Purple Line

creating a movement out of a two-day pop-up train station

FUNDER: The Miami Foundation, Florida Atlantic University
PROJECT AREA: City of Miami, Design District
STATUS: Complete
TIMELINE: March 2013


As urbanists who care fiercely about Miami’s success, improving transportation and mobility tops the list of actions that could have far-reaching benefits for decades to come. Since Urban Impact Lab’s earliest days, the team recognized the numerous and profound ways transportation impacts a city’s future. Resilience, health and well-being, safety, economic growth, equity, and social capital all benefit when a community is well-connected through reliable, efficient mobility options.

Yet, in Miami-Dade County transportation decisions have reinforced the singular focus of auto-centric mobility rather than prioritizing other mobility options, including public transit. In addition, county residents had grown less engaged and active in advocating for local issues in general, including improvements to public transit.



Building engagement is best accomplished when stakeholders play a direct role in and feel meaningfully connected to the issue or initiative at hand. And there’s nothing like a big, audacious project to help a community build new connections, push the boundaries of what’s possible, and drive up engagement in the most creative ways.

The Purple Line project challenged the nascent Urban Impact Lab team and numerous residents of all backgrounds and professions to collaboratively build a 2-day pop up transit station near a forgotten rail corridor in the heart of Miami. The idea was inspired by the work of Better Block, and built off the belief that the most productive, effective engagement happens through in-person, tangible experiences.


The team behind Purple Line realized early on that Miamians lacked strong local examples of great transit. By building a temporary, demonstration project with numerous collaborators, the team could highlight some of the benefits and opportunities of expanding public transit in the city’s most dense, urban areas.

Together with Emerge Miami, Catalyst Miami, Miami Arts Charter, and over 25 collaborating organizations and partners, Purple Line organizers coordinated the design, activities, and implementation of the pop-up transit station. The team selected a location adjacent to the historic FEC rail (now in use by Brightline), but also close to higher density, walkable areas such as Midtown Miami and the Design District. The project itself was “popped up” at an existing underpass parking lot space which afforded the team and participants basic infrastructure and shade.  


The Urban Impact Lab worked hand in hand with numerous partners, including volunteers from Emerge Miami and fellow graduate students  from Florida Atlantic University’s Urban Planning program to make Purple Line a reality. On the Urban Impact Lab end, the team led the visioning and strategy efforts, fundraising, and partnership development. With the support of partners, the Urban Impact Lab team coordinated day-of activities, logistics, and communications.



  • Attraction and engagement of over 2,500 participants over 2 days.

  • Engagement of over 10,000 individuals via social media impressions

  • Engagement and participation from over 25 collaborating businesses and organizations, including The Miami Foundation, Catalyst Miami, Car2Go, Urban Oasis, Afrobeta, and The Black Keys.

  • Securing of 17 local and national earned media opportunities for the pop up event.

  • Initiated first City of Miami trolley stop at Purple Line/Design District location which became one of the trolley’s key permanent stops and continues today.

  • Development and prioritization of transit and urban mobility advocacy agenda within local organizations including The Miami Foundation and Catalyst Miami.

  • Informed the development and strategy behind The Miami Foundation’s Public Space Challenge.

  • Emergence and development of Transit Alliance Miami.



Purple Line came to be before Urban Impact Lab was fully formalized. The values and lessons inherent to Purple Line’s success, including the importance of human-centered design, creative placemaking principles, and experience-based, inclusive engagement, continues to inform how the Urban Impact Lab team approaches every project.

Looking to engage communities around a particular issue or prototype a solution to an urban challenge? We’d love to help.