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.
Read more ›