Take the trolleys to avoid gridlock
TRANSIT PROJECT SORELY IN NEED OF LEADERSHIP MIAMI
If there is any hope of avoiding downtown gridlock, it will depend on Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and the City Commission leading the charge for improving the plan for, and then building, the proposed trolley system once championed by former City Commissioner Johnny Winton. Since Mr. Winton’s suspension after a drunken fracas with police, the trolley plan has become a City Hall orphan. The city could finance half of the $200 million construction cost with state dollars, but only if the mayor and commissioners soon show state officials that they are committed to relieving congestion in and around downtown.
Hook up to Metrorail
The 10-mile trolley system’s two routes would carry riders to museums, the
for the Performing Arts and the office core. The routes would circulate between downtown and the Design District and from Wynwood to the edge of the Jackson Memorial Hospital Medical District. Therein lies one of the problems. The westward route stops far short of the Metrorail station at the Carnival Center . In fact, under the current plan, the trolley would link up with only one Metrorail station — Civic Center . That isn’t sensible. While the plan includes circulator buses to feed the trolley, hookups with Metrorail and the planned Baylink to Government Center are necessary to effectively integrate Miami Beach ‘s mass transit systems in the future. Miami-Dade County
Tracks for the trolley would be built at grade level, meaning the project could be completed much sooner than elevated rail systems. Cars would be powered by overhead electric lines. If the city approves the project now, trolleys could be carrying riders by 2011.
Some critics complain about the cost. But the city has funding sources, including proceeds from the countywide half-cent sales tax for mass transit. The city already has invested $5 million in an environmental study, engineering and survey work, and ridership studies showing that more people are willing to ride trolleys than buses.
Take the long view
Probably the riskiest aspect is that the city would hire a private vendor to build, maintain and operate the system. Such public-private ventures are common in
Europeand only beginning to catch on in the . The city would pay the vendor $8 million annually for operations and upkeep. Structured properly, the joint agreement would include incentives that would encourage the builder to avoid cost overruns and delays that hamper many public projects. United States
Elected officials sometimes focus too much on short-term issues that can be completed during their time in office.
Taking the long view doesn’t always bring quick political benefits. But 2011 — the projected finish date — is not so far off. The choice is trolleys or gridlock. The time to decide is now.
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