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Front Page » Opinion » The latest disconnect: two rail systems where one is vital

The latest disconnect: two rail systems where one is vital

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Written by on February 9, 2016

The latest disconnect: two rail systems where one is vital

We’ll never add to Miami-Dade County’s mobility if every government keeps going its own way, with nobody making sure that we connect transit modes.

Last week we lamented that 28 governments run buses or trolleys in this county with no coordination. Any schedule links – and they’re few – are informal.

Separately, we wrote that the 119-year-old City of Miami still has no full-blown transportation plan even within its own borders, much less to link with the county and other cities to make travel seamless and simple.

Now the latest imbecility: one of the few coordinated plans among major governments – to create a single transit line through Miami Beach and across the bay to mainland Miami – has splintered.

Miami Beach now intends to build its own rail system, taking its own bids and setting up its own rail line. Meanwhile, former partners in the county and City of Miami are left to build their own lines later on, using technology that might differ so much from Miami Beach’s that they’d never connect into a single seamless ride.

And so we go, everyone in charge of his own destiny and doing his own thing, meaning that nobody is in charge across city borders and any ability to get around beyond the convenience – or inconvenience – of the automobile is purely coincidental.

It had been heartening that a Metropolitan Planning Organization team involved in a Baylink aim to unite mainland and beach had been on one page to create a unified system with one technology and no transfers. Now there’s to be no single system, and even transfers are in doubt.

Two unconnected systems beat none – but what a missed opportunity to create not only compatibly but one rail service.

Already Metrorail cannot run on Metromover lines and 28 bus systems run independently and rarely link. Now we’re going to add not one but two rail systems that might never be compatible with anything else.

As we said last week, what a way to run a railroad – or any transit system.

It’s very nice that our 34 municipalities, county government, Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust, local Florida Department of Transportation Offices and all are independent. Every government wants to make its own decisions locally. We don’t disparage that.

But in transportation, at least, too much independence does more harm than good, because transportation needs are regional. Transportation is not confined to municipal boundaries. It is decidedly not local.

Most of us travel in multiple jurisdictions – cities, villages, counties. The only mode that runs seamlessly through all of them without a transfer is now the automobile – the vehicle we’re trying to diversify from as traffic slows in congestion.

As for Baylink, county Mayor Carlos Gimenez was quoted as saying last week “I would like to be compatible. But it may be that there will have to be a connecting point.”

As he well knows, every connection or transfer decreases convenience and hence use.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization, the unwieldy transportation planner for the county, is just now getting around to studying how to connect all the bus and trolley systems. The City of Miami is just now thinking about a unified transportation plan in its own borders.

It’s a shame, then, that the Baylink team seems to be breaking apart just as others are very belatedly looking at putting as much as possible together to add mobility as auto congestion subtracts from it.

As population grows without new or expanded roads, we must do as much as possible as fast as possible to maximize transit help.

It’s a case of less is better: the fewer independent transit systems and operators, the faster we will get around Miami-Dade County.

4 Responses to The latest disconnect: two rail systems where one is vital

  1. DC Copeland

    February 10, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    The Alpha-male mayor of Miami Beach is pushing the beach’s incompatible system through, a system from the very beginning of BayLink was never advocated. I remember the original engineering firm hired to come up with a plan had initially advocated a system that was not built at grade along the MacArthur but instead had its own “lane” that hung on an elevated track on the south side of the MacArthur. In fact, one of its spokespersons regaled us with a story about him– a rather hefty man– actually diving into Government Cut to see for himself the feasibility of sinking pilings to support the proposed rail line. He said it would work and his company proposed that solution. Until Miami Beach nixed it. As I remember right, the engineering firm had suggested that it attach to the downtown MetroRail station and that it ride on pillars over the congested and narrow streets of Miami Beach, the complete opposite of what the mayor and his rubber stamp council want. Why do they insist Baylink be built at grade as light rail? They don’t want Baylink elevated in their city for aesthetic reasons. They want to force it into narrow streets prone to flooding. No logic there, but then engineers are not running the world.

  2. Ray

    February 10, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Why not just expand the people mover from Museum Park to the Miami Beach Convention Ctr – very simple – The city of Miami – Miami Beach and the County can put funds together to pay for it – not expensive and the connection infrastructure is already there ?

  3. ShawnR

    February 10, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    History repeats itself. Nearly 90 years ago there were various companies and cities running trolley lines in central Dade County. Schedules and cars were not compatible, fares did not support the lines, demand was low to residential areas such as Coral Gables. Ironically adding back these historical trolley lines to the beach and Buena Vista have been the talk for years. Sadly the same issues exist today. This time it’s the various cities running bus lines that are not compatible with the main network and new beneficial systems are being planned piecemeal but never built. Tens of millions in wasted studies. Over $1.4 billion has been collected from the 1/2 cent sales tax with little relief to traffic to show for it. Over $550 million was allocated for new Metromover and Metrorail cars. That money should have been allocated to the light rail system. Had the county maintained these assets we would had plenty of money for Baylink. It’s time for the citizens to take control and remove oversight from the politicians who care only for their district.

  4. John Hopkins

    February 16, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    I thought the reason big cities had bodies like the Metropolitan Planning Organization was to make sure the various autonomous bodies in the region worked together. Can it be that the Miami-Dade MPO just tells everyone to go do their own thing? What a waste, what a shame!

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