4 initiatives separately seek to unknot region's snarled traffic
By Victor Cruz
Faced with some of the nation's most notorious traffic obstacles, at least four initiatives are under way to bring together South Florida's transportation experts and, in Miami-Dade County, target bus service to low-income areas and study expansion of the rail system.
The American Institute of Architects and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce independently have slated regional transportation workshops, and Miami-Dade commissioners have just authorized two transit projects.
On Oct. 13, the American Institute of Architects will devote a day to a "Regional Transit Design Workshop" as part of Architecture Week.
"Due to the fact that transportation has proven to be such a problem, we decided to have a whole-day seminar with the directors of seaports and airports in the three counties to explore the future of air and ground transport," said Mike Brazlavsky of the AIA.
Along with architects from its three South Florida chapters, railway representatives and other transportation and planning officials from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties will attend.
Underscoring hopes to regionalize the issue, the meeting will probably be in Broward County. The day will consist of a panel discussion, a design session and a final presentation. Panelists include directors of the three major airports in the tri-county area.
The architects are hoping the workshop will offer an objective approach to a search for a regional airport, said the group's Architecture Week chairperson, Lourdes Solera of M.C. Harry & Associates.
"Our idea is to have the conversation," she said. "We're under the suspicion that none of these people talk to each other. We wanted to take this as an opportunity to get the discussion out there.
"We're the people who design airports and who consider what makes a city a city, so why shouldn't we get involved?"
Meanwhile, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce is gearing up to conduct a Transportation Summit, said Ramiro Ortiz, chamber chairman. "There will be broad representation," he said.
Tentatively set for Nov. 1, the summit is looking to draw the governor in an effort to muster the political will to foster a regional solution to the area's transportation problems, said Allen Harper, chairman of the chamber's transportation committee and CEO of Esslinger Wooten Maxwell Realtors. Organizers said they are willing to change the summit date to meet Gov. Jeb Bush's schedule.
"We want to get as many politicians there as possible," Mr. Harper said. "Politics is what this is about. We have 40 % of the state's legislative delegation coming from Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. This is a huge effort to get ourselves together politically."
Regarding the AIA's conference, Mr. Harper said the difference is that the chamber's session will address creation of a "state-incentivized" regional transportation authority. That authority would coordinate the three counties' transit systems and look at creating niche markets to diminish competition between the region's transportation centers, such as airports and seaports.
This transportation was announced at June's chamber-run goals conference.
One of Miami-Dade's efforts calls for a comprehensive transportation study aimed at efficient bus service in its inner-city neighborhoods. Another asks the county manager's office to explore the traffic impact of a new Metrorail station in southwestern Miami-Dade.
The request for the Miami-Dade Transit bus report is being spearheaded by Commissioner Dorrin Rolle. The study will look at the capacity of buses at various hours of the day and will measure the distances required with transfers for people travelling from inner-city areas to educational and day-care facilities and areas of high employment opportunities.
That request grew out of a recognition that people in poorer areas who most need public transportation to get to jobs, daycare and classes are often those who were least served by bus routes, said Mr. Rolle's aide, Sarah Hartfield.
"We are seeing lots of investment in areas like Miami International Airport, but getting to those jobs can be difficult," she said.
While underserved pockets within the county have been an ongoing concern, "in the past six months people are getting more intense" about dissatisfaction with bus service, Ms. Hartfield said.
Consequently, she said, Mr. Rolle's office is fielding more complaints from persons who can't board buses because they are too full by the time they arrive at stops and from those who have to walk long distances between transfers, making it hard to get to work on time.
While Mr. Rolle's office has called for a more localized look at underserved areas, the county manager's office has already identified some of these areas, said Assistant County Manager Steve Spratt.
"We know, for example, that the far reaches of South Miami-Dade are receiving the least amount of coverage and frequencies," he said. "This is a more localized request to address these problems, but we are looking at this problem from a county-wide perspective."
The comprehensive report, along with a detailed transportation plan, is due within 60 days.
County Commissioner Joe Martinez, whose district runs generally east of Florida's Turnpike, north of Southwest 152nd Street, west of Krome Avenue and south of Coral Way, asked for the Metrorail extension study.
The study would gauge how a new station and parking lot at Southwest 104th Street and US 1, about 21/2 miles south of the Dadeland South station, would ease congestion, said Mr. Martinez's chief of staff, Javier Marques.
"We're talking about the neighborhoods of Country Walk, the Hammocks, Lake of the Meadows and Forest Lakes, all communities along the east-west Kendall corridor that use North Kendall Drive and Southwest 104th Street" on their way downtown to work, Mr. Marques said.
"This is all in line to reduce traffic congestion and to promote public transportation," he said.
"A study like this one can be a complex and time-consuming process," Mr. Spratt said. "It asks us to get a good handle on what needs there are and the impact of different solutions" to congestion in that area.
Such a study could prove expensive and would involve research of environmental factors, trip demands and projected alternative solutions to the area's congestion, Mr. Spratt said.
The report due Sept. 11 will weigh the advisability of making the study. It is to include the study's estimated cost and potential financing, county documents show.
The initiatives are opportune. A study by Urban Mobility Study from the Texas Transportation Institute, based on 1999 data, shows that "rush hour" has expanded to 3.5 hours during morning and evening crunch times, during which drives take 32% longer in Miami and 28% longer in Fort Lauderdale.
Details: AIA workshop, (305) 448-7488.