“Can Miami afford more rail?” asks the Miami Herald. “Or will it settle for buses?” That’s like asking if you can afford an IBM 700 mainframe computer from the 1950s or if you will settle for a MacBook Pro. Both buses and laptop computers are far less expensive than rails and mainframes, but the former are also far more flexible.
In 1972, Miami persuaded voters to put up the money to build a 50-mile heavy-rail system. With 80 percent of the cost paid for by the feds, they finally opened a 20-mile line in 1984, but then ran out of money having spent well over a billion dollars, far more than expected. Ridership was poor and people took to calling it a white elephant.
Memories grow dim, however, and in 2002 Miami convinced voters to approve another transit tax, supposedly to finish the system. Only a handful of miles were built, at the cost of close to another billion, before that effort ran out of steam as well. Continue reading
Miami is one of many places where housing prices have reached crisis levels, and the Miami Herald editorial board blames the problem on the free market. Only government intervention in the form of subsidized low-income housing will fix it, says an August 3 editorial.
Wrong. Government caused the problem in the first place. No matter what the cause, subsidized housing for a few low-income people will not solve it, except for those lucky few.
Despite being one of the fastest-growing states in the nation, Florida housing remained affordable up through 2000. Miami was generally the state’s least-affordable housing market, probably because an influx of immigrants kept median incomes down. But from 1959 through 1999, median home prices remained between two and three times median family incomes.
Betteridge’s law states that, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.” While there are exceptions, a headline in the Guardian reading, “Could Miami’s rail project be test model that could change mass transit in US?” isn’t one of them.
The article claims that Miami is installing a new light-rail system being built with the financial support of Hitachi and Ansaldo. None of this is true. What is true is that Miami is spending close to $314 million buying new railcars from Ansaldo (now a subsidiary of Hitachi) that will operate on the city’s 32-year-old heavy-rail system, a system that is such a failure that it should have been scrapped rather than supplied with new and expensive ($2.3 million apiece) railcars.
It’s ironic that a left-wing publication like The Guardian is effectively acting as a corporate mouthpiece for an international conglomerate. But all you have to do is mention the words “public transit” and progressives will fall over themselves to support you no matter how expensive and ridiculous your plans.
Does Miami need a light-rail line? In 1988, the Florida city built the Metromover, a 4.4-mile automated system that cost twice as much as projected and carried less than half the projected riders. Although Wikipedia claims this is a great success, the National Transit Database reports that it carried less than 31,000 riders per day in 2013 (less than a third of what Wikipedia claims and well under the projections).
In the same year, Miami also opened Metrorail, an elevated rail line that cost far more than projected and carries less than a third of the projected riders.
Then there’s Tri Rail, a commuter train between Miami and West Palm Beach that began service in 1989. Taxpayers have lavished around $600 million in capital improvements on this line, and spent $46 million subsidizing operations in 2013, for a commuter system that carried less than 15,000 riders (i.e., under 7,500 round trips) per day.