Currently viewing the tag: "Miami-Dade Transit"

Miami-Dade Transit will be taking comments on their annual recently released their Transit Development Plan 2011 update. You can find the document here. The Transit Development Plan is required by State Law to, “present the operational and capital improvement needs of Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) and also serve as a planning tool to project future MDT needs for the implementation and operation of transit service.”

The Transit Development Plan is an important planning tool as it provides a complete picture of funding sources, revenues, and expenses (on the operations side), while also describing the existing transit network, demographics and planned service changes. It is the closest document we have to a ‘People’s Transportation Plan’.

In the years following the demise of the Orange Line MetroRail extension, the TDP has been focused on reducing the operating budget and squeezing efficiency from the existing system, while not really providing a clear framework for increases in ridership. The October 2009 update described its budgetary strategy as, “an avoidance of any major service expansion except for the MIC-Earlington Heights Metrorail connector service.”

Two years later, the TDP doesn’t paint a rosier picture for premium service expansions; none are envisioned in the near term.  But what the document does reveal is a department that is trying to do more with its existing infrastructure, both through increased efficiencies in the network and improved passenger amenities.

Several new ‘enhanced’ bus routes are also discussed, including the North Corridor Enhanced Bus project, and the SR 836 Express Bus Project. We’ll talk more about those later. What we can say now is that the service expansions envisioned by this latest TDP are very modest – and incremental – improvements to service around the county as an alternative to the ambitious and extensive PTP.

Aside from some new routes, MDT has been working on implementing improved passenger amenities, such as real-time bus tracking and WiFi access. MDT began rolling it its popular  Wi-Fi service in 2010, and currently provides service in all Metro-Rail trains, and approximately 20% of the bus fleet. The coming year will see the program expanded to the entire fleet of MetroBuses and all station platform areas. Future service expansions, such as the NW 27 Enhanced route, will also come equipped with Wi-Fi as a standard feature.

MDT is also moving forward with implementing a new AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location)  software system that will replace the current system (which dates from the late 90’s). The new system will provide for real-time tracking, and transit signal prioritization – elements that should help MDT make modest ridership gains using existing infrastructure. The real-time tracking will allow full integration with smart phones, and will also be a standard feature in future service expansions. This improvement will finally give the South Dade Busway the signal priority it was designed for, and shorten commute times along this heavily used transit corridor. MDT plans to issue an RFP for the system this year, with a launch scheduled for mid-2012.

Kudos to MDT for advancing these needed technological improvements - they will pay for themselves and then some. One need only look at the EasyCard system and Automatic Passenger Counters (APCs), implemented in 2009, which MDT has been using its to make targeted improvements to service schedules. The efficiencies created by using this data (adjusting/eliminating empty routes) has allowed MDT planners to use infrastructure more wisely.

This year’s TDP includes numerous service changes that involve adjusting routes using the APC data, along with staff recommendations, according to MDT Planner Maria Battista. Among the data used to make service changes, Battista said, “administrators have held monthly meetings with the drivers and superintendents that let us know what is going on in their routes.” The adjustments in service respond to the current ridership demands. Some routes are being reduced by 15-20 minutes at non-peak hours (prior to the morning rush, or during evening hours) based on data that showed no usage during these times. These surgical adjustments will help ensuring that MDT facilities are being used when and where they are needed most.

The TDP 2011 shows an agency working with what it has. No premium service expansions, but important improvements to existing service. This all comes against the backdrop of an agency - it would seem by the media- in disarray. No Director, serious FTA funding problems, a lackluster commission directive, and a newly installed Mayor whose commitment to transit involves converting a transit corridor into a highway. The changes proposed by the TDP 2011 set the stage for premium expansions sometime in the future. The incremental ramp-up of ridership in new enhanced bus routes, along with the improved passenger amenities, and GPS tracking abilities will allow our elected officials to take hold of the agency and provide the premium service expansion that this community demanded almost a decade ago.

Suggestions and comments on the annual TDP update can be sent to BPB@miamidade.gov.

I have been waiting patiently for either of the current mayoral candidates to come forward to champion better transportation choices for the residents of Miami-Dade County, but with election day around the corner it seems that we are going to have to continue to wait to see real leadership come out of County Hall. Neither of the two candidates, Julio Robaina (Hialeah) or Carlos Gimenez have made much of an effort to describe what they plan on doing to improve mobility in the region, apart from general comments on the recent transit scandal, and a promise to “shake things up.”

Gimenez is the favorite amongst the center and left leaning voters of Miami-Dade county, not because of what he says but because he isn’t Hialeah Julio. I for one can’t tell the difference between the two candidates. I had really hoped for a more forward thinking agenda from Gimenez - a statement on how dysfunctional our current system is and a concrete plan to improve it, but after his lackluster performance on transit issues over the past decade, I can’t say I’m surprised. His answers to the recent Green Mobility Network transportation candidate survey revealed nothing more than a continuation of the current highway building culture that perpetuates our transportation problems. On the question of whether to convert the South Dade Busway into an expressway, he said, “The South Dade Busway is currently underutilized and uses should be expanded.  We should look to the 95 Express lanes as a model.  Those lanes allow for both bus and automobile traffic and have increased commuter speeds in the non-express lanes by giving drivers another option.”  Yuck. Too bad.

Let me clarify - I don’t want to give the impression that Hialeah Julio is any better. His statements on transit read like the comments section of the Miami Herald - an emotional plea for more ‘oversight’, but no real substance.  “First and foremost, we must urgently reform the Transit Department and ensure that all public dollars are being spent judiciously and that the ½ cent tax that this community voted to tax itself for improved transportation is in fact being used to remedy transportation ills and not for more management or salaries.” Check out his blog to read more.

Suffice it to say that the current mayoral candidates don’t know what active transportation is, or how to improve mobility for the residents of Dade County, nor do they have any reason to care. This election has shown that the problem is not with the candidates, but with our current metropolitan system of government that pits an independent highway agency against a second-class county transit department. One has funding and can expand its system as necessary, while the other is left to the whim of the current director or mayor or Commission puppet master.  The debate is framed around questions of better oversight for transit, and expansion of our highway network   - not the other way around. Until we reform our system of transportation governance to establish an independent elected transportation director, we will not see a change in our mobility options.

While Miami’s political attention is on County charter changes, Miami-Dade County residents should consider a change that would reduce our second-largest cost of living: transportation.

Our largest cost of living, housing – at least the portion directly determined by County government, i.e. property taxes – is overseen by an official that we recently decided that we should elect.  Now any Property Appraiser must improve the lives of a majority of County residents in the area of property taxes in order to be re-elected.

This technique should by applied to the area of transportation, changing the County charter to create an elected County Transportation Director with the power and responsibility over all modes of transportation.  This would insert into County government one person whose sole political interest is to move as many County residents to destinations that matter to us.

Any candidate for County Transportation Director would have to convince a majority of voters that he or she is best able to come up with plans, and implement them, for saving us time and money by extending facilities, increasing capacity, and reducing waste.   An elected County Transportation Director would have to improve the lives of a majority of County residents in the area of transportation in order to be re-elected.

Creating an elected County Transportation Director would also address issues with the current system in which certain modes of transportation, or certain facilities, are overseen by separate County departments.  For example, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, because it only deals with toll highways, has an interest in not losing revenue to rail or buses.  Separate departments may act against such interests out of benevolence, but it would be better to remove temptation.

Transportation investment and maintenance decisions should be made on the basis of how many people could benefit, regardless of mode or facility.  An elected County Transportation Director would have every incentive to make decisions in such a way, improving mobility for all County residents and reducing our cost of living.

Submitted by Andrew Frey.

I happened to be looking at the transit reports the other day and I noticed that the Metromover had its best month ever this past March (2011).   I might be wrong, but I went pretty far back and found no other month above the 848,970 recorded this past March.

The Metrorail as well had one of its best months ever at 1,673,175.

You can find the reports at: http://www.miamidade.gov/transit/news_technical_reports.asp

 

Members of Miami Neighborhoods United and the Urban Environment League hosted a debate between District 7 candidates Julio Robaina and Xavier Suarez. We were pleased to have Stephen Stock from the CBS4 news moderate the debate, and had a wide range of questions for the candidates.

On the big issue du jour of smaller government these candidates took similar positions, but a closer look at their responses to the questions reveal the differences in how they perceive the problems facing our community- especially with regard to Miami-Dade’s land-use and transportation challenges.

Question: If elected Commissioner, how would you address land-use challenges to the urban development boundary?

On this issue, Robaina scored big points by describing his past work fighting to hold the UDB and his state legislative opposition of the dismantling of the Department of Community Affairs. Suarez also made the case to hold the line - for now. “With today’s demographics - hold the UDB.” He went on to say that that the county’s  planning department tracks demographics better than most people give them credit for, and that expansion should be allowed to occur with proper demographic data to support it.

Question: At present, there are some legal challenges to the Marlins Stadium.  If the matter were to come back to the County Commission and you are one of the Commissioners, what changes to the Agreement with the Marlins would you introduce for consideration by the Commission as a whole?

On the Marlins stadium both were in agreement that the Global Agreement was no good, with Suarez also going after the Miami Streetcar, which was a very minor part of the deal that created the Marlins Stadium and the Port Tunnel. (What does the Streetcar have to do with the Global Agreement you ask? Look Here..) Robaina said that if the opportunity presented itself he would seek to amend the contract with the Marlins so that any cost overruns are not paid by the county; Suarez also made a similar comment.

Question: What is your position as far as using county tourist bed-tax dollars to fund renovations for the Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium?

Robaina took the position that tourist bed tax dollars should be spent on improving the Miami Beach convention center, not going to sports franchises. Suarez supported giving money to Sun Life, noting that the tourist bed tax was an industry approved tax for the purpose of building stadiums.

Question: This coming year’s County budget promises to be another very challenging one in very tough economic times for our community.  What do you propose to do to keep taxes down and maintain County services ?

Both candidates are in favor of eliminating discretionary spending and the ending the practice of reallocating carryover funds from previous years. Suarez announced that “draconian measures must be taken to streamline the budget,” and that he would seek to reduce the number of county departments from 64 to 25, with salary caps for non-constitutional officers. Robaina also advocated a reduced number of departments.

Question: How will you work toward the goal of expanding mass transit to reach 20 % of the citizens of Miami-Dade County by 2020 (from a 6 2% baseline)?

Suarez showed some transit acumen when he corrected a statistic referenced in this question. He correctly noted the transit mode-share was much lower than 6%. His plan for addressing large gains in ridership was to expand on the trolley system that is currently being implemented by the City of Miami. His vision is for a fleet of 2000 ‘trolleys’, minibuses and jitney’s that are privately run in some cases and that do not cost taxpayers anything.

Robaina had more concise, long term vision for premium Metro-rail expansion, starting with the East/West line  . He made the case that while Metro-rail is not perfect, it is only part of a network. He spoke of building a transit network, re-examining the rate structure, and encouraging more Transit Oriented Development.

Question: Do you support true charter reform, including two-eight year terms, easier citizen petitions, and other recommendations made by the Charter Review Task Force?

Both candidates support the 2- 4 year term maximum, applied retroactively, with Robaina pledging to only seek one 4-year term. (Refreshing news to voters still in the process of purging establishment candidates. ) Suarez made a good point that real charter reform should be made on the ballot in a general election when more citizens are likely to vote. He also said that one reform that was missing from the current discussion was to require competitive bidding rather than the current selective procurement process.

Question: What is your platform on reducing CO2 emissions?

Both candidates talked a good talk on this one, with Suarez noting that CO2 emissions would be best addressed by “getting people out of their cars and onto mass transit.” He also said that the managed lanes are counter productive (surprising  given his vague answer about the Busway).  Robaina went back to the issue of expanding the local passenger rail system as the key.

Question: If elected Commissioner, would you support a restructuring of County government to allow for a truly independent transportation authority?

Robaina strongly supported the idea of an independent transportation authority, noting it would allow for a streamlining of the transportation planning process, and contribute to the reduction in municipal responsibilities currently overseen by the County. Both candidates criticized the tolls, and made statements in favor of abolishing MDX. Robaina made the connection between abolishing MDX and creating a Transportation Authority, while Suarez did not see the need for it.

Question: What is your view on converting the South Dade Busway into a limited access expressway?
Robaina skirted the issue, saying “we need to do a charrette to decide what to do in the area.” Suarez said that he believed the buses to be ineffective, but did not give a clear answer on the issue.

Question: Are you in favor of phasing out the Unincorporated Municipal Service Area? What roles should the county play in government (question asked by former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre)

Suarez gave a quick recap on what UMSA means and its implications. Anything in Dade County that is not within one of the 35 municipalities is under the responsibility of the Miami-Dade County. In these areas, the County serves as the local government, offering zoning, permitting, public works, and other local - and necessary - government functions. Both candidates agreed that either by annexation or by incorporation, the UMSA should be phased out. Suarez made the case to “remove the classic municipal functions” from the county, while Robaina  wants “the county to get out of the UMSA business.”

Thanks to the two candidates for the great dialogue. Both candidates showed their experience and knowledge of the issues. Suarez talked a good talk on the connection between cars and CO2, but his trolley plan left a lot to be desired. Robaina was very clear about his desire to expand the transit network, and supports the creation of an independent transportation authority. Two worthy candidates, but Robaina wins for his solid support of Metro-Rail expansion and transportation governance reform.

As Miami politicians struggle with decisions like whether to fund the area’s second commuter rail line or how to provide adequate bicycle infrastructure, it may be worthwhile to look at how other American cities approach the challenges related to regional transportation planning and decision-making.

The Portland Area Metro has emerged as a model for sustainable regional governance as it pursues aggressive reductions in vehicle miles traveled, by drastically expanding its bikeway network, making investments in mass transit and encouraging transit oriented development. These decisions are made by a regional governing body: Metro, “an elected regional government, serving more than 1.5 million residents in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties and the 25 cities in the Portland region.”

Image Courtesy of Human Transit

Metro is the agency responsible for planning the region’s five light rail lines (52.4 miles), a commuter rail line (14.7 miles), a 651 bus fleet, an aerial tram, and, since 2009, the only American streetcar system with cars made in the USA. The entire system logs an estimated 350,000 weekday rides.

Comparatively, Miami-Dade County has a population of 2.5 million residents, has a heavy rail line (22.4 miles), a downtown people mover (4.4 miles), a strained fleet of 893 buses, and one ailing commuter rail line (70.9 miles) -  representing just over 400,000 daily rides, and run by competing agencies.

Metro’s transit expansion is only part of its successful mode shift. The region has seen the number trips made by bike double since 1997 . Approximately six percent of Portland commuters now take their bikes to work, the highest percentage in America and about 10 times the national average.

While Miami has made preliminary steps to advance  a mode shift toward active transportation, a quick search of the Transit Miami archives testifies to the growing pains Miami has experienced and the work that remains undone. Miami-Dade County can learn from the example set by Metro’s institutional framework  - a model for how regional government can take responsibility for transit expansion and smart growth planning.

Decisions related to transit and regional planning are separate from the other functions of government - allowing County officials to advocate for projects region-wide. In addition, the Metro Auditor is an elected seat that serves as the executive watchdog of Metro’s operation.

The seven members of the Metro Council are directly elected, which makes it the “only directly elected regional government in America,” according to Chris Myers, a policy assistant at the organization. On the other hand, the Miami-Dade MPO is composed of a comparative hodge-podge of county commissioners, municipal representatives, and a representative from the highway building lobby, MDX.

The members of the Metro Council hold no other political office, and while they do consult with elected members of the region’s 25 cities, they are elected by large districts (the three-county area is divided into six total districts), forcing the councilors to focus on regional issues.

The desire for a regional focus was made explicit in Metro’s charter:

We, the people of the Portland area metropolitan service district, in order to establish an elected, visible and accountable regional government that is responsive to the citizens of the region and works cooperatively with our local governments; that undertakes, as its most important service, planning and policy making to preserve and enhance the quality of life and the environment for ourselves and future generations; and that provides regional services needed and desired by the citizens in an efficient and effective manner, do ordain this charter for the Portland area metropolitan service district, to be known as Metro.
preamble of the Metro Charter, November 1992

As the steward of regional land-use decisions, Metro has had a hand in ensuring walkable, urban land use patterns that are another driving factor in the relative success of Portland’s mode shift. More than one-third of the 1.5 million residents in the Metro service area are concentrated around the city of Portland. Metro coordinates planning policies that encourage conservation on the suburban fringe, while accommodating population growth in compact, infill development.

In comparison, as people flocked to South Florida over the past decade, the Miami-Dade County Commission allowed developers to push growth to the north, west and south; expanding suburban sprawl and ignoring the benefits of compact, walkable neighborhoods. These developments simultaneously demand more roads, and make mass transit less effective.

Portland began its shift toward more transportation options in the 1970s when area leaders elected not to build a new eight-lane highway to the suburbs, putting the money toward transit development. Later, the Portland Transit Mall opened downtown, followed by the area’s first light rail line. Now the Portland area ranks 8th in America in transit ridership, even though it ranks 23rd in population. Transit use is growing faster than the area’s population while vehicle miles traveled are steadily declining.

The question for Miamians and their leaders is, what’s next? More roads? More traffic? Or, is it time to make bold changes in anticipation of a better future?

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Thanks to the ITeam for looking into the misuse of transit surtax revenues, but there were a few things missing from your report. While cities in Miami-Dade do have parochial and shortsighted transit planning spending patterns, it’s the system that is at fault; forcing cities to jockey for an insanely low amount of money to apply to a worthy ‘transit’ project which typically run in the hundreds of millions - leaving them far short of what they would need to run a credible system. Not to mention the anemic leadership at the County Commission and their decade long fleecing of the 1/2 Transportation Tax for anything but transit. Wider roads? Check. New intersection lights? Check. Road repaving? Check.

The report also chides the City of Miami for doing the smart thing and saving the money it gets from the trust (not hoarding it as the article states). The small payments the cities get based on their population should be saved. With most of the cities occurring along or around an existing or future major transit corridor (the South Dade Busway, Metro-Rail, or the future SFECC) these funds could amount to the all important operations and maintenance costs that plague investments in premium transit. The constant mantra of the County Commission is that it must bear the burden of these costs - but what if the cities were able to leverage their portion of the surtax against the future operating costs of the system. That would be a powerful bargaining chip for the 20-odd cities that occur around the SFECC in particular - especially at a time when the MPO is not likely to support continuation of the project for the foreseeable future.  

A recently completed audit found that the cities have spent millions of dollars on projects that have nothing to do with transit or are specifically forbidden.

Miami Lakes spent part of their money for an on-demand taxi service. North Bay Village used the cash to build storm water drains. And Sweetwater used transit money to buy a garbage truck and pay police officers.

Charles Scurr is the executive director of the Citizens Independent Transit Trust, the agency which makes sure the money is spent appropriately. In cases where the money was misspent, the CITT can demand repayment.

The big missed story: what happened to the voter mandated (and legally required) independent trust that was to steward these funds through the morass of Miami-Dade County politics? It never materialized. The Citizens Independent Transportation Trust is a joke - and not because of a lack of effort on the part of its staff, but because it is not independent! To claim to be so is disingenuous, laughable, and probably illegal. We need a truly independent auditor to plan and implement a multimodal transportation network in Dade County. As long as the same tired politics play out in the County Commission chambers, transit will remain stagnant for years to come.

 2010 was an ambitious year for MDX. Open road tolling really took off, and MDX had its planners busy working on ways to turn our County into an expressway wonderland, where everyone is only a block away from smooth rides; all the while, as our friends at rollbacktolls.com report, MDX ran a $2.4 billion debt through 2010. While we at Transit Miami do not think that tolls are the problem, we support others’ efforts to put MDX under a magnifying glass - after all, they act with complete impunity when it comes to planning and operating the expressway system in Miami-Dade County. And it would seem that their long-term strategy is to dismantle the few bits of premium transit we have in this region.

Take for example the plans they released in July (2010) to build a double decker expressway on top of Tri-rail, in an effort to connect all the major expressways in Miami. Insensitive to the fact that building a highway directly on top of a major regional transit system would only compete for riders, sources within MDX even admit that the likelihood of obtaining federal funding for the system is low considering the feds gave SFRTA several hundred million dollars only two years ago for Tri-Rail Upgrades. How backward can these folks be with regard to the true transportation needs of Miami-Dade County?

Now the latest assault on Miami-Dade Transit: the effort to dismantle the South-Dade Busway and create lexus lanes for the wealthy residents of Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, and Pinecrest. MDX planners are meeting with area residents to get buy-in for the project, but what they won’t tell people is that this is part of creating a parallel highway to US1 that reaches South Dade.

The irony is that the busway was conceived as low cost alternative to bring transit to the mainly underprivileged residents of South Miami-Dade County along existing train tracks built by Henry Flagler. The busway was never meant as a limited access highway for the wealthy residents of suburbs that have developed since then. Be that as it may, MDX is moving full speed ahead preparing plans to convert the bus-only transit way into an I-95 style lexus lanes expressway with elevated intersections.

What does MDT get in return for letting MDX rape its only premium transit service to the residents of South Miami-Dade County? A big fat nothing. No shared toll revenue. Faster travel speeds say MDX, but at the expense of accessible and convenient transit. On a line that already runs beyond capacity most peak times, the only transit oriented upgrade to the busway would be to make true BRT improvements, increase frequencies and headway, and eventually to extend the metro-rail south; what they should not take apart a thriving transit service. 

It’s time for a change in transportation planning in Dade County. We cannot allow MDX to continue to expand highway capacity at a time when most Miami-Dade residents are clamoring for expanded transportation options that will help them out of their cars.  The myopic car-centric decision making at MDX will only continue to degrade transit service until one authority is made responsible for uniting the managerial know-how and Right-of-Way MDX posses with MDT’s transit mandate. Until then, it is open season for MDX, and the drive to expand roadway capacity will continue at the expense of transit ridership.

We would like to recognize the Miami Herald for running a very important story regarding the broken leadership at Miami-Dade Transit. If you care about the future of public transit in Miami you must read this article. Unfortunately, the future of transit in Miami does not look bright if we continue with the status-quo leadership that claims to be running this agency.  Miami-Dade Transit is dysfunctional at best, with no clear leadership. Heads should have rolled at this agency yesterday; it would have been a Christmas present to everyone that uses public transit.  Miami-Dade County needs to start getting serious about public transit. Enough is enough.

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“Our leaders must change their way of thinking on transit planning and set as their goal the total connectivity of the system, so that more people leave their cars parked and get to places on time and without too many transfers.

The suspension of more than $182 million is a wake-up call. It’s time to explore whether it would be better for the MDT director to be elected by the voters than appointed by politicians.”

        -Daniel Shoer Roth, elNuevoHerald columnist, on transit planning in Miami-Dade County

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Miami-Dade Transit is launching a mini PR campaign aimed at the anticipated completion of Airport Link, the 2.4 mile extension of the Metrorail from the existing Earlington Heights Station to the Miami Intermodal Center (just east of the airport). MDT officials held a public meeting on the project last night to mark the halfway construction of the new line, and good for them. They don’t have many opportunities to celebrate. On the heels of the colossal failure of the PTP to deliver even minor gains in transit ridership (at a cost of over $1 Trillion) MDT officials probably feel like they have to squeeze every last bit of positive press out of this project. After the recent official abandonment of the Orange Line Expansion, officials and citizens alike are not going to see premium transit expansion in Dade County for a long time.

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This is a great blog post from the NY Times about the economic structure of our transportation network.

Gilles Duranton and Matthew Turner’s “Fundamental Law of Traffic Congestion: Evidence From the U.S.” states that vehicle-miles-traveled increases roughly one-for-one with miles of roads built. More highways mean more drivers, so we are never going to build our way out of traffic congestion. People will keep on driving until they are made to pay for that privilege.

Privatization, in principle, offers the possibility of working on both the engineering and economics fronts.

Private road operators or airports will charge higher fees during peak periods to cut down on congestion, and they have incentives to innovate technologically to attract customers and cut costs. Mr. Winston notes that capsule, or pod, hotels, “which enable fliers to nap between flights,” happen to be “available in private airports, but none is available in the United States.

Because the public sector controls almost all roads, airports and urban transit, we see the downsides of public control on a daily basis, but we don’t experience the social costs that could accompany privatization. A private airport operator might try to exploit its monopoly power over a particular market or cut costs in a way that increases the probability of very costly, but rare, disaster.

The complexity and risks of switching to private provision means that Mr. Winston is wise to call for experimentation rather than wholesale privatization. An incremental process of trying things out will provide information and build public support.

Yet many of Mr. Winston’s recommendations are incremental and can be done without privatization or much risk.

Private jitney operators could be permitted to compete freely with public bus lines in urban markets (In New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is already testing this idea.) New York could also implement a congestion charge (as Mayor Bloomberg has proposed on several occasions, to clamorous opposition). Tolls could be increased on busy commuting highways during peak hours and lowered off-peak. Airports — especially those in the New York area — could raise the landing fees during peak periods.

This issue is all the more relevant here in Miami where elected officials struggle to provide even a basic level of public transit. While privatization might bring unknown social costs, a social cost is already being incurred because of our deficient transit system. The lack of convenient and frequent mass transit opportunities exacerbates problems of social inequity. Not owning a car in Miami-Dade County is a barrier to employment, yet Commissioners do nothing to advance premium transit expansion. At the same time MDX is planning a multibillion dollar highway expansion through some of our last remaining natural preserves and pushing through ‘lexus lanes’ on our only physically separated and dedicated bus transit line. Who are these people serving? This type of planning demonstrates that our leaders continue to be poor stewards of public lands, and have little interest in providing the residents of Dade County with a balance of mobility options. I for one would welcome a private enterprise that could help ease the burden on the County as it struggles to ‘right-size’ both its transit system and highway network.

Check out this video of the collision between a Miami Dade Transit Bus and a bicyclist. The Miami New Times reported about this collision several weeks ago.  Aggressive behavior by bus drivers against bicyclists happens all too often. I personally have witnessed and have also been a victim of aggressive behavior by bus drivers on many occasions. I think it is about time that MDT steps up its training of drivers to let them know that bicyclists have every right to the road.  At the same time they should ban the use of cell phones by bus drivers.  It’s been about a year or so since I last used a bus, but I remember the bus driver talking on his phone the entire time.

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I was just strolling through Miami-Dade Transit’s spiffy new website.  I like the new website design, its easy to navigate and unoffensive, but unfortunately, it can’t tell me anything I want to hear.   It can’t tell me when a bus will arrive at a given location (like a gps bus tracker common in other cities) and it can’t give me good news about transit expansion in Dade county. The site redesign is like many things Miami: all flash, no substance. Repackaging something doesn’t change what it says.

I have to give the site credit: it provides you with a wealth of information/studies/reports. Lots of good plans with budgets that don’t support the planning with funding.

I decided to explore a little, and I came across all sorts of great info. I stumbled on the Citizens Independent Codependent Transportation Trust pages (which still look like the old MDT pages by the way). After a  little more  sleuthing I come up with this gem:

http://www.miamidade.gov/citt/library/review_ptp_surtax_revenue.pdf

Are you kidding me. You spent $1.4 BILLION dollars and all we have to show for system expansion six years later are some buses and 2.5 miles of (half-built but quickly going up) heavy rail??

It is no wonder that the federal government doesn’t want to give us any transit money - we are irresponsible with what we have. Looking through the December 2009 PTP audit also reveals that $200 million of the above amount went to cities (as part of their share) and over $100 million went to Public Works contracts (read: fixing traffic signals and repaving/expanding lanes).

On the plus side we have a central transit hub: the Miami Intermodal Center, or MIC. At least we connected the Metrorail to the airport (that’s what we tell ourselves anyway - to make up for the punishing price tag).

Now we have to connect the people to the Metrorail.

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4/24/2010

9:15-11:30

34 Miles

This morning a female cyclist rear-ended a Miami-Dade Transit bus on the Rickenbacker Causeway. The cyclist suffered minor injuries and was not taken to the hospital. I don’t have all the details of the accident, but this much I do know: the cyclist was in the bike lane and she rear-ended the bus that was parked in the bike lane/bus stop/shoulder.

This accident highlights another major and possibly deadly design flaw on the Rickenbacker Causeway.  In many instances when a bus pulls over to pick up or drop off passengers, the bus tends obstruct the bike lane. When this occurs, there is major conflict between the cyclist and the bus.  Cyclists are either forced to stop short, or they are forced to enter the roadway in order to overtake the bus. This scenario is very dangerous for cyclists as they must enter the roadway were most cars are traveling between 40-50mph. Cyclists will eventually come out on the losing end of this situation.

A conflict area is created when buses and cars park in the bike lane. Cyclists are forced into the roadway.

Ideally the bike lane should not be used as a bus stop and shoulder. Below is an example of a bike lane that is physically separated from the bus stop. The roadway on the Rickenbacker Causeway needs a similar treatment. Today’s accident followed an earlier incident in which a bus overtook two cyclists only to cut them off as the bus partially obstructed the bike lane in order to pick up passengers.

Source: safecycling.org

I also witnessed:

  • Several hundred cyclists enjoying the morning
  • Hundred of runners and walkers exercising
  • A small army from the Miami-Dade Police Department handing out speeding tickets
  • Most cars traveling between 40-50 mph
  • At least 5 cars traveling in excess of 65 mph on the William Powell Bridge and Bear Cut Bridge. (Speed limit is virtually unenforceable on the bridges)
  • One decoy police car
  • Half dozen runners running in the bike lane

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