The attractions of Miami Beach – sunny weather, alluring beaches, shopping and exciting nightlife – bring about 5.5 million visitors to the city annually, but in addition to the nearly 88,000 who already live here, that puts a lot of pressure on the city’s roadways and parking options.
And one Beach commissioner says “we have a lot of work to do” to improve local public transportation and bring it up to par with other U.S. cities.
Jerry Libbin, in a June 7 article posted on the Huffington Post Miami edition, suggests his city work “toward emulating” the public transit systems of international cities such as Paris, Tokyo, and Curitiba, Brazil, as well as American cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, and New York.
Miami Beach, he notes, rivals those other cities in “entertainment, outdoor activities, cultural pursuits, dining, and great natural beauty.” Libbin proposes the creation of a blue ribbon committee to help develop a city-wide mass transit system.
“One of our biggest challenges will be to find innovative solutions to our public transportation needs as well as sources of funding,” wrote Libbin.
“As is so often the case, it has been historically difficult to generate support” for funding public transit improvements, “despite the fact that even a cursory glance at the world’s most successful urban environments shows that they all have one thing in common: great public transportation,” he noted.
Libbin, who wrote that he was proud to say that he “was the first resident of Miami Beach to become a DecoBike member and have enjoyed many hassle-free bike rides since then,” applauded the bike rental program as one of the “bright spots on our horizon” in the city’s effort to improve its public transit options.
He also praised the Hertz On Demand car-share program, a pay-as-you-go means for residents and tourists alike to get around town. Miami Beach became the first Florida municipality to launch such a program in January with an initial fleet of 20 high-mileage, low-emission vehicles available for rent by the hour at eight city garages.
“The only thing worse than the lack of parking in Miami Beach,” declared Libbin, “is the standard, ugly design of most parking garages.”
But the Beach is “embracing the opportunity” to use new parking garage construction “to add to the city’s unique aesthetics.” Examples he mentioned: the hip-styled garage at 1111 Lincoln Rd. and another that architect Zaha Hadid is designing for the Collins Park neighborhood.
“We’re also looking forward to three new automated parking garages… which will feature robotic platforms that lift cars and carry them to their parking spots,” he added.
He pointed to Portland, Ore., which in 2001 introduced a new streetcar network to augment its existing bus and rail systems. New construction within a block of the streetcar route jumped 300% and Portland “enjoyed a dramatic increase in private investment.”
“Improvements in public transportation,” Libbin summed up, “translate to increased private investment in the areas served.”