If you commute to work, you probably pick your route based on what's fastest. You might try to take roads with the least traffic or the highest travel speed. But that can be hard when traffic is bad and speeds are slow. Should you stick with your original route or look for alternatives?
Now imagine planning transit for all of Miami-Dade County. Millions of commuters and potential routes that change depending on traffic flow. And millions of dollars to spend on new transit projects -- which could help alleviate congestion and speed commutes. But you can't do them all at once, so how do you pick?
Miami-Dade officials have a plan. It's called the Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit plan -- the SMART plan, for short. And it better be smart, given how many commuters there are in the county.
The SMART Plan identifies six high-traffic commuting "corridors" in Miami-Dade. These corridors include the proposed Tri-Rail tracks on the old Florida East Coast railway, as well as five major roads: U.S. 1, Kendall Drive, the Dolphin Expressway, the MacArthur Causeway and Northwest 27th Avenue. For each corridor, the county and its federal and state partners have proposed a rapid transit project to improve commuters' mobility.
"We’re basically working on developing a financial plan as to how those projects would all get funded, phased and built," said Alice Bravo, Miami-Dade County's transit director.
Part of the planning process involves prioritizing which projects get done first. Bravo says the county considers factors like expected cost, projected ridership, any land purchases necessary for the projects, and whether studies need to be done beforehand.
"You get different variables on the table and you start seeing which projects can go faster. And those would be the ones we want to do first," she said.
Longtime Miami resident Ralph Rosado is president of a firm that consults on urban planning. Instead of doing the fastest projects first, Rosado says the county should start with the transit projects that would get the most people off the roads.
"It's a numbers game," he said. "It’s how many people can we get off the roads. So I’d look at the densest places, the places where folks would have the easiest time actually getting into a station or walking out of their home and getting on some sort of Metrorail or light rail or rapid transit route."
Rosado is familiar with two main challenges of transit in Miami-Dade: getting regular car users to try transit, and making transit better for people who depend on it to get around. For the month of April, he left his car in his driveway and got around solely with public transit and -- in emergencies -- Uber. Now he’s running for Miami City Commission and sponsoring Public Transit Day on Friday.
Both Rosado and Bravo encouraged residents of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to give transit a try during the event. Rosado said the event is designed to raise awareness among locals and leaders of South Florida public transportation -- both successes and challenges.
For first-time transit users, "it may work better than you think, and it may be more convenient, and it could be much cheaper than paying for parking," Rosado said. "But it's also going to show what it's like to be someone who's dependent on transit" and the challenges the county is planning to overcome.
So, back to where we started: how is your commute going to look today? Ready to make the decision?