Tuesday June 6, 2006

Streetcars in Miami

streetcar in portland

You missed it, right? The City of Miami considered, approved, and is now tweaking plans for a European-styled streetcar system for the area north of Downtown. These small trains share the road with cars, making frequent stops every few blocks. In high-density places (of which this area will be very very soon one), they make the prospect of pedestrianism much more appealing and realistic. And they’re fun to ride – overhead lines provide power to the electric engines, which make the cars very quiet, while their low floors maintain riders’ connection to the sidewalk. The streetcars in Vienna, for example, are so low that a woman with a stroller can get on them without help.

Streetcar map: Downtown to Wynwood. click for largerThe obvious downside is that they share the road with cars. Typically, the way it works is that the streetcars have their own set of traffic signals, and enjoy almost complete right-of-way over automobiles. Getting Miami drivers to accept this is going to be a little bit of a struggle, although if you factor in a decreased need to drive, streetcars actually don’t make traffic on the streets worse at all. Plus, they’re burly and intimidating, and carry a menacing jingle-bell-sounding horn.

Anywho, here’s the proposal pdf, but don’t bother, since lots of the specifics have changed: we’re talking about $200 million now (ouch: $4,200 per foot of track), not $120, and a completion date of 2010 instead of the original 2008. Check the map snipped from the proposal (click for larger), and the “Recommended Alignment Baylink” is demonstrative of just how pie-in-the-sky the writers of the proposal were feeling. Here we are, two breathless years later, and the project is locked and loaded.

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  1. Christian Calzadillas    Tue Jun 6, 10:16 AM #  

    I want a simple way to get fromSouth Beach to the Tri-Rail! (and $35 taxi rides do not count)

  2. alesh    Tue Jun 6, 10:48 AM #  

    You want the Baylink, Christian. Or better yet, the Metrorail expansion I proposed before. I’m told there are legion Miami Beach residents that are against this, though I haven’t met any.

  3. Jeff    Tue Jun 6, 11:48 AM #  

    Agreed on Christians point. I would actually be able to use public transit consistently if this was the case. People in more affluent areas generally seem to be opposed to any type of convenient public transportation coming to their area. The thought process behind this is that it will bring in the “riff-raff”. I personally don’t subscribe to this viewpoint myself, think how much traffic could be reduced if there was a way to EASILY transport tourists from the airport—> SOBE.

    The street cars are a good step in the right direction for miami, especially for that area which still needs a lot of work.

  4. Manola BBB    Tue Jun 6, 12:18 PM #  

    You know the water taxi thing is a good point. Why don’t we have any? Isn’t there one in Fort Lauderdale or am I confusing it with another city?

  5. Rebecca Carter    Tue Jun 6, 01:18 PM #  

    Miami is looking into the water taxis. They’ve got two companies that are interested and submitted proposals. I think it’s still in the information stages. I think Water Taxi out of Ft. Lauderdale is one of the two companies.

    I also read something in Miami Today about a controversy regarding disabled access to the existing taxis.

  6. kingofrance    Tue Jun 6, 03:56 PM #  

    Streetcars? Water taxis? Man, this is 2006, where’s my jetpack?

  7. man    Tue Jun 6, 04:25 PM #  

    i just wished i had a car!

  8. Miami Transit Man    Tue Jun 6, 04:49 PM #  

    Beat me to my next story…

    Good Job though, I’ll be writing about it soon…

    I see this streetcar as a step in the right direction. A step to actually creating a city where people can live, work, and play all by using a reliable transit system…

  9. fo real    Tue Jun 6, 06:32 PM #  


  10. alesh    Tue Jun 6, 06:54 PM #  

    Buses + metrorail + metromover + streetcars + watertaxi + baylink = 6 completely different public transportation systems in one city. A record?

  11. Pay me too!    Wed Jun 7, 04:42 PM #  

    Of course you all know that Miami once had a wonderful street car system that ran from downtown to Coral Gables. Right down the center of Coral Way, where the banyans are today.

    Is this really about public transportation? Really?


    Not a fan, but in 1980 presidential candidate Ronald Regan was quoted saying that it would be cheaper and more effectve to buy everyone in Miami a new Cadillac than to follow through with the proposed MetroRail system. Kinda funny today.

    I second the jet packs proposal!

  12. A.T.    Wed Jun 7, 05:58 PM #  

    Nice job, Alesh. Informative.

  13. Manola BBB    Wed Jun 7, 06:53 PM #  

    Well we do have a Jetsons-style uber-Pubix at SoBe!

  14. Onajide    Fri Jun 9, 12:59 AM #  

    Alesh, since I moved to downtown Ft. Lauderdale my walking-the-street jones has been met! I walk almost daily and have met some really enjoyable people who are more than friendly and, they are local residents, not out-of-towners. I guess walking is a good thing when one has somewhere interesting to walk. I have the beach/ocean east and the caf├ęs and shops the other direction. But, it’s really nice to do something I really love in wonderful surroundings. :-)

  15. Jonathan    Sun Jun 11, 06:03 PM #  

    Insane. The main problem with the concept is its exhorbitant cost. And because it needs tracks the new system will be unable to adjust readily to changes in living, work and shopping patterns as the city evolves. It would be much cheaper, more effective and faster for the city to simply buy some more buses and add routes.

    You think streetcar service is going to be cheap? Sure, fares will be low but the system will have to be subsidized to the tune of dollars per ride to make it work. That’s always what happens with these public rail boondoggles. Metro Rail cost a fortune, has marginal ridership and prevents US1 from being widened. Metromover cost a fortune and people only ride it because it’s free. Streetcars are not likely to be much better, the cost is inevitably going to limit the scale of the system, and they’re going to increase traffic congestion. Makes the pols look good, though. Keep voting for them; they know how to spend your money. Just don’t complain when your local taxes keep going up.