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Front Page » Opinion » No greenbacks if Biscayne Green deletes any traffic lanes

No greenbacks if Biscayne Green deletes any traffic lanes

Written by on April 3, 2018
No greenbacks if Biscayne Green deletes any traffic lanes

Never before have we welcomed a veto of aid to Miami, but we hail Gov. Rick Scott’s roadblock of $1 million geared to narrow Biscayne Boulevard. That funding would be worse than mere waste – it would do harm.

The vetoed cash was to have helped choke the eight-lane boulevard at the heart of downtown down to six lanes or even four to create instead a vast pedestrian promenade called Biscayne Green and two bike lanes.

Don’t laugh – that reduction of the north-south artery near the bay to add a broad footpath has been in the works over at Miami’s Downtown Development Authority for 12 years and in December got more than $400,000 in US funds to study whether it can actually work.

Save the cash. Most of us could detail for a lot less than $400,000 what it would do to downtown rush hours – now stretching 16 hours – to cut lanes 25% or 50% on a vital artery whose only alternative is the iffy Metromover.

We get it: beautifying the boulevard for pedestrians and cyclists would truly enhance downtown and improve urban living. Removing most boulevard parking would help.

We’d welcome the idea if the state funding were geared to accomplish only those aims without also deleting lanes for cars that will remain vital until we add a real transit network someday.

But plans now are to get rid of those lanes based on the misguided claim that boulevard traffic wouldn’t slow a bit. That could only be true if drivers left cars to walk or bicycle, or if autonomous cars that can run within inches of one another and thus need fewer traffic lanes were our mobility.

For far less than $400,000 we can report that these other modes of travel downtown are, at best, years off – if they ever materialize.

Meanwhile, Biscayne Boulevard plays several roles other than as a beautiful urban promenade.

First, the boulevard is also our slice of US 1, the first federal highway, which runs from Key West to Maine. It’s no longer the primary East Coast route – interstates are – but it’s a major link for those 2,369 miles. No way should we carve out one mile as a pedestrian promenade, especially when a perfectly good but underused park across the street could do the job.

Second, since the development authority in all good faith planned this beautiful centerpiece a dozen years ago downtown has grown – and grown and grown and grown.

In that time along the boulevard downtown we’ve added all the traffic from the two-building Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, The Frost Museum of Science, the Pérez Art Museum Miami and Genting’s bayfront events space where the Miami Herald then stood.

The boulevard is also the gateway to American Airlines Arena and an upgrading Bayside Marketplace, an entrance to PortMiami, and the eastern entry to a fast-growing 24-hour downtown that back in 2006 was shutting down at 5 p.m. and was death valley on weekends. No longer.

Moreover, county commissioners are seriously weighing two more museums along the boulevard downtown, and it’s home to more residential high-rises than were contemplated 12 years ago. All of those add to traffic density.

Meanwhile, other traffic mushrooms. In 2006, just before the development authority offered its plan to cut downtown car flow, we noted tens of thousands of condo units rising and wrote “We say we’ve got gridlock now, but wait until we add 100,000 to 200,000 more cars… [to cause] coming traffic congestion Miamians cannot yet imagine.” Today, we don’t imagine it; we live it.

It wasn’t just newcomers adding cars: within the past four years 40,000 county residents daily have stopped using mass transit. Whether they’re in their cars or in Ubers, all are back on roads, an uncounted number downtown.

With all of that, the drive to slice driving lanes on Biscayne Boulevard has rolled on for 12 years – fortunately, going as slowly as the cars that the planners want to further slow.

The state considered $1 million for the boulevard plan in 2015 and actually ranked it 16th of 34 requests, but funded only the first 12 and left it out.

The development authority has never said how it would fund the rest of this work; a 2015 estimate was $24 million for medians alone. But last year it did get Miami’s parking authority, which actually handles developments, to agree to run the project, thereby protecting revenues from 387 parking spaces in that stretch of the boulevard. The authority is looking at underground parking there.

That parking shift could add beauty above ground without slowing traffic. But unless underground work included multiple north-south lanes, there should be no narrowing of the boulevard above ground. We need more traffic flow, not less.

Until the promenade plan focuses on more movement rather than less, it’s a waste of time and money and could do long-term harm. The governor is right – veto this whole outdated idea.

7 Responses to No greenbacks if Biscayne Green deletes any traffic lanes

  1. DC Copeland

    April 4, 2018 at 8:57 am

    I agree, Biscayne Green is one cockamamie idea. That said, there is this solution that nixes the center parking on Biscayne Blvd, saves traffic lanes, grows Bayfront Park and, if there is any money left over, envisions underground parking stretching from the south end of the Blvd to the entrance to PortMiami:

  2. Mike

    April 4, 2018 at 10:08 am

    Michael Lewis, you are correct about one thing and that is the increased density in the area. Other than that you are so wrong in all aspects of what the residents of this area want. We want mobility without the need of a vehicle. Crossing Biscayne at this moment is treacherous, the amount of time allotted to pedestrians to cross from one side of the 8 lanes that Biscayne currently has is not even sufficient at the moment. Either they reduce the number of lanes or build pedestrian bridges. Vehicles on that stretch do not respect speed limits and on multiple occasion run red lights without even thinking about it. The area has changed so much in the last 10 years and so should the traffic pattern. Your logic behind this article is so one sided and promotes the incorrect stance that a large city should cater to cars instead of the pedestrian and public transit. It has been proven over and over that catering to cars is the incorrect mindset when it comes to city planning.

    As you say in your article:
    “No way should we carve out one mile as a pedestrian promenade, especially when a perfectly good but underused park across the street could do the job.”

    This has nothing to do with the park, its about the safety of pedestrians. The park that will be added is just a traffic calming work around.

  3. Gerwyn Flax

    April 4, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    The parking lot on Biscayne was a dumb idea to begin with. It should be moved completely off Biscayne. Maybe additional parking could could be had by adding more floors to the Bayside garage. Public transit is limited to the Metro Mover, hardly adequate for the area, with no plans for expansion. Closing lanes will only exacerbate the problem. It is difficult to get people out of their cars and into a practically non existent public transportation system in South Florida,let alone the Metro Mover. With all the high end condos in the area filled with wealthy owners, Metro Mover will never suffice,even if they were so inclined. Removing lanes from the roadway is the least effective way to increase pedestrian traffic.

  4. Jose

    April 5, 2018 at 11:45 am

    I don’t know why pedestrians take a “backseat” to cars. Pedestrian traffic is a proven winner. All across Europe they are closing arteries to vehicles. Paris is thinking of closing lanes around the Seine River.

    Pedestrian friendly streets are good for the community, good for our health and good for the environment. Pedestrians do an amazing job in promoting business. The only business that makes money while you are drive your car is the drive-thru and gas station.

  5. Jas33131

    April 6, 2018 at 10:32 am

    This is disingenuous. Biscayne swells from a mere four lanes at the Arsht to eight by the time it meets the arena, and then gets crushed back down to four again by the time it becomes Brickell. You’re acting like it’s a continuous flowing ribbon of capacity for miles when it’s actually just one dumb bulbous mile of impossible-to-cross asphalt. But this is beside the point, as a commenter above pointed out: as a CBD resident I really do not care at all about the speed with which someone is able to use my neighborhood as a shortcut to and from somewhere completely else. Take 95, it’s faster and more direct! Maybe the “underutilized” Bayfront Park would be less so if you could easily walk to it and if it were a lovely, less harrowing walk at that. And also if it were ****ed out less to private business interests but that’s another issue.

    Nobody wonders why the retail that fronts Biscayne does so poorly or is never occupied to begin with? Nobody wants to suck exhaust overlooking a sea of honking jerks going nowhere — despite those eight huge lanes.

    Cut it to two for all I care, remove Biscayne as a thoroughfare and put it on its way to becoming a main street.

  6. Jay

    April 8, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    I work and live downtown and I’ve never had a problem crossing Biscayne at the lights.

  7. ray

    April 10, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    DPZ, who we paid millions to, pushed this idea with Miami 21. Remember, they sold us the increased bldg sizes and mixed use saying it would reduce traffic! That’s right. Supposedly we would all be able to work, live and play within walking distance – so no need to drive, and it allows for less parking. It’s also why they dropped their original promise of a plan to include comprehensive mass transit. These elements of the plan developers loved and they got many millions over their initial contract for giving them, not residents, what they wanted.