I accidentally stumbled on this and realized that this is the future that our local elected officials want for us. From the conservative Reason Foundation:

Miami could significantly reduce severe congestion and have room for the incoming population growth by adding 3,400 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $30 billion, in today’s dollars. That’s a cost of $189 per resident each year. This investment would save 354 million hours each year that residents currently lose sitting in traffic. This does not account for the additional benefits not quantified in this study, including: lower fuel use, reduced accident rates and vehicle operating costs, lower shipping costs and truck travel time reductions, greater freight reliability, and a number of benefits associated with greater community accessibility, including an expanded labor pool for employers and new job choices for workers.

The $30 billion needed to significantly reduce severe congestion is 1.5 times the planned transportation spending under the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) long-range plans. Those plans call for $19.3 billion over the next 25 years — $6.0 billion on highway improvements and $13.3 billion on mass transit. While just 3.9 percent of Miami area workers now use mass transit to commute, transit accounts for 69 percent of the area’s planned transportation spending over the next 25 years.

Are you serious? While the sad statistic about transit usage is accurate,  it is more an indictment of car-based land use planning, than it is a reason to abandon transit expansion. In spite of the huge investments we make in transit, our zoning laws, and lack of further expansion, keep it from succeeding. Instead of those investments being realized as increased ridership, we call transit a failure and push for more road funding (which will cause even more congestion).

The solution for congestion is giving people the option of not having a car, and you can’t do that until you provide a minimum level of service; a minimum threshold of people need to have access to premium transit for it to be successful. The proverbial ‘chicken and egg’ is not so bad in Miami’s situation – we already have a solid base to expand from in the form of metro-rail. Our challenge is in investing in rail transit lines that will reach the highest number of people (read: Douglas Road, Bay Link, 8th Street, Biscayne…etc), while using real BRT for other limited routes where demand needs to be built up (South Link, 27 avenue).

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25 Responses to More Cars is Not the Answer

  1. brody says:

    I was pretty sure the percentage of Miamians using transit for work was much, much higher somewhere in the teens. 3.9% seems really, really low.


  2. Tony Garcia says:

    Unfortunately, this is the number that the MPO and others stand by. Part of the problem is that all trips are not made equal. The efficiency of compact places like Miami Beach is lost when looking at numbers that measure trips. Walkable urbanism allows multiple activities to come from one single trip, whereas car based planning, by definition and design, requires more trips. We might notice more bike/ped than this number reflects if only because trips don’t match reality.


  3. Dave says:

    And where exactly would the new lanes/roads be built? Is this conservative think tank advocating the government bulldozing thousands of private homes and businesses to build freeways?


  4. Mike Moskos says:

    Well, I think it is a fantasy that there will be that many more cars in the road in 2030; the effects of peak oil certainly will have hit by then. But if they did, we’d need major NEW roads with all the attendant costs. More transit MAY improve the quality of life of all Miami residents (even if they don’t use it) far more than adding/expanding new roads. Imagine how empty the roads would be if Metrorail alone were used to capacity? (I realize it is pretty full during rush hours.)

    But more importantly, why is no there is no cargo traffic out of Port of Miami on rail. CSX (the rail company) operates a major intermodal center at the Port. How come the freight doesn’t move directly out of the Port on rail? Is that a better option than a high-cost tunnel?


  5. Anonymous says:

    The Reason Foundation is libertarian, not conservative.


  6. Anthony says:

    Umm, the reason foundation is not a conservative think tank. It;s a libertarian think tank.

    They make good points in the article, but like I keep saying, there needs to be a happy medium between the car and bike culture. If they are going to be building all these roads, they should all have some sort of bike lanes for the rest of us as well.

    One of the things about public transit system and why it doesn’t work as well around here is that there are lots and lots of small business owners and commuting by public transportation and/or bike is not going to work too well. When you are visiting clients, you don’t want to show up there all sweaty, or be late because the bus or metrorail was late. It’s not all about the battle between the car culture and the bike culture. The car culture is going to win out every time.

    We have to come up with a reasonable way to let everyone use whatever way they want to commute in a safe way. If it means that the traffic has to slow down a bit by making the lanes a little narrower so that we can have more bile lanes, then so be it.


  7. Rog in Miami Gardens says:

    Hmmm… It seems that we need to follow the money on this report. I bet it was funded by either the auto industry, Big Oil or firms that specialize in road-building. I smell privatization scheme. Lol

    Dave hit the nail on the head. Clearly, the person who penned this foolishness has no clue of the dire state of roads in our region. The other day, I thought the bus driver was going to lose control of the vehicle after running over this huge crater in the road that made such a loud bang that we all thought there was a tire blowout. The current roads have fallen into disrepair, due to over-usage; this, despite the fact that so much money is set aside to upkeep them. How in the world are we going to maintain additional roads and highways if we can hardly upkeep the current ones?


  8. Anonymous says:

    Last time I checked being libertarian meant you you were conservative/republican (or has Ron Paul renounced the republican party??)

    The article didn’t make ANY good points. it serves to show how ignorant some of these think tanks can be when narrowly applying their philosophy to an important public policy debate. I’m all for limited government – but there are some things that government can do, and provide greater transit options is one of them.


  9. Rog in Miami Gardens says:

    @ Anonymous.
    Exactly. Also, I am very suspicious of this notion that small government means a better life. The fact of the matter is that most Libertarians just don’t want to pay taxes, but still want to magically enjoy the prosperity that a relatively progressive tax structure brings. This Ayn Rand/Milton Friedman, social darwinianism nonsense is part of the reason we continue to experience these “boom-bust” economic cycles.


  10. Free Transit says:

    Through $trillions in subsidy the auto-sprawl system has critical mass. Therefore politicians have cover to solve “emergencies” by building/fixing roads. The way to break this critical mass is to have fare-free urban buses.


  11. Steven says:

    Brody, according to the census, it was actually about 6% commuting via transit in Miami-Dade and 12% in the City of Miami. These are also old numbers, and I am sure the % has increased in recent years. Yes, these are not substantial numbers, but just as most of the other commenters and Tony have mentioned, this is much more a consequence of auto-oriented planning than it is because transit is inherently a poor transportation option.

    Regarding the Reason Foundation, very few planners/urbanists take them seriously about transportation policy after years of ridiculous reports largely funded/supported by the automobile-industrial-complex and published by authors like Randall O’Toole that have been complete with number-fudging and statistical manipulation. There have been countless reports by many other organizations and think tanks that have picked apart Reasons’ fallacious transport research and put it in its’ place. In fact, normally I would argue that these folks are so far on the fringe that we are doing them a service just by feeling the need to discredit them; however, the sad reality is that capital highway growth and expansion continues to significantly outpace capital transit growth/expansion in Miami-Dade/South Florida even as obvious as it is that this is NOT the answer.


  12. Prem says:

    Reason is an Objectivist Think Tank. That makes them only partially libertarian.


  13. Anonymous says:

    I was talking to a friend who works in planning in Calgary, in Canada..
    He was telling me that most highway spending has been drastically reduced and most funding is going to bike and transit planning.

    Most industrialized countries have noticed and have taken action…Not only in terms of efficiency, but also in the environmental impact of car-centered planning
    I don’t understand why it is so difficult to change the mentality here in the US.


  14. Mike Moskos says:

    i thought of this tonight when I got off a nearly empty Tri-Rail train coming into Miami at 9:30pm. It was a DMU train with 3 cars and while it probably had the normal amount of passengers, the much larger DMU cars left a lot of empty seats for the same number of passengers. Normally the train running at this time is pretty full, though I almost never have to sit next to or across from someone.

    In most businesses, bonuses are tied to increases in profit. Maybe local government needs to begin giving bonuses (substantial ones at that) for increased ridership, especially full-fare ridership. Give them more incentive to get riders and watch how they do the little things that increase ridership.

    I want to see transit full (even though I personally enjoy the empty seats around me).


  15. Angel says:

    All new major transportation projects are geared towards making a profit. These projects have limited access (express) and attempt to attract the upperwardly mobile commuter. Tri-Rail, MDX, and 95 Express fall in this category. By design, their main purpose is revenue collection NOT congestion reduction. The money generated pays for administration but is barely enough to operate the system. That’s where the rest of us come in. Everyone actually pays for the system that only a salary-enhanced minority will use.

    That’s why we won’t see a transit rail line in congested areas like Miami Beach or Kendall or the Biscayne Boulevard corridor. These would carry more riders and make more stops. All “kinds” of paying riders. Who wants to ride on the same train with “those people”?


  16. Prem says:

    Strong words Angel, indeed.
    Although these agencies really should ALWAYS worry about making profits, or else we’re going to invest in a system we’ll be paying for long after it’s been torn down.


  17. Angel says:

    A widely used transportation system will always be profitable. If you’re looking towards profit from the start, on paper, an express route with a high-price look great. However, in practice, a route with more stops through areas of high density will make more money.

    95 Express under government ownership will never be “paid off”. Under private ownership it would go bankrupt without subsidies. The revenue will never pay for the investment. It will never do anything to stop congestion.

    So we lower our expectations and try to break even. Not possible for private sector. For goverment, the only solution is to increase ridership. That’s only possible by targeting high density areas. Metrorail extensions to those high density areas and free advertising on all public properties would have the system close to breaking even.

    This blog should do a page where we could try out the numbers for a 95 Express route and a transit rail solution. We shouldn’t pit them against each other since they have separate markets: suburban/regional and urban, respectively.


  18. Angel says:

    I meant to say “should” instead of “will”. You know, since I didn’t create the universe myself.


  19. Prem says:

    Angel, you bring up a really interesting point about public vs. private transportation options.
    I’m going to address it elsewhere though, so look out for my comment on the blog


  20. Anthony says:

    @Anonymous(first one). Ron Paul is a Libertarian-Republican, as opposed to a conservative republican. Just like there are Liberal Democrats and Blue Dog Democrats. The only reason he’s in the Republican party is that a 3rd party will never have a chance to get in the debates unless they are a Ross Perot or something. The 2 parties own the complete ystem, and they don’t want anyone else in their club. Believe you me, I despise the Republican party, and despise the democrat party even more.

    @Rog, you are confused about libertarians. The reason foundation gets 95% of it’s funding from individuals, not from some corporate conglomerate special interest group. The article has many valid points. But you seem to be biased against it from the get go, so no matter what, it will always be wrong in your mind, so there is no way of convincing you otherwise. Also, As a true libertarian, you are partially correct. I don’t like paying taxes on my Income and property. I do, on the other hand support use taxes. Services at the local and state level need to be funded. But they should be funded by use taxes, sales taxes, levees and fee’s.

    There are several reasons that we have a car culture here in this country. If cyclists want more lanes, like I do, we should be paying use taxes on everything bike related. That way we can have all the bike lanes we want. We shouldn’t have to force people that don’t care about bike lanes and public transportation to pay for it. Since I am a cyclist, and do want to have bike lanes, I wouldn’t mind forking the money over for it.


  21. Angel says:

    Bike lanes are just a couple of feet added on the side with some striping. I don’t see why it should add the price of a new roadway and large resurfacing jobs.

    I wouldn’t mind my tax dollars going to it. I don’t use them but it keeps cyclists safe(r) and out of the way. And it’s way better than wasting the money on traffic circles on unfrequently-driven residential streets.

    For roads that are just too narrow, they should redesign sidewalks to accomodate cyclists. It probably would’ve saved the man hit on the Rickenbacker.


  22. Realist says:

    Less than 4% of the population in South Florida uses mass transportation. More importantly less than 1% of residents making $35,000 or more use mass transportation.

    The reasons are well known and obvious.


  23. Angel says:

    Dear “Realist”, statiscal percentages are made up 50% of the time. Those are just facts and facts are just opinions and opinions can be wrong. Opinions are just excuses to not do anything, ever.

    The approximate numbers for Miami-Dade County, not regional areas, should be compiled on that blog page I suggested above. It should include approximate population, registered vehicles, median income, registered drivers, number of cross-county commuters, etc.


  24. Angel says:

    I just discovered something that someone probably already discovered some time ago. There are pedestrians on the William Lehman Causeway, NE 192 Street/State Road 856. It’s a large roadway that links Aventura to Sunny Isles Beach. Three lanes wide on the average and very good in and out access with an average speed of 55 MPH… but no access for pedestrian. None.

    But I always see people on the causeway. Jogging or walking, even with strollers. Most of them seem to be heading for the mall but it’s anyone who needs to cross to the mainland and back again.

    Maybe the state could add sidewalks and barriers to this road. Or maybe they could provide a pedestrian bridge/drawbridge alongside this road. I’m stopping short of suggesting a tunnel, hoping everyone got the idea already.


  25. Mike Moskos says:

    Here’s an interesting documentary on the effort move us from street cars (light rail) to cars.

    Why spend your money on nice place to live when you can have your whole living room on wheels (with lots of subsidies to help you move it around)?


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