Currently viewing the tag: "Bay Link"

Miami today is reporting that work on the $1 billion port tunnel has (unofficially) begun. Environmental work is underway and rigs have been set up on MacArthur Causeway’s median to begin taking soil samples. The project officially breaks ground in May and will take approximately 4 years to complete.

Not only will we have a very questionable new port tunnel, but according to Ms. Alice Bravo district director of transportation for FDOT, a new lane of traffic is planned in each direction of the MacArthur Causeway. Do we really need another lane of traffic in each direction? Wouldn’t it be better to instead bring Baylink into the transportation mix?  This would also be a great opportunity for FDOT to include a protected greenway in each direction on the MacArthur Causeway. Expanding the roadway to accommodate more cars is not the solution; providing more transportation options is the answer.

I recieved this email from TM reader Gerardo Vildostegui:

Dear Transit Miami,

I hope you’ll consider writing a reply to this column by Daniel Shoer Roth.

Shoer Roth is a friend of mass transit and has written often (mostly in El Nuevo Herald) about the problems with sprawl and with auto-oriented development in South Florida.  But this article seems to suggest that what Miami Beach needs is more parking-which can’t be right.  If you can bring him over to the anti-parking viewpoint that would be a huge win.

Thanks Gerardo. Daniel, who is a friend of Transit Miami and usually a great advocate for transit, falls into a trap familiar to neighborhood groups and civic leaders alike: blaming parking supply for problems that come along with urban development. Let’s get this out of the way: the problem with the cost of parking on Miami Beach is not that there is not enough parking, but that there is no other viable way for people to get around without a car.

Now to explain: it seems counter intuitive, but a similar logic applies to parking supply as to road traffic volume: there is a finite capacity, so we need to be proactive in setting the level of parking we want based on established data and goals, not simply as a knee-jerk reaction to the perception of expensive parking. Comparatively speaking, parking in Miami Beach should be more expensive than it is when one accounts for the hidden costs of car ownership (such as pollution, decreased quality of life, pedestrian and cyclist death/injury, blight in communities affected by highways..etc),- not to mention the fact that the initial cost of constructing parking is subsidized in some way by the consumer.

In his seminal work “The High Cost of Free Parking” parking guru Donald Shoup describes the problem best:

Parking is free to the driver for most vehicle trips. Free, but not cheap. According to evaluations by Mark Delucchi of the University of California at Davis, we spend about as much to subsidize off-street parking as we do on Medicare or national defense. The additional driving encouraged by free parking also increases traffic congestion, air pollution and accidents. To fuel this extra driving, we import more oil, and pay for it with borrowed money.

Daniel does what many normal people do, which is to take aim at the problem of parking and its cost by blaming “the lack of development regulations” rather than addressing  the fundamental problem which is the lack of transit infrastructure. We have seen what the future looks like when we oversupply cheap parking: Dadeland Mall circa 1975 - parking lot city.

Daniel the real answer to your ‘parking crisis’ lies not with regulating development, as advocate Frank DelVecchio suggested in your column, but with the future of the stagnant People’s Transportation Plan, and how the lack of a new agenda for PTP expansion has led the feds to pass us over on (potentially) the biggest federal investment in urban mass transit in twenty years.

The real question you should be asking is what happened to Bay Link, and are we ever going to have a functional transit system?

Transportation infrastructure is all connected. Parking, roads, sidewalks, bike lanes, highways, metro-rail - they are all interconnected, and cannot be adjusted piecemeal without affecting the entire system. Most of our mobility problems have to do with lack of transit options.

The real lesson to be learned from Daniel’s parking crisis is that infrastructure is expensive. Someone has to pay for infrastructure - if the end user doesn’t pay, then who foots the bill? Cash strapped cities are going to be less likely to fund transit expansions without a change in the way we pay for/ value transit service.  We should be setting the value of transit, as we do with parking - only in a way that reflects its cost. Daniel doesn’t want to pay for parking what is costs, only what he deems it to be worth - which is not much, yet we charge him for it anyway. Why not do the same for transit?  If we charged for transit what it was worth - and provided a better experience for the end user - we would have a much more successful transit system.

Not to mention people like Daniel would have a solution to their parking crisis - take the train!

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Below is an excerpt from an email I received this morning from my friend, an occasional bus commuter from Miami Beach to Downtown Miami.

Dude,

I took the bus this morning. Let me bore you with the details. Because my parking permit at Miami-Dade Community College expired (the court provides no parking for clerks), and I have to re-register for a summer class (that I do not need to take) to get access to the world’s crappiest parking lot, I took the bus. I missed the bus, waited 20 minutes, and finally caught the C.

When i got on the bus, i sat in the back, and guy with long hair covered in tattoos sitting on a bag of crushed cans began grooming his hair. He untied his ponytail and ran his fingers through his hair. It smelled like a barn. Hair went everywhere. Naturally, I moved to where a spot had opened up in the front row. As soon as I sat down I noticed the guy in front of me, a guy probably in his 30s who hadn’t paid to get on the bus (I heard the driver yelling at him when he got on, but she still let him on) took up 4 seats, lying sideways in handicap accessible row, with his legs and arms splayed. He had a crumpled 20 dollar bill in his hand, which he took out and put away in his pocket several times, and he smelled like Monday’s booze. He tried talking to me a few times. I ignored him for a while and eventually said, “I’m listening to my headphones, sorry” which was true, in a pissed off voice with my sunglasses still on. In response, or so it seemed, he took out a comb and began scrubbing his head like a brillo pad in front of everyone. The bus stopped every 30 seconds, and he never moved for anyone, and everyone accommodated him trying to pretend that all was normal because no one wanted to have to talk to him. The bus driver did nothing, naturally. Finally we got to the other side of the McCarthur Causeway and I’d had enough, so I got off right at the base of the exit ramp. I’ll walk 15 minutes to the office, I thought, just let me off. Also, I hate how the bus goes to the bus stop (Omni Station), which is a stupid mandatory detour for anyone commuting to downtown. Of course, my new friend decided to get off with me, then proceeded to follow me for about 5 blocks until he couldn’t keep up, at which point he fell behind and eventually out of my sight. I thought about turning and just popping him as hard as I could, but he was about 20 feet behind me the entire time so there was no need, and also, that’s not something I typically do.

I finally traverse my way through the streets of Miami, where cars zoom past me, where I see billboards and trucks but not one one coffee shop, restaurant, store, or habitable dwelling. Finally, as I get to the MDCC campus, which is right across the street from the courts, I see my same C bus pulling up. It’s the same speed as walking! Not on the causeway, but once you’re in Miami it moves at the same pace as a pedestrian (or at least, someone like me who walks rather fast).

The system is designed in such a way that people like me (i.e. employed, kind of a yuppie) give up because the mass transit is so inconvenient, slow, and disgusting. This is coming from someone who LOVED the subway system in NY and DC. In Miami, I’d rather wait in traffic, spend 20 minutes parking, and burn gas (btw, there’s no way it costs $3/day in gas to drive from SoBe to work and back - if they really wanted people to take the bus, they might want to make it cost effective), than have to deal with the bus situation each day.

OK, thanks for listening to my rant. I actually feel a bit better.

Yikes. Lucky for him, he won’t be enduring this much longer. He heads back to New York City towards the end of “summer.” I also suggested he try joining me in the bicycle commute sometimes soon. Unfortunately, his place of employment offers no showers and no reasonable place to change/store his clothes. Makes you wonder when that Bay Link might show up, huh?

Unfortunately, there are still some opponents of the Miami Streetcar who believe (or at least are arguing) that the overhead catenary wires won’t be able to hold up under hurricane-like conditions. As a result, they claim, the whole streetcar system is volatile to destruction and costly, time-consuming repairs. Some have even gone so far as to claim that the overheard wires would be hazardous during a hurricane. Well, today I’m happy to bust these myths once and for all.
First of all, it’s important to note that unlike historic trolleys and streetcars from the early twentieth century, which had complex webs of catenary wire strung above the streets, modern streetcars only need one, yes one, catenary wire on each street. With that in mind, there are much fewer wires to even consider when addressing hurricane compatibility concerns.

Without further ado, here’s a quote from the Miami Beach-sanctioned report for Bay Link, created by urban planning/engineering consultant firm Henningson, Durham, and Richardson (HDR):

“In places with LRTs and Streetcars that experience hurricanes (e.g., Houston, Tampa, San Juan), there has not been an incident where live catenary wires have injured anyone during high winds. The protocol is to turn the power systems off when winds reach sustained gusts of 50 mph, and the poles holding the wires in place withstand hurricane winds of 110 mph, nearly twice the design standard for most light poles, telephone poles, street poles, etc.”

Keep in mind that HDR was hired by Miami Beach so the city could basically get a second opinion about the Bay Link corridor, since a select group of officials were so upset that world-renowned firm Parsons Brinckerhoff advocated an LRT option in the original Bay Link corridor report.

Now let’s take it a step further; here is a quote from the Miami Streetcar website FAQ section concerning fears about hurricanes and overhead catenary wires:

The streetcar infrastructure is subject to the hurricane code requirements required for roadway utilities. In the event of a hurricane that might impact the overhead catenary system, damaged cables will need to be replaced or repaired. Repairs of isolated breaks in the wire can be made within a couple of hours by splicing the two broken ends. Replacement of damaged hardware or wire can take longer depending on the extent of the damage. The City’s future Operations & Maintenance contractor’s compensation will be linked to streetcar system performance requirements intended to minimize and avoid service outages.


So there you have it. All streetcar infrastructure, including overheard wires, are required by law to be built to hurricane code for roadway utilities. If the streetcar wires go down, it’s a good bet that telephone wires did as well. Moreover, most often repairs can be easily fixed within a few hours. Sure, one could make the case that a category 5 hurricane could cause much more severe damage to the overhead wires, but a storm of that magnitude will also wipe out your home. The threat of catastrophic natural disasters is always present, but instead of succumbing to fear and a fortress-like mentality, we should design our infrastructure to be able to sustain mother nature’s blow and bounce back fast. The threat of an imminent major earthquake has certainly not stopped San Francisco from using trolleys.

Lastly, I want you to think about one more thing. Can you remember the last time that a hurricane squarely hit Miami, and didn’t wreak havoc on auto-oriented infrastructure (i.e. traffic lights, stop signs, road signs, etc - the critical and basic elements to a functional roadway system)?

Photos: HDR

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