Getting off the islands that make up Miami Beach is almost as tedious and treacherous as getting on the Beach. “Traffic” is a word that means movement. You can’t call it traffic if it refuses to move.
The County and Miami Beach may have a new alternative for moving residents and visitors across Biscayne Bay. The Miami-Dade County administration is getting ready to present the County Commission with a Request for Proposal for a long-talked-about public mass transit connection between downtown Miami and the Beach called “Baylink”.
There are Metrobus routes across the McArthur, Venetian, Julia Tuttle, and JFK Causeways. The problem is that they sit in traffic and move at the same snail’s pace as the cars around them.
Over the past 30 years, the County has completed as number of studies confirming that the MacArthur Causeway corridor could support a robust mass transit solution for both commuters and visitors. This corridor has been identified and studied as one of six SMART plan corridors by Miami-Dade’s Transportation Planning Organization.
Casino developer Genting heads a consortium and has taken responsibility for the Omni Metromover station at the site of the old Miami Herald building and has made an unsolicited proposal to run a monorail from there to Miami Beach.
That unsolicited bid is allowed by County rules and makes it possible for private entities that are willing to put skin in the game for public mass transit projects to provide potential solutions for the County to consider.
Under the County rules, the consortium’s bid is just the beginning of the process. The County would next put out an RFP for other proposers to come in an offer a similar mass transit options. The County could them select the best alternative or, it could reject all bids.
We’re not naïve enough to think that the Genting consortium is doing this solely out of a sense of civic engagement. A link to Miami Beach would make its facilities available to Beach residents and tourists. That would be good for its business.
But it would also be good for the City of Miami, the City of Miami Beach, and the people who live and work there. Connecting the Beach to the Metromover and, by extension, the Metrorail system, gives the people who staff our tourism industry a way to work on the Beach and live in more affordable areas.
It could also get people onto the Beach without the headache of traffic and the expense and nightmare of trying to find safe parking. Beach businesses would benefit by having a new crop of customers.
This is the first step in linking Metrorail to areas in the County that are mass transit starved. The SMART Plan envisions linking Dadeland with South Dade and out west to Krome Avenue, Miami International and FIU, and allowing Aventura and other northern neighborhoods to connect to the transit system.
There are some on Miami Beach who are already speaking out against this project. To be honest, the Beach has few alternatives. Bounded by the Atlantic on one side and Biscayne Bay on the other, there’s no new land to be developed or space where roads can be widened. The fact that we sit on porous limestone means we can’t put transit underground.
We don’t need to move more cars. We need to move people. Baylink will allow us to do just that.
Our local governments are often criticized for their penchant for blowing opportunities. Baylink offers us the opportunity to show that we can grab the future with both hands. The County Commission should move forward on this.