Saturday, February 22, 2014

Miami Noted News

Miami Beach

After a judge ruled (days before last Novermber's voting) that the Miami Beach Convention Center bond initiative could not be on the ballot before a contract was available for public presentation, the city commission voted to scrap the plan altogether. Beheading the draft outcome of an already rather long-winded process, the commission claims it wants to focus on the convention center, and not bundling other amenities in to the project.
The city now cancels a proposed project, Lincoln Lane, which Curbed Miami claims faced hampering corruption scandals. The resolution canceling the Lincoln Lane North project RFP claims three reasons for cancelling: the recent change in city leadership; changes in the real estate market; and an impending Lincoln Road Master Plan process.
In both cases I wonder to what extent, if any, the new leadership came to the table with projects of their own already in the works. In either case one hopes their efforts have a better impact on the City of Miami Beach than otherwise.
With public-private partnerships the community should be reasonably weary of the potential for nepotism, mismanagement, and poor oversight. While I don't support any more municipal big-bond projects which seem always to benefit private contractors more than public well-being, I hope the citizens of Miami Beach put pressure on the commission to be responsible and transparent in their dealings.


On February 12 Miami Today News broke the story of  an Aventura Mall expansion. They don't specify how they found out, but I was able to hunt down a January City of Aventura Document Titled "CURRENT DEVELOPMENT & APPLICATIONS IN PROGRESS," which Google dates to February 9th. According to the official document this project is in "Developments in Review Process", or phase IV of a four stage process ending in phase I, complete projects. The two in-between stages are approval and construction.

Rumors in the mall for a few months now suggested the food court would close for some renovation. I had no clue it was an expansion until the 12th. Back in January I tweeted Miami-Dade Transit about what this would mean for the transit hub which services both MDT and Broward County Transit:

They haven't gotten back to me, but perhaps if they did I could have broken the story about Aventura Mall's expansion. Consider my ego bruised. Especially since in the Miami Today News story Aventura Community Development Director Joanne Carr makes some kind of claim about "transit facility," which may potentially unify the Malls currently somewhat disjointed transportation options. Inquiring minds may want to dive in to an Aventura planning document which gives details on the Mall's request for a zoning ordinance which seems to hold construction of a transit facility as part of the justification for the change.
After a public record request Yemar Reus, MDTs document manager said this regarding the future of Aventura Mall's transit hub,  "Where the mall will be placing the hub you will need to check with the Mall Operation MDT has nothing to do with the temporary relocation."

There are a few aspects of this story I would like to explore further:

  • Given the number of people public transit brings to the mall (employees, locals, and droves of tourists) to what extent  does MDT and other transit services behold themselves to the whims of Aventura Mall? The current transit infrastructure is poorly designed and causes undue confusion to riders. Does Aventura Mall have any responsibility to transit organizations and their riders? Is there any written agreements or contractual obligations between any political body and Aventura Mall?
  • What kind of transit facility design is being proposed and what are its benefits and short-comings?
  • What role, if any, does the promise of a transit facility play in the approval of the zoning ordinance Aventura Mall requested?
I hope to get around to some of these questions in the next week, including photos of the plans proposed by the mall. Anyone one with recommendations on what to look for, or further information are welcome to comment or e-mail me directly.

Monday, February 3, 2014

in consideration of the purpose and uses of the sunpass express lane

The opportunity to help a friend necessitated driving down the local interstate highway, i95. Though rare enough to see me in a car, the trip downtown from the northern outskirts of the county fails to elicit some measure of excitement.
But imagine my confusion in 6:30 am 15 mph traffic. (Mind my share of rush hour horror for the last decade.) I could not imagine how rush hour's lethargic fingers reached back in the morning, so early in fact the sun had not yet risen.

The segment of 95 near the 826/441/Golden Glades interchange display chronic congestion conditions, but I assumed congestion began at 8 am. The early standstill adds kindling to a contrary notion that Miami's economy has bred a class of people who spend significant time in traffic.

Miami-Dade County developed an electronic toll express way with time or traffic variable pricing.  (find links about prices) Ranging from the current lowest of 25 cents to over five dollars in my own experience. Use of the express lane, other than through participation in a specialized program requires one purchase a SunPass branded device.
The SunPass express lane guarantees participants 55 mph speeds, but I'm here to state otherwise. And in doing so I have two points I'd like to bring up.

What got me thinking about this program is a Miami Herald article published on Sunday explaining that people speed in the express lane. That has been the case on some occasions I used the express lane. While I cruise-controlled my way at 60 mph, many people sped right past me, at some points right to the back of a bottleneck caused by other drivers going the actual speed-limit.
How many people use the express lane only so they can speed?
With such a characterization of the express lane, the response given by the authorities is questionable. They propose to have more enforcement of the limit by putting boots on the ground. Does that bother anyone else? Pulling people to the side of a highway to ticket them strikes me as extremely dangerous. Why don't they consider an electronic ticketing system? Perhaps there are ulterior motives.

On an occasion where I paid more than $5 to use the express lane I found myself at some point in stop-and-go traffic. How did that happen and why was I being charged so much for such an experience?

All of this completely disregards opinions and complaints about the program related to its legality, and whether or not it equitably serves the community. And overall, what I have considered leads me to the obvious question: what is the goal of the sunpass program, and is it succeeding?