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.)
I thought it would be nice to start the week off with some hope - there seems to be a lot of it going around. Last week was a roller coaster ride for transit advocates across the country. From Seattle to the Twin Cities, everyone was asking what transit solutions could be expected from the first wave of stimulus projects (yes - I said first wave), and while the initial draft was not great a piece of shit, I am proud to say that one of our leaders - Mayor Carlos Alvarez - finally put his thinking cap on. Reading the letter and revised stimulus project list, I was filled with hope. After being ignored and mismanaged for so many years, our transit system has an advocate in Mayor Alvarez. His blueprint puts transit front and center, stating that constructing the Orange Line is a priority. Bravo!
By asking for funds to complete the Earlington Heights Connector to the airport, along with $93 million worth of maintenance requests, Mayor Alvarez has made a huge shift in how the County perceives its responsibility toward providing transit alternatives. The Intermodal Center and Earlington Heights connector should never have been funded by the PTP without matching Federal Dollars (rather than funding the entire project with Trust dollars with some state funds). Not only is it shovel ready, but getting funds for this project would free up revenue for Phases 2 and 3 of the Orange line. Similarly, the maintenance projects listed will also help improve MDT’s fiscal future.
Now reality: most transit dollars in the stimulus package (now listed as a meager $10 billion) are to be funneled to cities with existing transit systems (NY, DC, Chicago). In addition, it is still uncertain that money will be sent directly to local municipalities, and not highway hungry DOTs.
Either way: good job Mayor Alvarez! At least here at home, we have something to hope for…
According to this recent press release, the Miami City Commission has approved the Miami World Center, an ambitious nine block, 25-acre redevelopment project slated for the Park West neighborhood, just north of Downtown. The glitzy pictures streaming on the project’s website promise a very sleek, but pedestrian-oriented district that, if nothing else, will transform this part of the city.
I am quite familiar with this area as I bicycle through it on my way to work, and again on the way home. At present, the underutilized surface parking lots and vacant buildings only seem to add to the area’s blighted image. And given that the project is being built using the principles of Miami 21, it seems that its mixture of uses, pedestrian orientation, and public spaces will become a living example of how large scale development should be undertaken. That being said, the architecture looks like more of the same, but I guess in that way it is in keeping with Miami’s current aesthetic.
Adjacent to the Metromover, and within walking distance of the Metrorail the project’s transit friendliness is evident and will give residents and visitors opportunities to move without driving.
I don’t know how liquid the development team is at this point, but given current market conditions, they will have to overcome much to get this mega-project built and occupied with residents, tenants and businesses.
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.
- The Herald continues to report on the downward spiral that our transit plans have taken over the past few months years. We have been silent on the issue here at TM mostly because the whole debacle is just sickening. There isn’t much more to say other than our leaders have really dropped the ball on this issue. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know that plenty of other cities in this country are currently embarking on ambitious transit plans. Most cities have been slowly, but consistently, adding rail transit lines over the years. We have not, and are suffering now because of it. I have said it many times on TM: our leaders need to prioritize transit. It is a part of our public infrastructure that needs to be funded. It is as unacceptable to say we cannot afford to pay for our schools as for our transit. That is how important this needs to be. Somehow, other cities find creative ways to finance and build the projects they promise to voters. It’s a question of political will and it is non-existent here.
- The zoning around Metrozoo was officially changed to accommodate the new water park and hotel complex approved by voters in 2006. I’m not really a fan of this project because I don’t support giving public land to private developers, and less on this last stretch of contiguous pine rockland, but at least our zoo will benefit. This is an instance of a ‘megaplan’ that was conceived and approved by public referendum. I think that makes all the difference.
- The Sun Sentinel reports on declining funds available to road building projects. “From 2008 to 2012, the county estimates, gas tax revenue and impact fees, the major funding for Palm Beach County road building, will drop 48 percent. Road impact fees, which come from new construction, will drop to $7 million in 2012 from $42.8 million this year. As people drive less, gas tax revenue will fall to $33.3 million in 2012 from $35.3 million this year, planners say. Adding salt to the wound, Palm Beach County commissioners decided in June to supplement mass transit with $8 million of gas tax money designated for roads. They gave $1 million to Palm Tran to save weekend routes that were in danger of being cut and to keep fares low for low-income and disabled riders. For the first time, the county used gas tax money to pay its annual Tri-Rail subsidy, about $7 million. Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons said that after 20 years of putting money into building roads, more money now needs to be invested in alternative transportation. Alternative forms of transportation are going to have to be a priority because people can’t afford to drive long distances in their cars,” he said. Duh! Its nice to see that they are finally waking up in Palm Beach. Now we need our leaders to start doing the same. Raid road building funding for transit, and stop letting local municipalities use their 20% of PTP funds for road related improvements. Again, it’s a question of priority. We have long ignored our mass transit system, and it’s time to play catchup.
Photo of the Universal Gate 2100 Courtesy Cubic Transportation Systems
According to this article by Larry Lebowitz on the Miami Herald website, the Miami-Dade Transit Agency will be introducing SmartCard technology over the next year. The first fare boxes are scheduled to begin appearing in Metrobuses starting this month, with a systemwide roll-out to be completed by the end of 2009.
Gone will be the days of bus drivers inflating their fare counts at the Dadeland South Metrorail station on the Busway lines, as they manually press the button for Metropass customers. Here will be the days of discrete passenger counts at all stops, in order to provide information to the Federal Transit Administration, and, ostensibly to provide more accurate alignment of vehicle choice with the route.
The infosheet provided by the MDTA identifies Cubic Transportation Systems as the vendor the county has selected to implement this $42MM system. Above, you will see a likely candidate for a fare gate that will be replacing the turnstiles which have been in use since Metrorail’s opening in 1982. I’m certain that the county will, in the style of other transit systems around the country, raise a bar between gates to prevent people from climbing the gates.
One excellent feature of the system is that reloadable cards are available for all, with appropriate coding on the card for individuals who are eligible for discounts or free fares. Photo identification can be integrated into the SmartCards, which should eliminate the trading and forging of cards which has plagued the manual system currently in place.
Perhaps the best feature is that for the Average Jane or Average Joe, they will be able to purchase the cards at Ticket Vending Machines at all Metrorail stations, and they’ll be able to reload these cards much like a SunPass can be reloaded.
I recently had the chance to spend a whole day riding Tri-Rail (Fully Work Related) and finally got a good glimpse at the quantity of commuters who depend on this rather primitive commuter rail system daily. Last week, Tri-Rail averted a major financial crisis that would have slashed daily service from 50 to 20 trains and completely eliminated weekend service, thanks to only a 10% budget reduction by Palm Beach and Broward Counties. Another year of near optimal operation should allow the former fastest growing transit agency in the nation (2006) to continue to attract riders, in a time when public transit infrastructure is of paramount importance.
Ridership is up already 45% over June 2007. May saw a 25% increase, April 28% and March 22%. More than 157 companies signed up for the authority’s employer discount program in May — about 881 riders.
While travelining along the line, I noticed a few key areas where tri-rail could drastically improve its bottom line and service:
TOD: Currently Inexistent. This is my major focus in Regional Planning studies. Often times, I find that our problems are not necessarily the fault of poor transit policy but rather what we choose to do with the land around our transit centers. In Miami, this usually equates to fences, poor access, and inappropriate uses.
Parking: Currently free and very limited. Potential revenue source? There are several reasons why free parking poses many problems, even at transit stations.
Employee Parking: Seriously? This parking is largely unused and unnecessary.
Tri-Rail has received a year reprieve in which it must continue to attract a larger share of riders while working to better integrate itself with the South Florida Landscape. Most of the land use issues are largely out of the control of the agency but must still be addressed regionaly if we ever hope to make a sliver of change in our very autocentric lifestyles.
Larry Lebowitz, Miami Herald Transportation reporter, wrote last night in breaking news that the Miami-Dade Commissioners delayed their vote for a $0.50 hike in bus and train fares for Miami-Dade Transit. According to Lebowitz, the deferral puts more pressure on the mayor and the transit agency to find solutions to the current cash crunch faced by the agency, as well as to determine what promises can be salvaged from the 2002 People’s Transportation Plan campaign.
Also, in the article, Bruno Barreiro, the chair of the Commission, indicated that he is not against bringing a repeal of the $0.005 surtax, if any plans that would be forthcoming from the mayor and the transit agency were devoid of concrete plans on how to expand Metrorail as indicated in the original ballot initiative.
While the delay may mean a short-term gain for the increasing numbers of consumers of these services, it only puts off the pain of balancing the books into the future – if, in fact, this increase will balance them.
Unfortunately for those of us who do use transit, the demand elasticity just usually isn’t there for us to be able to choose an alternate means of conveyance. Especially with gasoline and diesel approaching, in some areas, $5.00 per gallon, many of us who use transit will take the fare hike in stride, and continue to use the services. $2.00 a ride, depending on length, isn’t all that bad, and it is in line with the single-rider fare of other major metropolitain areas.
Where the commission should watch out, however, is with the price of the Metropass. A fare hike from $75 to $100 will put the price of the pass out of reach of many of those who buy it, and might discourage companies that currently pay for part or all of their employee’s commute from keeping this benefit. Also of note here is that a $100 monthly pass will put the cost of this pass at or near the top of the list nationwide.
We apologize for being slow to comment on the recent Herald series about the People’s Transportation Plan disaster. Everyone at Transit Miami has been extremely busy as of late, but we’ll definitely have several pieces in the coming days and weeks discussing many of the elements referenced by Larry Lebowitz’s multi-part series.
This video provides us with a glimpse of Miami’s first Transit Oriented Development, conceived in the 80s at the Kendall Station of the southern terminus of the metrorail system. This video kicks off a series of articles which will be aimed at discussing TOD…
The County Commission decided to delay its vote Tuesday on the proposed transit hikes. I commend Carlos Jimenez and others for seeing that the issue had to be reconsidered. As Gabe mentioned earlier in the week, the monthly pass really needs to be consistent with the size/reach of our transit system (not higher than NYC). Not to mention that the last thing you want to do when ridership is up is to increase fares, but the fact is that the system needs to be funded. Unfortunately I think that this discussion is just the latest in a series of bad management and planning decisions that keep our holding our transit back.
It has been a tumultuous time for Miami-Dade transit recently. The result of poor vision, bad management, and professional incompitance, the transit system is currently on life support. (This all with record high transit ridership on Tri-Rail reported today!).
The recent allocation of PTP tax dollars for the refurbishment of existing cars (and purchase of new ones) is indicative of the state of our transit. If the Trust hadn’t stepped in and bailed out MDT there would not have been anywhere to get the money from. In other words once the metro cars reached their lifespan they would have been tossed and we would have a really expensive piece of civic art. By not rehab-ing the cars some time back (as Baltimore did with its metro cars) the Commission basically put itself in a position where they had to buy new cars or close up shop. Not to mention the message it sends to Washington: that we aren’t serious about competing for transit dollars. As if the Orange Line didn’t have enough funding problems, this just adds to how disorganized the MDT is. When the feds look at our existing system and see that it is mismanaged, what incentive do they have to give us money when there are plenty of other cities out there that are serious about mass transit.
The Orange Line debacle is yet another indication of how flawed our system is. We are eligible for lots of free money to help build this line, and we are at risk of losing it because we don’t know if we can maintain the line for the next 30 years? Really?? Lets not even mention that the Feds are already miffed that we are going to downgrade our Tri-Rail service after giving us nearly half a billion dollars for track upgrades.
Whew. Where does that leave us with oil closing in on $150/barrel (and soon thereafter $200, and $250. and $300…)? We need our transit system more than ever. We need a successful transit system now, not under the 50 year plan, but the five year plan.
Truth is if our planners and elected officials were as serious about transit as they were about highway and road building we would already have a really great transit system. I think it would be a surprise to many here in our car-centered culture that plenty of other post-war suburban cities have developed amazing transit systems over the past fifteen years.
Incidentally, I had lunch with a buddy of mine named Dave who happily takes the bus everyday from his house in Kendall to work in Coral Gables. He tried to explain to me why transit works for him but not for his dad (who won’t take the bus to save his life). “Its really easy for me. It’s mostly a straight shot with one transfer. But my dad works five minutes away from his house. It’s easier for him to just get in the car and go. Transit can’t take us everywhere.” Now Dave is my friend so I didn’t reach over the table and smack him around, but that’s exactly the attitude that pervades our culture and is bred from policy decisions made at the top.
Our elected officials need to understand:
We NEED transit alternatives to the car.
We DESERVE multiple forms of transit that are safe, frequent, and far reaching without having to get into the car.
We need transit NOW.
If the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority is forced to cut trains, the authority — and even the state, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties — could face a $275 million lawsuit by the Federal Transit Administration, Tri-Rail officials fear.
Only in Miami/South Florida does a transit agency face a lawsuit from the Federal Transit Administration for reduced local funding for transit. How do we think this decision will affect Miami-Dade’s attempts to secure funding for the north corridor? Let’s ask “Pepe” Diaz what he thinks:
“If we’re cutting routes locally,” [“Pepe” Diaz] said, “where are going to get the funding for Tri-Rail?”
That’s the spirit, justify the Tri-Rail cuts with our own local stumbles.
Follow this link to send emails to our local senators in support of Tri-Rail…
This is the first of our new Guest articles section on Transit Miami…
London’s Docklands Light Rail System
Riding a transit system does more than give you a feel for the city you’re in; If you’re a transit buff, you also notice things about the system itself, and compare it to other systems you’ve ridden in other cities, and, naturally, to the one in your hometown. Sometimes, one even gets to compare 2 very different modes of Transit operating in tandem.
Miami’s Metrorail and metro mover systems provide such an opportunity for Transit buffs, but London’s Underground and the Docklands light rail system provide another, more intense comparison, for while Miami’s transit systems are arguably under-utilized, London’s are anything but.
London’s Underground and DLR also represent perhaps the 2 most innovative transit systems in the world, operating with great connectivity with one another, Yet it’s important to note the distinctions between the two systems, because they so closely reflect the different environments in which they operate, and it’s a reminder of why it’s a good thing to see such systems in action, rather than simply read specifications and surf the web looking at pictures and route maps.
The London Underground, a workhorse (mostly) underground heavy rail rapid transit system, is built for speed and moving massive amounts of people across a sprawling, densely populated metropolitan area. When the underground was built in the 1870’s, it was the world’s first urban rapid transit system, and London was already the world’s largest and most densely populated city. Then as today, investment in public infrastructure tended to lag behind population growth.
The Docklands Light Rail, or DLR as it is referred to, was a major investment conceived in the 1980’s to help stimulate the re-development of the Docklands region, the centerpiece of which was, and is the Canary Wharf financial district, which has grown to one of Europe’s finest and most modern business districts. The DLR provides a direct link to Central London from The Docklands region, which straddles the River Thames, and curves southeast of City of London, the oldest and most historic part of Central London.
The Docklands is a world away from the fashionable west end and stately neighborhoods and parks of Victorian London. It’s an area of many Riverfront Warehouses and factories, relics of England’s industrial age. It’s also an area which bore the brunt of the Blitz in World War II, and deteriorated for many years after as factories closed, and trade via the Thames dwindled. As Canary Wharf has grown into a shining, modern business district, the docklands area has seen many old riverfront factories and warehouses adaptively re-used for residential and commercial uses, and that process is far from finished.
Commuting on the DLR
As a veteran subway rider, I was already very familiar with the London Underground, it being the first subway I ever rode, and have ridden it extensively on a half dozen trips to London over the years. Last September I spent 6 days near Canary Wharf, and got to see and ride the Docklands LRT for the first time, commuting to Central London and connecting to the Underground on several occasions, and also to Canary Wharf from my hotel near the Excel Convention center.
In riding the system I marveled at it’s high ridership, which averages 200,000 commuters per day, impressive numbers for a light rail system by US standards, yet a small percentage of the overall ridership for Greater London. Even so, contrasting the Docklands area to other areas of densely populated central London, the DLR is very well suited for it’s lighter, but no less important share of London’s Transit load. To put it’s scale in perspective, the system length totals only 31 KM, with 38 stations, 8 of which transfer to Underground stations, 2 of which are northern terminus stations at Bank and Tower Gate, a short walk to the Tower of London. The system’s growth continues, however, and the Docklands area will be the site of many Olympic venues when the Olympics
come to London in 2012.
The DLR serves a smaller and less-densely populated area then the Underground, but with more frequent stops, and at necessarily lower speeds. It also utilizes existing freight railway rights of way to a large extent, often operating on at-grade-seperated railbeds, with station walkways straddling the DLR and Freight tracks.
The trains themselves automated 4-car trainsets, with compact 4 car platforms, and completely dedicated rights of way, mostly elevated, some at grade, and small sections of underground, most notably at the northern Tower Gate terminus.
Stations are unattended for the most part, with automated ticketing machines, and a modern, if slightly utilitarian appearance, in contrast to the victorian-era feel and appearance of the average underground station.
In it’s brief 20 year history, the Docklands light rail has grown from a single line into 4 seperate corridors, with additional infill stations added, and 6 additional transfer stations to the underground in addition to the original two, which also reflect the continuing growth of the Underground into southeast London as well.
The evolution of the DLR can be shown to pararell the re-development of the Docklands area, and as such, it provides a model for how a modern transit sytem can evolve and grow as a city grows, and serve as a stimulus for a highly urbanized area’s redevelopment. This lesson has many applications in North America, but the FEC corridor comes immediately to mind when visualizing how a similar system might work in a South Florida setting.
- Farecards are coming and we couldn’t be happier. MDT will spend $72 Million to finally upgrade the transit fare collection system, phasing out the cash only system for a new high-tech card. However, on the downside, MDT is also looking to increase fares to $2 among other things in order to improve the federal ratings of the proposed North and East/West expansions…
- Man who tried to commit suicide by rail this morning is alive and well, even after he was run over by 3 rail cars…
- Ana Mendez performs a mini experiment and finds that walking around downtown is easier than driving (duh!) I find it shocking how many Herald reporters don’t use transit regularly…
- The CITT has reversed its original decision to refuse the funding for new metrorail cars. We can likely kiss one (maybe two) of the original proposed extensions goodbye…
- Downtown Doral is rising…
- Rumor has it that the state is working on an incentive program to bring a new Hispanic owned airline to MIA as well as a reincarnation of Eastern Airlines…
- Here is another no-brainer: Rising Gas Prices Lead to Increase in Public Transportation…
- CITT will reconsider whether to vote for new Metrorail cars (Miami Today News)
- Central Grove to get street-level office space (Miami Today News)
- Plans for Metro Zoo theme park nearly complete (Miami Today News)
- Anti-Miami 21 Commissioner Regalado announces candidacy for Mayor (Miami Sunpost)
- More drama over the Miami mega-plan (Miami Sunpost)
- Metrorail controversy over “ghost posts” (Miami Herald)
- Cyclist win the right to sue FDOT for failing to implement bike lanes (Bike Blog)
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