This blog post is part of a series on rebuilding and reimagining America’s infrastructure for NLC’s Rebuild With Us campaign. This is a guest post by Councilmember James McDonald of Pinecrest, Florida.
U.S. Highway 1 in Miami-Dade County is not fun to drive.
Each day, our local drivers spend hours of lost time, burn thousands of dollars in wasted gas, and generate significant unnecessary pollution just by sitting in traffic, waiting. The Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization gives U.S. 1 a grade of F, the lowest possible, for its traffic congestion in the mornings, when the most commuters are trying to get to work.
But my city of Pinecrest, Florida, doesn’t have to put up with these awful levels of congestion — if we can find the right solutions to fit our budget. The answer to Pinecrest and the larger Miami-Dade region’s transit questions might just lie in Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).
BRT provides many of the benefits of the Metrorail, with two important distinctions: The project does not require unreasonable levels of funding, and the system could be implemented in as few as two years. The BRT system would have a dedicated lane and streamlined stops, along with featuring multiple doors and a system of payment before one accesses the platform — much like the Metrorail.
There are many examples of successful BRTs that have helped reduce congestion in their area. The Orange Line in Los Angeles is one great example, as well as the systems in Eugene, Oregon, and Cleveland, Ohio. As an added benefit, the stations can be repurposed for rail lines when ridership and funding levels make such a project viable.
As I’ve written before, I am very supportive of the BRT system and its potential to improve conditions on U.S. 1. When talking about expanding our transit system, everyone needs to be realistic about what is doable in today’s environment and be focused on getting something done now, as opposed to years away, if ever.
Bus Rapid Transit is ‘not your grandfather’s bus system’, but rather a rapid transit system on rubber wheels that looks, acts and transports people just like rail but at significantly less cost, and importantly, can be up and running in as little as two years. I believe that BRT can improve the lives of the citizens of Pinecrest and the greater Miami-Dade region substantially — and that this can be done sooner rather than later.
To make this dream of a more efficient transit system a reality, and to bring an end to the gridlocked procession of cars on U.S. 1, Pinecrest and others within the Miami region need to look closely at all the options and tell the community about the pros and cons as clearly as possible.
But help from Congress will be essential if Pinecrest is to rise to the challenge. Transit funding should be treated as an equal among all the transportation options, and funding for it needs to be consistent so that communities like Pinecrest know how to plan for the future. The more that the administration can do to keep up with the innovative and transformative demand for projects, the better.
Congress just increased funding to the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program — and similar programs, like Transportation Alternatives, the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, New Starts, and the Smart City Challenge, have all had some impressive results for communities.
Congestion is a major issue facing many people in Pinecrest and the surrounding area, but it doesn’t have to be. A plan for bus rapid transit may just be the rapid congestion relief system that morning commuters are honking for.
For more information, watch this video from the Miami Herald.
About the Author: Councilmember James McDonald lives in and serves the city of Pinecrest, Florida.