- Numerous rounds of inconclusive heated discussions about how to expand Miami-Dade County's troubled Metrorail system has led leaders to instead seek proposals from private partners, according to the Miami Herald.
- The request for information solicits feedback on a public-private expansion of any of the six transit corridors listed in the 2016 Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) plan.
- Proposals are due July 27.
The effort to expand Miami-Dade's transit system has, by all accounts, turned into a mess. Mayor Carlos Gimenez had fought hard to expand the Metrorail system during his "More Rail Lines" campaign, while other leaders have suggested other transit options like bus rapid transit. Gimenez has since eased up on the push for trains and urged more modern bus systems in parts of the Miami area.
The county has sunk tens of millions of dollars — about $50 million just for the ongoing SMART plan study — into hiring consultants and conducting transit studies, and part of the battle lies in some leaders' desire to promptly make a choice on the city's future transit instead of further delaying the decision while continuing to pay consultants.
The Metrorail system was constructed in the early 1980s and is widely considered an antiquated system in desperate need of upgrades. Many existing trains reportedly are so old that it's difficult for the transit agency to find parts to repair them. Plus, ridership sorely lags on the system, which has only two lines and covers a limited area in the central and southwest portions of Miami-Dade County.
Sometimes when government leaders find themselves at a stalemate, which appears to be the case in Miami-Dade, bringing in outside experts can break the city out of its gridlock. Private businesses tend to hold expert knowledge and possess a wider, more comprehensive view of their industries than municipalities have. Soliciting information and proposals from private transit partners, and presumably partnering with them for future transit system construction and operations, could present attractive options that pull the Miami-area leaders out of their current rut.
Generally speaking, the region's other transit options besides Metrorail also are underdeveloped and underused. The county has been working toward improving existing and adding new options to the area, in which residents are notoriously car-dependent. As soon as this month, the Miami extension could open to passengers on the high-speed Brightline train, which began service this year to connect Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. But progress on other forms of transportation and related infrastructure within Miami-Dade, such as the bus system, have been met with problems and delays. Perhaps progress will occur this summer after county leaders review the transit proposals from private companies.