After calling for people to join him in a gas boycott in this column, Daniel Vasquez has been blogging and recording his experience taking the bus or carpooling to work, combined with riding his bike for other errands every day this week. Read the posts and watch the videos on his Consumer Talk blog. It’s good to see someone used to riding in a car every day willing to try alternatives.
Tuesday at noon, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the city commission will meet in City Hall to discuss funding. The Sun-Sentinel seems to be the only source of information on this meeting. If I didn’t have to work I would be there.
Perhaps it’s worth noting that there is at least one representative from a car dealership on the DDA Board, Gale Butler from AutoNation. Since the DDA is responsible for this project, it looks like the auto dealerships are more inclined to see this project happen than Miami’s streetcar. Let’s do The Wave!
A national transportation commission, with the scary sounding name of “National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission,” released a report last week known as Transportation for Tomorrow. This report calls for, among other things, raising the gas tax by 40 cents in five years, creating a new federal bureaucracy, imposing federal regulations on states ability to draw private investment in things like Public-Private Partnerships, and adding a federal transit tax on every transit ticket sold.
Ouch. Let’s look at this thing piece by piece. My first thought on the gas tax was that it wasn’t too bad of an idea. The Federal Highway Trust fund is expected to be short $4.3 billion in 2009, so a higher gas tax would solve the immediate problem. But U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters and two other commission members released a dissenting report, where they point out some serious problems with the federal gas tax. First, the federal government already plays too large of a role in transportation funding. Since the feds redistribute the wealth between states,
The second problem with increasing the gas tax is that it is a flawed system. With more fuel efficient cars and even a few electric cars on the road today, some users are not paying as much as others for the same service. As Secretary Peters pointed out, we need a new alternative. All users should pay for using the road, whether it be at a toll booth or using some kind of GPS mileage system or whatever. But now is a good time for change, as several states are already looking into alternative funding sources. If the federal gas tax is left alone, the shortfall in funding will gradually force states to seek alternatives such as these.
Creating more bureaucracy is a bad thing, especially at the federal level where it will only strengthen the federal control of transportation. Telling states what they can and cannot do with private investment will only hurt projects like I-595 and the
Taxing transit tickets is sheer lunacy. Thankfully, Peters also comes out against this. Transit agencies set prices to cover as many costs as they can while still attracting the number of riders they need. If the federal government throws a tax on every ticket (the actual commission report says “all trips,” which would apply to free trips like the Miami MetroMover), that will only upset the balance the transit agency has reached between revenue and ridership. They would be forced to sacrifice their ridership or reduce fares and eat the cost of the tax themselves. The tax money would go to the general fund, where it could go towards paying for new highways or someone else’s transit system. So the chances are good that it will take away money from transit agencies. I will personally write to any congressman who dares to introduce such idiocy into a bill and I hope that the thousands of transit riders would also join us in opposing such an idea.
If you want to know who was responsible for this, read their names here. Every commissioner but Mary Peters, Maria Cino, and Rick Geddes supported the report. We’re grateful these three retained enough sanity to dissent.
The people mover system would also include an intermodal center where it crosses the FEC tracks, so it could connect to future Tri-Rail service in that corridor and allow passengers to get to area hotels as easily as the port.
Want to know more about Sunport? This Thursday, January 10, the airport and Port Everglades are hosting a public workshop on the project. Show up at 6PM at the Broward County African American Research Library Auditorium.
The Seattle streetcar apparently does not use signal preemption. It has to stop at all traffic lights just like a bus would. This is rather ridiculous, as even Bus Rapid Transit usually calls for signals to change to give priority to the bus. An effective Miami streetcar needs to have signal preemption.
Bicyclists don’t like it and organized a protest. Seattle put the tracks on the right side of the road, precariously close to the bicyclists’ paths. Rails in the road parallel to a bicycles direction of travel are a recipe for disaster. As a bicyclist myself, I share their concerns. Streetcars like Seattle’s carry a lot more people than bicycles, and that should give them at least a slightly higher priority. At the same time, streets need to accommodate as many modes as possible-especially if we ever hope to implement a decent bike sharing program. The needs of bicyclists, pedestrians, transit, and auto all need to be considered carefully in the design of Miami’s streetcar. One alternative that has been used before is to put the rails down the middle of the street.
Seattle’s streetcar is expected to help retail business. That’s probably an accurate expectation, but we’ll have to wait and see the numbers. Most rail transit systems have increased local business, and we could probably expect the same in Miami.
There’s one unique issue that Miami will have to worry about. Every time there is a hurricane, the overhead electric lines will have to be repaired. We all know how often that happens! This makes it worthwhile to consider alternate technologies such as Innorail, which have the added benefit of removing unsightly overhead wires.
It sounds like Seattle’s streetcar was packed the first day, just new like light rail systems. Charlotte’s Lynx light rail is exceeding projections in its first weeks. Surely Miami’s streetcar would do the same.
Many people are going to be traveling this holiday season. The Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald both point out that airports will be crowded and parking scarce for the Thanksgiving travel days. They offer tips like “get a ride,” but they neglect to offer the best suggestion to avoid both the parking issues and the vehicle traffic in the terminal: Tri-Rail. Parking is free at Tri-Rail stations, so put what you would have paid at the airport towards your Tri-Rail ticket and enjoy your gas savings as you zip along towards any of the three major
Once you get to the appropriate station, just hop on a connecting bus and head over to the airport. The connections take anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 minutes to get from the train station to the airport terminal, so don’t forget to add in a bit of extra time. If you’re going to FLL or MIA, Tri-Rail provides the free shuttle bus to the airport. If you’re going to Palm Beach International, you’re stuck using Palm Tran routes 40 or 44, but it’s still free with the Tri-Rail ticket.
We all know it would be better if Tri-Rail consistently ran on time and you didn’t have any delays there. And it would be better still if Tri-Rail or even Metrorail went straight to the airport terminal without bus transfers. (We are all patiently awaiting the
Studies have shown that rear-end collisions increase when cameras are installed, so the overall accidents increase. It definitely can be argued that rear-end collisions are not as dangerous as T-bone collisions, but they are still collisions. Engineers should be doing everything they can to avoid them. If every alternative has been exhausted and the only choice is to choose one type over another, then the discussion can turn to which type is less dangerous. Until then, we want to see fewer accidents. Period.
The problem here is that politicians are making the decision by looking at things from an economic perspective. Since red light cameras promise to pay for themselves and then some, it’s an easy decision. Cameras come first before other more expensive methods.
What are those expensive methods that help reduce red-light running? For starters, how about retiming signals? Synchronization with the rest of the signal network has the benefit of improving traffic flow in addition to reducing red-light running. Adding a second or two to the yellow has also been shown to reduce collisions. The FHWA offers some more ideas to improve safety here.
There are even newer ideas being put forth to reduce the rate of red-light running. One was presented in the August 2007 issue of the ITE Journal, and the basic premise was to paint the message “Signal Ahead” on the pavement at a precise point before the signal. It would be measured based on the yellow timing and the speed limit so that drivers could know that if the light turned yellow while they were in front of it, they had time to stop safely. If the light turned yellow once they had passed it, they had time to get through the light before it turned red. The article, available without figures here, showed that the rate of red-light running could be reduced 65% with this pavement message.
Painting a pavement message is fairly cheap and retiming signals that need them anyway is also a wise investment. But since cameras actually generate income, they have become the first choice. We can only hope the camera contractors don’t work to reduce the yellow signal length like some have been accused of doing, and we can thank our legislature for keeping these off of state roads until better solutions have been tried. We can also ask for better solutions.
LISTEN TO THE LATEST TALKING HEADWAYS PODCAST
Find us on Facebook
Subscribe via Email
TagsBicycle Bicycle Infrastructure bicycles bike lanes Bike Miami Days Bikes bikeway biking Brickell bus Calendar Climate Change Coconut Grove complete streets Congestion Cycling Downtown Miami Downtown Miami FDOT MDT Metromover Metrorail Miami Miami-Dade County Miami-Dade Transit Miami 21 Miami Beach Miami Dade Parking Parks Pedestrian Pedestrian Activity Pedestrians Pic o' the Day Public Transit Rickenbacker Causeway Sprawl Streetcar Traffic Transit Transit Oriented Development Transportation Tri-Rail Uncategorized Urban Planning