Two Cities – Two COVID-19 Responses.
Too Many Missed Opportunities in the City of Miami.
Throughout 2020, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has varied greatly between the neighboring cities of Miami and Miami Beach. The rewards of Miami Beach’s timely, appropriate response and the consequences of the City of Miami’s inaction is a case study in the role local governments have played in supporting their respective business communities and maintaining the quality of life of their residents throughout the pandemic.
In April 2020, we released our Coronavirus and Mobility campaign. It outlined steps that elected and department leaders in Miami, Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County could take to ensure an adequate response to the COVID-19 mobility crisis, including:
- The expedited completion of the City of Miami and Miami Beach’s core bike networks
- The lifting of micromobility suspensions in the City of Miami
- Repurposing street spaces to allow for businesses and people to operate and move safely
Since then, what has been the response?
- 10 Blocks of Pedestrianized Streets Along Ocean Drive
- 12 Blocks of Protected Bike Lanes along Washington Avenue
- 116 Parklet Permits Issued to Restaurants (Last updated January 19, 2021)
- Implementation of Slow Streets Program
- Disabling of Pedestrian Crossing Push Buttons
- Implementation of on-Demand Service for Seniors in Lieu of Trolley Service
City of Miami
- 1 Pedestrianized Block (Fuller Street in Coconut Grove)
- 87 Outdoor Cafe Permits Issued (Last updated January 27, 2021)
- SUSPENSION of the Scooter Program
The impact of each city’s response on the economic sustainability of businesses affected by the pandemic has been confirmed with direct testimony from the business owners of the Washington Avenue BID and along Ocean Drive. The Washington Avenue BID has reported that business owners are certain they will go under if the parklet program, which saw the repurposing of on-street parking to restaurant seating spaces, were to end. This is coupled with reports of increased revenues since the implementation of buffered bike lanes along Washington Avenue, which have bolstered the economic resilience of the businesses located along its path. This is in line with the National Street Improvement Study released by Portland State University’s Transportation Research and Education Center in April 2020, which concluded that the implementation of 2-way protected bike lanes more often than not coincides with increased wages, employment and revenues for businesses along their path.
Meanwhile, in the City of Miami, the response to the Coronavirus mobility crisis, or lack thereof, has resulted in the likely permanent shuttering of small businesses throughout the urban core at an unprecedented rate, particularly along streets that typically have a strong business presence such as Flagler Street.
With Miami Beach’s response and subsequent results to compare, this was clearly an avoidable outcome and indicative of a complete failure of the City of Miami’s leadership to respond appropriately to the crisis at hand.
The refusal to enact an appropriate response to COVID-19 is the latest instance in a longstanding pattern of the City’s inaction on issues relating to mobility. For example, since its adoption in 2009, the City of Miami has failed to complete their Bike Master Plan. After more than a decade of stagnation, the creation of protected infrastructure for cyclists, safe spaces for pedestrians and businesses to thrive and the availability of alternative mobility options is no longer simply a forgone staple of a world-class city, but a fundamental imperative in the continued sustainability of the City of Miami’s small business community.
The City of Miami’s failure to match or exceed the standard set by Miami Beach is a failure to protect the economic viability of our county’s urban core, and an undeniably poor representation of our city to the influx of young talent and business leaders, recently courted by Mayor Suarez via Twitter, that overwhelmingly hail from cities that have robust mobility networks.