Monday, July 13, 2020

Elephant in the Room

Bene Riobó / CC BY-SA

We are discussing the wrong things in North Bay Village.

There is a budget fight, a usual annual ritual, about the projected spend for FY 2021, to include a small decrease in anticipated revenue because of the current economic downturn.

There is an entirely fictitious fight about micro units being the housing options of choice for new development. 

People are getting locked down on solving the wrong traffic problems, focusing solely on Volume (Number of Vehicles) while ignoring the bottlenecks created by poor traffic planning and a causeway that is too wide.

Yeah, too wide.

Members of our commission are busy trashing other members of the commission behind their backs but unable to articulate what ideas would move the Village through the storm.

And while this nonsense is going on, with busy people pretending they are doing important work by doing a lot of work, the Covid storm is swirling all around us.

Hold Up.  You're saying the budget, the development and the traffic don't matter?

What I am saying is that we are asking the wrong questions.  

Budget:  We continue to talk about costs when we need to talk about value.  

Simple example:  The statement, "The Police Department is 67% of our budget." tells me nothing.  

What residents need to know is what the police department does, how much of it they do, will they be doing less or more of it next year, what is the value of the thing they are doing.  

Did you know that nearly 20% of our police budget goes for things that  are really social services - camps for kids, school resources, elder checks, welfare checks, family disputes, neighborhood crime watch?  No you didn't know that because our budget only reflects the costs.   

By the way, this has been true of most Police Departments since the 1980's.  

Our crime rate is very low on its own and when compared to other areas of the same size, is even lower.   What value does that bring to our properties?  I've seen studies that it can mean as much as 20% higher values.  What social value does that build?   

These questions need to be answered before anyone can talk about the budget and it's time to work on it.  The responsibility lies squarely with the budget proposer to provide a justifiable statement of outcome and value.  Otherwise, there's no point.  

The budget will not relate spending to value received and we can't have a serious discussion without that.  

Micro-Units:  The modest proposal to allow smaller apartments in a single building, the fire station and probable Village Hall was hijacked into a frankly class based discussion about who we let in our Village and then spun to be an unsupported generalized panic spread about North Bay Village being taken over by STVR's.   

First of all, not everyone needs or wants to live cowering behind a gate in a single family house or a Soviet style block of flats gated and removed from the community.  Older people, people starting out, people in transition have all been the tenants in micro-units throughout the country and this was proposed as one possibility for this building.  

Now you may not want to live in one.  That's fine.  But eliminating the option because you are afraid people without a lot of money might live there, or you've decided it's all STVR's and a conspiracy, and then announcing that this is the plan for the whole Village is just annoying.   

Traffic:  Traffic congestion is a result of three major functions 
  • Volume:  How many cars.  
  • Velocity:  How fast the cars are able to move. 
  • Flow:  How well the cars can move.  
Every new development starts with people screaming, "Too many cars" and the modest proposal that the Causeway could be a street, not a high speed road, is met with cries of "No.  We'll never fit."  

But you know what?  You're wrong.  

We Do Not Have A Volume Problem, We Have A Flow Problem

Have you ever stood on the median islands and observed the traffic at rush hour?  Of course not.  Who would do that?  

Oh, wait.  I did.  Several times.   And here's what I saw.  

  • Large clumps of three lanes jockeying for speed and position.   
  • Long empty stretches.  
  • Large clumps of three lanes jockeying for speed and position.  

I don't want to brag or anything, but I paid attention in math class.   

It is clear there are not "too many cars."  The issue is that traffic Velocity flows at variable rates with people in the middle lane typically being passed on the left and right lanes because there is space to do so, the lights are badly timed if at all, and we add in the talented Miami drivers.   Even if you go there now with our reduced Covid traffic, you will see cars driving at different speeds and clogging the road at the lights.   

The Flow is a function of design and Velocity is controlled by flow.  

The question is not about Volume (capacity) but about management of traffic and that's where the solutions need to be.  No new development will make it worse and it won't get better on its own.  

Alright, Wise Guy, What Should Be Focused On?  

More math, unfortunately.   

You've seen the news.  Yesterday and today, Florida broke all records in the sheer numbers of Covid Cases for everywhere.  

But that only tells you part of the story.   

The most concerning part to me is the infection (positive) rate with as of today July 13, 2020 is 26% in Miami Dade County over the last 14 days and is growing daily.  Since testing is now widespread, that probably means 1 out of every 4 people you meet are infected and remember it takes an average of 5 days to get the results so that number is outdated the minute it's reported.  

Hospitalizations in Miami-Dade for Covid are double the discharge rate for Covid which does not bode well for our hospitals.  

One bright(?) spot is that death rates are declining but they are the ultimate lagging indicator.  

And guess what?  There is nothing on the July 14th Commission agenda about how we are going to deal with what looks to be an imminent replay of the shutdown.   Nothing on the agenda about how we are going to deal with kids going back to school part time or at home full time.   Nothing on the agenda evaluating what's worked so far and hasn't worked.   


Just like the cost decision over value, just like the fictions of traffic gridlock and micro-units, our five commission members and our paid staff are just going to look serious and concerned and go on acting like it's all normal and nothing is normal.   

Kevin Vericker
July 13, 2020

1 comment:

  1. There are other variables in regards to traffic flow such as the quality of the driver, speed diferencial of each driver, activity of the bridges, common courtesy of drivers, bus route stops just to name a few.

    We must protect our Police Department and Sanitation Department. They do a phenomenal job and are essential to the quality of life in North Bay Village.

    We need to develop the Sakura site so that North Bay Village can finally house the Fire Department, Police Department, City Hall and all its needs including a Community Center. The rest can be a mix from micro-units to regular apartment condos. But like always there is resistance from residents.


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