Currently viewing the tag: "CSX"

Lets start by saying kudos to newly elected Commissioner Xavier Suarez for discussing the need for adequate transit in the county. Nothing like new blood to reinvigorate the discussion. Because of his push for new service on the FEC line along Biscayne, Commissoin Chairman Joe Martinez brought up a pet project of his own that he has conitinually tried to push over the past decade. While I’m happy that rail transit has joined the discussion, lets take an initial critical look at the plans being proposed and weigh them against the transit needs of Miami-Dade County residents.

Both projects use existing freight rail infrastructure with different technologies aimed at different types of transit usage. Overall, we are happy that the conversation is taking place; however, the ill conceived nature of the projects and the lack of coordination and vision points to the need for a holistic transit strategy - something we have been saying for some time.

Commissioner Suarez is looking at the FEC line that runs parallel to Biscayne for some form of rubber-tire ‘dual mode electric vehicles’ for local service.

As you might imagine, we here at Transit Miami think this is a big joke. While we applaud the rookie/veteran commissioner, we really urge him to support the current efforts to install transit service on the FEC via the SFECC study. This Tri-County study, has laid out several alternatives for transit service, and is pretty far along in the process. Transit Miami supports the urban-local alternative, which combines regional service (ala Tri-Rail) along with local light rail or MetroRail service. The rubber tire ‘dual mode’ transit idea is as hair brained as they come. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here, folks. The FEC goes through or adjacent to most of our urbanized areas. No need to be gimicky here - just provide run of the mill fixed-premium transit service and people will ride!

As for Commissioner Martinez’ plan to connect points south to the Tri-Rail Airport station (once it reopens) along a CSX ROW, this might be a good idea, but as with all plans, the devil is in the details. Do we really need to provide expensive transit service to some of the least dense and suburban locations in Miami-Dade County? I’m not sure. Extending Tri-Rail’s regional connectivity south is a good thing, but I’m not sure in this era of constrained municipal budgets that this project is more worthy than the FEC line, or other urban rail extensions like the Douglas Road MetroRail or Baylink. The pricetag to upgrade the line in 2006 dollars is $300 million, relative chump change compared to other transit project (or any road project), so that is not as much a concern to us as the cost to maintain the system. With yearly budget battles for scarce transit dollars, we need to be sure we build lines that we can afford to pay for - going to MetroZoo and points south may be a great idea in the long run, but as Commissioner Martinez said, “What is wrong with our mass transit system? It doesn’t loop and it doesn’t connect.” Will this line actually change that? Not really. (Not to mention that this ‘transit’ project is really about giving CSX an easier - and cheaper- freight connection out west on sensitive wetlands.)

CSX Freight Relocation Diagram

Lets continue to develop our urban rail network before making targeted investments in extensions to important points south and north and west. As with the MetroRail Orange Line along NW 27 Avenue, simply extending transit to the outer reaches of the county will not guarantee ridership - and will further induce suburban sprawl in areas to the far west and south. A better start would be to use the Ludlam trail from Dadeland Station to the Airport for light rail service (not bus). That would finally create a complete loop around Miami-Dade County, and set the stage for expansions to the suburban reaches of the county.

Ludlam Trail/FEC Transit Connection Study CTAC presentation, January 12, 2011

  • Sunrail special session update: seems like the powers that be are going to meet in December to discuss funding for SunRail and TriRail. “…every leader in Tallahassee has been told by the federal government: you’re not getting any money until Tri Rail gets a funding source,” said Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons, chairman of the board that oversees Tri-Rail. Good to hear. CSX has also agreed to revisit its liability demands.  (Orlando Sentinel)
  • Check out this cool tribute to architecture and urbanism guru Vincent Scully (one of my former professors from UM). (Hartford Courant)
  • Great editorial from Friday’s Herald about the Port of Miami: “As the closest U.S. port to the Panama Canal, the Port of Miami has much at stake. The port serves more than 20 shipping lines that call on more than 100 countries and 250 ports across the world. It contributes $17 billion annually and 176,000 direct and indirect jobs to the local economy.” Duh. Then why aren’t we serving the people who work and travel to the Port with adequate mass transit?
  • Glad someone is paying attention: Katy Sorenson is sponsoring a resolution to establish the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact between Palm Beach, Broward, Monroe, and Dade Counties.  (Miami-Dade)
  • Win for citizen involvement: Bruno Barreiro is sponsoring a resolution to direct the Mayor to develop a web-based application for legally required public notices or ads to appear on the County web portal. (Miami-Dade)

  • 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….

A couple of recent articles have brought attention to freight rail. Palm Beach Post’s Cone Zone posted that CSX now has a carbon calculator on its website to show just how much more environmentally friendly trains are than trucks. The Wall Street Journal also published an article today that mentions the environmental issue, but actually heralds the beginning of a “new era” of railroad expansion.

What? You mean trucks haven’t killed the railroad? Did someone tell Miami yet?

It’s impressive. Basically, rail went through an expansion boom in the late 1800s that ended in the mid 1900s with the construction of the interstate. Now, the interstates are crowded and dangerous, and diesel and other emissions are killing the environment; and the trucking dream is no longer looking so good. With skyrocketing gas prices, railroad companies are able to compete more easily with less fuel efficient trucking companies, and they have been expanding their rail systems in the past few years. In an interactive map, WSJ points to several ongoing improvement and expansion projects that are modernizing the nation’s freight rail system. Railroad companies are actually touting some of the same things that we do about passenger systems: rail expansion is an environmentally friendly alternative to expanding highways.

Perhaps we need to work together with the rail freight companies to persuade voters and politicians that rail is a better way. Meanwhile, we can sit back and see whether rail will compete with the Port of Miami tunnel after it opens.
Photo by Flickr user SP8254.

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In a post I published last week on the transit options available to the Kendall residents, our message may have been presented unclearly and biased towards the CSX rail option. I’d like to clarify this position and reiterate the true stance of Transit Miami on this hotly contested issue.

The CSX corridor was never meant to serve as a replacement to the Kendall Metrorail, LRT, or BRT, but rather operate in conjunction with the east-west option. The belief stems from our knowledge of the low upstart cost of the CSX rail, along with the increased benefit citizens in the Southern part of the Kendall region would experience, an area currently overlooked by all presented alternatives.

Now, we don’t fully support plans to bring transit to the Kendall Dr. corridor unless some drastic measures are taken to ensure that the area adjacent to the corridor is reestablished and rebuilt in a more accessible manner. Revitalizing the strip shopping centers, vast swaths of parking lots, Malls, and dwellings along the corridor will all be keys to its’ success and should not be overlooked in the planning stages. We would not want the transit system to be considered, approved, or funded unless preemptive measures are taken to ensure that Kendall Dr. itself will be transformed into a true urban area that is more hospitable to transit oriented needs.

Similar measures should be set into place for the CSX corridor at key intersections and stations, creating accessible nodes or urban life. The CSX corridor should be limited to a southern terminus at Metrozoo to prevent “justification” of UDB expansion. UDB line movement will be critical to the success or failure of all transit oriented redevelopment in the Kendall region.

We support the use of the CSX corridor to serve as a complimentary system with a rapid transit system along Kendall drive as long as effective measures are put into place which would transform the suburban landscapes into transit oriented communities.

Here we go again folks. The special interest groups of Kendall are working hard to make sure the area never builds any reasonable transit options to deal with their congestion. You may recall my previous open letter to the EKHO and Edward Levinson. We’ll I began writing them (and the Herald) a new letter today in response to this article and found myself repeating much of my previous sentiments…

Here’s the quote by Ed which really inspired me to write to them again:

”This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It’s total insanity,” said Kendall Community Council member Edward Levinson of what he believes will become a traffic nightmare at the intersection of Kendall Drive and 97th Avenue.

That’s right folks…We’re going to scrap the cheaper LRT on existing tracks and ROW, because of possible traffic tie-ups along Ed’s commute.

You wouldn’t trust a gambling chimpanzee with your life savings, so why would you allow special interest groups and homeowners associations to plan a transit system around their vehicular needs? Sound foolish? I hope so. But that’s precisely what’s happening at the Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Committee’s Subcommittee meetings in Kendall where plans are underway to design new public transit for area residents.

Various homeowners associations, backed by Kendall Community Council member Edward Levinson, are working to garner public opposition to a plan that would make the Kendall community more accessible to area residents by using the existing CSX rail corridor.

The group opposes the proposed light rail transit because of possible congestion the at-grade crossings could create for vehicular commuters such as themselves. Not to mention, many of them believe that their homes (built along the previously existing rail corridor) will decrease in value due to added rail transit; this belief has been disproved statistically nationwide (Source: APTA.)

The Kendall community is at a crossroads. The inability to embrace alternative forms of effective transit is disconcerting, particularly in a region currently choking on the congestion induced by its own unchecked growth and sprawl. It is typical of the mentality fostered in this particular region and has been cultivated by our addiction to the automobile.

It is of paramount importance that our citizens educate themselves on the benefits of proper public infrastructure and urban planning before they take up such a bold position against reasonable measures which would help steer the future growth of our community.

I decided to post Steven’s excellent recap of yesterday’s meeting regarding transit along the Kendall corridor. I’m glad someone was able to attend to share this with us:

I was able to attend the meeting tonight at the “Kendall Village” location. First and foremost, I would like to say that the location is a bleak reminder to what we need to avoid in planning. It is essentially a big mall that is offset from the main roadway and is a huge waste of space. As I walked through the area I couldn’t help but wonder how much different the place would be had there been another level or two with low cost apartments rather than the community-like environment they were trying to achieve by putting roads through the middle of the mall.

Anyways, on to the meeting!
The room was surrounded by pictures depicting different various transit alternatives ranging from BRT to Heavy Rail to DMUs. Next to the large pictures of these different transit technologies were maps depicting route alternatives with charts depicting cost vs. ridership predictions vs. effect on traffic. Additionally there was a table where they were showing traffic analysis of the Kendall area should the alternatives actually be constructed. We were also able to talk with the different planners about the different portions of the projects.

The actual meeting portion started with a representative of the project speaking to the group about where in the stages of development they were (presently in the alternatives analysis part). The different alignments were as they are presented on the website and are listed as follows:

East-West
1. Exclusive Right-of-way BRT down the middle of Kendall Drive from US1 to Krome Ave.
2. Metrorail or Heavy Rail down the middle of Kendall Drive from US1 to around 152nd Ave.
3. Exclusive Right-of-way BRT from Dadeland North Metrorail down SR 874 to Kendall and then out west to Krome Ave.
North-South
1. Heavy Rail or Metrorail extension from FIU to 152nd Street
2. BRT running from FIU down Coral Way to 137th Ave and then south to 152nd Street
Alternate
1. CSX alignment running DMUs (Diesel Multiple Units) from MIC to Metrozoo
2. CSX alignment running DMUs from MIC to Tamiami Airport

The main differences between the CSX alignments are where stations would be placed and how frequently trains would run and if double tracking would be an option.

The floor was then handed over to another member of the planning team who discussed traffic concerns. During his presentation, many interruptions took place in the form of audience members questioning what was being presented. Such things sparking debate and uproar from the crowd was the amount of time that a gate effects traffic flow being only 45 seconds. Additionally, on a model they produced based on actual traffic numbers, several members of the crowd spoke in disbelief that the numbers were accurate. Prior to the completion of the presentation and opening of the floor to questions, someone in the audience interrupted repeatedly asking what percentage of the people in the area would benefit from the construction of a heavy rail alternative.

When the floor was opened to questions, a group of citizens had claimed a 9 minute block of time to present on how they were displeased with the CSX alternative and how it would be inappropriate. Their presentation was fair and well produced. Unfortunately what followed the three person presentation was more complaining about the CSX corridor and how it would keep people awake at night as well as block traffic among other things. Very little was said about Metrorail, but some were obviously for it while others were clearly against it. One woman said that the only way that she would support it coming down Kendall is if she were compensated for it obstructing her view.

The people complaining about the CSX issue pretty much dominated the entire meeting from the middle of presentations all the way to the very end. One threatened a class-action lawsuit should it be considered in the Final Environmental Impact Statement. Many called for the heads of the planners and made claims that they were incompetent and unprepared for the meeting, in spite of the fact that we are in the alternatives analysis phase and alignments are only now starting to be considered.

I figured the CSX issue would dominate the conversation, seeing that a) people here are against any at-grade rail options because it would further hamper their vehicular commute and b) there are far too many houses built along the rail corridor, another example of planning gone amiss. Lucky for us, Florida Law prohibits any sort of compensation requirement for “blocked views.”

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The Miami Mentality still going strong:

However, some opponents of the plan say it would only worsen traffic.

“This interferes with east west traffic on all corridors between [Southwest] 152 street and the Miami Intermodal Center, said Erick Moffett. “It also impacts several avenues north and south.”

Right, transit will make the situation worse for us because it will interfere with east-west car travel. You know, never mind the fact that the east-west travel could ride the train instead, that would be too practical… I’ll touch some more on the subject later…

Click Here for the CBS 4 Video.

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The MPO is looking for public input concerning future transit options in the Kendall area. Proposed options include an extension of metrorail, BRT, or extending tri-rail further south through the existing CSX tracks…

Sorry for the short notice, but, the meetings are today and tomorrow:

Tuesday-
6-8 PM @ Kendall Village Center

Wednesday-
6-8 PM @ Country Walk Homeowners Association Clubhouse

For more information on the project, click here. I will not be able to attend, but, if anyone can make it out and would like to share what happened and what the most common residents concerns were, please e-mail us: movemiami@gmail.com.

  • Today at 9 am, Miami-Dade Transit will be determining just how large a proposed Transit Oriented Development may be at the Coconut Grove Metrorail station. Grove Nimby’s have promised to be out in force fool heartedly opposing any significant density in from the proposed project. A decrease in density would be a severe detriment to all Miami-Dade residents not just the people who would benefit from the transit development. The site needs to be built to maximize its potential and provide the greatest benefit to the greatest amount of people within in the county rather than the special needs of a vocal minority group. The local community cites traffic issues as their main concern along the intersection; however, they fail to realize that any development which occurs on the site will likely adversely impact traffic. The development would not only be able to maximize the use of our only urban transit system, but would begin to add some much needed density along two major corridors; US-1 and 27th Ave.
  • Kendall residents are at a virtual standstill in traffic deciding what transit options to pursue for their neighborhood. As development continues westward (like the bright idea of building homes west of Tamiami Airport) area traffic will only continue to get worse. Fearing that trains will only “exacerbate” the commutes of many drivers, the CSX rail corridor isn’t seen as a great alternative by many (who likely live along the corridor and fear a decrease in their home’s value.) Here’s a bright idea: Ride the train along the CSX corridor and you too won’t be exacerbated. Residents are also pulling for a proposed rail link down Kendall drive; however, they insist that the train must not remove any lanes of traffic. So, going by the mentality of the majority of Miami residents, they too would like transit in their areas so that other people may use it, while freeing up space for their own vehicular commutes. Good Luck. A train down Kendall drive would be disastrous unless we quickly change the way we develop the major thoroughfare. An elevated train down the median would prove to be a gigantic failure, leaving would-be passengers with at least three hectic lanes of traffic to cross before traversing the parking lots of an assortment of strip shopping centers.
  • Traffic cameras are coming to a city residential community near you. That’s right; the commuter village of Pembroke Pines in Broward is going forward with plans to install a network of intersection cameras to catch red light runners. Need I remind them though, that entering an intersection on a yellow light is legal in the state of Florida and that the driver may complete his maneuver even if the light has turned red so long as it did so after the vehicle completely passed the white markings of the intersection. As long as they cite people for the right thing and don’t abuse the camera policy, I’m all for the eyes in the sky.
  • Miami-Dade Commissioners unanimously approved the final step in the Island Gardens debacle. Flagstone development has now been given the green light by the county to begin dredging along Watson island to support the city’s first mega yacht marina.
  • Keep an eye on Transit Miami for all the latest news on Transit/Development issues in the Greater Miami area. I will be changing up the site soon as I switch to a better blogging software. As always, If you have any stories, news, or information you would like to share, please e-mail TransitMiami at MoveMiami@gmail.com…

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