Currently viewing the category: "Metrorail"

Meet the Douglas Road Corridor MetroRail Line.This 4.5 mile project would connect the MIC to Douglas Road Station and US1, with stops at NW 7 Street,  SW 8 Street, and Coral Way. The line would service areas, like downtown Coral Gables, where land use already supports a high level of pedestrian activity. This should be a high priority for our leaders, and some are very supportive. Check out the 5 and ten minute walk sheds  - this line would run through some of the densest parts of Miami and Coral Gables - pluggining thousands of residents who have already chosen apartment living into the ultimate urban amenity - rapid transit.  (Not to mention creating another connection to the airport for those traveling to/from points south.)

 

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It was a pleasant surprise last week to find, not merely one, but two, vertical bike racks on Metrorail train car #141. And, it just so happens that car #141 was the last wagon that day – interesting . . .

You may remember that several months ago, there seemed to be a sort of prototype rack on one of the train cars, yet not the last one (as one would expect since the official rules governing the Metrorail Bike & Ride program currently mandate that all bikes go to the back of the train). The South Florida Bike Coalition posted on this confusing observation in January 2011 and questioned, “This rack was installed on the second car – does this mark a change regulating where people can bring their bikes on the train?” After weeks of multiple sightings of this mysterious single rack on Metrorail, it seemed to have disappeared altogether. The observation last week of these two new racks seems to suggest that we’re getting closer – slowly but surely – to seeing a more permanent presence of bike racks on Metrorail.

However, train wagon #141 (the car in which these racks are installed) has not remained the last car, so many reading this may have already seen these racks on #141 as the non-ultimate train car. That’s important to note . . . See, just as different buses are regularly shifted to drive the numerous bus routes throughout the county, Metrorail train cars are regularly alternated to different positions within the chain of wagons. This technical procedure, the constant interchanging of the train cars, is one of the primarily challenges to creating a set of more equitable, enforceable, and sustainable Bike & Ride policies.

As I see it, there are two fundamental options here: (1) make more space exclusively in the last car to accommodate the numerous and increasing bike-train riders while making the last car more of a “standing car”, and/or (2) put an adequate number of bike racks throughout all, or at least most, of the train cars, with conspicuous signage on the outside of the train doors/cabins indicating which cars have bike racks and which do not. I personally favor the latter.

The bike racks seen last week are of a different model than those seen around this time last year. (Perhaps the County has finally made a decision as to which models are most appropriate and cost effective for our community’s trains (?)) To accommodate these newer racks, two separates pairs of seats were removed on each side of the front of the train wagon. That makes four seats lost to two bikes. One less sympathetic to bikes on the train may initially find this trade-off unwarranted: “How could you justify giving up two seats just for one bike?!” It’s a fair question, and the response is simple.

While two seats are lost to a bike safely secured on a rack, it would be at least two seats (and sometimes even four or five, for those despicably inconsiderate bike passengers) lost to a bike on the train not neatly stationed on a rack. Additionally, having these dedicated spaces on the train for riders to safely secure their bicycles will significantly reduce the many intra-train mobility conflicts and safety issues abounding in the absence of such spaces. People will no longer have to play a body-contorting game of Twister with one another through a gauntlet of legs, handlebars, tires, baby strollers, and wheelchairs. An adequate presence of bike racks throughout the entire train – say, four to eight in each car – would do wonders to alleviate the many common conflicts that arise among cyclist and non-cyclist Metrorail riders.

Indeed, let’s hope these racks are here to stay and the County is preparing to expand them throughout the entire train. That would suffice until 2014 – or until Miami-Dade Transit gets cleared by the Federal Transit Administration to proceed with its $300 million deal to procure 136 new trains, originally slated for 2014. Whatever happens with the feds, these two new racks are a welcome addition to the train, and we hope to see more! As recently described on this site, though, even with new bike racks, there remain many challenges and opportunities to a sustainable Bike & Ride program on Metrorail.

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  • On October 29, MDT celebrated the one year anniversary of the Easy Card - the automated fare collection system implemented to increase the usability of the transit system by automating payments and reducing the time needed to board MDT vehicles. The agency celebrated by awarding the rider who made the 42 millionth “tap” a full year of free ridership.  MDT also awarded the top five most frequent users of the EASY Card with a free month of transit. Not trying to hate on these lucky folks but, the picture released by MDT, above, isn’t particularly filled with joy.
  • Two  County armed guards, tasked with collecting the cash deposits used to recharge EASY cards at Metrorail stations were robbed early this morning at the Douglas Road station. The stolen vehicle was recovered about a block away from the station. Perhaps the county should review its policy of collecting the fare-box revenues at 2AM.
  • Margaret Pace Park, bolstered by the recent development boom has flourished recently thanks to the large influx of new residents. The once dilapidated park and neighborhood is now a shining example of urban life in downtown Miami.
  • Weston’s only bus route, #23 was spared from being axed completely last month by County Commissioners. Riders however, will face higher fares, reduced service, and a new route alignment in effort to reduce the cost of operating the underutilized route. Just another debilitating effect of urban sprawl - public transit becomes ineffective and difficult to operate.
  • Miami-Dade County public schools saved $6M in energy costs last year by implementing a district-wide campaign to conserve energy.

Across the blogosphere:

  • The Transport Politic provides a comprehensive analysis of FL Congressman John Mica’s likely transportation agenda. Mica will likely become the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and as such will have a big impact on the upcoming reauthorization bill and future Federal spending on transportation. Mr. Mica has previously expressed support for HSR in regions where it “makes sense” such as the dense Northeast corridor.
  • A recent report from MSNBC notes that younger folks today (those aged 18 - 35) are less likely to hold valid drivers licenses and own cars as compared to their counterparts in 1994. The article attributes the decline to the recent economic depression as well as a growing ambivalence about driving among younger generations.  (Via: Streetsblog)

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This week, the US DOT released the FY11 Budget, a $79 Billion package best summarized by three key agency priorities: improving transportation safety, investing for the future, and promoting livable communities (this last point is significant, we’ll come back to it in a minute). $10.8 billion (7.3%) of the budget is dedicated to transit projects alone. Some cities, particularly Denver, Honolulu, Hartford, San Francisco, and St. Paul-Minneapolis came out as the big winners with new full funding grant agreements, a pivotal step in the FTA’s New Starts funding process.

While this is all great news - if you take some time to look through the budget you’ll notice our very own, Orange Line Phase 2: North Corridor Metrorail Extension stuck in federal funding limbo. This September, MDT will have their final chance to prove their financial aptitude to the FTA.  As our colleagues over at Streetsblog pointed out, Miami, Boston, and Sacramento face an uphill battle over the coming year in achieving FTA approval.

Now, the important question here is: Why haven’t our local leaders figured out how the federal funding process works? While the Orange Line Phase 2: North Corridor Metrorail Extension is a noble project, serving a community that could certainly use some improved transit connectivity, the ugly truth is that it won’t garner the ridership necessary to warrant a $1.3 billion investment. Perhaps our local leaders don’t have the political courage to suggest such a notion. Perhaps it would be far more convenient (politically speaking) if the project dies as a result of the FTA rather than our own missteps. While our local leaders continue to advocate for projects that will never stand a chance in the federal appropriations process, we, the constituents, are affected by the ineffective transportation alternatives available. We all suffer. Our economy suffers. The longterm economic viability and sustainability of our community suffers.

Onto the livability objectives - the USDOT, partnering with the EPA and HUD, have embarked upon an ambitious livable community initiative aimed at integrating efficient transportation with healthy, affordable housing solutions. The livable communities initiative will emphasize integrated development around public transportation and will provide greater funding to communities that enhance accessibility, particularly through non-motorized means.

Since metrorail’s inception in the mid 80′s, what have we accomplished? Most recently, the opening of the I-95 HOT lanes has allowed for expanded BRT-like service between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. However this project is partially marred by the fact that (vehicular) capacity was expanded on the corridor to begin with, leading to overall improved travel times (initially) due to the added capacity. The South Miami-Dade Busway, our only other major transportation capital improvement project, has shown some promising success. However, recent attempts at bringing HOT lanes to this corridor, in an effort to “alleviate” congestion along US-1 would prove disastrous and would certainly undermine the new federal goals of encouraging livability.

We’ll leave you with a few points for discussion before we continue this series next week. We invite our readers to use the comment section to continue this important discussion:

  • When Miami-Dade’s bid for the Orange Line Phase 2: North Corridor Metrorail Extension inevitably fails later this year, what position should the county ultimately take? What alternative makes the most sense?
  • The County has admitted that it will not be unable to deliver on the promises made in the PTP - what should be done?
  • If the county proposed a new, viable alternative to the PTP with reduced service but actually achievable objectives, would you support it? What routes would be critical in such a plan?

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Miami Dade Transit allows bicycles in the last train car, but there isn’t a safe place on the train to store the bicycles. On Sunday there were 10 bicycles in the last car. It was impossible for people to get in and out of the train because the bicycles were littered throughout the entire car; blocking the aisle and the doorways. Passengers had to navigate around the bicycles parked in the aisle, and then the bicyclists had to back their bicycles out of the train to allow people to get off.  There is no reason why we can’t retrofit bicycle racks like the ones below.  Having bicycles parked in the aisle and in the doorways is not safe or convenient for anyone.

Photo: http://www.trekbikes.com

Photo: http://www.trekbikes.com

Photo: http://fubicy.org

Photo: http://fubicy.org

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Miami-Dade County via their Miami-Dade Transit Department puts out government contracts to improve our public transportation.  I work for a construction company that was invited to bid on one of these projects and this is my story. On September 28, 2009, along with a business partner, I visited five Metro-Rail Stations to photograph potential job sites.  These public sites are “guarded” by the private security company Wackenhut (whose contract has not been renewed). The treatment I received from these taxpayer funded  goons was so shocking that I had to share my experience with you.

At the first station I had no problem doing my work, I took my photographs and moved on. As I walked up to the second station I was greeted by two power-tripping guards that quickly welcomed me into the reality of the horrors of governmental and private company unions and their inane bureaucracies. To be clear, at all times I had in my possession the plans and contract book from Miami-Dade County stating the job description, locations, and purpose. I also identified myself and my intentions at every stop. It was at this stop where the debate and discussion on one’s constitutional right to photograph in public blossomed.  I spent about one hour trying to get into the station to photograph the area, which I was not allowed to do.  Out of constitutional principal, I decided to challenge their claim that I needed permission and could not photograph the facilities.  As I waited in front of these Wackenhut guards, I called Miami-Dade Transit and was on the phone being transferred from department to department until I was finally transferred to Eric Muntan, Chief of the Office of Safety and Security at Miami-Dade Transit.  To be fair, he was very helpful and solved the issue at that particular station.

I spoke to Mr. Muntan for several minutes explaining the situation and heard his take on the matter.  I was upset and quickly stated my constitutional right to photograph in a public place, which I had repeated to the guards, to which they robotically replied that  I had no right to film in a “private place.”  I did not know that Miami-Dade Public Transportation Stations were PRIVATE!

Mr. Muntan was very respectful on the phone and contacted the necessary parties to inform the guards in front of me to let me in.  Unfortunately, his order to the other stations never went through.

At subsequent stations I already knew what to expect.  Once again, I approached the station and introduced myself and explained myself. This guard appeared to be calm and wise, at least I thought based on his calm, non-emotional, respectful tone of voice.  All that changed after he began talking about his “interpretations” on the law.

At this point, I was just so amazed and shocked that I wanted to hear more on his rationale.  This guard had some of the best quotes of the day.  Some of them are: “Miami-Dade Transit is not Public,” “The Constitution does not apply on Miami-Dade Transit grounds,” “The County Ordinances supersede the Constitution,” and the best justification for those lovers of the expansion of the police state…”9/11,” yes he said, “Now, after 9/11 your constitutional rights are different.” At this point, I was in shock that a Wackenhut Security Guard was stating this was the policy of the county and Wackenhut.  He spoke with so much confidence and belief in the absurdities he was uttering that I said to myself, “This country is doomed.” This was a nice older man repeating unconstitutional, unfounded, non-statutory propaganda and made up law…Welcome to America.

The last stop:  I am Ricky Rodriguez and I am going to take pictures now.  Period. After having put my business partner through torture as we rode around the MetroRail I told him, “do not worry, I will just photograph from the public entrance with my zoom…I can’t take any more stupidity.” So thus, I went into the final station. I went directly up to the guards and started talking to them.  I told them who I was, what I was doing, showed them my county contract bid book, and told them I was going to photograph from the public area.  I did not wait for an answer at this point.  I was fast and aggressive but calm and respectful in my tone.  My presence was fast and did not seem to interrupt their group discussion.  I did not give them a chance to offend our constitutional liberties with their comments.  I quickly thanked them and waived goodbye.

The unfortunate experience I had with Wackenhut underpins the bloated, inefficient, and disgraceful state of our transit system. The County should be aware that its mismanagement and abandonment of the transit system could have legal consequences, especially when their hired representatives violate the Constitution of the United States. As Benjamin Franklyn said, “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” I for one will not be returning to the MetroRail.

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Today on recovery.gov:

President Obama and Transportation Secretary LaHood have announced that $27 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds are headed to states to provide critical repairs to our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges.

rebuilding_chart

Remember this is just for highways  - there is an additional amount for mass transit/high speed rail.  As Mike pointed out the devil is in the details of how local governments are spend this money - some prefer expansion projects, others overdue maintenance. Miami’s share of the highway funds totals about $124 Million, but we still don’t know how these funds will be used because the process has been less than transparent (some would say opaque). (FYI:  “Transportation Enhancement is a legally defined term for projects such as sidewalk repairs, bicycle paths, and beautification projects.” We have between $5-6 Million coming in for this - check out list 5 for possible projects.)

In other news, the FTA has posted preliminary allocations for the transit portion of ARRA. Miami should receive $5 Million for fixed guide-way infrastructure investment, and $139,733,611 for transit capital assistance (for expansion or preventive maintenance). There are other grants that are up for grabs, but with MDT’s abysmal track record attracting federal dollars, I don’t think they are capable of bringing home the pork. This year Section 5309 New Starts Federal allocation for MDT will be $0.00 out of a possible $430 Million. (To be fair there is a $42 Million for transit capital assistance in FY’09 under a separate program.)

Then there’s this:

…only projects that have received acceptable project ratings in the New or Small Starts process are eligible for the funding.

Well, there goes any possibility for funding phases II and III of the Orange Line.

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picture-045

Miami worships parking. Indeed, we can’t seem to build an urban building without smothering it with suburban parking requirements. Usually this comes in the form of parking as base or parking as appendage. The garage under construction above — an appendage if I have ever seen one — is located at Northwest Third Street, directly across the street from the new US Federal Courthouse. Currently at 10 stories, this latest garage is ostensibly being built to serve the needs of Courthouse employees and visitors. There are  three glaring problems with this development.

1) The Courthouse was finished long in advance of the garage, which believe it or not means that employees and visitors are miraculously finding parking, despite the non-existence of this new garage.  What, with the acres of surface parking lots, street parking, and other garages in the immediate vicinity, how could they not?

2) One block to the southwest of this new garage is Government Center, where Metrorail, Metromover, and Metrobus all converge. If there was just one location in downtown Miami able to reduce its parking requirements, this would be it.

3) The garage is being built with ramped floors, meaning that conversion to another use, say  office building or residential with retail on the ground floor, will remain nearly impossible. A better parking garage would have flat floors and floor to ceiling heights that allow for the conversion to a higher and better land use,  as dictated by the market.

By requiring and building so much parking, Miami will continue to develop an auto-oriented downtown,  make development more expensive than it has to be, and keep the transit that we have from reaching its potential. Sure, some parking is needed when building high intensity downtown uses, but implementing a more creative shared parking approach, along with reducing overall parking requirements, especially when in proximity to transit -as proposed in Miami 21-would make a far more efficient, transit-oriented, and walkable downtown. Until we do that, Miamians should expect that their downtown will never reach its full potential.

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The Miami-Dade County Commission Agenda for March 3 is out and it is full of fun items…here are some that I found interesting:

  • Improvements along Old Cutler based on the Old Cutler Charrette including roundabouts at 87th and 97th avenue, along with pedestrian/bike path upgrades and facilities from Cocoplum Circle to 224 Street.
  • Commissioner Jordon wants to tinker with the Citizens Independent Transportation Trust this time to ensure that the Trust reviews and recommends award contracts within 45 days and that it meet with the Commission at least quarterly. Interesting…
  • Approving $37 Million in additional FDOT funding for MIA’s people mover, connecting the MIC with the Airport (this is the much needed connection between Metrorail and the Airport.)
  • The City of Doral is expanding its free trolley service.
  • This is a biggy (and another Barbara Jordon sponsored item): Officially allowing transit surtax dollars to be spent on the system maintenance and operations, while increasing General Fund contributions by 3.5% every year, and dedicating 10% of the surtax yearly to capital expansion. Wasn’t all of the surtax to be used for expansion?  Sorry, but these numbers are still off….seems like more should be put aside from the General Fund, and for expansion (7% and 25%?)
  • Developing an elderly TOD at the Okeechobee Metrorail site.
  • The County is looking to cut 20% of its energy consumption (estimated at 1.17 million-megawatt-hours..wow)
  • Awesome:  MDT is updating its bus-tracking software to allow for real-time infomation to be sent to wireless devices.  MDT is also deploying a real-time bus tracking system on the new Kendall BRT pilot project, scheduled for May 2012. This line will extend from 166 street and Kendall Drive to Dadeland Station, and include 27 stations that will connect with the GPS based tracking system.
  • A resolution urging the President to rethink Federal transit funding when Congress looks at the surface transportation spending act later this year - specifically allowing for use of the funds for operations.  This would finally move the Orange line forward.
  • Implementation strategy for Miami-Dade Parks Masterplan. Also awesome. (Noted in this item is a growing program me and some collegues started called the Native Carbon Cure - a carbon tax that mitigates our business’ carbon footprint through local habitat restoration projects.)

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I thought it would be nice to start the week off with some hope - there seems to be a lot of it going around. Last week was a roller coaster ride for transit advocates across the country. From Seattle to the Twin Cities, everyone was asking what transit solutions could be expected from the first wave of stimulus projects (yes - I said first wave), and while the initial draft was not great a piece of shit, I am proud to say that one of our leaders - Mayor Carlos Alvarez - finally put his thinking cap on. Reading the letter and revised stimulus project list, I was filled with hope. After being ignored and mismanaged for so many years, our transit system has an advocate in Mayor Alvarez.  His blueprint puts transit front and center, stating that constructing the Orange Line is a priority. Bravo!

By asking for funds to complete the Earlington Heights Connector to the airport, along with $93 million worth of maintenance requests, Mayor Alvarez has made a huge shift in how the County perceives its responsibility toward providing transit alternatives. The Intermodal Center and Earlington Heights connector should never have been funded by the PTP without matching Federal Dollars (rather than funding the entire project with Trust dollars with some state funds). Not only is it shovel ready, but getting funds for this project would free up revenue for Phases 2 and 3 of the Orange line. Similarly, the maintenance projects listed will also help improve MDT’s fiscal future.

Now reality: most transit dollars in the stimulus package (now listed as a meager $10 billion) are to be funneled to cities with existing transit systems (NY, DC, Chicago). In addition, it is still uncertain that money will be sent directly to local municipalities, and not highway hungry DOTs.

Either way: good job Mayor Alvarez! At least here at home, we have something to hope for…

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According to this recent press release, the Miami City Commission has approved the Miami World Center, an ambitious nine block, 25-acre redevelopment project slated for the Park West neighborhood, just north of Downtown. The glitzy pictures streaming on the project’s website promise a very sleek, but pedestrian-oriented district that, if nothing else, will transform this part of the city.

I am quite familiar with this area as I bicycle through it on my way to work, and again on the way home. At present, the underutilized surface parking lots and vacant buildings only seem to add to the area’s blighted image. And given that the project is being built using the principles of Miami 21, it seems that its mixture of uses, pedestrian orientation, and public spaces will become a living example of how large scale development should be undertaken. That being said, the architecture looks like more of the same, but I guess in that way it is in keeping with Miami’s current aesthetic.

Adjacent to the Metromover, and within walking distance of the Metrorail the project’s transit friendliness is evident and will give residents and visitors opportunities to move without driving.

I don’t know how liquid the development team is at this point, but given current market conditions, they will have to overcome much to get this mega-project built and occupied with residents, tenants and businesses.

Stay tuned.

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  • The Herald continues to report on the downward spiral that our transit plans have taken over the past few months years. We have been silent on the issue here at TM mostly because the whole debacle is just sickening. There isn’t much more to say other than our leaders have really dropped the ball on this issue. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know that plenty of other cities in this country are currently embarking on ambitious transit plans. Most cities have been slowly, but consistently, adding rail transit lines over the years. We have not, and are suffering now because of it. I have said it many times on TM: our leaders need to prioritize transit. It is a part of our public infrastructure that needs to be funded. It is as unacceptable to say we cannot afford to pay for our schools as for our transit. That is how important this needs to be. Somehow, other cities find creative ways to finance and build the projects they promise to voters. It’s a question of political will and it is non-existent here.
  • The zoning around Metrozoo was officially changed to accommodate the new water park and hotel complex approved by voters in 2006. I’m not really a fan of this project because I don’t support giving public land to private developers, and less on this last stretch of contiguous pine rockland, but at least our zoo will benefit. This is an instance of a ‘megaplan’ that was conceived and approved by public referendum. I think that makes all the difference.
  • The Sun Sentinel reports on declining funds available to road building projects. “From 2008 to 2012, the county estimates, gas tax revenue and impact fees, the major funding for Palm Beach County road building, will drop 48 percent. Road impact fees, which come from new construction, will drop to $7 million in 2012 from $42.8 million this year. As people drive less, gas tax revenue will fall to $33.3 million in 2012 from $35.3 million this year, planners say. Adding salt to the wound, Palm Beach County commissioners decided in June to supplement mass transit with $8 million of gas tax money designated for roads. They gave $1 million to Palm Tran to save weekend routes that were in danger of being cut and to keep fares low for low-income and disabled riders. For the first time, the county used gas tax money to pay its annual Tri-Rail subsidy, about $7 million. Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons said that after 20 years of putting money into building roads, more money now needs to be invested in alternative transportation. Alternative forms of transportation are going to have to be a priority because people can’t afford to drive long distances in their cars,” he said. Duh! Its nice to see that they are finally waking up in Palm Beach. Now we need our leaders to start doing the same. Raid road building funding for transit, and stop letting local municipalities use their 20% of PTP funds for road related improvements. Again, it’s a question of priority. We have long ignored our mass transit system, and it’s time to play catchup.

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Larry Lebowitz, Miami Herald Transportation reporter, wrote last night in breaking news that the Miami-Dade Commissioners delayed their vote for a $0.50 hike in bus and train fares for Miami-Dade Transit.  According to Lebowitz, the deferral puts more pressure on the mayor and the transit agency to find solutions to the current cash crunch faced by the agency, as well as to determine what promises can be salvaged from the 2002 People’s Transportation Plan campaign.

Also, in the article, Bruno Barreiro, the chair of the Commission, indicated that he is not against bringing a repeal of the $0.005 surtax, if any plans that would be forthcoming from the mayor and the transit agency were devoid of concrete plans on how to expand Metrorail as indicated in the original ballot initiative.

While the delay may mean a short-term gain for the increasing numbers of consumers of these services, it only puts off the pain of balancing the books into the future – if, in fact, this increase will balance them.

Unfortunately for those of us who do use transit, the demand elasticity just usually isn’t there for us to be able to choose an alternate means of conveyance.  Especially with gasoline and diesel approaching, in some areas, $5.00 per gallon, many of us who use transit will take the fare hike in stride, and continue to use the services.  $2.00 a ride, depending on length, isn’t all that bad, and it is in line with the single-rider fare of other major metropolitain areas.

Where the commission should watch out, however, is with the price of the Metropass.  A fare hike from $75 to $100 will put the price of the pass out of reach of many of those who buy it, and might discourage companies that currently pay for part or all of their employee’s commute from keeping this benefit.  Also of note here is that a $100 monthly pass will put the cost of this pass at or near the top of the list nationwide.

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We apologize for being slow to comment on the recent Herald series about the People’s Transportation Plan disaster. Everyone at Transit Miami has been extremely busy as of late, but we’ll definitely have several pieces in the coming days and weeks discussing many of the elements referenced by Larry Lebowitz’s multi-part series.

Stay tuned!

Image: Miami-Dade.gov

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The County Commission decided to delay its vote Tuesday on the proposed transit hikes. I commend Carlos Jimenez and others for seeing that the issue had to be reconsidered. As Gabe mentioned earlier in the week, the monthly pass really needs to be consistent with the size/reach of our transit system (not higher than NYC). Not to mention that the last thing you want to do when ridership is up is to increase fares, but the fact is that the system needs to be funded. Unfortunately I think that this discussion is just the latest in a series of bad management and planning decisions that keep our holding our transit back.

It has been a tumultuous time for Miami-Dade transit recently. The result of poor vision, bad management, and professional incompitance, the transit system is currently on life support. (This all with record high transit ridership on Tri-Rail reported today!).

The recent allocation of PTP tax dollars for the refurbishment of existing cars (and purchase of new ones) is indicative of the state of our transit. If the Trust hadn’t stepped in and bailed out MDT there would not have been anywhere to get the money from. In other words once the metro cars reached their lifespan they would have been tossed and we would have a really expensive piece of civic art. By not rehab-ing the cars some time back (as Baltimore did with its metro cars) the Commission basically put itself in a position where they had to buy new cars or close up shop. Not to mention the message it sends to Washington: that we aren’t serious about competing for transit dollars.  As if the Orange Line didn’t have enough funding problems, this just adds to how disorganized the MDT is. When the feds look at our existing system and see that it is mismanaged, what incentive do they have to give us money when there are plenty of other cities out there that are serious about mass transit.

The Orange Line debacle is yet another indication of how flawed our system is. We are eligible for lots of free money to help build this line, and we are at risk of losing it because we don’t know if we can maintain the line for the next 30 years? Really?? Lets not even mention that the Feds are already miffed that we are going to downgrade our Tri-Rail service after giving us nearly half a billion dollars for track upgrades.

Whew. Where does that leave us with oil closing in on $150/barrel (and soon thereafter $200, and $250. and $300…)? We need our transit system more than ever. We need a successful transit system now, not under the 50 year plan, but the five year plan.

Truth is if our planners and elected officials were as serious about transit as they were about highway and road building we would already have a really great transit system. I think it would be a surprise to many here in our car-centered culture that plenty of other post-war suburban cities have developed amazing transit systems over the past fifteen years.

Incidentally, I had lunch with a buddy of mine named Dave who happily takes the bus everyday from his house in Kendall to work in Coral Gables. He tried to explain to me why transit works for him but not for his dad (who won’t take the bus to save his life). “Its really easy for me. It’s mostly a straight shot with one transfer. But my dad works five minutes away from his house. It’s easier for him to just get in the car and go. Transit can’t take us everywhere.” Now Dave is my friend so I didn’t reach over the table and smack him around, but that’s exactly the attitude that pervades our culture and is bred from policy decisions made at the top.

Our elected officials need to understand:

We NEED transit alternatives to the car.

We DESERVE multiple forms of transit that are safe, frequent, and far reaching without having to get into the car.

We need transit NOW.

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