|East-West Metrorail line, placed in mid-1980s, as it looks today, facing west. County Hall atrium is to the left.|
By John Dorschner
This is a photo of hope and pathos and -- perhaps -- delusion. It is at Government Center, on the Metromover level, facing west, showing an opening created back in the 1980s for a future Metrorail extension toward the western suburbs. The rail bed runs for about 100 feet or so, then stops.
|The blue outline shows the current Metrorail/Metromover tracks. The purple line indicates the dreamed of east-west line.|
Here's why I keep thinking of this tiny east-west extension -- and why I wonder if Miami-Dade's plans for mass transit along the east-west corridor make any sense.
For the very best scenario under the present SMART plan to go forward simultaneously on six transit corridors, this extension pointing westward would play no part.
Instead, the plan is to use the CSX tracks, which would run roughly parallel to 836 from LeJeune (42nd Ave) to perhaps the Florida Turnpike extension, with a dotted line indicating a possible run south to the main campus of Florida International University -- a major destination.
Eastward, the line from LeJuene heads north to the Miami Intermodal Center, the two-billion-dollar investment made by the state and county that links the airport, Tri-Rail and long-distance rail lines.
With my primitive PhotoShop skills, here's a map of what this route looks like.
Under the best scenario, commuters in the western suburbs would have to get to some western location (maybe Dolphin Mall, where the half-penny is building a parking garage), then take the new rail corridor (light rail, elevated rail or commuter rail) to the MIC, then climb on Metrorail for a ride heading north and then west and then diving back to downtown.
How many workers in the western suburbs will be willing to take that circuitous route to a downtown job?
Miami-Dade Transit so far hasn't tried to guess, but last month, in a presentation to the Metropolitan Planning Organization, it did provide figures for weekday boardings for the four major east-west buses: 27,000 using routes 7, 8, 11 and 51.
That's the highest of the six SMART routes endorsed by MPO.
According to a chart presented by Transit Director Alice Bravo, the county estimates that using light-rail along this corridor would have construction costs of $843 million and $26 annual operating and maintenance. For the scenario of using CSX tracks for commuter rail, (presumably with fewer stops), the cost has yet to be estimated.
City Commissioner Francis Suarez says he went with County Commissioner Esteban Bovo to Tallahassee to get money to fund the purchase of the CSX line for the transit corridor, but the railroad "increased the price three-fold" when it heard of the county's interest, and the purchase has been postponed.
Meanwhile, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority is planning to run expressway buses along the SR 836 shoulders, which could be done quite quickly. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez told the MPO he embraced the shoulder buses as a quick fix, but most transit experts think it's only that.
An example of an apparent contradiction in the east-west corridor reveals how much confusion exists in our transit plans: The MIC at the Airport has a rail destination called Miami Central Station. A new central station is under construction in downtown Miami, a little north of the Government Center for the new All Aboard Florida rail line that will offer Brightline trains to Orlando and, perhaps, a downtown extension of Tri-Rail. Its formal name is MiamiCentral.
|The Central Station -- airport version|
Miami Today reported in early May that All Aboard Florida is threatening to stop constructing the Tri-Rail portion of MiamiCentral.
|MiamiCentral going up just north of Government Center, and just to the right of the Metrorail/Metromover tracks.|
Posted May 4, 2016.