Commissioner Barreiro would build proposed Miami Beach commuter rail into upgrade of Metromover
By Frank Norton
One county commissioner says he's got a plan to grow the proposed BayLink rapid transit line to Miami Beach from Miami's existing Metromover.
Rather than design and build a whole new rail system from scratch, says Bruno Barreiro, also vice-chair of the transportation committee, the county should upgrade the downtown Metromover and expand that line across Biscayne Bay to South Beach.
Metromover is an elevated tire and track system that encircles Downtown Miami.
The benefit of expanding it, says Mr. Barreiro, is that an upgraded Metromover would be smaller and less invasive to Miami Beach's pedestrian corridors than any light-rail alternative - and therefore more likely to win support from Beach officials.
A small but influential group on Miami Beach, including Mayor David Dermer, have stalled the BayLink approval process in recent months, saying the transit system would be too imposing on South Beach's pedestrian atmosphere.
County planners are awaiting support from the Beach in order to have a better chance of winning federal funds.
"Newer people-mover systems requires less space than rail alternatives and are faster and sleeker than what we currently have downtown," Mr. Barreiro said, referring to Metromover.
While Miami Beach commissioners are expected to debate the BayLink issue this month and decide in March, county officials continue to promote BayLink.
Mr. Barreiro is expected today (2/13) to ask the county manager to study the feasibility of expanding Metromover into the proposed BayLink.
According to technical experts, the idea makes both engineering and economic sense.
They say new generation automated people-mover technology is capable of speeds up 52 miles per hour and would offer fast and efficient rides across the bay.
"Since Metromover was implemented in the '80s, we've developed new APM technologies that use state-of-the-art propulsion systems and are capable of much higher speeds," said Jim Spakauskas, project director with Canada-based Bombardier, owner of Miami-Dade's Metromover and Metrorail technologies.
"The Miami Beach connecter is something we're now looking at because our technology seems to fit," he said.
Mr. Spakauskas met recently in Pittsburgh with top Miami-Dade transit officials to discuss upgrading and possibly expanding the county's existing system.
Some county officials said a unified APM system would not only take up less space but achieve greater economies of scale for purchasing and operations than a multi-technology system.
"What I'm suggesting is a rapid transit system focused on one set of technology, not three different systems with three sets of technologies and vendors," Mr. Barreiro said.
Last week county transit officials chose the Washington Group to lead a roughly $2 million project to study how best to upgrade both the Metromover and Metrorail systems. The consultants are to analyze possibilities for stripping and rebuilding the county's 136 Metrorail cars and possibly replacing 12 active Metromover cars with higher-speed technology.
Although funds for the study should come through the county's new transit tax revenue, planners are unable to initiate it because there is still no auditing team in place to oversee transit tax spending, said Hannie Woodson, acting assistant director of rail services for Miami-Dade Transit.
"Right now it's just the funding that's holding things up," he said. "We can't move forward on the process because we don't have a citizens trust in place."