We need our BayLink.

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I’m not standing in front of the yellow line aboard this bus just to live dangerously. I’m standing in front of it because the bus is at a crush load and there is no space left behind the line.

Almost every bus from downtown Miami to Miami Beach runs packed like this.

So who keeps deciding we don’t need a high capacity train service connecting to Miami Beach?

You eeeeediots!!

That weird patch by Northside

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I don’t entirely understand what the developers are doing here. An old trailer park containing many of the area’s residents was removed to build a Walmart to serve the residents who aren’t there anymore.

Like most Walmart stores, it’s set far back from the road in a sea of parking lot. Unlike most, it’s adjacent to a rail and bus terminal. No effort was made to make access to this convenient.

This is really just typical of South Florida development. There is no urban planning, it’s basically spray and pray. Only in the last few years has there been any effort to go back and increase density and rebuild outdated areas that were previously developed, but it’s being done again with no consideration to infrastructure, access… Nope, we’re just spraying high rises now.

What a derpcastle.

Distrust in law enforcement, or the Miami Beach Urban Police State Week

* PICTURE RELATED to my state of mind right now *

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I’m a native of South Florida. I was born and raised here for 32 years, for better or for worse. This morning, however, according to a Polk County police officer and the Florida Highway Patrol, I woke up as a fresh off the boat illegal immigrant from Guatemala with a fake ID.

 

So a little bit of background on this. This is Memorial Day Weekend. There’s an unofficial South Florida tradition that Memorial Day Weekend and the week following are Urban Beach Week on Miami Beach. During this week, there are a lot of events on the week centered around hip hop and rap music. While these aren’t my cup of tea, usually, I totally respect anyone’s ability to enjoy their culture and music as much as anyone else.

Unfortunately, our local officials (which we MIGHT have elected, but who knows anymore) see the crowd Urban Beach Week brings in as an undesirable, criminal force, just a pure stream of thugs driving stolen cars packed to the gills with drugs, leaving just enough space for a few high powered firearms in the glovebox. Plus, *gasp*, they’re not Caucasian. THE HORROR!

The solution? Temporary police state.

So it didn’t entirely surprise me when I was driving down to work this morning and saw a row of traffic cones squeezing all the traffic on I-95 just north of the Macarthur Causeway exit into one lane, then fanning back out into a police checkpoint. Officers were stopping everyone momentarily and letting them go again, I figured they were checking for proper paperwork so I pulled out my license, registration, and insurance card, and plopped them on the dash ready. When it was my turn, the officer, whose badge identified him as being from Polk County, Florida, but had black electrical tape over the name and badge number. This seems, sadly, to be VERY COMMON practice when officers are brought in from out of the area. It originated as a liability limiting and intimidating measure with the Miami Model we’re… uhhh… so proud of. So very proud of. So very proud—

The officer takes one look at my ID and says “Please show me your actual ID, or are you fresh off the boat?”

At this point I was both furious and a bit nervous. I told him to request backup and have it verified, because, well… it’s a real Florida state driver’s license. It may not be REAL ID act compliant but that’s because it predated REAL ID and I haven’t gone through the process of updating it yet. It’s still legally valid in Florida as proof of identity, as a driver’s license, and works for everything except getting past airport security and into certain U.S. government facilities.

The lack of the REAL ID star in the corner wasn’t what bothered him, though, it was that the print is blurry.

Here’s the thing. The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles uses these shitty old Datacard printers to produce our IDs and driver’s licenses. These printers are never cleaned, maintained, or calibrated, and they’re run until they just plain die outright in a cloud of foul smoke (it happened right in front of me when I got my first driver’s license!). On mine, there’s both a C/M/Y/K print registration problem, likely due to worn feed rollers and/or guides, and the print is kind of light and foggy looking due to a temperature calibration problem.

But it’s the real thing. That’s the important part.

This officer, however, refused for almost 15 minutes to actually radio in the info from my ID for verification or do anything useful like calling over another officer as I was repeatedly and politely asking him to do. Instead he kept going on about how much trouble I was in for using a fake ID and asking me how I snuck in from Guatemala and telling me how INS would probably keep me in jail for months before finally sending me back.

FINALLY, another officer came over to see why he was holding up his line so badly, scanned the barcode on my ID with a PDA of some sort, looked at my license plate and VIN number, and told me everything was good. I explained to him what the other officer was doing and… he just laughed it off.

Some laughing matter.

To say this left me shaken is an understatement; now I’m kind of worried I’m going to face this kind of bullshit consistently throughout the week. Thankfully it’s only on weekends that I actually drive all the way in to work… for the week I usually use public transit, and buses don’t get stopped at the checkpoints.

Because, you know, no criminal element ever takes the bus. They all take stolen cars.

Miami………………

There’s a lot being said now about the public’s growing distrust in law enforcement….. here’s another story in the mix. Le sigh….

I kind of wish I’d filmed the whole thing in retrospect, but I’m really nervous that someone who isn’t even willing to stop a moment and verify a perfectly legal Florida ID as proof of valid US citizenship would also treat being recorded as a severe offense.

 

Gateway to the ghetto.

If you were to arrive in Miami as a visitor, on a trip to the beach starting from Miami International Airport, your experience could be like this.

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Then if you got on the MIA Mover, you’ll see giant billboards, stalled expressways, and a few junk yards out the windows before pulling into Miami Central Station and possibly getting on this:

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Bus #03198, this is a 12 year old bus that was made to last 11 and will be kept in service until 16!

It’s like a perfect, gradual descent into something noticeably closer to third world. I’d say “hell” if I believed in one, but I don’t, so “Liberty City” will have to do.

There’s a lot that needs cleaning up in this megapolis, but alas, the priorities are all wrong. Miami will never be able to be taken seriously as a city.

This user interface can suck an F40PH through 30 feet of garden hose

Okay, don’t get me wrong, even being kind of half of a regional rail system, Tri-Rail is great for what it is… But it’s got issues.

This is what their newer stations look like. The hazard of having passengers cross the tracks at grade has been eliminated by fencing between the tracks and a very tall overhead bridge. Due to this, you really need to know what track the train will be on, and this is not necessarily consistent because the line is shared with CSXT freight.

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There’s no way to get across that bridge on short notice if your train isn’t where you expect it.

I had hoped that, like many first world (ha!) transport systems, I could turn to the Internet for more information, as the remains of the station’s public address systems are not working at all.

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First stop: the Tri-Rail website, which is very informative ….

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Okay then. Guess there’s just a broken image and download links.

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What the— look at the size of that app!! That’s got “we used a clunky app converter” written all over it.
The fact it isn’t willing to install to SD card and play nice off in .android_secure land further supports this theory. Okay, let’s get a train schedule:

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You have to fill in all these fields. There is no simple full schedule view. Note the superfluous back button. Android devices have a hardware back button so you don’t have to do this. Suck it, fruit child.

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The schedule does not intuitively land near the current time of day.

There’s an alerts section which in theory would tell me of platform changes, but it pulls a blank. Since Tri-Rail got its own dispatch system, this doesn’t work anymore either! I’ll have to find their frequency again. If you listened to this in the past you’d hear signal call outs, like “631, clear to Iris, track one”, thus answering the mystery…

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Meanwhile, if you keep messing with the app you can find links into the mobile site that now just deliver a mobile friendly 404…

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Don’t forget, putting explosives on boars is prohibited. Thanks.

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The Skybus ran out of gas!

This Metromover tech is awesome. He’s very friendly, helpful, and rescued us from being stranded on the line…. And he wasn’t adverse to me being a colossal nerd and admiring the wackadoodle relay logic and stuff. The VFD panel simply refused to photograph, “rolling shutter” effect. Alas

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The vehicle is a Bombardier CX100 automated people mover. These are in use in many airports as shuttles. It’s based on the old Westinghouse Skybus, originally.

But alas, Metromover is not moving me today. Pooop!

Picture unrelated: why. Why did you do this to yourselves? That’s entirely unflattering.
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“Spaghetto”.

Smog! I dare you to handwave this one.

So a lot has been said recently on other blogs and various sources about how the Southeast Florida area cannot handle any more development due to transportation, water and sewer issues…

However there’s one thing nobody ever seems to want to talk about these days …. We’ve got smog.

This is what happens on any day without a strong breeze off the ocean or Everglades (what’s left thereof).

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This is the view of Miami from Okeechobee Station in Hialeah with no wind. The air reeks like hot garbage and tailpipe.

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This is the same view on a day with a strong sea breeze. You can just see it starting to whip up the hotter wet air from over the land and generate some rain clouds.

Uh, we have a problem.

Decades ago, we got dinged by the EPA for this situation; a system of mandatory vehicle smog checks was put into place. As soon as a single set of air quality measurements showed our pollution levels to be in compliance, governor Jeb Bush saw to it that the inspections stopped, then promptly gutted the air quality monitoring and saw to it that future monitoring would require a certification that doesn’t exist.

Oh well. Just file it under “things that don’t exist”, just like climate change.

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We’ve got the sound to keep you getting downtown

(With apologies to Quad City DJs)

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Ding-dong. Bzk bzk bzk bzk BNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNnnnn

In the coming years there will be new trains on Miami’s Metrorail. I kinda seriously love some of the sounds the old ones make, so I’m trying to get good clean captures of them.

The first and foremost: door close chime. This is two notes played on a synth that sounds like retro-futuristic outer space. A similar sounding note of different pitch used to play on PalmTran buses when a stop was requested.

But that’s only the theme music, of sorts….

Once all the doors clatter shut and the train interlocks clear, the operator may set the train in motion. The trains accelerate quickly but first they do a test to see if the brakes have cleared yet – a tone chatters on and off at low duty cycle.
Next the tone comes back loudly and stays with you a while as the station begins to fly away into the distance. It will fade away for a while as the control system (Westinghouse automatic train control or bipedal bag of colorful water) applies 100% motor power, then it quickly fades back into action once full speed is reached.

But then it also just goes silly.

Anyway, here are some recordings of it doing what it does. I would like to also try recording it via a magnetic pickup…!! I’ve heard urban folklore that the motor does have curiously strong magnetic leakage. Maybe I’ll even be able to hear track circuit tones.

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South Florida history: Pennsuco

I’d always wondered about this. There’s an old ghost town in northwest Miami-Dade County called Pennsuco, which houses a few weird things – a cement plant, a radio tower or two, and some lonely highway. What is Pennsuco, though?

I never really knew much about it till I stumbled upon this interesting article by William A. Graham.

Pennsuco is a portmanteau for PEnnsylvania SUgar COmpany. From 1920 to 1927 the area was home to a sugar cane plantation and sugar mill which attempted to beat the wetlands into submission and use them as fertile land for growing cane. It just didn’t work, but many of the discoveries and techniques used there were adapted for the later sugar cane farms up near Lake Okeechobee…. yes, the “Big Sugar” that stands in the way of Everglades conservation and restoration efforts to this day.

Later, Ernest R. Graham was able to establish dairy farms on some of this land which had been drained. This has all since been plowed under to build urban sprawl.

I was going to make some silly comment about the incident where WGNK-FM was put up with its antenna “accidentally” on the wrong side of the tower, but I’ll leave that one lying in the historical mystery [misery] files for another day. đŸ˜‰

Committed to your safety.

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It’s not uncommon here for old school buses to be turned into dump trucks. Check out the frame on this one, where jagged gashes were cut in the hardened frame rails and rough cut pieces of mystery metal were welded to them to support the hydraulics.

And then of course this

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We’re special around here.

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