A few weeks ago I threw a dinner party at my apartment. As expected in Miami, everyone was late. As my friends trickled in, each person had a story to tell about their parking experience — and not just any story, an epic story. Stories were even retold to those who walked in later because they were that dramatic!
There was one parking warrior who risked it all by parking in a CVS parking lot eight blocks down. Or the near tragedy of a couple who, after circling the neighborhood for almost an hour, was about to retreat to South Miami before I opened my garage and nervously offered them a stranger’s parking space.
Dismayed, I listened and watched as my friends tried to move on from their parking-induced stress and scarfed down a, by then, lukewarm meal.
If you live in Miami, you have probably encountered a similar situation. We all shake our fists at the Man and ask “Why can’t they do something about this traffic?!” We think, “If they just add more parking and more lanes and faster speeds, surely this problem would go away.”
And then they do. But, the lanes and the parking lots are full again. It turns out that building more infrastructure for cars only invites more cars and makes our traffic and parking problems worse.
Over that past couple years I’ve looked for an alternative to driving. I tried Metrorail, but it rarely brought me within walking distance of my destination. Then I started to ride the Metro with my bike. Combining the two gave me the ability to travel longer distances on the Metro and then bike the unwalkable distances to my destination. I eventually discovered that underneath the Metrorail is a 10-mile stretch of sadly underutilized space, currently known as the M-Path.
The M-Path is a pedestrian path that runs diagonally through the city allowing one to virtually connect to any part of the Miami street grid. This path is dangerous and unwelcoming, yet still the safest option compared to biking along U.S. 1, where narrow sidewalks and cars traveling fast leave the biker and pedestrian perilously vulnerable. Intersections are extremely dangerous, with drivers making right-hand turns through the crosswalks with no regard for the pedestrians. The lack of lighting makes using the path at night impossible.
I realized the M-Path is a critical part of my commute without a car, but it also desperately needs improvement. The only way to reduce car congestion — this is a fact, not an opinion — is to get people out of their cars. We must make alternative transportation in Miami more abundant, convenient and safer, not just for the environment or the economy — we need it for our sanity, too!
There is so much work to be done, and it will take years before we can get to the same level as cities such as New York or San Francisco. But a one simple place to start is the redesign of the M-Path. This initiative, called the GreenLink, targets improving the M-Path for the pedestrian and bicyclists. I joined this group of passionate citizens, Friends of the GreenLink, to start the crusade to change this underutilized land into a major mobility corridor. With creative landscaping, well-designed pathways and safer crossings the GreenLink could become not just a place that you move through, but also a world-class destination.
This vision, however, will never become a reality without the enthusiasm of the community to back it. if you hate traffic as much as I do, visit www.thegreenlink.org to find out more and how you can get involved.
Raymond Fort is a designer with Arquitectonica. Malone Matson is an sustainability consultant.