Metrorail to Florida City: Build it now!

Grant Miller, Publisher

Grant Miller, Publisher

The Metrorail may finally be getting its long-overdue extension. Now we just need to decide where to start.

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.

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14 Comments on "Metrorail to Florida City: Build it now!"

  1. Yes, start construction today. Its like planting a Mango tree……the best time to plant a Mango tree was 20 years ago…..the next best time is today!

  2. Good idea, but the problem with the busway is not the type of transit, but constantly stopping at the cross streets. If busses or light rail were to have control of traffic lights the commute would be quick – especially on express busses. This really could happen now and the technology is already exists.

  3. THANK GOD THEY HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT but this is Miami and I won’t hold my breath… why anyone even bothers using that USELESS “express” bus-way (except for some cops to use it as their own personal highway during traffic of course) baffles me. Like Mr. Cotner says, it should have been done YEARS ago but why make sense when Miami government actually prefers to be stupid?? Can’t we ease congestion for the time being by opening ONE busway lane for limited hours during rush hour? OOPS! That makes too much sense. I know! Let’s just have another 12 meetings and then decide to open 3 more tolls instead because having 67 of them on the Dolphin “Expressway” simply isn’t enough. After all, nothing compares to the serene contemplative joy one gets by paying $180 to sit in traffic on our “Expressways”. But looking on the bright side, congestion gives our fearless transportation leaders time to think of other asinine ways to fleece commuters. I’ll believe the metro when I see it since we are all still waiting with bated breath to experience the “improvements” to the palmetto “Expressway”.
    The responsible transportation parties need to put down the crack pipe and pastelitos and open a dictionary to check the meaning of the words “EXPRESSWAY” and “MORONS”. Thank you!

  4. Tomas Gonzalez | July 17, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Reply

    It’s,about time, I remember voting for, he 1/2 penny tax specifically because I live in Palmetto Bay and worked downtown, well I am now retired but still se the extreme need for the south corridor to alleviate US 1 and Turnpike traffic.
    Let’s do it NOW.

  5. US1 is a parking lot. After 7am It takes 45 minutes to get from old cutler to the palmetto. I either rush through the back streets or leave the house at 6am to get to my job in sunny isles by 9am. That’s just crazy. The rail should have been priority #1.

  6. Jerry Johnson | July 18, 2017 at 11:46 am | Reply

    We are at least two generations away from having a viable MetroRail extension from Dadeland to Florida City. Even with the existing busway, we would need to obtain land for stations, parking, walkovers/flyovers, etc. Meanwhile these other temporary solutions such as the SMART PLAN being pitched by self serving politicians quite simply are not viable for the South Dade Corridor. Total focus should be on obtaining funding (without new taxes) for the MetroRail extension.

  7. Well that took long enough, hopefully it will actually happen now. And even if they start right now it will still take a while before we actually see some benefit.

  8. Silvano Gonzalez | July 31, 2017 at 4:27 pm | Reply

    Agree 100%! Long overdue! Let’s put our tax money to work! South Dade residents have suffered enough! Let’s be proud of an efficient public transportation system.

  9. Mayor Peggy Bell | July 31, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Reply

    Last year we formed a South Dade Mayor’s Coalition, with this being our most important issue. We agreed to support rail on our transit way and not settle for buses. Along with Representative Kionne McGhee many Mayor’s and Commissioners remain dedicated to accomplishing what was promised long ago. Join us by demanding what you deserve. #Give us the rail!

  10. Eric Tullberg PE | July 31, 2017 at 5:56 pm | Reply

    Grade-separated heavy rail like Metrorail costs $200 million a mile. The 2.6 mi. MIA extension cost $500 M. To extend Metrorail 20 mi. to Florida City would cost almost $4 billion. If Metrorail were extended at grade the cost would be about $2 billion. It would still have the delays due to traffic lights. If priority is given to the trains, the car traffic will be worse. Light rail costs less, but its advantages are little different from express buses is the same signal protocol is used. Train tracks are also a hazard to bicycles, particularly when they are crossed at an angle as at US-1. The plans presented to sell the 1/2 cent tax were greatly exaggerated. There were several things that did come from it: 1. The 2.6 mi. MIA connection. 2. The Golden Passport, which allows those over 65 to ride free. 3. Replacement of Metrorail cars. Please realize that only 1/6 of the revenue of MDT comes from fares. Do it cheap but do it now.

  11. Tell that to Miami Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who said trains are so “19th Century”…..

  12. DONNA D GNAEGY | August 1, 2017 at 9:07 am | Reply

    Great article! My first question is, why was the money taxpayers provided, used for something other than what it was proposed for? It seems illegal for the CITT to redirect money voted for a particular use & use it for something else. Obviously, the taxpayers would most likely not have voted for it otherwise. Seems like fraud to me. Traffic is a nightmare & is only getting worse. Trying to go down US1, Old Cutler or the turnpike is impossible during rush hours & not much better during the day. Total gridlock! And another issue is the synchronization of the lights! They need to be checked regularly, as most are out of whack. I call 311 all the time to report this. You can hit every light on US1, which is ridiculous & frustrating. We need to hold the people controlling the money accountable & get the money returned. Next is to cut through all the red tape & start the expansion. The voters need to get involved if we can. Please advise what else we can do to make our voices heard. Thank you.

  13. Sally B Philips | August 2, 2017 at 10:20 am | Reply

    Is any one thinking about flooding? How protected will this land rail be from the effects of sea level rise.

  14. A ground level rail would perhaps alleviate one problem but only create many others. Hello!! Let’s not forget traffic westbound were ZERO options for public transport exist. Ground level means cross traffic is blocked. Anyone driven west on Kendall Drive recently? How about running the metro west too?

    If we are finally going to do this – let’s just do it right! The monies spent on the express bus lane were a complete waste

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