Currently viewing the category: "Tri-Rail"


Written by Carlos MarkovichScreen Shot 2015-03-25 at 11.49.44 AM

You’ve heard the buzz. All Aboard Florida (AAF) is coming, and along with it – the game-changing MiamiCentral station, destined to revitalize our beloved downtown. However, our esteemed Mayor Tomas Regalado seems intent on throwing a wrench in the plans. One of the most promising aspects of the construction of AAF’s MiamiCentral is the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority’s (SFRTA) Tri-Rail Downtown Miami Link, a proposed extension of commuter rail service by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority that would give Tri-Rail passengers a 1-ticket ride into Downtown Miami. This extension would make way for greater connectivity through Tri-Rail Coastal Link. Beginning in downtown Miami and stretching 85 miles north to Jupiter, the Tri-Rail Coastal Link would provide coastal cities in South Florida with commuter service. With the power to siphon commuters from I-95, spark mass-transit use, and breathe life into downtown, the significance of the Downtown Miami Link and future Tri-Rail Coastal Link cannot be overstated.

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Global cities demand world-class infrastructure, and we’re on the cusp of meaningful progress. Located in the heart of downtown, adjacent to Government Center and the under- construction Miami Worldcenter (MWC) mega development, MiamiCentral Station is to be a multi-modal hub where all transportation modes converge in one location. All Aboard Florida’s (AAF) three hour train ride from Miami to Orlando, with intermediate stops at downtown Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm, will serve as the preferred method of transportation for passengers seeking a direct trip to and from any of those locations. Tri-Rail’s Downtown Miami Link will initially connect all passengers on a 1-seat ride to downtown Miami. The Tri-Rail Coastal Link on the other hand, will service 25 stations in the Tri-County region, providing a viable commuter alternative for anyone moving anywhere along the corridor.

While Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), parent company to AAF, is showing no sign of slowing their progress, the Tri-Rail plan has come upon a serious obstacle. This upcoming Thursday, March 26th, City of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff will present his colleagues with a resolution to devote roughly $11 million of the City’s General Allocation Funds to the construction of the platforms and station necessary to establish the initial Downtown Miami Link which will lay the groundwork for Tri-Rail Coastal Link. However, Mayor Tomas Regalado has promised to veto this resolution should the commission pass it. Citing Miami-Dade County’s charter, which states (in his own words) that “the County government is responsible and has all the authority on traffic and transit issues.”

Regalado does not believe that the City should pay for something that falls under the jurisdiction of the County. On the other hand, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has already committed to putting roughly $8.3 million of county funds toward the Downtown Miami Link project, and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has promised an additional $17.2 million. Of the $69 million needed for the project, the City of Miami’s portion is seemingly the only one that has not received a strong commitment. The $11 million the city is being asked to help finance is an unheard of bargain in public transportation. For comparison, the full cost of the Metrorail Airport Link was about $400 million to County taxpayers (not including an extra $100 million from FDOT) and took years to realize. This Tri-Rail project is shovel-ready and is expected to starting running by the last quarter of 2016, in line with All Aboard Florida’s first phase of service from Miami to West Palm Beach.

Undoubtedly, Miami is undergoing rapid transformation. Under Mayor Tomas Regalado, the first half of this decade saw a wave of skyscrapers rise downtown. His administration has welcomed a series of mega-developments that will continue to increase the density of our urban center, providing new sources of tax revenue for the city. However, Mayor Regalado does not seem eager to provide Miami the infrastructure that it needs to support that density. The global cities we seek to compete with are investing heavily in sustainable transportation. The most vibrant economies in Europe, Latin America and even the north east USA have realized that they cannot stay competitive without investing in mass transit. Without an outlet valve to the North, Miami will become a congestion nightmare, far beyond what it is now. The Tri-Rail Downtown Miami Link would be a key investment toward a global and competitive Miami, a modern metropolis with fully integrated multi-modal transportation system. With the connection to MetroRail and MetroMover, Tri-Rail would provide seamless regional and local mobility for residents, commuters, and visitors alike on the east coast.

For years local leaders in the community have sought to jump start the economy of Miami’s blighted Downtown and Overtown communities. Believing in the promise of the Downtown Miami Link, Coastal Link and its potential to bring opportunity to a historical disinvested community, the Overtown CRA will be asked to commit approximately $39 million towards the Downtown Miami Link. Although All Aboard Florida will generate over $120 million in TIF dollars to the CRA and initially informed the CRA that it would not ask for any of the TIF dollars, the SFRTA and All Aboard Florida saw an opportunity to leverage about 33% of TIF dollars to make Tri-Rail’s Downtown Miami Link a reality. The Tri-Rail Downtown Miami Link would connect residents of Overtown to opportunities northward and beyond. When paired with the commercial and residential developments planned for the rest of downtown, the connectivity provided by this initial investment would give Overtown and Downtown further energy and send the whole corridor into a virtuous growth cycle.  This would generate employment and economic opportunities. Not only would visitors from throughout South Florida’s coast be able to come down and enjoy what our proud city has to offer, but also give the residents of those communities access to employment centers throughout the coast. Without this investment, these planned developments downtown would create economic scenarios to which our city is all to used to, localized and distinct commercial centers that do not integrate the community around it.

Regalado’s stance on the issue indeed seems so at odds with the actual well being of his city, his legacy, and his constituents, that he has been recently accused of politicking. When addressing the issue, he has seemed conspicuously keen on laying the blame on the doorstep of longtime rival, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, reciting time and time again that the County should foot the bill. Meanwhile, it is expected that Gimenez’s main opposition during his 2016 reelection campaign will be none other thaIn Regalado’s own daughter. It’s unclear whether or not there is a precedent that dictates whether the County should cover for the City. What is clear however, is that the City of Miami stands to gain a great deal from this infrastructure investment, that will over time pay dividends several times more than the initial investment.

Multi-modal transportation is the future, and no one knows it more than Commissioner Marc Sarnoff who is spearheading the resolution on Thursday’s Planning and Zoning Meeting (see resolution item RE-8, (link to agenda here). As Chairman of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) he has been supportive of creating an urban center that is more accessible and pedestrian-friendly. The DDA recently announced plans to reduce the lane count of Biscayne Boulevard to create a more welcoming human environment. Mayor Carlos Gimenez also seemed to be on board with providing his constituents with other options to move around. He has cast his support behind The Underline, an 11-mile bike friendly linear park being designed under the MetroRail by none other than James Corner Field Operations, the masterminds behind Manhattan’s High Line.

Much has been made in the news recently about the importance of urban mobility options in attracting top level college graduate talent to metropolitan areas. The key behind this notion is that people want options when it comes to how they’re going to run their errands, get to work, and visit friends. It’s not only limited to Millennials, but rather it’s an intergenerational sentiment. Having choices is liberating, it provides you with the freedom to choose. Most Miamians don’t have a realistic choice when it comes to commuting other than driving. Let’s give ourselves a choice, let’s give ourselves that freedom. It would only fitting that Henry Flagler’s long dormant train tracks, which gave birth to our darling city, a century later will play an integral role in her renaissance.

If you’d like to tell Mayor Regalado how you feel about his promise to veto, he can be reached at A petition has been started for those who would like to see the resolution pass and be signed by the Mayor, which can be found here. Also, if you would like to tell him in person, I urge you to attend the City of Miami Commission meeting on Thursday, March 26th at 3:00 PM at City Hall.

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For those of you attending tomorrow’s Miami Heat Parade, MDT, SFRTA, BCT, and Transit Miami all strongly suggest that attendees take the train! MDT will be upping Metrorail service to a 5 minute frequency (we wish that were permanent)  south of the Earlington Heights station and will be running extra vehicles on the MetroMover between 8AM and 2PM.  Alternatively, you could be like our own hometown heroes and Bike to/from the parade route…

From MDT:

To accommodate the large crowds expected to attend the Miami Heat victory parade on Monday, June 24, 2013, Miami-Dade Transit will be enhancing its Metrorail and Metromover service, and making it easier for patrons to pay their Metrorail fare by providing ‘express pay’ lanes at Metrorail stations.

Due to road closures in the downtown Miami and Brickell areas, several Metrobus routes will be detoured, including routes 3, 6, 8, 11, 24, 48, 77, 207, 208, C and S.


Tri-Rail will be operating 4-car trains in the morning and on the return from the parade to increase train capacity.  Tri-Rail will operate an additional southbound train in the morning, which will leave the Fort Lauderdale Station at approximately 10:15 a.m. Passengers are encouraged to take southbound trains P611 or P613 to ensure arrival prior to the start of the parade.

From BCT:

The 595 Express Miami/Brickell bus departs at 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. from the BB&T Center in Sunrise and travels to Brickell Plaza along the parade route. The first return trip on the 595 Express bus back to the BB&T Center departs from the Brickell Metrorail Station at 3:05 p.m. with service every 30 minutes up until 6:45 p.m.


James Dougherty, Pamela Stacy and Jason King  created the Arrive in Style poster for CNU20’s AuthentiCity Contest. The Arrive in Style poster provides plans for the redevelopment of the Belvedere Road Station and Banyan Boulevard Station in West Palm Beach in a style consistent with Addison Mizner’s vision for West Palm Beach. The plan envisions walkable, mixed-use destinations in the grand tradition of placemaking established in the golden age of Florida rail travel.   

A travel poster format was used to make a statement about transit planning in the future: train travel was once an entirely designed experience – from the city center one departed from, to the passenger car one travelled in, to the city center one arrived at – and for this reason train travel had tremendous appeal. There was an instant excitement upon arrival that automobile and plane travel can never fully provide. Immediately after getting off the train there was an experience of place.

For transit to become attractive to new generations it needs to recover its grandeur.  This will require station buildings that are proud, memorable, and iconic (regardless of style). Leaving the station one must find themselves in more than just a walkable environment with connections to local transit, but at the heart of the city or town, at the center of activity. Also, one’s experience of beauty cannot be limited to temporary art exhibitions in the station but present in the buildings, streets, and neighborhoods around the stations.

Transit centers should be anchored by a signature open space.  This space could serve as an identifiable landmark for all the surrounding neighborhoods. Corner stores and live-work offices around these open spaces and near the transit stops will provide an initial mixed-use component which would grow to full centers. The next increments of urbanism are shown in the plans: the corridors that connect the rail stations to the surrounding neighborhoods fronted by urban format buildings, and the neighborhoods themselves, infilled with housing types that can generate transit-supportive densities.  

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In the fall of 2008, Tri-Rail was running near record ridership corresponding to higher gas prices. They never beat the record of over 18,000 riders from Miami Heat’s victory parade in 2006, though. While we came close to another Heat victory this year but didn’t quite make it, Tri-Rail still scored a ridership victory. On June 16, with free Tri-Rail rides for Dump the Pump day, Tri-Rail smashed their all time record. 19,731 people rode the commuter rail yesterday. Check their press release here. Let us hope many will continue to ride even when they have to pay the fare.

A Transit Miami reader sent us this image of one of Tri-Rail’s new DMUs sitting in the Hialeah Rail Yard.


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.

City Spotlight Series:

South Florida Regional Transportation Authority / Tri-Rail
Regional Transit Planning Initiatives / Station Area Improvements
Location Tigertail Lake Park (adjacent to Bass Pro Shop)
Address: 580 Gulfstream Way, Dania Beach, FL 33304
Date: Thursday, March 25, 2010
Time: 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. (light lunch provided)
Speakers:     Joe Quinty, AICP and Brandy Creed, P.E., D. WRE
Cost: Free
RSVP:, space is limited – please RSVP
Transit to Event: Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport at Dania Beach.
Depart Golden Glades on Train P622 @ 11:43 a.m. (Free tickets provided)
AICP: BAPA will apply for 1.5 CM Credits

The State of Florida Senate passed the rail bill, complete with funding for tri-rail ($15-17 million), funding for Sun-Rail, and the establishment of the State Rail Enterprise to manage regional (and high speed) rail. Woo hoo! This is a big first step in the right direction for the State of Florida. The details of the plan might have problems, but the sign of commitment is hugely important, and will be the building block of a more transit oriented future.

The bill is off to Governor Christ, who is expected to sign it into law.

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At the start of the second week of a two-week special session, the Florida House voted 84-25 today for sweeping rail legislation. The bill allows creation of the SunRail commuter line in central Florida, adds a new permanent money source for the debt-ridden Tri-Rail system in South Florida and accelerates construction of a multi-billion-dollar high-speed rail system linking Miami, Tampa and Orlando.

Now on to the more contentious 40-member Florida Senate, where passage is far from guaranteed. We’ll see what happens. I am hopeful for the simple reason that Tri-rail needs to be funded. Unfortunately, Tri-Rail funding  is tied to Sun-Rail and the future of high speed rail in Florida, and the details of these projects are not without controversy (especially Sun-Rail’s lame CSX liability clause- why should we be liable for CSX accidents??) That’s politics, and I would rather see a bad Sun-Rail deal as long as Tri-Rail lives another day.

Check out the full legislation being proposed here and make your own opinion. What do you all think?

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Seems like we here in South Florida are always fighting for the bare minimum when it comes to transit.For the next few weeks the Florida legislature is going to be considering a number of options to fund the controversial Sun-Rail plan, as well as our own Tri-Rail.

Among the key transit proposals under consideration in Tallahassee: Giving Tri-Rail a guaranteed source of income to avoid recurring budget shortfalls, approving construction of a similar commuter rail service known as SunRail in Central Florida and creating an agency to oversee a possible bullet train. (Herald)

It is ridiculous that at the same time that legislators are discussing building a new line (very similar to Tri-Rail) that there remains an ongoing funding problem with Tri-Rail. How can we be expected to get any money for any sort of transit (high speed or normal) when we don’t make a commitment to fund even the most basic commuter rail?? I’m not so worried about losing out on high speed rail dollars as much as I am about the myriad of other local rail projects that rely on federal dollars (like the FEC line).

One might argue that the two issues are not connected, but I think that they are. They point to the single issue that dominates any discussion of transit funding: political will. As Barbara Jordon observed during the last transit summit, political will to raise the necessary funds is the largest obstacle to expanding our transit system. As a commuter line, Tri-Rail is an integral part of creating a balanced multi-modal network in Dade county. This is not about subsidizing a bad business venture, but about funding a necessary (and successful) public good.

SFRTA officials have said that they will discontinue service by 2011 without dedicated funding. Do our legislators really want to be responsible for adding additional 14,000 cars to the road at peak times?

I urge our legislators to support funding for Tri-Rail. Show the feds, and more importantly your constituents, that you take transit seriously and that you will not let an important part of our local economy go to waste.

Please email our elected officials, and let them know that you support funding Tri-Rail. Even if you only write a sentence, it is important for these people to know that the residents of South Florida care about Tri-Rail.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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  • Sunrail special session update: seems like the powers that be are going to meet in December to discuss funding for SunRail and TriRail. “…every leader in Tallahassee has been told by the federal government: you’re not getting any money until Tri Rail gets a funding source,” said Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons, chairman of the board that oversees Tri-Rail. Good to hear. CSX has also agreed to revisit its liability demands.  (Orlando Sentinel)
  • Check out this cool tribute to architecture and urbanism guru Vincent Scully (one of my former professors from UM). (Hartford Courant)
  • Great editorial from Friday’s Herald about the Port of Miami: “As the closest U.S. port to the Panama Canal, the Port of Miami has much at stake. The port serves more than 20 shipping lines that call on more than 100 countries and 250 ports across the world. It contributes $17 billion annually and 176,000 direct and indirect jobs to the local economy.” Duh. Then why aren’t we serving the people who work and travel to the Port with adequate mass transit?
  • Glad someone is paying attention: Katy Sorenson is sponsoring a resolution to establish the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact between Palm Beach, Broward, Monroe, and Dade Counties.  (Miami-Dade)
  • Win for citizen involvement: Bruno Barreiro is sponsoring a resolution to direct the Mayor to develop a web-based application for legally required public notices or ads to appear on the County web portal. (Miami-Dade)

…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.

Lot going on today, but there always is isn’t there…

  • The Miami-Dade Office of Sustainability & the City of Miami are teaming up to get grant money from the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance by forming a “non-profit entity to deliver energy services to residents and businesses within County geographic boundaries that provide performance based energy audits, retrofits and renewable energy across building types.”
  • Cutting the fat: Miami Dade Transit is cutting bus lines and expenses. “Buses are to serve the Metromover system but are to end at the Omni station to encourage riders to use the mover to get around the city “to reduce our mileage and also traffic congestion in downtown,” Mr. Kapoor said. Officials based the changes on passenger counts and rider feedback.”
  • Plan B:  Now that the commission has voted not to fix the CITT, Commissioner Gimenez is going to try to organize a voter referendum. The CITT is answering with its own Plan B: “The trust and county continue to mull using light rail or bus rapid transit to serve the corridors that were promised heavy rail…Some trust members suggested also considering a sunset provision for the measure that mingles the surtax funds with the general transit budget, as there may be a financially healthier time in the future that could eliminate or lessen the need for what administrators call “unification.”
  • Tri-rail funding from Miami-Dade Counyt  is ok…for now. “Attempts to secure a dedicated state funding source for the cash-strapped South Florida commuter rail system failed during the legislative session, and Tri-Rail officials plan to nearly halve weekday service and eliminate weekend trains anticipating reduced funding from local governments.”
  • Miami 21…delayed again. The next earliest meeting is in June (barring some unknown/unannounced special meeting between now and June 11).

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From the Sun Sentinel:

On Sunday, eight Florida state senators, including SunRail foe Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, sent a letter to Senate President Jeff Atwater, R- North Palm Beach, Speaker Larry Cretul, R- Ocala, and Gov. Charlie Crist, urging them to redirect $30 million to Tri-Rail for the next budget year. The seven senators wrote that state intervention is the only possible solution for Tri-Rail, and the Legislature’s failure to fund Tri-Rail “has led to a crisis that threatens thousands of jobs and the futures of families who depend on Tri-Rail on a daily basis.” The letter was signed by Dockery, Sen. Dave Aronberg, D- Greenacres, Sen. Ted Deutch, D- Boca Raton, Sen. Dan Gelber, D- Miami Beach, Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, and Sen. Fredericka Wilson, D-Miami.
“We intend to work together to establish a dedicated funding source for Tri-Rail’s future. But to achieve that future, we must assure that Tri-Rail can sustain its operations into the next legislative session,” the senators said. If funding for Tri-Rail isn’t approved, Tri-Rail will slash the number of weekday trains from 50 to 30 on Oct. 5, the start of the next budget year. All weekend and holiday service will be eliminated.

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