Currently viewing the category: "Miami-Dade Transit"

Transit Miamians — It’s an extremely important time to make your voices heard to your elected officials and community planners!

As many of you already know, Miami-Dade County seems to have concluded its negotiations with the firms bidding to construct and install the new Metrorail train cars, slated for delivery in the last quarter of 2014.

The Miami Herald reported early last week on Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s endorsement of the Italian company, AnsaldoBreda, to win the $313,000,000 contract to replace 136 Metrorail vehicles.

Putting aside the politics of the decision in favor of the Italian firm AnsaldoBreda over the Spanish firm CAF, TransitMiami was interested in learning more about the actual designs of the new train cars themselves, and how they would impact our daily commute.

We got in touch with the energetic and eager-to-help Acting Assistant Director of Miami-Dade Transit Rail Services, Mr. Jerry Blackman. If you recall, Transit Miami reported on Mr. Blackman’s January 2012 presentation at the Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Committee (CTAC) regarding the acquisition of the new Metrorail train cars.

At that time, unfortunately, the contract was still under bid and thus remained under the Cone of Silence. Exercising an abundance of caution, Blackman was rather tight-lipped about the contract.

When Transit Miami got in touch with Mr. Blackman just a few weeks ago, it seemed that the Cone of Silence was still in effect. Just a few days later, however, the Miami-Herald brought the public’s attention to Mayor Gimenez’s recommendation that AnsaldoBreda be awarded the multi-million dollar contract that will dictate our Metrorail experience for the next 30-plus years or so.

We were then able to convince Mr. Blackman to give us some insider information on the design of the prospective Metrorail train cars.

We didn’t get too much, but what we did get should make a good start to a deeper public dialogue on how our city’s Metrorail can best serve its people . . .

With regard to “Passenger Seating / Bicycle Rack”, we got the following excerpt from a presentation made by an unspecified bidding firm (assumedly AnsaldoBreda):

  • Color schemes, materials and designs will be finalized during the Vehicle Final Engineering Design Reviews
  • The seating layout shall provide for two ADA compliant wheelchair areas per car
  • Seat cushions shall be designed to fit on the seat frame in a clean, well designed appearance, and shall include cushion foam and upholstery
  • Seat upholstery shall be a material resistant to graffiti, vandalism, and liquid pentration
  • The seating arrangement shall include an area in the R-end of the vehicle with center facing flip-up seating to allow for passengers with either baggage or bicycles
  • Bicycle racks shall be installed with provisions to support a minimum of two (2) bicycles per car to secure bicycles

We also acquired a single rendering of the interior of one of the proposed Metrorail train car designs — it’s no Rosetta Stone of Miami Transit, but it’s a start to a more transparent public discussion:

This conceptual rendering of one of the proposed designs of the new Metrorail train cars should get us thinking: Is this the type of train that will best serve our community for the next 30-plus years?

Now that we’ve finally emerged from the secretive Cone of Silence, it’s time to speak-up! Transit Miami will be keeping a close eye on how our collective $313 million is going to be spent.

This is our city; let’s make sure it evolves the way we want - the way we need - it to . . .

 

This won’t come as news to many of you, but for several months now, the experience on Metrorail has been improved tremendously.

The transition from 6- to 4-car trains since the grand opening of the Orange Line to the brand new Miami International Airport Station (a.k.a., Central Station) in late July 2012 has certainly been a welcome change.

The grand opening of the Metrorail’s new Orange Line and the Miami International Airport station has run parallel to, and even initiated, some positive changes to Miami’s Metrorail experience.

The MIA station grand opening marks the beginning of an exciting renaissance for our Metrorail system.

The trains now come much more frequently, reducing:

  • 7-8-minute rush hour wait times to 5-6-minute rush hour wait times,
  • 15-minute off-peak hour wait times to 7-8-minute off-peak hour wait times, and
  • 30-minute weekend wait times to 15-20-minute weekend wait times.

Apart from that indispensable improvement to the system, you’ve almost certainly also noticed the improvements to the physical layouts to the inside of the train cars themselves. In nearly every Metrorail train car, one now finds that two sets of seats have been removed and, from the resultant additional space, there is now a much-needed area for standing passengers and bike and luggage storage.

This sign may now seem a trivial commonplace, but it represents a hugely positive change in thinking on how our Metrorail trains should be occupied.

Below are some pictures of the new Metrorail space in action. It’s great to see people regularly using the space, especially during rush hour, when there simply aren’t enough seats for everybody (not to mention that many people, myself included, actually prefer standing over sitting).

Five comfortably standing Metrorail riders. Even more passengers could fit in the new standing space during times of higher volumes (albeit a bit less comfortably).

The most important cargo of all: one’s children. Where else would this man have put that huge, twin child stroller (and his two young children inside it) if not for the Metrorail’s new standing/storage space?

Without this new bicycle storage area, that bike would be either obstructing the center isle, blocking seats from passengers, and/or simply creating a hazard.

These four gentlemen have much more leg room and space standing than they would sitting squished together, especially with their bags and other carry-on items.

The additional standing room is an improvement of which I’ve personally been a long-time advocate. In November 2011, I presented a set of possible policy changes to the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee pertaining to the many issues surrounding the Metrorail Bike & Ride Policy. The removal of seats to create more standing and storage area was the primary proposal of the presentation. It’s great to know that Miami-Dade Transit is listening to its riders! Now we just need more people speaking-up!

One of the overarching problems with the Bike & Ride policy (notwithstanding the utterly ineffective Bike & Ride permit system) has always been that bicycles were relegated to the back of the train. This created lots of confusion and often overcapacitated the rear train car with bikes.

Finally, bikes have a space on Metrorail. Things are hopefully going to get even better when the new train cars with hanging bike racks come into fruition.

The new Miami-Dade Transit Bike & Ride policy (last updated July 24, 2012) permits bikes in any train car containing the sign depicted above. That’s a huge improvement! The only problem is that Miami-Dade Transit has yet to install signs on the exterior of the train cars so that riders can identify which cars are appropriate to enter with their bicycles.

Another positive change is that the new Bike & Ride policy doesn’t explicitly specify a maximum number of bikes permitted in each train car. The previous number of bikes allowed on the train was a mere four. As you can imagine, that policy was ridiculously impossible to enforce, and completely undermined the point of having a policy in the first place. If you’re going to make rules, make sure they make sense and can be enforced, otherwise the entire system is delegitimized. Fortunately for us, limits are no longer specified.

There are still problems, of course.  Miami-Dade Transit still hasn’t improved the system for distributing and enforcing its Bike & Ride permits — that’s a whole other issue!

Still, it’s undeniable that, with regard to the overall Metrorail system, layout, and policies, things are evolving for the better. Until the new Metrorail train cars are acquired in the last quarter of 2014 (for installation and usage estimated for the first quarter of 2015), we’re going to have to appreciate what we’ve got and continue making our voices heard to make it better!

In the blinding brightness of the east-facing morning, trapped in our metallic boxes of rage, impatience, and anxiety, the truth called out to us . . .

It called, not as an answer, but as a question . . . a question whose simplicity made a mockery of all those willing to confront it . . .

Out of the blinding light, for that fleeting moment of honesty concealed by the shadows, the truth taunted all those brave enough to accept it . . .

From the blinding light, the truth dared us to regain our vision . . .

WHY DRIVE?

RIDE . . . METRORAIL

Tagged with:
 

Transit Miami reader and Emerge Miami coordinator Leah Weston shared the following letter with us, containing some poignant feedback and observations from the new-ish Miami Trolley service in downtown Miami.

The new diesel-powered, rubber-tire, retro-kitschy busses.

Sent to TrolleyInfo@Miami.gov

Good morning,

I am writing because I would like to make some comments about the Miami Trolley Service. While I am happy to have the mobility from my apartment on the south end of Brickell to the Metro station, I have observed a few issues over the past month and a half that I have been using it and felt like I should give my feedback.

(1) The trolley is completely unreliable. The signs say every 15 minutes, but that is just dead wrong. Oftentimes what will happen is that I will wait for 30 minutes and see two or three trolleys going the opposite direction pass me before one going in my direction shows up. The B bus follows almost THE EXACT SAME ROUTE and it is MUCH MORE reliable. I’d rather pay $1.25 to get somewhere on time than to stand around indefinitely, holding a huge pile of heavy books (I am a law student) and sweating profusely.

(2) Why is there no way to track the trolley like you can with the Metrorail and the Metrobus? If the purpose of public transportation is to be able to get around without a car, I need to be able to plan my trip.

(3) Whoever designed the stops at Brickell Station lacks complete common sense. There are two stops-one for Northbound, one for Southbound. However, the two stops are VERY far apart. That’s fine, except for the fact that there’s nowhere on the FRONT of the trolley that indicates which direction the oncoming trolley is going. Both the North and Southbound trollies stop at the Northbound stop to let people off. I personally have to go Southbound in the afternoon when I arrive home. If I think a Southbound trolley is coming, but it turns out to be a Northbound trolley, I have to run back and forth like an idiot with a 20 pound pile of books. Also, there have been a number of occasions where I think a trolley is heading my direction, but it turns out not to be and, in turn, I miss the B bus back home and have to wait another 15-40 minutes (whenever the next trolley decides to come). Long story short: A 20 minute commute home turns into an hour commute. Might as well drive my car for that kind of efficiency.

(4) Finally, about a month ago, I dropped my work ID on a trolley. Shortly after this happened, I promptly wrote an e-mail inquiring about my ID. About a week later, I got a phone call from someone at your office, apologizing for not getting back to me sooner, but that they had shred my ID. That ID also happened to contain a $50 monthly student Metro pass which I had paid in full and which was nonrefundable. While I understand the policy, there are a few problems with this scenario: Why don’t you have someone regularly checking your e-mail account? Why doesn’t the fact that my name and the name of the judge I was working for appeared on the front of the ID merit a little bit of investigation? The woman on the phone also told me she would “see what she could do” about my Metro pass. Why did she never follow up with me?

I’m sorry for the lengthy diatribe, but I thought you should be aware that your service is sub-par and needs improvement. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about what I have written.

Thank you,

Leah Weston

Miami, FL

What has your experience been with the Miami trolleys?

Tagged with:
 
Open Bridge

Open Bridge - Via GoboNdc’s Flickr

Around Miami:

  • Once and Future Metropolis. Our own Craig Chester takes cues from Miami’s past to discuss where success will lay in our future. It’s sad to know that Miami once boasted 11 trolley lines that crisscrossed the county from Miami Beach to the City of Miami and even out the then-suburb of Coral Gables. (Biscayne Times)
  • $2.8 billion transportation upgrade rolling (Miami Today)
  • Boca Raton politicians leading on transportation policy. The Sun Sentinel sits down with Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams and Boca Raton Deputy Mayor Susan Haynie to discuss their roles in reshaping local transportation infrastructure. (Sun Sentinel) Note: Commissioner Abrams was was elected Chair of the SFRTA at the July 27 meeting of the Governing Board. At the same meeting, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro was elected Vice Chair. (SFRTA)
  • Two new Rubber-Tired Trolley announcements in one week! South Florida’s Trolley Fever is raging. First:  Sweetwater to get new trolleys (Miami Herald) Then: Trolley cars may replace shuttle buses in Delray Beach (Orlando Sentinel)
  • $45 million PortMiami tunnel dig payment threatens Miami’s finances. Come January, the city is facing a $45M payment on a short-term loan that helped fund the PortMiami tunnel dig. (Miami Herald)
  • Parks Vie For Space In Miami’s Forest Of Condos. In Miami, neighborhood parks can be hard to find. The Trust for Public Land ranks Miami 94 on a list of 100 cities when it comes to park acreage per 1,000 residents — just 2.8 acres per 1,000 residents. (NPR)
  • Get on the Bus. The tale of one correspondent’s journey aboard public transit in Aventura. Despite the density and height of the condos in Aventura; it remains a driving city. (Biscayne Times)
  • Cities With The Worst Drivers 2012. No surprises here, Hialeah is ranked 4th while Miami is 9th. (Forbes) It’s no wonder that recent editorials call for enhanced driver education programs in South Florida. (Miami Herald)
  • Affordable housing developer: South Miami’s inflexibility violates federal law. The City of South Miami is facing a Federal Lawsuit from a developer seeking to build affordable housing adjacent to the metrorail station. As we noted on our Facebook page, this is precisely what is wrong with many of the communities that border Metrorail and the South-Dade Busway. Adjacent to existing rapid transit infrastructure is exactly where we should be building denser and reducing parking minimums. Instead, insular city politics allow South Miami, Florida commissioners to deny construction permits for an affordable housing development due to insufficient parking (the city was requesting a 2:1 Space to Unit Ratio!). (Miami Herald)
  • Back to School! Did you know that MDT offers discounts for students? The K-12 Discount Fare EASY Card and the College Pass are affordable options available to our local students.

Around the Sphere:

  • Smackdown-County vs. City: Let’s Get Ready to Rumble Over Gated Communities! (Miami Urbanist)
  • With Metrorail Open, Checking In On Miami Central Station. CurbedMiami drops in to check-up on the progress on the Miami Central Station. (CurbedMiami)
  • Miami Trolley. Alesh gets critical on the Miami Trolley. He’s got a point, the SFRTA’s Strategic Regional Transit Plan don’t mention Trolleys. (Critical Miami)
  • Miami Needs Less Planning, More Doing. (UEL Blog)
  • OP-ED: Miami-Dade Commissioner’s Resolution is Bad of Bicycling. (BeachedMiami)
  • Green Mobility Network has launched their new website - check it out! (Green Mobility Network)
  • Use of awnings for your historic house. (Miamism)

Elsewhere:

  • Cutting dependence on cars isn’t anti-car, it’s common sense. “As a matter of fact, not everyone can drive; and as a matter of principle, we want people to have other options.” Amen. (GreaterGreaterWashington)
  • Dynamic Pricing Parking Meters Climb Above $5/Hour in SF (TransportationNation)
  • Tennessee DOT Moves Past Road-Widening as a Congestion Reduction Strategy (Streetsblog DC)
  • They Totally Went There: GOP Outlines Extremist Transpo Views in Platform (Streetsblog DC)
  • Boston case shows declining car volume on major street. (Stop and Move)
  • Are Our Transit Maps Tricking Us? (Atlantic Cities)

Stay connected with Transit Miami! Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter  for up to the minute Transit news and discussions. Got a tip, story, or contribution? Email us: MoveMiami@gmail.com

Tagged with:
 

You can get with THIS, or you can get with THAT . . .


You can get with THIS, or you can get with THAT . . .

I think you’ll get with THIS, for THIS is where it’s at.

Tagged with:
 
Panorama of new red pedestrian bridge, Coral Gables Waterway, Miami, Florida

Panorama of new red pedestrian bridge, Coral Gables Waterway, Miami, Florida (Via: ImageMD)

Around Miami:

  • Opposition building to South Dade expressway. Our question is, can it build soon enough? (Miami Herald)
  • Signs to alert Broward drivers to conditions, travel times on six major roads. $9M to know the existing conditions seems steep considering the advent of crowdsourced alternatives such as Waze or Roadify. To us, the notion that more information to drivers provides the “opportunity to choose alternate routes instead of finding yourself stuck in traffic jams” is downright delusional. (Sun-Sentinel)
  • Miami Beach Mayor Bower comments on sea level rise. It’s easy to talk the talk but Miami Beach has a nasty history of anti-climate change planning under its belt. We think Baylink, enhanced cycling facilities, and reduced parking minimums would go a long way in showing that Miami Beach is ready to do it’s part in this global system. (South Florida Business Journal)
  • Failed street design. Our own Craig Chester puts the FDOT on notice regarding the failures of Biscayne Boulevard. (Miami Herald)
  • South Florida transit schedules added to Google Maps. Welcome to the 21st Century South Florida Transit - perhaps real-time transit data isn’t an illusion after all. (South Florida Business Journal)
  • Metrorail extension eases commute from airport. (The Miami Hurricane)

Around the Sphere:

  • Miami Dade Transit hard at work. Miami-Dade Transit has made some laudable improvements around Douglas Road. (South Florida Bike Coalition)
  • TRI-Rail From FLL Makes for a Long Morning. Matt Meltzer’s harrowing 3 hour journey from FLL to MIA via public transit. Bottom line: “…in Miami, and especially in Ft. Lauderdale, if you don’t have a car public transport is just not an option.” Ouch. We can do better South Florida. (Miami Beach 411)
  • Inside Al Capone’s Fabulous Palm Island Estate, On Video! (Curbed Miami)
  • Miami Metrorail | New Vehicle Replacement. This seems to be flying under the radar a bit, though ExMiami reports that the vendor (AnsaldoBreda) has a bit of a problem history with clients in meeting delivery and vehicle specs. This should be interesting. (ExMiami)
  • An SFDB Call To South Florida Bloggers. SFDB is looking for editors. (SFDB)

Elsewhere:

  • Bloomberg: NYC Bike Share Delayed Until Spring. The much awaited phase 1 launch of NYC’s Bike share program which is set to include 7,000 bikes at 420 stations has be delayed until March 2013 due to software issues. (Transportation Nation)
  • Times Poll Confirms: 66 Percent of New Yorkers Like Bike Lanes. Bikes as transportation: Good Policy. Good for cities. Good for your health. Good for local business. Now, good for NYC. (Streetsblog NYC)
  • A Separated Bike Lane Commute. We can attest, Separated Bike Lanes are AWESOME. (LGRAB)
  • Remaking Union Station: Do we have what it takes? With Public Transit use and Amtrak use on the rise in DC, calls to expand capacity at Union Station are growing. (Greater Greater Washington)
  • There’s a Lot Riding on U.S. DOT’s Definition of “Congestion” (Streetsblog DC)
  • OpenPlans aiming for Kickstarter-funded transit app. With Apple’s iO6 eliminating Google Maps from i-devices, Open Plans begins a campaign to develop a crowd-funded transit app. (Second Avenue Sagas)

Stay connected with Transit Miami! Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter  for up to the minute Transit news and discussions. Got a tip, story, or contribution? Email us: MoveMiami@gmail.com

Tagged with:
 

On Saturday, July 28, come down to Government Center in downtown Miami to celebrate the arrival of the new Orange Metrorail Line - a direct link from the Miami International Airport to Downtown Miami, and all of the other new ways to get around Miami’s urban core. The Downtown Development Association is sponsoring the party at 111 NW 1 St. from 1-4pm with live music, free food, pedi-cab races and the chance to get your picture taken with a lemur monkey from Jungle Island.

With the opening of the Orange Line, Miami will (at last!) join a relatively small list of American cities with rail connections to their downtown areas. Though in this recent USA Today report, many more American cities are planning rail connections as planners realize that simply building more parking lots and enlarging roadways aren’t sustainable practices.

This celebration is about more than just the new Metrorail link. In the past few months, Miami has seen a relative explosion in transportation options for people downtown, including Cars2Go, the Miami Trolley, MonkeyShuttle, Tropical Pedicabs and the Miami Water Taxi.

Tagged with:
 

The signage at the stations and inside the train cars is now almost fully converted.

Airport link is coming . . .

 

Tagged with:
 

Metrorail riders beware! There seems to be a criminal on the loose targeting unsuspecting passengers! This just in from the University of Miami police department:

CRIME ADVISORY

April 26, 2012

Event Description: Serial Robber Targeting Metrorail Riders

Campus police and security have received information about a serial robber who has targeted Metorail riders. One victim boarded a northbound train from the University Metrorail station.  The offender, whose picture and description appears below, sits next to passengers shortly before a stop, brandishes a firearm and demands property from his victims.  If you see the subject, avoid him and call police immediately.

This information is being provided to help keep our communities informed and safe.

SUBJECT INFORMATION: Black Male, 6’0” to 6’2” tall, about 180 pounds, no facial hair, and has a short haircut.  He has consistently worn dark suit pants and a vest (presumed to conceal a firearm).  He has also worn a light tan sport jacket, as in the picture. If you see the subject at other rail stops call 911 and/or report the subject to on duty security.

Anyone with information regarding this crime or information that may lead to the apprehension of this individual is asked to call:

  • MDT DISPATCH CENTER: 305 375-2700  or
  • CRIMESTOPPERS: 305 471-TIPS (8477)

Callers will remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward.

As regular Metrorail riders know, the train is a safe, efficient, stress-free, and pleasant way to get around town (at least certain parts of town). Don’t be discouraged by this isolated incident by some goon trying to disturb the peace typically found on our Metrorail.

The incident conveyed in the above crime advisory got me thinking about the unnarmed volunteer group founded in New York City, the Guardian Angels.  By the late 1970s, conditions on the NYC subway system had gotten pretty rough, and a group of citizens got together to provide a sense of security for the passengers on the trains. 

Back in the day, the Guardian Angels made their presence known on the NYC subway system.

For the most part, crime on our Miami Metrorail is not common. Furthermore, whatever minimal criminality does manifest on our public transportation system is nowhere near the scale of that in NYC a few decades ago.

In any case, be viligant out there folks. The Metrorail belongs to us, the people, not some thug with a gun.

 

Tagged with:
 

Meet the Douglas Road Corridor MetroRail Line.This 4.5 mile project would connect the MIC to Douglas Road Station and US1, with stops at NW 7 Street,  SW 8 Street, and Coral Way. The line would service areas, like downtown Coral Gables, where land use already supports a high level of pedestrian activity. This should be a high priority for our leaders, and some are very supportive. Check out the 5 and ten minute walk sheds  - this line would run through some of the densest parts of Miami and Coral Gables - pluggining thousands of residents who have already chosen apartment living into the ultimate urban amenity - rapid transit.  (Not to mention creating another connection to the airport for those traveling to/from points south.)

 

The Transit Subcommittee of the Miami-Dade County MPO Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Committee (CTAC) recently met on Wednesday, January 11, 2012. Among the items on the agenda were updates on pigeon defecation issues at various Metrorail stations, on Miami-Dade Transit’s alternative fuels usage, and on the configuration of the soon-to-be-purchased Metrorail train cars.

Unfortunately, though, virtually no new information was actually provided at the CTAC Transit subcommittee meeting on the new Metrorail cars. Mr. Jerry Blackman, General Superintendent of Rail Maintenance  for Miami-Dade Transit, regretfully explained to the subcommittee that all County officials and employees were prohibited to speak on any details pertaining to the new Metrorail cars due to the imposition of the “Cone of Silence”.

According to a Miami-Dade County Administrative Order promulgated in 2002 and an accompanying memo, the Cone of Silence is a policy “designed to protect the integrity of the procurement process by shielding it from undue influences prior to the recommendation of contract award”. Basically, the Cone of Silence is intended to ensure that no local government officials or staff engage in any sort of funny business deal-making when the local government in question is awarding work contracts.

Indeed, Request for Proposals (RFP) #654 for the “Purchase of New Heavy Rail Vehicles” is listed on page 22 of the most current Cone of Silence Report as of January 9, 2012. However, it seems that Superintendent Blackman may have been overly circumspect by giving the CTAC such limited information on the new cars. According to that 2002 Administrative Order and memo, County personnel are exempted from the provisions of the Cone of Silence during publicly-announced meetings, such as Wednesday’s CTAC Transit subcommittee meeting.

Nevertheless, with some persistent probing by various CTAC members, Superintendent Blackman did suggest that the new train cars would include “the latest technology”, including more reliable vehicles, a better public address (PA) system, and in-train screen monitors indicating the train’s arrival times. Mr. Blackman also confirmed that Transit is looking at the prospect of integrating more advertising into the train cars to help generate revenue.

The issue of bike racks in the train cars also came up, and Superintendent Blackman confirmed that Transit is actively working-out the logistics and other technical practicalities of incorporating bike racks throughout the whole train (not just the last car). He suggested that some sort of bike signs would be included on the exterior of the new train cars designating which cars would accommodate bikes, as is done on the Portland light-rail MAX.

CTAC member Dr. Claudius Carnegie rightly directed the committee’s attention to the inadequacy of the current Metrorail Bike and Ride policies, adding that there needed to be greater “bicycle facilitation system-wide”. His comments echoed the recent Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) resolution #16-2011 requesting that Miami-Dade Transit review and update the existing rules of the Bike and Ride program.

All in all, those in attendance learned more about Miami-Dade Transit’s pigeon roosting and defecation elimination strategies than the configuration of the new Metrorail cars. Given the recent controversy over the purchase of the new train cars, the caution exercised by Superintendent Blackman during the Cone of Silence for this RFP is quite understandable. The Cone of Silence for this contract is expected to be lifted sometime in Spring 2012.

On a very positive final note, Mr. Blackman stressed how he and the rest of the Transit Department are eager to involve more members of the public, including the bicycle community, on optimizing the configuration of the new Metrorail train cars for all!

Tagged with:
 

It was a pleasant surprise last week to find, not merely one, but two, vertical bike racks on Metrorail train car #141. And, it just so happens that car #141 was the last wagon that day – interesting . . .

You may remember that several months ago, there seemed to be a sort of prototype rack on one of the train cars, yet not the last one (as one would expect since the official rules governing the Metrorail Bike & Ride program currently mandate that all bikes go to the back of the train). The South Florida Bike Coalition posted on this confusing observation in January 2011 and questioned, “This rack was installed on the second car – does this mark a change regulating where people can bring their bikes on the train?” After weeks of multiple sightings of this mysterious single rack on Metrorail, it seemed to have disappeared altogether. The observation last week of these two new racks seems to suggest that we’re getting closer – slowly but surely – to seeing a more permanent presence of bike racks on Metrorail.

However, train wagon #141 (the car in which these racks are installed) has not remained the last car, so many reading this may have already seen these racks on #141 as the non-ultimate train car. That’s important to note . . . See, just as different buses are regularly shifted to drive the numerous bus routes throughout the county, Metrorail train cars are regularly alternated to different positions within the chain of wagons. This technical procedure, the constant interchanging of the train cars, is one of the primarily challenges to creating a set of more equitable, enforceable, and sustainable Bike & Ride policies.

As I see it, there are two fundamental options here: (1) make more space exclusively in the last car to accommodate the numerous and increasing bike-train riders while making the last car more of a “standing car”, and/or (2) put an adequate number of bike racks throughout all, or at least most, of the train cars, with conspicuous signage on the outside of the train doors/cabins indicating which cars have bike racks and which do not. I personally favor the latter.

The bike racks seen last week are of a different model than those seen around this time last year. (Perhaps the County has finally made a decision as to which models are most appropriate and cost effective for our community’s trains (?)) To accommodate these newer racks, two separates pairs of seats were removed on each side of the front of the train wagon. That makes four seats lost to two bikes. One less sympathetic to bikes on the train may initially find this trade-off unwarranted: “How could you justify giving up two seats just for one bike?!” It’s a fair question, and the response is simple.

While two seats are lost to a bike safely secured on a rack, it would be at least two seats (and sometimes even four or five, for those despicably inconsiderate bike passengers) lost to a bike on the train not neatly stationed on a rack. Additionally, having these dedicated spaces on the train for riders to safely secure their bicycles will significantly reduce the many intra-train mobility conflicts and safety issues abounding in the absence of such spaces. People will no longer have to play a body-contorting game of Twister with one another through a gauntlet of legs, handlebars, tires, baby strollers, and wheelchairs. An adequate presence of bike racks throughout the entire train – say, four to eight in each car – would do wonders to alleviate the many common conflicts that arise among cyclist and non-cyclist Metrorail riders.

Indeed, let’s hope these racks are here to stay and the County is preparing to expand them throughout the entire train. That would suffice until 2014 – or until Miami-Dade Transit gets cleared by the Federal Transit Administration to proceed with its $300 million deal to procure 136 new trains, originally slated for 2014. Whatever happens with the feds, these two new racks are a welcome addition to the train, and we hope to see more! As recently described on this site, though, even with new bike racks, there remain many challenges and opportunities to a sustainable Bike & Ride program on Metrorail.

Tagged with:
 

The geography of Miami-Dade county has always been an Achilles heel in providing premium transit service to the far reaches of the county and will continue to be a challenge as we try to expand alternative modes of transportation - but connecting bikes and transit is one of the best ways to leverage our existing transit network. If you factor in a five minute bike ride  - approximately one mile - you start to capture a larger population.  Getting to stations is one of the biggest challenges, as our on-street bicycle network is still in its infancy. One saving grace is the  hugely successful M-Path, which was the subject of a recent shoddy article in the New Times (where my quote was taken way out of context). Simple signage would help, as would prioritizing bicycle infrastructure investments around stations.

 

Metrorail map showing 1/4 mile radius or five minute walk shed around stations.

The 1 mile bike shed shows the area covered by a 5 minute bike ride - significantly more than the five minute walk.

Once at the station, however, there are a host of other challenges that range from poor signage to conflicts with pedestrians.  BPAC member Matthew Toro has been a frequent critic of MDT’s bike and ride policy, and put together some pretty compelling arguments about why the current policy has to change. He writes that the current MDT policy toward bicyclist is “highly contradictory, ambiguous, [and] unenforceable.   There are serious inconsistencies regarding the how many bikes are allowed on the train; where they’re allowed on the train; plans to include vertical bike racks/hooks in future rail cars; bicyclists occupying multiple Metrorail seats, thereby denying non-bicyclist riders the chance to sit, especially during high-occupancy periods, etc.”

He presented the following policy problems and potential solutions at the BPAC meeting on 11/14.

While I don’t think that prohibiting bikes on MetroRail during rush hour is a good idea - especially as we try to strengthen bicycle and transit use - the other policy suggestions are right on. Great ideas Matthew.

I’ll leave you with two other items on the subject of MDT’s bike and ride. One is a powerpoint that Matthew Toro put together for BPAC that illustrates the many problems with bicyclists on the MetroRail and the other is a PSA about the MDT Bike and Ride program that gives more info about the current rules and how to use your bike on the system.

 

As popular as Bike & Ride is - it has its challenges.

Tagged with:
 

The recently released Miami-Dade Transit Development Plan 2011 Update,  (along with the October 2010 MPO Near Term Plan) lays out a vision for the next few years of transit service and expansion. Unfortunately, this year’s TDP (like many before it) still maintains a freeze on premium service expansion (generally described by mode as Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail, or Heavy Rail).

We need to return to the core PTP projects - Douglas Avenue, Baylink, FEC

 

This year’s TDP is specific on the ‘Plan B’ for the Orange Line and other parts of the People’s Transportation Plan that never materialized. The projects are described as ‘enhanced bus service’, which for now doesn’t mean very much. The Near Term Plan described the ultimated goal as Bus Rapid Transit, but more on that later.

Phases 2 and 3 of the Orange Line  will now become two separate projects. The Orange Line Phase 2 is now the NW 27 Avenue Max, a 13 mile enhanced bus service, to be implemented in two phases, and Orange Line Phase 3 is now the SR 836 Enhanced Bus. The SR836 Bus will be implemented in collaboration with the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (more on this project later).

The two phase approach for the NW 27 Avenue Max is a pragmatic solution to the transit needs of the area that enhances ridership and sets the stage for more intense transit later on. Phase one will use 5 new 40′ diesel-electric hybrid buses, with transit signal priority, on-board wi-fi , real time tracking information, and 12 minute peak/ 30 minute mid-day headways. This phase is fully funded and scheduled to be online in 2012.

Phase 2 will improve headways to 10 min peak/20 min mid-day by using 11 new 60‘articulated diesel-electric buses, ‘robust’ stations, and branding of buses and stations. The current plan shows a 5 year horizon (2016) and $27 million dollar price-tag, of which $5 million is currently unfunded. This incremental investment in the corridor as it builds ridership is a responsible use of transit dollars, allowing infill development (and increased densities) to take root at important nodes to help ensure a successful route. Many critics of the MetroRail Orange Line North Corridor cited low population densities and poor land use along the corridor as reasons why MetroRail was an inappropriate facility choice for this location. The current proposal seeks measurable, yet incremental growth in ridership along the corridor at a modest expense.

Near-Term Transportation Plan for Miami-Dade County 2012-2015, NW 27 Ave Enhanced Bus

According to the 2012-2015 MPO Near Term Transportation Plan, NW 27 Avenue is currently served by 2 bus routes.

At 9,500 average daily riders Route 27 is the fourth heaviest utilized route in the system. Route 97 performs well within the MAX and the KAT services, as well, at 1,300 boardings. Ridership in this corridor is surpassed by Miami Beach, Flagler, Biscayne, the South Dade Busway and NW 7th Avenue.

Comparatively, the MetroRail ridership projection was 19,000 initial daily rides (about double the current bus ridership) at a yearly expense of $70 million dollars (the Route 27 and 97 combined cost $8.1 million a year). In the case of the Orange Line, and indeed our entire mass transit network, the spending strategy should not be to stretch expensive premium transit facilities to every corner of the county, but to focus investments in those locations where the surrounding land use already supports transit ready development (also known as transit oriented development) AND where those investments will create a complete transit network.

While there are other better candidates for MetroRail funding (like Baylink or Douglas Road), NW 27 Avenue is still a worthy candidate for premium transit investment, as the Near Term Plan points out, few other lines are as utilized. The North Corridor did not happen because of bad land use patterns, but because Miami-Dade Transit has been chronically underfunded by county administrators.

The FTA New Start rankings showed that MDT had a committed source of revenue for the project, receiving a ‘High’ ranking for ‘Committed funds’ (FDOT and PTP dollars), but the overall MDT operating budget (funded by the County Commission) showed a ongoing deficit (in years 2004-2006), thus garnering a ‘low’ ranking for ‘Agency Operational Condition.’ The final nail in the coffin was a ‘low’ ranking in the ‘Operating Cost Estimates and Planning Assumptions’ category because, according to a November 2007 report, “Assumptions on the growth in fare revenues are optimistic compared to historic trends.  The financial plan assumes significant, frequent fare increases.  In addition, it assumes significant fare revenue increases resulting from installation of automated fare collection systems which reduce fare evasion.”

In spite of the tumultuous history of this project, the Near Term Plan concludes that,

Although the County has decided to officially withdraw from the FTA New Starts Process, the County continues to work on the NW 27th Avenue Corridor. It has chosen to improve service incrementally until such time that the construction of heavy rail in the corridor is deemed feasible.

While it might not have seemed a good business deal to county leaders, this was a project in the PTP, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters - and is exactly what the surtax money was to be used for. Not to mention that transit infrastructure is an investment in our city that can result in clear increases in tax revenue and land value when coordinated with dense, pedestrian-oriented urban fabric and employment centers.

With the anticipated service improvements along NW 27 Avenue, it would seem that MDT’s current service expansion strategy continues to be one of small scale improvements that bide the time waiting for leaders to deliver on premium transit.

 

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.