FAQ- Frequently Asked Questions
There are many myths circulating about Light Rail and the Baylink project.
Below find answers to most them.
Rapid Transit / Baylink
- What is special about rapid transit?
- Will it cost me anything more?
- Isn't Metrorail a rapid transit system?
- What's the difference between Metrorail and light rail?
- What does modern light rail look like? Have I seen it?
- What is bus rapid transit? Have I seen it?
- Will there be controversies in implementing the county transit plan?
- I have heard that $400 M for a rail system is wasteful and can be better spent elsewhere. Can it?
- Is it true that Baylink will take away auto travel lanes on Miami Beach?
- Will Baylink make life worse for drivers?
- If Miami Beach selects streetcars, will my local street really be torn up for 3 years of construction?
- Should Miami Beach residents have the right to vote on Baylink?
- Does Miami Beach have the right to prevent any rapid transit project?
- Who will use rapid transit in South Florida?
- Will tourists use rapid transit?
- Will rail lines have greater ridership than bus rapid transit?
- Does rapid transit relieve congestion?
- Do non-transit users benefit from rapid transit solutions?
1. What is special about rapid transit?
Rapid transit is a much faster, more reliable mode of public transportation than the ordinary bus system. Unlike the mass-transit buses that dominate Miami-Dade today, rapid transit makes use of features such as dedicated travel lanes, vehicles that permit quick and easy boarding, and "smart" traffic signals that enable the system to move as quickly as private automobiles.
2. Will it cost me anything more?
No; since November 2002 residents and visitors are already paying a 1/2% sales tax, dedicated to transit. This local tax will be matched with State and Federal funding to build approximately 90 miles of rapid transit lines. Fares for rapid transit will be the standard $1.25 and will be free for senior residents.
3. Isn't Metrorail a rapid transit system?
Only as far as it goes. Metrorail is a single rapid transit line, not a complete system, and elevated trains (or subways) are not the best choice for many neighborhoods. An effective rapid transit system will link many of the places where people live and want to go, and it will make use of low-impact vehicles such as light rail that better integrate into neighborhoods and streetscapes.
4. What's the difference between Metrorail and light rail?
A lot. Light rail, streetcars, and trolleys are smaller than heavy-rail trains and cost half as much to build. Like Metrorail, these are quiet, electric-powered cars that ride smoothly on tracks, but because their power comes from an overhead line they can navigate alongside streets and sidewalks and take the place of many city buses.
5. What does modern light rail look like? Have I seen it?
Probably not, unless you travel widely. There are no examples of light rail systems in the Southeast, with the exception of a new streetcar line in Tampa's Ybor City. Unlike the older lines in the Northeast, which often have a visual clutter of overhead wires, contemporary light rail lines in the West or in Europe often utilize a single overhead wire and provide a choice of modern or vintage styling.
6. What is bus rapid transit? Have I seen it?
Bus rapid transit gives buses a dedicated lane to bypass traffic congestion, and is now being used in South Dade alongside U.S. 1, from Dadeland Mall to Cutler Ridge. With lower capital costs than rail lines, bus rapid transit is sometimes used as a temporary improvement over ordinary buses until tracks can be installed for rail transit. The South Dade busway is projected to switch to rail in the future.
7. Will there be controversies in implementing the county transit plan?
Of course, and that is a good thing; public debate will ensure that "first-draft" rapid transit plans represent truly long-term solutions for our urban area. Thus, heavy rail plans must show that two light rail lines would not serve better for the same cost; light rail plans must show sufficient ridership to justify capital and construction costs; and bus rapid transit plans must show improved reliability over ordinary buses when rail transit is impractical.
8. I have heard that $400 M for a rail system is wasteful and can be better spent elsewhere. Can it?
This claim has three major flaws. First, the largest single expense is for adding two dedicated transit lanes across the bay (on the south side of the
MacArthur Causeway) — a necessity for any kind of rapid transit to Miami Beach. Second, most of the money (75%) will come from federal and state
funds, and so the money for Baylink would go to other transit projects across the country or state. Third, the higher initial costs of rail are
ultimately offset by longer vehicle life and lower operating costs.
9. Is it true that Baylink will take away auto travel lanes on Miami Beach?
No, that is a false argument. That option was one of several alternatives formally explored in the initial Baylink study, but it was found to be
unnecessary and thus it never gained support from pro-transit or anti-transit advocates. Those who continue to suggest that Baylink "will"
take away travel lanes are ignoring this practical reality, presumably in an effort to create division betweeen transit and auto users. See ART press
release of June 25, 2003.
10. Will Baylink make life worse for drivers?
Just the opposite: while Miami Beach is approaching a saturation point with cars, a rail circulator on South Beach will reduce local traffic intensity
and greatly reduce the demand for parking. Some anti-transit advocates have fundamentally distorted actual findings of the Baylink study. While it
takes 8-12 seconds for a train to move through an intersection, the study concludes that driving time will actually be improved by coordinating light
rail and traffic signals. Likewise, while on-street parking may be removed in some places to ensure reliable service, the study notes that all parking
will be relocated and, more importantly, that there will be thousands fewer cars chasing after those limited parking spaces.
11. If Miami Beach selects streetcars, will my local street really be torn up for 3 years of construction?
No. Construction in most areas of Miami Beach will likely proceed block-by-block, in as little as three weeks per block. Areas served by
streetcars do not require the more extensive road work needed for light rail, unless the street is already scheduled to undergo major repairs.
12. Should Miami Beach residents have the right to vote on Baylink?
Yes and no. Beach voters already approved Baylink in principle: 2 of 3
voters supported a transit tax that promised rapid transit to Miami Beach
If Miami Beach wishes to vote on a specific plan, it can do so. However, the details of the plan
should first be studied (the Final Environmental Impact Statement) so that voters are fully informed about impacts and benefits. Miami Beach
Commissioners may determine that such a vote is unnecessary if the plan's
negative impacts are mitigated or temporary, and the positive benefits are clear.
13. Does Miami Beach have the right to prevent any rapid transit project?
To a degree. As a practical matter, Miami Beach can prevent any specific
proposal that it feels is inappropriate, even after voting to undertake a
final engineering study, since inter-city dissention is a fundamental
obstacle to federal funding. Ultimately, however, County voters have voted
by a 2-to-1 margin for a rapid transit connection to Miami Beach. Thus, not
only is it unwise to block the development of a reliable transit
infrastructure, but ultimately it will prove to be futile for Miami Beach to
remain an island unto itself.
14. Who will use rapid transit in South Florida??
Rapid transit is designed to attract riders who have a choice between cars and public transportation. It not only improves service for current bus riders, but it provides a reliable transportation alternative for commuters, tourists, and local residents who wish to avoid traffic congestion.
15. Will tourists use rapid transit?
Guidebooks advise that a car is essential for most visits to Miami-Dade, but many tourists will avoid or minimize car rentals if a reliable system is in place. One indication of this comes from a 2002 study by the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, which found that traffic is already the #1 complaint about our area — for more tourists than all other negative complaints combined.
16. Will rail lines have greater ridership than bus rapid transit?
Yes, and the difference may be quite large. While any system that improves reliability, travel time, and frequency of service will increase transit ridership to some degree, a recent poll of Miami Beach voters illustrates the broader demographics of potential rail users — fully 1 out of every 3 people between ages 18-49 report that they "never" ride buses, but would use a light rail system.
17. Does rapid transit relieve congestion?
Yes, but in the long run that is not the main benefit. Increased transit ridership does mean fewer cars on the road and less total congestion in the urban area. However, in a high-growth area like South Florida the total number of cars continues to grow, and roads with less traffic will eventually attract cars from more congested roads. Thus, the main impact of transit is not to eliminate congestion (an impossible task) but to provide a reliable alternative around it on many occasions.
18. Do non-transit users benefit from rapid transit solutions?
Yes, especially in a tourist economy like South Florida's. For one thing, rapid transit will provide some traffic relief to auto users, although in the long run growth will increasingly lead our roads to fail. The bigger impact of rapid transit on non-transit users is to protect the viability of our tourism industry, by providing visitors with a convenient and reliable alternative to gridlock and road failure.