Miami Herald: A Vision for Human-Scaled Streets

“A growing mountain of evidence suggests that streets that make more space for pedestrians, cyclists and transit, and less for private vehicles, are not just safer for all, but function better socially and economically.” is the theme of an article in Sunday’s Miami Herald (3/23/2014), A Vision for Human-Scaled Streets by Andres Viglucci.

The article utilizes the work and publications of urban planners, academics, architects, and journalists to highlight the virtues of designing streets for people above cars.  Advantages include safety, vitality, optimal traffic flow, and economic opportunity.

Viglucci writes, “Consider this: Montgomery writes that traffic engineers base their designs on the belief that wide roads clear of trees, parked cars or bends are safer, when the opposite is true. Drivers kill four times as many pedestrians on wide suburban residential streets than in older, traditional neighborhoods, he writes. In streets where objects like trees, medians and parked cars force motorists to slow down and pay attention, fatalities are relatively rare.”

Alton Road designed for cars

We agree.  Alton Road’s commercial corridor should have wide sidewalks, a treed median, on-street parking, an numerous other elements to make it a mecca for people.  As Morris Lapidus stated when asked why he designed the Lincoln Road Mall for people he stated “A car never bought anything.”

Lincoln Road designed for cars

Lincoln Road designed for people

The Florida Department of Transportation is experienced in designing interstates but not pedestrian intense “Main Streets”.  For this reason, the Miami Beach community and leadership must take the initiative to create an Alton Road for everyone.

The Herald article is a terrific primer.

 

FDOT Has Released the Median Design for Alton Road

The Florida Department of Transportation announced their design for the Alton Road commercial corridor between 7th and 17th Streets.  It contains the median which was unanimously approved by the Commission in July 2013, which was one of the alternatives presented by the FDOT, see below for a diagram of the alternatives.  Of the three alternatives presented, ARRC selected Alternative 3, the one with the median.  Read this blog post for our position on this selection.   However, the design released this week does not meet our vision, nor does it address the Commission’s instructions to the FDOT from May 2008 which have been reiterated time and time again.  Take a look at the design, before and after, and refresh your memory regarding the alternative designs presented by the FDOT.

But, before we show you the design, we’d like to reiterate our position that the median will 1) improve traffic flow by reducing stopped and turning vehicles mid-block, 2) improve safety (medians reduce accidents and dramatically lower the incidents of fatalities), 3) add beauty, 4) add shade which will reduce heat and make the roadway more pleasant for non-motorists, 5) be good for Alton Road’s businesses and 6) assist in achieving our goal speed of 30 MPH to bring the speed in line with the speed north of Michigan along the golf course.

BEFORE

The Alternatives

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A Conceptual Rendering of Alternative 3 Prepared By ARRC

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AFTER

Conceptual Rendering by FDOT

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The Full Design

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CONCERNS

The FDOT’s design has always limited access at 9th, 13th, 14th, 14th Court, and 15th Terrace.  We disagree with the reduction of connectivity and have stated so from the beginning.  The FDOT also, always intended to move the entrance to the Deco Shopping Plaza between 15th and 16th on the east side.  We disagree with this treatment, too.  We advocate for full utilization of our city’s street grid system and to further leverage the grid at 3-way intersections, like 14th Court and 15th Terrace, to create quasi 4-way intersections with signals and pedestrian crossings.

Without connectivity, Alton Road becomes Alton Highway.  It creates a separation between the businesses from east to west, making it difficult for patrons to cross the street to shop opposite another business.  The lack of connectivity makes it very difficult for transit riders to easily access bus stops, like at 9th Street.  Furthermore, an Alton Highway splits the community.

Also, if West Avenue is to be the location of bike lanes, and the FDOT is requiring the City to install bike lanes on all east-west connector streets from Alton Road to West Avenue, it marginalizes cyclists and the new bike lanes if they cannot cross Alton Road at every intersection.

The loss of access to the grid system should not be taken lightly.  The City designed, built, and maintains this grid infrastructure.  It is a vital part of the City’s transportation system and evacuation plan.  The City should demand its full access be maintained.

CONCLUSIONS

A median has value and should not be scrapped because FDOT has failed to provide a well designed roadway that meets the needs of all users.

The City should work with the FDOT to resolve the connectivity issues.

Other issues also need to be addressed:

  1. The medians should be extended into the intersections to provide a safe harbor for pedestrians caught half-way across the intersection
  2. Location of street furniture and fixtures (cycle racks, benches, newspaper stand boxes, etc.)
  3. Landscaping
  4. Loss of more than 90 on-street parking spaces
  5. Bus stop locations and configuration, and
  6. Lighting

The design can be improved and everyone should work with all due hast to make it so.

Let us know what you think.  Join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Free Trolley Launches Today

The City of Miami Beach has a free trolley beginning service today, February 3, 2014.

Alton / West Loop Trolley

The City of Miami Beach Mayor and Commission fast tracked the free trolley service to provide relief for businesses suffering from construction challenges.  It is slated to run until the end of construction in 2015.

“We hope to mitigate the financial loss that some of these businesses have felt since the construction started by getting customers back on Alton Road and West Avenue,” said Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Parking is free for 4 hours with a trolley voucher at the 5th and Alton Shops’ garage.  The trolley service is accessible from several parking facilities along the way.  Also, a pilot valet parking service will begin soon on 11 Street between Alton Road and West Avenue at $5.00 for up to three hours and $8.00 for up to six hours.

The service will run approximately every 10 minutes from 8 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Sunday. The trolley has a capacity of 25 passengers and has an external bike rack.  Free WiFi will be added soon.

“Alton Road is the place where locals go pick-up their dry cleaning, grab something to eat on the way home and stock up on other needs,” said Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy L. Morales. “It’s our service business corridor for residents. We’ve now made it easier for them to get around.”

The trolley currently travels north on Alton Road and south on West Avenue from 8:00 AM to midnight, every day.  As construction routes change, trolley routes will also change.  So, stay tuned for route changes.

Stops are as follows:

Alton Road

  • 6th
  • 8th
  • 9th
  • 10th
  • 11th
  • 13th
  • 14th
  • 15th
  • 16th

West Avenue

  • Lincoln
  • 16th
  • 15th
  • 14th
  • 13th
  • North of 10th
  • South of 10th
  • 8th
  • North of 6th

Funding for the Alton/West trolley service is made possible by the Resort Tax Quality of Life for Transportation. The cost to operate this service is approximately $750,000 a year.

The Alton Road Reconstruction Project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2015. Once completed there will be improvements to storm water drainage, reconstructed roadway and sidewalks, and new median, street signalizations, lighting and landscaping.

For a route map and other details, visit www.miamibeachfl.gov.