Miami-Dade County just broke ground on the first facility in its Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit, or SMART Plan. It’s the first shovel in an ambitious transportation infrastructure plan that not only addresses traffic, but is a catalyst for smarter development that creates housing opportunities and increases access to jobs.
By consolidating key agencies last year, Miami-Dade also empowered its ability to break down silos and drive its SMART Plan forward.
Public Transit Addresses Miami Traffic Head-On
Commuters in the region spend 90-120 minutes traveling with heavy traffic to get to work and spend $50-$100 a week on tolls. The SMART Plan is based on the idea that public transit and technology can lure commuters off the congested expressways and onto public transit.
The Dolphin Station Park & Ride Transit Terminal is part of one of six rapid transit corridors that the county is planning to address the metropolis’s notorious traffic congestion.
The county’s 12-mile East-West Rapid Transit Corridor links low-density areas split by the Dolphin Expressway and bring bus service to downtown Miami. It will connect the Miami Intermodal Center, a regional transportation center adjacent to Miami International Airport that links Palm Beach County, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and the Florida Keys north of the expressway, with Florida International University south of the expressway and communities generally west of the metro.
Two additional stations along this corridor will also be constructed. Once in service, express buses will travel on the inside shoulder of the Dolphin Expressway, bypassing its traffic jams. Improved ridership spawned by strategically located bus stations could lead to a future rail line.
In addition, such strategically located public transit stations are ripe spots for development that brings more affordable housing with better access to jobs.
Transit Plan to Spark Better Development
Though the East-West Rapid Transit Corridor is just one of six corridors to be developed in the SMART Plan, the county’s transit-oriented development (TOD) plans that seek to concentrate higher-density, mixed-use development that takes traffic off the roads relies on its success.
To help develop TOD land use policies, identify infrastructure priorities for the corridor, pursue financing strategies and plan affordable housing, the Federal Transit Administration provided a $960,000 planning grant in October 2016 specifically for the East-West Rapid Transit Corridor that the Dolphin Station is part of.
“The development of TODs along our transit system gives our residents better access to jobs, education and vital services,” said Alice N. Bravo, P.E., Director of Miami-Dade’s Department of Transportation and Public Works in a prepared statement.
The county has been working with developers to bring additional residential and commercial development to transit stations through several deals following success with affordable housing developments with retail space at some stations, according to the Miami Herald.
Collaboration, Consolidation & Tech to Improve Mobility
Consolidation of Miami-Dade’s transportation and public works departments and technology upgrades together boosted the county’s ability to better understand its traffic problems and improve planning as the region grows.
Last year, Miami-Dade County merged its departments of transportation and public works under Bravo. When Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez announced the merger, the overriding mission became improving mobility.
A unified agency better leverages opportunities to use technology for interconnected needs and breaks down silos to improve collaboration. In that vein, Bravo modernized the traffic management center operating out of Doral, Fla., according to the newly consolidated agency’s blog.
“Our traffic engineers monitor cameras and numerous data feeds with real-time information to observe traffic conditions and make signal time adjustments to improve the flow of traffic,” said Bravo.
Engineers view cameras and use sensors and transportation data from various systems to make on-the-spot traffic adjustment decisions. Also, the county partnered with Waze to give its app users real-time road closure information, updates on traffic delays and emergency alerts to improve roadway efficiency.
The $1.3 million project gave the new agency adaptive signal control and its first foray into active arterial management, and opens the door to connected vehicles transportation.
In its first year, the agency has also launched an EASY Pay mobile app and #GoMiamiDade social media public transit awareness campaign, is reducing electricity usage and costs with the installation of LED lighting, bike sharing and more.
For the $19 million Dolphin Station project, the county is partnering with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) and the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).
Bravo said the collaboration process is essential for the overall success of the SMART Plan.