Miami-Dade County commissioners recently decided to support plans for a new regional transit authority (RTA) in partnership with Palm Beach and Broward counties. The project would result in an extensive tri-county bus and rail network in southern Florida.
Plans are to expand upon Tri-Rail, the commuter rail system in the region, which currently runs north and south along much of Interstate 95. In the initial stages, Tri-Rail would be extended on both the north and south ends and links would be added.
There would be additional buses connecting the counties and feeding the rail line. Tri-Rail currently has some connector buses operated by each county independently but, under the RTA, the counties would coordinate their bus systems.
“We’re planning to ask the state legislature next year to create it,” said Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, chair of the county’s transportation, infrastructure and environment committee. “We have a regional transit organization (RTO) right now for planning purposes, and a Tri-Rail board that runs the train. The RTA would essentially be a combination of both Tri-Rail and the RTO.”
The proposed RTA would raise $8.3 million a year through a $2-per-car surcharge on tag-renewal fees. RTA supporters said the unified regional front would help bring more federal transit money to Florida.
Miami-Dade had initial reservations about the project and was the last to come on board. “There have been a lot of issues with the three counties, and not just in public transportation but in other areas, that we wanted to work out. We’re optimistic that this will be a good plan with positive results,” said Barreiro.
Because Miami-Dade has the largest public transportation system in Florida, the county’s officials wanted to ensure that a joint system would still meet their requirements. The county is also the southernmost of the three, and establishing effective east-west service in its area is a major concern.
“We will be taking baby steps to transition into a joint system,” said Barreiro. “We need to learn how to work cooperatively to make sure each community’s needs are met and that there is confidence in the way things are being planned and executed.”