(press release: sheiladanzig) // Miami Beach // Robert Lansburgh
Local South Beach resident Robert Lansburgh lives on Fifth Street, one of the main stretches of the four-mile loop the new South Beach Loop light rail train is set to be. This loop would travel up Washington Avenue, cross 17th or Dade Boulevard, travel down Alton Street, and then along Fifth Street. Lansburgh is not alone in his protest. In fact, he has launched a popular Facebook Page entitled Stop the Train Miami Beach to serve as a platform for South Beach residents do just that, in just one month over 550 people have joined in the protest.
The light rail train would run in two directions, taking up two lanes of traffic in an already overcrowded roadway system that has seen a 75% increase in car traffic since 2004 – the year that research guiding this new light rail line is based on. Furthermore, it is unclear exactly who would be riding on these trains instead of driving in their cars.
According to the Miami Herald, in a city of 91,000 residents and 20,000 hotel rooms that fill up to the brim, only 6,785 trips are made daily on South Beach’s existing trolley system. That’s trips total, not people total. This number is tiny. The cost of the project, however, is not.
The project is estimated to cost $400 million in initial construction. That’s $5,600 per resident. Then, it would cost $20,000,000 annually to keep up with conservative estimated annual costs of keeping the light rail in operation. None of the construction of this project is eligible for federal subsidies because its construction has been fast-tracked through decision-making processes.
Beyond being disqualified from federal subsidies, speeding up the process has also blocked South Beach residents from being able to vote on this costly project that will change the landscape of their hometown. South Beach is a small barrier island, and the South Beach Loop project will result in ten train stations and rail tracks on 24 feet of the island’s four major roads. Not only will this increase traffic congestion, even more, it will also make biking and walking hazardous.
Residents of South Beach are asking why they are being asked to make such a long-term financial investment in increased traffic congestion to make room for a train none of them will ride. Furthermore, they are asking why Mayor Philip Levine changed his mind about taking his citizens into account and possibly increasing the frequency of the existing trolley service and perhaps Bus Rapid Transit over the causeway. Some wonder if the driverless car and popular ride-sharing service Uber and Lyft are not being considered in this plan, rail is from the 1800’s.
City officials refuse to hold a public referendum on an issue that will change the look and feel of South Beach and cost the taxpayers $400,000,000 to build and $20,000,000 per year to operate. The city commission is increasing zoning heights along the route and hopes to schedule this item for a vote in the next 6 months or sooner.
Stop the Train Miami Beach is a Facebook campaign and a grassroots citizens’ effort to get the word out about the South Beach Loop, and to serve as a forum and resource for residents to get educated and get involved. Visit http://www.facebook.com/southbeachrailStop the Train Miami Beach’s page before the island gets railroaded.