Currently viewing the tag: "Public Transit"

It seems there is a new campaign to get the attention of Florida’s elected officials when it comes to public transportation.

IM4Transit is a campaign of the Board of the Florida Public Transportation Association to identify, recruit, and mobilize at least 100,000 pro-transit Floridians.

If you support public transportation in Florida, go to  www.im4transit.org/ and show your support.  It would be nice to have 100,000 people tell Rick Scott want more transportation options.  You can also go to Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/im4transit.

 

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Today’s quote of the day comes from FDOT spokeswoman Barbara Kelleher.  She spoke to the Miami Herald about a recent report issued by the Daily Beast which designated I-95 in Florida as the most deadly highway in the nation.

It’s no longer possible to add lanes.  We don’t have the money to buy all those homes and all that right-of-way in order to add lanes to what’s already there.”

Kelleher goes on to say:

“What can be done, has been done already: Installing express lanes in Miami-Dade — and eventually in Broward — to separate long-haul drivers from short-range commuters, and using signals at on-ramps so motorists don’t crowd onto the expressway at once.”

Ummm….how about public transit?  Is that not an option? I’m glad FDOT does not have the money to purchase all the homes and all the right-of-way necessary to expand 1-95.  They would be delaying the inevitable- we would be in the same predicament 20 years from now. Then what? Buy more homes and more right-of-way?

I’d like to remind FDOT that the “T” in FDOT stands for Transportation. Transportation is not limited to motor vehicles and highway expansion. Rail, bicycling and walking are considered transportation too!

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Likely path of the oil for four months following the spill. The colors represent the concentration of the oil. 0.20 (dark red) means the oil is 20% as concentrated as it is directly over the spill site. (Source:cnn.com)

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill will most likely make its way to South Florida and directly affect South Floridians in one way or another. It’s easy to point the finger at BP, but the truth is that this oil company is simply providing a resource to satisfy a market demand. This is the essence of capitalism. Yes, they certainly share in the responsibility of the oil spill, but the biggest accomplice to the oil spill is the American lifestyle. I’m hoping this tragedy may be the long overdue wake up call for all Americans; we cannot have our cake and it eat too. We all share the blame for this oil spill.

As long as we have an economy and a lifestyle which is lubricated by cheap oil and a transportation system that depends on fossil fuels, we can only blame ourselves for this and future oil spills. Obama’s talking points on the oil spill generally focus on the need for alternative and renewable energy, yet he is mute on energy conservation, an increase of the gas tax, and the need to expand public transit. The administration is missing out on a golden opportunity here, particularly to increase the gas tax.

An increase of the gas tax and energy conservation work hand in hand. Let’s make gas more expensive and watch consumption plummet. Americans would then think twice about buying a house in the far exburbs or take that unnecessary trip by car just to pick up a gallon of milk at the store a mile away from their homes. Public transit would also look more appealing with higher gas prices.

I’d like to hear more rhetoric from Obama that focuses on allocating more dollars to public transit, particularly rail. The gulf oil spill dialogue should also encompass the development of more pedestrian and bike friendly communities with increased density. It’s so easy to point the finger at BP, but we all share culpability for this oil spill in one way or another. Conservation needs to be our focus, not alternative energy. We need a national strategy and policy that focuses on conservation. This, however, will require a sacrifice by all Americans.  The question is are we up for this challenge and are we willing to spend the money to build a national public transit system which is less dependent on oil?

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In the April 3rd-9th 2010 issue of the Economist, the conservative British periodical ran a special report on Rebalancing the American Economy. In the article titled “Time to Rebalance” the Economist had this to say:

America’s economic geography will change too. Cheap petrol and ample credit encouraged millions of American to flock to southern states and to distant suburbs (“exurbs”) in search of big houses with lots of land.  Now the housing bust has tied them to homes they cannot sell. Population growth in the suburbs has slowed. For the present this rise of knowledge-intensive global industries favors centers rich in infrastructure and specialized skills. Some are traditional urban cores such as New York and some are suburban edge cities that offer jobs along with affordable houses and short commutes.”

Just to clarify, by “rich in infrastructure”, the Economist means diversified infrastructure and that includes public transit. FDOT District 6 may interpret “rich in infrastructure”, to mean “expensive” such as the nearly $5 billion dollars we are spending on 3 megaprojects in South Florida; none of which really includes public transit.

If South Florida is serious about becoming a knowledge-intensive region, we need to build proper infrastructure to attract a populace with specialized skills, which also happens to be educated. Educated people are usually more mobile, and therefore can be more selective when choosing a city to call home. Most will choose a city that provides a good quality of life for their families and that includes cities that have good public transit, short commutes, and compact development.

On another note, Miami 21 was officially implemented today. Implementation of Miami 21 is the first step in the right direction.

Miami Today reports that Metrorail will install “free” wireless internet service at all stations in 2010 and then eventually on all trains by 2011. The Wi-Fi hotspots will cost about $2 million. Susanna Guzman-Arean, who handles Miami Dade Transit’s strategic planning and performance management, makes an interesting argument for the wireless service:

It’s a lot better to sit on the train and be productive than be sitting in traffic, we think that it would motivate people to get out of their cars.”

Unfortunately, Wi-Fi alone will not motivate people to get out of their cars. If Metrorail is serious about adding riders, they should begin by lowering their prices. A one way ticket costs $2; the same price as the subway in NYC. According to U.S. Census Bureau, 2003 American Community Survey, the median annual household income in Miami is $23,774, compared to $39,937 in NYC. Not only is the Metrorail considerably more expensive relative to wages, but we get a lot less “bang for our buck”. The level of service which Metrorail provides is inferior. For $2 in NYC you are provided access to a more extensive transportation system. Lowering prices is the first step.

Improving the quality of the existing service is the second step to increase ridership. I mentioned to a coworker who commutes daily on the Metrorail that Wi-Fi would be available on all trains. Julio was not impressed. He told me he would rather see the air conditioning work and the trash on the trains picked-up. Valid point. This should be a priority, not Wi-Fi. This is not to say that commuters won’t use this service. Some will, but in the new era of smart phones, fewer people will find the need to use their laptops.

Ridership will increase if two conditions are present:

1) If there is a financial incentive (i.e. cheaper then commuting by car)

2) If the quality of service is reliable and improved (i.e. commuting
time should be comparable if not faster then driving a car and trains should be on time, clean and the air conditioning should work)

Even with the “free” wireless internet service, Metrorail commuters are paying too much for the service which is provided to them. The $2million would be better allocated to the daily maintenance of the trains. There are certain factors that encourage ridership; Wi-Fi alone is not one of them.

The American Public Transportation Association released figures Monday on third quarter growth in public transportation. Tri-Rail ranked as the second fastest growing commuter rail system in the country with a whopping 32.9%. Public transit use overall jumped 6.5% between July and September across the country, while automobile use shrunk by a much larger 4.6%. More people reduced their driving because the actual number of vehicle-miles is much higher to begin with than the passenger-miles for public transit. So these 4.6% who reduced driving are not all switching to public transit, but also carpooling and combining or eliminating trips. Few bothered to point out that aspect of our new transportation habits, as the released figures don’t include those changes. Personally, I know many coworkers who have started carpooling this year.

Read the Miami Herald article on the subject here. One phrase in the article that nearly makes me shiver with delight is that “meanwhile, the U.S. auto industry is on the verge of collapse…” While I wish it were the case, the statement is rather sensationalist. If they declare bankruptcy they will not be collapsing, just restructuring.

Meanwhile, gas prices continue to drop, so we can only hope these changes last.

I know it may not fully “count” for the Challenge, but I rode my commuter bike today to the South Miami Metrorail station. I ordinarily ride Metrorail to work downtown daily.  Since I typically wait in a long line of cars at Red Road to cross (southbound) U.S. 1 and drop off my daughter, today’s commute was actually a little bit FASTER than driving!  The July heat, however, did a number on the freshness of my business attire.  I hadn’t ever noticed they have really good bike parking at this station - it’s under constant observation by the Wackenhut dudes.  I wouldn’t envy those of you who had to find buses out to Doral though, much less having to cross the street or walk a block in what was practically a swamp just 10 years ago.

-Robertson Adams

My experience today was much like every other work day:
  • 7:55 drive one mile to the South Miami metrorail station
  • 8:00 park & catch a train as I reach the top of the stairs
  • 8:12 depart to Brickell metrorail station
  • 8:20 catch the Metro Mover to Financial district
  • 8:25 first to arrive in the offce - unlock the office door
All in all, a stress free commute to work.
Listened to NPR on my IPOD during the commute.
Didn’t spend a lot on gas (1 mile drive to the train station) or contribute to global warming.
Didn’t spend any time stuck in traffic, being stressed out.
(My wife is jealous of my commute.)

One Hour and forty minutes – that is how long my commute was this morning from Coral Gables/Coconut Grove to my office in Doral.  Utilizing the 37, 36A, and 41 buses, I seamlessly (for the most part) was able to get to work before the 9 AM arrival time goal.

My day began at 7 AM with a 17-minute walk to catch the 37 bus in Coconut Grove.  The morning was cool and the lush shade trees in the grove provided a wonderful canopy that shaded much of the walk (Really, walking Miami would not be terrible if we had an adequate canopy cover.)  Standing, waiting for the bus to arrive, I watched as car after car of single occupant vehicles began their daily commutes while joggers utilized the main highway multi-use path.  The 37 bus arrived about 3 minutes behind schedule.  Once aboard, I began to realize the biggest downfall of the entire MDT system; route alignment.  Route 37 meandered in and out of the Douglas Road Metro station, Tri-Rail station, and all of the concourses of Miami International before finally reaching my stop at NW 36th Street about 40 minutes after I had boarded.

The transfer to the 36A was perfect.  The bus had pulled up behind the 37 as I was disembarking.  The 36A was standing room only and one of the passengers was a fellow coworker of mine who was also attempting to go car-free for the day from Miami Beach.  The 36A was filled with Doral employees including some Carnival and city employees.  The 36A transported us to the Doral Center on NW 53rd street where we (and nearly everyone else on the bus) transferred (yet again) to the 41.

As we boarded the 41, the bus operator immediately warned us not to photograph her or her bus, after she spotted us snapping a couple of pictures before getting on.  The route dropped us off just across the street from our offices on 97th avenue, leaving us to cross the treacherous 41st  intersection that lacks pedestrian signals.

From my experience this morning, the biggest flaw with MDT’s system is the route alignment and unnecessary transfers.  The MIC-MIA connector will alleviate some of the problems for many of these buses, eliminating the junket to the terminals for several routes.  MDT also needs to introduce a cross-county route that transports passengers across Doral, rather then leaving us at its doorstep and expecting us to transfer to another route.

The whole point of this experiment was to illustrate how difficult it is get to the second largest employment district in the County, Doral.  As I shared with my coworkers, this type of on-hands research is critical to understanding what types of problems we face in the planning industry (from transit to land use.)  Disturbingly, I know of several transportation planners who have never stepped foot on a public bus, let alone walked across a busy street and yet these are the people we designate to design our public spaces.

I cannot wait for my ride home – on paper it should only take an hour, if all goes well…

Check out the Twitter sidebar for updates on my progress in tomorrow’s Summer Transit Challenge.

If you or someone you know would like to share their transit story with us, feel free to comment or send us an email: movemiami@gmail.com

That’s right Miami, we are doing it again.  The Transit Miami Summer Transit Challenge is back and we are looking for participants.  This Thursday I along with several coworkers will go car-free to experience Miami-Dade Transit at its finest.  We will be commuting from our homes (Coral Gables, Miami Beach, and West Kendall) to our Doral offices solely using public transportation.  We will be documenting the whole trip (Twitter, hopefully) and discussing the difficulties we encountered along the way.We want to hear from you too.  We invite our readers to participate and send us their stories and images.  All feedback will be transmitted over to MDT.

To make our commute even more challenging, we have imposed a 9 AM arrival time as our deadline, at which point we will convene to discuss the problems we each encountered.

To plan your commute we recommend Google Transit

This video is of a subway station in Venezuela when the doors are opened for the first train of the morning.

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Apparently today was Dump the Pump Day - the annual transit day, where people are encouraged to try using public transportation for all or part of their daily commutes.  We didn’t get the memo.  Why are these things so poorly publicized?

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  • The State growth management planners have officially drafted a report recommending Miami-Dade County commissioners to reject the most recent bids to move the Urban Development Boundary further west. The issue will now head back to county commissioners who will vote again based on the state’s recommendations.
  • We really did not see this going any other way, considering the state has repeatedly warned County Commissioners on the devastating consequences our area would face should the UDB be extended west. We hope that Sally Heyman stays true to her word and reverts to her original vote against the expansion and are perplexed that this issue will somehow only narrowly be defeated. When it comes to the UDB, much of the county commission does not vote in the best interest of constituents. We’ll keep you posted as to when the County will be meeting, but in the meantime e-mail your county commissioner
  • Miami-Dade County Commissioners gathered in Washington D.C. this week to meet with Federal Transit Administrator James Simpson to discuss the fate of the upcoming N/S and E/W metrorail extensions. The N/S extension was recently downgraded due to financial uncertainty within MDT. Simpson urged the county officials to work together and put an end to the racial bickering which has plagued much of the county’s projects since the 1970s.
    • We hope that the County administration comes back home with a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished in order to see these projects come to fruition. MDT and the Commission should be ashamed that these critical projects were downgraded because of poor management however, given the poor management of previous projects and ridiculous cost overruns, this really shouldn’t surprise us. Transportation options shouldn’t become the center of a cultural war, on the contrary, transit should unite our neighborhoods and make county-wide mobility easier for all.
  • The city of Coral Gables is looking into creating plan that would provide free parking to the drivers of electric vehicles. The plan is being considered after a recommendation by the city’s economic development board altered Commissioner Ralph Cabrera’s initiative to provide more downtown bicycle parking. Meanwhile, some within the city were looking to expand the initiative to provide reduced parking fees for owners of hybrid vehicles.
    • We commend Commissioner Cabrera for introducing some greener initiatives and for the city’s support in making Coral Gables a bicycle friendly community. Free parking for electric vehicles may be ahead of its time, considering that few electric vehicles are available on the market today, but the city is headed in the right direction in providing the local infrastructure to even make this technology possible. The exclusion of hybrid vehicles from this proposition is recommended by Transit Miami due to the varied nature of hybrid vehicles (20 mpg Yukon Hybrid - 50 mpg Prius.) We believe the city needs to continue in the green direction by subsidizing only virtually zero emission projects (Bicycle, EV, Trolley, Pedestrian, etc.)

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