Rail was promised. Rail should be delivered.

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Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava.

Last month’s Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) meeting was, at best, disappointing. The TPO, made-up of Miami-Dade County Commissioners plus local elected officials, convened on July 19 to review and vote on a locally preferred mode of transit for the South Dade Corridor.

However, after more than four hours of testimony and debating rail vs. buses, the TPO deferred the issue to August 30. Although it was quite clear from the public testimony that Metrorail is still what people expect and want, the pressure to get “something” done seems to have many conceding to the allure of cheap, but less effective Bus Rapid Transit.  It appeared from the debate that the voters would be let down again, so I agreed to the delay to allow more time to make the case for rail. Rail was promised, and rail should be what we work to deliver.

As frustrated as I have been about all the diversions during this study period – like unproven Chinese trackless trains and autonomous vehicles – the Department of Transportation & Public Works recommendation of Metrorail at ground level has the real potential to uphold the promise to actually extend Metrorail.  According to our consultants, Metrorail operating like a light rail system would offer the best travel-time performance, the best ridership projections, and the best option for getting cars off the street and offers a single-seat ride for users.

That’s critical in drawing new users to the system because it would mean getting on anywhere on the Metrorail line to go downtown, to the Airport, to the Health District, or Hialeah, without having to transfer at all. And the reverse is true.  Residents downtown or points north would have easy transit access to jobs in Homestead or Cutler Bay, or at any of the eight mixed-use town centers already established along the Transitway.

The County Commission has worked quite hard to uncover alternative funding opportunities – from specialized Transit Increment Financing Districts, to stop diverting the half-penny funds to routine operational support for Transit, to reprogramming Community Redevelopment Districts to invest in new Transit expansion.  And that’s before calculating State and Federal contributions to any transit expansion. 

The half-penny transportation surtax was sold to us as a Metrorail expansion when it was approved by the voters in 2002. The study we’ve embarked on over the last year confirms that Metrorail at grade – while not the ideal elevated solution – is still a strong option.  The choice before the Miami-Dade TPO this August 30th is to either cut the process short by selecting Bus Rapid Transit so we can gamble on a Federal Grant this year (a grant that is available every year) or continue the study through the environmental phase and keep the promise of Metrorail alive – not just for South Dade, but for the rest of the County as well.

We need to plan for the future we want for our South Dade community, not the one we are told we should settle for. I will continue to fight for bringing Metrorail south.


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8 COMMENTS

  1. The half penny sales tax raised almost 3 billion since it started and 1 billion of it was spent on other things. What was it spent on and why are the people responsible for that theft not being prosecuted? The voters were promised more rail and they were lied to and embezzled from. We want our rail and we want justice.

    Metrorail at grade is not a strong option, especially along the Transit way for a number of reasons.

    One: MetroRail is electrified with 700 volts on a third rail and kills people instantly. There is no way to secure the right of way from pedestrians because the Transitway crosses more than 40 streets that will leave open ends at each street. People trespass and walk down and across railroad right of ways every day.

    Two: Using a Catenary or above ground wires, requires Pantographs to be installed on the MetroRail cars, which do not currently have them and may not be able to have them installed. Adding the additional components that make up an overhead system adds to the cost of the upgrade.

    Three: MetroRail cars are fixed trainsets and do not use standard gauge Janney couplers the way regular standard gauge trains due. Yes, they do make adapters so that a standard diesel electric locomotive could couple up to a MetroRail car if they needed to be moved by one, but MetroRail cars do not use Head End Power for lights and A/C and would still need to 700 volts to power them.

    Four: The Transitway is not wide enough in most places for two rail lines and two lanes of bus traffic, so elevated rail is really the only viable solution.

    Five: Additional chances of train strikes against pedestrians and vehicles. Every week it seems there is another new story about somebody going around a crossing gate and getting struck by a train. With over 40 cross streets, most crossing right next to US 1, the chance of even more strikes is that much higher.

    Yes, it will cost more, a lot more to elevate MetroRail above the Transitway, but it really is the only option. To do it any other way is really not that SMART.

  2. All the municipalities here in South Florida have attorneys on permanent retainer. Why have we not combined our efforts and filed suit against Miami-Dade County for failure to follow through on the referendums to provide metro-rail extensions to our area? I have lived here long enough to recall voting TWICE to extend metro-rail service to us. The first time the County gave us the busway–something no one wanted and a boondoggle to our communities. Now they want to double down on the bus service! I also do not understand why we have never pointed out to Miami-Dade that we provide a source of tax revenue to the County and expect a certain level of service for it. It is time that the County is held accountable!

  3. We want a rail. We have been paying taxes for it and we were promised a rail. The excuse is that there isn’t enough ridership to pay for it. We do not want a bus, we do not want a rapid bus, we want a rail. No way around it. I fully support giving the contract to private companies who will manage it but the county needs to get it together. For too long the people and towns of South Dade have been ignored. BTW the mayor is extending the rail in the NE section of the county according to his interview on NPR.

  4. Elected County officials and salaried County Departmental administrators have repeatedly failed County residents.
    Commissioner Cava failed residents of Coral Gables, Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, and Homestead by nixing the FULLY FUNDED bridging of 87th Avenue.
    Commissioner Cava also failed all County residents by her NO vote for the West Dade Parkway.
    Read Mr. Waggoner’s cogent comments above as they are unerringly right on.
    The only viable solution to ease transit challenges is some semblance of ELEVATED rail, with adequate easy access, parking, accommodating stations, walkovers/flyovers, etc., and we all know that will take a generation or more to be operational once approved and funded.
    The computer controlled traffic signal endeavour currently operational from Dadeland south along U.S.-1 has lengthened north/south signals but concurrently has made east/west cross street traffic and left turns from north & south U.S.-1 a nightmare.
    Surface run busses or surface run light rail will drastically compound this already existing quagmire.
    Suggest we really look at who we vote for and demand the County get rid of inept administrators.

  5. Rail— elevated.
    And yes. Mayor’s sue the county for a return to its citizens of the 1/2 cent tax we have paid in for transit all these years!!!

  6. The CSX tracks from the airport transportation center to Homestead are available as an option. Long stretches not requiring elevation.

  7. Rail – Elevated
    Geronimo is right on – when Homested voted 16 years ago for the “rail” we had a population of 20,000 – now there are more than 70,000! Give us the elevated rail, or give us our money back!

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