- www.Recovery.gov is up and running. Nuff said.
- President Obama talks with the Washington Post, and discusses the upcoming transportation reauthorization bill, to be taken up by Congress later this year.
…I think there should be some way for us to — just think how can we rationalize the process to get the most bang for the buck, because the needs are massive and we can’t do everything, and if it’s estimated that just on infrastructure alone it would cost a couple trillion dollars to get our roads, bridges, sewer systems, et cetera, up to snuff, and we know we’re not going to have that money, then it would be nice if we said here are the 10 most important projects and let’s do those first, instead of maybe doing the 10 least important projects but the ones that have the most political pull.
- Great analysis on the high speed rail stimulus funds from Matthew Yglesias and Politico reports on the last minute inclusion of $9 Billion worth of high speed rail into the Stimulus Package and what that means for Obama’s legacy.
- In local news…The City Commission will take up the Marlins vote on Wednesday, March 4, but it may still be a no go with a 4/5 vote required to waive the no-bid contract.
- Save some Metrorail tokens as souvenirs because they won’t be here for much longer. MDT is prepping for the switch to automated fare collection - welcome to the 21st century, woo hoo!
- Both City of Miami and Miami-Dade county are refining their stimulus project wishlists. Interesting, more on these later…
Photo of the Universal Gate 2100 Courtesy Cubic Transportation Systems
According to this article by Larry Lebowitz on the Miami Herald website, the Miami-Dade Transit Agency will be introducing SmartCard technology over the next year. The first fare boxes are scheduled to begin appearing in Metrobuses starting this month, with a systemwide roll-out to be completed by the end of 2009.
Gone will be the days of bus drivers inflating their fare counts at the Dadeland South Metrorail station on the Busway lines, as they manually press the button for Metropass customers. Here will be the days of discrete passenger counts at all stops, in order to provide information to the Federal Transit Administration, and, ostensibly to provide more accurate alignment of vehicle choice with the route.
The infosheet provided by the MDTA identifies Cubic Transportation Systems as the vendor the county has selected to implement this $42MM system. Above, you will see a likely candidate for a fare gate that will be replacing the turnstiles which have been in use since Metrorail’s opening in 1982. I’m certain that the county will, in the style of other transit systems around the country, raise a bar between gates to prevent people from climbing the gates.
One excellent feature of the system is that reloadable cards are available for all, with appropriate coding on the card for individuals who are eligible for discounts or free fares. Photo identification can be integrated into the SmartCards, which should eliminate the trading and forging of cards which has plagued the manual system currently in place.
Perhaps the best feature is that for the Average Jane or Average Joe, they will be able to purchase the cards at Ticket Vending Machines at all Metrorail stations, and they’ll be able to reload these cards much like a SunPass can be reloaded.
After reading Larry Lebowitz’s article in The Miami Herald yesterday, I decided to take a look around the nation at transit fares.
Here, for your edification (and, hopefully, action), I compare what our fares here in Miami-Dade County would look like after enactment of our commission-proposed fare hike, versus fares of some other transit agencies around the country. The purpose of this is to get those of you out there who are reading this, and who are so inclined, to speak up – let your County Commissioner know that you won’t stand for a fare increase of the likes they are proposing.
While I researched nine transit systems, I am only posting here the top five of those I researched.
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.
Well, the Miami-Dade County Commission did it again – they continued the mentality that rising fuel costs should amount to higher transit fares. As much as I would like to agree that transit fares were well below the point they should have been, I cannot justify anyone spending $100 for a monthly metropass.
Let us compare similar monthly passes across America:
Dallas $50 or $80
LA $62 - $98
New York $81
Are we oblivious to what happens elsewhere around this country? Most cities have a zonal system of affixing prices to their tickets, charging more for longer distance trips. These long distance routes, service suburbia, places where transit really should not be servicing unless the area population density is well above 8 people/acre.
There is also the logical answer to the funding dilemma; charge drivers. Congestion pricing and parking pricing encourages greater transit ridership while reducing congestion (see London.) Those whose travel habits cost the greatest societal burden (drivers) pay the most for their services.
I could go on for hours on this subject (I assure you, I will) but the underlying message here is that we are continuing the flawed mentality regarding our automobile habits and transit funding.
- Farecards are coming and we couldn’t be happier. MDT will spend $72 Million to finally upgrade the transit fare collection system, phasing out the cash only system for a new high-tech card. However, on the downside, MDT is also looking to increase fares to $2 among other things in order to improve the federal ratings of the proposed North and East/West expansions…
- Man who tried to commit suicide by rail this morning is alive and well, even after he was run over by 3 rail cars…
- Ana Mendez performs a mini experiment and finds that walking around downtown is easier than driving (duh!) I find it shocking how many Herald reporters don’t use transit regularly…
- The CITT has reversed its original decision to refuse the funding for new metrorail cars. We can likely kiss one (maybe two) of the original proposed extensions goodbye…
- Downtown Doral is rising…
- Rumor has it that the state is working on an incentive program to bring a new Hispanic owned airline to MIA as well as a reincarnation of Eastern Airlines…
- Here is another no-brainer: Rising Gas Prices Lead to Increase in Public Transportation…
- Expansion and Improvement of TOD- Transit Oriented Development is critical in such an auto-centric city such as Miami. By placing a greater developmental emphasis on our existing transit line and actively expanding the amenities within easy walking distance of existing stations, our area transit will become more accessible to a greater portion of our population. It is imperative that MDT works together with surrounding developments to ensure safe, easy pedestrian access as well as higher density multi-use projects.
- System wide Farecards- MDT has to modernize our transit system- Quick. Token machines are outdated and the cash system is primitive. Users must be able to quickly and easily purchase flexible farecards at convenient locations using credit cards. Farecards should be integrated with the surrounding tri-county area transit systems and should facilitate the use of transit for locals, not just visitors.
- GPS Integration- MDT is currently working to install a system along metrorail which would provide users with upcoming train statuses and times. We need to move this technology along to every station platform, major bus transfer station, and most heavily used bus stops. Nearly every London Municipal stand alerts passengers of the wait time for the next bus, why can’t we? Plus, the new system would allow users to track transit using mobile or hand held devices.
- Car/Bicycle Sharing Program- This should certainly be higher on the list. We can’t expect citizens to fully abandon car use, that’s unreasonable and absurd. Therefore a reliable and reasonable car sharing program such as Flexcar should be sought to partner with MDT to provide service to the greater Miami area. Flexcar could park cars at every Metrorail station or major transfer facility providing more flexibility for Miami residents. The car program would allow residents who can solely rely on public transit for daily needs to do so, but will provide them with flexibility of regular car use (without the burden of ownership, of course.) A bike rental/sharing program could similarly be instituted along every station, allowing resident and tourist rental of bicycles from electronic stands. The idea here being that MDT needs to expand from a system of buses and trains, it should encompass all forms of local transit. Bike rental facilities could one day be found along the river walk, Museum Park, or Midtown, giving residents greater choices of mobility…
- Better Transit Facilities/Amenities- Take a ride along the NYC, Boston, or any other major cities subway system and each station will feature a newsstand, coffee shop, or lunch stand. MDT’s stations are barren and hostile by comparison. NYC is currently working on a citywide plan to update and standardize all newsstands and public toilets. MDT needs to work to bring such amenities to our local users. Some cities even feature buses and trains which display news, weather, and transit updates to users on televisions…
- Free Dunkin Donuts on Thursday if you participate in the Commuter Challenge Day by riding Tri-Rail…Or, you could just print this voucher and go to your nearest Dunkin Donuts, but I’d still recommend giving the train a try…
- On that Note, with regards to Ryan’s Post on the absence of a regional farecard system, Larry Lebowitz, the transportation Guru at the Miami Herald, has informed me that MDT, BCT, Palm Tran, and the SFRTA are working together to implement such a system soon. Apparently the hold up is coming from the SFRTA. I’ll be working to obtain more information on the subject…
- Great Ideas, now just agree to build the darn thing downtown…
This level of service is completely unacceptable, yet it seems to happen much too frequently. The bottom line: we need a legitimate farecard system. It’s such a pain in the arse to walk around with pockets full of change or having to break larger bills to get tokens. This is a big money loser for MDT as well; I wonder how many people are allowed through without paying their full fare (or any fare) because of a system breakdown like this?
I know one thing for sure, I would ride Metrorail more often during months I am without a Metropass if I wasn’t hassled by the payment options of the current system. If I don’t have any tokens left, or no $1 or $5 bills, I’m stuck either breaking a larger bill at a store for a pack of gum, or finding an ATM, taking out $20 (plus $2.00 service fee), then finding a store to break my $20 on a pack of gum so I can ride the Metrorail. I’m sure thousands of other people go through similar ordeals so they can ride. Perhaps thousands of choice riders stay away because of such inefficiency.
For example, let’s use New York’s MetroCard. If I don’t own a car and I plan on using subways and/or buses for most trips, I’ll buy a monthly card (similar to Miami’s Metropass) for about $76 dollars, which allows for an unlimited number of rides that month. However, unlike Miami’s Metropass, if I ride my bike to work sometimes I may not need to spend $76 for an unlimited monthly card. I could then buy a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard (from automated kiosks, by the way), and pay only half as much as a monthly unlimited card. Moreover, I can refill the card as needed, and can use it to pay for up to four people at a time. This would make life easy when family visited, because instead of renting a car or dealing with the hassle of change/tokens for each member, the host could use their farecard to pay for family/friends. Or, depending on how long your family/friends are staying and how much transit you intend to use, they could each purchase unlimited day ($7) or unlimited week ($24) cards. This would give us total transit freedom and eliminate payment hassles. Transfers between transit lines/modes would be free under most circumstances mentioned above. Even for non-transit riders, this means fewer cars on the road because tourists and visitors would feel less obliged to rent cars (thousands of cars on Miami roads each day are rentals).
For anyone who wants to voice their displeasure with our inefficient, antiquated fare system, click here.
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