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Are Miami’s proliferating pedestrian overpasses transforming the city into a hamster’s paradise?

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The more we bow our heads in submission to the automobile, the more we lose our city … the more we lose our humanity.
[TransitMiami is hugely grateful to the incredibly talented Mr. Juan Navarro for contributing his artwork to this piece. Thank you, Juan!]

Cities should be built for people, not cars. It’s an irrefutable, almost cliché maxim that still, despite the seeming consensus around the notion, somehow gets lost in the city design and development process.

Greater Miami is a city whose incipient design and development occurred during the apex of the automobile era, an era which is slowly, but surely, dissipating. Our city’s auto-centric legacy thus predisposes planners and engineers to maintain that eroding model of spatial form and function.

The underlying fallacy comes from their failure to recognize the dynamism moving through the city, the revolutionary societal forces changing the way Miamians and metro-dwellers across the planet wish to live in, and interact with, their urban habitats.

Rather, these designers of dystopia look to the increasingly obsolete conditions of the past and — instead of embracing the change around them with innovative design solutions — seek to merely perpetuate the already expired status quo.

To our collective detriment, this status quo expresses itself with bipedal human beings relegated to the bottom of the mobility food chain. In Miami, and with a bit of irony, this demotion often manifests itself upward, where people wishing to get around on their own two feet are forced to ascend up to and move through so-called pedestrian overpasses.

In essence, though, these overpasses are really nothing short of hamster tunnels designed to accommodate and un-impede the movement of cars at the expense of people.

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You may pass, you pedestrian peon, but only after ascending to the tunnel above, traversing through the cage, and descending yet again. Then, and only then, may you cross the street.

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This wasteful, massive piece of infrastructure makes sense only after you’ve been indoctrinated by the dogma that cars take precedent over people. Pedestrian overpass at US-1 and Douglas Road (SW 37th Avenue), between the City of Miami and City of Coral Gables.

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Is this the sense of “security” we wish to give to our children? In order to simply cross a street, young child, you must seek refuge in the cage above the unbridled auto traffic below!

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Inside the pedestrian/hamster cage at US-1 and Douglas Road (SW 37th Avenue), between the City of Miami and City of Coral Gables, on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

These overpasses reify the misguided mid-20th century notion that the automobile reigns supreme. All other modes of transport must make way for, and bow their heads to, the tyrannical king of the road.

Through these pedestrian overpasses, the built environment is effectively screaming at people who choose to use their own energy to get around the city: Step aside, petty pedestrians! Out of the way, bumbling bicyclists! The automobile is coming through!

A relatively complex pedestrian overpass (Coral Way / SW 24th Street & the Palmetto / 826 Highway). In addition to human-sized hamsters, maximum security prisoners would feel right at home.

Apart from the monstrosities in the City of Hialeah, this is one of the more complex hamster tunnels in unincorporated Miami-Dade County (Coral Way & the SR 826 Highway). It evokes scenes from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.

Up, up, up, little hamster! Up  and around, around and up, across and over, down and around, down and around! You made it!

Up, up, up, little hamster! Up and around, around and up, across and over, down and around, down and around! You made it!

These are not the messages we should be physically inscribing into the nature of our city. This is not the infrastructure needed to support a socially, economically, and ecologically thriving urban geography.

The overpass at Vizcaya is one of the few warranted ones. A collective sigh of sympathy is nonetheless breathed for that poor cleaning woman tasked with cleaning this hamster path.

The overpass at Vizcaya is one of the few warranted ones. A collective sigh of sympathy is nonetheless breathed for that poor cleaning woman tasked with cleaning this hamster path.

Through the tunnel you go, little hamsters. While this particular tunnel actually makes sense (because it crosses the point where US-1 turns into I-95, at Vizcaya Metrorail Station), these ped overpasses should be very few and far between.

Through the tunnel you go, little hamsters. While this particular tunnel actually makes sense — because it crosses the point where US-1 turns into I-95 at Vizcaya, where a street level crossing would be particularly difficult to engineer — these ped overpasses should be very few and far between.

The caged view from the overpass at Vizcaya. While this is one of the warranted pedestrian overpasses in Miami, the entire notion of such a bridge should be used extremely sparingly.

The caged view from the overpass at Vizcaya. While this is one of the warranted pedestrian overpasses in Miami, the entire notion of such a bridge should be used extremely sparingly.

As our children and grandchildren inherit from us this little bit of Earth called Miami, they’ll be far more grateful to gain a livable place where they can enjoy the pleasures of the city on their own two feet at the ground level, rather than surrendering to the oppression of the automobile by scurrying through elevated mazes and tunnels.

You want to keep the streets safe for pedestrians? There’s only one real solution: Make the streets safe for pedestrians!

Be on the look-out for a follow-up article where TransitMiami looks at some of the broader social implications of building the proposed pedestrian overpass at US-1 and Mariposa in Coral Gables. Also, be sure to read TransitMiami’s previous piece on that particular proposal, written by TM writer and professional architect Jennifer Garcia.

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The Miami Hurricane is reporting that Marie Cushmore, a senior at the University of Miami was struck by a Ford Expedition while crossing U.S. 1 and Mariopsa Court last Wednesday around 9:30pm.

Unfortunately, this is not the first accident here. According to The Miami Hurricane this intersection has had a history of accidents involving UM student pedestrians. About five years ago, UM student Ashley Kelly was killed when she was hit by a SUV that ran a red light on U.S. 1 and Mariposa Court.

It gets worse. Since 1990, seven students have been struck crossing Ponce de Leon Boulevard and U.S. 1. Three of the incidents have resulted in death.

There has been talk of building a pedestrian overpass across U.S. 1 at Mariposa. I for one hope this never gets built.  Building a pedestrian overpass is not the solution as most people will not to use it and will continue to cross at grade level.  The solution is to calm traffic in this area. It is unrealistic to expect healthy students to safely cross 6 lanes of traffic while cars are moving in excess of 50 mph. Can you imagine how an elderly person or someone with a physical disability must feel trying to cross U.S 1? How many more pedestrians need to die before FDOT decides to calm traffic on U.S. 1?

Please send an email to Mr. Gus Pego District 6 secretary letting him know that you are not satisfied with the existing conditions on U.S. 1.

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This week’s Streetwise Column by Herald Reporter Larry Lebowitz, presented an “innovative” new use for Miami-Dade’s Busway program. We’ve taken some time to mull over the basics of the plan over the past few days (apparently so have a number of you based on the number of emails I received) and have prepared an analysis of the project based on the data Larry provided in the article.

Imagine widening the Busway from two lanes to four and giving buses and carpoolers with at least three passengers a free ride.

It is a stretch of my imagination, that is for sure, but from the looks of it, this does not seem like a promising solution for South-Dade commuters. Granted, the Busway is far from perfect, but adding lanes, albeit managed lanes, is hardly the solution to an ever-growing congestion problem.

Instead of encountering dozens of incredibly looooooong lights at the busy cross streets on today’s Busway, imagine flying over all the major intersections as the government guarantees a reliable 50-mph journey from Dadeland to Florida City or the turnpike interchange near Southwest 112th Avenue.

The sad part about this is that some sort of “benefit” has to be presented for motorists in order to shore up the funds to marginally improve the transit infrastructure. I guess that is one of the major issues we have to deal with when we have a President who in his next financial deficit (that is not a budget) wants to reduce an already anemic transportation fund by $3.2 billion. One major question remains: What is going to happen to all of those cars not going to Dadeland or the Palmetto when they merge back onto a US-1? We cannot honestly expect all these folks to suddenly abandon their cars and hop on Metrorail, can we? Or will the lanes be extended north into downtown, continuing to undermine the reason why Metrorail was constructed along US-1 to begin with - to get people out of their cars.

A similar variably priced tolling plan is about to be introduced on a 24-mile segment of Interstate 95 between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. They are also planned for the expanded Interstate 595 in Broward.

True. However, I do not think drawing comparisons between US-1 and limited access highways is fair. HOT lanes are a novel concept for the highway scenario, but not along a corridor where driveways and intersections all interfere.

Not only could it provide a little relief to the normal wall-to-wall madness on the overburdened South Dixie corridor, but it could also finally fulfill the Busway’s original promise: real rapid transit.

Once again, see our unrelated qualms above on transportation spending as a whole in this country. It’s deplorable!

”Without a strong transit component, this doesn’t work,” said Javier Rodriguez, executive director of the expressway authority.

Amen!

Elevated intersections will incite plenty of sturm und drang from communities along the Busway. The neighbors must be mollified, especially if Transit is forced to relocate its stations away from the intersections to maintain easy street-level access for riders.

Wow, you can say that again. Most of these communities have already reduced the allowable density along US-1 making Mr. Rodriguez’s point listed above extremely difficult to accomplish. Transit needs to treat any further upgrades to this project as a rail project, bringing with that the power to enact land-use changes for the corridor that will continue to prepare it for future rail transit, increase bus ridership, and lay a foundation for preventing future westward and southern sprawl. Without a massive overhaul of the land around the Busway, this corridor will never realize the transit ridership necessary to fund such a project.

Besides noise walls and landscaping, some must-dos:

Whoa, noise walls are a definite must-do-not. This project needs to entwine the Busway (future railway) as much as possible with the surroundings, not create an inhospitable environment for those walking, biking, or using transit.


All plans must leave a pocket for future light rail or Metrorail within the 100-foot corridor as the Busway was originally intended. It might take 30 to 50 years to get trains there, but that’s what the people were promised and the bulk of the growth is already occurring down there.

Definitely! Can’t stress this point enough.


The plan must set aside money to re-time all of the signals for cross-street traffic trying to get onto and across U.S. 1 under the elevated intersections.

This is something MDT/MPO should do now to give the 15,000 daily transit riders a surefire benefit to riding the Busway. Which reminds me, what exactly is MDT up to these days?

An expanded Busway must mesh with the community charettes aimed at future redevelopment of Princeton, Naranja and Goulds into transit-oriented development villages.

Ditto for preserving the existing bike path and enhancing pedestrian access to and from the Busway.

Once again, we cannot stress how important this is. These details will ultimately make or break a project like this. Take Metrorail for example, it is a great transit system but the surroundings are beyond lousy.

The point of this article was not to criticize Streewise or Larry Lebowitz - after all he’s just the messenger - but rather to condemn a plan which is seemingly being hailed as the golden ticket for fixing congestion. The fact of the matter is, for any real change to come of any of these plans (Metrorail, Bay Link, Miami Streetcar, Busway included) we need to push for land use changes more favorable to living lifestyles which are not automatically governed by the necessity of owning a vehicle.

1963:2007:

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I was driving by the Douglas Road pedestrian overpass last weekend when I noticed that the fence designed to “force” people into using the overpass still hadn’t been fixed after an accident partially destroyed it last summer. Interestingly enough, a new path has formed in the grass and once again there are people darting across this treacherous stretch, rather than climbing the flight of stairs or using the elevator. We analyzed this particular overpass a year ago.

Meanwhile plans to build a third US-1 pedestrian overpass adjacent to the UM Metrorail station are currently underway. The Miami Today News Reports:

The meeting is 4-7:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Holiday Inn University of Miami, 1350 S. Dixie Hwy in Coral Gables. Free hotel parking is available.

Free Hotel Parking? Yes, let’s drive to a planning meeting designed to build better facilities for walking. This doesn’t make any sense… I came up with a visual as to how close this meeting will be to the Metrorail:

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We here at Transit Miami, would like to issue a heartfelt, sincere apology to our dedicated readers for our less than stellar content contribution lately. Each of us is currently wound up in our personal affairs and have naturally failed to allocate enough time to writing comprehensive, detailed articles on the latest transit/development issues. Fortunately for us, the past few weeks have been tame on the news fronts in these areas. Transit Miami readers, things will get better, I can attest to that. Our dedication is still as strong as the day we started this blog and our continued effort will be a testament to that. We have some exciting articles on the way and are working hard to instill the ideals of Transit Miami into the lives of every Miamian…

Some latest worthwhile stories:

  • City of Miami Commissioners foolishly rejected a plan to fund their $50 Million share of the port of Miami tunnel. A plan that would remove thousands of daily trucks, buses, and cars from the congested downtown streets somehow isn’t seen as a valuable enough asset worth of community development money. A word of advice to the commissioner who voted against the plan: try walking along these streets or open a sidewalk café at one of the new high-rises along Biscayne Boulevard and you’ll quickly see what kind of benefit the tunnel will provide the neighborhood…
  • Max Tower on the Way? We certainly hope so…The proposed 31 story tower rising in the media and arts district would provide just that; Media and Arts. The tower would become a hub for local production providing ample recording studio space and other media oriented amenities. It may be too late to save NBC, ABC, or CBS from abandoning the district but, hey who knows maybe we can begin to recentralize ourselves again?
  • Finally! The hideous pink wall along US-1 and the Bay Heights is set to receive a worthy makeover…
  • What’s life like in downtown? The Herald profiles some residents happy about their lifestyles changes…
  • Samuel Poole III shares his thoughts on Miami 21 and you know what? He’s right on the money…

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Before I begin, I’d like to thank all of our loyal readers who sent us copies of this article in the herald. Although we too had seen it, we’ve been busy working on investigating the new plan for Biscayne Boulevard and gathering as much information as possible to bring you the most comprehensive coverage. On that note, I’d like to thank everyone for their patience with our delinquent postings lately. Ryan, James, and I have a lot on our plates currently and we’re working hard to keep you well informed. With that said, if you have any comments, suggestions, or would like to apply to become a contributor on Transit Miami, feel free to contact us at movemiami@gmail.com. We will be working on introducing our newest writer over the next few weeks…

A plan is in the works to beautify and significantly enhance Biscayne Boulevard to make it a lusciously landscaped paradise for pedestrians. The initial phase of the plan calls for the re-alignment of Biscayne Boulevard south of the current phases of the Biscayne re-alignment project which has transformed the thoroughfare north of 5th street. The plan would move the Boulevard west, eliminating the current surface median parking, thus narrowing the street and creating approximately five acres of new park space along the western fringes of Bayside and Bayfront Park. This part of the plan is estimated to cost the city around $1 million, considering that FDOT would already be covering the re-alignment costs of the Boulevard.

A plan is already underway to beautify and realign the Boulevard from NE 5th Street to NE 13th Street. The Miller-Legg redesign is intended to better integrate a realigned Boulevard with the upcoming Museum Park project, providing better pedestrian access from the condominiums rising along the Biscayne Wall north to the promenade of the Carnival Center. The redesigned medians and curbs seen below feature an intricate brick design, abundant (we hope) foliage, and bus bays (perhaps streetcars, one day) fronting the new condominium developments:

The new proposed project further south, would mimic the successful design elements incorporated up north. The removal of the surface parking would significantly alter the width of the boulevard, making the menacing 8-lane behemoth a bit more manageable for pedestrians. Eliminating the useless (eyesore too, we might add) median parking will also provide about five extra acres of public space, which, if landscaped with shade trees will prove to be a boon to Bayfront Park and the River Greenway.

”This is as close to a no-brainer as you’ll ever find,” [Commissioner Marc Sarnoff] said. “It’s just wise and prudent for us to pursue this as quickly as possible.”

Other plans apparently appearing on an upcoming study of downtown Miami, includes a promising option of a joint-venture with a European company to construct an underground parking facility. This massive undertaking would reap large benefits for the Bayfront parks and whole downtown area. Allowing a private firm to construct and operate the parking facilities will allow the city to concentrate on other downtown area rehabilitation efforts. We’ll reserve judgment on this part of the project until more details are made public.

Via Homee’s Panoramio

”Now, people go to cities because they have an interest in seeing what the life of the city is like,” he said. The problem with downtown today, [Bernard Zyscovich] said, is it’s “not the kind of place you’d ever want to come back to, by and large.”

The incorporation of more public green space and pedestrian friendly design elements is only the beginning of a much needed downtown overhaul which should be well in the works. Over the next two weeks, we’ll address how these improvements will spread west throughout the city’s central core, riverfront, and into the design district, creating a city that is navigable for people and more importantly creating abundant public spaces…Stay tuned, Miami’s pedestrian transformation is only one piece of the puzzle, which when combined with streetcar, bike, streetscape, and shading improvements, will make Miami’s urban core one of the most accessible (and desirable) places to live and visit…

Update: Critical Miami presents an excellent Overlay of Museum Park Plans…

Update: Eye on Miami and Bob:Miami discuss plans for parcel B…

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