Miami’s Best Kept Secret: The Ludlam Trail

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Public art along the Atlanta Belt Line

A 10 mile-long rail trail in Boston, called the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway, provides a scenic commuter route to 1,200 cyclists and pedestrians each day–that’s at least 8,400 trips per week. In Boulder, Colorado, a city where 10% of commuters ride a bike to work, the 7.5 mile-long Boulder Creek Path transports even more people to work, to school, and to fun places every day. A repurposed railway in Atlanta, called the Belt Line, connects dozens of neighborhoods and businesses that would have otherwise remained disconnected. The Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis, a 5.5 mile-long “bike highway” carries an astounding 4,000-5,000 people to their daily destinations. Other examples include the Los Gatos Creek Trail in San Jose, California, the Lake Monona Bike Path in Madison, Wisconsin, the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia, the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway in New York City as well as several others in Chicago, Portland and Austin too.

Here’s the great news: Miami is this close to having a bike greenway that would rival any of the examples listed above. The Ludlam Trail is a 6.2 mile-long abandoned rail corridor that travels from the Miami airport to Dadeland in Kendall, in a straight and uninterrupted line. While it has been envisioned to become a transit route in the past, it is currently vacant. More recently, the county Parks Master Plan outlines a vision that involves a continuous bicycle and pedestrian trail that would connect people to all of the places they need to go, without having to get into their cars. In a city that has been starved for alternate transportation networks, the Ludlam Trail is a hidden gem.

Here’s the disappointing news: on November 19, the Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), the current landowner of the 100-foot wide Ludlam Trail, is scheduled for a hearing with the county commission. The FECI seeks an amendment to the comprehensive plan that will include a density increase and a new designation for the property. The increased density is not the problem. The fact that there is no plan illustrating how or where the increased density is intended to be located is the problem. There is no plan showing the location of the trail, leading most to wonder if it will even exist amongst all of the new development. If the comprehensive plan amendment is approved, FECI will have been granted permission to build 80% more apartments, townhouses and houses, but without being asked to commit to any clear plan for what would be located where—and without even proving there will still be enough space for a real bike trail. Further, public input has been largely ignored, like it often is when it comes to new projects in our city.

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The Atlanta Belt Line converted old railway into a shared use path that will connect dozens of Atlanta neighborhoods. Imagine what this kind of project could do for Miami!

In Miami, we’re growing and change is inevitable. To be clear: this post is not an anti-development rant, but is instead a plea to develop in a smart and sustainable way. A plea to recognize an asset as valuable as the Ludlam Trail corridor, and create a plan for the property that includes a state-of-the-art bike greenway, just like every other major city in the United States has done (even the ones with really cold winter weather).

If there is going to be a legal change in the comprehensive plan (an ordinance that regulates our built environment), members of the community that have to live with these changes deserve an opportunity to contribute input. More than 1,000 people move to Florida every day and Miami Dade County is the most populous county in the state. Our roads are beyond congested and advocates have demanded other options for travel. For example, during the public process for the Seven50 regional plan for southeast Florida, more than 1,750 people actively participated in a poll concerning future development in the region. With four potential scenarios to choose from, the participants overwhelmingly chose the option where transit, bike networks, and pedestrian facilities are the primary method for moving around the region.

If these numbers don’t seem impressive enough, perhaps the effects of a recent study on bike commuting will. Research conducted during the last decade by the University of North Carolina and published by the Obesity Society, studied the development and impact of commuter habits that resulted from the creation of the Minneapolis Greenway. The conclusions are telling: commuters in Minneapolis have switched from the car to the bicycle in order to get to work. In fact, the number of people commuting by bike increased by 89% for those folks that live within 3 miles of the Greenway. According to on-going research at the Obesity Society, the effects of “active commuting” on personal health and well-being are abundant. In a nation where obesity is an epidemic, it is enlightening to see the effect of an activity as simple and as fun as bike commuting. It’s also exciting to think about how the Ludlam Trail might help to make us healthier while also alleviating traffic congestion. 

Here’s what you can do: The fate of the Ludlam Trail is paramount. We need to be sure that it remains a bike trail and does not become a massive and disconnected development, starving our city of much needed connectivity.

On November 12 at South Miami High School, the local non-profit, Friends of the Ludlam Trail, will be conducting a Town Hall meeting. The intent of the meeting is to build consensus, gather input about the future use of the trail, and to together become one, loud voice that aims to protect the vision for the corridor–so that we get the world-class greenway that we deserve. You can also visit ludlamtrail.org to support the effort.

It’s almost impossible to keep track of the changes that are occurring in Miami, but one thing is clear: the results of each development will dramatically re-shape our city—and we should all have a say in how each project unravels.

Links:

http://ludlamtrail.org/

http://grist.org/news/if-you-build-bike-paths-cyclists-will-come/

http://www.theactivetimes.com/top-city-bike-paths

http://www.miamidade.gov/parksmasterplan/library/trail-design-report.pdf

http://seven50report.org/

https://www.facebook.com/LudlamTrail

Ludlam Trail

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Emerge Miami’s Fourth Annual Mustache Ride

November08,201410:00 am

Movember Ride 2014
Join us for another year of bike flair facial hair as we ride from Coconut Grove Station around town. Wear your best lip ferret and help us raise donations for Team Emerge Miami in this year’s Movember fundraiser for researching a cure for men’s cancer.

RSVP on Meetup or Facebook.

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Wanted: Young Creative Types Looking to Build Civically Engaged City

austin
One of the main stereotypes about Miami is that it’s a place meant for parties instead of professionals, and that 20- and 30-somethings looking to make something of themselves should leave for NYC, LA, or Silicon Valley.

Given this bad rap, what in the world would drive a young professional to move to Miami? Read Emerge Miami member Austin’s post on the Miami Herald’s Starting Gate blog and find out!

It turns out that there may be more opportunity than meets the eye–after all, why shouldn’t a city where you can get a cafecito 24 hours a day be a start-up hub? And while Miami is nowhere near perfect, there are many organizations (like us!) working to make it a better place.

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Emerge Miami Complete Voter Guide – 2014

2014-10-31

THE EMERGE MIAMI VOTER GUIDE

Representative in Congress – District 23

Joseph “Joe” Kaufman – REP
Debbie Wasserman Schultz – DEM 
Why: We support Ms. Wasserman Shultz’s commitment to gender-equality and manatee protection.

Representative in Congress – District 24

Dufirstson Julio Neree – REP
Frederica S. Wilson – DEM  
Luis E. Fernandez – NPA
Why: Frederica Wilson is against racial-profiling, against hazing and for western headdress.

Representative in Congress – District 24

Carlos Curbelo – REP
Joe Garcia – DEM  
Why: Joe Garcia’s stance against offshore drilling is critical to preserving Florida’s coastline and future.

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So What Happened on “King Tide Day”?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but flooding is kind of a big deal around Miami. Live on the wrong street and a few minutes of rain may mean you are staying home tonight.  Some places just always seem to be damp.  And Miami Beach residents will tell you that $400 million dollars is worth it if you can drive down Alton Road during high tide.

Which is why Thursday October 9th was such a big deal here. Because it was ‘King Tide Day.’ The highest high tide of the year here in South Florida. And many people, especially those living on Miami Beach, wanted to know if the investment was worth it. The city and the media were all over it. Students from FIU and Mast Academy patrolled Miami Beach taking readings of sea level rise, and U.S. Senator’s Bill Nelson and Sheldon Whitehouse observed and spoke to the media and the students about the importance of taking sea level rise seriously. (lots of photos  here)

Senators Nelson (FL) and Whitehouse (RI) speaking about Climate Change and Sea Level Rise in Miami

Senators Nelson (FL) and Whitehouse (RI) speaking about Climate Change and Sea Level Rise in Miami

Well, the streets stayed dry – so we are safe, right? No more worrying about sea level rise? Storm Surge or anything else? The building boom can continue unabated – right?

Anything but. It is our desire to build, build, build here in South Florida that got us into this situation in the first place. Before our forebears tore out the mangroves on the shores of the bay, dredged, the Miami River, and dried up the Everglades we actually had fairly good protections here against sea level rise and storm surge. The Everglades could handle large influxes of water from times and storms and flush them down to sea. The mangroves created a natural barrier against erosion and rising tides, and a river and bay teeming with sea life created a stable ecosystem that could easily handle the occasional flood.
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Board Game Night Fun Coming to Sweat Records

October21,20148:00 pm — 10:00 pm

Emerge Miami Board Game Night at Sweat Records
Emerge Miami co-presents an evening of nerdy fun (now every third Tuesday of the month). We’ve amassed a huge pile of all sorts of games for all to play including Scrabble, Boggle, Jenga, Apples to Apples, Chess, Trivial Pursuit and more. Show off your skills! Make new friends!

RSVP on Facebook or Meetup.

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If you build it, they might not come.

One great thing about attending Emerge Miami meetings is getting to know folks of many different disciplines – all in their own way trying to make Miami a better place to live. One such group I’ve become well acquainted with is Code for Miami (CFM). They are Miami’s local chapter of Code for America, a legion of hackers, programmers, web and app developers who meet each week to address civic challenges with tech. At a recent meeting, Miami-Dade commissioner Juan Carlos Zapata made a surprise appearance to challenge the CFM crew to focus on transportation services.

Advocating for robust, diverse transit is at the center of everything we do at Emerge, so I jumped at the opportunity to ask the commissioner directly what the strategic vision is for public transit in the county. After a brief pause he responded, “I’ll be honest with you, there isn’t one.” Ummm, excuse me? If any body is responsible for a strategic vision for transit in Miami-Dade, surely it’s the County Commission, right? An infographic (designed by a fellow Emerge Member) comparing Miami-Dade’s transit infrastructure to other major cities immediately came to mind. (Side note: the County Commission has actually designed strategic plans – the most recent in 2012)


I think we can all appreciate the frank, honest answer from commissioner Zapata. Most politicians would dodge such a question with a wordy non-answer, but his response is troubling. As a transplant from New York City (albeit over 7 years ago), I can appreciate what expansive public transit does for a city. The Big Apple objectively has one of the best public transportation infrastructures in the world. It is multimode, expansive, (relatively) inexpensive and runs twenty-four hours a day. Whether by happy accident or design, that infrastructure is what allows NYC to keep moving. Combined with an established pedestrian-focused culture, New York and its surrounding boroughs hum with energy at the street level.

Other cities such as San Francisco, Minneapolis, Washington D.C., Boston, and Chicago with long histories and established urban centers also boast comprehensive transportation services. Those cities understand that mobility is crucial in developing vibrant and thriving neighborhoods. The simple fact is that all the investment and construction in our downtown will be for naught, if we don’t have the ability to quickly and easily move people in, out and around our city.

Miami is at a crucial turning point in forming the identity of its urban core. We’ve now seen two huge development projects, the Miami Worldcenter and SkyRise Miami, pass through general elections and the governmental bid review process. These massive, billion dollar projects are coming, whether or not their backers have the city’s interests at heart. (Personal note: SkyRise’s promotional video is particularly hilarious for selecting Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man as the soundtrack. The building’s intended function is anything, but for the common man:

At the upper levels of the 305 meter tall tower, a five star fine dining restaurant is accompanied by a ballroom, while an observation deck provides expansive views from the top of Florida’s tallest building.” (designboom)

However attractive the influx of cash might seem, it is our responsibility as citizens to make sure we hold these developers accountable for their promises to integrate with and support the communities that surround new developments. Miami is a city with plenty of bust and boom development history.
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