Here’s another reason why rail transit expansion should take precedent over bus-favored alternatives. This afternoon I hopped on the #11 bus FIU-bound from Government Center via Flagler St at approximately 4:20pm; at 6:53pm, I arrived at FIU. It took the bus two and a half hours to go about 12 miles. If you’re counting at home, that’s an average speed around 5MPH. To put that into perspective, the average human walking speed is about 3.5MPH, meaning at a fairly brisk pace I could have rivaled the bus on foot. Furthermore, Metrorail travels its entire 22 miles in roughly 45 minutes, for an average speed of about 30MPH, or 600% faster than the bus. You would think Sweetwater would be begging for a Metrorail station (or two).

People talk about buses being advantageous to rail because of “flexible” routes, but nearly all routes are placed along arterial and connector roads that are the most susceptible to congestion (which, as we all should know, is expected to get much worse than it already is). Moreover, as we’ve mentioned a hundred times before, buses do relatively nothing to enhance the pedestrian realm, which is a major goal of the City of Miami, as well as Transit Miami. As Gabe said earlier, streetcars may not be guaranteed to significantly lessen traffic congestion, at least not immediately, but they are much more likely to do so than buses and they facilitate pedestrian-oriented surroundings so people have alternatives to driving everywhere.

Manhattan has the most comprehensive subway system in the world, but if you’ve ever driven there, you know that doesn’t preclude the borough from heavy congestion. The point is, they have many alternatives and we don’t – which is partly why NYC is a world-class city and Miami is still a far cry away.

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9 Responses to The Metrobus Blues

  1. Li'l Pony says:

    Amen! In a city like Miami, congestion is one of the top reasons for improving public transit. Even though you could argue that busses are good because they don’t add much to the congestion, they still can’t avoid existing congestion.

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  2. Andrew says:

    How about a more affordable alternative than rail, BUS RAPID TRANSIT? I’m not saying that I don’t like rail as an alternative. Rail is a big investment and we shouldn’t just jump into a rail system because we need a transit system. I agree with the Miami Streetcar but on the condition that it has its own right of way. If the rail car doesn’t have its own ROW it’s the same as riding a bus through the area.

    We need to approach transit from a different perspective. One problem with the metro rail is not having the revenue to pay even a fraction of the operation and maintains costs. In order for MDT to make the most of the PTP we need to make transit corridors with the utter most efficiency. MDT should make BRT in the new corridors before any rail. MDT can do this with local funding and when the time is right, when we have the ridership, we can upgrade to rail. We can have BRT running in a matter of two years. It’s quick to install. Sure people don’t like riding buses but if they see them flowing freely in their own lane while they are stuck in traffic the car driver may give the bus a chance. Having a corridor setup now with a BRT is better than having nothing for 20 years and then install a rail line.

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  3. Ryan says:

    BRT is perhaps something to consider for longer distant regional transit, which could serve as a viable alternative to private automobiles. I also agree that an ideal situation is to give the streetcar right-of-way. I’m also an advocate for a multi-modal transit system, whereas I think BRT has a role in some instances.

    However, BRT doesn’t serve inner city transit purposes well. It works best for limited-stop express bus service, such as an alternative for suburbanites instead of I-95 or 836. Unfortunately, because Miami has a love affair with two-way streets, it makes it difficult to implement bus-only lanes because streets must be widened (sometimes on both sides) to accomodate the BRT, which runs counter to pedestrian-oriented goals of narrow curb-to-curn radii.

    The point is, BRT has its place, but I don’t think it should supplant streetcars within the City of Miami.

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  4. Steven says:

    In some places BRT can serve as a solution to the transit problems. The South Dade Busway is a prime example of this. When the rails were removed from that old FEC railway corridor, there was plenty of room for a two lane busway. I think it is now reaching the point where a light rail alternative would work on it with little change as well.

    For the East-West corridor, the line being discussed here primarily, there is not really the room for BRT, at least not at-grade BRT. The problem with putting in BRT down the East-West corridor is that eventually those busses would have to leave the BRT lanes and enter the already crowded traffic in the area. For the East-West corridor, the traffic and demand is already there, therefore a Heavy Rail alternative such as Metrorail is the solution.

    The real debate about the East-West corridor is not really about whether it should be a heavy rail alternative or BRT, but if the line should come south to FIU down 107th avenue or along the turnpike. The City of Sweetwater does not want the line to come down 107th because it would essentially chop the city in half. With no room for joint development at the proposed station locations, they feel the stations would be detrimental to traffic in the area as well as further dividing the city of Sweetwater in half. The benefits of following this alignment seem to be more for FIU than Sweetwater or the county as a whole since they would gain the ability to remove a student bus to the engineering campus should the 107th avenue alignment be followed.

    Following the Turnpike would be more advantageous for the county since they are planning on putting in larger amounts of parking at the proposed station. Additionally, it would be in closer proximity to higher density housing on the western side of the Turnpike. The City of Sweetwater city officials are not opposed to transit in their city. They have conducted and composed (along with FIU) a transit greenway study that includes the possibility of a circulator that would essentially connect the two FIU campuses. The transit greenway study is available for download from the MPO website and is a much better alternative than slapping a Metrorail line through the center of the town.

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  5. Ryan says:

    The light rail alternative might work serving FIU and Sweetwater, especially given FIU’s ambitious plans to expand into Sweetwater. However, the light rail would have to connect to the metrorail somewhere in Sweetwater, or else the system wouldn’t be realizing its full potential or regional transit goals.

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  6. Andrew says:

    Actually I believe putting the line down 107 Ave is a better alternative. According to the consultant, the station at the FIU Engineering Campus; which is the station located within Sweetwater; would generate the most rider ship through out the whole East-West Corridor. Also, I believe that making the station on 107 Ave is more effective for pedestrians. If the line is built down the turnpike there is no way people are going to walk over there. They are either going to ride the bus or have to park their car there. For example, the FIU station on the Turnpike alternative would make the students and faculty walk about half a mile or so to get to the station. There is nothing on 117 Ave that would generate any riders. By making the station on 117 Ave you are making an obstacle for the rider. Usually you would want to make the station easy for the choice rider so that they actually ride it. My last point, making the station on 117 Ave would make it only a work commute station. It would only be used during rush hour and would be empty the rest of the time. I believe making it on 107 Ave the station would get a lot more riders not only at rush hour but through out the day.

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  7. Steven says:

    When I last spoke with the transit planners for the East-West corridor, they expressed concerns with right-of-way acquisition for the 107th corridor. It appears that there are several sections between Flagler and 8th street that are too narrow to put the support pilings without impeding on a fire station and people’s homes. That alone was the start of my concerns. Additionally, there are no stations planned for the City of Sweetwater, which boundaries do not actually include the FIU engineering campus. This being said, the only way the City of Sweetwater would truly benefit would be if there were a station within their boundaries with lots of opportunities for joint development. If that were the case, then they could build a whole assortment of things around the station and it would overall be a positive thing for the city. As the plan was, there would be a station on the engineering campus and one at the University Park Campus for FIU. The line would travel right through the center of Sweetwater with absolutely no benefit for transit development. For this reason several county commissioners and the city commission strongly opposed bringing the line down 107th.

    The argument has been made about pedestrian use of the station on 117th avenue at the station planning meeting that was held back in June or July. While the station plan would call for parking for somewhere around 1,200 cars (encouraging car/rail commute and not the pedestrian friendly version that is ideal), there would also be a pedestrian bridge connecting directly to the area across the Turnpike to the large apartment buildings. On that side there would be additional bus stops beyond the initial ones on the Tamiami Park side. Additionally, the 117th avenue station location provides something the stations along the 107th corridor did not promise, opportunities for joint development. There is significantly more land to work with off 117th than 107th. Additionally, most the land that would be utilized is already owned by some government entity and does not need to be procured through buyout or eminent domain. This alone would save the county a large chunk of money.

    Yet another issue that was pointed out to me by transit designers was that if the station were built at the University Park Campus location is parking. FIU would stand to lose 2 parking lots which would be converted into parking garages for transit parking. In addition to this, the footprints for two of the proposed Greek Housing sites on the University Master Plan would be impeded by the construction of the guide way and station. The lots on the eastern edge of the campus already faces car break-ins on a regular basis (There are new fresh piles of glass every day) with only FIU and the surrounding community there, add a Metrorail station and the area does become less secure. Furthermore, if the alignment is down 107th, then there is less ability to bring Metrorail further south to connect to the Kendall Corridor. There is not as much land along 107th to build on and instead would bring the line through a light residential neighborhood, whereas if the line were to go down 117th avenue there would be more land for joint development in the future as well as a Hospital and other major retail locations that are already aching for the increased foot traffic a new transit line offers.

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  8. Andrew says:

    The 107 Ave alternative will make a station on the FIU Engineering Campus which is right on the corner of Sweetwater. I believe that a transit oriented development can be done across from the station on the west side of 107 Ave. Now there is a shopping plaza located in that area today, maybe the owner would want to redevelop his area and make a residential and commercial joint development. The same goes for the other shopping plazas to the south of Flagler and on the south-west side of the intersection. Remember also that this station, with the area as it is today, would make the most ridership numbers than any other station on the corridor. As I stated this station will be on the corner of Sweetwater, not in the city. How will the 117 Ave option help Sweetwater’s transportation needs? It will be located far from the city. The Sweetwater green way plan calls for a LRT to go from FIU down 109 Ave and then turn on Flagler to the FIU Engineering Center. Having a metro rail station at the FIU Engineering Campus will only improve the effectiveness of this LRT line.

    As for the area located between Flagler and 8th Street, F-DOT has been planning on widening that section of 107 Ave. for some time now. There is talk that FDOT will be purchasing some of the apartments on the west side of 107 Ave so that they can widen the street to 3 lanes each way and make a median. If this were to take place then the ROW problem is solved for this area.

    The station on FIU University Park does have potential for redevelopment on 107 Ave. The plazas located on the east side of 107 Ave. can be redeveloped to be another mixed residential and commercial center. Also I believe that FIU is interested in the 107 Ave option because it’s such a closer walk from the center of the university than the 117 Ave option which is like I said about a mile walk to.

    Running metro rail down 107 Ave till Kendall is being looked at as a viable alternative in the Kendall Link study.

    Security? Why do people believe that transit brings more crime to an area? Transit has its own security officers and does it make sense to rob some one at FIU and hop on the Metro Rail to escape. If anything security can be informed of the person and apprehend the person later down the corridor.

    The infrastructure is already set up on 107 Ave. for a transit line to come through. The ridership is there the points of interest are there.

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  9. Steven says:

    While your proposal of utilizing the shopping malls already in existence as “Transit Oriented Development”, they are actually the complete opposite of what transit planners truly would want. They have lots of surface parking and are the complete opposite of a pedestrian friendly environment. The idea of joint development is that it is easily accessible from the rail station. 107th avenue is a major impediment and a nightmare to even think about crossing as a pedestrian. In addition to the lack of parking and the limited joint development potential, the proposed station at the Engineering Campus would be a horrible idea from a planning standpoint.

    While on the topic of 107th avenue, if the apartments were to be purchased and turned into more lanes of roadway, it would only contribute even more to making 107th avenue a HUGE barrier to pedestrian traffic. Just ask anyone who has ever tried to walk across 8th street or US1 to see how such a situation is. The “Joint Development” you proposed for the station on the University Park Campus once again is not directly pedestrian accessible from the proposed station. The point being that there is no way to make a pedestrian friendly environment if we make the line follow the 107th corridor. If you consider shopping malls opportunities for joint development, then the 117th avenue station makes even more sense since there is a large mall on 122nd avenue and coral way which is in desperate need of more business on the eastern edge, near to the county permitting office.

    While the student center at FIU is on the eastern edge of the campus, there is an increasingly growing level of activity on the western edge of the campus as well. Take the new campus recreation center, law school, and new parking garages on the western side of campus. When you include a new football stadium with a student services center, the western edge of the campus is becoming more and more the focal point of campus life. Add the construction of more dorms near to the college of education building as stated on the campus master plan and you see the population of the campus is really not in the University Center, but is increasingly moving to the western edge. When you actually measure the distance between where the eventual student services building to the proposed 107th avenue Metrorail station, it is the exact same distance as it would be from the Student Center to the 117th avenue station.

    There is a security issue with putting the station on the campus as well. There is a state law prohibiting anyone except for state law enforcement officers from possessing firearms of any type on a state university campus. This means that the Wakenhut guards that the county contracts for transit security would have to be unarmed. If the station is put on the 117th avenue side, this does not pose an issue. The security issue is not that people will rob from FIU and jump on transit, but if security is already an issue on campus now, if more people not associated with FIU are on the campus then it would increase the number of potential crime targets. The crime would not come from transit, but from more crime opportunities with more potential victims.

    The point is that the only real way FIU would benefit is the chance to eliminate an FIU funded circulator from the budget. What I suspect even lead to the decision to send the rail down 107th came from FIU responding to an article in the herald about how FIU does not want any transit coming to the campus. They claim that they want another alternative and the debate sparks. The local municipality feels it would tear them in half and then the project is either suspended indefinitely or keeps returning to planning. This is the same thing the City of Miami Beach did with Baylink and what is happening now with the Miami Streetcar.

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