Currently viewing the tag: "Commuting"

TransitMiami is excited to share the latest images of the possible Metrorail train car fleet! We should be seeing one or more of these proposed machines in operation by the first quarter of 2015.

We were provided with exterior and interior renderings for three (3) fundamentally new Metrorail vehicle models:

  1. SPOON
  2. RING
  3. SHIELD

Each of these models bears a distinctive livery (design scheme / insignia):

  1. SPOON – “Neon”
  2. RING – “Shark” & “Shark Y”
  3. SHIELD – “Status”
 Take a look. . . .

SPOON — “Neon”

RING – “Shark” & “Shark Y”

SHIELD – “Status”

 

Share your thoughts. . . . Any favorites? Any design(s) you particularly love/hate? . . . Speak up, Miami!

 

This won’t come as news to many of you, but for several months now, the experience on Metrorail has been improved tremendously.

The transition from 6- to 4-car trains since the grand opening of the Orange Line to the brand new Miami International Airport Station (a.k.a., Central Station) in late July 2012 has certainly been a welcome change.

The grand opening of the Metrorail’s new Orange Line and the Miami International Airport station has run parallel to, and even initiated, some positive changes to Miami’s Metrorail experience.

The MIA station grand opening marks the beginning of an exciting renaissance for our Metrorail system.

The trains now come much more frequently, reducing:

  • 7-8-minute rush hour wait times to 5-6-minute rush hour wait times,
  • 15-minute off-peak hour wait times to 7-8-minute off-peak hour wait times, and
  • 30-minute weekend wait times to 15-20-minute weekend wait times.

Apart from that indispensable improvement to the system, you’ve almost certainly also noticed the improvements to the physical layouts to the inside of the train cars themselves. In nearly every Metrorail train car, one now finds that two sets of seats have been removed and, from the resultant additional space, there is now a much-needed area for standing passengers and bike and luggage storage.

This sign may now seem a trivial commonplace, but it represents a hugely positive change in thinking on how our Metrorail trains should be occupied.

Below are some pictures of the new Metrorail space in action. It’s great to see people regularly using the space, especially during rush hour, when there simply aren’t enough seats for everybody (not to mention that many people, myself included, actually prefer standing over sitting).

Five comfortably standing Metrorail riders. Even more passengers could fit in the new standing space during times of higher volumes (albeit a bit less comfortably).

The most important cargo of all: one’s children. Where else would this man have put that huge, twin child stroller (and his two young children inside it) if not for the Metrorail’s new standing/storage space?

Without this new bicycle storage area, that bike would be either obstructing the center isle, blocking seats from passengers, and/or simply creating a hazard.

These four gentlemen have much more leg room and space standing than they would sitting squished together, especially with their bags and other carry-on items.

The additional standing room is an improvement of which I’ve personally been a long-time advocate. In November 2011, I presented a set of possible policy changes to the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee pertaining to the many issues surrounding the Metrorail Bike & Ride Policy. The removal of seats to create more standing and storage area was the primary proposal of the presentation. It’s great to know that Miami-Dade Transit is listening to its riders! Now we just need more people speaking-up!

One of the overarching problems with the Bike & Ride policy (notwithstanding the utterly ineffective Bike & Ride permit system) has always been that bicycles were relegated to the back of the train. This created lots of confusion and often overcapacitated the rear train car with bikes.

Finally, bikes have a space on Metrorail. Things are hopefully going to get even better when the new train cars with hanging bike racks come into fruition.

The new Miami-Dade Transit Bike & Ride policy (last updated July 24, 2012) permits bikes in any train car containing the sign depicted above. That’s a huge improvement! The only problem is that Miami-Dade Transit has yet to install signs on the exterior of the train cars so that riders can identify which cars are appropriate to enter with their bicycles.

Another positive change is that the new Bike & Ride policy doesn’t explicitly specify a maximum number of bikes permitted in each train car. The previous number of bikes allowed on the train was a mere four. As you can imagine, that policy was ridiculously impossible to enforce, and completely undermined the point of having a policy in the first place. If you’re going to make rules, make sure they make sense and can be enforced, otherwise the entire system is delegitimized. Fortunately for us, limits are no longer specified.

There are still problems, of course.  Miami-Dade Transit still hasn’t improved the system for distributing and enforcing its Bike & Ride permits — that’s a whole other issue!

Still, it’s undeniable that, with regard to the overall Metrorail system, layout, and policies, things are evolving for the better. Until the new Metrorail train cars are acquired in the last quarter of 2014 (for installation and usage estimated for the first quarter of 2015), we’re going to have to appreciate what we’ve got and continue making our voices heard to make it better!

In the fall of 2008, Tri-Rail was running near record ridership corresponding to higher gas prices. They never beat the record of over 18,000 riders from Miami Heat’s victory parade in 2006, though. While we came close to another Heat victory this year but didn’t quite make it, Tri-Rail still scored a ridership victory. On June 16, with free Tri-Rail rides for Dump the Pump day, Tri-Rail smashed their all time record. 19,731 people rode the commuter rail yesterday. Check their press release here. Let us hope many will continue to ride even when they have to pay the fare.

bicycle-mask

Biden seems to think that the way to avoid getting swine flu is to avoid the subway, airport, or any form of public transportation; and NYC mayor Bloomberg and others are striving to counter his arguments. With all this back-and-forth, you may be left wondering about the safety of public transit. While there are still no confirmed cases in Florida, the Sun-Sentinel reports that one Broward County sample is currently being tested by the CDC to see if it is swine flu.

We would be the last ones to tell you to avoid public transportation. Use good judgment and keep your hands clean. But we will recommend what you should do if you’re scared to take transit or if you’re feeling a little sick yourself: ride your bicycle. The exercise will help you keep healthy anyway, and you’re in the open air with no worries about sitting beside someone coughing and sneezing.

Whatever you do, don’t switch to driving—even if you’re stuck wondering how you’re going to detour around the Venetian Causeway. We’re working on that.

Photo by Flickr user Bill Liao.

Update 5/1: You probably heard that the one case was confirmed, as reported at the Sun-Sentinel. Broward County Transit posted a pretty generic news release about Swine Flu (or H1N1 as it’s now being called in order to save the innocent pigs). Check it out on their website. The point still remains, just be careful and sanitary and you’ll be fine.

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An article in the Sun-Sentinel focuses on the shift in commuting habits that has occurred and will continue to occur with our ridiculously high gas prices. We’ve seen this clearly for some time now, so it’s good to see someone other than us transit freaks recognize that solo driving is unsustainable. Some of us will be dragged kicking and screaming into this “brave new world,” but there’s no sense in trying to stay in the last century.

Do you hear that, Mary Peters? Transit needs more money, not less!

Read the print copy if you can, where you can see the above photo on the front page of the local section (at least for Broward County). Yours truly in the picture, riding to work last Friday.

Update 8/1/08: Found the online version of the photo here after some digging around the Sun-Sentinel’s website. It wasn’t connected with the article like it was in the paper.

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The following article below is a reprint from NPR.org on April 1, 2008:

Atlanta Family Slashes Carbon Footprint

Atlanta resident Malaika Taylor used to live the typical suburban life — the kind that helps make America the world’s top contributor to climate change. But four years ago, fed up with commuting, Taylor and her 11-year old daughter, Maya, moved from the suburbs to the city.

And their “carbon footprint” shrank.

“There are some weekends when I don’t even use my car,” says Taylor.

The Taylors live in Atlantic Station, a new community in mid-town Atlanta designed to put jobs, homes and shopping all in one place, close to public transportation. Developments like Atlantic Station are springing up around the country, and proponents say they help cut car pollution, including the carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change.

Atlantic Station: A Climate Change Model

On a typical morning, Taylor walks her daughter to the bus stop and then keeps going 10 minutes to her job as a property manager at an apartment complex.

“I have to admit, if it’s raining or really cold, I drive,” she says.

Her mile-long commute is unusual in Atlanta, where the federal government estimates the average resident drives 32 miles each day. Early surveys show the people who live and work in Atlantic Station drive about a third that much, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We don’t often think of a development as a way to solve environmental problems. But this is really a unique example of kind of growing your way into better environmental quality,” says Geoff Anderson, who helped steer the Atlantic Station project through the regulatory process for the EPA. Anderson now heads Smart Growth America, an environmentally friendly development advocate.

At first, the EPA supported Atlantic Station as a way to help Atlanta fight its unhealthy smog problem. Anderson says now the agency sees the community as a model of how America can fight climate change.

“The two biggest things we do from a carbon perspective are, we heat our houses or cool them, or we drive. And when you combine that, that’s going to add up to a big chunk of your personal carbon footprint,” Anderson says.

A Smaller Impact

Reducing her carbon footprint was not Taylor’s intent when she moved. She just wanted her life back.

But living in the city has cut the small family’s impact on global warming to about half the national average for a family of two.

When they lived in the suburbs, Taylor filled up her gas tank three or four times every two weeks. Now she fills up once in two weeks.

Her other energy bills shrank, too.

In the winter, her gas bill to heat her suburban house was almost $200. Now she uses electricity to heat and cool their compact, two-bedroom loft. That bill tops out around $80, about 20 percent less than the average bill for an Atlanta household.

Apartments often have lower energy costs because of shared walls and smaller spaces. Americans send more than 1 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air, or about a fifth of the nation’s total emissions. If lots of Americans lived like the Taylors, then the nation’s greenhouse-gas pollution could drop by hundreds of millions of tons.

Of course, the move didn’t come without tradeoffs.

“I can’t afford to buy a house in the city. It took me four garage sales to get rid of enough stuff to fit into my apartment. I thought I purged, and it still wasn’t enough, and I had to purge again,” says Taylor.

Gaining a Life

On one recent rainy afternoon, Taylor drives to pick up Maya at the bus stop. It takes them almost no time and hardly any gas or greenhouse gas emissions.

What’s more, when it’s time to take a trip to the grocery store, it takes only two minutes to get there, and she’s is back home within 15 minutes.

“That’s hands down one of the biggest perks about living here. The convenience, convenience, convenience,” Taylor says.

It’s only 4:20 p.m. Maya has already made a big dent in her homework. And Malaika has a few hours to kill.

“Maybe I’ll work out. Maybe we’ll play a game. It makes a huge difference just in the quality of our life,” Taylor says. “We get to spend a lot more time together. I think she’s happier. I’m happier. It makes life a lot better.”

Image: Flickr

I’m feeling the bicycle love right about now. Not only did we have a local and state bicycle month with a bike to work week, but we also have a national bicycle month with a national bike-to-work week. That’s this week, May 12-16. Friday the 16th is bike to work day for those who can’t do it every day. The League of American Bicyclists promotes this event, so check out their site here. But most important of all, get on your bicycle this week and rest easy about the near $4/gallon gas prices because you won’t need to fill up as soon. Take that, Big Oil!

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Picture by Flickr user DCvision2006.

Do you bike to work yet? Now is a good time to start! Next week is bike to work week, and South Florida Commuter Services is asking you to pledge to bike to work at least one day during the week of March 24-30. We already mentioned it here, but it is worth sharing a few more details. Sign up and you also get entered into a drawing for a $100 Winn-Dixie gift card. If one day is all you can manage, then try it. But we’re more demanding than Commuter Services, so we ask you to bike every single day of bike week. And after that, think about the rest of the year…

I recently started biking to work again, and it’s great! I’ve been doing it for 3 days now and I already feel more fit. It’s amazing how much better a little exercise helps you feel once you get to work in the morning.

The South Florida Commuter Services also has an amusing “Bike-O” contest that enters you to win a bicycle helmet if you do a number of activities on your bicycle. If you’re cycling that much, though, we hope you already have and use a helmet.

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Photo originally uploaded by Three15Bowery
If the only way you have found to keep your sanity in the absurd traffic of Miami is by hopping onto your bicycle and riding, you are not alone. As traffic worsens and gas prices skyrocket, bike commuting is slowly becoming less of a recreational idea and more of a reasonable commuting alternative. In addition to navigating around South Florida traffic, biking is an easy way to save money regularly and get in shape daily. Miami-Dade TV has released this video showing an example of an elementary school arts teacher who commutes daily from Cutler Ridge to North Miami using bike and transit.

This website will be helpful to map your route or to see other people’s routes.

Do you commute by bike? Have you considered the idea? We’d love to hear from you.

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After calling for people to join him in a gas boycott in this column, Daniel Vasquez has been blogging and recording his experience taking the bus or carpooling to work, combined with riding his bike for other errands every day this week. Read the posts and watch the videos on his Consumer Talk blog. It’s good to see someone used to riding in a car every day willing to try alternatives.

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I was reading through an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune which chronicles the lives of commuters- people living way out in the suburbs (sprawl) and the absurd lifestyles they lead basically centered around absurd commutes. It’s interesting to witness the lengths people will go to in order to fulfill their idealistic view of the “American Dream.” Even more shocking is the amount of time they waste annually, idling in traffic rather than relaxing, spending time with their families, or just interacting in some socially normal behavior outside of their vehicle. I copied the more notable sections of the article below:

The Dunn Brothers coffee chain has “belts” in terms of when its stores open, said company President Chris Eilers.

“Urban stores open about 6:30. First- and second-ring suburbs, 6. And in the outskirts — Elk River, Monticello — it’s 5:30,” he said. “Typically, what sparks it is the number of people who show up before you open, pounding on the door and wanting their coffee.”

It’s an interesting way of analyzing commute patterns but the coffeehouse provides us with a great ruler for measuring sprawl…
That side trip alone can add a half-hour to an already epic daily trek. And it means a staff member from the day care needs to walk the first-grader to school later in the morning, when it opens. Eager would love to arrange to work from home. And she says it “makes me want to cry” to have to crawl into town alongside so many freeway-clogging single-driver cars, when more carpooling and bus rides would speed the trip for all.

Now what Eager, like many suburbanites, fails to realize, is that suburban sprawl makes bus riding and carpooling extremely difficult to implement because most sprawl areas lack a definitive center from where an organized system can be implemented successfully.
But Ardner, the mayor of Mora, sees the stresses that creates. “Truth is, we’d love to have a four-lane road up here,” he said. “If you know anyone whose arm we can twist, we’d love to hear about it.”

But that’s just it, said Johnson. What people do in their own lives to save money, finding a cheaper home farther out, creates costs for society.

“The public massively subsidizes all of this,” he said. The cost of adding lanes in Mora, for instance, would be averaged out across all users, even those driving a lot less. “Just imagine what would happen if we charged people what it costs to live this far away. That’s sort of behind a growing inclination, in Minnesota and elsewhere, to think about taxing mileage rather than fuel, to really calibrate how much you’re using the roads.”

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has talked of moving toward what he calls a “fuel-neutral mileage charge,” partly because new technologies such as electric cars will make it harder to collect revenue from road users. Six states are taking part over the next two years in a major study aimed at experimenting with using onboard computers to gauge roadway use and charge drivers accordingly.

Many megacommuters, partly in response to the cost of gas, are making big adjustments. Toni Roy, coming in from Claremont, in Dodge County, to Bloomington, often stays with her folks overnight. Davis, the Mora commuter who gets but an hour at home at night before turning in, works 10-hour shifts four days a week so she doesn’t have to drive in on Wednesdays, and sometimes trades homes with her city-based sister. She hops an express bus in Blaine many mornings, letting the driver deal with the stress of the trip’s most-congested stretch.

It’s interesting to see the educational contrast in Minnesota’s political scene, an occurrence which seemingly happens far too often across the country. The unwitting and shortsighted local politician seeks roadway expansion as a “viable” solution to his constituents’ needs while the state works on a broader level to reduce emissions and personal vehicular transit…

Some Related News:

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Boca Raton Residents are calling for the replacement of Tri-Rail tracks at a couple of intersections along the corridor… To make Tri-Rail a better commuting option you ask? Nope, so that their drive across the tracks won’t be as bumpy… Watch the video for yourself…

The Miami-Dade MPO is considering an initiative which would bring waterborne commuter transportation soon to our shores. The 99 passenger catamarans would run every 30 minutes between the city of Miami and Haulover Marina in North Miami-Dade and Matheson Hammock in South Miami-Dade. A Miami terminal is planned for the dead end street just north of the Hotel Intercontinental, just one block away from the Bayfront Park Metromover Station. Catamaran acquisition as well as improvements to both Marinas is estimated to cost $18 Million.

I’ve heard this idea floating (pun intended) around for quite sometime now. Similar systems are already integral parts of other transportation networks including: New York, Boston, San Diego, Houston, San Francisco, Sydney, and even London. There are also plans to bring commuter ferries to Chicago along Lake Michigan and Washington D.C. along the Potomac River. Despite commuter ferry success elsewhere, I have many reservations about this project. The decentralization of our city makes such a project fairly difficult to attract sufficient riders. The given route also seems to be a bit redundant to existing public transportation (Tri-Rail and South-Dade Busway/Metrorail) which have thus far failed to successfully attract riders (likely due to the decentralization and inability to properly integrate transit with the surroundings.)

Now, I don’t want to completely discredit the idea either. The ferries would transport commuters from two fairly affluent neighborhoods, a concept which was recently proven to be successful with Metrorail station boarding statistics. The park and ride idea could also work well given that it doesn’t completely remove vehicular use from the commuter. I think the fare should be split between rides and parking however, to further encourage the reduced costs of carpooling or seeking alternative forms of arriving at the departure marinas. The commuter ferry should be a driving force for the city to vastly improve all of our waterfront space. Rather than creating a terminal by Bayfront Park as proposed, I believe the catamarans should berth in the cut just north of the American Airlines Arena alongside the upcoming museum park cultural center. The city should then work to bring the Miami-Key West Ferry from Key Biscayne to this same terminal essentially creating a local water transportation intermodal center which would be only one block from the Parkwest Metromover Station and easier to one day link with Baylink or a Miami Streetcar.

There are serious hurdles which need to be overcome, none of which can be solved by just the MPO or any other single branch of local government. In order to make our transit options successful we need to work to centralize our city while making commuting options as comfortable, seamless, and attractive as possible. Miami’s waterfront park space needs to become an integral part of our city, bustling with pedestrians and activity in order for this concept to succeed. Ferry service, if centralized, could one day offer locals and tourists alike easy affordable transit to our coastal cities, Key West, or even further abroad; after all we are the cruise capital of the world…

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