Unfortunately, there is no good news coming out of County Hall with the release of a long overdue assessment of the status of both the North and East/West Alignments of the Metro-rail Orange line. The projects, called for in the People’s Transportation Plan, have been on hold for several years because of the lack of long term  financial commitment on the part of the administration and County Commission. This lack of long term funding has led the Federal Transportation Agency to consistently give  a medium-low rating to Miami-Dade Transit’s New Start application for federal Transit assistance.  As a result, MDT plans to finally withdraw its application for federal New Starts funding in order to prevent being penalized in the next application. This should be no surprise to anyone, and considering the lack of ridership projected for these routes, is a blessing in disguise.

Report author and transit guru Ysela Llort lays down the law in pretty clear terms:

My July 17, 2008 report to you on MDT’s Financial Status and subsequent August 28, 2008 report on 30-year financial scenarios for the department clearly laid out policy options for the Board both in the short and long-term that would be needed to arrive at the 9.4 billion in needs beyond existing revenues in order to build, operate and maintain the Metro-rail Orange line, including both the NW 27th avenue corridor and East/West corridors.  Among the options to be considered were fare increases, additional General Fund Support (beyond the maintenance of effort level), unification of the transit system,  a two cent increase to the local Option Gas Tax, adjustments to the current municipal contributions, and adjustments to fare-free programs.

Llort is a straight talker, and  maintains that there can be no premium transit expansion without a greater local financial commitment. As it is, she writes,

If at any time we wish to pursue federal funding for any transit New Starts or Small starts project, the FTA will demand that MDT demonstrate that it can operate and maintain both the existing system and the expanded system.

Read: We will not get premium transit expansion until the BoCC commits to funding the expanded system. Any system improvements we pursue without federal help are just patches that will not ultimately lead to any substantive increase in ridership.

Mayor Alvarez has tenuously supported the Orange Line, but has not gone to bat for the expansion, instead choosing to pursue a strategy of “Affordable, Incremental Transit Improvements” (in light of the fact that the Board will not make the bold move of further strengthening MDT’s financials)  I have been a proponent in the past for this incremental pace of improvement, but disagree on what this administration deems to be the correct increment of expansion and level of affordability.  Not to mention the many changes (some cited by Llort above and others in my May 2008 post on the subject) that could have been undertaken by now to help MDT’s financial situation, but that still remain unchanged.

While there have been notable and important advances made by MDT  in the last few years (the EASY cards, MIC/ Earlington Heights, system restructuring), the current pace of improvements is simply unacceptable. The Board was presented with a report earlier this year that showed revenue, service and ridership for the different alternatives of premium transit for the Orange Line (heavy rail, light rail (LRT), bus rapid transit (BRT), and BRT-lite).  In each instance a funding gap exists without an increased financial commitment by the BoCC (regardless of the type of technology). Striking the balance between increasing ridership and spending prudently is the name of the game, so the current plans, described by Llort in the report, call for a BRT-lite along both the NW 27th Ave line and the East/West Dolphin Expressway alignment. In my view, this will attract the least amount of potential riders, and will not contribute to critical system wide expansion, but is an alternative to spending money on routes that are not yet ready for higher levels of service.

Our leaders need to change how they think about planning transit expansion in a way that takes into account total system connectivity - not just how to accommodate random corridors around the County. Maybe now that the albatross of the Orange Line is being cast aside, our leaders can focus on expanding Metro-rail to places that will increase ridership (like Miami Beach), and that will lead to greater network connectivity (like the Douglas Road corridor).

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17 Responses to County To Pull Plug on Orange Line

  1. Mike Moskos says:

    I’m not too concerned that the plug was pulled on the Orange Line; Metrorail’s best expansion would be to provide one ride service from the Airport through the Port and on to South Beach (where one could connect to the small local buses or light rail in the future). I’m not even too concerned that they can’t find the money yet. Their minds will change as:
    -rising oil prices/falling household income forces people to abandon their cars
    -businesses/taxpayers abandon Miami due to road congestion

    On a side note, while Miami Dade Transit is the best transit in South Florida, they absolutely need regularly scheduled user meetings so people can point out the micro problems that disappoint/infuriate riders. You can solve a lot of these micro problems with few dollars; they’re a better investment than huge new elevated heavy rail lines with their interstates-sized capacities.


  2. Maloclm Moyse Jr. says:

    This is bull, who do we talk to the about this? I can’t believe this. there is lots of money out there to expand transit.
    Stop letting people ride free.
    Put a 25cent fare on metro mover.
    Dedicate 25% of toll revenue to transit.
    Get local banks to invest in the system.
    Create a $5 surge for heat tickets. we got a dream team now.
    Advertise!!!!!!! Make people want to ride. Advertise in the movie theater previews,and at games.
    create a damn goal!!!!!!!! get out there and make people ride. i mean it do not take a master’s degree to figure this out.I love old people, but they need to pay there fare too. make them pay at lease 50 or 75cent fare.
    Who can i relate this too? please some,sent me some names or numbers.The mayor of dade county needs to keep his promise. He promised the north corriddor would be one of his number one priorities. just as he worked hard and fought for the marlins stadium, he need to do the same for our transit.


  3. Rog in Miami Gardens says:

    Malcolm is right. Don’t get me wrong. I am not necessarily in favor of elevated rail, as I believe that it ruins the landscape a bit. I do believe, however, that light rail or some kind of rapid transit is perfectly appropriate along the 27th Avenue corridor. I currently commute using routes 27 and 97, and during rush hour, buses are jam packed with Miami-Dade College-North Campus students and people who want to connect with Metro rail at the Martin Luther King Station. Also, many residents who live in West Miami Gardens/Miami Lakes and even as far away as southeast Miramar drive to the Golden Glades Interchange/Intermodal Center to connect to the 95-Express to get to their offices downtown. If a rapid transit line is implemented, however, they would no longer have to drive east to go south. They would simply have to park at the rapid transit station closest to their home and connect to Metro-Rail at MLK

    As Malcolm so eloquently put it: MDT needs to set goals. Every agency that provides a service has objectives and goals that are quite often made known to its public. Of course, public transit is based on current ridership, but sometimes transit projects can and should be aspirational. Improving transit along that corridor could actually increase public transits visibility and, perhaps, its use and effectiveness.


  4. Jeff says:

    Although it doesn’t come as a surprise, I am still sad that the West line is not going to be built, especially since I live near FIU. As for the North Corridor, although it would not have reached as high of ridership as other possible routes, it got so far in terms of planning that its a shame to see all that time and money go to waste. Not to mention I would have loved to have taken a train to Sunlife stadium.

    As far as the metrorail being an eyesore, I prefer that over an 6 lane expressway. I especially think metrorail compliments its surrounding when vines grow on top of the columns. Just my opinion.


  5. transitnerd says:

    Have they thought of any replacement plans, even rumors? BRT, and service down the train tracks along Biscayne would be especially nice. Riding from miami shores to down town would be very ideal.


  6. Rog in Miami Gardens says:

    To Transitnerd: I think light rail or a trolleyway would be more suitable to connect the eastern suburbs to Downtown.


  7. bobdreamz says:

    Quite a dissapointment to say the least! Why would the MDT be penalized for re submitting the application for the North Line extension? This is a viable route with the thousands of potential riders at MDCC-North, Dolphins Stadium & many south Broward commuters! How can the FTA call this route a “low priority” or that it’s not a viable route
    All of the planning & EIS studies have been done & the county has the right of way up along NW 27th. Ave. This should have been a no brainer for the Obama Administration since it is practically a “shovel ready” project!
    Another incentive is that Miami is bidding for the World Cup in 2018 & 2022 and would probably be played at the Dolphins stadium. Are we going to wow FIFA with our Metrobusses? An extension would at least let us compete with other cities that already have rail otherwise why even bother bidding against cities like Chicago or New York let alone other cities in the world? Somebody needs to take leadership in this situation soon!


  8. todd says:

    I have to say I’m annoyed with this blog right now. There are copious posts applauding the police, but next to none that actually discuss how we can win transit beyond calling the same legislators who are in the developers pockets. In downtown a few days back, the two transit unions tried to organize a protest to demand better transit with the community. I sent it here, and no one posted it. I think that’s telling. Transit Miami seems more interested in commenting from the sidelines than actually fighting for better transit. If we want the orange line, we need to demand it. I wonder if there’s a conflict of interest here, as it appears Transit Miami editors work for these same agencies?

    I’m starting to think we need to build a new forum for transit in Miami, and one that will put forward the need to organize, agitate, and push for transit (not just lobby).


  9. Tony Garcia says:

    Todd, I got your invitation to ‘a protest rally’ about transit service being cut, but I thought it was just another protest for the sake of protesting. We chose not to participate in your demonstration because all you had to say in the email was that Rev. Jesse Jackson was going to be there. Sorry, but we are transit advocates trying to make a difference, not grandstanding politicos who are using an issue for publicity. You think we are sitting on the sidelines?? What do you call having a useless demonstration? Do you ever try to find rational solutions rather than protest? Do you ever meet with elected officials to try to get things accomplished? Probably not since you spend your energy attacking people. You can be annoyed all you want - if you don’t like what you read here, don’t come. We are all unpaid volunteers who do this AND work for a living. No one gets paid for the work they do here.

    The only conflict of interest I have is wanting to see transit become a reality in this city and knowing special interests (like your transport workers union) help kill transit expansion with their lofty pay scales and pensions. Thanks for playing.


  10. Tony Garcia says:

    PS. I should repeat that I do not see the Orange Line as being the best use of our money. I think lines to/through our most populated areas would be a much better use of our money (MIA to Miami Beach, or MIA along Douglas to US1). We need finish creating the main Metrorail loop and not start branching off to the ends of the county (yet). And as far as service cuts go, I think that making the system more efficient is better than keeping buses in circulation with low ridership. Yes the county needs to provide more general fund contribution, but for premium service expansion, not just to run more buses.


  11. todd says:

    First, I’m not a transit worker. I am not a member of either transit union. I support those workers, but not the various politicians and bureaucrats who try to speak for them.

    I just think it’s totally bizarre that a group of people come together and try to organize to fund transit, and there’s nothing about that here at all. Florida Independent did a piece on it here

    I disagree with their arguments about how funding should be used, but the fact of the matter is we need a coherent organized voice of transit riders to act in solidarity with transit workers. Without that, we’re just lobbying when developers and capital have resources which throughout history have always silenced popular movements on the legalistic field. In terms of track record there’s no argument there. The lobby/advocacy method has next to nothing to show for it, whereas fare strikes, transit riders unions, and direct action have stopped cuts and expanded service all over the US and the world.


  12. Anonymous says:

    blah blah blah


  13. Anonymous says:

    todd r u for real?


  14. […] and north to the Broward County line, Miami-Dade County’s manager has announced that he will remove the project from the federal New Starts applicant pool. The County has been unable in recent years to convince […]


  15. Rog in Miami Gardens says:

    I think the cities of Miramar, Opa-Locka and Miami Gardens need bypass the county and do their own thing. In fact, all the municipalities along the 27th Avenue corridor that have been incoroporated need to make appeals to the FDOT and USDOT and other agencies for funding and expertise, and just forget the county all together. This is exactly why municipalites incorporate in the first place: the centralization of power and money within the county seat fails to meet the needs of the county writ large, and only the areas/neighborhoods with the wealthiest residents get the attention. Enough is enough!


  16. Tony Garcia says:

    They have their 20% share to start with…but the real problem is if they are going to cover the ongoing operations and maintenance of the line….


  17. Anonymous says:

    this is crazy that north corridor would have been great for people trying to go to college like fiu south this one of many reasons why alot of people from miami get educated and leave because of backwards B.S like this where the hell all that money went the prices on the bus went up that penny tax and the stimulis these commissorns are liars they lied for years for some reason I new they weren’t going to do that corridor where alot of the black people live at that’s just unfair and unamerican and uneithical if this happend in any other city the feds would be investagating this and a whole lot of people would be in trouble thats miami for you it’s so crooked down here


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