Currently viewing the tag: "Miami Intermodal Center"

It is always one step forward and two steps back for transportation in South Florida. The governing board of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority voted last week to close the Tri-Rail Airport Station for several years to allow construction to continue on the Miami Intermodal Center, scheduled to open in 2013 with a new Tri-Rail station. 

Project engineers claim that keeping the service running would lead to cost overruns and delays in opening the Miami- Intermodal Center big parking garage  next to Miami International Airport. Users coming south from Broward and Palm Beach will have to take a shuttle from Hialeah station to MIA. No big deal to FDOT district secretary Gus Pego, who said users already have to take a shuttle from the existing station to the airport (which is a bit misleading - a 5 minute shuttle cannot be compared to a 20-30 minute bus ride through Hialeah.) As one commenter on the Miami Herald put it, “Another decision about public service made by those who don’t use the service.”

Ironically, the Miami-Dade contingent of SFRTA is made of many of the same anti-transit leaders on the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority Board. How can we expect these folks to advocate for the best transit options, when they are simultaneously planning to undermine Tri-Rail and the US1 busway with an elevated expressway (not to mention their stated opposition to the regional service on the South Florida East Coast Railway Corridor at recent MPO meetings). Yet another instance of the fox guarding the hen-house in Miami.

The transportation planning and governance model in our region must change. Our leaders have established a highway monopoly where they can set the price for the service at whatever level they choose, while giving people a false choice between transportation options. In referendum happy Miami-Dade County - is it time for us to take control of our transportation future?  I think so.
PS….

Infrastructure stimulus funds are coming from two different sections of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, one is for transit & the other for highways. Although the MPO prioritized certain projects at the last meeting, we still don’t know exactly which projects will be funded. This is how funding is distributed in Miami-Dade:

Transit:

$132 million in Transit Capital Assistance to be divided between Surface Transportation Projects (80%) and Transit Projects (with Miami Dade transit getting 80% and municipalities getting 20%).

$5.3 million Fixed-Guideway Infrastructure Investment

$0.00 million Capital Investment Grants (out of possible $700m)

Highways:

$126 million from the FDOT for highways, roads & bridges.

$5.5 million for transportation enhancement - only to be used for pedestrian improvements, bike lanes, & trails.

TOTAL:$260million-ish

The transit stimulus comes at an unfortunate time for MDT because of its Medium rating with the FTA. Stimulus funds are allocated within existing funding programs, which means that Miami-Dade is missing out on money from the Capital Investment Grants program (which operates under the new starts/small starts rules). Too bad.

Carlos Gimenez pushed for the 20% municipal share, which I’m torn about since municipalities tend to spend the money on road projects (just look at what gets funded by the PTP’s $200 million annual municipal share). In this case it makes political sense to get small local projects off the ground so that you can put a sign on them and say “See, this is where we spent your money - on this sign!”

Lets face it, the majority of people are never going to notice the millions going to the intermodal center, or the $112 million going to the airport viaduct - and that’s ok as long as they see something happening in their own neighborhood too.

I’m happy that the City of Miami is funding trolleys with its portion of the transit funds. There are a bunch of really good projects on these lists including streetscape upgrades to Ponce de Leon Boulevard and a tolley in Doral. Even these little projects will work toward a better balance of local vs. county wide transit service (part of why eliminating some routes is the right thing to do…more on this later).

Courtesy of the Miami Herald

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Apparently, Vice-President Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood made an appearance at the Miami Intermodal Center (currently under construction) this morning to discuss Transportation Investment in the American Recovery Act.  Did anyone attend? Were they embarrassed that much of the money being spent is expanding highways when real projects like the Orange Line would improve both access and mobility, while hitting Mr. President’s goal of reducing carbon emissions?

Doubt it.

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Photo by Flickr User ImageMD.

If you haven’t heard the news, head over to the Miami Herald and read about the Citizen’s Independent Transportation Trust (CITT) vote to reject the planned use of sales tax money to purchase new Metrorail cars. At least they are protecting the tax money that’s supposed to go towards new service.

Meanwhile, Miami Gardens is asking Miami-Dade to bump the North Corridor Expansion to Phase 1, presumably making it priority over the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC) connector. I’m not sure what benefit they expect to see out of that, as the MIC connection is not using federal funds and is currently the only piece of the Orange Line that looks like it might get built.

The feds pointed out when they downgraded the rating that they didn’t trust Miami-Dade to fund Metrorail properly. This whole failure to refurbish the cars in a timely manner merely proves them right. The CITT is trying to get the point across that band-aid fixes won’t work anymore. MDT needs a solid funding plan to get out of the current hole it’s in, and an equally solid plan to fund expansion. Without that, the feds won’t give Metrorail a dime.

Miami-Dade Transit has set March 25 as the date of the next public meeting to discuss plans for the new Metrorail line connecting the Earlington Heights station with the Miami Intermodal Center under construction near the Miami International Airport. The actual meeting will start at 7:00 p.m., with an open-house being held before, at 6:00 p.m. The location of the meeting will be at the Sheila Winitzer Central Administration Building Auditorium: 3300 NW 32 Ave.

Several items of interest regarding this particular segment of Metrorail:

  • It will be the first extension of the train since the extension to Palmetto station;
  • This segment will not be constructed with federal funds, but solely from the half-cent transportation tax implemented in Miami-Dade county, along with state funding;
  • Once opened, this segment will provide a much-needed alternative for transport into the airport both by tourists using the airport’s facilities, and for workers providing services.

Further information can be found at this link to Miami-Dade Transit’s website.

The last time I was in Berlin the new Hauptbahnhof was still under construction and a year or so away from the May 2006 grand opening. The Berlin Hauptbahnhof now handles over 1,800 trains and 350,000 passengers per day. This digital representation provides a good example of what Europe’s largest train station is like and the type of rail catalyst the MIC should become for our region…

Many people are going to be traveling this holiday season. The Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald both point out that airports will be crowded and parking scarce for the Thanksgiving travel days. They offer tips like “get a ride,” but they neglect to offer the best suggestion to avoid both the parking issues and the vehicle traffic in the terminal: Tri-Rail. Parking is free at Tri-Rail stations, so put what you would have paid at the airport towards your Tri-Rail ticket and enjoy your gas savings as you zip along towards any of the three major South Florida airports. Or take the Metrorail and transfer to Tri-Rail whichever is closer to your location.

Once you get to the appropriate station, just hop on a connecting bus and head over to the airport. The connections take anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 minutes to get from the train station to the airport terminal, so don’t forget to add in a bit of extra time. If you’re going to FLL or MIA, Tri-Rail provides the free shuttle bus to the airport. If you’re going to Palm Beach International, you’re stuck using Palm Tran routes 40 or 44, but it’s still free with the Tri-Rail ticket.

We all know it would be better if Tri-Rail consistently ran on time and you didn’t have any delays there. And it would be better still if Tri-Rail or even Metrorail went straight to the airport terminal without bus transfers. (We are all patiently awaiting the Miami Intermodal Center!) The last time I took Tri-Rail to the Fort Lauderdale airport, however, I waited much longer for the airplane than I did for the train and shuttle bus. If arriving two hours early for your flight isn’t bad enough, prepare for more delays waiting for your flight to get off the ground. A small delay with Tri-Rail will just cut into the 2 hour+ wait at the airport, so you should have plenty of leeway. It may be annoying to wait for your train or wait for the bus, but remember you’re only getting there to wait some more. Commercial air travel is public transportation. So instead of getting a ride in a car to the airport, why not make your trip public transit all the way?

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Gabriel- I can’t help myself but I have some serious issues with this article which ran in the Sun-Sentinel yesterday listing parking at “South Florida’s” Airports. What’s missing? MIA. Since when is MIA not considered a South Florida airport? Just another instance of the Sun-Sentinel segregating Miami from South Florida (Broward and Palm Beach) a serious nomenclature issue which needs to be resolved and shows the confusion caused by creating so many municipalities within the greater Miami region…

This article has been brewing in my mind for quite some time; however, I kept putting off until I saw some sort of definite progress occurring over at the Miami Intermodal Center. With their new website up and running (finally!) we can get some better insight to some of my more pressing concerns, particularly the Florida regional transportation service.

The Miami Intermodal Center concept is fairly forward thinking for such an automobile dependent area such as Miami. It will link local transit (MDT, Tri-Rail, Taxi, etc.) with regional transit (Greyhound, Amtrak, etc.) with the international destinations serviced by MIA in a centralized, modern facility. I’ve had a growing concern, however, with regards to the regional transportation service which will be offered at the MIC and the efforts of the state (or county) to unify regional transportation links within Miami-Dade County. Given that Florida currently lacks a dependent and reliable statewide rail network, I have decided to concentrate on the interaction between the MIC and statewide bus service.

(Does anyone else find the amount of surface parking in the above two renderings alarming? There shouldn’t be such a need for surface parking in such a central multi-modal transit facility…)

Intercity buses provide transportation between cities and rural areas, be it short or long distance. They usually offer limited stops making service faster and more efficient.

Greyhound is an example of a national intercity bus line, but regionally, all of South Florida’s transit systems have come together to offer intercity service to all major cities and towns in the area, as well as the smaller communities that do not have accessible rail service via Tri-rail or Metrorail. It is envisioned that the MIC’s Miami Central Station will accommodate intercity buses offering service into Miami-Dade County. Until then, visit the South Florida Regional Transit Trip Planner for more information.

Via Milliped’s Flickr…

The excerpt above comes from the intercity bus page on the MIC website. While the site places great emphasis on bringing Greyhound into the facility, I could only hope (as a regular intercity bus user myself) that provisions were made to include space for competing intercity bus services. La Cubana, providing Miami-NYC and Atlanta service easily comes to mind. The popular bus service currently operates from its strip shopping center headquarters on 11 St and NW 22 Ave.

Florida bus services GMG, Miami Bus Service, and TMT, servicing the colleges in Gainesville, Tallahassee, and Orlando could also benefit from access to the centralized terminal. Currently these bus services transport passengers from a parking lot on the respective college campuses to the parking lot of the Mall of the Americas. This “parking lot transit” is a fitting representation of American culture and Urban Planning, we spend our lives commuting to and from parking lots in our own vehicles so it’s only natural that when a successful “mass transit” operation appears, we lack the infrastructure for it to ferry us to anything other than shopping malls. Hopefully the Key-West Shuttle and Jet-Set bus service, both of which already operate from the airport terminals, will be offered space in the new facility as well.

While touring through Spain I marveled at the efficiency and popularity of the bus network in that country. It goes to show that despite the widespread efficient rail system in Spain, alternatives are needed to offer citizens a greater variety of choices and competitive prices for land-based regional transit. We arrived in the central city bus terminal of Toledo, purchased tickets for any of the buses traveling between the small city and Madrid every half hour and were well on our way within a few minutes of boarding (fully booked too, no doubt.) Spain is entwined in a vast web of rail and bus networks, all of which terminate in the central city stations accessible by public transit, pedestrians, cyclists, etc.

Bottom Picture Via Robert A1’s Flickr…

Regional public transit corridors are imperative to creating sustainable cities across Florida and the United States. The Miami Intermodal Center takes us a few steps closer to unifying our regional and local transit, making both systems accessible to a wider group of people and more importantly, accessible via local modes of public transit. I hope the necessary parties work to bring our regional bus and eventually rail transit into the Miami Intermodal Center to fully realize the potential the center has to offer…

Say it ain’t so! The Miami Intermodal Center is slated to begin construction this month!?!? Something (history) tells me that I’ll believe it when I see it…The anticipated opening date is set for Spring 2010 and the estimated cost is $400 Million, we’ll keep tabs on both as well as HNTB’s progress

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I opted to skip out on writing on last week’s revelation on the progress of the north corridor thinking that I’d have enough time this week to cover the story; little did I know that my week would quickly become so complicated, but I’ve finally found some time to address the issue.

MDT has gained federal approval to begin land acquisition for the next branch of the metrorail line. No, I’m not talking about the much needed east-west extension, but the north extension, rising along 27th avenue from the current Northside station to Dolphin stadium adjacent to the county line. Despite the fact that the east-west corridor was originally planned in the 1980’s, the north corridor has somehow taken precedent over the more vital link. The seven proposed stations along the $1.3 Billion, 9.5 miles North line include: a second ridiculously close northside station, MDC North Campus, Opa Locka (just out of reach of the airport), 163 St and the Palmetto, 183 St and Miami Gardens Drive, Dolphin Stadium, and Calder Race Course at County line.

I am obviously disturbed that the North extension is proceeding before the even more crucial east-west corridor is constructed. What irks me most is that MDT is spending millions of PTP money to construct yet another N-S rail link, even though the line would essentially parallel the existing Tri-Rail route. At the same time, the SFECC is working to provide a third N-S rail link, funded by the FDOT, along the FEC corridor, while the USDOT is working on a plan to add managed lanes to I-95, despite a multi million dollar unused FDOT project which sought to add a controversial yet proven Ramp Metering system. Seems unreasonable? I think so, especially when it becomes apparent that our layers of government are effectively working against each other to solve a common problem.

I hate to see things in such a grim manner, but I can’t foresee the north corridor garnering enough riders to justify its’ construction. With competing government entities working to improve existing rail and road routes, the north corridor is seemingly becoming the next white elephant of the metrorail system. On the plus side, it will connect Dolphin stadium with a direct transit source which should garner us at least 7 weekends of extensive use (twice that when UM finally heads North too.) Aside from the northern 2 stations, however, the southern five are awkwardly placed at best, running across mainly industrial and single family home neighborhoods; areas generally not geared to handle the addition of such a major transit line.

My main concern is the $800 Million we’re working to receive from the US government. Considering this is the first project to be partially funded by the PTP, we need to construct a line that will generate the ridership and daily passenger use which will help us to further guarantee more federal subsides for our remaining metrorail lines. A failure so early into the PTP could effectively jeopardize federal funding for the east-west corridor, Baylink, or any other major transit route in the county. And, with so many other cities vying for the same funds while planning considerably cheaper projects using LRT or streetcars, the cost benefit ratio for such a large project will be hard to justify…

Update: Speaking of funding issues

As if the Marlins’ Stadium conundrum couldn’t get any more ludicrous, a few articles appeared in the Miami Today adding multiple new dimensions to the problems at hand. Where should I begin? As you may recall, the Marlins last week asserted their position that a downtown facility would be ideal; it would give the team the greatest chance of success in Miami and would make sense from an urban planning perspective given that it would be easily connected to metrorail, tri-rail, I-95, and the downtown businesses. It appears that our most asinine commissioner, Natacha Seijas, known for such wonderful remarks as: “I don’t see why we need to be creating an environment so they can continue…” when speaking about protecting manatees or “Today is the day that you might just leave here in a body bag if you keep it up…” which she remarked at a county Commission meeting, is once again the forerunner to speak out against the Marlins’ latest statements (Click here for a video of Seijas.) Here is what the Miami Today reported:
SELF-INFLICTED BEANBALL: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Natacha Seijas says the Florida Marlins hardly helped themselves over the weekend with their insistence that the team’s stadium be built downtown on a site designated for the county’s new juvenile-justice center. The team’s comments were a “completely and absolutely offensive” brushback of the county’s children, Ms. Seijas said Tuesday during a meeting of the commission’s Governmental Affairs and Operations committee. “The Marlins need to be more respectful when interviewed on TV. They need to be more respectful of the children’s courthouse.”

Ok, so Natacha Seijas has no clue what she’s talking about, right? Big Deal? Well, yes it is a big deal because she’s one of our Fab 13 who will be deciding where we will one day place the stadium in question. Given her take on the manatee, I’m sure she’d have no qualms with paving over everglades to accommodate anything…

In any case, like I mentioned above the stadium issue has gotten more complex. Now Michael Cannon, a “real-estate researcher” whatever that is, is declaring that the new Marlins’ stadium should be constructed on the Melreese Golf Course property. Sure, it would be next to the Miami Intermodal center, but, why complicate that project any further, FDOT has been constructing it since the late 90’s and we’ve yet to see any considerable progress. The Marlins’ stadium belongs in the city center which a new MLB drawing will soon depict, according to Miami Today:

COMING SOON: Major League Baseball is preparing a schematic of a stadium as it would appear in the proposed downtown location. “As soon as they have something formalized, they’ll bring it to us,” Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Joe Martinez said in a committee meeting Tuesday. The Florida Marlins want a retractable-roof ballpark with 37,000 seats and 60 suites to be built on nine acres of county- and city-owned land just north of the county government center north of Northwest Second Street, east of Interstate 95 and west of Metrorail. Commissioners have been reluctant to give full backing of the downtown location. “I know there are not seven votes here for this site,” Mr. Martinez said at a Tuesday meeting of the Government Affairs and Operations Committee. The favored plan is to replace the Orange Bowl with a ballpark.

Things can’t possibly get any worse, right? Try again. Plans also resurfaced at a recent commission meeting by Jose “Pepe” Diaz to analyze a “Bayfront” park idea. That’s Bayfront as in Bicentennial Park, the same park slated to for the new home of the MAM and Museum of Science, apparently chop liver and easily moved to sites elsewhere…Apparently it doesn’t matter if MAM has already contracted Herzog and DeMuron to design their new complex. The Millions spent thus far on plans to recreate Bicentennial into Museum Park also seem to be dispensable, after all, its only taxpayer money and there seems to be a never ending supply of it, why not keep wasting it? The Bayfront idea will never fly. We voted to create bonds to establish a cultural icon on the site, not another waterfront sports venue.

BACK TO THE BAY: Some formerly favored sites for a stadium haven’t been discarded, county commissioners say. Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz said he has asked County Manager George Burgess to give further study to putting the ballpark on the Biscayne Bay front. “I’ve asked him to look at it,” Mr. Diaz said, though he said he doubts a bayfront site is viable. The 29-acre Bicentennial Park, designated for a pair of museums, got a passing mention Tuesday. “If the city somehow has a change of mind, then that location would be back on the table,” Mr. Diaz said. Also back on the table, he said, would be the problem of parking. That’s been a major challenge for the bayfront Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, he said, and would be an even bigger one for planners of a ballpark on the bay.

Parking not the issue, not building any parking to along with the Carnival Center is the problem, which was under development since the 80’s…That’s the problem. Museum Park should feature underground parking, beneath the museum structure, with enough parking for some, but not all of the Museum Park visitors. The point is to provide some parking and some public transit, but just little enough to price people into not driving…

What is so incredibly difficult about agreeing on a single location for the Marlins’ stadium? Why can’t the Commission show some solidarity? One is discussing the orange bowl site while another asks for research on the Bayfront site and I’m sure someone else is still fixated on the Hialeah plan. There may very well be 13 different plans on 13 different sites floating around the Commission chambers. Heck, they’re not even sure of why it shouldn’t go in downtown. It’s amazing how hypocritical they are, somehow the Children’s courthouse poses as an insurmountable obstacle to placing the stadium downtown, but yet the two iconic museums and parks can be easily relocated elsewhere…Go figure!

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Miami-Dade Transit’s own consultants [Not me, however see below] are concluding that a rubber-tired automated people mover that would run from the airport to the Miami Intermodal Center is a better option, according to a draft report obtained Thursday by The Miami Herald.

It appears that my “Airtrain Solution Series” wasn’t such a bad idea to begin with. My main concern regarding this decision is whether it will be designed/built properly to accommodate most of the terminals rather than just one centralized station at the airport (you know, in an effort to cut project costs as usual.)

More info on the vehicle maker, Sumitomo Corp

To wrap up the discussions on the new proposed plans for the MIC/Airport connection, I will focus on why a direct line to the airport is such a bad idea. Like I previously stated, a direct line partially negates the reason why we decided to construct the MIC to begin with. Given the shape of the airport, tight clearances around the terminals/parking garages, and numerous elevated walkways, I am left to assume that the only suitable location for metrorail and station would be between the parking structures or west of the new cooling tower by the new south terminal. I assume the current taxi parking lot could also be a viable option considering the cars will one day be stationed at the MIC instead. In any case, any of the above three options place metrorail just enough out of reach to make it convenient for all passengers at all terminals. Any of the above options would equate to more than a quarter mile walk (linearly, which we know will not be the case) for some of the farthest gates. A direct line will also only be able to service one location (the airport) rather than an Airtrain like concept which will be able to service every terminal, parking structure, and transfer station. Like most Airtrain systems, travel from terminal to terminal would be free and passengers looking to exit the Airtrain system at the MIC would pay the fare to disembark, effectively solving the ridiculous concept of an automated farecard system so rental car patrons can ride for free to the intermodal center, while anyone who stays on Metrorail will pay a regular fare. We don’t even have fare cards that can be purchased at any station, why are we dreaming up further problems!?

Going back to my previous post, I’d like to present some more evidence with regards to the confusion of the MDT decision makers. As I stated, metrorail is at best a commuter rail with several parking garage park-n-ride stations. The concept of a truly urban transit oriented development is, well, quite foreign around here to put it mildly. MDT somehow conceives that fewer transfers will equate to greater ridership numbers, which for an urban transit system can generally be true. What MDT fails to realize though is that metrorail riders are commuters, which means they have already used another form of transit (a car, likely, parked in one of the massive park-n-ride stations) to arrive at the station which will probably not have any long term parking for people who will be away for longer than a day. Where am I going with this? People who live near metrorail cannot walk to the station because we haven’t adapted the surroundings properly for this type of lifestyle and people who already use metrorail will not be able to ride it to the airport because they usually drive to metrorail to begin with. The problems are worse than we think! Had MDT pushed through some necessary urban train lines first (like baylink) then perhaps this wouldn’t be such a big issue because it could be perceivable that many people could walk a short distance to the nearest Miami Beach station and only have to make one transfer to get to the airport.

There is no clear-cut answer to the problems posed by the MIC-MIA connections. MDT needs to seriously analyze what they hope to accomplish as our transit agency and how they plan to create a transit system that effectively replaces vehicle use from a substantial portion of the population. MDT would also benefit greatly from studying the solutions other airports have concocted to this very issue, rather than continuing to do things the ineffective way…

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