Walking through a neighborhood in Miami-Dade, you could be playing property hopscotch — jumping from roads owned by the city, the county, or the state in just a couple of blocks. It just depends what road you’re walking on.
That’s because a whole hodgepodge of different entities own the roads.
“If you have a pothole who do you call? You can call the city, but they’re the middle man if that’s a county road,” explained El Portal resident Adam Old.
So he mapped it out.
Using a roadway maintenance dataset published by Miami-Dade County, Old overlaid road ownership over a map of the county.
Old, who is also a member of TransitAlliance.Miami, a nonprofit that connects citizens, innovators, and government to accelerate mobility in Miami, was inspired by a similar project in Louisville, Kentucky, from Code for America’s Civic Data Alliance.
He recalled various conversations he had with people around Miami who wanted to pursue reforms around the county, but were roadblocked (pun intended) by the confusion around which entities owned the area.
“People get confused … But when I saw Louisville’s map, I thought that it was a super easy way to explain to people who owns what,” Old said. “The most useful aspect of it is that it gives you an idea of how complicated it is and how many different agencies and pieces of the puzzle there are.”
For example, in El Portal where Old lives, the residential streets are owned by the Village of El Portal. These are colored in green in the map. But you’ll also notice three big yellow roads that run straight through it — these are county-owned. One of these county-owned roads is NE 2nd Avenue, which Old has seen grow wider and wider in the time he’s lived in that municipality.
He now describes it as a “minor arterial” road — aka a road that works almost like a mini-highway. With its wider lanes and smoother curbs, it is designed to help people whiz through, connecting drivers from the suburbs to Downtown.
Widening the street “sacrifices the neighborhoods, to let people from farther away to drive faster and faster to work,” Old explained.
It’s a logical decision for county-level officials to make. It efficiently connects folks to the urban core. And their concern is not the residents living on either side of that road.
But it severs the surrounding community. In El Portal, crossing NE 2nd Avenue has become a dangerous exercise.
“In Miami-Dade, we have a lot of “stroads,” which are street/road hybrids, and they serve neither of those things well,” he said, adding that they’re not particularly walkable and they’re not very efficient to drive on without being stuck in hours of traffic.
“A street is a platform for businesses and people to live. By contrast a road connects two productive places,” he said.
Understanding that two entirely different entities maintain and design a road and the streets that surround prompt residents to ask the right questions to the right people moving forward, Old explained.
When decisions are made by more local entities, the result is roads like Miracle Mile, which is built and regulated in such a way that it encourages people to park their car and walk around, he said.
Addressing that design flaw doesn’t mean that only the one entity should own all the roads — but rather, both entities should create a stronger dialogues about alternatives to making stronger communities, in tandem with increasing accessibility — by car or by other means of efficient transportation.
What is most evident when you look at Old’s map is that pretty much any effort to address the city’s transportation challenges, whether that’s traffic or public transit, is a multi-person effort. It’s on the county to commission a new bus route, but if that area is one of the 34 incorporated parts of the county, then it’s on the municipality to maintain benches or shelters.
So, who does own the road? It’s complicated.
Old expounded on this, including some discrepancies in the data, in this post on Miami Geographic.
What comes to mind to you when you see this interplay? What stories should we explore with this data?