The Cobelo-French Team learned, while researching this topic, that planning and implementing mass transit solutions is a gargantuan endeavor undertaken by both the Florida Department of Transportation (“FDOT”) and by Miami-Dade County. These agencies have been working for several decades on transportation and transit issues in a combined effort to identify, quantify, and to find near and long term solutions to the increasing problems of vehicular traffic: How to ease it and improve it while trying to increase ridership of public mass transportation in our County. To this end, the Transportation Planning Organization("TPO") was created forty years ago and is “responsible for approving federally required transportation plans, as well as establishing the transportation vision for the County.”* Locally, the TPO works in conjunction with The Citizens' Independent Transportation Trust (CITT), “that oversees the People’s Transportation Plan, a half-penny surtax approved in 2002 to fund transportation improvements.”* The CITT is composed of elected officials, government agencies, the private sector, and the general public with its mission of “[i] mplementing the community’s vision for public transportation in Miami-Dade County,”* and together, they have identified six “Corridors”used by the County’s population to commute from home and work on a daily basis. The six County asphalt-based Corridors are: the Beach Corridor, the East-West Corridor, the Kendall Corridor, the North Corridor, the Northeast Corridor, and the South Corridor. “Sixty-three percent(1.7 million) of the entire County population live within a 2-mile radius of the Corridors, and almost 900,000 employees work within a 2-mile radius of the Corridors.”* Moreover, “[i]n 2017 the CITT approved $375 million to fund a new Metrorail fleet, $3.7 million for the Beach Corridor, $9 million for the East-West Corridor, and $7 million for the South Dade Transitway Corridor.* All these Corridors funnel into Downtown Miami or, as it is currently known, Miami’s Central Business District: the County's largest employment center with 16% of all Miami-Dade County jobs.*
The Cobelo-French Team’s Solution focusses on the South Corridor. “The South Corridor is a 19.8-mile two-lane Transitway, dedicated for ‘Bus Rapid Transit’ (BRT) running parallel to U.S. 1 from SW 344th Street in South Miami-Dade to the Dadeland South Metrorail Station, serving 30 stations (including Dadeland North) and six park-and-ride lots along the Transitway."* There are, however, 10 additional miles to reach Downtown Miami. Therefore, riders on the South Corridor that need to reach Downtown have to take the BRT, then board the Metrorail, and once in Downtown, they have to walk, ride a city trolley, or hop on the closed-loop Metromover to arrive at their destination. Our Solution will provide a non-stop service from one embarkation point along the South Corridor to Downtown Miami.
We strongly believe in the feasibility of our Solution. Beyond thinking outside the box, we are connecting the dots from several State and Local transportation agencies whose studies have concluded on the feasibility of such a proposal. The moment is right to conduct this Pilot Program in Miami-Dade County because there is documented interest from both the FDOT and from our local government through the Miami-Dade TPO. There have been at least three government led studies for waterborne public mass transportation. All three indicate strong support for waterborne public mass transportation, and the FDOT has placed mechanisms, has created structures, and has funded approved waterborne transportation projects in other counties in our State. In addition, private studies indicate that Private – Public partnerships are viable. According to Eric Singer, a lawyer with the Miami office of Bilzin Sumberg, Private-Public Partnerships for public mass transportation are not only possible but have thrived in some major cities around the world.* One current example in our own County is Brightline, “[t]he only privately-owned, operated, and maintained passenger rail system in the US. . . . Brightline is a high-speed passenger rail system connecting Miami to Fort Lauderdale…”* Lastly, waterborne mass public transportation is a major achievement yet to be attained by both the FDOT and the TPO. The Cobelo-French team will use the 2003, 2008, and 2015 government led studies previously mentioned as road maps to consider the most important issues that we hope will ultimately lead to approval and implementation of waterborne mass transportation.
We understand that there will be challenges to overcome, however, the benefits outnumber the challenges, and thanks to the Studies and their recommendations, we will plan accordingly. These are several immediate benefits that will be achieved with the Passenger Vessel Service:
- Socioeconomic Benefits: Overall quality of life, physical health, and the aesthetic appreciation of the environment.*
- Travel is faster by waterborne commuter service than by transit between all the termini studied and is competitive with the auto mode at current levels of congestion.*
- Environmental Benefits: It is reported that barges, tugboats, towboats, and other cargo vessels produce less air pollution than other forms of commercial transportation because it takes less fuel to do the same job. The greater fuel efficiency results in fewer emissions,resulting in cleaner air. In addition, the use of waterborne transportation results in less noise pollution, especially for dense urban areas. Based on information provided by the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association, barges (or other waterborne vessels) produce 86 percent less pounds of hydrocarbons, 89 percent less pounds of carbon monoxide, and 95 percent less pounds of nitrous oxide than trucks.*
- Safety Advantages: The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers have documented waterborne transit systems as safe and reliable across the United States, even during natural disasters when landside transportation services have been hindered or closed due to impassibility.*
Economic Impact of Marine Transportation-Related Businesses: 315 inland transportation businesses in Florida collectively reported 2,234 employees and $894,000,000 in mean annual sales to the economy. Local or regional impacts include: employment and income from project operation and maintenance, the operation and expansion of existing firms in the region, the entry of new firms into the region, and induced and indirect impacts from existing and new firms.*
Reduction of vehicular traffic on U.S. 1.
Tourism’s Economic Impact: It will offer vessel transportation to tourist who will visit the cities and neighborhoods adjacent to the vessels’ terminal(s), thus having a positive economic impact forsmall businesses on the south end of the South Corridor.
*Citations available upon request.