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This week’s Streetwise Column by Herald Reporter Larry Lebowitz, presented an “innovative” new use for Miami-Dade’s Busway program. We’ve taken some time to mull over the basics of the plan over the past few days (apparently so have a number of you based on the number of emails I received) and have prepared an analysis of the project based on the data Larry provided in the article.

Imagine widening the Busway from two lanes to four and giving buses and carpoolers with at least three passengers a free ride.

It is a stretch of my imagination, that is for sure, but from the looks of it, this does not seem like a promising solution for South-Dade commuters. Granted, the Busway is far from perfect, but adding lanes, albeit managed lanes, is hardly the solution to an ever-growing congestion problem.

Instead of encountering dozens of incredibly looooooong lights at the busy cross streets on today’s Busway, imagine flying over all the major intersections as the government guarantees a reliable 50-mph journey from Dadeland to Florida City or the turnpike interchange near Southwest 112th Avenue.

The sad part about this is that some sort of “benefit” has to be presented for motorists in order to shore up the funds to marginally improve the transit infrastructure. I guess that is one of the major issues we have to deal with when we have a President who in his next financial deficit (that is not a budget) wants to reduce an already anemic transportation fund by $3.2 billion. One major question remains: What is going to happen to all of those cars not going to Dadeland or the Palmetto when they merge back onto a US-1? We cannot honestly expect all these folks to suddenly abandon their cars and hop on Metrorail, can we? Or will the lanes be extended north into downtown, continuing to undermine the reason why Metrorail was constructed along US-1 to begin with - to get people out of their cars.

A similar variably priced tolling plan is about to be introduced on a 24-mile segment of Interstate 95 between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. They are also planned for the expanded Interstate 595 in Broward.

True. However, I do not think drawing comparisons between US-1 and limited access highways is fair. HOT lanes are a novel concept for the highway scenario, but not along a corridor where driveways and intersections all interfere.

Not only could it provide a little relief to the normal wall-to-wall madness on the overburdened South Dixie corridor, but it could also finally fulfill the Busway’s original promise: real rapid transit.

Once again, see our unrelated qualms above on transportation spending as a whole in this country. It’s deplorable!

”Without a strong transit component, this doesn’t work,” said Javier Rodriguez, executive director of the expressway authority.

Amen!

Elevated intersections will incite plenty of sturm und drang from communities along the Busway. The neighbors must be mollified, especially if Transit is forced to relocate its stations away from the intersections to maintain easy street-level access for riders.

Wow, you can say that again. Most of these communities have already reduced the allowable density along US-1 making Mr. Rodriguez’s point listed above extremely difficult to accomplish. Transit needs to treat any further upgrades to this project as a rail project, bringing with that the power to enact land-use changes for the corridor that will continue to prepare it for future rail transit, increase bus ridership, and lay a foundation for preventing future westward and southern sprawl. Without a massive overhaul of the land around the Busway, this corridor will never realize the transit ridership necessary to fund such a project.

Besides noise walls and landscaping, some must-dos:

Whoa, noise walls are a definite must-do-not. This project needs to entwine the Busway (future railway) as much as possible with the surroundings, not create an inhospitable environment for those walking, biking, or using transit.


All plans must leave a pocket for future light rail or Metrorail within the 100-foot corridor as the Busway was originally intended. It might take 30 to 50 years to get trains there, but that’s what the people were promised and the bulk of the growth is already occurring down there.

Definitely! Can’t stress this point enough.


The plan must set aside money to re-time all of the signals for cross-street traffic trying to get onto and across U.S. 1 under the elevated intersections.

This is something MDT/MPO should do now to give the 15,000 daily transit riders a surefire benefit to riding the Busway. Which reminds me, what exactly is MDT up to these days?

An expanded Busway must mesh with the community charettes aimed at future redevelopment of Princeton, Naranja and Goulds into transit-oriented development villages.

Ditto for preserving the existing bike path and enhancing pedestrian access to and from the Busway.

Once again, we cannot stress how important this is. These details will ultimately make or break a project like this. Take Metrorail for example, it is a great transit system but the surroundings are beyond lousy.

The point of this article was not to criticize Streewise or Larry Lebowitz - after all he’s just the messenger - but rather to condemn a plan which is seemingly being hailed as the golden ticket for fixing congestion. The fact of the matter is, for any real change to come of any of these plans (Metrorail, Bay Link, Miami Streetcar, Busway included) we need to push for land use changes more favorable to living lifestyles which are not automatically governed by the necessity of owning a vehicle.

I’m glad Representative Julio Robaina stepped up today and finally declared that through consolidation of city services, Miami-Dade taxpayers could save $50 Million Dollars. Although Robaina was speaking of only consolidating one branch of various municipal governments, it’s a step in the right direction- the direction that would consolidate all local municipalities under one effective roof. We have to stop undermining the power established by the Miami-Dade Home Rule Charter in 1957 and need to start using it to become a more efficient municipal entity. What do I mean? No more Surfside, Pinecrest, Miami Gardens, El Portal, Key Biscayne, etc. Sure the neighborhoods will still exist, but the municipal authority will be absent, consolidating their governing authority in the hands of an expanded and qualified (better paid too, obviously) county government. The majority of these municipalities are going to feel the crunch of the property tax reform anyway, bringing many of them to the brink of bankruptcy, seeing that the greater part of them are just bedroom communities without any real commerce or industry sectors. Heck, Imagine what it would look like if every census designated place became its own municipality…

It’s an idealistic situation, I’ll admit, but the fact that there isn’t a comprehensive governing body with the authority to draft area-wide planning/zoning, transit, development, greenways, etc. is pretty archaic.

Example 1:
MDT and county planning has had a plan to maximize density along the US-1 corridor (as they should) to maximize the overall system benefit of metrorail and the busway, allow for less westward growth, etc. However, each city along the corridor has final say on the TOD along their particular portion of the corridor. MDT and TOD developers have to therefore seek planning/density/zoning approval from whichever city their project resides as well as the county. It’s redundant! To make matters worse, every city has its own agenda: Pinecrest for example, has reduced density along their portion of the corridor (in a futile attempt to “prevent” further traffic.) Newsflash kids, the growth south and westward will cause far worse traffic through Pinecrest than any expanded development along US-1.

Example 2:
After the passage of the PTP in 2002, one of the first rail projects to come under consideration was the Miami-Miami Beach connection: Baylink. Despite the overall benefit (tourism, local access, etc.) the transit system would have provided to a greater proportion of the local population, Miami Beach politicians derailed the project, pushing back its earliest date for county consideration to 2015! MDT and the county could have pushed ahead without Miami Beach approval, but the elected governing body of the time lacked the political will to force the Beach agenda aside.

Neighborhoods have incorporated into proper municipalities to escape the corruption, abuse, or neglect that evolved in Miami’s County politics over time (Yes, I am aware that 25 of the 34 Municipalities were formed prior to the 1957 Charter.) Instead of adjusting the system to provide better public oversight, neighborhoods have been uniting and adding yet other layers to the local bureaucracy. Nowadays we’re looking to cut taxes, not services, why not cut the fat?

Here is a letter I received from Joe Corradino, of the Pinecrest Village council. Pardon the formatting errors, internet use time is limited…Enjoy…

A decade ago Pinecrest incorporated as a municipality. As a result the Village was required, by the State of Florida to develop a Comprehensive Plan, and subsequent Land Development Regulations. The Comprehensive Plan sets forth the Goals, Objectives, and Policies that the Village lives by. The Land Development Regulations and Zoning Code are the legal implementation of the plan. One of the most important results of our incorporation was that control over zoning and land use was vested in the Village. In the coming months and years we will need to reach out to our neighbors to maintain that control, and implement positive change in our area of the County.

Since 1996, we have come to live in one of the fastest growing, most desirable regions, and cities in the nation. Some estimate more than 30,000 people each year move in to South Dade County. Today we share the US-1 Corridor with over ½ million people living in South Miami, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Homestead, Florida City, and Miami Dade County. All of which impact Pinecrest. The issues we face are diverse and stretch well beyond our boundaries. They are regional in nature. Skyrocketing property values have limited the ability of young middle class families to move in, and the ability of senior citizens to downsize, so that our community may continue its normal, healthy growth cycles. Hurricanes and their results have further burdened tax payers. The tremendous regional growth coupled with separated residential and commercial land use patterns have created highly congested roadways. We often lack critical supporting infrastructure. The environment, relative to water quality and quantity may be degrading, and we have limited land on which to expand. Additionally our economy has shifted and has become largely dependant on this growth.

As a result of these issues, it is being suggested through a coming study that an entity other that Pinecrest control the land uses and densities in Pinecrest. As such, we face serious challenges over the next several years. To protect our rights, we must not only be concerned with our local government and how it functions internally, but we should coordinate with our surrounding municipal neighbors and stakeholders groups in order to understand and address the economic, transportation, land use and environmental consequences that come as a product of living in an extremely desirable location. By displaying the leadership and vision to study, understand, and react to these issues in a holistic and coordinated manner, we have the opportunity of protecting our interests, limiting the unintended consequences of poor planning decisions, and maintaining the right to control our land use and zoning. As part of a symbiotic, sub-regional group of cities in South Dade, our best opportunity for success is to work together to examine and address these issues in a rational manner, so that we can manage our growth consistent to our comprehensive plans and visions. By working to together to develop coordinated responses that not only are reflective of what is in the best interests of Pinecrest, but our neighbors and region as a whole, will assure that we protect our assets and maintain our high quality of life well into the future.

Joe Corradino

Pinecrest Village Council

Seat 4

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