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Excellence in Design Awards

Bomb squad building, verdant library, and others score NYC design awards
Today officials revealed winners of New York's annual Awards for Excellence in Design, a recognition of the city's best civic projects. Timed to NYCxDESIGN, the city's annual celebration of all things design and architecture, the projects being recognized contribute to the city's public life, preserve its history, and exemplify sustainable approaches to buildings and landscapes. The awards, now in their 35th year, are presented by the Public Design Commission, an 11-member group of designers and representatives from New York's cultural institutions that reviews art, architecture, and landscape architecture on city property. "The best public projects are purposeful and use design to build a sense of community and civic pride," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a prepared statement. "We commend the teams behind these critical and creative projects that will help build a stronger, more equitable city and improve services and recreational activities for every New Yorker." Tonight, the mayor, along with Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Public Design Commission President Signe Nielsen and Executive Director Justin Moore, will present awards to this year's and last year's honorees at a City Hall ceremony. Get a sneak peek at the eight winners below (unless otherwise noted, all images and project descriptions in quotes are from the Mayor's Office): AWARD WINNERS Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center Marble Fairbanks; SCAPE Landscape Architecture Greenpoint, Brooklyn Brooklyn Public Library "Exceeding LEED Silver goals, the center will become a demonstration project for innovative approaches to sustainable design, and an environmental learning tool for the community." Double Sun Mary Temple Williamsburg, Brooklyn Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program and Department of Parks & Recreation "Gracing the interior of McCarren Park Pool’s dramatic archway entrance, Mary Temple’s paintings create a subtle and elegant visual disturbance." Downtown Far Rockaway Streetscape  W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Far Rockaway, Queens Department of Design and Construction, Department of Transportation, and Department of Parks & Recreation "Incorporating Vision Zero strategies, this comprehensive streetscape design will foster a safer, more inviting, pedestrian experience in this central business district and transportation hub." Bomb Squad Building Rice + Lipka Architects; Liz Farrell Landscape Architecture Pelham Bay Park, Bronx Department of Design and Construction and New York Police Department "The simple and smart design of this resilient office and training facility elevates critical program elements above the floodplain and allows flood waters to flow through without damaging the building." Treetop Adventure Zipline and Nature Trek  Tree-Mendous The Bronx Zoo Department of Cultural Affairs, Department of Parks & Recreation, and Wildlife Conservation Society "Two new adventures provide unique perspectives at the zoo—visitors can zip across the Bronx River and navigate a series of bridges with narrow beams, obstacles, and climbing wiggling surfaces." FIT New Academic Building SHoP Architects; Mathews Nielsen Fashion Institute of Technology Agency: Department of Education and the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York "The first newly-constructed building on the FIT campus in nearly 50 years has an NEA award-winning design that reflects FIT’s commitment to openness, community engagement, and the robust exchange of ideas across many platforms." Woodside Office, Garage, and Inspection Facility TEN Arquitectos; W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Woodside, Queens Agency: Department of Design and Construction and Taxi and Limousine Commission "Serving as the central inspection location for over 13,500 taxis, this facility will provide a welcoming and dignified experience for drivers, reduce queuing times, and increase inspection capacity by more than 200 cars per day." The Cubes Administration and Education Building LOT-EK Astoria, Queens Agency: Department of Parks & Recreation and Socrates Sculpture Park "Constructed of 18 shipping containers, the Cubes will be Socrates Sculpture Park’s first permanent structure in its thirty-year history and a manifestation of the organization’s emphasis on reclamation and adaptive re-use, as well as a reference to the neighborhood’s industrial roots." SPECIAL RECOGNITIONS: The Department of Environmental Protection, for the agency’s thoughtful design of green infrastructure in the watershed to help protect the city’s water supply. "DEP’s use of green infrastructure in its upstate properties not only results in resilient and innovative designs, but is a critical component of the agency’s ability to maintain the high quality of New York City’s drinking water supply." Conservation and Relocation of three WPA-era murals EverGreene Architectural Arts; Fine Art Conservation Group; Morphosis; Weiss/Manfredi Roosevelt Island, New York Economic Development Corporation and Cornell Tech "Commissioned in the 1940s by the Work Projects Administration (WPA), these murals were painted over and forgotten for decades. As part of the new Cornell Tech campus, the murals were uncovered and conserved and will be integrated into new campus buildings for public enjoyment." Tottenville Shoreline Protection Stantec; RACE Coastal Engineering Staten Island Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, the Department of Parks & Recreation, the Department of Transportation, and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York "In tandem with ReBuild by Design’s Living Breakwaters Project, this shoreline initiative will increase public access by creating an interconnected and seamless waterfront trail, incorporating wetland enhancement, eco-revetments, hardened dune systems, shoreline plantings, maritime forest restorations, and earthen berms."
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Next Big Thing

Is Jacksonville, Florida’s best hope for a post-climate change megacity?

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.

Increasing economic and environmental pressures have the potential to challenge the resiliency of South Florida’s low-lying urban areas in the near future. As Florida’s population continues to grow in the midst of the increasingly obvious impacts of gentrification, global climate change, and sea level rise, economic and environmental displacement are likely to make the northern city of Jacksonville a beacon of hope for a climate-ravaged state.

Why? Because Jacksonville is huge and has room to grow. The city, named after President Andrew Jackson, also first governor of Florida, is the state’s largest by population and the 12th largest in the U.S., population-wise, with 868,031 residents. Jacksonville is also the largest city in the U.S. by land area—874.3 square miles—making it almost twice the size of Los Angeles and about three times that of New York City. The city’s corresponding 1,142 people per square mile density—L.A. and New York are many times denser—means there is plenty of room to grow.

Ruth L. Steiner, professor and director at the Center for Health and the Built Environment in the department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Florida, Gainesville, said: “I think the area is amenable to accepting large amounts of new growth,” adding that though the region could likely support an influx of new residents, its schools, transportation, and land-use policies would need a healthy dose of re-thinking to be ready.

A question regarding the massive growth in southern and central Florida, however, centers around the long-term sustainability of these new population centers as the impacts of climate change and sea level rise threaten the state’s coastal communities. With sea levels predicted to rise between four inches and up to ten feet across the region, low-lying areas of the Miami region will see massive losses in real estate and untenable retrofitting costs. The simultaneous and ongoing population growth across that region will likely ultimately push residents to flee to higher, cheaper ground.

That’s where Jacksonville comes in. Though some parts of the city lie on the coast, much of the city’s land area currently sits roughly 16 feet above sea level. As of 2010, Jacksonville had 366,273 households with an 11.8 percent vacancy rate, meaning that roughly 43,220 units are currently unoccupied. The relatively high vacancy rate means lower rents and, maybe more importantly, lower economic barriers to homeownership for first-time buyers—a growing problem for Miami’s millennial residents. Jacksonville is also home to the nation’s largest urban parks system, with 80,000 acres of parkland distributed across 337 sites, which according to Steiner, “bodes well” for any future urban development. She explained, “Investment in public infrastructure like parks has a high level of pay-back in terms of raising quality-of-life.”

Steiner added that the city faces challenges in terms of its urban layout; “another dilemma is the city’s sprawled out urban form,” she said, adding that because most of the development in the city has happened since World War II, the city is organized along “a series of major arterials and mega-blocks,” a 3,400-mile long network of roads that deters pedestrian-oriented design. Jacksonville also has a bus-only transit system that, aside from a downtown monorail line, leaves much to be desired in terms of mass transit.

The city, a short drive from the University of Florida’s Gainesville campus, is, however, poised for knowledge worker growth. Not only that, but the vast majority of Florida’s recent population growth is not from an increase in births or even migration from other American states, but from a net influx of individuals moving to the state from foreign countries, with Cuban, Venezuelan, and Haitian immigrants showing up in the highest numbers. The impact of climate change on those countries is currently unknown, but it is safe to assume that those communities would continue to grow should conditions back home deteriorate.

In a not-too-far-off future, could Jacksonville provide a relief valve for the growing state? It’s likely, and if city officials can prepare accordingly, Jacksonville’s new residents might learn to love the city. “Sometimes,” Steiner added, “I think Jacksonville is a diamond in the rough.”

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Trains, Planes, Automobiles

Port Authority Bus Terminal to get total reset and other breaking news from annual RPA conference
The Regional Plan Association (RPA)'s Assembly conference in New York City, which focuses on urban planning, infrastructure, and transportation, was marked by an acute sense of crises and challenge. "You need to start shouting about how bad things are, how irresponsible" we've been as a nation, former Vice President Joe Biden told the audience. He bellowed how the U.S.'s infrastructure released a D+ rating. Biden was on hand to receive the RPA's John Zuccotti Award. In addition to being a longtime advocate for Amtrack, the noted train enthusiast Biden administered the infrastructure-heavy American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It's an "easy message to deliver," he said, "that our infrastructure is crumbling and making America less competitive." Challenges associated with major projects like the Gateway Program (which promises new rail tunnels under the Hudson, among other improvements), the Second Avenue Subway, and a new Port Authority Bus Terminal loomed large as the conference started off. In the Assembly's large morning panel, Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), highlighted how the region's "accountability and governance model" needs to be reviewed. If government officials have clear ownership, it's better, she said, citing Governor Cuomo's intervention into the Second Avenue Subway. Rohit Aggarwala, chief policy officer of Sidewalk Labs and co-chair of the RPA's Fourth Regional Plan, gave a preview of what the RPA would propose when the Plan comes out later this year. "What has happened to these institutions?" he asked, arguing that it wasn't politics, ineptitude, nor lack of funding that was causing major regional transportation projects to falter and slow. It's the "very shape and structure of these agencies" that were the cause, he said, adding that they're "deeply flawed" in how they're organized, funded, and how responsibilities are divided. He discussed how other global cities, such as London, Honk Kong, and Los Angeles, have all restructured their transportation agencies in the last 20 or so years, consolidating power on a more local level or finding new arrangements more reflective of their needs. "It is time for reinvention," he concluded, saying the Fourth Plan would address these issues head-on. (He gave no concrete hints about the Plan itself, though in one example of dysfunction, he cited how commuter rail authorities are divided by the Hudson.)
There were major project updates at the "Crossing the Hudson" panel, which sought to address the fundamental challenge of improving transportation across (and under) the Hudson to connect New York and New Jersey. Tom Wright, president of the RPA, kicked off the panel by showing how New Jersey added 65,000 new cross-Hudson commuters from 1990 to 2010 and stood to add another 75,000 from 2010 to 2040. (By another estimate, it would be 110,000 by 2040 if you include New Jersey commuters going to all five boroughs.) Forty-three percent of current commutes happen via bus and a new Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) is desperately needed. Additionally, if one track is lost on the current 106-year-old rail tunnel under the Hudson, Penn Station can only handle six trains during a peak hour (as compared to 24 otherwise).
Put simply, "New Jersey transit systems are in a state of crises," said panel member and New Jersey State Senator Robert Gordon. While PATH is in decent shape funding-wise (thanks to PANYNJ tolls), the rest of the state's transit system is severely underfunded. John Porcari, interim executive director of the Gateway Program Development Corporation, framed the challenge a little differently: 10 percent of the country's GDP is in the New York metro area, but crossing the Hudson via rail its "single point of failure." A new rail bridge, dubbed the Portal Bridge and located over the Hackensack River, is ready for construction but is awaiting federal funding. The new rail tunnel's environmental impact statement should be released in 60 days, Pocari added, and a financing plan is also in the works. Those two projects (the new bridge and tunnel) constitute phase one of the Gateway Program; phase two includes a new Penn Station. Biden called the tunnel "literally the single most important project in the country." A new PABT is also essential to the trans-Hudson transportation question; the current station will require replacement in 15 to 20 years due to structural deterioration, said Andrew Lynn, director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ)'s Planning and Regional Development Department. (Lynn sometimes holds meetings with local officials and stakeholders in the PABT, using the shaking walls to drive home his point.) The PANYNJ has about $3.5 billion set aside for the terminal, but despite numerous attempts to formulate a plan over the years, none have been successful. The PANYNJ is effectively "pushing the reset button" on the project, and while the group will learn from past failures, "we're really starting over," he said. (Gordon suggested expanding the current PABT upwards by building off the current structure. This would expand capacity while minimzing local impact.) However, Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), countered that "global cities are not building big bus terminals"; rail is much more efficient. "One enormous bus terminal" is not the solution, she said, citing the failings of Robert Moses and how "we don't think that way now." Lastly, the panel touched on the replacement and expansion of Penn Station. Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of Practice for Architecture Urbanism, who has put forward a plan to adapt the existing structure, explained his plan to move Madison Square Garden to the back of the old Farley Building, allowing the adaptive reuse of the current Garden's superstructure for a new train station that would make the neighborhood a "world-class address." (ReThink Studio, who was also present at the Assembly, has critiqued aspects of this plan.) Chakrabarti also sounded the alarm that office space might be built in the back of the Farley Building to fund Amtrack's construction of a new Amtrack platforms on the rails that run under the Farley Building. Those platforms, he added, would only serve Amtrack and exclude regional rail. He also warned that the current Penn Station was a safety hazard awaiting disaster: with such low ceilings, for instance, a smoke event would be disastrous in the already-overcapacity space. In sum, the panel portrayed a moment of crises but also a potential reconsideration of the current status quo. Once the current crises have been averted, panelists agreed it would make the most sense for New Jersey to emphasize trains over buses for a trans-Hudson commute, as rail is overall far more efficient (albeit also more expensive) a system for moving people. After this, an afternoon panel, "Planning for the Transportation Revolution," sought to address how ride sharing and autonomous vehicle could reshape the urban landscape. Bruce Schaller, principal at Schaller Consulting (which specializes in urban transportation policy), and Matt Wing, corporate communications lead at Uber, both highlighted how Transportation Network Companies (TNCs, such as Uber and Lyft) have filled in gaps created by public transportation. Forty percent of Uber's New York City rides are in the outer boroughs and never touch Manhattan, which serves as little surprise given only one subway line (the G) doesn't pass through Manhattan. TNCs, Wing explained, are also serving as critical links in the "last mile" problem of getting people to mass transit stations. (See AN's transportation feature on Miami for more on this.) Jessica Robinson, director of city solutions at Ford Smart Mobility, revealed that Ford aimed to have a production-ready Level 4 self-driving car by 2021. (Level 4 means no steering wheel, gas pedal, or anything else drivers must operate.) Given their cost, said Robinson, such cars will almost certainly be owned and operated by ride-sharing companies. Seeking to stay at the forefront of mobility solutions, Ford also bought Chariot, a TNC that operates 14-passenger ride-sharing vehicles and aims to reinvent mass transit. It was Robin Chase, the co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, who gave the most impassioned presentation. "Cities are in a one-time position of power," she said, to dictate the terms of how autonomous vehicles should operate before they're legally allowed in major cities. She's currently organizing a global coalition of mayor to negotiate with large companies. Her top priorities include: ensuring all vehicles are electric, creating a level playing field for competition among ride-sharing companies, and negotiating new forms of ride sharing taxation based on distance traveled, curb rights, fuel type, and other factors. Conventional taxation based on registration fees, gasoline tax, and tolls may not be an option when autonomous vehicles hit the road. Overall, the panel argued that anything less than all-electronic fleets of competing ride share companies would be a major loss for cities. In that scenario, there are fewer and much cleaner cars on the road, and vast amounts of parking and curbside space would be made available for public use.
For more on major transportations plans, don't miss the upcoming Plan 2050 at the Cooper Union, this May 9!
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Making No Small Plans

Optimism fuels Miami’s mega-developments, but a denser Miami isn’t a sure thing

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.

New York or Los Angeles?

These are the two contrasting models of urbanism that Raymond Fort, designer at Miami-based architecture firm Arquitectonica, cites when asked about Miami’s future. In New York, numerous walkable neighborhoods—whose density, convenience, and character are major assets—are connected by a robust public transportation system. In Los Angeles, low density and car-oriented urbanism is the norm outside the downtown core (though transit-oriented development has begun to spread in recent years). Many developers working in Miami are clearly enthusiastic about the New York model. However, that future isn’t guaranteed: The potential for car-dominated sprawl and other hybrid models still exist.

Arquitectonica is behind Brickell City Centre, a 5.4-million-square-foot complex of offices, luxury condos, a hotel, and ample retail south of Downtown Miami. Developed by Swire Group, Brickell is one of the many large, mixed-use developments in Miami that signals movement toward density. Phase one opened late last year, and phase two will entail an 80-story mixed-use tower.

Just north of downtown, there’s Miami Worldcenter, a 17-million-square-foot, 27-acre complex. It’s a joint venture by multiple developers, with Boston-based Elkus Manfredi leading the master plan and designing the center’s phase one, which is anchored by a 1-million-square-foot retail podium. Phase two is a $750 million convention center and hotel.

Development isn’t only concentrated in the urban core. About two miles north of Downtown in the Wynwood neighborhood, developer Moishe Mana and Miami-based Zyscovich Architects are poised to build a 9.72-million-square-foot, 23.5-acre development that will feature as many as 3,482 residential units, a mix of retail, office, and cultural programming, as well as an extensive public “Mana Commons” that will cut through the complex’s cluster of medium-rise towers. Dubbed Mana Wynwood, it won approvals last September. More like it may be on the way: In Little Haiti, the Eastside Ridge development will replace 500 townhouses with 7.2 million square feet of mixed-use development, and another project dubbed “Magic City(also located in Little Haiti) would see an innovation center, business incubator, housing, retail, and other art-entertainment facilities arise across a 15-acre campus.

What’s driving all of these major concentrations of development? In part, affluent young professionals across the U.S. are moving to cities seeking walkable, transit-connected neighborhoods, and developers are eager to meet that need. But there are factors unique to Miami. One is the city’s zoning: The Miami 21 code, implemented some six and half years ago, has significant parking requirements that incentivize large developments. For example, in dense high-rise areas, the code mandates 1.5 parking spaces per unit. Consequently, smaller projects struggle to meet the logistical and economic challenges of incorporating that much parking into their site. Bigger projects can more easily integrate a parking garage into their lower levels. Furthermore, if a development covers nine contiguous acres, it can qualify for a Special Area Plan, an arrangement that allows developers more flexibility in situating parking and negotiating the rules of Miami 21’s form-based code. This maximizes the development’s value. Brickell, Mana Wynwood, and the Worldcenter, as well as virtually all of Miami’s major developments, are (or have applied for) Special Area Plans.

Miami’s geography is also part of the equation. John Stuart, professor of architecture at Florida International University and executive director of its Miami Beach Urban Studios, explained how wealth from the Caribbean and Central and South America has historically flowed into Miami. “We have this gravitational pull from the south,” he said. Affluent people from Chile, Venezuela, and elsewhere come to Miami seeking “these kinds of urban experiences where they’re safe, their products are confirmed as authentic, but they’re close to their own countries….”

But the city’s geography turns from an asset to a risk when one considers the threat of extreme weather and sea-level rise. Miami Beach, which sits a mere four feet above sea level (compared to Miami’s six feet), is regularly inundated during king (high) tides and is spending nearly half a billion dollars to raise streets, install pumps, and push back the waters. Faced with such uncertainty, Stuart sees mega-developments as “just overflowing with optimism” and the belief that climate change will be remedied, ameliorated, or far enough away to not warrant significant concern in the near future.

In the shorter term, how Miami 21 and public transportation evolve may be deciding factors in shaping the city. In Wynwood, the City of Miami Planning Department is testing out a new zoning overlay that alleviates parking requirements for developments with smaller units. If Wynwood ceases to become the exception, then dense growth may not be restricted to Special Area Plan developments and the downtown urban core.

This leads to the issue of public transportation. “That’s at the core of much of what’s fragmenting the city, holding it back economically, socially, culturally,” said Stuart. “There’s very little opportunity for people who live in a neighborhood they can afford to access other neighborhoods for employment, artistic production, or other means.” Miami is in the process of funding and planning an expansion of the Metrorail, the city’s above ground heavy-rail rapid transit system. Eighty-two miles of new rail and six new lines—costing $3.6 billion—would connect the city’s burgeoning neighborhoods with each other and downtown. Complicating the situation are Uber and Lyft, whose low rates can be competitive with public transportation. Moreover, according to Fort, the prospect of driverless cars adds a new level of uncertainty to major public transportation investment.

A conversation about public transportation and mega-developments must also include the question of affordability. According to a 2016 study from the New York University Furman Center, in Miami “85 percent of recently available rental units were unaffordable to the typical renter household,” making the city the least affordable for renters among the country’s top 11 metro areas. But there are glimmers of hope: As development moves from the urban core and the waterfront to places like Wynwood, more non-luxury units may come online. Additionally, the city is already taking steps to increase affordable housing stock: A measure passed in late February would reward residential projects that feature affordable units with greater density and less required parking. However, while the downtown core and Wynwood don’t have large existing communities facing gentrification, that challenge may arise elsewhere. In other instances, density alone may deter development: Earlier this year, local opposition stopped a 1.2-million-square-foot Special Area Plan development east of Little Haiti.

For a firsthand experience, Fort recommends riding the Metrorail to survey the city—from there, you can see pockets of development (Coconut Grove, Little Havana, Brickell, Downtown) that he thinks could become medium-density nodes in a new polycentric city. He also cites neighborhoods like Edgewater, Wynwood, and the Design District that aren’t on the Metrorail but are still growing. “That’s what I think the next phase of development in Miami is,” he said, “where we look at neighborhoods and understand what’s missing” to make them mixed-use, denser, and affordable. Optimism for density, however, is just one of many factors—climate change, transportation technology, affordability, and zoning codes, to name a few—that will shape Miami in the years to come.

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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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Say What? 

DOT releases first-ever noise map of the United States

The U.S. Department of Transportation has released its first map of all the noise made by cars and airplanes across the United States. Though airports, ambulances, garbage pickup, and the neighbor's sweet new sound system can cost us our hearing (and sanity), most U.S. residents live in safe noise zones. But some people, mostly city-dwellers, may have cause for concern around their exposure to constant, too-loud sounds.

The National Transportation Noise Map shows that almost all U.S. residents—97 percent—hear background noise from highways and planes overhead at a safe 50 decibels, about equal to a humming refrigerator. A small fraction of citizens, though, hear noise equivalent to a garbage truck every day. Less than one-tenth of one percent of U.S. residents (approximately 223,000 people) hear 80 or more decibels on a regular basis. Sustained exposure to 85 or more decibels—heavy city traffic—can cause permanent hearing loss over time. In the New York metro area, pictured above, residents living near the region's airports or under flight paths are at greatest risk for unhealthy noise exposure. The U.S. DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) compiled and analyzed data for the Noise Map, which is meant to help agencies track transit-related noise at the state and local levels. Officials can use the information to implement policies that reduce transit noise. The layers, which now include data up to 2014, will be updated annually and may eventually include noise data from rail and ships. The Noise Map is part of the U.S. DOT's National Transportation Atlas Database (NTAD), a collection of publicly-available infrastructure data.
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Inside & Out

John Hejduk’s work portrayed in new light at Cooper Union exhibition
John Hejduk will be portrayed in a new light at The Cooper Union later this month where seven works from the architect will be on display, both inside and out.
"Hejduk was often criticized for work lacking social or political relevance," James Williamson, Dean and Professor Office of the Dean College of Architecture Texas Tech University told The Architect's Newspaper (AN).  "These objects reveal how misconceived such a judgment was," he added, referring to Hejduk's Jan Palach Memorial which will be on display.
Born in New York to Czech parents, Hejduk (1929–2000) was the founding dean of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union, a post he held for 25 years. He is highly regarded for his contribution to the discipline in terms of both pedagogy and design and the upcoming exhibition strives to reflect the dual elements of his practice. Forty-three photographs by Hélène Binet, Hejduk’s photographer of record, can be seen inside The Cooper Union, and Hejduk's Jan Palach Memorial will be exhibited outside as part of the New York City Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Art Program in nearby Cooper Square Park. The Jan Palach Memorial, one of Hejduk's most provocative sociopolitical works, comprises two structures: House of the Suicide and House of the Mother of the Suicide, both of which include 49 spikes erected onto timber cuboids. The pieces memorialize Jan Palach, a Czech dissident who set himself on fire in 1968 to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Today, the political overtones of the work are poignant. "Given what is going on right now, both in this country and globally, it's even more relevant," said Steven Hillyer, director the architecture school's archive. The outdoor installation is a fitting precursor to Binet's photographic work inside: "You can never compete with a physical experience of a building," she said. "I show details so the audience can dream about the rest and relate to the human-scale objects. Let's dream about [Hejduk's] dream, rather than feeding the audience objects." Binet prefers black-and-white film for the limitations the analog format provides, parameters that, she says, pushes her creatively. Works featured range in scale and include The Collapse of Time, the Berlin Tower, and the Wall House II in Groningen, the Netherlands. Binet explained how her photographic work progressed while she worked with Hejduk. She cited his method of "teaching through osmosis," the "social contract" Hejduk established with his students. She worked with Hillyer to reflect this pedagogical approach, too. Nader Tehrani, incumbent dean at the school of architecture, expanded on the influence of Hejduk's teaching style. "On the one hand, he brought disciplinary projects to the table that had deep histories, and on the other, he brought individuated attention to students’ independent platforms of thinking, such that he could leave latitude for creative and intellectual development outside of his own ideological predispositions," he said. "The small scale of Cooper Union enabled him to bring forth a more ‘precise’ culture, where craft, making, and representational tools were diversified, and where their instrumentality was put to focus. It is hard to imagine an intellectual figure who has had the ability to produce so many other critical voices: teacher, practitioners, deans, and activists, the very many who now occupy key positions at other reputed institutions." The exhibition will be on view March 29 through April 29, 2017 in the Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery at Cooper Union. Visitors will have more time to take in the Jan Palach Memorial, which will be displayed until June 11. "We are hoping," said Hillyer, "that this will be the first of many installations realized by the school."
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Zeroing In

See the shovel-ready Vision Zero projects changing NYC streets this year
Today Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a slate of shovel-ready or in-progress projects meant to move the city ever closer to its Vision Zero goals. The program, designed to dramatically reduce traffic fatalities through speed limit reductions and streetscape improvements, is now in its fourth year. So what is getting done? According to the Mayor's office, the city is breaking ground on wider sidewalks, more protected bike lanes, new crosswalks, and medians on busy roadways large enough for pedestrians to take refuge. The improvements, part of a five-year, $1.6 billion initiative, will target dozens of projects in the five boroughs. “Dangerous streets have to change,” said Mayor de Blasio, in a prepared statement.  “We want to get the word out: we’re moving lanes, adding new space for pedestrians and making it safer to cross intersections—all to keep your family safe. These changes have helped make each of the last three years under Vision Zero safer than the last.” The city says existing Vision Zero improvements have lead to eight fewer lives lost in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same period last year. Still, New York has a way to go towards zero fatalities—40 people have died in traffic-related incidents so far this year Here are a few highlights from the improvements planned so far for this year: In Brooklyn, along Borinquen Place, South 4th, and South 5th streets, this summer city will enhance pedestrian and bike access to the Williamsburg Bridge in advance of the 15-month L train shutdown. The Brooklyn Bridge, meanwhile, is a commuter cyclist's special hell. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is widening pedestrian-bike entrances at Tillary Street to allow seamless coexistence between selfie-snapping, Citibiking tourists and New Yorkers who are just trying to go somewhere. Plans will add 50 trees and better crosswalks; improvements are underway and are expected to be complete this summer. (President Trump's proposed budget cuts, however, could jeopardize funding for this project.) On the Manhattan side, a "sister project" to the one on Tillary Street will improve bike and pedestrian access, while riders will enjoy a two-way protected bike lane in front of City Hall by this spring. By this summer, cyclists and walkers in Mott Haven will have easier access to the Madison Avenue Bridge, the slice of roadway that connects 138th Street in the Bronx to Manhattan. Over in Queens, two new Select Bus Service routes and safety improvements to Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards build on similar efforts to boost the pedestrian experience along Queens Boulevard. In notoriously car-dependent Staten Island, the city will add five miles of bicycle lanes to connect the North Shore neighborhoods of Tompkinsville, Stapleton, Concord and Park Hill. For residents and visitors, bike connections to the ferry terminal in St. George are coming online this summer.
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Women Can Build

A new public art exhibition shares the stories of women in the building trades

In two public plazas this month, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) is using art to showcase the women who weld steel, wire trains, and paint bridges, all in honor of Women's History Month.

The agency partnered with Jobs to Move America to present Women Can Build, a narrative exhibition at two DOT plazas in Manhattan's Financial District. Featuring Deanne Fitzmaurice's photography, the series portrays 16 "Modern Rosies," women who supervise electric work, clean up worksites, and manufacture the rail cars that move the city. While highlighting progress and opportunity, the sunny side of work, the photos and accompanying text from the subjects call attention to the gender discrimination that prevents women, particularly women of color, from achieving equity in the workplace. For historical continuity, the exhibition, organized by the NYC DOT Art program, includes vintage images of WWII-era women factory workers borrowed from the Library of Congress.

To address gender equity and meet the construction and building trades industries' demand for skilled workers, Women Can Build calls on companies to provide opportunities for women via partnerships with labor unions and community organizations devoted to workforce development.

Jobs to Move America, a national organization devoted to fiscally responsible transit development, started the project in 2015. "It is more important than ever for us to ensure women have good jobs and supportive work environments," said Madeline Janis, the organization's executive director, in a DOT press release.  "Our aim with this show is to influence global manufacturers to hire, train and retain more women in their factories."

“DOT Art’s Art Display Case and the Jobs to Move America program together provide ideal 'canvases' to showcase the critical work that women in transportation do," added NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. "From Emily Roebling's management of the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge to here at DOT, where three successive women Commissioners have led the agency since 1999, New York's women have played a significant role in advancing our transportation. I am excited that New Yorkers will learn even more about the invaluable contribution women make to transportation—in a fun, engaging and compelling way.”

Women Can Build is on view through May 15 at the DOT's art display cases in Manhattan at Water Street and Gouverneur Lane and at the corner of Water Street and Pearl Street.

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Cappin Philly

$100 million pledged for Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing interstate cap and waterfront park
The waterfront park at Penn's Landing in Philly has edged closer to realization as Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) pledged $100 million to the project which has been on the books for a decade. Despite this news, however, a timeline for the project has not been confirmed. Sited between Walnut Street and Chestnut Street, an 11-acre park will cross the I-95 and Columbus Boulevard, becoming a cap-cum-esplanade on the banks of the Delaware River. In charge of the park's design is planning and landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Associates. Senior principal of the firm's New York office (the arm covering the project) Mary Margaret Jones told The Architect's Newspaper that PennDOT would be "taking over" the scheme and Hargreaves Associates will begin working with fellow New York engineering practice Pennoni. Jones explained that the news follows a "rigorous and comprehensive" feasibility study which was carried out by her firm and estimated costs to come to $250 million. The park is set to connect Center City to the river and activate the water's edge as well as pave the way for establishing future development sites. The 12-acre site will include 11 acres of public space, a 50-foot-wide pedestrian esplanade along the river, and opportunities for 1,500 new residences, 500 new hotel rooms, and 75,000 feet of retail space. In doing so, the project will replace the current Great Plaza with an angled park that slopes down to the river and frames views over the water. Additionally, the South Street Pedestrian Bridge across Columbus Boulevard will be extended to the southern edge of the Penn’s Landing marina basin. According to the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, Hargreave's study "concluded such an investment would yield nearly $1.6 billion in returns to the City, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the School District of Philadelphia."
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Audi Field

D.C. United stadium approved, despite design “disappointment”
On February 16, D.C. United was granted approval by the D.C. Zoning Commission for the construction of Audi Field, the MLS team's new $300 million stadium designed by stadia specialists Populous and local practice Marshall Moya Design. On February 27, this coming Monday, ground will break on-site at Half Street at 3 p.m. The process, however, hasn't all been smooth sailing. Although the five-member committee was unanimous in their decision, zoning commissioners Peter May and Michael Turnbull were reluctant in doing so. "I still do feel like this application left something to be desired," said May. "I am still disappointed in the design. It has been a disappointment all the way through. I hope it turns out better than expected." The stadium will be built at Buzzard Point near the Anacostia River. The site was determined four years ago, but issues raised by the Buzzard Point advisory neighborhood commission and the D.C. Department of Transportation induced delays. Problems relating to public space, retail, parking, and the environment were ironed out in December when the design went before commissioners; the stadium was then awarded prior approval at the time. Even then, however, Commission Chairman Anthony Hood remarked that "major work" was still required with regard to transport in and around the site. In response to neighborhood concerns, the soccer team will donate $50,000 to non-profit organization Breathe DC for the purchase of air purifiers, as well as put in place a bike sharing facility with parking for 447 bicycles. 500,000 square feet (total) of retail space is also now part of the development. Plans, though, are yet to be finalized for parking and traffic management when D.C.'s baseball team, the Washington Nationals, play a few blocks down the road. Aside from the concerns, Audi Field is due to open in 2018. The new stadium will boast a capacity of 20,000 and offer 31 luxury suites. The arena is set to host numerous sporting and cultural events, community activities, and concerts. "We are extremely excited to break ground on this site, a project that has been 21 years in the making," said Jason Levien, United managing partner. "Since Erick [Thohir] and I assumed stewardship in 2012 we’ve been on a mission to deliver to our fans and this community a new, permanent home." D.C. United currently play at the RFK Stadium, the area around of which is the focus of OMA's New York office for a major upheaval. The estimated $500 million proposal includes three ballfields (two for baseball, one for youth soccer), a 350,000-square-foot recreation and sports complex, and a 47,000-square-foot market selling groceries and concessions.
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Retrofit for the Future

The American suburbs are the next fertile ground for architectural and urban experimentation

The last twenty-odd years may have seen the remarkable comeback of cities, but the next twenty might actually be more about the suburbs, as many cities have become victims of their own success. The housing crisis—a product of a complex range of factors from underbuilding to downzoning—has made some cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, a playground for the ultra-wealthy, pushing out long-time residents and making the city unaffordable for the artists, creatives, and small businesses who make vibrant places.

While it is impossible to cast a national generalization, in a broad sense, the cities’ loss could be the suburbs’ gain. Many young people and poorer residents are moving to the suburbs, although not necessarily because they want to. This is creating a market on the fringes of the city for a more vibrant mixed-use development based on public transportation and urban amenities. The traditional American suburban model of sprawling single-family homes and clusters of retail is not necessarily the only way these territories are developing, as even the big box mall models are taking new forms.

In some ways, the urban and the suburban are flattening, as Judith K. De Jong argues in her book New SubUrbanisms. Culturally, formally, and conceptually, they share more than we typically think. While suburban residents crave quasi-ersatz urban experiences, many in the urban areas are living as if they are in the suburbs, in more insular developments that minimize their interactions with the city and other citizens. In the suburbs, on the other hand, there is potential for an increase in mixed-use and mixed-experience living.

Adding to this new “intersectional suburb,” which we consider in our feature, are the demographic shifts that are continuing to upend the notion of classic post-war suburbs. We examine how a recent report by the Urban Land Institute surveys the new landscape on which the formation of new suburban projects will take place. A recent study by urban planner Daniel D’oca and his students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design even called this phenomenon “black flight.”

What makes these changes so loaded with potential to provoke new types of suburban development and living is that the suburbs already cover an enormous amount of land in the U.S. University of Michigan professor of landscape architecture Joan Nassauer cites Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2007, a 2011 U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service study that shows that 3 percent of all land in the U.S. is covered by “cities,” while upward of 5 percent is taken up by suburbs.

This means that while there are new tracts of land being built, much of this experimentation will be transforming what is already there, but with new technologies and understanding of what a healthy urbanism looks like environmentally, culturally, and economically. It is an incredibly fertile ground for architecture and urban design to imagine how to retrofit the suburbs and make them part of the next generation of cities.

When discussing his vision for the future of cities, Vishaan Chakrabarti cites Paul Baran’s 1962 diagram “Centralized, Decentralized, and Distributed Networks,” which argues that a distributed, rhizomatic network of nodes and connections is the most resilient way to organize a system. If the affordability crisis in urban areas drives more people out of city centers, then maybe mixed-use centers could be located all around a periphery, creating new conditions that are very well suited for the new technologies and environmental challenges that face the suburbs.

As the suburbs adapt to technologies—such as self-driving cars and solar power—to update their inefficient and problematic infrastructures, they will have new opportunities to address new transit options that connect them to the rest of the urban landscape. They will also be fertile ground for more industrial and commercial uses.

These changes in the suburban landscape can only be fruitful for architects and urbanists if they allow themselves to see the suburbs not as a “deplorable,” ecologically destitute place, but rather as a design challenge that offers a culturally rich and diverse set of problems that can help a variety of families in varying socio-economic conditions. Once we shed our preconceptions, we can start to analyze them on the terms that have already been set, and we can start to remake the suburbs in the image of a progressive, 21st century city.