Remember the much hyped City of Miami Streetcar? Last we heard about the much needed streetcar, City of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz included it in his list of ‘shovel ready’ Federal stimulus money. The original $200 million price tag had increased to $280 million, but it didn’t really matter because the City only got about $4.5 million for its wishlist items (which included a rubber tire trolley first reported by Transit Miami.)

The original streetcar plan, conceived in 2004, called for $200 million in capital costs to be split evenly between the city and the Florida Department of Transportation. But, it was clear to Miami officials in spring 2008 that there would not be sufficient funds due to the economy and budget shortfalls, said Lilia Medina, assistant transportation coordinator in the city manager’s office. Since then, the city has been searching for another solution to give the project new life, she said. (SF Business Journal)

“I think it’s an essential project for the future of Miami,” Diaz told the Business Journal. “We have not done as good a job as we should have done with transportation planning. Sooner or later, we’re going to need a streetcar,” the mayor said. “Although it appears to be expensive today, it’s going to be a hell of a lot more expensive 20 years from now.”

Prior to that there was the infamous Global Agreement, that series of convoluted funding arrangements that extended the boundaries of the Overtown CRA to get funding for a bunch of infrastructure projects including, you guessed it, the streetcar.

4. Streetcar Project (the “Streetcar”): The Streetcar will provide an energy-efficient and convenient alternative mode of transportation connecting the City’s most densely populated and urbanized areas, including Downtown, Overtown, Omni, Wynwood/Edgewater, Midtown, Design District and the Civic Center/Health District. The Streetcar service will promote mass transit use and connect with Miami-Dade Transit (Metromover, Metrorail and Metrobus). The Streetcar circulator will substantially address the City’s need to comply with State Bill 360, the Growth Management Act as a multi-modal project improving mobility and meeting transportation concurrency.

Unfortunately, while the Global Agreement said that CRA money could be used for the streetcar, it didn’t actually allocate any current or future money for its construction. Keep in mind that the agreement calls for the city to pay $88 million a year from CRA revenue through 2030 for the Port Tunnel, when our commitment for the streetcar would be a one time expense of $140 million. Then, there is this minor proviso at the end of the agreement:

In consideration of these increased revenues to the County General Fund, the County agrees that, beginning in fiscal year 2014, it make a $20 million contribution to the City to be applied toward the funding of the Streetcar project, once approved by the State of Florida and the MPO. [emphasis added] The County’s Streetcar project contribution may be made in a lump sum or in annual installments sufficient to issue tax free municipal bonds with a debt coverage dictated by the market commencing on the date of substantial completion of the Project.

Lame. While the administration has ‘supported’ this project, they don’t think it is important enough to fund. Meanwhile, it would only take one year of CRA contributions (diverted from the Port Tunnel) to make it a reality. (With our half of the construction costs in hand, the State would then cough up the other half). When are our elected officials going to stop placating us with empty platitudes about how cute transit is, but how it is not a priority? When will it become a priority? It seems that the thinking in the City of Miami is that transit is a luxury that comes after other more important things. Like a useless tunnel. Or a useless baseball field.

If you support the streetcar let the two Mayoral candidates know.

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34 Responses to What Happened to the Miami Streetcar?

  1. Mustafa says:

    Instead of building yet another arm to the transit system, adding to the already disjointed one, why couldn’t they just extend metromover or metrorail to cover the areas the street car would cover?

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  2. Tony Garcia says:

    A good transit system will use several types of technology. Building mass transit is not a one size fits all operation. For many of the neighborhoods outside the urban core, the metrorail is too expensive for the number of people who will use it. Streetcars are a good option for neighborhoods like the Design district, and areas around Biscayne that have density, but are not downtown. I think that in many cases you have to build for the density you want, but you also have to be realistic about timeframes. A streetcar is a relatively cheap investment that will go a long way. Metrorail will provide the same service at a much higher cost.

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  3. Mustafa says:

    NYC has bus & heavy rail and tramway if you want to count that (Roosevelt island). Chicago has Bus and heavy rail and those are two of the best this country has to offer. Miami has Bus, Heavy Rail, some rubberized bus/train thing and now they are after a light rail system. Doesn’t make much sense to me. If they don’t want to extend metro rail then extend the metro mover to include those areas mentioned. While they are at it they could also start charging for it.

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  4. Tony Garcia says:

    What works in New York and Chicago doesn’t work here for a variety of reasons, but mostly because we don’t have nearly the same density that they do. Look at other cities of our size and population, and NONE of them build heavy rail anymore. Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Washington, San Fransisco..etc. Heavy rail is very expensive and is quickly being phased out across the country (with the exception of Chicago and New York which again have the greatest densities in the US). Go here: http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/under-consideration/

    It doesn’t make sense to expand metrorail or metromover at a huge expense when the demand for transit can be satisfied through much cheaper options. There is nothing wrong with having several types of transit serving a common area. I doubt we will see another metrorail expansion built in Miami in the next thirty years. AT most we will see the expansion of the Metromover around Brickell because the densities in the area warrant the expansion (and make it very cost effective). Most light rail options can be built much cheaper AND tie into the existing metrorail tracks already built. A win win. Eventually, heavy rail might be considered after densities and ridership show a need, but I don’t see that in the near future. That is, of course, until oil reaches $6 a gallon. But even then, light rail can do the same thing heavy rail can do, but cheaper. Why not use it?

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  5. tomas says:

    Does the small amount attained (4.5$ million) entail death of the “trolley” proposal too then?

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  6. Tony Garcia says:

    No, the amount includes the ‘trolley’ as well as streetscape improvements to NW 2nd ave.

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  7. Mustafa says:

    The argument isn’t about building out heavy rail for the sake of building it out. The argument is, the system here is heavily disjointed, why add yet ANOTHER dimension to a system? Why not add on to what you have? You mentioned portland and again it only proves my argument, these other systems are not as disjointed as Miami’s is. Portland has lightrail, heavy rail (Commuter) and bus. NYC Has heavy inner city rail (the subway) heavy rail (LIRR) and Bus. The same goes for every other city you mentioned. Miami has what, four soon to be five modes? Sort of ridiculous if you ask me. Not to mention one of them isn’t even almost close to being self sustaining (metro mover). Metromover already extends close to the omni area. I don’t see why they couldn’t extend it and then start charging for it and start earning some money from the system. Then again this is S. Florida and very little makes sense here.

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  8. Tony Garcia says:

    The basic fault of your argument is that multiple forms of transit makes a system ‘disjointed’. Not true. San Fran has 6 modes, Portland has 4. Multiple forms support eachother and reinforce transit ridership. Why is it more efficient to use one type of system? Just for consistency? Cities are not consistent places. They have different densities and land development patterns. What works in one part of town might not work in another (especially in Dade County). That is one of the big failures of Metrorail. If you look at the list I sent you, you’ll see that the other cities I mentioned do in fact have four to five modes. It is not at all uncommon.
    Regarding extending the metromover: it is just an elevated rubber tire bus. For the cost of building an elevated line, why would we use a metromover system that gets less headway and less capacity as a metrorail or a streetcar option? That doesn’t make sense. Unfortunately, the metromover was a bad investment from the beginning. Does that mean that we should just continue to invest in it because it is there? I think the more intelligent thing to do would be to invest in a light rail option that can tie into the existing metrorail infrastructure (at a smaller cost).

    I understand the allure of having a single system, but we don’t have the luxury (or money) to build out 80 miles of metrorail like we all thought we could. If we are going to expand functional transit in our region we have to start with investments that will increase ridership and build a case for further investment. At $200 million, the streetcar is exactly the type of investment we need to make. Incremental, and targeted to a specific area.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    The streetcar is needed definately, but running a streetcar on a zig zag route does not work. Transit Plannng says the system must be easy to identify, simple routes between points of interest. Metrorail is too imposing for this corridor and Metromover brickell and Omni loops should be completed as seperate projects. Running this streetcar directly North-South up/down NE 2nd Ave from Midtown to Downtown, directly East-West across NW 20th Street from UM Health Loop to Bayshore Drive as loop to Omni Bus/ Metromover transfer. It’s simple- no politics, no bull.

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  10. Tony Garcia says:

    Good points anon.

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  11. Prem says:

    Since no one else has brought it up.
    Does anyone have information about the costs of a streetcar over it’s expected life compared to simply adding more buses?

    Although the city always seems to find ways of paying way more for a project than I would imagine possible, it seems to me that adding buses require a one time payment to buy the thing, plus gas and maintenance for the life, which we already have (crappy) infrastructure for.

    We have no set-up for maintaining a streetcar, which would require not only the purchase of [a] (are they interesting in buying just ONE streetcar?) streetcar, but also maintenance, and hiring/training people to repair them, and buy equipment for the repair, etc.

    Implicit in Mustafa’s argument, but not stated outright, is that perhaps using $280 million to make the current system for efficient/effective [c/w]ould be a much better investment in the long run.
    Transportation all around M-DC requires many annual subsidies, none of the “modes” of transportation (as far as I’m aware) are self-sufficient, but all are full of obvious inefficiencies.

    Sometimes I wonder who runs these programs, I generally think they’re all idiots, especially when I have to wait seven minutes for someone at Miami 311 to help me.

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  12. TransitDave says:

    Sorry Tony, but the obvious answer as to why the Miami Streetcar is on the shelf, is that the developers of Midtown are going broke, and can no longer pay their lobbyists to push the Miami Streetcar.

    As for the arguement that light rail can do everything heavy rail can do, you forgot to include “but slower, and carry a fraction of the number of passengers”. Your primary arguement in favor of the streetcar is that it’s an investment for the future, but these arguements are even more true for metrorail. I’ll grant you the obscene cost of metrorail is a big reason why we can’t get more lines built, but if the streetcar is so vital to the future of Miami, then why isn’t it planned to go down Flagler or SW 8th street, where there is actually a demand for Transit, rather that the planned route? And, how redundant will the streetcar be when there’s a Tri-rail line running up the FEC railroad line from downtown to Broward County?

    Let the streetcar rest in peace.

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  13. Tony says:

    No doubt that Flagler and 8th street could use streetcars as well, but why does that mean that this plan should ‘die’? I thought we wanted more transit, not less.

    Re: redundancy with the fecc line: that’s a false argument because it will be operating as a commuter line with limited stops between downtown Miami and fll. It serves a completely different purpose than a local streetcar.

    The speed/volume argument is only half true. It’s only marginally slower, and can carry 85% of the volume of heavy rail at a fraction of the cost - which is why most cities are abandoning heavy rail for light rail.

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  14. Rog in Miami Gardens says:

    I say, we need it all! I do understand the fiscal realities, but extending the Orange line and implementing an inner-core street car system should BOTH be considered.

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  15. Felipe Azenha says:

    The streetcar should not rest in peace. It should be resurrected, I like the idea of extending the streetcar to Flagler and possibly calle ocho. The FEC line and the parallel street car would serve two different markets. The FEC would serve the long-haul commuter with less stops. The streetcar would serve the short haul commuters with more stops and would run with more frequency. Having both options is appropriate, and
    there would be very little overlap

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  16. Dave says:

    It should also be pointed out that the streetcar is a City of Miami/FL-DOT project while the Metromover/Metrorail are County projects. I’m sure the city would love for the metromover to be extended but they have no control over that. That is up to Miami-Dade Transit.

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  17. Brad K. says:

    The Miami Streetcar Project is a boondoggle and waste of taxpayer money. The latest is in this long saga is the attempt by the current administration to use the redevelopment money from the Community Redevelopment Agencies to pay for this instead of revitalizing poor neighborhoods (on the CRA Agenda today at 2:00 PM).

    Other Cities around the country have constructed commuter rail systems at a cost of $1-5 Million per mile (Nashville $32 miles $40 Million; Austin, TX 32 miles, $90 Million). Why are we spending $280 Million to go from downtown to the design district? the common factor is that all of these Cities have used existing Railroad right of way and tracks. In Miami these unused tracks run paralell to the Streetcar route. The FEC railway is currently looking at ways to generate income on the abaondoned port lead and is interested in a commuter rail system but the City and County are not listening due to the vested interest in this project.

    We have calculated that for a cost of $20-30 Million, a fully functioning Commuter rail using environmentally friendly batery DMU technology could be operational on existing tracks within a 1-2 years. This system would also serve the Upper East side by having a station at 69th street.

    This is the type of thing we should be discussing in these days of budget crisis, not another multi-year megaproject that wastes the taxpayer money.

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  18. Tony Garcia says:

    Brad, why is the streetcar a boondoggle? A commuter line and streetcar serve two different types of users and are not mutually exclusive, as Felipe points out above. Even when the FEC line is constructed, it will not be able to serve the same purpose as a local streetcar circulator.
    The FEC line is currently being studied and will apply for federal funding later this year - to my knowledge, the City and County are not holding up the project at all. The cost of this project is in the $300 million range for the full length of the line from West Palm to Dade.
    Go here:http://www.sfeccstudy.com/study_area.html

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  19. Peter and Jason Marks says:

    TransitDave brings up a good point. Although I support transit expansions wherever we can get the , a lightrail line from FIU to Govt Center instead of a streetcar line to Midtown is more important. I think the city should focus all its efforts on the streetcar to Midtown instead of the wasteful Port Tunnel. Simultaneously, Miami-Dade Transit should focus its efforts on a lightrail line from Govt Center to FIU along either Flagler or 8th St. That’s a line that has great density and A LOT of demand. Forget Metrorail to FIU or LandShark Stadium. Let’s focus on a realistic and affordable light rail line to FIU.

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  20. brody says:

    A light rail line to FIU along SW 8 St or Flagler Street should be Miami-Dade Transit’s main and #1 priority. How is it that a major research university with over 40,000 students (many who are commuters) and 8,000 faculty doesn’t have a transit line to it? Not to mention there’s a performing arts center, various theaters, a major art museum (Frost Art Museum), conventions, a sports arena, a major college football stadium, meetings, etc. FIU is essentially a self-sustainable city that if it had a transit line I bet would be one of the busiest stations in the Metrorail system. FIU needs a Metrorail line, whether it be light rail or heavy rail.

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  21. Mustafa says:

    Tony

    I see your points but again I disagree. As for funding, trust me when I tell you. There will be another stimulus plan. Obama has no choice. His mass transit initiatives will equal FDRs highway system. They need to put people back to work and the debt induced growth we had in the past is dead as a door nail. So I think we will see renewable energy and transit as the way they will try to get people back to work. The money will come, but we need something that makes sense and I just don’t think lightrail makes sense. As transit dave pointed out, capacity isn’t that good with lightrail, then you have the nature of the system itself with those over head wires. Imagine what the cost to fix will be during hurricanes and other weather conditions. Though I have not seen any studies, how do those things effect street traffic (cars). Like I said, if they don’t/can’t extend metrail to the places you and I have been discussing then you still have metromover. It also could create the will for them to start charging for that thing.

    But I do think this is a good argument for us to be having. At least they are trying to build SOMETHING instead of ignoring mass transit. Oh and you mentioned 6 dollar gas. I am pretty sure once this deleveraging is finished you very well may get your wish.

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  22. Felipe Azenha says:

    Mustafa,

    I hear you on the second stimulus package; the consumer is dead.

    Capacity happens to be much higher on lightrail then a bus. Also, people are more inclined to use rail then a bus, thus encouraging and increasing transit ridership even further. By running lightrail, you would essentially remove and replace bus trips with higher capacity lightrail. As far as hurricanes go, yes there will be a cost associated with fixing the wires, but I don’t think the costs should prohibit the implementation of a light rail system.

    Ideally, lightrail would have its own travel lane, although it is not necessary. Or it can travel in the same lanes as cars. If this is the case, traffic signals can be retrofitted with special adapters to give the streetscars priority to cross at intersections. I have personally seen this work in Istanbul and it works quite well.

    I also agree with you that there should be a charge for the metromover. At the very least we should charge .25cents for the metromover. People tend to value and respect things more, even if there is a small fee associated with it. Thousands of people use the metromover every day; imagine the revenue that could be generated from it!

    I’m hoping for $6.00/gallon gas. At that price, everyone will be begging for lightrail. As you said, it will come sooner then most think.

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  23. TransitDave says:

    Tony, I don’t know where you’re getting these talking points about light rail being only marginally shower than metrorail, and being able to move up to 85% of the people…..These statistics are measured by peak load capacities, and metrorail is capable of moving a train of 1200 people every 6 minutes, at speeds averaging 55 MHP…….only a dedicated right of way light rail system (like london’s DLR, which I wrote about a year or so ago) could even come close to the speeds and carrying capacity of metrorail..the Miami streetcar would move about one tenth the number of perople, at about half the speed of Metrorail….an apples to oranges comparison if ever there was one……the cost of a dedicated right of way light rail system would rival that of metrorail on the same corridors….and would require a new maintenance and storage facility and a new fleet of cars……that is the arguement against a new mode…

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  24. Felipe Azenha says:

    TransitDave,
    Metrorail and lightrail serve two completely different purposes. Metrorail is meant to cover long distances and carry more people where there is less density. Lightrail is meant to carry less people, shorter distances where there is much more density. There are more frequent stops and the distances between lightrail stops are every 2-3 blocks as opposed to metrorail where the stops are generally no less then a mile apart.

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  25. Tony Garcia says:

    http://www.apta.com/gap/policyresearch/Documents/APTA_2009_Fact_Book.pdf
    Look here for info on cost comparisons and speed of service. For three times the expense of light rail, heavy rail only operates 5 mph faster (15 mph for light rail, 20 mph for heavy).While heavy rail can accomodate more people, it is not a significant increase when compared to the cost. Most light rail systems operate in the exitsting public right of way, further decreasing the cost.

    PS everyone: I am not against heavy rail. Most of you know (especially you TD) that I would love a complete heavy rail system, BUT we all know how this town works. After the failure of the PTP we need to come up with some a workable plan. I think the lower cost of light rail gets us more bang for our buck. As ridership grows and transit becomes an intrinsic aspect of daily life, then we can argue for more heavy rail. Just trying to be strategic.

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  26. Mustafa says:

    Felipe Azenha

    Not to steer this convo off topic but I am not looking forward to 6 bucks gas. 6 bucks gas means the dollars debasement is finally kicking in and the problems that will come with that is very very scary for me. Could mean hyperinflation the likes of which we have not seen in this country before. To say I am fearful of the future is a understatement

    Tony what about the metromover which is not heavyrail. Why can’t they improve that system and expand it through out the urban core? Maybe even start, i don’t know charging for the darn thing?! I don’t understand the argument against that and the maintenance cost wouldn’t be that great.

    Oh and thx for the link!

       0 likes

  27. tomas says:

    Good to see all this discussion. With so many knowledgable and interested people communicating about transit in Miami, it makes me wonder why there isn’t a citizens group fighting for transit in Miami? Just a thought.

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  28. Tony Garcia says:

    There will be soon Tomas…

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  29. Prem says:

    Tony,
    Details?
    Who’s making it? Does it have a website yet? :D

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  30. Жесть :) Надо это использовать в корыстных целях. Обязательно!

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  31. brock says:

    What ever happened to this project? Is the Miami Streetcar ever going to happen? Any news? We need this badly.

       0 likes

  32. […] which was a very minor part of the deal that created the Marlins Stadium and the Port Tunnel. (What does the Streetcar have to do with the Global Agreement you ask? Look Here..) Robaina said that if the opportunity presented itself he would seek to amend the contract with the […]

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  33. Jane says:

    Is there a chance this will be brought up again? With all the population growth in our inner neighborhoods, it’s time the city get serious about building the Streetcar. We need rail now.

       0 likes

  34. Daniel says:

    Fort Lauderdale is going ahead with the Wave Streetcar, soon they will surpass Dade’s transit and prove once again it’s quality over quantity needed to support transit and other luxurys.

       0 likes

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