Popping Up Transit
The Purple Line project had one goal: to raise awareness around the need for better transit options in Miami. As it turned out, thousands of Miamians were not only aware, but they were engaged, involved and ready to be part of a stronger transit advocacy community.
Purple Line was an idea that came out of another urban demonstration project: Better Block Fort Lauderdale. In June 2012, a group of local business owners, residents, artists and students came together to temporarily remake one block in downtown Fort Lauderdale's FAT Village Arts District. The project was spearheaded by Cadence, a local planning and design firm in collaboration with FAU's School of Urban Planning.
Better Block Beginnings
After our participation in Better Block Fort Lauderdale, we, with a number of other community members and students (from FAU's School of Urban Planning), felt compelled to do a similar project in Miami. While searching for the best Better Block 'block', we realized that we were continually drawn to sites along the FEC railroad line, the very railroad that played a central role in founding Miami. In August of 2012, our group convened community members, professors, business owners and artists at The Hangar Gallery to discuss the idea of a transit oriented Better Block-type project.
After presenting the idea, we asked the group to help us name the project, and thus, the Purple Line was born (yes, even the name was crowdsourced). Those of us leading the project always referred to it as a community-built train station and it was exactly that. We held open meetings every Saturday at the now-defunct Lester's in Wynwood and brainstormed ideas, partners, installations and activities for the Purple Line with anyone who showed up.
Together with groups like Emerge Miami, Catalyst Miami and Miami Arts Charter (to only name a very few), Purple Line organizers coordinated the design, programming, set up and breakdown of the pop-up transit station. We selected a location that was adjacent to the FEC rail, but also close to higher density, walkable areas such as Midtown Miami and the Design District. We used an existing underpass parking lot space that afforded us some basic infrastructure and shade.
The Purple Line "opened" on March 8th & 9th, 2013 with over 25 collaborating businesses and organizations, numerous volunteers and lots of elbow grease. We recorded several thousand visitors. Emerge Miami hosted a bike valet and a DIY crosswalk, Brisky Gallery used one of the Purple Line shipping containers for a pop up gallery space, local musicians provided beats, area restaurants such as Crumb on Parchment sold delicious treats and local vendors set up shop.
Changing TRANSIT Paradigms
The Purple Line project reached tens of thousands of individuals through social and conventional media. The project gave rise to more transit-related demonstration projects led by other local groups, but more importantly, it changed the way that many of us perceived our role with the city. Community-led urban demonstration projects such as this are ultimately an adapted form of civic engagement, reminding community members that they play a critical role in the shaping and evolution of their city. TrAC, a local, nonpartisan political action committee supporting improved transit options, was in part a result of the Purple Line.
The Purple Line was developed and implemented before the official inception of Urban Impact Lab, but it was an invaluable learning experience and created the basis of our approach of inclusive urbanism. The Purple Line was made possible through the funding support of The Miami Foundation, FAU's School of Urban and Regional Planning, Kickstarter (which is short for lots of local donors) and Car2Go.