Currently viewing the tag: "Harpal Kapoor"

Last night I moderated attended a transportation panel that brought together highway folks with transit folks in the hopes that they would interact and teach each other a thing or two about how we can advance transit in our community.  The panel included  Alice Bravo (FDOT District 6 Director of Transportation Systems Development), County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez (District 7), Harpal Kapoor (Director of Miami-Dade Transit), and Javier Rodriguez (Director of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority).

My thinking was that there was  some secret that the highway planners knew that could enlighten us transit advocates as to why transit consistently fails in our region, but I was wrong. There is no secret, just institutional malaise, lack of vision, and as one member of the audience described it, a ‘bubble’ mentality.

I was disappointed in myself on my way home because I came armed with a series of tough questions about why we don’t have transit, and how the panelists (as the responsible parties) could do something to change the status quot. But I didn’t ask my questions - I was too busy listening to the spin. Don’t get me wrong, I learned an awful lot about how things work, but it wasn’t because of anything that the panelists said. Their insulated and distant positions on the need and demand for transit was more revealing than any of their answers were. It was as if their opinions of what ‘works’ in Miami, after so many years of experience, had been calcified into facts. ‘This is the way it is in Miami-Dade County’ was the idea touted by some , with Commissioner Gimenez sharing with me in conversation that his apparent cynicism came from years of dealing with inept transit management (an understandable feeling considering his efforts to address the management of the PTP).

I abandoned my questions early on because of the enthusiastic and vocal audience of transit professionals, planners and interested citizens who came up with their own questions for the panel. I was happy to see such an interest in the subject, and thought it was a signal to the members of the panel that they need to get moving on providing creative transit solutions.

Funding dominated the conversation (as it will when discussing transit issues), and I was happy that Javier Betancourt (Miami DDA’s Manager for Urban Planning and Transportation) asked the panel why transit doesn’t get the same funding that highways do. No one could give a simple, straight answer, but I think the answer to this question is the key to solving our mobility problems (and no, I don’t think our highways are the solution).

Ysela Llort, Assistant County Manager in charge of transportation was in the audience, and she answered the question by describing the competitive  and difficult Federal New Starts process for building transit infrastructure. Commissioner Gimenez described the problem as involving the operations and maintenance side of transit once the infrastructure is up and running. (Ysela also made this point.)

In conversation before and after both Commissioner Gimenez and Javier Rodriguez made interesting points about the funding conundrum. Why do roads and highways get funded over transit? Because government doesn’t have to get involved in the operations and maintenance side of the equation-  that is largely the responsibility of the citizenry (you are responsible for maintaining and fueling your car).

Lack of density was also mentioned, but what was not mentioned was lack of demand. I said several times over the evening that we need to get people out of their cars by making driving less convenient, to which the Commissioner and Alice Bravo grimaced. What an un-American thing to force people out of their cars. I disagree. The point of my comment was not that we should make people abandon their cars, but to provide more alternatives. How can we justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars improving flow on the Palmetto - which is within the fiefdom of FDOT :) - while not providing a convenient alternative to people who don’t want to sit in traffic. We wouldn’t have to improve flow if we gave people an easier choice to make.

I heard many promising things as well, most notably from Javier Rodriguez, who really gets the bigger picture. I’ll write more about him and his thoughts tomorrow. All being said, I came away with the hope that we have things to look forward too.

PS. Harpal is awesome. If anyone wants a free EASY Metro card, send me your email.

In case you’ve spent the past couple of days living in a cave (or more likely, not paying attention to local transit news) there is trouble brewing on the horizon (by horizon I clearly mean this week) over at MDT. I know we haven’t touched up on MDT in a while, but we’re long overdue for some updates.

Last week, the FTA dealt a serious blow to the next major phase of metrorail expansion, the north corridor, by downgrading the once favorable rating of the project. The new Medium-low status doesn’t quite kill the project yet, but it places some serious funding hurdles in the way, which, if overcome, will set the project back by 6 months to a year (in MDT terms: we’re realistically looking at a 2+ year delay if funding is eventually secured.) Not all hope is lost yet on the nearly 10 mile long corridor; the FTA is choosing to downgrade the status of the project because of the “county’s long-range financial forecasting” rather than ridership projections or cost benefits of the corridor itself. The FTA seems to be in favor of the project but is rather questioning the ability and leadership of MDT.

Over the coming weeks, months perhaps, we here at TransitMiami will be working hard to reshape and rework the website with new content and a new message. We plan on using your feedback to shape the site in a new direction and by bringing you more of the type of content you’d like to see. We’d like to hear from you for some insight on what we can do to make this site better for you, our readers. Leave us a message, give us a grade on the left sidebar, or email us with your more personal thoughts (movemiami@gmail.com)…

We are also working on finally forging some relationships with the agencies which matter most in Miami. My e-mails to MDT director Harpal Kapoor have thus far fallen on deaf ears (blind eyes, perhaps?) We’d like to establish ourselves as a bigger voice in the community for transit/planning advocacy and plan on doing so with or without the help of the agencies responsible for much of our planning problems thus far (FDOT, MPO, MDT, BCT, etc…)

Tagged with:
 
The Metromover overhaul promised to voters in the 2002 PTP is finally scheduled for completion in March 2008. Some of the vehicles, in operation since 1986, are slated to be replaced by modern Bombardier vehicles, similar to the one pictured above. The remaining vehicles will be (have been) undergoing repairs in the downtown Metromover facility. To get a visual on the changes happening, check out this post by Lil’ Pony from back in March…

Apparently the problems with the escalators we covered back in April are nothing new. I noted then that it had been about 8 months since I witnessed the Brickell Metromover escalator in action, well it turns out some escalators have been out of service since 2005!

Rusted escalators at four Metromover stations were shut down in September 2005: Tenth Street, Brickell, Eleventh Street and Park West.

Just like the weathering of the Metromover system, apparently the escalators have been dealing with a particular rust problem:

The rust problem cropped up because the escalators were not properly designed for outdoor use, said Richard Snedden, assistant director for rail services at Miami-Dade Transit.

It’s impossible to believe that back in the 80’s and 90’s nobody had the common sense to install weather resistant escalators and if those weren’t available at least design a better protected station…

Tagged with:
 
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez has concluded his nationwide search for a venerable replacement for Roosevelt Bradley by selecting none other than interim director Harpal Kapoor. Harpal Kapoor, who first began working for MDT in 1985, was appointed by Bradly in 2006 as the deputy director of operations.

Although I wished that Alvarez had tapped an outside source to lead the agency, I sincerely hope that Kapoor can begin steer (pun intended) the agency in the right direction. MDT is in dire need of some proper guidance to end the squandering of PTP money which has occurred for the past five years. I have composed a short list of issues we would like to see MDT take up over the next few beginning months of Kapoor’s Tenure (not including the obvious expansion of transit options):
  • 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…
Kapoor has suddenly adopted the enormous responsibility of managing the 14th largest transit system in the country. We hope that the enthusiasm and energy he has displayed thus far to Burgess continues and continues to propel our blighted transit agency in new directions. Transit Miami looks forward to working with Mr. Kapoor to provide him with an outside point of view and to continue to spread the voice of transit in Miami-Dade County…

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.