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Front Page » Transportation » Rail derailed for bus rapid transit for it

Rail derailed for bus rapid transit for it

Written by on January 14, 2015
Rail derailed for bus rapid transit for it

A county hall drive to ease traffic congestion has turned toward running buses on thoroughfares originally slated for rail service.

Miami-Dade County is taking a hard look at running buses in four corridors, and Miami Beach wants buses on the MacArthur Causeway before planned light rail is built there.

While buses run in the county and over the causeway, the latest efforts focus on a specific service, bus rapid transit (BRT), in which buses usually run within a designated lane to avoid traffic.

The shift from rail to rubber tires reflects a push to ease traffic quickly and more affordably. It also reflects a shift from the original voter-approved goals for how to spend a countywide half-cent sales surtax.

In 2002, county voters OK’d the surtax along with a transportation plan to use the revenue to extend the Metrorail on eight major thoroughfares.

“There wasn’t enough money to do that,” said Charles Scurr, executive director of the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust, which oversees surtax spending. “So what’s happened is you are coming up with different solutions for each corridor. For some of the corridors, like Northwest 27th Avenue, we’re talking about BRT.”

Aside from Northwest 27th Avenue, Miami-Dade County is looking to run BRT on Douglas Road, Flagler Street and Kendall Drive. 

BRT is much cheaper than rail, according to county estimates.

The completed 2.4-mile extension of Metrorail to Miami International Airport cost about $210 million per mile. That’s much more than the $13 million per mile it would cost to begin BRT in the 11.5-mile Northwest 27th Avenue corridor.

At last week’s workshop of the Metropolitan Transportation Organization (MPO), the county’s transportation planning entity, officials’ nod toward BRT was evident.

“It sounds to me like everybody here likes BRT. It almost feels like there has been an epiphany somehow,” said Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who sits on the MPO board.

Not everyone at the workshop was on board, however. Some members said the county should think big.

“What was happening in the minds of people in the early 1900s when they first started to build the subway system in New York City?” asked county commission Chairman Jean Monestime, who sits on the MPO board. “And what’s going through my mind is that as we miss the opportunity of extending Metrorail north… what’re we going to say in another 30 years from today if we just do the basic, average thing because we’re trying to play it safe?”

Under federal definitions, BRT could be heavy, meaning the system has more features such as a designated lane for the buses, or light, where the buses run with traffic or just partially within a designated lane.

County Commissioner Barbara Jordan, who sits on the MPO board, said she has pushed for heavy BRT. Since this bus service runs within a designated lane, it paves the way for a future rail line, which might later take over the lane.

“Our goal should be where all of the corridors in the future look more toward heavy BRT,” Ms. Jordan said, “if we expect to ever go to the Metrorail system.”

51 Responses to Rail derailed for bus rapid transit for it

  1. DC Copeland

    January 14, 2015 at 11:48 am

    “Bus Rapid Transit:” Another name for an oxymoron, i.e., “bus rapid transit (BRT), in which buses usually run within a designated lane to avoid traffic.” You cannot avoid traffic if you are part of the traffic flow. Even “light rail”* isn’t the answer because it will be at grade in the traffic flow. The only solution is to remove the mass transit answer from the traffic grid, i.e., to bury it (subway) or to build it above (monorails, elevated trains).
    *Every foot of light rail will have to be dug up and reinforced to handle the weight of the “light” rail trains. Buried infrastructure will have to be dug up and realigned. Knowing this, will anyone living on Miami Beach want to put up with the years of construction hassle? For a “solution” that becomes part of the problem, i.e., motorists on the already clogged narrow streets will now have to share them with light rail trains. God forbid one should break down on its designated lane because what had been a bad situation now becomes gridlock until the “solution” is fixed and running again.

  2. Paul Orofino

    January 14, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Good news! The last thing South Miami Beach needs is a lite rail that will bring thousands of more day tripping beach goers to trash our already over crowded beach. Hooray!!!

    • Brandon

      January 28, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      Paul, you do realize that those day trippers currently occupy the parking spots so residents can’t use them, right? The goal would be to have LESS people driving over for the day, even as the number of visitors continues to increase. You don’t get people out of their cars by running busses that get stuck in traffic–no matter how you try to brand those busses.

      • Paul

        January 29, 2015 at 11:18 am

        Brandon. If taking up residents limited parking
        Spaces is the problem, perhaps building
        A huge FREE parking lot for non resident visitors should be considered? However,
        I still think that South Beach can not handle the throngs of people who would pack our already over crowded beach if mass transit were to be built linking Miami with Miami Beach.

    • Ben Grimm

      January 30, 2015 at 2:57 pm

      Beach-going is the business of Miami Beach. MB’s problem isn’t the beach-goers but the cars they arrive in.

      • Paul

        January 30, 2015 at 3:23 pm

        My guess is that the vast majority of beach goers are Miami Beach residents or tourists who are staying At hotels on Miami Beach… Not people who drive to the beach.

        • DC Copeland

          January 30, 2015 at 5:20 pm

          Really? Have you ever seen the MacArthur on a weekend during the day? It seems like everyone is going to the beach to swim, tan, and check out the nearly naked human parade; something that has been going on since the first wooden causeway opened from the mainland to the beach.

          • Paul

            January 30, 2015 at 11:55 pm

            I Don’t believe those weekend beachgoers driving to the beach are going to pack the kids, umbrellas, coolers and other beach gear and take public transportation to the beach.
            I don’t think A light rail system to the beach will alleviate the current traffic on the causeway.

          • Ben Grimm

            January 31, 2015 at 11:43 pm

            Don’t be a prude. We’re way below the bible belt.

        • marc

          February 2, 2015 at 11:18 am

          Paul, your guess is so laughable it’s not even funny. As others have stated, just look at the causeway on the weekends to give you an idea of the number of cars that try to cram in to the beach area. This isn’t the family with beach balls and cooler variety of beach goers but the young and restless types. How old are you? Getting together with your friends and going to Miami Beach from the mainland has been and always will be the thing to do on the weekends down here.

          • Paul

            February 2, 2015 at 4:12 pm

            Firstly, this forum is NOT to hurl insults to others or to make snide remarks regarding someone’s age.
            Next, the ” young and restless ” types that you say are the ones who drive to the beach on weekends are exactly the ones who will not give up the pleasures of using their cars in lieu of buses or trains. They want to enjoy the cars that they worked hard to get.
            Even if these “weekend young restless types” did use mass transit on the weekends to go to the beach, what happens the other 5 days of the week when the trains are running half empty?
            Finally, as to my “Guess being so laughable it’s not even funny”,my purpose here is NOT to amuse you but rather to try and have an intellegent conversation about whether or not a light rail system is practical and makes economical sense. Hope you’re still not laughing!

      • Paul

        January 31, 2015 at 10:46 am

        I wouldn’t consider beach going to be a business of Miami Beach. Very litlle, if any, profit is made from beach goers as the beaches are free to enjoy and most beach goers do not spend any money while there. I don’t believe anything is going to keep people from the mainland from using there cars to go to Miamis’

        • Ben Grimm

          February 2, 2015 at 2:27 am

          Free beaches is to Miami Beach what free drinks is to Las Vegas. Bait.

        • Ben Grimm

          February 2, 2015 at 8:39 am

          Free beaches is to Miami Beach what free drinks is to Las Vegas. It gets the people in. Then they spend money.

  3. Skip Van Cel

    January 14, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    $210,000,000 per mile is $504,000,000. Money much better spent than the $600,000,000 FDOT wants to spend on the MacArthur causeway bridge.

    • DC Copeland

      January 15, 2015 at 10:50 am

      Some years ago the estimated COUNTY COST for a Disney-style monorail running at grade along the MacArthur Cswy and then rising along 5th Street and running north and south over beach sand from downtown Miami to the MB Convention Center was $10 million per mile (after Fed and State portions) or about $90 to $100 million. Total cost at that time was estimated to be around $400 million for a line running approximately 9 miles. Building at grade along the 3.1 mile stretch of the MacArthur– the double track runs on the south side along Government Cut– is also a major factor in the lower costs/mile estimate. Aside from erecting the pillars, the beams would be made off-site and trucked to the pillars for installation at night thus eliminating much of the traffic headaches which would arise with building light rail. No matter how you look at it, building a Disney-style monorail is cheaper and less inconvenient to motorists than building dedicated bus lanes. You can learn more about it at

      • Mitch

        January 16, 2015 at 5:41 pm

        I totally agree with you.

      • Ben Grimm

        January 30, 2015 at 3:05 pm

        Disneyworld doesn’t agree with you. They operate that monorail system at a loss. The rest of their properties pays for it’s expensive maintenance.

        • DC Copeland

          January 30, 2015 at 3:55 pm

          Most if not all mass transit runs at a loss so your comment is at best disingenuous. In this version, Disney/Miami-Dade charges a fare to ride the monorail thus offsetting some of the loss. Advertising will help lessen further losses. If Disney is truly adverse to running a monorail, they can always license/lease the rights to their designs through Bombardier (which is the exclusive licensee for this design outside of a Disney park, i.e. the Las Vegas monorail) to the county. I think offering Disney the opportunity to anchor the Miami Beach and Miami monorail terminals with hotels/convention centers (one on each end on opposite sides of the bay) solves a lot of problems on many levels because they know what they’re doing and have developed a global brand everyone trusts for doing it right. Oh, yeah, and let them dock their cruise ship at a Watson Island station (east of Island Gardens) so they can “tie it all in.”

          • Ben Grimm

            February 1, 2015 at 12:01 am

            And back in the real world…

            Running a monorail like Disney’s is like running a taxi company with a fleet of Checker Marathon cabs. It’s expensive to get the hardware in the first place. Then there’s cost of ownership. Hard to find parts and hiring mechanics familiar with the nonstandard tech equals higher operating and maintenance costs. I think it’s also slower… just like Marathon cabs. Monorails are a theme park attraction, not a sustainable mode of transportation.

          • Adam Old

            February 5, 2015 at 12:41 pm

            Let’s not forget that our roadways also run “at a loss,” meaning they are subsidized by taxpayers. It’s time to stop pretending that cars are free and transit is socialism. The economic and social benefits of transit are well documented and the social, economic and health problems inherent with auto-centric buildings are also well documented. Neither of these externalities—the benefits of transit and the problems of automobile-only planning—are seriously considered at the time of the county’s budget creation.

  4. metromoverlover

    January 14, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    Yet another half-filled solution. Dade gets plenty of state and federal funding for highway expansion. County leaders need to make a actual effort to get elevated rail funding. Plus stop giving free rides to seniors and no more free metromover rides !

    • Paul

      January 15, 2015 at 12:05 pm

      Hey, lay off us seniors! We deserve any financial help we can get after contributing to society all these years.

      • DC Copeland

        January 15, 2015 at 12:55 pm

        I agree. You need to get AARP’s considerable political clout behind you on this one because I believe– if it hasn’t already done it– the county is considering charging seniors to ride MetroMover.

      • metromoverlover

        January 15, 2015 at 10:58 pm

        So that means now you can have a hand out ? While your population is ballooning.

        • Paul

          January 16, 2015 at 12:30 pm

          Yea. You got that right dude! Hope u live long enough to get your senior discount!

          • metromoverlover

            January 16, 2015 at 8:58 pm

            No pay you should pay your full fare.

        • Paul

          January 19, 2015 at 10:14 am

          O K. I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll pay full fare if you learn how to write and speak in proper English!

  5. Tom

    January 14, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    I will NEVER take the bus to Miami Beach unless it’s 1) Cleaner, 2) faster 3) More convenient 4) more comfortable 5) has wifi. If not, I will drive, and if traffic gets too bad I’ll look for a city whose leaders do what the voters instruct them to do.

    • Brandon

      January 28, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      Well put…

      Rail is much more likely to get people out of their cars and free up parking, which is the whole point of having mass transit go to the Beach. Busses in Miami have a (well deserved…) negative stigma.

  6. Matt

    January 15, 2015 at 10:24 am

    One important aspect of the BRT concept that makes it so appealing and feasible is its incremental nature. BRT improvements can happen over a course of time that makes funding easier to secure, while still providing a new, premium transit service. Our elected officials need to keep this in mind as they help to encourage and implement these new BRT services. Let’s get something new out on the road and then we can begin to work towards the ‘heavy’ BRT as Ms. Jordan suggested. Miami is in dire need for more premium transit service – which is evident in the sentiment we all feel towards the congestion problem here. Let’s make a decision and start moving forward!

    • fIEtser

      January 15, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      This a thousand times. By far, the biggest improvement that can be done is to implement transit signal priority, which any useful BRT system will need to be useful. Just buy a couple new buses, change the signals, and transit it times will increase immensely. Establish stops at mile spacing and brand them separate from the regular local service and they’ll be 75% of the way there. Then ridership gains can help bolster the case for dedicated lanes because there will almost certainly be a vast NIMBY challenge.

  7. marc

    January 16, 2015 at 12:48 am

    Let’s make some wagers that this is the beginning of lexus lanes to and from the beach.

  8. Samuel Augustus Jennings

    January 20, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    Public transit in the Sunshine State is pathetic!

  9. M. Jimenez

    January 21, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    What a joke.. waste of money on BRT that will just be stuck in traffic some way or another.. Grade-separated rail transit, not running in traffic, is the logical solution.. Too expensive? Build what you can when you can, and keep adding onto the system. I can’t imagine Miami 10 years from now with more people and no new rail transit built.. who plans a so-called world class city with no needed infrastructure? Makes no sense

    • Paul Orofino

      January 21, 2015 at 6:08 pm

      The city of Miami, NOT Miami Beach, may become a “world city”. Miami Beach is a “beach” city..Leave it that way. We don’t need any more people on the beach as it is already way over crowded. Leave the Mass Transit to Miami, not Miami Beach.

      • Samuel Augustus Jennings

        January 21, 2015 at 6:46 pm

        I know all about Miami Beach because I grew up in Florida when blacks were not allowed on Palm Beach or Miami Beach after dark. You can’t stop people from coming because the beach is not your private playground but you can avoid being choked to death by by car exhaust fumes.

  10. Paul

    January 22, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    This is not about ” keeping people from coming to the beach.” South Beach, which is where this proposed lite rail system would terminate, is very small and can only accomodate a limited amount of visitors.
    And please don’t pull the race card on this topic!

  11. Samuel Augustus Jennings

    January 23, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    I know all about Miami Beach because I grew up in Florida when blacks were not allowed on Palm Beach or Miami Beach after dark. You can’t stop people from coming because the beach is not your private playground but you can avoid being choked to death by by car exhaust fumes.

  12. VICTOR

    January 24, 2015 at 4:00 am

    I just can’t help but to laugh at the county. Clearly, all they are seeking is ways to spend as little money as possible so they can divert that money to their pet projects.

  13. Tolga

    January 28, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Let me remind you guys that Tri-Rail is a successful commuter rail system with constant record breaking ridership. You probably don’t hear lingo of this sort for buses. Light rail is something that needs to come in. A separate right of way. Yes, pull up a lane of traffic for rail. Maybe that will push people to leave their cars at home or at a P&R lot and use transit. A balanced net of mostly rail in commuter and light capacities followed by a localized short range bus / trolley system would be what we need.

    • Brandon

      January 28, 2015 at 10:45 pm

      It’s amazing how much ridership Tri-Rail gets considering it’s limited schedule and the fact that it relies on shuttle busses at many stops, and its an extra 30-40 minutes to transfer to get to downtown Miami (let along getting to South Beach…).

  14. Paul

    January 28, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    It is my opinion that most people will not give up their personal car for mass transit. A person’s car is like their home. Private, quiet, and enjoyable. A lite rail system to South Miami Beach will most likely be used by those who do not own a car and are currently using mass transit. A lite rail system to South Miami Beach will
    Merely bring more people to our already over crowded little island called South Beach.

    • Adam

      February 5, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      People will get out of their cars once transit is easier, faster, and less expensive. You can this in EVERY PLACE that has happened. They are already doing it, between the places that premium transit runs. So enough with the tired argument that Miami isn’t ready. Miami is beyond ready. Miami Beach exists because of the economic engine of the rest of the county. The beach is an asset that is there for all of us to use, tourists and locals alike. How much wasted space is taken up by parking lots on the beach? How many people get in accidents driving home drunk after a night at the clubs on Miami Beach? How many times is the MacArthur closed because of a crash? How many bicyclists and pedestrians are killed?

      • Paul

        February 5, 2015 at 2:28 pm

        Adam, I agree with you that SOME people will give up their cars for rapid transit but HOW Many will do this is the question. Whatever that number is, I doubt if it will eliminate any existing parking lots, eliminate accidents caused by drunk drivers, or make it any safer for bicyclists. I only wish it would.

  15. Ben Grimm

    January 30, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    Like the Busway along Dixie, eventually any BRT corridor created will be targets for those politicos and administrators wanting to turn it into a pay lane and fill it up with more cars. They believe that government should be run like a business – profit uber alles – and not for the general well-being of residents. They will sabotage mass transit mostly because it benefits the masses. And there’s no upside to that.

  16. Robert Friedman

    February 5, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    The technology needed to connect Miami and Miami Beach is already running in places like Oakland CA, Las Vegas NV, Toronto, Caracas, Mexico City, Birmingham UK and Venice Itaty. It is the Doppelmayer Inc. (Austria) cable car which looks just like you would image a monorail looks like, but it runs on a moving cable, and is not self propelled like a monorail. It is consequently much lighter with a lighter supporting structure and much less cost to construct than an elevated light rail or monorail. The one recently opening connecting the regional San Francisco BART rail transit system to the Oakland International Airport runs over 3 miles, and it can be designed to have short headways and carry thousands in each direction per hour at about 30-35 mph. I am from Miami and everybody is just having the same discussion and options as 25 years ago. I wish someone in Miami where I and from would actually try to look at something different, maybe there will be a different outcome, like building something. Can Miami aspire to be better than Caracas and actually do something? see website

    • DC Copeland

      February 5, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      The Doppelmayer is pretty cool. In the words of Tim Allen it only needs “More power!”– which I’m sure it can handle with bigger electric motors. Quite viable alternative. If only our “leaders” would look outside the box their “experts” recommend.

    • Ben Grimm

      February 11, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      The county commissioners, or one of them, has brought up trams or cable cars for planners to research.

  17. Mitch

    February 5, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Mass transit must exist not to eliminate traffic, that is something that is here to stay, but to give people options. Cities with huge mass transit systems are usually the ones with the worst triffic!! Exp. New York, Mexico city, Paris……

    • Ben Grimm

      February 11, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      On a typical day one can get through Manhattan traffic with ease. The whole thing is set up on a grid with few dead-ends or curved streets. You can’t get stuck on one street without getting onto another and bypassing the problem. If it wasn’t for the subway and buses there would be no way to get around the island because all of those people would be on surface streets alongside you. Mass transit does reduce congestion even if sometimes population outpaces it.

      Transit has also reduced pollution, fuel needs, and the stress of having to buy, own, drive, park, insure, and repair a personal car. Of course, there are no gated communities on Manhattan so everyone figures out early on (from watching everyone else) that transit is the best option. In Miami, land of closed-off streets and self-segregation, transit doesn’t come off as an apparent option.