Tag Archives | Transit Alliance Miami

Miami: A New Network with a Resilience Plan

Español

For the past 18 months, we have been redesigning the bus network for Miami-Dade County, Florida with the local advocacy group Transit Alliance. As the final public engagement phase was coming to an end, the pandemic reached the United States, and like many other agencies, Miami-Dade Transit went into crisis management mode. So our work paused for about four months.

As the pandemic wore on, it became apparent that the agency needed more than a single transit network ready to implement.  It needed a plan that could adapt to a range of unpredictable futures. Nobody knows how long the pandemic will go on, or what affect it will have on tax revenues that the agency relies on.

So, in finalizing the Better Bus Network, we worked with county staff and Transit Alliance to develop a Resilience Plan, to guide future decisions about how to ramp service up or down in the face of an unknown future.

But first, let’s talk about how we got here.

In the first phase of the project, we developed a Choices Report to analyze the existing network and discuss key questions that determine how the network should be designed. We took input from the public about those questions and developed two concept networks that highlight the tradeoffs between focusing on coverage and focusing on ridership. We returned to the public to ask them which way they lean between these the two concepts. Remember that it’s never one or the other; the ridership and coverage concepts represent two ends of a spectrum. Based on public input, we designed a Draft Network that was halfway between the two Concepts and now we revised it into the Final Network.

Below are slices of the Existing Network and New Network for the core of the region (click the maps to see the full-size maps of both networks).

A comparison of the maps of the Existing Network and the Final Better Bus Network in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Note the line colors, which indicate midday frequency.

Click here for the full map of the Existing Network

Click here for the full map of the Final Better Bus Network

 

The New Network creates a frequent grid that helps residents get to more places sooner. In this network, 353,000 more residents are near a frequent route (an increase of 13% over the existing network). With the new network, the average resident can reach 36% more jobs in 45 minutes by walking and transit.

The frequent grid means that it is easier for people to make connections between routes allowing them to get to many more places in a reasonable amount of time. The following animation shows where someone can get to in 45 minutes by walking and transit from Liberty City (NW 12th Avenue and 62nd Street).  The gray area shows where someone can get to with the Existing Network and the light blue area shows where they can get to with the New Network. With the Better Bus Network, someone living in Liberty City can get to 60% more jobs and 50% more people.  This is what we mean by access to opportunity.

This map shows the areas reachable from Liberty City within 45 minutes using the Existing Network and using the redesigned Final Network

This vast expansion in access is only possible because of the frequent grid. This means that if Miami-Dade Transit has less revenue but wants to maximize access like this, they have to protect the frequent grid. That is what the Resilience Plan does. The network’s corridors are divided into tiers to establish what service should be provided at different levels of revenue.

The Resilience Plan protects the frequent grid in case of budget shortfall.

In the grimmest financial scenario (Tier 1), the network would keep only frequent corridors spaced every mile, and a few coverage routes that are critical to ensuring equitable access. Yes, this network will make people walk longer distances. But when they get to a route, a bus is always coming soon. If the County has more revenue, they can add the service in Tier 2 and so forth.

Nobody wants to see these service cuts, but if they become necessary, MDT will be able to minimize the damage to people’s access to opportunity by using the Resilience Plan.  On the other hand, if MDT did service cuts the usual way – by leaving the routes as they are but cutting frequencies – access to opportunity would decrease drastically.  Consolidating routes to make them more frequent can actually make people’s trips faster, despite the longer walks.

This Final Network is now in the hands of the County Commission to endorse and, if approved, to be implemented by Miami-Dade Transit. There will likely be additional opportunities to comment on this plan before it is implemented. If you’re in Miami-Dade County, remember to submit a comment or tell your Commissioner about this Plan, particularly if you like it.  Sadly, most of the public comments received on transit plans are negative even if the plan is broadly popular, because people who like it falsely assume it will happen anyway.  This plan will not be implemented if it does not attract strong support.   The County would like constructive comments about the plan, which will be used to make the final implementation even better.  But if you like the plan, it’s important to say that as well!

Miami-Dade: A Draft New Network

Esta página está disponible en español aquí.

 

For the last year we’ve been working on a bus network redesign project in Miami-Dade County, Florida, partnering with the local advocacy group Transit Alliance on their Better Bus Project.  In this unusual arrangement, Transit Alliance is paying for much of the work out of funds that they have raised, though of course Miami-Dade Transit is an active partner in working to develop a plan they can implement.

A draft of the New Network is now out and ready for community input, and you can read the full report here. This New Network is based on the public input received on the Concepts released last fall and it reflects a shift in the balance of ridership and coverage goals toward higher ridership based on the public response to those concepts. This New Network has been created in partnership with Transit Alliance, County, and municipal staff, and in particular City of Miami and Miami Beach staff who have helped guide the redesign of municipal trolleys.

The local newspaper, the Miami Herald, has a good article about the Draft Network and the major improvements it provides to most people in Miami-Dade. If you live in Miami-Dade you should study this New Network and take the survey before March 31st.

We previously released a Choices Report that highlighted one of the major shortcomings of the existing network, a lack of a frequent grid. The New Network builds more of a frequent grid, at least in the core of the network, through consolidation of closely spaced routes, trading roles between the County and municipal trolleys, especially in the City of Miami, and some reductions in coverage, particularly in municipalities that provide trolley service.

Below are slices of the Existing Network and New Network for the core of the region (click the maps to see the full size maps of both networks).

Existing Network

New Network

The result of this frequent grid is that 368,000 more residents are near a frequent route, which brings the total population near frequent service to 25%. In the Existing Network only 11% of residents are near a frequent route.

The power of the frequent grid means that there is a vast expansion in where people can go in a reasonable amount of time. Below is a comparison of where someone who is starting in Liberty City (NW 12th Avenue and 62nd Street) can reach in 45 minutes by walking and transit. The gray area is what is reachable today under the Existing Network. The light blue area is the area reachable with the New Network. The frequent grid in the New Network vastly expands your freedom if you live here and means you could reach 60% more jobs and 55% more people.

We can assess this change for all people and places across the county and doing so gives us the map below, showing in blue the areas where people can reach more jobs and in red the areas where people can reach fewer jobs with the New Network. Each dot in this map represents 100 people.

The map shows that the vast majority of people and places see a large increase in job access. Averaged across the entire county, the typical county resident would be able to reach 33% more jobs in an hour with this New Network.

Now these improvements are part of some painful compromises. This network emphasizes Ridership goals more than the Existing Network. Thus, some low productivity routes serving Coverage goals are cut so that more frequency can be provided in dense, walkable, linear places. Overall, about 3% more residents would be more than ½ mile from service with the New Network.

The New Network costs the same as the Existing Network and is fully implementable within six to nine months, but this network isn’t going to be implemented until the public, stakeholders, riders, and others have a chance to consider this change and respond. So, read up and tell Transit Alliance and the County what you think.

If you agree this New Network would be an improvement for Miami-Dade, it’s important to speak up because many people who will benefit from this New Network won’t be paying attention and won’t speak up. And if you don’t like the plan, please let Transit Alliance and MDT know how it can be improved. But remember, any change must be made in a cost neutral way, so an increase in service in one place means we have to cut service somewhere else.  We always get great ideas out of public comments at this point.

It’s also important to think beyond current and potential transit riders to all the other interests that will benefit.  A vast expansion in where people can get to means better access to jobs, services and shopping across the county.  Businesses can see how the plan improves access for their employees and customers.  Finally, everyone who cares about transit outcomes – economic, environmental, or social – should care about what this plan could achieve.

Finally, as consultant, we don’t claim that this is all the service that the county needs; it’s just what the county and cities can currently afford. There are obvious places were additional investment in service would greatly improve access for thousands of people. Some ideas for improvement are documented in the Report on the New Network, such as increasing the frequency of service on the 20-minute routes in the New Network (Routes 9, 62, 88). Also, on Sundays most of the frequent network becomes every 20 minutes. In a region with such a large tourist economy, Sunday service should be closer to weekday and Saturday levels.

Miami-Dade: Tell us what you think about these conceptual networks!

Esta página está disponible en español aquí.

Our latest work on the Miami-Dade transit network is now available online, and we’re looking for people from the area to provide their input through this online survey.

The well-respected advocacy group, Transit Alliance, is leading the Better Bus Project on behalf of both Miami-Dade Transit and several of the key cities.  Transit Alliance and the County hired us this year to help develop transit network alternatives that would illustrate what the transit network could look like if the trolley networks were more coherently integrated with the overall county-wide network and if the balance between ridership and coverage goals were changed.

The local newspaper, the Miami Herald, has a good article about the networks and the choices they illustrate.

We previously released a Choices Report that highlighted one of the major shortcomings of the existing network, a lack of a frequent grid. The two network concepts we developed try to build a frequent grid, at least in the core of the network. Below are slices of the Existing Network, Coverage Concept, and Ridership Concept for the core of the region.

And the legend:

The concepts cost the same as the existing network, and they are fully implementable. If everyone loved one of the concepts, it would be possible for Miami-Dade and the cities to make the network changes and implement one of these in 6-9 months. But we aren’t asking people to pick one or the other. We’re asking people to tell us which concept they are closest to, so that the County Board and City Commissions can get input on the direction they should choose for Miami-Dade.

Some other key questions raised by these concepts include:

  • Should the trolleys be changed to make them complementary parts of a county-wide network? Both the Coverage and Ridership Concepts can provide more frequency on more streets because the city and county networks are designed to complement each other.
  • Should bus stops be placed farther apart so buses can go faster and people can get where they are going faster. Today, stops are about 1/8 of a mile apart. Both the Coverage and Ridership Concepts assume that stops are spaced about ¼ mile.
  • And, of course, how should the region balance the competing goals of ridership and coverage?

So if you know anyone in Miami-Dade County, send them to the project website to explore and express their views.  Encourage them to peruse the Concepts Report. And if you’re interested in reforming bus networks in general, watch the conversations around the concepts and the ultimate decisions by the local elected leaders. As with every network redesign we do, these concepts are here to help people decide what values they want transit to prioritize. We can help the community understand the options and the outcome, but it’s ultimately their decision.

Miami: Starting a Network Redesign

We’re excited to get started on a bus network redesign in Miami!

Miami-Dade Transit runs a large network of about 100 routes, running over 750 buses across a huge area over 40 miles long. Over the last five years, the Metrobus system has lost about 1/4 of its riders, which has caused Miami-Dade leadership to question the current bus network and how well it’s serving the county.

Like many other Sunbelt cities, Miami is growing and a lot of that growth is in a few places: around downtown, on the beaches, and in a few key centers such as Coral Gables. These densifying centers are reaching the point where cars simply don’t work anymore, and transit is essential to the continued growth and prosperity, not to mention equity. Thus, there are increasing demands for more useful service in these core areas.

As in many cities, the edges of the region are also seeing new development designed almost entirely for car dependence. And many people moving to the edges are doing so because they have limited incomes and the housing is cheap. But the land use design and distance means that the cost to serve them with transit is very high. These trends are stretching Miami-Dade Transit farther and farther geographically on a limited budget. This combination of forces is putting great demands on transit in opposite directions and is heightening the difficulty of the ridership-coverage tradeoff.

A key question in the process will be the different roles of different transit agencies. Many municipalities have begun running their own municipal bus routes. Some, like the Miami Beach network, are extensive. As Miami-Dade has lost riders municipal systems have seen big ridership increases, rising from 7.4 million riders per year in 2013 to 10.9 million in 2017. Where these municipal routes compete with county-wide Miami-Dade routes, many people are choosing the municipal routes, in part because they are free. These trends are causing greater segmentation of transit services across the county and adding to the complexity that an average rider must manage when trying to figure out how to make a trip or trying to understand the whole system.  They also represent a degree of duplication that could potentially be reallocated to create more frequent and useful service.

As always, public input (including but not limited to riders) will be essential to figuring out what direction Miami-Dade wants to go. For that effort, we are especially excited to partner with Transit Alliance Miami, a local non-profit organization advocating for walkable streets, bikeable neighborhoods and better public transit. Transit Alliance advocated this project for years, and now they are actually leading the process on behalf of Miami-Dade County, with a big emphasis on involving the community in decision-making throughout the process. We think this is the first US bus network redesign that is led by a community advocacy group.

We expect there will be some early outreach on key choices in the summer. In the fall, we expect to release two concepts for how the future network could look, and this will be a key point for public input. All of that input will guide us on a final plan, which we expect will be voted on this winter. Keep an eye on the Transit Alliance twitter feed and website for regular updates throughout the redesign process and opportunities to provide input and respond to concepts.