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Thursday August 23, 2012

Taken for a Ride: How the transit tax went off track. I came across this researching for the trolley article, but it deserves an extra mention. A special report put together by Larry Lebowitz and a small team at the Herald back in 2008, it tells the story of how the transit tax passed in 2002 was squandered. It’s interesting to go back and look at now, not least because it harkens to a time when the Herald was at least trying to do ambitious multimedia reports like this.



Miami Trolley

miami trolley

You’ve seen “trolleys” crop up in other places for sure. They’re buses dressed up to look like “the streetcars of yore” or something, and I’ve never met anyone who finds this to be cute. The idea is that they provide a cheap or free way to quickly and easily get around a dense and compact area. That’s a promising idea, and the trolley concept may make some sense in cities where it aesthetically makes sense and where there’s no better way to provide such a service.

Enter Miami, where I guess our government is running in me-too mode, and our own trolley, running for about four months and now being promoted by an oversized mailer that arrived at my door yesterday. Notice anything about the route? Yep: it’s almost exactly contiguous with the Metromover route. Remember the Metromover? That thing that’s a free way to quickly and easily get around downtown? That thing that actually is fun (I see tourists on there all the time, and everybody loves it) and actually does aesthetically fit Miami’s style? Why on earth do we need the trolley? And why on earth is it painted green and orange and have the same goofy decoration that every trolley service in the country seems to have?

There’s a second trolley route that runs between Jackson Memorial and the new Marlins Stadium that makes some sense, but you wonder why they’d go with the uncomfortable and ugly trolley concept instead of, say, nice mini-busses like the South Beach Local uses.

Hey, you want to hear where the money for the trolley came from? Well, $2 million comes from the half-cent transit tax that you voted for in 2002 that was supposed to fund an ambitious Metrorail expansion. (The tiny airport expansion is the only part built, and the rest of the money is being squandered on shit like this trolley.) $1.5 million comes from the state, presumably from a tourism fund. And $4.1 million comes from federal stimulus money, which presumably they’d have much rather given us for, you know, something useful. (I’m reading the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority’s Strategic Regional Transit Plan from 2008 and believe it or not it doesn’t mention anything about the Miami Trolley.)

But you know what really irks me about all this? It’s the thought that it’s money that could have gone to developing the Miami Streetcar project. That was actually a sound idea: expand the Metromover with street-level trains that’d run further up and down Biscayne Boulevard, Midtown, Wynwood, Overtown, and the Jackson medical district. It was last heard from being pushed from 2008 to 2010, and now it’s a distant memory. Instead, we’ve got this pathetic trolley.

And it’s not that I think the trolley is completely useless, or that it won’t find a ridership. It’s just that it reflects our worst tendencies: our desire to take the politically and intellectually easy way out, and ignore the long-term problems and needs that are clear to see but challenging to address.


Monday May 12, 2008

How do you increase public transportation use? Well, you wait for the cost of gasoline to go up, and when it does you introduce new routes and lower rates to attract drivers that were on the fence. And since gas prices have just risen, it makes sense that Miami-Dade is cutting 600 bus routes and the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority is considering dropping from 50 to 20 Tri-Rail trains per day. Update: A number of commenters have pointed out that the “600” figure is yet another example of the Sun-Post playing fast and loose with numbers.


Tuesday April 8, 2008

More thoughts on parking

Last week I wrote an article on what I perceive to be Transit Miami’s anti-car bias, and here is Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal’s thoughtful response. This is a response to the response.

First, let me say where I agree with Gabriel. We are both urbanists, and share the goal of making Miami less car-dependent, more transit and pedestrian centered. So-called “livable” cities everywhere in the world feature public spaces that put the focus on humans (as Gabriel so eloquently calls us), with public plazas, pleasant sidewalks, and convenient mass transit that makes getting around town without a car not just easy, but pleasurable. An important component of this is increased density, and we both support Miami 21, which would put higher density development where it can do the most good, and bring about other pro-pedestrian changes. We would like Miami to be more like that, and less of a car-dominated no-man’s land of suburban sprawl. Where we differ is on how that change ought to be brought about.

What happens when you can’t park?
Gabriel has clarified his position to be that the way to bring change about is to reduce parking on new developments. By decreasing the number of parking spaces, you reduce the number of drivers going there, therefore reducing the number of drivers on the road, therefore increasing the use of public transit. I don’t like this approach for two reasons — because I don’t think it’s very nice, and because I don’t think it will work. Thought-experiment with me here. Let’s say you’re going to the barbershop. You hop in your 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid and head over to Lou’s Barbershop, in their new location at Lopez-Bernal Centre.

But guess what? LBC has insufficient parking, and there’s no space for you. That sense of frustration you’ve got there — that, to me, is not a way to win converts to the public transportation cause. Moreover, under Gabriel’s logic, you react to this situation next time by either finding a bus route to Lou’s, riding your bike, or car-pooling with a friend. Sorry, but this just does not wash with the reality that I live in. When parking shortages make driving somewhere difficult, the most natural reaction is to drive somewhere else! Lou looses your business, and the environment is the worse off if your new barbershop is farther.

Extending this logic to residences is even easier: will you move somewhere if there’s no place for you to park? Of course not. Friends stop visiting because parking is impossible (we know something about this on South Beach)? Start looking for a place to move to.

Real solutions
I am on board with a lot of the rest of Transit Miami’s solutions to this problem, including increased and improved public transportation. A good example is the streetcar, which, serving a corridor of new high-density developments (US-1 between Downtown, Edgewater, and the Midtown), would be a very good step in the right direction. People in those developments will have a real alternative to driving their cars. But make no mistake — they’ll still need cars, and people from outside the area will need places to park when they come visit.

South Beach is a very bikable city. The rest of the county is not. I don’t think the lack of a degree in urban planning makes me particularly unqualified to make those statements, but the use of Bogota as an example of rapid change is telling. Every Sunday in Bogota many roads are shut down, open only to pedestrians and cyclists. It’s quite something to see, but it does not represent a change in how that city goes about its business. Enrique Penalosa has made some improvements to the public transportation system (which most people there used before), but the urban bike lanes in downtown Bogota are empty.

Odds ‘n ends
For what it’s worth, I think that cycling and public transportation combined can be an effective way of getting around the city, and have said so and done so. I’ve disagreed with TM about the viability of a bike rental program. The very last comment at that link is from Gabriel, who said he was working on a map of how such a program would work in Miami-Dade. Well, there is no map, because outside of a very limited geographical area (say, that covered by MetroMover), the distances are just too great.

Oh, the thing about growing a mountain was a joke. But I don’t think it’s unfair to point out, when you’re talking about “experiences that both illuminate Montreal’s successes and Miami’s potential,” that a vast majority of your article has no relevance to Miami’s “potential” unless you intend to tear the whole city down and start from scratch.

Parking and the law
Technically, the article I was addressing had to do with a legislative issue — the reduction in legally-mandated parking spaces. As a matter of libertarian principle, I actually agree that the government should not be in the business of mandating parking in developments. I think adequate parking is in the interest of the developers and owners, and they ought to be the ones to determine the best definition of “adequate” (e.g. I don’t think Aventura Mall is being legally compelled to build those new garages). While this complicates the disagreement we’re talking about, I don’t think it significantly alters it.

The way forward
There is hope. A commenter on the previous post linked to a density index for various US cities. On a scale that assigns 6.22 to New York, 1.78 to Los Angeles, and 2.1 to San Diego, Miami earned a 1.55 (2000 figures, and note that this applies to the “Metro area,” e.g. for Miami it would include most of Dade and Broward). But as I stated above, parts of Miami are in fact increasing in density, and are good candidates for increased mass transit. As these lines are constructed, anyone who can will use them. The Coral Gables-Downtown commute is a good example, with some people taking the rail despite the fact that it’s more expensive then driving. If we want to change the city, the way to do it is to push for increased transit (which of course TM does) and pricing that makes public transportation an obvious bargain for everyone. Let’s build rail that goes to the airport, Little Havana, and for god’s sakes the Beach. And let’s not get distracted with trying to keep people from parking their cars.


Wednesday April 2, 2008

What's up Transit Miami?

miami from the air -- houses and water

Transit Miami is a great blog, it’s been around a long time and done lots of excellent work, but lately I’ve been troubled by the increasingly single-minded, almost militant, anti-car zeal coming from over there. Now look, I’m a big supporter of public transportation, so I agree with the direction that TM wants to see Miami move in. But I think that advocating change is more effective when one has a firm grip on reality, and — well, let’s take a look at a recent post, Gabriel and Ryan’s open letter to the Miami city commission.

An increase of net parking spaces – to one per unit, as the city commission proposed – will only worsen the traffic conditions along Biscayne Boulevard and the surrounding streets. The aim of the city administration and all downtown development should be to reduce automobile dependency, not enhance it, especially in one of the few areas well served by public rail transit. Any increases in available parking will only serve as a means with which our residents will continue to neglect and undermine the intended purpose of public transportation.

They go on to say that supporting both public transportation access and parking spaces is “contradictory – essentially taking one-step forward and one-step backward,” and conclude by quoting the notion that “in order for public transportation to be successful it [must] be at least equally attractive as the alternatives.”

I have to admit to being baffled by this. The way to encourage public transportation use is to make driving more unpleasant, parking more difficult? I have two suggestions here. First, that improving public transportation is a better strategy then worsening the experience of driving. Second, a realistic understanding of where Miami is, and how far and fast it can change, is beneficial when advising on public policy meant to hasten that change. Let’s consider.

When we talk about “public transportation in Miami,” we are of course referring to Miami-Dade County. The county runs the public transportation system, and the City of Miami accounts for a small fraction of the county’s population. It takes only a passing familiarity with Miami-Dade to see the difference between it and the cities with the great public transportation systems that TM so admires: most Miamians live in single-family houses with great big lawns, while the citizens of those cities live far more often in high-rises, mid-rises, townhouses, and rowhouses. In other words, the population density is higher. It’s a fact of life that the potential effectiveness of a public transportation system is proportional to density. Yes, increasing population density is a worthwhile goal. And yes, Miami 21 will move us in that direction. But these changes happen slowly, and in the meantime the simple fact is that the overwhelming majority of Miamians, whether they live in the great suburbs of Miami Gardens of one of the new towers in downtown, have a car, need a car, and use a car everyday to commute and run practically all of their errands.

But furthermore, as those errands and commutes become easier to do with public transportation, the way to nudge the nice folks is make that public transportation more pleasant. To try to get them to switch by making driving more difficult is suicide for elected officials and inhumane for public professionals. I’d think it’d also be inadvisable for bloggers who want to change public opinion.

Sure, it’s fine to look at other cities, but let’s be realistic about how much they can “illuminate … Miami’s potential.” Miami is not going to have the public transportation system of Montreal any more then it’s going to suddenly grow a mountain. And the same goes for cycling in the city — last year I challenged TM to show me how a bike-rental system like the one that works relatively well in other cities would look in Miami. Nothing came of that because it wouldn’t work here for the same population density reasons. (And trust me, I know a thing or two about cycling in Miami.)

These situations will improve, and we should certainly work towards improving them, but it helps to be realistic about the time frame we’re talking about: when this happens, it’s on the scale of generations, not years or even decades. In the meantime let’s do what we can to make public transportation — and driving — easier and more pleasant.


Wednesday February 20, 2008

Quick interview with Miami Beach’s new Mayor’s chief of staff, AC Weinstein. No on Baylink, yes on more bike paths, vagueness on everything else.



Miami-Dade Transit is out of its sodding mind: I recently noticed that parking at MetroRail stations is $4. With $1.50 per ticket, you’re looking at $7 per day round trip for a commute. In a 30 mpg car, this same trip, 10.8 miles x 2, will run you around $2.20 at today’s gas prices. So what person in their right mind would take the rail?


Thursday January 17, 2008

Some current estimates on the cost of the Metrorail expansion: $57 million+ for planning/consulting, $290 million+ for construction of a line between the intermodal center and Earlington Heights, $2 billion+ for a northern extension into Broward and the east/west line.


Thursday December 13, 2007

On Miami Beach, hybrids will soon have designated spaces in some parking lots, and 25% discounts on parking fees.


Tuesday October 23, 2007

How to ride public transportation to work

Public transportation is slow, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. For anyone in Miami with a car, it’s usually an unthinkable alternative for commuting to work. Between figuring out how to get to the bus station, waiting for a bus, the long ride, and (god forbid) transfers, this is an option most of us dismiss out of hand, despite a vague awareness that riding the bus is somehow socially responsible.

But the solution is surprisingly simple. You throw a bicycle into the equation, and a lot of the problems go away. For the last few weeks, I’ve been taking a combination of bicycle/bus to work, and on the way home biking the whole way. Follows a step-by-step of how I now get to and from work, but first the benefits:

  1. The environment, stupid. Depending on our commute time and vehicle, we’re shifting the international power balance toward countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia on the front end, and pounding coffin nails into global warming on the back end.
  2. Exercise. You know you need it.
  3. Time to read. Books. I don’t know about you, but stupid internet has eaten up most of my book reading time at home. Here’s an hour a day reserved for paper reading.
  4. Money. A weekly $40 gasoline tab is now a $7.50 bus tab. Not exactly a get-rich plan, but it’s something. Of course people without a car figured all this out years ago.

Can something like this work for you? The answer is, probably. Here’s what you do:

transit map

1) Hit the maps. Here’s a link [PDF] to the Miami-Dade transit master map. Confusing, right? No worries — all you’re doing here is getting a general lay of the land, figuring out which buses (or Metrorail, if you’re lucky) may work for you. If you’re lost, try the South Florida Trip Planner.

route map

2) Select route. Here’s the list of routes. Find the ones that seem like possibilities and check the detailed maps of their routes. (Careful: some lines pull sneaky tricks, like running differently on the weekend, or having alternating buses only loop part of the route.) Keep in mind that you can bike between 1 and 2 miles in 10 to 15 minutes, so the route only has to pass within a radius of where you are and where you need to be.

route schedule

3) Hit the schedules. Each route has schedules for both directions. Of course the buses don’t hit the stop at the precise time listed, but the map will give you a very good idea of how long the ride will take. Backtrack, and figure out what time you need to be at the stop.


4) Flag down the bus. Have $1.50 ready. Bills or coins, but no change provided. Don’t even think about a bus pass — unless you’re riding more then two routes a day, it’s a sucker’s bet. When the bus pulls up, grab the handle on the rack out front and pull forward . . .


5) Secure your bike. Easy. The bike closer to the bus faces this way, the front bike faces the other way. Pull the support arm over your front wheel, and wiggle it snugly into place. This is all fairly idiot-proof, but you can get more detailed instructions if you feel you may exceed Miami-Dade Transit’s idiot-proofing level.

inside bus

6) Ride. Contrary to popular belief, most buses are not crowded. I get plenty of personal space most of the time. The people watching is not to be underrated, but like I said, this is really an opportunity to get some quality reading done. Get off at the front door, so the bus doesn’t pull away with your bike!

ride home

7) Bike home. Bring a change of clothes for the ride home. Take all the side-roads and cut through all the parks you can. Enjoy the fresh air. Easy.


Thursday October 11, 2007

I have to tell you — I saw a few people riding these Segways covered with cheesy billboards on Lincold Road the other day, and the ads just strip away whatever sliver of grace those machines had. It’s like riding around in a big plastic shopping cart with an electric motor.


Thursday October 4, 2007

Proposed new Metrorail and other transit lines

BRT, Metrorail, DMU

Left to right: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Metrorail, Disel Multiple Unit (DMU).

Below are proposed new transit lines from the executive summary of a Kendal Link study (download pdf of summary). While it focuses on South Miami, it has implications for the whole county. Still, the political situation in Kendall around some of these proposals is pretty controversial. This is mainly NIMB surrounding transit trains along existing, but minimally-used, tracks. As such, I’d be interested in hearing what South Miami/Kendall residents thing of these proposals.

It’s useful to know that this study considers anything under 5 years short-term planning, 5-15 years is mid-range, and over 15 years is long-range. You can click any of these maps to see a larger version.


Proposed Metrorail/BRT line along Kendall Drive.


Proposed North/South Metrorail line along Turnpike.


Proposed new Metrorail (orange) line and DMU (green) line.


Proposed North/South BRT line, alternative to above Metrorail option. I gather this is more useful to more people, but also more disruptive.


Putting it all together: this is the short/midrange transportation strategy.


And finally, the biggie: the long-range “preferred” transit strategy. It ain’t pretty, but this is what you get when you combine low-density sprawl with a mandate to reduce worldwide carbon emissions. Also: I still want my Metrorail beach-line.


Monday September 17, 2007

Nasty cuts to bus and metrorail service; several routes no longer run between 9 am and 3 pm, one has been eliminated completely, and wait times have been increased. One rider: “Most folks I speak with are kind of shocked that this was done after the promises associated with the half-cent sales-tax increase.”


Thursday August 16, 2007

baylink The Baylink monorail idea that MVB has been pushing forever get some “hard numbers” applied to it. Still pretty fanciful, but I agree that some version of this should be built.


Friday August 3, 2007

Bicycle renting stations from around the globe. I appreciate the sentiment, but this would never work in Miami. If you think so, make me a map of where you would put the rental stations. The distances are simply too great, even putting aside the obvious weather issues. Riding a bike is great exercise, and a really good way to get to know your neighborhood, but as transportation it just stinks. On the other hand, bike + public buses seems promising. But for that you need your own bike, because by nature the bike rental stations will be sparser then bus stops.


Thursday August 2, 2007


Click the picture. It’s Florida. Now zoom all the way in. This is a plane that crashed 26 years ago.


Tuesday July 3, 2007

A pie-in-the-sky wishlist for Miami-Dade Transit. Hey, where’s the Metrorail East-West line?


Wednesday June 13, 2007

Miami Beach nude cycling event. One arrest, but no actual nudity. What I want to know is how it’s illegal to organize a group of people to ride bicycles down Lincoln Rd.


Thursday June 7, 2007

The going-rate for a jump start

here's my new battery pretending to get a jump

A couple of weeks ago I was left needing a jump-start in front of my apartment on South Beach. I don’t have jumper cables anymore. I asked a few people, and they were all very sympathetic but nobody has jumper cables anymore, so I marched down to a busier street to find a cab (cabbies will sometimes jump you, but they charge). Against all odds, I spotted a tow-truck from one of the two great towing companies we have down here before a cab. I flagged him down. How much for a jump?

“If you’d called the station and they dispatched me, it would have been $75, that’s how much we’re supposed to charge,” he said. “I’ll do it for twenty bucks.” And sure enough.; I got a ride the two blocks back to my car, and in another minute I was on my way.

Reflecting on this, the $20 seems like a perfectly reasonable and appropriate fee, consider the inconvenience caused the jumper and the benefit to the jumpee. And so I propose that the $20 be formalized as the informal going rate for a jump with someone else’s cables. Henceforth, if somebody gives you a jump with their jumper cables, hand them a twenty. If it’s a private citizen, they’ll be grateful, and the price is commensurate with the help they afforded you. If a cabbie asks you for $40 for a jump, wave an Andrew Jackson in his face, proclaim loudly, “I’ve got twenty bucks,” and watch him melt. On the other hand, if someone gives you a jump and you’ve used your own cables, I say all they get is a friendly handshake and a sincere thank-you. After all, this is still a society, and we’re all helping each other out here.


Wednesday March 21, 2007

Downtown adventure


This is what happened last Friday. To set it up, let me tell you that I’m usually a flake about things like returning phone calls, paying bills, and renewing my car registration. But this year I was determined to be better, so when I got the paperwork in the mail, I went right to the web site. I typed all my info in, and got some generic “we can’t process your request right now” type of message. I figured I was too early, so I let it go, and tried again a couple of times. Finally, a couple of weeks ago I realized there was some problem and I wouldn’t be able to renew my registration online. Somewhat irritated, I went to the courthouse on my lunch break Thursday to do it in person. They told my I had a parking ticket hold on my renewal! Now, I live on South Beach, so parking tickets are a part of life, but I’d paid all 3 outstanding tickets on the Clerk’s website over a month ago. Wtf?!

Well, it turns out that payment didn’t go through. Obviously I didn’t print the confirmation page, but I’ll just assure you that it sure looked like it went through. Whatever. But now I have exactly one day to fix the parking tickets and renew my registration before leaving the country until the next month, when I’m eligible for parking tickets even if I park legally on account of having expired tags. I wake up extra early on Friday and head downtown, armed with the address of Courthouse East, where the parking tickets can be sorted out: 22 NW 4th St: Easy!


Here’s where I parked, and if you understand Miami’s street name system, you’ll know that I was very close to my target address. Except that I wasn’t, and here’s where my own stupid mistake came to bear, because — duh — click the address above and you’ll see that I wrote it down wrong. I was a few blocks away from the real Courthouse East, but it’s a long few blocks when you’re wandering around and asking every 4th person for directions (including the parking attendant for the police station while unmarked cars are trying to get into the lot). I might also point out that “Courthouse East” doesn’t help with shit, because there are about four distinct court buildings in Downtown, most of them arranged in a North-South line!

Courthouse East

Courthouse East! (Which, in all fairness, is just east of the old, original, courhouse building.) Now we’re getting somewhere. I sure hope my parking meter doesn’t run out — it sure would suck to get a parking ticket while paying four overdue parking tickets. And don’t ask me where the 4th one came from; as far as I’m concerned they made it up.

Illegal photo!

I’m irritable, and snapping photos to relax myself. You see the security guard through the glass in this one? He came out and yelled at me that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures. I told him fine, but he seemed unsatisfied and asked me what I was doing there. I told him I was trying to pay a parking ticket. I also asked him if it was against the law to take photographs, but his English wasn’t so hot, because he exclaimed, “No! You’re not allowed to take photographs!” I dropped it. The people upstairs didn’t seem to have a problem with my photographing, but now the next thing — the parking department doesn’t take checks OR credit cards! That’s right — your government only takes cash!! I think the parking department, homeless bums, and my drug dealer are the only three institutions I deal with that I need cash for anymore.

Government Business!!

Now I’m wandering around Downtown looking for an ATM, and here’s the one I found (the lady at the parking dept gave me directions, but I’m not sure if this is the one she was talking about — they were sort of convoluted). So I pay up. Oh, can I renew my registration here while I’m at it? Of course not. Miami courthouses don’t renew vehicle registrations, but she’s happy to direct me to a nearby tag agency. No thanks. I’m heading back up to Broward, where the courthouse can help me. Blah, Miami.


Friday February 23, 2007

Trouble for the Miami Intermodal Center?


Sunday December 17, 2006

Geo Metro needs babysitter for 3 months: a sort-of contest

The Blue Man Period of Milton Van der Spuy

Cayetano writes:

I came into town with the Basel storm and just kind of stayed, as I am currently something of a hobo. Well I’m going to Puerto Rico in a couple days and I have this car that I have to get rid of.. and I was hoping you’d be interested enough to . . . write an essay for a chance to get a free piece of shit car.

I recently drove across the country with this Geo Metro with a radical paint job… from Oakland to Miami. Surprisingly, it made it all the way and its still going strong. I’m flying to South America in a few days and I’m hoping to put it into some good hands for the best 25-word essay that I get. The catch is, if its still running when I get back in March I’d like to drive it up to Chicago.

Thanks, Cayetano! Not interested myself, but if anyone else is, 25 words really isn’t that much, and climbing in through the passanger door isn’t that big a deal, and there are bound to be pretty few entries, and it is pretty arty, so this might be worth a shot. Here are links to the craiglist post and flickr set. Good luck!


Monday November 13, 2006

Those having trouble getting to and from the airport (like my parents in a couple of days) now have a new option: for $50, Gus, of MB411 will give you a lift.


Wednesday September 27, 2006

Gabriel is serious: he’s got several quick transportation proposals for Coral Gables. “. . . the [Metromover] omni loop will be rendered useless once the streetcar is completed seeing that they essentially cover the same part of the city. The salvageable tracks, vehicles, and station components can then be used to create a new Coconut Grove Loop People Mover system.”


Monday June 26, 2006

FIU changes its mind about a Metrorail stop after a week of negative publicity and public opinion.


Monday May 22, 2006

Larry Lebowitz calls bullshit on the recent survey that declared Miami #1 in road rage and on Miami-Dade Transit’s Commuter Challenge. Even he has to admit, though, that the “survey numbers probably reflect a greater truth.”


Thursday December 29, 2005

Let's expand Metrorail

Ronald Reagan criticized Metrorail when it was finished in 1985, saying “It would have been cheaper to buy everyone a limousine.” These days, Metrorail serves 48,000 people a day so that (racist?) remark has been sufficiently refuted. It’s still a pretty low number, though, and the reason is obvious: Metrorail doesn’t go any-particular-where.

Now, there are lots of proposals around for expanding public transportation – everything from water-taxis to streetcars to a second Tri-Rail. There is even a super-ambitious plan for expanding Metro-rail floating around, but I’m not going to support anything quite so pie-in-the-sky as that.

I’m thinking of a second Metrorail line, which would run east-west, down to South Beach at one end, meet up with the current line at Government Center, and proceed west to the airport (or further, if possible, maybe to FIU). This would solve the problem of Metrorail not going to the airport, incorporate the free-floating BayLink idea (good grief: “To be evaluated for funding in 2016”), and generally make the rest of Metrorail make sense, by giving the system more destinations.

There are three principal arguments against this: (1) Miami isn’t suited to a large public-transportation system; (2) it’ll cost too much money; and (3) we don’t want more people going to the Beach; they’ll ruin it. To which I answer:

Maybe not (1), but tell that to the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the system every day. The more people who use public transportation, the better off we are as a city and as a civilization, and the more places there are that can be conveniently reached by public transportation, the more people will use it (Metrorail is more convenient, less intimidating, and faster then regular busses, so much more likely to be used by people who have a choice).

(2) This’d less then double the size of the system, and it would leverage the usefulness of the existing stops; it’s throwing good money after (arguably) bad. Plus, what with all these condos going up in Miami, we’re in for a big tax-boom over the next few years. If we put this plan in gear, we’ll be spending the money just as it rolls in.

As for (3), people living on the Beach (of which I’m one) being afraid of their neighborhood being overrun by tourists is like being afraid of Iraq becoming a center for terrorism: it’s already done happened! Making the Beach more convenient might make it a more popular destination, but it also makes life easier for residents.

There’s all this talk of Miami being the city of the future and whatnot, and our public transportation system is lagging. It’s been over 20 years since Metrorail (line 1!) was built, and it’s high time to expand. We have the need, we have the money, and we have the momentum; let’s do it.