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Miami-Dade Squanders Transit Tax on Roads, Thanks to Florida DOT

Does this look like a transit project to you? Some of Miami-Dade's transit tax will fund grade separation so cars don't have to stop at intersections. Image: ##http://www.apcte.com/projects.php?cat=4&pro=34##APCT Engineers##

Does this look like a transit project to you? Some of Miami-Dade’s transit tax will fund grade separation so cars don’t have to stop at intersections. Image: APCT Engineers

Only one of every five federal transportation dollars are set aside specifically for transit. So it’s infuriating when a local government plunders the small pool of transit funds and spends it on roads. Particularly when that place has some of the country’s most notoriously car-dominated and dangerous streets.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Miami-Dade County, Florida. In 2002, voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund the People’s Transportation Plan, an ambitious agenda including 88 new miles of Metrorail and 635 new buses. It was all to be overseen by a Citizen’s Independent Transportation Trust.

Transit activist Marta Viciedo says Miami-Dade's failure to build transit has its origin in the very law that was supposed to expand rail. Photo:  ##http://ourcitythoughts.org/reviews/qa-with-marta-viciedo/##Our City Thoughts##

Transit activist Marta Viciedo says Miami-Dade’s failure to build transit has its origin in the very law that was supposed to expand rail. Photo: Our City Thoughts

Unfortunately, the way the legislation was written left far too much room to deviate from the transit message that was sold to voters. The county “didn’t emphasize that there would be any roadway or street improvement,” said Marta Viciedo, chair of the local Transit Action Committee, TrAC. “They had over 80 public meetings with the transportation plan. They really built this hype around Metrorail expansion.” But by slipping “roadway improvements” into the bill, they cleared the way for the half-cent tax to be a slush fund for any old transportation project. And that’s what’s happening.

So what is that transit tax being spent on? Here’s the list, via MoveMiamiDade:

  • Construction of NW 87th Avenue between NW 154th Street and Miami Gardens Drive (NW 183rd Street). This is “way out where nobody really lives,” according to Viciedo.
  • Constructing major ingress/egress improvements in downtown Miami, from SW 8th Street to SW First Avenue. This is basic resurfacing, but Viciedo says Florida DOT has been shirking their mandate to build bike lanes when they resurface streets, and she doesn’t expect that this one will be different.

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LeBron and Friends Reclaim Miami’s Streets in New Ad


Looks like the new LeBron James Nike ad that debuted during “Sunday Night Football” last night was at least in part the star’s idea.

The spot portrays the two-time NBA champion performing his off-season workout regimen, accompanied by hundreds of kids and adults on bikes as he rides through Miami. Bystanders watch or join in as the swarm of non-motorized humanity takes over the streets and disrupts highway traffic.

“They allow me to have a lot of input on the spots that come out and they’re basically geared to who I am and what I do on a day-to-day basis,” James told the AP. “It was great to put that together.”

James’s charity foundation has a program that links cycling and physical fitness to education in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, and we’ve written before that he and teammates Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers are regulars at Miami Critical Mass.

The Heat played the Nets in Brooklyn twice in the preseason, and will be at Barclays and Madison Square Garden a few times this year as they go for the three-peat. We wouldn’t be surprised if LeBron already has a Citi Bike fob.

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D-Wade *Is* Traffic — Heat Star a Regular at Miami Critical Mass

Via BikeBlogNYC, the Miami Bike Scene recently posted this post-game clip of Dwyane Wade in which the All-Star Heat guard shares his fondness for going on bike rides with thousands of other people. On Friday, it seems, Wade and teammates LeBron James and Mario Chalmers warmed up for the next day’s match against the Brooklyn Nets by going on a 20-mile Critical Mass jaunt through the streets of Miami.

Transit Miami’s Craig Chester snapped a group shot:

That’s 60 percent of a championship starting line-up right there, and the Heat won 102-89 on Saturday. Might a new training regimen for Deron Williams be in the offing?

We knew James likes to ride his bike to the arena on occasion. Turns out D-Wade is getting to be a regular on the last Friday of every month. Here’s a short clip of him from September’s ride:

If these Heat stars ever make the leap from group rides to advocating for safe streets, Miami could sure use the help. And we know a few good bloggers who’d be happy to show them the ropes.

Hat tip to reader Stephen Arthur for sending along the news.

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Miami DWI Death Galvanizes Cyclists in South Florida

lecanne1_1.jpgCyclists rally in memory of Christophe Le Canne. Photo: rydel/Picasa via Miami Bike Scene
The horrific death of a 44-year-old resident of South Miami has enraged cyclists across South Florida, igniting a debate over street safety in a region historically dominated by devil-may-care drivers.

On January 17, Christophe Le Canne was out for a Sunday morning ride on the Rickenbacker Causeway, which connects the city of Miami with Virginia Key and Key Biscayne, when he was hit from behind and knocked from his bike by Carlos Bertonatti, a 28-year-old aspiring musician with a long history of traffic offenses. Bertonatti drove for miles with Le Canne's blue Cannondale wedged beneath his Volkswagen Jetta. Le Canne died before paramedics arrived on the scene.

Bertonatti was arrested outside his Key Biscayne apartment after a police officer observed him dragging Le Canne's bike. He was charged with DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide, resisting arrest, driving without a license and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. 

This could have been written off as an isolated incident -- another drunk driver with a checkered driving record takes another life. But for several possible reasons, that didn't happen. Consider the arrogance of the killer. Bertonatti's website, according to the Miami Herald, "had boasted of his poor driving record." Police had to strap him to a fire department backer board in order to extract a blood sample. After the crash, Bertonatti issued regrets through his publicist. He is currently out on bail.

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Why Buy More Trains If You Can’t Afford to Run Them?

Down in balmy South Florida, D-Day is approaching for riders of the the popular Tri-Rail transit system. A looming $18 million shortfall has forced the Tri-Rail board to approve a budget that slices daily service and stops all trains by 2011 -- although ridership has doubled since 2005.

tri_rail.jpgTri-Rail trains like these could stop running by 2011. (Photo: National Corridors Initiative)

Tri-Rail's troubles are largely attributable to the bad economy, which has clipped the amount that the network's three participating counties can contribute to the transit system by an estimated $9 million. Making matters worse, the county aid must be matched dollar for dollar by the state DOT, doubling the size of that gap and forcing Tri-Rail to the brink.

As the Palm Beach Post noted yesterday, Tri-Rail's request that state legislators okay a $2 rental car tax to save transit service is hardly a politically extraordinary one. But the Post's editorial also reveals Washington's role in perversely perpetuating the funding crisis.

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Bike Miami: Car-Free Under the Palm Trees

bike_miami.jpg

Yesterday Miami became the latest American city to pull off a big car-free event, when an estimated 2,000 people (including mayor Manny Diaz) took to the streets for Bike Miami. Mike Lydon at Transit Miami reports:

South Miami Avenue was much more like an urban plaza than a street. Did you notice how the cafe seating and active retail edges allowed people to watch the active participants promenade through what became more a stage than a street? It was a beautiful event and instructive. Indeed, I have never seen such an exercise of urbanism within downtown Miami. The event clearly demonstrates the wonderful potential of downtown Miami and I think the event's organizers and participants now understand what livable streets can mean for the health of downtown Miami.

Clarence Eckerson and the Streetfilms crew have been all over the wave of Ciclovía-inspired events this year, filing reports from ChicagoNew York, Portland and San Francisco. As for videos of Bike Miami, some hand-held footage has surfaced on YouTube, and after the jump we've got the introductory remarks from Mayor Diaz and local district commissioner Joe Sanchez.

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