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Various ideas for South Florida transit

Reduce metrorail fares, Smarter tax policies favoring commercial ToD, Improvement of bus system, Strategic extension of certain expressways

Photo of Nathan Morrison
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Reduce metrorail rider fares to zero


Reduce cost of metrorail to nothing (free for all to use).  Since it is ALREADY having to compete more than ever before with cheaper options like city trolles, ridesharing, & personal mobility devices (like ebikes and such).  The following are accurate to the best of my knowlege based on MDT financial reports.

Revenues in 2017:            Approx $88 million

Operating costs in 2017:     Approx $600 million

Cost will go up slightly (to approx $700 million) but ridership will go up massively.  This actually brings DOWN the "transport costs per passenger mile" AND the "total cost per rider" quite a bit as counter intuitive as that may be.  And would only increase the operational costs a marginal amount (since revenues are kinda paltry anyways).  This could be made up with slight tax increase (or road tolls) or shifting elsewhere in the budget.  I know asking the city to pay even more for metrorail than before is hard to swallow, but the extra being asked is small in comparison to what is already being spent.  And the benefit gained is pretty large.  This improves "bang for the buck" from a public spending point of view.

Business transit oriented development policies


Stronger policies to encourage building of office space around transit stations.  There doesn't seem to be a big need (here in Miami at least) to encourage building residential towers around transit.  In fact it seems to be a very hip thing for developers to do in the past few years as they can clearly sell those units with transit as a luxury amenity.  But I see very little building of office and commercial space around stations (aside from retail and there's only so much demand for that).

It should be obvious why building offices near transit stops is undesireable for them.  Over time the area around the stations becomes desireable and costs money.  This encourages businesses to save money by relocating (or locating the first time) to office parks out in the suburbs.  Policies that encourage businesses to locate close to transit stations might reverse this balance.  This will give people a place to commute too, to get to work.

In order for mass transit to work well in any city, people need a place to come FROM (residential housing) and to go TO (commercial office buildings) that are both relatively close to the stations.  At the very least the destination (office jobs) should be closer to the stops as this is the point that auto-oriented "park-and-ride" commuters will have surrendered their cars at a parking lot near a suburban station and be dropped of at their destination station.  They won't choose mass transit if where they are dropped off doesn't give them easy pedestrian access to their job.  One reason Civic Center is such a utilized station on the metrorail system (even thoguht it's not technically downtown) is its very close proximity to thousands of hospital jobs for doctors, nurses, administrative, maintenance and IT staff.  Encouraging this around the existing metrorail stations should be a big priority for the city.

So the formula for politicians is simple, "How to encourage companies to locate their businesses closer to transit stops".  Tax policies can do this most effectively over the long run.

Improvement of bus system at the core


Miami-Dade has 2 major downtown bus terminals, one at the Omni center and one near Government Center metrorail station.  A quick look at the bus route maps for Miami shows why this slows down many bus-to-bus transfers in the county, since many of them concentrate in the downtown area at some point along their route.  This is akin to asking an airline passenger to make a connecting flight by catching a taxi or uber to a nearby airport to do so.  Instead, there should be one unified downtown bus terminal that ALL buses destined for anywhere in downtown should stop at.  This will drastically speed up transfers that need to happen like when one has to make a connecting airplane flight in the SAME airport.

The solution is to get rid of Omni terminal and build a new bus terminal somewhere adjacent to Govt Center metrorail and Brightline stations.  There is already a walkway being built between those two stations and this terminal should also be connected to add synergy and create a true transit hub for the county.  Furthermore a two block long elevated on/off ramp connector straight from I-95 should be build right into it (the way San Fran has done with their new transbay terminal).  This will drastically speed up access for buses coming from and going straight to Miami Beach from the terminal can use.  In future, options could be explored to rent out space to Greyhound, Megabus, private tour groups, and other entities to use the space as well.

Also there is no reason the bus terminal needs to be a single use building.  It should have many floors on top it that are office buildings that the city can either use themselves or preferably rent out to others to recapture the debt incured building such a bus terminal.  Brightline has recently shown that a large mixed use train station with a large retail presence is not only sustainable but profitable.  The city can take advantage of that phenominon also.

Extension of Gratney parkway


Gratney parkway's east end currently dumps people off in the middle of nowhere in particular in north dade and should be extended South to the 112/195 expressway OR continue east to I-95 instead.  The way it is build now is not really helping traffic flow that much into and out of the downtown core and if extended might alleviate some of the E-W trafic on palmetto to the North or N-S traffic on I-95 during weekday afternoon rush hour.  Also if sent south it might alleviate some Hialeah traffic from the western portion of the palmetto as well.

Thank you for your time in reading and considering my lengthy proposal.

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

Most of the greater Miami-Dade area commuter might potentially use or benefit from some portion of these ideas.

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)

I am submitting as a sole individual concerned citizen.

Size of your team or organization

  • I am submitting as an individual

Funding Request

  • No funding is required

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

I would expect the city/county (or MDT or MDX) to pilot my ideas. Unfortunately my ideas don't lend themselves well to "laboratory" settings beforehand. Many of them are suggestions of tweaks to real world current scenarios.

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

Large increase in metrorail ridership. Increase in building of commercial office space around existing transit stations. Decrease in transfer times and overall bus journey times. Alleviation of traffic on expressways around Gratney and slight reduction of time getting to downtown from the northwest part of the county.


Join the conversation:

Photo of KatieWalsh 100

Many thanks for your idea submission here Nathan. I agree with you that they do not lend themselves to piloting, but the great thing about posting anyway is that you may get a good conversation from fellow Miami residents and we'll see what they think - and also your post exists, and is visible - including to our city partners. I wonder if your post here could include something like piloting free transportation - say, for a week, and your application for funding could be to publicise the week, or / and find out insight, opinion, etc. about the idea before and after the week - or something like that? No worries if this isn't what you want to do - just a thought - to make your submission more regular. Wilda Previl  and Matteo Cappelleti  are here to help bounce things off if you'd like to. Katie - Facilitator

Photo of Nathan Morrison

Hi Katie, Yes my intent was to post something and get a discussion going about my ideas. Some of these I have had for a long time and had time to refine them over that time. I do think that making metrorail cost less (or be free) would be a useful experiment for any city in the US (not just Miami) to try.

There is a named effect, though the name escapes me right now, wherein as a resource's cost approaches zero, the consumption of that resource grows exponentially. Since the amount of revenues being brought in by the city for metrorail are quite small as a percentage of the overall yearly O&M cost, then the sacrificing of even more of or ALL of those revenues is also small. But as the users cost goes down it might encourage many more people to use this system we have already bought and paid for. It would also somewhat alleviate traffic on US-1 I believe. Note I am NOT advocating for the making free of the limited parking available at metrorail stations, just the train rides themselves.

I also believe that tax policies (and possibly rezoning) favoring more commercial ToD would be relatively easy to implement and could be done incrementally at certain stations even, instead of just a broad uniform change across the whole county all at once.

Admittedly the other 2 proposals do not lend themselves to trial beforehand easily.

Photo of KatieWalsh 100

Wilda Previl Matteo Cappelleti  please could you comment here and tag a few Miami community members you think might like to discuss this post? It may not be pilotable, but it would b great to get a discussion going. Thanks!