Currently viewing the tag: "Metrorail"

Photo by Flickr User ImageMD.

If you haven’t heard the news, head over to the Miami Herald and read about the Citizen’s Independent Transportation Trust (CITT) vote to reject the planned use of sales tax money to purchase new Metrorail cars. At least they are protecting the tax money that’s supposed to go towards new service.

Meanwhile, Miami Gardens is asking Miami-Dade to bump the North Corridor Expansion to Phase 1, presumably making it priority over the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC) connector. I’m not sure what benefit they expect to see out of that, as the MIC connection is not using federal funds and is currently the only piece of the Orange Line that looks like it might get built.

The feds pointed out when they downgraded the rating that they didn’t trust Miami-Dade to fund Metrorail properly. This whole failure to refurbish the cars in a timely manner merely proves them right. The CITT is trying to get the point across that band-aid fixes won’t work anymore. MDT needs a solid funding plan to get out of the current hole it’s in, and an equally solid plan to fund expansion. Without that, the feds won’t give Metrorail a dime.

Image Credit: John Vanbeekum
  • The obvious headline story today is Miami-Dade County’s decision to purchase 136 new rail cars for metrorail due to MDT’s prior negligence in maintaining the existing fleet (WTG Roosevelt! I’m so proud of that name clearing hearing the County held in your honor.) Larry Lebowitz wrote a phenomenal Herald watchdog report covering nearly every aspect of this story. Aside from the obvious maintenance issues, we’re disappointed to see that the PTP will be raided again to fix issues which should have been resolved with other funds. The County commissioners have repeatedly abused the intended purpose of the PTP and have all but rendered the CITT useless. At the current rate, the PTP will be milked to fix past screw ups, provide free transit use for veterans, and various other road (vehicular) projects which have passed under the radar. Doesn’t anyone care?
  • Meanwhile, the metromover will be receiving its own new vehicles sometime over the next year at a cost of $26 Million PTP dollars. That’s another $26 Million less for new rail projects in case you are wondering. Bombardier will be building the 12 new cars and is slated to be asked to build an additional 17 cars for another $34 Million. Note: should the county back out of the additional 17 cars by July, taxpayers will pay Bombardier $1 million. Who negotiates these contracts? This must be like taking candy from a baby for the Bombardier Sales team.
  • The “plan” to continue fragmenting the County into more bureaucratic layers of fat is progressing nicely with Palmetto Bay’s desire to annex the Falls neighborhood.
  • We’re #1! Forbes magazine has named Miami America’s cleanest City. I highly doubt the achievement is a result of any of our own doing but rather the result of Florida’s flat geography. In any case, our air is clean, whatever that means.
  • New Bike Lockers are appearing on Tri-Rail, making eco-commuting an easy alternative…
  • Miami-Forum covers the Downtown Foam fest caused by a Sony production commercial shoot…

Miami-Dade Transit has set March 25 as the date of the next public meeting to discuss plans for the new Metrorail line connecting the Earlington Heights station with the Miami Intermodal Center under construction near the Miami International Airport. The actual meeting will start at 7:00 p.m., with an open-house being held before, at 6:00 p.m. The location of the meeting will be at the Sheila Winitzer Central Administration Building Auditorium: 3300 NW 32 Ave.

Several items of interest regarding this particular segment of Metrorail:

  • It will be the first extension of the train since the extension to Palmetto station;
  • This segment will not be constructed with federal funds, but solely from the half-cent transportation tax implemented in Miami-Dade county, along with state funding;
  • Once opened, this segment will provide a much-needed alternative for transport into the airport both by tourists using the airport’s facilities, and for workers providing services.

Further information can be found at this link to Miami-Dade Transit’s website.

Robert Samuels, along with other staff writers of the Miami Herald has been writing this week about Unity Boulevard, perhaps better known as 27th Avenue. This thoroughfare traverses four of the most culturally and economically diverse areas of South Florida.
While the article delves into detail on the neighborhoods of Miami Gardens, Opa-Locka, Liberty City, Little Havana, and Coconut Grove, Samuels and his team wrote a particularly poignant description of the one-two punch that killed a once-vibrant, if still economically-challenged, 35-block stretch of the boulevard:
“Liberty City’s not like it was,” said Edwina Howard, 68, who was waiting for a bus near 79th Street. To her left was the Northside Shopping Centre, the neighborhood’s decrepit crown jewel of retail, now undergoing a $14 million renovation. In front of her was a burned-out hair supply store.

“Things were much better,” Howard said. “There were much better shops and they kept the place clean. I’d go to Sears or J.C. Penney at that mall. Now, I have to go to Dadeland Mall or one in Pembroke Pines.”

The area never recovered from 1980. Blacks erupted in riots that year, after an all-white jury acquitted white police officers charged with beating to death a black man named Arthur McDuffie.

Past Northside, more empty lots appear. One small matchbox house advertises collard greens. Another offers barbecue ribs. Both are locked up.

If you ask why the businesses disappeared, some say that all you have to do is look up.

You’ll see the Metrorail.

The neighborhoods beneath it — from Northwest 76th Street, the northern end of Liberty City, to 41st Street, in Brownsville — are the poorest on Unity Boulevard.

“The Metrorail decimated this neighborhood,” community activist Kenneth Kilpatrick said. “This place used to have a lot of business, a lot of good things. And then Metrorail came, and they all left.”

But why would something that was billed as the be-all end-all transit system destroy a neighborhood, rather than provide the enhancement intended? Samuels writes simply that according to Kilpatrick, the stores along this portion of the Avenue couldn’t stand the dearth of customers due to the length of construction of Metrorail through this corridor.

Having ridden the train through this area countless times, I’ve often wondered the same thing. On occasion, I’ve wanted to exit at Brownsville, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or Northside stations, and walk along the 27th Avenue corridor myself, to see if I could figure out what I might be able to do to help bring this community alive. But as sure as the train kept moving down the line, my thoughts soon turned to other items - typically my upcoming transfer to Tri-Rail.

Nonetheless, Samuels’s article, especially the part on Liberty City in which he interviews James Brimberry on becoming owner of the last remaining Royal Castle, has reignited that flame. It makes me want to drop everything and go there for one of their burgers. Perhaps that can refuel me and my once-perpetual thoughts of helping redevelop the neighborhoods the train was supposed to bring people to. This desolate space, once teeming with individually-owned and operated businesses, has so much potential to become one of the most livable neighborhoods in the county.

Robert Samuels’s six-day series, which began running Monday, concludes tomorrow with a write-up of 27th Avenue’s southern terminus, in Coconut Grove.

… Sean Bossinger is a new writer for Transit Miami. He manages the UTS Call Center at Florida International University, where he is a Ph. D. student in the Public Management program. In his copious spare time, he enjoys playing with his sons, Donovan and Logan, and spending time with his wife, Tracy. Living in Coral Gables, he frequently finds himself reading a book on the 24 Bus on Coral Way.

From MDT:

(Miami-Dade County, FL) — The Feb. 26 and Feb. 28 public meetings on the status of the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC)/Earlington Heights (EHT) Connector Metrorail extension project have been postponed until further notice. The meetings will be rescheduled at a future date.

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In case you’ve spent the past couple of days living in a cave (or more likely, not paying attention to local transit news) there is trouble brewing on the horizon (by horizon I clearly mean this week) over at MDT. I know we haven’t touched up on MDT in a while, but we’re long overdue for some updates.

Last week, the FTA dealt a serious blow to the next major phase of metrorail expansion, the north corridor, by downgrading the once favorable rating of the project. The new Medium-low status doesn’t quite kill the project yet, but it places some serious funding hurdles in the way, which, if overcome, will set the project back by 6 months to a year (in MDT terms: we’re realistically looking at a 2+ year delay if funding is eventually secured.) Not all hope is lost yet on the nearly 10 mile long corridor; the FTA is choosing to downgrade the status of the project because of the “county’s long-range financial forecasting” rather than ridership projections or cost benefits of the corridor itself. The FTA seems to be in favor of the project but is rather questioning the ability and leadership of MDT.


Vacancies, originally uploaded by ImageMD.

The urban metrorail station in Miami’s Overtown district has been renamed the Historic Overtown/Lyric Theatre station. The recent sale of the Miami arena and the revival of the Overtown historic district prompted the name change. The station name change will be officially dedicated today (1/31) along with the inaugural bus service of the Overtown (211) circulator…

Via CM

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It somehow always seems that when Transit/Development news flares up, so do events in our personal lives. In any case, here are some of the top news stories this week, some of which we’ll get around to commenting on:

Local:

  • The next phase of the Metrorail extension hasn’t even broken ground and already the cost overruns have begun. This time Parson’s is looking for an additional $13 million in “Consultant fees.” I’m not specifically implicating that Parsons has something to do with this, but, I find it intriguing that nearly every project they’ve worked on locally (Miami Intermodal Center, MIA North Terminal, MIA South Terminal, PAC, Boston’s Big Dig, etc.) has come in way over budget. Is there something we don’t know, or is it really that easy to bilk the county out of money once you’re hired to do contracting/engineering/management work? I guess choosing the French construction giant Bouygues Travaux Publics, wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
  • Top issues for Kendall this year? Forget Cityhood, how about congestion, lots of it. It’s only getting worse too as years pass and opportunities for real transit come and go (Tri-Rail Kendall link anyone?) If the Kendall community fears Tri-Rail trains traveling down an existing ROW behind their houses or an “unsightly” elevated rail down Kendall drive is going to lower their property values, just wait and see the nose dive congestion will cause. At least the recent efforts have paused (momentarily) foolish FDOT hopes of expanding Killian to 6 lanes west of 137th Avenue. Perhaps Kendall residents are beginning to realize that the car isn’t a viable solution…
  • Like him or not, Manny Diaz has a Vision. We’ll dig into this much more in depth soon…
  • I’m liking the looks of a final panel report on the UDB. Key part of this would require 3/4 of commissioners to move the line for projects and would bring in an outside firm to redraw the line.
  • Live Nation is set to bring yet more events to Bayfront Park. Can’t a Park just be a Park? I’m not arguing against the Museums, those are neccessary, but why does Bayfront need so many attractions to make it successful? I think the park would induce more local use if there was less cement and far more shade trees, just a thought…
  • The Federal DOT has given MDT a grant to purchase 16 hybrid express buses for the new HOT lane project on I-95. The buses will travel from downtown Miami to Ft. Lauderdale. Now can we please modernize the system and implement farecards (and new machines) that are transferable on all 3 local agencies?
  • Don’t ride Transit, Buy a BMW…No seriously, Norman Braman wants you to buy a BMW and skip out on urban life…Oh, more on this soon…However, please follow this link for some laughable signs of hypocrisy…
  • Gasp! This first paragraph says it all: “The [Palmetto Bay] Village Council approved a special permit allowing a new commercial development to put all of its parking spaces on the street at a zoning hearing Monday.” Note: A special permit. I know this is a young, incorporated bedroom community and all, but seriously, can we get some logical planning oversight around there? (In Case you missed it, we’re glad to see the use of on street parking in this and other bedroom communities…This shouldn’t be a special instance, but, rather the norm….)
  • Watering rules in effect now till forever. Green lawns aren’t a necessity folks…
National:
  • Cape Cod wind farm moves one crucial step closer to disturbing a bunch of rich folks’ “pristine” views…
  • Northern Virginia (and Atlanta) is getting closer to funding a new streetcar. Not enough BMW dealers in the area I guess…

Back in November, we showcased Miami-Dade Transit’s new “Train Tracker” program, which is supposed to allow Metrorail riders to easily locate trains and know exactly when they are projected to arrive at your departing station.
We want to know if you’ve used it, and how effective/accurate it has been thus far. Has it made your commute any smoother or more predictable? Has it made it more likely that you’ll use Metrorail? As always, your thoughts and opinions are much appreciated.

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  • Tri-Rail carried more passengers in 2007 than in 2006. The overall system ridership is up 31% since march 2006…
  • City of Miami is working on identifying vacant lots to be used for park space…
  • The County Commission is trying to get the state and federal government to kick in hundreds of millions of dollars for metrorail expansion, everglades restoration, river dredging, pedestrian overpasses, and a regional homeland security hub among other projects… We’ll cover this in more depth later today…
  • Office vacancy rates continue to decline
  • Bike Blog presents a comprehensive wish list for 2008 Bike facilities…

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Miami-Dade Transit is finally rolling out some high(er) tech service upgrades, which should make riding Metrorail at least somewhat more pleasant and definitely more predictable. From the MDT press release:

(MIAMI, November 2, 2007) – Miami-Dade Transit is proud to announce a new online system that allows Metrorail customers to check the next train’s arrival time right from their computers and mobile devices.

The new Train Tracker is available at www.miamidade.gov/transit/mobile. The site is specially configured for web-enabled mobile devices. Customers can simply select their station from the drop-down menu, then click “Go” for the arrival times of the next southbound and northbound train. Passengers should refresh times frequently by clicking “refresh times.”

The Train Tracker site also features links to the Metrorail system map and schedules for all the bus routes serving each Metrorail station, as well as information on connecting routes and transit customer service phone numbers.

Customers also can check Train Tracker on their computers or laptops at www.miamidade.gov/transit by clicking the “Where is the Train?” link under the Metrorail icon in the Quick Links portal in the upper right, or they can go directly to www.miamidade.gov/transit/traintracker.asp. Train Tracker also is available on the electronic transit information kiosks located at Miami International Airport and the Government Center and Dadeland South Metrorail stations.

“This is the latest example of how we’re using technology and the Internet to improve how we communicate with our customers,” Miami-Dade Transit Director Harpal Kapoor said. “Train Tracker will take the guesswork out of waiting for the train so passengers can plan their trips accordingly.”

To further improve the customer service experience, Miami-Dade Transit plans to install overhead electronic signs at every Metrorail station displaying Next Train arrival times. The first sign was installed in May at the Government Center station on the second floor next to the Metromover entrance.

The official public launch and demonstration of Train Tracker will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 6 from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Government Center Metrorail station, 2nd floor, near the Metrorail turnstiles.

Miami-Dade Transit staff will be available to demonstrate how the system works and show customers how to access Train Tracker on their mobile devices. Cell phones and mobile devices must be web-enabled and have a web browser to access Train Tracker.

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If you read the Herald yesterday, you probably saw this article. It’s not so hard to believe given the bizarre political culture of Miami-Dade, but the proposed North Corridor extension of the Metrorail may be in trouble.

Apparently, the administration of Miami-Dade College North Campus has been working with county transit planners for the last three years to bring not only a station on campus, but a gym/wellness center, a 2000-space parking garage, a conference center, classrooms, and a bookstore. However, all of this would have forced a $26 million relocation of the US Army Reserve Armory at NW 27th Ave and NW 119th St, which the county cannot afford. Furthermore, it appears that these expenses were never even taken into account in the Environmental Impact Statement given to Washington, which means any federal aid allocated to the county for the North Corridor would not include these MDC expenses. From the Lebowitz’s Streetwise column:

And here’s where it gets really strange. All of the letter-writing traffic is one-way, with Vicente (of MDT) memorializing his understanding of what agreements were reached in these meetings.

Nobody from Transit ever responded — even though the agency clearly couldn’t afford to make these ludicrous promises to the college and hope to compete against dozens of other U.S. cities for $700 million to $825 million in matching federal funds for the North Corridor.

Transit’s files are curiously thin on the issue. And three key players from Transit’s side of the talks are no longer with the agency. One retired last year. Bradley was fired in March and one of his top aides a few weeks later.

Yet, records show that Transit was already warning federal regulators in early 2006 that it might not be able to afford the armory relocation, forcing the agency to consider the station closer to the MDC-North main gate.

Why Transit couldn’t brace Vicente with the same candor about the armory site in early ’06 remains a mystery. And someone definitely should have told him, in writing, that the agency couldn’t build that massive conference center-garage without endangering the federal funding.

This is upsetting for several reasons. First, this was supposed to be the next expansion of Metrorail, before the East-West extension or anything in Kendall. MDT is this close to receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds to help finance the expensive project. Keep in mind, the transit market is extremely competitive nationwide as cities everywhere are scrambling to make up for lost time and do the right thing by improving their public transportation systems. At the same time, federal funds are shamefully low, which means Miami-Dade is very fortunate to be in the its current position. As Lebowitz says in his column, redrawing the route or ceding to MDC’s demands is totally infeasible right now because of high costs, wasted time, and the potential for jeopardizing federal aid.

It’s also upsetting because the whole thing is just so juvenile. This is the kind of thing that just cannot happen at this level of government, especially when dealing with billion dollar capital projects and $800 million subsidies, not to mention the future of Miami-Dade County.

In a post I published last week on the transit options available to the Kendall residents, our message may have been presented unclearly and biased towards the CSX rail option. I’d like to clarify this position and reiterate the true stance of Transit Miami on this hotly contested issue.

The CSX corridor was never meant to serve as a replacement to the Kendall Metrorail, LRT, or BRT, but rather operate in conjunction with the east-west option. The belief stems from our knowledge of the low upstart cost of the CSX rail, along with the increased benefit citizens in the Southern part of the Kendall region would experience, an area currently overlooked by all presented alternatives.

Now, we don’t fully support plans to bring transit to the Kendall Dr. corridor unless some drastic measures are taken to ensure that the area adjacent to the corridor is reestablished and rebuilt in a more accessible manner. Revitalizing the strip shopping centers, vast swaths of parking lots, Malls, and dwellings along the corridor will all be keys to its’ success and should not be overlooked in the planning stages. We would not want the transit system to be considered, approved, or funded unless preemptive measures are taken to ensure that Kendall Dr. itself will be transformed into a true urban area that is more hospitable to transit oriented needs.

Similar measures should be set into place for the CSX corridor at key intersections and stations, creating accessible nodes or urban life. The CSX corridor should be limited to a southern terminus at Metrozoo to prevent “justification” of UDB expansion. UDB line movement will be critical to the success or failure of all transit oriented redevelopment in the Kendall region.

We support the use of the CSX corridor to serve as a complimentary system with a rapid transit system along Kendall drive as long as effective measures are put into place which would transform the suburban landscapes into transit oriented communities.

Is it me, or is Miami on the fast track to epic surreality?

Yesterday, Gabriel opined about how ridiculous the commission-initiated plan was to construct a Bay of Pigs museum on Parcel B behind the American Airlines Arena. Though he did a great job illustrating the bad urban design and architecture of the project, I felt compelled to write about just how preposterous this whole idea is. I’m sure I won’t say much that hasn’t already been said, but I don’t care.

Where do we begin? How about this beauty from Chairman Bruno Barreiro:

“I think we might hamper and will hamper the arena if we do not really consider an additional parking structure with amenities on that site.”

It’s hard for me to imagine any educated person saying this with a straight face. I certainly don’t think the AAA, or the Miami Heat organization, has been hampered thus far. Plus, with new parking facilities seemingly going up by the month downtown, it’s even more unrealistic to think the AAA or the Miami Heat is being “hampered” by a lack of parking. And don’t use the excuse that Metrorail and Metromover are already at capacity during AAA events - add more train cars (Metrorail), increase frequency, or both during games and concerts.

Then Chairman Barreiro, implying that such a museum could still be “park-like”, says:

“You could design these things nowadays with a lot of greenery around the edges and borders, a very friendly pedestrian use.”

Now, look, it’s understandable that the Chairman, a Cuban-American, or someone like Javier Souto, a Bay of Pigs vet, would offer their strong support for such a museum, even using transparent language like this. But com’n, another waterfront Museum, on top of a parking garage? It’s bad enough as it is don’t try to sell this as “park-like” or “pedestrian-friendly”.

The third quote that caught me off guard, courtesy of Commissioner Sosa:

“It’s (the museum) going to be very close to the water, and the history of Cuba is so close to the water.”

Wow. Do I even need to explain why this statement is completely asinine? That’s no reason to put a museum on top of a parking garage on prime downtown waterfront property!

Furthermore, voters were promised real park space on Parcel B. If anything, this Parcel should be incorporated with the Museum Park Master Plan. After all, the goal has been to connect Museum/Bicentennial Park with the piece of land occupied by the AAA using a pedestrian bridge. Why not go the extra mile and finally make this Parcel into a high quality waterfront public space?

Let me close by saying I’m not at all opposed to a Bay of Pigs museum. There are other locations and designs, however, that much more appropriate than on Parcel B. I just get the feeling that the county Commission is forcing this one down our collective throats…because they can. It’s a cheap shot proposing this museum on the waterfront, because no one in their right political mind is going to denounce this. The sad truth is that it would be political suicide in Miami. If citizens didn’t take it personally (which I’m sure many would), fellow commissioners would find a way to make anyone opposing it out to be racist, hostile to war vets, or out of touch with the Cuban-American community.

Typical Miami politics.

This past Tuesday, the county presented its 90% completion for the proposed 27th Avenue makeover project. There has been little deviation from the 30% rendering, which calls for the following improvements:

  • Addition of bike lanes
  • Addition of on-street parking
  • Removal of most private, on-site parking
  • Addition of tree-planted median (and more shade trees for sidewalks)
  • Addition of oval-shaped traffic circle at the intersection of Day, Tigertail, and 27th

While earlier renderings more often centered around parking controversy, the newest lightning rod is the traffic circle. Several citizens and business owners still don’t believe the traffic circle will work.

”You have to remember people don’t like change, and this is something that’s foreign to them,” - Delfin Molins, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade County Public Works Department.

It’s true - many Groveites are terrified of change. However, I’d be surprised if most are not fully supporting this project by the time the final draft is unveiled. I really think this project is quite progressive for Miami/South Florida standards in the way it focuses more on improving the pedestrian realm than making the street a traffic sewer.

As for the concern about the traffic circle, I’m pretty confident it will be beneficial to Center Grove residents and visitors alike. As long as it’s engineered by the specs public works has planned, it should do a pretty good job mitigating congestion on 27th and Tigertail while not compromising easy pedestrian crossings. The shape and design of this “circle” should ensure that cars cannot speed through it. People shouldn’t worry about it becoming a wild “free-for-all”, because it is not designed to be a large rotary similar to the Cocoplum Circle at Le Jeune and Sunset in Coral Gables. Miami drives can be dumb…and crazy, but even they can handle a traffic circle this simple. Plus, Day Ave should not experience an appreciable increase in thru-traffic as long as it changes to one-way eastbound.

My biggest disappointment with this project, however, is that the intersection of 27th Ave and US-1 is being ignored. The sidewalk and bike lane improvements are great, but this intersection is one of the most hostile in all of Miami for pedestrians and cyclists. Without design upgrades to improve safety and aesthetics at this intersection, the Grove Metrorail station remains effectively alienated from the wonderful 27th Avenue improvements. It’s a classic example of Miami’s seemingly inextricable fragmentation - especially when it comes to transit and land-use planning.

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