Enhanced Bus Service Over Rail, A Step in the Wrong Direction

Rene Infante, Chairman, Economic Development Council of South Miami-Dade

Anyone who drives U.S. 1 knows that we need relief from the nightmarish, bumper-to-bumper traffic that commuters endure daily along the highway connecting South Miami-Dade and points further north.

But, Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez’s answer to South Dade’s daily traffic nightmare is no answer at all.    More buses, fancier buses are not a solution.

South Dade must be connected to the rest of Miami-Dade County by the long-promised extension of rail along the U.S. 1 corridor.

Rail is what the people want; rail was what voters envisioned when they approved the 2002 public transportation sales tax.

The so-called BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) simply adds more buses on an existing busway with some cosmetic changes, i.e. nicer bus stops. This will not significantly alter the bumper-to-bumper traffic in and out of South Dade, nor will better buses attract a new generation of transit commuters.

It is estimated that rail would double the number of new riders as compared to simply expanding bus service.  As the existing busway along U.S. 1 has demonstrated for more than two decades, people will not get out of their cars in great numbers to ride a bus. Rail, on the other hand, is a popular and efficient mode of urban travel worldwide for users at every income level.

From Shanghai to Dubai, urban areas that strive to be world class are investing heavily in rail.  In the U.S., Los Angeles has undertaken one of the nation’s biggest transportation projects, investing billions to expand its rail system.  Yes, rail is considerably more expensive than simply expanding bus service.  But, there is also a high price for not investing in the right transit mode.

Sadly, BRT will do little, or nothing, to spur economic development.

What an opportunity lost!  Today, South Dade is among the few places in the County that offers affordable land and workforce housing.  The area is ripe for new commercial development.  But, thanks to Miami-Dade’s poor policy and planning, we lack the infrastructure necessary to attract the new businesses that would create much needed jobs for our residents.

The County’s Transportation Planning Organization, a 25-member board comprised of local and municipal officials, is scheduled to vote on July 19 to proceed with BRT as a public transportation strategy.  At stake is far more than one more vote-taking on a long-debated transportation issue.   The simple truth:  if we settle for buses, South Dade will never get rail.  And, it puts in question whether we will ever see the expansion of Metrorail to other parts of the County.

True, the Mayor is in a jam.  Despite the half-penny transit tax, there are not sufficient revenues to fund rail expansion along all of the County’s designated transit corridors including those in North Dade and Miami Beach. Everyone is demanding better transportation solutions.

But, why settle for expanding something that we already have, a dedicated busway, that has done little to get people out of their cars and lessen the 90-minute plus commute between South Dade and downtown.  It’s time to get serious about mass transit in Miami-Dade and change the dynamics of how we move about our County.

Elected officials, like medical doctors, should subscribe a Hippocratic Oath that pledges, “Do no harm.”   Spending scarce transit dollars to expand a bus system, that doesn’t deliver what we need, is worse than doing nothing at all.

If our elected leaders cannot fulfill their commitment to bring rail to our community, the people of Miami-Dade would certainly be within their rights to renege on their commitment to fund transit improvements and recall the half-penny transit sales tax that we helped pass 16 years ago.

It’s now time for anyone interested in public transportation solutions to be heard!

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9 Comments on "Enhanced Bus Service Over Rail, A Step in the Wrong Direction"

  1. Rene the Infant | July 13, 2018 at 5:38 am | Reply

    “The simple truth: if we settle for buses, South Dade will never get rail.”

    Wrong. You won’t get rail in your lifetime you hag. Big boy like seeing train go by woosh woosh. By then you’ll be taking a dirt nap. Good riddance.

  2. Deborah lamb | July 13, 2018 at 11:46 pm | Reply

    Recalling the 1/2 penny transportation tax is the first step in restoring ANY trust of elected officials. To allow inequitable distribution of the funds while enriching municipalities is unfair and disgusting.it smacks of favoritism while ignoring the rest of the 1.2 million residents of dade county.

  3. The rail expansion is what is needed. I am retired but when I worked downtown on occasions I would go by rail. That is the real solution. And more people would use it. US1 is horrible both North bound or South bound during the height of traffic going to work or return

  4. Rog In Miami Gardens | July 14, 2018 at 10:00 am | Reply

    I agree. The half-penny sales tax was voted on with rail expansion in mind. We should do everything we can to keep that promise.

  5. Gerardo Rodriguez | July 16, 2018 at 6:48 pm | Reply

    Íbamos ride express buses every day for more than 30 years. They are susceptible to traffic woes. Only rail will solve the problem, poorer countries have Metro rail system why not Miami. I smell a rat in Giménez proposition

  6. I used public transportation for many years. I have yet to see any public officials ride the bus or train.

  7. Richard N. Friedman, Esquire, former President, Stop Transit Over People. | July 17, 2018 at 3:31 am | Reply

    The half-cent sales tax passed because a chunk of the money went to cities for a bus or jitney service. Most mass transit riders take the bus. Rail transit runs enormous deficits and carries relatively few people. The cost to build is impossible without most of the money coming from the federal government. Once built the operational deficit will break the local budget. In 1974, Miami-Dade’s plan was for 51.5 miles of transit. Only 16.5 miles were originally built and another 2.5 miles were added years later in Hialeah. Available funds dictate what is feasible. An express busway from 104th Street to Homestead is the best option.
    Once completed 10 or more years late and at a world record cost, the LA subway will be a transit system waiting for an earthquake to end its service.

  8. the problem is the promise that went with the tax increase. Rail is too expensive, but was the promise Better bus may work, but a light rail, much cheaper than what we have now, might be a compromise that is the best we can do.

  9. We are patsies. We let our government use and abuse us and keep voting them in. Its a rail or nothing. No one wants to take the buy. It will not relieve the traffics even 1%. No to buses

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