Multiple facets of our community are abuzz with transportation- and mobility-related talk.
Now we’ve got yet another transportation-/mobility-related event scheduled for a week after the summit, on June 12. It seems the transportation debate in greater Miami is really heating up . . .
The Good Government Initiative (GGI) at the University of Miami is hosting a luncheon called “Can We Conquer Congestion? Mobility for 21st Century“.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
11:30am - registration | 12:00pm — lunch | 12:30pm — conversation
Northern Trust | 700 Brickell Avenue | Miami, Florida 33131
For your Average-José, there’s some good news and bad news. It’s always best to serve the bad news first:
Bad News: This is NOT a free event, which is something that would generally, under most circumstances, discourage me from posting here on TransitMiami. There’s an elaborate fee schedule for various types of groups:
- $35 — Individual Ticket (standard/default)
- $30 — GGI Member
- $50 — GGI Contributor (Individual Ticket + $15 donation)
- $500 — Sponsor Table for 10
- $20 — Student / Concerned Citizen
Good News: The Good Government Initiative has graciously agreed to offer readers of TransitMiami a special registration discount of $5, hence the reason it’s being posted. Thank you Good Government Initiative — sincerely!
That’s right! Just as you always hoped and knew it would, your TransitMiami readership is finally beginning to pay off! To get your crisp Abraham Lincoln knocked-off the registration price, be sure to enter the following promo code into the electronic form when registering as a “Student / Concerned Citizen” ($20): TRANSITMIAMI .
After the $5 discount, that $15 bucks will cover your lunch (hey, lunch!) and presence at the discussion. Note: the actual level of participation permitted by the public in this “discussion” is to yet to be determined/witnessed. . . . Read on for the justification of my admittedly skeptical disposition . . .
The more ambiguous news — toward which you should be correspondingly ambivalent — is that an event titled “Can We Conquer Congestion? Mobility for 21st Century” is featuring the Executive Director of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX), Mr. Javier Rodriguez, as one of its main speakers (?!).
Let’s be clear here: TransitMiami has absolutely nothing against Mr. Rodriguez on a personal level.
Professionally, though, we do take issue with the agency whose reins he controls: MDX.
Around here, MDX holds the un-honorably earned reputation of being one of the main progenitors of suburban sprawl and endless highway construction. It’s these forces that underlie congestion and diminish quality of life in our community. MDX is a tenacious antagonist of true urban mobility in the Miami of the 21st century.
So, please understand that our dissemination of this event comes with a healthy dose of caution and skepticism, probably even an unfortunate hint of cynicism too.
On the other hand, though, there’s also going to be representation by some organizations whose missions and and on-the-ground operations actually reflect the pursuit of our community’s well-being.
Other speakers include the likes of former Miami-Dade County Commissioner, Ms. Katy Sorenson, President and CEO of The Good Government Initiative, as well as people like Ms. Anamarie Garces de Marcilla, Executive Director of Urban Health Solutions and current chair of the Consortium for Healthier Miami-Dade’s Health & Built Environment Committee.
[***Full disclosure: this author serves on, and is a supporter of, that volunteer committee.***]
Other anticipated speakers include Mr. Joe Giulietti, Executive Director, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (the agency which manages Tri-Rail) and Mr. Mark Lesniak, Executive Director of Omni Parkwest Redevelopment Association.
So, if you have the time and the $15 bucks to spare for lunch where people will be talking about transportation and mobility, go for it! And don’t forget to tell them that TransitMiami sent you with that promo code.
Let’s just hope that after sharing all of these critical — but well-intentioned — sentiments, the kind folks from GGI still uphold their $5 discount to TransitMiami readers! After years of your blood, sweat, and tears, TM readers, you definitely deserve it!
Friend of TransitMiami.com and the Purple Line | U+Transit pop-up installation, Leah Weston, put together a fantastic map that puts Miami’s rail transit into national and international perspective. Have a look!
As Weston says, “the image speaks for itself”.
Go ahead and click on it. The enlarged version is much better.
A busy holiday weekend reminds me that Miami is trying to be a “real” city - but is it yet? I’m sure we all wish it could be as easy as a Pinocchio fairytale of making a wooden puppet into a “real” boy with just the touch of a wand. But in reality, our city needs a whole lot more than just some magic stick. We host all these weekend events - Coconut Grove Arts Festival, Miami Boat Show, and other President’s Day weekend activities - to showcase our Magic City to our visitors. And yet what we end up with are packed busses with long headways; clogged highways; and other congestions making our city, well, far from magical to our visitors.
Its not the events, its the experience. Despite a little rain on Friday and Saturday, this weekend’s events were a success - attracting people from all over the state and country. But how was their time actually in our city? Special events are a reason to come to the city, but the experience is what attracts people back. We need to offer reliable transportation options so they can really experience all of Miami.
Its not the funding amount, its the investment. We all know times are rough, and money is tight. But yet its obvious that we are still focusing our funds into tired highway transportation that literally gets us no where. Of course we don’t have the funds to plop NYC subway system on Miami - but we can start our smart investments incrementally.
Its not the mode, its the freedom of choice. Transportation, transit, transport, or whatever you want to call it is a broad category - as are the choices it should provide. The priority shouldn’t be on one particular mode of transportation, rather a priority to provide a wide variety of options. Its about the freedom of choosing bus, rail, bike, car, walk, skate, etc to get around.
Not that we need to put up a false front for our brave visitors on special weekends, nor care more for our tourism than our own livability - because we already know these are facts that we have been discussing for years. Its about revisiting our city from another viewpoint. Just think how many visitors we could transport between Miami Beach and downtown if Baylink existed; or the improved bus experience if we had shorter headways at least on event weekends; or the number of DecoBike rentals if the M-Path was cohesive; or the successful storefronts and valuable real estate if the streets were more pedestrian-friendly.
Is Miami ready to be a “real” city and cradle a wide-mix of diverse groups. If so, lets see the real investment in multiple transportation options - or where is that fairy with the magic wand when you need her?
As reported earlier this month by our friends over at Curbed Miami, the long-anticipated, long-stalled Brickell Flatiron Park has finally materialized.
Curbed Miami has extensive coverage of the park, with multiple images provided by Transit Miami’s own Craig Chester.
Here are a few more shots of the newly materialized public space. This section of Brickell now has a nice little wedge of accessible park space from which to peacefully gaze and reflect upon the dynamic urban morphology surrounding it.
With the incipient rise of Brickell CitiCenter just to the north of Mary Brickell Village, this northwest section of the Brickell neighborhood is truly becoming the new hallmark of Miami urbanism.
Now all that’s left is making sure Brickellite yuppies — for so long bereft of such an open public space to call their own — know what to do with their new neighborhood amenity.
Transit Miami’s advice: just sit back and enjoy the growing spectacle your city has to offer.
Transit Miami reader and Emerge Miami coordinator Leah Weston shared the following letter with us, containing some poignant feedback and observations from the new-ish Miami Trolley service in downtown Miami.
Sent to TrolleyInfo@Miami.gov
I am writing because I would like to make some comments about the Miami Trolley Service. While I am happy to have the mobility from my apartment on the south end of Brickell to the Metro station, I have observed a few issues over the past month and a half that I have been using it and felt like I should give my feedback.
(1) The trolley is completely unreliable. The signs say every 15 minutes, but that is just dead wrong. Oftentimes what will happen is that I will wait for 30 minutes and see two or three trolleys going the opposite direction pass me before one going in my direction shows up. The B bus follows almost THE EXACT SAME ROUTE and it is MUCH MORE reliable. I’d rather pay $1.25 to get somewhere on time than to stand around indefinitely, holding a huge pile of heavy books (I am a law student) and sweating profusely.
(2) Why is there no way to track the trolley like you can with the Metrorail and the Metrobus? If the purpose of public transportation is to be able to get around without a car, I need to be able to plan my trip.
(3) Whoever designed the stops at Brickell Station lacks complete common sense. There are two stops-one for Northbound, one for Southbound. However, the two stops are VERY far apart. That’s fine, except for the fact that there’s nowhere on the FRONT of the trolley that indicates which direction the oncoming trolley is going. Both the North and Southbound trollies stop at the Northbound stop to let people off. I personally have to go Southbound in the afternoon when I arrive home. If I think a Southbound trolley is coming, but it turns out to be a Northbound trolley, I have to run back and forth like an idiot with a 20 pound pile of books. Also, there have been a number of occasions where I think a trolley is heading my direction, but it turns out not to be and, in turn, I miss the B bus back home and have to wait another 15-40 minutes (whenever the next trolley decides to come). Long story short: A 20 minute commute home turns into an hour commute. Might as well drive my car for that kind of efficiency.
(4) Finally, about a month ago, I dropped my work ID on a trolley. Shortly after this happened, I promptly wrote an e-mail inquiring about my ID. About a week later, I got a phone call from someone at your office, apologizing for not getting back to me sooner, but that they had shred my ID. That ID also happened to contain a $50 monthly student Metro pass which I had paid in full and which was nonrefundable. While I understand the policy, there are a few problems with this scenario: Why don’t you have someone regularly checking your e-mail account? Why doesn’t the fact that my name and the name of the judge I was working for appeared on the front of the ID merit a little bit of investigation? The woman on the phone also told me she would “see what she could do” about my Metro pass. Why did she never follow up with me?
I’m sorry for the lengthy diatribe, but I thought you should be aware that your service is sub-par and needs improvement. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about what I have written.
What has your experience been with the Miami trolleys?
James Dougherty, Pamela Stacy and Jason King created the Arrive in Style poster for CNU20’s AuthentiCity Contest. The Arrive in Style poster provides plans for the redevelopment of the Belvedere Road Station and Banyan Boulevard Station in West Palm Beach in a style consistent with Addison Mizner’s vision for West Palm Beach. The plan envisions walkable, mixed-use destinations in the grand tradition of placemaking established in the golden age of Florida rail travel.
A travel poster format was used to make a statement about transit planning in the future: train travel was once an entirely designed experience – from the city center one departed from, to the passenger car one travelled in, to the city center one arrived at – and for this reason train travel had tremendous appeal. There was an instant excitement upon arrival that automobile and plane travel can never fully provide. Immediately after getting off the train there was an experience of place.
For transit to become attractive to new generations it needs to recover its grandeur. This will require station buildings that are proud, memorable, and iconic (regardless of style). Leaving the station one must find themselves in more than just a walkable environment with connections to local transit, but at the heart of the city or town, at the center of activity. Also, one’s experience of beauty cannot be limited to temporary art exhibitions in the station but present in the buildings, streets, and neighborhoods around the stations.
Transit centers should be anchored by a signature open space. This space could serve as an identifiable landmark for all the surrounding neighborhoods. Corner stores and live-work offices around these open spaces and near the transit stops will provide an initial mixed-use component which would grow to full centers. The next increments of urbanism are shown in the plans: the corridors that connect the rail stations to the surrounding neighborhoods fronted by urban format buildings, and the neighborhoods themselves, infilled with housing types that can generate transit-supportive densities.
Did you know Miami once had a streetcar trolley network that was one of the most efficient and extensive in the developed world at the time?
The map below shows where Miami’s trolley network went in 1925, back when the area population was around 200,000. Today’s Miami-Dade population is approximately 2.5 million. The green lines show our current Metrorail and MetroMover lines, which pale in comparison to the connectivity we enjoyed in the era of the Miami streetcar (1916-1940), indicated by the lines in other colors.
To attract people and business in the 21st century, the Miami of the future should look a lot like the Miami of the past.
Thanks to Rogelio Madan from the City of Miami for providing.
The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority approved a plan yesterday to move forward with a local and express commuter rail along the famed corridor that once carried Flager’s train to Key West. The decision by the board will advance a “fast start” plan proposed by Tri-Rail administrators to leverage existing administrative costs and recently purchased locomotives to run service along the FEC line from Jupiter to Miami within 3-5 years.
The plan is an answer to FDOT officials who had previously proposed giving the concession to run trains directly to the FEC company in an effort to privatize the system. Tri-rail planners, though, say this is not necessary as they are already 80% privatized and can run the service for half the price as the proposed FEC plan. “For the same [capital] cost as the FEC- FDOT plan, we can provide 56 trains on the FEC between downtown Ft Lauderdale and downtown Miami, while also providing connectivity with the rest of the region,” said Joe Quinty, Transportation Planning Manager with the SFRTA.
Under the “fast track” proposal, which will now go to the tri-county MPO’s for approval and further cost feasibility, trains would use the FEC line from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami, with 7 stops in Miami-Dade County. Stops include 163 Street, 125 Street, 79 street, 54 Street, 36 Street, 11 Street/Overtown, and Government Center. As currently envisioned the plan would cost Tri-Rail an extra $15 million a year in operations costs by expanding existing contracts with Bombardier and Veolia. The FDOT plan would have cost $25 million a year and provided fewer stops in Miami-Dade County.
The project was approved 6-1, with the lone exception being FDOT District 6 representative Gus Pego. The plan envisions several types of service along the line, beginning with direct service between Ft. Lauderdale and downtown Miami. Regional service beyond Ft.Lauderdale will be established at Atlantic Boulevard, where a line connects the existing Tri-Rail tracks with the FEC service.
FDOT has been studying rail service along the FEC for years, with the latest SFECC Study looking at an integrated service, similar to what is being proposed, at a cost of over $2billion for the tri-county area. This plan hit a wall this spring when the Miami-Dade County MPO balked at moving forward with the study because of concerns over cost.
Tri-rail planners say that the fast track project is a way to get service running on the line as the South Florida East Coast Corridor study advances and addresses the MPO concerns. As currently planned, the service would not require any county or federal funds for operations or construction.
One third of the additional operational costs will come from farebox revenue from the new line, while the rest will come from a combination of Tri-Rail service adjustments, and yearly contributions from each of the 17 cities that will have stations of between $350,000 - $550,000. The capital cost to build the line is approximately $270 million, which will come from the Florida Department of Transportation.
Quinty went on to say, “We believe this new SFRTA is superior to FDOT’s approach, as it can be implemented quickly (by avoiding the Federal project development process), provides better regional service coverage, and will not require any additional county or FDOT operating funds.”
Transit Miami Publisher Tony Garcia was featured this week in the Miami Herald (Via: Open Media Miami) posing some questions to get a better understanding of how the City of Miami Commission Candidates view transportation through their own daily routines.
Lets start by saying kudos to newly elected Commissioner Xavier Suarez for discussing the need for adequate transit in the county. Nothing like new blood to reinvigorate the discussion. Because of his push for new service on the FEC line along Biscayne, Commissoin Chairman Joe Martinez brought up a pet project of his own that he has conitinually tried to push over the past decade. While I’m happy that rail transit has joined the discussion, lets take an initial critical look at the plans being proposed and weigh them against the transit needs of Miami-Dade County residents.
Both projects use existing freight rail infrastructure with different technologies aimed at different types of transit usage. Overall, we are happy that the conversation is taking place; however, the ill conceived nature of the projects and the lack of coordination and vision points to the need for a holistic transit strategy - something we have been saying for some time.
Commissioner Suarez is looking at the FEC line that runs parallel to Biscayne for some form of rubber-tire ‘dual mode electric vehicles’ for local service.
As you might imagine, we here at Transit Miami think this is a big joke. While we applaud the rookie/veteran commissioner, we really urge him to support the current efforts to install transit service on the FEC via the SFECC study. This Tri-County study, has laid out several alternatives for transit service, and is pretty far along in the process. Transit Miami supports the urban-local alternative, which combines regional service (ala Tri-Rail) along with local light rail or MetroRail service. The rubber tire ‘dual mode’ transit idea is as hair brained as they come. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here, folks. The FEC goes through or adjacent to most of our urbanized areas. No need to be gimicky here - just provide run of the mill fixed-premium transit service and people will ride!
As for Commissioner Martinez’ plan to connect points south to the Tri-Rail Airport station (once it reopens) along a CSX ROW, this might be a good idea, but as with all plans, the devil is in the details. Do we really need to provide expensive transit service to some of the least dense and suburban locations in Miami-Dade County? I’m not sure. Extending Tri-Rail’s regional connectivity south is a good thing, but I’m not sure in this era of constrained municipal budgets that this project is more worthy than the FEC line, or other urban rail extensions like the Douglas Road MetroRail or Baylink. The pricetag to upgrade the line in 2006 dollars is $300 million, relative chump change compared to other transit project (or any road project), so that is not as much a concern to us as the cost to maintain the system. With yearly budget battles for scarce transit dollars, we need to be sure we build lines that we can afford to pay for - going to MetroZoo and points south may be a great idea in the long run, but as Commissioner Martinez said, “What is wrong with our mass transit system? It doesn’t loop and it doesn’t connect.” Will this line actually change that? Not really. (Not to mention that this ‘transit’ project is really about giving CSX an easier - and cheaper- freight connection out west on sensitive wetlands.)
Lets continue to develop our urban rail network before making targeted investments in extensions to important points south and north and west. As with the MetroRail Orange Line along NW 27 Avenue, simply extending transit to the outer reaches of the county will not guarantee ridership - and will further induce suburban sprawl in areas to the far west and south. A better start would be to use the Ludlam trail from Dadeland Station to the Airport for light rail service (not bus). That would finally create a complete loop around Miami-Dade County, and set the stage for expansions to the suburban reaches of the county.
Imagine a world where you can breeze down US1 during rush hour without a care in the world. No gridlock. No traffic. You bypass intersections and the suckers stuck in the slow lane because you are on one of Miami-Dade’s numerous newly implemented ‘Managed Lanes.’ From the Palmetto, to LeJeune, to the entire length of US1, transportation officials have rolled out toll lanes across South Florida, and more are to come.
Unfortunately this future is not in some fantasy world - it is the transportation plan being pursued by our Miami-Dade MPO - led by the Florida Department of Transportation and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority.
What are managed lanes? The FHA defines managed lanes as, “Highway facilities or a set of lanes where operational strategies are proactively implemented and managed in response to changing conditions.” In most cases this involves variable tolling on the managed lane based on surrounding levels of congestion. Simply put, the lanes are toll roads that run parallel to ‘free’ roads, allowing users to pay a premium to bypass traffic.
As you can see from the map above from the Miami-Dade MPO Near Term Plan, the planners at the MPO have some serious confusion about the relationship between managed lanes and transit. MPO planners are conflating their need for more revenue with their responsibility to provide better mobility throughout Miami-Dade. What follows is what MPO planners have in mind for your transportation future (Disclaimer: I didn’t make this up - it came directly from the MPO Near Term Plan):
Once the SR 836/826 interchange reconstruction is complete the managed lane system can be expanded. A combination of tolling, express lanes and transit services, similar to the operation on I‐95 Express managed lanes represents a greener, cost effective strategy to meet the demand on the transportation system. At a relative minimal cost of implementation this strategy provides a feasible approach that has proven to yield the desired results of mobility improvements that will help transit become more sustainable.
Greenwashing at its worst. To claim that adding capacity to the road will lead to any sustainable benefit is disingenuous at best - and to further claim that this will yield some transit benefit is an insult to the people of Dade county.
The optimal strategy for managed lanes is to convert existing lanes and shoulders , as was done with the I‐95 Express project. Managed lanes in the 2035 LRTP comprise 99 center line miles of improvements. Approximately 27% of those improvements are identified as “Cost Feasible” in the LRTP, 61% are funded only for planning design and right‐of‐way. The remainder of the facilities are unfunded.
FDOT is undertaking a PD&E study for the development of managed lanes on the Palmetto Expressway.
This north‐south corridor is an important link between the Kendall area and the MIC completing a grid of
future managed lanes carrying express transit services.
MDX has initiated a PD&E study for the integration of a managed lane project along the South Dade Busway along US1. If the PD&E study finds that managed lanes are feasible and if the improvements are made to the Busway, it would be operated as a managed lane and the available capacity would be “sold” to auto drivers. The fees paid by private autos would be based upon the demand, in order to preserve free flow conditions. Buses that currently use the exclusive right‐of‐way would operate in mixed flow. Revenues from the tolls would first go to repay the bonds then secondly would go to pay for the operation of the facility. The level of revenues dedicated to transit would still need to be determined and the FTA, who paid for a portion of the Busway, will need to approve the planned project. FTA has stated that the approval of the project would be based upon the level of benefit provided to transit.
Thank goodness for the FTA. We have written extensively on the conversion of the busway to an expressway, but this is the clearest indication yet that MDX is up to no good. They acknowledge that toll revenue would go to other needs before even being considered for transit, and that the FTA is not yet on-board with their plans because there is no benefit to transit riders. The citizens of Miami-Dade County are being fleeced of their right to convenient and easy mass transit so that county leaders can build ‘lexus lanes’ from one end of Miami to the other.
Different from progressive congestion management policies, like London’s now famous congestion pricing plan, managed lanes are not intended for urban, transit served areas.They provide a fast alternative to both non-tolled streets AND transit, and are described by the FHA as a ‘highway facility.’ While congestion pricing is meant to control/reduce car demand in urban and transit served areas, managed lanes are simply extra capacity and another revenue source for cash strapped transportation agencies.
Regarding London’s congestion pricing plan, Next American City had this to say,
London’s congestion charge system charges private car users who enter the zone £10 ($16) per day between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. The scheme has been a huge success, resulting in a 20% drop in car use, £120 million ($197 million) annual net-revenues, and the fastest growth rate for the city’s bus system since the 1940s. …
As a result of the congestion charge, CO2 emissions fell by 16% within the charging zone, with nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions dropping too. Functional benefits also exist. Average traffic speeds have increased by 37%, with delays to private journeys decreasing by 30% and bus journeys by 50%. Speedier journeys have also reduced average taxi fares.
Congestion pricing is an important part of urban mobility management - but the managed lanes plan proposed by the Miami-Dade MPO is nothing more than a veiled ploy to undermine transit service, and expand highway capacity. There are plenty of ways to expand transit ridership, but managed lanes is not one of them. We need strong and vocal support of transit reform and expansion - NOT the slow dismantling of transit service to the benefit of Miami-Dade’s Mercedes driving population.
A look down San Francisco’s Third Street line (T) - a preview of an upcoming post next week where we look at the successes of AT&T Ballpark and surrounding development with an eye on the completion of the new Marlins’ Ballpark later this year.
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