Currently viewing the tag: "rail"

Ladies and gentlemen: We present to you an important, visionary opportunity to support the creation of not only the first private railway network linking Miami and Orlando via the All Aboard Florida initiative, but also a recreational trail along that same 230-mile stretch!AllAboard_Arriving_web

All Aboard Florida is the ambitious project intended to link Miami and the greater Southeast Florida region with Orlando and the greater Central Florida region. It’s something we at TransitMiami are particularly excited about, and, frankly, you should be too!

What’s even more exciting, though, is the vision being advanced by the non-profit Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. With our (meaning the people’s) support, Rails-to-Trails hopes to make a small but significant modification to the All Aboard Florida railway plan: ADD A TRAIL!

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That’s right, along with connecting Miami to Orlando with a much-needed railway, why not add a multi-use trail connecting these nodes (and everything in between) too?!

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is asking for our help in this regard with the following message:

Imagine traveling from Miami to Orlando by rail-trail!

It could happen, thanks to a new rail expansion project called All Aboard Florida. But your voice is needed to make sure rail-trail opportunities are included in the plan.

Take action now: Urge the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to include a trail alongside new rail service as part of All Aboard Florida.

All Aboard Florida is a proposed rail connection between Miami and Orlando. This rail line will be America’s first privately built, privately maintained inter-city rail services since the creation of Amtrak.

The best part is that the 230-mile rail corridor also provides an excellent opportunity for trails alongside the railway.

Right now, the FRA is in the early stages preparing an environmental impact study of All Aboard Florida — and they’re accepting public comments through Wednesday, May 15. It’s the perfect time for you to speak out for the inclusion of rail-trails in the plan!

The window for submitting public commentary on this possibility is about to be closed, so be sure to submit your message of support for the addition of a trail alongside the All Aboard Florida railway as soon as possible.

jxvl-baldwin_rt_bloving225x175Let’s make our voices heard: Write a quick, passionate, powerful message to the Federal Railroad Administration in support of a 230-mile trail from Miami to Orlando!

 

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Friend of TransitMiami.com and the Purple Line | U+Transit pop-up installation,  Leah Weston, put together a fantastic map that puts Miami’s rail transit into national and international perspective. Have a look!

As Weston says, “the image speaks for itself”.

Miami Transit in Perspective

Go ahead and click on it. The enlarged version is much better.

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The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority approved a plan yesterday to move forward with a local and express commuter rail along the famed corridor that once carried Flager’s train to Key West. The decision by the board will advance a “fast start” plan proposed by Tri-Rail administrators to leverage existing administrative costs and recently purchased locomotives to run service along the FEC line from Jupiter to Miami within 3-5 years.

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The plan is an answer to FDOT officials who had previously proposed giving the concession to run trains directly to the FEC company in an effort to privatize the system. Tri-rail planners, though, say this is not necessary as they are already 80% privatized and can run the service for half the price as the proposed FEC plan. “For the same [capital] cost as the FEC- FDOT plan, we can provide 56 trains on the FEC between downtown Ft Lauderdale and downtown Miami, while also providing connectivity with the rest of the region,” said Joe Quinty, Transportation Planning Manager with the SFRTA.

Under the “fast track” proposal, which will now go to the tri-county MPO’s for approval and further cost feasibility, trains would use the FEC line from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami, with 7 stops in Miami-Dade County. Stops include 163 Street, 125 Street, 79 street, 54 Street, 36 Street, 11 Street/Overtown, and Government Center. As currently envisioned the plan would cost Tri-Rail an extra $15 million a year in operations costs by expanding existing contracts with Bombardier and Veolia. The FDOT plan would have cost $25 million a year and provided fewer stops in Miami-Dade County.

The project was approved 6-1, with the lone exception being FDOT District 6 representative Gus Pego. The plan envisions several types of service along the line, beginning with direct service between Ft. Lauderdale and downtown Miami. Regional service beyond Ft.Lauderdale will be established at Atlantic Boulevard, where a line connects the existing Tri-Rail tracks with the FEC service.

FDOT has been studying rail service along the FEC for years, with the latest SFECC Study looking at an integrated service, similar to what is being proposed, at a cost of over $2billion for the tri-county area. This plan hit a wall this spring when the Miami-Dade County MPO balked at moving forward with the study because of concerns over cost.

Tri-rail planners say that the fast track project is a way to get service running on the line as the South Florida East Coast Corridor study advances and addresses the MPO concerns. As currently planned, the service would not require any county or federal funds for operations or construction.

One third of the additional operational costs will come from farebox revenue from the new line, while the rest will come from a combination of Tri-Rail service adjustments, and yearly contributions from each of the 17 cities that will have stations of between $350,000 - $550,000. The capital cost to build the line is approximately $270 million, which will come from the Florida Department of Transportation.

Quinty went on to say,  “We believe this new SFRTA is superior to FDOT’s approach, as it can be implemented quickly (by avoiding the Federal project development process), provides better regional service coverage, and will not require any additional county or FDOT operating funds.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Oregonian Congressman Earl Blumenaur is one of this country’s strongest advocates for mass transit and active transportation. This week, the Honorable Representative writes a brief but strong op-ed for Politico.com in which he espouses his support for pro-rail legislation as a defense against climate change.

TransitMiami.com encourages you to engage your representatives locally, in Tallahassee and DC. Inform yourself on what legislation is presented and advocate for what matters to you. (Transportation!!)

Still have questions? Write to us or click on the links below for more information.

Who is my Congressman? How is s/he really voting?

What is the best way to lobby my representative?

Of course, there are lots of resources available online, and we appreciate your recommendations!

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GOOD Magazine has published an interactive graphic comparing our country’s largest mass transit systems (here). The abbreviated study looks at Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, Boston and Washington, DC. It’s an interesting visual study of what ‘works’ and reminds us that if you build it, maintain it and keep it convenience, the masses will come. What do you think?

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The State of Florida is moving forward with high-speed rail plans, this time with the full support of the governor.  In its bid, the state is asking for $2.53 billion, just over a quarter of what the feds have set aside for such initiatives. While we, and others, have reported some skepticism on Florida’s ability to be selected, today’s Herald article paints a positive picture for the auto dependent state. For the more wonky among us, you may read the state’s application here.

Charlie Christ had this to say about the plan: ”We are very excited about the potential for passenger rail service in the state. We believe these projects will enhance the transportation choices of our growing resident and visitor populations.”

At present, a segment from Tampa to Orlando would comprise the first phase, at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion. The second phase would then connect Orlando to Florida’s east coast, and on down to Interstate 95 to terminate at the Miami new Intermodal Center. This segment would cost another $8 billion, putting the total somewhere in the neighborhood of $11 billion, or $5 billion more than the Stat’es orignal plan in the late 1990’s. The message? If we don’t build it now, its only going to cost more later.

Good luck Florida. This important project would be a real game-changer for a state that is so lacking in its existing rail service.

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…downtown may look something like this:

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Thanks to livable streets advocate and downtown resident, Brad Knoefler, for the image.

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Image courtesy of National Association of Railway Passengers

Image courtesy of National Association of Railway Passengers

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Photo by Flickr user jimfrazier
We already pointed out the resurgence of freight rail in this post in February, but now the rail boom is in the news again. This time a Harvard professor, John R. Stilgoe, is predicting the revival of rail for both freight and passengers. He points to indicators such as Warren Buffet buying stock in a freight railroad company, high gas prices driving people away from cars, and success of commuter rail systems.

We can point to our own indicators of a boom. The Florida House of Representatives’ budget includes $700,000 for a feasibility study for a freight rail corridor from South Bay to West Miami, which the Miami Herald referred to as the “Sugar Train“; the House also gave their support for a commuter rail system in Orlando. This is at a time when the state is cutting the budget everywhere else. The number of Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs) being proposed around Tri-Rail stations seems to be increasing weekly. Sheridan Stationside Village, Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton, and Delray Beach TODs are all pushing forward at a time when the housing market is dismal and even general development is being pulled down with it. Fort Lauderdale is funding their new streetcar system despite the property tax amendment cutting their revenues.

Overall, rail is looking up while the economy looks down. The argument that you cannot get Americans out of their cars is no longer valid. Now is the time to get people out of their cars and onto the rails. Wake up or miss the train.

A couple of recent articles have brought attention to freight rail. Palm Beach Post’s Cone Zone posted that CSX now has a carbon calculator on its website to show just how much more environmentally friendly trains are than trucks. The Wall Street Journal also published an article today that mentions the environmental issue, but actually heralds the beginning of a “new era” of railroad expansion.

What? You mean trucks haven’t killed the railroad? Did someone tell Miami yet?

It’s impressive. Basically, rail went through an expansion boom in the late 1800s that ended in the mid 1900s with the construction of the interstate. Now, the interstates are crowded and dangerous, and diesel and other emissions are killing the environment; and the trucking dream is no longer looking so good. With skyrocketing gas prices, railroad companies are able to compete more easily with less fuel efficient trucking companies, and they have been expanding their rail systems in the past few years. In an interactive map, WSJ points to several ongoing improvement and expansion projects that are modernizing the nation’s freight rail system. Railroad companies are actually touting some of the same things that we do about passenger systems: rail expansion is an environmentally friendly alternative to expanding highways.

Perhaps we need to work together with the rail freight companies to persuade voters and politicians that rail is a better way. Meanwhile, we can sit back and see whether rail will compete with the Port of Miami tunnel after it opens.
Photo by Flickr user SP8254.

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The Miami streetcar seems to be generating plenty of controversy. Before we convince ourselves that it’s good or bad, perhaps we need to look at another streetcar. Seattle’s streetcar, nicknamed “S.L.U.T.” for the South Lake Union Trolley, made its debut Wednesday to large crowds of riders. It also generated its share of controversy (even to the point of sabotage), so lets look at some of the issues.

The Seattle streetcar apparently does not use signal preemption. It has to stop at all traffic lights just like a bus would. This is rather ridiculous, as even Bus Rapid Transit usually calls for signals to change to give priority to the bus. An effective Miami streetcar needs to have signal preemption.

Bicyclists don’t like it and organized a protest. Seattle put the tracks on the right side of the road, precariously close to the bicyclists’ paths. Rails in the road parallel to a bicycles direction of travel are a recipe for disaster. As a bicyclist myself, I share their concerns. Streetcars like Seattle’s carry a lot more people than bicycles, and that should give them at least a slightly higher priority. At the same time, streets need to accommodate as many modes as possible-especially if we ever hope to implement a decent bike sharing program. The needs of bicyclists, pedestrians, transit, and auto all need to be considered carefully in the design of Miami’s streetcar. One alternative that has been used before is to put the rails down the middle of the street.

Seattle’s streetcar is expected to help retail business. That’s probably an accurate expectation, but we’ll have to wait and see the numbers. Most rail transit systems have increased local business, and we could probably expect the same in Miami.

There’s one unique issue that Miami will have to worry about. Every time there is a hurricane, the overhead electric lines will have to be repaired. We all know how often that happens! This makes it worthwhile to consider alternate technologies such as Innorail, which have the added benefit of removing unsightly overhead wires.

It sounds like Seattle’s streetcar was packed the first day, just new like light rail systems. Charlotte’s Lynx light rail is exceeding projections in its first weeks. Surely Miami’s streetcar would do the same.

Like I mentioned previously, the port of Miami tunnel appears to be a botched solution to the accessibility problems facing the port; designed to purely benefit the routes of the trucking industry. As some of you concluded, I believe some of the congestion issues we now face could have been alleviated earlier with the use of the at-grade FEC tracks which run directly into the port. A freight train could easily haul many containers out of the port to an inland port facility (Hialeah rail yards, ROW exists and is owned and operated by the FEC.) The inland port facility would then transfer the containers to trucks, placing the truck distribution closer to many of the warehouse destinations and reducing the number of trucks traveling along our highways and downtown. As someone duly noted, the train tracks also traverse the downtown, which would likely cause a great deal of congestion if these trains were to be operated during rush hour. Therefore, the trains would serve a more limited role, with travel times scheduled after downtown activity subsides but before the morning commute (ideally from Midnight to 5 am or so.) A point I’d like to emphasize is that the rail option should have been considered, heck used on a trail basis for part of the past two decades while a more permanent solution was found, at a mere fraction of the cost of what we’re going to face with the tunnel. The port is now looking at the idea of floating barges up the river with containers to be unloaded at the river facilities. I’d like you to take note of the traffic tie-ups which will be caused as a result of the more frequent use of the drawbridges under this scenario…

Meanwhile, the city of Los Angels is currently working on a plan to use existing tracks to transport goods from the port to an inland facility. The plan is projected to remove a large percentage of the 22,000 daily trips caused by the seaport daily. The $1.7 Billion project aims to revitalize a neglected airport for cargo uses, while creating an inland intermodal cargo facility.

After writing the first article, I obtained a copy of the latest MPO Freight Access report produced in February 2007 by Cambridge Systematics. In looking through the report briefly, the study covers all alternatives including: Port Truck Tunnel, Freight Train Tunnel, at grade train crossing, 6th street highway viaduct, and River option. The study also analyzes the aforementioned LA port inland facility currently underway. Before I can draw any further conclusions on the Port Tunnel Project or the feasibility of rail or water options, I will review the study and report my findings back at a later time…

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Here’s another reason why rail transit expansion should take precedent over bus-favored alternatives. This afternoon I hopped on the #11 bus FIU-bound from Government Center via Flagler St at approximately 4:20pm; at 6:53pm, I arrived at FIU. It took the bus two and a half hours to go about 12 miles. If you’re counting at home, that’s an average speed around 5MPH. To put that into perspective, the average human walking speed is about 3.5MPH, meaning at a fairly brisk pace I could have rivaled the bus on foot. Furthermore, Metrorail travels its entire 22 miles in roughly 45 minutes, for an average speed of about 30MPH, or 600% faster than the bus. You would think Sweetwater would be begging for a Metrorail station (or two).

People talk about buses being advantageous to rail because of “flexible” routes, but nearly all routes are placed along arterial and connector roads that are the most susceptible to congestion (which, as we all should know, is expected to get much worse than it already is). Moreover, as we’ve mentioned a hundred times before, buses do relatively nothing to enhance the pedestrian realm, which is a major goal of the City of Miami, as well as Transit Miami. As Gabe said earlier, streetcars may not be guaranteed to significantly lessen traffic congestion, at least not immediately, but they are much more likely to do so than buses and they facilitate pedestrian-oriented surroundings so people have alternatives to driving everywhere.

Manhattan has the most comprehensive subway system in the world, but if you’ve ever driven there, you know that doesn’t preclude the borough from heavy congestion. The point is, they have many alternatives and we don’t - which is partly why NYC is a world-class city and Miami is still a far cry away.

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