Despite scaling down their ambitious plans for a light rail line, Miami Beach officials still face a tough time convincing residents the proposed system will go a long way to alleviating the city’s traffic and parking owes.
During two public meetings Wednesday at the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center, a majority of attendees did not support the estimated $244 million wireless streetcar that would run two miles along Washington Avenue between 5th Street and Miami Beach High School.
Instead, those who spoke at the meeting said the streetcar would likely exacerbate congestion in South Beach because it would result in the elimination of a traffic lane and parking spots on Washington Avenue.
Robert Lansburgh, a resident who started the Facebook group Stop the Train Miami Beach, said light rail systems in other cities have failed to generate significant ridership. “Most of the comments I have gotten say this is crazy or it’s insane,” Lansburgh said. “We are under the influence of lobbyists. This is not about moving people.”
Another resident, Tom Richardson, worried about the city spending hundreds of millions of dollars for a system that will fail to achieve its goal. “It doesn’t seem to me that this is going to solve our traffic problem,” he said. “But we are going to get stuck with a big bill.”
City officials held the two meetings to gauge the public’s appetite for the transit project before the Miami Beach City Commission considers approving an “interim agreement” or formally begins contract negotiations with Greater Miami Tramlink Partners, the entity that won a competitive bid to build the light rail line.
Miami Beach wants to fast track the project with the hopes it will spur Miami-Dade County to also move forward with building its portion of the Beach Corridor Transit Project that would run on the MacArthur Causeway to downtown Miami, where it would connect with a streetcar system the city of Miami wants to develop.
“Obviously, I can’t tell you whether the county will build that line,” Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales told the crowd. “Nobody can give you that guarantee.”
However, he also said Miami Beach city commissioners would likely delay the streetcar if an overwhelming majority of residents oppose it. “If commissioners don’t have the confidence in it, it won’t get done,” he said.