Big Opportunity Now For Miami To Establish Commuter Rail Downtown

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Miami’s quest to arrive as one the world’s great urban centers continues, and with this comes a “now is the time” opportunity. It’s time for Miami to establish commuter rail downtown. With expansion comes traffic congestion (and all the problems that come with that — air pollution, slow-moving and frustrating travel times, traffic accidents). An opportunity on the heels of the “All Aboard Florida” service set for 2016 is now encouraging growth in transit in order to counter the growing traffic congestion.

All Aboard Florida runs 32 rail departures a day between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Orlando. Linking to this is the opportunity for a Miami commuter rail extension that would connect Miami’s northern suburbs to the heart of downtown. Sounds splendid. However, Miami needs to secure $30 million in the next few months for this to take place.

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The operating commuter rail line, Tri-Rail, runs 72 miles north to south and transports about 15,000 Miami-area passengers during weekdays. The problem is that the line does not end downtown — instead, it heads inland through Miami and finishes at the airport. With the construction of All Aboard Florida, the opportunity is perfect for Tri-Rail to help commuters travel directly downtown.

According to Streetsblog, the South Florida Regional Transit Authority believes a Tri-Rail addition serving downtown and linking with All Aboard Florida is a much-needed improvement. On the conservative side, they report that such an improvement would increase ridership by a few thousand people a day. It would not be very costly given the benefits, with the cost estimated to be a minimal $69 million. The downtown station would see this money go towards constructing two more elevated boarding platforms.

Behind the effort at this time is the Florida Department of Transportation, which has committed $17 million to the proposal. Along with this support, SFRTA has committed another $3 million. Streetsblog reports it is now time for the county, city, and other partners to fundraise for the rest — $49 million.

“We’re looking at this as now or never,” said Bonnie Arnold, a spokesperson for SFRTA. “This opportunity is not going to come around again. The opportunity to have commuter rail on elevated tracks is really critical because the traffic congestion in Miami has just gotten awful. It’s almost impassable.”


 

Tri-Rail started in the 1980s in part due to construction that closed a piece of overcrowded I-95 in Miami. Thus, Tri-Rail began using freight rail tracks to alleviate a load off the road system. It is time for the same now, 25 years later, as the Florida Department of Transportation recently announced that I-95 will be under construction through 2022.

Walkable West Palm Beach aptly chimes in, “The new TriRail Connection at All Aboard Florida’s MiamiCentral would open just in time for drivers to avoid the looming five-year nightmare on I-95 south of Golden Glades. It would be impossible to overstate the importance of Tri-Rail Coastal Link to our region’s future prosperity and mobility.”

Continuing, Streetsblog quotes Irvans Augustin, who pointed out the shame if “local political disagreements got in the way of adding such a critical transit link for the region. It’s the first step in terms of creating an actual transportation network,” he said.

Miami Herald has more about whether Tri-Rail will secure the money it needs to come to downtown Miami and expand its system north. This remains a question. A vote, commented on by Jack Stephens, executive director of South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, pleased him. “I’m thrilled. It’s moving the ball forward,” he said. “All of them, through the mayor and everybody else, agree to the vision of bringing Tri-Rail into downtown. Just how is always the issue.”

San Francisco Places Huge Light Rail Order,” an inspiring piece from last fall here on CleanTechnica, keeps Floridians wondering if we will ever catch up with world-leading cities and transit such as San Franciscans enjoy. They placed a massive order for 175 light rail train cars ($648 million) from Siemens, with the option to buy another 85 — “American-made, energy-efficient light rail systems [that] improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion, a win-win for everyone.”

Another example from California is the recent groundbreaking of high-speed rail, where EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was present to get to work on the groundbreaking ceremony for California’s new high-speed rail route between San Francisco and LA.

Related Stories:

What US High-Speed Rail Should Look Like (Map)

Streetcars Boost Local Economies, Light Rail Gets People Out Of Cars

Solar Could Save UK’s Network Rail £150m

Image: SFRTA


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Cynthia Shahan

Cynthia Shahan started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. She has a degree in Education, Anthropology, and Creative Writing. She has been closely following the solar and wind industries for nearly 20 years and the EV industry for more than a decade. Pronouns: She/Her

Cynthia Shahan has 949 posts and counting. See all posts by Cynthia Shahan