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The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of MAST Academy, since 1991.
The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

GALLERY: Prom 2024
GALLERY: Prom 2024
April 7, 2024

Novel Nodes and Intermodals

By: Theo Miller
News Editor

Lots of challenges come from going to school on an island. Islands, by nature, are hard to get to. The bus route to Key Biscayne is fickle at best and ‘missing-in-action’ at worst. MAST aimed to solve this problem by operating a shuttle to the Vizcaya Metrorail station. It is, at least on paper, a decent system. Because of this, MAST has an extremely high percentage of the student population that (under normal circumstances) uses public transportation to get to school. 

“I’ve figured out exactly when trains get here and at what time to leave, but when the train is delayed, it throws all of that out of wack,” said Junior Daniel Soto, who gets to school every day by the Metrorail and Shuttle.

Miami’s new Metrorail cars in 2017. Photo by C.M. Guerrero/Miami Herald.

Miami’s public transportation (like most systems in this country) is notoriously subpar. Old trains. Broken air conditioners. Late buses. High fares. But, as a side effect of the revitalization of the Miami urban area, lots of new money came flooding in from taxes, and all those new people really did not want to drive on the crowded streets. The solution came in the form of a 2002 half-penny surtax for the purpose of upgrading Miami’s public transportation network. 

This tax, which has collected more than $3 billion since it went into effect, has been enormously successful, helping to fund $80 million worth of new Metromover trains built by Bombardier, $375 million of new Metrorail trains built by Hitachi Rail in Hialeah, a $480 million expansion to the Metrorail in the form of the Orange line, going out to Miami International Airport, along with countless new buses, routes, station renovations, and the entirety of the free trolley service. 

Miami Dade County has now unveiled the next phase of public transit in our city, opening six new corridors across the county, reaching previously underserved areas. This is a big deal, because access to affordable public transportation has been proven in study after study to improve the economic standing of a neighborhood. 

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The main trunklines of those new transit corridors are built to expand on either existing transit infrastructure or use existing land owned by the transit authority. Case in point: a new Metrorail extension, designated as the Purple Line, which will run an additional 10 miles up to the border with Broward County. It is scheduled to begin service in 2027. 

Map outlining the 6 new corridors of the SMART Plan. Graphic by Miami Dade County.

Arguably the most outlandish (pun intended) plan that has received the city’s blessing is a monorail that would run from the old Miami Herald property downtown and Omni Station to South Beach. While it would be run and built by a private company, similar to Brightline or the PortMiami tunnel, the monorail would connect into the main transit infrastructure and be paid for by the county. There is currently no projected opening date, but the final design is currently being prepared for approval by the County commissioners in the next 12 to 18 months, after which construction can begin. 

Speaking of Brightline, South Florida’s latest investment sweetheart is currently not in service under pandemic-related concerns but has been making big moves even as no trains ran along its new tracks. After having divested itself of a failed investment by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, Brightline kept its construction timeline of new rail running to Orlando International Airport opening later this year or early next year at worst, with an extension running to Disney World and Tampa opening in 2025. 

More interestingly though, is Brightline’s agreement with Miami-Dade transit. Since Brightline’s tracks are privately owned and operated, they are in a unique position to negotiate with the county. As one of the new six transit corridors, Brightline will be opening a commuter rail service, possibly in conjunction with Tri Rail, between Aventura and the MiamiCentral station. The current agreement dictates that the county would pay a $12 million ‘access fee’, and an additional $50 million as a one-time payment, likely covered by the state. This line would include stops at FIU in Aventura, Wynwood, and the Design District, as well as lower income neighborhoods like El Portal and Little Haiti. 

Then there are the buses. Two of the remaining three routes will run on what are known as Bus-Rapid Transit, or BRT lines from the current Dadeland station to Florida City. The plan would take the existing busway and upgrade it with new, dedicated vehicles, stations, and lanes. BRT systems take the best of both worlds: the ease of a bus and the convenience of a tram. The project is the furthest along, with the entire project supposedly costing only $300 million, approval, funding, and final designs already in place, and construction expected to begin momentarily. The entire corridor should be up and running within four years. Once the viability of the route is proven (current documents say the threshold is 35,000 passengers per day), the route will be transformed into rail. 

The other major BRT project is known, helpfully, as the East-West Corridor. The logistics are slightly more complex, but would comprise of a single bus lane, most likely running from a Park-and-Ride currently under construction at the edge of the Everglades in Tamiami, with a route running to the Miami Intermodal Center, otherwise known as the Miami International Airport Metrorail station, and another into downtown along Highway 836. 

The sixth corridor would be parallel to the East-West and run from Dadeland to Krome Avenue, also at the edge of the Everglades. No other decisions have been made regarding the route at this time. Based on the other plans, it seems likely that it would likely be a BRT as well. 

While this may all sound far away and abstract, it is very real, and these plans will have major effects on how MAST students and the rest of the city lives their life. By the time that current freshmen are ready to graduate, the countless students that travel from Palmetto Bay or further will have a safe and timely way to get to school in the mornings.

Soto noted that he feels the train system runs fairly smoothly now, but that he is very excited for what this all means for future students. “I am very happy for those who will rely on the train after I graduate, because they’ll see an even smoother system than I did!”

Each of these projects will make meaningful differences for millions of residents in Miami, and hopefully by the time that all of these are constructed, their impact could no way be overstated.  

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