Southeast Florida’s rail transit systems were originally designed for a largely suburban, auto-oriented context. Stations were optimized for park & ride use to intercept those who would otherwise be commuting long distances by automobile. In these first-generation transit stations, the rail platform was typically surrounded by plentiful and convenient surface parking.
While convenient for those arriving by car, these auto-oriented transit stations are quite difficult to use for those arriving by bicycle or on foot. Large surface parking lots are generally too hot, difficult to cross, and visually un-engaging for pedestrians and cyclists. The large surface parking lots adjacent to many of southeast Florida’s transit stations present an exciting opportunity, however. These parking lots represent perfectly located land banks that, with careful design and implementation, can be transformed into highly walkable, and bicycle-friendly environments.
As southeast Florida continues to grow, exciting potential exists for evolving the auto-oriented areas surrounding rail transit stations into new walkable centers. This will enable more people to live well with reduced dependence on the automobile. Those who are able to rely less on a car can spend less of their time stuck in traffic and will have the financial benefit of freedom from the expense of car usage.
A primary design goal should be to replace surface parking adjacent to transit stations with an interconnected network of walkable streets and public spaces. Surface parking may be concentrated into parking struc- tures to free land for new development. Parking structures should be con- veniently located, but should be screened from view from public spaces in order to create an optimized pedestrian environment. A rich mix of uses should be provided conveniently along the route of pedestrians to the station platform. This mixture of uses could be configured around a small plaza or square adjacent to the transit station. Uses should cater to the needs of commuters and may include a dry cleaner, coffee shop, grocery store, daycare, print shop, and office supply store, among others.
Newly developed areas adjacent to transit stations are also great potential locations for urban residential building types such as apartments and rowhouses. These urban building types reduce the amount of land consumed per residential unit, and therefore allow a greater concentration of population within walking and biking distance to the transit station.
New development close to transit stations is also a great possible location for office and other workplace uses.
Locating concentrations of both residential and workplace within walking and biking distance of transit stations and supplementing these with a variety of commercial uses is a great formula for maximizing the benefits of reduced auto usage, particularly during rush hour.