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Tuesday March 18, 2008

The information booths in the Grove are turning out to be somewhat less then useless. So much for tourists seeking advice.


Tuesday February 12, 2008

Bike lanes around the world separated from regular traffic, often by a row of parked cars. Bad idea, because right-turning cars can’t see the bike, and you die. Bike lanes need to be in very plain view of regular traffic, so I agree — the Barcelona solution would have been a beautiful way to go for Biscayne Blvd. Fuck you very much, city planners and FDOT.


Monday November 12, 2007

There will be a public meeting tomorrow about Museum Park. A new master plan will be presented, because the old plan was considered too elaborate and expensive. I find this slightly depressing.


Thursday October 4, 2007

The bastards changed the time of the Museum Park meeting tonight from 6 to 4:30pm! WTF — they’re claiming conflict with a later event, but isn’t this a transparent effort to make it impossible for many people to come? Why isn’t anyone making noise about this?!



Proposed new Metrorail and other transit lines

BRT, Metrorail, DMU

Left to right: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Metrorail, Disel Multiple Unit (DMU).

Below are proposed new transit lines from the executive summary of a Kendal Link study (download pdf of summary). While it focuses on South Miami, it has implications for the whole county. Still, the political situation in Kendall around some of these proposals is pretty controversial. This is mainly NIMB surrounding transit trains along existing, but minimally-used, tracks. As such, I’d be interested in hearing what South Miami/Kendall residents thing of these proposals.

It’s useful to know that this study considers anything under 5 years short-term planning, 5-15 years is mid-range, and over 15 years is long-range. You can click any of these maps to see a larger version.


Proposed Metrorail/BRT line along Kendall Drive.


Proposed North/South Metrorail line along Turnpike.


Proposed new Metrorail (orange) line and DMU (green) line.


Proposed North/South BRT line, alternative to above Metrorail option. I gather this is more useful to more people, but also more disruptive.


Putting it all together: this is the short/midrange transportation strategy.


And finally, the biggie: the long-range “preferred” transit strategy. It ain’t pretty, but this is what you get when you combine low-density sprawl with a mandate to reduce worldwide carbon emissions. Also: I still want my Metrorail beach-line.


Wednesday September 26, 2007

Next Thursday (October 4), the City of Miami Planning Department is having a meeting to discuss plans for the design of Museum Park. No idea what they did to publicize this meeting, but I note that their web page doesn’t even mention the time (it’s 6 pm). Inexcusable. Michelle at Museum Park Forum caught this. It’s at the Orange Bowl Stadium Athletic Club.

Update: The bastards changed the time to 4:30pm! WTF, they’re claiming conflict with a later event, but isn’t this a transparent effort to make it impossible for many people to come?? Why isn’t anyone making noise about this?!


Wednesday September 12, 2007

Riding a bike through Miami

Miami River

When I was a kid, my bike was indispensable to me. I explored the neighborhood, venturing farther and farther from home as I got older, learning about my world. Somewhere along the way I acquired a driver’s license and a car, and for a long time I was a car-only guy. But over the last few years, I’ve enjoyed exploring my urban landscape by walking, and I’ve come to appreciate the perspective that comes from low m/h travel.

But walking is out of proportion as a way to explore our sprawl-based metropolis. And so I’ve come to re-discover areas of my own neighborhood on my bike, and have again begun venturing far beyond. It’s amazing what you notice — how your very relationship to the streets changes — from a bycicle.

This all crystallized for me when I read Mike Lydon’s account of his commute by bicycle from South Beach to his workplace in Little Havana (he works for Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., who are doing Miami 21). He describes, from an urban-planner’s perspective, (and with lots of photos) the experience of riding through the same neighborhoods every day:

Leaving the office in the evening I ride along SW 8th Street, or Calle Ocho as it is most commonly referred. It is the epicenter of Cuban culture in Miami. Urban conditions vary along the corridor, but the particular stretch from our office on SW 25th Avenue to downtown is fairly walkable and presents a mixture of retail, restaurant and cultural offerings. Nonetheless, the street is absolutely inhospitable to the cyclist, which is why the majority of people ride on the sidewalks.

You should read Mike’s entire story, if not because it’s a worthwhile portrait of our city, then because it well documents the perspective of a place afforded by the process of biking through it regularly. It’s a way of experiencing an environment that drivers-only cannot even imagine. (via TransitMiami)


Thursday July 26, 2007

More Miami21 meetings

You asked for more Miami 21 meetings, and you’ve got ‘em. Here’s a schedule from an e-mail they just sent, also available on the schedule page of the Miami 21 website. I’ll go on record once again saying that the website is a mess, and that a project of this magnitude (and budget) should be ashamed for dealing with the internet in this flimsy way. Still, the information is there, and here are your opportunities to learn what it’s about and speak your peace.

Date Location Address Time Net Area
Aug 2 Simpson Park 55 SW 17th Road 6pm Coral Way
Aug 7 West End Park 250 SW 60th Ave. 6:30pm   Flagami
Aug 9 Police Benevolent Assc. 2300 NW 14th St. 6pm Allapattah
Aug 15 Curtis Park 1901 NW 24th Ave. 6pm Allapattah
Aug 16 Belafonte Tacolcy Center   6161 NW 9th Ave. 6pm Model City
Aug 20 St. Michael 2987 West Flagler St.   6pm West Flagler
Aug 21 Disabilities Center 4560 NW 4th Terr. 6pm Flagami
Aug 23 Orange Bowl 1501 NW 3rd St. 6pm Little Havana
Aug 27 Citrus Grove Elementary 2121 NW 5th St. 6pm Little Havana
Aug 28 Frankie S. Rolle Center 3750 S. Dixie Hwy 6pm SW Coconut Grove
Aug 29   Hadley Park 1350 NW 50th St. 6pm Model City
Aug 30 Shenandoah Park 1800 SW 21st Ave. 6pm Coral Way
Sep 4 Coral Way Elementary 1950 SW 13th Ave. 6pm Coral Way
Sep 5 LaSalle High School 3601 S. Miami Ave. 6pm NE Coconut Grove


Monday June 25, 2007

Latest draft of Miami 21

miami 21 frontage

The latest draft proposal of Miami 21 is available for download. I can’t say that they’ve made it easy for people . . . rather then a web-readable format, or a reader-hostile pdf, the planners have chosen to do this as an extra-reader-hostile multi-pdf. The meat begins in section 4, where, on page 17, the maximum densities for downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods are laid out.

I’ll leave it to urban planning experts to judge the details of the plan, but the broad outlines of it are based on modern urban planning principles that are well established, and as such this is very important for the long-term growth of our city, as I’ve argued previously. You’ll hear a lot of criticism of the plan, and almost all of it comes from self-interested land owners who fear (oftentimes incorrectly) that the plan limits their options on how they can develop their land. But remember that we’re talking about making our city more livable here. (And sorry sir, but we really don’t need a high-rise in the middle of this neighborhood of single-family homes.)

Passing the plan will be an important step, but since the effects of something like this take place over the course of decades, the real test will be how seriously future city governments take it. I guess we’ll have to see how it plays out. For now, Verticus says that Miami 21 is going before the commission for first reading Thursday.

Update: Ryan runs down some of the changes.


Tuesday February 20, 2007

Miami 21

Here’s an article I wrote for Damn Magazine back in June of 2006. It was published in October, but has never made it online before. I took the photos back then for the article, though in the magazine it ran with Julian Martin’s much better pictures.

Miami, June 2006

A New Miami?

I’m sitting in a shabby banquet room in the Eugenio Maria De Hostos Neighborhood Service Center in Wynwood, surrounded by huge pieces of foamboard covered with maps, diagrams, charts, and computer renderings of buildings and streets. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk is just wrapping up her presentation — one she’s given four times in the last week — and opens the floor up to comments. The low-level grumbling that had accompanied her talk resolves itself into a succession of complaints, many followed by applause from a healthy proportion of the 100 or so assembled. Plater-Zyberk takes all this in stride, answering each person without a shred of disagreement. Yes – the plan needs work. Yes – they would revisit that aspect to see if it could be improved. Yes, yes, yes.

We’re talking about Miami 21, the state-of-the-art master plan that’s been Manny Dias’s dream ever since he was elected mayor of Miami in 2001. It took years of preparation, but finally a firm was hired, and today we have a proposed plan. Now comes the hardest part: getting the public to agree to it.

Miami 21 is an effort to marry the best ideas from the last thirty years of urban planning to the weird realities of Miami’s existing cityscape. It focuses on what types of buildings should go where, in an effort to create a city that is convenient and pleasant for drivers as well as pedestrians. It’s not as impossible as it sounds: groupings of medium and high-density buildings with storefronts and plazas along the ground floor, plenty of trees, and nice wide sidewalks, and who wouldn’t walk a couple of blocks to run an errand? And the organization and higher density makes public transportation start to look like a viable option. Beyond that, the plan incorporates historical preservation, emphasizes open green space, hearts art and culture, encourages mixed-income development, and generally hits all the feel-good talking points that wide-eyed urban planners love.

Key to all this is something called the transect. It refers to the gradual transition from nature to the urban core through distinct zones: rural, suburban, medium-density, urban. The transect calls for throwing out old, complicated zoning codes in favor of these zones, which encourage building along old-fashioned models: suburbs, for example, begin to look more like small town under this system, with centers of common public space, shops, and parks. The transect system also eliminates the variance system, under which politically connected developers were able to have the rules changed on case-by-case basis to squeeze more profit out of their land at the expense of community coherence.

Edgewater, June 2006 Which brings us back to the meeting, and yes: the complaints. For the most part, the meeting is attended by developers, realtors, and big-time land owners, all of whom have the most to loose from certain aspects of the plan. In the effort to normalize building densities through the city and apply some control to the growth, sweeping changes have to be made to the zoning codes, and these changes have winners and losers. The landowners and developers whose ability to build gigantic concrete’n‘glass condos has been circumcised are pitching a fit. You can’t blame them, but neither should you really accommodate them, right? It’s our damned city, and we should be able to put our needs above those of developers who want to cash in and move on. This is about the vast majority of the people . . . those who actually live and work here. Obviously and unfortunately, those people are scarce in the process that goes into these sorts of plans, and while the planners try to do what they believe we want, their ability to push back against the big money interests in hindered by a lack of voice from the other side.

But actually, the problem is worse than that. Not only are many people not aware of the process, but if they were aware, they would be quite skeptical of designing a city with a big fancy plan.

While our responsibility for the natural environment has enjoyed a surge of popular support over the last several decades, the same can’t be said for the urban environment. Some cities are loved and others hated, but we don’t really think about how we can shape and influence our cities through concentrated action. This is exactly what urban planners do, though, and it’s what they’re doing with Miami21. Too bad the timing stinks. Everyone knows that we’re coming off a major building rush right now. Hundreds of building and renovation projects of all shapes and sizes are taking place all over town, and while many more are in the planning stages, conventional wisdom has it that anyone who hasn’t broken ground already is going to find it increasingly difficult to do so. As the housing supply expands and prices (especially for condos) begin to level off, the increases in building materials are going to make all sorts of numbers just not add up. So great; if we can expect a major building boom once every 20 to 30 years, and we just wrapped one up, what are we doing; planning for a rush of building in 2030?

There is good news, though. For one thing, many of the buildings now going up adhere to some of design rules of new urban thinking. There are shops along the first floor, the parking garages are hidden from the street, and the buildings are set back at the fifth or sixth floors, giving them a sense of scale from the sidewalk.

This is particularly noticeable in Edgewater, the area east of Biscayne Boulevard between the Omni and I-195. Few places have seen as rapid a transformation over the last few years as Edgewater, where single-family homes and small apartment buildings (some dating back to the original Miami construction boom in the 1920s) mingle with empty lots, construction sites, and gleaming new towers. Throw in a few corner markets, and when all the dust settles we may just have a real walkable community on our hands. It’ll get another boost when the streetcar system which is planned for the area comes online in 2010.

So there’s the city of the future for you: it intelligently mixes high, medium, and low density buildings with nice sidewalks, public spaces, and practical public transportation. Actually, it looks suspiciously the way cities all over Europe have looked for an awfully long time. And the plan? Well, Plater-Zyberk will have her hands full between now and September, when the city commission votes on the final plan. Only time will tell how much effect the plan will have, though.


Sunday December 3, 2006

At a meeting last week about Miami 21 which I had on my calendar but forgot to attend anyway, nothing much happened. The project is coming along but vewy, vewy, slowly. Update: I’m working on a calendar section. Check in the bar on the right.


Wednesday September 27, 2006

Gabriel is serious: he’s got several quick transportation proposals for Coral Gables. “. . . the [Metromover] omni loop will be rendered useless once the streetcar is completed seeing that they essentially cover the same part of the city. The salvageable tracks, vehicles, and station components can then be used to create a new Coconut Grove Loop People Mover system.”


Wednesday March 29, 2006

Hell no, you can't rename my street

Here’s a map of downtown; let’s orient ourselves (if you know downtown, skip down a paragraph or two). We have the bay on the right, I-95 on the left; the Miami River cuts through, emptying into the bay near Brickell Key (the triangle island) and the Port of Miami (just out of the frame to the northeast). On the north side of the river, Bayfront Park sits between US-1 and the water (the amphitheater at the north-most edge). The eastern end of Calle Ocho is south of the river, as is Tobacco Road (Miami liquor license #001).

OK; let’s talk about Brickell Ave. It’s home to some of the shiniest high-rises in Miami (Pan-American financial centers), and has an almost suburban feel, lined with trees and wide sidewalks. North of the river is noisy and loud — the read downtown; south of the river is quiet and serious. If you follow Brickell Avenue over the bridge going north, [correction] you can’t even keep going straight along 2nd Avenue: the street forces you to turn right and follow US-1, because 2nd Ave is one-way southbound. [/correction]

Anyway, a developer who’s building a high-rise on 2nd avenue a few blocks north of the river is lobbying the City Commission to allow him to call his address “Briclell Avenue.” This doesn’t fly because Brickell Avenue has always been south of the Miami River. It seems to be by definition, and so it is, in a way: in the early days of Miami, there was a feud between Flagler and Tuttle, who owned the land north of the river (and had most of the power), and Brickell, who owned the land south of the river (and couldn’t so much as get a bridge built). Renaming 2nd Ave north of the river “Brickell” is a slap in the face of history (you can get more of the historical background in the Herald article). Note, also, that the prestige that the Brickell name caries has to do with being the closest street to the water — i.e., odd-numbered Brickell properties are generally waterfront properties. Not only is this not the case with 2nd ave, but the land is now nowhere near the river, not on US-1, and not particularly prestigious location from a satellite-view perspective (of course a 2nd ave address has plenty of historical cachet, not to mention a prime-ass location).

So, renaming those few blocks of 2nd avenue “Brickell” is a slap in the face of the prestige of the name, a slap in the face of history, a slap in the face of developers not needing any additional goddamned encouragement, and a slap in the face of us having a city commission to do some fucking serious work for our city, which has some real goddamned problems, and not dick around with this bullshit.