In honor of President Obama’s announcement of Florida’s high speed rail grant money, I thought I would share what real high speed rail looks like. This is the JR Maglev, developed by the Japanese Railway company. Reaching maximum speeds of 581 kph - that’s 361 mph - this isn’t some sissy Amtrack 200 mph stuff. I doubt this is what we’re getting, but getting to Orlando in 1.5 hours is better than three or more.
See you real soon Orlando.
The New York Times released data today that shows that stimulus dollars for transportation and infrastructure ($26 billion over two years) have been used disproportionally in rural areas, leaving urban centers to scramble for much smaller quantities than they had originally hoped. In addition, the use of the money in urban areas has been wasted on non-transit related items:
The Times analysis shows that a little more than half of the stimulus money will be spent on “pavement improvement” projects, mostly repaving rutted and potholed roads. Nearly one-tenth of it will be spent to fix or replace bridges. More than a quarter of the money will be spent to widen roads or build new roads or bridges.
This is outrageous. Repaving? Widening roads? Where are the transit projects that we need? Our transportation system and its funding rules must be changed. If we had rules that kept the money from being used for these purposes, then the $26 billion would have been a great down payment on changing the status quot. Too bad. More money out the window, and all under the guise of employment. Please write to your representative and let them know this is not ok.
Back in March we reported that the city of Miami was using part of its $4.1 million ARRA transit stimulus money on implementing new local rubber-tire trolley service. Transit Miami contacted city officials to get more information about these important initiatives with regard to proposed routes, community outreach efforts, and future funding. Assistant City Manager Bill Anido and Transportation Coordinator Jose Gonzalez were helpful in providing the following description of the project, as well as the linked maps.
The City’s project consists of purchasing rubber-tire circulators/trolleys and ancillary capital equipment such as shelters/benches and signs to provide circulator service in the Downtown, Brickell, Coral Way, Allapattah, and Overtown communities. The proposed circulators will enhance both connectivity and frequency of transit service along their respective routes. The service will essentially consist of the following 5 circulator routes described below:
Downtown-Brickell Trolley: We are partnering with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to finalize the route and stops for the Brickell-Downtown Trolley which will connect to the Coral Way Trolley at the Brickell Metrorail/Metromover Station at SW 1st Avenue and proceed north along Brickell Avenue/Biscayne Boulevard serving the Brickell, Downtown, and Omni areas. We have currently undertaking a survey of area residents, employees, visitors, and students to gauge the community’s interest for an area trolley service. I am pleased to report that we have received over 400 surveys, thus far, with extremely favorable outcomes. In addition, for this trolley route, we are considering providing service during weekends and special events.
Coral Way-Brickell Trolley: The Coral Way-Brickell Trolley will operate along Coral Way serving all the commercial, retail, and residential establishments along the corridor. The service will terminate at the Brickell Metrorail/Metromover Station at SW 1st Avenue where a connection to the Downtown-Brickell Trolley will be provided; it may also connect to the City of Coral Gables Trolley system on Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Health District Trolley: The Health District Circulator will operate a 2-way loop to provide premium service to the Health District area, the second largest employment center in the City and County. This trolley will connect to the Civic Center Metrorail Station on NW 12th Avenue and to the Overtown and Allapattah loops described below.
Overtown-Health District Trolley: The Overtown-Health District Loop will provide premium service in the Overtown community via NW 3rd Avenue and will connect to the Health District Trolley. This connection will facilitate transit mobility between the Overtown community and numerous health care, judicial, educational, and civic institutions in the Health District.
Allapattah-Health District Trolley: The Allapattah-Health District Loop will provide premium service in the Allapattah community via NW 20th Street from NW 17th Avenue to NW 27th Avenue. This route, similar to the Overtown Loop, will connect to the Health District Trolley in order to facilitate a premium transit connection between the Allapattah community and the Health District, an area experiencing tremendous growth and a significant source of employment in the City.
This is a big step in providing the type of convenient local transit that is necessary to get people out of their cars and riding transit. If you live near one of the proposed lines, get involved! The city is looking to hear from residents on how they can make this a success, so if you have a comment or idea drop us a line at MoveMiami@gmail.com and we’ll forward it on! Stay tuned for more on the trolleys….
It was inevitable that it would happen - waste, greed and inane funding rules have led to some glitches in spending federal stimulus dollars.
Some municipalities are losing out on money because their projects do not qualify (as in the case of West Miami and their traffic calming circles) while other cities are spending the money on unnecessary projects so that they don’t lose out on the free money.
The City of Sweetwater is a great example of how the money is being wasted. They are repaving a stretch of 114th avenue when the administration has publicly said that other local projects are in greater need of repair.
“Though we’re grateful for the funding, we would much rather use this stimulus money on roads that really need the repairs,” Mayor Manny Maroño said. “But this is what we’re allowed to do with the money, so we really don’t have a choice in the matter.”
You do have a choice Mayor Maroño, don’t take the money! Let other local municipalities use the money for projects that are actually useful. The real problem with the ARRA funds is that they are bound to rules that favor roads with higher capacity, feeding the car-centric method of planning in this country. Money can only be used on roads that service a certain capacity at the expense of other more worthy projects (like those that reduce capacity or slow traffic down). What we need is to get away from a ‘Level of Service’ metric for measuring roadway success to one that takes into account walkablility and transit. Until then we’ll just keep repaving the same roads over and over and over.
Maybe I should go into road paving. Seems like that business is doing just fine.
- What a coincidence: seems like transit financing is a problem in NY where a combination of dropping real estate tax, sales tax, and state tax revenues are putting the MTA in the red. The conclusion reached in the article: we need more government subsidy to make up the difference.
- President Obama is moving to undo Bush era changes to weakening enforcement of the Endangered Species Act. I thought this was interesting, considering our own problems with ignorant state legislators trying to do away with growth laws in the name of commerce. “But in a statement, Bill Kovacs, the vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, condemned the action as an unreasonable interference with needed projects.”
- Marlins Stadium Update: A new bill is on the floor of the state legislature that would require a county referendum on the use of tourist dollars for the stadium, even as City and County leaders shuffle meetings and complain about each other. Mayor Alvarez is pissed about the way negotiations have been going….join the club dude. Then there is the reappearance our friend Glenn Straub who is offering the old Miami Arena site as an alternative. I like it. This would allow the city to reduce its investment in parking by relying on its existing downtown parking supply. And don’t forget there will already be a neighborhood growing up around the Park West thanks to the Miami WorldCenter project. And it has transit connections. And it frees up the Orange Bowl site for other purposes (can anyone say Manny Diaz Memorial Park?) BUT we still don’t know all the details, and you know what they say about details…
- Miami-Dade is getting serious about skate parks. Cool.
- Those state legislators - what schizophrenia. While trying to undo growth laws (a bad move) they go and push ahead with the recently named Sunrail (a really good move). “He pegs the price of SunRail at close to $1billion. But that is a bargain, SunRail enthusiasts say, when compared to the estimated $7billion it would cost to add one lane in either direction to Interstate 4 for the 61.5 miles covered by the train.” Sounds convincing to me. This is really cool, and will hopefully coincide with the Obama administration’s push for a national intercity railway network. Tamiami trail here we come.
- The FTA just released the Federal Register Notice describing the allocation of the $8.4 Billion transit stimulus. More on this later….
Today on recovery.gov:
President Obama and Transportation Secretary LaHood have announced that $27 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds are headed to states to provide critical repairs to our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges.
Remember this is just for highways - there is an additional amount for mass transit/high speed rail. As Mike pointed out the devil is in the details of how local governments are spend this money - some prefer expansion projects, others overdue maintenance. Miami’s share of the highway funds totals about $124 Million, but we still don’t know how these funds will be used because the process has been less than transparent (some would say opaque). (FYI: “Transportation Enhancement is a legally defined term for projects such as sidewalk repairs, bicycle paths, and beautification projects.” We have between $5-6 Million coming in for this - check out list 5 for possible projects.)
In other news, the FTA has posted preliminary allocations for the transit portion of ARRA. Miami should receive $5 Million for fixed guide-way infrastructure investment, and $139,733,611 for transit capital assistance (for expansion or preventive maintenance). There are other grants that are up for grabs, but with MDT’s abysmal track record attracting federal dollars, I don’t think they are capable of bringing home the pork. This year Section 5309 New Starts Federal allocation for MDT will be $0.00 out of a possible $430 Million. (To be fair there is a $42 Million for transit capital assistance in FY’09 under a separate program.)
Then there’s this:
…only projects that have received acceptable project ratings in the New or Small Starts process are eligible for the funding.
Well, there goes any possibility for funding phases II and III of the Orange Line.
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