[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Traffic Congestion in South Florida (UPDATED)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Traffic Congestion in South Florida (UPDATED)

We all know about South Florida traffic, but we do we do about it? That's the question no one's been able to provide a good answer for.

In today's Miami Herald, "Steetwise" reporter Larry Lebowitz writes about a report by the Libertarian nonprofit Reason Foundation which states that during the next 25 years, Miami and other areas will face traffic worse than what is currently seen in Los Angeles.

This fact is not surprising, but what did surprise me about the report was the Reason Foundation's recommendation to solve the problem: Add more roadway capacity.

I don't buy it. All you have to do is look at what has occurred in the past 20-30 years. All of our major arteries have been expanded, in some cases they have doubled their capacity. What has the result been? More congestion. The simple fact is, our population has grown, and will continue to grow, too fast for us to keep up simply by adding lanes to our major arteries.

Imagine the Palmetto or Dolphin Expressways with 16 lanes instead of the current 8. Or how about double or triple-decking those roads. Pretty disgusting if you ask me, and in another 20 years they'll be jammed up worse than anything we experience today.

The Reason Foundation, being the libertarians that they are, appear to want to put individuals in control by expanding roadways and encouraging individuals' right to their cars. The problem with this is, who's going to administer the roadway expansions? Government...and more of it, not less. This seems to go against libertarians' basic belief in less government. And how about the prospect of possession of private property via eminent domain which would absolutely certainly be necessary in order to expand certain roadways? What would libertarians think of that?

My solution is to strategically pick a few roadways which could be expanded with minimal impact, but stick with the mass transit plans as well. The long-standing excuse that South Florida is not built for mass transit is an old and tired one that needs to be put to rest. We can build a solid, functional mass transit system here if we put our minds to it.

The real question and issue as I see it is: Is our community ready to come up with these solutions instead of whine and complain about the current state of affairs?

The jury is still out on this one.

UPDATE 11:00 AM 9/5: Gabriel from Transit Miami offers his thoughts on the Reason Foundation study.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Lissette said...

My $.02 is to start working on the mass transit system. If the Metro rail systems actually went somewhere useful, then people would use it. If the bus systems ran on time, then they might be used by people other then those who have no other choice. The biggest issue is the trains though. Most people, not all, but a lot of the people I know live in West Kendall, and it takes just as long to drive to work through traffic then it does to drive to the train then get on the train and all that mess, but if it was expanded on like we've been promised for years now, then it might actually be faster and better to take the train then to drive, therefore relieving some of the congestion.

6:01 PM, September 04, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Why do train advocates ignore costs? Train systems are terrifically expensive, the routes are inflexible and they aren't going to go to all destinations even if the system is much expanded. And they are unpopular with travelers. The fact that only a few percent of local commuters use them should give pause to advocates.

Road construction has some of the disadvantages of train construction with a couple of huge advantages: 1) people prefer to drive, so any new roads will be heavily used and therefore much cheaper on a ridership basis, and 2) you don't have to build stations; you can go anywhere by car.

I think that a mix of congestion-priced toll roads (run privately if possible), and buses (privatized if possible) makes a lot more sense than throwing more $billions into train systems that are almost certain, based on experience in many cities, not to be successful.

As for eminent domain, let the state buy the land it needs at market rates, whatever project it embarks on.

6:30 PM, September 04, 2006  
Blogger Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

I disagree slightly with you Robert. You can say we are overpopulated but the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market area is the 17th largest in the country. I think the problem is not the amount of residents but the poor planning we have had for 50 years to account for that growing population. We have only one major East/West expressway in SW MIami-Dade. That's a big problem because all the E/W surface roads get overburdened. Also for N/S travel we only have 2 (The Palmetto and the Turnpike). US-1 Should have been made into an expressway (with parallel running access roads) 30 years ago. Our traffic signals are not coordinated to minimize traffic even though this was planned many many years ago. In summary, piss poor planning is the problem and only some creativity and efficiency will solve it.

1:32 AM, September 05, 2006  
Blogger Orlando said...

Actually, according to a recent poll Los Angeles turns out is 16th in the nation when it come to traffic.

2:18 AM, September 05, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

Henry,

No doubt there has been extremely poor planning, you are correct in making that point. We can't undo what's been done, but we can plan better for the future. The only reason we're not higher than 17th is because we're limited by geography. The problem is, we're pretty crammed in although it doesn't excuse poor planning as the main reason for the traffic problems we have.

Too many homes and businesses were built too close to main arteries, that's why we just can't tear those down to build or expand roads. In a perfect world, US 1 would be a "freeway" and would complement the 874 quite well.

To respond to the others, despite Americans' aversion to mass transit, I think offering an alternative to sitting in your car for an hour plus is quite desirable to many in South Florida. From where I live just west of the Turnpike in Kendall, you can take the 104 route on the county bus straight to the Metrorail, which then takes you straight to downtown. It's actually one of the few transit routes in Miami-Dade County that works, and you can tell this by the packed buses heading east every morning. I don't use it because I don't work downtown, but imagine if they added a line using the existing FEC tracks heading north to the airport (as has already been discussed). You could connect from there to places such as Doral and Coral Gables where many people work. As Henry said, all it takes is a little creativity and foresight, not to mention money of course.

10:43 AM, September 05, 2006  
Anonymous Miami Transit Man said...

I think we have a multitude of problems which have to be solved. I recently proposed a hub and spoke method of reconstructing South Florida’s Public Transit. The fragmented and various cities in the area make it extremely difficult to come up with a plan that would equally benefit all area citizens. Instead, we should collectively encourage each municipality to densify and create an urban center which can then be linked more easily to the other municipalities in the county. By density I don’t mean large buildings with even larger parking garages, these should be areas that consider how people will navigate through the area rather than automobiles…

Also, our county planners are pushing a plan of expanding mertorail into many parts of the county. The major problem behind that is that metrorail is quickly becoming an obsolete and costly form of public transportation. The cost per passenger for metrorail is much higher than what the federal government will provide financing for. This is why we have seen many new forms of transportation evolve in the United States in the past decade including LRT and Streetcars. The PTP was flawed even before it was created because it failed to identify areas which need to become more urbanized in order for public transportation to succeed and failed to account for the per passenger costs of metrorail.

If you ever want to witness the disaster firsthand, just attend a transportation planning meeting and give your 2 cents…

12:20 PM, September 05, 2006  
Blogger Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Robert I agree that Mass transit is attractive but it also has its problems, particularly the way they do it here. For example, even if you take the metrorail as it exists now, you probably still have to drive and park at the metrorail station. And our population is not dense,it's spread over a VAST geography of 2+ counties. That's the problem, it's not like Manhattan. Everything is many miles away here.

12:09 PM, September 06, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:41 PM, September 06, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Yeah, you can't avoid the issue of population density. The trend is for Americans increasingly to live and work away from the centers of big cities, and conventional mass-transit systems are simply not suited to modern population patterns. Advocates typically respond by ignoring costs, by projecting unrealistically high ridership, and by suggesting various social-engineering schemes to bribe people into riding or discourage them from living where they want to (in the suburbs) or to make driving so unpleasant that riding trains will seem like a better alternative.

People generally prefer to drive except in a few dense cities, and why shouldn't they? Driving is fast and takes you exactly where you want to go. There are better ways to reduce traffic congestion than by spending a zillion dollars on inconvenient trains, and then telling people that their only choice is whether to waste their time in traffic or in train stations. How about implementing congestion pricing on main roads? The technology is readily available and much cheaper than building/expanding train systems. How much congestion would there be on the Palmetto, for instance, if you had to pay three or four bucks (or 5 or 6 bucks -- pick a number) to drive on it at peak periods?

Of course you can't buy many votes by advocating congestion pricing. Ultimately the problem is one of economics and politics rather than engineering.

5:53 PM, September 06, 2006  

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