Dolphin Station Park & Ride to be done by March
The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) expects to finish the Dolphin Station Park & Ride by late March to feed riders into the Miami-Dade Transit SR 836/Dolphin Express Bus Service by summer, linking Dolphin Mall, Miami International Airport, Downtown and Brickell.
MDX leads construction on the $19 million project alongside the county’s Department of Transportation and Public Works and Florida Department of Transportation. MDX plans to not only complete construction but also maintain the hub.
“The park-and-ride facility will be used primarily for our express bus service from the Dolphin Park & Ride station, which is approximately on Northwest 122nd Avenue and Northwest 12th Street along 836, using the shoulders we’re currently using as part of our capital improvement program,” said authority Deputy Executive Director and Director of Engineering Juan Toledo.
Dolphin Station, spanning almost 15 acres of public land, will cater to commuters on the east-west corridor. Mr. Toledo and project partners expect this node to encourage more people to ride public transit.
The lot adds an incentive for express bus riders to keep using the service and others to hop aboard.
County transportation chief Alice Bravo said of all east-west transit solutions to heavier traffic, the most affordable was utilizing the expressway’s shoulders.
“Every single highway has a shoulder, so that’s an opportunity to create an express bus service on every single highway at a very low cost,” she said. “All you need is the cost of the vehicles and the operations, and you have a mass transit solution. Rather than everyone being stuck in traffic, this vehicle is going to zip past everybody.”
The Dolphin Station Park & Ride is geared to entice more people to hop on.
“For the express bus service to be successful,” Ms. Bravo said, “you have to have a location where you get the people on the express bus. The park-and-ride facility is in essence how you feed people to your express bus service.”
The 849 long-term parking spaces and 20 short-term parking areas frame the 12 bus bays and 10 bus layover bays. The transit hub also provides waiting areas and retail space.
Ms. Bravo said she believes the express bus service will increase in ridership with the park-and-ride lot despite an overall decline of nearly 10% she cited in overall bus ridership this year.
As a result of the decline, the transportation department cut service on some routes and expects more route changes in March to generate savings.
However, Ms. Bravo remains optimistic due to the 14% growth in use of the express buses running on the South Dade corridor from 2016 to 2017.
“While bus ridership overall is declining,” Ms. Bravo said, “you see that the express bus service is increasing because people want to save time.” She said amenities at the station will make public transportation even more appealing.
Dolphin Station work is 75% complete, Mr. Toledo said, and on budget. His team plans to finish by late March, with buses pulling in by summer.
“The bus service is contingent on the work they’re doing on the expressway since the plan is to put that express bus on the inside shoulders of 836,” Mr. Toledo said. He expects a promotional campaign to precede the opening.
The total project cost is estimated at $19 million, with $16.9 million of it construction. Mr. Toledo said DMT chipped in $5 million, the county tossed in another $5 million and MDX filled in the gap with about $9 million for the park-and-ride lot.
Officials expect to measure the project’s success by the number of express bus riders. Ms. Bravo said her department targets at least 849 daily riders using the site.
“What we really want is people to carpool to the park-and-ride, to take our bus routes to the park-and-ride, and that way we can really multiply the number of people using the express bus,” she said. “The goal is to have those buses full once they’re up and running.”
The area’s county commissioner, José “Pepe” Díaz, a long-time advocate, sees the Dolphin Station Park & Ride location as ideal. He said he believes the nearness of Dolphin Mall, Miami International Mall and the new Telemundo headquarters supplies commuters with a solution for their rising transportation demands.
“Business-wise, there’s a lot of business entities going in there and growing.” Commissioner Díaz said, “That means a lot of employees need to get there and leave from there. It’s a great place.”
Mr. Díaz looks towards nearby state-owned land with a vision of expanding the Dolphin Station Park & Ride in coming years. “As this grows,” he said, “there’s some other land that we’ll be looking at to try to build a parking facility to hold a lot more vehicles.”