Miami-Dade County’s east side has long been starved for the subway, but a public-private partnership could finally serve five neighborhoods between Aventura and downtown, including North Miami, the Upper East Side, and Wynwood.
Outgoing District Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration has negotiated with the Brightline private train, despite concerns about costs, tariffs and coordination with the publicly run Tri-Rail service. The County Commission will vote with Brightline on a memorandum of understanding this month.
In the meantime, the business community has formed a new coalition, announced on Tuesday, that will push the aerial tramway.
Courtesy of Brightline
Organizations such as the Wynwood Business Improvement District, Florida International University, Miami-Dade College, Adrienne Arsht Center and Uber announced that they have formed a Northeast Corridor Coalition to back a deal with Brightline.
In addition, at its August meeting, the Wynwood BID decided to cover the cost of a commuter station to be built on private land on NE 27th Street between North Miami Avenue and NE Second Avenue in the Wynwood, Midtown and Neighborhoods Edgewater come together.
Albert Garcia, co-founder of the BID and chairman of the new coalition, said local transport was urgently needed in the congested northeast part of the county.
“The implementation of the urgently needed local transport service along the northeast corridor will expand mobility options, take cars off the road and improve the accessibility of the districts,” he told Bisnow in an email.
Pablo Ortiz, vice provost on the FIU’s Biscayne Bay campus, said a train is exceptional for bringing students from across the county to the campus.
“Now is the time to act,” he said.
“This is the next step we have taken after decades of conversation and study to get local service on the east side,” said Andrew Frey, director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees the tri-rail commuter Train that operates between Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties.
This South Florida Rail Map shows how the north-south lines differ when they arrive in Miami-Dade County and there is no rail going to the beach.
Two large railroad tracks run through South Florida. They are close together and parallel as they travel through the east sides of Counties Palm Beach and Broward. However, they deviate from one another when they come south to Miami-Dade. There, state-owned tracks branch off west to Opa-Locka, Hialeah and the airport. Amtrak and Tri-Rail operate on these state tracks.
The other tracks, privately owned by the Florida East Coast Railway, run more directly south along the east side of Miami-Dade through neighborhoods like Aventura and North Miami. For decades, FECR only carried freight on these tracks. But FECR was sold to Grupo Mexico in 2017 and Brightline was given the rights to run passenger trains on its tracks. They have been in service since the Brightline express train to West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale launched in 2018. Service has been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Brightline plans to expand into Orlando and Tampa.
Brightline and Tri-Rail began their collaboration, and downtown Miami Central Station was built to accommodate both Brightline and Tri-Rail train styles, which have different physical platform requirements. Tri-Rail has long intended to add a “coastal link” for the populated east side, but requires Brightline permission to use the tracks.
Although Brightline originally started as an express service with only a few stops in the city centers, it began exploring the idea of adding local stops and won efforts to build stations in Aventura and Boca Raton. In May, Brightline made a proposal to add five stops between Aventura and downtown, essentially doing what Tri-Rail had long proposed. The news described that Tri-Rail and Brightline are now competing to run the Miami-Dade commuter service and get funding from the county, but Frey said the situation was more complex.
Brightline’s proposal called for Miami-Dade to pay $ 29 million annually to use the FECR routes and $ 30 million to $ 50 million to operate the service on Brightline, the Miami Herald reported. Some commissioners resisted the price, fearing the county could bail out a private company as Brightline’s driver numbers and revenue fell far short of projections. In 2019, the train expected 2.1 million passengers and $ 78 million in revenue, but only attracted 1 million drivers and $ 22.1 million in revenue, according to the South Florida Business Journal.
Steven Abrams, director of Tri-Rail, argued to county commissioners that it would be cheaper for the county to have Tri-Rail as the operator and that Brightline offers luxury service (its current routes are at least $ 10 per trip), Tri -Rail would be sure to price tickets to workers.
Tri-Rail had planned a coastal link to serve Miami’s east side.
Even so, the county tentatively led the way with Brightline in June and authorized the mayor’s office to negotiate directly with the company. They are expected to present a new Memorandum of Understanding and the district commission is expected to vote on it in September.
Frey said he thinks the best solution would be for the county to sign a contract with Tri-Rail, which in turn could contract with Brightline or some other facility to run the service on a daily basis. Tri-Rail has local expertise and would ensure that tariffs are affordable and that the engineering of new local stations ensures connectivity to Tri-Rail stations in Broward and Palm Beach counties. In any event, Brightline would continue to be compensated for using the tracks.
Railway Age said that if a deal were made with Brightline, “it would be unique in the US as all other regional / commuter rail services are publicly owned, as is Amtrak. In many cases, trains are operated by a local or regional authority that leases.” Track rights from private rail freight companies. “
Frey said he believed the county and Brightline should be able to reach an agreement on operating costs and capital costs, but “the question mark is the access fee” for using the tracks. He thought the fees proposed by Brightline were high but was optimistic that an agreement could be reached.
“It has to be a number that is mutually acceptable and fair – otherwise there is no deal,” he said.
Courtesy of the Northeast Corridor Coalition
The Northeast Corridor Coalition will campaign for an aerial tramway along the FEC Railway / Brightline corridor.
Brightline’s proposed mass transit system would run between Miami Central Station and Aventura, and possibly Wynwood / Midtown / Edgewater, the Miami Design District, Upper Eastside / El Portal / Miami Shores, North Miami, and FIU / Biscayne Bay stop. The new coalition said construction could begin this year if approved, and service could begin in 2022. The groundbreaking ceremony for the approved Aventura station, for which the county is paying USD 76 million, is due to take place this Thursday. Boca Raton Station has been delayed amid the coronavirus.
Ben Porritt, Brightline’s senior vice president of corporate affairs, was unable to provide details on discussions with the county, but said, “This project has tremendous community support and people are excited about the opportunity to join Miami Dade like never before connect. It’s great to do this. ” see the community engaged and supportive. “
The county did not offer comment at the time of going to press.
In other news of Florida’s increasingly complicated rail effort, a shiny new $ 5.3 million station was built for Amtrak at the airport in 2017, but it never went into operation there because the platforms were too short for the trains. After US $ 3 billion in taxes was levied, plans for a long-promised extension of the aerial tramway to the southern part of the county were abandoned. and in the US Supreme Court, Brightline faces a $ 2.1 billion challenge raised through bond sales.
District officials are also considering a $ 770 million monorail that will run along a causeway over the Intracoastal Waterway and eventually bring rail traffic to Miami Beach, the top tourist destination.