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Private - Public Waterborne Passenger Vessel Service for Miami-Dade County's South Corridor

To alleviate traffic, provide enjoyable commutes, and improve quality of life of commuters on the South Corridor to and from Downtown Miami.

Photo of Daniel French
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 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:  

  1. Socioeconomic Benefits: Overall quality of life, physical health, and the aesthetic appreciation of the environment.*
  2. 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.* 
  3. 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.*
  4. 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.*
  5. 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.*

  6. Reduction of vehicular traffic on U.S. 1.  

  7. 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.

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

Residents of at least six contiguous municipalities located along the South Corridor, a region that is described by the Florida Department of Transportation as “the fastest population growth in Miami-Dade County.”* In addition, FDOT has worked diligently on this Corridor because it “facilitates the highest demand movement of passengers to and from southern Miami-Dade to Downtown Miami.”* Downtown Miami is home to over 60 international banks, 8 domestic banks, and numerous other large financial institutions, which account for 21% of the entire County’s finance and insurance industries. Downtown is also home to several large law firms, and over a dozen Fortune 500 firms. Also, many of the 27,000 students at Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus, as well as construction workers and the more than 8000 Downtown hotel employees will benefit from the Solution.* Lastly, in 2017, more than 16 million tourists visited Miami-Dade County and they too will benefit from our waterborne Solution.*

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

The Cobelo-French team has vast experience in transporting passengers as they served as Operations Manager and General Manager, respectively, of a Miami-based Public Charter Flight Operator, under Federal Part 380, that conducted international Public Charter Flights. We contracted, under Federal guidelines, with U.S. and foreign airlines. Our company was bonded, worked under AITA rules, and held contracts to operate its international public charter flights out of Miami International Airport.

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Funding Request

  • $100,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

Most of the elements required to implement a Pilot Program are already in place : commercial vessels serving the tourism industry, a marina in the heart of the South Corridor, County mass transportation facilities such as Park and Ride Garages, established bus stops, bus services, trolley service, scheduled bus and trolley routes, transfers policies, public relations, advertising capabilities, the MDT Tracker Phone App, and the County's partnership with a private technology company, Citi.Moov, that seeks to ease transportation for Users in the County. We will seek strategic partnerships with these private companies and government agencies to bring their expertise and know-how to this Pilot Program. Our hope is to provide proof of concept, network with Local, Sate and Federal stakeholders, raise public awareness, and find financial support from investors to put in place a world-class, waterborne transportation operation commensurate to Miami-Dade's standing on the world stage.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

Technology is an integral part of the plans to deal with mass transportation for both TPO and CITT. Some of this technology is in the form of Apps, such as the MDT Tracker, that allows users to look for bus routes, scheduled times, cost, and "Easy pay". Also, Citi.Moov 's App platform rewards users for not driving alone. Combined, these two powerful Apps provide a wealth of statistical information. Our hope is that our partnership with these organizations will allow us to gather useful data, such as age, gender, method of transportation to our terminal, preferred hours of use of service, quality of service, and satisfaction of service. We also plan to do basic data gathering via in-person surveys. The results will help us learn and understand about our users and their transportation needs that will ultimately help us develop the best waterborne transportation network possible.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Wilda Previl

Hi Daniel French 

I'm Wilda, one of your local community facilitators. I remember meeting your team at the Little Haiti Cultural Center for the last community event. :) It's good to see you on the platform. I like that you focused on one specific area of Miami-Dade, the south corridor.

I do have one question, maybe that will change later. What would a launch look like? I understand there is data from various local and national governmental agencies that provide the information on viability of the idea. What would the next phase look like for the team even if a prototype is a ways away?

Photo of Daniel French

Hi Wilda!! Thank you for reaching out. I received my Amazon Gift Card, THANK YOU (I already used it!!!!). I am hoping to WIN WIN WIN!!! I hope to see you soon.
Thank you, Daniel.

Photo of Daniel French

Hi Wilda, please pardon, but I didn't realize about the second portion of your message. I have to tell you that I have continued researching and networking with professionals within the County and some Municipalities about the feasibility of my Solution, and based on that, I will be updating my proposal to include new findings that will align with County recommendations. The bottom line is that: Yes, it is possible, it is a reality, but guess what... A Pilot Program is needed! I will be updating the Solution in the next few days.
Thank you for your follow up! Daniel

Photo of Wilda Previl

Hi Daniel French I'm checking in to see how the iteration is going. :) May I ask what kinds of other events you've been to for your idea? I've also been meaning to ask about a designer. Do you have one on your team? Feel free to upload content for what a prototype could look like. Lastly, don't forget to upload a picture of yourself and add your team member. We're almost into the next phase!

Photo of Daniel French

Hi Wilda! Thank you for following up. I have not presented this idea to any other challenge or competition. I have been fully occupied on personal business, and professional developments that have prevented me from developing additional iterations of the idea. I hope that the Judges will consider my idea as is. I look forward to meeting you again! Thank you, Daniel.

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