Why expensive comprehensive plans win public opinion, and small conservative ones do not.
On Nov 17th, 2016 a public meeting was held for the Miami Beach light rail project where a majority of the attendees showed opposition to the project. The project was Phase I and was set to run from 5th St to 23rd St along Washington Ave. Critics find it hard to see the usefulness of such a short-sighted project and claim it would not work to relieve beach traffic.
Meanwhile, on the mainland this past April, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) unanimously approved the SMART, or Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit, Plan. The MPO is made up of county and city elected officials, and their involvement is crucial in obtaining federal funding. The proposal includes 6 rails radially originating from the current Metrorail line (see map below). Funding has not been set aside for these projects, nor have they been seriously bid out, but the implementation of these would create real changes in the serious traffic problems Miami faces.
At the end of the day, traffic is the true catalyst for public transportation. Sustainable living, greenhouse gasses, densification, community living are merely side benefits. 14% of Miami residents see traffic as the most important issue facing our community, making it the 3rd most important after the economy and gun violence. There was a racial divide in the responses with it ranking first among white respondents. When people want traffic relief, they are willing to pay for plans to mitigate it.
The reason the Miami Beach one looks poised to fail is that it does not reach far enough for residents to see it making a difference in traffic. While it may make financial or logistical sense to build it in 2 phases, it does not seem to make political sense. A decade ago, Miami-Dade County officials approved a comprehensive culture plan for Miami, which included Marlins Stadium, Adrienne Arsht Center, the port tunnel, and more. With a plan this far-reaching, there was something in it for everyone to be supportive of. This vote, while preliminary and did not include funding allocations, acted as a political bow, wrapping up these projects and allowing them to help each other succeed.
For the sake of transportation, Miami, Miami Beach, Doral, Hialeah, Broward County, etc. need to tie their transportation futures closer together if they are to reap group benefits and success in traffic, pollution, and densification.
Miami Beach Light Rail:
SMART Miami Plan: