Over the weekend, public transit advocates in Miami built a temporary train station along an imaginary transit line. They called it the Purple Line, sticking with the theme of Miami’s other two commuter rail lines, the Orange and the Green. Organizers of the project say this mock train station is going to help improve public transit in the city.
One of the goals of the Purple Line project was to highlight Miami’s lack of real train stations by building a fake one along some unused train tracks between to two popular neighborhoods, Midtown and the Design District.
For people in Miami, a city whose commuter rail system lags behind many other major metropolitan areas, it may be a little difficult to imagine a train station with bustling crowds, vendors and live music. The event this Friday and Saturday was intended to help residents imagine such a place.
Florida Atlantic University graduate student Marta Viciedo is one of the people who came up with the idea. Viciedo says the point of the project is this: people won't advocate for more public transportation if they don't even know what they're missing out on.
"It's a demonstration project,” explained Viciedo. “What the convenience of getting off of a train right there and walking over to Midtown or the Design District would be like."
The Purple Line stop was strategically set up next to the Florida East Coast railway tracks, which are currently unused although there will soon be freight trains on the tracks heading to the Port of Miami. Transportation officials and advocates have been talking about the possibility of getting a commuter line on those tracks for years. It’s an idea that may soon become a reality with a project called All Aboard Florida which has plans in the works to start a passenger rail service between Miami and Orlando in 2014.
Scott Guilbert visited the Purple Line on Saturday with his wife and three kids. Guilbert hates traffic so his whole family rode over to the event on bicycles. He says public transit in South Florida has an image problem.
“I think people attribute public transportation to something like, for poor people or people who have to do it.”
Changing that perception was the other goal of the Purple Line project. Viciedo, who is studying urban and regional planning, hopes visitors to the pop-up train station walked away with the idea that train stations can be neat places.
“The idea is that it’s a place. If you think of Grand Central, you can say it’s a place. You would even say, ‘hey, meet me at Grand Central,’” explained Viciedo. “Smaller subway stations in cities like New York or different places, they’ll have activity at least very close to them. So even if it’s not right in the train station, the train stations act as magnets for economic activity.”
Keeping with that idea, the Purple Line station also had art vendors, live music and a farmers market.
Although the Purple Line may have been temporary, organizers hope it will leave a lasting impression on Miami residents.