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Front Page » Opinion » Miami Beach’s return to team approach key to Baylink rail

Miami Beach’s return to team approach key to Baylink rail

Written by on December 20, 2016
Miami Beach’s return to team approach key to Baylink rail

Miami Beach’s U-turn on a rail link plan over the bay offers hope for actually building a Baylink that will carry thousands of passengers, get cars off roads and speed travel.

After a year of wandering by itself in the transit wilderness and vowing to do its own thing regardless of what the county and City of Miami do on the mainland and causeway legs of the rail line, Miami Beach has halted its hurry-up offense and awaits a county vote to move forward.

That’s a full reverse for Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who got so frustrated a year ago with slower partner governments that he went rogue and decided the city would do its own thing first and later see how that leg of rail up the island could connect to whatever technology the county and City of Miami came up with at the other end of the line to roll across the bay to a Beach terminal at Alton Road and Fifth Street.

But bravado that the Beach could go faster and better alone met up with the reality that getting Beach activists on board any transit route, technology or financing is the equivalent of herding disgruntled cats. The mayor didn’t do any better than the first big-name Baylink proponent, then-Mayor Neisen Kasdin.

In fact, in the year since the Beach broke away on its own, Baylink has lost support of the Florida Department of Transportation, which until April had led the drive to win federal funds for the long-awaited rail line but said it wouldn’t lead any longer because all local governments weren’t on the same track.

Mayor Levine pooh-poohed the push for US aid when he led the Beach to break with the consortium, which wanted to do Baylink in a single system with a single technology, single purveyor and single passenger seat from one end of the line to the other.

We would hope that with the Beach back in the fold, all the agencies would return, hats in hand, and ask the respected state transportation department to again take the lead to win federal funds. The department is a great advocate that we sorely need to get the project funded and finally built.

The year of Beach-alone rail planning also ended with the city choosing a rail system purveyor and a second-choice bidder still actively lobbying for a contract.

Commitment by the Beach on whatever level to a new rail configuration complicates vital efforts to minimize diversity of formats as the county and Metropolitan Planning Organization try to add six legs of transit – one being Baylink – to complement our incomplete Metrorail and Metromover.

As the county now openly says that it would like to continue Metrorail on street level, and as others discuss extending Metromover over the causeway to Miami Beach, we already have two non-continuous methodologies. If at all possible, we don’t need more formats that don’t connect as single-seat rides.

Miami Beach’s year in the wilderness ended inelegantly, with Beach commissioners agreeing last week that they won’t play in any Baylink system with anyone else unless, after all the governments have struck a unified deal, Miami Beach voters go to the polls and agree with that deal.

That means that while government agencies everywhere else in Miami-Dade will decide about rail routes, financing and methodology, Miami Beach voters will get veto power. That can slow vitally needed transit links to await a Beach election and, potentially fatally, could derail Baylink after funding is available and everyone else is aboard.

That veto card might also make it harder to get federal or state participation for a Baylink plan.

We welcome Miami Beach back aboard the rail line local run, and hope that negotiations restore the full Miami Beach loop that was formerly trumpeted rather than the now-offered rail stub that no longer heads north of the Miami Beach Convention Center. If rail is vital, it’s needed by more than just visitors – residents up and down the Beach need it too.

With everyone back at the table, governments must agree on the fewest possible operating systems and the principle of a single-seat ride countywide.

We hope that Mayor Levine was not so badly burned in his go-it-alone year that he’ll be unwilling to push for a united, unified approach to rail on the Beach and elsewhere. His leadership will be needed.

The mayor, after all, spearheaded a recent survey that said 71% of Beach residents favor rail. He needs to be sure that as the final step of a Baylink deal, 71% say so in the voting booth.

Baylink has always been a great concept. In today’s traffic glut it’s also a great need. We welcome the City of Miami Beach back aboard the Baylink Express with the rest of us.

8 Responses to Miami Beach’s return to team approach key to Baylink rail

  1. DC Copeland

    December 21, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Of the proposed “six legs of transit,” Baylink should be implemented first. Its impact on traffic will reach into the far netherlands of Kendall West where tourism-employed workers will finally get a chance to ditch their cars to get to work on the beach. On weekends, even more traffic will be negated because mainlanders can take an elevated train to the beach for that traditional “day at the beach.” Unfortunately, common sense will be butting its already bruised head against our provincial politicians who will fight against it unless, of course, its coming into their little bailiwick.

  2. Jennifer Caccamo

    December 21, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Beach logistics – street width and flooding- make it impossible for light rail, pedestrians and cars to all fit nicely. Nice idea for another place. MB needs eco clean rapid shuttle buses.

    • B

      December 25, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      Washington Ave is plenty wide enough for rail, cars, bikes, and pedestrians, but it will have to prioritize people over cars like other modern 21st century cities.

  3. Sean

    December 21, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    Many cities with light rail in Europe have tighter streets and more density. Residents need to be open-minded to making this city more livable. We need to be moving people with modern technology vs talking about it for 30 years. Buses are not the solution. I have used buses here for many years and they are not ideal. Tourists won’t ride them. They will use rail though.

  4. Roy

    December 22, 2016 at 12:42 am

    That Baylink rail seems nice – but why not just build a people mover from the Museum Station and create a Miami Beach Loop down the 836 – it would be already connected to the Mass Transit Infrastructure and would make it easy to get to the airport, Brickell and Jackson Hospital. There is plenty of space on the side of 836 and down the middle of the highway.

  5. jaime

    December 23, 2016 at 10:54 am

    We don’t have to look to Europe, we have to look to Asia. The beach needs an elevated train that does not disrupt traffic and is not an eye sore. Example:

  6. No One

    December 23, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Buses that have the upgraded amenities typical of rail cars will succeed for a fraction of the cost and provide a much better level of service and flexibility. It is called bus rapid transit and as far as comfort is concerned, it is practically indistinguishable from rail. Tourists and residents alike will LOVE it and ride it. Rail is FAR too expensive by every metric, but even rail is cheap compared with doing nothing.

    • B

      December 25, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      BRT is really not that cheap unless you cut corners and have a beefed up express bus instead. But that’s express in name only as it will still get stuck in traffic! Of course if you want cheap and effective, a gondola or PRT may be better. Main thing is it MUST run 100% separate from traffic.