his choice, this is has potential to be an incredible step forward for cities in America. It seems like many other things, Barack correctly understands that this is no longer a rural nation comprised of a constellation of small towns, but rather a nation of rather amorphous mega-regions comprised of growing cities and their vast asteroid belt of suburban nowheres. Together, they create unique problems that need holistic thinking at the federal level. Three cheers for Barack Obama on this one, folks.

Do you want a say in what this new office tackles first?

Visit this brand new site and have your say on what issue #1 is for urban policy in America. My top vote went to changing zoning policy to support more walkable and transit supportive urban development, followed by rebuilding our formerly  world class rail system.

Go vote and let us know your top two or three choices.

Lots went on this week in transit and I for one am exhausted. I know we have been silent these past few weeks on what has been happening, and speaking for myself, I didn’t have anything new to add to the discussion that I had not already said before. MDT is having problems, ridership is up, and the people in charge are asleep at the wheel. Does that sum it up? Not to be frivolous, but if we don’t laugh about this we’ll go crazy.

There are no quick fixes. We are fast approaching a time when people realize that not having a transit system in place is the same as not having adequate sewers or electricity. We are living up to our image as a Banana Republic, and unfortunately some of those so-called Banana Republic’s down south are much better off transit-wise than we are.

This morning on NPR Houston Mayor Bill White talked about the challenges facing his city. In light of the Mayor’s Conference going on today, I thought it appropriate to show how another car-centered modern city is dealing with not having adequate mass transit:

“We need to reorder the way we live. … Mass transit is critical. More people are using mass transit in our community, it’s up sharply this year. We’re going to be the most aggressive builder of light rail lines of any community in the United States in the next three years. …. We don’t have to encourage people, they get it. There’s a tremendous demand for people who want ot give up that car, or go from two cars to one, and live near that transit line. … We really don’t have to channel what consumers want (as far as density), but we do have tools such as where we put our infrastructure …. Some communities that have had zoning are trying to dismantle it because it segregates (uses) … We’ve had large changes in behavior. No question about it, we’ll be bigger, we’ll be denser. There’s a new attitude cropping up every day when somebody fills up their tank.”
This is from this morning. Mind you loyal readers, Houston is not a bastion of urban living, but to hear their mayor say these things gives me hope. Our leadership needs to take their cue from Mayor White, or any of the other US cities that have renewed their commitment to transit by investing in new lines (Charlotte, Denver, Atlanta..etc)
Our leaders are to blame for this debacle. No question. The Commission has repeatedly made bad choices. This week they finally came to their senses (and took some Transit Miami advice) by restoring some independance and credibility to the People’s Trust. This is a good first step.
Lets review what else those crazy commishes said these past few weeks:
Chairman Bruno said that he wants to repeal the half cent tax. Are you crazy? Why are you even talking about repealing the half cent tax when it is helping fund our system. Just because you “prognosticated” (his word) that the half cent would not be enough to deliver on the promises, doesn’t mean that you should toss the baby with the bathwater.
Commissioner Souto played silly politics with the changes in bus routes. Thanks to Larry L. for researching how much those routes were costing us. It is that sort of cost/benefit analysis that will lead to a functional system. Commissioner Souto: you are just like the other posturers on the Commission: you talk the big talk, but when it comes time to it you don’t care about transit at all. Your choices reveal that much and more (like when you voted against refurbishing our metro cars ten years ago only to have it cost three times as much now).
Commissioner Jordan, I believe you have your constituents interests at heart. Unfortunately, where good planning and budgeting has been replaced with stopgap measures and half hearted attempts at compromise, your constituents are the ones who suffer. Our friends at “Eye on Miami” recently posted a letter you wrote about the UDB controversy. Your vote for moving the UDB shows how as a commissioner you have supported the faulty planning that has put us in this situation. I for one don’t think that the Orange Line North is a good idea. That line misses most pockets of density we have in Dade County. Next time there is a UDB vote think about the density you should be supporting along corridors like 27th Avenue, rather than expanding the limit of county services.
Remaining Commissioners: wake up! When are you going to take a positive position. I applaud Chairman Bruno for at least making a suggestion, however unpopular. I don’t think that another half cent would be bad, but the Commission’s credibility is shot right now.
My biggest disappointment has been Mayor Alvarez’s total absence from this discussion. Where is the strong mayor that you lobbied so intensely for? I know you inherited a big problem, but you convinced me and a lot of fellow citizens that you were the man for the job. Where are you now?
Listen up: we need transit. Multiple lines need to be built at the same time. The only way this is going to happen is if we float a bond dedicated to building these lines. This will be unpopular, but someone needs to take the lead…
PS. Looks like Tri-Rail is here for another year! Thank You Palm Beach for not killing our only success story. Woo hoo! More on this later…

Functional Streets

There are certain critical factors which create a functional street.  This street, exemplifies what the urban center of a small town should resemble.  Let’s get interactive and discuss some of the qualities which make this such a functional urban space.

Also, Can anyone name the town?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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