City is ‘all aboard’ to combat Economic Enemy #1, gridlock
Written by Michael Lewis on October 29, 2014
Wonder why Miami Today last week in a single edition printed seven major articles targeting Miami’s transportation needs? If so, you should have joined several hundred real estate brokers that night.
The Master Brokers Forum hosted a panel on what makes a city world class and whether Miami has already joined the elite group. Panelists agreed unanimously on just one thing: our key impediment to world-class status is transportation – rather, lack of transportation.
It’s now de rigueur at any local business gathering to compare notes on how long it took to get there and how impossible traffic was. For panelist Jim Cason, Coral Gables’ mayor, it was a 90-minute trek to the Surf Club Four Seasons in Surfside. From downtown Miami, it was 80 pressured minutes (full disclosure: I was the panelist who fumed for those 80 minutes).
The meeting was at 7. Had it been at 3 a.m. traffic would have been fine. But how world class would it be to forcibly coordinate every minute away from home with traffic flows?
That’s why gridlock has become Economic Enemy #1 in business circles. Sea level rises threaten in years ahead, global upheavals lurk, but by rush hour today we’re sure to be engulfed in traffic overloads that our roadways can no longer handle.
Worse, all the relief efforts in sight for this gaping mobility wound in the body of urban life are tiny band-aids – it will take dozens of them to cover the opening and it’s tricky to painstakingly fit them all together.
So last week we published two articles on efforts to roll streetcars in downtown Miami – but only the part that’s north of the Miami River. If you’re south of the river – think Brickell and beyond – forget it. And it’s in Brickell that’s soon to open the massive live-work-shop Brickell City Centre, the largest new complex in the southern part of this nation.
Another article talked of the future of the Metromover, a system already running that might or might not marry up with the streetcar line. But if you wanted to get from the north part of downtown to, say, Coconut Grove a few miles south you’d have to take a streetcar once we build the line, change to a Metromover, transfer to Metrorail and then get a bus or taxi at the Grove station to get to the heart of town. Talk about a hodgepodge in trying to get those band-aids to meet up!
We also wrote about the All Aboard Florida rail line to link Miami with Orlando. The station would be right downtown – but to get from the north of downtown to the station via the planned streetcar you’d have to transfer first to a bus and then to the train. From Coconut Grove to All Aboard would take getting to Metrorail by bus or taxi, then a rail ride to the All Aboard station.
We also wrote last week about the Miami Beach-downtown link of a new rail system not yet even planned. Once it’s financed and built, it might or might not get to link with any of these other transportation systems.
Then there’s the proposed Wynwood system of on-street trolleys, mimicking trolley loops like those in Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Doral and more – none of which link to each other and few of which link to rail transit.
With all of this mishmash of existing or planned transportation systems plus the workhorse county buses in play, there is no agreed-upon master plan to link them all to create general mobility.
Some areas with their own trolleys or with handy Metromover are more mobile than others, but no Miami-Dade resident, worker or visitor can get everywhere in the county with ease without a car – which in turn would be the answer only if traffic actually flowed at all hours.
What’s vital now, immediately, today is a plan to stitch this crazy quilt all together, agreement on that plan and prioritized resources to make it work. A countywide rail system would be best, a good patchwork system a distant second best, and what we have now dead last.
Oh, and that seventh article we published? It was about county commissioners seeking to yank millions away from transportation for five years for no stated reason at all.
Lots of factors link to make a city world class, the panel agreed last week, and one of the most vital is the leadership to prioritize vital needs and then achieve them.
Maybe commissioners being chauffeured by tax-paid drivers don’t suffer in traffic like the rest of us. But their constituents sure do.
We won’t agree on everything that’s world class. But we all know that Miami is suffering from world-class traffic congestion right now. We need all of our government leaders to get on the bus headed for solutions.
Oh, and bring the money along.