I recently had the chance to spend a whole day riding Tri-Rail (Fully Work Related) and finally got a good glimpse at the quantity of commuters who depend on this rather primitive commuter rail system daily.  Last week, Tri-Rail averted a major financial crisis that would have slashed daily service from 50 to 20 trains and completely eliminated weekend service, thanks to only a 10% budget reduction by Palm Beach and Broward Counties.  Another year of near optimal operation should allow the former fastest growing transit agency in the nation (2006) to continue to attract riders, in a time when public transit infrastructure is of paramount importance.

Ridership is up already 45% over June 2007. May saw a 25% increase, April 28% and March 22%.  More than 157 companies signed up for the authority’s employer discount program in May — about 881 riders.

While travelining along the line, I noticed a few key areas where tri-rail could drastically improve its bottom line and service:

TOD: Currently Inexistent.  This is my major focus in Regional Planning studies.  Often times, I find that our problems are not necessarily the fault of poor transit policy but rather what we choose to do with the land around our transit centers.  In Miami, this usually equates to fences, poor access, and inappropriate uses.

Parking: Currently free and very limited.  Potential revenue source?  There are several reasons why free parking poses many problems, even at transit stations.

Tri-Rail Golden Glades, Miami

Employee Parking: Seriously?  This parking is largely unused and unnecessary.

Tri-Rail has received a year reprieve in which it must continue to attract a larger share of riders while working to better integrate itself with the South Florida Landscape.  Most of the land use issues are largely out of the control of the agency but must still be addressed regionaly if we ever hope to make a sliver of change in our very autocentric lifestyles.

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Related posts:

  1. The Airtrain Solution: Part 3
  2. Tri-Rail Service Improvements
  3. Tri-Rail Expansion Delayed, Again
  4. Riding the Rails of Reason
  5. Transit Tuesday: Back on Track

8 Responses to Tri-Rail’s One Year Reprieve

  1. Kyle says:

    Tri-Rail’s done an amazing job this last year, and I congratulate them. I ride Tri-Rail twice a week and it’s very pleasant and convenient.

    On the topic of TOD. Tri-Rail already has two of such projects underway one at the Deerfield Beach Station and the other at the Boca Raton Station. If you do a google search for them you’ll find renderings. They’ll include affordable housing, retail, offices and a park area.

    On the topic of parking, however, I must disagree with you. I think it’s best parking is kept free for the immediate future as Tri-Rail is continuing to grow. As such, many of these riders are new and just “testing the waters”. Having to pay for parking might detract a lot of riders. Either that, or you can have riders in the Employer Discount Program as well as Metropass holders not pay and the rest can pay a small parking fee.

    One complaint you didn’t mention which I think is a major complaint is the fact that Miami’s Metropass doesn’t work on Tri-Rail. You have to two separate Metropasses and it’s complicated and annoying with transfers and everything. They should integrate Metropass into Tri-Rail.

  2. Kyle - I’m aware of their TOD projects but I haven’t really gotten a good look at either one of them - I’ll see what I can find so that we can better address TOD’s in the region.

    Given the increased demand for Tri-Rail’s service, I believe it is only natural that parking fees eventually be instituted ( I agree, you don’t want to scare off new riders, either.) However, a lack of parking facilities will - in the long run - hurt the system’s overall capacity. A minimal fee would provide a greater stream of cash which can be used to improve existing parking facilities or acquire new ones while encouraging commuters to utilize other forms of transportation (or Carpooling) to the stations…

    We’re frustrated about the metropass situation too…It’s a disgrace…

  3. Steven says:

    I think that the biggest thing that concerns me about the tri-rail situation is the constant push by some to move it to the FEC tracks. At least in their current allignment they have space (albeit only a little space in some places) to build more TOD. I have seen some of the plans to TOD along the current Tri Rail corridor and hope that they end up being successfull and further boost the successfull growth of TriRail.

    On the topic of transfers from TriRail to Metrorail in Miami, I have to say that Miami-Dade County really should do something about their station there. I took TriRail recently up to Palm Beach County for business purposes and didn’t really notice the sad state of the Metrorail station until I was on my way back in the evening. Especially at night, the TriRail stations are clean and well lit, but you look to where the Metrorail station begins and it is dark, the roof is leaking, and its very cave-like. Getting on Metrorail from TriRail in the evening felt almost like decending (even though it is technically ascending since the platform is above you) into a level of hell in comparison with the clean state of the trirail station. Also, in addition to the dark, dank, leakiness, the escalators all moved in the opposite direction of where they needed to go and the elevator was broken. The elevator especially was a far cry from the talking elevators TriRail has at their stations.

  4. Ellen says:

    Ok, I’m stupid. What does TOD stand for?

  5. You’re not stupid Ellen, we often use silly acronyms thinking that everyone knows what they are…

    TOD = Transit Oriented Development

    Glad you asked…

  6. M1EK says:

    Boca Raton expatriate here, and frequent visitor. There’s literally dozens of TOD proposals for Tri-Rail that have all died on the vine. Why?

    TODs rest on the premise that a developer can make more money by charging more rent for retailers, rent for apartment dwellers, or a higher price for condo sales because people will want to pay more to be right next to the train.

    Turns out this works if and only if the train goes directly where people want to go. IE, even with commuter rail lines that have excellent transfers to other reserved-guideway rail lines (LIRR, for instance), you don’t really see TOD. You DO see it on light rail lines in places like Dallas and Portland - people buy a condo or rent an apartment to be next to the train that goes straight downtown, from whence they walk to work from the train station.

    Obviously shuttle buses are even worse than a LIRR-subway transfer.

    Don’t expect any of this latest batch of TODs to come to fruition either, in other words. They might eventually get built as TAD’s (see this link: http://www.vtpi.org/tdm/tdm45.htm), but they won’t be true TODs.

  7. yudie says:

    what a great post..thank u

  8. Just another great reason to live in Palm Beach!

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