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Front Page » Opinion » Get heavy hitters into the game for ballpark aerial transit

Get heavy hitters into the game for ballpark aerial transit

Written by on October 11, 2016
Get heavy hitters into the game for ballpark aerial transit

The game of linking 5,500 Marlins Park parking spots to car-choked downtown’s Government Center via aerial cable is in early innings, too late for 2017’s All-Star Game here but still in time for the 2018 baseball season if the players hustle.

So far, however, every key player in this transit prototype still sits on the bench or outside the ballpark.

The heaviest hitter, Florida East Coast Industries with its now-rising Miami-Central station complex and All Aboard Florida, didn’t figure in the Metropolitan Planning Organization-funded study that just endorsed a hard look at bringing aerial transit to the railroad’s depot. The study team never talked with them and company staff didn’t speak at three public meetings.

Railroad passengers, employees and office tenants would benefit from 5,500 underused ballpark parking spaces just six minutes by aerial gondola from their downtown hub. Moreover, the company could clean up in a public-private partnership to develop the cable system.

All Aboard wasn’t the only no-show. The Miami Marlins, who’d gain as baseball and events patrons arrived by cable and also by reselling parking at other times in city-owned garages at hefty profits, didn’t talk with consultants or attend meetings, either.

Nor, it seems, did the Miami Parking Authority, which owns the parking and gets $10-plus off the top for every space. Imagine leasing 5,500 spaces every weekday to downtown workers who’d glide the last mile to jobs via aerial cable instead of fighting clogged city streets by car.

The other missing key player was County Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr., a sparkplug for creative transit who actually requested that the Metropolitan Planning Organization fund the study.

Also not evident in these first few plays of a nine-inning bid to add an aerial mode that could someday feed passengers into light rail hubs were financial partners to spearhead development.

It’s so early in the game, the study team says, that nobody at the planning organization has even spoken to them about the study. Certainly, the planning organization has yet to act.

No surprise.

Michael Acierno of Pompano Beach, a financial consultant on the study who’s been at aerial transit so long that in 2002 he helped promote the never-built Miami Glide cable system to connect Watson Island to what is now Museum Park, knows how slowly government can move on transit.

So does his Denver partner in the current study, Roger Gardner of Eco-Transit Technologies, who with Mr. Acierno in 2004 studied for the Metropolitan Planning Organization an aerial cable system in Coconut Grove up 27th Avenue to Metrorail, though in that case they found it wouldn’t be viable.

Now, as aerial transit springs up in multiple places, Mr. Acierno calls a ballpark link “a bit more tangible.”

The Metropolitan Planning organization is at bat. It’s their study. They can shelve it in a dark corner or do something about it.

But all of the organization’s study money today is going to light rail, Mr. Gardner was told. The organization is scrambling to study six light rail corridors that it promised to work on simultaneously without a shred of funding assured for any of them.

That big promise assuredly will not be kept, but board members felt it was vital to help every county commissioner – all also board members – tell constituents that they would not be left behind. In reality, however, someone has to go first. And someone will.

Meanwhile, a relatively low-cost $40 million transportation system that could relieve downtown traffic almost immediately by up to 5,500 cars a day and could find a ready private partner to get it flowing shouldn’t be left to gather dust. It could be fast-tracked in 12 to 18 months with no impediments but the public-private deal to let it fly. Light rail takes far longer.

Mr. Bovo, the loudest proponent of getting something done quickly, is a logical player to get out ahead on this study that he requested.

A vital ridership look and public-private funding structure, Mr. Gardner said, would cost $125,000 to $250,000 to yield “ballpark numbers, pun intended,” on a route to Marlins Park.

That study could also revisit soccer next door. While the David Beckham team ruled out the site beside Marlins Park with the baseball team controlling all the parking, aerial transit at 4,000 fans per hour gliding each way might tip the balance.

Aerial cable transit systems were new when Mr. Acierno was planning a line from Watson Island to mainland parkland. “Now they’re popping up,” he says.

The most recent was last week in the Mexico City area when Ecatapec de Morelos opened a 2.9-mile system expected to carry 26,000 passengers a day in places where it’s hard to put ground-level mass transit.

Such systems can handle big numbers. La Paz carries more than 40 million a year, Mr. Gardner says, and Medellin 25-plus million.

With all the aerial transit rising globally, Mr. Gardner still sees Miami as one of the top 10 places for a system to win because of “traffic congestion and the inability to do large civil structures like Metrorail anymore. That’s just a long putt [because of] limited right-of way.”

The aerial system to the ballpark, he notes, would need only a small footprint on the ground – 20-square-foot pads spaced 400 to 500 feet apart and just two stations on government-owned sites. Mr. Acierno calls it “minimally invasive.”

As light rail plans are made and funding sought, there’s excellent reason to move forward simultaneously on aerial cable to relieve downtown congestion, add transit to and from Little Havana and create a prototype for potential aerial links from the ends of those light rail lines to harder-to-reach passengers who will eventually have to fill those rail cars.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization is at bat. And a ballpark parking link is a fat pitch to hit.

7 Responses to Get heavy hitters into the game for ballpark aerial transit

  1. DC Copeland

    October 12, 2016 at 6:55 am

    No matter how you parse it, the Florida Marlins will benefit the most. If anyone should go to bat for the aerial transit system, it should be them, swinging mightily for the bleachers with the team’s money. Enough public dollars have already been siphoned off by that loser team and if a plan came before voters that didn’t include Luria funding the whole shebang, it would go down at the polls as a shutout.

    • Hugo

      October 12, 2016 at 3:07 pm

      It’s ridiculous how much money Luria took from us tax payers. I really do like the idea of Aerial transit however the only reason I would support it as mention on the article due to those 5k parking spaces that aren’t being utilized and we payed for them. I believe that our priorities should be placed in our communities that direly need an option in transport such as Kendall, Homestead, Doral and the Beach (I still cant understand why they took out the original streets cars in the first place, I personally would’ve thought it would have been a tourist attraction). I read on the Herald that they are considering to expand the Metrorail ground level from Dadeland South to Homestead and an additional track on 27 ave going northbound. I like those ideas as well and i think it should be prioritized.

  2. JS

    October 12, 2016 at 10:28 am

    Michael Lewis for MDC Mayor ! He is the only one with the vision and foresight that makes a difference to Miami’s most pressing problem. Certainly unlike anyone mentioned in his editorial including Giminez or Regalado.

  3. Roy

    October 12, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    An aerial cable to Marlins Park from All-Aboard station will be great — howevever, a people mover system as the one in downtown from nearby Culmer station would probably be cheaper to do construct and to maintain.

    • DC Copeland

      October 12, 2016 at 6:06 pm

      I would love to see the MetroMover built too but nothing beats an aerial tram for being dirt cheap to construct. And nowadays, that’s apparently all that counts.

    • marc

      October 12, 2016 at 8:42 pm

      There’s no way the cost to build a Metro Mover line to the stadium would cost less than the $40 million it would take for a cable car.

  4. JAS33131

    October 13, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Wow, three editorials in a row. It looks like Miami’s elites have decided: only the cheapest, easiest transit options for this city, and only if we can convince big players who will benefit directly to pay. We know it’s decided because of the use of this quote by an “expert”: “inability to do large civil structures like Metrorail anymore.” That’s that. Metrorail and its super fast trains are dead. Only slow (but adorable!) light rail and Disneyesque tourist attraction-worthy cable cars.

    Citing the other cities that successfully use cable systems is sneaky. The one in New York is a point-to-point ride from the Upper East Side to Roosevelt Island. And it is in addition to the F train which also stops there and has MANY more passengers. All the other places are very mountainous and the systems connect previously neglected areas into the city centers. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but there are no bustling mountaintop settlements here that need connecting, just very populous and FLAT urban neighborhoods with only buses to rely on if you can’t afford a car.

    Time to get very serious and use major targeted taxation on these big corporate players and deliver true, efficient transit to the rest of Miami. If you want to play with cable cars after that is done for those “last mile” areas, knock yourselves out.