A sunny paradise, Miami Beach has a lot in common with other cities people love to live in and visit. The lovely beaches and inviting water, the great shopping and exciting nightlife, and the stimulating cultural and other attractions bring roughly 5.5 million visitors into the city each year, in addition to the nearly 88,000 who live here, putting a lot of pressure on parking and transportation systems.
The good news: Miami Beach didn't make it onto TIME Magazine's Top 10 Worst Cities for Public Transportation last year. The bad news: we have a lot of work to do to get us onto TIME's Top 10 Best list, competing with cities like Salt Lake City, Denver and Honolulu.
We're a geographically small city (only 18.7 square miles), with a lot to offer in the way of public transportation. Numerous Metrobus lines connect to all major points of the city weekdays and on the weekends. But average travel time across the city by public transportation leaves much to be desired, and those who choose to drive may have difficulty finding parking.
There are some bright spots on our horizon and every effort to improve our public transportation options should be applauded:
• DecoBike -- a European-style bike-sharing system inaugurated in Miami Beach last spring, DecoBike is averaging 100,000 rides per month. The bike-share program provides 100 bike stations throughout Miami Beach, and a stock of 1,000 bikes. DecoBike members pay $15/month to borrow bikes for unlimited half-hour trips from self-serve, solar-powered kiosks that offer instructions in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. Startup costs were covered by DecoBike, which is splitting membership revenues and advertising with the City of Miami Beach. I'm proud to say that I was the first resident of Miami Beach to become a DecoBike member and have enjoyed many hassle-free bike rides since then.
• Hertz On Demand -- In January of this year, Miami Beach launched the first municipal car-share in Florida with 20 high-mileage, low-emission vehicles available for rent by the hour at eight city garages. The car-share program comes at no cost to local taxpayers, and is open to residents and tourists alike. The pay-as-you-go system offers renters the ease of making reservations online. We've already seen the success of similar programs at University of Miami and Florida International University.
• Designer parking garages -- The only thing worse than the lack of parking in Miami Beach is the standard, ugly design of most parking garages. Though many cities approach these detested edifices as a necessary evil, the City of Miami Beach is embracing the opportunity to use the construction of new parking garages to add to the city's unique aesthetics. There's the hip Herzog & deMeuron-designed parking garage at 1111 Lincoln Road, and renowned London-based architect Zaha Hadid (best-known for her spectacular work on museums, concert halls, and railway stations) is designing a municipal parking garage in Miami Beach's Collins Park neighborhood. We're also looking forward to three new automated parking garages designed by ADD Inc Miami, which will feature robotic platforms that lift cars and carry them to their parking spots.
As is so often the case, it has been historically difficult to generate support for funding improvements in public transportation, 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. Improvements in public transportation translate to increased private investment in the areas served. Portland, OR, for example, in 2001 introduced a new streetcar network to augment existing public bus and rail systems. New construction within a block of the streetcar route increased 300 percent and the city enjoyed a dramatic increase in private investment.
Miami Beach rivals so many great cities like Paris, France; Tokyo, Japan; and Curitiba, Brazil; as well as Chicago, San Francisco and New York; in the areas of entertainment, outdoor activities, cultural pursuits, dining, and great natural beauty -- I'd love for this wonderful city to be working toward emulating their public transportation systems as well. To that end, I have proposed the creation of a "Blue Ribbon Committee" to help with the development of 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.