How Miami’s new linear park is working with ‘community-centered technology’ to bridge the electronic divide


Just a couple a long time back, no 1 would have identified as the vacant land beneath Miami’s elevated Metrorail specifically inviting, allow on your own transformative. But right now, the metropolis is reimagining this 10-mile corridor as a dynamic linear park: the Underline. The park will aspect walking trails, biking infrastructure, and local artwork whilst also delivering about 250,000 people and 9 million transit customers with cost-free and contiguous significant-pace world-wide-web. 

Whilst individuals frequently associate parks and other outdoor general public spaces with escaping technology, the Underline is component of a developing movement to leverage “community-centered technology” to renovate community areas into far more available, inclusive, and responsive group property, as well as provide the essential community support of free of charge high-velocity world wide web and technological innovations for more citizens. In a town like Miami, in which in excess of 30% of homes deficiency net obtain, the possible of using community room to bridge the digital divide is in particular ripe. 

The Underline’s current Phase 1 opening in the 50 %-mile extend recognised as “Brickell Backyard” presents essential lessons on the position technological know-how can perform in transforming community areas and encouraging far more citizens to take portion in civic daily life.  

Miami, Fl. The Underline Oolite Room and SW 13th crosswalk

Why embed technology in public areas? 

Community spaces have normally served as hubs for accumulating, forming bonds with neighbors, and forging attachments to position. At first, these significant functions do not feel to align with the role of technologies in today’s digitized modern society, which is often witnessed as a driving power of social division and loneliness. Ever more, nonetheless, philanthropic and federal government institutions are recognizing the probable of embedding know-how inside public spaces—not only to enhance residents’ entry to know-how, but also to carry more citizens into general public spaces, and thus into the civic everyday living of their neighborhoods and metropolitan areas. 

Philanthropic businesses like the Knight Foundation have been champions of applying technological innovation to join persons and spots and pilot new improvements around civic engagement, climate, art, and additional in general public spaces. In 2019, the basis presented the Underline with a $925,000 investment to make a engineering grasp plan and employ the service of a chief innovation officer and a chief working officer. The community sector has also been a critical lover, with Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami, the state of Florida, the U.S. Office of Transportation, and other people supplying funding for the Underline for building, park amenities, and characteristics these kinds of as consuming fountains, bicycle maintenance stations, column signage, and Wi-Fi services.  

Community and private sector actors cite the gains of embedding technology in general public house as a way to:  

  • Bridge the digital divide for nearby citizens. The 1st benefit of embedding engineering in community areas is the most obvious: By putting in absolutely free large-velocity Wi-Fi in general public local community spaces, metropolitan areas can increase entry to the digital instruments required to do well in faculty, function, and lifetime. This is basically an equity concern simply because in towns nationwide (which include Miami), the digital divide disproportionately impacts Black and Latino or Hispanic households, as perfectly as people with reduce incomes and instructional attainment. For as very long as broadband internet subscriptions continue being out-of-arrive at for substantial segments of the populace, community spaces—including parks, libraries, and local community centers—can act as a source for inhabitants to access the connectivity needed in today’s digitized earth. Wi-Fi was not originally prepared for the Underline, but Mates of the Underline’s neighborhood outreach endeavours exposed that to create multimodal corridors that actually hook up individuals and areas, they wanted to glimpse past the constructed setting. In a metropolis with some of the highest electronic entry difficulties in the state, inhabitants pushed us to remodel the house into a new form of civic commons that facilities equitable accessibility to technologies as section of its core mission. 
  • Evaluate who is applying the area to meet up with inclusivity objectives. General public room investments often have express social cohesion targets of bringing numerous groups of residents alongside one another, delivering local community spaces for social accumulating, and expanding residents’ attachment to position. But these aims can only be recognized if all people come to feel welcome and are bodily able to obtain the space, and much too many community spots are unsuccessful to attain cohesion and inclusion ambitions. For this reason, location management corporations nationwide have started to use web-dependent resources to collect and retail outlet park utilization info (usually drawn from observational and intercept surveys) and look at the demographics and ZIP codes of park customers with the metropolis as a whole. The Underline is also utilizing know-how to gauge the representativeness of its space—with distinct attention to ZIP code data—to make sure residents from disinvested and under-resourced neighborhoods are accessing the park.  
  • Grow who can be engaged and give comments about the room. Robust and representative neighborhood engagement is a cornerstone of placemaking, but considerably way too often when organizing or coming up with community spaces, neighborhood members are engaged at the outset of the undertaking nevertheless have minimal stick to-through or recurring engagement in the course of. Know-how can be a impressive device to more consistently engage a broader swath of people for illustration, via free of charge applications that let them to supply opinions or by way of interactive details selection and mapping physical exercises. As such, the Underline is in the process of producing a digital forum for park people to offer opinions on the place in true time.   

From physical to digital connectivity on the Underline 

Reaching the city’s mission of transforming the Underline into a new variety of civic commons equipped with neighborhood-centered technological innovation wasn’t straightforward. The Wi-Fi infrastructure has to face up to severe temperature ailments in the no cost-standing outdoor house, and our fiberoptics know-how companion, Hotwire Communications, experienced to set up a number of different access points across the 10-mile linear terrain. Just after two many years of building, we had been equipped to configure the very first stage of the park with 11 Wi-Fi entry details developed to give protection for as lots of as 200 men and women for every place.  

The park’s very first phase—a half-mile phase called “Brickell Backyard”—opened in February 2021, and has considering the fact that hosted about 1 million website visitors and extra than 120 free of charge local community plans. Mates of the Underline has also determined supplemental techniques to embed technology in the park, which include a new educational mobile app, Dig & Discover (made by Miami Dade College’s Miami Animation and Gaming International Complex), that engages people to study about the area’s loaded cultural variety, history, and normal assets. We have also hired a main innovation officer for the park to supply extra capability for advancing our technology grasp plan, which outlines forward-seeking targets for working with technology for local weather resilience, arts engagement, and other vital features. 

Miami’s journey to make a new community and virtual civic commons is just commencing. We foresee incorporating extra than 75 entry points all through the 10-mile out of doors room to present ubiquitous higher-velocity web accessibility and arrive at numerous more citizens and transit users. Regardless of first hurdles, the Underline is evidence that huge concepts can be mobilized, funded, and carried out in a way that evokes good transformation for the two underutilized city spaces and members of the bordering neighborhood.  


Photo credit: Sam Orberter 2022