Super Solutions To 'Supercommute'? South Florida Debates Transportation Woes

Apr 27, 2018

Commuting in South Florida apparently takes herculean patience and resilience to bouts of “traffic trauma.”

 


ApartmentList.com released a report showing a share of commuters in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties travel at least 90 minutes to get to work. South Florida joins a national trend – dubbed a “supercommute” – that’s plaguing other cities, including New York and Washington, D.C.

The debate over transportation seems perennial in South Florida.

This week, Miami-Dade County commissioners delayed a vote until next month on the idea of extending the Dolphin Expressway west and south.  The 14-mile extension would mostly hug the Everglades side of the Urban Development Boundary.

WLRN asked listeners to consider other transportation investments that should be prioritized.

“A high-speed ferry running in the ocean, connecting Fort Lauderdale to downtown Miami with stops in Haulover Beach and Miami Beach,” says Mark Trivett from Miami Beach.

Martha Singleton from Miami opposes extending the Dolphin Expressway and prefers efforts go toward  public transit, such as an elevated rail system.

"Elevated rail allows safe pedestrian bike paths underneath, and I do agree with free trolleys to get people from parking lots to mass transit hubs," she says.

Leonardo Somoza, also from Miami, says he’d pay for an elevated system that won’t interrupt traffic.

Meanwhile, the plan to create a streetcar system called The Wave in Fort Lauderdale continues to derail. New construction bids came in lower than the original cost estimates – but still higher than the amount to secure state funding. Plus, Broward County commissioners rejected a plan for a bigger storage facility for streetcars.

The Fort Lauderdale City Commission plans to vote on the matter Tuesday. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis isn’t a fan and has pledged to stop it.

“It’s too expensive. It doesn’t work for our environment, and now the question is, ‘How do we undo it?' ” he says.

Host Tom Hudson spoke with a panel of reporters on the work to untangle traffic. Larry Barszewski, a reporter for the Sun Sentinel; Doug Hanks, county reporter for the Miami Herald, and Kate Stein, environmental and transportation reporter for WLRN, join Hudson on this week’s Florida Roundup.

WLRN: What's been the response from the community in Southwest Miami-Dade County to this idea?

KATE STEIN: It's been a mixed response. The people in Kendall who deal with hour-and-a-half to two-hour commutes are understandably very much in favor of another transportation option that would potentially get them downtown faster – having an alternative to the turnpike. But there's concern among a lot of people that this could be sort of a rolling stone that gets in motion as far as development farther west out into the Everglades.

If we're building another transportation corridor, then it seems somewhat logical that development would follow out there. And there's also concern that building another road would potentially induce demand, or lead to more cars on the highway because there's another faster option out there. 

What are the considerations that are on the table here? 

K.S.: You're weighing the long-term problem that South Florida has to face: development and the environment. What tradeoffs are we willing to make to be able to live here? We talk about that when we talk about channeling the water into our canal system to prevent flooding in urban areas.

So it's a tradeoff – not just money and obviously the time that would go into constructing this extension if it goes through. But in order to have more people live here or to have the people who live here, live here more comfortably, what are we going to have to give up, as far as the environment goes? 

Doug, if the urban development boundary (UDB) is where it is, how can a new road be constructed outside the UDB? 

DOUG HANKS: The UDB really just deals with construction of buildings, how dense you can build on your property. And remember you do have Krome Avenue even further west from that. But this really would be just on the other side of the UDB. It does seem logical that you could then just say, "Well, why do we have this sort of artificial boundary keeping us from building to the edge of this highway?" And I must say West Kendall residents definitely want this, but they don't want it. They want it closer to the Everglades.

WLRN: They want it further west away from the neighborhoods. 

D.H.: Correct. Away from their backyard.

This post was updated after the April 27 episode of The Florida Roundup.