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!
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