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Front Page » Transportation » New mobility world coming to South Dade Transitway

New mobility world coming to South Dade Transitway

Written by on October 1, 2019
  • www.miamitodaynews.com
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New mobility world coming to South Dade Transitway

Work to convert the South Dade Transitway into a Bus Express Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor could begin by June – if Miami-Dade is able to surmount a few remaining funding and design hurdles in the interim, county Transportation Director Alice Bravo says.

The estimated $300 million project – which includes building 14 weather-controlled BRT stations and outfitting 45 intersections with crossing gate arms and traffic signal preemption, among other upgrades – is now 66% funded with equal state and local dollars.

The remaining federal contribution, Ms. Bravo told commissioners in a transportation committee last month, awaits approval of a funding application that the county submitted Aug. 23, for which it expects a response early next year.

“We’re hoping we get rated here in the next few months and are eligible for a funding grant agreement,” she said.

Each 120-foot, “architecturally iconic and memorable” BRT station, she said, will be “expandable and flexible to meet future needs [of] neighborhoods” and include center platform boarding with large overhead cooling fans, off-board fare collection, air conditioned vestibules, closed-circuit TV security, WiFi and basic amities like bike racks and benches.

Existing shared-use paths for bikes, scooters and other micro-mobility vehicles will remain, as will emergency vehicle access to the 20-mile transitway.

The county is seeking a design-build contract for the project and expects by December to request proposals based on input from the state and feedback from Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Homestead and Florida City, all of which the corridor serves.

“We hope to be back at commission awarding that contract early next year, in the first quarter, and then we’d move into design and construction,” she said, adding that final designs aren’t necessary to begin work on some parts of the project. “They identify early elements that we approve and then start construction on those elements while they’re working on the rest of the design, so we should see activity there by mid next year.”

Ms. Bravo said Mayor Carlos Giménez directed her to look at “cool-looking buses,” preferably electric, and that her department is now preparing a procurement for such vehicles to serve the corridor by the time work there finishes in 2022.

Lawmakers, leaders and a public school board member on the county transportation board voted 15-7 for BRT on the transitway Aug. 30, 2018, after eliminating from consideration a rail solution and possible Metrorail extension between the Dadeland South Metrorail station and Southwest 344th Street.

The move marked the first time the county had selected a new mass transit solution for one of six corridors identified in the SMART Plan, an initiative launched in 2016 to bring better transit to six key county corridors.

BRT was championed by many, including Mr. Giménez, who said the service will be like “rail on rubber tires” while costing much less to serve the area’s ridership.

Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava and Dennis Moss, whose districts the corridor serves, had led demands for a southern rail extension. They joined Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, Coral Gables Vice Mayor Vince Lago and county Commissioners Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan, Xavier Suarez in voting no.

As a caveat to those demanding that the county fulfill a 2002 promise to bring rail to South Dade, the board amended the Aug. 30 item to stipulate that the transitway would be converted for rail once weekday ridership hits 35,000 – a benchmark Ms. Jordan said would never be reached.

“Show me one rail that’s been built across the country [where] they had ridership up to 35,000 people,” she said. “You won’t be able to … because the ridership was already up.”

Less than four months later, the board selected elevated fixed-guideway transit for the SMART Plan’s North Corridor – to date the only other corridor for which a transit upgrade has been chosen – with a preference for rail and potential Metrorail extension between the northernmost Metrorail station and the Broward County line.

Asked by Mr. Moss Sept. 13 to detail how the infrastructure her department planned to add to the South Dade Transitway would accommodate a future conversion to rail there – “We always find a reason why we can’t do something,” he said – Ms. Bravo said that certain upgrades would be needed, like lengthening each station to 330 feet and renovating the central platform so level boarding could continue.

“But what you’re building now,” she said, “in terms of the gate arms, [signal preemption and] station size … all those features remain.”

10 Responses to New mobility world coming to South Dade Transitway

  1. kerry mccall Reply

    October 2, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    yep this is what miami as usual did with our money. one broken promise after another. now more money??

  2. Elma Jimenez Reply

    October 2, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    I live in Homestead. I have suffered through all the construction in our highways. The extra lanes are going to be designated as express. These are not going to aleviate the traffic jams that start at 5:45-6:00 AM by SW 288 Street and does not clear until I reach 878. We will have to pay higher or more tolls. The metrorail will be the solution for all of us residents of Homestead and Florida City. Homestead Zoning continues to approve permits for new construction of homes. But professional jobs are not comming to our areas. Only commercial properties (shopping centers)continue to be built. In order for us professionals to be able to work we have long commutes and must sit for a couple of hours each way (home to work/work to home). We pay taxes like evrybody else in this County, but we are treated as second class citizens. Everything goes to the North, Hialeah, Airport and now Miami Beach. We count, we are citizens, we are human beings, we are professionals.

  3. Gerwyn Flax Reply

    October 2, 2019 at 10:31 pm

    Why can’t Miami Dade have anything that is first rate? Busses are relegated to private enterprise. Many cities, both in the US and abroard are scrambling to invest heavily in both light and heavy rail rapid transit. Regardless of how “cool looking” they are, they’re still busses, the cheap alternative intended to fool taxpayers as if they’re getting what they have already paid for. The State of Florida should conduct an audit of all taxpayer monies collected by Miami Dade County and how and what it is accounted for.

  4. Mark-Anthony Barnes Reply

    October 3, 2019 at 1:57 am

    Per County Commissioner Barbara Jordan – “Show me one rail that’s been built across the country [where] they had ridership up to 35,000 people,” she said. “You won’t be able to … because the ridership was already up.”

    Ms. Jordan, I encourage you to do your constituency a favor and take a trip to a few other cities across the country where smart planning and investment in infrastructure and development have provided the citizens who live in them some of the best rail solutions anywhere in the country.

    You say there are none. Please take a moment to see several I was able to find.

    BART estimates ridership averages 429,000 trips on weekdays and 126 million trips annually.

    Chicago’s CTA operates 24 hours each day and on an average weekday provides 820,000 rides daily on its trains.

    Boston, Massachusetts BRT Daily ridership: 1,330,200

    The Washington Metro has Daily ridership totaling 626,423 and expects its ridership to double to 1.2 million over the next ten years.

    5.7 million people ride the subway on the average weekday In New York City. 1.76 billion people ride the subway annually. That number makes the NYC subway system by far the busiest in the United States.

    Miami’s own beleaguered Metrorail serves around 70,000 riders on an average weekday and despite its precarious finances and lack of leadership MTA projects increases to its daily weekday ridership of just over 105,000 daily over the next decade.

    Just in case your math was off Ms. Jordan, that’d be an increase of 35K. Also adding The new Purple Line (the train to Broward) alone would attract an estimated 21,000 to 36,000 additional riders daily if it were up and running today bringing the total increase closer to 140,000 – 150,000 daily riders by 2030.

    So Ms. Jordan, this is never going to happen? I think it’s time we brought on somebody else to serve on the transportation board.

    It’s dumb politics and poor leadership, of the kind exhibited by Ms. Jordan’s uninformed statement about rail, that prevents smart investment in the county’s future that would see it improve citizens quality of life and keeping its cities attractive enough to warrant the outside investment that currently provides locals with thousands of jobs and brings in the millions of visitors annually who pay taxes on every dollar they spend thus helping to subsidize many of the projects we otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

    • Roger Williams Reply

      October 5, 2019 at 12:33 pm

      What Comm. Jordan is saying is that the standard being set by MDT to justify a rail upgrade is unnecessarily high.

      Comm. Jordan actually supports the rail expansion now, and not this ridiculous BRT-to-Rail that other commissioners are pushing.

    • Mark-Anthony Barnes Reply

      October 14, 2019 at 7:42 pm

      In my initial reply I made mention of MDT’s “lack of leadership”. This was an error on my part. Alice Bravo’s leadership of the MDT authority, over the years she has served, have been, in my opinion, exemplary. I am comfortable knowing that the citizens promised metrorail is still an MDT priority under her helm despite the occasional naysayings of some of our elected politicians who seem to be ok seeing us all stuck in traffic whether it’s on a bus or in our cars. I have supported her efforts throughout her tenure and admit I erred when suggesting her leadership was was worth anything less than her namesake.

  5. Keith Reply

    October 3, 2019 at 9:45 am

    Join me in organizing to remove politicians standing in the way of Metro Rail. Vote ginenez and bravo out. Citizens of Miami for Metro Rail
    https://bit.ly/30KCgDs

  6. M. Smith Reply

    October 3, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    Jesse Scheckner’s informative article on the Smart Plan “New mobility coming to South Dade Transitway”; it appears to be an optimistic title for an existing, exclusive guideway bus route.

    May I opine that for funding estimates to the above, the per-mile cost of a commuter rail train service, constructed on upgraded EXISTING TRACKS would be less of an expense (The Hartford Line in Connecticut, Phase One, was built for less than $12.6 million per mile, passenger rail coaches included.).

    Yes, EXISTING track are in place between Homestead and near MIA – Miami International Airport’s MIC – Miami Intermodal Center (A hotel parking garage sits between MIC and Melreese park.).

    Ironically, any future commuter train service from Homestead is in the hands of the Miami City Commission and Mayor Francis Suarez: a grade separation (rail overpass) over Lejeune Road and rail right-of-way through the Melreese project would be required to connect the existing tracks to MIC train platforms. With a city development order already
    approved for the Melreese project, the chance for a rail improvement is slim.

  7. No One Reply

    October 3, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Bus rapid transit is far an away the smartest thing Miami can do to tackle its traffic nightmare! Heavy rail is much too expensive. For the cost of one metrorail extension, you can build many BRT routes.

    • Keith Reply

      October 5, 2019 at 1:32 pm

      I take the counter argument that it is too expensive not to upgrade to Metro Rail. The cost the city spend is only half the equation. What about the millions of collective hours that are spent “Waiting”. A 15 minute transfer each day works out to 100 hours a year. Transfer times take much longer than 15 minutes. Where are the calculations for those cost?

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