Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Transit Oriented Development (TODs) in Miami Dade County





3. Apply the TOD model for Miami’s FEC corridor

Transit Oriented Development (TODs) is defined as “residential and commercial centers designed to maximize access by transit and non-motorized transportation, and with other features to encourage transit ridership.”[9] A TOD neighborhood has a center with a rail or bus station, surrounded by relatively high-density development with progressively lower-density spreading outwards. It has been sited, along with smart growth and mix-use development, as answers to new problems of urban sprawl, pollution, and loss of farmlands and wetlands by the “New Urbanism” movement.[10]
The basic premise of the TOD model is to create a mixed-use neighborhood accessible to other areas in the city.[11] Mixed-use development has shops, schools and other public services integrated among homes that can include condos, townhouses, single-family or multi-family located in a concentrated area. The shops are typically below the condos or apartments in large building with overhangs. In these neighborhoods there is plenty of open public space, like parks and ball fields, accessible by walking. Shops include restaurants, small clothing stores, hardware or supermarkets, etc. The area is designed to create high quality of space/place in order to have a higher quality of life.
The integration with quality of life and transit-oriented development comes from urban sprawl. The time used in cars by many Americans have degreased time they are able to spend with their families. If services were located closer to home it would mean less trips in the car. In addition, living and working closer to home eliminate the time to travel to and from work allowing more personal time to spend with your family or otherwise. In addition TOD provides solutions to pollution, for example eliminating those car trips helps diminish emissions into the air. The idea is to stop the further audacious development of roadways, public infrastructure such as electric, water and gas, currently paid for by US taxpayers. The smart growth initiative urges to use the same money into developing higher quality urban centers instead of over extending and developing America’s hinterlands.
The ideas of TOD and smart growth come from 1960s prolific writer Jane Jacobs. The new urbanists have adopted many of her principles. She promoted the idea of rebuilding cities as a holistic approach. Her legendary book, The Death and Life of the Great American City, written in 1961 described Greenwich Village in late 1950s.[12]  Jacobs, not a planner, but knew the city was going through huge urban renewal, when the city government proposed to develop a highway through a poor areas of the city. Not only writing a book, she also fought back city hall to stop the development.
Jacobs developed four major tenets to help create economic diversity in neighborhoods and corridors. First cities should shorten blocks. She argued, that if city blocks were shorter and with more corners, it would create an opportunity for the pedestrians to run into neighbors more frequently. Linearity, she added, distracts communication between neighbors. Next, she focused on urban design. For her it was important for people to want to live in a community. In order to have that community by in, city officials should take pride to create beatification projects where they live. Next, Jacobs suggested having 24/7 cities. She argued that where activity is located and there are more eyes on the streets, there is inversely less crime. Finally, Jacobs argued for higher concentration. The high density creates higher quality of life for its users. People will have different reasons like shopping, living, eating, work and enjoying entertainment to share the same space and build community.
Taking the TOD model and Jacobs urban ideas and applying them to the Florida East Coast (FEC) railway/ corridor as an integrated community develop plan should include various development plans. [13] The FEC study looked at the inner-city redevelopment area consisting of nearly 1400 acres, from 14th to 79th streets. The regional neighborhoods in the FEC/Mid-town area include Buena Vista, Wynwood, Edgewater and Little Haiti. (But first a caveat, this essay will not go into specific detail, as the writer is a new resident to south Florida and the Miami area and doesn’t have first hand experience to the community in which this apply, which is essential with any community development plan.) The primary urban issues of the FEC corridor are transit, housing, and economic development.[14]
First, transit is the way people move from their homes to their jobs, go shopping and seek entertainment. Using a smart growth approach, the new mid-town neighborhood should be designed for cycling and walking. In addition, the area should include a tri-rail system for local transportation including above the ground metro system, trolleys and on-time buses. It should include hubs that link passengers to additional cities and urban areas like downtown Miami, Coral Gables, Kendal, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Furthermore, the transportation hubs should link to major airports, seaports, and bus and train stations. The urban design of the middle-town of Miami should have its streets with good connectivity and feature fluid traffic, eliminating awkward intersections, miss-match streets, and boulevards without sidewalks.
Specific neighborhoods within the mid-town district would have a diameter of one-quarter to one-half mile in size. Each new section would be presented with a physical gate to characterize the area. This creates community pride.[15] Once residents are proud of their location they will work hard to revitalize their area. Small capital improvements with neighborhood gates could make all the difference in rebuilding Miami’s mid-town.
Finally, in order to tackle parking management and beatification, the city should reduce the amount of land devoted to parking. In Ballston, Virginia, where I most recently worked, all parking was below ground or adjacent to the schoolyard or the shopping center. The city encouraged the people to arrive by foot to alleviate cars in the area. The federal government supported this policy with transportation vouchers to public employees who use mass transit, like city buses, metro or chartered buses.
Next, the city of Miami in order to develop the mid-town neighborhoods should engage in Mixed-use development that includes houses, shops, schools and other public services. Jane Jacobs promoted “diversification” within in the economy and the regional spaces. The city should offer housing in this new area for a diversity of customers. It should include condos, single-family, multi-family homes, and rental property and town homes, etc. The integration of classes and types of people creates a sense of community. In addition, people can stay in their geographic area as their lifestyles change, from single, to family-life, to retirement without having to leave their community. Not only by managing the land use, with permits and smart code, the government can also provide housing vouchers to subsidize the area.[16] This helps prevent full gentrification or the complete exodus of lower-income residents from the area.
Finally when developing the Florida East Coast (FEC) railway, the city of Miami should think of possible economic development opportunities for its new and existing residence. In order to follow the TOD concept, residents should be able to remain in their neighborhood to work or be able to transport themselves without a car to their workstations. Miami’s high service economy of nearly 80 percent should focus on developing service type jobs.
 The regional neighborhoods in the FEC/Mid-town area including Buena Vista, Wynwood, Edgewater and Little Haiti are highly disadvantaged. One Web site suggested that the corridor is “comprised of a mix of industrial, warehouse, commercial and residential uses with a disproportionate share of vacant parcels and underutilized buildings. Most of the neighborhoods within the corridor have double-digit unemployment rates due to the loss of 19,150 jobs in the area between 1980 and 1995. The corridor contains 70% of the city's remaining land zoned for industrial and warehouse uses.”[17] Therefore city officials must be very careful when redeveloping this area and it should focus on creating jobs for its residence.
For example the city could bring in big box stores in the neighborhood hubs and begin area shopping centers. Next the city could promote growth with service jobs providing the regional transit system, subsidized by the city and national government. The city could uses encourage the creative class professionals outlined above to create emerging clusters, i.e. motion picture, furniture and plastics industries, hubs, guilds, incubators and the like. Finally the city should set up job banks with regional offices in each of the neighborhoods. Linking the job banks with employment databases, equivalent university and technical college programs will increase the likelihood for people to find jobs. Additionally, social service centers should be adjacent to the job banks to assist the needed with childcare, distribute health and welfare provisions and monitor the progress of the workers. Although gentrification is a possible externality, it may be overcome with an effective redevelopment strategy including housing vouchers, community solidarity and carrying development professionals in the area.


[1] FIU Metropolitan Center study of Monroe County, Statistics presented in this section come from PowerPoint presentation from class. The original PPT was prepared for the Partnership For Community Housing of Monroe County.

[2] Florida, Richard, Rise of the Creative Class, Basic Books: 2002.
[3] Jacobs, Karrie, “Why I Don’t Love Richard Florida,” Metropolis Magazine, Posted February 22, 2005, http://www.metropolismag.com/cda/story.php?artid=1151
[4] ibid
[5] ibid
[6] Jacobs, Jane, The Death and the Life of Great American Cities, New York Vintage Books, 1961.
[7] Ellerman, David, “How do We Grow? Jan Jacobs on Diversification and Specialization,” Challenge, vol. 48, no. 3, May-June 2005.
[8] Porter, Michael. “The Competitive Advantage of the Inter-City,” Harvard Business Review: May-June 2005.

[9] From our class notes and from the trade Web site: http://www.transitorienteddevelopment.org/
[10] For comprehensive descriptive text and several stimulating links visit the Smart Growth Web site http://www.smartergrowth.net
[11] For comprehensive descriptive text and several stimulating links visit the New Urbanism Web site located http://www.newurbanism.org
[12] Jim Kunstler's (author of Geography of Nowhere) interview of Jane Jacobs for Metropolis Magazine in Toronto, Canada in March 2001: visit http://www.kunstler.com/mags_jacobs1.htm. Also for a discussion on Jacobs interpretation of economic development, see “How do We Grow?” by David Ellerman, published in Challenge, vol. 48. no. 3, May/June 2005.
[13] For the Metropolitan Center’s FEC study results visit: http://www.miamigov.com/economicdevelopment/pages/ProjectsInitiatives/FECExecutiveSummary.asp
[14] Our textbook: Edward Blakely and Ted Bradshaw in Planning Local Economic Development: Theory and Practice (Sage Publications: 2002).
[15] From our textbook: Edward Blakely and Ted Bradshaw in Planning Local Economic Development: Theory and Practice (Sage Publications: 2002).
[16] See http://www.smartcodecentral.org/about2.html
[17] Visit http://gislab.fiu.edu/gisrsal/frames/fec/home.html for an interactive map of the area.

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