Anyone who's ever been on South Florida roads between 8 and 9 a.m. and 5 and 6 p.m. will not be shocked that the region ranks 41st in the nation for public transit use.
According to U.S. Census statistics from 2010 compiled by Business Journal's On Numbers report, that means less than 4% of local commuters use bus or rail to get to work.
Compare that with cities like New York, where 30% of workers commute on public transit, and San Francisco, where almost 15% use bus or rail.
Two small Florida towns, Arcadia and Clewiston, ranked 4th and 5th in the country for public transit use, with almost 13% of their workforce using a commuter service. It seems that the state's Heartland Rural Mobility Plan, which provides affordable and strategic bus routes to an economically depressed area, is working out.
Meanwhile, in South Florida, car culture is, well, fast and furious. As pointed by out by blogger Craig Chester, the sudden fetishization of the high-brow parking garage is symptomatic of a culture that prioritizing driving and vehicles.
On top of that, South Floridians often have to drive their car to public transportation stops due to the sprawled, unconnected nature of the Tri-Rail, Metrorail and Metrobus system.
There are several plans that may improve public transit use in South Florida, that is, if they ever come to fruition.
The Transit Subcommittee of the Miami-Dade County MPO Citizen's Transportation Advisory Committee has plans to upgrade the Metrorail cars to include better PA systems, monitors with upcoming stops and arrival times listed, and bike racks.
Transit Miami's Anthony Garcia told HuffPost Miami:
One project that ranks high in the return on investment category is the FEC "Fast Start" Plan being proposed by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority. Under the "fast start" proposal, trains will use the existing FEC line from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami, with 7 stops in Miami-Dade County, running parallel to Biscayne Boulevard.
As currently envisioned the plan would cost Tri-Rail an extra $12 million a year in operations costs. One third of the additional operational costs will come from fare box revenue from the new line, while the rest will come from a combination of Tri-Rail service adjustments, and yearly contributions from each of the 17 cities that will have stations. The capital cost to build the line is approximately $270 million.
This project, which is low-hanging fruit in the scale of transit investment needed, can happen in as little as 3 years, and will service areas that have higher density zoning and are already walkable.
Garcia adds, "One comment I hear again and again is what ever happened to Baylink? Why have we not made the obvious investment in our Metrorail network to connect the airport and downtown with Miami Beach? Miami Beach is already walkable, bikable, and is a renowned model of compact urbanism - all it lacks is a high volume, high frequency mass transit connection -like Metrorail- with the mainland to make the car-free lifestyle a more convenient choice for anyone living on Miami Beach."