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Front Page » Transportation » Miami floats plan; waterways to sink gridlock

Miami floats plan; waterways to sink gridlock

Written by on February 4, 2015
Miami floats plan; waterways to sink gridlock

Miami city commissioners, fed up with ever-growing traffic congestion, are ready to consider the area’s vast waterways for new modes of transportation.

Commissioners voted to urge the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to study the feasibility of using waterways to transport people throughout the county and review legislation needed to get water transportation flowing.

Commissioners didn’t want to limit the study’s scope or the potential modes of transportation. They mentioned everything from water taxis to large ferries and even a gondola lift.

In Miami, getting all those people from Point A to Point B in a timely fashion is becoming the challenge of the day. Commissioners bemoaning traffic gridlock began to talk about using the water – Biscayne Bay, the Miami River and tributaries.

Chairman Wifredo “Willy” Gort raised the subject.

“I’d like to take to the MPO for consideration water public transportation,” he said. “I think with as much waterways that we have here, there should be a system where we can transport people at fixed hours, especially in the mornings and peak hours, and get a lot of the cars off the streets. And I’d like to recommend that Commissioner [Francis] Suarez bring it up at the MPO,” where he represents the city.

Mr. Gort suggested exploring ways to transport people over the water, connecting Miami Beach with Dinner Key and Key Biscayne, and other areas.

“Right now Miami Beach is beginning to ask for it, Key Biscayne is beginning to ask for it, and we’ve had people in the past who wanted to create [water] taxi routes,” Mr. Gort said.

“That sounds great,” said Commissioner Keon Hardemon. “When I was in Hong Kong, I actually took a water taxi, one of the preferred modes of transportation, and it’s not very expensive the way they did it.”

Hong Kong uses all modes, he said. “They had cabs, trains, trolleys, water taxis, every mode of transportation that you think you can take… they utilized.”

Mr. Suarez praised the idea.

“I absolutely think you’ve got a great idea there, Mr. Chair. I’ll definitely push it,” he said, moving to approve a resolution he can take to the MPO.

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, in support of the waterways study, mentioned proposals to link the City of Miami with Miami Beach. He said a proposal to build a hard rail link to the island and back, basically a “U” route, could cost upwards of $2 billion.

“Big money,” he said. But the estimated cost of a gondola lift is about $200 million, Mr. Sarnoff said.

He didn’t want to limit the scope of the waterways study. “Let’s leave it very expansive. What is the best use of the waterways? Is it with a cable system? Is it under a more traditional ferry system? Is it private, is it public, is it a mixture of the two?” Mr. Sarnoff asked.

Mr. Gort said, “When you travel throughout the world you see the waterways being used by public transportation. There is a great need for us to improve our public transportation… we’ve got to utilize everything we can.”

“This benefits everyone, not just the city of Miami,” Mr. Gort concluded. “This will help everyone.”

10 Responses to Miami floats plan; waterways to sink gridlock

  1. DC Copeland

    February 4, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Where does commissioner Sarnoff get his figures? I can whip up figures too– backed by experts. Some years ago it was estimated an 8.6-mile rubber-tired Disney-style monorail loop with two tracks running from downtown Miami to the Miami Beach convention center would cost less than $400 million. Adjusting for inflation, it would probably still cost less than the billion-dollar-plus PortMiami tunnel which is less than a mile long. You can learn more here: His suggestion that a 200-million-dollar gondola lift is a better idea because its cheaper shows he’s having a hard time looking past cost estimates. A gondola lift cannot be considered in any universe as a solution to moving thousands of people from one place to another in an acceptable amount of time, i.e., a New York minute. If you’re looking at solving downtown gridlock, this is not the answer by a long shot. As for spending more money on another study re water transportation and wasting more time, let the commission encourage private entrepreneurs to tackle this problem by offering them incentives such as less hoops to jump through to get an operator’s license and tax incentives. Why? Because any study will show that although the idea sounds sound, unless fares are affordable, no one will be hopping on a water taxi– especially if they are in a hurry. So, let these entrepreneurs of water transportation discover this themselves– on their dime.

    • Angel M

      February 4, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      DC, u r so right on target. Let private water taxis do it based on their own business models. And anyways, how does that help the people that live out west, which is most of the people in MDC? Are we all going to paddle thru the 8 street canals to get to work Downtown where most of the jobs are? What we need are East-West trains that parallel xpressway routes, which is the route that MDC sprawl spread through.

  2. Alexsandra Sopp

    February 4, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    The horse has left the barn, several buildings ago. Just how did the city planners think people would travel when the concrete jungle of buildings were approved?

  3. gregory

    February 4, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    In the name of logic clearly a rail is needed that goes to Miami Beach ! I’ve been to Hong Kong also and yes they have water taxis, but MOST people take the metro to cross the bay to get to Kowloon. Commissioners need to stop with the lame proposes and extend rail lines across the city.

  4. Jose

    February 4, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    Don’t we already have water taxis from downtown to the beach? Why not just expand those?

  5. J. Sullivan

    February 4, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    Pass a County wide gasoline tax of .25 cents per gallon now dedicated to expand MetroRail and MetroMover. Both City and County leaders are way behind the fed up public that desperately needs and understands that we need bold leadership now. With gas prices down near 2.00 bucks the time is perfect to capture a substantial and constant flow of dollars that can then be bonded out to leverage new rail lines.

    • DC Copeland

      February 5, 2015 at 11:44 am

      Would love to see that but, besides there being a lack of vision in our elected officials, there is also a lack of big cahones which is what they would need if any of them suggested such a thing. Why? Because of their fear of constituent backlash, i.e., they would be voted out of office because as every elected person knows anywhere on this planet, the public doesn’t like taxes (especially those living here who were promised their last self-imposed tax increase would be used ONLY for building mass transit but was instead diverted by the county commission to projects that had nothing to do with mass trans). Still, J. Sullivan, if you ever decide to run for office, you got my vote.

  6. Marta Viciedo

    February 6, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    The suggestion of seriously considering waterway transit as a means to alleviate congestion is simultaneously irresponsible and comical. Let’s go ahead and use additional resources on yet another feasibility study and plan instead of taking an actual leadership role and insisting that transit projects already proposed and studied, be it light rail or true bus rapid transit with dedicated lanes, are funded and built.

    Coming on the heels of the rather informative Transportation Summit organized by CITT, plenty of existing MPO studies, and a trove of well-researched, measurably successful transit projects across the nation (and world), the idea that our elected officials feel the need to embark on yet another study points more to their commitment towards inaction than any real desire to “get a lot of the cars off the street”.

    The comparison with cities like Hong Kong that have built out multiple and efficient forms of mass transit is misplaced (as other readers have pointed out), we have a lot of work to do before we can entertain that comparison. Perhaps the idea (or distraction) of the waterways is alluring because it means not having to give up any lanes of traffic (lest we displace a single motorist) for other modes of transportation. Or perhaps it’s just a way of avoiding the hard work of building consensus, coordinating across agencies, and finding the funding.

    Miami needs true bus rapid transit (not the short-changed enhanced bus service) and/or light rail, especially to Miami Beach, plus a safe bike/ped network. Maybe once we get the basics in place, we can start playing in the water.

    • marc

      February 9, 2015 at 10:47 am

      You hit the nail on the head. Where is the leadership on this and I mean real leadership that isn’t just lip service? We have politicians that are afraid to make moves or suggest things that will make a sector of the population upset with you. Some decisions for the future of the city and county need to be made regardless of the fallout in the present. They all want the status quo.

  7. John Nicholson

    February 8, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Instead of adding a .25 cent tax for mass transit, take the revenue from the express lanes and tolls that have been added to the expressway systems already imposed by MDX. (We already paid for the express lanes.)To pay for east west mass transit.

    Private enterprise is truly the best option for use of our waterway systems for transport. Given the chance to start or operate a business with minimal government intervention, may actually save the City, County, and State a lot of money, and still help solve part of the gridlock issue. Remember, Making a profit is never a bad thing for private business, or public business. If both make a profit from the same business, it’s always Win, Win. JN