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Front Page » Government » Rail historian sees streetcars returning

Rail historian sees streetcars returning

Written by on October 23, 2013
Rail historian sees streetcars returning

The man who wrote the books on the area’s transit history is adding his voice to conversations about its future.

Seth H. Bramson, company historian for Florida East Coast Railway and adjunct history professor at Barry and Nova Southeastern universities, is suggesting the return of street car service for the proposed connection from downtown Miami and Miami Beach.

It’s a proposal he first presented in a newspaper article in 1978, a few years after he was president of the Miami Beach district of the Metro Dade Transit Improvement Program, to help bring rapid transit to the county.

“It’s an idea that never should have been abandoned in 1939,” said Mr. Bramson, author of “Florida East Coast East Coast Railway,” “The Curtiss-Bright Cities: Hialeah, Miami Springs & Opa Locka,” “Speedway to Sunshine: The Story of Florida East Coast Railway” and others.

“This nonsense about not having overhead wire is ridiculous. It would not be anything but a tourist attraction,” he said. “If we had kept it we would have had one of the greatest tourist attractions in America, akin to San Francisco’s cable cars. But even then our civic leaders were myopic and shortsighted.”

Miami-Dade’s Metropolitan Planning Organization is conducting a nine-month, $325,000 study to create a rail corridor to connect Miami to Miami Beach. This is the second attempt. After a study in 2004, the project didn’t reach the engineering stage because of concerns about technology, funding and other issues, Miami Today reported. But leaders agreed that rapid transit between the two cities was vital, and revived the idea.

Speaking at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce event last week, government officials, transportation planners and civic leaders all seemed to agree on the need for a rapid transit system to connect the cities.

And Miami-Dade Transit Director Ysela Llort suggested light rail makes sense as the transportation method for the beach corridor connection.

Mr. Bramson, who has spent nearly six decades covering the area’s history and its transportation patterns, agrees.

“I have been doing this longer than anybody on earth,” he said. “Let me assure you I can back up all the hot air.”


11 Responses to Rail historian sees streetcars returning

  1. Lord Ernie

    October 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Hoping this goes through. I know that the Chair, WWW, A and the Gang will be on the first street car. In fact with G they will make it a weekend at Bernie’s.

  2. CalRoberta

    October 23, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Mr. Bramson,
    Any chance you’d come to L.A., and help us get the show on the proverbial road, with our light rail? No city needs it more than we do. We welcome all the expertise we can get.
    Thank you for your consideration.

  3. Prof. Turner

    October 23, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Bramson is dead-on correct. If not us, who? If not now, when?

  4. Peter Ehrlich

    October 23, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Mr Bramson,
    Thank you for studying Florida’s history. We appreciate you reminding newcomers that Florida has a history that deserves study. We also appreciate your reminding people that Miami’s historic neighborhoods should be respected.
    Peter Ehrlich
    Lemon City

  5. Fred Kamin

    October 24, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    This country has been way behind in urban mass transit for years. No other industrialized country in the world is as backward as we are. Hope this effort yields success

  6. DC Copeland

    October 27, 2013 at 8:05 am

    With all due respect to Mr. Bramson, street cars are not the answer to Miami or the Beaches transportation woes. Street cars have always been and will always be part of the problem simply because they take up space on streets and when they break down or something breaks down in front of them (or accidents happen in their immovable path) gridlock ensues. Instead of reintroducing dated technology, a better solution would be to use the latest technology. As an example, for the narrow streets in downtown Miami and Miami Beach: smaller state-of-the-art battery powered buses. They are recharged at bus stops using a wireless transfer of energy. 10 American cities are expected to introduce them by the end of 2014. Hopefully Miami and Miami Beach will be part of that revolutionary “next step.” You can learn more here:

  7. Seth H. Bramson

    October 30, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Mr. Copeland is obviously a spokesperson for the same Conspiracy which nearly destroyed America with internal combustion engines, rubber tires and the belief that everything should be concreted over to build roads and interchanges. He knoweth of not what he speaks and he is totally, completely and absolutely 100% WRONG.
    The “latest technology” is returning the steel wheel on the steel rail, electrically powered, to American cities, not putting more pollution-emitting buses on the roads. Every city–dozens and dozens of them–that have re-introduced electric rail service, either calling it light rail, street cars or trolleys–have seen major increases in ridership and major development along the new rail lines. People DO NOT like riding buses, but they LOVE riding rail vehicles and that has been proven in every city that has returned light rail service to its residents and suburbs, from Seattle and Portland to LA, San Fran, San Diego and east to Charlotte, NC, Tampa, New Orleans and many others. I don’t know who is paying Mr. Copeland but his comments are nonsensical and completely and totally without basis in truth or fact, and, as the article clearly stated–and UNlike him–I can back up all the hot air.

    • DC Copeland

      October 30, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      Mr. Bramson, do you secretly pump iron? Your response to my post sounds like one of those associated with angry young Turks who have been abusing steroids in order to get bigger. Never once did you address any of the issues I brought up but instead suggested I’m the “spokesperson for the same Conspiracy which nearly destroyed America with internal combustion engines, rubber tires and the belief that everything should be concreted over to build roads and interchanges. He knoweth of not what he speaks and he is totally, completely and absolutely 100% WRONG.” Really, Mr. Bramson, I expected more from you. Did you bother to look at the link for the electric bus solution? Are the developers from Utah State University also part of this “conspiracy” against street cars and everything holy? I suspect your eyes must have glazed over by that time and hadn’t bothered to finish reading my post. I think your personal attack on me suggesting I’m in some company’s pocket is sad and amusing since I’m retired and never worked for any corporation involved in transportation. As for your reason why street cars are making a comeback is because people “DO NOT like riding buses but they LOVE riding rail vehicles” I find hard to believe. That’s not a good enough reason to fork over the hundreds of millions of dollars it takes to set up a line from scratch and I suspect there isn’t one city or county budget director who would want to build one based on that idea. Finally, Mr. Bramson, the tone of your response suggests you’re against just about everything associated with the modern world and would be much happier living before the turn of the last half of the last century when street cars were still in use. I think having that kind of a mindset restricts your acceptance of a better way of doing things. And for that, I’m sorry.

  8. Seth H. Bramson

    October 30, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Mr. Copeland, do you secretly meet with the members of the still-in- existence Conspiracy so that you can keep up with the anti-rail transit party line and write such as the FALSE drivel that you wrote above? As in mentioning Utah State University and then having the nerve to tell me I should look at an electric bus website when, IN TRUTH AND FACT, the State of Utah has been one of America’s leaders in restoring rail transit service. (That, of course, you conveniently either ignore or overlook) Look at what is happening there as they rebuild a number of former interurban lines in every direction from Salt Lake City, restoring electric rail service from SLC to Brigham, Provo and many other points. And how about Seattle, Portland, Denver, Los Angeles, San Diego, New Orleans and dozens of other cities building RAIL transit after realizing that more highway lanes and more stinking, polluting buses was NOT the answer? And as for finding TRUTH “hard to believe,” you will find anything that disagrees with your nonsensical notion that we need nothing but more rubber tires on more buses when that mode has been discredited nationally as a transit mode hard to believe. The “better way of doing things,” Mr. Copeland, is to restore inter-and intra-city light and heavy rail passenger service, but with your obvious hatred of anything rail-related and your nonsensical comment that I am against just about everything associated with the modern world showing not only how myopic and small minded you are but that you refuse to recognize the need for MODERN, pollution-free, electrically operated, high-capacity rail transit as the real solution, it appears that it is YOU who are “against just about everything associated with the modern world.” Perhaps even worse, you have shown that you can see and focus on only roads and rubber tires as a transit solution while in fact those are the worst alternatives that we have today. Sadly, you, like the rest of the “road warriors” will find anything that disagrees with your locked-in-concrete (and in the past) “any transit that uses rubber tires and runs on roads is better than any other form of transit” mentality offensive and, suffice to say, more is the pity.

  9. DC Copeland

    October 30, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Mr. Bramson, less vitriol, name calling, and innuendo will go a long way in responding to your critics re your cause. My initial post only suggested street cars were not the best solution for downtown Miami and the Beaches. Budgets permitting, they work better on roads with more than two lanes where motorists, you know, those godless car and truck driving heathens, can get around the street cars when they break down or are caught behind an obstruction in their immovable path such as a fender-bender. I can assure you that I am not nor have I ever been a card carrying member of any “anti-rail transit party line.” Quite the opposite (click my name and it will take you to my cause). That said, I do wish I had the same fervor you have for your cause as I do mine but, alas, I’ve mellowed over the years and have come to accept things as they are. I wish you the best in health and happiness and leave you with this link to a short video re Houston and what really happens when street cars share traffic lanes:

  10. Seth H. Bramson

    October 31, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Mr. Copeland, better become introspective about your finger pointing and name calling and READ what you have written. Your initial post didn’t just “suggest that streetcars were not the best solution….” but, rather, you ridiculed the concept and idea and sounded just like Lyman Pox and his buddy O’fool, two of the biggest rail-haters in America. As for not having the same fervor that I do, none of your writings indicate your fervor as being any less, and, of course, you completely overlook the fact that much, if not most, of today’s light rail systems are grade separated but even with in-street trackage, delays are minimal at best and little if no worse that buses experience in same situation. (Check that in the ATA fact book.
    Stay well, and may the electric railway force be with you.