Currently viewing the tag: "MIC"

The signage at the stations and inside the train cars is now almost fully converted.

Airport link is coming . . .

 

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It is always one step forward and two steps back for transportation in South Florida. The governing board of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority voted last week to close the Tri-Rail Airport Station for several years to allow construction to continue on the Miami Intermodal Center, scheduled to open in 2013 with a new Tri-Rail station. 

Project engineers claim that keeping the service running would lead to cost overruns and delays in opening the Miami- Intermodal Center big parking garage  next to Miami International Airport. Users coming south from Broward and Palm Beach will have to take a shuttle from Hialeah station to MIA. No big deal to FDOT district secretary Gus Pego, who said users already have to take a shuttle from the existing station to the airport (which is a bit misleading - a 5 minute shuttle cannot be compared to a 20-30 minute bus ride through Hialeah.) As one commenter on the Miami Herald put it, “Another decision about public service made by those who don’t use the service.”

Ironically, the Miami-Dade contingent of SFRTA is made of many of the same anti-transit leaders on the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority Board. How can we expect these folks to advocate for the best transit options, when they are simultaneously planning to undermine Tri-Rail and the US1 busway with an elevated expressway (not to mention their stated opposition to the regional service on the South Florida East Coast Railway Corridor at recent MPO meetings). Yet another instance of the fox guarding the hen-house in Miami.

The transportation planning and governance model in our region must change. Our leaders have established a highway monopoly where they can set the price for the service at whatever level they choose, while giving people a false choice between transportation options. In referendum happy Miami-Dade County - is it time for us to take control of our transportation future?  I think so.
PS….

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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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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Infrastructure stimulus funds are coming from two different sections of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, one is for transit & the other for highways. Although the MPO prioritized certain projects at the last meeting, we still don’t know exactly which projects will be funded. This is how funding is distributed in Miami-Dade:

Transit:

$132 million in Transit Capital Assistance to be divided between Surface Transportation Projects (80%) and Transit Projects (with Miami Dade transit getting 80% and municipalities getting 20%).

$5.3 million Fixed-Guideway Infrastructure Investment

$0.00 million Capital Investment Grants (out of possible $700m)

Highways:

$126 million from the FDOT for highways, roads & bridges.

$5.5 million for transportation enhancement - only to be used for pedestrian improvements, bike lanes, & trails.

TOTAL:$260million-ish

The transit stimulus comes at an unfortunate time for MDT because of its Medium rating with the FTA. Stimulus funds are allocated within existing funding programs, which means that Miami-Dade is missing out on money from the Capital Investment Grants program (which operates under the new starts/small starts rules). Too bad.

Carlos Gimenez pushed for the 20% municipal share, which I’m torn about since municipalities tend to spend the money on road projects (just look at what gets funded by the PTP’s $200 million annual municipal share). In this case it makes political sense to get small local projects off the ground so that you can put a sign on them and say “See, this is where we spent your money - on this sign!”

Lets face it, the majority of people are never going to notice the millions going to the intermodal center, or the $112 million going to the airport viaduct - and that’s ok as long as they see something happening in their own neighborhood too.

I’m happy that the City of Miami is funding trolleys with its portion of the transit funds. There are a bunch of really good projects on these lists including streetscape upgrades to Ponce de Leon Boulevard and a tolley in Doral. Even these little projects will work toward a better balance of local vs. county wide transit service (part of why eliminating some routes is the right thing to do…more on this later).

The Miami-Dade County Commission Agenda for March 3 is out and it is full of fun items…here are some that I found interesting:

  • Improvements along Old Cutler based on the Old Cutler Charrette including roundabouts at 87th and 97th avenue, along with pedestrian/bike path upgrades and facilities from Cocoplum Circle to 224 Street.
  • Commissioner Jordon wants to tinker with the Citizens Independent Transportation Trust this time to ensure that the Trust reviews and recommends award contracts within 45 days and that it meet with the Commission at least quarterly. Interesting…
  • Approving $37 Million in additional FDOT funding for MIA’s people mover, connecting the MIC with the Airport (this is the much needed connection between Metrorail and the Airport.)
  • The City of Doral is expanding its free trolley service.
  • This is a biggy (and another Barbara Jordon sponsored item): Officially allowing transit surtax dollars to be spent on the system maintenance and operations, while increasing General Fund contributions by 3.5% every year, and dedicating 10% of the surtax yearly to capital expansion. Wasn’t all of the surtax to be used for expansion?  Sorry, but these numbers are still off….seems like more should be put aside from the General Fund, and for expansion (7% and 25%?)
  • Developing an elderly TOD at the Okeechobee Metrorail site.
  • The County is looking to cut 20% of its energy consumption (estimated at 1.17 million-megawatt-hours..wow)
  • Awesome:  MDT is updating its bus-tracking software to allow for real-time infomation to be sent to wireless devices.  MDT is also deploying a real-time bus tracking system on the new Kendall BRT pilot project, scheduled for May 2012. This line will extend from 166 street and Kendall Drive to Dadeland Station, and include 27 stations that will connect with the GPS based tracking system.
  • A resolution urging the President to rethink Federal transit funding when Congress looks at the surface transportation spending act later this year - specifically allowing for use of the funds for operations.  This would finally move the Orange line forward.
  • Implementation strategy for Miami-Dade Parks Masterplan. Also awesome. (Noted in this item is a growing program me and some collegues started called the Native Carbon Cure - a carbon tax that mitigates our business’ carbon footprint through local habitat restoration projects.)

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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.

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.

Like many on their Thanksgiving holiday, I had the arduous task of traveling in order to meet up with the family. Only this time I decided to travel to Tampa, Fl by train rather than car. The Amtrak experience was more interesting than what I thought. For starters the Miami station was a bit of a disappointment, it looked dilapidated and in need of an upgrade. Then again, it probably won’t get one since Amtrak will be moving into the MIC, Miami Intermodal Center, once it finally gets completed.

The Miami station has only two trains leaving a day, the Silver Meteor at 7:50 a.m. and the Silver Star at 8:50 a.m., and both end up in New York-Penn Station. Of the two the Silver Star connects to Tampa while the Silver Meteor travels directly to Orlando.

The train was quite comfortable with ample room for your carry on bag, your luggage and still had room to spread your legs. Also, every row of seats had its own power outlet which came in handy during the trip. During the five hour and twenty minute trip the only annoyance was the constant stop and go in the urban areas of South Florida and Tampa. I have to believe that these stops where for dispatching in order to get permission to access the track and/or other trains where ahead of it. If these stops where eliminated or kept to a minimum I believe at least one hour would have been saved on the trip.

I was impressed to see that the train was sold out to Tampa, and it was evident when the train stopped at the historic Tampa Union Station in downtown Tampa.

Let’s just say I was glad I was able to keep my luggage with me. In such a populous state as Florida the need for its own rail system is obvious. Rather it’s on a high speed train system or not the demand is there.

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This article has been brewing in my mind for quite some time; however, I kept putting off until I saw some sort of definite progress occurring over at the Miami Intermodal Center. With their new website up and running (finally!) we can get some better insight to some of my more pressing concerns, particularly the Florida regional transportation service.

The Miami Intermodal Center concept is fairly forward thinking for such an automobile dependent area such as Miami. It will link local transit (MDT, Tri-Rail, Taxi, etc.) with regional transit (Greyhound, Amtrak, etc.) with the international destinations serviced by MIA in a centralized, modern facility. I’ve had a growing concern, however, with regards to the regional transportation service which will be offered at the MIC and the efforts of the state (or county) to unify regional transportation links within Miami-Dade County. Given that Florida currently lacks a dependent and reliable statewide rail network, I have decided to concentrate on the interaction between the MIC and statewide bus service.

(Does anyone else find the amount of surface parking in the above two renderings alarming? There shouldn’t be such a need for surface parking in such a central multi-modal transit facility…)

Intercity buses provide transportation between cities and rural areas, be it short or long distance. They usually offer limited stops making service faster and more efficient.

Greyhound is an example of a national intercity bus line, but regionally, all of South Florida’s transit systems have come together to offer intercity service to all major cities and towns in the area, as well as the smaller communities that do not have accessible rail service via Tri-rail or Metrorail. It is envisioned that the MIC’s Miami Central Station will accommodate intercity buses offering service into Miami-Dade County. Until then, visit the South Florida Regional Transit Trip Planner for more information.

Via Milliped’s Flickr…

The excerpt above comes from the intercity bus page on the MIC website. While the site places great emphasis on bringing Greyhound into the facility, I could only hope (as a regular intercity bus user myself) that provisions were made to include space for competing intercity bus services. La Cubana, providing Miami-NYC and Atlanta service easily comes to mind. The popular bus service currently operates from its strip shopping center headquarters on 11 St and NW 22 Ave.

Florida bus services GMG, Miami Bus Service, and TMT, servicing the colleges in Gainesville, Tallahassee, and Orlando could also benefit from access to the centralized terminal. Currently these bus services transport passengers from a parking lot on the respective college campuses to the parking lot of the Mall of the Americas. This “parking lot transit” is a fitting representation of American culture and Urban Planning, we spend our lives commuting to and from parking lots in our own vehicles so it’s only natural that when a successful “mass transit” operation appears, we lack the infrastructure for it to ferry us to anything other than shopping malls. Hopefully the Key-West Shuttle and Jet-Set bus service, both of which already operate from the airport terminals, will be offered space in the new facility as well.

While touring through Spain I marveled at the efficiency and popularity of the bus network in that country. It goes to show that despite the widespread efficient rail system in Spain, alternatives are needed to offer citizens a greater variety of choices and competitive prices for land-based regional transit. We arrived in the central city bus terminal of Toledo, purchased tickets for any of the buses traveling between the small city and Madrid every half hour and were well on our way within a few minutes of boarding (fully booked too, no doubt.) Spain is entwined in a vast web of rail and bus networks, all of which terminate in the central city stations accessible by public transit, pedestrians, cyclists, etc.

Bottom Picture Via Robert A1’s Flickr…

Regional public transit corridors are imperative to creating sustainable cities across Florida and the United States. The Miami Intermodal Center takes us a few steps closer to unifying our regional and local transit, making both systems accessible to a wider group of people and more importantly, accessible via local modes of public transit. I hope the necessary parties work to bring our regional bus and eventually rail transit into the Miami Intermodal Center to fully realize the potential the center has to offer…

Say it ain’t so! The Miami Intermodal Center is slated to begin construction this month!?!? Something (history) tells me that I’ll believe it when I see it…The anticipated opening date is set for Spring 2010 and the estimated cost is $400 Million, we’ll keep tabs on both as well as HNTB’s progress

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