Time will tell: If embraced, more trolleys could find their way on Miami streets
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
If rubber-tired trolleys catch on in Miami's Health District, look for more trolleys serving other parts of Miami's urban core, city officials say.
It's all part of a city effort to ease congestion in high-traffic areas. City officials have settled on the rubber-wheeled trolleys on roadways in the Health District but will explore other modes of moving around the urban core in the months ahead.
A first step will come Oct. 23, when city commissioners will decide whether to OK contracts for two engineering firms, HNTB Corp. for $850,000 and URS Corp. for $200,000, for consulting on a range of concepts for moving people around, said Jose Gonzalez, the city's assistant transportation coordinator.
"We have a provision in the scope of services for circulator studies," he said.
Such studies would look at the feasibility of setting up additional transit circulators to meet the needs of Miami's urban core.
The firms are to provide large-scale traffic reviews, simulation analysis for traffic studies and studies of transit circulators such as streetcars, trolleys and trams, said Lilia Medina, an assistant transit coordinator at the city.
Their architectural expertise could help the city iron out transit circulator projects in the pipeline such as Miami's $200 million streetcar project.
The streetcar line — in the works since 2004 — has been dormant with little progress made in recent months.
The proposed 10-mile service would help connect major activity centers, commercial establishments and residential communities in downtown Miami.
Proponents say Miami's urban core has a strong need for this type of block-to-block system to ease traffic congestion. Supporters say they hope the city steps on the gas and moves forward with the project.
The closest thing Miami's urban core has to trolleys is a Miami-Dade Transit bus designated as Brickell Key shuttle that circulates between the Brickell Metromover station and Brickell Key on weekdays.
The city's Ms. Medina said the streetcar project first needs to be reviewed by Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and City Manager Pete Hernandez.
Project costs were estimated at $200 million earlier this year, a number that could grow as time elapses. The Florida Department of Transportation is slated to contribute 50% of costs with the city's 50% match, just as with the Health District trolley.
The city is considering paying for the streetcar costs from its share of the county's half-percent transit surtax and eventual fare revenues.
The project would have to be presented to the city commission for approval. Approval would also be needed to request proposals for designing, building, operating and maintaining a streetcar system.
Supporters say a streetcar system could improve transit connections through downtown including the Wynwood District, Overtown, Midtown Miami, Miami Design District and the Buena Vista East Historic District.
Nearby cities Doral and Coral Gables have established rubber-wheel trolley systems that have proven successful. Doral this summer extended its pilot trolley program another six months and added a second bus to the route.
Meanwhile, Coral Gables' trolley system has gained a loyal ridership of area workers and residents and is offering the city new ways to make revenues. Gables trolleys can be rented at $175 per hour for weddings, corporate parties and other events. They soon are to begin placing on-board advertising.