Archive for the 'Train' Category

Metro Monday: South Africa’s Commuter Rail

Air Travel Tips

Many people are going to be traveling this holiday season. The Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald both point out that airports will be crowded and parking scarce for the Thanksgiving travel days. They offer tips like “get a ride,” but they neglect to offer the best suggestion to avoid both the parking issues and the vehicle traffic in the terminal: Tri-Rail. Parking is free at Tri-Rail stations, so put what you would have paid at the airport towards your Tri-Rail ticket and enjoy your gas savings as you zip along towards any of the three major South Florida airports. Or take the Metrorail and transfer to Tri-Rail whichever is closer to your location.

Once you get to the appropriate station, just hop on a connecting bus and head over to the airport. The connections take anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 minutes to get from the train station to the airport terminal, so don’t forget to add in a bit of extra time. If you’re going to FLL or MIA, Tri-Rail provides the free shuttle bus to the airport. If you’re going to Palm Beach International, you’re stuck using Palm Tran routes 40 or 44, but it’s still free with the Tri-Rail ticket.

We all know it would be better if Tri-Rail consistently ran on time and you didn’t have any delays there. And it would be better still if Tri-Rail or even Metrorail went straight to the airport terminal without bus transfers. (We are all patiently awaiting the Miami Intermodal Center!) The last time I took Tri-Rail to the Fort Lauderdale airport, however, I waited much longer for the airplane than I did for the train and shuttle bus. If arriving two hours early for your flight isn’t bad enough, prepare for more delays waiting for your flight to get off the ground. A small delay with Tri-Rail will just cut into the 2 hour+ wait at the airport, so you should have plenty of leeway. It may be annoying to wait for your train or wait for the bus, but remember you’re only getting there to wait some more. Commercial air travel is public transportation. So instead of getting a ride in a car to the airport, why not make your trip public transit all the way?

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Gabriel- I can’t help myself but I have some serious issues with this article which ran in the Sun-Sentinel yesterday listing parking at “South Florida’s” Airports. What’s missing? MIA. Since when is MIA not considered a South Florida airport? Just another instance of the Sun-Sentinel segregating Miami from South Florida (Broward and Palm Beach) a serious nomenclature issue which needs to be resolved and shows the confusion caused by creating so many municipalities within the greater Miami region…

Train Derailment

A close friend of mine works next to the location of today’s train derailment. They forwarded a picture for me to share. Funny thing was that I walked along the tracks right where this train derailed recently and wondered how any train could possibly travel along them. At first I even thought they had been abandoned due to their horrific state and amount of debris laying along them. It’s no wonder accidents like these happen…
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Travels Through Europe, Part 2

Vienna and its’ surroundings are covered in a vast web of efficient public transportation. Four rail options make life in the Austrian capital a breeze for residents and visitors alike. Like Miami, Vienna lacks a definite central district where workers travel to and from daily. The inner stadt, encircled by a one-way ring street and streetcar is about as close as it gets to becoming the center of Viennese activity, but major business hubs such as the UN complex are located far outside of the center.
The streetcars or Strassenbahns are a marvelous form of transportation, easily accessible by locals and visitors alike due to the vast network they create across the entire city (There are over 30 different routes and it is the third largest network of streetcars in the world.) To understand how vast this system really is, please click on the map here, you won’t be disappointed. Nearly every street contains tracks for the streetcar, which often shares the limited roadway with vehicles on narrow 2 way streets. The streetcars are prompt, clean, and effective forms of traversing the city.

The U-Bahn (Subway) is a relatively new form of transportation in Vienna; it opened in its modern form in 1976 and has since grown to incorporate six different lines (although parts of the U-Bahn date back to the 1890’s.) Click here, for an animation depicting the growth of the U-Bahn over the years including the upcoming extensions of the U2 line due to open in 2008 (to the stadium) and 2010, in time for the UEFA Cup which the city will be hosting in 2008. The U-bahn provides a faster mode of transportation and links some of the major hubs including: Stephansplatz, Vienna International Center, and train stations (Westbanhof, Franz-Joseph Banhof, Wien Nord.) Like most modern transit stations, most stations feature newsstands, bakeries, and all other sorts of convenient amenities foreign to the Miami-Dade Transit System.

The city and its immediate surroundings also contain over 380 kilometers of track for the Schnellbahn, a suburban commuter rail train similar to our tri-rail, only its efficient, vast, reliable, and electrically powered. As I mentioned previously, we used the schnellbahn to connect from the airport to the U-Bahn. There is also a small light rail transit system located within city limits (I know these people are so lucky to have all different forms of rail transit) known as the Lokalbahnen. I’m not familiar with the Lokalbahnen, seeing that we never had the opportunity to use it, but I often saw its trams arriving at the Karlsplatz station, where passengers could connect with U-Bahn, Schnellbahn, or bus transit options along the Ringstrasse. Notice how every site I’ve linked contains maps, schedules, routes, tickets, etc. in English in an easy to find format…

The city is also covered by over 80 different bus routes some of which operate 24 hours a day. The Nighlines provide service once the metro systems close for the night, at 1 am and run until they reopen at 5:30. The Nighline runs every 30 minutes and is just as prompt and easy to use as the Strassenbahns and no less popular among the locals or even us visitors. Using the bus system was no less of a breeze to connect us with the nearest U-Bahn station. The buses also lack the stop signal system found on most U.S. buses, instead a button near the exits serves as a dual use button to trigger doors to open and to signal the bus driver to stop. All buses (thanks to GPS devices) also announce upcoming stops and Strassenbahn and U-Bahn connections.

After experiencing yet another efficient and effective public transportation system, I am forced to realize that Miami has far to go before it too can become a very accessible city to all. Below are a series of photos I took while in Vienna for the purposes of depicting some of the most fascinating elements of their public transit system on this site:

Notice anything conspicuous about this entrance to the U-Bahn platforms? The absence of any turnstiles should jump right out at you, especially if you are familiar with the heavily armored nature of most American subway entrances. In parts of Europe however, subway entrances like this are the norm because the entire metro system operates on the honor system- Gasp! Yet, it works, because people know what the law is. Enforcement is done completely at random on bus, streetcar, and U-Bahn routes. Throughout our week long visit we were checked a whole zero times! While I’m on the fare subject: we were able to purchase an eight day coupon using our credit cards at an ATM like machine at the subway stations. The eight day card (24 Euros) enabled us to eight full days (not necessarily consecutive) of transit use (all forms) provided that we stamped our tickets daily at anyone of the punch card boxes located on every vehicle or station entrance. This marvelous system eliminates the foolish token or cash system and enables passengers to board the trolleys or buses through any door at any stop. The Honor system and punch card system is far too advanced of a thought for any U.S. Transit system. With heavily fortified entrances and armed station guards, many of our transit systems still suffer from delinquent fare box evaders. Part of the reason why Miami’s Metromover system is free rather than 25 cents is that the cost to add security to every platform would cost more than the income gained and more than cutting back security and making the whole system free. In any case, imagine at least if we could add machines which allow users to buy extended day metropasses with credit cards at every station. Maybe our next transit director will bring our transit system into the 20th century, let alone the 21st…After passing through the faux turnstiles, you emerge on a subway platform which is far cleaner than any public space you’ve ever experienced. Though even I admit this station was cleaner than most, it was interesting to look down at the tracks and not see the usual litter, sewage, and congregation of rodents which is typical of any subway system in the United States. Like the honor system, citizens here know to deposit trash in the appropriate receptacles rather than all along the station platform or tracks. It was rather stunning to encounter such an immaculate station in any case. The trains themselves are very well kept, with clean comfortable seats and handles. The absence of graffiti or window etchings was a plus and I even witnessed residents asking fellow passengers to remove their feet from the seats… Some of the busier stations featured the wall advertising typical of most subways along with maps depicting the upcoming routes (way too advance for Miami, but more common elsewhere.) Some of the busier stations also feature projectors and screens displaying top news headlines and local information.
Most of the subway cars are extremely modern, like the one pictured above. The trains are surprisingly smooth and quiet, making the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods minimal in the areas where the trains travel above ground. The Strassenbahns (Aka. Streetcars or Trolleys) are an eclectic mix of old and modern technology. The new cars, designed by Porsche Design Group, feature the lowest ground to floor clearance of any similar vehicle. Every station features covered waiting areas with benches and route maps. They also contain real time data LCD screens which depict upcoming trains and expected waiting times which are frighteningly accurate. As I mentioned above, the streetcars share the roadways with vehicles and rarely travel along their own dedicated right of way. Often times, the only lane in either direction is shared while the shoulders are reserved for on street parallel parking spaces. The streetcars operate under different signals than cars and usually have dedicated space in the “medians” for the stations . The overhead power cables are strung from the surrounding buildings, eliminating excessive poles along the side of the roads. The streetcars enhance the pedestrian activity along every street and do not detract from the vehicular traffic flow at all. The electrical wires are not unsightly and share dual use with the overhead streetlight system. What I always find impressive when touring European cities is the amount of young children (typically 5 years and older) wandering around alone on the public transit systems. I took the picture above to emphasize the benefits a good transit system would have on our education systems. See, in Vienna, like many other cities, their is no school bus system. Kids use public buses and trains to get to and from school. When field trips are scheduled, school groups take public transit like the group pictured above; on its way to the Museum of Natural History. Sensational. Imagine how much money we’d save if we didn’t have to fun an independent cheese wagon transit system just to transport kids to class daily? I took the above picture while waiting for the Nightline bus. After a long night of Karaoke and drinking, the minimal wait for the bus ride home was pleasant as street cleaners buzzed by routine maintenance was conducted on the streetcar power cable systems. Oh, and yes, at night the LCD screens display the wait times for the buses as well…
Nearly all the intersections in Vienna are dotted with Siemens sound sensors to aide blind pedestrians cross the streets. Gas stations such as this one above and below emphasize the idea that cars are secondary forms of transportation in the Austrian capital because well, they are. This particular gas station is located outside the opera house and does little to take away from the imperial surroundings. The one below was built into the side wall of a building.

The picture below depicts the middle level of one of my favorite transfer stations in Vienna, Schottentor. This station is a major transfer point for at least 10 different Strassenbahn lines, including the 1 and 2 trams which traverse the inner stadt. Trams arrive on the ground and mid level of the station, one level below ground. From the mid level the Votivkirche (church) provides a beautiful backdrop for the arriving trams. One level below, passengers can access the U2 line of the U-Bahn. Note: None of the stations feature parking, parking garages, or anything to accommodate ridiculous vehicular usage.

The regional transit options are no less spectacular than those of the city or of other parts of Europe. The OBB, a train I could liken to tri-rail, only dependable, transported us to a town called Melk, 85km west of Vienna in about one hours time. The OBB trains are powered by overhead electrical wires and make stops in various stations along the way. It was amazing to be outside of the city and traveling through woodlands and pastures in the matter of a few minutes, emphasizing the compact nature of Viennese life and making such marvelous transit feasible in the first place. Melk, a small unassuming town along the Danube River even boasts a local bus circulator and is so compact we had crossed the town by foot in a matter of minutes. Stay tuned for Part 3…

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Travels Through Europe, Part 1

Well, I’m back from my latest travels through Europe; we had a marvelous week exploring Vienna and the Austrian countryside. Although I have many stories to share and experiences worth describing, I will offer you all a glimpse into the transportation efficiency which made my trip so worth while. Some of you may liken it to an apples-to-oranges comparison; but I think there is much we could all learn from the European system of planning and constructing cities which would make all of our lives a heck of a lot easier. I will begin now with the airports through which I traveled: Miami International, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, and Flughafen Wien. Go ahead and visit their respective webpages to see their cyber differences. Ours is a catastrophe, in English only, alluding to the disastrous experience you’ll likely encounter when visiting.Amsterdam’s Schiphol is a paradise for anyone encountering a layover in Europe. The modern terminal is excellently situated to allow transfers between all international flights without having to pass through security or customs, unless traveling to another EU country. The airport features some comforting amenities with which to pass the time including: showers, sleep areas, an museum featuring Dutch art from the 18th century, wireless internet, a mall, and various restaurants, bars, and casinos. The facility was immaculate. The airport employees were well informed, courteous, and fluent in various languages, a rarity even in our cultural “melting-pot.” A PA announcement played whenever someone was running late: “Mr. or Mrs. So and so, you are delaying the flight to Casablanca. Please report to gate D4 for immediate boarding or we will proceed to offload your luggage.” Fantastic.

We didn’t spend as much time in Flughafen Wien due to the fact that it was our final destination, however, while passing through I noted several similarities between it and Schiphol. The airport featured some enclosed glass boxed rooms for smokers only, an innovative thought to keep the smoke away from the general terminals; even though smoking is generally permitted everywhere else indoors in Europe.

The City to airport connection at both airports is a marvel in itself. Forget the Miami Intermodal Center, distant thoughts of running metrorail or a people mover into the airport, or the current inconvenient bus rides to the nearest tri-rail station. Flughafen Wien, located several kilometers away from the city center, is linked via the City Airport Train (CAT), an express train which whisks passengers into the city in 16 minutes. What I find most impressive about the CAT is the feature which allows you to have your luggage transferred from the plane to the train. Likewise, you can check in your luggage at the city train terminal and not worry again about your bags until you reach your final destination. The train terminal at the airport is located beneath the baggage claim and departure facilities, placing it within easy reach of all travelers. Since we weren’t exactly traveling to the city center, we rode another train, a suburban commuter train like tri-rail called the Schnellbahn, which also services the airport.

The City/Airport connection in Amsterdam is no less fantastic than the one in Vienna. Having a five hour layover on the return flight enabled us to catch a train into the city to kill off the wait. Within 15 minutes we were arriving in the city’s central station, within walking distance of all the sights, museums, and activity occurring in Amsterdam. The commuter train was just as pleasant, packed with travelers on both decks of the train.

Amsterdam’s Central Station is an amazing intermodal facility. It links the city with the airport via rail as well as local metro service, streetcars, buses, ferries, water taxis, regional rail service, and long distance rail…

More to come soon…

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Globe Trotting

Well folks, I’m off again to explore another stunning European city. This week I’m headed to Vienna, Austria, the former home of the Hapsburg Empire. As usual, I’ll be sure to report about my experience on the city’s public transportation which boasts a network of streetcars in addition to its subway, suburban rail, and high speed airport train (CAT.) I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to take the CAT which whisks you from a central city terminal to the airport in less than 16 minutes. Get this; people who ride the cat don’t have to wait for their luggage on the carousel, it’s automatically loaded onto the train so that you can retrieve it at the station. How innovative is that?
I will have net access and do plan to post from Vienna, but Ryan will be picking up much of the slack while I’m away…
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FEC, The Obvious Route

The Sun-Sentinel published a rather ho hum article today concerning the possible use of the FEC corridor for local commuter rail traffic. Basically restating everything we already knew about the study being conducted to alleviate traffic on I-95, local developers paving over our way of life, Henry Flagler and the oranges, blah, blah, blah, the whole nine yards… The article confirmed my recent estimates placing the start of construction on a best possible scenario at 2015 (oddly enough the same year Baylink will be reconsidered for funding by the MPO.) As usual, the comments on the Sun-Sentinel’s site proved to be an everlasting source of entertainment for me. Here is one of the more ridiculous replies which just about sums up why we need to focus on changing mentalities around here first…

Here are some of Bob from Boca’s deep and well thought out ideas:

Finally, my first reaction:

Yep, I wanna give up my Lexus to ride with the vermin of the world.

Let me take my lovely family and sit among people from nations where personal hygeine is a dark mystery associated with the like of the full moon and witch-craft. Oh sorry, did I say other nation? I meant Hialeah.

Let’s have a “chat” with the hip-hoppers who can’t say 3 words straight without an F-Bomb, or the others who can’t say 3 words in English.

Even better, I want to give up the luxury of personal transportation in order to roll in the filth left by the previous passengers. Gum stuck in chairs, overflowing toilets (if they even bothered to enter) and the associated residue of society all stuck to my seat, and now my pants all at one time.

Snob? Perhaps…Dude, I’ll simply say it’s not technology that kills public transporation. It’s the public.

American’s golden days passed when manners and social grace were put aside in favor of personal gratification and the current selfish, boorish behavior that seems to be a norm among so many.

So yeah, raise our taxes even higher and strangle our economy to death. Chase out and destroy the middle class and build the train. We’ll have extremely wealthy and those so poor they are tax exempt. At least the latter will have a train. All they need is a reason to use it. What are the chances that will be for work?

Bird Rd. Train Accident

Good luck if you are trying to get anywhere from west Kendall this morning. At 3:15 this morning a car collided with a train on Bird Rd. and 72nd Avenue. It isn’t certain what occurred that would cause this car to go careening into the locomotive of the 9 car train, causing the train to derail. I can safely assume however, that this is another instance of a Miami driver not knowing how railroad crossings work…

Image from Miami Herald

Video Link…

Improving the Grove/PTP

I’ve shared my discontent on the people’s transportation plan (PTP) on more than one occasion on this site. I’ve also spoken of the nimby-like behavior of the grove residents who oppose any project which crosses their path but at the same time complain about a dearth of parking in their area. Today, I’ve decided to combine the two issues somewhat and present a set of alternative plans that I believe would benefit our community and would satisfy the delicate aesthetic needs of coconut grove residents. Below are three quick renderings I created (please pardon the terrible quality) of the region with possible public transit routes superimposed.


  1. This plan is the simplest, least intrusive, and cheapest alternative. The plan calls for the dismantling of the Omni loop of the people mover system in downtown once the Miami Streetcar becomes operational. I’m figuring that the omni loop will be rendered useless once the streetcar is completed seeing that they essentially cover the same part of the city. The salvageable tracks, vehicles, and station components can then be used to create a new Coconut Grove Loop People Mover system. The CG loop would be approximately 1.65 miles long, just slightly longer than the current 1.45 mile Omni Loop. The loop would be able to transport people quickly and effectively from the Coconut Grove Metrorail station along US-1 to the more pedestrian friendly areas of the grove, office buildings along South Bayshore Dr., City Hall, and the vast network of bay front parks. This option would be good for bringing people into the Grove from other parts of the county, but would not prove as useful for the majority of Grove residents. The plan also concentrates the public transit on the densest part of the grove and along the bustling 27th Ave. corridor.
Key Stops: Coconut Grove Metrorail Station, City Hall at Dinner Key, Shops at Mayfair


  1. This plan focuses more on a public transit system which would service the Coconut Grove community as the southern terminus for a North-South 27th Ave. Streetcar or LRT. The proposed system would be far more useful than the 9 mile northern extension which is currently planned and underway for Metrorail because it invites better urban growth to occur at the street level along the avenue. The Northern terminus for this transit line would be at Joe Robbie Stadium (Dolphin Stadium) and would travel through Opa Locka, West Little River, Brownsville, Little Havana, and Coconut Grove neighborhoods. It would provide two links to the Metrorail (CG and Brownsville.) This plan would allow for greater development to occur along the 27th Avenue corridor bringing some much needed density to the area. The much debated and contested Carlos Rua project at the Coconut Grove Metrorail station would be one such example of the type of development we would want to encourage (with less parking.) Transit Oriented Developments such as the Rua project are essential to make our transportation networks succeed. Situated along the primary N-S route in the city (US-1), a major avenue (27th Ave.), and our only form of public transportation, this project is hardly out of context with its surroundings and what we can expect of the region in years to come (Perhaps the height is excessive, but the density is of critical importance.)
Key Stops: Coconut Grove Metrorail Station, Dinner Key, Dolphin Stadium, MDC Inter-American Campus, Opa Locka, Coral Way Corridor

  1. The last plan focuses on implementing a streetcar or LRT which would travel through Coconut Grove from the Brickell Metrorail station. This plan focuses its attention on the needs of the Coconut Grove area, bringing pedestrian traffic and growth to the areas which can support it best. It would also best serve the needs of the area residents in getting to their local town center which is already facing major parking issues. Traveling through South Bayshore Drive, the streetcar would service areas we designate as pedestrian friendly. It services the dense housing units in the area, waterfront offices, shopping areas, Hospital, and parks. A project like this would greatly benefit from further dense (not necessarily tall) growth to occur along the corridor (perhaps the Related Group’s Mercy project wouldn’t seem like such a far fetched idea.) The streetcar would service both east and west grove and create a center for the community (at Mayfair) which is easily accessible to most via the public transportation. Heading westward, the line could travel through the Village of Merrick Park before terminating at the Douglas Road Metrorail station.

Key Stops: Mercy Hospital, Dinner Key, Shops at Mayfair, West Grove, Brickell Metrorail Station, Southern Brickell, Village at Merrick Park, Douglas Road Metrorail Station

I created this above analysis to show that there are a multitude of public transportation concepts which could be implemented in the Coconut Grove area which would not only serve the needs of the area residents but would benefit the entire community. Grove residents should open their minds to development which will enhance their community (I’m not saying to fully accept the Related Group, Home Depot, or Carlos Rua projects) but they need to take a different approach when considering the type of development that will occur in their area. Bringing density to their town center and major thoroughfares like 27th Ave, Grand Ave, and South Bayshore Dr. will keep the charm of the grove intact while also providing a support nucleus which will keep places like Mayfair up and running. This will help reduce the demand for area parking once we recreate a community which is even more navigable for pedestrians rather than vehicles.

As for the PTP, I can only say that we are headed in the wrong direction. Metrorail is an antiquated and extremely costly form of public transportation. We need to embrace a cheaper form of public transit in order to be able to compete with the handful of other US cities which are also vying for federal funding. At the same time, we need to create a system which will satisfy the needs of as many citizens as possible and provide the greatest amount of uses for the community and area re-development.

Falling Behind, Quickly

I may have gone a little picture happy below. But, I’ve come across a bunch of stunning pictures of two major up and coming transit systems on complete opposite sides of the globe. The first two are of the Porto, Portugal brand new Urban Transit Rail system. Mind you, this is a city of 1.5 million inhabitants and look at the sophistication and efficiency of the whole thing. Porto also just unveiled a brand new international airport terminal which is also absolutely beautiful. Makes me wonder if either project ran years behind schedule or hundreds of millions of dollars over budget. With over 5 million people in our metropolitan area, we need to advance some of our public transit projects pronto, in order to keep our status as a “World-class City.” I also personally love how the trains travel over green space, no longer making the tracks as “unsightly” to some as they once were (This is also used in Bilbao’s new Urban Train.)

The second set of pictures reminds me of the wonderful plan ole Jebby Bush had us repeal to outfit our state with a High-Speed Train network. This is the Shinkansen, the Japanese bullet train, capable of speeds of up to 275 MPH on conventional (Well built, Not our worn down system) rails. This is the Taiwan High speed rail, which will link many of Taiwan’s major cities along a 360 KM path. The benefit of this train speaks for itself. Floridians really dropped the ball (well twice, we elected him in the first place) when we repealed the Florida High Speed rail act due to a “Lack of Funding.” What a load. Billions are spent in this state alone to continue to enhance and expand the existing highways, why not institute a better measure of budget appropriation, Jeb? Perhaps we wouldn’t have a lack of funding if we hadn’t instituted so many useless tax cuts or decided to invade…You get the point. Our cities have fallen behind technologically and our urban planning is beyond deplorable…

Oh and by the way, the Taiwan rail was built in 8 years and had an October 2006 opening date, which I believe is actually going to occur sooner than originally scheduled…Unreal? No. Just the way things should be…

Pictures Credited to the forumers who posted them here.

(Pictures Removed from post…April 09, 2007)

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A Lack of Unity…

Last week’s heat victory parade was not only an excellent celebration through the streets of Miami, but it was also a great opportunity for thousands of people to use public transportation to get downtown. Although I personally know several people who drove downtown (shame on you!) record numbers of people used tri-rail and metrorail. Tri-rail itself hit a new peak, with over 18,000 riders on Friday, the most in its 17 year history.


Here’s a touchy subject. Now, no offense to my Broward and Palm Beach readers, but I’m glad there was only one Heat parade, in Miami and here’s why: I’m sick of the “self-imposed segregation” we currently see in the Tri-county, Greater Miami Region. It’s a constant competition against each other, even for a victory ticker-tape parade which is supposed to unify the community not isolate the two regions. If the Mavericks had won the championship, they weren’t going to hold separate parades in Dallas and Ft. Worth, even though the two cities are also only separated by 30 miles. The Greater Miami region (a.k.a. South Florida) needs to come up with its own unified identity, quickly. Heck, our three airports and four seaports are constantly battling each other for no reason; why not unify them to compete with global markets rather than local ones. I understand the importance of every community having its own personal identity, but, we need to look at the bigger picture of what will benefit our region as a whole in the long-run. In the end, a parade up in Ft. Lauderdale would have been as smart as another one down in homestead, if not equidistant…