The Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization board moved forward Thursday with a Bus Rapid Transit system that promises travelers shorter trips from Dadeland to Florida City over the expansion of Metrorail.
The Bus Rapid Transit would run just like a transit rail system, but it would operate on tires instead of tracks. The 20-mile system would run through 14 stations.
Existing technology would reportedly shorten or even eliminate red lights for express buses. Advantages also include handicap-accessible group boarding that will allow multiple passengers to enter at once. The transit system will implement ticketing stations and pre-paid fare to further speed the boarding process.
The project is estimated to cost just under $300 million. Supporters argue the system is a cost-effective solution that will allow them to stretch out their funding so they can implement as many of these corridors as possible.
If ridership goes up to a certain point, then the board could start the process of converting the system to a rail.
"This is a down payment towards the rail," said Alice Bravo of Miami-Dade Transit. "We'll have the stations built, we'll have the gate arms at the intersection. And then when we have enough density and ridership along the corridor to justify the extra cost of rail, then we’ll be better prepared to convert.
Bravo argues the Bus Rapid Transit would be a huge time saver that will run just like a rail at one-fifth of the cost. The funding formula still awaits approval, with one-third of the costs expected to come from the state.
The heated debate of a mass transit system in Miami-Dade continued on Thursday, with mayor Francis Suarez among the critics of the Bus Rapid Transit.
"I think there’s been many, many occasions where the rail has been promised to this community, and unfortunately I think if we make the decision today we are putting cart before the horse," Suarez said.
The Bus Rapid Transit system could potentially be implemented in about three to four years.