The Florida State DOT vs. Livability

Activists in Miami are celebrating a likely victory in a months-long campaign for livability improvements on Brickell Avenue, the main drag in the city’s fashionable Brickell neighborhood.

Miami's Brickell Avenue is the center of a thriving residential neighborhood, but you wouldn't know it from the street design. Photo: City-Data

The campaign united the folks at Network blog Transit Miami, the Brickell Homeowners Association, a developers coalition and a handful of local advocacy groups. Their lobbying effort was aimed at the Florida Department of Transportation, with the goal of securing pedestrian improvements and a reduced speed limit.

A few recent events seem to indicate that the tide is finally turning in their favor. The Miami Herald editorial board recently took up the cause, and Transit Miami writer Felipe Azenha had the opportunity to lead FDOT officials on a tour of the neighborhood, pointing out possible improvements.

In a recent post at Transit Miami, Azenha can’t help but wonder why it takes such a heroic effort to convince FDOT to consider basic safety accommodations, even in the face of united community support:

FDOT seems to be slowly reacting.  How much they will do is still unknown.  Apparently, sufficient pressure has been placed on FDOT to motivate them to at least listen to the needs of the community. Unfortunately, this was only accomplished because of the initial efforts of Transit Miami and with the help of the greater Brickell community.  We engaged as many stakeholders as possible and built consensus. This took a lot of time and effort on our part, but we love a good fight and made plenty of new friends along the way.

Herein lies the problem with FDOT. Why does it take an entire community to beg for overdue improvements?  Shouldn’t FDOT have been proactive and taken the initiative to introduce improvements from the beginning? Why didn’t FDOT reach out to the community to get their input?

Together we will make a difference on Brickell Avenue, but only because so many people are directly affected by this poorly designed road. It was relatively easy to engage the community because so many residents and businesses inhabit this corridor. In areas that are less urbanized it will be more difficult for advocates to garner a critical mass of people to convince FDOT to design roads for all users. FDOT should lead the charge to design complete streets, not Transit Miami.  As much as we would like to, we cannot oversee every FDOT project.

As Azenha points out, it’s ironic that a powerful, specialized organization like the Florida Department of Transportation appears to be lagging behind recent (and not-so-recent) developments in its field. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case with many of our state DOTs.

Elsewhere on the Network today: the FABB blog points out that cyclists tend to obey traffic laws when the proper accommodations are put in place for the bicycling community. Market Urbanism pokes fun at the hyperbolic media reaction to New York’s incremental increase in street parking rates. And Second Avenue Sagas looks at the long history of failed attempts to link New Jersey to Manhattan by subway, in light of the idea’s recent resurrection.