Crew of mobility cooks hunting for compatible ingredients
Written by Michael Lewis on August 14, 2018
We have plenty to complain about in slower Miami-Dade mobility, but those pains aren’t due to any lack of government concern or effort – at least, not a current lack.
While results often are minimal, it is abundantly clear that governments large and small are at least trying to alleviate the worst pains of traveling public – which means all of us.
If you doubt it, look at last week’s Transportation section in Miami Today.
Indeed, so many elected and appointed officials are offering so many ideas and taking so many steps to get us from here to there faster that they seem to be tripping over each other to actually accomplish something.
That furious flurry of activity often sends officials scurrying in opposite directions with opposing plans and diverging priorities. But nobody can say that governments today are blind to the issue.
That wasn’t always the case. Local leaders for years seemed to have their heads in the sand as population and high-rises both soared and traffic simultaneously slowed. Now, however, government and civic leaders seem to be on exactly the same page about the need to add mobility. Some day they may even get on the same page in deciding exactly what we’re going to do about it.
In the awareness category, we noted last week that the Southeast Florida Transportation Council surveyed Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach commuters to pinpoint their needs with the goal of developing a long-range plan. That plan will join a pile of such work that other agencies have already finished, but at least they’re listing the needs.
In the realm of acting on those needs, we noted that within 2½ years we will have all 136 new Metrorail cars that the county ordered six years ago to replace all the cars that were put into service a third of a century ago. That progress is about the pace of I-95 traffic at rush hour, but at least it’s forward motion.
Then there are the 300 adaptive traffic signals due to be all turned on along the 10 busiest county routes next month, precursors in the aim to change all 2,500-plus county-operated signals from green to red based on current traffic, not what was assumed months or years earlier.
We wrote about express buses that will roll on the shoulders of the 836 and 874 expressways, themselves probably precursors, as officials say, before the routes are upgraded into something else.
In those plans are a park-and-ride lot in Doral geared as a mini-hub for several mobility modes that feed into and out of the express buses. Another such hub is coming to the Golden Glades.
And the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, which is handling both the Doral park-and-ride and the express buses, is to double-deck 836 starting next year with a viaduct, perhaps an early step to running twin transportation systems, or at least twice as much mobility, in vertical levels in a county where land for transit corridors grows scarcer and scarcer.
Another option is to pack two separate transportation products into the same level as Tri-Rail targets a new link a year from today in downtown Miami by sharing a station and tracks with the new private Brightline. Like many rail advances, the Tri-Rail entry downtown is a moving target, shifting away from us again and again, but at least it’s a target.
The Tri-Rail link is only one of several planned improvements that morph as they roll along, changing in some cases not only the timing but also the mode of transportation as they go.
Like the county’s slow-developing Smart plan to add six transit legs, deadlines recede into the future as plans advance – indeed, transit plans often seem just like Brazil, the country that seems to always be the nation of the future.
The Tri-Rail interrelation with Brightline, the shoulder express buses’ link with regular autos, and the Doral park-and-ride’s links to trolleys and other transit modes illustrate another key facet of planned solutions: Everything should link together.
In fact, there is no single transit solution. Rather, many pieces will all tie together if visionary transit organizations and elected officials cooperate.
If those visionaries are realistic, they will probably temper long-term aims from rapidly increasing mobility to merely holding the line: if mobility gets no slower in a decade as population and construction keep growing, that’s a measurable gain in getting more people to more places at least as fast as they go today. Long-term speed-up would probably require a technological breakthrough.
Meanwhile, we’re far better off today as we seek sometimes-conflicting solutions all at once than we would be to go back to the old hands-off vision of transportation as we grew in every direction but stood pat on mobility. So let’s applaud the action on all fronts, late as it arrived.
It may seem that too many cooks are working in the kitchen, each throwing an ingredient into the transportation stew that might not fit the recipe. But at least now they’re all cooking.