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Front Page » Transportation » Metrorail is too costly for Miami’s future

Metrorail is too costly for Miami’s future

Written by on August 23, 2016
Metrorail is too costly for Miami’s future

Elevated Metrorail is extremely costly to build, county officials say, so street-level light rail seems best for Miami-Dade’s future transit.

Transit officials are looking more at light rail for six Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit Plan corridors while in some cases converting Metrorail cars for overhead power, transportation director Alice Bravo told Miami Today last week. She said the technology used for each corridor will be picked after individual studies on the six.

“The more we can bring down the cost of the corridors, the more transit lines we will be able to build,” she said.

A half-penny sales tax voters approved in 2002 to fund new transit called for 88 new miles of Metrorail in addition to such promises as expanding bus service and improving traffic signals to reduce bottlenecks.

Fourteen years later, officials are looking at cost-effective ways to do transit projects quickly. A group developed fresh ideas last summer after viewing the Denver Regional Transportation District’s light rail and commuter rail. Miami-Dade transit and elected officials gathered data on how Denver’s community created its FasTracks, which includes 122 miles of commuter rail and light rail using multiple funding sources.

Light rail generally has less capacity and speed than heavy rail and metro systems but higher capacity and speed than street trams. According to, light rail typically is a system with rapid transit-style features using electric rail cars operating mostly in private rights-of-way separated from other traffic but if necessary mixed with other traffic in city streets.

Modern light rail technology is flexible and adaptable, and whether a system is considered true rapid transit depends on its characteristics.

15 Responses to Metrorail is too costly for Miami’s future

  1. Hugo

    August 24, 2016 at 9:01 am

    More costly? Really? So what have our elected officials done since 2002 besides handing wonderful contracts to their lovely friends. Why hasn’t this Private/Public partnership been explored before? It’s pretty sad that our politicians really do not understand how many people are affected from the cause of traffic. I know people that have literally been threatened of losing their jobs due to the incompetency of our elected officials. I laugh because our mayor, who has brought lower paying jobs to our great city depend on punctuality and attendance. Its been 14 years and the only thing that has materialized was the Airport extension that was intentionally made for tourist. Some of these corridors need to be elevated because there is no right of way. I have an idea, why not go for the whole 9 innings and expand elevated rail instead of using half done projects. I am sure, once an option is available people would embrace it and the county would start gaining revenue. You could even incorporate your friends if you like by giving them projects. All that matters is getting this project done. Another thing, there really isn’t much of a difference between heavy rail and light rail. Ask the people of the Los Angeles Metro Rail system.

  2. B

    August 24, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    So if we build BRT we can get 12 or 20 corridors, not just 6??? LMAFO, NOT!!! Look folks, the real goal here is to spend as little money on transit as possible, most certainly not to build as many corridors as possible. Meanwhile we continue to do stuff like $850M on a 1.4 mile downtown expressway bridge where a perfectly functional one already exists. Priorities matter, follow the money.

    If you care about traffic congestion and alternatives, vote Gimenez out, because with this trajectory all we will ever get is more busses, getting stuck in traffic (Uber or driverless or whatever–still the same traffic!), and contributing to even more congestion.

  3. B

    August 24, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    For an article discussing costs, it is notably missing something: the actual numbers. How much cheaper is light rail purely on a per-mile construction basis? And don’t use Airport Link numbers for Metrorail–that was a particularly complicated extension. How do these figures change if you account for the complete, permanent loss of two traffic lanes and turn lanes with LRT? What is the opportunity cost of the lower ridership, lower fare collection (including “honor system” fare payment!) of slower light rail compared to faster Metrorail? The cost of rider’s time if Metrorail gets us to work, say, 15 minutes faster than surface light rail ever could?

  4. Fred

    August 24, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    So on clogged streets we are adding more vehicles which will move as fast as the traffic moves. That shows the incompetence of our elected officials!

  5. Coutts

    August 25, 2016 at 9:00 am

    I think Light rail makes a ton of sense for one route in particular: the connection south from the Dadeland South Metrorail station, possibly all the way down to Homestead (but at least down to the communities of Pinecrest, Cutler Bay, and Palmetto Bay), parallel to US1. There is already a multi-lane only used by public buses, so that avoids losing traffic lanes. If they are serious to expand public transportation quickly they should focus on this route, as well as the Miami Beach route (due to the expected ridership numbers, plus the already strong support). We shall see…

    • TransitDave

      September 1, 2016 at 3:48 pm

      Actually it makes the least sense, because all that is really needed is more guideway to extend the existing system, rather than all that would be involved with buying light rail trains, setting up a maintence yard, etc for a new mode.

  6. Elliot

    August 25, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    I like what I’ve read from most of the comments that I see so far. There is a LOT of real common sense among Dade County voters. If you are going to get serious about building a REAL rapid transit system you don’t go out and do it on the cheap, only to have to come back in the SHORT TERM and try to get it right. Here’s a “cheap fix” that dogs and haunts the city of Miami on a daily, if not hourly basis: The stupid Brickell Avenue bridge. All that money to make it a few feet higher and it remains the worst bottleneck in the city. Where is the foresight among the civic leadership in this town. Instead of trying to go all out and trying to do 6 new routes on the cheap, build the system right, which means to go for elevated rapid transit lines and go for 3 maybe 4 routes, built along the corridors or “patterns” of heaviest traffic. THOSE are the people that will be willing to give up sitting in their cars for hours in exchange for a quicker, easier and dependable commute. Build the rapid transit system, and not by means of a cheap light rail that will only squeeze and clog our streets and highways even more. Let’s put in the dollars that will get this right the FIRST time and be done with it.

  7. Frank Del Vecchio

    August 25, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Unless transit roadways are elevated in Miami, as the City of Miami Beach is doing as part of its sea level rise mitigation program, there is little chance of a mainland Light Rail Transit project satisfying the Federal Environmental Impact review requirements. That means no Federal transit subsidy. Moreover, a non-Federally funded Public-Private Partnership project would face a very high private funding and public bonding hurdle for the same environmental feasibility reasons.

    The City of Miami Beach’s Light Rail Transit Project relies on city capital projects funding for raising the streets in which the tracks are to be placed. Mainland Light Rail Transit routes would require city and/or county funding for the accompanying street raising and pump station costs. None of these factors have been addressed in the publicly available documents on the Light Rail Transit project.

    The time line for a Federally-funded transit project, inclusive of required draft and final environmental impact statement preparation and reviews, is several years. That would put the earliest phase of a mainland light rail transit project into the early 2020’s, and the later phases in the 2030’s. The national sea level rise standards for those years are the measurements that must be factored into the costs of elevating streets along which rail lines will be raised and installing the drainage pumps required.

    Incidentally, from the perspective of the City of Miami Beach, these formidable hurdles for Federally-assisted light rail lines in Miami that would connect over the MacArthur Causeway to a Miami Beach Streetcar system suggest that the Miami Beach Streetcar project might be contained solely within the confines of the barrier island, with no rail transit connection to the mainland.

  8. JS

    August 25, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    “Too costly.”

    According to whom? By what measurement?

    Metrorail is FAST. It can also be unobtrusive and beautiful if built to be so, so the aesthetic objections are weak. I cannot BELIEVE my entire lifetime there has only been one poorly routed local train line in this entire city of millions while hundreds of miles of concrete and asphalt ribbons have been laid end to end across South Florida. The cost excuse is ridiculous, laughable in the face of all the CRAP they’ve built even just since the 2002 sales tax hike. Dade voters said TWICE in as many decades that they want HEAVY, RAPID, RAIL transit. Have you ever sat in a streetcar in a big city? You might as well walk except that they’re air conditioned.

    And the selection of corridors is a joke, too, especially the East-West. Are you trying to get people to drive to commuter stations outside their neighborhoods, or allow people to actually walk to intelligently placed stations? Spend the money and put Metrorail down Flagler or NW 1 St to the end. You’d get NYC levels of ridership on that for sure, they even did a study showing ridership on an extension of Metromover into Little Havana would multiply ridership just on that system.

    Please. No amount is “too costly” for something done right the first time that benefits everyone, EVEN drivers.

  9. Paul

    August 25, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    It takes me on average 1 hour and 20 minutes each way to get to work. Using transit would not save me any time due to distance from my house. Last thing we need is something clogging up the streets more than they are already. The elevated metro rail lines is the best cure as it is faster and out of the way of our streets. People will use it if it is faster than driving and convenient with more lines. They should run a few metrorail lines next to major expressways and central roads where people can park and ride. Sure it is a little more expensive but all you see is just some concrete beams with a rail on top. The most expensive part is probably building the individual stations and staffing them. All these years we pay the extra tax and now they say they don’t have the money to build it the right way.

  10. Robert lansburgh

    August 25, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    Please visit the above miami, this project will not solve traffic problems, as advertised by the salesman. Billions of dollars is being spent without a public referendum. Street cars compete with our existing traffic lanes, we contend technology not 1800s trains will improve traffic. 10 years of construction fatigue, see our page for video footage of the routes being pursued. Cost per person is $1,000 to build, not household or taxpayer but per person. No public vote required, 5 or 10 people get to make this decision. Flagler built rail 100 years ago, uber is building the driverless car with Google and Apple.

    • Hugo

      August 26, 2016 at 11:05 am

      Robert, is there an alternative website for people that don’t have Facebook?

  11. Alex Adams

    August 30, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    We need to understand the capacity and purpose of each type of transit solution. Downtowns are where subways occur across the world- In Miami’s case above ground. The fact is that Metrorail would be perfect connecting Midtown to Downtown-Brickell. Metromover is too slow and too many stops!

    When we start talking about transit outside the core and outside the Palmetto Loop it is 5-7 miles from downtown and the best alternative on longer trips is Tri Rail style transit. Connecting big regional job/residential centers are better connected by DMU or Commuter Rail.

    Light Rail is a good choice for a beach connection and loops like downtown to Little Havana, MIC to Hialeah, FIU to Dolphin Mall, etc…

  12. Robert lansburgh

    August 31, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Light rail is a good choice, based on what? Did metro rail solve traffic, has light rail proven itself worth the cost and the sacrificing of 24 feet of our streets? One needs to also be concerned about the fast tracking of this enormous project in without any public input or a public vote. That is worrisome.

  13. TransitDave

    September 1, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    If one wants to see the difference between a heavy rail system, and a light rail system, one need look no further Washington DC (with a very heavily utilized heavy rail system) and Baltimore, with a lightly utilized light rail system. They don’t call it light rail for nothing. It goes at about half the speed, and has roughly a quarter of the people-moving capacity as a heavy rail system. Furthermore, the maintenance yard and number of train sets of the existing Metro-rail system is adequate for at least another 25-30 miles of additions to the system in Miami.