Once upon a time, Miami wasn’t crowded. The roads were smaller and there wasn’t much of a public transportation system. It worked just fine because there weren’t too many people either.
Now, things are different. In Miami-Dade County, there is a current population of about 2.7 million people, and even that number is forecasted to further expand as development increases.
Along with the population increase comes an increase in cars driving on the road. As a result, the infrastructure system that worked before is no longer practical.
According to a study published in 2017, commuters in the greater Miami area spend 64 hours in traffic each year, which earns the city the ranking of 10th worst in the world for traffic. That’s an impressive achievement, but it’s not exactly one we want to have. Naturally, solutions are being presented and implemented to try to alleviate the traffic situation.
We could try building more roads or expanding the current ones, for one thing. That’s what the Board of County Commissioners was trying to do last month when it approved the extension of the Dolphin Expressway into Kendall. Will it help with the traffic in that area somewhat? Probably. It also will intrude into the area past the county’s urban development boundary, closer to the Everglades.
In 2002, Miami-Dade County residents voted to pay a half-penny transit tax designed in part to fund the expansion of the Metrorail system. It has raised nearly three billion dollars, but the Metrorail still was never expanded to other parts of the county, which are some of the areas where the traffic problem is most acute.
Instead, the county has proposed, as part of its SMART plan, to add more busses to the system, but not just any busses, eco-friendly busses.
True, the existing public transportation system, especially the bus system, is not adequate. I’ve ridden on the bus system before. The busses are loud, smelly, often late and, in my experience, usually take longer to reach your destination than if you had driven yourself. The new buses, while better than nothing, would still have to travel on the same crowded roads, and consequently wouldn’t be much faster than driving, which is the whole point of public transportation in the first place. They would still be inconvenient, even if they would be more environmentally friendly. Perhaps the plan isn’t so smart after all.
Expanding the Metrorail offers a different, and in my opinion much better, option. Elevated rail, like the new busses, is also eco-friendly and safer. But more than that, it’s fast. You can reach the center of the city in minutes, instead of spending an hour in traffic on US1 or the Turnpike. Most other major cities have extensive mass transit systems, usually with high-speed rail. New York City, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles, among others. Now, it’s high time for Miami to join them.