This week’s Streetwise Column by Herald Reporter Larry Lebowitz, presented an “innovative” new use for Miami-Dade’s Busway program. We’ve taken some time to mull over the basics of the plan over the past few days (apparently so have a number of you based on the number of emails I received) and have prepared an analysis of the project based on the data Larry provided in the article.

Imagine widening the Busway from two lanes to four and giving buses and carpoolers with at least three passengers a free ride.

It is a stretch of my imagination, that is for sure, but from the looks of it, this does not seem like a promising solution for South-Dade commuters. Granted, the Busway is far from perfect, but adding lanes, albeit managed lanes, is hardly the solution to an ever-growing congestion problem.

Instead of encountering dozens of incredibly looooooong lights at the busy cross streets on today’s Busway, imagine flying over all the major intersections as the government guarantees a reliable 50-mph journey from Dadeland to Florida City or the turnpike interchange near Southwest 112th Avenue.

The sad part about this is that some sort of “benefit” has to be presented for motorists in order to shore up the funds to marginally improve the transit infrastructure. I guess that is one of the major issues we have to deal with when we have a President who in his next financial deficit (that is not a budget) wants to reduce an already anemic transportation fund by $3.2 billion. One major question remains: What is going to happen to all of those cars not going to Dadeland or the Palmetto when they merge back onto a US-1? We cannot honestly expect all these folks to suddenly abandon their cars and hop on Metrorail, can we? Or will the lanes be extended north into downtown, continuing to undermine the reason why Metrorail was constructed along US-1 to begin with - to get people out of their cars.

A similar variably priced tolling plan is about to be introduced on a 24-mile segment of Interstate 95 between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. They are also planned for the expanded Interstate 595 in Broward.

True. However, I do not think drawing comparisons between US-1 and limited access highways is fair. HOT lanes are a novel concept for the highway scenario, but not along a corridor where driveways and intersections all interfere.

Not only could it provide a little relief to the normal wall-to-wall madness on the overburdened South Dixie corridor, but it could also finally fulfill the Busway’s original promise: real rapid transit.

Once again, see our unrelated qualms above on transportation spending as a whole in this country. It’s deplorable!

”Without a strong transit component, this doesn’t work,” said Javier Rodriguez, executive director of the expressway authority.

Amen!

Elevated intersections will incite plenty of sturm und drang from communities along the Busway. The neighbors must be mollified, especially if Transit is forced to relocate its stations away from the intersections to maintain easy street-level access for riders.

Wow, you can say that again. Most of these communities have already reduced the allowable density along US-1 making Mr. Rodriguez’s point listed above extremely difficult to accomplish. Transit needs to treat any further upgrades to this project as a rail project, bringing with that the power to enact land-use changes for the corridor that will continue to prepare it for future rail transit, increase bus ridership, and lay a foundation for preventing future westward and southern sprawl. Without a massive overhaul of the land around the Busway, this corridor will never realize the transit ridership necessary to fund such a project.

Besides noise walls and landscaping, some must-dos:

Whoa, noise walls are a definite must-do-not. This project needs to entwine the Busway (future railway) as much as possible with the surroundings, not create an inhospitable environment for those walking, biking, or using transit.


All plans must leave a pocket for future light rail or Metrorail within the 100-foot corridor as the Busway was originally intended. It might take 30 to 50 years to get trains there, but that’s what the people were promised and the bulk of the growth is already occurring down there.

Definitely! Can’t stress this point enough.


The plan must set aside money to re-time all of the signals for cross-street traffic trying to get onto and across U.S. 1 under the elevated intersections.

This is something MDT/MPO should do now to give the 15,000 daily transit riders a surefire benefit to riding the Busway. Which reminds me, what exactly is MDT up to these days?

An expanded Busway must mesh with the community charettes aimed at future redevelopment of Princeton, Naranja and Goulds into transit-oriented development villages.

Ditto for preserving the existing bike path and enhancing pedestrian access to and from the Busway.

Once again, we cannot stress how important this is. These details will ultimately make or break a project like this. Take Metrorail for example, it is a great transit system but the surroundings are beyond lousy.

The point of this article was not to criticize Streewise or Larry Lebowitz - after all he’s just the messenger - but rather to condemn a plan which is seemingly being hailed as the golden ticket for fixing congestion. The fact of the matter is, for any real change to come of any of these plans (Metrorail, Bay Link, Miami Streetcar, Busway included) we need to push for land use changes more favorable to living lifestyles which are not automatically governed by the necessity of owning a vehicle.

9 Responses to Busway-HOT Lane Combo is Smog and Mirrors

  1. Steven says:

    One of the things I have come to notice in discussing this matter with others is that we are not utilizing the busway propperly as it is. Busses do not travel only the length of the busway, but leave it in spots and come back on. Even worse is that there is a route which travels just the busway but it comes to metrorail very infrequently.

    In order for the busway to be more successful, they need to run the buses on it more frequently and only on the busway. In doing so, the municipalities along the run can use their portion of the PTP money to start running circulators off the busway stations.

    Given how poorly run the current busway is and how anxious private drivers are to drive on it, I really become more and more against buiding any other busways in this county. Until we can figure out how to properly utilize the current system, people will continue to consider all transit in Miami to be a major failure. At present, the busway is just a road on which busses drive. It feels as though it is being treated less as a viable transit alternative and more like a way to get busses out of the way of our cars. This is not how it should be.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Are there any plans to expand HOT lanes say on Kendall Dr. or 152nd Ave?

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  3. Anonymous says:

    You gotta love the Miami transport mentality. Build a busway and then fill it with cars. Maybe when South Florida is 10 foot under water the city will start thinking of ways to reduce car traffic.

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  4. JM Palacios says:

    Last time I rode a Busway Bus, I noticed the signals seemed to prioritize the buses. The thing is, they still had detectors in the normal place where you would stop. So basically, the buses have to stop at the light to wait for the green. They do get the green right away, but they should not have to stop at all. MDT needs to invest in some new detection technology that allows buses to be sensed from a distance, and change the light based on their speed to turn green by the time they arrive close enough to hit the brakes. There should be no stopping or slowing down of the buses other than as needed for a stop.

    That’s all the Busway needs, not overpasses.

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  5. Johnny says:

    I lived right off of SW 152nd for many years. For about a year and a half I used the Busway. I would take an express bus, the metrorail, and then use the Coral Gables trolley to get to work. Total trip time was about an hour and a half. Then I started using the Busway, and the Metrorail. Total trip time there was about an hour and fifteen minutes. Instead of allowing cars to drive on the Busway, why not improve it? Add more busses! As Steven said, only then could we add circulators to drop people off at the stations. Instead of spending millions on elevated intersections, synchronize the traffic signals more efficiently. I also DO NOT understand why it is going to take 30-50 years to build the Metrorail extension to Homestead. In 30-50 years we will be stuck in 5 hour traffic jams just to get to downtown Miami.

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  6. JMD says:

    The same thing happened in Los Angeles with the El Monte Busway. First it was just for buses then carpools were added. The last time I rode down it the traffic was heavier in the busway than on the regular freeway.
    Makes you wonder why the FTA is pushing BRT so much. Is it so they can use the bus only lanes for other things?

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  7. Anonymous says:

    If this is a way to get car drivers to pay for transit development. I agree. The Feds have no money, the County has too many priorities, and the state is looking to reduce funding. I say let single occupant vehicles pay a premium to ride the busway and dedicate the revenues to future transit expansion to South Dade. In the meantime, if the intersection congestion can be solved and the quality of life restored to surrounding communities, go for it.
    Just my opinion.

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  8. Steven says:

    There are much better ways to make cars pay for transit development than bastardizing the busway. Even more, the Fed doesn’t have money because they mis-alocate it towards highway development and expansion rather than transit projects. The state is just as bad since they tend to be more Central Florida oriented than South Florida. Even more, right now county money seems to be heading in the general direction of a marlins stadium.

    The real dilemma that we face is that the half-cent sales tax increase was not adequate. People will not fund any more of an increase now because it appears that MDT has some management problems and several of the key projects that were promised with the half-cent plan have either been sent back to planning or have been drastically watered down. The end result is people do not trust the county to give them more tax revenue. Even more, voters would rather approve quick fixes to their economic problems such as the homestead exemption change, which is expected to take somewhere around $97-million from the county tax collection. The financial situation the state and county are in are primarily the fault of the taxpayers themselves.

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  9. Ryan Sharp says:

    Excellent analysis Steven.

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