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The Transit Advocates of Florida recently submitted this editorial.  If you have any comments, suggestions, or articles you would like to submit, feel free to contact us:

Passenger Rail in Florida is vital to the economic future of this state. The federal government has presented a tremendous opportunity for states to leverage their money for rail corridors. Locally in the Miami metropolitan area both Tri-Rail and Metro Rail are both suffering from a lack of support for maintenance and new corridor development. Statewide rail corridors have been studied since Governor Lawton Chiles’ administration before being undercut by the Bush administration.

I urge you to support dedicated funding for Florida’s passenger rail service through the state legislature. This includes existing services such as Tri-Rail that have shown that passenger rail service in Florida is vital to the economy of a region. Tri-Rail ridership has surged as facilities have been upgraded and double tracking allows consistent train schedules and capacity upgrades. The state would never build a one-lane road and ask cars to please wait on the side every few miles to allow others to pass.

Regional rail is not for the local transit agencies to fund or run. These are regional systems using different technologies over larger areas. Additionally a state agency similar to the Turnpike Enterprise should be formed to create the Florida High Speed Rail network. Lastly local transit projects should be prioritized to link into these systems and create an interconnected grid of passenger rail for Floridians.

Please support dedicated funding for RAIL IN FLORIDA. Our state and localities competitive future depends on it.

Send a message of support for dedicated funding to your elected officials in Tallahassee, log onto


Transit Advocates of Florida

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And we thought last year was bad. Tri-Rail’s Year Reprieve is coming to an end, and the news looks dire. Sit back and take a deep breathe, there’s a lot going on if you haven’t caught it already.

First up we’ve been hearing talk of a fare increase, and the amounts have been made official: 25%. So the cheapest one-way fare will rise from $2 to $2.50, while the monthly pass will rise from $80 to $100. The increase has yet  to be approved, so stay tuned for news of  a public hearing which the Sun-Sentinel reports will take place on April 24.

SFRTA, Tri-Rail’s parent agency, is also announcing plans to reduce weekday trains from 50 to 30 and drop weekend service entirely beginning October 5, if no dedicated source is found. Like last year, Palm Beach County has already said they will reduce their funding of Tri-Rail from $4.1 million to $1.5 million, and the great imitators in Broward and Miami-Dade County would follow suit for some strange reason. (Can someone tell them they don’t have to do what Palm Beach County does? They could fund Tri-Rail more and let Tri-Rail just reduce service in Palm Beach County if it comes to that.) No one’s come up with any new ideas for a funding source since last year. The controversial $2 rental car surcharge is still being floated as the solution to their funding woes.

A few more minor, but equally interesting details include the fact that Tri-Rail will be tweaking their schedules in an attempt to keep their trains on time. The Palm Beach Post reports how they also just dumped their law firm that had helped them lobby for the $2 rental car surcharge. Get this—the firm also lobbied against the $2 rental car surcharge for Enterprise. If the law firm were a Palm Beach County Commissioner, they would be in jail for that!

To combat these forces that seek to effectively shut down our commuter rail service, sign the “Fund or Fail” petition at Tri-Rail’s website. You can scream now.

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Image: John Darkow, The Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri

With gas tax revenue falling fast the federal government fears that it may not be able to meet its commitment to states for road projects currently under way. So what does Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters suggest? Simply “borrow” money from the mass transit fund. According to the New York Times article, such a measure would “balance the accounts as highway travel declines and mass transit increases.”

However, such a transfer of money would require Congress’ approval.

American Public Transportation Association president, William W. Millar added this:

The administration proposal is shortsighted and would mean that the mass transit account would be reduced to the point where there would not be enough money to fund the federal transit program in 2010, even at the current level.

If this doesn’t illustrate how broken our federal transportation funding system is, I don’t know what does. Despite runaway gas prices, climate change, and the prospect of funding petro-dictators, the Bush administration is still desperate to fund highways at a significantly greater clip than transit. The sad thing is that the Bush admin wants to borrow from what is already a scant fund. The transit fund is but a tiny fraction of the highway fund.

98% of Americans are in favor of expanded public transportation.  Yes, there is a catch.  This is what the study released today by the APTA concluded:

A study released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association reveals that 98 percent of Americans support the use of mass transit by others.

Now, that is a scary statistic.  With hordes of environmental and financial problems looming over the US economy (chiefly the result of our unappeasable appetites for oil), one would assume that our citizens would become better acquainted with more sustainable lifestyles.  This national mentality falls in line with some situations we’ve addressed here on TM; evidenced by the opposition against bringing commuter rail service to the CSX corridor because it would “hamper the commutes of motorists traveling along several east-west corridors.”

Of the study’s 5,200 participants, 44 percent cited faster commutes as the primary reason to expand public transportation, followed closely by shorter lines at the gas station. Environmental and energy concerns ranked a distant third and fourth, respectively.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news America, but this is not how transportation works:

Anaheim, CA, resident Lance Holland, who drives 80 miles a day to his job in downtown Los Angeles, was among the proponents of public transit.

“Expanding mass transit isn’t just a good idea, it’s a necessity,” Holland said. “My drive to work is unbelievable. I spend more than two hours stuck in 12 lanes of traffic. It’s about time somebody did something to get some of these other cars off the road.”

You will notice that equally important in our quest of reshaping the American Landscape (and mentality) is to create a better understanding of our land use policies.

Recommended Reading:

  • With Gas Over $4, Cities Explore Whether It’s Smart to Be Dense (WSJ)

Tri-Rail Commuter Train, originally uploaded by jmdspk.
Due to the volume of e-mails, I know when we are running behind on a given topic (sorry!) but hey, you can always count on us to cover every transit/development related story sometime within the given week.

This week’s topic is how FDOT, like every other DOT across the country (I guess the Feds set the precedent here), is trying to raid the public transit funds for more road expansion projects in the Greater Miami Area (get used to it folks, we don’t fly with the “South Florida” nomenclature around here.)

On one end is the Florida Department of Transportation, or DOT, trying to keep money it uses to build and improve state roads. At the other is Tri-Rail, struggling to find money to fund the commuter train’s operations and pay for new projects.

Let us analyze this statement briefly. The Florida Department of TRANSPORTATION (not too aptly named, eh?) is trying to raid the nation’s fastest growing public transportation system (tri-rail) of hundreds of Millions of Dollars over the next 5 years for various road widening schemes? Jeff Koons of the Palm Beach MPO and Tri-Rail governing board has the right idea:
“I wish we had more dollars, but by [giving Tri-Rail] the $2, I hope they realize this is a crisis,” he said. “The state needs to take a look at adding some funding sources for regional mass transit.”
Without this dedicated funding source, Tri-Rail, like all of the sprawl inducing road projects, would be dead in the water. The Agency would have until October to come up with $17 million or else shut down in the midst of 2 years of solid growth, capacity expansion, and recent train dispatch control.
If Tri-Rail doesn’t get a dedicated funding source and if the three counties cut their funding next year as expected, Tri-Rail officials say they’ll have to drastically reduce service. Under that scenario, Tri-Rail could default on a $334 million federal grant used to construct a second track because the money was awarded based on the agency’s pledge to operate at least 48 trains a day weekdays.

The troubling aspect of this issue is not only how we continue to heavily subsidize our roadways at an uncontrollable rate, but that our state transportation agency is attempting to financially dismantle our commuter rail system in order to expand congestion. The State continues to battle itself, by working on projects that contradict themselves: Tri-Rail, Road expansion, HOT Lanes, etc. The FDOT epitomizes a transportation agency and policy that is anything but; eager to shift resources away from reasonable solutions and further legitimizing the misconceptions often encouraged by people like Gregg Fields:

But is it streetcars we desire? The mass transit message is decidedly mixed. One day earlier this month, Tri-Rail celebrated ridership hitting a whopping 15,000. There are Burger Kings with more traffic at their drive-thru windows — and they serve food.

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  • Tri-Rail carried more passengers in 2007 than in 2006. The overall system ridership is up 31% since march 2006…
  • City of Miami is working on identifying vacant lots to be used for park space…
  • The County Commission is trying to get the state and federal government to kick in hundreds of millions of dollars for metrorail expansion, everglades restoration, river dredging, pedestrian overpasses, and a regional homeland security hub among other projects… We’ll cover this in more depth later today…
  • Office vacancy rates continue to decline
  • Bike Blog presents a comprehensive wish list for 2008 Bike facilities…

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