You are viewing articles tagged traffic.

Tuesday April 22, 2008

The Florida State Senate just passed an amendment to a transportation bill that bans Truck Nutz, the metal dangling testicles you’ve seen hanging from the hitches of classier pickups around town. The final vote is Thursday. For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my state. (via kottke)

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Thursday April 10, 2008

Do not adjust your monitor — the geniuses in Hallandale insisted that the little bike guy face right, even if that meant two overlapping opposite signs.

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Tuesday April 8, 2008

More thoughts on parking

Last week I wrote an article on what I perceive to be Transit Miami’s anti-car bias, and here is Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal’s thoughtful response. This is a response to the response.

First, let me say where I agree with Gabriel. We are both urbanists, and share the goal of making Miami less car-dependent, more transit and pedestrian centered. So-called “livable” cities everywhere in the world feature public spaces that put the focus on humans (as Gabriel so eloquently calls us), with public plazas, pleasant sidewalks, and convenient mass transit that makes getting around town without a car not just easy, but pleasurable. An important component of this is increased density, and we both support Miami 21, which would put higher density development where it can do the most good, and bring about other pro-pedestrian changes. We would like Miami to be more like that, and less of a car-dominated no-man’s land of suburban sprawl. Where we differ is on how that change ought to be brought about.

What happens when you can’t park?
Gabriel has clarified his position to be that the way to bring change about is to reduce parking on new developments. By decreasing the number of parking spaces, you reduce the number of drivers going there, therefore reducing the number of drivers on the road, therefore increasing the use of public transit. I don’t like this approach for two reasons — because I don’t think it’s very nice, and because I don’t think it will work. Thought-experiment with me here. Let’s say you’re going to the barbershop. You hop in your 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid and head over to Lou’s Barbershop, in their new location at Lopez-Bernal Centre.

But guess what? LBC has insufficient parking, and there’s no space for you. That sense of frustration you’ve got there — that, to me, is not a way to win converts to the public transportation cause. Moreover, under Gabriel’s logic, you react to this situation next time by either finding a bus route to Lou’s, riding your bike, or car-pooling with a friend. Sorry, but this just does not wash with the reality that I live in. When parking shortages make driving somewhere difficult, the most natural reaction is to drive somewhere else! Lou looses your business, and the environment is the worse off if your new barbershop is farther.

Extending this logic to residences is even easier: will you move somewhere if there’s no place for you to park? Of course not. Friends stop visiting because parking is impossible (we know something about this on South Beach)? Start looking for a place to move to.

Real solutions
I am on board with a lot of the rest of Transit Miami’s solutions to this problem, including increased and improved public transportation. A good example is the streetcar, which, serving a corridor of new high-density developments (US-1 between Downtown, Edgewater, and the Midtown), would be a very good step in the right direction. People in those developments will have a real alternative to driving their cars. But make no mistake — they’ll still need cars, and people from outside the area will need places to park when they come visit.

Cycling
South Beach is a very bikable city. The rest of the county is not. I don’t think the lack of a degree in urban planning makes me particularly unqualified to make those statements, but the use of Bogota as an example of rapid change is telling. Every Sunday in Bogota many roads are shut down, open only to pedestrians and cyclists. It’s quite something to see, but it does not represent a change in how that city goes about its business. Enrique Penalosa has made some improvements to the public transportation system (which most people there used before), but the urban bike lanes in downtown Bogota are empty.

Odds ‘n ends
For what it’s worth, I think that cycling and public transportation combined can be an effective way of getting around the city, and have said so and done so. I’ve disagreed with TM about the viability of a bike rental program. The very last comment at that link is from Gabriel, who said he was working on a map of how such a program would work in Miami-Dade. Well, there is no map, because outside of a very limited geographical area (say, that covered by MetroMover), the distances are just too great.

Oh, the thing about growing a mountain was a joke. But I don’t think it’s unfair to point out, when you’re talking about “experiences that both illuminate Montreal’s successes and Miami’s potential,” that a vast majority of your article has no relevance to Miami’s “potential” unless you intend to tear the whole city down and start from scratch.

Parking and the law
Technically, the article I was addressing had to do with a legislative issue — the reduction in legally-mandated parking spaces. As a matter of libertarian principle, I actually agree that the government should not be in the business of mandating parking in developments. I think adequate parking is in the interest of the developers and owners, and they ought to be the ones to determine the best definition of “adequate” (e.g. I don’t think Aventura Mall is being legally compelled to build those new garages). While this complicates the disagreement we’re talking about, I don’t think it significantly alters it.

The way forward
There is hope. A commenter on the previous post linked to a density index for various US cities. On a scale that assigns 6.22 to New York, 1.78 to Los Angeles, and 2.1 to San Diego, Miami earned a 1.55 (2000 figures, and note that this applies to the “Metro area,” e.g. for Miami it would include most of Dade and Broward). But as I stated above, parts of Miami are in fact increasing in density, and are good candidates for increased mass transit. As these lines are constructed, anyone who can will use them. The Coral Gables-Downtown commute is a good example, with some people taking the rail despite the fact that it’s more expensive then driving. If we want to change the city, the way to do it is to push for increased transit (which of course TM does) and pricing that makes public transportation an obvious bargain for everyone. Let’s build rail that goes to the airport, Little Havana, and for god’s sakes the Beach. And let’s not get distracted with trying to keep people from parking their cars.

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Tuesday April 1, 2008

After being unable to gain the necessary number of signatures to have the intersection in front of his house turned into a traffic circle, Marc Sarnoff got himself elected to the Miami city commission, had the rule waived, and the traffic circle got built. Good times.

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Wednesday March 26, 2008

The ‘get the fuck out of my lane’ law is getting another shot in Tallahassee. Yay!

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Wednesday March 19, 2008

So, you want to know why South Florida has crappy drivers? Well, I managed to pull the answer out of this seemingly innocuous article about DUI checkpoints. Peep: “One out of every four people stopped by a [Florida Highway Patrol] trooper has a suspended license,” BUT “when you make an arrest, you’re taking a police officer off the road for a couple of hours.” Those are quotes from FHP spokescop Lt. Pat Santangelo, and what he’s telling you, folks, is that when they pull over someone with a suspended license, they let them get right back on the road.

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Friday February 15, 2008

A directory of spots in Florida where there are frequently speed traps, organized by city.

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Wednesday February 13, 2008

You can learn to drive: Part 5 (dealing with bicycles)

bike in traffic

So there you are, driving merrily along, minding your own business, and suddenly there’s a cyclist in the road in front of you. The lane is narrow, the street is busy, and dude is like two feet out from your lane’s right line, and he’s not moving over to let you pass. Wtf??

Well, you know what I’m going to say, but hear me out anyway. I’ve been at this situation from both sides, so I understand your frustration. The first thing to realize — and believe me it is a realization that is very far from universal — is that cyclists have as much right to the road as cars do. We’re not blocking traffic, we are traffic, as the Critical Mass folks say.

Okay, so here’s the law: The cyclist can be as far out into the lane as he feels he or she feels necessary. That means out of the way of parked cars who’s doors can fly open unexpectedly, out of any road debris potholes, and in the case of narrow lanes, just out in the middle of the lane. If you can’t without giving the bike a few feet of space, don’t. (Update: Commenters indicate that 3 feet is the legal minimum!) I know it’s frustrating sitting there with a row of cars behind you, but trust me: the cyclist isn’t any happier about it then you, and he’ll give you a chance to pass as soon as possible. Note that honking just shows you’re an ignorant moron, and in my case at least will make me move farther over into the lane before you try squeezing by and killing me. (Which, btw, thank you to everyone’ who’s passed without killing me — I really appreciate it!)

Four way stops: Yes, cyclists often run four-way stops. Yes, there are situations where you have to stay stopped for a couple of extra seconds, but trust me, it’s better for everyone this way. Imagine you get to the stop sign a little after a stopped bicycle; now you’re waiting much longer, because these things take a while to get up to speed. If you’ve come to a complete stop, and the bicycle is a few car-lengths away from the intersection, go ahead. Otherwise, exercise a little patience. Momentum is a beautiful thing.

Stop lights: Kind of a similar situation; bikes sometimes run red lights. When they cut it a little too close, a gentle tap on your brake is considered more polite then a honk of the horn. Oh, speaking of horn honking — do NOT honk at a bicycle to let them know you’re behind them and getting ready to pass. This is annoying, and may require the bike to move further out into the lane, so as to prevent someone clearly clueless from passing too close. Urban cycling is exiting enough without drivers going out of their way to make it more stressful. If you’re waiting to turn and a bicycle is passing, sit patiently — no inching up, please.

Special note to cell phone users: Look, sorry, but you swerve all over the road, ok? I know you don’t notice it, but that’s because you’re on the phone. If you’re trying to pass a bicycle and you’re on the phone, give the bike lots and lots of space to leave room for your swerving. Be extra careful. If you’re not going to hang up, at least stop talking. Thank you to everyone who hasn’t killed me yet!

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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.

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Thursday February 7, 2008

The 178th, 191st and 199th street intersections with Biscayne Blvd. will soon to have cameras to catch red light runners. You’ll get a warning in the mail for the first 90 days, then come $125 tickets in the mail. No points on your license, though — because of a state law, these are civil infractions, not “real” parking tickets.

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Monday January 21, 2008

Crazy scene on the Turnpike a couple of weeks ago — a bad accident had traffic tied up so long that almost everyone was out of their cars, a block party of an odd sort.

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Variable-fee I-95 express lanes are moving forward, and yes, hybrids and 3-person car pools will be allowed to use them free if pre-registered. And yes, apparently that does go for your 2008 GMC Yukon 1500 Hybrid, 20 mpg.

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Monday November 26, 2007

Rick on the idiot red-light cameras that are soon to be up in various cities around Florida.

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Thursday October 25, 2007

“Salazar tried to maneuver sideways, but there was no avoiding the collision. When he hit, his bike flew over the truck — 10 meters, he says — and crashed on the other side, breaking in two. He went under the SUV as dozens of bikes behind him plowed into it and bounced off each other like birds in a turbine.” — Crazy SUV vs. bicycle pack accident. Please, people, watch out for the cyclists.

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Wednesday October 24, 2007

Large load.

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Tuesday October 2, 2007

What's up with mandatory PIP car insurance?

The state’s law requiring personal injury protection (PIP) insurance expired Sunday, though the fight is not quite over yet. What does this mean?

First, a primer on the exact changes (and please correct me if I’m wrong leaving out something important). The PIP law required every driver to carry $10,000 worth of protection for anyone injured by or in their car. It made Florida a “no-fault” state: if you’re in a crash with another driver, each drivers’ insurance covers his medical expenses, regardless of who caused the accident. Hence “no fault.” The logic behind this is that it allows everyone to get medical treatment without bureaucratic worries, and theoretically keeps costs low by minimizing lawsuits.

The downside of this is that if you already have medical insurance, you’re paying for double coverage. Many people who are in accidents that are not their fault also unsurprisingly report their insurance rates going up afterwards. So, the new law allows drivers to carry insurance for property damage only, should they so desire. Under the new system, if you’re in an accident, your regular health insurance will pay your medical bills, presumably recovering their costs from the person who caused the accident, in court if necessary.

This would be great if 1) everyone had health insurance and 2) everyone was smart enough to get insurance to cover injury they cause to others. To the extent that those two things are not true (only 80% of Florida residents currently have medical coverage; and don’t even get me started on #2), the new law is going to wreak havoc. The upside is savings for those that are properly insured, yet drive carefully enough not to actually cause accidents. More importantly, it will tend to hasten a state of affairs where we are forced to confront the larger medical/insurance disaster facing the country, as a much larger proportion of car accident victims arriving in hospitals will have no insurance covering them.

This highlights the real clusterfuck aspect of this change, which is that medical/insurance lobbies are essentially behind both sides of the issue. On the anti-PIP side are companies who are concerned about insurance fraud under the old system, which could easily pump money out of the system, $10,000 at a time, with simple staged accidents and shady doctors. On the other side are the doctors and hospitals worrying about the uninsured trauma cases they’ll be forced (god forbid) to treat and not be able to collect payment for.

That these are the two sides battling over something this important (rather then what’s best for people who’s just been in a serious car accident) is a sure sign of a broken system. I’m almost tempted to let them do away with it, let the situation come to a head, and then fix it from the bottom up.

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Wednesday September 26, 2007

The sad result of speeding in Miami — a boy on a bicycle hit by a speeding driver, as witnessed and reported by Asawaa. This is old, but I’ve been staring at it in my browser for over a month and it’s oddly compelling. Asawaa’s photostream is worth investigating, too. He has images that are stitched together from hundreds of smaller photos.

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Tuesday September 4, 2007

Bob Norman sez you have a better chance of surviving a head-on car crash if you accelerate into the crash then if you brake. Nonsense??

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Monday August 27, 2007

New speed-limit enforcement procedures on I-95?

So, this was the scene on I-95 Northbound around 9 am Friday. Notice the Miami-Dade Police cruiser around the middle of the photo above, and the empty stretch of road in front of him? OK, so this guy’s going about 60 or 65 mph. For awhile I was behind him, as were a few other people, sort of contemplating passing him. Then he flashed his lights a couple of times. No idea what that was supposed to mean. I changed lanes, and very slowly crept past him on the right. When I was next to him, he turned on his siren for a couple of seconds.

I looked over, and dude is giving me a “slow down” hand guesture! It’s official: here’s a Miami-Dade cop who’s decided he’s going to single-handedly tame I-95! It’s not his jurisdiction, but of course he can pull anyone over. I backed off, and got back into the huddle. That’s when I took this picture. The scene continued to be pretty crazy. At one point a plumber’s van tried to pass on the cop’s left, and the guy turned on his lights again and actually swerved into the left lane to cut the van off! So there he is, like a herder leading a flock of sheep, which got thicker and longer as it went (maybe the Pied Piper is a better analogy). This went from around I-195 to the 135th street exit, when he got off and the clump dispersed.

I wonder if this is standard policing procedure. I’d think the FHP troopers who patrol here would have something to say about it — average speed on ’95 during this time is about 75, and it seems to work pretty well. The FHP seem happy with this, and they don’t seem to ticket anyone going under 80. Weird.

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Thursday August 23, 2007

The no-fault law is sunsetting, but yes, you still have to have insurance.

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Thursday August 16, 2007

Not your new State of Florida regulations regarding cellphone usage and other driving matters

Ahh . . . I saw this on another blog (forget which) and wanted to do a post about it, but turns out it’s a hoax. Bummer. But let’s post it anyway:

These are new fines that were implemented on 8/1/07 for the State of Florida:

  • As of 08/01/07 cell phone use must be “hands free” while driving. Ticket is $285. They will be looking for this like crazy – easy money for police department.
  • Cell phone use in the construction zone. – Double fine as of 08/01/07. Cell phone use must be “hands free” while driving.
  • Carpool lane – 1st time $1,068.50 starting 8/1/07 (The $271 posted on the highway is old). Don’t do it again because 2nd time is going to be double, 3rd time triple and 4th time license suspended.
  • Incorrect lane change – $380. Don’t cross the lane on solid lines or intersections. Block intersection – $485.
  • Driving on the shoulder – $450.
  • Passengers over 18 not in their seatbelts – both passengers and drivers get tickets.
  • Speeders can only drive 3 miles above the limit.
  • DUI (Driving under Influence=JAIL and stays on your driving record for 10 years!)

And hey people, when you get an e-mail on something, please Google it before blogging it. Remember — 92% of all forwarded e-mails are bogus.

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Monday August 13, 2007

A car crash I witnessed

car crash diagram

Going home on Friday around 7:20 pm, I was right behind another car that got hit in this intersection in Hollywood. One person was pretty badly hurt, and I ended up talking to the police about it. Here’s what happened.

First of all, all the streets in the diagram are one-way. Tyler is three lanes Westbound, of which the leftmost lane is a turn-only lane onto Dixie Highway. Dixie and N. 21st Ave are 3 lanes each, respectively Southbound and Northbound, bisected by railroad tracks. The group of cars on Tyler were all standing at a red light. Car [A] is the car that got hit, a Mercury Grand Marquis or some similar big 4-door 90s American car, [B] is me, © is a bus, [D] is the other car that witnessed the crash and stopped. We’re all standing at a red light, and when it turned green, we all went. Because of the size of the intersection, it’s not uncommon for cars to get into the turning lane and change to the center lane to continue along Tyler, and that’s what both [A] and [B] did. At this point, I’m just about to the railroad tracks, and I see car [E] zipping down Dixie Highway. [A] saw him too, and swerved left before the hit, but it was too late.

The front driver’s side corner of car [E] hit the front passenger-side door of car [A], which then hit a cinder-block wall between the sidewalk and front lot of the building on the Southwest corner. [B] and [D] pulled into the parking lot right next to that.

I got out of my car and saw that the lady in car [D] was already calling 911. There were three people in car [A], and the lady in the passenger seat looked hurt, and in serious pain. Several panicked moments ensued wherein the lady calling 911 was being asked a million questions about the situation, and the other people in the car were yelling trying to speed things along, though of course the ambulance had already been dispatched. First they were saying she couldn’t breathe, then that she was having trouble breathing. With her door busted in and up against the wall, the only way to get to her was through the driver’s side door, and there was obviously very little anyone on the scene could do to help her. Soon one police officer got there, followed shortly by the ambulance.

This was perhaps the most uncomfortable few moments of the whole thing, because the paramedics don’t really have any magic, and things are not instantly better when they’re there (although their presence makes a big psychological difference). They got in the car and checked the lady’s vital signs and asked her some questions to try to figure out her situation before moving her. Eventually they put a neck brace on her and carefully got her onto a stretcher and got out of there, along with the two guys from her car. After that the police interviewed me and the two people in car [D], got our information, and let us go. Before I left, I walked over the the guy from car [E] to see if he was OK, and got out of there. But something tells me this isn’t the last I’m going to be hearing about this.

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Thursday August 2, 2007

Super Shuttle lane hogs

supper shuttle

Here’s the Supper Shuttle, hogging the left lane on I-95. This happens all the time — approximately half the SS vans I see ride in the left lane, slow, and don’t move over to let anyone by. This particular idiot doesn’t even have anything to gain: the car way ahead of him in the next lane over is actually going faster then him.

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Tuesday July 17, 2007

A live, auto-refreshing list of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue active calls. Can I have these archived, sortable, and mashed into a Google map, please?

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Biscayne blvd renovation

Diagram of the Biscayne Blvd. streetscaping currently underway south of I-395. Gabriel has an overview of everything planned for this stretch, full of links and images. I still don’t see, though, how getting rid of the median parking (only “useless” if you’re not looking for a place to park, btw) around Bayside makes the road less daunting for pedestrians — the number of lanes isn’t changing. Also: a Metromover overhaul (replete with more heinous Photoshopping).

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Tuesday June 26, 2007

How to add a lane to I-95

I-95 lane changes

Easy: you remove the shoulders. Here’s the re-striping in progress on Southbound I-95 — the solid stripes are the transition to the small section that’s striped the new way, in preparation for the doubled for-pay express lanes. Observe:

  1. Original shoulder. Wide enough to accommodate a pulled-over car or an emergency vehicle.
  2. New shoulder, approximately two feet wide.
  3. Here’s where the double lines diverge. The faint line is where the lines originally were. The solid lines are the temporary transition to the repainted section.
  4. So all the lanes move over and get a little skinnier, creating a new lane over here.
  5. Here’s where the physical new express lane barrier will go, cordoning off the two left lanes.

So right about now what you’re thinking is “Wait a second, if they think they can just add a lane, why didn’t they do it like, maybe, a few decades ago?!” Well, traffic engineers take it on faith that adding lanes to existing highways brings diminishing returns. You read that correctly: they don’t think a new lane would have helped. So the difference here? Well, they hope that by erecting a physical barrier between some of the lanes, they’ll effectively be creating a separate highway, and this is supposed to make the difference. Charging for the two lanes is more tied to creating a justifiable new revenue source then an integral part of the solution.

In other words, everybody wins. Except the drivers in the regular lanes. Oh, and two-person carpools, who get booted out of the express lanes. And the people paying an amount as yet undisclosed floating rate for the privilege of driving in non-rage-inducing rush-hour conditions. I still say it won’t work.

Update: A commenter suggests that the lane reshuffling may be unrelated to the express lane conversion.

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Thursday June 21, 2007

New Dolphin Expressway, with new toll plaza and new roads. Links to Herald.
A new Sunpass-only lane?! Is that even, like, constitutional?

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Monday June 11, 2007

Vehicular transportation: two contrasting case studies

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Wednesday May 30, 2007

$19 for a 7-day metro pass. It’s for tourists: 2 trips per day x 5 days = $15 per week for public-curious regular commuter.

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Wednesday May 16, 2007

Some podunk research comes out about driver rudeness, and everybody’s up in arms about it, blogs, the national news, you name it. Finally, Larry Lebowitz has taken the time to poke holes all through the study. It’s shoddy. Update: Another interesting tidbit: the survey got the rankings basically by asking people in each city if they thought the drivers in their city were more or less courteous then in other cities. In other words, the study shows that Miami drivers think they the rudest.

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Monday May 14, 2007

Hidden City gets into a car accident with some guys who’re being chased by the police. Hillary Hilarity ensues.

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Wednesday May 9, 2007

FDOT’s proposed plans for I-395.

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Thursday May 3, 2007

A state panel has selected four companies to build and operate the Port of Miami tunnel. Against all odds, this project seems to be moving forward. Oh, also, Grimshaw Architects will be doing the Science Museum in Bicentennial Park.

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On several highways in Miami-Dade, buses are now allowed to use the shoulder. That’s how you encourage mas transit — get people there in half the time it’d take in a car!

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Tuesday April 24, 2007

MyBikeLane tracks cars that block bike lanes. With photos and license plate numbers. (via Spokes ‘n’ Folks, a blog about cycling in Miami(!))

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Thursday April 19, 2007

Most of Broward county has been swallowed up in a smoky haze as a huge fire burns in the Everglades. Alligator Alley is closed.

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Monday April 16, 2007

Florida toll roads are gradually being converted to Open Road Tolling. Basically, the system makes it even less convenient to pay cash, while keeping SunPass and “video toll” drivers from having to slow down for tolls. (Video toll means you drive through the lane and the system records your license plate, and you pay the toll later at a kiosk.) The system will eventually charge for exactly the distance traveled, (civil libertarian alert:) which will essentially require MDX to track each driver’s day-to-day movement.

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Wednesday April 4, 2007

google traffic

Bonus traffic links I discovered while working on the I-95 tolls article: Google Maps now has basic traffic information for Miami. Traffic.com has much better traffic information, though. A sort of crappy FDOT traffic counter page that gives live traffic flow for points around Florida (nothing for Miami/I-95, but there is one on the Turnpike). Finally, the Wikipedia traffic congestion article, with all sorts of interesting information.

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Wednesday March 21, 2007

Downtown adventure

Downtown!

This is what happened last Friday. To set it up, let me tell you that I’m usually a flake about things like returning phone calls, paying bills, and renewing my car registration. But this year I was determined to be better, so when I got the paperwork in the mail, I went right to the web site. I typed all my info in, and got some generic “we can’t process your request right now” type of message. I figured I was too early, so I let it go, and tried again a couple of times. Finally, a couple of weeks ago I realized there was some problem and I wouldn’t be able to renew my registration online. Somewhat irritated, I went to the courthouse on my lunch break Thursday to do it in person. They told my I had a parking ticket hold on my renewal! Now, I live on South Beach, so parking tickets are a part of life, but I’d paid all 3 outstanding tickets on the Clerk’s website over a month ago. Wtf?!

Well, it turns out that payment didn’t go through. Obviously I didn’t print the confirmation page, but I’ll just assure you that it sure looked like it went through. Whatever. But now I have exactly one day to fix the parking tickets and renew my registration before leaving the country until the next month, when I’m eligible for parking tickets even if I park legally on account of having expired tags. I wake up extra early on Friday and head downtown, armed with the address of Courthouse East, where the parking tickets can be sorted out: 22 NW 4th St: Easy!

Somerandomgovernment

Here’s where I parked, and if you understand Miami’s street name system, you’ll know that I was very close to my target address. Except that I wasn’t, and here’s where my own stupid mistake came to bear, because — duh — click the address above and you’ll see that I wrote it down wrong. I was a few blocks away from the real Courthouse East, but it’s a long few blocks when you’re wandering around and asking every 4th person for directions (including the parking attendant for the police station while unmarked cars are trying to get into the lot). I might also point out that “Courthouse East” doesn’t help with shit, because there are about four distinct court buildings in Downtown, most of them arranged in a North-South line!

Courthouse East

Courthouse East! (Which, in all fairness, is just east of the old, original, courhouse building.) Now we’re getting somewhere. I sure hope my parking meter doesn’t run out — it sure would suck to get a parking ticket while paying four overdue parking tickets. And don’t ask me where the 4th one came from; as far as I’m concerned they made it up.

Illegal photo!

I’m irritable, and snapping photos to relax myself. You see the security guard through the glass in this one? He came out and yelled at me that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures. I told him fine, but he seemed unsatisfied and asked me what I was doing there. I told him I was trying to pay a parking ticket. I also asked him if it was against the law to take photographs, but his English wasn’t so hot, because he exclaimed, “No! You’re not allowed to take photographs!” I dropped it. The people upstairs didn’t seem to have a problem with my photographing, but now the next thing — the parking department doesn’t take checks OR credit cards! That’s right — your government only takes cash!! I think the parking department, homeless bums, and my drug dealer are the only three institutions I deal with that I need cash for anymore.

Government Business!!

Now I’m wandering around Downtown looking for an ATM, and here’s the one I found (the lady at the parking dept gave me directions, but I’m not sure if this is the one she was talking about — they were sort of convoluted). So I pay up. Oh, can I renew my registration here while I’m at it? Of course not. Miami courthouses don’t renew vehicle registrations, but she’s happy to direct me to a nearby tag agency. No thanks. I’m heading back up to Broward, where the courthouse can help me. Blah, Miami.

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Thursday March 15, 2007

Let's charge for high-speed lanes on I-95

I-95

OK, let me see if I understand this correctly. We take the HOV lane on I-95 and turn it into a toll lane. Actually, two toll lanes. Then you make the toll variable, and increase it such that a car on those lanes can always travel at 50 mph.

Where to start with this one? OK let’s put aside the “What?! You can easily add an extra lane? Why didn’t you fucking morons do that about two decades ago?!?!” and concentrate on the larger questions this proposal raises. Now, I ride I-95 daily (against the traffic, and at off-peak hours, thank Jesus), so I see the hell that downtown 9—5ers go through. I also see their cars, and rest assured that a good number of these people are comfortable enough in terms of salary and uncomfortable enough in terms of traffic frustration that I think a lot of them are going to be willing to jump in to this program.

And a lot of them jumping in is going to mean that traffic in those two lanes is going to slow down. Raising the toll. How high will it go? In 2002, I-95 in Miami served 260,000 cars per day (most recent data). It’s generally about 5 lanes each way. If you instead have 4 regular lanes + 2 toll lanes, the toll needs to be such that 20% of the drivers are willing to pay it just to break even on the non-toll lanes. But common sense suggests that 20% of I-95’s traffic spread across two lanes is going to travel much slower then 50mph. This means that tolls will need to be so high that less then 20% of commuters will not be able to afford them even under traffic conditions worse then they are today. How much would you be willing to pay? $2.50 (roughly the cost of a similar trip on the Turnpike)? $5? $10? And how much would the richest 15% of commuters be willing to pay?

Let’s do the math with the most conservative figures we have. If we assume that traffic is still 260,000 cars per day, and if 15% of those cars across 2 lanes results in 50mph, and if $5 is the most those 15% are willing to pay (i.e. the folks in the 16th percentile are unwilling to pay), and assuming 50 5-day work weeks per year, you’re looking at around $50 million in revenue per year, and you’re starting to get an idea of what the actual motivation behind this suggestion might be. Charge for high-speed lanes on I-95? Let’s not and say we did.

Homework: An interview with Reid Ewing (pdf), in which he describes in some detail how ass-backwards South Florida’s transportation system is, and what we could actually do about it.

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Monday March 12, 2007

Yikes: Miami is #98 out of 100 on a list of the most walkable cities in the US. The main criteria was the percentage of people who walk for exercise. Contrast with an older study (no date) which looked at people who walk to work — Miami was #79 there. (via TM)

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Tuesday March 6, 2007

Holy guacamole: it looks like they’re serious about building the Port of Miami tunnel. The contract may be awarded as soon as May; the construction could take 35 years. Update: The construction will take an indeterminate amount of time. The company that builds the tunnel will run it and collect tolls for 35 years. Who sets the tolls? (dík, Honzo)

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Monday March 5, 2007

What's up with new billboards?

Billboards

This is southbound on I-95, just south of the Golden Glades. There are at least four of these billboards in a row, all currently painted black. Brook Dorsch claims that these are all brand new (like, in the past year). Can anyone confirm or deny, and if so, wtf, we have too many billboards already?

Speaking of Dorsch, he was just profiled in OceanDrive magazine. And another thing: Subtropics was hosted at the gallery last year, before the Carnival Center opened. This year the festival was in the center’s studio theater. Does that make Dorsch Gallery the second best venue for experimental music in town?

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Thursday February 22, 2007

Alex Villalobos kills the “get out of the left lane you slow-ass” bill in the State Senate Committee on Transportation. I second his damning. And in fact, here’s his web page — whereon an e-mail address and a map of his district can be found. Maybe let him know how we feel?

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Friday February 9, 2007

The currently favored plan has the Metrorail extended to the Miami Intermodal Center, with a people mover covering the last stretch to the airport. MAP (the yellow thing is the MIC).

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Thursday February 1, 2007

Miami Beach residents are hereby cautioned to avoid the MacArthur Friday and Saturday nights, and in general to do as little driving as possible, and to ready themselves for grief.

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Tuesday January 30, 2007

“[Metrorail] also does not go to many other places that many Miami residents would like to go, which is why most of them do not use it. To them, the Metrorail train is a mysterious object that occasionally whizzes past over their heads, unrelated to their lives, kind of like a comet. The point is, you need to rent a car.” Dave Barry’s guide for Miami visitors.

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Everybody gets a shot

Double

Tremont and Beach Towing (via) share the wealth. One time I parked in the alley behind my building to unload my groceries, and when I got back from dropping the first haul my car was on the truck. Cost me $125 just for him to put it down; he didn’t tow it a foot.

On the other hand, Beach residents feel a little differently about these guys then anyone else, because without them we’d never be able to park.

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Friday January 26, 2007

Miami-Dade County is opening a brand new 1/8 mile drag strip. Here’s the crappy flyer.

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Monday January 22, 2007

Do I believe the Florida Legislature needs to pass a law that increases moving-violation fines and points for slowpokes who lollygag in the far left passing lanes? You bet your ass I do. But more importantly, I think police forces across the state need to re-prioritize which offenses actually get enforced: start pulling over people who don’t use their turn-signals for a change. And by the way, no, you’re not allowed to change lanes without signaling.

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Tuesday January 16, 2007

Fla panther crossing

Florida Panthers now number about 70. They cover about 5% of their original habitat. And eleven were killed last year, the most ever. (image: dotpolka)

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Monday January 15, 2007

Miami is one of four cities where MINI is trying out a weird RFID billboard advertising scheme. Any MINI owners got their keyfobs yet?

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Wednesday December 27, 2006

I-195 and 38th St

A parking garage right here? Well, duh.

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Wednesday November 22, 2006

People who can't park and don't care

Parking SUVs in Aventura

SUV drivers + Aventura = can’t park, let alone drive. All these pictures were taken during one visit to (what else?) Whole Foods. Walked straight from the car to the store, too. Talk about places I’m glad I don’t live. And I hear it’s even worse north of the county line.

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Thursday November 16, 2006

How a marina works

North Beach Marina

I was just driving around, getting into other people’s business, when I drove by a marina on an impromptu trip down the 79th street causeway a few weeks ago. There was a guy washing a car and a big dog, and I snapped a few pictures of boats up on these huge shelfs, more or less expecting to get yelled at even though I was firmly on public sidewalk. Surprisingly, though, he and everyone else at North Beach Marina was super friendly, and I was invited in to stroll around and ask questions.

North Beach Marina

The boats sit triple and quadruple-stacked on these metal frames. There is also a hangar, which is the same on the inside but protected from the elements.

North Beach Marina

A big forklift grabs them from the shelves . . .

North Beach Marina

. . . and plops them in the water. These forklifts are as big as an 18-wheeler cab, can lift as high as three stories, and have forks as long as a car. The marina has two of them.

North Beach Marina

The boats sit on two carpet-covered slats of wood which are so close together that I figured a light gust might knock them all over. I’m told, however, that they stay put even in hurricane-force winds, and during Wilma, there was only one boat they bothered to tie down. No worries, no problems.

North Beach Marina

A slick, James Bond-looking catamaran sits on the bottom shelf. I forgot to ask what its top speed is.

North Beach Marina

Next to the marina, a little marine supply store specializing in boat upholstery. Lots of work on a sewing machine goes on there.

North Beach Marina
724 Ne 79th St
Miami, FL
(305) 758-8888

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Friday November 3, 2006

Speed device

A device that measures your speed and blinks if you’re speeding, permanently installed on Miami Beach. These seem kind of silly; if they’re going to install speed sensors, why not couple them with a camera to photograph license plates, and just start mailing out tickets like in Europe. Update: Oh, and notice how it’s pre-vandalized for your convenience. Update: At the intersection of 56th Street and Pine Tree Drive, Miami Beach.

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Monday October 16, 2006

Driving with Mr. Alesh

I’ve been out of pocket the last few days, sick and in bed. Here’s a video I made a few days before, driving down an unnamed street in south Broward, among lots of police activity. I’ll tell ya, though: trying to film and control the ol’ vehicle is like driving drunk, or driving and talkin’ on the celly. Anyway, I hear there’s been some sports-related controversy lately, but I stay out of that. More bloggin’ soon.

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Thursday October 12, 2006

The Miami Mystery: why the westbound lanes of the 836 always slow down to a crawl, any time of the day or night, around the airport. Well, so now I hear that it’s all over, and traffic is flowing smoothly (except during rush hour, of course)? Can anyone confirm? More importantly, can anyone explain?? Update: Gabriel’s got some answers, though I’m not sure if his story quite accounts for the dramatic change.

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Wednesday September 20, 2006

Some cranky guy bemoans the death of traffic reports done live from helicopters. Possibly related: Forecast Advisor links to various online weather predictions, and more importantly, lists how accurate each one has been over the last month and year. This type of information should be available for TV station weather. And radio traffic reports!

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Monday September 18, 2006

What's up with the holes in I-95?

Highway work 4 (clearly a fucking jackhammer)

Have I made it sufficiently clear that I like Larry Lebowitz, and respect his writing? Good. With that out of the way, I call BULLSHIT on his latest article.

It talks all about the difference between the road surface of ‘95 between BPB and Dade, and the pothole repair strategies of FDOT subcontractors. Fine, sofar as it goes. But color me stark raving mad, they’re putting those holes in, not removing them. Why? I don’t know. Maybe they’re installing sensors of some sort. But check the holes: they’re at suspiciously regular intervals. Some of them are are perfect-rectangle-shaped. And check my photo sequence, shot of a crew working on I-95 late one night: the approach, they’re doing something with a big fat hole, two big holes, and as above, a picture of some dudes very clearly jackhammering the highway (the latter is digitally brightened, which is why it looks different). Explain that!

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Monday September 4, 2006

Miami-Hialeah’s is tied with Houston for the dubious honor of being the sixth most congested city in the nation. A Reason Foundation report on traffic in the US. “3.9 percent of Miami-area workers currently use mass transit, but it accounts for 69 percent of the area’s planned transportation spending over the next 25 years.” (via Larry Lebowitz)

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Monday July 10, 2006

Larry Lebowits interviews Gabriel of Transit Miami and rounds up local transit-related blogging. Cool! (Hopefully the Herald will fix the hilariously messed up links by the time you read this.) Herald readers landing here, if you’re really only interested in transportation click ‘Traffic’. And here’s that Metrorail anagram. Update: Yes, they fixed it.

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Tuesday June 20, 2006

Oven transporter

No way, dude. You are NOT too cheap to have that delivered. Not with that Mercedes. You’re trying to kill someone for fun, admit it! You’ve got a weird device that cuts the threads holding that thing and sends it crashing into the car behind you, right?

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Friday June 16, 2006

There are certain intersections around town where the light always seems to change with drivers still stuck in the intersection. Then, the cars going the other way are stuck. Complete gridlock, honking, and pandemonium to the Nth degree ensue. The police’s response? Cops “at busy intersections to help identify which cars can clear an intersection before a light changes and stop those that would otherwise get stuck.” Excuse me? How about cops giving out tickets to the selfish idiots (usually: on the phone in a Lexus SUV) who block the intersections?? They’ll give out tickets to people who don’t get over, but not for this?

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busted flyover

Drove by the flyover demolition yesterday. It’s progressing nicely, and I didn’t see any major traffic disaster (this was afternoon rush-hour). More pics on the flickr.

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Friday June 9, 2006

South Florida Commuter Services has two blogs(!) – Diary of a South Florida Commuter and Diary of a South Florida Vanpooler. They seem pretty infrequently updated, and might (?) make for interesting reading, if they weren’t #EEEEEE on #FFFFFF (that’s light gray on white). (via Greener Miami)

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Tuesday June 6, 2006

Streetcars in Miami

streetcar in portland

You missed it, right? The City of Miami considered, approved, and is now tweaking plans for a European-styled streetcar system for the area north of Downtown. These small trains share the road with cars, making frequent stops every few blocks. In high-density places (of which this area will be very very soon one), they make the prospect of pedestrianism much more appealing and realistic. And they’re fun to ride – overhead lines provide power to the electric engines, which make the cars very quiet, while their low floors maintain riders’ connection to the sidewalk. The streetcars in Vienna, for example, are so low that a woman with a stroller can get on them without help.

Streetcar map: Downtown to Wynwood. click for largerThe obvious downside is that they share the road with cars. Typically, the way it works is that the streetcars have their own set of traffic signals, and enjoy almost complete right-of-way over automobiles. Getting Miami drivers to accept this is going to be a little bit of a struggle, although if you factor in a decreased need to drive, streetcars actually don’t make traffic on the streets worse at all. Plus, they’re burly and intimidating, and carry a menacing jingle-bell-sounding horn.

Anywho, here’s the proposal pdf, but don’t bother, since lots of the specifics have changed: we’re talking about $200 million now (ouch: $4,200 per foot of track), not $120, and a completion date of 2010 instead of the original 2008. Check the map snipped from the proposal (click for larger), and the “Recommended Alignment Baylink” is demonstrative of just how pie-in-the-sky the writers of the proposal were feeling. Here we are, two breathless years later, and the project is locked and loaded.

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Monday June 5, 2006

Miami-Dade county has 2,600 traffic signals: the original 2,000 are on a coordinated grid, while the new 600 are off. Updating the traffic signal system will cost $5 to 8 million and take three years, on top of $8.6 million and ten years already invested. I’m no networking expert, but to me that says exactly one thing: the wiring that should have been put in place when each new signal was installed was ignored. Otherwise, wouldn’t it just be a matter of putting in a few additional PC’s and recalibrating the system?

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Tuesday May 30, 2006

RIP stupid flyover

63 st flyover w/ truck knocked flat on its ass
Image: City Debate

For those who haven’t had a personal relationship with the concrete slab at 63rd street on the Beach, it might seem astounding how much sentiment has been shed over its impending destruction. The 63rd Street Flyover is a menace: it’s just about the width of a regular lane, with no shoulders whatsoever. Driving it is (was?) always a hair-raising experience, followed by a sense of accomplishment upon each successful traversal. My dad, ever the daredevil, liked to joke (?) about taking it a little bit faster each and every time. Driving underneath it is no better: two lanes are split by the boatlike concrete median which houses a thick supporting column. The underside of the flyover itself is missing chunks where too tall box trucks slammed right into it.

So I feel for the North Beach residents who are so upset to see it go. But I don’t think traffic concerns are the reason for their consternation. I think the love/hate relationship with this thing, of which I’ve only had a taste, is the issue. How could someone live with something this insane for so long (the flyover dates back to the 1950’s) and not have an emotional relationship with it? Then FDOT comes along and just decides we’re better off without it? Oh, the bittersweet taste of progress!

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Monday May 22, 2006

Larry Lebowitz calls bullshit on the recent survey that declared Miami #1 in road rage and on Miami-Dade Transit’s Commuter Challenge. Even he has to admit, though, that the “survey numbers probably reflect a greater truth.”

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Tuesday May 16, 2006

Say it ain’t so! It’s now official that Miami really does have the rudest drivers in the nation. Never fear though, Miamians: you can learn to drive.

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Monday May 15, 2006

The beginning of I-95

A wierdly hypnotic video of two guys rolling from the grove to downtown.

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Tuesday May 9, 2006

Some cranky guy does his own take on ‘you can learn to drive’. I remember someone suggesting a ‘throat-clearing’ sound car horn . . .

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Saturday April 29, 2006

YOU get over law

Hey, I have an idea! Why doesn’t the state pass a useless (and possibly dangerous) new law that requires drivers to do something they’ve never had to do before, and then keep ticketing every single person who “breaks” it, until they learn. Oh, nevermind: they already thought of that.

Here’s the deal: if any police, fire, ambulance, tow truck, etc. has it’s emergency lights on and is standing by the side of the road, you have to get out of the MBPD logo lane adjacent to the stopped vehicle, or slow down to 20 mph under the speed limit.

So, picture a routine traffic stop on, say I-95. Say, on the left shoulder. Suddenly, everyone in the fast/carpool lane has to merge with the next lane or slow down to 35 mph. Am I the only one to whom this sounds like a recipe for a massive pile up? If the previous situation was dangerous for police officers, how is this not going to be 10 (100? . . . 1000?) times as dangerous for the regular drivers driving by?

Well, that would only happen if drivers actually followed the law (I find it extremely difficult to remember, even though I’ve known about it for months). And as they begin to, things are going to get dicey, and probably the law will be revoked. But not before police departments get some serious play out of all the tickets they were writing. I passed by that “operation” on MacArthur friday (by the sheer will of God I wasn’t in the right lane, otherwise this would be a much crabbier piece), and there must have been 30 cops on motorcycles there, just pulling over one mark after another.

If police want to be safe during traffic stops without causing mayhem, why not use those PA systems they have in their cars and instruct the poor sap to pull all the way off the highway before stopping? (via Miami Transit)

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Thursday April 27, 2006

The New Miamian suggests moving closer to where you work, possibly offsetting increased rent with decreased transportation cost. “We sold one car which means less one car payment, insurance and gas for that car every month. I estimate that we probably save about $470 a month.”

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Tuesday April 25, 2006

The fucking SUV drivers, I tell ya. My driving habits toward SUV’s have changed drastically ever since I learned that you can annoy SUV drivers into giving up their vehicles.

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What's up with the Sunguide ads?

sunguide sign over I-95

These Sunguide marquees (that’s Dynamic Message Signs to you) sprung up all over over South Florida about 10 years ago. They give road condition info, issue Amber Alerts, and now, apparently, advertise how great the Sunguide “Intelligent Transportation System” is. This is just so wrong. How? Let me count the ways.

  1. It’s a distraction. The big ones are bad enough, and the smaller ones flash back and forth between two parts of this message. Every second I spend looking at your sign is a second when I’m not looking at the road.
  2. Every silly, useless message they put up on these boards will make drivers pay less attention to them in the future (when there might be something important on them).
  3. Waste of money (sure the signs are already there, but how much does it cost to light and program them1).
  4. The Road Rangers are great (they gave me free gas one time when I ran out on the highway — not my proudest moment), but they’ve been around for years; nothing new.
  5. Except in a few rare instances, government agencies have no business spending our money to advertise how great they.

[1] You’d laugh, if you didn’t remember that some of these signs were up for years, blinking away with nothing at all, before the system was debugged.

Update: Unless you drive around SoFla yourself, this will probably make more sense if you’re aware of how prevelant this is: therese signs are now everywhere on and off the highways, and they’ve all had this same message on them for over a week.

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Monday April 24, 2006

Miami gridlock is a map of poor leadership, plans. Larry Lebowitz reflects on the recent shutdown on Biscayne, and what will happen after the various road re-re-reconstruction projects are complete. “What you won’t find is a lot of extra roadway capacity. Now imagine those same roads supporting traffic from 70,000 new condominium units, a Performing Arts Center, two new museums in Bicentennial Park, 600,000 square feet of stores at Midtown Miami, and another 10-story mall across from the PAC called City Square.”

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Wednesday April 19, 2006

Miami Transit and Overtown USA with some first-hand reporting and reflection on the traffic mess created during the recent closure of Biscayne Blvd. Herald on same, with a little more about the crane accident, which left one man dead and another injured (they were father and son, by the way). Update: Steve Klotz with a related traffic situation…

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Tuesday April 18, 2006

Oh, look, our ‘one year ago today’ button (in the left column) has I-95 On-Ramp Traffic Signals, w/r/t which nothing has porgressed one iota this past year. They’re still there, sadly waiting to be turned on.

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Thursday December 29, 2005

Let's expand Metrorail

Ronald Reagan criticized Metrorail when it was finished in 1985, saying “It would have been cheaper to buy everyone a limousine.” These days, Metrorail serves 48,000 people a day so that (racist?) remark has been sufficiently refuted. It’s still a pretty low number, though, and the reason is obvious: Metrorail doesn’t go any-particular-where.

Now, there are lots of proposals around for expanding public transportation – everything from water-taxis to streetcars to a second Tri-Rail. There is even a super-ambitious plan for expanding Metro-rail floating around, but I’m not going to support anything quite so pie-in-the-sky as that.

I’m thinking of a second Metrorail line, which would run east-west, down to South Beach at one end, meet up with the current line at Government Center, and proceed west to the airport (or further, if possible, maybe to FIU). This would solve the problem of Metrorail not going to the airport, incorporate the free-floating BayLink idea (good grief: “To be evaluated for funding in 2016”), and generally make the rest of Metrorail make sense, by giving the system more destinations.

There are three principal arguments against this: (1) Miami isn’t suited to a large public-transportation system; (2) it’ll cost too much money; and (3) we don’t want more people going to the Beach; they’ll ruin it. To which I answer:

Maybe not (1), but tell that to the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the system every day. The more people who use public transportation, the better off we are as a city and as a civilization, and the more places there are that can be conveniently reached by public transportation, the more people will use it (Metrorail is more convenient, less intimidating, and faster then regular busses, so much more likely to be used by people who have a choice).

(2) This’d less then double the size of the system, and it would leverage the usefulness of the existing stops; it’s throwing good money after (arguably) bad. Plus, what with all these condos going up in Miami, we’re in for a big tax-boom over the next few years. If we put this plan in gear, we’ll be spending the money just as it rolls in.

As for (3), people living on the Beach (of which I’m one) being afraid of their neighborhood being overrun by tourists is like being afraid of Iraq becoming a center for terrorism: it’s already done happened! Making the Beach more convenient might make it a more popular destination, but it also makes life easier for residents.

There’s all this talk of Miami being the city of the future and whatnot, and our public transportation system is lagging. It’s been over 20 years since Metrorail (line 1!) was built, and it’s high time to expand. We have the need, we have the money, and we have the momentum; let’s do it.

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Wednesday November 9, 2005

You can learn to drive: part 4 (post-Wilma edition)

“Treat intersections without signals as 4-way stops,” is great advice for a day or two after an emergency, when people are happy just to be alive and able to spend 6 hours in line for a free bag of ice. Here we are on day 16 (right?), and in some areas lots and lots of intersections are still out, including some pretty big ones. The novelty of 4-way stopin’ (8-way when you count turning lanes) grows ever the more thin. We have some advice for police, and some advice for drivers.

Police
First, thank you for pulling 12-hour shifts directing traffic. It doesn’t look like much fun, but it helps, and we appreciate it. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to see you when we’re approaching, which causes us to slow down even when we don’t need to. Maybe something to indicate an officer is signaling at an intersection. And those temporary stop signs in the middle of the road? As long as you’re there signaling, maybe could we cover them with a garbage bag or something, ‘cause they’re contributing to the confusion.

Drivers
OK, let’s talk here for a minute. You’re frustrated and angry, and you’re late for work. Follow these simple rules, but please do calm down – stress on the road is dangerous. About those 4-way stops:

  1. We don’t understand why a blinking red/yellow light is a 4-way stop, but so long as everyone else is treating it that way, we will, too.
  2. If you’re at a busy 4-way stop intersection (meaning there’s enough traffic that everyone has to stop anyway), your job is to try to get through it as fast as possible but without cheating.
  3. That means not waiting to make sure everyone else is standing completely still before you go. If it’s your turn, go already! Just go carefully, and be prepared to stop if someone else has a difference of opinion about who’s turn it was.
  4. If you’re on a street with 2 or three lanes going in each direction, and the guy next to you is starting across the intersection, go with him even if it’s not your turn.
  5. If people are going in the opposite direction, and there’s no one waiting to turn who would impact your lane, go!
  6. If you’re coming up on an empty intersection, and you have a blinking yellow light, do not stop ( [sigh] unless there’s a stop sign, we guess). As we see it, at that point the pre-hurricane laws are in effect, the guy with the blinking red has to stop, and you can drive right through that intersection, just slow down and be careful.
  7. If you’re on a major boulevard, and coming up on an intersection where nobody else going in your direction is stopping, slow down and proceed with caution, but do not stop. Chances are there’s a good reason they’re not stopping.
  8. Conversely, if you’re on a side street and getting onto (or crossing) a major intersection, be careful and treat it as a regular (not 4-way) stop, because there is a very good chance people on the bigger street will not be stopping.

Far and above the best thing you can do, though, if you work 9 – 5, is to ask your employer to let you do alternative hours: say, 10 – 6. Traffic is much much better an hour later. Also, check out Miami Traffic.

[Previously: Part 3]

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Thursday November 3, 2005

Port of Miami tunnel

The problem: Trucks coming from the Port of Miami need to drive through downtown to get to I-395, causing traffic congestion and problems regular drivers.

The solution: A $3.1 billion (we were tempted to round off the .1, until we realized it represents 100 million dollars) tunnel to connect the port directly to 395, bypassing surface streets.

The scoop: Actually, it’s not exactly like that. As this video [35meg .avi] explains, the tunnel actually connects the port to Watson Island (beautifully shown with all planned improvements in place), from where the bridge (widened by a lane in each direction) takes you to 395. The image above is from the video; the image is the tunnel openings, with Parrot Jungle on the left, the MacArthur causeway in the distance, and said development on the right.

We got exited when we saw this article, which says the tunnel may soon be a reality. But then we noticed this other article (same publication), from 2002, which also says the tunnel may soon be a reality. Turns out the tunnel has been “about to happen” since the 80’s. Larry Lebowitz pointed out that the construction in downtown is really going to make this a necessity (although . . . um, did the budget double since his column came out in July?), although Mr. Tunnel remains skeptical. On the other hand, FDOT seems very optimistic: they have a whole web site devoted to the project, including some very detailed plans.

Does democracy suck, or what? In China, they’d have built a dozen tunnels by now, while here in Miami, supposed crossroads of the world, hands are wrung over a single one (and only a mile long).

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Sunday September 18, 2005

You can learn to drive: Part 3

Driving school. Steve can have his Traffic Clinic, but we’re all for doing the time (floridadrivingschools.com 4-hour defensive driving course) if you do the crime (51 in a 35). This is great – you’re forced to sit in front of a computer for four hours and get lectured at in plain text (with animated spinning bullet points!), followed by a test. It’s pretty standard mind-numbing stuff, but a couple of nuggets do emerge:

Try to keep a 2-second distance behind your car. Distance behind your car is the hardest to maintain because other vehicles may tailgate or follow to [sic – the whole thing is full of gramatical mistakes] closely. If you are being tailgated, increase — do not decrease — the space between you and the car ahead.

We love this – they’re saying that you respond to tailgating by slowing down, which we’ve always believed to be the correct response. There’s nothing like a little sharp braking to put a tailgater in her place.

In Canada, where daytime running lights are required, there was an 11 percent decline in two-vehicle different-direction crashes during the day. (…) If your car is not equiped with daytime running lights it may be a good idea to turn your headlights on when you encounter any type of limited visibility situation or if you just want to make yourself more visible to other drivers.

Nice. We’ve experimented with driving with lights on during the day – it makes us feel more important. And who wouldn’t want to be more visible?

An average 170-pound male would need to consume four drinks in one hour on an empty stomach to rach a BAL of .08 [BAL = blood alcohol level; .08 is the legal maximum].

So if you have four drinks with a meal, you’re probably legal. If you’ve ever had four drinks with a meal, you know there are some legally drunk-ass people out there on the road. Watch your ass.

In approximately 44 percent of violent traffic altercations the perpetrator used a weapon such as a firearm, kinfe, club, or tire iron. In 23 percent, the aggressive drier used the vehicle as a weapon. More unusual weaons included pepper spray, egges, golf clubs, and, in one instance, a crossbow. (…) Never underestimate another driver’s capacity for mayhem.

Yikes! Scare tactics in time-lapsed html are pretty intimidating. But the truth is, not that many people die in road rage. Mostly it’s about intimidation. Don’t get intimidated.

[ Previously: You can learn to drive: Part 2 ]

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Wednesday July 13, 2005

You Can Learn to Drive: Part 2

With the recent lane-signal law change, this seemed like a good time for more driving tips.

1. Signal your lane changes. Please? OK, fine. But at least don’t cut people off. Some of us are constantly running late, and we’re trying to hurry. If you’re on I-95, don’t be in the left lane if you can maintain your same speed in one of the other lanes. The left lane is for passing, or going fast. Note that the new minimum speed limit on interstates is about to become 50mph, so clearly you do not belong in the left lane if you’re going 55.

2. Some fast food places, and other places, have dedicated ‘entrance’ and ‘exit’ lanes. Please heed these, otherwise Tom, from the Grapevine, might have to kick your ass.

3. Speaking of parking lots, we all have to get along. If you’re walking through a parking lot, don’t walk where you’ll unnecessarily inconvenience traffic. (That means, walk perpendicular to the sidewalk, not diagonally!)

4. On the other hand, if you’re driving, give pedestrians a break. In the rain, pedestrians always get the right of way.

5. It is acceptable for cars to cut off SUV’s. It is not acceptable for SUV’s to cut off cars. (If you drive an SUV, keep in mind that cars behind you are in an inherently dangerous position.) It is acceptable for anyone to cut off taxis and limo drivers.

6. Highway debris kills people. If you see a truck with crap that’s about to fall off, call *FHP and report them (hell yes, get on your cell phone, dangerous as that is, you’re saving lives).

[Previously, Part 1 ]

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Tuesday May 17, 2005

You Can Learn to Drive: Part 1

Busted-ass police car People, there are a lot of wack drivers out there. Now, we care about out readers. So with that in mind, here are a few things you should know as you drive about town.

1. As you sit in the driver’s seat, you’ll probably be focused on the steering wheel. You may have mastered it. Great. Now let’s look right behind it; you’ll notice a sort of lever on the left side of the wheel, which can be pushed up or down. This is your turn signal control. It goes up if you’re turning right or changing lanes to the right, down for left.

You may be thinking, “but Florida law says I don’t have to signal lane changes.” True; but you’ll want to, anyway. There’s a slightly coked-up real estate agent in a G55 AMG barreling down that other lane, and that turn signal might just save your life.

4-way stop 2. Many of you have problems with 4-way stops. Here’s how it works. You stop. If anyone else is already standing at the stop, you let them go. If someone’s pulling in to the stop, you can just go: no need to wait! In fact, since you slow everybody else down by waiting, some people may assume you’ve fallen asleep in your car, and just keep going through the stop, once again putting you in jeopardy. So be safe and don’t sit there waiting for the other car to come to a complete stop.

3. If you’re on a street with more then one lane going in your direction, you may find yourself traveling next to a car going the same speed as you. In this case, you will want to slow down or speed up, and get in the same lane as that car. This will prevent people who want to pass tailgating you, and decrease your chance of death.

4. See the operator’s manual of your car on the correct use of your high-beams.

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