The Metrorail may finally be getting its long-overdue extension. Now we just need to decide where to start.
Of the six corridors identified in the Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan, the South Dade Transit Way between Dadeland South Metrorail Station and Florida City should take top priority.
South Dade needs the rail as soon as possible. The buses have proven insufficient, and it’s only getting worse. According to research conducted by Lambert Advisory, South Dade—the area south of Kendall Drive encompassing Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Homestead and Florida City—is among Miami-Dade County’s fastest-growing regions.
The 2011-2015 census data showed its annual growth as 2.68 percent compared to Miami-Dade County’s 1.45 percent and 2.14 percent for the state. At that rate, the population will grow by nearly 40 percent by 2040.
Traffic is bad now. But based on a study by Gannett Fleming published by the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization, not only has US-1 reached its widening limits, but its current level-of-service ranking—F, the worst possible—will continue to decline between Dadeland South and Southwest 248 Street. And a recent study by Netherlands-based navigation and mapping company TomTom ranked Miami as the sixth most congested city in the nation.
Fortunately, the South Dade Transitway is the easiest of the six SMART Plan corridors to develop. There is an existing right-of-way, Route 38 Busway Max, which runs the same route the rail would. The rail extension could begin immediately, and compared to other corridors, the construction would be minimal; the new rail will likely run at ground level utilizing an overhead line instead of a third rail system. In total, it should cost half of what an elevated rail would.
At a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce panel last month, District 13 Commissioner (and Commission Chair) Esteban Bovo and Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez agreed that the Florida City extension should be prioritized. They’re hardly alone.
Almost 15 years have passed since Miami-Dade County residents approved the People’s Transportation Plan (PTP), a half-cent sales tax overseen by the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust (CITT) to fund an enormous expansion of Miami’s mass transit: 88 new miles of Metrorail and 635 new buses. To date, the PTP has raised more than $2.5 billion.
But during the 2008 financial crisis, the CITT voted to use those funds to support and maintain the present transit system. As a result, fewer than 200 buses have been added and little progress has been made on extending the rail.
In a letter to the editor published recently by the Miami Herald, District 7 Commissioner Xavier Suarez called on the county to return half of the property tax revenues collected during the 2017-2018 fiscal year (approximately $50 million) to the CITT to begin financing the SMART Plan. He listed 12 other local officials supporting the initiative to restore full funding to the PTP.
South Florida is the eighth most populous region in the country, and Miami-Dade, with 2.69 million residents, is Florida’s most crowded county. But our public transportation is a mess. Many our residents and businesses, disconnected from other areas of the city (including the airport), are suffering because of it.
It’s time the county fulfills its promise to residents and builds a modern transit system that meets their needs.
And there’s no better place to start—no area that needs it more—than South Dade.