Search results for " bike lanes"

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Bridge Tragedy

Disastrous Miami bridge collapse raises serious engineering and oversight questions
The collapse of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami yesterday that left six dead is raising questions over how the supposedly state-of-the-art project could fail. The 174-foot-long, 950-ton span was assembled on the side of the road and later rotated into place by Munilla Construction Management over the course of only 6 hours, after testing by structural firm BDI. The FIU bridge, meant to cross eight lanes of traffic at a particularly dangerous intersection in front of the school, was designed to double as an amenity deck and would have featured a bike lane for students. Instead of being constructed in situ, the span that collapsed was built on temporary supports on the side of the road, and rotated 90 degrees into position on March 10th. Using this “Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) method” to build the bridge’s superstructure elsewhere was touted as a way to cut costs and minimize disruptions to traffic below. According to a press release from LIU, the bridge would have also been the first in the world to have been constructed from self-cleaning concrete. It’s currently unclear whether the construction methods used to build the span played a part in the collapse, which flattened the cars underneath at the time. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez had said earlier that day that the bridge had just successfully completed stress testing. In a statement given to the Miami Herald, FIU President Mark Rosenberg said that the testing was done in accordance with best practices. “I know that tests occurred today. And I know, I believe, that they did not prove to lead anyone to the conclusion that we would have this kind of a result. But I do not know that as a fact.” Florida Senator Marco Rubio took to Twitter to discuss the work being done on the bridge before its collapse, saying “The cables that suspend the Miami bridge had loosened & the engineering firm ordered that they be tightened. They were being tightened when it collapsed today”. The engineering firm Rubio is referring to is FIGG Bridge Design, who were collaborating with Munilla to build the bridge. While the span was to be supported by steel suspension cables installed from a central column later on, Rubio may have been referring to tension cables inside of the bridge itself. It's unclear what form of temporary support was holding up the bridge at the time of the accident. At the time of writing, it’s unclear why engineers had chosen to stress test the bridge while allowing traffic to pass underneath, or if the cable tightening had played a role in the failure. The $14.2 million bridge, financed through a US Department of Transportation TIGER grant, had originally been slated to open in early 2019.
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Less-Than-Golden Arches

Santiago Calatrava’s second Dallas bridge faces engineering questions
After a highly anticipated opening last summer, the Santiago Calatrava-designed Margaret McDermott Bridge in Dallas, Texas, has been plagued with cable rod issues, according to the Dallas Observer. The Margaret McDermott Bridge spans the Trinity River and is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth region’s Horseshoe Project, a plan meant to revitalize downtown Dallas by addressing the city’s traffic congestion. Work on the Margaret McDermott Bridge was spurred on by the public’s reception to the iconic Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in 2012, a cable-stayed bridge supported by a 400-foot-tall, central, arched pylon. While the concrete core of the Margaret McDermott Bridge, which extends Interstate 30 and supports vehicle traffic, opened in 2013, the 1,200-foot-long suspension arches, designed by Calatrava, were appended to both sides of the bridge separately to give it a “signature element.” The east span was supposed to support the bike and pedestrian lanes, but has remained closed due to safety concerns after several engineering issues came to light. In a bid to save as much money as possible, the construction contractors and city of Dallas worked out an agreement to skip stress testing for the design, which would have spotted the vulnerability earlier. The use of smaller, cheaper adjustment rods, has led to the cables vibrating in the intense wind over the river, and both the walking and bike paths remain closed since the bridge’s completion. Heavy dampers were later installed to minimize the movement of the cables after several failed, owing to the undue stress caused by the vibrations. Both lanes currently remain blocked with notices that threaten legal action against trespassers. The spans have been causing problems since their inception. After Calatrava initially proposed a $200 million bridge with four arches, the city was only able to wrangle $92 million, knocking the two interior archways off the bridge. The cost soon ballooned to $115 million, which the city promised to make up for through donations and value engineering; it now seems that original decision will end up costing the city even more money down the line. Calatrava argued that the testing should have gone ahead and offered to pay out of pocket. Some have questioned the installation of a suspension bridge near Dallas, real or fake, in the first place. “We are not a city with a large navigable river that would warrant a suspension bridge,” said Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs. “This is Texas, not Spain.” Calatrava's projects are no stranger to controversy, from the highly publicized leaks in the lower Manhattan Oculus to the recent halt in construction on the World Trade Center complex Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine. It remains to be seen how much it will cost to fix these engineering oversights, or how much of the blame will fall on Calatrava.
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L-pocalypse Plans

City and MTA reveal alternate transit plans for L train shutdown
Last night the two agencies in charge of transit in New York kicked off an open house series for the public to learn more about plans to move commuters between Brooklyn and Manhattan during the 15-month L train shutdown. The events are being held over four weeks in neighborhoods that will be most impacted by the closure.
About 70 people filled the cafeteria of Williamsburg's Progress High School for the first open house, which was jointly hosted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT). Employees of both agencies stood by boards outlining transit options, science fair–style, as members of the public approached to ask questions about the bus, train, ferry, and bike routes that will carry them to Manhattan and back. The shutdown begins April 2019. During that time, the Canarsie Tunnel under the East River will close so workers can replace infrastructure that was damaged by flooding from 2012's Hurricane Sandy. Each weekday, 225,000 riders move through the tunnel, and 50,000 rides take the L just in Manhattan. The agencies are in the process of soliciting community feedback on the transit options; no plan has been determined yet. In Brooklyn, proposed changes include three-person HOV restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge during peak hours, as well as new protected bike and bus lanes to ferry riders between the J/Z/M and G trains, L-adjacent lines the city expects 70 to 80 percent of affected riders will utilize to get across the river. Work is being done to ensure these lines can handle additional capacity, and the bus routes could be upgraded to give buses priority over private vehicles. The city estimates an additional 5 to 15 percent will use buses only, with new Williamsburg Bridge–bound buses, dubbed L1, L2, and L3, slated to carry approximately 30,000 riders, or 13 percent of the weekday total. After that, the agencies say five percent of straphangers will switch to the ferry, two percent will cycle to work, and between three and ten percent of riders may use taxis or ride-sharing services for their commute. In Manhattan, 14th Street (the crosstown thoroughfare under which the L train runs) would be converted into a busway, with only local private car access allowed. A block south, protected two-way bike lanes would be added to 13th Street to accomodate cyclists headed to and from the Williamsburg Bridge, which touches down on the Lower East Side. The next public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 31, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the 14th Street Y in Manhattan.
Residents had many questions—and more than a few concerns—about the proposed routes. "The main impetus of the plan is to keep people out of North Brooklyn," said Felice Kirby, a longtime Williamsburg resident and board member of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. "There are a couple of thousand small businesses and manufacturers who, along with residents, made this area famous. We're in a lot of trouble if people can't get into our area to eat, shop, and work." She grilled an MTA official on why ferry service wasn't being expanded to increase the percentage of L-train riders who might use the boats to get to work.
"It's a timid and meek approach," she added.
Lifelong Williamsburg resident Vikki Cambos has already started thinking about alternative travel plans. Though she lives off the Grand St L and works off Hewes Street J/M, she is weighing the shutdown as she job-searches. "I don't want something directly off the L, because that will be a headache," Cambos said. As another option, she's considering jobs in lower and upper Manhattan that are easily accessible by trains other than the L. She's worried too that the proposed shuttle will add crowds in a neighborhood that's already undergone extensive gentrification.  "I'm excited to see people move out," she said. Jeff Csicsek, a software engineer who volunteers with the North Brooklyn arm of transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, wants Grand Street in Brooklyn to be for bikes, buses, and pedestrians only—no private cars allowed. He cited Downtown Brooklyn's no-car Fulton Street, one of the city’s most profitable retail corridors, as an example of how the streetscape could be retooled to favor pedestrians and mass transit on Grand.  "I don't think it's physical changes [that are needed] so much as policy," he said. "A do-not-enter sign for private cars would make this actually work." Even Andy Byford, the newly-appointed president of MTA New York City Transit, showed up to hear the public's questions. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was also in attendance. "We simply have to get this right," he told a small crowd of reporters. The MTA, he added, is soliciting community feedback to decide on final transit options. "The plan is not set in stone," he said.  This post has been updated with the MTA's map of possible transit alternatives during the shutdown.
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Bus Up

MTA reveals comprehensive L train shutdown plan
Today the city and the MTA released a long-awaited plan to get riders to Manhattan during the L train shutdown. Among the many proposed transit tweaks, Manhattan's 14th Street will be transformed into a bus-only thoroughfare to keep rush hour running smoothy. In both boroughs, new bus routes and bike lanes will help ferry 225,000 daily would-be L train commuters to their destinations. The MTA is also beefing up service on L-adjacent lines, in part by opening up disused subway entrances in Brooklyn and running longer trains on the G line. There will also be new high-occupancy vehicle rules for those driving over the Williamsburg Bride, AMNY reported. The L train's Canarsie tunnel was badly damaged by flooding during Hurricane Sandy and has to be closed for 15 months so the MTA can perform extensive repairs. The closure, which will suspend Manhattan-to-Brooklyn service, is expected to commence in April 2019 and last through June 2020. During the shutdown, the L will run mostly normally though Brooklyn until it reaches Bedford Avenue, the final station before the tunnel. The MTA will increase service on the J, M and Z lines, and bus service along new routes will pick up riders at subway stations to carry them over the Williamsburg Bridge and through lower Manhattan. To carry an estimated 3,800 bus riders per peak hour, the lanes will be restricted to trucks and vehicles with three-plus passengers. The plan should alleviate residents' and business owners' fears over the effects of the shutdown. In Manhattan, a multilane crosstown busway on 14th Street between Third and Ninth avenues will supersede all regular traffic except local deliveries, while 13th Street will get a dedicated two-way cycling lane.
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Astro Loop

Houston unveils post-Harvey downtown master plan
Downtown Houston released an ambitious master plan on Friday, the culmination of 18 months of work and input from hundreds of stakeholders. Creating walkable streets, a five-mile green loop around the city’s core, new design guidelines and more, the 20-year plan puts an emphasis on sustainable, resilient development. A product of the Houston Downtown Management District (Downtown District), a nonprofit focused on improving the quality of life in their district, and Central Houston Inc., the proposal is a spiritual successor to Houston’s 2012 Downtown Living Initiative. Although Houston lacks zoning codes, the original Downtown Living Initiative successfully encouraged growth in the city through a series of public/private partnerships, tax rebates for construction, and reinvestments into downtown Houston’s infrastructure. Asakura Robinson and Sasaki had consulting roles in the process, while HKS Architects and Harris Kornberg Architects were among the architecture firms involved in the plan's leadership group. With the new plan’s release in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, planners, designers and city officials have also turned their focus towards disaster mitigation. Besides increasing the amount of green space in the district, the proposal has set aside land for detention areas and has tried to shift away from car-dominated urban planning. City officials are expecting a population boom from 7,500 to 30,000 over the next 20 years, and are calling for the construction of 12,000 new residential units to deal with the demand. Along with building more schools and predicting a 20 percent increase in the workforce, the plan calls for keeping residential developments centralized and integrated with mass transit. As with the plan that preceded this one, questions over how affordable these developments would be have yet to be answered. Bob Eury, president of Central Houston Inc, spoke to the Houston Chronicle about the challenges involved with bringing affordable housing to this type of development. "Unless we can find public land so you can basically write off the land costs, it's extremely challenging to build affordable high-density housing without a continuous subsidy," he said. The project’s crowning jewel is its five-mile long Green Loop, a band of parks and bike lanes that would wrap the downtown area and connect it with further-flung neighborhoods. Aided by the ongoing North Houston Highway Improvement Project, a highway readjustment by the Texas Department of Transportation, downtown Houston has an unprecedented chance to readjust its urban borders. The complete Plan Downtown: Converging Culture, Lifestyle & Commerce presentation is available here.
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Faux Facades

Michigan's Mcity selects startups to test self-driving technologies
A tech haven located on the northern campus of the University of Michigan is redefining Michigan's ‘Motor King’ reputation. Mcity is a 32–acre complex designed to mimic urban and suburban city environments. Complete with painted building facades, dummy pedestrians, bike lanes, roads and highway ramps, the controlled laboratory environment eliminates real-world risks and serves as a unique testing ground for vehicle and urban transportation technology. The combination of physical and virtual alteration possibilities within this ‘fake-city’ allow both for current real-life simulations as well as testing for speculative future mobility scenarios. The ability to replicate human-scale urban and suburban environments is vital for conducting tests to enhance current road safety and to plan for our evolving urban future. The facility is involved in numerous research projects, including testing data collection and management systems, studying interactions between motor vehicles and bicyclists, enhancing pedestrian detection and avoidance technology, and improving intelligent parking guidance system. Having access to a state-of-the-art testing facility such as Mcity provides tech companies with unparalleled development opportunities in their work and research. This fall, five emerging startups have been selected to work at Mcity alongside students at the University of Michigan's TechLab. Tome, based in Detroit, works on enhancing bicycle-to-vehicle (B2V) communication within the urban sphere. CARMERA, based in New York and Seattle, are experts in street-level intelligence focused on creating real-time 3-D maps and scene reconstructions vital for autonomous vehicle performance. RightHook, from San Jose, California, specializes in safely simulating harsh conditions to test the resiliency and performance of automated vehicles. Zendrive, of San Francisco, California, aims to increase driver safety through smartphone data collection. PolySync, from Portland, Oregon, builds software infrastructure and tools to develop autonomous vehicle functions.
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L.A.'s New Viaduct

This video lets you soar over L.A.'s new Sixth Street Bridge
A heroic new flyover video from the team behind the new Sixth Street Viaduct project in Downtown Los Angeles gives us a closer glimpse into what is in store for the L.A. River–spanning bridge as work on the $482 million project moves toward its 2020 completion date. Construction on the bridge—designed by Los Angeles–based Michael Maltzan Architecture (MMA), engineers HNTB, and the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering—is well underway. Skanska and Stacy and Witbeck are contractors for the 3,500-foot-long project. The original 1932 expanse was demolished last year as a result of long-term and irreparable structural issues. MMA’s proposal for the bridge was selected in 2012 after the city held an international contest to design the new monument. This summer, workers on either bank of the river are preparing foundations for the first of ten pairs of arching piers that will eventually support the bridge. The flyover video shows four lanes of conventional automobile traffic running at the center of the bridge, with striped bicycle lanes and barricaded sidewalks on either end. Either end of the bridge is anchored by large-scale pedestrian access ramps that wind up to meet the bridge structure. The ramps on the Boyle Heights end of the bridge wind in a circular path that ramps down to meet the neighborhood and forthcoming landscaping and park areas, part of the $12 million plan to pedestrianize and green the areas below and around the bridge. Overall, the bridge will feature five pedestrian stairways and at least three ADA-accessible pedestrian ramps. The video has drawn a bit of criticism on social media from bicycle advocates for not including protected bicycle lanes in the design. Los Angeles is making an earnest push to expand its network of protected bicycle lanes in conjunction with the piecemeal introduction of a regional bikeshare system and a growing focus on Vision Zero street designs that minimize pedestrian deaths. Instead of embracing this growing design trend, the new Sixth Street Viaduct designs, like the recently-completed Riverside-Figueroa bridge, exhibits wide, automobile-centric proportions. The bridge is scheduled to finish construction and open for traffic in 2020.
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Ride On

NYC to add more bike lanes in response to surging demand

New York City streets are a decadent mass of pedestrians, cabs, delivery trucks, and the crosstown bus, all scooting somewhere quickly. But even as rideshare apps are pushing more cars on the pavement, there's one green and steadfast transit option that's seeing a surprising surge in popularity.

Right now, the city's streets host 450,000 bike rides per day, an increase of 280,00 trips from 2005. To meet accelerating demand, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) promised on Monday to add 50 miles of painted bike lanes and ten miles of protected paths each year.

Over the last decade, New York has seen an explosion of bike infrastructure. Crain's reports that cyclists now cruise over 1,133 miles of bike lanes, up from a little over 500 miles in 2006. Of those, around 40 percent are shielded from automobiles by concrete or other physical barriers. These are the gold-standard tracks because of the protection they provide relative to painted paths.

But even this relatively robust network can't stop bike fatalities. Nine in ten cyclists killed while riding are killed outside of bike lanes. In response, the DOT plans to ramp up safety efforts in three Queens and seven Brooklyn neighborhoods where many bike fatalities and injuries occur.

Still, officials are optimistic that bikesharing, which was introduced only four years ago, will become further enmeshed in New York's urban fabric. City Councilmember Ydanis Rodríguez, who represents Upper Manhattan and serves on the council's transportation committee, would like to one day see free transfers between Citi Bike, the city's bikeshare system, and the MTA. (An annual Citi Bike membership costs $163.) Citi Bike broke ridership records with more than 70,000 riders on one day in June of this year, while last year, the system logged more than 14 million rides.

Despite their low cost relative to cars, and emissions-free crunchy-green aura that renders bicycles anodyne in most quarters, New Yorkers haven't embraced bike culture universally. On the Upper East Side last year, residents objected to bike lanes near a school, worried that speeding cyclists could mow down young ones. Though those crosstown lanes were ultimately approved, out in Corona, Queens, longtime Community Board 4 member (and unrepentant xenophobe) Ann Pfoser Darby called bike lanes in her neighborhood a waste of money, claiming they would be empty after President Trump deported the area's undocumented immigrants.

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New Wave

Designers propose park with rippling landscape for Michigan Central Station
It isn’t just the Michigan Central Station that is being eyed for redevelopment. Spread out before the domineering structure is what was once an ornate manicured garden known as Roosevelt Park. Designers and community members are hoping to transform the scruffy patch of green, which marks the intersection of Detroit's Corktown and Mexicantown neighborhoods, into a public asset. A direct result of the City Beautiful Movement at the turn of the 20th century, Roosevelt Park was originally designed by Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett. The park was specifically crafted to work with Judge Augustus B. Woodward's original plan for Detroit, which called for broad green boulevards and numerous public parks. This park was meant to be a grand welcoming space for the local community and those arriving to the city by train. The current project is being led by San Francisco–based Assembly Design Studio and Detroit-based community research consultants Human Scale Studio. Through a series of meetings with city officials and community workshops, the park's design now has three distinct paths forward in the form of three conceptual proposals. Each proposal addresses the concerns of the city and the community while focusing on a different theme and spatial arrangement. The first of the proposals holds closest to the original park while working to improve access and safety. Currently, the park is a traffic island, inaccessible except across multiple lanes of traffic. This plan calls for the removal of some roads that travel through the park while improving crosswalks, parking, and bike lanes around its perimeter. The second proposal responds to the greater city grid with changes to the surrounding and on-site roads. New pedestrian and bike-only paths would be added to the park, which is divided by several roadways. New sports fields, hardscapes, and softscapes would reflect back to the park’s original form and relationship to the train station. The final proposal is by far the most drastic of the three. Unified into a single large park space, the plan calls for large landscaped ripples emanating from the northwest corner of the park. Areas for food trucks and an area for a farmer’s market will provide food options, while an area for special events and an amphitheater will bring entertainment programming to the park. A formal gateway is also part of the proposal, as well as sports field and playgrounds. While these may not be the first new proposals for the oft overlooked park, they may have the best chance of succeeding. (In 2009 and 2010 two other groups began the process of bringing the park back to life.) With a “green light” from the City of Detroit, these current proposals also have support from business leaders and community members in Corktown and Mexicantown. While trains may not be returning to the area anytime soon, with a little love, people may find a reason to come back to Roosevelt Park.
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#SCNYC17

Sidewalk Labs may develop its own district to test smart city tech
This May 3 to May 6, the Brooklyn Navy Yard's Duggal Greenhouse is hosting the inaugural Smart Cities NYC conference and expo. Smart Cities NYC is ambitious in its scope, with a global selection of speakers whose backgrounds include government, the tech industry, academia, real estate/development, and design. Autonomous vehicles, public health, construction technology, resilient urban landscapes, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are just a few of the subjects being discussed. The Architect's Newspaper is covering the first two days of the conference—see yesterday's coverage here! Dan Doctoroff, C.E.O. and co-founder of Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet's urban innovations company and designer of LinkNYC, today laid out his company's vision for driving smart city technology into the near future. Before delving into Sidewalk Lab's goals and methods, Doctoroff painted a picture of an industry facing intrinsic challenges. "Getting things done in cities is really hard.... no city in the world does a good job of truly integrating the physical and the digital," said Doctoroff. That's why, he said, venture capitalists hadn't invested deeply in smart city technology companies. Additionally, as infrastructure crumbles and cities become unaffordable, the public loses faith in government's ability to solve problems. Yet, he believes that technological innovations in materials/fabrication, social media, machine learning, and related fields have the ability to revolutionize cities the same ways that steam engines, electric grids, and cars did in the past.   Doctoroff then discussed an ambitious plan to accelerate the innovation process. Sidewalk Labs is "looking into developing a large-scale district" that would serve as a smart city technology testbed. The company is currently in the feasibility studies phase, and it remained unclear if this would be ground-up construction, but it sees this test bed as critical. Thanks to its district-scale size, it will attract an aggregation of innovators whose collaborations and synergies will create positive feedback loops of experimentation and success. Put differently, the sheer scale of the testbed will make its technologies greater than the sum of their parts. Once successful models are discovered, he predicted, they will be quickly dissimulated. He cited The High Line (a Bloomberg-era project that Doctoroff oversaw as deputy mayor) as an example of a globally and rapidly copied idea. Throughout his speech, Doctoroff often repeated that such innovations would only be successful if they improved quality of life, health, opportunity, equity, and other laudable goals. To that end, he outlined several specific areas where Sidewalk Labs was pursuing its ideas. One was the more efficient use of real estate; Sidewalk is currently looking into prefab modular housing, sensors that monitor building performance in real-time, and robotic delivery services that would reduce the need for residential storage space. Another area is mobility systems that would replace private cars, which Doctoroff said were a financial burden to many ($9,000 to $10,000 per year for a single family), as well as creators of sprawl, lethal accidents, and carbon dioxide emissions. Sidewalk Labs is exploring self-driving cars, car shares, optimizing existing road network usage, and the incentivizing of walking and biking. Sidewalk Labs's third area of focus is sustainability. Most notably, Doctoroff cited a thermal exchange system in development that could capture buildings' wasted heat, thereby reducing energy usage by up to 80 percent over a year. He also mentioned more familiar techniques, like greywater recycling and Passive House technology. A fourth area involved urban commons: the "public realm that is the city's living room or backyard," as Doctoroff put it. Innovations in that department included the use of retractable ETFE canopies to protect bike lanes and sensors that monitor air quality and the status of public assets (presumably benches, streetlights, and similar infrastructure). Lastly, Doctoroff referenced the "close-knit community that uses data to improve services." This area of focus included ensuring universal access to broadband and undertakings like LinkNYC. The improved collection and analysis of data could improve healthcare delivery and new democratic forums. On the whole, Sidewalk Labs's plans were ambitious and brimming with technological optimism, despite the challenges that smart city technology companies face. The question of top-down versus bottom-up efforts was a final and critical undercurrent of its vision: "You can never truly plan a city, you can [just] lay foundations," said Doctoroff. How exactly that plays out, and where the public has an opportunity to shape and direct these technologies, remains to be seen. Want more technology news for the architecture, engineering, and construction industries? Don't miss The Architect's Newspaper's Tech+ expo, coming to New York City this May 23!
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Getting There

Miami’s infrastructure woes run deep, but the city has its eyes set on “huge cultural change”

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Talk of “infrastructure” may be one of the few things—if not the only thing—that comes close to uniting Democrats and Republicans at the moment. It was transit infrastructure, of course, that literally united the states of America: originally with railroads in the 19th century and later with interstates and automobiles in the 20th. Today, however, some cities’ prevailing love affairs with the car have become rather one-sided.

Polluting air and clogging roads, vehicles choke our cities. Miami ranks fifth nationally and tenth globally for congestion, as residents spend 65 hours in traffic per year on average, according to INRIX, a global traffic researcher that uses big data. Adding real injury to insult, the state’s stretch of the I-95 is America’s most deadly, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

There is a financial burden to excessive traffic too. INRIX estimates that congestion costs Miami drivers $3.6 billion per year (remember that figure). Additionally, drivers pay out an average of $628,000 every day in tolls, just for the privilege of using the Miami-Dade Expressway.

Cars aren’t cheap, but what is the alternative in an auto-dependent city like Miami? Director of the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) for Miami-Dade County Alice Bravo said that she wanted to make Miami a “car-optional community,” where people can get to “all the different regions within the county using reliable public transit that’s convenient and helps people save time.”

A plethora of schemes and projects are now occurring in and around the city, such as high-speed regional rail, local rail, bus, bicycle, and pedestrian routes, water travel, and carpooling. Miami has gone from having nothing concrete in the pipeline for years to everything happening at once, and this coincides with a development boom that is more tuned for urban living than previous waves of development.

Bravo said that the backbone of the infrastructure surge is the Brightline, a completely private, approximately $3 billion scheme by All Aboard Florida. The “higher-speed” (Note: not high-speed) rail service runs the 235-mile stretch from the Orlando airport to Downtown Miami. The new line will reduce travel between Orlando and Miami from four hours to two and a half, for about the same cost as driving.

Such a commuter-rail service may sound familiar: In the late 19th century, the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) was developed by Henry Flagler. Flagler’s railway ran from Jacksonville and was dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world.” The commuter rail prevailed until the 1960s when the line was used to transport freight only, which it still does to this day. Unsurprisingly, then, All Aboard Florida is a sister company of the FEC and the new tracks will be laid along the existing lines.

Designing the Miami station, as well as those in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach is Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) who are working with Miami-based Zyscovich Architects. Design principal Roger Duffy explained how the stations would work with the existing infrastructure around them: “At Fort Lauderdale, we’re looking to link up with a bus service that will connect the cruise port and the station.” The city is also pressing on with plans for a streetcar system called “The Wave” that would connect with the station as well.

Meanwhile, at West Palm Beach, the 60,000-square-foot station is located at the center of downtown and will connect with the existing trolley network as well as Tri-Rail and Amtrak. In Miami, the station inhabits a similar location. A zoning override that turned the area into a special transit district was required to build the station, and tracks here are elevated 50 feet into the air so that the 11,000-foot-long station can bridge roads and pedestrian pathways.

Like any contemporary train terminus, the station will offer a ton of retail space, with room for a food court too. Duffy, however, stressed that the station was “not like duty-free at an airport,” where you have to weave through shops to get anywhere. Amenities will also cater to the area outside the building. Space for food trucks—a hit in Florida—has been provided, while skylights where the station bridges the streets offer daylight.

The Brightline train itself was designed by the LAB at Rockwell Group—an in-house strategy and technology studio at the New York architecture and design studio. The LAB at Rockwell Group worked with All Aboard Florida to conceive the Brightline name, brand platform, visual identity, and designed the train’s interiors as well as the exterior graphics. In addition to this, one of Rockwell Group’s architectural studios designed the interior check-in areas, food and beverage areas, and lounge experiences for all four Brightline stations.

Using the Brightline project as a springboard, Bravo is embarking on a $3.6 billion (remember that number?) transport scheme. Part of “Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit,” otherwise known as the S.M.A.R.T. plan, 82 miles of track will be laid along six transportation corridors that involve local services, including the suburban Metrorail and the elevated monorail Metromover.

In addition to new tracks, existing tracks are also finding a new lease on life as a haven for pedestrians and cyclists. Known as the “Underline,” the rails-to-trails scheme, comes from James Corner Field Operations (JCFO)—the same firm who developed New York’s hugely popular High Line.

As one might guess, the scheme involves area underneath the Metrorail being turned into a landscaped oasis filled with pedestrian paths, cycle lanes, and native planting. The 10-mile stretch is planned to run from Brickell Station down to Dadeland South Station. Phase one is occurring in Brickell, where work is due for completion in 2019, set to cost netween $7 million and $9 million. “Brickell has grown explosively in the past 10 to 15 years,” said Meg Daly, president of Friends of the Underline, the group leading the project. “We really believe that this trail-cum-park will offer incredible amenities and green spaces to offset the vertical growth and increased density in the area.”

Expanding on this, Isabel Castilla of JCFO listed amenities such as a dog park, an outdoor gym, a basketball court that doubles up as a space for yoga classes and similar activities, as well as a 150-capacity bicycle garage (Miami-Dade’s first) and a bike repair station. Art will also line the trail, and amenities will be site-specific: In the University of Miami area, a beach volleyball court will be installed.

According to Irene Hegedus of the DTPW, providing safe bicycle routes is a high priority. Castilla added that the shade provided by the Metrorail is “critical” for a project where people are encouraged to “walk, run, and cycle to stations and along the path.” “Working with the existing infrastructure,” she continued, “we hope this leads to the rezoning and re-visioning of areas along the Metrorail as transit-orientated development sites and areas where, as Miami continues to grow, it hopefully grows in a denser way near transit stations rather than continuing urban sprawl that is very dependent on highways and cars.”

Bravo, too, is aware of the interwoven relationship between transit development and the densification of urban areas. Another tool she discussed to further assist Hegedus’s and her ambitions was the possibility of Uber and Lyft entering the fray of her transport plans, acting as the “first and last miles” for journeys.

Now operating in Miami (after three years of lobbying for service legalization), Uber and Lyft previously found success in other parts of Florida, notably in Pinellas Park and Altamonte Springs where rides are subsidized and saving the cities considerable money. Altamonte Springs City Manager Frank Martz described the pilot partnership as “going very well,” but said the scheme is due to end in July.

The low-cost nature of services such as Uber and Lyft is a key to their success. Already able to outprice traditional taxi drivers, ridesharing services Uber Pool and Lyft Line are looking to compete with bus service, too. Uber has gone further than mere carpooling by introducing pickup points optimized by algorithms that essentially create Uber bus stops.

Uber is also losing money—approximately $3 billion per year. In December, economist Justin Wolfers commented that “prices will rise once they’ve succeeded at monopolizing the industry.” If he is correct, the governmental embracing of Uber and Lyft long-term will prove to be shortsighted. Evidence of what happens when alternative public transit routes become unavailable can be seen in London. During a tube strike earlier this year, Uber fares surged by 450 percent; one rider was reportedly charged $138 for a five-mile trip.

It should be noted, though, that Altamonte Springs and Pinellas Park went with car sharing due to other circumstances not going their way. The Altamonte Springs city government set aside $500,000 (of which only a fraction has been needed) for private-hire subsidies after it was denied funding for a $1.5 million pilot “FlexBus” program. At Pinellas Park, the program emerged in response to a 2014 referendum in which local voters declined to adopt a one-cent sales tax to aid transit in the area.

In Miami, however, residents appear to be more enthusiastic about public transport. The “People’s Transportation Plan,” a half-penny charter county sales surtax is helping to fund the S.M.A.R.T. project, something the public voted in favor of back in 2002.

All this, too, shouldn’t suggest that Miami is waging all-out war against the automobile. Getting around by car is being made easier by what Bravo calls “smart signals”—traffic signals that adapt to current states of congestion. Using cameras, they monitor intersections and use AI to optimize traffic flow. Miami-Dade County is investing $40 million this year for the implementation of the traffic signals along major corridors, part of a five-year, $160 million effort. Other smart-city services include 300 soon-to-be-installed wi-fi transit hotspots from CIVIQ Smartscapes.

With all the proposed infrastructural plans, varying in scale, Bravo is under no illusions about the difficulty of the task. “This is a huge cultural change,” she said. However, Bravo is optimistic about how future generations will take to the changes. “New millennials are cool about public transportation,” she added. Such unprecedented growth seldom comes around often, and the chance to invest off the back of hefty tax receipts may be fleeting. Miami’s public transit system is dire, but if it continues to ride the wave of public support and enact its plans, change in the form of mobility lies ahead.

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University City

New renderings and info unveiled for Philly's 14-acre Schuylkill Yards project
New images of the Schuylkill Yards project penned for Philadelphia have been released, along with a fancy fly-through film and a new website that details new information. In addition to this, an interactive map outlines 12 of the 14 proposed new buildings for the 14-acre site which lies off the Schuylkill River. The master plan incorporates Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, the third-busiest Amtrak station in the country. 30th Street will see an influx in usage if New York-based SHoP Architects and Netherlands-based landscape architects West 8 are as successful as the project intends to be. "It is estimated that over the next three decades, renewed interest in rail travel will bring twice as many people into this already bustling transportation hub," read a line from a marketing brochure on the project. SHoP and West 8's plans work around the station seem to place priority on public space (of which there will be 6.5 million square feet, denoted as "greenspace and improved streetscape") in the vicinity. Four public spaces were outlined in the brochure:
  1. Drexel Square will feature an elliptical lawn and supposedly represent the "continuation of William Penn’s original vision for the city’s 'public room.'" The area will be active during the day and night and is set to "serve as the gateway into University City from Center City and 30th Street Station."
  2. JFK Boulevard is due to be transformed into a "shared esplanade" linking 30th Street Station with the Armory building. This space will act as an overspill area for commuters and visitors leaving the station, safely integrating pedestrians, bikes, and cars in the same space, "while providing a rich new greenway for the public."
  3. Market Street, a well-known thoroughfare in Philly, will receive new bicycle and pedestrian lanes, as well as trees that will line the street to counteract noise and pollution.
  4. The Wintergarden. Renders for the space show an elevated, balustrade-encased area overlooking the streets filled with greenery and families. The surrounding area appears to be laboratories, so it is unclear if this is a specific public space. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reached out to the developers (Brandywine Realty Trust and Drexel University) for clarification and is waiting to hear back.
Meanwhile, a 627,000-square-foot office tower, "3101 Market East," is in line to be built, as is a hotel covering 247,000 square feet. The $6.5 billion scheme is part of the "University City" development which will be home for many Philly-based universities and institutions, including: Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Medicine, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the University of the Sciences, Lincoln University, the Science Center, and the Wistar Institute. According to a press release, the Schuylkill Yards project "has the potential to add 25,000 new jobs and create millions of dollars in new tax revenue." Part of it overlaps the Keystone Innovation Zone, a program started by the state of Pennsylvania to encourage start-up companies to come to Philadelphia. It will give residents and businesses tax benefits (up to $100,000 annually) and "further stimulate investment and growth in the community." This hopes to draw science and research-based companies to University City, which offers a Science Center which is undergoing major changes itself. The center recently expanded its 17-acre physical campus, which has been rebranded as uCity Square, to encompass a total of 27 acres. It houses 15 existing buildings, a 16th  is under construction, and nine additional buildings are planned over the next 10 years. In past coverage of the Schuylkill Yards, AN's Will Barlow noted that in a report from last year, firms that were incubated at the Science Center bring $12.9 billion to the Greater Philadelphia economy each year.