Monday June 19, 2006

FIU refuses Metrorail stop

Larry reports that there’s a problem with the planning of a Metrorail East/West line. Seems that FIU is refusing to allow the last stop to be built on its campus. This is completely insane on a number of levels, and the fact that the FIU administration is sticking to it does not bode well for the U’s future. What’s more, they’re refusing to even comment about their reasoning.

Well, I say they’re taxpayer funded, and mostly attended by locals, and they have to do what we say. Maybe a phone call or two (305-348-2111) to FIU’s (soon to be grossly overpaid) president would help.

Meanwhile, I’m glad to see that something like what I want is in the works for Metrorail. I still say connect it up with Miami Beach, though. There again, residents have to speak up and not let backwards-looking forces kill the deal.

Bonus chuckle: check out the multiple redundant headings on the page with Larry’s column: “Larry Lebowitz / Streetwise / STREETWISE BY LARRY LEBOWITZ / Metrorail project stopped in its tracks / By Larry Lebowitz / llebowitz@MiamiHerald.com.” And in case you forget, his name is repeated again at the end, this time with a different e-mail address. LOLz Herald!

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  1. J-J    Mon Jun 19, 02:41 PM #  

    Some of the people who want a metro rail or street-car to connect Miami Beach to Downtown use the argument that Beach residents do not want more people coming in to their burg.

    However, I went to all the MB transportation meetings regarding this issue and what we thought to be the problem was that the whole thing was just just an economic plan for Downtown Miami disguised as a transportation plan for Miami Beach.

    First, the street-cars that were proposed did not even fit into Washington and Alton avenue- they were literary to big. So fine we can get smaller street-cars. But Miami Beach studies found that it would be a lot cheaper and efficient to simply get more busses and make an express route to Downtown (instead of the sluggish route we have now) Well guess what? The city of Miami did not want anything to do with that idea, because you see, most of the pro-street car proponents are founded by Downtown developers. The truth is that the Miami Beach has a very decent transportation system. Check out all the new 25 cent busses around the new Publix. And although I’ll be the first to admit that street-cars would really look cool, I just know that an express buss system like the one proposed by the CMB would just fix our problem immediately, without having to destroy most of Washington and Alton Ave.

    As a longtime resident of Sobe, I think my fear (and the fear of most people that are opposed to the Metrorail and the Light-Rail systems) is not more tourist coming in and having access to the burg- that’s just some bull invented by Downtown developers, My true fear is to have Alton and Washington permanently close (Miami Style) for years just like the PAC downtown. That would really hurt tourism and the beach economy in general. And for what?

    If we just get a new fleet of express busses our problems we’ll be solved, it will not be as glamorous as a rail-car but it will reduce traffic at no impact and it can be implemented in no-time. As long as an express bus route
    (one that only stops at a few designated stops) connects us to the mainland we’ll be fine.

  2. Jonathan    Mon Jun 19, 03:18 PM #  

    OK, it’s fun to ride the train, but these urban rail systems are exhorbitantly expensive relative to ridership levels, ridership is always lower than projected and you can provide the same service with relatively inexpensive buses. So why expand the Metrorail? Is there any benefit beyond vote buying or the thrill of riding trains that are mostly paid for by people who don’t ride them? Most of the arguments in favor of these rail systems ignore the systems’ real costs. A $2 fare is no bargain if taxpayers have to fork over another five or ten bucks (or more) per ticket for the system to break even.



  3. Jonathan    Mon Jun 19, 03:22 PM #  

    Sorry, I didn’t see the first comment until I had posted my own. The first commenter nails it.



  4. J-J    Mon Jun 19, 04:47 PM #  

    BTW

    I’m all for expanding the metrorail to the airport and to FIU. Not to sure about the new streetcars in Byscayne BLV though…but I guess they could help too. What scares me is the tought of these money hungry Miami politicians and contractors taking decades and advantage of us to come up with some half-assed looking street car system. And besides we might be underwater by that time :)



  5. alesh    Mon Jun 19, 07:36 PM #  

    OK… you guys are obviously very smart, so help me understand, because as far as I can tell, you’re just plain WRONG.

    Look, buses are great. Actually, they’re not. They’re ugly, unpleasant, and SLOW. Buses are for people with no other choice. I don’t care how few stops a SoBe/Downtown bus makes, it’s still going to be a royal pain in the ass compared to taking a car (and this comes from someone who takes the C and K lines regularly, for fun).

    A rail line has a degree of sexiness to it (compared to the bus) which alone will make people more likely to use it: yes, riding the train is fun. Mainly, though, it’s much much faster, and THAT makes all the difference in the world. Trust me – it works this way in real cities all over the world.

    Miami Beach’s “great” transportation system (I’ve never been, but i’m sure it’s nice) is irrelevant – we’re talking about a county-level thing. Any discussion that weighs the advantages for Miami vs. the advantages for the beach (ie “economic plan for Downtown Miami disguised as a transportation plan for Miami Beach”) are strictly selfish IMO. If this ever happens those opinions will look myopic and ass-backwards, because easy communication (read: travel) makes life better for everyone.

    So and YES, these things cost major money. The thing is that the benefits multiply exponentially. Metrorail as it currently stands is next to useless, because the probability of a stop at where you want to go AND a stop at where you are is slim to none. The more stops there are, though, the more useful every node on the network becomes.

    What I buy least of all is probably the “parts of the beach closed for months or years because of construction” argument. That can be used to argue against ANYTHING, from demolishing a flyover (where it had little perceptible effect on traffic) to building a new highway. Construction is a pain in the ass, but if the end result is worthwhile, it’s worth the temporary inconvenience: otherwise we’d all be living in mud huts!

    Thanks for commenting; please help me see where I’m wrong.



  6. Jonathan    Mon Jun 19, 09:45 PM #  

    -Buses aren’t great but they are inexpensive. The roads are already there. As long as local govt is going to be in the transportation business, I’d rather taxpayers spent less per rider as opposed to more.

    -It’s easy to change bus routes if ridership patterns change; not so for trains.

    -Before committing to billions of dollars in cost and years of construction time, why don’t Miami and MB consider liberalizing the licensing rules for private jitneys and buses? Practically this would be difficult because of the muni-employees unions, but if it’s doable why not try it? It wouldn’t cost the taxpayers anything and private operaters would be more responsive to customers than any city operation could be.

    -Where’s the evidence that Metrorail expansion is going to yield big benefits? Your argument is like the one that’s used to justify tax-funded stadiums. In the history of such ventures I don’t think any have yielded returns to justify the cost. (Are there any counterexamples?)

    -Metrorail has always been a money loser whose ridership never met projections. Expanding it would be a gigantic act of faith, and I think would be grossly irresponsible given the certain high costs. (AFAIK none of the municipal rail systems built in the past few decades is even close to breaking even, with the possible exception of BART.)

    -I question also your assertion of “exponential” improvement in transportation via extension of the travel network. The population density here is simply too low. They could build lines to everywhere, but the distances are so long and there would have to be so many stations (stops) that travel times would become excessive—unless even more money were spent to run more trains at a loss, etc. Urban rail travel makes sense only in very dense areas like NYC.

    -Joel Kotkin does a better job of discussing these issues than I can.



  7. J-J    Mon Jun 19, 11:30 PM #  

    I read a study, which stated that middle-upper class residents tended to prefer light rails or streetcars transportation over busses. The reason being that buses are “ugly, unpleasant, and SLOW.”

    The busses that we are proposing for the Beach to downtown-midtown- don’t have to be ugly or slow, they can actually be very fast- provided that they only stop at a very few and strategically placed designated stops. They could also have very nice interiors and they could be up and running in a few short months .

    Now this is a perfectly viable solution for the transportation problem facing the Beach to mainland Miami. Are you suggesting that we spend millions of dollars, wait many years doing light rail construction just because the light rail has “has a degree of sexiness to it (compared to the bus) which alone will make people more likely to use it: yes, riding the train is fun.”

    Hey I want to have fun too but I also want to get to Downtown the quickest way possible and I give you that a finished light rail will be very cool and romantic. But we don’t need the light rail for the Beach…in the end an express buss- granted a very nice and well-suited fast one will suffice and save us years of turmoil. That said I do favor the expansion of the metrorail and believe that a an approach that combines all the systems i.e. light raile metro rail busses and water taxis will work our city



  8. G    Tue Jun 20, 01:22 AM #  

    An expansion of the metrorail to the beach is NOT going to happen.
    It’s beyond what the county can afford. To finance it, federal dollars are required, and there are lots of needy dollar hungry cities all over the US competing for this money. Even for the other projects (East-West and NB extension), there’s still a lot to be done to get the federal funds.
    What could happen is either Baylink (light rail, a lot cheaper than metro), a Bus Rapid Transit route, or more buses.
    I personally like the idea of light rail.
    The idea of just more buses won’t work. Why? Because they share the road with regular traffic, which means, they wont save time and are not going to stimulate people to get their asses off cars.
    Either Bus Rapid Transit (bus with exclusive right of way, such as the Busway down south), or light rail could save people time and stimulate ridership.
    Still if they build BRT, there will be needed space for stations, just like in the Light rail. And light rail has a lot more appeal with people.
    People here need to understand that there’s a limit in the number of roads and parking lots that can be built on the beach, and some form of transit must be provided.
    But whether it’s because opposition from residents, developers or any other parties, Baylink has been downgraded in priority, and also wont happen in the near future.
    It works in real cities, but residents and politicians still have a small town mentality here.

    So I suggest you buy an iPod, get good music and get used to sittin in traffic.
    The future does not look good here in terms of traffic!!!!!!!!



  9. cb    Mon Jul 3, 12:54 AM #  

    What is it with that infinate loop in downtown.

    Seems there will always be a few ripe bannanas riding in circles all day.

    Also, why would we leave brickell out of the new route?

    I guess the selectmen don’t think its important to connect the inner city residential areas to the financial district.

    DUH

    I always see people from Overtown walking back home from the design district with their arms full of shopping bags.

    NOT

    HMM,
    A sort of, kind of, not really a train going in circles all day in downtown. Isnt that the MetroMover.

    just what we need in downtown traffic-

    A fricken frieght train doing a figure-eight.

    Sounds like its going to be a hit with the locals.

    I’m sold

    Aesthetics Light Rail (trolley) vs MONORAIL

    Proponents of Light Rail will tell you that overhead rail is ugly, but they don’t mention that Light Rail requires a spiderweb of overhead wires with support posts. And when light rail is elevated, it’s even more obtrusive with its wide, dark street-producing guideway.

    The monorail guideway can be constructed to be an enhancement rather than a detriment to the environment. Above is the graceful arched guideway of the Walt Disney World Monorail System. The beam is only 26” wide. Note the small shadow.

    Construction Light Rail (trolley) vs MONORAIL While light rail proponents say it’s easy to put in rail on the surface, the reality is that businesses always fail along the route. Customers can’t access their establishments during the long period of construction. Entire streets and underground utilities must be rebuilt to put in light rail. During light rail construction, there are always businesses that go under because customers can’t get to them.

    Monorail…dig a hole, drop in a pre-built support pylon, truck in the track which was manufactured offsite, lift into place! Monorail beamway can be installed far faster than the alternatives. The Las Vegas Monorail beam being put into place. From truck bed to pylons was a matter of a few minutes. The entire system took only seven months to construct. No other fixed rail can be installed as quickly and as disruption-free.

    Cost Light Rail (trolley) vs MONORAIL
    Light Rail doesn’t operate at a profit. And what is the cost of human life in light rail accidents? Certainly life is more important than the millions taxpayers fork out in lawsuit settlements from tragic Light Rail accidents.

    Monorail can turn a profit once built. This is unheard of with conventional rail or bus systems. The Seattle Monorail also turns a profit each year.

    Efficiency Light Rail (trolley) vs MONORAIL If you run in the street, your schedule can be influenced by conditions during peak traffic times. Who wants to abandon their car to get to their destination slower? Once again, steel wheels on steel rails keep the maintenance personnel busy, and more trains are kept in the shop. Frequent accidents also keep trains in the shop.

    Monorails regularly operate at an amazing 99.9% reliability. No other form of transit can touch that number. The rubber tires get little wear running on smooth guideways. Typically, each load tire gets over 100,000 miles of travel before being replaced. Walt Disney World has a total of 12 trains and during peak seasons at least 10 are on the beamway serving passengers 17 hours a day. There are even times when all 12 trains are operating, sometimes carrying over 200,000 passengers a day.

    Safety Light Rail (trolley) vs MONORAIL Light rail normally operates at grade and mixes with automobile traffic. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it does frequently, mixes with traffic. Pedestrians aren’t immune either. Interestingly, Light Rail isn’t really light. Light refers to its capacity. The train cars are actually heavier than heavy rail. Why? So they can withstand COLLISION.

    What is the probability of a monorail ever colliding with an automobile, truck or school bus. Monorails run on an exclusive grade-separated guideway. The result? No accidents. The way monorails are designed also makes derailments virtually impossible. This is why Monorails have an excellent safety record.

    Hello is anyone in City Hall thinking.

    Guess not..



  10. alesh    Mon Jul 3, 07:56 AM #  

    um, ok, sign me up. Doesn’t it sound similar to the metromover, though? Why not just extend the metromover way out?