It’s a great day in the city of Miami; commissioners approved the Port of Miami Tunnel project and began an initial funding stage for the Miami streetcar Project!

Yet the port tunnel survived, in part, because it was included as one piece in a far-reaching revival plan pitched by Mayor Manny Diaz. Two other development projects that also had encountered opposition secured funding as pieces of the larger, historic whole: Paying off a $2.5 million yearly debt for Jungle Island and helping underwrite a $200 million Miami streetcar.

To be continued…

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25 Responses to A Step in the Right Direction

  1. Sean says:

    I’d rather see the money spent on this project than on the Marlin’s new stadium.

    I just wish more would have been earmarked for the miami streetcar.

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  2. Armando says:

    This plan is full of bad ideas. I am in favor of large capital investments by South Florida local governments to make Miami a world-class city but this is not the right solution.

    First off, the Streetcar Project is a horrible idea. Is it 1900 all over again? Are local government leaders insane? What is it going to accomplish other than create more traffic? How does a Streetcar match with the modern buildings going up all over the CBD and Brickell, as well as with Miami’s modern image? It doesn’t. Invest that money in a monorail to Miami Beach or to expand Metrorail and MetroMover.

    Secondly, has anybody though of the tunnel’s effect on Bayside if tourists bypass downtown and drive directly into the port through the tunnel?

    Thirdly, has anyone considered the traffic around the Orange Bowl on Hurricanes gamedays? It was absolutely absurd. Are we suggesting that it is acceptable to have similar levels of traffic on 81 baseball game days during the year, many of which are on weekdays and would have fans driving in during the middle of rush hour? We can’t count on mass transportation to pick up the slack because there is no Metrorail Station at the site. You can’t ignore the obvious issues here. Put the stadium downtown, attached to the Miami Arena or at the site of the Greyhound depot to create a world class entertainment and tourism district.

    Finally, the Museum Park building is completely inadequate. Although it is very creative/innovative it doesn’t come close to an iconic structure such as the Sydney Opera House.

    Lets not squander all this money on projects that are not ready yet. We need to put more thought into these projects and make sure that our community’s multibillion dollar investment is not in vain.

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  3. Verticus S. Erectus says:

    Armando, you sound like an “MVB True Believer.” You are so worthy.

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  4. John says:

    Is there any way we can shore up some funding for an additional streetcar line going from the Civic Center/Health District to the OB site? We need some public transit to service the area, now that it seems we’re prepping for two new stadiums and added nightlfe.

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  5. Ryan Sharp says:

    Armando,

    You make some good points and and some flawed ones.

    First of all, we agree with you 100% that the Marlins stadium should be downtown, NOT at the Orange Bowl site. If you search our archives, you’ll see that we make the same argument that increased traffic is being forced on a working class neighborhood, and has the potential to be devastating if transit between downtown and the new stadium is not improved.

    As for the tunnel effect on Bayside, I think you’ve totally missed the point of the tunnel in the first place. One of the major reasons to build the tunnel is to free up downtown streets from truck traffic (that currently runs right next to Bayside). The decrease in truck traffic should be one of the final pieces of the puzzle that will help that area of downtown become more livable and pedestrian-oriented. Factor in all the new residences and businesses going up downtown right near Bayside, and you’ve got the most valuable asset to any retail market – more people on the street in your area.

    Also, I’m sorry if I sound a little candid, but your opinion of the streetcar sounds like it’s been influenced by completely flawed and hackneyed arguments. First of all, you question whether it is “1900 all over again”, as if the Streetcar is old, dated technology. I advise you to do a little research; start with Portland, Oregon, then check out San Francisco, Toronto, Philadelphia, and too many European cities to count. Or, check out metros like Washington D.C., that already have large transit systems and walkable neighborhoods, yet are planning to bring streetscars back.

    You see, there are two philosophies regarding the building of transit; the first is to build it as a functional piece of the pedestrian realm. What I mean by this, is that transit is built to encourage people to walk and live more locally, as well as to influence land use patterns accordingly to fit with such a lifestyle. The second philosophy is to build transit to alleviate traffic congestion (“hopefully people will ride transit so I can drive easier”). Unfortunately, the latter philosophy has been the “Miami way” for a very long time, and as a result many residents, including yourself it sounds, are only under the belief that transit should alleviate traffic congestion or else it’s worthless.

    The Streetcar is not designed to directly alleviate traffic congestion. What it does is fit seamlessly within the neighborhoods it provides, as a function of the pedestrian realm, and gives people (who probably live close to downtown and have no business driving there in the first place) an alternative to the automobile to go between downtown and midtown. However, the Streetcar will NOT make traffic worse, because it has something buses in Miami don’t – the power to change traffic lights to green to ensure it isn’t held up in gridlock. I’ve talked personally with project coordinators and a large segment of the Streetcar may in fact have its own right of way, which would really allow it to flow seamlessly.

    To address the issue of “modern image”, have you actually gone to the Miami Streetcar website and looked at the renderings (or the actual project fact sheet)? The streetcar looks very modern, and is exactly what is needed to interact with those modern-looking buildings that are going up along that corridor. This is the 21st century – transit is as modern as it gets.

    Lastly, I’m not sure you are aware of the effect streetcars have on economic development. Because they are fixed rail transit systems, they send the message to investors and prospective residents and businesses that a permanent capital investment is being made along a given corridor. This leads to new business and housing generation along the line, in turn generating billions of dollars, lots of jobs, and a denser land use that is more sustainable and more conducive to transit. If you research the Portland Streetcar, you’ll learn about all of this stuff.

    In closing, we are also huge supporters of BayLink, which at one point we had rated higher than the Streetcar as a priority for Miami.

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  6. Ryan Sharp says:

    John,

    You are right, it is critical that transit is improved between downtown (and other places) and the Orange Bowl site. Unfortunately, there’s nothing on the books right now for that area.

    I anticipate this will change in a few years, though, when it is realized that increased traffic has made East Little Havana completely unlivable. Also, the neighborhoods west of downtown are heating up for investment/development, which will certainly put pressure on planners and politicians to think about transit there.

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  7. Tony G. says:

    I think we all have to think ‘big picture’ with these massive and long term municipal planning projects. historically (at least post WWII) they don’t do very well (think Robert Moses) mostly because they are involve large scale city planning accomplished by amateur politicians. I appreciate the effort to keep the Marlins in town, but really at what expense? The Orange Bowl site, as most of us know, is a bad idea. Plus, why are we even chipping in tax dollars for something that shouldn’t be subsidized.

    I think we can all agree as well that the streetcar is a GREAT idea, but that leads me to my second and major criticism of this new plan: why are we spending billions of dollars on a port tunnel that takes trucks off downtown streets? Shouldn’t those dollars go to building the rail lines that we all know will actually make Greater Miami-Dade County actually pedestrian friendly and walkable. Really, taking trucks off the street in Downtown won’t make it any better off than other great cities such as New York, or Chicago that all have great transit, and streets full of trucks.

    Yes trucks are big and noisy and smelly, but guess what, we’re trying to create a city here, and none of those things are harmful to successful pedestrian activity!! As an urban planner there is nothing in professional practice that says that trucks keep people off of streets. We need to keep our eye on the ball and make sure that our zoning code allows for successful urban buildings (Miami21) and that our streets are designed for people and not for cars (or trucks).

    If you want to address the walkability of downtown, and specifically Biscayne, talk about an absurdly large street section (not pedestrian friendly), with buildings that have little relationship to the pedestrian.

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  8. Alex Barreto says:

    A point about the Orange Bowl and traffic – the Marlins stadium is supposed to have a capacity of less than 40,000 (probably 35-38,000). The current Orange Bowl has a capacity of 70,000+ and although most Hurricane football games didn’t sell out, they were usually in the 50-60,000 range. While a mass transit stop at the OB would be a big plus, it’s not a deal breaker either.

    Sorry for going slightly off topic, but the Government Center Metrorail station has what looks like a shell of a East-West platform just below the existing platform (if you face west you can see it just below the southbound tracks). Was it ever explored to bring the East-West line all the way to this station rather than to the Earlington Heights station? Seems to me the East-West line should hug the 836 and meet the existing line downtown.

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  9. Sean says:

    Considering the parking problems in and around the Orange Bowl site during events, it would be smart to include links to mass transit; perhaps a streetcar line from Civic Center Metrorail station.

    As far as the stub station at Government Center is concerned, that half platform was added with some funds that were left over in the station’s budget. I have heard that it’s not truly usable as it doesn’t have infrastructure incorporated to support guideways or trains through there. Doesn’t mean it couldn’t be re-engineered.

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  10. Ryan Sharp says:

    Alex,

    I see what you’re saying but in a “successful” season for the Marlins, you’re looking at 81 games of traffic instead of 5 or 6, not to mention the majority of the games will throw out the first pitch during the evening rush. It doesn’t take an additional 5,000 or 10,000 cars to destroy the quality of life in a neighborhood.

    You’re right about the “ghost station”; it was originally meant to serve as the downtown station for the East-West route decades ago. However, you’ve got to be careful when you talk about a hypothetical east-west route. Any transit line that hugs 836 (or any other expressway, for that matter) is falling victim to the the alternative philosophy of transit that I mention in my previous comment above. What I mean is that putting a transit line like metrorail next to an expressway implies that it’s more to alleviate congestion than to improve the functionality and mobility of the pedestrian realm. It’s been the Miami way of designing transit for a long time, and is probably the number one reasons why Metrorail is not more successful.

    We always tell people that Metrorail is not a failure, it’s the design (where they put the lines as well as what is around the stations) that failed. Think about it – what’s a more pleasant situation for a pedestrian trying to ride Metrorail, walking through a dense, well-connected street grid or next to a highway with speeding cars and land-use/street design to compliment them?

    Any east-west routes to and from downtown Miami should go right through the heart of Little Havana. This is a place starved for good transit; it’s quite dense for Miami, many residents don’t own cars, it’s close to downtown, it has a well-connected street grid, etc.

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  11. William says:

    These comments are clearly demonstrating the strong interest in Mass Transit – It just needs to happen already!

    Good to hear that were talking about it! will @ http://www.CubesStorage.com

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  12. Verticus S. Erectus says:

    Explain to me how a a streetcar built at grade is not becoming part of the problem? You imply that this proposal may even have its own right-of-way? Unless they build another lane, does that mean one existing lane of traffic will be sacrificed? If they build another lane for the streetcar, where will they put it? Won’t it subtract from onstreet parking or encroach on sidewalks? If that happens won’t that intrude on the quality of life for pedestrians? Can you think of anything more unlikely to survive a hurricane? If only one catenary line is taken out, the streetcar becomes a usless hulk blocking streets. From an aesthetic point-of-view, can you think of anything uglier than a streetcar with its catenary lines. One reason Miami’s streetcars were removed from its downtown streets in the 1940′s is because of all of the above plus maintenance (salt air has a way of creating havoc with the powerlines). The solution is either above (monorail/ peoplemover) or below (subway) the traffic grade. Because subways are out due to our high water table, that leaves the “M-word” solution. It’s also a quicker method to solving the problem. Instead of tearing up city streets block by block to strengthen the foundation, lay the track and realign underground sewer, electrical, etc, which is disruptive and may force many business to bail during construciton, a monorail only needs excavation for its footprint columns. Because its beams can be trucked in, construction is faster and less disruptive. To a lot of us, it’s a no-brainer– including many civil engineers who have built monorails.

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  13. Armando says:

    I am not in favor or against any of the parts of the recent proposal. My point is this:

    Miami is about to make a $1bn+ investment in infrastructure. With an investment of that size we can not simply settle for very good. It has to be perfect. When a large corporation decides to make a $1bn investment, it makes sure that any potential shortcomings are addressed. This latest commission approval wreaks of hastiness. There needs to be attention to detail and all these issues need to be addressed beforehand. Although the streetcar, tunnel, and OB stadium are respectable causes, this is not about a cause or getting something built. The shortcomings in every one of those projects number the dozens and are extremely significant ones. Lets put more thought into this and lets not settle for half measures. The plans for these projects need to address point by point the shortcomings that are being pointed out.

    In regards to the streetcar project, Verticus Erectus summarizes my thoughts very closely. Also, I think it is foolish to develop an additional, redundant form of public transportation. We already have Metrorail and Metromover, so if we need to expand public transportation, then lets do it within existing programs. Thirdly, seems to me this streetcar project is outrageously expensive for what we’re getting. Finally, I would like to point out that most of the cities referenced as successful streetcar models would have vibrant pedestrian and walkable communities with or without streetcar. Miami is without a doubt not made in this mold.

    Regarding the tunnel, I agree that getting all the trucks off of downtown streets would be great. However, we need to think about its effects on tourism in downtown. Many tourists pass through downtown briefly on their way to or from the port. The tunnel would make it much more likely that people that go on cruises departing from Miami would never even stop in the city. That doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. Furthermore, with a $1bn+ investment requirement, the tolls on trucks (and cars, buses, etc.) entering and exiting the port would level the playing field for Port Everglades and cause a lot of container traffic to be diverted there to avoid what amounts to a “tax”. We need to look at what has spurred Ft. Lauderdale airport’s growth in recent years. One of the primary drivers was its relative cost advantage due to the high passenger fees charged by MIA. Why does MIA have to charge these high fees? Because of its multibillion dollar expansion (among other things). Obviously, the expansion was needed there. However, to me it is also obvious that there is something lacking in the planning of these renovations when the costs they incur are actually driving passenger traffc to FLL. The tunnel would have a similar effect on the Port of Miami and on its container traffic. Finally, the truck traffic in downtown is not the deal breaker in downtown’s development into a pedestrian friendly area. The reality is that there are many more important and urgent problems that need to be fixed in this regard. Let’s hold off on the tunnel until we address these other, more pressing issues and at the same time fix the current shortcomings with the tunnel project.

    In conclusion, my point in my original comment and this one is that we need to put more thought into these plans and fix their problems before even one cent of community money is spent to implement them.

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  14. Armando says:

    I also would like to make the point about the timing of projects. In regards to the OB, some people have said that Metrorail could be expanded to have a stop there on its way West. However, when would that be completed? 2020? 10 years of Marlins games without the stop? 1/4 of the stadium’s useful life? How about the streetcar? It would take 5 – 10 years to complete the project (regardless of how quickly the liars at city hall say it could be built). What about the businesses and economic activity along the streets that will accomodate the streetcars? Anybody who supports the streetcar should volunteer to personally go door to door and convince these business and property owners that they should sacrifice their businesses for 10 years of road construction.

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  15. Adam says:

    I agree with most of what gabriel says, but I think it’s almost laughable that the streetcar’s light-changing capability is going to have any effect whatsoever during rush hour. The rail bound bus will have to first wade through virtually parked cars in order to approach the intersection, whereupon it will change the light, only to find that the intersection will be blocked already with cell phone talking drivers, late left turners, and spillover from the light ahead, which it can not change. Until something is done about traffic, the streetcar’s utility is limited at best.

    Also, I would be wary of dismissing transit lines along existing freeways for several reasons. The first is that freeways usually pass near most of the density centers, which is where transit needs to connect to. Secondly, the land along highways seems much easier to requisition than city streets and buildings. Thirdly, look at chicago for a good example of a transit system that is almost entirely run along freeways. The red line runs south along the expressway, the blue line runs north and east along it. orange line, the same. Even the northerly red line tracks parallel Lakeshore Drive, which is, I think, a 6 lane highway, despite being scenic and beautiful.

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  16. Sean says:

    Verticus Erectus makes a good point in re: monorail vs. {insert other mode of transit here}.

    The building of the system would be much less disruptive, and it could be better integrated into the landscape/architecture.

    Where do I sign up?

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  17. Verticus S. Erectus says:

    You can sign up at Miami-beachmonorail.blogspot.com and at Miamivisionblogarama.blogspot.com. We believe at MVB that the proposed Miami streetcar is unnecessary and can be done more effectively and for far less money by adding more buses to that route. Although buses will take up space on the grid, at least they’ll be cheaper. Best yet, if predictions are wrong regarding the need for such a beast as the streetcar, it won’t be another example of throwing away millions of dollars at a perceived problem. Instead, just move the buses to where they are needed.

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  18. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    Vert-

    I will provide you with several reasons why a monorail would be a catastrophe vs a streetcar later today…

    stay tuned…

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  19. Verticus S. Erectus says:

    My last post here suggests a better solution would probably be more buses– not monorails. We see BayLink as the best place for that technology. Your rebuttal post still doesn’t address the fundamental problems of a streetcar: it takes up lanes of traffic (a monorail flies over gridlock), it requires every foot of the street it rides on to be torn up to streghthen the foundations for the steelrailed streetcars (monorails only need their column’s footprint excavated), when a trolley breaks down, they become an even greater impediment for the smooth flow of traffic, hurricane winds and salt air will decimate the fragile catenary lines– as they did in hurricanes past when Miami had street cars.

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  20. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    Vert- One thing at a time, I’ll address the buses in more detail soon.

    You fail to realize that the streetcar does not “take up” a lane of traffic, but rather flows in tracks embedded in a lane. Cars are not necessarily prohibited from traveling in the lane, that would make the street car an LRT and would have a dedicated ROW, something which I exclusively contrasted in my post.

    Second, Street foundations are excavated to insert the tracks, not to reinforce the foundation as you suggested. The Streetcar weight is not an issue for the current foundations (I’ve studied Pavement design for a year now and am working on research at UF studying the smallest components of asphalt.)

    When? When a bus breaks down… blah blah… Don’t base arguments on hypothetical situations. I’ll find you some statistics on streetcar reliability…

    The monorail is a pie in the sky idea. No city can afford the cost associated with building a monorail system in today’s world, it simply isn’t feasible. Your dreams of Monorails “flying over gridlock” are unrealistic and illusions of a Disneyesque Urban landscape at best…

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  21. Verticus S. Erectus says:

    You got me there on “take up a lane of traffic.” I should have been more precise– take up a lane of traffic as in using the same lane of traffic. In any event, streetcars aren’t know for their speed– but they are known for their frequent stops. Who wants to get caught behind one of those things?

    Regarding excavating street foundations, that’s exactly what engineers said was necessary to lay track for BayLink and this is one of the reasons it scared business owners and politicians– the thought that streets would have to be torn up, underground utilities re-arranged, etc. I’m not making this up. The plan was to do it block-by-block so as not to inconvenience store owners and citizens.

    As for using “hypothetical situations,” are you implying mechanical things don’t break down? At least if a monorail breaks down, it won’t be in a lane of traffic. As for buses breaking down, they can be towed away.

    When you call my idea a “pie-in-the-sky,” I can only say that it’s a shame that such a young guy like you has no vision of the future except one tempered by one-sided statistics. Monorails are springing up all over the world. Except in the U.S. Part of that reason is because the companies that build them also build light rail, commuter rail, etc. They don’t care which one a community buys, just as long as it’s one of theirs.

    Also, your response is crossing the line of civility. But that usually happens in any debate with the side that’s shooting blanks and losing points.

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  22. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    So let’s plan systems around not messing up traffic? Construction of your pie in the sky idea will cause equal amount of construction related traffic tie ups. FYI the plan was blocked to create baylink because skittish beach hotel owners feared losings revenue to main land hotels, giving tourists a reasonable transit alternative.

    All over the world? Outside of some isolated monorails rising in dense Asian cities, I can’t think of a single other global occurrence. South America? Nope. Africa? Nope. Europe? Try again.

    Shooting blanks? This coming from a side which has not produced a single iota of statistical evidence…You’ve never addressed the ridiculous cost associated with your technology, land acquisition, or any proven technological results…

    I crossed no lines of civility, just tried arguing a reasonable solution with someone living in a Disney Fantasy…

    I rest my case.

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  23. Verticus S. Erectus says:

    It’s no fun debating people who twist not only what you say, but also the truth. Hotel owners welcome mass transit, just like the Vegas hotels did, liking it so much in fact that they built their own Disney-style system to connect the biggest players on the strip. Probably with a little effort I could find the numerous stories that appeared here a few years back that not only described the method that would be employed in building BayLink, but also the stories of those with businesses on Washington Ave wondering how they could stay in business while the streets were being torn up, utilities re-alinged, and the roadway strengthened to support the streetcar. As for construction tie-ups, where are they when most of the run is ran north and south on beach sand or along the south side of Macarthur Causeway? Finally, the stats are available at http://miami-beachmonorail.blogspot.com/ where they’ve been for a long time.

    BTW, the use of ridicule and distortion of the truth when addressing an opposing idea is crossing the line of civility.

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  24. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    Keep evading the truth…we’ve yet to hear any statistical evidence to support your claims…

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  25. JM Palacios says:

    Couple of things I would like to note here.

    Adam, we already have a transit system that runs along freeways. It’s called Tri-Rail. It’s interesting that the latest study is looking at putting Tri-Rail on the FEC tracks because following the freeways on the CSX tracks put it too far from all the downtowns. In some cases it can work, but it has to follow the density and the trips, not the freeways. In some cases the freeways coincide with the density, and in other cases they don’t.

    Verticus, adding buses will not solve anything. Buses just do not get enough riders, period. The point of a streetcar over a bus is that people from all classes are willing to ride it. If factors such as travel time and cost are the same, people will always choose a rail mode (any fixed guideway) over bus. So adding buses that won’t get riders will not prove that a streetcar is pointless, but merely show that people do not like to ride the bus.

    BTW, monorail capital cost would probably be cheaper crossing the bay versus building a rail bridge or people mover guideway. However, it would be better to use the same system to cross the bay as in Miami Beach. So whichever system is better for Miami Beach is better to cross the bay with.

    As Gabriel has pointed out, the streetcar and the monorail have very different characteristics in terms of the frequency and closeness of stops. So the question that needs to be answered is, which system better fits the needs? And are we talking about Miami or Miami Beach? The streetcar being proposed is in Miami. The monorail Verticus is talking about seems to be in Miami Beach.

    We can argue all day about it; but wherever we want a system, the only way to know which type is a better fit is an in-depth Planning study.

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