The Miami Streetcar isn’t a screwy idea created by corrupt Miami politicians to further cushion the pockets of area developers as some of our community activists and commissioners would like to believe. The Miami Streetcar can and will provide many intangible benefits to the city and all residents. I think it’s well worth reprinting today’s opinion by the Miami Herald here on the subject:

Take the trolleys to avoid gridlock


If there is any hope of avoiding downtown gridlock, it will depend on Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and the City Commission leading the charge for improving the plan for, and then building, the proposed trolley system once championed by former City Commissioner Johnny Winton. Since Mr. Winton’s suspension after a drunken fracas with police, the trolley plan has become a City Hall orphan. The city could finance half of the $200 million construction cost with state dollars, but only if the mayor and commissioners soon show state officials that they are committed to relieving congestion in and around downtown.

Hook up to Metrorail

The 10-mile trolley system’s two routes would carry riders to museums, the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts and the office core. The routes would circulate between downtown and the Design District and from Wynwood to the edge of the Jackson Memorial Hospital Medical District. Therein lies one of the problems. The westward route stops far short of the Metrorail station at the Civic Center. In fact, under the current plan, the trolley would link up with only one Metrorail station — Government Center. That isn’t sensible. While the plan includes circulator buses to feed the trolley, hookups with Metrorail and the planned Baylink to Miami Beach are necessary to effectively integrate Miami-Dade County‘s mass transit systems in the future.

Tracks for the trolley would be built at grade level, meaning the project could be completed much sooner than elevated rail systems. Cars would be powered by overhead electric lines. If the city approves the project now, trolleys could be carrying riders by 2011.

Some critics complain about the cost. But the city has funding sources, including proceeds from the countywide half-cent sales tax for mass transit. The city already has invested $5 million in an environmental study, engineering and survey work, and ridership studies showing that more people are willing to ride trolleys than buses.

Take the long view

Probably the riskiest aspect is that the city would hire a private vendor to build, maintain and operate the system. Such public-private ventures are common in Europe and only beginning to catch on in the United States. The city would pay the vendor $8 million annually for operations and upkeep. Structured properly, the joint agreement would include incentives that would encourage the builder to avoid cost overruns and delays that hamper many public projects.

Elected officials sometimes focus too much on short-term issues that can be completed during their time in office.

Taking the long view doesn’t always bring quick political benefits. But 2011 — the projected finish date — is not so far off. The choice is trolleys or gridlock. The time to decide is now.


Related posts:

  1. Miami Transportation Planning; Part 1
  2. Miami Streetcar Update
  3. The Miami-Dade County Planning Department Conundrum
  4. Studies Favor Density Along US-1
  5. City of Miami Trolley Lines: A First Look

2 Responses to Miami Transportation Planning, Part 2

  1. Adam says:

    It seems that in your rush to exalt the trolley you are putting too much focus on the gridlock that it would alleviate. As you would know if you drove south into Miami, or north into Miami, or east into miami in the mornings. The traffic starts at the golden glades/kendall/wherever in the west. This traffic will not be reduced by a trolley loop through little havanna and midtown.

    While I support the trolley as a measure to make the urban fabric of the city tighter, I feel it is important to realize that it isn’t a sole solution to the traffic problems that we face currently-even in the long term-without a serious upgrade to the metrorail to the edges of the county.

  2. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    I’m focusing purely on the transportation within the city of Miami….

    The Transportation needs of the rest of the county need to be resolved by MDT in the form of commuter rail either along the CSX rail corridor or as extensions of metrorail…

    The City of Miami does not have authority of those projects and can therefore only look to improve the transportation within its own limits…

    The severe fragmentation of our community will definitely make traffic planning more difficult, but, our denser regions such as Miami and Miami Beach can start to implement these local solutions to their own traffic woes…

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