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Miami is Expanding, Improving its Rail Options

by | Jan 04, 2017

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Home to Florida’s only heavy rail rapid transit system, Miami already offers residents and tourists a 25-mile Metrorail connecting South Miami, downtown and the airport. The popular Miami Metromover —smaller, fully-automated trains — links downtown’s cultural art institutions to Brickell, the area’s epicenter for international banking.

With the future in mind — millennials or those between 18-to-34 prefer to take trains versus driving cars, according to various studies — Miami has plans to improve and expand its rail. From the $3.1 billion under construction All Aboard Florida rail system connecting downtown Miami to Orlando to the potential Bay Link Project linked Miami Beach to the mainland, South Florida residents have plenty to be excited about.

South Florida, one of the world’s top cities, even more attractive to the next generation. At 95 million, millennials are already the largest generation alive. By 2025, millennials will comprise the vast majority of the U.S. workforce. Catering to millennials’ preferences for rail and effective transit options will be critical in attracting and retaining top talent in the coming decades.

Miami Rail Ridership Strong
Ridership on Miami’s Metrorail system stands at 75,000 daily, according to Miami’s department of transportation and public works department. Those are strong numbers for a Metrorail system that opened in May 20, 1984.

The Metrorail saw a 10.56 percent increase in ridership between 2012 and 2013, according to the American Public Transportation Agency (APTA). About 21 million trips were taken through the heavy-rail transit system in 2013.

Miami Metromover ridership is also strong. The fully-automated trains transport almost 10 million passengers around the downtown and Brickell neighborhoods each year. The Metromover is popular with tourists, students, attorneys and more.

Orange Line to the Airport
In July 2012, the county completed construction of the Metrorail Orange Line to Miami International Airport. It was a 2.4-mile project that cost $506 million and took about three years to build. The line allows residents and tourists to take the metro from downtown to the airport.

Popular with airport workers and international travelers, the line starts and ends at Metrorail’s newest station, a state-of-the-art facility with digital screens announcing train and flight schedules.

New Miami Metrorail Trains on the Way
Miami is using surtax funds of $375 million to buy a new fleet of Metrorail cars. Hitachi Rail USA will build 136 cars at its Miami factory to replace Miami-Dade County’s Metrorail fleet. The first new vehicles are scheduled go into service in late 2017, Hitachi said.

The new cars will be equipped with the “latest technology that will offer transit customers improved reliability and customer service.”

South Miami-Dade Pushing for Light Rail

In late March, leaders of Homestead, Palmetto Bay and other suburban cities gathered for a meeting to insist Miami-Dade agree to fund a study on how to build light rail along a current 20-mile busway. The Metrorail’s most-southern stop is Dadeland Mall. The South Dade Busway, a 20-mile stretch of highway reserved for busses, currently runs from Dadeland to Florida City.


All Aboard Florida Project
All Aboard Florida is a sizable project in the works. The $2.5 billion project, a high-speed passenger rail linking downtown Miami to Orlando, is expected to remove up to 3 million cars from Florida’s roads and attract 14,000 riders a day by 2020.

The privately owned and operated line plans to run 16 round-trip trains a day between Miami and Orlando, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, covering the 235-mile route in about three hours. Service will start with five four-car trains carrying up to 240 passengers each.

Downtown’s growing population is a chief impetus for the development. The number of downtown residents grew from 40,000 to 80,000 from 2000 to 2015, according to the Miami Downtown Development Authority. Most of the growth is coming from millennials. Residents ages 25 to 44 comprise half of the downtown’s population.

Potential Bay Link Project to Connect Miami Beach to the Mainland
Miami officials are also working on a massive project to link Miami and Miami Beach with rail.

In February of this year, the long-delayed Bay Link project won a key approval when a board of local officials agreed to pursue the massive project in two parallel plans. Miami Beach is working on a project after it received a proposal from French rail company Alstom. The city is doing an environmental analysis while using the Alstom bid to collect proposals from other firms.

Connecting South Florida with Rail
South Florida’s increasing rail options will only make the region more attractive to millennials and national companies looking to relocate here.

Millennials prefer trains and light rail to cars, according to studies. Uber, Zipcar, public transit are the modes of transportation. Only half of millennials get their driver’s licenses at 18.
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