Q&A On Miami Transit

In our one month of service we’ve been asked many great questions from our loyal readers and subscribers. However, we recently received a question which has been asked quite often. It came from Tere, from the Coral Gables Blog (Great blog, check it out if you haven’t already.) In any case, we have spent countless hours trying to answer this question; it is the goal of Miami Transit to try to find a reasonable answer to questions like these:

In your educated and knowledgeable opinion, do you think that Miami can become a town that uses mass transit like NYC or Boston? And also, that our gov. can build a transit system that is logical, useful and smart?

I don’t think we can survive this immense condo/growth boom unless we give up (or seriously reduce usage of) our cars. But will the people do it? And will the gov. step up to the plate?

Honestly, yes. But it isn’t that simple. Here is the background as to why it isn’t. The demise of a dense and urban lifestyle in Miami occurred in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, when the majority of the United States underwent an extreme suburbanization, if you will, of American culture. The readily available and relatively inexpensive post-war automobile allowed for easy mobility across cities and states for nearly everyone (the groundwork was laid by President Eisenhower’s Interstate system in the late 1930’s.) It was around this time which we saw many cities begin to dismantle their Mass transportation networks due to the declining ridership caused by the automobile (Examples include Philadelphia’s Trolley system, Miami (1940’s), Jacksonville, etc.) The automobile brought about a new way of life and with that a new perspective to urban planning. As streets grew wider, speed limits on major thoroughfares increased and developments were pushed further back from the street edge (Note: this brought about those huge neon signs nearly every store must have in order to be seen by the speeding motorists.) Cities were being developed to accommodate automobiles rather than pedestrians and thus we successfully achieved urban sprawl in nearly every major U.S. City. Most cities began to consume land at a rate disproportionate to their population growth. Expressways were created to relieve city traffic, but after a couple of decades of expansions, we now fully understand their limited capabilities and rising maintenance costs.

During this time, we also witnessed a near collapse of our central business district (CBD). Without a Mass Transit network to access a centralized location of employment, we then began to see a suburbanization of the job market in Miami (side note: A herald article a few years back stated that Miami was one of the least dense business markets in the United States, with over half of the local jobs scattered outside of the downtown region.) Now, this situation poses severe complications when trying to adequately serve the needs of our residents with Mass Transit. A mass transportation network works well when most travelers have a common destination (Brickell, Downtown, Civic Center) located within a fairly close proximity. However, when a large amount of jobs are located in areas scattered throughout the county (Doral, Fountain blue, Kendall, Coral Gables) we run into an extremely difficult logistical problem in transporting residents to all these various locations. Now, to revert to having an organized system where people and goods flow efficiently, many key things would need to occur. For example, Miami and Miami-Dade county need to work together to create specialized business districts, which can be served easily by a rail or a rapid bus network. This was partially the idea behind creating Metrorail in the 1980’s, but the collapse of a substantial job market in the CBD and over inflated ridership numbers, caused our first reattempt at Mass Transit to be a complete failure.

A logical transportation network would go hand in hand with a rational county policy to lure business back to the areas where it can be best served by such a network. Suburban construction such as Ryder’s global Headquarters in NW Miami-Dade along the Everglades should have never have happened under this coherent and forward thinking policy to improve the quality of life in our region through better transportation and urban renewal. Traffic in Miami will only get worse over the coming years as planners still argue over what transportation alternatives should be sought (Note: the next Metrorail line, slated for a 2012 completion date, will travel north along 27th avenue to Dolphin Stadium, rather than East-West, adding a second North-South heavy Rail line for commuters (Tri-Rail, being the first) but accomplishing little in solving the needs of residents in western part of the county.)

With the right leadership, an ulterior form of transportation will succeed in Miami. City leaders need to press for proper urban growth rather than the continued urbanization of lands far from the city core (outside the UDB.) Through urban renewal and a change in the way our communities and buildings are developed (Note: every new building in Miami is being built on some sort of parking garage “pedestal”) we will begin to see more Miami residents depend on Mass Transportation as a way of life…

We hope that was able to shed some light on the real issues which plague Miami. Great Question Tere, keep them coming…
Got a Question for Miami Transit? E-mail us at MoveMiami@gmail.com

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