The Baylink System is SMART for Miami Beach and the County

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Publisher Grant Miller

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.


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16 COMMENTS

  1. Make it go at least to the western end of the 836, with park and rides at or near MIA, Dolphin Mall or International Mall and at the western end. Maybe extend it down instead of the proposed Kendall Parkway. This would be a way to take thousands of cars off the roads.

  2. This is something we’ve been advocating for since 2006. A retired monorail engineer who designed and built them in SE Asia was kind enough to come up with an estimated cost for building a monorail from downtown Miami to the MB Convention Center. The two-track system would “hang” at grade on the south side of the MacArthur Cswy (saving millions since it won’t need elevated pillars and girders) and rise along 5th St on the Beach side all the way to the beach. There it would run north and south over the sand to the Convention Center. This approach nixes any need to tear up the narrow streets to avoid and rearrange buried infrastructure for the most part and speeds up the completion. Back then the nearly 9 mile run was estimated to cost around $400 million (the PortMiami tunnel was close to a billion dollars). Construction time: 30-36 months with 6-months for testing. The traditional way of paying for it was divided between the County, State, and the Feds with the county’s share coming to about $100 million. Now with Genting involved, they could pick up the county’s share in exchange for building the monorail all the way to the Convention Center. In that scheme, the county gets the monorail for “free.” You can learn more at http://miami-beachmonorail.blogspot.com/

    • If officials or builders or anyone else involved would just take a closer look at the things/buildings or other being built in Asia -Shanghai and or Singapore would be a good guide- they will realize how far behind we are!

  3. I’m not fond of a casino going in, but decent public transportation to the Beach interests me. I don’t go to the Beach because of the traffic and the ridiculous parking situation. With a reasonable way to get there and home again, I might actually go to Miami Beach and enjoy it.

  4. Why is yet another rail modality being considered? We already have 4: Trirail, Brightline, Metrorail, and Metromover requiring inefficient transfers to one another, inconveniencing customers. Make the system as convenient as possible by simply extend the existing Metromover tracks!

  5. While I have no doubt any mass transit linkage of downtown to Miami Beach would be a benefit to workers and tourists, the fact that it’s Miami means 1) at some point the pubic will be promised/shown one thing and then delivered whatever is most profitable for the developer/county, 2) a monorail that dumps people at a metromover station is inadequate at best unless we increase the frequency of stops AND enlarge the platform, but it won’t stop the officials from pushing it as a great idea (just like that Kendall parkway fiasco which the Trump EPA doesn’t want to move forward).

  6. I Appreciate this article and I hope a transit system gets approved and we get moving right sway…. BUT im not sure Getting is the right partner as they want to use Chinese technologies and developers plus they want to have an exclusive agreement to run the link oh and lets not forget how aggressive they are being about turning Miami and South beach into a Gambling town…. the city should stay in control at all times and there are plenty.. PLENTY of successful NON Chinese companies who will not seek to assert undue control who can build a wonderful system. BAYLINK yes…. GETTING and CHINESE Opportunistic developers…. NO!!!

  7. Sounds like propaganda for Mayor Giménez, have you abandoned supporting the South DADE link and the cities it would serve?

    • Miami-Dade is so far behind on transit improvements, we need them everywhere including to the beach as well as down South Dixie Hwy, let alone West Kendall and Aventura.

      This wouldn’t be the first time transit was built by a private developer that also assisted people who weren’t interested in going to the developer’s property. That doesn’t necessarily negate the potential public value of the proposal.

      I see much benefit in an elevated light rail line that starts at the MB Convention Center, goes to 5th Street using either Washington or Alton, across the MacArthur past Genting, south and then west through the Government Center, crossing the Miami River and then headed west on NW 7 St past the Ballpark. Or just a Metromover extension from the Bicentennial Park station across the MacArthur to the Convention Center.

    • Actually the mayor is AGAINST rail and wants more buses. He said buses can ride the shoulder of the causeway in heavy traffic.

  8. The traffic over the causeway at most times is non existent and is far overstated. Bringing MB tourists to a casino is the last thing we need.

  9. The Miami Rail System plan is way to fragmented to work. I suppose the express buses from the Dolphin Expressway would feed this monorail. Direct transfers are needed to allow tourists to easily navigate the upcoming maze. With our corrupt officials involved, no plan gets thru without payola. Look at the Freedom Park Stadium. City Commissioners think the underutilized Golf Course in existence provides more benefits to city residents, and now made up the excuse that Radon plagues the park. It should be condemned then, as our kids use it nowadays. They really have their citizens benefits in their minds, right, not their pockets.

  10. No middle class or professional that lives in Miami, Kendall, Brickell, CG, Gables, West Miami, etc … will take a bus, no matter if it hugs the shoulder or express down US1 (are you listening our elected officials) … none of us want to stand in the heat and humidity, walk to a dumb US1 station and then sit in a bus with traffic … for that we drive in the comfort of our own cars.

    I am a health professional that lives in Brickell and work in the Civic Center… I grew up in Chicago experiencing fully what a proper mass transit system is like and I could get anywhere in that city, and not have to sit in traffic.

    For the past 3 years I started taking the Metrorail to work … and the people mover around Brickell and downtown to shop and heat games, the museum … and I truly enjoy it! I no longer drive my car as much as I use to, and to some odd places I take Uber … however, I would gladly spend that money if there was a system the went to the beach. I barely drive over there because of traffic and parking.

    The Metro Mover can easily be expanded over to the beach … it would get many cars off our roads. Imagine living on the beach and only having to take the Metro Mover and then Metrorail to get to Dadeland … or to get to the airport?! The metro rail is whole other animal … if we were to extend the Metro Rail down 8 St to FIU … or down Kendall Drive to the turnpike area … use of rail transit in Miami would surge astronomically! I you build it, they will come .. to quote the movie … and if you say you are going to use 1/2 penny tax for expanding transit .. then keep your word … just drop the >more buses< ideas … that is just plain dumb and kicking the can down the road. This city is worthy of a modern mass rail and people mover system.

  11. Lots of pie in the sky ideas with no funding and an attitude of “not in my backyard” from the locals. Nobody wants an overhead railway near their home, but everybody wants rapid transit. Go figure!

  12. After more than 30 years of traffic and feasibility studies it amazes me that Miami still hasn’t crossed Biscayne Bay via non-bus mass transit.

    I’m a former Long Islander, accustomed to excellent train and bus mass transit. I used to live in a great NY beach town.

    When I first moved here I was shocked that Miami and Miami Beach lack a non-bus mass transit connection. Not even a single track.

    At this point – I almost feel that whatever gets the job done fast and affordable and safe is fine with me. Of course, as an Edgewater resident I prefer metromover extension at Adrienne Arsch. (I also support extensions to South Dade, Aventura, and out west, perhaps with a lightrail that links to our other transit systems.)

    But again, please Miami, please, no more studies, just get it done! Oh and what’s the status with Tri Rail coming to downtown?? Delayed there too.

    Very discouraging all around. However I remain hopefully that finally the County’s mass transit revolution has arrived.

    The benefits to residents and tourists and the planet at large (reduced carbon footprint) are enormous.

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