Currently viewing the category: "MDX"

In a city where nearly everyone and everything is from somewhere else, inequality is Miami’s most native son. Like sunshine and sex appeal, inequality is stuffed into every corner of this city. We make little effort to hide it or avoid it, and in the case of one advertising campaign we even flaunt it. Along Southwest 2nd Avenue in Brickell, there’s a bus stop advertisement for Miami’s latest luxury development touting “Unfair Housing,” a play on the Fair Housing Act, which prohibited discriminatory housing practices in the United States*.

Photo credit: Jordan Nassar

Photo credit: Jordan Nassar

But this bus stop ad isn’t the only evidence of the gaps dividing our city; there’s the bus stop itself. It can be dirty and overcrowded, just like the buses themselves, which also run late, if they ever come at all. The sidewalks on blocks around the stop are narrow and they’re often obstructed either temporarily by construction or permanently by signage and utilities. It is the typical second-class experience of pedestrians and transit riders around the United States that results from minimal public investment in any form of transportation infrastructure that does not cater to cars.

This is a common condition around the world, and in a few cities it has received the attention that it deserves: as an inequality so flagrant that it offends our notions of democracy. In Bogotá, former mayor Enrique Peñalosa made this idea of transportation as a matter of democracy central to his governing philosophy. “If all citizens are equal before the Law,” Peñalosa is fond of saying, “then a citizen on a $30 bicycle has the same right to safe mobility as one in a $30,000 car, and a bus with 100 passengers has a right to 100 times more road space than a car with one.” Gil Peñalosa, who is Enrique’s brother and former Commissioner of Parks, Sport, and Recreation in Bogotá and is now Executive Director of Toronto-based 8-80 Cities, recently wrote, “Bus lanes are a right and a symbol of equality.” In Copenhagen, Mikael Colville-Andersen, photographer and founder of Copenhagen Cycle Chic and Copenhagenize, has argued that, “we have to re-democratize the bicycle.” In order words, we must recast cycling from a niche subculture for environmentalists and fitness buffs to a viable form of transportation for all citizens who value it because, as Colville-Andersen stresses, “it’s quick and easy.” Since the early 1990s, Vienna has embraced “gender mainstreaming,” the practice of ensuring that public works projects, including transportation, benefit men and women equally.

Carrera 15 in Bogotá before Peñalosa (left) and after Peñalosa (right)

Carrera 15 in Bogotá before Peñalosa (left) and after Peñalosa (right)

At its core, government by representative democracy, our chosen form, demands that our leaders pass laws and set policies based on the wishes, opinions, and needs of the citizens without sacrificing what Edmund Burke called their “enlightened conscience.” In other words, our leaders must govern in accordance with the will of the majority, the rights of the minorities, and their own judgment informed by their position as a representative of all citizens. When we examine the transportation policies under which we live, we can observe simply and clearly that Miami is not a transportation democracy.

In a transportation democracy, governed by notions of equality, resources are allocated so that all citizens no matter their form of transportation have equal access to safe, effective, dignified mobility. How we travel between point A and point B is a question as critical as any other to the functioning of society and how we answer that question speaks volumes about what we value and whose voice is heard.

Transportation resources are not allocated equally in Miami. Federal, state, and local funding for transportation projects in Miami-Dade County, aviation and port activity excluded, totaled roughly $1.7 billion during the 2011-2012 fiscal year**.  Of that amount, over sixty percent went to road, highway, and parking infrastructure. The remaining minority is split between sidewalks, buses, trains, bike lanes and racks, and other pedestrian and intermodal infrastructure.

It’s a grossly unequal distribution in light of how citizens travel in practice. Twenty percent of Miami-Dade residents are not eligible to drive based on age. Another 20 percent of residents age 18 and over live in poverty, making car ownership an impractical financial burden. Of Miami-Dade’s more than one million workers, eleven percent commutes to work by bus, train, bike, or on foot. Still another six percent have ambulatory disabilities that require use of a wheelchair, walker, or other assistive device. Surely there is some overlap among these and still other groups, but the lesson is that in excess of fifty percent of Miami-Dade residents have no or minimal direct need for or access to an automobile; yet the vast majority of our transportation spending at all levels of government goes to automobile infrastructure. Add to these totals the vast numbers of Miamians, both older and younger, who drive out of necessity but who would prefer to travel by transit, bike, or foot, and the balance of transportation spending becomes even more unequally skewed in favor of a privileged minority***.

We may not typically frame it this way, but what we have here in Miami with respect to our transportation is another instance of inequality, a failure of our democracy. This is a concern larger than the cleanliness of our buses or the scarcity of bike lanes. This is an example of a majority facing alienation and segregation to such a degree that they appear the minority; and this manufactured invisibility is used to justify vast, unequal expenditures in favor of a privileged class. If we are to reclaim our transportation democracy, we must begin with an honest discussion about how our citizens travel around our city; we must push back against an approach to transportation that adequately serves so few of us; and we must, as they’ve done in Bogotá, Copenhagen and Vienna, recognize transportation as an issue that extends deep into the heart of our democracy. Only then can we ensure that all voices are heard, all wishes considered, all rights protected, all interests acknowledged. It is a prerequisite to providing safe, effective, dignified transportation options to all and to staying true to our most inherent values of government. Only then can we ensure that Miami becomes a transportation democracy.

*The campaign has been successful, though; the development is nearly sold out before it has even broken ground.

**This is a rough estimate that includes budget figures from USDOT, FDOT, MDX, MDT, and 35 municipal governments, among others. Unsurprisingly, some figures are easier to come by and interpret than others.

***It is also worth noting the increases in housing prices that developers must charge to subsidize minimum parking requirements.

 

 

Dear Transit Miami  -

I was scratching around some MIC and Miami Central Station documents and came upon a curious piece of information: FDOT is negotiating with MDX to assume the governance of Miami Central Station. I find it curious that MDX, a road-building entity, would be charged with governing Miami Central Station – shouldn’t those responsibilities fall to Miami-Dade Transit or, given the regional implications, to SFRTA? I can see MDX running the Car Rental Center, after all  it’s sole purpose is to feed tourists onto MDX’s adjacent highways, the 112 and 836 – undermining the metrorail link to the airport and any longer-term plans for a direct rapid transit link to Miami Beach, but Central Station? Give me a break!

What’s most curious about the arrangement between FDOT and MDX is the transfer of a an 8 acre property east of Central Station for “Joint Development.” I didn’t realize MDX was now looking to jump into Miami’s crowded development market. Doesn’t this parcel seem ripe for Transit-Oriented Development? Shouldn’t a Public Private Partnership be the first alternative? I think so. MDX will apparently develop the property to help “offset” the costs of operating Central Station (as if their toll revenue couldn’t be spared in the first place) and will include a possible mix of Hotel, Conference Center, Office, Retail, oh – and parking, of course. 

Let’s not forget too that MDX had developed concepts for a future SR 836/ SR 112 connector and had floated the idea of a “Central Corridor” Highway that would be built above Tri-Rail.

Best,

Another Concerned Citizen against MDX’s Overreaches  

 

Please spread the word about this meeting.  Let’s kill this awful idea and send MDX packing. We just received this email from a friend of Transit Miami:

Meeting Wednesday night to discuss plans for MDX Tollway along US 1. Please forward to all transit-bicycle advocates as this could hinder the MetroRail expansion and bicycling facilities south from Dadeland!

Wednesday November 14th. The meeting will be from 7 to 9 p.m. at Pinecrest Gardens,11000 Red Road. Thank you to Mayor Lerner for standing up to MDX and over 30 years of planned Metro Expansion. Would MDX be willing to rebuild the entire corridor to include a more pedestrian-bike friendly US 1 AND elevated MetroRail, MDX facilities??? I-95 was defeated along this corridor originally because of noise, traffic and splitting the community aesthetically. We need to move more towards nodes of development around bus/rail stations. Dadeland is a success that can be replicated at the Falls Mall and other commercial nodes along the corridor to Cutler Bay.

You can read more about this short-sighted and half baked idea here:

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/09/3089729/meeting-to-discuss-toll-road-next.html

 

In the blinding brightness of the east-facing morning, trapped in our metallic boxes of rage, impatience, and anxiety, the truth called out to us . . .

It called, not as an answer, but as a question . . . a question whose simplicity made a mockery of all those willing to confront it . . .

Out of the blinding light, for that fleeting moment of honesty concealed by the shadows, the truth taunted all those brave enough to accept it . . .

From the blinding light, the truth dared us to regain our vision . . .

WHY DRIVE?

RIDE . . . METRORAIL

Tagged with:
 
Panorama of new red pedestrian bridge, Coral Gables Waterway, Miami, Florida

Panorama of new red pedestrian bridge, Coral Gables Waterway, Miami, Florida (Via: ImageMD)

Around Miami:

  • Opposition building to South Dade expressway. Our question is, can it build soon enough? (Miami Herald)
  • Signs to alert Broward drivers to conditions, travel times on six major roads. $9M to know the existing conditions seems steep considering the advent of crowdsourced alternatives such as Waze or Roadify. To us, the notion that more information to drivers provides the “opportunity to choose alternate routes instead of finding yourself stuck in traffic jams” is downright delusional. (Sun-Sentinel)
  • Miami Beach Mayor Bower comments on sea level rise. It’s easy to talk the talk but Miami Beach has a nasty history of anti-climate change planning under its belt. We think Baylink, enhanced cycling facilities, and reduced parking minimums would go a long way in showing that Miami Beach is ready to do it’s part in this global system. (South Florida Business Journal)
  • Failed street design. Our own Craig Chester puts the FDOT on notice regarding the failures of Biscayne Boulevard. (Miami Herald)
  • South Florida transit schedules added to Google Maps. Welcome to the 21st Century South Florida Transit – perhaps real-time transit data isn’t an illusion after all. (South Florida Business Journal)
  • Metrorail extension eases commute from airport. (The Miami Hurricane)

Around the Sphere:

  • Miami Dade Transit hard at work. Miami-Dade Transit has made some laudable improvements around Douglas Road. (South Florida Bike Coalition)
  • TRI-Rail From FLL Makes for a Long Morning. Matt Meltzer’s harrowing 3 hour journey from FLL to MIA via public transit. Bottom line: “…in Miami, and especially in Ft. Lauderdale, if you don’t have a car public transport is just not an option.” Ouch. We can do better South Florida. (Miami Beach 411)
  • Inside Al Capone’s Fabulous Palm Island Estate, On Video! (Curbed Miami)
  • Miami Metrorail | New Vehicle Replacement. This seems to be flying under the radar a bit, though ExMiami reports that the vendor (AnsaldoBreda) has a bit of a problem history with clients in meeting delivery and vehicle specs. This should be interesting. (ExMiami)
  • An SFDB Call To South Florida Bloggers. SFDB is looking for editors. (SFDB)

Elsewhere:

  • Bloomberg: NYC Bike Share Delayed Until Spring. The much awaited phase 1 launch of NYC’s Bike share program which is set to include 7,000 bikes at 420 stations has be delayed until March 2013 due to software issues. (Transportation Nation)
  • Times Poll Confirms: 66 Percent of New Yorkers Like Bike Lanes. Bikes as transportation: Good Policy. Good for cities. Good for your health. Good for local business. Now, good for NYC. (Streetsblog NYC)
  • A Separated Bike Lane Commute. We can attest, Separated Bike Lanes are AWESOME. (LGRAB)
  • Remaking Union Station: Do we have what it takes? With Public Transit use and Amtrak use on the rise in DC, calls to expand capacity at Union Station are growing. (Greater Greater Washington)
  • There’s a Lot Riding on U.S. DOT’s Definition of “Congestion” (Streetsblog DC)
  • OpenPlans aiming for Kickstarter-funded transit app. With Apple’s iO6 eliminating Google Maps from i-devices, Open Plans begins a campaign to develop a crowd-funded transit app. (Second Avenue Sagas)

Stay connected with Transit Miami! Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter  for up to the minute Transit news and discussions. Got a tip, story, or contribution? Email us: MoveMiami@gmail.com

Tagged with:
 

Under the guise of hosting a discussion about the future of mobility in South Florida, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce has brought our leading transportation officials together with anti-transit Libertarian Robert Poole to go over their plans to greatly expand toll roads in Miami-Dade County.

Tapped by our soon-to-be-one-term Governor as one of his transportation advisors, Poole has finished an 18 month ‘study’ of how to improve transportation in South Florida. The reason for the study, according to a press release, is that “[The 2035 Long Range Plan] puts a major emphasis on alternatives to driving—transit, bicycling and walking. In fact, of the $58 billion available for transportation between 2015 and 2035, the plan devotes 62% to improving and operating various forms of transit. Unfortunately, if the plan is implemented as written, by 2035 a smaller fraction of all trips (2.6%) will be made via transit than the 2.9% made via transit today.”

Fair enough. That might be true, but that has more to do with the over reliance on BRT over rail transit. The conclusions made by the report are nothing less than preposterous for transportation and urban planners, pointing to ‘managed lanes’ as the panacea to our mobility challenges. (Insert gag here).From the press release:

The plan includes four key components:

A region-wide network of expressway managed lanes (MLs) like those on I-95, encompassing 302 route-miles and 1,117 lane-miles;

Upgrades for 14 key arterials (107 route-miles) with underpasses at major signalized intersections, an innovation we call “managed arterials” (MAs);

Premium bus rapid transit (BRT) as in the current long-range plan, but operating mostly on the “virtually exclusive busways” made possible by the network of MLs and MAs, rather than on politically dubious bus-only lanes;

A series of system operational improvements, including extensive expressway ramp metering and further expansion of traffic signal coordination.

These four components tell a striking story of the city that Poole (and his cohorts at FDOT and MDX) would have us inhabit. On the one hand Poole contends our current Long Range Transportation plan (with its reliance on BRT) is not going to be successful, yet his plan relies on the exact same BRT system (as stated above). He proposes that MDX and the Governor create tolled highways out of major arterials (like US1 and Flagler), utilizing overpasses and underpasses that will be costly to build and blight the city, to create revenue AND ‘premium bus rapid transit’ corridors. Unfortunately, bus rapid transit does not work on highways where folks cannot easily get on/off. The best BRT systems in the world run at grade, in a dedicated lane, and in the city center. This plan is doomed to fail because it views transit as an afterthought.

This is real BRT (from Bogota).

The idea of using transit as a way to sweeten an otherwise bad idea is not new. We have been reporting for some time about MDXs plan to run a highway parallel to US1, under the dubious assumption that it will greatly improve transit service. (Meanwhile, low cost transit improvements that would greatly improve service, like signal coordination, go unimplemented because of their impact on local traffic.)

MDX has been planning on tolling everyone for some time - they have just been sneaky about it.

 

There is so much to dislike about this plan that it is hard to know where to start. First the idea of greatly expanding tolls on what Poole calls “urban toll expressways” (ie. neighborhood streets) will create highways in places where we are trying to lower speeds and increase pedestrian, bicycle and transit use. These highways will be in direct competition with transit, and rather than be subsidized by the government, the costs will be borne by the citizens of South Florida. Already saddled with high tax and few mobility options, the Governor and MDX will double down on a failed transportation system by taxing residents, so that they can in turn build more highways! The Ponzi scheme developed by MDX to build and toll and build some more will be spread all over the land.

I am all for bus rapid transit, but it should not be used as a chaser for the bitter pill MDX and the Governor are trying to push down our throats. We need to continue to build our rail network and then we can start to feed into it with BRT. If officials want to create bus-only lanes, the way that every other city in America is doing, great! Close a lane of Bird Road, Coral Way, 8th street…etc. and have BRT running to the heart of our metropolis in its own dedicated lane; but don’t start building highways all over the city. It’s time for MDX to wake up and realize that mass transit is the future of our region – not highways. If it doesn’t evolve, it might find that there are a great many people, myself included, who don’t see a reason for it to exist anymore. We want transit – not tolls.

Tagged with:
 

 

“What this project would also do, is to reinforce exactly the growth pattern that failed Miami-Dade County, wrecked the Everglades, jeopardized thousands of acres of wetlands and farmland. You don’t get out of a ditch by digging the same ditch, deeper. But that is the kind of logic Miami-Dade lobbyists and appointees embraced, in the run-up to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Watch what they do, now.”

-Local blogging powerhouse GeniusofDespair from Eye On Miami on the proposed 5-year work plan of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority which would build expressways in far western parts of the county, exacerbating sprawl and traffic congestion. In the Transit Miami world, this plan has officially entered….the NO BS Zone! Have you sent your email letter requesting that they remove the 836 Extension project from the 5 year plan?

Tagged with:
 

We need your help now to protect the Everglades.

Miami-Dade Expressway Authority is planning to expand the 836 Dolphin Expressway west toward Krome Avenue and then south to Tamiami Airport. This project would accelerate westward development, threaten agriculture, and threaten Everglades restoration.

Please email written comments to tgarcia@mdxway.com by this Friday, January 27, 2012.

Here’s a sample comment to cut and paste or put in your own words.

I ask the MDX board to remove the 836/Dolphin Expressway Southwest Extension (project 83618) from its 5-year plan. I question the necessity of the this project and am concerned about the impacts to residents, agriculture and America’s Everglades.

I believe this road is unnecessary and will actually will increase, not alleviate, congestion on SR 836. Commuters currently have the option of taking several highways into downtown Miami. The existing 836, the Florida Turnpike, the 874, the 878 and the 826. Most of these roads have been or are currently being rebuilt to handle greater capacity. Future and existing toll revenues should be used to maintain these roads and provide for public transit alternatives, not to build new roads into environmentally sensitive areas.

The project will threaten Everglades National Park and nearby federally-protected wetlands. A new layer of highway extending away from the city will fuel sprawl because of its proximity to the Urban Development Boundary. This highway would attract development of agricultural and wild lands buffering the Everglades and pose a direct threat to the $12 billion federal-state Everglades restoration project.

Name
Adrress
Phone number
Email

Tell MDX that this project will waste natural resources and exacerbate sprawl and traffic.

Tagged with:
 

Do you love the Everglades? If so, then come to a meeting tonight.

Miami Dade Expressway Authority plans to use money from existing toll roads to expand SR 836 toward Krome Avenue and south to Tamiami Airport. This puts the Everglades and the natural and agricultural buffer lands in great peril. Imagine it’s the 1950s and the Palmetto Expressway is on the drawing board. The Palmetto is built in 1961 and almost immediately the land around it is converted from farm and woodland to development. SR 836 expansion is our generation’s Palmetto. If the UDB is a development fire suppressor, this highway is an accelerant.

We need buffer lands to protect and restore the natural Everglades. Come to the meeting tonight if you can. Express your concerns about the highway.

Whether you can make it or not, stay engaged. Send us an email, give us your phone number, volunteer your help.

You are the Everglades Protector.

Details:

What: PUBLIC REVIEW TO SOLICIT INPUT ON PROPOSED FISCAL YEAR 2013-2017 WORK PROGRAM

This 5-year plan includes SR 836 Dolphin Expressway expansion.

Where: MDX Headquarters, Lehmann Building, 3790 NW 21st Street Miami, Florida 33142

Date: Tuesday, Jan. 24

Time: 6-8 PM

For more information, contact Jon Ullman at jonathan.ullman@sierraclub.org or 305-860-9888

Tagged with:
 

It is always one step forward and two steps back for transportation in South Florida. The governing board of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority voted last week to close the Tri-Rail Airport Station for several years to allow construction to continue on the Miami Intermodal Center, scheduled to open in 2013 with a new Tri-Rail station. 

Project engineers claim that keeping the service running would lead to cost overruns and delays in opening the Miami- Intermodal Center big parking garage  next to Miami International Airport. Users coming south from Broward and Palm Beach will have to take a shuttle from Hialeah station to MIA. No big deal to FDOT district secretary Gus Pego, who said users already have to take a shuttle from the existing station to the airport (which is a bit misleading – a 5 minute shuttle cannot be compared to a 20-30 minute bus ride through Hialeah.) As one commenter on the Miami Herald put it, “Another decision about public service made by those who don’t use the service.”

Ironically, the Miami-Dade contingent of SFRTA is made of many of the same anti-transit leaders on the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority Board. How can we expect these folks to advocate for the best transit options, when they are simultaneously planning to undermine Tri-Rail and the US1 busway with an elevated expressway (not to mention their stated opposition to the regional service on the South Florida East Coast Railway Corridor at recent MPO meetings). Yet another instance of the fox guarding the hen-house in Miami.

The transportation planning and governance model in our region must change. Our leaders have established a highway monopoly where they can set the price for the service at whatever level they choose, while giving people a false choice between transportation options. In referendum happy Miami-Dade County – is it time for us to take control of our transportation future?  I think so.
PS….

Last week I posted on the upcoming plans to  convert the South-Dade Busway to a managed lanes expressway with bus service. Since then MDX Public Information Officer Tere Garcia was kind enough to offer this response:

We certainly understand your concerns and many may be unwarranted due to incorrect speculation. We are in fact working together with Miami Dade Transit on this study to improve existing transit service and providing Express lanes maximizing the unused capacity of the busway. Alternatives that are being studied are grade separations at major intersections, among others, that would allow for the buses to ride safely and quickly without having to stop at the intersections as they must do today. This would allow for faster and more efficient bus service and potential increase in ridership. The MPO first took a look at the possibility of using toll money to improve transit specifically on the South Dade Busway. All new transportation corridors that MDX has included in the MPO long range plan have a multimodal component including the potential for transit, bikeways. We welcome the opportunity to brief you on the facts of this project and clear up any misconceptions. Thank you

Ok, MDX – I’m open to getting more information about the project, but I’m not sure I’m missing anything that will change the basic problem here: the ‘capacity’ of the busway should not be used for car service. Period. So before we  get together for coffee lets have an honset conversation about what these plans portend for transit in Miami-Dade County.

For all the non-transportation professionals out there,  this is a rough translation of what MDX actually said:

We couldn’t go on seeing all that roadway capacity around the buses go unused, so we are going to take whatever capacity is not being used for public transit and give it to the car. Of course, we have to make this a convenient alternative for cars, so we are going to make improvements to the Right-of way that will make it easy for people to speed right past all that congestion on US1 (by building expressway overpasses). Oh, and we are still going to let the bus use this road too. Its a win-win for everyone. We might even put in a bike lane, or something like that.

I have no misconception about this project – it is a highway building project that you are going to allow buses to use. The alternatives are just variations on the theme.  Just because you say that this is a transit project does not mean that is the case – it is all a matter of spinning the facts to get buy-in from the community. Let’s let the facts tell the story:

- a transit-only route will be converted to a single occupancy vehicle expressway, with buses sharing the road with cars.

-”the unused capacity of the busway” (your phrase) will be maximized, not by increasing or improving  transit service, but by allowing single-occupancy vehicles to share the road with buses. How can this be misconstrued as a benefit to transit riders?

- Transit service will have to compete for riders with a new express alternative to US1. Rather than incite more people to use the because of ‘efficient and faster’ transit service, managed lanes will only provide an express alternative to both the busway and US1 !

-Grade separations at key intersections will allow for faster travel times –  for buses and cars. Fair enough, but without true transit stations and BRT infrastructure, the efficiency gained by faster bus service will be lost because of decreased access and safety. Who will want to wait for a bus next to an expressway?? (This is also a problem in the design of transit lines in other MDX projects – how do you expect to increase transit ridership if the stations are mostly accessible by car and not by walking?)

Other regions have Transportation Authorities that are responsible for coordinating capital improvements between different forms of transportation infrastructure. The New York MTA is responsible for all of the regional rail service, bus service, subways, and (some) bridges and tunnels; they maintain a Capital Construction Department that finances transportation projects (partially by sharing toll revenue).  With MDT and MDX collaborating on projects now and in the future, a Transportation Authority structure would combine a mandate to provide mass transit with an effective management and capital investment structure (not to mention it would allow the sharing of ROW and toll revenue). MDX isn’t to blame – building highways is what they do!

Ultimately, the goal of this project should be to ‘maximize the capacity of the roadway’ by improving transit service (and thus increasing ridership). As I have repeated on Transit Miami many times, I support a systemic change in the way we plan, construct and operate our transportation network. MDX has a track record of building and operating profitable expressway projects – we need to focus this energy and expertise toward the construction of a premium transit network – not an expressway network with buses.

Tagged with:
 

This is a great blog post from the NY Times about the economic structure of our transportation network.

Gilles Duranton and Matthew Turner’s “Fundamental Law of Traffic Congestion: Evidence From the U.S.” states that vehicle-miles-traveled increases roughly one-for-one with miles of roads built. More highways mean more drivers, so we are never going to build our way out of traffic congestion. People will keep on driving until they are made to pay for that privilege.

Privatization, in principle, offers the possibility of working on both the engineering and economics fronts.

Private road operators or airports will charge higher fees during peak periods to cut down on congestion, and they have incentives to innovate technologically to attract customers and cut costs. Mr. Winston notes that capsule, or pod, hotels, “which enable fliers to nap between flights,” happen to be “available in private airports, but none is available in the United States.

Because the public sector controls almost all roads, airports and urban transit, we see the downsides of public control on a daily basis, but we don’t experience the social costs that could accompany privatization. A private airport operator might try to exploit its monopoly power over a particular market or cut costs in a way that increases the probability of very costly, but rare, disaster.

The complexity and risks of switching to private provision means that Mr. Winston is wise to call for experimentation rather than wholesale privatization. An incremental process of trying things out will provide information and build public support.

Yet many of Mr. Winston’s recommendations are incremental and can be done without privatization or much risk.

Private jitney operators could be permitted to compete freely with public bus lines in urban markets (In New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is already testing this idea.) New York could also implement a congestion charge (as Mayor Bloomberg has proposed on several occasions, to clamorous opposition). Tolls could be increased on busy commuting highways during peak hours and lowered off-peak. Airports — especially those in the New York area — could raise the landing fees during peak periods.

This issue is all the more relevant here in Miami where elected officials struggle to provide even a basic level of public transit. While privatization might bring unknown social costs, a social cost is already being incurred because of our deficient transit system. The lack of convenient and frequent mass transit opportunities exacerbates problems of social inequity. Not owning a car in Miami-Dade County is a barrier to employment, yet Commissioners do nothing to advance premium transit expansion. At the same time MDX is planning a multibillion dollar highway expansion through some of our last remaining natural preserves and pushing through ‘lexus lanes’ on our only physically separated and dedicated bus transit line. Who are these people serving? This type of planning demonstrates that our leaders continue to be poor stewards of public lands, and have little interest in providing the residents of Dade County with a balance of mobility options. I for one would welcome a private enterprise that could help ease the burden on the County as it struggles to ‘right-size’ both its transit system and highway network.

…implement a transportation concurrency management system that supports mobility needs; reduces congestion; supports urban infill and redevelopment; discourages urban sprawl, and achieves healthy, vibrant urban centers.

  • Very cool: MDX is giving FIU $500,000 to study transportation technology:

…the development of an advanced bus rapid transit system along State Road 836 (Dolphin Expressway) and propose how to build various Advanced Transit Oriented Developments (Advanced TODs) where Advanced Transit Stops (ATS) can be located, including adjacent to FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus, the FIU Engineering Center and the Miami International Airport/Miami Intermodal Center.

Javier Rodriguez had this to say:

MDX is pleased to engage the FIU Lehman Center for Transportation Research in helping to identify and develop these cutting edge transportation systems that will help us deliver to the citizens of Miami-Dade County a state-of-the-practice multimodal transportation system,” he said.

Well done sir.

Portland just opened their latest light rail line.  The ‘Green Line’ is 8.3 miles and cost approximately $575 million. Critics point out that it uses an existing freeway right-of-way that is far from population centers. (Funded by Federal New Starts Dollars and local contributions). This from the Transport Politic:

But the transitway is the crux of the problem with the Green Line. The highway makes an ideal right-of-way for the purpose of increasing speeds and reducing interference with surrounding neighborhoods, but it is the worst when it comes to spurring transit-oriented development. TOD, after all, should be the primary land use goal of any new public transportation investment, and Portland is likely to get very little of it along the Green Line. That’s because the mere presence of I-205, with its traffic, noise, and pollution, will make development adjacent to it unappealing. Worse, because the transit corridor will be located on one the side of the freeway, people will have to cross the very wide road to get to the other side. These are the same problems Dubai faces with its own just-opened rapid transit line.

Many around town have been toying with the idea of using the Dolphin Expressway as a route for the east/west orange line or some BRT alternative. Javier Rodriguez has said that he is open to the idea, but the problem with using the highway is getting people to use it. As anyone who drives on the Dolphin knows, there is plenty of room to include  mass transit, but the ample space is also the problem – who is going to walk 20 minutes to get to the station? A line going right down Flagler or 8th Street would be more practical for people to actually use than one on the Dolphin. Check out this great post from the Overhead Wire about the same subject. It seems like the trade off might be to use the freeway ROW, but to bring the rail line into the city fabric at strategic locations. That way you still significantly reduce ROW acquisition costs, but bring transit within a reasonable walking distance to population centers.

PS. Why are cost projections for our 10-13 mile east west line $2.5 billion – parts of which are within an existing ROW – while Portland spent half a billion for 8.3 miles?? I’m not a numbers guy, but that doesn’t add up. Is technology really that big of a factor or is it the result of a corrupt, bloated bureaucracy? I say lets let MDX take a stab at mass transit – not BRT, but light rail or metorail. My guess is that they will build it within budget, and maintain/operate it cheaper than MDT.

Tagged with:
 

A lot happened this week behind the scenes and between the lines. Here is a review:

Kudos to this editorial today from El Nuevo Herald columnist Daniel Shoer Roth. I think he did an excellent job in highlighting how mismanaged our transit system is. Accountability goes out the window when ten different departments and municipalities are ‘responsible’ for certain aspects of mass transit. I’m always talking about how our system is ‘mismanaged’ but that really isn’t the case at all. It’s a question of priorities, and transit has not historically been one of them.

Our planning priorities were on full display this past weekend in an insert produced by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) that the Herald included in its Sunday edition. The insert describes work done to date and future projects. If you are not familiar with the MPO, it is a County run organization that is charged with coordinating the various transportation projects around Miami-Dade, as required by Federal Department of Transportation rules. Their mandate is described on their website is:

…to have a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive transportation planning process that results in plans and programs that consider all transportation modes and support metropolitan community development and social goals. These plans and programs shall lead to the development and operation of an integrated, intermodal transportation system that facilitates the efficient, economic movement of people and goods.” (emphasis added)

Many worthy goals, but unfortunately their focus is more on expressway and road building projects than on balancing roads with mass transit. My favorite part of the insert is titled “Miami-Dade: Urban Travel Trends” which utilizes graphs, bright colors, and a lot of traffic engineer lingo (vehicle miles traveled, peak period speeds, etc), with only a brief mention of transit under a graph called ‘Transit Mode Share’. The text accompanying the graph states, “the countywide transit mode share in 2005 was approximately 2.5%” It goes on to say that share will grow, “albeit modestly.” Ok. I find it disillusioning that the organization supposedly responsible for coordinating our transit system is not very optimistic about the future growth of MDT.

Truth be told, after this week’s political farce concerning tranist fares and another half cent tax, I might tend to agree with the MPO. Our future transit does not look so good because the people responsible are alseep at the wheel. Commisioners Bruno and Barbs: wake up!! You have have been reaching in the dark these past few weeks trying to placate your constituents. I know this issue gets heated and personal. Let me be clear: this is not a personal attack. It makes it difficult for those of us who are transit advocates and who supported the first tax increase to justify anything you ask for now because of how the money has been squandered. Surely you can understand that. Next week I am going to work on a series of posts on how the People’s Transportation Tax has been spent to bring to light how that opportunity has been, and continues to be, botched.
If you really care about transit, and Commissioner Jordan I think you care about getting the Orange Line built, here are a few recommendations that can serve as confidence building measures that might make any fare or tax increase palatable:

  • Make the Citizens Independent Transportation Trust the sole entity responsible for deciding what happens to that money. Give it back its teeth, and allow it to do its job.
  • Charge veterans and the elderly. We can’t give away transit that doesn’t exist yet. Until MDT gets its house in order, they should be charged, albeit at a reduced rate that should be revisited when MDT’s finances get better. MDT needs income, and the Trust shouldn’t be responsible for giving it an allowance every month.
  • Charge for the Metromover. Same reasons as above.
  • Have MDT work with the Trust. Recent reports from Miami Today describe how the Trust is having a tough time getting cooperation from MDT with regard to budget issues. How is the Trust supposed to operate if it doesn’t know how much the system costs to maintain?? This is silly.

Note to Mayor Carlos Alvarez: the strong mayor powers you wanted came with responsibilities, ie. get MDT organized. How can they run the business of Miami-Dade Transit without a budget. Helloo?? Not to put all the blame on you though, as you’ve only really been in charge for a short while.

  • Tie the 20% Municipal Transportation Plan funding to transit specifically, not transportation which has become synonymous with roads and expressways. A majority of payments to municipalities have been spent on roads, resurfacing, and other road related infrastructure. The PTP was marketed primarily as a transit plan. Spend money on rail, buses, and the infrastructure related to these much needed systems. Our roads are in fine shape. That way projects like the Coral Gables Trolley continue to get funding, while other money is free to be spent on, oh, I don’t know, maybe a few bus shelters (around International Mall maybe)?
  • Increase fares to be consistent with our how efficient our system is. Don’t over do it. We want to pay for our transit, but we want to get something in return.

You need to rebuild our confidence in your ability to provide us with a functional and growing transit system. Very soon public perception of transit in this community is going to turn from being a nonessential ‘social good’ to an indispensable and basic part of the infrastructure of the city. When that happens, when people start to feel like they have no choice but to get in their cars at $8.00 a gallon, watch out Commissioners and company. The mob will be ruthless, and the storming of the Bastille will seem like a trip to Disneyworld in comparison to your worth in the public eye.

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.