As you could see Miami Beach is an incredible city that needs just a little push to become an amazing green and sustainable city. MB already has density, diversity, natural resources, climate, configuration, and size to its favor, now it is time to get people involved in the process to press on the authorities to get things done. As we could see on all the examples given by this blog, all the great achievements were reached by community involvement. A sustainable city is made by conscientious inhabitants; education is “key” in the process of becoming sustainable and every city should take the time and funds to get bigger awareness of its population because without people’s commitment, there would be no sustainable project that will work. Education, education, education...
When talking about the future or sustainable practices, most people think on less fortunate communities that lack almost everything. Of course these communities have an array of opportunities to put theories in practice and to see greater results because any little advance that these communities make would be visible and noticeable while richer communities are left aside because they already are blessed.
Richer cities are not more efficient and/or sustainable than poorer ones and deserve the same amount of thought and effort to become better and healthier.
Actually, Miami Beach should benefit of its assessments and entitle itself “One of the Greenest Cities in US”. I have seen cities that have huge sprawling problems, poor public transportation, no natural resources, no energy alternative programs, no recycling systems, and no social programs getting the call of “Being Green” by just changing its public buildings light bulbs.
Cities that need fewer “fixes” should be urged to take action and become more sustainable and resilient to be used as example and generate awareness in other communities initiating a snowball effect that would help save the planet and make the world a better place to all living creatures.
Another wonderful idea would be developing a community gardening program within the city. Community Gardens have become popular and efficient in bringing people together, facilitating interaction and integration especially of the elderly, disabled, and mentally challenged population; everyone can work on the gardens and feel productive.
According to the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA), community gardens improves people’s quality of life by providing a catalyst for neighborhood and community development, stimulating social interaction, encouraging self-reliance, beautifying neighborhoods, producing nutritious food, reducing family food budgets, conserving resources and creating opportunities for recreation, exercise, therapy and education.
Community gardens help creating a sense of place, integrity and belonging, not only for the human beings but for all creatures of the ecosystem that it creates, bringing back birds, insects and native plant species. They also enhance the connection with nature that most urban people lack.
Children would benefit the most because the program would be an opportunity for them to learn not only how to plant a garden but where food comes from and how nature relates to them and vice-versa. We want our kids to become responsible adults tomorrow with great conscience about the community, environment, animals, and social integration. Community gardening is a must to every city serious in becoming sustainable and Miami Beach cannot stay behind.
Did you know that if half of the world’s paper were recycled, 20 million acres of forest land would be saved each year?
Recycling is not just sorting garbage for collection; it consists in a process, “cycle” that includes the sorting, collecting, remanufacturing, and purchasing products made with recycled materials. If you thought about the recycling process for a minute, you would realize that buying recycled good is as important as sorting your garbage and essential for the process to be successful. The more recycled products you buy, the bigger would be the demand for recyclable materials. Consequently, our communities would be cleaner, our natural resources would be saved, would create jobs, save energy and generate economic growth.
Miami Beach has a recycling program that is getting better and more efficient. Until now, MB’s residents had to sort their garbage and take the materials to recycle bins strategically placed throughout the city. MB didn’t have a more efficient recyclable collection program yet because the process involves a broader commitment integrating other county cities which is happening now. The “single-stream” recycling program will provide every household in the county to have recyclable garbage collection every-other week. The convenience of the single-stream program is that residents won’t have to separate the recyclable materials and take them to collectable bins; they would be collected from resident’s curbside and taken to a facility where the materials would be separated and sold.
Energy efficiency is another MB’s residents and authorities concern. The city has commissioned an energy audit of its major buildings with the intention to know where it stands in the energy efficiency matter. After the audit is done, the city has a goal to target its weak points and develop an incentive plan to turn MB more energy efficient and save for the community and environment. Among the energy conservation ideas are the installation of solar panels, wind and wave power, and desalinization.
Miami Beach is heading towards the right direction on its recycling and energy efficiency concerns. I would say that within a couple of years we would be seeing and feeling the results of what has been implanted now. I also think that with these programs a “Keep our streets and beaches clean” campaign should be enforced to educate the population, tourists, and visitors about the harms of trashing our beautiful city and beaches.
Now, let’s take a look at North Beach traffic problems. Considering that most traffic in NB is through traffic coming or going to SoBe, the problem in this city section is speed; since there are no touristic attractions here, people just pass through not bothering slowing down to take a look around and if they do stop is to ask directions to South Beach (if going south) or Sawgrass Mall (if going north) most likely. NB does have a number of hotels on the seashore which are more economic than of those in SoBe, but tourists that stay in these hotels usually spend the day in SoBe and/or other touristic places.
There are significant commerce on Collins Ave (cian) and 71st St (lavander) mostly supplying for local residents. Since Collins in this section is one way north, another avenue Harding Ave (orange) goes in opposite direction, south which has no commerce at all, encouraging cars to speed up. As it is visible on the map below, the residential area (red) is located west of Harding that has to be crossed to get to the local business, park, boardwalk, and beach.
Collins Avenue commercial area.
Usually, the through traffic coming down South on Harding Ave (orange) does not enter the residential area (red) which is pretty quiet, but if we placed bumps (green pins) on Harding Ave to slow down the traffic, it would be a good idea to set traffic diverters (yellow pins) on the streets that access the residential area otherwise cars would start to come in to avoid the bumps that would be spread on Harding from 85th ST to 75th ST. Only 2 streets would allow access into the neighborhood through Harding, 85th ST and 77th ST (purple); these 2 streets are strategic because they cross the canal entering the island behind and would get bumps too (green pins).
The entire residential area has very narrow sidewalks and wide streets which is a waste of space for the many kids living in this area that are forced to play on the streets; the neighborhood streetscape is also neglected and could get more care. Most MB’s bicyclists live in this neighborhood.
Collins Ave is not much of the problem because of its commerce this section's traffic is not as fast but the area could get a better streetscape and be more pleasant for the neighborhood residents and the tourists that stay in the area and could start enjoying this beautiful area better.
Narrow and neglected sidewalk.
Wide street with low car traffic.
Middle Beach does not have traffic issues and I would leave it the way it is.
I find incredible that a city such as Miami Beach does not have a bike rental system on its streets yet. Although, the city is small flat perfect to have long bike paths throughout its extension from North Beach to South Beach, bike paths are rare, you find them sporadically, here and there, but nothing continuous that could be called a real bike route. It is no save business to ride in MB, bikers have to share narrow sidewalks with pedestrians or dispute busy streets with cars, but residents are stubborn, almost everyone owns a bike in the city. Again, the obstacle is the visitors that insist on driving around the city while residents and tourists would be happy pedaling about.
The cost-benefit analyzes of implementing bike friendly systems in cities around the world have shown us that it is no risky business and it should be MB’s priority number 1. Miami Beach has to start changing its negative image which does not reflect its true essence that only who lives here knows.
If there were bike routes in the city, kids could safely ride to school, adults to work, and tourists around. Cities all over the world are taking bike paths very seriously and MB should too because with the economy down these days I have seen a greater number of people optioning for a more economic way of transportation; not mentioning that pedaling is a lot healthier and greener as well. Bicycle routes should be mandatory to every city and should be considered unconstitutional not providing them; it is people’s right to choose how to go places safely and not been obligated to use one or another transportation because there are no other safe options such walking or bicycling.
Bicycles are a sustainable way of mobility that besides being safer, cheaper, quieter, healthier, they are the right thing to do for the environment because they don’t pollute emitting CO2 into our atmosphere.
Above the proposed Bicycle Routes for the city of Miami Beach (green paths). The bike route would run through the most beautiful scenic roads in MB making the connection North/South and West/East from 1st Street to 85th Street, Collins Ave to Alton RD. It also would pass through all major streets and points of interest. The connection to Miami would be made by Venetian CSWY which is gorgeous, with beautiful landscape, scenic views and shade. We should not forget that the Residential Historic District in SoBe heart is now a Bike Boulevards area
South Beach has the most chaotic traffic in the city, mostly caused by visitors as we already learned. Thereafter implementing a toll on McArthur CSWY, a ferry system crossing the Bay, a light rail system (sigh), and limiting street parking for visitors, it is time to transform this cool city into to an extraordinary city. How? Rolling up our sleeves…
First, the traffic has to be rearranged and slowed down. When arriving in the city by McArthur CSWY you get into the 5th Street (pink) and Alton Road (blue) intersection, there is a one lane elevated ramp that takes cars from the left CSWY’s lane onto Alton Road going North (see picture), all other vehicles have to take 5th Street which goes all the way up to Ocean Drive (purple) or turn right going south on Alton Road – buses can’t go up on the ramp so they make a left turn from the CSWY onto Alton Road North under it – right there you encounter the first critical point in the city’s transit configuration. The ramp besides being very ugly is not efficient because it causes cars to pack up the CSWY. An easy solution for this problem would be a roundabout or traffic circle which is a very efficient way to distribute the flux of vehicles in right traffic intersections like this one in a more flowing, organized way. Three other intersections like this one deserve getting roundabouts as well; they are up the road on 5th ST (pink) and Washington AVE (brown), then turning north on Washington AVE and 17th ST (salmon), and going back west on 17th ST and Alton RD (blue) intersections; this four intersections are the busiest in SoBe and have high volume traffic; the locations of these intersections are marked with green pins on the map below.
Alton RD and 5th ST intersection and ramp.
5th ST and Washington AVE intersection.
Washington AVE and 17th ST intersection.
17th ST and Alton RD intersection.
The four roundabouts would be placed on the intersections compiling a rectangle surrounding the historic district. This residential area in the heart of SoBe gets a lot of through traffic, cars wondering around, and/or searching for parking spots; ideally this area should be car free, but the district's residents would be happy enough if they got some peace and quiet and their street back. A good solution to avoid cars turning into this residential area would be the installation of traffic diverters that allow cars to come off the residential area but not letting them in coming from a busier onto a quieter street. This system is used in Portland, OR (see video) on the bike Boulevards which is exactly what I would have in mind for this core historic residential district. The access would be allowed only on strategic streets that would have bumps to keep traffic low and slow in the district that should be enjoyable by foot and/or bike. This intervention would improve the neighborhood’s quality of life tremendously.
On the map bellow 8th, 11th, and 15th Streets (in yellow) would not have traffic diverters allowing traffic in from Alton Rd (blue) and from Washington Ave (brown) making the connection east/west. These 3 streets would have bumps (lime green pins on the map) to avoid cars to speed in their extension inside the historic district; the other 7th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th, and 16th streets would have diverters (yellow pins on the map) on their intersections with Alton Rd and Washington Ave. Drexel, Pennsylvania, Euclid, Meridian, Jefferson, Michigan, and Lenox Avenues (on the south/north axis) won’t have diverters but bumps (lime green pins on the map) from 5th Street (pink) all the way to 16th Street.
The next step would be modifying Ocean Drive (purple) and Collins Ave (cian) area. First, both should be no parking streets to alleviate the traffic flow; I would rather widen their sidewalks and have a 2 lane Ave running one direction. Collins would go North (as it already does from Middle Beach through North Beach) and Ocean Drive, South.
The fraction of streets in the east/west axis in between Ocean Drive and Washington Ave would alternate directions as follows: 6th, 8th, 10th, 12th, 14th, and 15th Streets would run west (in orange on the map bellow); and 14 PL, 13th, 11th, 9th, and 7th Streets would run east (in orange on the map bellow).
Alternating the streets directions would release and organize the traffic flow in this busy area.
“Fixing” MB traffic problems can be easier than it seems, but first I have to say that residents, visitors and tourists are not in the same page. Residents enjoy the city differently than tourists and visitors. While residents come home after a day of work to relax, walk on the beach, ride their bikes, walk their dogs, jog on the boardwalks, go out for a beer with friends or watch a movie; tourists come to explore, and visitors come to party. The visitors that come to the city mostly at night time to enjoy the many nightclubs, bars, and restaurants are the ones that cause most traffic problems.
The city’s tourists that stay in town usually leave their cars in the hotel’s parking garage and go around by foot or public transportation, taking their cars only when exploring nearby cities. The visitors, who can be inhabitants of other Floridian cities or tourists that are staying in adjacent cities are the ones that drive into the city in large numbers every day. Don’t take me wrong, we MB’s citizens love people to come visit; we just don’t want their SUVs clogging our streets.
The only solution to lower the number of cars driving into the city daily is to discourage visitors to drive across the Bay. One of the possible solutions would be a toll on McArthur CSWY which besides discouraging the “driver by” type of visitor – visitors that drive around the city just to take a look and pictures, they don’t stay longer than a couple of hours and don’t spend any money in the city – it would generates revenue to the city, and would encourage carpooling. Along with the toll, most streets shouldn’t be parking permitted unless for residents, forcing visitors to park their cars in the public or private garages which is a lot more expensive, incentivizing this way carpooling as well.
In the future it should be implemented a light rail system that connects Downtown Miami to Miami Beach and the coastal cities all the way to Fort Lauderdale. Actually, the city had a plan to implement a Baylink system that unfortunately was put aside by the city’s politicians and lobbyists; it would have been wonderful if implanted because it would especially target the public that brings trouble to the city.
Another way to keep cars out of MB would be implement a ferry system to cross the Bay. Every major Bay City in US has a Ferry System to make the crossing but Miami. Besides being an efficient transportation way it would be a touristic attraction itself as in San Francisco, New York, and Seattle for example. The ferry system would be used not only by tourists and visitors but by MB residents that work in Downtown Miami and drive their cars back and forth every day.
Another useful and practical way to get around would be a water taxi service that will alleviate car traffic in the city’s streets; would utilize the canals that are already there, would be faster than regular car taxis, and a cool alternative way to go places.
Don’t start packing quite yet, not before I tell you the cons of living in MB. No city is perfect, not even paradise as we residents like to call it. If you asked people in the city’s streets, inhabitants or not, what was MB’s worse characteristic they would unanimously say TRAFFIC! I couldn’t agree more; traffic can be very irritating especially if you are on a schedule and know that there is no other alternative but to endure it. Traffic gets a lot worse in the high season (winter) when all the fluctuating residents and tourists arrive.
It is chaos, the city does not physically support all the cars that pour in from December through May (high season), and to make things worse, the city has a bad transit orientation design. South Beach in particular receives an extra influx of cars every day, mostly through McArthur CSWY that connects SoBe to Downtown Miami where another number of hotels and touristic attractions are. Only 2 bus lines cross the Bay through McArthur- the “S” which goes from downtown Miami to Aventura Mall and the “120” which has limited stops and also connects downtown Miami to MB – most visitors prefer to drive across the Bay, even why, Downtown Miami lacks infrastructure to absorb its every day car influx too. Floridians from adjacent cities don’t have another alternative but to drive to the beach because there is no efficient public transportation in Miami itself as well.
Once crossed the bridge, all the streets in SoBE are two way Streets, even the narrow ones as Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue that are one car lane in each direction and by the way, they get the heavy traffic because most hotels are situated on them. The Historic District that is located in the heart of SoBe gets traffic up and down all day long, mostly cars trying to cut through or tourists that don’t have a clue of where they are. The city lacks a traffic orientation design which would direct the transit in a logical way to avoid traffic jams.I find it incredible that to “solve” traffic problems the city widens the streets and narrows sidewalks as you can see on this pictures taken from Collins Avenue, it is also noticeable that there are cars parked on both sides of this busy two way narrow Avenue.
Parking is another problem; there aren’t enough parking garages and/or street parking. Most of the historic buildings have no garages which overwhelm the local streets, residents have to dispute parking spaces with visitors. There is a system that designates residential parking between 6:00 PM to 6:00AM (decal on the windshield) but it doesn’t work well because the streets designated to residents only do not have enough parking spots for everybody.
In the SoBe map below Ocean Drive is in purple, Collins Avenue in cian, Alton Road in blue, Lincoln Road in green, 17th ST in salmon, Washington Ave in brown, and all other major roads in pink. The area in red is the hitoric residential district.
Middle Beach consists basically in a high income residential area that is detached from Collins Avenue (Shoreline) by a canal. The hotels and high rise residential buildings are lined up in this strip that connects SoBe to North Beach. Collins Avenue gets wider in this fraction and is the only way through in both directions (North/South). 41st Street crosses over the canal and connects the east side (Collins AVE) to the west side (Alton Road). 41st Street is the link to Julia Turtle CSWY. Alton RD also has two way traffic connecting SoBe to North Beach. Middle Beach does not have major traffic issues.
In the Middle Beach map below, Collins Avenue is in cian, 41st Street in green, Alton Road in blue, Indian Creek in Orange, and all other major road in pink.
North Beach gets the through traffic from South Beach to northern adjacent cities such as Surfside, Bal Harbour, Sunny Island, and Aventura or vice-versa. Collins Avenue narrows down again in this segment of the city and becomes one way (North); considerable street commerce, mostly supplying for local residents are sited in this section as well. Harding Avenue takes the traffic on the other way, South direction. And making the connection East/West, 71st Street which links to 79th Street CSWY. The biggest problem in North Beach is the heavy and speedy through traffic that cuts the connection in between the moderate income residential and its commercial areas.
In the North Beach map below, in yellow is the city limit line, Collins Avenue in cian, Harding Avenue in orange, Alton road in blue, 71st Street in lavander, other major roads in pink, and the residencial area affected by the corridor Collins and Harding in red.
I love Miami Beach! I really do. I have lived in MB for 5 years in 2 different periods between 1998 and 2006; and now, it has been almost a year that I’m back for the third time, hopefully definitively. Why I keep coming back? I’ll show you why…
One image worth more than a thousand words! Yes, it is gorgeous as you could see; just South Beach (SoBe) alone draws in a lot of people. Located just across Downtown Miami which, by the way, is the city skyline that people who live facing the Bay see from their balconies or windows, not bad huh? Oceanfront high-rise is not the only option for wealthy residents in MB; actually, the rich and famous have plenty to choose from. One of my favorites "must do" thing is taking McArthur CSWY going downtown (West) or SoBe (East), from the CSWY you will sight one of the most beautiful sceneries in South Florida, the cruise ships lined up on the canal - the port of Miami is located on the CSWY’s South side where all the cruise ships anchor - and in the other side of the CSWY (North) the Star Island, where celebrities live or have a second, third, fourth… house.
Also in SoBe you’ll find the famous Ocean Drive on the coastline (East side). Ocean Drive is where a row of Art Deco hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs are; no matter if on breakfast, lunch, dinner, or afterhours there are always people wondering around and a lot more people at nightfall when the neon goes off and music plays loud, the party lasts through dawn and then everything starts all over again as a never-ending ritual.
Lincoln Road is not less famous, a pedestrian Mall that connects SoBe West and East sides where you can find fashionable shops, restaurants, cafes, spas, and a lot more. The architect Morris Lapidus who also designed the Fountainebleau and Eden Roc hotels both in MB as well, was commissioned to redesign the road in the 60s in the Modern Architecture style, “MiMo” as it is known here. The road was closed to traffic ever since and became one of the first pedestrian malls in US.
The main reason that brought me back to MB was the option to be “car free”. Actually, cars can be a real headache in town; there are no parking spaces, constant traffic no mattering if day or night and because of the high number of car crashes, insurance for who lives here is unbelievable expensive. The public transportation is good but could be better though, it takes an hour and a half to get from North Beach to downtown Miami by bus. The city is mostly walkable, there are no megastores that seize entire blocks, instead it has a variety of smaller shops all in a walkable distance usually concentrated on Lincoln Road but you find a considerable number of stores all over SoBe, the city also offers a array of entertainment for all ages and preferences, and all type of services; I don’t have to go to the continent ever because everything I need is found right here.
Another important reason was safety; due to its shape and limited access, MB is pretty safe comparing to Miami and others cities in US. The city also has a large law enforcement team that is always in action, you see them everywhere all the time and it couldn’t be different considering the number of people that comes and go every day, all year long. MB is one of the few places that you still can leave your door open all day long and let your kids play outside without much concern (cars are the biggest worry). There is a law in Florida that sex offenders cannot live in a 1,000ft radius from schools, playgrounds, and other children’s sites which makes it impossible for these criminals to live in MB, and as a mother, I couldn’t be more relieved.
The city has good dynamic and energy; it is dense (12,508.3 P/SQM), with people everywhere. It can be crowded in locations such as South Beach and at the shoreline, but is pretty quiet in the residential areas, mostly because of the numerous islands with difficult access that are almost exclusive for local traffic. Diversity is also one of MB’s best characteristic; people from all over the world and US live here or come here periodically or sporadically. MB is very friendly and affable.
Outdoor activities are another plus to this vibrant city; there are plenty to do like biking, fishing, kayaking, swimming, jet skiing, sailing, rollerblading, and so on. I like the idea of having so many options, even why I have a teenager son that really needs to spend a lot of physical energy. It is true that at summer time humidity can be very uncomfortable, but if you are not a cold weather lover, you’ll get used to it.
Entertainment and cultural programs are abundant for all ages and tastes from art galleries to museums, shows, nightclubs; there are lots to do all day and night long. At last but not least, the beauty of the city. Miami Beach is incredible beautiful with crystalline turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, overflowing canals, parks, and nice architecture; the city is just beautiful and generally well kept.
Most people mistake Miami Beach as being part of Miami City; they are 2 distinct cities, Miami Beach is located on a barrier island between Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay which separates Miami Beach from the city of Miami, Florida.
According to miamibeach411.com, MB has an estimate population of 87,933; the average temperature of 82.6 degrees in July and 67.2 degrees in January; and the average rainfall is 55.92 inches annually.
MB has the 26th highest population density in the United States, and the 2nd highest housing density, following New York City. The population rank increases to 3rd or 4th during the winter, when the majority of vacant second and third homes and/or condos are occupied.
MB is divided into three sections: South Beach (SoBe) from 1st St. to 23th St., Middle Beach from 24th St. to 63st St., and North Beach from 63st St. to 87th St.; two other smaller cities share the island on the north, Surfside and Bal Harbour.
There are only 3 main accesses to the city: I-395 (McArthur CSWY), I-195 (Julia Turtle CSWY), and NE 79th ST CSWY, all causeways are over Biscayne Bay; and 2 secondary accesses, the Venetian CSWY parallel to McArthur CSWY that connects several little islands from downtown Miami to South Beach (toll CSWY), and at north by Harding Avenue that connects Surfside to MB.
MB is constituted by a main island and several smaller islands (on the Bay side) that create beautiful canal ways throughout the city, making possible a great number of waterfront properties. Most hotels are located on South Beach where the majority of touristic attractions, Art Deco District, bars, restaurants, and shops are. Middle Beach is practically high income residential and North Beach moderate income residential.
Usually, people that work in South Beach live in North Beach that has its own little commerce with some restaurants, shops, and offices, most of them on Collins Ave. and 71st Street. Middle Beach has its commerce corridor too, 41st Street from Collins all the way to Alton Road.