Forty years since the publication of a visionary transportation planning document, the shortcomings of Miami-Dade County’s transportation reality suggest that we lost our vision somewhere along the highway, literally.

TransitMiami invites you to take brief trip through time . . .

THE PAST

The year is 1973. The Dade County Public Works Department has just released its State Transportation Programs Proposal for Dade County 1973-74.

In it, a chapter titled Mass Transit (pp. 72-98) makes declarations of a new “beginning on development of a true multi-modal transportation system in Dade County, in which “non-highway elements” are stressed to be at least part of the solution to Dade County’s burgeoning population and economy.

Indeed, there seems to be a fundamentally new consciousness — dare I say, a paradigm shift — reorienting the urban planning and public policy realms away from highways and toward mass transit.

StateTransportationProgramsProposedForDadeCounty_1973_1974

Around 1973, this is the vision the County had for University Metrorail Station. Note the dedicated busway right along US-1. Note the wide sidewalks and crosswalks. Note the number of pedestrians. Note the relative “completeness” of the streets, save for the absence of bicycle facilities, etc. Compare this with this same site (US-1 and Stanford Drive, Coral Gables) today, especially in light of recent considerations to build an elevated pedestrian bridge crossing US-1.

The beginning of that Mass Transit chapter reads:

Metropolitan Dade County and the Florida Department of Transportation in recent years have become increasingly active in planning the improvement of mass transit facilities. With less emphasis on highways alone, programming efforts have been broadened to multi-modal transportation facilities, including airports, seaports, rapid transit, terminals for truck, rail and bus companies, as well as the highway and street system that serves them and provides local traffic needs.

There’s a sense that perhaps the mid-20th century notion of highways being the transportation panacea has finally begun to lose potency. A more holistic, more enlightened view has apparently begun to gain traction, one which posits that transportation corridors and corresponding land-uses perform best when designed to serve the myriad means and purposes of mobility, as well as the urban environment’s diversity of functions.

Here are some of the major mass transit proposals from the report:

  • 53.7 miles of high-speed transit served by 54 stations,
  • bus routes operating on expressways and arterial streets,
  • feeder bus routes to complement other bus routes and rapid transit,
  • mini-systems at selected transit terminals to provide local circulation and link traffic generating areas with rapid transit.

THE PRESENT

Fast-forward 40 years into the future. The year is 2013.

FDOT and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) — and the construction, automobile, and petroleum lobbies — actively and aggressively seek to expand highways.

Tax payers are being charged $560,000,000 (that’s right: more than half a billion!) for the highway expansion mega-project at the SR 826 (Palmetto Expressway) and SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway) Interchange.

826_836_ProjectRendering_North

826_836_ProjectRendering_Southeast

Real estate developers eager to cash-in on building single-family cookie-cutter homes along the urban periphery in the west and south of the County lobby to transgress the Urban Development Boundary (UDB). Residential sprawl continues to lower the quality of life on the edges of the city.

Eager to keep its agency coffers growing, MDX writes hyperbolic reports emphasizing inflated demographic growth projections on these suburban outskirts, thereby seeking to further justify its southwestward expansion of SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway). MDX advocates for expanding tolled highways in order to generate increased revenues aimed at the perpetual expansion of highways in greater Miami.

SR-836-Southwest-1-Kendall-Extension-map

Those same city-destroying developers-of-sprawl back MDX — as do all others in the broader network of profiteers — because they perceive as far too lucrative to forego the opportunity to cash-in on pushing the boundary of Miami further into the Everglades and into our fresh water supplies.

Even on roads that have long exhausted their traditional function as “highways”, MDX pursues measures to retrofit them so as to restore their obsolete highway-performing characteristics. This is epitomized by MDX’s “US-1 Express Lanes”, whereby the agency hopes to reduce the dedicated South Dade busways to accommodate new tolled arterial travel lanes for private motorists, as well as, most notoriously, create elevated overpasses (that is, create more “HIGH-ways”).

US1_Elevated_expresslane

MDX_US1expressway_ShareFacilityPlan

FDOT, in collusion with MDX, actively seeks to expand the tolled Florida Turnpike in far south Miami-Dade County.

Meanwhile, our mere 23-station elevated heavy-rail Metrorail system traverses a very linear (and thus limited), virtually-non-networked 25 miles, including the recently added, yet long-overdue, Miami International Airport / Orange Line extension. This is literally less than half the of the 54 stations and 53.7 miles of rail network envisioned in the planning document from 40 years earlier.

Miami Transit in Perspective. Image courtesy of Leah Weston.

Miami Transit in Perspective. Image courtesy of Leah Weston.

Planned expansions to the Metrorail intended to create a true network have been scrapped due to a lack of political will to secure dedicated funding sources, along with an over-abundance of administrative incompetence and corruption.

Taken_for_a_Ride_MetrorailCorridors_MiamiHerald

Source: “Taken for a Ride”. Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/multimedia/news/transit/

After decades of false starts, broken promises, gross mismanagement of public funds, and outright political apathy, the time is now to regain the vision put forth four decades ago. The time is now to withdraw ourselves from our toxic addiction to the 20th century model of single-occupancy vehicles congested on highways. We must stop supporting those who seek to destroy our collective public spaces for personal gain through the incessant construction of highways.

The time of the highway is over. The time for “a true multi-modal transportation system in Dade County  is now.

Has Miami-Dade County lost its vision for public transit over the last 40 years? — most definitely. However, one can find solace in the fact that this is not the Miami of 1973, nor of ’83, ’93, or ’03. We are no longer the Miami of the past.

This is the Miami of 2013. This is our time. It is up to us to set forward — and bring to fruition — the vision for the Miami of 2053 . . . and beyond.

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10 Responses to Lost Vision? Miami-Dade Transit 40 Years On . . .

  1. Kevin says:

    Great article, Matthew! This city definitely needs Metro extensions.

       6 likes

  2. Kevin says:

    This article is especially pertinent because the county is hosting a Transportation Summit June 6th at MDC-Wolfson in Downtown.

    I encourage everyone to spread the word and please attend. The more transit supporters we can have there, the better. Thank you, TM.

    http://www.transitmiami.com/uncategorized/miami-dade-county-2013-transportation-summit

       5 likes

  3. Mike Moskos says:

    What happened to the forward thinking vision? Gas stayed ridiculously cheap, car insurance laws weren’t enforced and we borrowed to expand the infrastructure of suburbia. Driving was kept cheap.

    Transit will get better as more people ride it. I expect lots of expansion in the next 5 years (and some of that expansion may come from private operators).

       4 likes

  4. Juan Navarro says:

    HEAR! HEAR!
    I think that there needs ot be more of public awareness campaign for this, a unified group that can take to the airways/internets to get the word out. it’s sorley needed. Many people jsut don’t know. Those who have been against this are organized, and organized well through monetary means, to attack these ideas and make sure, it dones’t happen. Be it the car dealerships or just corrupt officials, they have the game to have riddled this till now, but if there was group that could bring in votes and bring media, and bring focus to this problem we could start steering things in the right direction.
    (d’oh, I had so many of the blog opened I commented in the wrong places)

       2 likes

  5. Jamie says:

    Fantastic work!

    Paradigm shifts seem to be cyclical. One can only hope we are on an upswing. That’s why sites like this, and articles like yours, are important to help raise awareness and hopefully push forward real change.

       4 likes

  6. Meghan says:

    Great work Matthew! We are the Miami of the present and our future is looking good.
    Cheers to my “REAL” city, Miami!

       5 likes

  7. rethink priorities says:

    The County has not delivered on its promised transit plan, but that does mean we can get better routes now. The NEXT METRO ROUTE SHOULD BE COCONUT GROVE STATION TO MIC/AIRPORT TO MIDTOWN AND MID BEACH. This inner loop would cross both existing routes and incourage passengers along the southern end of the line and the beach to use transit to the airport!

    A line to Dolphin Stadium– 12 games a year…
    A line to FIU/Turnpike– Extend Tri Rail to Dolphin Mall, the tracks are already there…
    A line along FEC– ALL Aboard Fl and Tri Rail should fill this need…
    Add Tri Rail south from MIC to Dadeland metrorail and continue down the Busway. Cheaper, easier, connect to Cutler Bay Center to create the next Dadeland transformation…

       5 likes

  8. xxs says:

    I am not from Miami. But can someone please educate me whether this anticipated “paradigm shift” is demand driven? Would the population density in Miami make public transportation investments profitable?

       0 likes

  9. Pili says:

    Great article Matt. It is time for all the politicians to make sure that Miami becomes a progressive city and public transportation becomes the rule rather than the exception!

       1 likes

  10. Carlos says:

    Yes, it is true. Agencies like MDX are forcing us to take the softer easier way at the expense of a real transit system in our future. This focus must be realigned to do the things that we need and stop building the things we don’t need. We need people that will be bold and take on the hard task of implementing a real transit system in South
    Florida. No more short-term gain for long-term pain.

       3 likes

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