Currently viewing the tag: "Vienna"
The Miami circle is an attraction, a cultural focal point of our area’s heritage, and will ultimately become a destination for visitors and locals alike. It will provide a glimpse into real prehistoric culture without today’s seemingly artificial representation of Native American Culture. The National Park Service is looking for ideas for what to do with the Miami Circle site and here is what we suggest:
  1. The Miami Circle should be a protected exhibition connected with a local museum (historical Museum of Southern Florida or the new Museum of Science at Museum Park come to mind.)
  2. The exhibition should be located in a passive park with abundant benches, trees, lighting, some sort of protective canopy over the exhibition itself, and little else.
  3. The park should be easily accessible for pedestrians, i.e. no parking, this is downtown and plenty of alternatives exist and are readily available. Those seeking to drive will likely be able to find a spot in the adjacent Viceroy.

Our suggestion is a combination of the National Park services’ options 1 and 4, found here in the Planning, Environment and Comment section of the website. The full plans can be found in this PDF. We’re fond of the integration with the surroundings of Option 1 and the absence of surface parking, facilities, and extreme amounts of pavement. Option 4 presents visitors with a chance to see the remnants of the Miami circle in a protected way and creates a point for guided boat tours on the bay.

Once again, I can relate a scenario in Miami to an existing project in Vienna: The Roman Ruins outside of the Hofburg Imperial Palace. The preservation of the Roman Ruins allows visitors to glimpse back 2500 years to the founding Vindobona. The ruins are encircled by a wall which allows viewers to peer down at the remaining structure, located some 25 feet below street level.

Tagged with:
 
Vienna is a grand city, far more grandiose than most European Capitals due to its’ rich history with the Babenburg and then the Hapsburg family dynasties. Just walking around, the city exudes wealth, through its opulent architecture, gold-leafed trimming, and excessive sculpture. The Hapsburgs were rather generous with the citizens they presided over, as far as royalty goes, anyhow. Toward the end of their reign, they opened several parks for public use, constructed two massive museums, and dotted the city with various other cultural institutions. Seeing that Miami has recently concluded the construction of our opera house and is set to begin construction on two bayside museums, I believe we can and should look for the guidance of cities such as Vienna when establishing our new cultural havens. Noting that Miami completely lacks the history and wealth of the Austrian Capital, I think there are some interesting aspects which will broaden our horizons before we plan and design…

There isn’t much I can say about the Carnival Center, seeing that it is already built. I’ve walked through the area a couple of times and although the plaza and structure are pleasant, the surroundings are rather inhospitable; hopefully with some time the area might mature a little. The Vienna Opera House is situated at the end of the premier pedestrian thoroughfare in Vienna, which links it and the ring, with the center of Vienna and the Hofburg Imperial Palace. When walking by the Vienna State Opera House for the final time on our last night, I noticed an interesting element which caught my eye:

See it? I hope you do. Someone had the sense to retrofit the structure (built in the 1860’s) with parking. Genius. This brought about a small bout of laughter, as you would imagine, when I conjured images of the Carnival Center debacle I would be returning to the very next day. The interesting thing I later noted is that this was perhaps the only parking garage I saw anywhere near the city center. We seem to have done the opposite…

When approaching the Museums Quarter (Museumsquartier) I couldn’t help but think of endless possibilities for Bicentennial Park. Now, I know I am not an architecture critic, nor do I try to be, but the idea of a classical structure dotting our shoreline as either of the two Museum Park buildings bodes very well for me. I said it once to an art student, whose look should have silenced my architecture thoughts for eternity, but I actually think a modern Art structure juxtapositioned with a classical Museum of Science would add a great deal of depth to Miami’s architecture.

Back to my point. Standing between these hulking museums was impressive. I mean, here I was standing in awe of a couple of landlocked museums, just hoping that our new museums with the beautiful bay and beach backdrop could be just even one fifth as stimulating. Is it too much to ask for? We have the opportunity to showcase our architectural cultural talent to the world, quite literally, seeing that these museums will serve as the focal point of nearly every cruise passenger which departs from our harbor. And think, Miami, not Miami Beach, could perhaps for once be hailed for its beautiful waterfront architecture, luring boarding cruise passengers to extend their stay. We severely dropped the ball with the MCM, opting instead for a geometric display of retardation on Watson Island. Between the two museums stood a massive statue dedicated to Maria Theresia, it’s a rarity in Miami to find any recollection of our local history, let alone national history. Perhaps a statue of FDR would be fitting, considering he was nearly assassinated in nearby Bayfront Park…Just a thought…

Throughout all of my travels, I have always taken the time to compare the city I am visiting with my home town. I often think that Miami would be a much better city if we would just stop, think, and look around before coming up with decisions which will forever alter our urban landscape. We’ve had plenty of opportunities pass us by with failed or improperly managed projects: Metrorail, Miami Arena, Miami Marine Stadium, Miami Seaquarium, Orange Bowl, MIA, CCPA, etc. Plenty of chances to make our city just as marvelous to visit as say Paris, Chicago, or even ViennaWe’re number one right now in hotel occupancy and hotel rates nationally, but imagine how much more we can do to attract visitors to sites other than our shore…

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Tagged with:
 
Vienna and its’ surroundings are covered in a vast web of efficient public transportation. Four rail options make life in the Austrian capital a breeze for residents and visitors alike. Like Miami, Vienna lacks a definite central district where workers travel to and from daily. The inner stadt, encircled by a one-way ring street and streetcar is about as close as it gets to becoming the center of Viennese activity, but major business hubs such as the UN complex are located far outside of the center.
The streetcars or Strassenbahns are a marvelous form of transportation, easily accessible by locals and visitors alike due to the vast network they create across the entire city (There are over 30 different routes and it is the third largest network of streetcars in the world.) To understand how vast this system really is, please click on the map here, you won’t be disappointed. Nearly every street contains tracks for the streetcar, which often shares the limited roadway with vehicles on narrow 2 way streets. The streetcars are prompt, clean, and effective forms of traversing the city.

The U-Bahn (Subway) is a relatively new form of transportation in Vienna; it opened in its modern form in 1976 and has since grown to incorporate six different lines (although parts of the U-Bahn date back to the 1890’s.) Click here, for an animation depicting the growth of the U-Bahn over the years including the upcoming extensions of the U2 line due to open in 2008 (to the stadium) and 2010, in time for the UEFA Cup which the city will be hosting in 2008. The U-bahn provides a faster mode of transportation and links some of the major hubs including: Stephansplatz, Vienna International Center, and train stations (Westbanhof, Franz-Joseph Banhof, Wien Nord.) Like most modern transit stations, most stations feature newsstands, bakeries, and all other sorts of convenient amenities foreign to the Miami-Dade Transit System.

The city and its immediate surroundings also contain over 380 kilometers of track for the Schnellbahn, a suburban commuter rail train similar to our tri-rail, only its efficient, vast, reliable, and electrically powered. As I mentioned previously, we used the schnellbahn to connect from the airport to the U-Bahn. There is also a small light rail transit system located within city limits (I know these people are so lucky to have all different forms of rail transit) known as the Lokalbahnen. I’m not familiar with the Lokalbahnen, seeing that we never had the opportunity to use it, but I often saw its trams arriving at the Karlsplatz station, where passengers could connect with U-Bahn, Schnellbahn, or bus transit options along the Ringstrasse. Notice how every site I’ve linked contains maps, schedules, routes, tickets, etc. in English in an easy to find format…

The city is also covered by over 80 different bus routes some of which operate 24 hours a day. The Nighlines provide service once the metro systems close for the night, at 1 am and run until they reopen at 5:30. The Nighline runs every 30 minutes and is just as prompt and easy to use as the Strassenbahns and no less popular among the locals or even us visitors. Using the bus system was no less of a breeze to connect us with the nearest U-Bahn station. The buses also lack the stop signal system found on most U.S. buses, instead a button near the exits serves as a dual use button to trigger doors to open and to signal the bus driver to stop. All buses (thanks to GPS devices) also announce upcoming stops and Strassenbahn and U-Bahn connections.

After experiencing yet another efficient and effective public transportation system, I am forced to realize that Miami has far to go before it too can become a very accessible city to all. Below are a series of photos I took while in Vienna for the purposes of depicting some of the most fascinating elements of their public transit system on this site:

Notice anything conspicuous about this entrance to the U-Bahn platforms? The absence of any turnstiles should jump right out at you, especially if you are familiar with the heavily armored nature of most American subway entrances. In parts of Europe however, subway entrances like this are the norm because the entire metro system operates on the honor system- Gasp! Yet, it works, because people know what the law is. Enforcement is done completely at random on bus, streetcar, and U-Bahn routes. Throughout our week long visit we were checked a whole zero times! While I’m on the fare subject: we were able to purchase an eight day coupon using our credit cards at an ATM like machine at the subway stations. The eight day card (24 Euros) enabled us to eight full days (not necessarily consecutive) of transit use (all forms) provided that we stamped our tickets daily at anyone of the punch card boxes located on every vehicle or station entrance. This marvelous system eliminates the foolish token or cash system and enables passengers to board the trolleys or buses through any door at any stop. The Honor system and punch card system is far too advanced of a thought for any U.S. Transit system. With heavily fortified entrances and armed station guards, many of our transit systems still suffer from delinquent fare box evaders. Part of the reason why Miami’s Metromover system is free rather than 25 cents is that the cost to add security to every platform would cost more than the income gained and more than cutting back security and making the whole system free. In any case, imagine at least if we could add machines which allow users to buy extended day metropasses with credit cards at every station. Maybe our next transit director will bring our transit system into the 20th century, let alone the 21st…After passing through the faux turnstiles, you emerge on a subway platform which is far cleaner than any public space you’ve ever experienced. Though even I admit this station was cleaner than most, it was interesting to look down at the tracks and not see the usual litter, sewage, and congregation of rodents which is typical of any subway system in the United States. Like the honor system, citizens here know to deposit trash in the appropriate receptacles rather than all along the station platform or tracks. It was rather stunning to encounter such an immaculate station in any case. The trains themselves are very well kept, with clean comfortable seats and handles. The absence of graffiti or window etchings was a plus and I even witnessed residents asking fellow passengers to remove their feet from the seats… Some of the busier stations featured the wall advertising typical of most subways along with maps depicting the upcoming routes (way too advance for Miami, but more common elsewhere.) Some of the busier stations also feature projectors and screens displaying top news headlines and local information.
Most of the subway cars are extremely modern, like the one pictured above. The trains are surprisingly smooth and quiet, making the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods minimal in the areas where the trains travel above ground. The Strassenbahns (Aka. Streetcars or Trolleys) are an eclectic mix of old and modern technology. The new cars, designed by Porsche Design Group, feature the lowest ground to floor clearance of any similar vehicle. Every station features covered waiting areas with benches and route maps. They also contain real time data LCD screens which depict upcoming trains and expected waiting times which are frighteningly accurate. As I mentioned above, the streetcars share the roadways with vehicles and rarely travel along their own dedicated right of way. Often times, the only lane in either direction is shared while the shoulders are reserved for on street parallel parking spaces. The streetcars operate under different signals than cars and usually have dedicated space in the “medians” for the stations . The overhead power cables are strung from the surrounding buildings, eliminating excessive poles along the side of the roads. The streetcars enhance the pedestrian activity along every street and do not detract from the vehicular traffic flow at all. The electrical wires are not unsightly and share dual use with the overhead streetlight system. What I always find impressive when touring European cities is the amount of young children (typically 5 years and older) wandering around alone on the public transit systems. I took the picture above to emphasize the benefits a good transit system would have on our education systems. See, in Vienna, like many other cities, their is no school bus system. Kids use public buses and trains to get to and from school. When field trips are scheduled, school groups take public transit like the group pictured above; on its way to the Museum of Natural History. Sensational. Imagine how much money we’d save if we didn’t have to fun an independent cheese wagon transit system just to transport kids to class daily? I took the above picture while waiting for the Nightline bus. After a long night of Karaoke and drinking, the minimal wait for the bus ride home was pleasant as street cleaners buzzed by routine maintenance was conducted on the streetcar power cable systems. Oh, and yes, at night the LCD screens display the wait times for the buses as well…
Nearly all the intersections in Vienna are dotted with Siemens sound sensors to aide blind pedestrians cross the streets. Gas stations such as this one above and below emphasize the idea that cars are secondary forms of transportation in the Austrian capital because well, they are. This particular gas station is located outside the opera house and does little to take away from the imperial surroundings. The one below was built into the side wall of a building.

The picture below depicts the middle level of one of my favorite transfer stations in Vienna, Schottentor. This station is a major transfer point for at least 10 different Strassenbahn lines, including the 1 and 2 trams which traverse the inner stadt. Trams arrive on the ground and mid level of the station, one level below ground. From the mid level the Votivkirche (church) provides a beautiful backdrop for the arriving trams. One level below, passengers can access the U2 line of the U-Bahn. Note: None of the stations feature parking, parking garages, or anything to accommodate ridiculous vehicular usage.

The regional transit options are no less spectacular than those of the city or of other parts of Europe. The OBB, a train I could liken to tri-rail, only dependable, transported us to a town called Melk, 85km west of Vienna in about one hours time. The OBB trains are powered by overhead electrical wires and make stops in various stations along the way. It was amazing to be outside of the city and traveling through woodlands and pastures in the matter of a few minutes, emphasizing the compact nature of Viennese life and making such marvelous transit feasible in the first place. Melk, a small unassuming town along the Danube River even boasts a local bus circulator and is so compact we had crossed the town by foot in a matter of minutes. Stay tuned for Part 3…

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Well, I’m back from my latest travels through Europe; we had a marvelous week exploring Vienna and the Austrian countryside. Although I have many stories to share and experiences worth describing, I will offer you all a glimpse into the transportation efficiency which made my trip so worth while. Some of you may liken it to an apples-to-oranges comparison; but I think there is much we could all learn from the European system of planning and constructing cities which would make all of our lives a heck of a lot easier. I will begin now with the airports through which I traveled: Miami International, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, and Flughafen Wien. Go ahead and visit their respective webpages to see their cyber differences. Ours is a catastrophe, in English only, alluding to the disastrous experience you’ll likely encounter when visiting.Amsterdam’s Schiphol is a paradise for anyone encountering a layover in Europe. The modern terminal is excellently situated to allow transfers between all international flights without having to pass through security or customs, unless traveling to another EU country. The airport features some comforting amenities with which to pass the time including: showers, sleep areas, an museum featuring Dutch art from the 18th century, wireless internet, a mall, and various restaurants, bars, and casinos. The facility was immaculate. The airport employees were well informed, courteous, and fluent in various languages, a rarity even in our cultural “melting-pot.” A PA announcement played whenever someone was running late: “Mr. or Mrs. So and so, you are delaying the flight to Casablanca. Please report to gate D4 for immediate boarding or we will proceed to offload your luggage.” Fantastic.

We didn’t spend as much time in Flughafen Wien due to the fact that it was our final destination, however, while passing through I noted several similarities between it and Schiphol. The airport featured some enclosed glass boxed rooms for smokers only, an innovative thought to keep the smoke away from the general terminals; even though smoking is generally permitted everywhere else indoors in Europe.

The City to airport connection at both airports is a marvel in itself. Forget the Miami Intermodal Center, distant thoughts of running metrorail or a people mover into the airport, or the current inconvenient bus rides to the nearest tri-rail station. Flughafen Wien, located several kilometers away from the city center, is linked via the City Airport Train (CAT), an express train which whisks passengers into the city in 16 minutes. What I find most impressive about the CAT is the feature which allows you to have your luggage transferred from the plane to the train. Likewise, you can check in your luggage at the city train terminal and not worry again about your bags until you reach your final destination. The train terminal at the airport is located beneath the baggage claim and departure facilities, placing it within easy reach of all travelers. Since we weren’t exactly traveling to the city center, we rode another train, a suburban commuter train like tri-rail called the Schnellbahn, which also services the airport.

The City/Airport connection in Amsterdam is no less fantastic than the one in Vienna. Having a five hour layover on the return flight enabled us to catch a train into the city to kill off the wait. Within 15 minutes we were arriving in the city’s central station, within walking distance of all the sights, museums, and activity occurring in Amsterdam. The commuter train was just as pleasant, packed with travelers on both decks of the train.

Amsterdam’s Central Station is an amazing intermodal facility. It links the city with the airport via rail as well as local metro service, streetcars, buses, ferries, water taxis, regional rail service, and long distance rail…

More to come soon…

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tagged with:
 
Well folks, I’m off again to explore another stunning European city. This week I’m headed to Vienna, Austria, the former home of the Hapsburg Empire. As usual, I’ll be sure to report about my experience on the city’s public transportation which boasts a network of streetcars in addition to its subway, suburban rail, and high speed airport train (CAT.) I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to take the CAT which whisks you from a central city terminal to the airport in less than 16 minutes. Get this; people who ride the cat don’t have to wait for their luggage on the carousel, it’s automatically loaded onto the train so that you can retrieve it at the station. How innovative is that?
I will have net access and do plan to post from Vienna, but Ryan will be picking up much of the slack while I’m away…
Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Tagged with:
 
This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.